The Adventures of Dad, Yes, Again

You can ask anyone—I have absolutely NO sense of direction whatsoever, and am completely geographically challenged.  In fifth grade, just like everyone else, I learned all of the states and their capitals.  Today, if you put a map in front of me, I can still name the states of the West Coast, the Deep South, the East Coast, and I can always find Texas, but ask me about anything in between and I am flummoxed.  The names of the capitals are long gone, with a few exceptions.  So I accept full blame for what happens in this story.


On Saturday I left San Diego for Aspen, for my mother’s memorial service.  When she died, at age 81 last January, my father was hospitalized, too ill to even come to her simple graveside service.  So we decided to have the “unveiling” on Sunday, a Jewish ceremony where the engraved headstone is placed on the grave.  Traditionally this is done on the one year anniversary of the death, but one year will be January 7, and the prospects of flying in and out of Aspen in winter, not to mention the possibility of having a ceremony in a snowstorm seemed bleak. After the ceremony graveside, my father planned a luncheon for his friends at the Snowmass Club where my parents spent many happy years in their retirement.  Dad, ever the professor, had prepared a PowerPoint presentation of his life with Mom, and nothing, not even the fact that he is oxygen dependent at altitude and the protestations of his two daughters at being featured in the PowerPoint could dissuade him.  It was going to happen, and it did, without a hitch.  Fortunately, as the offspring with the most technical experience, I was chosen to advance the PowerPoint, which I did with great speed, finessing the most embarrassing parts.


All was well until yesterday, when Dad awoke with nausea and a headache.  Fearing altitude sickness, I made the executive decision to cut short the trip, and get an earlier flight out of Denver so that I could get him down a few thousand feet, rather than spend the rest of the day in Aspen at 8,500 feet to take the 7 pm flight we had booked.  After a brief discussion with American Express, I learned that I had about six hours to make it to Denver, return the rental car to the wrong airport, rush an 88 year old man through a very large airport and board the plane.  Remembering that last June, when we drove his car from Aspen to San Diego, his oxygen saturation was fine by the time we got to Glenwood Springs at 5,761 feet, I ditched the oxygen tanks and hit the road like the proverbial bat out of hell.  But there was just one little fact that I forgot, which is that Denver is east of Aspen, and to get there we had to go across the Continental Divide through Vail Pass and the Eisenhower tunnel, which is, at 11,158 feet, the highest point on the entire Interstate Highway system.


I told Dad to put on the pulse oximeter, and I watched with some dismay that as we climbed in altitude, his oxygen saturation fell in inverse proportion.  Somewhere just beyond Vail Pass, when his saturation hit an extremely low 77 %, he said, “I am going to take a nap now.”  Promptly his head rolled forward, and he was motionless.  My immediate thought was, “Oh my God–I’ve killed him.” Panicked, I scanned the shoulder of the road for a place to pull off where I could perform CPR. I had no cell reception. I could not call 911. There were no ambulances anywhere in sight. Beads of cold sweat formed on my brow.  I had a vision of myself, a lonely figure by the side of the road pumping my father’s recently operated on chest.  And then, all of a sudden, I realized that there would be no chest pumping.  If my father died with a spectacular view of the Continental Divide, having just honored my mother and seen all of his old friends, by falling easily into an eternal slumber, who was I to argue with that?  Fortunately, in that very moment of my epiphany, he took a nice deep breath and woke up.  I said, “Did you have a nice nap?”


Dad, I know you’re reading this.  I hope you’re not mad.  But if you want me to perform CPR roadside at the top of the world, you better let me know!

A Rancho Santa Fe Moment

I’ve never been good at snappy comebacks and witty one-liners.  I always think of what I wished I had said about two hours after the opportunity has vanished.  But today I did okay.

I was in the local grocery store known as Harvest Ranch Market.  It’s an expensive little place, but known in the community for its superb selection of fresh fish and meats. I imagine if Julia Child had lived in my community she would have shopped here. The butcher is a cancer survivor himself—he calls me “Princess” and saves the best raw bones for the deerhounds.  And sometimes, when he’s run out of the cheap hamburger meat, he gives me the good stuff but charges me the lower price.  Shhhssssh—don’t tell anyone!  I guess you could say I’m a regular.

So today I was in the store, and I noticed a very beautiful woman, first standing at the meat counter, then later in the vegetable section.  She was tall and elegant and dressed in a lovely coral colored dress, low cut and sleeveless, and to quote Warren Zevon—“Her hair was PERFECT!”  She wore towering heels and her sparkly jewelry matched her dress—at 5 pm on a warm Saturday afternoon.  As it turned out, she hit the check-out line right in front of me.  I couldn’t help myself—I said to her, “You look so lovely!  I hope that you’re going someplace nice this evening.”  She looked down at me and said, “No, I’m on my way home—from a party on our yacht” and strolled out the door.

At this moment, the guy at the cash register says to me, “Will that be paper or plastic?”  I said to him, “If you please, Sir, I’ll carry my meager groceries in whatever the lady with the yacht was using.”  The couple behind me in line snickered.   Aspen’s got nothing on Rancho Santa Fe.

Mel’s Posh Junk

With apologies to any of the really nice people who live in Aspen, Colorado

I admit it—I have a little bit of an eBay habit.  May I be permitted to say that cruising eBay helps me relax after a long day at the office?  I have all my favorite searches set to notify me if one of my desired tchotchkes suddenly comes up for sale, and I have my favorite sellers marked.  One of them, a dealer from the UK, calls himself “Mel’s Posh Junk.”  I love that, since both my father and my stepdaughter are named Mel.  I’ve bought more than a few items from Mel’s junkyard, which seems to be a jewelry shop specializing in Victorian and Edwardian costume jewelry. Queen Victoria had nothing on me when it comes to gaudy brooches from the Scottish hinterlands.

This past weekend, I was tasked with traveling back to Colorado to make a disposition on the contents of my father’s townhome in Snowmass.  I love Aspen and Snowmass in the summer, when the lupines and Indian paintbrush dot the hills in front of the Maroon Bells.  I can remember some lovely trail rides from the T Lazy 7 Ranch and Brush Creek Outfitters.  I also remember taking a summer ride in the high speed gondola up Aspen Mountain, affectionately known as Ajax.  I was so dizzy from the added height and movement of the gondola up over 11,000 feet that I insisted on crawling down the mountain.  Literally crawling, on my hands and knees, all the way down.  I do not like heights.  Or icy cold.  Or falling down.  Hence, I am not nor will I ever be a skier. But that is another story.

Dad is here in San Diego now, and the sale of the condo closes in two weeks, and it was time to decide what was going where.  He decided to buy new furniture here, scaled to his smaller apartment rather than move the grander furnishings of the place there.  My chief mission was to get his art moved.  An artist himself, he has been a collector all his life, and the paintings that hung on the walls in Colorado are his most treasured possessions.  But what to do with the furniture, and the rather impressive contents of my mother’s closet?  I called ahead to several consignment shops in the area.  The first woman, from Aspen proper, came through with the realtor days before I got there.  With one dismissive wave of her well-manicured hand, she declared, “I can’t use ANY of this.  It’s SO very DATED.”  I decided to move “down valley”, as the natives say.  I figured that surely the good people of El Jebel, Basalt and Carbondale could use a living room and two bedrooms full of high end furniture.  I figured wrong.  The lady from Basalt was equally dismissive.  She walked the floors solemnly, proclaiming that no, she couldn’t sell this, or that, or even those.  Until she stopped at the table where I had placed my mother’s silver and antique Limoges for safe packing.  She said, “I’ll take THOSE.”  I said, “No, I don’t think so.”

On Saturday, my friend who had met me in Snowmass with her cargo van to transport the art, and I painstakingly went through my mother’s clothing.  She was a petite woman, barely 100 pounds.  Unfortunately for me, I cannot wear a size 4.  But she had exquisite taste, and a penchant for fancy labels.  We loaded the truck full of Burberry, and Ralph Lauren, and St. Johns, and cashmeres from Sak’s Fifth Avenue and leather jackets custom made in Italy.  We drove to the second hand store in Basalt where the proprietor could not be bothered to even direct us where to park, or help us unload the van. She took one disdainful look at the offerings, and said, “Most of this stuff will go directly to charity.”

My friend and I made the 960 mile drive back safely from Colorado in 16 hours on Sunday.  We did not want to stay overnight on the road with our precious cargo of Dad’s art, and Mom’s antiques. On Monday, Hector from Habitat for Humanity will pick up the contents of my parents’ 3000 square foot condominium.  I am quite certain that Habitat will find folk who are thrilled to have down stuffed couches in perfect condition, and sleeper sofas, and beautiful lamps, and my father’s custom made walnut desk and file cabinets. I am happy about that, because I want people who appreciate quality and construction to have the furniture.  I guess that Mel’s posh junk just wasn’t posh enough for Aspen.  Oh well!