Life after the Reality Hotel (just when I thought it was over)

view from Kodiak #4One summer when Blake and I were still married, we visited my Nanny on her hilly farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Hay season is late there and the fields get only one crop. Now it was ripe, but rain was forecast. My grandmother’s hay was already in a neighbour’s barn. She rented the land out now that my grandfather had passed -at the advanced age of 78. Would Blake, she asked, go up the hill and help her sister Eva with her crop. He set off immediately and didn’t return for many hours. When he did, he was very excited.

“You wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “There was an 88-year-old woman driving the stripped- down model T that served as a tractor. An 84-year-old woman was on the wagon packing down the hay and a 78-year-old man was pitching it up.”

We stared at him. He waited for our response. Well, yes, Blake. What else did you expect? That’s who lives there, Aunt Eva, Aunt Betsy and her younger husband, Ralph. They were no doubt happy to have help, but they would have managed on their own.

These were my people. My grandmother lived alone on the farm, out of sight of all her neighbours until she was 93, hauling in sticks of wood for the stove as necessary.

So I should not have been all that surprised when duty called just after my 78th birthday and given the stock I come from, I shouldn’t have doubted that I was up to the task.

I contemplated this as I flew home on the golf cart in the semi-dark, high desert cold, last night, barely able to see the other unlit golf carts who had also outstayed the light. I thought about it as I wrestled one plug out of the battery charger and forced the right one in. And I’m the old girl with such weak wrists that I have to waylay strange men in the street to open my wine bottle.

I also find myself driving mountain roads like a budding James Hunt. They call the part of the road just outside the village the S curves. This is misleading. The entire road is comprised of S curves, all the way down to the Mount Pinos turn. Until you get to know it, you don’t actually know whether the loop with go right or left. The road is narrow, but well marked and there are lots of turnouts, but after 3 months, I seldom need to let the cars behind me pass. Then the road opens out into a straight stretch down through Cuddy Valley. Do you remember the Waltons? This is where they lived, here in Kern County, California, not in the Carolina after all. Lately, my country driving skills have kicked in there and I have a problem sticking at 60 mph.

One quibble: should 78-year-olds sleep on the floor? Fine, I like a firm mattress, but getting up at 3 a.m.? First, you have to think about it. Turn on your knees. Plant the tops of your feet on the floor as you kneel on the mat. Push up with your hands and feet. Stand still until you get your balance. Find the flashlight. Follow its beam.

the podFor we have left the Reality Hotel, Clara and I. We have moved into her house. At last! The first 2 nights, we had a sofa, its matching chair and a mat on the floor. We borrowed sheets and blankets. Yesterday, 4 chairs fell out of the furniture pod when we unlocked it and behold there is a kind of  breakfast bar just like a table built into the kitchen island. Now I can stop eating breakfast while watching Clara sleep on the couch. If I am very lucky, or possibly, very good, I will find a bed in my room when I get back tonight. Various teenaged guys are willing to give up Saturday of Labour Day weekend to unload the pod, piano and all. Then perhaps on Monday or Tuesday, pans and dishes may materialize. At present, I make my porridge in the aforementioned hotpot eat it from a styro-foam bowl with a plastic spoon.

view #2 from Kodiak

The Reality Hotel: latter days

balcony hotelA snail climbed on the back of a turtle.
What did it say?

The house sale is moving at the same speed. When it finally closes, Clara and I can bust out of the Reality Hotel. Today it inches forward as the money from the sale of the Vegas house finally hits the bank account of the vendor of the house in Pine Mountain. Meanwhile Clara and I have been living in the second floor of this three roomed hotel since early July.

We have large airy rooms with excellent showers and a kitchenette in Clara’s room, but no phones or internet, no stove or hot plate, only a microwave and a toaster oven, in a town where restaurants keep mountain hours and Wednesdays they all close. Of course there is a general store next door where you can buy almost anything, including good French champagne, which I bought to celebrate getting the keys. Trouble was we trooped over to see the house that was almost Clara’s and the keys didn’t work. Turns out the key which over-rides the code was in the house and we didn’t have the code. We drank the champagne to make us feel better.

Now that little problem is solved. All we have to wait for is the house to be cleaned and the pod with the furniture to arrive from Las Vegas. Possibly not next week, say the pod people. Not to worry. There is a storage unit at the foot of the mountain with furniture in it, including the mats that Clara slept on in the last days in Vegas. I long to lie my ancient bones down on the floor. I dreamed last night that I was going from house to house looking for a bed to sleep on. I was still looking when I woke up.

But life here in the old Reality Hotel (Realty really, but it is all so surreal ) got better by the addition of two items.

hot potA $13 Proctor Silas plastic hot pot, which boils water for tea and cooks porridge.

hot wireNo not the Mac Air book, the gizmo beside it, a hot wire that magically allows me to get the WiFi signal from the house in the pines. It had been lying in a drawer in that house, completely unrecognized for the miracle it is.

Now I can get on-line of course and that is good for a blogger, but the best thing, the very best thing, is that I can use Skype to make phone calls. Out-going at least. I haven’t convinced others to sign up for Skype so they can call me. Except my Brussels brother.

Previously I have had to rouse Clara and borrow her cell phone. (My phone is AT&T and gets no service at all on the mountain.) Because Clara’s hearing seems to be worse up here at altitude, getting her phone can be trying. Up to now, on occasion, I have just jumped on the golf cart and gone to knock on a door.

But here I am with a morning off so far as I know. The sun is shining in the balcony door. The breeze is swelling the curtain. The Stellars jays are calling. The ventilator over the store is humming away. No, no, Joyce, positive stuff. The mountains are embracing the village on every side. And the possibility of living in a home is inching ever closer.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills/ from whence cometh my help”

view from hotel