Back to Alvarado…

So, I’ve got a story to tell.  I hesitate to tell it to you, lest you think I’m being insensitive or that I’m making light of something that wasn’t a laughing matter.

But I’ve got to tell it anyway.  Because honestly?  There was some humor in it.  More than you would imagine.

That said… here’s the story of how my grandmother was supposed to die two weeks ago.  And didn’t.  (Because no one, not even a full staff of medical experts, was going to tell her what she should be doing!)

It all began on Wednesday night a couple of weeks ago, when I got a call from my sister, who informed me that my grandmother had been in the hospital for a few days.  My mother had been up there around the clock, hadn’t been able to call me, and thought that things were heading from bad to worse.  A respiratory infection in an 82 year old woman (who smoked for forty years) can’t help but go from bad to worse, as you would well imagine, so I told my sister we’d get everything ready to head up to Alvarado the next morning if we needed to be there.

By the next day, my grandmother had been moved to the ICU and a call to my mother confirmed that it would be a good idea if we came.  Ana and Emma were still in San Antonio with Wes’s parents, and by some miracle I attribute entirely to the Lord, I had gotten all the laundry and housework done earlier in the week, rather than putting it off until right before the girls were due home, which is my normal practice.  Glory.  This left us free to get out of Houston… slowly.  Which is the only way you get out of Houston when you leave in the morning, the afternoon, the evening… basically any time.  Because there’s always traffic. 

Even so, we managed to get up and out of the city as quickly as we could and ended up in Alvarado late Thursday afternoon.

This is as good a place as any to tell you about my hometown.  Back when I lived there, we had a couple of stoplights and a Dairy Twin.  Not a Dairy Queen – a Dairy Twin.  (Which is the less glamorous, illegitimate child of the Dairy Queen, I guess.)  That’s it.  Nothing else.  When I left for college, Alvarado became a big time, happening place.  They now have a whole bunch of fast food restaurants, some hotels, AND a Dairy Queen. 

Big. Time.

I’ve never had the opportunity to live in this exciting new Alvarado, so every time we go back, I’m overcome with glee by the hustle and bustle of the Big A.  Wes, however, doesn’t get the thrill since he grew up in San Antonio which, you know, has a few more people than Alvarado.  His high school graduating class – yes, just one grade full of students – was greater than the population of my entire hometown. 

In other words, he doesn’t get the thrill of Dairy Queen.  So we didn’t even get to stop at the Texas stop sign.  Sigh.

We managed to get out of Alvarado and on into Cleburne (the closest town with a hospital) where we were told, basically, thanks for coming, but Mamo (my grandmother) has refused to see any of you.  This is par for the course and totally what I expected anyway, so we settled in with every single one of my cousins, who had all managed to come out… so that we could sit in the waiting room since she wasn’t going to see any of us.  It was like Christmas in June and made for the loudest waiting room in the hospital, nay, in the entire county as we all caught up.  You know, talking about how that one cousin stalks his wife via her cell phone (without her knowledge, of course), about how that other cousin got a black eye (a cow to the head), and about how all of the male children under the age of ten in our family enjoy peeing off their respective porches.  (As Wes said later, “Well, who wouldn’t enjoy that?”  Gotta keep an eye on you, Pastor.)
Then, we all pulled out the funeral plans.  Yes, my grandmother had planned her funeral earlier that day, certain that no one would get it right, God bless her.  (And we probably wouldn’t have.)  Wes was surprised to hear that he was slated to both preach and sing for the service and that, because of that, he would be the only one of the bunch forced to wear a suit and a tie.  Ha!  Way to poke the preacher, Mamo, even in death.

He was further poked when my sister looked over at his Chicken Express meal (oh, how we’ve missed Chicken Express here in Houston!) and asked, “Are you going to eat that roll?”

“Why?,” he asked.

“Are you going to eat that roll?,” she asked again.
A pause.  “Do you want it?”
“If you’re not going to eat it.”
So, he handed it over and watched her eat it, which prompted everyone else to herald praises for Chicken Express’s rolls and to bemoan Wes’s idiocy in surrendering his so easily.  Which prompted him to go on and on about how Kerry had tricked him out of his roll. 

You see, Mamo?  This is the entertainment you reduce us to when you refuse us entry into the ICU.  We passed a whole evening talking about that stupid roll.

As it got late and there was no change with my grandmother, Wes and I decided to go back to Alvarado to get some sleep so that we could come back up in the morning.  My parents sent us on to their house, and my sister piped up that she would be there later on and to just “leave the garage door open for me when you go to bed.”  This suggestion gave Wes serious pause as he questioned how safe it was to just leave the garage door open and practically beg someone to break into your house at midnight and kill you in your sleep.

“Yeah, that kind of thing doesn’t happen in Alvarado,” I told him.  “It’s safe at night here.  So safe, in fact, that I can remember way back in eighth grade when a couple of boys from school rode their bikes to my house at three in the morning and kept knocking on my window to get me to come outside.  Of course, I didn’t.  I just cracked my window open and told them that if they didn’t get off my lawn, I’d go out there and kick their butts.  No danger to them from anyone truly criminal in the middle of the night — just danger from an irritated teenage girl.  I mean, THAT’S how safe Alvarado is.”

This didn’t make him feel better.  So I continued on.

“I actually ended up going out with one of those boys.  Of course, neither one of us was old enough to drive, so ‘going out’ seems like a silly thing to call it, huh?  Seemed like a more appropriate term to apply to my relationship with his older brother, who I did end up going out with a year later.  And he could drive, so you know, we did ‘go out,’ literally.”  Then, as Wes regarded me with no small amount of horror, “Well, don’t look at me like that.  I didn’t date them at the same time.  And I only kissed one of them… I think.  I can’t remember.”  A long, convicting pause. “Okay, so clearly, I didn’t know Jesus back then.”

Yeah, none of this was reassuring to him.  (In my defense, the dating pool in Alvarado was shallow enough that odds were good that you’d date more than one relative during your teenage years.  As long as they weren’t YOUR relatives?  It was all good, right?  Right.  And it got trickier than you would figure since someone could be your cousins’ cousin but not your cousin.  Oh, yeah, I had that conversation with a couple of boys during high school.  And one of my best friends, who was related to half the town, ended up marrying a boy who was related to half the town as well, and I swear to you, I think the whole town is probably related now, thanks to them.  I was the maid of honor at their wedding and witnessed that moment in Alvarado history, y’all.  And my mother’s cousin was HER mother’s maid of honor, and… you see why dating brothers wasn’t such a weird deal?!)

Anyway.

We stayed up until my sister came by, and we agreed with her when she proclaimed, “Oh my gosh!  It’s like a SAUNA in here!”  My parents must either have the world’s most inefficient air conditioning unit or the world’s smallest electric bills.  I applaud their thriftiness and would attempt the same at our house.  But we live in Houston.  And Charlie wouldn’t survive a week.  And Wes would probably pack his bags and leave. 

Up next…  Wes learns that he who exalts himself will be humbled.  And our cell phones and yelling muscles get a workout!

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