Friday, April 17, 2009



I think, of all the days we've been here, today's been my favorite thusfar. Woke up to hear the kids squealing with delight as they ran into Grandpa's bed. Got up before he managed to give them another 10 cookies. And introduced my Dad to french toast with real homemade strawberry syrup (i.e., totally sugarfree).

Then we spent the entire morning with just my brother and my dad. Made it to the barn before the rain came down, and then just sat there in the barn listening to it pound on the lamina and feeling the cool breeze on my face. Everything smelled so fresh and clean and...renewed. And let me just add that if you've never heard rain dancing on a tin roof, you're really missing out on one of life's little pleasures.

I wanted so much to capture the moment somehow, and cursed the fact that if I took any video with my little camera I wouldn't have enough memory to take any more pictures until I got back to the house to download. But besides the fact that it wasn't worth the risk, no video could've done it justice anyway. It was too perfect a moment, and will just have to live in my head as this great sensory memory overflowing with visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory triggers that will all coming flooding back to me one day when I really need it the most as I'm driving down a dusty road in the middle of nowhere all by myself and it suddenly begins to rain.

Go on and get your own. This one's mine. Nothing to see here. Mosey along.

So then we got to see my brother shoe the horses, which is actually something we'd never seen him do before, although he's been a ferrier for years. (In addition to his real job.) But my father thought it the perfect opportunity to use his grandchildren to manipulate their uncle into doing a chore my dad's been hounding my brother to do for weeks.

And, well, being my brother, and seeing how we're all pretty easily manipulated by flattery and ego-stroking, it worked just fine.

And yes, Daddy was pleased as punch, but it was lucky for us, too, because it's always been the horseshoeing and the roping and the cowboy in my brother that defines him for me. So I was grateful and happy for the opportunity to get to watch him, to try to grasp the effort that goes into it, to witness his natural camaraderie with the animals, and to capture at least a little of it on film.

Then, most importantly, they got the kids back on the horse they fell off of. It was just for a few minutes, and not without a little whining and nervous tension, but they did it. And it was good.

And the whole morning was all pretty powerful for me, in a way you don't know if you've never been around horses. 

And I was so proud in that be a daughter, a sister, a mother.  And it was hard to not wish for this to be our every day.  To wish for the kids this life I love, these people I have been shaped by, these surroundings that make you learn to appreciate and respect the larger world around you.  It was hard to know we'd have to say goodbye so soon.  And harder still to not really want to.


But once the morning oozed into afternoon and we realized there was still so much yet to be done for tonight's birthday dinner, everyone switched gears and we were off again.  And running errands in Texas is never just down the street. You're running to the next town over. Or a couple of towns away. It all depends on what you're looking for. And since we don't patronize the evil Wal-Mart empire, it was off to the King Ranch store (45 minutes away) once my niece and nephews were out of school for some final gift shopping for Grandpa.

And then trying to beat the impending rainstorm on the way back in time to make the 6 o'clock reservations. We pulled up to Dad's at 5:35. The restaurant was at least 10 minutes away.

With the kids still asleep in their carseats (and me feeling very grateful for such a rare event and the possibility of it leading to their being in pretty decent and accommodating moods for the rest of the evening), I left them in the truck with Tia Ruby, hopped out at Dad's, slipped on my cocktail dress, tussled my hair, reapplied some make up, and grabbed the kids' outfits just in time to hop back into the truck as my brother-suddenly-turned-Mario-Andretti hydroplaned us all the way to Alice in record time.

Between all of the running around this afternoon, shuffling reservations, and confirming the family's attendance, I was most concerned for my father's peace of mind. Was the whole family actually going to be there? All of us? That would be a feat in and of itself. Because we've been here for 5 days now, and it would be a freaking miracle if we (and by we, I mean I) hadn't pissed someone off enough to no-show, which would piss me off to no end because this is about celebrating my father's 60th birthday, which is pretty freaking amazing considering his own father passed away at 42 and so ever since my father turned 42 himself he's felt like he's been on borrowed time or something, so, you know, 60 is pretty spectacular.

But because family is as family does, and likely my family is no more dysfunctional than any other, it couldn't be TOO spectacular an event because, well, that might offend SOMEone, and then that someone might not come or else convince someone else not to come, and then my father would be hurt but not show it, and I would have to be pissed again. And really the times that I leave Texas pissed are just too many to count at this point, so it was really really really important to try to get this right. Which is why I did very little socializing outside of my father's home this week.

I figured limiting the town's exposure to me was probably the best thing I could do for my father. And not because I give a shit anymore about what the town thinks of me or that I think my father's embarrassed of me or anything. In fact, I think after many years of believing exactly that, I actually feel completely the opposite now. And I think it happened the moment he decided to throw a baby shower for me 6 years ago.


And yes, of course I know it wasn't all his doing, but he had some say-so there somewhere. And it didn't have to be there in our hometown. And it certainly didn't have to be in his own home. And it didn't have to be so well known that a huge chunk of the town turned out. Because I know that for my father having a gay daughter is still something that he struggles with on a daily basis. And not because he ever tells me so or treats me differently, but just because he's my father. So just the fact that Amy and I were able to stand there in front of family and friends, together, and I was about a mile wide and well over 200 pounds and about to pop with twins that didn't come from some tall, dark, handsome, Mexican doctor de buena gente from the next town over, was a huge turning point for me. And I don't think I ever told him that.


But I owed him a drama-free evening. Which, for those of you that know me, is saying a whole helluva lot about my self-control and my love for my father.

And it was great. Everyone showed up, despite the torrential downpour. Everyone was in good spirits. No one was snide. No one was even remotely rude. And the evening was all about Daddy.

Very early on in the evening, though, we ran right into the brick wall that became incident #7 (or is it 8? I've lost count myself now) -- but Saia suddenly came down with a fever during dinner. No other signs or symptoms. Nothing else but radiating heat and completely lethargic. And I think by then I knew it must have been sheer exhaustion. They'd both been going non-stop, completely out of their routine, and more active than normal for 5 straight days now. It was bound to catch up with them at some point. Lucky for me, at least they decided to take turns. (More on that tomorrow.)

Meanwhile...Chago turned into Dick Clark. Moving around the room in his red-and-black-striped tie and matching fedora, schmoozing with everyone around the table. Taking pictures with all of the Tias and Tios and Grandmas and Grandpa, and then taking the camera from me and taking pictures of his own. 

He was perfectly adorable and superbly charming and his timing just could not have been better. His smudgy little finger prints ultimately ruining what is probably the last family picture we'll all take together, but hey, he has never been so on-the-money perfect when I needed him most to be. So, I'll gladly take it over a framable photograph. Hands down.

Saia, on the other hand, laid across my lap throughout the dinner, slept through most of the party, but was such a trooper when we asked her to sit up and smile for a couple of family shots, and, of course, just long enough to scrape her finger across the cake frosting once or twice there at the end. 

Her fever broke about an hour after we got home.  And she never showed another sign of slowing down.

But that was the extent of the drama.  

And considering the anxiety I'm sure most of us were feeling, it turned out to be a really lovely night.  And what I hope was a genuinely happy birthday for Daddy.

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