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From the Desk of Dora DePaoli: Carolina on her mind

May 14, 2002

I am grateful for another safe trip to South Carolina to visit my daughter Debbie and her family. Again I was in time to see the beautiful azaleas and gorgeous dogwoods. I love all the green, the huge trees and the park-like setting of much of the state.

At church the second day I was there the minister gave us all some food for thought on marriage and the differences between men and women. According to his statistics, women speak an average of 25,000 words a day. Men say about 10,000. He said 45 minutes of quality time a day with her husband is what most women desire. Men, on the other hand, feel 20 minutes two or three times a week is adequate. I'm sure my late husband would have agreed with him.

That afternoon Debbie's husband, Phil, had a surprise birthday party for her. My job was to keep her away from the house until 4:15. I think Deb was a bit rattled to come home to a house full of their friends and their children. She couldn't believe that I didn't at least suggest she put on lipstick and comb her hair before going into the house. She said: "Mom, that is so unlike you!"


She was shook up throughout the afternoon. When asked her age, she calmly said: "83."

My favorite spot at their house is the big front porch with the five rocking chairs. From there I could watch the birds and squirrels. I seemed to be the only person in the neighborhood who liked squirrels. Pat, the next door neighbor, said she would be glad to trap them for me and send them to Holtville. So far as I know there is only one squirrel in Holtville, and it lives beneath City Hall.

A few days after getting there I learned squirrels can be destructive. While reading to the children in the master bedroom I heard a loud gnawing sound coming from the roof. It seems to be the mission of their resident roof squirrel to gnaw through one of the vent pipes above the bathroom. So far M.O. Squirrel, short for Mean Old Squirrel, has chewed off about two inches of the pipe.

An ideal guest at their home is little Fritzy, a tiny bird. He flies in just before it gets dark and spends the night high up in a corner of the porch. He leaves at daybreak. Fritzy never leaves any kind of mess and doesn't expect to get fed.

Ten-year-old Piper, the family dog, lives to be fed. She always waits expectantly under the table for a snack. Piper's age is starting to show. Her muzzle is turning white, and she no longer has the sleek body of her youth or much pep. One humid day when we walked to meet the kids after school she had to rest before going all the way. When everyone is gone from the house Piper lays on 6-year-old Ben's bed next to the window. From here she keeps an eye on the neighborhood and sees when we drive in. She always manages to be downstairs at the door by the time we get out of the car.

Deb and I went on many walks. A residential development adjacent to where they live was a good walk with its beautiful two-story red brick homes and perfectly manicured lawns and hedges. There was rarely anyone outside. These homes were all similar with black shutters and matching mailboxes. They looked like places where South Carolina's version of the robotic Stepford Wives would reside.

Phil and Deb are busy with the Diamondbacks Little League baseball team. Phil coaches and Deb keeps statistics. One day, by default, Deb and I had the "pleasure" of taking the kids to a minor league baseball game along with about 1,000 other kids. Phil had been scheduled to go but at the last minute he had the opportunity to fly on a corporate jet to Hilton Head, S.C., to see the Heritage Golf Tournament.

We ate lots of delicious food while I was there. I particularly enjoyed the Korean and Japanese food. Twice Deb fixed salmon for us and once we were to have Swiss bockwurst, one of my favorite sausages. Phil calls the veal and pork sausages "Swiss tube steak." Deb didn't watch the barbecue closely enough and the bockwurst was incinerated. They looked like charcoal Vienna sausages.

This was my first air travel since 9/11. I'm glad I got to the airports early because of the added security. In Atlanta I had to take off my shoes and stand with my arms outstretched while an attendant checked me over with a metal detector. I was a bit embarrassed when I looked down and my big toe was sticking out of one of my socks.

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