Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Yesterday was Nana's birthday. The rains had come in Sunday night and pummeled the coast to such an extent that I woke up to tornado warnings for Orange County. My brother had opted to come up from San Diego and celebrate with her on Sunday feeling, and rightly so, that he would have a better and safer drive without so much water being pelted at his car.

If it had been any other event I would've cancelled and stayed home.

But Nana turned 97 yesterday and by golly that's huge! It must be celebrated even if the one being celebrated gets all cranky about having a birthday. Though Nana loves living she hates aging. Hates it. She's been lying about her age since she turned 50. She had a face lift and lied about that too. When she and Gonga, that would be my grandfather, signed up for FHP she lied and told them that she was born in 1928, instead of 1908. And they believed her because she has always looked very youthful and she is a damn fine looking woman to boot.

But she gets really hung up on the number. If she knew I was writing this she would hunt me down and kill me.

So yesterday I went to Nordstrom's and found the perfect red sweater, it had to be red. She likes red. And as I started my drive down the 405 it began to rain - hard. So hard that everyone on the freeway slowed to a crawl because we couldn't see and it was also coming down with a force that you could feel. The sky was black which made the whole experience that much more intimidating. I was feeling very storm chaser, except that those nutjobs are usually chasing a storm that's moving away from them and I was driving right into one.

I stopped down in Belmont Shore to catch up with my friend L. and her kids Mia (6) and Ryan (2) and to go get a card to go with the gift. It stopped raining the minute I arrived. They should make some kind of device so that you can you predict the movement of extreme weather cells because if I'd had something like that I would've timed my travel a little better. Ryan was totally up for going with me to get a card. He said, in his very deep voice, "I want to walk my dog and pick out a card for Nana."

So we did.

It was nice to be outside and not getting wet. We took a nice long walk down 2nd Street to Toto's Revenge which is a store that specializes in cards and gifts and they'll let you bring your dog INTO THE STORE, but L. felt that with 2 kids we would be having enough of an impact without including the dog who knows where they keep the dog cookies.

It took a while to find just the perfect card for someone who hates getting older. None of the funny cards with the pictures of old people on them would do - Nana has very tender feelings. We finally settled on one with a picture of a Golden Retriever on it who was sneaking a bit of cake and didn't look old at all.

The walk back was a little longer because we had promised Ryan a gumball from the Hallmark store back closer to home and he was very excited. Mia wanted to go shopping because after all she'd been in the house for several days. And Aspen, the dog, wanted to stop in every store where she knows they keep the dog cookies. Second street is full of very dog friendly stores.

We picked up some lunch and brought it home to eat before dropping Mia off for a play date. On the way home L and I finally got a chance to catch up - and then it started to rain. More than rain actually, it was the literal translation of pouring. When we got back to the house we sat in the car thinking the cell would move past fairly quickly. But it didn't. Instead it began to hail. And then the street began to flood. As we sat there for 20 minutes thinking it would let up, it had to let up, it just kept pouring and pouring. The water in the street rose higher and higher. It was as if some giant being was standing overhead with a hose turned on full blast. We finally decided to take our shoes and socks off and roll up our pants and get out of the car while we could still get the doors open. The water was about 6" deep as I ran through it, and still it kept raining.

I had to sit and wait for it to abate some before I could drive to Nana's - and even when it stopped the flooding was still quite severe. Again off came the shoes and socks and there was the stomach clenching fear that I feel when I'm driving through deep water. On the news I was listening to some guy up in L.A. at Beverly and Van Ness talk about how he was driving and he felt his tires leave the ground because HIS CAR WAS FLOATING!

But, Nana was turning 97, and I was going to be there to celebrate with her. When I arrived I was informed by my mom and my aunt that there had been almost no rain at all in north Long Beach. How weird is that? Nana was in her room reading and I went and laid on the bed and we caught up. She told me that the thunder Friday night had scared her so bad. We're both really scared of thunder and lightning. She said she missed having my granddad in bed with her because he used to hold her when she got scared. I knew what she meant. I was seriously considering sitting in the closet on Friday night it was so wild and loud.

We had a really good time over dinner. Nana loved her gifts - she may not like having a birthday but she likes getting gifts - she's no fool. We discussed having a festive day next year instead of a birthday. She looked dubious, but I bet she'll go for it. Nana was telling stories about my grandfather which made us laugh, like the time he took her to get her eyes examined because if his eyes were going then hers must be too. But they weren't. She got fashion frames anyway and had them fitted with those magnifying lenses that you can buy at the drug store for $10. Her frames cost Gonga $100 but she did it because he made her go.

Later that day they were washing the car when she told him that she didn't really need those glasses and could've bought cheapies at the drugstore and he chased her around the backyard squirting her with the hose.

I wish he could've been there last night - and on Friday to hold her when she was scared. I'm so glad that Nana is still with us, but I think it's hard to be 97 and alone, so although I would miss her horribly, it's okay if she doesn't want to celebrate her 98th here with us. I know she'd be celebrating with him and she would be happy.

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