by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
February 18, 03
THELMA AND THE SEA BIRDS
SAN DIEGO -- Fred and I headed down the hill to the coast mid-morning and got breakfast on the way. The Original Grand Slam was cheaper than Senior Meal Deals, so we both got 'em. Then down through San Pasqual Valley to the 78. It was a gorgeous Sunday.
I told him I enjoy my Sunday mornings more now that I gave up the church habit. He looked at me and smiled in understanding. He's a man that doesn't bear much foolishness and the Lord himself knows how much foolishness goes on in churches on Sunday morning. Frankly, I don't know how the Almighty stands it.
So there we were in the bestest and holiest churches of all: the wild, wonderful world of creation. The winter light of February was surprisingly bright. I mentioned to Fred that the mustard grass on the hills always lets me know that California Spring is on her way.
I have this thing about mustard grass. Reminds me of a horse's mane and forelock for some reason, unfettered in the wind and unmindful of what bridles there be.
The orange flowers blooming on all the sides of whichever freeway we traveled confirmed my diagnosis. Spring is just downright irresistable. No matter the beating she takes from a surly winter, she unfailingly breaks out in tulips and daffodils the minute the sun even thinks about solstice.
We stopped to see Thelma on the way to the ocean. Thelma, a sprite of an octogenarian, though near toothless, has abundant charm. As soon as she hears there's a man in the car, she grabs her walker, fusses with her long silver hair and she's out the door to meet Fred. I fuss over her pills, putting heart pill, water pill and nerve pills into little boxes whose contents she will rearrange the minute I am gone.
When I finished, I come out and she is leaning up against the passenger side of the car, complaining to Fred about all the care she has. Her caregiver and I exchange knowing glances. She protests against 24-hour care constantly though her life at home depends on it. She threatens to move out of state where we can't find her. Without 'round-the-clock care she falls regularly and stays on the floor for hours until someone comes by.
Even so, she imagines herself captive and spins her tale of woe to whoever will listen or, in this case, can't get away. Fred, in a gold Saturn, was her latest audience. She tells him she still likes men. He laughs nervously and she adds, "Oh, not to marry, just for friends - I have three of 'em." Then she asks him where he lives but he can't remember. Awkward silence. She says, "That's okay," to cover for him and changes the subject. The caregiver starts to herd her back towards the house. We leave the leave the little bungalow by the ocean on Parsley Way and keep moving westward.
I stopped to get gas and notice how fresh and exhilirating the air is and mention it to Fred. "Fred, can you tell the difference in the air down here as we get close to the beach?" He says "No," flatly. We are both amused at his reluctance to exhilirate.
We drive along the beach and I ask him if he wants to get out of the car and walk along the beach. "No," he says with a slight smile. Silence. A block later he says his attraction to the ocean has been "resolved." Again we are amused at his contrary assertions.
We pass the train station and I ask if he likes trains. He answers with a "hmmmmm." I press on, "Do you think you'd like to take the train to San Juan Capistrano sometime?" Again, "Hmmmmmmmmm." I let it go as a northbound Amtrak leaves the station.
We continue driving past children playing in the sand and lagoons filled with sea birds. He looks intently out his window at the sight and I feel his enjoyment. Contemplative viewing of life through the window is enough for him.
Satisfied he has found even brief pleasure, I turn the car back towards the mountains. He watches the mustard grass, and flowers and fast-moving shadows on the hills all the way through the long valley, and crawls into bed for a two-hour nap the minute we get home. He'll never admit it but I know the ocean air did him good.
Not to mention Thelma.