Alex oniugnip and I are in Phoenix, Arizona, apropos of nothing except that my grandpa Joe and his wife of thirteen years Joy live here and invited us to come visit for Thanksgiving. There are lots of cacti and twisty desert plants -- surprise! -- and it's hot during the day and really rather cool at night. This morning, we got out two dusty old road bikes that had been Joy's and her late husband Harry's many years ago, pumped up the tires, and took them for a spin through the neighborhood. Oranges, lemons, and limes are hanging voluptuously off the trees, and there's a giant copper statue of Barry Goldwater.
My grandpa is doing okay. He was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease a few years ago, and I knew that he had good days and bad days, but I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when we came here. Happily, he's mostly the same old Grandpa Joe, although he's not as energetic as he used to be. Earlier today, the four of us went for a stroll around their neighborhood -- about two-thirds of a mile -- and Joy told us later that it was the longest walk she'd gotten him to go on in three years. He also has trouble remembering to drink enough water. I was having some last night and told him he should do the same. "I get told that eight times a day," he said to me. "Well," I shot back, "I'm telling you for the ninth time." It's pretty odd to be in this position of telling my grandfather what to do, but Joy approved. I really like Joy; she's keenly observant of people and relationships, and she has a unique perspective on my family. Yesterday, I happened to mention to her that Alex communicates with his mom a lot more often than I do with mine, and I wondered whether I was doing something wrong. "Well, you know, Lindsey," Joy said, "it's impossible to have a short conversation with your mom." I burst out laughing, but of course, it's entirely true; my mom and I only talk once every several weeks or so, but we're typically on the phone for hours when we do, whereas Alex and his mom have a short conversation a couple of times a week. It all evens out -- but it took Joy's pointing it out for me to realize that.
We had Thanksgiving dinner with some friends of Joe and Joy's who live down the street. Their son works for the Department of State and travels all over the world, particularly to China. Alex asked him if it was hard to learn Mandarin, and his answer was an unqualified "Yes." He took intense courses six hours a day for a year and a half and has continued to work at it for the past five years. He's now married to a native speaker whose English is not so great, and he spent dinner alternating languages to converse either with her or with the rest of the table. Dinner was fantastic. People keep worrying about there not being anything for Alex and me to eat because *stage whisper* they're vegetarians, but the fact is, it just ain't that difficult.
It's strange, poking our heads out of the grad school cocoon to discover that it's the Holiday Season™. On Saturday, we'll return to Indiana for -- oh god -- just two more weeks of classes and one week of finals before the semester ends. At the moment, Aarthi kasuchi is graciously house- and cat-sitting for us and, I can only hope, engaging in extreme media consumption with the help of the fancy 32" LCD TV that we broke down and bought a few days ago. (I know, I know. But it's flat, so we can put it on the wall over the fireplace like we would a piece of art, meaning that the living room no longer has to contain a shrine to the TV.) Anyone want an old, heavy tube TV that Alex got for $40 on craigslist several years ago? ...Yeah, I didn't think so.