Apparently this is the Christmas of the Dixie Chicks. I borrowed my sister-in-law's copy of Wide Open Spaces for the drive up from Little Rock to Rogers and listened to it the entire way (read: over 3 consecutive times). Then I got a copy of Home for Christmas, then bought a copy of Wide Open Spaces for myself at Wal-Mart today. They're both wonderful, and I am now officially a huge fan. I guess I always considered them sort of a "singles" band, but seriously, both records are nearly flawless.
Last night I sat in my kitchen with my dad, both brothers and my sister-in-law and had a very long conversation about aliens and the Bible. We actually discussed, in depth and with all seriousness, about why the aliens would have built Egypt, and what they must have been doing. I think we were all running on the assumption that aliens do actually exist, and did actually build Egypt. At least for the sake of conversation. I think my dad might actually believe it, I'm not sure. It was also sort of interesting to listen to him refute and explain away multiple Old Testament stories, attributing them to geologic activity. Neither of my parents have ever been Christians of the literal, fundamentalist type, but they are both avid Bible readers, church goers, and people of deep faith. The thing my dad explained in the most detail was how the parting of the Red Sea was supposedly caused by an earthquake and the tides pulling back or something. (I was fairly lit at that point after having consumed 2 whiskeys and almost 3 beers.) I guess explaining away the parting of the Red Sea due to an earthquake is still assuming the Red Sea did actually part, and that the whole exile from Egypt is also true, so maybe my dad is just the master of Intelligent Design, having found a perfect balance of his faith and his science. Or maybe the Moses story is actually historically accurate and I'm just ignorant. But we never did come to any conclusions as to why the aliens built Egypt. Obviously it has something to do with irrigation, but what? Beats the shit out of us.
On Friday before I left Little Rock I visited the Clinton Library. I have to admit that I was deeply moved and actually cried 3 times. Just thinking about America back then, and watching his speeches, and imagining how much promise there was, pre-Bush, pre-9/11. Just the things that administration did for civil rights, and the poor, and for education. My heart broke. I didn't get behind everything Clinton did, obviously, but it just seems like everyone in the White House back then was so smart, and committed, and progressive-thinking. I truly feel this country was headed towards a greatness it may now never realize. I'm not blaming it all on Bush of course, but he has certainly altered the tides and direction it may take generations to get back. In a lot of ways, the library was really depressing for that reason. But I'm happy I went, and if nothing else, it's an architectural masterpiece, truly stunning.
Overall, it's been a very nice trip. My nephew is 3-and-a-half now, and he's so much fun. He's really starting to form a real personality, and you can carry on semi-conversations with him, and he's becoming quite opinionated and big-mouthed. A true Cox. But more than that, he loves me. He always wants me to play with him, and carry him around, and his face lights up when I walk in the room. He loves to run up and wrap himself around my leg and then beg me to carry him around upside-down; he loves it. He thinks his brains will fall out, but he doesn't seem too concerned about it. I think for maybe the first time, I will be truly sad to leave him. My brother and sister-in-law are thinking about moving back up here from Little Rock and I hope they do. I might even come visit more. I think now that the nephew's personality is really starting to come out, I'm getting a little sad at how many of the things I'm going to miss: his school plays, soccer games, taking him out for afternoons at the movies. Fuck. I hate that kids can do this to you, and I hate that I'm not immune to it. Maybe when he gets older he can come stay with me a little bit in Austin during the summers or something. That might be nice. Who knows what the future holds.
It's also been more of an emotional vacation in other ways. My grandmother has Alzheimers and is deteriorating quickly. I had lunch with her on Saturday, and it was nice, but possibly one of the saddest things I've ever seen happened the same afternoon. I went to her house to give her some flowers and a vase I got her, and she wanted to show me a picture she had. She went to her class reunion this past summer and she said the picture was of her and a really good-looking fellow she met. I thought this was pretty strange and was intrigued until she showed me the picture, and it was of her and my grandfather from several years ago. They were married for almost 60 years, and he died from prostate cancer 6 years ago. She had found the picture in her bedroom, and had sort of decided, i guess (i have no idea how the Alzheimers brain really operates), that she had met this "fellow" there. When I tried to explain to her who it actually was, she had zero recollection of my grandfather, and was convinced she had only met this man this past summer and had never spoken to him again. In these situations, when dealing with this disease, you just have to acquiese and change the subject most of the time, which is about all I could do to keep from crying. And in some ways it made me really angry, but it's not her fault.
I'm leaving here tomorrow, aware of how much I'm leaving behind, and for the first time actually caring. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But I'll be glad to get back to my adopted home and my regular life. And all of my other family.