Habi-trailer park?


i’ll be in The Park for a couple days…. Mom’s scheduled for heart catheterization today.  It’s an outpatient procedure, but highly recommended that someone spend the night. 

The plan from my family members was to have DQ, Jr. stay over.  That would be the 13 year old.  On a school night.  My sister, S, was the other option, but she’s had the flu, so that was off the table.

I’ll be spending the night there, under a pile of cheap plastic crap, in a recliner in Mom’s living room, being nibbled by fleas.  And thinking about that nice, puncture wound in her femoral artery… i hate puncture wounds. 

But it will keep my mind off the spiders circling my head…

“Bitter The Apple”

Mom picked that title – “Bitter The Apple”.  From my earliest recollection, she always said that if she wrote the book of her life, that’s what she’d call it.

Even as a young child, i found it depressing.  I couldn’t figure out why her life was so awful?  We lived in a working-class suburb – owned our own house.  There was a gigantic farm field behind it, suitable for endless games of “capture the flag”.  And woods – where we used stolen construction supplies to build amazing tree forts.  The neighborhood was full of kids – we were never lonely and there were adventures to be had!

The family was quirky, mealtimes were loud, six of us were crammed into a smallish house, but we were all healthy and shared lots of laughs.  Dad had a good job – we didn’t see him much during the week, but he was always around on the weekends, working on projects, leading discussions on philosophy, music and life, or teaching us to throw a variety of balls at each other.  We went camping every summer – where bathing was entirely optional for a week!

Why was Mom so bitter?

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“I’m bitter and i can’t get up…”

Mom is 79 and still lives alone, although my 35 year old niece, DQ – the true Queen of the Park – lives next door.  For Christmas this year, rather than buy Mom more clutter for her house, i bought her a Life Alert system.

I arranged for installation Tuesday, and made sure that the installation was coordinated with DQ.  Although she’s sometimes a human disaster area, she can be very functional – especially when her future inheritance may be at stake.

After a long and painful day at work, i called Mom to see how things went.  She barked at me for 20 minutes…

“Well, they didn’t show up on time…”, and “the paperwork was all messed up…” and “it had to be put 4′ away from the phone…”.

You get the idea.

I’d been up since 4am, was emotionally exhausted from work, and was driving home in heavy traffic during a rainstorm (yes, i know i shouldn’t use the cell phone when driving…).  I didn’t know what to say, other than “Mom, i’m really sorry i got this for you.  I can come down tomorrow and take it out…”

She went on for another 10 minutes about what pain i’d caused her…

I explained “you made it clear to us that you want to stay at home, rather than go into assisted living.  we need to provide a strong safety net for you.  this may not be the right solution, so we can keep looking at other options”.

Another bark-fest.

I gave up.  “Mom, I’m really sorry i got this for you for Christmas.”

And then the icing on the cake from her…

You make me sound so ungrateful”.

oh.  i’m sorry.  what an awful person i am for implying that a half-hour bitchfest without a ‘thank you’ regarding a gift that is intended to keep you safe is an ungrateful response. 


no.  i didn’t say that.  asked her to sleep on it and checked back with her on Wednesday and she’d adjusted to the idea.  i know that it’s the loss of her independence she is mourning, and i need to be very patient.  or very medicated…

Will the real terrorist please stand up?

A few years back, as the ‘terror level’ of the people of the U.S. started to subside, Attorney General Ashcroft apparently decided that it had to be kicked back up a notch.  Bam!  Threat Level Orange!

In a now famous attempt to kick-start the fear factor going into a mid-term election, Mr. Ashcroft encouraged all Americans to be prepared for a chemical attack, by keeping duct tape and sheets of plastic on hand.

My Mom, knowing that i dabble in technology and stay current on such things, asked me if it would be a good idea for her to keep supplies on hand, ‘just in case’…

“Mom.  First i want you to do three things.  If you do these three things, then we can talk about the need for duct tape and plastic.”

    “Stop smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day.  I know you’ve done it for almost 65 years, and other than the congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and persistent cough, it hasn’t hurt you a bit… and yes, we think the tar is holding some of your internal organs in place.  Still, it’s a significant risk factor in your life.

     “Wear your seatbelt every time you ride in a car.  Especially when you are driving.  While smoking…

      “Stop eating a bacon sandwich, with a side of sausage and gravy shots, for breakfast.  Oh, and try to get out and walk just a little bit every day.

      “These are the three things that are most likely to kill you.  You are also more likely to die at the hands of an axe-wielding mime than to suffer the effects of a chemical attack, so the fourth item on the list might be mime-repellant.”


A New Geriatric Eye Test

My Mom is 79, and in fairly poor health.  But she still lives alone in her house, is very independent and drives.  We’ve been concerned about her eyesight for a few months, and wondering whether she really should be driving. 

I brought her to visit me over the holidays – and used the opportunity to get a better idea of the current state of her vision.  On the drive to my house, she read a few roadsigns, so that was promising.  She could also clearly see the 60′ tall fiberglass Jesus statue along the highway as we drove (more on “Touchdown Jesus”, aka “Swamp Jesus” aka “Jesus of the Interstate” at a later date…).

As part of our weekend together, i modeled the cute little halter dress i would be wearing out for New Years Eve.  This was even more enlightening than my ad hoc vision testing on the road…

Standing 5 feet away from her – across the kitchen – her first words were “that’s a little short, isn’t it?”  Squinting a little bit, she then went on to say “Are you planning to wear a bra with that?”

She demonstrated the visual acuity to spot free-range nipples at 5 feet.  She’s still driving…

In the process, perhaps i’ve discovered a concept to entice a few more senior citizens to take the damn test?

a ghost of christmas past – a tale from 2006

On December 26th, 2006, i was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Even as i got the diagnosis, i had been doing my own research, and was reasonably certain the prognosis would be good.  The challenge:  How to tell the inhabitants of The Park?

Specifically, Mom.  The rest of them? I probably wouldn’t have bothered telling any of them if not for Mom.  I was separated for 5 years, and divorced for a full 6 months before i told The Park… but this was something Mom would want to know.

First order of business – control the timing.  I scheduled our Christmas visit to The Park for the 27th from 6 pm – 10 pm.  I can do anything for four hours.

Second order of business – Pre-brief my oldest sister, S, who is a 6 year breast cancer survivor.  I though her best situated for keeping Mom from getting scared and upset.  I called S on the 26th and said “It’s going to be ok, but i’ve got a small, malignant tumor in my breast, and i want your help keeping Mom calm when i tell her”.

What happened next surprised me, even after being in and out of The Park all my life.  She started wailing and crying… “What am I going to do?  My sister has cancer? Waaaaaaaah…..”.  This went on for an hour.  I was calming her, reassuring her that i would be fine – and emphasizing that i needed her to be calm and strong to remind Mom that breast cancer can be effectively treated if you get it early…”.

She was terrified of going through it all again.  And then decided that it would be good therapy for her to assist me along the way…  “You’ve got to let me help you through this – i need to do this”.

Seriously.  I could not make this shit up.

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Neither man nor beast can escape…

…the long arms of The Park.

About 5 years ago, when DQ was still married to her first husband (before he went to prison), she asked if i wanted another dog.   DQs cousin had paid a ridiculous amount of money for a chocolate lab, only to learn that he would grow to 100 lbs – about 50 lbs above the livestock size limit for his current housing arrangement.

I stipulated a ‘try it before you buy it’ approach to assure compatibility with our smaller dog.  It was within the realm of the plausible that this beast was, in fact, a champion Pit Bull being disguised as a lab, and hidden from the mob…  Always be cautious in business dealings in The Park.

He had been named “Lando”. For Lando Calrissian of Star Wars.

Much to my amusement, the large brown dog had been named for the only ‘person of color’ these folks could think of…  clever bunch, they are…

Had they named him “Billy Dee”, we might have kept the name, but even in the car on the drive home, we agreed that the name didn’t work…

The two dogs got along well, and it was clear that the large brown dog was a sweet, subservient and very slobbery attention whore (hmmm… probably a good concept for an episode of Jerry Springer…).

The smaller dog went with my ex-husband when we separated – but the large brown dog stayed, assuring that my house never lacked noise, fur and dog slobber.  As a single, ’empty nester’, the large brown dog is still my canine life partner faithful companion, licking joyfully at his maleness as i write…

Somehow it’s fitting that Mr. Pickles and i are both refugees from The Park.

Another year…

….and another venture.  In a classic sense, i’ve done remarkably well – especially considering i was voted “most likely to be found dead in a gutter” in the ol’ high school popularity poll.

There is, however, a tiny, perhaps moving, boundary i crossed somewhere along the way – averting a likely path into the world of “one bad damn decision after another”.  Part of what i am doing with this forum is to try to understand how that happened…

Parenting two rather extraordinary young adults who share some of my genetics (The Girl, 21, and The Boy, 19), i want to understand how i got out of The Park.  So that i can help keep them out of The Park.

The sister who also got out once said “The Trailer Park’s got long arms”.  Scary and true.  One must be vigilant…

Welcome – and i hope you enjoy the virtual Park experience.  Comments are encouraged!

Trailer Park Christmas – 2007

This year, it was quite nice. 

No hurt feelings or accidental cigarette burns on children.  The kids and i were a little disappointed to miss the traditional holiday “Trash My Ex” competition.

We gathered at the home of my oldest sister, S, on Christmas day.  Everyone brought food to share, and it was all non-toxic – no one got sick this year.  i was pleasantly surprised by an elegant bowl of Cheese Puffs.   It’s all about presentation, you know…

That’s not to say there weren’t a few Trailer Park Moments – fortunately this year they were shared, rather than experienced.

The true Queen of The Park is my 35 year old niece, DQ (either “Drama Queen” or “Dairy Queen” – she’s a huge substantial woman).   She is prone to share stories of barfights, drunken adventures, attempts to work ‘the system’, or even combinations of all of the above.  Quite the raconteur-ess. 

I was starting to wonder if the birth of her second child in September had mellowed her behavior a touch – could she be maturing? 

She saved us from disappointment, through an astonishing tale of drunken stupidity… not only that she could mistake her own living room for the bathroom after drinking half a bottle of tequila, but that she would share such a tale with her family.  On Christmas.

And share this tale enthusiastically in front of her 13 year old daughter, DQ, Jr. 

Welcome to The Park.  (sigh)