Monday, November 15, 2010

Where is my Head?

I realized just now that I forgot to blog one of the most important details from the chic birthday party we attended last week.

As you may recall, Sally's friend Willa was turning 90, and her daughter decided to celebrate that fact in style. My mother had been keenly anticipating the celebration, and running me ragged for the preceding month, getting every little detail about gifts and clothing just poifect.

But I was a tad worried that Sally might haul off and slap one of the party guests.

This part is complicated: pay attention, if you haven't already read my account.

About 6-8 years ago, I went to a dinner party at the same house, the well-appointed home of Willa's daughter. One of the dinner guests discretely felt up my rear end, while his wife sat innocently at the other end of the room. I ignored him, and he got the message.

Then, about 5 years ago, I told Sally the story.

Just this past summer, Sally suddenly and with absolutely no prompting, announced that a man had grabbed her voluminous butt at the very same dinner party. Not the guy who grabbed me, mind you, but another guest from that evening, Jim, who is the husband of a very good friend of mine.

We'd all been eating dinner together that night, and I'm QUITE sure that Sally wasn't remembering anything that actually happened to her. Instead, she'd appropriated my memory for herself, and substituted gropers in the process.

Now, I knew my friend Babs and hubby Jim would be at the party. I was worried that Sal would spot him and try to set him straight. Thankfully, she seemed to have no idea who he was, didn't speak to him, and certainly didn't make a scene, other than by getting quite smashed.

The really funny part about this little story is that the guy who actually did fondle my posterior was at the party as well, as was his wife who remembered me and said hello. I hadn't seen either of them since that fateful dinner party 8 years ago.

I think he remembered me. I caught a bit of a nervous tick in the way his eyes came to rest on me. I can see the most amazing things from the very, very corner of my eyes :)

My son once said to me he was thoroughly convinced I could see him when my back was completely turned. And he's not far wrong.

Anyway, there we were. Mr. Gropey Hands, his wife, me (and my buttocks) and Anthony, who knew all about Mr. G-H, because I'd told him.

I snuggled right up beside Anthony while Mr. G-H did his nervous tick thing. I have to admit, I was rather tickled that in my estimation, my husband was quite the best-looking man there. Anthony slung his arm tightly around my waist and we chatted and smiled and laughed up a storm.

Sometimes, these little events turn out just right. Poifect, in fact.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm Insane, Correct?

Yep it's been a long time between posts lately. I know.

But my life is insane. Or maybe I am. I don't know.

Honestly, I truly get these moments where someone says something to me, and I sense pending craziness, but I reply reasonably, and then they say something totally nuts, and I get the "Oh like you didn't know this was coming feeling," and I attempt to remain reasonable, but by then it's all just GONE LONG GONE.

The conversation continues to escalate into kookoo-ville, and in the end, I go: "Take me now Lord."

So to update you, we went to the upscale cocktail party to celebrate my mother's friend's 90th birthday.

I should say at this point, just in case you haven't noticed by reading this blog, that my mother is a hypochondriacle (is that not a word?), martyred, Polish Princess. Caps deliberate.

And that's just her title. If you delve down into her psyche (God help you), you'll find a mess of stuff, the likes of which I can't quite describe, and I don't understand, but have wondered about mightily for many a year, you can believe.

I have no idea what made my mother the way she is. I only know she is a far thing from what I am, and that's been a deliberate process on my part.

We did the party. It was everything I expected. A lovely, spare-no-expense-fling in the hither-come regions of the best part of Kookytown; well you may imagine the feeling of entering the lushy home on the shores of the most well-appointed curb of one of the better streets in this burg, and having a hired photographer flashing her device in your face, because, EVERYTHING at this momentous event will be CHRONICLED.

Fine. They got the best-looking, youngest waiters to traipse around with the best tit-bits and wine, and the photog-flash kept going and going...and...Sally kept drinking...and drinking...and Sally's friend accosted Anthony about his job (which affects the public), but of course about a topic over which he has no control.

And Anthony was his charming best. He answered her tiresome 90-year-old accusations with wit and aplomb. She melted and told me she "approved" of my choice of husbands.

I am so pleased.

Anyway. I'm so tired of them all. My mother. Her friends. Anthony's mother. His brother. And you can add my ex-husband (the second one...no idea where the first one is) and his wifey to that list.

All these people who have never made their ways through life, but have coasted along on the skills and good-will of others, could they please just leave me alone? Please? Apparently not. They continue to manipulate, and abuse and use, and provoke and consternate us who plod along being responsible and selfless and more-or-less kind-of nice.

I'm just tired of them and don't want to interact with them anymore. But here I am and there they are and unless I move to the moon, how can I cut off all interaction with these people?

As we left the party, Sally and her dried-up old Sow of a friend (and I say that with the greatest of respect for the porcine members of my readership) agreed to meet for a visit again in the next few days, while Sow was still here in Kookytown. At Sow's daughter's well-appointed home.

Next day, it started. Sally, who was pissed like a first-year university student at the party, woke up the next day with no memory of the event. But rather than admit that fact, she started her usual scheming, which involves, inevitably, my fall into the abyss.

She awoke, descended from her boudoir into our realm, and announced grandly:

"I want to take (her friend and her friend's daughters and moi) to lunch. Delia, please arrange."

By announcing this, Sally meant that I was to do everything, except pay for the lunch. I would call everyone. Decide on a venue. Reserve said venue. Make sure everyone could get there. Provide transportation for everyone who could not get there on their own. Eat. Drive every one home.

I'd like to note at this point that Sally has never taken me out for lunch on my own. Or with my daughter. Or son or any other combination of my family at this moment in time. Or, a million years ago, with my sister, or brother, or father, or any of my friends, or any of her friends, or anyone, period. Ever.

She was only offering now, because she needed an organizer and a driver. Fuck.

I told her she'd agreed to meet her friend at her friend's daughter's home. "Oh, did I?" she countered in a mocking voice. "No, I'd like to take you all to lunch." Very final, cutting tone.

I figured I wouldn't mention that Sow's daughter would be at work during the week and the other daughter flew back to Calgary immediately after the big party. Imagine. No time to stick around and hang with Sal.)

She got on the phone with Sow and started lying.

Sally: "Yes, Sow, we just arose and Delia made a grand brunch (Anthony snorted his coffee through his nose at this lie, understandably, since I've never made brunch in my life and he makes it every second weekend for all of us.) But my mother thought it a Grand Illusion (due regards to Styx) to paint a picture of her daughter slaving in the kitchen over an imagined brunch.

Sow: "Murmle, murmle, murmle."

Sally: "And yes, we will all join again for lunch...Delia will call you."

I can't begin to describe what followed for the next 48 hours.

I told her I would not arrange the lunch. She said I would. I told her I had things to do and she hadn't consulted me. She said "So what?" I said "Well so what? So you don't get my indentured services." She kept looking away and repeating her commands. I would walk away and half an hour later, she'd start over. I tried patience and not answering, and straight-out yelling "NO!", and everything else I could think of (including burying myself under the blankets of the bed).

Then she'd forget she'd offered to do the lunch. There'd be no memory, and I mean NO MEMORY, of a lunch. But then her friend would call, and ask, "So, how about that lunch?" And it would start again.

I spoke to the friend. I told her it would be nice if they could visit, but I had no time to event-plan a lunch. We arranged that Sally would visit her at her daughter's home. Exactly as it had been planned when we left the party, but Sal had forgotten in her drunken stupor.

I told Sally, who pretended to be pleased, but the moment my back was turned she carried the phone into the basement, thinking I couldn't hear her down there. And she called her friend and cancelled their visit. Because if Sally couldn't host a lunch to rival her friend's birthday party, then there'd be no visit at all.

And on it went, for two days. Her friend called me. What's going on? she asked? How do I know, I countered? Phone calls, intrigue, lies, dates set up, dates cancelled, over and over. I thought I'd set foot onto an Alfred Hitchcock movie set. Who knew what the hell was going on, and who the hell cared anyway?

After I heard my mother whisper into the phone that she "couldn't possibly visit (her friend) because it was too much hassle for Delia," I realized just how pathetic my mother had become.

She would say anything, and blame anyone, including me, in an attempt to one-up her friend. At the age of 90, and in such a state that she can no longer manage any of her own affairs, Sally in her vanity and jealousy is still trying to out-do her friend. And because I wouldn't jump at her beck-and-call to support this illusion, well, then she'd take me down in her lies, to protect her image.

I am so tired of it all...because this has been my family and this has been my mother. For all these years.

I reflected on much of this with Anthony. But before I had told him all the details, he interjected.

"Your mother is jealous," he said. "I can see that now. She's jealous of her friend, jealous of you."

His assessment is as objective as it could be, I think.

Well, I suppose I'm not insane then. Just tired.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ok, next?

Made it through Halloween. The costumes were all great, but tons of work, not to mention cash. Consumers spend almost as much on the spooky Halloween rituals as they do at Christmas.

Speaking of, now we swing into full-blast Christmas planning. Not only do I buy gifts for all my loved ones (and a few others), but for the last decade, I've also been buying gifts on my mother's behalf. Double duty.

As a person not overly fond of shopping, it sucks big-time. Further, Sally's birthday is a few days before Christmas, right at the busiest time of the month, when I'm frantically trying to get all the loose ends together.

I do enjoy baking, however, so it will be fun planning the slices and cookies and bon-bons, which I'll need to make up ahead of time, so they can rest, and improve, and rest, and improve even more. Especially the rum-soaked ones. If there's any rum left for baking.

I've been going through the stuff at a pretty rapid rate these days. Stress-reliever, you know.

Once Christmas is done, a veritable flurry of events follow, in this household.

New Year's Eve.
January: Alex's birthday.
February: Valentine's Day, our wedding anniversary and my birthday.
March: The Ides! Beware!!! Spring break for the kids, too.
April: Anthony's birthday. Easter.
May: Kathleen's birthday, Mother's Day, Victoria Day weekend.
June: Father's Day. Oops, that doesn't count, because it's not something Anthony or I have to worry about any more. And of course, the many, many end-of-the-school-year parties, ceremonies, exams, etc., that will have us all thoroughly frazzled by the end of June. It never fails to amaze me how much celebrating and planning goes into all these events.

That's why we'll need July and August to recover. But the planning and logistical maneuvering required to get the summer vacation in tip-top order is exhausting, so I actually need September to recover.

But you know how September goes...busy, busy, busy with back-to-routine stuff.

I feel rather tired just looking at the list...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sicktober

Last month, I, and other bloggers, commented on both the "sucky" and the "sick" nature of September.

Well, as it turns out, I should have focused on October, because I've been sick for most of it.

I've had an epic cold for almost three weeks. I've run the gamut from soul-destroying sore throat, accompanied by chills, fatigue and the dreaded GM, followed closely on by phlegm, snot and sneezes galore, topped off with a generous helping of coughing, nose-blowing (Argh, my poor, sore, chapped nostrils!) and sleep-deprivation due to all the hacking (sorry Anthony!).

Today, I actually feel almost better. Not 100%. But almost.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you, my loyal readers, know that I am alive. And I will blog again.

Admit it, you did miss me, didn't you?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

So in the end Anthony and I drove Sally to her far-flung safety deposit box. We emptied the contents, closed the account and brought her home, where with evident delight, she inspected her pearls and the yellowed bank statements she'd placed in the box last summer.

She acted as if she'd never rented a box before, and in fact told me she didn't really know how they worked because she'd never had one.

I know for a firm fact that my mother always kept a safety deposit box with her bank in Winnipeg, for pretty much the entire time I can remember. So, say, 40 years.

She doesn't remember that.

But this is much about nothing.

The latest chores keeping me hopping are my mother's daily, constant and whining demands surrounding the upcoming cocktail party to be held for one of her friend's 90th birthday.

This friend of hers, Willa, is my mother's oldest friend, ha ha, and by that I mean they've known each other since the age of 5 or so. Two little Polish girls growing up in the north end of Winnipeg.

Now, Willa's daughter, who by total coincidence also lives in Kookytown and holds a prominent, high-paying job, is throwing a shin-dig for Willa, who still lives in Winnipeg. Willa will fly to Kookytown closer to the party date.

Now, Willa visits K-Town from time to time, of course. She visits her daughter and grandson, and since Sally moved here, Willa also drops in to visit all of us in my home.

But Willa's whole life has been in Winnipeg. She doesn't know very many people here, and certainly has no old friends here, other than Sally.

Yet her daughter is throwing the party here. I know what it will be like, full of important people in important outfits, drinking excellent wine and eating catered nibblies, talking about very important things. They will all know each other. Some may have met Willa a few times.

Make no mistake, this party is really about Willa's daughter.

In any event, we are all invited.

This has thrown my mother into a tizzy. She needs her hair done, her toenails clipped, a new outfit purchased, and of course, a meaningful yet inexpensive gift acquired.

I have to arrange everything. Apparently. So I'm told. Every day.

I did come up with the meaningful, yet inexpensive gift. I've taken an ancient picture of the two little Polish girls, dressed up in their school uniforms and flanked by Nuns, and another, more recent picture of the same gals, and had them blown up and framed. The pictures blown up. Not my mother :)

Nice, I thought.

It will definitely be the most meaningful gift there, if only by dint of the fact that no one else attending will be anywhere near so close and old a friend to Willa, as is my mother.

But her demands for a new outfit are ludicrous. My mother can't buy clothes off the rack. She is fat and lumpy and so saggy she seems melted.

She knows this. But she wants a new wool suit.

"Why didn't you mention this at least a month ago?" I snarled at her when she began her demands. The party is in two weeks.

"You know you'll need a suit tailored. You WILL NOT be able to find anything to fit ready-made. You know this."

Sally: (pouting) "But I didn't know I'd need anything then."

Me: "You've known this party was happening for at least 6 months."

Sally: "You need to take me shopping."

Me: "We won't find anything. You know that. Last time we went, you tried on a million things, then started swearing and flung everything down and we came home and you told me again how you can't fit anything and need a tailor."

Sally: "I did?" (making disingenuous cow eyes)

Silence.

Sally: "Have you found a nice card yet? What about the hair appointment?"

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Later, she'll start in again about needing a new suit. How I am supposed to solve her dilemma is beyond me. But she expects me to. And she will let me hear about it, until I do solve it.

Today, to get her off my back, I set her the task of making a few pierogi. Alexander adores them and will devour a dozen at a time. My mother's probably made a million of them in her life time.

But when I took her to the kitchen counter and pulled out the recipe (written out a few years ago for my benefit, not hers, as she has always made them up from memory), she gazed silently at the card for a minute, then looked at me with her trademark blank expression, mouth hanging open, and said: "I don't know how to make these."

A lifetime of safety deposit boxes and pierogi-making, gone.

But tomorrow, she'll certainly remember to harass me about getting her a new wool suit, that I know for sure.

And there's one other thing she'll remember, without a doubt.

We'll get to Willa's birthday party, and there will stand Jim, the husband of my very good friend Babs, the very Jim who villainously inhabits my mother's "memories," skulking about in her mind as a lecherous fiend who grabs innocent women's buttocks (my mother's, to be specific).

All a false memory. Jim has never touched my mother, nor any woman other than Babs, at least lately, as in the last few decades, I'm sure.

But my mother will "remember" his grab for her rump.

I hope to God she doesn't decide that it's high time she slapped his face good and hard, to punish him for his brazen, if imagined, assault.

Thus, I await the party with a bad feeling.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Safety Deposit Box (And may I PLEASE lock up my mother in it?)

This is another story from when Sally was in the retirement residence over the summer.

Just how much trouble could one very elderly, short (though quite wide, granted) confused woman get into in such a brief period of time, you ask?

Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Just give my mother access to a telephone and the proverbial s*!%t will hit the fan. Pretty much on a daily basis.

So allow me to summarize:
(1) First bit of trouble -- Refusing to attend the dining room during appropriate hours, followed by informing the manager of the residence that she was a bitch and more akin to a prison warden than a caregiver to the frail and helpless (my ass) elderly, leading to...
(2) Second bit of trouble -- which characterization thus understandably enraged the manager of the residence, causing her to unceremoniously evict my mother mid-term, which led to...
(3) Third bit -- my frantic search for a new residence to house my mother for the remainder of the summer, with pretty much zero notice to go on.
(4) I could add a fourth bit here -- having ample time to ruminate in her luxurious, but apparently boring, digs over the summer, Sal created a fantasy involving a memory of mine, that she handily changed/converted into her own "memory." This is an ongoing problem as we of course continue to interact with my friend and her husband: he of the allegedly roaming hands, and I'm just waiting for Sally to haul off and punch him one day.

Is that enough?

Sorry, there's more.

Remember, she was only out of our sight in the residences (plural as it turned out. See #3 above) for about 7 weeks. Yet, she managed to adroitly maneuver herself into a further bit of trouble, and this particularly stunning piece of mischief is taking the cake in terms of headache-inducing potential for me.

So, without further ado, the last bit of trouble (that I know of at this point, anyway) --
(5) Sally, who can't find her own teeth (did I ever tell you about that one?), or even remember how to find her way out of her doctor's office to the curb where I await in the chariot to whisk her back home (did I tell you about that one? About sitting at the curb, risking a very expensive ticket, while Sally wandered from office to entrance, back to the office, then, presumably tired, sat down on a hall-way chair for a couple of hours, waiting for me to find her in the labyrinthine office building, rather than coming to the car as she was instructed), but I DO RUN ON; Sally, once deposited in the retirement residence, starts thinking that she needs a safety deposit box.

You read that right. She's been living in Kookytown almost two years now, and if she'd ever mentioned it, I would have helped her open a free safety deposit box at her bank, which gives all sorts of freebies to senior citizens. But she'd never mentioned it.

Upon getting into the Residence, however, and with time on her hands to brood, she proceeded to pick up her telephone (what did I tell you?) and call a nearby TD Bank location. She makes an appointment, books the limo that the Residence provides free-of-charge to its inhabitants for their little tasks, and, on the appointed day, she takes the limo to the bank, fills out all the required forms, provides all necessary identification, and presumably presents a sane enough exterior to countenance the bank employee's agreement to rent her a box.

She pays the rental fee, opens her box, deposits her jewelery, and hops back in the limo to be whisked to her rooms.

Remember: can't find her teeth, loses her underwear constantly about our house (found at odd and inconvenient moments, let me tell you), and insists that I do all talking on the phone for her, because she claims she can't hear. Also completely unable to remember appointments, despite my constant reminders to her to WRITE THEM DOWN, and thus witness the not-inconsiderate fees she's had to cough up in missed doctors' time.

But able to undertake independent and fairly complex tasks like identifying and calling an unknown bank, booking transport and opening an account.

Crap.

Which of these things is not like the other?

Anyway, the upshot to all this is that Sally's jewelery is now in a safety deposit box located far on the other side of Kookytown, in a peculiarly difficult spot to get to. She didn't mention anything about it for the longest time. I fetched her from the Residence and she came home, got used to losing her underwear about the place again, and then one day, casually mentioned that I'd have to drive her to hell's half-acre to remove her jewelery (which between you and me hardly merits renting a box for protection against the raiding hordes).

It is hardly what I'd call convenient for me to take half-a-day to do this for her. Yet she expects it, even though I've explained that normally I'd never go near that part of town.

I've told her for about a month now that she got herself into this mess, and since she's so capable and adventurous, she can get herself out of it. My refusals to immediately be at her beck and call don't make any impression on her.

Every day, she asks, every day I say no. And over and over, for a month at least now.

Sally: "So dear, my jewelery is in that safety deposit box, I mentioned to you."

Me: "Mmmmph."

Sally:" We must go soon to get it out."

Me: "We? No. You, yes."

Sally: "What?"

Silence.

Sally: "Oh, my GICs are in there as well, I need to get those certificates as well." (This is the dementia talking. There are no certificates in the box, only her jewelery. Sally has regressed in her investment memories to thinking that she still receives thick-papered, gold-stamped certificates when she buys GICs. When I show her how we do it online, her eyes glaze over and she shuffles off muttering about imaginary sheaves of certificates).

Me: "Feel free to get your jewelery anytime you want. Here's the number for the taxi."

Silence.

"Sally: "I suppose I could take transit, if necessary."

Me: "Oh, it's necessary."

The next day, unabashed, she'll launch into how "we" need to fetch her jewelery and GICs.

In the beginning, I'd told her that if I found a day when I could squeeze the task in, I'd take her. But as she nattered and nagged at me, day in and day out, refusing to wait for a day convenient to me, I grew resolved to let her solve the problem for herself.

I can only hope that when she does go on her grand adventure to retrieve the errant jewelery, that she doesn't get into any more trouble than she already has. For this year, anyway.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sicktember

A few posts ago, I wrote about how September sucks.

Well, I now can go even further: it's sick.

At least, just about everyone around me is sick with a cold, that is. I hate it! Summer was just here! We were romping happily in the warm sunlight, swimming and sight-seeing and just enjoying good health and easy living.

Now this! It's simply brutal the way September descends...with its school stuff, and back-to-routine stuff, and shortening, cooling days.

My entire family is sick. Except for me. So that means I get to take care of everyone, and then, in all likelihood, become sick myself.

Not that I mind taking care of everyone. It's just that caring for sickos takes you into close proximity to the nasty virus that's causing all this misery. Damn you, virus!!!

Sicktember: great news for the makers of hand sanitizer, Kleenex and Tylenol cold medicine. Bad news for the human race.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Truth is Out!

As you all well know, my mother spent most of the summer in a seniors' "retirement residence."

It was close to 8 weeks of blissful respite for me.

But I didn't tell you about one little glitch.

Sometime around the beginning of August, I took a call from the manager at the residence. She wasted no breath, and immediately launched into the fact that my mother's stay was imminently over, and that I was of course coming to pick her up in a couple of days, yes, no?

I was a bit taken aback, because I had actually arranged for a pick-up date of August 23rd.

I informed the caller of this fact. Undaunted, she continued to inform me that my mother's stay was coming to an end, and that I needed to fetch her. But soon.

All my arguments fell on deaf ears.

This was not the agreed arrangement, I protested.

Oh yes, it was, she answered calmly back.

No, I countered between clenched teeth, AUGUST 23rd was the agreed-upon pick-up date.

"That's not right, Ms. Martin," the infuriating manager intoned. "You will come for your mother within a day or two."

I checked the contract I'd signed, which, I discovered with no small amount of horror, was rather open-ended in its language.

What now? I became relatively frantic, and phoned Anthony at work, something I rarely do.

He was as mystified as I was, but suggested an-all-out campaign of regroupment.

I began a furious round of calling to every seniors' residence in Kookytown, trying to find one with a vacancy. I had to find a spot for Sally, or the remainder of our holidays would take a decidedly unpleasant turn.

In the end, I did find another place. I picked Sally up the next day, giving the manager a frosty glare as I groaned through the lobby under the vast weight of Sally's innumerable bags and steamer-trunk-like loads of stuff.

I theorized to myself that they'd probably found a buyer for the suite occupied by my mother, and had decided to unceremoniously rid themselves of her, in favor of a permanent resident.

"Dishonourable scalawags," I muttered not too softly. The manager looked amused.

Sally kept giggling happily, telling me how delighted she was to be heading home.

I kept telling her she wasn't heading home, which she very well knew, but was pretending to misunderstand, so as to hopefully guilt me into cutting my holidays short so she could return to ruling the roost at our home.

I didn't fall for it.

Sally: "Oh, it will be so good to be home."

Me: "We aren't going home."

Sally: "What do you mean?" (eyelashes batting rapidly)

Me: "We're going to another residence. You know that. I told you. It's because they are kicking you out early for some mysterious reason. Our holidays aren't over Mom. You can't stay by yourself at the house."

Sally: "Oh." (30 seconds pass)

"Yes, it's going to be good to be home (chuckle, chuckle)."

Me: "Not home. Residence."

Sally: "Oh. But it would be so nice to go home. Let's just go home."

Me: "Oh, no."

We continued on like this until we arrived at the new residence. Kathleen and I stayed for lunch to help her settle in. The conversation continued to revolve largely around the fact that my mother was glad to be going home.

Kathleen and I eventually stopped answering her, and after lunch, led her to her room and beat a hasty retreat.

Kathleen: "Whoa. She doesn't give up. Now I know how you are able to make me feel guilty so easily."

I gritted my teeth even harder at that.

On August 23rd, I went and picked up my mother, just as planned, and we did go home. On the ride home, she elucidated her opinion about one of my friend's husbands, and his allegedly roaming hands.

We were off to a bang-up start. There was no doubt Sally was back.

A few days ago, she chirped up brightly with another story.

She was sitting placidly, chewing her muffin-cud happily, discussing the delights of Kathleen's fluffy and delicious baked treats.

"The food is so much better at home," she sighed between contented smacking sounds.

"Not only is it better than at that residence," she added, "It's so nice to be able to eat when I want."

I frowned at her. The residence had liberal dining hours. Breakfast ran from 7 to 10am, lunch from noon until 2pm, and dinner from 4 to 7pm. In between, residents had access to all the fruit and baked treats they could ever desire.

"Well, that may be true, but there were really very few hours when you couldn't eat at the residence, when you think about it," I said.

I saw my mother's nose go up in the air, and knew something other than her beak was up.

She looked grumpily out the window, proboscis waving in the atmosphere as she finished her last chew.

"Well, they sure wouldn't serve me when I went in the dining room," she announced.

I remained silent, wondering what the hell had happened.

"I'd go in at 11, and ask for breakfast. The staff were perfectly happy to accommodate me. But that bitch of a manager. She started coming in and saying the dining room was closed until noon."

My mother loves cursing. Sally pronounced her story in aggrieved tones. She looked over to me, presumably to enjoy the shared outrage I should be displaying.

"At 11?" I said. "The dining room wasn't open at 11," I sputtered. "The manager had a point."

Sally looked nonplussed at that.

"After all Mom, what if every resident started insisting on their own hours? It would cause huge problems in how they manage the dining room."

Sally was silent. She hadn't expected anything but complete support from me.

"Well," she finally added. "I didn't see why they shouldn't just make a little breakfast for me. It would have been hardly any trouble at all."

Her tone was absolutely frozen and stiff.

"After all, I was paying them to stay there."

"Yes, Mom. But so is everyone else. And everyone else was following the rules."

Silence again.

"Perhaps." Sally was enraged with me, I could tell.

She shifted her weight heavily off the chair, making ready to leave the room.

"But I still felt they should have accommodated me. I told that manager."

Pause.

"What did you say to her, Mom?" I had a bad feeling.

"I told her I didn't know I was staying in a prison." Sally looked triumphantly at me, clearly pleased at the memory of her argument with the manager.

"I told her what a horrid person she was. I told her straight out."

I let out a little groan.

Now I knew why I'd received the unexpected call from the manager at the residence. They'd had enough of Sally's prima donna routine, and wanted her out, out at any cost, out before the agreed-upon date.

Sally has that effect, wherever she goes, I've found.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Subconsciously Stolen

I read many blogs. I've also written a few of my own blogs; once-upon-a-time, I even participated in a group blog, where several members contributed posts on various topics, as the urge took them.

I recently told all you masses of my readers that I've been checking out a new blog called Martinis for Breakfast.

And I just realized that in my last post, I "stole" some wording from that blog's author. I wrote that "September sucks," which I thought was cute and original.

But as I'd just read the Martini blog, in which the author wrote about "Sucktember" (now that is much better than "September sucks", of course), it's pretty clear that my befuddled brain just lifted the words, or the concept, for my own usage, and I gleefully posted away as if I were the brilliant mind behind such descriptive alliteration.

Luckily, Ms. Martini doesn't seem to mind. She read the "September sucks" post, and then, in a truly gallant gesture, not only did she refrain from slapping my literary hands for the theft, but she even commented on the post. Nicely.

How grand!

And take note, all you masses of readers, she is the *FIRST* commenter posting on my blog. I...(sob)...am...so.......moved...

How about following her lead, all you people?

C'mon! I know you're out there!

Right?

Hello.......? :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Crazy (not Kooky)

September is crazy busy, as usual. Over the past few years, since I've had school-aged kids, I've often wondered why it has to be this way.

September sucks. It's the end of easy summer living, and the return of making lunches, regimes, homework, practicing, shorter days and colder mornings, and, of course, general malaise.

Everyone is short-tempered and full of anxiety. I don't know why kids have to be full of anxiety, but that's the way it seems to go these days.

Alexander: "I didn't get froshed on the way home today!"

Kathleen: "Too bad."

Me: "That's good sweetie. Was anyone else seriously hurt or frightened or overly-froshed?"

Alex: "Yes! Nick got hit with a dozen eggs and then flour and maple syrup was dumped on him! And they say urine was in the mixture! Yah!" (Pause) "I'm scared..."

Me: "Oh. Yes, I saw that on the CBC last night."

Kathleen: "Mom! I lost the form they gave me in DPA (allegedly an acronym for Daily Physical Activity, which translates into once or twice a week)! My teacher is gonna kill me! What can I do?"

Me: "Not lose the form next time?"

Kathleen: "Argh! I...what?...I...hate..."

Me: "I will give you a note."

Alex: "YES! You will look so lame Kath!!! Notes make you lame!"

Kathleen: "Argh! Mom! I ...what? I...hate..."

Me: "OK, let me know what you want when you know what you want..."

Ad nauseum...

After the CBC froshing news report, Alexander's school Principal announced to the student masses the next day that he was "embarrassed" by the the media attention.

I thought: How about being embarrassed by the fact that young girls in grade 9 were being assaulted by MEN in cars (grade 12) driving by and pelting them with eggs and other assorted foul-smelling, unnamed, but more-or-less easily identifiable ingredients like flour and urine?

Crap. Other men that age are in the army and off getting killed in Afghanistan. Not that I approve of that either. But we're talking about a HUGE difference in maturity here. I think the Principal should work on that...and stop focusing on the fact that the CBC ran the story and he's
embarrassed about it.

If my son were in grade 12 and driving around in a car dumping shit on young kids walking down the street, I'd kick his ass. I'm just saying.

Kathleen finally found her form. But now it's late. And she's still asking me what to do. Argh!

The whole thing about the letters and forms and permission slips, etc, etc, etc, is that they don't stop coming.

All through the school year, every week, they will continue to come. Forms, forms, forms.

Forms that need reading. Forms that need reading and signing. Forms that need reading, signing and duplicating and filing.

It never ends. Oh yeah, there are also forms that need reading, signing, and returning with properly-endorsed-cheques-thank-you-very-much.

Lots of those.

September just sucks...money right out of your account, and the spirit right out of you, sometimes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

School Daze...

School's in for Kathleen and Alexander. New schools for both of them...Alex at Kookytown High for grade 9, and Kathleen at Kookytown Middle School for grade 7.

I hope it goes reasonably well for them. I hated my high school years. Alex seems to be doing OK so far, because of, I suspect, that he's a boy. But with girls, as you may know, many of them get all catty and slutty and evil around this age. So I'm worried for Kathleen, who is not catty or slutty or evil.

At least they are all armed with information, unlike my generation.

Teens have information on everything these days.

Sex. Drugs. Bullying. STDs. More drugs. Sexual harassment. Etc. Etc.

One thing I've really noticed is that girls and boys hang out together these days, as friends.

That sure wasn't on when I was a kid.

I think it's good. Kathleen and Alex seem much more self-assured around the opposite sex than I ever was -- at least, until I got to university. And being self-assured is a good thing.

Anyway, I still emit small prayers for them as they head off into the world each morning.

Speaking of daze, Sally's been in one for the last while. She got lost on a walk yesterday and couldn't find the mailbox, which she's visited many times, and which is only a block away from our house.

She concluded they'd obviously moved it. Nothing like good old denial to keep you going.

A card came in the mail recently, advising us of the death of one of her oldest friends, at the age of 93, in Winnipeg. The friend had been confined to a "residence" for the last few years: one with locked wards, as she'd succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease and was quite wild, apparently.

Still, Sally evinced considerable surprise at news of Olga's death.

"Oh!" she mouthed at reading the card.

"I wonder what happened?"

Well, I thought to myself, what do you think happened? And why wouldn't you have long expected it?

Denial.

I set her a task yesterday. I've gotten into this habit, because she harasses me endlessly unless she's busy, and she asks to help, in any event.

So first thing upon her leisurely arising (11-ish or so), I asked if she'd make potato salad for our dinner. This task was deliberately strategic on my part; making potato salad is kind of an all day thing.

First, you boil the potatoes in their skins, then allow them to cool. Proceeding on, you dice them, adding finely chopped green onion, slivered radishes and a chopped hard-boiled egg, which must also be more-or-less cool.

Then, you mix all with sour cream and mayonnaise, add salt and pepper, and chill really thoroughly for the best result.

As I said, pretty much an all-day endeavor, especially at Sally's snail-like pace.

She happily agreed to make the salad, and then proceeded to ignore the task all day, skirting around my reminders, shuffling about and attempting other tasks she'd set for herself, and basically avoiding, forgetting-about, or misunderstanding the requirements for potato salad, all day long.

Finally, I understood that there would be no potato salad forthcoming from my mother's efforts.

So, at 5pm when our out-of-town dinner guest arrived, I was busily engaged in burning my fingers while dicing the just-cooked potatoes, and hoping that 15 minutes in the freezer would cool them enough to allow the finishing touches.

Sally settled herself comfortably with a glass of wine and monopolized my friend, whom I hadn't seen in months, while I tended to kitchen duty and quietly cursed her.

But, what should I expect? If I hadn't set her a task, she would have driven me insane with her pestering all day anyway, which would have probably disallowed any timely making of salads.

It all turned out about the same, in the end.

As my friend was leaving for the evening, I told her we'd go to a restaurant the next time she was in town.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Supersize Us

We all gained weight over the summer.

Anthony and I got plump with good eating, rest and relaxation. Not to mention quite a bit of fine wine, and the odd G&T. Which reminds me, I've started reading a blog about Martinis for breakfast.

But, once again, I digress.

Alex and Kathleen only gained slightly, and that's because they also grew in height.

I got a lecture from my son last week about all the imbibing we've been doing over the holidays.

"You and Anthony drink a lot," he said loudly to me, teen aged-boy-brain undoubtedly twitching with glee over his calculating observation, while watching closely to see my reaction.

Of course, my response is always the same in such circumstance, which is to immediately make fun of my son.

"Jealous?" I shot back. He smirked and skulked away.

But I take his point, and this week, Anthony and I are on the wagon, both food and alcohol-wise. Also, I've been hauling my big fat bum around on my bike all week, and taking long, fast walks with hubby in the evenings. We'll continue in this vein until we can see our toes again.

But the biggest gainer was my mother.

Sally is vast.

Now, she's always been a fat woman, ever since I could remember her. And I do mean fat. Not pleasantly plump, "round" or whatever avoidant euphemism you may wish to tag it.

Fat. Sometimes verging on morbidly obese. She can't resist her chocolate and pastries and ice cream.

Since moving to Kookytown, she'd lost weight. She eats very well here, noshing heartily on the healthy and ample meals I provide. I also do separate chocolate runs just for her, and she accepts the bags of goodies I present with moist-eyed excitement , grabbing them and heading immediately for her room, where she stashes the bars and bags and boxes of assorted yummies here-and-there through her drawers and on the bed-side table-top, so, presumably, to be available wherever her fingers may happen to roam.

She has started drinking a glass of wine every night here, as well. Before she was strictly a tea-teetotaler. Of course, even without the desserts and wine, she out-eats everyone else here. Her plate is piled high with food every night, making Anthony's dinner seems disappointingly slight, when placed side-by-side with hers.

Despite her massive consumption rates, she lost weight after moving in with us, which gives you a pretty good idea of how unbridled her appetite must have been for the last thirty years, when she lived alone in Winnipeg, with no one else around to observe, and thus inhibit, her habits.

"I gained weight at the seniors' residence," she moaned to me upon her return this past week.

I said nothing, as what I thought really didn't make appropriate conversation.

"It's hard, though, you know," she continued. I knew an excuse was inevitable.

"They feed you three big meals a day. And there's always fruit and muffins available."

"There's always food available here, too, mom," I countered.

She mulled that for a second. Then:

"Yes, but there, I was paying for it."

I waited.

"And so I had to eat everything, even if I wasn't hungry."

Ah, Sally.


Monday, August 23, 2010

She Becomes Me

I picked Sally up from the retirement residence today, where she'd been so-called retiring since the end of June. That retirement was not at her behest, of course, but mine, although I will say in my own defense that I tried damn hard to get her to visit her other daughter (yes, alright already, my sister) and/or several friends in Winnipeg instead of spending her summer in old-folks-land exile as she did.

But, my sister wouldn't have her and she wouldn't go to her friends, though they insisted they wanted her to visit.

In any event, I picked her up after six weeks of motherless bliss, and thank God I had the ute, because her luggage is always voluminous and mysteriously heavy whenever she travels, even for short times.

It takes a lot of stuff to keep her looking like the style she's become accustomed to. Heh.

Within a minute or two into the drive home, the kookiness began.

She informed me she had an "opinion" (pronounced in melodramatic, overdrawn tones) about the husband of a close friend of mine.

"Do tell," I inquired jovially enough, trying hard to maintain the Zen.

"Oh, I won't tell you. I'll show you when we get home," she announced primly, coy as a kook can get.

After a moment's pause, wherein I contemplated just leaving it at that, I plunged ahead.

"Surely you can just tell me, now," I laughed, a little sickly.

"Well, we were at a party a few years back, and Jim came up behind me and..." Here she paused, building up suspense for her grand finale.

"...and he grasped both of my buttocks."

She held her hands in the air before her nose, as if she were testing two huge invisible mangoes for ripeness. Squeeze, squeeze.

"With both his hands," she finished, in case I wasn't getting a clear mental image, which unfortunately, I definitely was.

I felt quite a confluence of emotion at this display, as you may well imagine.

A huge urge to laugh, a strident sense of creepiness, incredulity and disgust all welled up inside me, and if I hadn't been so well-prepared for her general kookiness, I may have had trouble staying on the road. I suppressed my laughter, with difficulty.

I immediately knew which dinner party she recalled.

I also knew, for an absolute fact, that no such thing had happened to her at the party.

But, if I've learned one thing with Sally in the past few months, it's to not cross her delusions.

I couldn't just accept her story, though, so I thought I'd try to make her consider its oddities a bit.

"Gee, mom, why do you think he'd do something like that?"

"I have no idea," she shot back in frost-laden diction .

"Seems so strange, for a younger man to do something like that to such an elderly woman. And the mother of his wife's good friend, no less." I looked sideways at her as I said this.

She would have been around 84 when we'd attended the dinner party. Jim would have been perhaps 55, and his wife, my friend, around 50.

But in Sally's vanity, she'd never considered that the image she painted, of Jim squeezing the quivering withered ass of an old, old woman, was possibly strange, or weird, or out-of-place, never-mind just about inconceivable. Sally remains convinced of her ability to conquer all men, no matter their age, or hers.

"Well," she tossed her head as her nose rose higher in the air. "I've always thought he'd had a few too many drinks."

Yes, enough to blind him, apparently, I thought to myself. Out loud, I said not a word. Then changed the subject.

The really odd part about Sally's story, is not that she made it up out of the blue.

The really odd, almost scary thing about it, is that I believe she's taken an experience that happened to me, and changed it slightly here and there, and then completely appropriated the memory for herself.

Because at the dinner party she talked about, I actually had one of the male guests accost my buttocks, so to speak, by placing his hand (just one) on my behind (just one cheek). There was no squeezing of ripe mangoes. Just an inappropriately low placement of the hand, very discreetly, and obviously to test the waters of my interest. Which was nil, as the guy's wife was sitting across the room from where we stood.

And that wife was not my very good friend. The guy who hankered after me that evening was not Jim, but someone else completely, someone we'd just met that evening at the party, someone whom neither my mother nor I have ever laid eyes on again.

I'd told my mother about the incident a couple of years after it happened. And somehow since that telling, the twisted neurons in Sally's shriveled mind have awarded Jim the dubious award for being the cad who grabbed her mangoes.

So it's come to this: Sally has been completely confused about many things lately, including dates and names and times and places. And she has made up memories that are false, memories of things that never happened, but of which she may have dreamed, at best.

But before this chilling little mango memory, she'd never ever stolen an entire experience that someone else has related to her, and made it all her own.

This frankly terrifies me, because if Sally is becoming me, just how far off might the time be when I become her?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ad Nauseum...

We just got back from a week of vacation on a beautiful lake about an hour and fifteen from Kookytown.

I've rented this same cottage for five years now. It feels like home each time we arrive. And it hurts a bit more each year, when I clean up and drive off, leaving the place for the next set of renters. I do get attached.

We four really relaxed out there. Swimming, eating, drinking, reading and watching movies comprised our menu of activities. Not to mention the day-long Monopoly marathons. There was one lunch comprised of pizza slices from the nearby town's pizzeria, and that visit extended into the traditional sojourn to the town groceteria for the obligatory junk food, cheap magazines and sweet, sweet corn, grown locally.

By week's end, you finally start to feel in tune with what life might actually have been about, in another time and place.

But, inevitably, reality jars you back to the little niggle of stress in your stomach.

We drove back to Kookytown, listening to the fading, garbled strains of the the radio station that doesn't quite make it from cottage country to big city frazzle.

Then: unpack, make dinner, confront piles of laundry, view more piles of mail to open, consign luggage to the basement, unwind, regain sense of space....and, oh no: the phone messages.

CLICK: "Hello? Can you please tell John I found my purse, and I can lend him the money he needs now?"

I'm getting a bigger lump in my stomach as I listen.

"Hello? So, anyway, tell John...I mean, tell Anthony, I found my purse. If he needs money, I can give it to him."

Long silence. "Will you tell him that?" Loud click.

That was Doris, continuing her kooky story line. Anthony needs money. He was trying to steal it out of her account. She got angry. He told her he didn't need money. Now, she's calmed down, and wants to give him some money.

Since he needs it.

Right.

I replace the phone with resignation. Holidays are over. Doris wants to lend Anthony money.

And I'm picking my mother up from the retirement residence in two days.

She's been there since the end of June, and I've gotten quite used to having my life back, thank-you very much.

But Sally's coming home. I dread it, and I'm not 100% sure why.

I need to think about this very carefully. What to do, what to do?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I Sometimes Screen My Calls

The phone rang a couple of days ago, and, unfortunately, I chose to answer it.

Unsuspecting Me: "Hello?"

Caller: Long pause accompanied by heavy breathing. "Who is this?"

After hearing the first two panting breaths, I already knew it was Doris. Her inquiry as to my identity completely confirmed hers.

Me: (very jovial tone) "Why, it's Delia!"

Doris was surprised, then contrite, then put-out by turns. She eventually got to the reason for calling.

Doris: "The girl at the bank said Anthony's been trying to get money from my account! She said he ordered a whole bunch of cards to get into my account!"

Me: "Really?"

Doris: (indignant, really hurt tones) "If he needs money, all he has to do is ask me!"

Now, if you understood our financial situation, and knew exactly how many times Anthony had actually lent or out-right given money to his siblings when they were flat broke or in trouble or for any number of reasons, none of which was very good, but none-the-less caused them to ask, you'd laugh.

Anthony has managed his mother's money since his father died many years ago. He's invested it very profitably for her, and calculates and files her income tax for her, gratis, every year. He set up automatic bill payment for her utilities so she could continue to live in her house (she couldn't keep the bills straight.) He pays her property taxes when she forgets, and when she started leaving the stove turned on at inappropriate times, he made sure her house was properly insured and coverage was up-to-date, all things she had difficulty with, or never even understood at all.

Anthony is the only one in his family, his deceased father and sister included, who has lived a straight-and-narrow life of responsibility, hard work and strategic monetary investiture of the highest order.

I fall more-or-less into that description as well. Although I think I've had more fun down the line than Anthony. I digress. We have no money issues is what I'm getting at.

Anthony's brother, on the other hand, is a louse. He's perennially broke and mooching off Doris, or outright filching cash from her purse when she looks away. If anyone were trying to get into Doris' account, it would be John, not Anthony.

But of course, Doris, in her paranoid, hostile, delusional state, immediately suspects the one person on earth she can actually trust.

It's incredibly hurtful behavior. But when dealing with Alzheimer's disease, all you can do is suck it up.

Me: "Doris, I really don't think Anthony tried to get money. I think the girl at the bank was probably trying to tell you about all the bank cards Anthony applied for on your behalf."

Doris has lost her purse, wallet and/or bank card at least half-a-dozen times in the past year. Anthony's been kept hopping, what with having to fetch her down to the bank each time in order for her to cancel the old card(s), apply for new ones, and then reset all the automatic bill payments to the new cards. It's a time-consuming, annoying task, but he does it for her.

I knew my explanation would fly over her head, but I had to try.

Doris: "Er...gurgle...huh?"

Me: "Anthony mentioned to me you'd lost your purse. Right?"

Doris: "Huh?"

Me: "A few months ago, you lost your purse. And so he applied for a new bank card for you. He's had to do that a few times, hasn't he?"

Silence. No heavy breathing, no mumbling. Just frosty silence. Doris doesn't like logical explanations that get in the way of her delusions.

Me: "Anyway, no one can get into your account but you Doris. The bank would never issue a card to anyone else, not for your account."

Doris: "Well...."

I've taken the wind out of her sails. She wanted to have a good long rant about her untrustworthy son Anthony. And I wouldn't accommodate her.

It's on the tip of my tongue to suggest that if any money is actually missing from her account (which of course isn't the case), perhaps she should look to her other son.

But I don't say anything.

We bid each other goodbye, and I quickly email Anthony to warn him that his phone will be ringing momentarily. And it will be his mother, and she will want to know about the bank cards, and his blood pressure will probably start to rise and he should stay Zen and.........

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blue Skies Music Festival

The four of us -- Anthony, Alexander, Kathleen and I -- spent the August long weekend camping in a farmer's field near Clarendon in Ontario.

We do this almost every year, while attending a little-known music festival called Blue Skies. The weekend amounts to a trip back in time when flower children roamed the world and it was (supposedly) a kinder, gentler place.

The music is eclectic, and few really well-known talents take the stage. But the entertainment is for the most part first-rate, ranging from performances from young Canadian artists poised on the edge of stardom, to hill-billy acts perhaps more well-known in the province but not elsewhere (except in certain learned musical circles I suppose), to foreign entertainers who are beginning to carve a niche in the Canadian market.

Almost without exception the musicians are brilliantly skilled, beautiful and very approachable. The may camp right next to you in High Meadow, or Magooville, as certain parts of the property are named, pausing to chat as they scrub dishes side-by-side with you at the pump, which dispenses ice-cold well-water. Not great for cutting grease, but most of the bigger food chunks are removed.

Or they will offer afternoon work-shops over the weekend, where you can rub shoulders with your friends as you sit in the grass, awestruck by the talent on display. These are always good times to half-doze in the afternoon heat, while dragon-flies flit through the air overhead, sometimes pausing to land, delicate and glistening, on one's knee or head. You can cat-nap while listening, a skill that helps get you through the weekend, because sleeping after dark is not always easy.

The night air rings with music, laughter and later, loud snoring. Your tent is cramped into fields full of similar tents, which are full of musicians of both the amateur and professional variety, most of whom want to stay up until the wee hours, hovering near sparking camp-fires, jamming
their hearts out with anyone willing to play along.

Blue Skies organizers make a truly incredible effort to program the most fantabulous activities, workshops and fun for children on site. The place turns into a magical world that entrances all ages, full of tie-dyed hippies, costumed kids running amok amongst flurries of bubbles, and everywhere, music in so much variety.

The first year we attended, Kathleen and Alexander were completely and absolutely hooked. I barely saw them all weekend. They ran here-and-there, making friends, tossing frisbees, exploring every inch of the place while gnawing on cobs of corn (boiled on site), or hopping onto various stages to dance or sing on a whim.

Blue Skies is the most unique music festival I've ever attended. It also seems to be a pretty well-guarded secret. There is no official web-site (check out this "unofficial" one for more information on Blue Skies), no radio, newspaper or television ads, no corporate sponsorship. Blue Skies is run by volunteers, you have to win the right to camp over the weekend by gaining tickets in a lottery, and the only way you find out about it is by word-of-mouth.

Seems to work; Blue Skies is in its 37th year, and there are never any empty camping spots, only people left wishing they, too, had won tickets this year.

At the end of every Blue Skies weekend, I am completely exhausted, wrung-out. It's a marathon of hard work, lack-of-sleep and discomfort due to the many travails of camping. The week preceding is spent cooking and planning all the necessary meals, packing gear into every square inch of the car, arising at dawn on Friday morning to make the long trek to Clarendon, then setting up camp, a monumental task in the bustle and cramped confusion of the often over-heated fields.

The next three days are all adrenalin as we race from workshop to event to meal-making, to playing our instruments around the campfires, to finally falling almost blindly into our barely-adequate sleeping-bags while stuffing our ears with plugs, hoping vainly for a few hours of rest before beginning the cycle anew the next morning.

By Monday evening, when we pull tiredly into the driveway of our home in Kookytown, it's not hard to believe that there will never be ANYTHING in the world that feels better than the shower and soft mattress that await.

Some years, we've vowed never to return.

But we always do, and it's worth it, as long as it doesn't kill us!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oh, the Lies....

All my life, my mother has lied.

Not a big deal, you think. Everyone lies.

That's true, I suppose. But with my mother, the lying was quite hearty. Lies formed (and still do) a big and essential part of her life.

I became aware of my mother's lying as a lifestyle many years ago. She lied about her relationships with her children and her husband, about where she kept things or their state of being, and about her kids' jobs and marital status.

And I grew to easily spot the tell-tale signs of her fibbing. She'd blithely emit the lie with no problem, but if pressed, even once, she'd falter, tripping on her treacherous words, and most telling of all, losing eye contact. In fact, she'd get positively shifty-eyed, her orbital aerobics quite hilarious as her mind darted for explanations.

As I became a young adult, her lying began to wear on me, especially when she'd insist I help keep her fibs a secret, or even more so, that I join in the lying with her.

"Delia is a lawyer," she announced to her fellow condo dwellers one time, as we traveled upwards toward her place on the 15th floor.

"Really!" they cooed excitedly, eyeing me with obvious respect. "With what firm do you practice?"

I turned pink with embarrassment, mumbling incoherently, not wanting to out-right contradict my mother, but refusing to enforce the untruth. I had in fact obtained a law degree, but quit law after two tortuous years of practice. Then, I'd returned to university for a journalism degree, and was happily dedicating my career to reporting.

My mother just couldn't get over this fact. I had ruined her triumvirate: a doctor, a teacher and a lawyer as offspring. My being a TV reporter just didn't fit in with her vision of professionalism.

"Why do you keep saying things like that Mother?" I fumed at her once we found privacy. "I am not going to keep nodding my head if you do it again. What was I supposed to do, make up the name of a firm?"

She poo-pooed at my disapproval.

"You ARE a lawyer," she insisted. I knew she understood that having a degree and actually practicing were two different things. But she wanted to brag about it, and nothing I could say would stop her.

And so she went on lying about what I did for a living, to whom I was married (I'd married at 25 and quickly divorced. I remarried two years later), and she made up a whopper to explain why my brother didn't attend my second wedding.

She lied about food: where it was (she'd hide it in incongruous places when I was still living at home with her, so she could have certain treats all to herself) or if she even had any.

She lied about various possessions when my brother visited with his children: obsessively worried that the kids would break our precious items - things like my father's tackle box, for example - she'd squirrel them away (or make me do it) then pretend ignorance when asked to locate them, or make up some fairy tale to explain why we couldn't find the items in question.

My father, I believe, couldn't have cared less whether his grandchildren used his tackle box, but my mother was determined to maintain absolute control.

It got to the point where I couldn't keep track of the number of different stories she'd told relatives and acquaintances about various things, events or people she found embarrassing or not as she wished them to be. It was dizzying. I have no idea how she remembered what she'd told whom.

I finally put my foot down at about age 27, and refused to ever cover up her lies again. This annoyed and embarrassed her. It still annoys her, but no longer embarrasses her because she eventually learned that I would not actively back her up in her falsehoods to other people, and that I'd openly contradict her if she lied about me. And so she stopped trying to pull me into her web.

One of the hugest disappointments to her in this regard was my eventual refusal to lie about my father's suicide.

He died when I was 17, and to her, the manner of death was unforgivable and of mortifying shame.

She immediately embarked on a mission of mistruth.

The death certificate read "accidental death," after she wheedled and whined to the coroner.

The lying continued through the funeral, to all neighbors and friends who inquired, and even extended to my nephew and niece, who only learned as much older adults exactly how their grandfather died.

She expected, with no discussion, that I'd immediately fall into step with her in this mission. I was miserable, grieving, and yet embarrassed by the lies that slipped so easily off her tongue. I remained silent wherever possible, and died a thousand deaths, so-to-speak, when she put me into the position of having to affirm her tales about how my father "accidentally" offed himself.

She was horrified and baffled when I finally stopped supporting her, and instead began speaking openly and calmly about his suicide, if asked.

I'd never thought about my mother's lying as a generational trait, as I sometimes do when thinking of women's habits, women of a certain age. But lately, it's become my pet theory.

Is it a generational thing? Was it more acceptable, even encouraged, from and of our mothers and grandmothers? Have you ever noticed how women are oft depicted as liars in older movies. This depiction is commonly slanted as "charming" or of no consequence. Just little white lies.

In fact, it seems women were not just expected, but also rewarded for lying and then wheedling, or best yet, crying, to get out of their predicaments.

My mother still proudly (and I use that word deliberately: she is clearly proud and delighted to keep telling the story) describes the time, as a young women, when she got a parking ticket. She'd left the car illegally parked. She knew she'd done it, and for no good reason other than convenience.

Still, when caught and ticketed, she first tried to lie her way out of it, and failing to get sympathy by that route, she cried. Sally is always most tickled to tell her story's punch-line: the police officer was overwhelmed by her tears, and tore up the ticket. She positively glows when delivering the climax to her tale.

That such a tiny, unimportant event still lives on so strongly in my mother's mind, tells me something. I've heard that story a million times if I've heard it once. It's top of mind for my mother, and she can't wait to pull it out for anyone who'll pause long enough to listen. And she always tells it the same way, coyly rolling her eyes and giggling like a school girl, nudging her audience along as she regales them and makes absolutely sure they understand how she lied, then cried, then was rewarded.

It's bizarre. Of all the experiences my mother must have had through her long, long life, this is one that most-often comes up.

Well, you may ask at this point, why do you write about this topic of lying, today?

Because I was reminded about lying, and my generational theory, the other day when Anthony's mother called and left a message.

Doris: "Uh, Anthony, I just wanted to tell you to not bother picking me up for lunch today. I have such an awful cold, I can't even get out of bed. So forget about lunch."

She had no cold. She just didn't want to go for lunch with the particular people Anthony'd invited along.

Doris forgets that every time she wants to get out of something, she uses that same lie: the awful cold, the one that conveniently comes on over night to arrive full-blown and debilitating on the very day of the unwanted activity. She's used it every time the social worker schedules a visit, or when Anthony gently urges her to get out of the house for some normal activities, about which she's hostile and paranoid.

If you believed Doris' "cold" excuse, you'd think she'd had a dozen colds this past 6 months, the last three apparently of the vicious summer cold variety.

The sad part is, she doesn't even make any effort to dress the lies so as to seem like truth. Of course, with Doris, the lies are becoming the truth, and vice-versa, so I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose.

The other things Doris and Sally have in common, is that Doris, too, will bring on the tears when she wants to get her way. It's common for us to discover her teary phone messages, pleading for Anthony to solve whatever dilemma she's gotten herself into.

But finally, if the tears don't work, Doris, just like Sally, will go along and solve her own problems, capably, appropriately, even with speed and efficient effectiveness. Easily.

But not quite so easily as lying and crying, one supposes, which remain the default modes for these women.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Everything's Relative(s).

So, it's past mid-July.

Summer is speeding by, and I know it will be fall and school and hustle-bustle once I blink my eyes.

It feels odd without my mother living here, and I feel strangely light. Anthony has said he notices a change too. It's amazing how much work and angst she adds to our menu, without trying.

Further, the kids will be leaving in a couple of days for a week with their father. They'll have a grand time, swimming like seals in a pristine northern Canadian lake, roughing it at the cottage with their cousins and storing up Vitamin D for the coming winter months. I can only imagine I'll feel so light without them, that I may float away.

I don't want the kids gone, but they also do add to the work and angst menu, without trying, and I realize that the lightness I feel is not the thought of their leaving so much, but the relief from responsibilities.

My chores are leaving.

I suddenly remember this feeling: this is how it was before children, before my mother aged, before I began to seriously worry about retirement savings and French immersion schooling and even about mortgages or next month's rent, for that matter.

I can't describe how good it feels, to shed all the background noise. This coming week will be about living in the moment, more-or-less. It's a state in which I used to dwell, unknowingly.

Not that I'll be completely responsibility-free, far from it. I will tend to the plants, do laundry and cook meals, fix things around the house, fetch groceries, write a few small articles for a little publication that hires me from time to time.

I'll pay bills as they come due, argue with the contractor who installed our garden doors incorrectly, exercise, and drive here-and-there, all in the maintenance of home and body.

It's just that relatively speaking, the load I will carry next week, when I'm deliciously alone in my house, puttering and nibbling and doing whatever I want, will be a far, far lighter thing than what I've been used to for so many years now.

And everything's relative, as you know.

Now, if only my relatives realized that :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Crap, Crap, Crap.

A few posts ago, I entitled the entry as "It's All Crap."

But I wrote at such length then, I thought I should finish the story later. Here it is:

So Sally wasn't able to change her toenail appointment, and thus missed her 12-year-old grand-daughter's graduation ceremony. Getting those nails clipped was more important to her than seeing Kathleen float across the gymnasium stage in her minty-green, flower-encrusted organza dress, looking for all the world like a dream.

My good friend, who Kathleen calls "Auntie," presented my daughter with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, and Kathleen proudly posed for pictures once the ceremony concluded. None of those pictures included my mother, busily off on her podiatrist date.

Now, I ask you, if you were 90, what would you rather do? Go to the podiatrist for your free poodle clip, OR see your daughter's daughter, all blond and freckled and Straight A's, making that next step into middle school, glimpsing that adolescent life ahead, tossing that impossibly perfect ponytail while walking into the future?

I know what I'd do, and I know what Sally did.

Anyway, that's not what's so crappy, although come to think of it, that was REALLY crappy.

Here's where the "crappy" comment came in.

I told you, in that post, about Sally's relentless harassment of me, while I was trying to paint, and trying to do my laundry.

So, what happened, after I went downstairs to put in my load of laundry, and Sally called the podiatrist for the millionth time, and wheedled and whined and manipulated, was this: I went back outside to finish painting, and Sally toodled off to the the washing machine and removed my laundry and dumped it all in the dryer, and turned said dryer on "hot, 1 hour."

Then, she proceeded to put ONE SWEATER in the washing machine, and turn it on. I told you her needs are pressing, and immediate. And she needed that sweater washed, immediately. Even though it's summer, and it's bloody hot.

After, when I pulled the shrunken, ruined items from the drier, and asked her WHY, WHY she'd done this, she pursed her mouth, remained silent for a moment, her face clearly communicating how unimpressed she was with my hurt and anger, then pronounced: "Oh, just buy yourself a new top. It's all crap, anyway."

This is my mother.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Did I mention Camp?

Today, Kathleen went off to camp for a week. I felt my heart tearing as I waved to the disappearing bus, bound for a gorgeous location on a lake, full of kids heading for water and activities and new friends and adventures galore...

I miss her ferociously.

But also, with both my mother and Kathleen gone today, I realized how tired I've been.

It is so very simple (comparatively) to take care of one son and a husband, instead of one son a daughter a mother and a husband.

Dinner was made, served and cleaned up from, in a flash. We ate at the breakfast island, where three, and only three, fit comfortably.

Alex, who's 14 now, took care of himself today, arising at noon, getting his own lunch (such as it was), reading and chatting with me through the afternoon, and basking in the absence of one kid sister.

There are so few demands, so much less noise and irritating chatter and clamoring needs shoved constantly in my face.

In fact, I think I'll really like it, adore it even, for...a day or two at best.

Then, I'll have to rethink how much I like this relatively empty house.

Because it sure doesn't feel right.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Vacation!

Remember that feeling you'd get as a kid, as you heard the bell ring at the end of the last school day of the year?

Summer!

I had that feeling today. We took my mother to a retirement residence for "respite" care, yesterday (my "respite" to make it clear). Today, I woke up as if released from prison.

OK, maybe not quite prison, but close.

I felt younger, happier, less tense and just plain looking forward to life.

She put up a fight, a good one, I'll admit. She grew more solemn and morose and martyred as the date drew near. She could barely carry herself into the place, and summoned tears when we left her, after a round of hugs and well-wishes for the next 6 weeks.

But today, she called me. Her voice sounded like my mother of old. She'd eaten well, made friends, and most amazingly, could hear me clearly on the phone.

Prior to this, she simply couldn't hear anyone on the phone, and would defer all calls to me, including pesky calls involving tasks that involved a bit of work on her part, like renewing prescriptions.

Today, though, I spoke in normal tones and she never missed a word.

What a fake.

Anyway, I'm on holidays for the summer, out of prison on a "get out of jail free" card. And I'm going to make the most of it.

Excuse me now, I have a glass of wine to drink...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's All Crap (Apparently)

My mother's imagined needs are numerous and pressing.

I take her places several times a week. All of these journeys are hugely important to her and they can't wait for anything. Nothing is more important, for example, than fetching her medication (and there is so very much of it), going shopping for clothing and/or shoes that is not needed, getting her hair done (every six weeks without fail, at the best place in town), or having the podiatrist clip her toenails.

My mother has been getting her toenails cut, at public expense, for at least 40 years now. It's a benefit she receives from her veteran's widow pension. (and yes, my father retired about 40 years ago...)

This week, her podiatrist appointment conflicts with Kathleen's graduation ceremony from elementary school.

This fact has caused me unending grief.

My mother has known about the graduation ceremony for at least two months now. The date has been written on my calendar, as has Alexander's graduation from middle school, a day earlier than Kathleen's.

Yet she scheduled a podiatrist appointment on the same day. Inevitably, this has become my problem.

Upon "realizing" the conflict, my mother began the harassment campaign.

Sally: "I need to change my podiatrist appointment so that I can attend Kathleen's graduation." (Translation: "you need to fix this problem for me.")

Me: (interrupted, as usual, as I try to work)"Go ahead, change it. You don't need to tell me every detail Mom."

Sally: (silent, shuffling.) "Well."

Long silence. (Translation: "You still need to fix this problem for me.")

Sally: "Will you call them?" (Sally doesn't like talking on the phone unless she likes talking on the phone. Then she has no difficulties calling anyone on planet Earth).

Me: "I am trying to work. I will call when I get a chance."

Now, as I mentioned above, Sally's needs are pressing, and immediate. They can't wait. So she stands and pesters.

She follows me and pesters. And she shoves herself in my way if I try to flee. I could be having a heart attack and trying to call an ambulance, and she'd keep yapping at me as she disconnected the emergency call, insisting her need is greater than mine.

It was a sunny morning, and I'd been waiting for weeks to do a bit of exterior painting. She followed me outside, and stood at the base of the ladder as I brushed white primer over a new patch of stucco at the side of our house. And she continued to pester.

I asked if perhaps she could trim her own toenails this month, eliminating the problem. Her mouth formed a perfectly round, completely shocked "O."

She couldn't even speak, so stunning a suggestion had I made. Mutely, she shook her head slowly back and forth, the mouth hanging open in the perfect O.

Me: "Well, I can call, but I doubt at this late juncture that you'll be able to get a replacement appointment for several months now, never-mind to another day this week."

She knew this, but didn't care. I needed to fix her problem for her and she would hound me to the depths of hell to achieve that end.

I called. They couldn't get her in. Sally hounded me more. I called again. They said they couldn't get her in, but that if anyone canceled at the last minute, she'd be the first they'd call.

I related these facts to Sally, then went downstairs to start my laundry, and overheard her calling them again (suddenly, she was able to make the call herself). She identified herself, and then in the most wheedling, sly voice you can imagine, asked yet again if they could somehow fit her in.

They obviously said no, and repeated that she was on the cancellation list, but I knew she'd call and pester them, and hound me, again, before the next hour was out.

I felt ill just thinking about it, I was so tired of carrying her vast weight around with me all the time.

More, on why It's all Crap (Apparently), To Be Continued...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Kooky!

Today, the phone rang. I answered.

Me: "Hello?"

Voice: "Huh? Who is...Huh? I mean, whaaaa....oh. I think I have the wrong number."

Me: "Oh, OK, that's..."

Voice: (Strident, aggressive tone) "WHO is this?"

By this point, I've recognized Doris' voice (Anthony's mother).

Me: "Delia."

Voice: "Delia! What day is it?"

Me: "Wednesday."

Voice: "Are you coming here with Sarah and Jake?"

Me: "I don't know any Sarah and Jake."

Voice: "Uhhhhhh. What? Delia? WHICH Delia is this?"

Me: (thinking, "how many Delias do you know?") "Anthony's Delia."

Voice: (Hysterical laughter). "Oh my! I thought it was the other Delia!!!"

Me: "Ha."

Voice: "The reason I'm calling is that I lost my key."

Me: "That's not good."

Voice: "Oh, you sound so young!"

Me: "I wish I felt young."

Voice: "Tom is here, you know."

Me: "That's so nice." ( I have no idea who Tom is)

Voice: "Well. Really sorry to bother you."

Me: "Oh no problem. No bother at all. Bye."

Voice: "Bye."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Break?

My desk calendar tells me it's June.

And according to the accompanying picture, I should be indulging in, or at least planning to indulge in, summery things like swimming pools, decks and leisurely summer days.

I don't have a pool, but I do have a deck, and a cottage rented for a week in August, and a week in July we will dedicate to visiting friends in Toronto and taking the kids to see Niagara Falls. Which they never have. Me either.

But I can't get in the spirit. Anthony says I have General Malaise, which I've shortened to "GM" for use in our conversations.

Anthony: "You have General Malaise."

Me: "I know. I'm always tired and grumpy and rushed. I don't want to be this way."

Anthony: "So snap out of it." (That's the advice Anthony got from his doctor when he asked how to solve his growing insomnia problem).

Me: "I can't just snap out of it. Maybe I need vitamins. Does B12 solve GM?"

Anthony: "You think about things too much. Stop thinking." (which is more advice from his doctor, given when Anthony asked how he could turn his mind off at night, to avoid the insomnia).

That may be true. But I don't think it's the thinking, to be honest. I think my GM problem is caused by too much work.

My kids and my mother keep me hopping. I never have time for me. If I do have any time left over after catering to the kids and my mother, I use it doing fun things like patching walls and scrubbing mold off the deck chairs.

Thus the GM.

I've decided I need a break. I will get a bit of a break from my kids, when they visit with their father over the summer. But then there's my mother.

We tried to talk her into going back to Winnipeg for July and August, to visit my sister, and/or any of her friends still alive and with some faculties in place.

She refused.

We went back and forth for a month or two. She just didn't want to go.

So I booked her into a local seniors residence for the duration of the summer. She was content with this plan for two days, then announced to me today, that she really wanted to go to Winnipeg.

Me: "I thought you said you didn't want to go? We talked about it for several weeks, and you refused."

Her: "I'd like to see Eleanor."

Me: "But you told me she refused to have you stay with her. You got off the phone in tears and said you didn't want to talk about that option any more." (Eleanor is my older sister who lives in Winnipeg in grand retirement style. She had a very limited relationship with my mother before Sally came to live with me in Kookytown. And apparently she still doesn't want to see our mother.)

Her: (simpering look and voice) "Oh that. Well, maybe I could go for a few days. Poor Eleanor, she's all alone, you know."

Me: (rolling my eyes) "Yes, and we both know why don't we?"

My sister is divorced and estranged from virtually anyone she ever came in contact with. Including her own daughter.

Her: "Oh poor Eleanor..."

Honestly, I don't know how much longer I can last with Sally driving me mad. Madder than she is, at times.

I'm hoping this summer break will not only cure my GM, but shore me up for another long fall and winter in Kookytown.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Living a Dream

On an almost daily basis, Sally approaches me about dreams (hallucinations?) she has. I speculate that she dreams overnight, and upon awakening, she thinks her dream was reality. She really can't tell the difference anymore.

Her dreams usually concern one of two things: (1) little items from her past of little or no monetary value, (2) people in her room.

Yesterday, she lurched toward me immediately upon sighting in the morning. She declared she'd been awake all night, because she couldn't find her "aurora" brooch and earrings.

"I was up all night, searching. Do you have them?" she asked, looking bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

From experience, I knew she'd not been up all night, or she would have looked, and felt, exhausted. She dreams about the brooch and earings on a regular basis.

The "aurora" brooch, as she calls it, has been on what's left of her mind since her arrival in Kookytown. I don't know to what brooch she's referring. From her description, I conjure up vague images of sparkly costume jewelery from my childhood memories. I've told her that if the brooch is the one I'm thinking of, that I haven't seen it in literally decades, that I think she gave it to my niece many years ago, and that in any event, it had no value, and we can go buy something nice for her sweater, if she wants.

None of this sinks in. She admits the brooch was costume jewelery. But it's important that she locate it. She refuses to dig out the picture of my niece, the one I remember at the back of her photo album, the one clearly showing Sally's grand-daughter wearing the sparkly brooch I'm thinking about.

And every few weeks, it starts over. Sally forgets that she's asked me about it. She dreams about it, and pesters me relentlessly the next day as to its whereabouts. She becomes obsessed, incapable of letting it go, driven to almost frenzied distraction.

"But I just had it last night," she'll moan.

"Well, where did you put it then?" I'll shoot back in irritated tones.

"Well, didn't I hand it to you?" She looks beseechingly at me.

"No mother. Not last night, not last month when we talked about it, and not the month before that."

Yesterday, I wrote in large letters on a clean sheet of paper: DATE, TOPIC of DISCUSSION (Aurora brooch and earings), and the note that this is the tenth time we've discussed it since she moved in with us.

I asked her to leave it on her desk in her bedroom. That way, if she thinks of the brooch (or any other things she dreams about regularly), she can refer to the sheet. And hopefully, leave me alone.

She lost eye contact with me and began the breakfast dishes, letting the tap run rivers of water as she piddled about with two cups and a saucer.

I went out on an errand, returned an hour later, and found the sheet of paper covered in her scrawls and doodles. She looked puzzled.

"You left me this note?" she asked. Clearly, she had completely forgotten our conversation and my instructions about the note.

I tried to be patient and reminded her about the morning's conversation.

"If you leave this note on your desk, you can look at it when you wake up in the night, or whenever, to remind you that we've already discussed these topics, and that I don't have these items." My lips were moving and sounds were coming out, but Sally looked like I was mooing at her.

"OK dear." She pronounced these words with kindly condescension, as if speaking to a child.

Then she shuffled away, slippers flapping, housecoat drooping tiredly on one side, and left the sheet dangling in my hands. I knew it was useless.

As for #2 above, people coming in her room in the night, it seems pretty much evenly divided between strange men who visit her sometimes, or either me or Anthony. She's got quite the lively social life, in her bedroom, at night after the lights are out and we're all asleep.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Old Souls

Yesterday I was awakened by the phone shrilling at 7am.

I snorted awake, mid-dream, probably drooling, and ran downstairs to pick it up. Normally, I'd ignore a wake-up call like that. But I thought it was Kathleen phoning from her father's place. She'd been there overnight, and had a cold, so I wanted an update.

It wasn't Kathleen.

Me: "Urmmummbleummmmmmm. Hello?"

Caller: "Oh, I need Anthony. John woke me up this morning and said I'm heading off to The Labrador today, and I don't remember a thing about it."

Me: "ErgleMurgleGurgle...what?"

Caller (obviously Doris): "They say I'm going to The Labrador, but I don't know a thing about it."
SLAM.

I shuffled in a confused state back upstairs.

Me: "Your mother called."

Anthony (toothbrush in mouth): "About wherler vpaoytht va?"

Me: "She's really kooky today. She thinks she's about to be whisked off on a magical mystery carpet ride to The Labrador."

Anthony: "Oh No. What did shdhher say aborlkut dfgj rcqr qa?"

Me: "She said that Fred and Sam were taking her."

Anthony: "Mrgllmmpphhhhh" (no toothbrush in mouth at this point).

Later in the day, my mother accosted me and quipped that I shouldn't be mad at her for disturbing my sleep.

"What?" I asked in my usual stunned overtone.

"Well, you came in my room last night, and woke me up. You said my snoring was keeping you awake." Sally looked pleased about it.

"Mom, I didn't go into your room last night. I didn't hear you snoring."

I could tell by her look that I'd said the wrong thing.

"Well, you most certainly did!" She glared at me.

"Oh. Right. I must have forgotten. Yeah, you 'll have to keep the snoring under control Mom."

It's just easier to lie. Way easier.

Maybe my mother should go to The Labrador with Doris. I shouldn't be able to hear her snore from that distance.