Monday, June 15, 2015
The ad did not however, mention whether it was too taxing for the deceased.
Unlike the stereotype of Jewish men being all fumbly and inept at all things mechanical, my dad was a brilliant problem solver and fixer and figure-er-outter of how things worked. It wasn't until the very end of his life that simple tasks began to flummox him. The dishwasher, the computer... the very same ones that he'd formerly understood, began to mess with him.
He didn't take it well.
First he raged at the stupid TV, the stupid radio. Then when he watched the dishwasher repair guy simply hit the lock-unlock switch... my dad's anger turned inward. He was furious at himself for being "stupid."
When I suggested he treat himself as gently as he would any other old fart who was losing his marbles, he ignored me.
I reminded him how sweet he'd been with Milt Levine after his various strokes and what not. "Remember how you drove Milt to dialysis and played games to get him to remember words like umbrella? Can't you be as nice to yourself as you were to Milt?"
So my dad probably could not have mastered SKYPE there at the end. And the whole futuristic, Jetson's-like wackiness of talking with real-time video from across the country -- might have fucked with his wavering grasp of reality.
And once dead, I can't help thinking that it would make for less than a cozy Father's day, gathering the family 'round the ole computer to skype with my decomposing dad in his coffin setting.
It could frighten the children. And really, what would we say?
There's no need to SKYPE with my father-in-law either because he's right here on the bookshelf in the living room, encased in a demurely quilted box that I made for him in one of my homier moments. Plus, skyping with ash and bone-fragments sounds like a sneezy allergy attack waiting to happen. IMHO.
So, thanks, SKYPE, for the thought, but I think we'll celebrate some other way this year. Perhaps it's Dead-Dads-Get-In-Free at the multi-plex?
Better yet, how about free beer and popcorn for everyone with no father on father's day? And free cookies, and a hug.
Happy Father's Day,
Smooch 'em if you've got 'em!
Saturday, June 6, 2015
The care-taker was with my mom so I had four glorious hours to run errands in peace. It had been a long night, a long week, and I was giddy with freedom. Finding myself in a strip mall full of time-killing possibilities, I held the door of the dollar store open for a woman pushing a baby girl in a stroller. I knew the baby was a girl because it wore a pink headband on its little bald head. I could get my mom one of those, I thought, to wear on her nearly bald head. That would be so cute.
In the old days this would have been impossible to even imagine. In her prime, my mom was efficient, competent and although she was loving she was the antithesis of silly. And she certainly didn’t play dress-up.
She's not the same woman now, though, between her trifecta of illnesses she no longer has strongly held opinions or a ridged sense of herself. I suspect that she’d no longer care what I put on her head.
I went into Marshall's next and let the racks and shelves of bright colors and clashing patterns soothe me.
My mom wouldn’t have liked Marshall's, she has always been a minimalist down to her bones. Not only was she anti-clutter, she was anti-pattern, anti-all-but-muted, inoffensive earth tones. The walls of her house were white. Her furniture was modern -- straight lines and right angles. Her surfaces were clear. Even the inside of her drawers were tidy.
She wore crisply tailored clothes in solid colors, except for the occasional horizontally striped shirt. No bows, or ruffles, no lace, or trim. Her hair is always short and neat. So was mine, as long as she was in control of me, and I was dressed as a mini-mom, at least in the family photos.
So as a kid I wanted long hair, of course, and craved splashy, extravagant, billowing excess. But my girlhood bedroom reflected my mom’s sensible, no-nonsense taste, tidy, fitted bedspreads, white sheets and crisp solid curtains.
Flash forward fifty years. When I moved my parents into their apartment in assisted living, I tried to miniaturize their house, maintaining their style and sensibility. Since that time, however, my dad died and my mom's dementia, Parkinson's and macular degeneration have advanced. Now I am about to move my mom from her apartment to a single room with 24/7 care.
This move requires paring her already pared down possessions, art, furniture, even further. This move requires replacing the queen bed she and my dad shared forever, with a twin.
As I wandered the aisles of Marshall's looking for replacement bedding for her, it occurred to me that this was my chance to get her back for all the beige-ness of my childhood. I could buy her a screamingly gaudy bedspread maybe one with fringe or sequins. How about this furry, blue Cookie Monster pillow? Animal print sheets? She's pretty blind, anyway and would hardly notice!
Ha! If she got mad, she wouldn't remember it long enough to hold a grudge. She'd forget the whole thing within moments.
Suddenly all the fun went out of my fantasy as I realized how easy it would be to seriously abuse my poor mom. Even her minor dementia renders her nightmarishly vulnerable. My mother's senior housing complex is full of addled older people who are dependent on the kindness of strangers. People with only the most tenuous hold on their own dignity and self respect. Defenseless, powerless elders incapable of fighting back, unable to fend off pink hairbands or flowered bedspreads. And beyond her building, countless others…
After a brief, panicked cry among the sheets and towels, I quickly bought my mom a tasteful solid color quilt and felt lucky to be able to do so.