Friday, September 28, 2012

Report from Pillville: the Pacemaker

"I need a pacebreaker," the man who loves me exclaimed some time ago. We were, no doubt, discussing our mortality or some related profoundly romantic topic.

My mother, on the other hand, has a pacemaker. Now that she lives with me, it's partially my responsibility to maintain her pacemaker, so off we went today to the cardiologist's office for a test with the guy from Medtronic. After offering my mom a seat and introducing himself, he proceeded to attach a box-like monitor to her chest. A few moments of studying a computer screen ensued, and then he proclaimed that the pacemaker was working just fine. And that it was only "pacing" at 1%. Which kinda makes me wonder why she needs a pacemaker. In any event, the thing is good for at least another four years. My mom will be 92 if she's still on the planet four years from now. Her pacemaker will be out of juice, and she will require surgery to implant a new one. I really don't have the energy or the desire to think very far ahead these days, but if I did, I might lose a little sleep over this one. Isn't there some way to just plug her into a charger?

It's young people who design these things, no doubt. Surgery? Sure! Then let's go out and party.

In any event, getting a pacemaker implanted is probably less tiring than getting a flu shot--or so it seemed today at the local CVS. Here's a clipboard. Stand here and fill out all these forms. Stand here some more, while I punch a jillion keys on my computer and wonder why something is not working.
I asked if there was somewhere my mom might sit down. Yes, of course,  there was an area with chairs--halfway across the store. And yes, bring the forms back to the counter. And yes, walk back over to where the chairs are to get the shot. The woman walks with a cane (and a lovely new English chestnut cane it is) for fuck sake. Slowly. And I doubt that she's the only senior to come in for a flu shot. Move the chairs, people. Make it easy. Is your mother in our system, the white coat finally asked me after several more minutes of tapping away at her keyboard after my mom had hiked over to the chairs. Does she get her prescriptions filled here? No, I said, but she buys her gin here.

And yes, that was why we chose CVS for a flu shot. 20% off on your next purchase!!! Well, that didn't go smoothly either, but in the end, thanks to a couple of diligent employees working the check stand, the saga ended happily. And we got an second 20% off coupon for the next gin run.

I arrived home feeling like I'd consider having a pacebreaker installed, but the smell of gin always cheers me up.

Death in Paris


Paris was burning.

 My mother and I were traveling, and we'd gone to a distant suburb to visit an Algerian marketplace. "This will be like two trips in one," I told her.  "North Africa and France." It was late by the time we sat down at a long wooden table under an enormous tent. We'd gotten a bit lost on a dark narrow street that seemed more like a tunnel than a street. The food stalls were steaming with things we wanted to eat, and I'd almost decided what to order when, in the distance, the blue dome of a mosque crumbled--its minaret falling end over end. There was a rumbling beneath our feet, deep and long, like thunder coming from the depths of hell. My mother heard and saw nothing. It was the collective gasp of the crowd of diners that brought her to her feet.

"What's happening?" she asked me. Before I could answer we werre swept into the crowd, ebbing and flowing first one way, then another, engulfed by a burgeoning panic. Through the window of a bar or maybe it was an apartment, I could see a TV. All of Paris was in flames. The crowd kept swirling, and I wondered if whoever was leading us was as lost as my mother and I had been earlier. I was worried about my mother's feet and how tired they must be getting. I turned to the woman next to me and spoke to her in French, asking her if she would be our guide. No, she said, she couldn't take that responsibility. And besides she had a big day tomorrow. It was her entrance exam for the university. "What will you be studying?" I asked her, wondering why she thought we'd survive to see another day.
"Pharmaceuticals," she told me.

Explosions turned the sky orange. We're probably going to die, I thought. I looked at my mom. I was not afraid. Two old ladies, I thought. And then I realized how different I would feel it was the arm of one of my daughter's that I was holding. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I've got an idea....

Let's go down to the beach and look at the big waves.

And let's invite the family.

Look! Dolphins!!!

Photographer's note: These birds need a human with some photography skills.

Report from Pillville: The Neurologist

The first visit to my mom's new neurologist was yesterday. She was referred by her primary care physician due to the fact that she has sleep apnea and narcolepsy--which actually don't seem to be much of a problem these days. The neurologist thought, at first, that my mom might be better served by seeing  a "sleep specialist," but I told him we wanted to discuss her potential for Alzheimer's due to the fact that her twin sister suffers from it. I wanted to know what he thought about the drug, Aricept, which my mom is already taking, and if there was anything else he might prescribe to ward off any further memory loss. While my mom's short term memory is good, there are little pieces of her past that have slipped from recollection. "I had whiplash?--from a car accident?" she asked me today when she saw that I had written it on her medical history form. "I have high blood pressure?" she wanted to know as we were discussing her meds with the primary care doctor a few weeks ago.
"You can't remember every detail of your life," the neurologist said, but he gave her a memory test. She scored 30 out of 30. While wearing loaner hearing aids. While deciphering his questions through his Chinese accent. He had to give her a hint at for one of the words she was supposed to remember. So maybe her score was really a 291/2. I think she enjoyed the challenge.

The neurologist's recommendation for aging well with a healthy brain? Stay thin. Have an active life-style. Read. Be socially engaged. Avoid pesticide exposure. Turns out there's a link between pesticides and neurological problems.


There's a lot of agriculture here in Margaritaville. The wind blows straight off the ocean though. Still, it's worth looking into what is sprayed on the crops here. "The air from the ocean is the best air to be breathing," the doctor said. "There's nothing out there except the Channel Islands, and there's no agriculture there."

I will be renewing my commitment to organic produce. And continuing my morning walks on the beach. My mom walked an entire block--and back--tonight. And she told me that she might try to quit smoking. Maybe after a visit to the podiatrist, she'll be walking on the beach with me.

Oh--I almost forgot-- ; ) the doctor prescribed a new pill. Namenda. But she'll keep taking the Aricept, too.

The net prescription medication count since her arrival here in Margaritaville? She's been taken off of three meds, now added a new one--for a grand total of ten. That does not include the martinis.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Joy Of

"You want it. You know you do," I said to the man who loves me as we lay in bed last Saturday afternoon. He took an earlier train, and after grabbing a bite at the local fish place and lingering over coffee, we took to my bed fully clothed. What have you been reading, what have you been cooking, we asked one another. Stuffed peppers, I said. Meat loaf, I said--at which point I took the liberty of divining his desires.

I'm a little bored with my cooking life, at this point. I need to try new things. But why is my quiche crust often soggy?  Will my next meat loaf hold together better if I knead it longer? And as delicious as the rhubarb custard pie is.....well, why is it a tad bit runny? I've not yet perfected the old things, so it's hard to move on to the new.

For those of you who asked, here is the rhubarb custard pie recipe. It's from the Joy of Cooking.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hey, Ocean, Who Are You--and What have you done with the ocean I saw yesterday?

When I moved to my new place just a mile from the ocean, I never imagined how much the beach I visit each morning can change in the course of day. There's a slope down to the water...until there's not. The sand is like brown sugar...until it changes to pebbles. One day there are dozens of softball size rocks on the sand, and another there are rocks, wafer thin, perfect for stacking into mini-cairns. Yet another day brings dozens of fist-sized crabs. A couple of days, it's been a pinniped funeral parlor--I believe the top body count was five or six on the stretch that I walk. The birds seem to rotate in and out, too. Crows picking through the sea weed, squadrons of pelicans dive-bombing the waves, seagulls nestled into the sand gathered for what seems to be some kind of seagull sit-in. Some days there are sandpipers, and then sandpipers are nowhere to be seen for weeks. There are days when the islands are invisible. Days when the three parts of Anacapa lie distinctly separate on the horizon. Days when the curve of the coast toward Ventura has vanished. Water: blue, green, gray, silver, sparkling, or dull as mud. Waves mighty enough to bring out the surfers, then nothing but a gentle lapping.

This morning I was surprised to see that the once seemingly distant life guard tower was a mere twenty paces from the surf. The beach was broad and flat, pounded firm. Channels had been sharply carved in the packed sand creating impromptu tide pools. Snowy Plovers raced in and out of the foamy margins where the water met the sand while surfers rode the waves.

I was my usual amazed self.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The autumn equinox has come and gone. Daylight is becoming stingier with her time. But the fields  around here are generous.

Some of the pumpkins have already been harvested and were being loaded onto trucks as M and I drove by today.

I'm not fond of the dying light. It makes sense that we bring these substitute suns into our homes and light them with candles; bake them into pies and swallow their glow.

On Friday, I had a chandelier installed in my dining room. Darkness, I am readying myself for battle.

The Colors of My Weekend

Friday, September 21, 2012

I love you, radio.

I don't know why exactly, but I choose to spend much of my day in silence. No TV chattering in the background. No music unless I'm really listening. In fact, I detest having music on if I'm reading. I savor my errand running when I drive off alone in my car because that's a chance to tune the radio to a favorite station. Yesterday this is what I heard:

Thou Shalt Always Kill

I laughed out loud when I heard, Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls' pants. 
Use it to get into their heads. 
By the time I heard, Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave before it's done just because you've finished your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick, I was a fan.

Complete lyrics are below.

Thou shalt not steal if there is direct victim.
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets.
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Decker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barret in vain.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a peadophile... Some people are just nice.
Thou shalt not read NME.
Thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they've become popular.
Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.
Thou shalt not judge a book by it's cover.
Thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover.
Thou shalt not buy Coca-Cola products. 
Thou shalt not buy Nestle products.
Thou shalt not go into the woods with your boyfriend's best friend, take drugs and cheat on him.
Thou shalt not fall in love so easily.
Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls' pants. 
Use it to get into their heads.
Thou shalt not watch Hollyokes.
Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave before it's done just because you've finished your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick.
Thou shalt not return to the same club or bar week in, week out just 'cause you once saw a girl there that you fancied but you're never gonna fucking talk to.
Thou shalt not put musicians and recording artists on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were.
The Beatles... Were just a band.
Led Zepplin... Just a band.
The Beach Boys... Just a band.
The Sex Pistols... Just a band.
The Clash... Just a band.
Crass... Just a band.
Minor Threat... Just a band.
The Cure... Just a band.
The Smiths... Just a band.
Nirvana... Just a band.
The Pixies... Just a band.
Oasis... Just a band.
Radiohead... Just a band.
Bloc Party... Just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys... Just a band.
The Next Big Thing.. JUST A BAND.
Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-english speaking countries as to those that occur in english speaking countries. Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be. Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music, thou shalt not make repetitive generic music, thou shalt not make repetitive generic music, thou shalt not make repetitive generic music. Thou shalt not pimp my ride.Thou shalt not scream if you wanna go faster.Thou shalt not move to the sound of the wickedness. Thou shalt not make some noise for Detroit.When I say "Hey" thou shalt not say "Ho".When I say "Hip" thou shalt not say "Hop".When I say, he say, she say, we say, make some noise... kill me. Thou shalt not quote me happy.Thou shalt not shake it like a polaroid picture.Thou shalt not wish you girlfriend was a freak like me. Thou shalt spell the word "Pheonix" P-H-E-O-N-I-X not P-H-O-E-N-I-X, regardless of what the Oxford English Dictionary tells you. Thou shalt not express your shock at the fact that Sharon got off with Bradley at the club last night by saying "Is it".Thou shalt think for yourselves.And thou shalt always... Thou shalt always kill! Dan Le Sac lyrics 

As things turned out, my errand running took a little twist. I went to some thrift stores looking for a nice wooden cane for my mom. I was really excited when I found a nice one sitting on a shelf next to a pile of suitcases and duffle bags. I snapped it up and hustled  to the cashier. A weird feeling descended on me as I handed it over and noticed it had no price tag.The cashier called over the intercom for a price check, and moments later a little old lady limped up to the counter. Yep, it was her cane. I had nearly stolen it. Not exactly a victimless crime. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Report from Margaritaville

It's been a month since my mother moved in with me. Here are the stats:

Number of times I have unloaded the dishwasher, folded the laundry, or fed the cat-------0   
Number of visits to Miracle Ear------3
Number of doctor's appointments-----6
Number of times my mom has asked people if it ever gets warm here------dozens
Number of pounds my mom has gained------6.7
Drugs she no longer has to take-----2 (not including the cessation of nebulizer treatments)
Sets of long underwear my mom is now in possession of---2 1/2
Hummingbird feeders now on my patio-----3
Martinis consumed-----unconfirmed
Wine bottles in my recycling bin------who's counting?
Cigarettes smoked------approximately 300
Home cooked dinners-----31

Further notes: My mother now reads the L.A. Times on the iPad every morning, and frequently asks, "Is there anything new on Facebook?" 

Last night we walked all the way to my mailbox--which is one of those neighborhood communal ones. It's maybe a third of a block away. "Oooooh!" she said when she saw the waxing moon, a slice of gold in the night sky.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Flora and Fauna

I love my place here in Margaritaville. But it's not without its drawbacks. The houses are sandwiched together--a feature I disliked from the moment I saw the place. Today, after three months of living here, I did something about it.

In a month or two the honeysuckle will completely obscure the block wall and the neighbor's window. The hummingbirds have already given their stamp of approval.

I was inspired by the project I did yesterday as a birthday present for my mom.

As the plants grow fuller and taller, the view from her room will get better and better.

The dining room and living room side windows now look like this:

And now for the fauna:

Piper gets fresh water in her water bowl a couple of times a day. But what she really likes is a glass of water served in the living room.

The 47%-ers in My House

My mother is one of the 47%. She began her working life at the age of 14 after she graduated from 8th grade. That's how life was in the 1930s when you grew up one of the rural poor. Her first job was as a mother's helper for a rich woman who had postpartum depression--though they didn't call it that then. "Never leave the mother alone with the baby," she was told. But one night when my mother was off duty the woman tried to kill the baby even though the woman's husband was right there. Both the baby and my mother were packed up and sent off to the grandparents' house. The mother went to an asylum. There might have been another child-care job after that, and at some point she ran the roulette wheel at a casino across the river in East Dubuque, Illinois. Her parents were quite taken aback the night they stopped in for a bit of entertainment. There was a food-service job for a Catholic men's college. She remembers putting the cherry just-so in the center of the grapefruit halves for the priests' breakfasts. There was waitress work, too, her feet screaming for relief by the end of a busy night. During the war she worked as a file clerk for a big aircraft manufacturer. After that came the night club jobs. Fancy places in Baltimore with names like the Chanticleer and the Band Box where she worked as a hat check girl or taking souvenir Polaroid pictures. "You always had to ask first," she said. "In case the guy was out with another woman." She was the hostess in a restaurant after she returned to the midwest and met my dad there. She raised four kids on a budget that never had any wiggle room. She canned vegetables from the garden, made jams and pies from the fruit trees, sewed our clothes, and stretched every dollar to the breaking point. After my dad died she began a string of factory jobs and finally landed a union job that paid a decent wage. Her final job was as a custodian for the city of Baltimore where she was horrified at how much useable stuff got tossed in the trash. I've never thought of her as a victim--or as someone looking for a handout. Although she'll tell you it was a damn good thing there were food stamps after General Motors told her my dad's life insurance policy "wasn't any good." We fell into the safety net, but it wasn't long before she hoisted us back out.

This year my daughter will be a 47%-er, too, I suppose, since she quit her three jobs to start grad school.

As for me, I'm a taxpayer. I'll bet you my tax rate is twice as high as Mitt Romney's. But I guess we'll never know for sure.

photo credit: Carol Sigurdson Klein

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Years, Oh the Years

I can't really remember when my mother last visited California before she came to live with me at the end of August. There was a time when she came west regularly, and her stays were lengthy and leisurely....until they weren't. Memory correlates events in weird ways, and it is thus I know that the week in 2007 when the racehorse, Barbaro, shattered his leg was also the week that my mom's twin sister lost her leg. Their trips to California had already ended by then, but it would take a page by page search through photo albums to determine when, exactly, the last trip was. It would require further unearthing to figure out what health crisis or incremental decline ultimately clipped the wings of the two sisters who were always willing to come spend time with me and my family. My aunt has since lost her other leg, suffers from dementia, and now lives in a nursing home. My mother plunged into her own swift  decline as a result of lung cancer in 2009, but she's spreading her wings again, flying solo nowadays. After a drive to Maine for C's wedding last October she realized she could travel, and this summer managed a two-stage move from east coast to west.

For her 88th birthday, we had a small party Saturday with a half-dozen friends that my mom remembered from her past visits in California. Everyone arrived at once, and the shock of all the years and the way they've changed each of us unleashed a momentary confusion. For a minute, it seemed to me that my mom remembered no one, and that my friends could hardly believe that the tiny woman next to me was my mother. I probably looked more like the mother from their memories than she did. But we all stepped through that threshold from past to present, and there we were eating and drinking and talking.

I'm not sure what my mom wished for,  but if I could have a wish, it would be that next year all of us are well enough to remember this party, to recognize one another no matter how time has changed us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

If you can't stand the heat, come to my kitchen.

The world seems to be burning down. Foreign embassies, the hills around Los Angeles. Great sheets of ice are melting. But in here in Ventura County, the sea breezes blow through my kitchen. It's downright chilly for the unacclimated.

I cooked and baked much of the day today in preparation for my mom's birthday gathering tomorrow, but my mom kept her long underwear on, and M did her reading under a blanket on the couch.

The menu for tomorrow:

Marinated Pasta Salad
Rice and Vegetable Salad
Fruit Salad
Green Bean Salad
Warm French Bread/Butter
Carrot Cake

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Here I am

"Well, we've established a beachhead," the man who loves me said as we lay in bed last Sunday morning. He was referring to the fact that, since my move, he's ridden the train to see me every weekend. He arrives in the late afternoon and leaves the next morning shortly after breakfast. When we talk on the phone between visits, he likes to cheerily interject, "Hey, you should consider moving to L.A." I usually respond with somewhat less good humor that he should consider riding the train to see me on a weeknight once a week in addition to his weekend visit. He laughs.

What I find striking about this, is that we are both unhappy that we are seeing one another less often. Yet when I see him, I'm so overjoyed that for a few days I forget how unhappy I was about not seeing him.

The 18 hours we spend together might be a beachhead--or it might be that there will be no further advancement. Maybe perched on this foothold is where we will remain. To me, this feels both tenuous and comfortable. Both slight and substantial. Like I'm on a narrow ledge, but the weather is lovely and--though the ground is hard,I have  the softest of pillows. I'm not afraid of falling.

Some Days I Dress to Amuse Myself

The stripes don't show up in the photograph I took in my dimly lit closet. There are stripes on the top and stripes on the jacket. I was feeling circus-y, I guess, for our second trip to Miracle Ear.

The circus is a highly visual experience. It might be the one place where one does not really need to hear. For the rest of life it's pretty important.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I'm imagining a board game. "Pillville" would be its name. The board looks a little like a mononopoly board, but you get a hand of cards, too. The cards you're dealt are your medications and the conditions for which you take them. You roll the dice and move around the board. If you land on a square that pertains to one of the cards you've drawn, something good...or bad will ensue. Maybe there's money, too, that players can use to buy their drugs in Canada. Maybe there are HMO membership cards, Medicare cards, and Medicaid cards, and private insurance cards that you can pick up along the way depending on where the roll of the dice takes you. Which of these you acquire will also effect how you are able to negotiate the twists and turns of fate delvered by the squares you land on. There might be "Junior" and "Senior" versions of the game. Sample squares in "Senior Pillville" might include:(1) After a move across the country, you're now living with an adult child that understands nothing about your medications. Go back 3 squares. (2) If you're taking Warfarin, the levels still are not high enough. You must go to the blood lab for the 3rd time in as many weeks. Go back 5 squares. (3) Your feet are killing you, miss the next turn. (4) Switching from brand names to generics and back again has you horribly confused. Do not pass Go. Do not collect your next insurance reimbursement. (5) Gain 5 pounds. You are approaching a healthier weight. Move ahead 1 square.

By playing the game you will increase your knowledge of dozens of medications, their counterpart generics and competeting brand names, as well as their side effects.The goal of the game is to make it to the finish line with all your faculties intact with your loved ones around you. Of course, you just might end up elsewhere.

A more complex version of the game can be played by adding an expansion deck that adds your financial planning skills into the mix.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Bear is Back

My mother and I were living in a big house with a lot of people. A bear lived with us. Or came inside frequently, invited or not. It was part of the evening's entertainment to watch the bear. Look! He's interested in the books. Look how he stands on his toes when he wants to reach something! Just like us! Sometimes he swayed to the music on the stereo, and it was almost like dancing. But when we watched the bear we had to hide the little girl who lived with us. It was a given that a couple of people would hold an old sheet up in front of her while we spied on the bear so he would not see her and eat her. I was terrified of the bear and hid behind the sheet with the girl, fighting my hysteria while my housemates looked at me disapprovingly. One night the bear came into my room. I crawled out my window into the damp, grassy yard. "Mom, mom, help me," I called. She was coming, she said. But I woke up before she got there. There I was, safe in my bed, the water a gray-green early morning sheen outside my window.

This isn't the first time I've had a bear dream. And there's another bear dream here with a wonderful analysis by my friend Jules. And of course, there was the the bear that wasn't actually a bear.

Bears. In real life I am fucking terrified of them. I do like to see that goofy news footage though when a bear shows up in someone's Jacuzzi. But I'd be heading off to a hotel if it was my Jacuzzi.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grilled Red Snapper

It's quite possible that I experienced a personal best this evening grilling fish for tonight's dinner. I bought some red snapper off of a boat at the farmers market this morning.  The young fisherman did all the prep. While the grill was heating up, I winged it with some marinade. Dijon mustard. Lemon juice. Fig balsamic vinegar. A little olive oil. I didn't let the fish marinate---just brushed it. We had corn on the cob and green beans. It was all tasty, but the fish was amazing.

The fisherman said he makes door-to-door deliveries. Just leave an ice chest filled with ice by my door. 

Life in Margaritaville is fresh and good.

Friday, September 7, 2012

"It'll be alright!" my mother said as she leapt from her narcoleptic stupor into fully awake mode. There's often a line of dialogue at these transitions from one state of consciousness to another. We were sitting on the couch last evening watching the Democratic convention when my mom snapped into her "deep sleep" mode. Our attention spans were waning. We wanted Barack, but there was Jill. And Joe. And John Kerry. Cocktails were in mid-stream, and the cheese and crackers were wearing off. We wanted dinner--but what did we want more? The president--or our avocado and chicken sausage quesadillas? Mom went out for a smoke now that she was awake again. "Shut up," she yelled into Joe Biden's face as she passed by the TV on her way back inside. More congenially, she told me that all the speeches were too long. We couldn't wait for Obama and sat down at the table.

My political heart needed a pacemaker today when I heard all the fact-checking reports on NPR. Can't the facts be checked before the speeches--at least for the Democrats so they look better than the Republicans?

My mother's other political proclamation of the evening: "We don't do enough for our veterans!" She told me about the suicides in the neighborhood where she lived before coming to live with me. Hanging. Shooting. "They need help," she said, "and they don't get it soon enough." She told me about her brother after he returned from being a tail gunner in World War II. " He shook so bad, he couldn't hold a half-cup of coffee without spilling it," she said. "And he drank a lot. But the military helped him." My uncle's therapy included crocheting. He made  a lot of crocheted lace tablecloths. By the time I knew him, he was alright.

I want Obama to be re-elected. That's my version of alright.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Medicare Doesn't Cover

"No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we'll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street." President Obama

My mom will be 88 soon. Like most Americans her age, she has Medicare. Medicare, however, does not cover eye glasses. She needs both distance and reading correction. 

Medicare does not cover hearing aids. She has two of those, and this past ten days, one has been in the shop. Thankfully, it is still under warranty because the pair cost three grand. I helped her pay for them. Without hearing aids, she would be cut off from the interactions that sustain her.

Medicare does not cover dental. My mom has an upper plate. I have no idea how much that cost. Currently, it doesn't fit quite right. No doubt, an adjustment will be another expense. Interestingly, it slips the most when she is angry. Republican policies usually figure into her anger.

Maybe by the time my generation gets old, we will have already had Lasik, hearing implants, and with the advent of better dental care, we won't need false teeth. But my mother's generation is already paying out of pocket quite a hefty sum for the three things that old people seem to need most. What would they do without Medicare?

Living Inside an E. E. Cummings Poem

"Yes," my mother said when I asked her if I should flip the switch on her coffee pot. I was already paying homage to my little single cup machine when she scuffed around the corner in her flowered pajamas. "Wheeeeeee," she said as I lifted the silver toggle on her coffee maker.

That enthusiastic exclamation made me think of E. E. Cummings.

Here are two of his poems  for your reading enjoyment:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

[in Just-]

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

The olives from the previous evening's martini are another thing to look forward to in the morning. Wheeeeeeee.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Good News and Bad News in Margaritaville

The good news: My mom has been devouring the rhubarb custard pie I made yesterday.

The bad news: I've been stuffing myself with it, too.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Devious Daughter

I snagged the Grand Marnier and the Polish Buffalo Grass vodka while Mom was on the patio having a cigarette. I was 15 again as I rounded the corner from the pantry and saw her pushing herself up from her chair. Lowering the bottles, and using the kitchen island for cover, I laced the fingers of my right hand around the necks. By the time I heard the patio screen door behind me, I was out of sight, slinking up the steps.

My friend Suzanne is here for the weekend, and we wanted an after dinner drink. It's not that we wanted to avoid my mother's company. Suzanne has known my mother for years, and seems to enjoy my mother's stories as much as I do. We snuck off with our beverages of choice because my mom's two martinis do not need to be augmented by an after dinner drink. Conversation from her post liqueur would require subtitles.

And so I come back around to being the devious daughter.

The three of us stood around the kitchen island talking and laughing after I returned downstairs from placing the vodka and the Grand Marnier on the upstairs balcony. I needed the crystal snifters--which would be a dead giveaway if my mother saw me take them out of the cupboard. Like a couple of shop lifters, Suzanne and I adjusted our positions until she was on the far side of the island. My mom turned her back to the cupboard to face Suzanne, and I made off with the glasses.

An after dinner drink is only one of the things my mother can no longer do. This past few days, I've  puzzled over taking her to the ocean. I can drive her right to the edge of the sand, but the dunes will obscure the view if we remain sitting in the car. Live music at some little bistro would be so enjoyable, but will we find a parking place out front, will there be long lines for the bathroom? I'm just going to try the beach and the music anyway, but as for the after dinner I've got a secret stash on my balcony.