Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Addendum to the Cruisin' Journal

After Jason reminded me of this, I couldn't believe I forgot it in my trip journal.

On Puerto Rico night, the night of the big ship-wide party they had, Jason got chosen by one of the activity leaders to participate in a male "shake your booty" contest. He was one of six guys who got pulled out of the huge crowd. He didn't make it to the finals, but only because his entourage only consisted of me and the other contestants had posses of friends and relatives cheering them on. (I did cheer loudly enough to get the attention of the emcee, who said, "Did you hear his wife out there shouting, 'That's MY man!' ")

Do with this information as you will. He is on Facebook.


Now that the bags are unpacked, and the sleep has mostly been caught up on, I'm ready to tell you all about the cruise. I kept a little journal while sailing the high seas, and here it is, largely intact and unedited.

Day One--Embarking from Miami

Got up at 3am after a staggering hour and fifteen minutes of sleep. We didn't finish the packing until after 11 and like a kid, I was too nervous and excited to sleep after that. The 3am wakeup time was necessary to get Ainsley and I out the door at 5:15. I hate flying; I just learned that I really hate early morning flying.

During the half-hour wait from the security stuff to when our flight boarded, I took one of the Xanax my doctor gave me for flight anxiety. When I still felt anxious right before our boarding call, I took another. Assured the hubby that it said on the bottle I could take two. Don't remember anything after that until I woke up during descent into Miami. Felt strangely calm and refreshed. Decided that prescription drugs, when used correctly, are fabulous things.

Just as I was told, I was awed by the size of the boat when the taxi dropped us off at the terminal. Was also awed that we didn't have to wait long after our early flight before they started letting us on the boat.

Ate the best hotdog of my entire life onboard the boat. Toured the beast while waiting to be able to get to our room, and realized that about the time I learned my way around the huge vessel it would be time to go home.

Waited for the porter to deliver our bags. And waited. And waited. Stood on deck as the boat pulled away, all the while singing that "Bon Voyage!" song from Anything Goes in my head. Shocked to learn that I must still be under the influence of Xanax if I'm replaying a song from the musical we did my sophomore year in high school.

Went to our first dinner in the dining room. Could barely understand the accent of our head waiter. Wondered why I hadn't yet talked to a crew member who spoke in unaccented English. Our tablemates were a couple from Las Vegas with just one child, a daughter Ainsley's age, who looks enough like her that the wait staff assumed she was Ainsley's sister. Marvelled at how, an hour later, Ainsley and her little table mate were calling each other their best friend. How did you know that would happen, Carnival table arrangers?

Went to an orientatation about Camp Carnival, the children's program. Went to a big "Welcome Aboard" party for families with kids ages 2--11. Ainsley and I won a medal for "Best Chicken Dancers." Was as proud to win that medal as I was when I got my Phi Beta Kappa key. Must still have been under the influence of Xanax.

Had the best night of sleep of my entire life.

Day Two--Anniversary in Half Moon Cay

We've had some rotten wedding anniversaries in the past. Our first anniversary, we got a letter from the IRS telling us that Jason owed them taxes from the summer he worked for his mom and stepdad. Another anniversary was spent with me still mostly bald and slightly sick from chemo and days away from my second biopsy surgery. So I feel no guilt in telling you that this one, spent on Carnival's private island in the Bahamas under clear skies and in clear turquoise water, was a dream come true. We swam in a near waveless sea, walked on a white sugar beach, drank an ice cold beer, and watched our kid frolic on the nearby waterslides.

It was what heaven must be like.

Later, after another dinner with our Bizarro World tablemates, we dropped Ainsley at Camp for a couple of hours while we got a couples massage. This was Jason's first massage ever, and I had a hard time convincing him that not all massages are given by attractive foreign women with charming accents. While still relaxed, we had some drinks at the Lobby bar and listened to music led by Ana Gasteyer's and Will Farrell's middle-school music teacher characters from Saturday Night Live. When they didn't know our song, they mangled some other pop song from the nineties and dedicated it to us. Or course, we had to dance. And giggle, because it was like trying to get romantic to elevator music.

Best. Anniversary. Ever.

Day Three: At Sea

Spent the whole day at sea. Had been hoping for a whole day spent on deck with a fruity rum drink topped with a little umbrella, but had to settle instead for high winds and sometimes driving rain. Took Ainsley to the ship's version of a Build-A-Bear workshop where she stuffed Francis, a calico cat. Started feeling motion sick while in that top-deck area of the boat. Took a Bonine when the captain came on and said it would be a rough day at sea due to high waves and cross winds. Took a nap with the family.

After dinner, experienced our first cruise show. After hearing the lead female singer, decided that when Simon Cowell compares American Idol contestants to cruise-ship singers, it's not necessarily a put-down.

Turned in early, feeling the boat sway underneath us the whole night, wanting to call up everyone who ever said to us, "Those boats are so big you won't feel a thing!" and laugh at them. Fell asleep wishing we had taken a cruise before I developed inner ear problems.

Day Four: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Still gray, still raining. But we didn't plan an excursion at St. Thomas because we wanted to shop and play on the beaches, so shop and play we did. It wasn't bad, even when a short but immensely powerful thunderstorm came by and forced us all off the beach and into a little beach-side resort restaurant. Had a Corona while overlooking a Caribbean beach, and while it wasn't quite like the Corona commercials, it was still pretty cool. Somehow, Ainsley and I still managed to get a little sunburned even though it was overcast at best and rainy at worst. I guess the sun is just that strong at that latitude.

Went to another show after dinner and then put the worn-out family in bed early while I did some laundry. Don't feel bad for me, though; while the clothes were in the washer, I went to the casino bar for a "Thriller" dance lesson. Yes, kids, I learned how to be a ghoul.

Day Five: Puerto Rico and My Precious

Of all the places we went, I most looked forward to Puerto Rico. My dad, the former merchant marine who visited harbors all over the world, praised its natural beauty and talked in particular about the fort that guards the waterfront. Our excursion saw us taking a tour of Puerto Rico's breathtakingly beautiful capitol building, the fort in all its majesty and centuries of history, new San Juan, and some shopping in old San Juan.

We're not much big shoppers, but we still had to get my mom the souvenir bracelet she had asked for. We had read that the tax and duty free jewelry stores recommended by boat staff had incredible deals on fine jewelry as well as inexpensive souvenir stuff, so I decided to shop a little for a new wedding band.

When my left arm and hand first swelled from lymphedema over 4 years ago, I stopped being able to wear my original wedding and engagement rings. I didn't want to resize the wedding band; it had been engraved on the inside, and I am senitimental enough that I wanted to preserve it in its original form and pass it on to Ainsley for safekeeping after I'm gone. For years, Jason and I have been talking about getting me a new band so I didn't have to wear my grandmother's anymore and could wear something all mine. Preferably, something simple that would fit under my compression glove when I need to wear it.

For some reason, on that day in the Puerto Rico heat and sun, a place my dad had told me he wanted to go back to someday, a place we had enjoyed so much, it seemed right.

I found a recommended store and haggled just as I had heard you're supposed to. I walked out with a shiny gold band on my left ring finger that looks gorgeous by itself and will look perfect alongside my engagement diamond. When I tried it on, it was the right fit in every possible way.

Hours later, sitting at last on the boat deck with a fruity rum drink in my hand, supervising Ainsley's playing in the pool, I couldn't keep my eyes off my new piece of jewelry. I don't go nuts over jewelry, and it's just a simple and plain gold band, but its perfect fit and its weight and shine kept catching my eye.

"Oh, my God," I said to Jason. "It's my...precious."

Yes, Lord of the Rings fans. My new wedding ring bears an eerie resemblance to The One Ring. Just call me Gollum. I have been tempted to throw it in a fire to see if something Elvish can be seen, but Jason wisely holds me back.

Later, Ainsley went to a kids' party that went on until one in the morning while Jason and I went to the biggest adult party of the cruise. We danced, we shouted for our "team" (Ooh! Aah! You wish you were the red team! Ooh! Aah!), we got our faces on the big screen above the party. And then when it was time to pick up Ains and she was more alert and awake than we were, we realized that we're getting old.

Day Six: Grand Turk Isn't All That Grand

Someday, I will look back on the events of our Grand Turk excursion and laugh. I don't know how many years that will take, but I know I will get there someday.

It could have been perfect. We awoke to the most beautiful weather we had had since Half Moon Cay day: not a cloud in the sky. We had our biggest excursion planned, the one we told people about when we told them about our cruise. We wanted to take Ainsley, our little water fiend, snorkeling. There was only one snorkeling excursion the whole trip that was open to kids 6 and over, and its description had something in it for everyone in the family. A catamaran would take us out to the reef where we would snorkel, then we would get back on the boat where we would be served rum punch (Jason and me, not Ainsley) and ridden to a secluded beach for beachcombing. How could anything go wrong?

Ainsley is the strongest swimmer of all of us; she's been comfortable in water over her head since she was 4. We figured she would love snorkeling, even though one of us (my slightly water-phobic hubby) was a little worried about how it would play out for the rest of us.

It started off great. Bob Marley was blasting on the sound system as the catamaran sailed us into water a color that had to be handpainted by God. I leaned over the Jason and said,

"Oh, yeah, this is totally worth it. We'll remember this little trip for the rest of our lives."

Truer words were never spoken.

Ainsley got freaked out by, of all things, the mask. Yes, the mask. She could breathe okay through the snorkel, but when she tried the mask on at the advice of our captain to check for a good seal, she panicked that she couldn't breathe through her nose. Take it off, and she would breathe through the snorkel. Put it on, and somehow her brain could not compute the possibility that one can breathe perfectly fine through one's mouth. It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen.

It caused a meltdown of proportions I have not seen since she was in training pants. She wanted to get in the water and do what she saw everyone else doing, but every time she would try the mask it caused something I can only guess was a juvenile panic attack. This created a conundrum: she wanted to snorkel, but was deathly afraid to snorkel. Because snorkelling and not snorkelling are two diametrically opposed states of being one cannot possibly do at the same time, it caused a conundrum that none of mom or dad's solutions could satisfy. Eventually, we decided that Jason and I would divide our time in the water and one would stay with her and try to calm her down. This means, by the time we decided to do this, I got about 10 minutes of snorkeling time, and Jason got about 5. Ainsley got none, which as people started coming back on the boat, caused the meltdown to worsen. Late-coming epiphanies are a bitch when you're six.

And there's not much you can do in the way of discipline on a crowded catamaran. I couldn't take her unwillingly to the bathroom below deck for corporal punishment without risking both of us landing in the drink. There was no safe place for a time out. She just melted down right there in front of dozens of people who paid a good chunk of change for a relaxing time.

If the rum hadn't started flowing as soon as the boat started back up, I think I might have jumped into the drop off and just let the sharks have at it.

Thankfully, snorkelling was just one portion of the excursion and Ainsley eventually calmed down. We docked close to a gorgeous private beach and all jumped into the water with noodles where we floated around in the water while one of the boat staff kept our cups filled with rum punch. Ainsley started having a really good time floating in the water, and for some reason that made me angry.

So I just kept drinking punch.

We got back and spent some more time at the public beach next to the cruise ship, where I started feeling better once I found two pieces of sea glass (one of which I promptly lost out of my pocket an hour later.)

That night was "Elegant Night", cruise ship code for, "Ladies, please show some cleavage and wear lots of makeup." Having no cleavage, I donned my favorite sundress and pulled Ainsley's hair back into an elegant twist with a little drink umbrella in the side (resisting the impulse to pull every hair out of her head as payment for turning all mine gray just hours before) and we had formal pictures taken, pictures that turned out surprisingly joyful and beautiful considering we had all been so mad at each other earlier in the day.

"Just look at it like this," I said to Jason later that night, after Ainsley had drifted quickly into sleep as only a kid who has had a meltdown earlier in the day can. "If that excursion was just a snorkelling excursion, it was an epic fail. But it wasn't! It was a party at sea! We saw a gorgeous beach and there was Bob Marley and an open bar and a ride on a catamaran! It wasn't a complete loss!"

I don't think I convinced him.

Day Seven: Last Day At Sea

We were sad that vacation was coming to an end. And we were sadder that the Caribbean heat had fully caught up to us at last. To stay cool, we slid down the waterslide, dipped into the pool, and had our last fruity umbrella-topped drink. Ainsley and her new best friend traded addresses to become pen pals, and we let Ainsley spend some time at Camp Carnival after dinner to hang out with her little doppelganger before they went their separate ways. Jason and I listened to the middle-school music teachers mangle the biggest hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s one last time (on a dare, I requested "Muskrat Love", and they were sad that they didn't have an arrangement of that in their pre-recorded backing tracks). We said goodbye to the Caribbean.

The next day, we flew home after waiting for 3 hours at Miami International. About a half an hour before the flight, my fingers started going numb. I was sure it was a stroke; Jason had a feeling it was flight anxiety. I took one Xanax, and to my surprise the feeling came back. We got back to Kentucky each of us in one piece, even though the thunderstorms we dodged the whole way north shook the plane like a paint mixer.

All things considered, it was a great vacation. We will definitely cruise again, though probably not for a few more years. And we have been inspired to go to the Bahamas someday after the beauty of Half Moon Cay. Our few other beach experiences on the Atlantic coasts of Florida and South Carolina did not prepare us for the crystal tranquility of a Bahamian beach.

We're ready to go back to Titanic. I mean, Carnival.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I'm Sailing Away

Sing it with me!

I'm sailing away
Set an open course for the virgin sea
I've got to be free
Free to chase the life that's ahead of me...

Or click here, South Park fans.

Cranky will be taking a break for at least seven nights as the family takes our very first cruise. We will think of you while on the beaches of the eastern Carbibbean. We will also be thinking of you as Jason hurls over the side of the boat and when I pull a Shatner and freak out on the plane and have to be sedated by the kind young men in the white coats.

So take care of yourselves, readers. If you are the praying kind, pray that we have safe travels. You know how I am with airplanes. And if you need some things to do while I am away, here are some summer recommendations.

If you are a reader, and you are sad that there are no more new Harry Potter books to occupy your July and August...
Go check out The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Like Harry, it's technically a children's book but has great appeal to adults. It's dark, it's quirky, it deals with a fantasy world of supernatural intrigue, and it's full of heart. And it's short, so you can get through it in a week or so.

If you haven't yet discovered Mad Men...
Why haven't you? Season one has been out on DVD at your local Blockbuster for a while, and season 2 came out this week. Ladies, it's worth it for the Jon Hamm alone. Men, it's kinda like a masculine soap opera. It deserves every award it's won.

If you, too, want to feel sea sick...
Watch Deadliest Catch Tuesday night. Feel the Bering Sea roll beneath your feet.

If you need some playful tunes...
Give a listen to Regina Spektor's latest, Far. Even her melancholy tunes seem light and fresh. The perfect CD to listen to with a glass of white wine at dusk with your significant other.

I'll be talking to you all next week. Hopefully a little tanner, a little fatter, and a little less afraid to fly.

Bon voyage!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I think the evidence is clear: Ainsley is not a diver.

Ainsley's summer swim team at "Poo Pool" (keep reading to find out why I call our family recreation center that if you're a week or more behind) is almost over. She has done well; she has won one race at one of the weekly meets, come in 3rd in a few others, and her medley relay team in which she swims the final freestyle lap (the Michael Phelps spot, if you will) has been unstoppable. Not so much because she swims like Michael Phelps, but because the 6-year-old girl who swims the butterfly lap ahead of her is freakishly gifted in the water and bears a strong resemblance to a wind-up toy once she gets going. Ainsley could pretty much dog-paddle her lap and the team would still win comfortably because the prodigy who swims before her gives her an unbelievable lead to work with. It's thrilling. After her first race and its devastating false start, she's caught on to competitive swimming and occasionally knocks our socks off.

But diving grabbed her attention at the first meet, much to my dismay. It's not that I don't like my only baby jumping head-first into something, though that might be part of it. It's that dive practice is an hour before swim practice and calls for me to get up at an hour too close to my school-year workday wake-up time. Summer is about sleeping in.

I want my kid to be active, though, so once or twice a week we have added dive practice.

By the end of the first practice ever, she was executing a move you could reasonably call a forward dive. It wasn't pretty, but it was head-first and almost straight.

Then something happened. Fear set in in the form of a few painful belly flops. For the next bunch of practices, and at the first meet her coach had her try a dive, she did something that was half-jump, half-dive, that looked like the time my dad tossed my childhood cat into our pool to see if it could swim: arms and legs akimbo and all going into the water at the same time. (Don't think badly of my dad for that move; he had had some beers, and the cat had been walking on the edge of the pool looking like it wanted in, and was rescued immediately once it became clear that the Siamese is not a water breed.)

Frustrated and not wanting to get up at the crack of dawn in July unless I absolutely have to, I presented Ainsley with an ultimatum this week: do a real forward dive, or skip dive team until next year.

The fear won.

This morning saw only scared-cat dives, much to her coach's frustration and mine. So we have decided to try again next year.

She tells me she really wants to dive but that she gets nervous. She can do a front somersault off the board as well as some of the older kids, but she can't bring herself to lean down into the water head first. She says she thinks she's a little afraid of heights but that she wants to try again next year.

We will see.

In two days, I have to get on an airplane. My whole life I've been afraid of this; when I was Ainsley's age there were a few weeks when my family toyed with the idea of flying to Orlando to visit Dad's brother who worked at Kennedy Space Center, and when it didn't pan out financially I was more relieved than disappointed. Ainsley is excited to get on the plane; she knows no fear when it comes to jumping on the metal bird.

Fear is interesting. I am afraid of so many things, for no real reason: Big dogs. Fire. Spiders. Flying. I find myself being overprotective of Ainsley all the time. I don't like her on roller skates in the street because I am afraid she will fall on the concrete or roll in front of a speeding car. I don't like her to play where I can't see her because I worry about the predators who I hear about on the news. I dread the day that she learns to drive, and know I will have to eventually turn over the keys but don't know how I will focus on anything in my life knowing she's out on the same roads that kill area teenagers on a regular basis. Sometimes my fear gets in the way of me living my life.

So Ainsley's fear of diving even though part of her wants to conquer it and do it are really okay with me. Who am I to criticize? I walked to the end of those same diving boards once last year, looked at the water, and turned right around and got off in front of God and everybody.

But Ainsley has something I don't have: desire to get over it. I think someday she will perform a front dive, and like it's always been with Ainsley and her fears, everything from automatically flushing toilets to water slides, once she decides that she's over it she will be over it and there will be no looking back. She doesn't want to be afraid. She wants to live her life to the fullest and fear only sets her back for a little while.

If only it were the same for me and those damn airplanes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Where Are Your Parents?!

The sun came out yesterday in a full yellow glory we have not seen in these here parts for days on end. The Cranky family set out to the pool to enjoy a day of water slides, diving boards, and relaxing beside clear blue waters.

And then someone had to go poop in the deep end and ruin it for everybody.

"This is the third time this has happened when we've been here," said the lady next to us, as she packed up her three kids while lifeguards chased all bodies out of the entire pool and began to scoop unimaginable matter out with skimmers. "This is the worst pool I've ever been to for this."

We could have stayed; we were told once all the fecal matter was removed (blech) they would circulate the filters for half an hour and add some chemicals and we would be allowed back in. But watching the many locations said poo had gone before people realized what had happened, and watching them even clean it up from the concrete by the diving boards, our appetite for swimming was pretty much done for the day. If I wanted to swim in poo, I would have just gone out for a day on the Ohio.

We heard witnesses saying it was a copious amount and was probably the result of more than one pool accident. I supposed this could have been the work of adults, but seeing all the unsupervised children in that area of the pool all afternoon, children whose shadows had not darkened the door of the bathroom during the two adults swims that had been called while we were there and who simply held their spot in line for the diving boards instead, I have a feeling this was the work of a kid or two who just couldn't be bothered to go to the bathroom.

Which infuriates me.

No kid is going to want to stop swimming and go to the bathroom. When pool accidents became a big problem a couple of years ago in the inside pool at our rec center, an hourly adult swim was put into place to try to encourage bathroom breaks and swim diaper changes. I blogged once before about taking Ainsley to the indoor pool on the first day of summer vacation only to be driven out by corn on the water. That reasonable strategy of getting everyone under the age of 17 out of the water once an hour is not working as well as it should, and it all comes down to one big variable:


At least once during every trip we make to our pool, I think this thought about at least one child:

"Where the hell are your parents?!"

It could be the kid who I see pushing other kids off the edge of the pool and into the water and then giggling about it as he runs away. It could be the many smaller children I see getting in line for the slides over and over again while holding the front of their swimsuit in a way that clearly communicates, "I need to pee." (And who eventually come off the slide no longer holding themselves.) It could be the kids who sneak back into the water during the adult swim while a lifeguard's back is turned. It could be the kids who hang out in the 2 roped lane lines throwing wet hackey sacks while people are trying to swim laps and who ignore the teenage lifeguard's yelling at them over and over to get out of the lanes.

Are we strange that during adult swim we actually have our kid sit with us, and take a break, and go to the bathroom? Or that we position our chairs so that even if we're not in the water with her we can see her go up the slide line or go off the diving board? That I actually watch my six-year-old instead of talking on the cell phone, or falling asleep in a lawn chair, or (what Jason and I strongly suspected was happening yesterday) just dropping my kid off for the day and leaving them completely unsupervised by anybody but underpaid teenage lifeguards?

Maybe we're overprotective. Maybe we watch too much. But on a day that we had to pack it up and leave because kids were pooping in the pool, I wish there were a few more overwatchful parents out there.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Ains: Food, Glorious Food

If you know how much fun Jason and his family have making fun of sauce words and people who enjoy their food too much, you'll know why this both horrifies and amuses him.

Friday afternoon I took Ainsley to KFC. Mostly because we were in a hurry to get from Scout's vet appointment (Mom called me at 5:30am because the cat was sick--with a cold) to my hair appointment and needed someplace we could turn left across Dixie Highway into. I'm not proud of that being my main nutritional criterion.

As always, Ains got the popcorn chicken kids' meal. I wanted a 3-piece strip meal, which is bad enough to order when you have to say "3-piece strip meal" but which now has the added distinction of being part of their "Fill-Up Box" menu.

So, yeah, I had a Fill-Up Box. Laugh it up, Jason's siblings who read the blog.

Ainsley was pigging down her popcorn chicken.

"Ains, don't forget about your macaroni and cheese."

She looked at me and said, deadly serious and without a trace of irony,

"I can't just let good chicken go to waste!"

Those are words to live by.

On Sunday, we were grilling hotdogs (in the rain--Ugliest. 4th. Ever.) When Ainsley found out that we were grilling for dinner, she sighed:

"I love me my hotdogs."

I think all that Paula Deen watching we do is rubbing off on her.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No Cure For the Summertime Blues (Or In Our Case, Grays)

Gee, have you missed me?

I haven't written in a while, and I could tell you that's because I've been busy doing summer chores like painting our peeling back patio doors (which is true) or that my mind is on getting us all ready for vacation (really, it's on getting me ready for the flight) or that a migraine and a recurrence of my vertigo have had me KOed this week. All those things are valid excuses, but my dry spell in writing this week has much more to do with a bad, bad case of the blahs.

I don't usually blah in the summer. I've suspected for years that I have a touch of seasonal affective disorder because my blues and even my crankiness get better when my skin absorbs a few UVA and UVB rays each day. But this is, so far, a summer that isn't summer.

Is it like this this year where you live? Where it feels more like fall than summer? Where every day seems to break a new record for a record-low high?

I've seen about 10 minutes of sunshine today. And yesterday was sunny, if not quite hot enough to make me want to brave the pool. But mostly this week is like last: gray, cool, sometimes drizzly.

In others words, summer isn't summer.

I want to go swimming. I want to see the sun. I want the grass to dry out so much we have to run the sprinkler a night or two a week. I want to get hot and then cool off with icy lemonade or a banana popsicle. I want to wear tank tops and have to put on sunscreen just to walk up to the mailbox.

Who's with me? Any of you missing the arrival of summer this year?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Breakup

I am sad to report that Mom broke up with her boyfriend. For reals, this time.

Some of you have heard me talk about my mom's special man for several weeks now. She met Mr. Jones at a local family-oriented dance hall that her friend has been taking her to for a couple of years now, hoping she would find a good man. She's been on a couple of dates with other guys, but no one really caught her attention. Until Mr. Jones.

He was smitten from the start. He told her he thought she was beautiful. He wanted her to meet all seven (!) of his adult children. He said it had been a long time since he had felt that way about a woman. By the end of their first week of phone conversations, he had told her he thought he was falling in love. That scared Mom and she asked him if they could back it up a little, and thinking she was breaking it off, he offered to buy her a piece of jewelry to remember him by.

So she let him keep calling her even though she wasn't ready for a serious relationship. To which my sister and I said, "Screw that. Take the necklace and run!"

Her only complaint about Mr. Jones since they hooked up in April is that he seems, well, old. He told her he was 70 and invited her to his farm for his 71st birthday, which she would have had to stay overnight for, and which she declined (though she later would stay the night at his house, telling me there would be "no funny business", to which I told her I didn't care or particularly want to know.)

"He seems so much older than me sometimes. I have to remind myself that your dad would be turning 70 in August."

But every weekend in June saw her hitting the road to visit Mr. Jones, usually staying overnight since neither one of them drives at night. She told me I needed to meet him because she thought this was finally getting serious from her end, too.

Last Sunday, I got my chance. He followed her back to her house after she spent the night with him Saturday night.

"Separate bedrooms!" my mom told me over the phone.

"Don't need to know!" I hollered back.

Ainsley and I went over, and it was clear from the moment I met him that he was absolutely enchanted by my mom. And it was good for her: she had stopped her compulsive hair-cutting habit and let her hair grow out into a cute little bob, and she seemed happy and comfortable with him.

One problem, though. In both his appearance and his actions, he seemed 15 years her senior instead of five.

I thought about it when I got home and talked to Jason. We decided that he probably just wasn't aging well; farmers who spend their lives in the sun generally don't. My mom has aged well, especially when she leaves her hair alone and puts on makeup. When you see her in one of her little outfits drinking red wine with her girlfriends, you wouldn't guess that she just turned 66. At her best, she's more like mid-50-ish.

I kept most of that from Mom when she called to ask me what I thought. All I said was, "He makes you look young and hot. And he clearly adores you. Maybe he's a keeper."

That got Mom thinking, though. And when she thinks about Mr. Jones, she goes two houses up the street to talk to her friend. And this friend is technologically savvy and said to mom,

"Why don't we try to see if we can find out how old Mr. Jones is, really?"

Mom had been worried that he wasn't telling her the truth about his age. She had skipped his big birthday party, and she had never seen his driver's license. Something told her he wasn't being completely honest.

And thanks to a public records search on the Internets, she now knows the truth. She was guessing maybe he was closer to 75, an age she had had in her head as sort of the cut-off. Any man older than that would probably not be the companion she was looking for to grow old with, because, well, they already are.

Mr. Jones was not born in 1938 like he told mom. He was born in (wait for it)...1928.

Yes, kids. 1928. He's 81.


Mom got pissed. Not so much for the age, though had she known that he was 81 from the beginning the relationship would have gone no further than a dance or two at Sid's and a cup of coffee and Geritol after. It was the lying. If he would lie to make himself 10 years younger, what else has he lied about?

She confronted him, and he didn't have much to say for himself except, "I have to lie about my age to younger women. Younger women are looking for older men like me with a little bit of money hoping we'll die in a few years."

Which sounds good in theory, but which I doubt very seriously is the whole story.

She's taking it well, and says she hasn't given up hope that a nice, relatively handsome young man in his 60s is out there somewhere. She doesn't ever want to get married again, she just wants a friend and a date on Saturday nights. But the sad truth that she and I talk about is that men want someone younger than them, not their same age. Harrison Ford and Michael Douglas are a year older and a year younger than my mom, respectively. But you don't see them with women like my mom; they're with pretty younger things.

Sadly, a man who's 71 (but not 81) may be the best a 66-year-old woman can do.