Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's My Name?

It was the annual holiday party for some families served by Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services (LARS), a local non-profit that works with the poor in our community. The party is given by the staff of PNC Bank. So there we were--well-meaning middle-class white and African-American men and women with a roomful of kids and their parents. The kids were mostly African-American, plus a smattering of whites and Hispanics.

Santa, a late-middle-aged white male recently retired from the bank, was making his way to his chair to give out the gifts, already worried about messing up the pronunciation of some of the wildly unfamiliar names. He was cornered by a lively seven-year-old boy who asked, "Who am I?" Santa blanched a bit beneath his beard and then boomed out, "Oh, I know who you are!" The kid persisted, "Yeah, but what's my NAME?" Santa scanned the room in a panic. Someone silently mouthed the kid's name. Fortunately for Santa, it was an easy one. "Quan!" said Santa. The kid beamed. "Yes!" He high-fived Santa.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Assisted Living

It's gotten to be too much. Today I'll look for an Assisted Living facility.

For me. Not for mom. She's 98 and feisty as the devil.

It'll be wonderful. Someone else will do the cooking. I'll eat in the big dining room at an assigned table. I'll start with the ice cream and ignore the vegetables. Even if one of my dining companions drools, it's all good.

I'll go to crafts class. I'll make a wreath of green construction paper, old cut-up Christmas cards, and red ribbon. I'll taste the glue if I want to.

I'll commandeer the remote in the Big Room and watch Project Runway and Real Housewives of Orange County.

A choir from some church will come to sing carols. They'll bring cookies. Since I can see better and am fleeter of foot than most of my buddies, I'll reach the table first and grab four homemade sugar cookies with green icing and red sugar. If a staff person tries to distract me with a cup of punch, I'll take it, but when she's not looking, I'll be back for more.

I'll go to bed at 9 PM and fall to sleep immediately, despite my roommate's snoring.

Heavenly peace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Wreath of Wrath

When Mom first moved to Merlin, she had lots of ideas about the Way Things Should Be at our house. She told me that I was to hang her "lovely" wreath on our front porch at Christmas. Being afeared of the woman, I heard and obeyed. Wound around her wreath were at least 4 strings of white mini-lights. It hadn't come that way; Mom had "improved" the wreath by adding string upon string. Trouble was, one of the middle strings had burned out. So I began the tedious chore of unwrapping the tangled mess, only to have the underlying styrofoam start crumbling in my hands! Whoa! What to do? I rushed out and bought a new wreath with a normal number of lights. Mom eyed the new wreath suspiciously. Even with failing eyesight, she KNEW. "That's NOT my wreath," she told our daughter. "What has she done with my beautiful wreath?"

Saturday, November 17, 2007

'Jes 'Cause You from Merlin

Some folks around here live in Merlin, a state adjacent to the District of Columbia. Myself, I used to reside in Maryland. A few years ago I ventured down to DC, as we call it, for lunch with a friend. I parked on Wisconsin Avenue without noticing a small sign waaaay down the street warning anyone congratulating herself on finding a parking spot so close to the restaurant that all parked cars had to be off the street by rush hour. Well, it was a long lunch. When I came out at 4 PM, my battered red Toyota was gone. A taxi cab driver waited nearby, like the spider in the parlor, ready to cart the flies off to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. A Personage in a Suit, who shared our cab, fumed that he "would see about this!" I merely mentioned that I hadn't noticed the sign. The driver replied, "Jes' 'cause you from Merlin don't mean you can pay no-never-mind to them signs." I had to pay $150 to get that old car back.

Elderfog

Mom came down with a chest cold a few days before Halloween. I took her to see her nurse practitioner. Mom's breathing was labored, so Mrs. D prescribed an antibiotic. Mom was absolutely befuddled. She'd been this way before when she was ill, but never this bad. She quickly began to recover on the antibiotic, and within two days, she was breathing easier. The fog began to lift.

Although she is almost back to normal, she's lost some ground. We returned to the doctors' office yesterday for a follow-up and a pneumonia shot. While we were waiting for Mrs. D, I mentioned that Thanksgiving was less than a week away. Mom was surprised.

Mrs. D asked Mom some questions. "What year is it?"
Mom replied, "2000."
"2000 and what?" prompted Mrs. D.
"2000," said Mom, firmly.
"Do you know what month it is?"
"Next week is Thanksgiving," Mom proclaimed.
"Good! Great!" said Mrs. D, not knowing that I had tipped Mom off.
Mrs. D's last question was, "Do you know who our president is now?"
"The same guy we had yesterday," Mom shot back.
Mrs. D laughed and let it go at that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mom was 98 in April.

The other day, recovering from a chest cold, Mom said testily,
"I am NOT sick. If people would just leave me alone, I could get well!"

"Leave me alone" means:

Stop pushing me to drink water.
Stop urging me to eat! I'm not hungry.
Leave my valium in my room so that I can take what I want when I want it.
Stop taking my blood pressure every day. Why are you fussing over me? Anyway, you don't know what you're doing.
Stop babying me!

The occupational therapist who visited on Friday to assess Mom's needs after her fall two weeks ago discovered that she never uses the pull-down seat in her shower for anything other than a toilet-brush rack. She made Mom promise to use the seat and to shower only when my husband or I were at home. When I returned from an errand that afternoon, I found her Kliban-cat bath sheet tossing in the dryer. She had taken her first shower in two weeks while I out. When I tattled to the therapist, she grinned and said, "Typical!"

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ice Cream

After Mom's dental appointment (in August), we stopped for ice cream. She wanted the same flavor she had the last time, a mixture of white and dark chocolate called "World Class Chocolate (WCC)."

I said, "You want 'WCC'."
"No, that wasn't what I had the last time."
"Yes, it was."
"No, it had two colors." (I should point out that Mom is nearly blind because of macular degeneration.)
"WCC has two colors."
"But this is not the one. What others have two colors?"
"None of them."
(Pointing.) "What's that?"
"Rainbow sherbet."
"That's not it. What's that?"
"'Cookies and Cream'."
"I want the one I had last time."
"'WCC is the one you had last time."
"No. What others have two colors?"

By the time, the clerk behind the counter gave up and wandered off.
Finally, she decided to accept WCC, for want of better.
The clerk returned and made her a cone, looking amused.

While licking her ice cream, she said, "This is good. Almost as good as the one I had last time."

A Fur Piece

Mom's coat started life as a mink. I think. Maybe it was only "muskrat died to imitate mink." Anyway, the original coat began to wear out about 40 or 50 years ago. So Mom took it to a local furrier. He cut the coat into strips and turned it into quite a stylish jacket, alternating strips of leather with strips of fur. Mom would store the jacket every summer at Cargo Cleaners and retrieve it "by appointment" every fall. We picked it up from Cargo Cleaners for the last time in July, 1999, on the day I drove her and Sadie, the cat, down to Maryland tø live with us.

Then the fun began. We used to have a Bergmann's dry cleaners in Laurel that would accept furs for storage, after they were first cleaned and repaired. No problem. Mom was willing to part with $80.00 every year even though the jacket was really beginning to show its age. "Are you sure you want to spend that much money on this thing?" the clerk would ask, holding it out on the end of a stick as if it were roadkill. No, there was no stick, but it was clear that the clerks could never fathom Mom's devotion to her fur.

Then Bergmann's closed its Laurel store. The yellow pages lilsted a place on Main Street that stored furs. We made several phone calls. No one ever answered. We climbed dark, rickety stairs and knocked on the door. No one answered the dooor either. Did this hole-in-the-wall belong to some kind of Russian crime syndicate?

I called another place I also found in the yellow pages. A woman with a heavy, perhaps Korean, accent answered the phone. We got exactly nowhere.

"I want to store my mother's fur."
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Yes, I know your store is in Fulton."
"What kreen?"
"A fur coat."
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Yes, I know. Your ad says that you clean fur coats, but do you also store them?"
"Stoh in Fawton."
"Er, thanks. Good bye."

True, I could have gone to Saks or some other place in northwestern Washington, D.C., but I couldn't face the distance or the disdain.

Three years ago when summer arrived, Mom again began fretting about her jacket. I told her I would take care of it and hid it deep in our entry-way coat closet.

Reader, she found it. She was not pleased with me.

More phone calls. I took time off from work and drove to a place on Charles Street in Baltimore, just south of Peabody Conservatory. They said that the jacket had to be cleaned prior to being shipped to Pennsylvania in a refrigerated truck. But then, after a quick inspection, they refused to accept it, stating that the coat would certainly fall to pieces if they cleaned it. I told them a little about Mom and they relented. I am sure it stayed in Batlimore all summer. When I went back to get it, they didn't charge a penny for storage. I knew that I would not be back.

The next summer Mom decided that Maryland winters were too warm for furs anyway. She decided to ship the jacket to Peg, her niece in Massachusetts who "appreciates nice things." Peg, who was nearly 70, wanted Mom to mail it to her son's house rather than her apartment. She promised to send his address, but then she forgot. Mom fumed. She threatened to sell her fur on E-Bay! Peg finally sent the address, apologizing for not knowing that the disposition of the fur was "such an emergency." With address in hand, I spent $30.00 to Fed-Ex the thing to Massachusetts. Peg's a classy lady. She wrote Mom a note thanking her for the lovely fur jacket.