Monthly Archives: November 2016

Thanksgiving Blessings

I sure do miss the days when my Aunt Millie and my cousins would drop in for dessert after their meal on Thanksgiving Day. But life has gotten hectic, and my mother and her sister Millie are — as they both like to say — not getting any younger. It is tough for either of them to “house-surf” during the holidays.

So when my cousins invited Mom and me to participate in a “week before Thanksgiving” celebration at my Aunt Millie’s rehab facility this past Thursday, I jumped at the chance.

When we arrived there was a table for five ready for us, and we arranged Mom and auntie so they had a good view of the evening’s entertainment. “There was a band here last year,” Aunt Millie had said. So she was a bit disappointed to see just one man and a sound system. “What is he going to do, I wonder?” said Aunt Millie. “Maybe he is a stripper,” I yelled so my aunt could hear, ever the joker.

We were seated one table away from a large group including four generations of a family — the handsome elder statesmen (whose name, we learned later, was Quinton), his sons, grandchildren, and a beautiful infant who was Quinton’s great-grandson. It was touching to see the generations enjoying one another’s company so much, and the parents of the great-grandbaby watching as Quinton held him carefully in his arms.

As it turned out, the man providing entertainment was not a stripper (so it had been a waste of time for me to pull those singles out of my wallet and roll them up) but a very talented vocalist who sang Karaoke-style and encouraged us to join in.

Soon after the entertainment started, I felt like I was being swept up in a wave of happiness. It was contagious, almost like it was spreading from table to table and from person to person. Every person in the room was smiling. We sang along to many of the songs, each of them bringing back fond memories;  Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” “God Bless America” sung by Kate Smith, and — for the young folks, the singer announced, looking meaningfully at Quinton’s grandchildren  — “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens.

I had to laugh at the last dedication, as the young folks at the next table hadn’t  even been born when “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was popular. But they went along with it, because it was just that kind of evening. Simple in its perfection, and perfect in its simplicity.

I felt profoundly blessed to be a part of it.










If there is anything I can’t imagine myself or anyone else doing, it would be running up to my mother and shouting “Twinsies!” Realistically, unless I take it upon myself to order your clothes from the Blair catalog or offer to shop for you at Sears or Lord and Taylor, this is not a possibility. But still.

My mother is a model of decorum. She stands on a social and moral high ground that few of us – including me — could ever hope to attain. She is the first to lean back in abject horror or toss out a stink eye when things get out of control in any way. She is a steadfast teetotaler in a world where people binge on many things.

So when a friend of mine who dabbles in numerology asked me to provide her with my birthdate and that of my mom, I received a surprise. “You and your mom are pretty much twins,” she announced. I sat there – with my mouth hanging open, I am sure – struggling to process this information. The words “highly illogical!” reverberated in my head (thank yew, Mister Spock).  And then, in the next heartbeat, it somehow made perfect sense. In my mind, I actually saw my mother and myself standing close to one another – like a protected “front” — as we do much of the time. “Ah, we ARE twinsies,” I thought (I don’t know WHO to thank for that, and not sure that I should thank anyone.)

My love and admiration for my mother runs quite deep, I remembered in that millisecond. This was easy to forget when my mind was otherwise occupied with the daily minutiae of washing her clothes, organizing her pills, taking her to appointments, reminding her of her daily routine, and presenting her with meals.  I love her unconditionally, and she has the grace to return the favor. Or vice-versa. This is a definite chicken and the egg which-came-first scenario. Most likely the reason I cherish my mother is because she has always cherished me. And that is the only possible reason why the “me-as-unlikely-caregiver” situation has lasted this long and gone better than I expected.

Sometimes you can spend a lot of time searching for an explanation when the answer is right in front of you. “Am I seeing myself some kind of martyr?” “Does my mother realize how much she is impacting my life?” “Why does she light up when someone else enters the room, but not when I do?” “Why am I still doing this?” Then someone hands you a gift, a simple fact wrapped in logic so beautiful that it takes your breath away. In this case, the answer that you are experiencing a love so pure that it cannot be defined or even described and does not require constant expression.

And you find yourself with a new lease on life.



Morning Glory

“You just gave me the stink-eye,” I told my mother during breakfast this morning. She frowned, and I realized that — to be fair — this is not what one wants to hear when one has not yet had a sip of morning coffee.

“That sounds terrible,” she said. “What is it?”

“It’s like this,” I said, arching my eyebrows and giving her a sideways look.

“I do that?” she said. “When?”

“You do it a lot,” I said, and I could see that she was giving this some serious thought.

“Well why would I do that?” she said, and I almost laughed. My mom was never an Italian table-flipper, thank goodness, but she was an expert table-turner.

“Well usually in response to something John or I are doing,” I said honestly. “Like just now, when I told you that you had to take your pills before you can have your coffee and bagel.”

“Oh,” she said, satisfied.

Apparently “stink eye” sounds terrible. But “totally justified stink eye” is a horse of a different color.

I guess I can look forward to lots more of them.


Caregiver’s Mouth

Here’s a news flash. Apparently I have “Caregiver’s Mouth.”

No, this does not refer to the sometimes off-color remarks I mutter to my myself.

It refers to the sorry state of my teeth and gums.

I always know that I have “dropped the ball” flossing-wise when the dental hygienist fires up the “big gun” – the electric-powered tartar-remover that spits out an alarming amount of water.

“Oh, nooooo,” I said to myself when this happened during a recent visit. My hygienist worked harder that I thought humanly possible that morning, dutifully wielding the big gun and then performing an inordinate amount of scraping. She never sighed or complained, and instead turned the tables.

“I don’t mind at all,” she assured me when I offered a garbled apology. “But I have to wonder what else you are neglecting.”

She stopped working for a moment. “When was your last mammogram?” she asked.

“I dunno,” I answered, and she nodded.

“I see this all the time with caregivers,” she said. “It’s time to start taking care of yourself.”

She was right. I’d been putting off important appointments and also neglected my just-before-bed flossing as well – choosing instead to use my last bit of energy to sweep up the crumbs always left in the living room as a result of Mom’s nightly snack.

(My mother, who used to be fastidious in every way, now forgoes the use of a plate and keeps her nighttime cookie on her lap. Before getting up to go to bed, she almost luxuriously sweeps the crumbs off of her skirt and onto the floor. Like she is the Queen of England. She has no idea, of course, that is not the most helpful thing to do. Even so, this sometimes annoys the stuffing out of me. Other times, recalling everything my mother has done for me, I give her a silent “atta girl!”).

Keeping the wake-up call from the dental hygienist in the front of my mind, I wasted almost no time making my necessary medical appointments — even though I am usually the biggest procrastinator about these things.  I also returned to my bedtime flossing routine, even though the thought of leaving crumbs in the living room until morning certainly gave me pause.

Guess what? I did not wake up to mice in the living room, as I had feared. And once this ball started rolling, it kept going. I decided to spend more time on my own interests and well-being. I picked up the acrylic paints once again, and finally committed to the “no holds barred” editing of a work of fiction that I wrote over two years ago. I even began taking nighttime Zumba classes, after putting that off for over a year.

So yes, dirt is left on the floor and dishes are left in the sink. But a spotless house is no longer my number one priority. This has left room for more important items. And, unbelievably, I am one of them.

The other day, Mom came downstairs to breakfast and noticed dust on the floor. She stopped short just inches from her chair. “What’s this?” she asked. “It’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” I said dismissively and I am sure a bit testily. “Just sit down.”

And so she did, with a grimace. She was not happy with my answer, apparently. Well neither was I.

The dust wasn’t nothing. It was something.

It was a sign of progress.