Today we attended our first P.E.O. meeting since early December.
When my children were home from college for a month around Christmas, I didn't have time to get Mom to a meeting, and she didn't need it. For outings she found plenty of excitement just sitting in our kitchen, watching the kids and their friends and boyfriends storm in and out.
But today we went to the P.E.O. meeting to socialize and hear Robert Chandler, Director of Graphics for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, speak about his work.
He is the older brother, 81 years old, of one of the P.E.O. members, Louise Taylor. He had just driven about a hundred miles, from Coto de Caza (south of Mission Viejo) to Pasadena to Santa Irena. Afterward he had several stops to make before heading home.
I managed to get find the home and get there by 10 am. While driving, I coaxed Mom on her behavior during the hour I would not be at her side.
"Remember the rule that Serena--your mother--had when she was at the Chapter House in Colorado Springs? She was afraid of saying something that might make her look confused or senile, so she didn't talk if she could help it while she was at dinner there."
"Yes, she was a clever one," Mom said. "She died in my arms in Telluride."
"No, she died of a stroke one morning in the bathroom at the Chapter House. You drove down to the hospital to see her. But her mother, Grandma Brown, died in her arms in Telluride. You tend to put events from her life or from other people's lives or from tv into your own life story. That's why it's a good idea not to talk much at these meetings."
She seemed to be thinking about this issue.
After arriving, we had a rocky time getting the wheelchair in by the side gate of the yard, past a pile of construction materials, and into the patio meeting room. (Trying to get up the front steps would not have worked.)
Mom slept through the business meeting, while I and two other women who have resisted joining P.E.O. sat in another room talking with Louise's daughter Carol and her brother Robert. It turned out that he is the father of a nine-year-old, with whom he plays ball and goes camping. Amazing picture of health and mobility for 81 years! He and Louise grew up in Venice in the 1920s and 30s, attended Venice High School.
When the program began, he spoke about his work printing photos of planets, galaxies, nebulae, and other phenomena in outer space. He passed out two sets of ten lithographs, one of the solar system and each object in it, one of Mars and the Mars rovers. He also gave us beautiful prints of nebulae, book marks, Christmas cards about space made from children's art, including that of his son. "Not bad for someone with only a high school diploma," Louise commented.
Only two or three times did Mom interrupt with an odd question.
While he was talking about Mars, Mom asked, "Were there any people out there?"
"No, these were unmanned space explorations," Robert answered. "That's very important--the big difference between JPL and NASA. JPL does only unmanned exploration."
Later she asked, "Didn't Diane Sawyer go on one of those trips?"
Dorothy B., the P.E.O. friend sitting next to Mom, tried to hush her up as I slipped out of my chair, two seats away from Mom, and went to convince her not to speak. "Right now it's his turn to talk, Mom. When he's done and they have a time for questions, you can talk then."
She accepted it.
Then the meeting was over and we had negotiated our way through the back yard to return to the car. She had enjoyed being at the meeting and having P.E.O. in her life again.
But then she became reflective.
"They don't want any religion in any of this outer space stuff," she commented.
"No, they don't," I answered.
"But I think God is out there somewhere," she concluded.