While i’m thinking about it…

Apropos of nothing…

These are a few things i will not ask of  my children as i continue to age…

1.  Expect them to take an active role in my personal care.  They will not have to wash my bits, change my undergarments or remove sticky chunks of partially eaten food from my clothing after a meal.  i will, however, expect them to make fun of me for my failure to do any of the above.

2.  Find value amongst things i treasure.  If i save something because i want to, it will be entirely up to them as to the future disposition of it.  Save it or shove it.  Sell it or burn it.   i don’t care…

3.  Manage my finances.  Not only because they shouldn’t have to worry about it?  But because i don’t trust one of them… and he knows who he is.  Financing his future MTV reality show on “How I Blew My Mom’s Money On Hookers and Weed” is simply not happening.

4.  Clean my house.  Fuck that.  They aren’t that good at it, which is why i hired help after my last promotion.

5.  Call me weekly just so i can report out on every meal i’ve had since our previous conversation.  i can virtually guarantee that unless i was in Southeast Asia eating live vermin, they will not care.

6.  Go through massive piles of crap after i’m dead.  i’m already labeling boxes so they won’t have to even open them before taking them to Goodwill.  Besides, there are a few things i’m pretty sure they DON’T want to find.  They’ll already be needing therapy without finding the collection of restraints… and “costumes”.

7.  Ask for advice.  Ignore advice provided.  Repeat ad nauseum. 

8.  Expect them to make deathbed promises.  That’s just cruel.  Then again, i could make them promise to do something ridiculous – like wear Kaiser Wilhelm helmets in my honor every day –  just to see if they love me…

9.  Pull the plug should i end up on life support.  Oh, i have no doubt they’d do it – perhaps even a little early (one of them covets my jeep).  They just shouldn’t have to make that decision. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

They didn’t ask to be born.  We chose to bring them into the world.  Their obligation to me is to try to become decent human beings, contributing to society in some manner.  And stay the fuck out of my top shelf liquor…

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At least she was wearing goggles….

Facebook is an odd place for a trailer park battle.  Ok.  Maybe not…

Friday night.  i picked Mom up tonight, and brought her home with me to spend the weekend.  Respite care for all… and a chance for Mom to get away from the excavations for a couple days. Facebook status update from my niece, DQ, with the following picture:

“DQ, III shooting Daddy in the foot with a nail gun…hahahaha”

Invariably, my sister, T, from Florida weighs in with a post on my wall:

T:  “A child with a nail gun? Does anyone in this family ever Think? Very sorry for trying to be obvious. You can all continue to hate me.”

Rather than reply with “Hey, at least she’s wearing goggles”, i attempted to make peace… knowing that DQ and the rest of the extended family (cousins included) had just seen not only the picture of the baby with the nailgun, but also T’s message on my wall…

daisyfae:  “i’m pretty sure it wasn’t loaded…. no one hates you, T… different worlds…”

But my niece, DQ, was quicker, adding:

DQ:  “It’s a toy from Toys R Us”

Huh.  This actually surprised me.  i thought it was a REAL nailgun.  And i wasn’t even phased…

DQ then added “and we love you bunches:)” in an apparent attempt at peace…

Five minutes ago, DQ called me — she had received a text message from T.

“It breaks my heart, but based on my last visit home, you will all never see me again.  Please pass along.”

Well.  That’s special, isn’t it?

(sigh)

***********

The the entire incident – and the “near real time blogging” – occurred with Mom completely oblivious to it.  at least so far…  she’s been sitting in the chair, eating fresh-baked cookies.  right next to me, as it all went down.  i feel like a master spy or something.  or maybe like a complete douchenozzle.  hard to say…. i’m pretty sure my sister, T, was just drunk.  i sent her an e-mail update earlier this week.  there had been no response, so i e-mailed her partner… and was informed that T was pretty disgusted with the whole mess…. wouldn’t surprise me if she does cut herself off…  stay tuned…. For another episode “As The Trailer Park Boils”….

Note from a fly…

If there had been a fly on my wall last night, roughly between the hours of 8:30-11:00 pm, this is sort of what happened…  

Not an atypical evening at home, which is probably why the reaction seemed weird when i was trying to explain it to a friend at work this morning….  And probably why i do not just sit around at home more often.  

In the big leather armchair, at the laptop.  Five different windows open, flipping between them, while on the phone with Mom, making arrangements for a visit this weekend.  Deciding to take Mom to see a local theater production, buying tickets while listening to Mom describe all of the food she’s eaten since Sunday.  

Off the phone with Mom, pulls up phone number from computer. Dials.  Leaves message with friend of stroke victim, who is primary care  coordinator while friend is still in the hospital.  Hangs up, wanders into kitchen, opens refrigerator and stares at contents.  Closes fridge, snags purple popsicle from freezer, returns to chair and laptop.   

Daughter enters room, with toys from pet store for dog and cat.  Once dog is distracted with stuffed duck, both trample down the stairs to torture cat with robotic mouse.  Cat only mildly amused.  Mother and daughter highly amused.  For about five minutes.  

Return upstairs to chair, snagging SCUBA book en route.  Turn Presidential “State of the Union” address on kitchen TV, and listen while doing homework.  In between homework questions, alternate between surfing internet and yelling at television “C’mon, Muthafuckah!  You are the President!  Take it!  Command the room!  COMMAND THE PEOPLE!”  

Finish first chapter of homework, and realize that if Mom is visiting over the weekend, the television in the guest room needs to be operational.  Trample downstairs to storage room, retrieve 13″ television and digital converter box.  Clear off bed, desk and whatnot while untangling cords, and still occasionally yelling at the kitchen television.  Watch approximately one minute of presidential address from small television.  

Stop by refrigerator, open door, stare at contents — disappointed that something new and tasty has not magically appeared over the past hour or so.  Grab an orange popsicle from freezer, return to chair, check e-mail, start SCUBA chapter 3 homework.  Scream at television “Overturn ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’!  Oh, yeah!  But really do it this time…”.   

Return to refrigerator.  Ignore food.  Fix cranberry-vodka cocktail.  Respond to e-mail ping – message from ex-girlfriend of stroke victim.  Another update, suggestion that his local network will need lots of help when he’s released from the hospital, and that he responded with huge smile when they told him i’d been in touch.  Weep uncontrollably*, while responding to her message.  

Blow nose, loudly.  Return to homework.  Yell at television a few more times while drinking cranberry-vodka cocktail.  Turn television off to avoid hearing Republican response.  Finish homework, simultaneously finish drink.  Put on pajama pants and down jacket, put dog on leash,  go out to garage.  Smoke cigarette with daughter’s boyfriend, while dog destroys plants with urine.  

and i wasn't even that jacked up yesterday...

  

* Not a plea for “hugs”.  i cry a lot.  It’s not a big deal.  Fuck, at my age?  i can get weepy at a god damned Honda commercial…

Forever young… not…

“What?  He’s too young to have a stroke? What the FUCK?!?”

Ummm… just because i’ll always see him as that long-haired, deep-thinking hippie boy with the irresistible impish grin, doesn’t mean he’s too young for a stroke.  He’s 48.  And at the moment, he’s still in neuro-ICU, unable to speak, with complete right side paralysis. 

Although he and i hadn’t seen each other in decades, i stumbled upon his twin sister via facebook last January.  She’d been my best friend through 7th-8th grade (and NOT just because i had a crush on her brother), but we’d followed rather different paths and lost touch. 

After a few conversations with him, on a whim i hopped a plane out of town for a terrific weekend last summer.  One of those people in your life.  Our connection wasn’t based on the past — shit, we were 12 years old when we’d last had a conversation — but the connection was a good one.

Prognosis?  Who knows.  He’s overcome much worse during those 48 years, so my money is on him.  His twin is at his bedside.  He has an extensive network of close friends in town.  There’s nothing to be done…

As if we all need another reminder, don’t put it off.  Whatever it is.  Don’t fucking wait til next week, next month, next year. 

Get on it.

Another Sunday in The Park

Another Sunday, another ‘day in the park’, excavating Mom’s house.  Snippets… as i can barely keep my eyes open.  They are itchy, burning and raw from the hour i spent in the hallway closet, hauling out first aid supplies from the 1960’s, scores of mismatched pillowcases, and about two dozen tubes of EXPIRED toothpaste, still in the box.  That’s right.  Expired.  It lasts about 10 years.  Most of these expired somewhere between 2001 and 2004…

Overload:  Mom is clearly overwhelmed.  She’s resigned to the process.  She knows it all has to go.  We are being patient, and trying hard to let her ‘touch’ everything and assign the disposition (keep, yard sale, church rummage sale, trash).  We quit early today because she stopped talking…

Progress:  The two-car garage has been completely excavated, and BJ is putting insulation/drywall on the exterior wall.  Amazing.  i haven’t seen the floor of that garage in 30 years.  There is hope.

Treasures:  Dad’s notes for his memoirs.  Found them.  Had a chance to look through them and there are some new items, and a few surprises.  Unfortunately his handwriting was bad, so it may take awhile to decipher them…  And most amazingly?  His tenor sax.  FOUND.  It was buried under boxes of trash in the garage.  Major victory in the excavations.  i take back all most of the nasty things i suspected about my niece’s first husband…

Estrogen:  My car was at the back of the driveway when BJ needed to make a run to the gas station for cigarettes.  Rather than play ‘drive-way hokey pokey’ and move the two cars blocking in his truck, i just tossed him the keys.  Returning, he handed the key back and said “What is that CD you had in?  Indigo Girls?”  A little embarrassed, i said “no, just some mellow chick stuff i was listening to – to keep me calm on the drive down”.  He said “Well, it made me want to go buy a gallon of ice cream and watch ‘The Notebook'”.  Not only is he functional, he’s funny as shit…

Need to go pour something medicinal in my eyes.  i think it was the mouse poo dust that got me today.  Or the mold spores.  Or the cat dander – from two cats ago.  Or…

Just say “no”…

Take a moment to read this*.  Go ahead.  i’ll wait.  It’s important…

It instantly transported me to my mid-30’s.  The years i was an active volunteer, and member of the Board of Directors, for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.  In a medium-sized town (about one million people in the metropolitan area), we provided free, or low-cost, reproductive health care to about a thousand individual women per year.  Very few of the patients could pay much.  Subsidies came through Medicaid, or state funding for low-income women.

We noticed a disturbing trend.  Each month, an alarming number of young girls between the ages of 10 and 13 were coming in for free pregnancy testing – the same troupe of girls would be there virtually every month.  Of course they got a medical check-up, education, and an opportunity for free birth control (condoms, as a minimum). 

But they weren’t looking for birth control.  They were disappointed to get negative results.

We had an intern** on staff, and she studied the troupe.  More than gathering demographics, she interviewed many of them.  What we found was heart-breaking.

The short version:  The girls wanted to be pregnant.  They were being fucked by 15-18 year old man-boys.  Pregnant girls got attention.  Presents.  A seat on the bus.  All their sisters, aunts, cousins, friends had babies and they wanted one too.  It opened the possibility of housing subsidies – a ticket out of a bad situation.  Their boyfriends might stick around.  The grandmothers?  They were effectively encouraging the girls — Grandma liked having grandbabies: “Oh, honey, you are WAY too young to be a Grandma”.  Grandma wanted attention, too.

This was in the era of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex” campaign for abstinence.  Right.  Let’s replace ALL of the medical and educational work we do with some pamphlets on “Saving Yourself for Marriage”, and “Respect Yourself”.  Oh, and throw in some mindless folksy wisdom – “The man isn’t going to buy the cow if he can get the milk for free” – just for good measure…

Never mind the 21-year old married mother of three who KNOWS she can’t afford to get pregnant again.  “Just Say ‘No’ To Sex With Your Husband”.  The party line:  Well, poor people really shouldn’t have children, should they?  What’s wrong with them?  They breed like rats… We would much rather spend our tax dollars teaching them morality and catchy slogans than actually providing factual information and medical testing.

So i have to ask myself:  When did i stop trying to do something useful?  Why did i give up?  Sure, my own family and career started to consume more of my time and energy.  Life happens…

i have dedicated this particular phase of my life to ‘farting around’.  It’s where i need to be at the moment.  When asked what i will be doing in the future:  “i can retire in 7 years and 14x days.  Plans?  Tend bar, play in a band, and fuck off as much as possible”. 

Maybe…

photo found here

* Thanks to rob for the link…  i always try to go where he sends us.  Usually either makes me laugh my ass off or think harder than i’m used to…

** Through AmeriCorps… a domestic version of the Peace Corps…

Li’l Squirt…

Last Sunday, after my day of excavations at Mom’s house, i was post-processing the event with my children, and my daughter’s boyfriend, Z.  Standing outside the garage, chilly and overcast midwest midnight, smoking cigarettes while the dog tried his best to trip us all with his leash…

daisyfae:  It’s so hard to see her hurt that we don’t want boxes and boxes of glassware.  We don’t need it.  She’s got so many “collectible” glasses from the 70’s – given away as gas station premiums.  She’s even got a set of Apollo tumblers!

The Girl:  Hey, those could be cool.  Did you take them?

daisyfae:  No.  But i can look next week.

The Girl:  Wow, that was from before you were born!  I wasn’t even an egg then!

daisyfae:  I was born then, in 1962.  So i was just a kid.  Your dad was older, and remembers it better… 

The Girl:  So I was at least a sperm.

daisyfae:  Not really –  The sperm that became you was “fresh” in 1986.  Sperm kind of dies off and regenerates. 

The Boy:  It also could have been squirted out.  Knuckle children. 

daisyfae: [spit take]

The folks at ThinkGeek do it again...

 image from here, where lots of plush microbes are available!

Scratching the surface

How much stuff can be crammed into about 1,000 square feet?  We’re still not sure…  the archeology continues.

Mom was less snippy today.  Last week, when my niece DQ was throwing fuzzy, expired food away from the fridge, Mom said “I’ve had it! I’m going to bash someone in the face…”.  Definitely less theatrics today.  Since i’m just back home, after about 7 hours of excavations, i’m just gonna ‘hoark’ a bit…

Sainthood:  BJ, my niece’s husband, is a hero.  He was laid off from his construction job last week, and used his time off productively.  Spending at least 10 hours a day at the house, he has sorted, organized, hauled and manhandled at least 4,000 pounds of shit.  All the while, he has shown patience that the rest of us can’t muster with Mom.  Reassuring her that all boxes marked “keep” will be kept, and that we won’t throw away anything she needs…  He is a good human.

Hoarding:  i am not confused about this – it’s clearly a form of mental illness.  i remind myself “she can’t help it” when she tells me to “throw out those pickles, but save the jars” as i balance on a broken chair in the garage, up to my armpits in plastic yogurt containers from the 1980’s.  She’s verging on panic when we spread out in different rooms and she can’t watch every move we make.  She wants to touch each item.  Tell us what it is, why she saved it, why it’s valuable. “These newspapers are worth a lot of money – they’re from the start of the Iraq war…”.  Wondering if upping her Xanax might help…

The cost of chaos:  So far, we’ve found a dozen automotive ice scrapers.  She no longer drives.  Multiple boxes of plastic cutlery, some still in the grocery bags with receipts.  Paper napkins – THOUSANDS of decorative napkins – still wrapped, with the “75% off” tags intact.  Unopened cleaning supplies, purchased with the best of intentions, inaccessible under boxes and bags and buckets of ‘stuff’.  As we were working today, she said “I can’t afford to replace all this…”.  Made me sad.  If she’d have bought what she needed, as she needed it, or even FIND it amidst the rabble… But the result is a stockpile for Armegeddon.  She could have probably saved thousands of dollars over the past decade or so…

But of all the tales from the front, this one perhaps best captures the scale of the disaster area that is my mother’s house…

HazMat:  In the 1960’s, feeding a family of six on a tight budget required taking advantage of sales, and buying in bulk.  A chest freezer in the utility room was Mom’s best friend.  When all six of us were there, she was in and out of the freezer on a daily basis.  But as we moved out, and home cooked meals became smaller and less frequent?  It was an albatross.  But a fully loaded albatross. 

The last time we seriously tried to excavate the house – 10 years ago – we considered the logistics of getting the damn thing out of the house.  Not a small appliance – 4′ wide and 6′ long.  i took a stethoscope to it to see if it was still running – a gentle hum said the electrons were flowing, but we had no idea if it was cooling.  Those excavations aborted, the freezer sat for another decade.  Unopened.

Last week, BJ collected a crew of his biggest friends, and they took the side door off the house and hauled that thing out.  It was sloshing, so they knew there was nothing frozen inside.  As they lifted it to get it past a planter, a black, slimy sludge sloshed out – releasing a horrific odor.  One friend puked, another ran off.  Mom’s neighbor had been helping with the final push, and went home to grab a respirator.  He was able to get the freezer sealed up in plastic.  But not before the stench was released….

Now that it was out?  How do you get rid of it?  Can’t take it to a dump (freon), can’t have it picked up on bulk trash day (suffocation hazard).  Never mind that it was loaded with liquefied rancid animal flesh.  Craig’s List Curb Alert?  Why not!  It took a couple hours, but finally a truck showed up.  They wanted the scrap metal, perhaps worth $100.  They knew what was in it, and even spilled a bit of the goo loading it up.  But they took it… 

Un-fucking-believable to me that anyone would voluntarily take a 500 pound metal tank, full of festering rotted meat.  For free.  But this conclusively demonstrates the blessings of scavengers.  Here’s to the buzzards and dung beetles of the world…

We’re not done yet.  Far from it.  But there is access to every window in the house so that measurements can be taken for new windows.  A 20′ long flatbed trailer was filled with trash, to be taken to the dump tomorrow.  Progress…

Drama? In a Trailer Park?

The e-mail from my sister, S, had been sent around noon on Thursday.  Doing a quick e-mail check en route to happy hour* and SCUBA class last night, the subject line sort of got my attention:
 
SUBJECT:  I’M DONE!!!! SHE CAN GO BACK AND LIVE IN THAT NASTY HELL HOLE – BY HERSELF!!!!

i’m not always the most perceptive, but my Spidey-sense was tingling.  Yes, perhaps there was something going on down in the Trailer Park.   The message itself was blank.  So i replied, asked “What happened?” and eventually got a report on what seems to be an increasingly smelly pile of family doo doo. 

We did a serious round of excavations last Sunday, and are going back in this weekend.  Mom is a hoarder.  No, let me rephrase that…. MOM IS A HOARDER! 

We’ve “helped” her clean, organize and eliminate her belongings many times in the past, but somehow it continues to get crapped back up again when we’re not paying attention.  We gave up.  She seemed to buy less when she didn’t have open spaces to fill, so we quit creating open space.

The flare up, which triggered my sister to “resign”?  Mom apparently barked at her about throwing out something important – then piled on by calling us “scavengers”.  She wondered what other treasures we’d walked off with last Sunday.

And now a note from daisyfae to her mother: 

“Scavengers”?  Seriously, Mom?  You were apoplectic that we didn’t WANT any of the shit we were boxing up for the church ‘rummage’ sale, or the yard sale to be held this Spring.  i pretended to want some vintage plastic cups** from my youth just to make you feel better about the disposition of some of this shit…

Now we’re scavengers?  Oh, for fuckssake, woman.  We didn’t make this mess…. You have a choice.  We throw this shit out, or you go wallow in it until you die.  Pick one.  You can’t have it both ways…

And so it continues.  i’ll be up to my nostrils in mixed bits of glassware, pieces of 30 year old string and the ubiquitous “plastic storage containers” again this weekend.  Wearing a dust mask provides only slight interference between the mildew, mold, cat dander, mouse poo, dust, crud and dessicated spider husks that fight for space in my sinus cavities…

And so it goes…. Grrrr…… (sigh)….

* For any of you who are tracking “dive safety”, it was a classroom night… i wouldn’t be so stupid as to drink nearly a full bottle of wine before diving.  Probably.

** Goofy Grape, Lefty Lemon, Choo Choo Cherry are now in my possession.  And i’m liable to throw them out… but they really are kinda cute, aren’t they?

Stuck in the middle

Two day roadtrip.  Met up with an old friend, who is currently in a job that could be my dream job… which i plan to pursue in a few years.  He shared with me some of the joys and frustrations of his new position.  Summed up with the following words of wisdom:

When you work for clowns?  Sometimes you’re gonna get a little seltzer in your pants.

Bring on the seltzer… i’m bored…