John's house is totally transformed. Mums has remodeled the kitchen, one of the two bathrooms, and had the whole house repainted. She has rearranged the furniture, and organized most everything. There are no longer a dozen bicycles in the dining room, but instead our old dining room table, china cabinet, and real chairs! Both John and Mums seem fundamentally happy. It's cheering to see them so comfortable.
Her old house is being slowly emptied of furniture and whatnot with the help of my medical brother, who drives down from Charleston every so often to help shift large pieces of furniture. When I drove in from DC Sunday morning, Bob was out in the driveway, washing and waxing her tiny silver Miata convertible. I parked and went in to flake out for a few hours, and after he and John got back from church he came in to tell me that my tire pressure was very low on the right passenger side, and the JiffyLube people had reinstalled the hubcap incorrectly when they rotated my tires, leaving the air nipple inaccessible. So, he jacked up my car, unbolted the cap, rearranged it properly, and pumped up my tire. It's kind of hard to express how cared-for this made me feel! It felt so good to have my brother look out for me, and make sure I was safe on the road. I got a chance to return the practical care yesterday, when he was attempting to move my mother's treadmill down the stairs. Bob is built--he's got massive muscles (at lunch at Grandmommy's on Monday, our five-year-old nephew whispered to S Dawg, "Mommy, what are those lumps in Uncle Bob's arms?" shortly after Bob flexed for him)--but the treadmill was more than one man could handle, and he was (as he put it) "One butt-cheek away from taking a sleigh ride down the stairs and through the [closed] front door" when he got the treadmill down two steps. I hurried up to lend what small strength I could to the effort to get it back to the upper level, to await a crew of guys to manhandle it over to the studio where Mums kickboxes. That sucker weighed north of 300 lbs. Bob was just about tapped out at the end of the ordeal, and I was breathless from my little input. That's what siblings do--they save each other's bacon.
They also make witticisms at each other's expense. Our dinner at Grandmommy's Monday was like a scene out of a Southern Gothic novel. At one end of the table were Grandmommy and John, both effectively deaf (each can only understand what you say when you are meeting their eyes, shouting, and there is no background noise anywhere around). At the other were S Dawg and Bob. Fernando (my brother-in-law) and I and the two children were on the sides of the table. Brad was having a severe episode of shyness, and Rita was shoveling a plateful of good down-home Georgia cooking directly from her plate into her mouth, since her chair made her sit at chin-level with the table. She kept referring to herself in the third person, asking me to "Pat the Rita" which I told her I would do after lunch. Bob told her, "Bob Dole used to refer to himself in the third person, and you know what happened to him? He didn't get elected President. Do you want that to happen to you?" Rita responded, "I don't want to be President. It's a very hard job. You can't go outside to run." And so forth. Bob laughed and agreed--point to her. She's very quirky, and her hair is constantly tangled, and her new teeth make her look like a chipmunk (she's taken to doing "chipmunk paws" with her hands, too), but she's sweet, smart, and she's got good sense.
Meanwhile, S Dawg was holding forth on the shortcomings of our absent brother Nate, particularly his recent reading habits: "Anyone who reads Moby Dick for fun is half a bubble off plumb". Which observation struck me as quite funny right at the moment when I had taken a mouthful of peas, and I had to get up from the table and cover my mouth and nose with my napkin to prevent splattering peas all over. Grandmommy and John didn't know what was going on, and looked at me with concern, thinking I was choking. The zingers and the incomprehension continued bizarrely through the meal, which was delicious, as always. Grandmommy may have lost her hearing, but she has certainly not lost her touch in the kitchen.
I got plenty of critique from my younger relatives, too--the ring I had made from my grandparents' wedding jewelry was declared morbid and oddly eye-shaped, and my gestures were imitated and giggled over