Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Firefight at the Old Folk's Home

Monday morning came peacefully. I could hear the birds, only, breaking silence. It was cool, with a wispy cloud screen overhead. Such serenity really can only be found on El Rancho. And that's where I was for the day, spending time with Grandma while Susan accompanied Grandpa into Tucson for his heart procedure.

With a backpack full of books and twenty dollars on the kitchen table from Grandpa for lunch in town, Grandma and I were set. But you can always get more books, so in the morning Grandma wanted to visit the public library. She held my arm and introduced me to all the librarians. One lady gave Grandma a letter she left in her previously returned book. Then this lady showed us to Grandma's favorite aisle of books. We browsed, me silently and Grandma out-loud, naming each and every author and title on that aisle.

After she selected four books we left, setting off the scanner, which is okay because everyone knows Grandma never has her card but she's good for the books.

Then we went for some basic groceries. Grandma held my hand, claiming it needed "warming" as we strolled the aisles. We grabbed milk, yogurt, and fruit. And we were having a great time. I kept wondering why I don't come out to spend more time with Grandma. She makes me feel like a million bucks, all the time. And she's always smiling. And she has great stories, like the time she was called as Relief Society President, "When I hated relief society."

After the grocery store we went to the drive-thru at Wendy's. I was beginning to concern myself with the fact we spent the morning walking around town and Grandma was not drinking. So we loaded up on liquids and headed home. I knew also I needed to keep Grandma near a bathroom. Intake and output, probably the two most important geriatric priorities of the day, in my mind.

Back at the Ranch we spread out lunch on the table. I had to remind Grandma to eat and drink and she got a little impatient with me so I asked if I could take the trash out and burn it. Grandma endorsed the idea enthusiastically, so I left for five minutes to take the trash out behind the wood pile, throw it in the metal trash bin, and set it aflame. This is always my favorite chore at Grandma's house.

After five minutes of watching the flames I went back inside, and there was no Grandma at the table. But there was a half-eaten sandwich and an empty glass of water. Success! I found Grandma in the back bedroom talking to her cats. I asked if she wanted to finish lunch with me and we returned to the kitchen. I had just sat down when I smelled smoke. I jumped up, rushed to the kitchen window, and saw flames creeping down to Grandpa's garage, where he had two cars parked and two dune buggy's, as well as enough gas to blow us to Tucson.

I think I said something like, "Oh, crap. Oh no," with my voice wavering. In a split-second decision I decided not to tell Grandma and I ran outside with my cup of water from lunch. I ran to the flames approaching the garage and felt an overwhelming depression as I saw three more lines of flames, one heading into the woodpile, another across the barbed wire and south of the property, and a third heading east into the wash. I could NOT believe this was happening to me. My mind was racing and I could not think, so I looked in the garage and found the most plastic and flammable tarp you can imagine and raced back to line #1 (garage line) to flap it out. You can guess what happened to the tarp. So I started using my feet, but my scrubs started to catch aflame, so I ran back to the house, thinking maybe I should call the fire department. But that far out, who would come? And are they a volunteer crew? Pro Bono might not be bueno today.

I saw the house hose. It was five feet long, a good hundred-fifty too short. But in one of many tender mercies of the day, there were two buckets right by the door. I cranked the faucet and filled both buckets and ran back to the fires. I had to prioritize. I was about to lose a huge mesquite and wood pile. I was also about to lose ground on everything south and east. But I knew I had to finish line #1 (garage). And I did. Thankfully, the garage, and dune buggy survived by two feet. I ran back to the house and saw Grandma walking out with her slow, shuffling walk.

"Oh my," she said in surprise at all the smoke in her yard. I wasn't sure how she was going to react. Luckily, she looked down and saw the hose running so she grabbed it and started watering the flowers by the door. I ran up to Grandma and placed my buckets on the ground in front of her.

"Okay Grandma, everything's okay, the trash fire got out of control but I've got it under control." That was a complete lie. But I needed to keep Grandma in control.

"Oh, okay," was her response.

"Grandma, you fill the buckets up, I'll run and take care of the fire, and come back for you to fill them up again, okay?"

This was our plan. I ran back to the spreading lines and began to gain some control. I eventually put out the mesquite tree and line near the wood pile, which I came within five inches of losing. Every time I ran back to Grandma, she was there waiting with hose. She filled buckets and watered flowers while I fought the fire.

The third line on the south was difficult because I had to negotiate a barbed wire fence. At this point I was wondering when the neighbors were going to arrive. That's a testament to their confidence in Grandpa and his controlled burns I guess, because they never came. I eventually put out the third line and fourth line which was spreading down into the wash.

And there was Grandma, faithfully filling buckets in 90 degree weather, wearing sweats, a sweater, and a wool cap. I made a mental note to make sure she drink a few cups of water when this was all over. I eventually filled up a wagon with water and gave Grandma a big hug, thanking her for saving the day. I was close to losing control but Grandma saved precious time having the hose ready. After I made sure the four lines were out I went back to Grandma and told her to get some rest inside.

"No, I'll just sit right here and wait. By the way, this will be our little secret."

I felt like crying, but didn't want to be the first firefighter in the world to do that, especially on my first one, so I gave Grandma another hug. She stood up and we stood staring at the smoke and ashes, side-by-side. I put my arm around her, sharing the moment of victory and wiped the sweat off my forehead and the tears out of my eyes. But I think the tears were more for having an AWESOME grandma than for avoiding near tragedy.

I spent the next hour spot-checking, putting out flames that would pop out of a yucca or piece of wood on the ground. The wind picked up, reminding me that while Grandma saved the day, it was divine assistance that made the difference.

Funny how family has been talking about getting the grandparents off the ranch and into a safer, more comfortable living environment. I guess it's not time yet.


Jon said...

I was getting very nervous for the turtles during that story

Jan said...

Beezer, I wish I could have seen you doing this. What a comic-tragic play it would have been. Lucky, lucky you!!