Category Archives: motherhood

Macaroni and Cheese, Measuring Spoons and Murder in 8th Grade Home Ec

The butter went in first.  It slides across the warm pan with a sizzle leaving a melted shiny trail in its wake.

Flour, the elbows, and the cheddar cheese;  tonight’s menu… my mother is making Macaroni and Cheese.  Always from scratch, bake in the smooth cheddar goodness, this is not a side dish, supper.  This is a  have some sliced tomatoes and bread with it, a  stand on its own full-blown entre.

It is still a  favorite.

There are no boxes, no mixes, no prepackaged quickie food items here.

I hop up on the orange formica counter top, bare feet dangling down above the bright game board patterned indoor outdoor carpet that covers the kitchen floor;  repeated checker boards, in deep dark brown,yellow, and orange, a way-too Brady Bunch Kitchen without any Alice.

My mother’s temper heated faster than her copper pots, the wooden spoon her go to tool of choice for reminding her five children just who was in charge.  I sit  just out of reach and watch her every move.  From my perch I watch the magic happen.

The butter pools and starts to bubble, she adds the flour, in equal measure, a roux. She stirs a constant -don’t let it burn stir,  a slow burping bubbling starts, time to add the milk; 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon flour, to 1 cup of milk, the constant and comforting ratio.

Stirring no stopping now, slowly slowly bring to an almost boil, just a single bubble is all the reassurance one needs that it is ready. Mom needs no bubble, her skilled eye sees the time is right when the basic cream sauce holds and slowly coats ever smoothly the back of the spoon when she lifts it out of the pan. Take it off the heat. Time to add the cheddar, stir the sauce, watch it turn from creamy white, to sharp cheddar soft orange. How much cheese?  Measuring is out,  a quick wipe of a finger across the back of the spoon, she does it by taste, knows when it’s just right, it is.

The big pot is almost at the boil, steam rises,  salt is poured in her hand, tossed in the pot, the boiling stops,  momentarily,  then begins again.  She pours the box of elbows in gives it a stir.

“Mom….?   How come we don’t have real measuring spoons?”

Real measuring spoons,  the ones I saw in Home Ec class.  The ones that the teacher, skinny pale-faced just graduated from college and is the same height as 13-year-old me, teacher said is a kitchen basic…whateverthatmeans.

“How many of you don’t have kitchen measuring spoons? Cups?” she asked in her monotone  voice.

My hands are glued to my side, we have no such items, but I not tell’n.  I’m already on thin ice in this class,  having taken too many passes with the sewing machine on my stuffed octopus pillow project. AND I didn’t follow directions,  didn’t leave a hole open on said seam so I could stuff said octopus with stuffing…AND  the final grade dropping straw, smirking and telling the teacher,

“That is not how my mother does it…” followed quickly by, “and she doesn’t use anything from a box”.

“Well your mother isn’t giving you a grade for this class is she?” the teacher barked back.

At first I thought this Home Ec teacher just didn’t understand. Hey,  this is me, I am one of the good ones,  I loved school, never missed, always did my homework, never late with a library book,  loved school. Griffith school  cafeteria with its big fluffy rolls and scoops of peanut butter and chocolate milk on Fridays, the fields where we played kickball, four square, ran track and hung out in the far corner, daring each other to leave school grounds by stepping through the opening in the chain link fence.  

Then I realized she just really didn’t like me. I blurted answers out, didn’t wait on being called on, and even when she did call on me, for some reason she always told me I was wrong.

“What does it mean when we say, clean as you go?”

The blurter in me jumps, “It means what you said, clean as you go, so wash the utensils as you use them, wash the bowls and whatever you used as your cake is baking, stuff like that…”

“Wrong.”

I don’t remember the answer that was correct, I remember thinking,  boy this bitch really can’t stand me…and having a really red face for the rest of the class.

So sorry… didn’t raise my hand, we don’t have any of those Tupperware pretty spoons, no metal neat and stack inside each other kind of cups either. We have regular spoons from the silverware drawer, and a teacup with roses on it instead; BUT  I need to pass this stupid class and graduate from 8th grade.

My mother put the spoon down and looks right at me, “I don’t need measuring spoons…I have this…” she holds up her hand.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Get a teaspoon from the drawer,” she instructs.

I hop off the counter, open the draw and get a spoon. Mom turns around grabs the salt, and pours it into her hand.

“This is exactly a teaspoon, ” she explains, holding out her hand with a tiny mound of salt on her palm.”Now give me the spoon.”

I hand Mom the spoon, standing closer, looking at her palm as she scoops up the salt which all fits with no room to spare on the spoon. It was exactly a teaspoon, no more no less.

“That is why we don’t have measuring spoons, we don’t need them,  and they are a waste of money.”

She turns, drains the elbows using the lid from the pot, and after giving them a big shake, pours them in the pan with the cheese sauce, stirs and then puts it all into a dish  and under the broiler.

The next day I enter Home Ec, pillow now properly stuffed and graded awaits retrieval from the table.  The note pinned to the octopus was full of comments, it held my grade and wonderful commentary on my sewing ability.

“Your stitches are too far apart, not enough seam allowance, and you made multiple passes with machine…D+.”

D+  a first for me,  the I love school straight A gal.  I sit stewing for the entire class.  I keep my eyes down staring at the lopsided octopus in my hands, face growing red, cheeks aflame with shame, for getting a D+. My mother sewed a lot of our clothes, she even sewed the dress I wore in our graduation picture, and wore to the dance. D+  my ass

The bell rings, I stay in my seat.  When the class was finally empty I look up at the teacher and say,

“I finished the project, completed it, and don’t deserve a D-…and for your information we don’t have any measuring spoons, or cups at my house…my mother says don’t need them…they are a waste of money.”

No reaction. Pasty face teacher has no reaction.

I look down and I have twisted the Octopus in my hands, I twist it more and give it a pull, a seam pops open, a weak spot;  Like Bill Bixby when he turns into the hulk, Lou Ferrigno,  I tear at the seam, rip it open, pull out the stuffing and I confess, I proceed to murder the Octopus right before the Home Ec teachers ever-widening eyes.

My mother retrieved me from the principles office. We drive home in silence, she pulled  into the drive way, places the car in park, and turns to me and in a quiet almost stunned voice said to me,

“..she tried to give me measuring spoons and cups.. Then asked me if it was true I never used mixes….I told her that a real cook doesn’t  need them, and mixes were not economical, actually they are a waste of money…she didn’t believe me.”

She looked at me then, she saw and understood. My face finally cooled, even sitting in a parked car, in the driveway, on an Arizona May. 

 “I spoke to Mr. Haggard, you are getting a C in Home Ec,  don’t lose your temper again, even if you are in the right, and even when the teacher is a complete idiot.”

Then we went in the house, and made some supper, without measuring spoons and cups, and mixes, and it was good.

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The She-Dragon, Minions of Oprah and Faces on FaceBook

Despite having warned my children, 13-10-3 at the time, that  a gruesome death was waiting for anyone who interrupted my bath; as in there had better be blood squirting from an open wound or don’t even think about it, don’t move your fannies from the couch and cartoons if you know what is good for you warning, they of course, did.

“Mom?” came the quivering query through the door.

“Is someone hurt or bleeding,  Zack ?” My son, then 10.

 He obviously drew the short straw and therefore had to face whatever terror lay beyond the knock on the locked bathroom door.

“No…but…”

“BUT WHAT…!”  I snort, steam flaring from each nostril,  thinking that now I know there is no blood and maiming,  soon, there will be.

“Someone is on the phone for you …”

“TAKE A MESSAGE!”  roared the fire-breathing scaley she-dragon creature from the tub.

“But Mom…they say they’re from the Oprah show..”

Oprah.

There you have it, the single magic word that saved my child from certain death, Oprah.

I jumped from the tub, wrapped in a towel, opened the door, conditioner stinging my eye and grabbed the phone.

“Hello?”

It’s true. It was a minion of the Oprah.

They had my letter, about the book,  Stones from the River, by Ursela Hegi.

Yes,  it was an Oprah’s Book Club Selection a while ago…ok ok  it was 1997 ok feel better?

Let me just say a mother’s memory  lives longer then a desert tortoise and if you could cut it open, the memory, not the tortoise, it would look something like the growth rings on a tree…mother memories are forever.

The minion had questions;

Why did you identify with the novel? ..yikes..I felt like I was standing naked in Postgraduate literature class without my assignment.  Wait… I am standing naked…conditioner streaming into my eyes….

Are you a “little person?” I almost said yes anything to get me an audience with THE Oprah.

Could I send a recent photo? I pondered slightly which decade photo to send as my most recent photo selection.

 All stop, here is where I get off .

A recent photo. Sorry can’t help you there. Like millions of other mothers of my generation I am the photo taker, the snapper, never the subject.  The few that have survived either have me in a breastfeeding not for public viewing moment, dish towel over the shoulder holiday meal cooking blur, or mid-pissed off snarl as a brave child has attempted to capture the she-dragon on film.

I did send a picture, wasn’t ever selected, and the children lived and grew and the she-dragon that snarled was eventually  defanged, fire extinguished, enrolled in work release program and was never heard from again.  Until recently that is…

Facebook unleashed the She-Dragon.

Specifically, the faces on Facebook.

Reconnecting with old friends perusing their pages and photos and walls has turned me into an Agatha Christy heroine.

I am a bad house guest snooping through “friends” virtual medicine cabinets, looking for a fix.

They look like that? I snarl,  totally obsessed with the beautiful head shot pics complete with lighting and lustrous  fan blown hair.

She-Dragon searches for a single frame of her own to post, but alas my pics just don’t compare.

So I snap a clean washed face in the photobooth app, and paste it for all to see, but it is not who I am.

I am found,  my virtual friends,  in the words and the writing, and the roar of the She-Dragon.

You’ll have to read to see this scaley scribbling creature ….

Can you see me now?

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Worshipping at the Altar of Giada the Goddess of Food

Cheese,  eggs, milk, butter, half and half,  bacon,  blueberries and walnuts are each mentally weighed and measured with a glance. Whole frozen organic chicken,  various deconstructed chicken parts, pork tenderloin, skirt steak, tilapia fillets, shrimp,  and Eskimo pies are noted. I keep opening the fridge and freezer and standing there staring, hoping that either inspiration or a fully cooked dinner for six is hidden inside.  After the third trip I realize it is not working, close the fridge door and look in the pantry.

Kashi cereal, Garofalo elbows, penne, fettuccine, risotto and refried beans stare back without comment.

Bubkes, zip, nada, I got nothing.  

After 27 years of marriage, three children,  two husbands, one live in father-in-law and roughly 9855 dinners cooked, the imagination and creative meal planning well has finally run dry.

Please feel free to check my math.  Thats 27 years x 365 days = 9855 dinners cooked.

What about eating out you say? Recalculating….one moment please…

Eating out, let’s be generous and say one meal a week, although there were years when that was a no-go. Two toddlers, high chairs and cleaning restaurant floors of their cast off,  non-eaten,  food debris wasn’t high on my list of things to do. But  I’ll give you 1 meal a week. Thats 52 weeks in a year, so 52 x 27  years = 1404 meals away from home or ordered in.

9855 dinners cooked – 1404 dinners delivered or eaten out = 8451 dinners cooked.

Oh wait! Weekends means lunches made too! Ok ok I can hear you whining already…. I’ll only count one weekend lunch a week.

1 weekend lunch  a week so… 52 x 27 years = 1404

Which brings us back to 9855…you follow?

Lets not forget the momma ain’t doing no dishes or cooking today,  days… -27 mothersdays,   and – 27 birthdays.

Current running total 9855- 27 birthdays= 9828- 27 mother’s days= 9801 meals.

Don’t even get me started on brown bag lunches packed, or hours shopped or heaven forbid dishes washed…despite the showing of my numerical acuity today, math is not my forte.

What about vacations, traveling, dinners at friends and relatives homes you say?

Feeling generous, I’ll throw in two years worth of dinners…Thats right lets just subtract 365 x 2 = 730 dinners.

Grand total 9801- 730 (the imaginary and generous two years off  dinner duty) = 9071 dinners served.

After over 9 thousand dinners, my well is dry, and standing  in front of an open fridge hoping the contents will start making themselves just ain’t work’n.

Time to go to the Goddess, the goddess of the Food Network.

Giada de Laurentiis the Goddess of Food.

Laptop open, address #1 on the favorites bar, she is always only a tiny click away.

Like an epicurean Genie, she appears a flash.  The miniscule white apron wrapped waist, effervescent smile, simple steps,  food that my family will actually eat,  this cooking icon never fails to inspire. 

She appears next to me in the kitchen we stand eye to eye, but lets just say the size similarities end there…

“I am out of ideas” I whisper head hung.

“Let me see what you have,” she opens the fridge.

She tosses me the goat cheese, bacon, and  frozen shrimp. She opens the pantry and brings out the organic penne.

” Is that fresh basil I see out in your patio?” the Goddess asks.

“Yes”

” Get some” she tells me.

30 minutes later I have a pasta dish and caprese salad at the ready for the hungry masses.

I turn to thank her for her help.

She has  disappeared.

Giada the Goddess of Food and Inspiration has gone, but I know she is always only a  simple single click away.

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Life is not a Pottery Barn Catalog

I open the mail box.

I see it glossy and slick and start to shiver.

The New Pottery Barn Catalog is here.

I rush inside, and don’t stop until I am behind a closed locked door. 

My retreat, the place of peace, the place where this mommy takes her woman porn, my bathroom.

Keep your other porn. I am mommie see me fawn and pant at a clean closet, an organized shelf of towels, and teen bedrooms where the floor is not obscured with every item of clothing they own.

My simple fantasies are filled with clean kitchen countertops, perpetually refilled toilet paper dispensers, toilet seats that stay down, and floors that your feet don’t stick to.

Give me order, give me clean, give me my Pottery Barn Catalog.

The cover alone makes me swoon. 

An ocean blue view fills the back ground, copious comfortable seating casually placed upon a wooden deck,  floral  covered pillows, candles and lanterns atop a wooden urban chic table, a few books tossed carelessly aside on the deck;  see the candles twinkle with the sunset,  smell the sea, feel the soft seat,  sink in, take a deep breath,  a long exhale, peace comes included in the purchase price, this piece of the American Consumer Pie can be yours…Come on you deserve it!

If not for yourself, do it for your country…its your duty…see the waving American flag in the back ground?

Slowly digest the images, read the font on the cover,  Pottery Barn,  Coastal Style in a casual free-flowing  grace-filled cursive script… Free shipping on 200 items!

Open the catalog, turn the page, expand the view, now see the sunset, the broad expanse of beach, the  empty lounge chairs turned toward the sea that await a passenger, a bright umbrella caps the bucolic scene.

Turn the page again see the Adirondack chairs, party sized water dispensers filled with icy water and sliced lemons and limes,  hanging mason jars hold candles, shining stem ware awaits, glossy glass,  all the party is just beginning scenes, wine and food and fun.

You are missing out! Join the party!

A tire swings  in the back ground Andy and Opie are walking up the drive fishing poles across their shoulders…

Keep turning pages, faster and faster see the beautiful monogrammed bedding all with turn down service,  jump in!  Stacks of books, mirrored filled,  perfect paint color selected walls, candles sparkling, fragrant fruit filled bowls,  life’s just a bowl of cherries images..then it comes.

The chrome and white bathroom Petaluma sink consoles complete with fluffy white Hydro Cotton towels,  no frayed edges here, Kensington Tilt Mirrors  gleam, white cafe curtains streaming with clean bright light. I crave a cigarette and I don’t even smoke…

Clear glass jars,  hold sponges, bath salts, soaps and a lifetime supply of q-tips. The walls are a soft hue of what Pottery Barn tells me is Benjamin Moore paint, a color called Hush… panting I …am …almost… there…

Knocked out by the Napa dining chairs, slayed by the sleigh bed,  pages flipping faster images blurred, is that a wine bottle chandelier?

A lighting fixture made from mason jars?

I didn’t get to finish…It was page 47 that did it.

The wondrous scene of a cottage styled room, white wooden tongue and groove beamed ceilings, white french doors opened wide letting in light, a sectional with  sea shell pillows, my glasses and book there atop the Sullivan finest top-grain leather aniline dyed espresso ottoman.

Did you just say your glasses?

Enter the curmudgeon.

The inner skeptic, my grumpy inner voice who swears ands screams in my ear and laughs at my secret Pottery Barn Peaceful Life Dreams…the bad girl who never lets me have a moment’s peace.

I repeat did you just say your glasses?

Uh well, they look like they could be mine…see there on the ottoman?

Ottoman?  Have we left Texas?  Magically landed in the Middle of Turkey? Since when is a coffee table anything other than a coffee table?

Look at these French doors? The gleaming dark wood floor the white woodwork,  isn’t it all just a breath of fresh air?

I tell you what, they don’t close those  Open French  doors and every bug in North America is getting inside…and just who pays their electric bill anyway…all those windows and doors open, ac and lights on…what do they think the world is made of money?

Look at the floral arrangement behind the couch, even you have to admit it is just perfect.

Perfect alright.   Looks like someone went outside took some branches off a shrub and stuck them in old trash jars…first thing you know those dogs of yours will be sitting on that perfect couch, chewing those perfect branches, and it will all be a huge perfect mess.

Look here, page 88, I stammer to myself skipping forward, the Samantha Collection, it even says in print right here,  an organized home lets you breathe a sigh of relief…

Listen up I’m going to do you a favor here alright….look at all the pages…go on..look, let me know when your done.

I go back, look at all the pages, see my future in the Bedford Desk and Organization Collection, white wood clean dream office, find happiness in the limitless possibilities of fabric and furniture selections, fawn over the thread colors for even more monogram choices, ooh and aah over the gleaming scenes of domestic order and bliss.

At last I finish.

So  you done now? Ready for your favor?  Answer me this dreamer girl, one thing ties all those pictures together..just what do all those pictures of so-called domestic bliss have in common?

They are all…clean, and organized, and bright, and filled with color and

WRONG! What they have in common  girl, is that there are no people in them. Natta one. Empty just walked out shoes, glasses ready for wine, and ready for readn, empty seats, and the stuff of people, but no people themselves. Thats what they have in common. Real Life is not in a Pottery Barn Catalog. Aint no dirty dishes, laundry needn done, groceries to be got, toilets needn cleaned, dog hair covered floors, dirty windows, insects or screaming children, bills waitn to be paid, no real life in those pages…so what ya think about that?

A girl can dream can’t she?

 

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Undies

Clothes line cotillion, bow, hands to the basket, grab the wet sheets give them a shake, throw it over the line, my little self too short to reach all the way up, wooden pins hang in a flowery bag, always one in each hand, two in the mouth,  spread the cool cloth, stretch it taut, wipe away the wrinkles, straight and even, don’t let it touch the grass.

 The damp cotton sheets stand guard on the outside of the line, towels opposite on the other outside line,  and then and only then, and under the cover of clean cotton can you hang the underwear in the middle line, between them and out of sight. 

I stand in the in-between, the wet sheets cooling the desert breeze, bleach and white and light, stand between the sheets and the towels, hanging the panties where no-one can see. 

Undies are neither to be seen, acknowledged or discussed and never are they hung first, nor are they hung without their protective sheets or towel cotton coverings. One might have to  wash and wear them, but they are not to been seen.

Times haven’t changed much. It’s still true.

Despite all this,  I am thong see my lacy strap above my jeans nonsense,  Victoria Secret Fashion Show bravado, underwear is still tucked away.

It is a fact.

I have proof.

It is a universal truth that woman upon donning a paper gown for any,  please take everything off including the underwear exams,  will fold tuck and somehow tuck and cover, or otherwise hide her undies under her other clothes.  

They are the last thing off, then tucked away out of sight under anything else. 

Once I confess I pondered where to tuck my panties as I changed into the paper gown, I had worn a dress and hung it on a hanger.

 The nickers were just out there on the chair, screaming at me,  it was just wrong. I had nowhere to tuck, nothing with which to cover.

So I stuffed them into my shoe. 

We are a Nation of  Tucker’s.

Go ahead ask a woman.

I dare you.

While I’m telling all, let me fill you in on another universal truth.

If you have seen her in her underwear,  that was a choice she made long ago,  way before the evening came to this possible ending.

Like  Bridget Jones told us,  underwear selection on a gal is the best thermometer for what the end of the date entails.

The spankies that suck everything in, can’t eat, can’t get them back up after peeing undies, the slinky beautiful pair that cover nothing and hide in ones crevasses, the comfortable cotton grannie panty, or the boy short that just makes one sigh with comfort, and begs the question;  Are men really this comfortable in their underwear? 

Bastards! No itchy seams that dig into the waist or hip or leg?  No strangling elastic? Don’t even get me started on bra’s and underwire discomfort. The injustice of it all !

If my boy shorts are to be believed, men have had it made when it comes to their drawers and we woman need to demand equal opportunity in undie comfort.  

So it isn’t dinner, the close conversation, exploring common interests that decide what happens at the end of the date. 

It’s the careful selection of undies, or lack of them that will ultimately decide.

As careful as undies are  selected washed, worn and folded away, they sometimes escape. 

There is nothing nastier than a strange untucked, lost pair of undies out in a public place.

Think about it…ewe…gross… yucky comes to mind.

I try to remember to shake the legs, or turn the pants inside out before taking them to the cleaners.  I try.

Sometimes the pile is large and I miss a pair. Sometimes I’m in a rush and as I wait my turn  there has been a clingy pair of undies that falls out of the pant leg right there in the dry cleaners.  I stoop quickly and grab them up, but bless my heart it has happened.

The last time I shook all the pants while waiting to get to the drive through window, and a pair of grannies fell out onto my lap. In a hurry for work, I stuffed them into the glovebox, went on with my day, and forgot  all about the undies in the glove box.

So when the boy came home from college and borrowed the car I thought nothing of it.

I had forgotten all about the grannies in the box.

He came home late, the mommie mind still cleaning wiping worrying until all children are home, safe and tucked away,  was still up.

“Did you have a good night?” I ask.

“Ah yes…mom,” he looks at the floor. Something is wrong I can sense it.

“Whats wrong?”

“I found this in the glove box,”  he hands me my grannies. “and I don’t even want to know how they got there…”

He walks away to bed accompanied by my cackles.

It never pays to laugh, the undies are listening…

The car was a fancy one, the dealership far away, I pull on my jeans and boots, we have decided to take the plunge and buy a car.

It’s a long way, nervous and uncomfortable like when I enter gated communities, always feeling I feel as if I don’t belong, don’t fit in, I enter the dealership head down, husband follows. He thinks my reluctance ridiculous, laughable even.

No one is in sight. It is quiet, solemn showroom a shrine to perceived success; its gleaming cars fanned out before me most with price tags on par with buying a house, not a depreciating vehicle. I walk around as I hear hushed whispers, a beautiful and probably thong wearing woman  approaches my husband, she smiles and touches his arm, then retreats. Off to get the requested sales rep I suppose.

I continue my slow walk around and look into the windows of the beautiful German machines.

It’s then I spy it. Something white on the floor behind me, and my stomach drops.

Husband and sales guy see it to. They approach.

Heart racing I watch as the salesman bends and picks up the white cotton fabric.

I turn away, can’t watch. Wonder why I am always the Lucy in my life, why these things always follow me around, cheeks are on fire.

“Yours?” he queries as he holds it out.

A white sock.

I shake my head no…like he and the husband  and thong girl all  just didn’t see that fall out of my pant leg. 

“What can I say,”  the husband  laughs, “Your cars just blew her sock off!” 

 A nod my head, mortified,  knowing it could have been oh so much worse.

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Beauty

I am not that  easily rattled. I have no problem relocating spiders, or beetles,  or any manner of bugs, from their unwelcome wander in the house, back outside. 

I love being alone in the dark, and walking solo in foreign lands when I don’t speak a word of the language,  doesn’t scare.

The faster the coaster, the better. 

Public speaking is refreshing, debating a delight, new things?  Bring them on.

There is one thing, however,  that does scare …  the beauty counter at department stores. 

They are there, the beautiful women.   Not a hair out-of-place, skin glowing perfection, lips lined,  hands and nails flawless, standing there in their black smocks. One look  and I actually start to hyperventilate.

I have never understood. I know not what this, forgive me Betty,  what this part of the Feminine Mystique holds.

And more importantly, why I didn’t get any. It’s like a sorority I never got the invitation to rush.

It’s not for want of trying. Mascara once applied draws not the right attention. My daughters look at me and say,

“Mom do you have mascara on? Can I fix it ?”

Or even worse, it is forgotten and an itchy eye or face rub instantly turns me into Alice Cooper. 

I do not own an eye lash curler, eye liner, or  concealer stick.

My pores are noticable as are freckles, moles, and crows feet. I used to exit the shower with a rosy glow, and consider myself lucky. Now I have been informed, at a whisper,  my rosy glow is rosacea, and it should be hidden. 

I just don’t get it. I have watched late night TV infomercials, ordered easy mineral products, Looks so natural!  I have contour maps and application schemes, all for naught. The magic products when applied leave me looking  like something between Penny Wise the sewer strolling clown, and Mimi from The Drew Carey Show.

After all that worry, shame, conformity and expense, one just washes it off. Money down the drain.

I just don’t get it.

Vanity does exist however, only the form is slighty bent to keeping hair off the upper lip and chin, places that until age 45 I didn’t know needed deforestation on a regular basis.

Oh yes,  lets no forget the big  toe. Heaven help me the first ever pedicure at age 45 also left me speechless, the few wisps on my big toe while far from hobbit like, I soon learned were also a cause for more  shame than my poor LSAT score.  Bless my heart.

A new TV habit has also left me rather speechless of late. While watching a show that is obviously not meant for the 48-year-old grannie demographic,  I saw a commercial which I had never seen before. After seeing the commercial three times, on the fourth play I screamed for my youngest girl child, almost 16 to witness it with me. 

“Ok are you seeing this?!” I screamed.

“What mom?”

 “As the long-legged gal walked past that shrub…did you see it?”

“What… that it changed shape?”

“Yes, and then the second time it changed too!  It morphed into a different shape…did you see it?”

“Yes…. mom, the ad is for a personal groomer, the shrub is meant to represent…you know mom,  it’s a shrub get it? …Please mom…you get it right?”

I got it.  I was completely and utterly mute.  

There is so much I don’t know. I just though you should keep the private parts covered with clothing. I had no idea they were offensive in their natural state and needed electric appliances all of their own. I shall not discuss an earlier episode where I attempted a self-waxing product that I neglected to read the entire directions of before hand, and in a state of distraction left it on way to long. Lets just say I found myself praying to any deity that would take pity on my old vain ass. I was weeks in mental recovery, and vowed to forever more always wear a  swim suit that covered…everything.

So bless me father for I have sinned, I have never purchased anything from the beauty counter people, not once. I avoid them at all costs.

Only slightly less dreadful is going to a shopping mall. I can never find pants short enough, tops long enough, or  a reason good enough,  to go. 

My friends frequently laugh and tell me, “you know.. those pants are long on you, but they are really capris,  right?”   shit.

The last time I actually went shopping, as a separate and planned activity was 2003.

Louise,  my lanky English friend, who can never find pants long enough, whatthefuckever,  and I, went to Victoria’s Secret.

Big mistake.

We both bought the same bra, and exited the store with pretty pink shopping bags.

Louise’s petite bag was the size of a lunch sack, mine looked like it could hold a  complete set of bath towels.

We both purchased the same bra, a single bra. Is it any wonder I don’t like shopping?  

With one exception, shopping at the shoe department at Nordstrom’s.

It is a mecca of wonder, and although I have been every size from a 2 to a 18, my feet remain faithful size, which size you ask? noneofyourbusiness.

Can you see my problem? 

One has to both go to the mall, and pass the beauty counter to reach the magical kingdom of designer shoedom.

It takes me weeks to work up the courage to go where the average teenager spends most of her time, the mall. Like… it’s the mall, like its just THE place to go!

Despite careful plotting and planning the beauty counter stands between me and my goal, the shoes…and there are also black smocks with silver trays handing out free samples! Crap.

I take a deep breath, see my route before me and start to walk fast. I leave the gauntlet of beauties behind without making eye contact, my eyes on the prize; just ahead, a pair of black wrapped leather wedges, a  Faryl Robin’s shoe, the Madison…exhale ooh la la fabulous… I leave thoughts of beauty counter behind me…

I spy some Sam Edelman’s soft grey suede, beaded delights with two little buckles on the ankle,  the Quinley..omg I need to sit down.

The Cole Haan’s  Ceci Air Rose is more than I can bare. The soft petal sling backs leave me wanting a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke.

My only thought as I walk the floor wearing more than the rent on my first apartment on my feet is relief.

Thank God I remembered to shave my big toe.

 

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Mothers Day

February 2002

I didn’t see her at first. I turned and stepped down into the room, and couldn’t see her beneath the huge mountain of blankets and pillows on the bed. She was tiny, with size five feet, and fingers, and she hated the way the steroids made her slight frame swell. It was common knowledge that my mother limited and self regulated her own medication to hinder that most undesirable effect, looking fat. It would not be a stretch to say my mother was a slightly vain creature.

My sister had called me and asked if I was ready. She the nurse, the caretaker, the one we all turned to in times of medical crisis called, had called me, of course I was ready. I am coming, I heard myself say.

Yes, full time college student and mother of three, but I heard myself say, I am coming. Now maybe other husbands are more modern, more hands on, but mine, well he is the ” where does the silverware go?” questioning type on his rare empty the dishwasher trek to the kitchen made twice annually on both Mothers Day and my birthday. But I didn’t think, I knew I had to go. He could handle it. The family could handle it. And they did.

But I could not stay away. That is what I have come to realize. My motivation for going really had more to do with me not knowing, not seeing first hand than with anything else.

I drove to school and withdrew, not knowing when I would return. At the registrar’s office I filled out the forms…where it asked for reason I simply scrawled, my mother is dying. And as I write this I remember being worried if I had spelled dying correctly, one very rarely writes that word, and it looks just wrong.

The nurse sister, Dawn had two small children at the time, a newborn, and a two year old and I flew from Texas to Connecticut to help her fly back with the boys. We were numb. She had been there already but needed her children, so I flew to her, and we flew back together. Mostly quiet on the flight, and were searched thoroughly, including dumping of breast milk and taking off of baby diapers, as we had purchased one way tickets to Phoenix, a cardinal sin, we didn’t know how long we would be.  Two,  grieving,  five foot two inch woman terrorists with their extra mini me’s age two and newborn, are after all an obvious threat to national security.

My father was not sitting not next to mom, who was still a mass under the pile of blankets, but on the sofa, in their garage conversion apartment.  They came full circle, was my first thought. When first married, my parents lived in cold water flat in Springburn Scotland, with a shared bath down the hall. All the women who lived on each floor took turns sweeping the floor and stairs my mother told me. And cleaning the bathroom, which was only a toilet and a sink. For a shower or bath they ventured down the street to the Baths. Everyone they know lived like this.  They lived in a tenement, a one room apartment.  Here they are again, living in a one room place with a shared bath down the hall, my brothers converted garage.

Dad clutched a paper in his hand, which had been folded in half length wise. He moved the paper from his hand to his back pocket, but never put it down. Much later he did put it down, and I was able to read it.  

It was the signs of death, a sheet that a hospice worker had given him, and next to each of the signs or stages, were numbers written in his angular slanted print. It took me a moment, but I finally realized that the numbers weren’t numbers.
They were times. Dad had been keeping track of the moments, the times when each stage started and completed. He wrote the time each symptom or stage had appeared neatly in the margin, some were underlined once some twice.   At the bottom of the page was neatly written,

1 egg,
½  a cup of oat meal,
1 pound of ground chuck
Salt
Pepper
350 for 45 minutes

It was Mom’s recipe for meatloaf. 

He was doing what he could do, which was watch and tally, and try to not think or feel, it was all he could do to survive. She died a month shy of their 45th wedding anniversary. Mom may have been dying but Dad was not going to be without her meatloaf. 

Dawn and I went to Moms beside, where my dad not knowing what else to do had heaped and tucked every blanket they ever owned on top of her seemingly sleeping form. She was medicated with liquid morphine, a little dropper vile was bedside, Dawn examined it with a knowledgeable eye and said, “ Jesus Christ Dad,  Moms  sweating to death here…”

And then Dawn put me to work. We were doing what we could do which was to wash and clean, and care, and try not to think or feel, try not to fall apart like a poorly basted dress…that could come later. Now was the time for ushering, for helping her teach us our final lesson.

We took the blankets off, one at a time, pealed them away and with every layer, her form became smaller and smaller, until at last she was there, a slight childlike form, her night gown soaked through. Mom needed to be washed. So we washed her. We filled a basin and got her favorite rain bath and started to wash and dry each part of her as she had done for us.  Our cheeks and chins ran with tears as we acknowledged her body before us, her tiny feet which once danced and wore beautiful shoes, her legs that ran and chased us, her arms, that held us, her breast which fed us, we went slowly and carefully with great care, and when at last she was clean, Dawn schooled me in changing a bed sheet with the patient still in it.  My sister and I moved as one as we stripped the bed, carefully holding mom and rolling her ever so slightly to first move the old sheet, placed on a new one. Each movement was slow care-full, full of thought and purpose.

 We watched and listened to her breath between every motion. We got her new nightgown, and cut it up the back as to more easily dress her and to not disturb her peace. We stopped and looked at each other then, just before redressing her. It was then Dawn left the room and returned with the Jean Nate. We then proceeded to cover our mother in Jean Nate lemon fresh fragrance. We giggled a bit, slipped her arms in her fresh gown, propped her pillows to help with her breathing, covered her with a fresh soft sheet, and then with mom clean and seemingly more at ease, we sat beside her and had a cup of tea.

Our mother’s death bed became our playground then. We lay next to her, sat next to her, and ate our meals next to her. We even had the babies on the bed, right there next to mom. Dawn was braver than I, she was the voice then, I was not. I was the watcher, helper but she was the one who spoke to Mom.

I remembered music then, and ran for the CD I had brought from home. I thought that Mom should have something to listen to.

She had not regained consciousness, not since a few days before our arrival. But I felt on some level she was still here, smelling the Jean Nate. So I put on the Enya CD. It was soothing and Scottish after all.  And those words usually can’t be used in the same sentence.  For the next few hours we watched our mother breathe, and listened to her breath, and listened to Enya sing our mother into death.

Her breathing was labored, and had a strange pitch a whining wheeze that is referred to the death rattle. Each breath was different, no timing or rhythm, no flow. It was awkward and uneven. Time was stopped for us, was it only a matter of hours ago we entered and found her beneath the mountain of blankets? It seemed like days. We watched as her chest rose ever so slightly. It would fall, and we would look, and place our hands on her chest to feel the rise come again, wait, wait to see if it she was going to take a breath.

And then while Enya sang the song, The Wild Child , she took her last breath. We waited for another but it never came.   Gone with the last breath was the strain the tension and the pain from her face. She looked younger after death, she looked better after death, she really did. 

The Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry was brought out soon after, and we sat upon our mother’s bed and drank a dram of her favorite drink and touched her and Dawn told me the story of her last uttered word.

For Valentine’s Day, Mom received a box of chocolates. She was a chocolate hound….She loved British Chocolate, like Black Magic, Flakey bars, Mars bars and Cadbury Fruit and Nut. Rose’s chocolates were also a favorite. Soon after receiving candy for Valentines, Mom lost consciousness. The hospice worker was convinced she would never come out of it, and it was then I got the call from my sister. But Mom was not through yet. A few hours later, she regained consciousness, yelled “Chocolate!” and without opening her eyes, reached into the box on her bed and stuffed it into her mouth.

Her last word was CHOCOLATE!

Mom stayed with us for a few hours before we called the number the hospice worker had provided. We were comfortable there, talking and drinking and telling stories. But we had another task before we rested that night. Soon the time came and we had to pick out something for Mom to be cremated in. It didn’t seem fitting after all that she be cremated naked.

Dawn and I thought a while, and then it hit us. The purple dress she had worn for her 25 year anniversary party. It was sparkly and silky and she had loved it.

We placed her favorite animal head slippers on her feet, and gave the attendant her purple dress, and that’s the way she went out into eternity.

I hope she liked what we picked.

Like the forgetfulness we can have after having a child, looking down into that new face, our memories of  the hours of hard labor fade. Soon some of us are even lulled into a false memory… it wasn’t really that bad, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a baby in the house again?

Nature has a way of protecting us. If we really remembered every agonizing detail the human race would end afterall.

It the same with death.

 The first time I waited for death it was my own mothers, in February 2002.

The second  was my husbands, in February 2010.

Happy Mothers Day,  Helen and Hilda. 

Love,

Sha

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Help-full

 The Helpful store. The grocery where it is just not allowed that you push your own cart to your car, and unload your groceries yourself,  it’s simply not done. I have tried and tried and yet to have accomplished even getting a single can good to the car without a kind smile, a forced conversation,  and ultimately relinquishing control of  both my groceries and my free will. 

The Helpful store, one simply can not decline the eager beaver carry out kids or worse yet the retirees that make me think absolutely no one has  enough in their 401 k’s to safely retire. I cringe when the grey hairs approach and start touching my sacks. I want to take them home, hear their story and make them a sandwich.

The best bakery, Pete’s Coffee,  good deli, the tub of gari pickled ginger I love to eat right out of the frig, and real butcher counter are all in the helpful store. I try to avoid going, but sooner or later the cupboard is bare, and I simply must make the journey. My mantra the entire 5 minute drive is, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this. I will award myself a treat, thinking of a fresh strawberry cream sponge cake for good girls who don’t lose their minds or patience to kind intentioned,  helpful strangers, bless their hearts…. 

Bless her heart, Thats an all-encompassing fuck off phrase I have learned since moving here to Texas over a decade ago. One can do a world of maligning talk, gossip to ones hearts content as long as at the end of the conversation you utter the simple phrase, “Bless their heart.”

Example;

“That girls shoes make her look like a cheap Saturday Night hooker walking home alone on a Sunday morning without any cash in her pocket….bless her heart”.

The helpful store and I just don’t jive most days. Don’t ask me how my day is going if I have any weekend plans, or even if I like the product you are currently scanning. Isn’t that totally obvious? If I didn’t eat leeks why the fuck would I be buying them? 

I like to shop alone. There is no going in the center aisles of the store, no boxed crap, no sugar is the first ingredient on the cereal box purchases for me. Kashi or nothing, steel-cut oats or leave me the hell alone. Don’t even try to tempt me with your cooked in the aisle sampled goods.

 Are you kidding? Have you any idea how dirty a grocery store is and you are cooking here and now you want me to eat it? Have you even washed your hands?  It’s free? Nothing is free, ever. everything has a price, sooner or later the bill has to be paid. I believe this price tag comes complete with a dash to the restroom where there will be absolutely no toilet paper to be found…Thanks, but.. No Thanks. Force a smile so they will feel ok about themselves, their job security, and promote self-esteem.

Its international food day at the helpful  grocery store. Costumed food samplers are strewn throughout, skillets are sizzling, plates of food products are shoved at me with a smile, would you like to try some wild salmon and risotto? Fresh baguette and organic creamery butter?  Star fruit-its delicious! 

Two women are dressed in what can only be described as Statue of Liberty Attire. I know she is patina copper but these chicas are in white togas, silver crowns, sandals and the ultimate tacky accessory, an arm bracelet around each upper arm that cuts off circulation and makes even the thinnest arm at least ten pounds puffier.  Pita bread samples are their trade, complete with some sort of spread. Ah,  yes,  not cheese, but instead a cheese food product, lovely. I avoid eye contact,  I stand at the deli counter waiting my turn, no numbers here, just aggressive ala assertive eye contact with new awaitees as in,

 “Yes I see you, do you see me? I was here first and don’t even think about taking cuts.”  All this through the veneer of a polite teeth gleaming smile. Our baskets jostle for positions, both hands on the handle, biceps taut…don’t even think about it.

Of course I get the new gal, woman really. I have four items to request,  a simple order,  two meats two cheeses, but alas, all items to require opening a new at least 20 pound side of cow or fresh wheel of cheese, but I am patient, the bakery is within eye shot, I see the cream sponges, and hum my mantra, wear my pasted over smile.

“How would you like that sliced?”

“thin but not shaved,….. please”

“Hows this?” she holds up the slice placed upon the white paper sheet for me to see.

“Thats great,… thank you.”

 I know whats coming next, I close my eyes, hoping she wont go there…but alas, I know she will.

“Do you want a sample?” she holds it out to me, I gulp.

“No..No thank you..”

“Its real good, come on,… you know you want to…”

This is the moment I earn my sponge, I want to unleash a fire or oral sand storm ala The Mummy.  I want to say,  bitch just keep slicing  the cheese, you have no idea what I want…I want to jump over the deli counter and body slam her into the deep sinks. It does in retrospect seem a little harsh, bless my heart.

Instead,  I take the sample, eat it and wonder why I am such a good girl on the outside and yet such a total bitch on the inside. I think life would be a whole lot easier of my insides and outsides simply coordinated, bless my heart.

The final push comes after the butcher counter, fruit & veggies, and the ultimate  half time show of the grocery trip, a visit to the  mecca of wine departments where I usually spend quality time looking up and down the aisles at the vino labels, creative and like a typical consumer they do sway me, wine labels are to me what the cereal boxes were as a kid, I simply love to read them. 

Refreshed and ready to leave I approach the checkout with caution. Paper or plastic used to make me sweat, which do I chose, the fate of the planet and oceans lay in my single consumer guilt driven answer to the question. Ha! No longer a soul torturing event at the check-out I have brought my own sacks.

Just breathe, breathe, it will be over soon, don’t fight it, just relax and let go…

At first all is well, I begin to think conversation will not be initiated, I relax and then… then it begins…

” Is this a…what is this?”

“It’s a turnip…”    As in she just fell off the turnip truck.

Ok chill she just needs it identified…..

“I’ve never had any of those before..what do you do with it?  … do you cook them or  what?”

parts of me wanted to answer, to help,  part of me didn’t, what do I look like a walking food channel?

What a surprise. I have a tell, its my left eye brow, it raises and has a mind of its own. I simply can not control it. 

The turnip is placed onto the scale,  my outside aligned with my inside I remain silent, she looks up to see the raised brow.

She slows for a moment then scans the rest of the items without comment. Good. Glad we are on the same page.

The teenager sacking is mercifully quiet as I finish and pay, don the dark glasses and start to push the cart,

” Oh I ‘ve got this,” I stammer.

” Where are you parked?”  her reply.

She doesn’t let go of the cart. Shit.

Doomed, I walk on, she follows and we are half way to the car before she says,

“So have any weekend plans?”

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The Mommie Mind

Drinking my third cup of coffee, it’s almost ten, dishes are done, dogs fed, the rabbit has already had his way with my arm while I filled his rabbit chow bowl to the brim, newspaper is ready and waiting, coffee made, porridge all a go…Griff hasn’t made his  first appearance yet. 

Houston we have a problem…

I keep watching the clock, telling myself five minutes, in five minutes if I don’t see him or hear him I will knock on the door, and check. Crap.  I don’t want to do this….shit.

The mommie mind, when ever there is a delay, it is always the worst case scenario.

Tardy teens draw no anger from me,  at least not at first as I have already buried them and visited the gravesite, they are greeted instead with rapturous hugs and tears, quickly followed by, 

 “If you don’t call next time you are going to be even 30 seconds late you had better really be dead or I will kill you…”

 The Mommie Mind herculean in its non sequitur leaps and jumps through  an alternate reality.

A late husband,  and I am an already a widow looking for the Sheriff to come a knocking with his notification of the horrible car accident…delays of any sort  have me checking the life insurance for payout policy…I am mommie  feel me worry.

Tick… tock…. the designated five minutes has past.

I know Griff is dead for sure as I stand and start the long walk from the kitchen to his room. I imagine the phone call I will have to make

” Well officer, he usually did get up earlier than 5pm … but I was afraid  to check you see….I didn’t want to open the door….can I use an Amex for  posting my bail?  …

or

” Sorry,  everyone …I went to check on him and he wasn’t moving” 

…shitcrapfuck .. crap.. crap.. crap.. each slap of a bare foot on tile amplifies my heart beat … Where are we going to put all the relatives when they come for the funeral? We don’t have anymore space to spare, maybe the New Holiday Inn up the road ? It will have to do, will they be insulted, maybe just the older relatives can bunk in here….

The door opens, “morning…” Griff offers as he shuts the door and shuffles toward me. 

Whew!  Houston we have lift off!

“Hey Griffy I am going to do you laundry today..is it all in the hamper?”

“You have already done it.”

 No..?  just to myself…

“I’ve just hung it all up,”  he says.

Later when he is outside in the garden, I enter his room, the dirty hamper empty, and the obviously dirty clothes worn while working in the yard are there, all hung up in the closet. I open the drawers, yup,  dirty too,  back in the drawers. I’ll spare you dear reader the description of Griff’s dirty underwear.  I open the curtains, the windows,  air it all out…then I put all the dirty stuff back in the hamper, poke my head out the door, all clear,  he is still outside.  I make a mad dash for the laundry room and start his laundry hopefully it will be done before he  either forgets or remembers he hung up all the dirties.  I can’t keep it all straight.

I sit down watching him out the  kitchen window.

He is watering the pool.

I  can see him hose in hand, rain wand extender attached to hose, watering back and forth back and forth, sprinkling the surface of the pool all while seated in a patio chair…mindlessly …I think of my children,  running through a sprinkler on a hot day, the fresh laughing faces discovering cool water, I wonder what he thinks he is doing.

He is actually watering the pool. I ponder the consequences of my inaction…

Ever mindful of my words and thoughts and deeds,  my plan of action when it comes to Griff has been slowly evolving over the past few weeks  into a single mindset,  a single question I ask myself before interjecting,  interrupting,  or stopping his course of action…what is the harm?

So whats the harm…  Ok… other than our water bill will be huge, and I will have guilt about said water usage what is the harm?

I evaluate the consequences of his actions decide that he can water the pool all he wants to, go ahead knock yourself out…a smile builds in my mouth, I am anticipating the conversation that will happen when the water bill arrives, watch him for a few minutes through the window,  it’s not long before he gets up turns off the water, and comes over to sit next to the back door.

He is outside on the patio, sitting down in a chair, which is not normal.

There are only two normal  Griff positions outside of  the standard sitting while watching tv position.

It is either,  a. upright but stooped over shuffling….or  b. squatting down,  hands upon the ground as he is dizzy has had major vertigo and low  blood pressure to the point that he has just almost passed out.

I am on safari now, watching from my blind in the kitchen, absorbed in this totally new behavior…

“He is taking off his shoe,” its Sir David Attenborough…he is my field guide on this mental adventure…. “he has left the left shoe on,  fantastic…”

ok Sir David you keep a look out  and keep up the narration while I get some fresh coffee.

“His sock is now off too, he is trying to raise his foot, as if examining it somehow….looking for something…”

 dittle dittle dumpling my son john…went to bed with his breeches on….one shoe off and one shoe on

No breeches on with Griff  as he has explained numerous times, he sleeps in the buff, or whitey-tighties only…  pj’s bind him…Nightly I lay on one side of the wall listening to him on the other rolling over in  his bed, I need my iPod just to erase the naked old man images from my twisted mind…you were saying Sir David?

“He has one shoe off, and he seems to be looking at his foot,  now he has some sort of tool in his hand….”

Crap. My mommy mind races ahead… is it stitches he needs?  he has cut himself? …… my imagination takes flight… he has  gangrene and needs an amputation.. or worse  he has stood on a rusty nail,  God only knows when was his last tetanus shot was….thats all I need is for him to come down with a case of lock-jaw…on second thought that might be easier than feigning interest in the same story he tells every single day about the beauty of his garden in England totally being dependant upon placing the grass clippings under the rose bushes….

“Griff what are you doing?”

“My foot hurt, so I took off my shoe, and now I am clipping my toenails….”

I have to look, I don’t wanna…but I gotta…mommie mind races.

The blood wasn’t the worst part, it was actually the severity of the sharp edges clipped into a sharp v shape, and the unusual greenish-yellow white hue of his nails that really scared the crap out of me. I had been around Griff for more than three months, but never seen his naked feet,  it’s the small things one learns to appreciate.

” How long have your toes been like that?”

” Just a few days”

Liar liar pants on fire…I am not touching them..no way Jose.

“Lets get your shoe back on, we are going to the e-care ” is what I said, what I thought was, wholly shit how did you get nail clippers…  and you have Parkinson’s and can’t see …whatthefuck are you doing trying to clip your own toes!

It was a toe fungus, no meds too dangerous causes liver failure says the Doc. Get thee to a podiatrist  he will need them filed and taken care of the suggestion.

” I can clip my own toe nails

” Obviously you can’t Griff….did Hilda clip your nails for you?”

“Yes”

I hang my head, kicking myself for not thinking about it sooner.

Mommie Mind races ahead,  and I  know two things with absolute certainty.

The first is,  from now on I am wearing flip-flops in my shower….

The second is,  its pay back time for the lady who always asks me if I want my moustache waxed every time I get a pedicure….she  is going to get a new chatty elderly male customer, cause this chic is not going down.  

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The Torn Lands

Purse, photo id, wallet, cash, boarding passes for me and Meg, check. 

Suit cases standing guard on the car port, the super shuttle scheduled for a 10am pick-up, the circular nature of my coming and going to Sky Harbor Village isn’t totally lost on me. I am leaving. 

Griff has had his porridge, I have stripped the bed, thrown the sheets in the washer, walked through the entire coach checked and double checked, closed windows, packed the snacks for Griff and Gary for their moving truck adventure, ensured the meds and Hilda’s cremated remains are in the cab and not the back of the truck, placing her next to the authentic Amish remote-controlled fireplace, tartan shot glasses and boxes of paint roller sleeves was just not a civilized option.

Standing at the sink washing,  what as god is my witness is my last sink full of dishes by hand, when it happens.

“It’s all over,” the husband whispers as he hugs me goodbye, “it’s all over…”.

The room went totally silent,  one of those moments of absolute clarity that pulls you inward, time stops, the moment freezes in your mind and you say to yourself, this is important, this is the beginning, or even,  this is the end. It is a fork, a turn,  a moment,  a change and I knew it was happening while it happened, and I knew he was absolutely dead wrong.  

all over? it is only beginning, nothing is ever going to be the same again…can’t you see it can’t you feel it?  not wanting to start, to cause, to feel,  to speak….any words which can not be retrieved… I remain silent. 

Griff  is moving in. Griff will be living with us until the end,   if we are lucky. 

If we are lucky … he will die in his sleep in our home.

If we are unlucky,  he will have to be placed somewhere only barely tolerable when his needs exceed either our physical or mental abilities  or both.  

No more moments alone, no quiet  coffee and  cardinal serenades on the patio when the youngest is off to school, no more blasting the radio all the way fill me up loud, no more singing  off-key whogivesashit while scrubbing, no more alone.

Alone time. A gift. As a young mother I remember seeking solace in a closed bathroom door, opening a tampax wrapper only to hear little mouths pressed against crack of the door, “Mom? Are you eating candy in there?” Quickly followed by twenty little fingers wiggling under the door.

 Alone time. It is a treasure that I hold dear.  I have almost made it through the gauntlet of three children. Waited through cross-country moves, leaving family, carpool and soccer, baseball, riding lessons, puberty raised to the third power, cooking and cleaning and washing and whew, almost there,  I can see the light….WHAM! gotcha. Griff can not be left alone.  

Instead  I am making porridge every morning, his tv now a constant obnoxious companion, his shows, his familiar friends. Always lunch at noon, pills  to be dispensed,  always watching, always mindful of his needs both physical and mental, I am again as a mother to a small child, carefull of tone, and sound and query,   Griff  do you need juice today?  Griff you need a shower, have you brushed your teeth? Did you use soap?   And the very important question and not even the slightest exaggeration,  Did you put on deodorant?

Call that “all over” ?  silly rabbit tricks are for kids…..we are simply changing locations.

 I am torn between saying and not.   I live there, the in-between, the torn lands,  it is  my home now…I say nothing, close my eyes. 

Like  heroine in a wuxia tale,  all this in a moment,  seconds stilled,  I draw my sword and soar. I fly away on tree tops, wild hair and silk robes floating, wind through my soul, red-cheeked fresh sea breeze clean …  freedom ……then …falling. 

The honking  grounds me instantly, my blue super shuttle chariot awaits.

I was fine until  I saw here coming in her pj’s from across the street, the neighbor, the life line, my friend, my new Canadian soul sister, Karen. She,  like I,  a daughter-in-law who stayed, watched and buried, was coming to say good-bye.  Like only those who know the journey her hug huge and heartfelt tight, she whispers, “Forget  the counting to ten, just drink the wine”.

The runny nose sniffles and tears didn’t stop until we arrived at the airport, where my daughter Meg my companion for the flight home  just smiled at me and said, “I knew you were going to cry the second I saw her coming.” My Meg is always watching.

The problems with planning is sometimes things don’t quiet go according to the plan.

My plans were to have the weekend to ready and recover, before father and son arrived, so naturally, it didn’t happen. I had a shower seat to purchase, and hand-held shower to install, a  room to ready, and my expectations were they would arrive at noon on Sunday. So when the call came at 6pm  Saturday that they were nearly here they had driven straight through because of the weather, I was stunned. Numb really. I didn’t even get a full day without dispensing medications, preparing  porridge or watching his tv programs.

Six inches of snow in March were all it took to send me completely over the edge.

The truck empty, house cluttered, piles and boxes everywhere, I seek a small space of my own.

My bathroom once my personal refuge, now has a grey plastic medical supply shower seat in it,  the big walk in shower he can use safely, his belongings moved to the top drawer by my sink, the master bedroom now his path to this the safest shower. There is no  more peace there.

The office where I write is gone, his bed and wall unit occupy the room I daydreamed in.  There is no more peace there.

In the end I roamed the house, and found a space, it has a seat and a light and most importantly a door. Oh and it has plenty of food.          I escape to the pantry, my refuge now, where I sit on the rolling stool I got at a garage sale. The old stool has wheels and can be easily pushed with a foot, but stand upon it and the wheels disappear, and it squat sturdy strong. It holds my physical and mental weight without complaint.

 Awaking to find the Amish fireplace with remote in the living room was actually the tipping point.

I escape to my secret refuge place, I sit and weep into the dish towel  that always seems to be across my shoulder.

The torn lands are so unsteady a place to live. 

When I do speak I am afraid, I hear the words, feel them spill out upon the ground and anchor my feet with their weight.

“I can not do this”

He looks pained, I can’t look directly at him. I am in the torn lands. There is pain in every direction, no answer a clear solution.

” You have to do it,  what else can we do?  I made a promise…”

I weep and kneel head bowed, a moment of surrender head buried in a flowery dish towel. I am on the floor, in the torn place, where there are no clean edges, no clear paths, I hear myself  say, “what do you want of me?”

” I want you to hold it together, you have to hold it together”

So I stand and find the rough edges, and hold them, piece them together for how long I can not say.

I am living in the torn lands, between saying, and knowing and wanting and doing, The Torn Lands.  

I am afraid because it is becoming familiar territory.

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Filed under Elder Care, Family, Griff, Life, motherhood, Multiple System Atrophy, My Husband's Parents, Sandwich generation, Shy Drager Syndrome, Story Telling, True Life, Writing