Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dog Dentist, Part II

So here's our lovely little lady, Pepper. She is now just over four months old. She still has those cracked teeth.

As Jen commented on the last post, why not go for a second opinion regarding the need to pull a couple of puppy teeth, for about $1700?

I do know people who take their pets to "country vets," looking for some sort of rational opinion as to exactly what is needed to keep the animal healthy and happy.

Jen, good suggestion! I did something else first, though. I took Peps to a vet located in a different neighborhood of Kookytown.

Now, this vet is located on the other side of the tracks if you get my drift, in a part of Kookytown known as Valier.

And you know what? The Valier vet said Pepper's teeth were just fine. No dental work required at all.

Valier Vet: "Yes, I see the cracked tooth."
Me: "Does it need extraction?"
VV: "Extrac...what?"
Me: " Should it come out?"
VV: "Ho ho ho! Why no! Whatever would give you such a silly idea? It's going to fall out in a month!"
Me: "But isn't she in pain?"
VV: (holding down Pepper who is trying to lick the vet to death) Doesn't seem to be. Ho! Whatever gives you the idea she's in pain?
Me: "But what about the infection?"
VV: "No infection. The pulp of the tooth is exposed. But the nerve has already died in preparation for the adult tooth to soon come in."
Me: "But ISN'T SHE AT RISK?" (the ominous threat mouthed by the last vet)
VV: "Of what?"
Valier Vet was now looking at me a bit curiously.
VV: "Look, you could remove the teeth. If this were your child, you might want to do that. Might. But instead, I've advise you to save your money and go out for dinner! Haaaa!!"

Ha ha ha, indeed.

Valier vet charged me $62 for the office visit.

So Jen, I may just seek out a country vet, for a third opinion. After all, to go from "OMG YOUR DOG IS GOING TO DIE YOU NEED TO EXTRACT THE TEETH YOU NEED TO GIVE ME $1700 TO EXTRACT THE TEETH," to "Nice dog. In good health. No work needed," is slightly disconcerting.

But then again, I may not bother. I'll be too busy going out for dinner :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Poodle Puzzle

Pepper has a couple of cracked teeth.

We were informed of this a couple of weeks ago when she visited the vet for her last round of puppy vaccinations.

These cracked teeth are puppy teeth, of course. Now, puppy teeth fall out between the ages of 4-7 months. Pepper is about 17 weeks old now, and has already got a few permanent teeth in her little mouth.

"Vet: "These teeth MUST be removed, or you are putting your dog at risk."
Me: "Risk of what?"
Vet: "Infection. And her permanenet teeth may be affected."
Me: "How?"
Vet: "Look, pulling these teeth will maximize her bite potential."

Now, I maximized my own bite with braces. I also maximized Kathleen's bite with orthodontic assessments and a few years of her wearing an orthodontic appliance.

I remember what that all cost. So I wasn't terribly surprised when the vet presented me with an estimate of about $1700. This included the cost of pulling the teeth, a general anesthetic, and even local anesthetic.

Me: "Um. You made a mistake here. If she's under a general, she doesn't need a local."
Vet: "Yes, she does."
Me: "Um. Really."
Vet: "It's to make sure she feels no pain."

I don't know about you, but I understand that humans undergo major surgery, such as heart transplants, while under a general anesthetic, with no local. I've heard rumors that it works well.

Me: "I had a filling last month, and my dentist didn't even give me a local, never mind general anesthesia."
Vet: (Withering look, long sigh) "Without a local, we've noticed that the dog's heart rate increases when we extract teeth, even under a general. This might indicate pain."

Me: "Might it?"

No answer from vet, who is not just a vet, but a veterinarian dentist. One who wears green scrubs around the office, like he just stepped out of surgery.

I left with Pepper and the estimate.

I can see the cracked teeth. I keep looking in her mouth, hoping to see they've fallen out. That way, I'll still be able to go on vacation next summer, instead of spending it on maximizing Pepper's bite.

To pull Pepper's puppy teeth will cost more than she did herself. It will also cost more than a large round of dental work I just completed. For me, I got emergency dental work done in the US last summer on a cracked tooth. Sounds eerily like Pepper's situation, except my cracked tooth was a permanent molar, and the "crack" was in fact more of a "split" with about half of the tooth falling off. I also got a permanent crown fitted once I returned to Canada.

Grand total: well, less than what the vet wants in order to do Pep's extractions.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...................

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ability to Keep a Straight Face...

...is essential, around this household.

Well, I'll make this short and sweet acerbic.

After a couple of nights back in her good, old bed, Sally emerged from her bedroom and announced that her back was killing her.

This, accompanied by much twisting of facial muscles and pursing of lips. You know, to show me just how much that old back was hurting.

I kept the aforementioned straight face, looked puzzled, and told her that was impossible.

"Your back was sore, Mom, because you were 'suffering' on the single bed. You told us that countless times."

She looked dumbfounded.

"So, now that you have your old bed back, your back must be great, right?"

I have to give it to her. She is shameless and unabashed, even when caught in the most bald-faced of lies.

She: "Oh no." This said cool as a cucumber.

"My back get sore because I have a deteriorating disc. It has nothing to do with the bed."

And with that, off she flounced.

Unbelievable.

We're just waiting now. Waiting for the inevitable request to get that big honking bed the hell out of her room.

Once again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The. Bed. AGAIN.

You know it.

She, Sally, got on me about the bed again. It's freaky.

Anyway, she's getting what she wants. We are moving her old bed back into her room. It will be too big, and she won't like it, again. But it ain't coming out. Not this time, baby.

We told her that. She (just like the last time) insisted she will want to keep the bed in there.

But she won't. I know she won't. It's too big. And I'm basing my expectation of her reaction on experience here, as you know. She'll change her mind, just like the last time, and the time before, and God only knows how many times before that, and crook her finger and want us to move it back out. Again.

Not happening. Tomorrow, I will go out and buy my daughter a new bed, so my mother can have her old one back. So Sal has to keep the bed. Once Kathleen's new bed arrives, there'll be nowhere for my mother's old bed to go, if she doesn't want to keep it in her room. Except maybe out in the trash...

This is going to get interesting.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Remembering Major Martin

I tried to post on Remembrance Day but other stuff intervened. But no matter. I'll say it now.

This is a picture of my father, Alexander Martin. It was taken somewhere in England, between 1940-5. He fought with the Calgary Highlanders through Europe during World War II.

As is chronicled in Battalion of Heroes, by historian David Bercuson, my father saw a lot of heavy action with the Highlanders:

"As Ellis's men poked out of the woods about 300 metres south of the Hoogerheide crossroads, the 12th Platoon, leading the company, came under heavy fire from a strong German machine gun position located atop a slight rise in the middle of a field. The entire company was forced to halt as platoon leader Lieutenant Alexander Keller worked out a plan with the tank troop commander to have the tanks shoot his men on to the position. The tanks deployed, then opened fire, forcing the German machine gunners to take cover. Keller then stood up, said a terse, "follow me," and began to walk straight towards the German guns. After "a short and startled pause," his platoon followed. As they approached the position, the tanks ceased firing. The Highlanders scrambled atop the mound taking sixteen prisoners and capturing eight MG42 machine guns and a number of submachine guns and rifles. Keller was awarded a Military Cross for this act to add to a Military Medal he had already received for bravery at Dieppe." (p. 161-2)

Other parts of the book describe my father in such frightening situations, I have trouble reading them. The story of what he and his platoon went through fighting on the front, taking the town of Wyler, in Germany, makes me feel ill with fear. Just words on a page can do that. Imagine actually being there?

Anyway, my father ended the war as a Major. He died in 1978, when I was 17. He never, ever talked to me (or anyone, as far as I know) about what happened to him during the war. It does seem a long time ago, now. I can't remember what his voice sounded like.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Carrots in the Cupboard, and Other Silliness

I found a bag of carrots tucked into a kitchen cupboard today.

The cupboard in question is not one I often open, so I'm darn glad I found that bag before it started turning into a science experiment gone bad.

I know what happened. Yesterday, my mother peeled a couple of carrots for our dinner. Then she put the bag into the cupboard, instead of returning it to the fridge. Why that particular cupboard, or any cupboard at all, we'll never know.

It reminds me of an episode with Anthony's mother (now safely abiding in the "retirement" residence, thank God) that occurred a couple of years ago.

Anthony had dropped in on Doris, and detected an almighty unpleasant odour in her house. After some searching, he detected the source of the stench.

Doris had deposited a cod in the cupboard. Naturally, a cod in the cupboard will start to smell, and smell BAD, in just about no time. Yet she hadn't noticed anything amiss.

Neither, for that matter, had dear brother John, who was freeloading off her at that time.

So, Carrots and Cod, all in the Cupboards. Sounds like a good ol' Maritime song, if you ask me.

Or maybe it's just the sign of neurons backfiring, way off in the depths of certain brains..........

Friday, November 4, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Here are two fun things:

(1) Girl With a Flask, over at Martinis for Breakfast (Isn't that the best blog name ever? Not to mention a perfect lifestyle?) has vowed to blog every day during November. I wish I could make the same promise, but wisely, won't. Still, it will be fun reading her recipes and witty observations about life and drinking, every day this month :)

(2) We have a dog! She's a black standard poodle and her name is Pepper. At about 13 weeks of age, she can outrun all of us except for Alex, who keeps her going in circles in the backyard when he's playing with her. And that's a good thing...13-week-old puppies sure have lots of energy! I promise to write all about the adventures of Pepper, whenever I'm not writing complaints about my mother ;) Here she is:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Not Again!!!???

My mother suddenly and with no warning announced she wants her bed back.

She did this two evenings ago, as I was preparing dinner. Her tone was not very nice.

She: "Delia, I have to have my bed back. I've been suffering horribly ever since you took it away."

My internal response was to shrivel up and writhe in pain. Externally, I tried very hard to show nothing.

Every few months we go through this. The last time she brought it up, she was jealous I'd bought a nice bed frame for my daughter. At that time, I told her I'd happily buy her  a new single mattress of her choice, but that she couldn't have her old mattress back because it doesn't fit in her room.

She agreed, but then the next day, told me she didn't need a new bed. This is the way the conversation goes, every single time she brings it up, which has been dozens of times in the last three years.

The time before that, she did the same thing. She has fits about needing her bed back. The bed that I "took away from her." The bed that is "my life," as she creepily put it, once.

Then, when I tell her her old bed won't fit into her room, but that we can buy her the best new mattress in the whole darn world, she backs off and refuses the new mattress option.

I have no idea what is going on in her itsy, bitsy, deranged, angry brain, but it's driving me to distraction.

So what did I do this time? I offered exactly the same option. I told her she'd been here for almost three years now. That her bed is fine, but that every once in awhile, her back aches because the lower discs are degenerating. This is what her doctor has told us. I added that  we would be pleased to buy a new mattress for her.

She denied she's lived here for three years.

And then she snarled at me. Literally. Her lip curled and a demonic sound came out of her mouth. Of course, no one else was around to witness this. She is WAY too smart to act like that in front of Anthony.

I avoided her the entire next day. This was the only thing I could do to get her off my back. Besides, she is scaring me with this nonsense.

But I'm stuck. I know it will come up again. And again. And again.

Here's the thing:  when she moved here three years ago, we squeezed her bed into her room. That was at her demand, even though it was obviously too large for the room.

Two days later, she insisted Anthony haul it out and replace it with a single bed. He did. "My bed is too big for this room," she pronounced. Really? Just like we told you?

Three days later, she demanded we put her bigger bed back into the room. That's when she made the "my bed is my life" comment. Shudder.

And he did. Poor long-suffering Anthony. Of course,you know what happened then. Two days later, she gave Anthony a simpering smile, admitting that we were correct in that the bed was too big for the room.

"I can't even open my dresser, Anthony!" she mooed. Oh, really.

And she asked him to switch everything around again. Which he obligingly did, albeit with gritted teeth.

So we're not doing it again.  If we move her bed back into her room, it will still be too large. She will still not be able to open her dresser, or fit around the bed to get at her bedside table. And then, she will ask us to switch it back again.

So what's the problem, you ask? Just refuse to switch it back, right?

Ah my poor, innocent readers. How little you understand Sally's abilities to drive one insane with her persistent, simpering, demanding whining.

So we are stuck in a mobius strip of dilemma. Over and over, the bed issue will arise. Any attempts to deal with it will fail.

I am scared. Very, very scared.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We've Gone to the Dogs

Clearly, I am frazzled. You can tell by the fact that I never post anything anymore.

Here's my top ten of what's happened in the last two months, just to update you really, really quickly:

(1) my mother returned to live with us after our summer holidays.
(2) August ended, kids got back to school, we all got used to living together again. Not a particularly pretty process, but we did it, and no one died.
(3) one day, Anthony's uncle called to say that he'd discovered Doris, Anthony's mother,  had invited a homeless man to live in her house. Said guy, no longer homeless, was sleeping in her bed, while poor, demented Doris was snoozing on the couch. Uncle took pix of the two of them taking tea from the Royal Doulton china set.
(4) Uncle took Doris off to The Labrador for what was undoubtedly her last family reunion there. While visiting, he had to lock her in her room at night to keep her from wandering out the door and into the sea.
(5) Creepy brother John kept calling Anthony to ask how to get homeless guy out of the house.
(6) After John failed to evict homeless guy, Anthony and I had to attend. We tried asking him nicely to leave, and when that failed, we then called the police to help us remove the squatter. The guy was not happy. Anthony and I spent all weekend cleaning the remains from the the house and yard trashing that had occurred due to homeless man's indelicate habits. I was not happy.
(7) Upon return from The Labrador, Uncle and Anthony deposited Doris safely in a locked Alzheimer's ward at a private facility, where she will finally be safe and well-fed. Turned out the family reunion was the only way they were able to shoe-horn Doris out of her ramshackle house, so there is a silver lining, I guess.
(8) While all this went on, we decided to buy a puppy.
(9) What the hell was I thinking?
(10) the kids' schedules are insane: drama classes, Ultimate (frisbee, I call it) practices, piano and voice lessons, and endless piles of homework. On top of it all, a peeing, yowling, frisky, chewy, nippy, barky, high-energy puppy has now taken over the house.

What the hell was I thinking?

Friday, August 19, 2011

How Did This Happen?!

Argggghhhhhhh!!!

I last posted before our summer had truly begun.

How has it come to this? Now, a mere blink later, August is more than half-through, all our vacation plans are complete (everything did work out quite well), and my mother returns to us from the seniors residence (or "the kennel" as one friend wryly dubbed it) in a couple of days.

Arggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Ready, Set...

Our holidays are almost upon us.

Alexander has finished his grade 9 classes, and Kathleen has only a couple more days of grade 7 to go. Then, we head off on adventure.

My mother will be staying in a posh seniors residence while we come and go throughout the summer. She's to return to us mid-August.

Helping her prepare for this change has been as irritating as I predicted, although I've tried  a new tack this year. Every time she obsessively asks me the same questions over and over, day in and day out, instead of answering her, I just say: "You don't need to worry about that. We'll take care of everything."

It calms her for perhaps an hour. Then she starts again:

"I need to put these GICs in the safe deposit box."
"Are you sure there is enough money in my chequing account?"
"What about towels? Will this place have towels?"

Every little detail that enters her head becomes a mountain. She was up "all night" last night (according to her) thinking about all the details. And in truth, all she need do is place a few items of clothing of her choice, into a suitcase. That's it.

Anthony and I have and will do all the rest. We got cash for her. We topped up her chequing account. We picked up all sorts of yummy goodies for her to munch on while at the residence. We've left all our contact numbers with the staff there. We will fetch her suitcase tomorrow and I've done all her laundry, which can be placed into it. We will get her a few bottles of good wine as well.

She need not think about a thing. But that's all she does. Thinks, over thinks, obsesses and becomes shaky and confused. She won't stop. It makes me quite sad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Our Health Care System is Gone to Hell

A couple of days ago:

Sally: "I have a podiatrist appointment coming up..."

Me: Sigh. (this means I must get my mother to the local hospital. Yes, you read that right. She gets her toenails clipped, courtesy of our lovely medical system, for nothing. Every month. In a hospital. Since 1943, if you ask her, but I think that's the kookiness talking. I figure it's more like 1973).

Anthony: "Again?"

Sally: "Of course. They need it. Delia, you will take me there?"

Me: "Sigh."

Long pause.

Anthony: "Boy, I wish someone would cut my toenails." (so do I, actually, but I digress)

I know he said it to make light of the topic. But Sal took it to heart, of course.

Sally: "Anthony! You should call my podiatrist! It will be free! Your insurance will cover it, I'm sure!"

Anthony: "Mrlghelwrhf;sdljf......"

Anthony had really done it. Sally is nothing if totally obsessive, these days. Once mentioned, she won't drop it.

Sal: "Really! Call your insurer! You should go! They'll cut your toenails! For free!"

Sally's version of "for free" actually means "everyone else who has actually worked hard and paid a lot of taxes will pay into this system and then I will get my toenails clipped, for no apparent reason, for free. Wheeeee!!!!!"

My mother isn't obese (well, OK she is). But she's not really obese. Just borderline obese. She's always been like that. She doesn't have diabetes. But she's had her toenails clipped at the hospital, for the last 40 years, because she whined about having to bend over, for so long, to a bunch of medical people who couldn't take her whining anymore (I'm guessing here, but why else would she be able to get a prescription for a free pedi every month, without a valid medical reason?), that they gave in and wrote her a ticket to ride. Or a ticket to clip, more appropriately, I guess.

Only in Canada, I say.

Anyway, Sal was on a roll, and kept urging Anthony. He kept trying to convince her that his insurance would NOT pay for him to get his toenails clipped at the hospital.

They finally separated, by mutual consent, after each realized the other would never believe the point(s) trying to be made.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June: Can We Just Get This Over With, Please?

June is the busiest month, just as September is the sickest/suckiest.

Here's why we will all be exhausted by the time June is over (and luckily, holidays will follow:)

-School is wrapping up, with all the tests, parties, ceremonies and general year-end busy-ness that entails;

-Kathleen, who is scheduled to the hilt with extra-curricular activities, must also wind-down with events like THREE days in a row (WHY, I ask?)of dance dress rehearsals and performances, and a Royal Conservatory piano exam to really add to the load;

-Anthony's  workplace is on strike. As Anthony is part of the non-unionized staff, he is crossing picket-lines and gritting his teeth. Stress, anyone?

-both kids have caught the flu. Who gets the flu in June? That's supposed to happen in Sicktember, not now;

-I've made arrangements for Sal to stay in a luxurious retirement residence over the summer. But the hard part awaits: getting her ready, and then getting her there. And making her stay. Lord help me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Bed. Again.

My mother asked me about her bed again. She wants that double bed back in her room.

I honestly feel like I'm going to go insane over this issue.

Before she moved here, I told her she'd need a single bed because her room wasn't large. She agreed to trade beds with my daughter. So when she arrived here we (and by "we" I mean Anthony) placed my daughter's single bed in my mother's room. The mattress was almost new, nicely firm but not rock hard, and in almost pristine shape.

"This works out wonderfully," I thought, foolish twit that I was.

My mother's double bed arrived from Winnipeg about a week later, and went into Kathleen's room. Kathleen slept here-and-there during that week. We all bent over backwards to accomodate Sally.

A week after Sally's bed had arrived, my mother said she wanted it back. So we switched the beds. And again, by "we," I mean Anthony. He hauled the  8000-tonne teak headboard (read "ugly") and double bed from room to room. Kathleen was miffed, and I don't blame her.

You can't "give" something to an 11-year-old girl and expect that she'll happily give it back because you "changed your mind" about the gift.

After two days, my mother announced that we were right: the double bed was far too big for the room. "Move it back," she commanded imperiously.

Anthony obeyed. By now, his back seemed permanently broken by all the moving and the %$**& teak headboard.

Kathleen was over-joyed and rearranged her room accordingly for the presence of the double bed.

Since then,  like clock-work, my mother has demanded her bed back every month or so. She looks surprised when I tell her we (and by "we," I'm pretty sure you know I mean Anthony) isn't interested in playing the "moving man" game another time.

She uses excuses such as:
(1) we moved it out of her room one night when she was asleep (missing the point that she would have been asleep on said bed at the time, and if Anthony thought the teak headboard was heavy, it would have been nothing compared to the whole ensemble including my mother's snoring, reposed body), and that was sneaky and not very nice, and she wants it back, thank-you-very-much.
(2) the quilt she brought from Winnipeg fits a double bed. When I suggest that we can easily buy a smaller quilt to fit the single bed, if that's what she wants, she loses eye contact and repeats the fact that she needs her bed back.
(3) her bed is her "life." That's a direct quote, folks.
(4) even though Kathleen has been sleeping on the bed for over two years now, that shouldn't be seen as a hindrance to taking the bed back. Kathleen should just suck it up. 

Since I refuse to yank the bed away from Kathleen yet again, Anthony and I priced double beds yesterday. For the kind of quality my mother wants, it's going to cost at least $1500. That's quite a bit of cash, considering the fact that I know Sally will sleep on it for around two to three days before announcing it's too big, and that she wants the single bed back in her room.

Did I mention the fact that this issue is slowly but surely driving me insane?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Do You Do?

What do you do when:
(1) you have no place to go where you can be alone?
(2) you don't want to be where you're stuck with everyone?
(3) you don't know what else to do?

Oops. I guess I just described the lot of most mothers and wives.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Which Way the Wind Blows

 It turned hot recently in Kookytown, a blessed relief from the crummy cold spring weather we've been experiencing.

My thoughts fly to summer. We're almost there. I can't believe another year has zoomed by.

Dealing with my mother is almost becoming routine. To that end, I recently booked a 6-week stint for her in a local seniors residence, over July and half of August. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

So here's today's top ten of thoughts occupying the uppermost space in my brain:

(1) the weather is downright weird. Freezing cold one day, sweltering the next. It's so windy today, I'm worried that Kathleen will get blown away walking home from school.
(2) weather weirdness or not, summer is almost here! We've booked ten days of travel, a further week of cottage time, and a long weekend of camping.
(3) THEN, Anthony and I will more-or-less get two weeks of  "alone-time" in August, while the kids are with their father, and my mother is still at the residence (hopefully, unless she hitchhikes home, which I wouldn't put past her).
(4) Did I mention I'm drooling?
(5) My work contract is done, and I'm free, more-or-less, for the summer, from the constraints of slogging somewhere to labour for the man (actually, it was a woman in this case, but it's a saying, right?).
(6) Ergo, I am likewise income-free, but not too worried about that for now. Did I mention it's summer!? I'm content to let the wind blow me around, willy-nilly, wherever it pleases for the next few months.
(7) An old Winnipeg friend recently contacted me. She is the only person I know, other than myself, who's been married three times. Maybe it's something in the water there.
(8) she has reminded me what an incredibly difficult task it is to remarry and try to combine households. She had a daughter from her second marriage. Her third husband has two boys from his first marriage. Together, they had another girl. So there are four kids with them, plus two really miserable, mean exes. Whew.
(9) I will have to break the news to my mother about staying in the retirement residence. It won't be easy. I'm going to put it off as long as I can.
(10) I just sat down and reread this entire blog. Boy, do I ever talk a lot about (a) my mother and (b) drinking. You'd think I was stressed out or something.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This Just In...

In my last post, I described how my husband hunted down Doris' new bank card number, so that he could once again go online and pay little things like, oh, the municipal taxes on her house.

Well, guess what? You know it.

The number still isn't giving him access.

Anthony: "What the @#&^$%@!"
Me: "Agreed."

Anthony: "I got the new number Monday afternoon. I tried using it first thing Tuesday morning. She couldn't have possibly lost her card again after we saw her, and then gotten to the bank Tuesday morning to order a new one, all before I tried to get access! What the #*&$@#%!"
Me: "Total agreement."

So our plan is to make an apointment with the bank, discuss the issue and see what we can come up with to manage the situation better.

As Anthony bemoaned, we'll probably have to hire a lawyer after the meeting. To send the bank threats. Because in the past, they've pretty much refused to co-operate with Anthony, even though he has Power of Attorney, and can wave around signed medical documents from Kookytown General stating that Doris can't take care of business anymore, and doesn't understand the consequences of her own actions.

Heck, she can't even remember most actions.

As you may well imagine, Anthony isn't looking forward to the bank meeting.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Bank Card Conundrum

Anthony and I visited his mother a few days ago because Anthony tried to go online to pay some of Doris' household bills, and he was denied access to the account. As he also needed to pay the taxes on her house, the situation was quite untenable.

This happens every few weeks because Doris loses or misplaces her bank card, and orders a new one, with a different number on it, of course. Then Anthony can't sign in. If he tries calling her to discuss, all he gets is gobblediegook.

 His cousin was there when we arrived, but Doris was not.

This is the cousin who has of late come to live with Doris and Anthony's brother John, the one who "borrowed" $1200 from her a few weeks ago. The atmosphere in the house creeps me out, what with these two overgrown leeches hanging about with the elder Doris, sucking away like crazy at her hospitality.

Cousin Leech proceeded to launch into his big plans: he has bids out everywhere. Numbers are tossed around, big numbers, the cash he's going to haul in. As soon as he ever works, of course.

Reminds me of the time Anthony's brother announced that he "could make $100,000 a year by moving to Alberta."

Doris actually spun on him and said "Why don't you then?" It's the only time I've ever heard her challenge John on his dysfunction.

Of course, he had a quick, and I imagine well-practised, comeback for her: "I don't want to. But I could earn that, if I wanted to."

It's like talking to a bragging kid who makes no logical sense, and knows it, but still attempts to maintain a show of independence.

Anyway, I could see Leech's Mustang car parked right outside Doris' home as he was bullshitting us. That's the car his mommy and daddy had to get out of hock for him recently. The fact that his parents bailed out his car, and are now encouraging him to live with Doris, pretty much tells you everything you need to know about why Cousin Leech is the way he is.

REMINDER: Both Leech and John are well into their 50s.

The stench of enabling and codependency is so thick, you can practically cut it with a knife.

Doris finally returned from her trip to the grocery store, which was unsuccessful because it's Victoria Day and the stores were closed.

She: "The store was closed!"
Leech: "I told you it would be closed."

Silence.

Anthony: "Show me your bank card mom. Did you get a new one again, recently?"
Doris: (pulling out bank card) "No. But I have two. Why would I have two?"
Anthony: "One is old. It was cancelled. The other must be the latest one you got. Every time you change cards, I need the new number so I can pay your bills." (This said with casual, but meaningful glance toward Leech, whom Anthony wants to know that the account is watched.)

Doris: "What do you mean? I pay my own bills. You shouldn't pay them twice!"

Anthony doesn't argue with her. He's been paying her bills literally for several years now. Still, she insists she does it. So be it.

Anthony: "Don't worry. I see what goes out of the account (another icy glance at Leech). Nothing's been paid twice. I can tell."

She seems to accept that statement, and after a few minutes of idle chat, we leave.

But as Anthony and I discuss later, what to do, what to do?

It has become unmanageable to keep paying Doris' bills this way. She "loses" her card with frightening regularity, and the hassle Anthony has to go through to keep up with it all is unworkable at this point.

But if Anthony shuts down her account, it will only increase his workload. He'd have to ensure she had some money, groceries, etc. on at least a weekly basis. We talk about Meals on Wheels, but that's another concept that evokes a hostile reaction in Doris.

As it stands now, she still comes and goes as she pleases, taking whatever amounts she likes at the times she likes, and spending it all either on food, or on the demands of her son and her nephew. It's not great, but what alternative would make it easier and better for all concerned?

The only answer Anthony and I can arrive at is the one she won't accept: a retirement residence.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Delia Martin Show

I think it's going to be a huge hit, in the mode of  How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons and Two-and-a-Half Men, all rolled into one huge dysfunctional lump.

I thought of it just now, after Anthony told me another little, precious, endearing vignette from his childhood.

When he was a young guy, maybe 17, his father had a "nervous breakdown," as it was so charmingly termed in those good ol' days.

Anthony now refers to his father's decline as "general malaise," which is how he described it to the emergency operator when he called for an ambulance because the other adult in the house, his mother, was too childlike to take any action.

Anthony's father had been hitting the bottle hard for some time, and the depressions and God-knows what else gradually ate away at him, until the fateful evening when he curled up on the kitchen floor in a foetal position and rocked away until Anthony thought something needed to be done.

Doris: "Ooohhh, Anthony. Why is your father doing that?"

Anthony: "Oh, I don't know mom. Let's brain-storm. Maybe because he's a hardened alcoholic of many years, as you clearly already know? Maybe because he's been suspended from his job due to his drinking? Or might it be due to the fact that he's almost completely disengaged from his family, work and status in life, and despite appearances at the moment, seems to have no emotions whatsoever? Hmmmm???"

Doris: "Ooohhh Anthony. Don't be like that."

Ambulance arrives, attendants look puzzled, finally announce they're hauling Anthony's dad to the local bin, and Doris finally takes a stand:

Doris: "Noooo!!!! Not to the Royal Kookytown Kooky-Bin!!! Take him to the General! What will the neighbors think?"

At which point, Anthony's father roused himself from his rocking, looked Doris in the eye and hissed out: "Fishmonger."

Which was at least a cut up from some of the other words he also called her.

Context: Anthony's dad came from a monied, well-established Kookytown family. He married Doris, who was quite the looker, right after she jumped off the turnip truck from The Labrador. She grew up in a teensy fishing village that had no real road in, just a path of sorts, and was the oldest of 11 brats. And after the delight of Doris' looks wore thin for Anthony's father, he took to smacking her around and calling her horrid things.

She never adapted to big city ways. You can take the girl out of The Labrador, but apparently, in Doris' case anyway, you can't take The Labrador out of the girl.

Anthony's father finally understood that, I believe. He came to habituate fine furniture and housewares stores, buying china for the dining room and signing his children up for refined activities like jazz dance.

Doris was embarrased, again, that the neighbors might actually see her husband buying Royal Doulton. She thought it extremely odd that a man would hang around the china department at Eaton's and she felt shame.

Anyway, Anthony's father went from china to booze to the bin.

Don't you think it would make a great show?

Today's episode: Anthony and Delia struggle with raging emotions and little-understood, dysfunctional urges. Cut away to little vignettes from Anthony's past, soft-dissolve back to the present.

Ah yes, everything is much clearer now.

Friday, May 13, 2011

As I Suspected!

So it was as I thought.

I finally reached my mother's doctor and he told me she wasn't taking her medication correctly, that her memory has clearly deterioted even more since her last testing, and that she is otherwise relatively fit. Robustly fit, from my perspective, but I digress.

He: "You may want to speak to her about the medication and try to monitor it for her."
Me: "She won't let me."
He: "If you explain to her what I've said to you - and I already told her the same myself - and she still refuses your help, then your conscience can rest easy. While her memory is getting worse, which may indicate the very beginnings of Alzheimer's, she is still capable of making decisions and understanding the consequences."

So I understood that he was actually trying to help me and ease my mind. I love my mother's doctor. He's a nice man who works with grumpy, stubborn old people.

That night, I had Anthony pour me a stiff rum and coke, and then I broached the topic with Sally.

She reacted exactly as I'd expected.

Me: "So, your doctor called me and suggested you may need some help keeping track of your meds."

She: (nose jerking suddenly into the air) "Yes. He said that. But I told him he's mistaken. I've been taking my medication the same way for months now. And that's how the other doctor told me to take it."

Me: "Well. He did have your file right in front of him. He seems to think, for some reason (my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek as I said this), that you aren't taking the correct dosages, or even at the right times."

She: (nose almost impossible high now) "He's mistaken. I feel fine in any event."

It's true. Even though she's all over the map with the meds, she soldiers on with nary a problem. Her one night of recent (imaginary) back pain, for example, is all done with. I expect she got quite tired of walking about and moaning that night, all in an effort to show us how she suffers, and decided to abandon the pantomime.

And so we all soldier on.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All the Usual Suspects...and All the Usual Dilemmas

Sal saw her doctor yesterday. She didn't have a thing to say about it when I asked her how it went.

But he called me and left a message:

Dr. M: "Delia, please call me to discuss your mom's visit today. She isn't taking the correct medication. And I need to discuss her memory."

Really.

I haven't been able to reach him so far, but the conversation will go something like this:

Me: "Doctor, she won't let me help her with the medication."
Doc: "She isn't taking the right pills."
Me: "Not hard to predict that. She can't remember if she's flushed the toilet by the time she stands up and pulls up her pants." (True)
Doc: "You must seize control Delia. You must help your mother."
Me: "Doc, you obviously have nnnnnnoooooooooo idea of the ridiculousness of what you just said."

By a mysterious coincidence, my mother was in such pain last night, she roamed about and kept me awake all night. This hasn't happened ever before. In my entire life. And hers.

But I know what it's all about.

The doctor told her she wasn't taking her correct pills. She is the supreme hypochondriac of the ages, and upon realizing her lovely meds were inappropriate, well, then, she MUST be in terrible pain. How could she not be? She wasn't taking all the correct, pretty pills. Sheesh.

Talk about placebo effect.

Meanwhile, in other kooky news, I had reported to you that Anthony's mother withdrew $1200 from her bank last week. At the time, we mused that it was probably Anthony's brother who weasled it out of her.

Well, we were wrong. It was Anthony's cousin (another no-good, unemployed leech in his 50s) who weasled it out of her.

It's gone for good, we know that. Cousin Jed won't be paying that back.

And yesterday, she removed $400 from the same account. We wonder if it's the cuz or the bro this time, for it's surely one or the other, off on a good drinking binge, or buying drugs. Or paying back thugs they owe money to, and it wouldn't be the first time.

If it were me, I'd have limited her access to $100/week, a loooooong time ago. But it's not me. It's Anthony who is her Power of Attorney.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Voting for...Sanity

It's election day in Canada. Here in Kookytown, the lawn signs seem to indicate (at least in my riding) that the NDP candidate (and incumbent) will win. I will vote this evening...and I'm quite curious, as most of us are, I think, as to how it will all turn out for the country.

On the home front, the same question looms: how will it all turn out? Anthony's mother paid us a visit for Easter dinner last weekend. She was dressed like a bag lady, and kept discussing Pierre Trudeau's latest visit to her home.

My mother, on the other hand, remains impeccable in her appearance, if nothing else. Her mind wanders and she is clearly lost in the mist sometimes. Yesterday, for example, she told me she had grand memories of a party I threw at "the place we used to live before we lived here." Well, she and I haven't lived together anywhere else. At least, not in recent years. You'd have to go back to my childhood to remember another place where she and I lived together. So I have no idea what she was talking about, and ultimately, neither did she, because she wavered after a moment, and said "never mind."

She brought up her darn bed again yesterday, too. I think it was all spurred by the fact that Anthony and I had bought a lovely bed frame and headboard for Kathleen's bed (which used to be my mother's bed). Sally seemed petulant and jealous when I told her, and immediatley demanded a new mattress for herself. Of course, we'll go out to get it for her, and she'll probably say "never mind" to that, too, as she has in the past when she's had conniptions from time-to-time about her bed.

Meanwhile, Doris rambles on about the Trudeaus, and money seems to be getting siphoned at a faster and faster rate from her account. Last week, she took out $1200, an amount quite alarming, considering she literally has no expenses except groceries. The $1200 is on top of about $200 she regularly takes out every week, which is more than enough to buy food for two: Doris and her leech son John.

Anthony strongly suspects it is the leech who marches rambling Doris down to the bank when he wants some cash. And Anthony knows his brother as well as anyone.

But he hesitates to intervene. Doris will get angry and blame Anthony if he questions her at all about the money drippping out of her account. But she may well need that money in years to come. Leech-boy shouldn't be allowed to practice his elder-abuse without some challenge. What to do, what to do?

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Showers...are Irritating. Like Everything Else These Days.

April in Kookytown sucks a bit, I must say. At least it does this year.

It's been unseasonably cold, sleety and grey all month and it's starting to wear on everyone, I think. I recall that last year, Easter was at the beginning of the month and it was +30. This year, Easter is at the end of the month and the weather is predicted to be cool, rainy and perhaps even outright cold.

Blah.

If spring would only spring! Many of my own personal trials seem to be hanging on like grim death, digging their irritating, jagged little claws into my eyeballs, or so it feels. Such as what Delia, you ask?

-just got an irritated, irritating call from the Chinese pharmacist who deals with my mother, poor man. She won't let me renew her prescriptions, so he has to deal directly with her. Being her daughter, I understand his rage.
-went out for dinner last night, and we took Mater along. I noticed how she wan't able to process much...our dinner hostess kept offering her too many options, and like a four-year-old, my mother became confused and silly in the face of having to make decisions. Tiny decisions (like nodding to indicate she understood that the main course was coming, and why yes! she was ready for spaghetti!), but decisions, none-the-less.
-with advent of warm weather (soon, please God), we've begun our annual battle to find tradespeople to carry out renovation tasks around our home. In Kookytown, you have 2 choices: hire anyone and pay through the nose, pay quadruple what it should cost, pay like someone is holding a gun to your head; or spend several years looking for, and waiting to actually show up, a contractor who isn't really ripping you off, but who is accordingly SO BUSY that he can't fit in all the customers clamouring for his talents. Kookytown is full to the brim with professionals, and short on trades and service people. Accordingly, we all fight for the right to throw money at these guys so we can get all the holes in our houses patched up.
-both Kathleen and Alex are home sick with niggling, irritating colds. Knowing me, I'll be next.
-Anthony and I DESPERATELY need to finalize July holiday plans, but can't seem to get our heads around all the details. I fear that before we know it, July will be here and we'll be spending our holidays glumly staring at the hobo shack in our back yard, thinking about all the yard work we'll be doing to fill the time, because we didn't get around to booking any fun stuff.

Did I say Blah?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Compression of Time Part II

My mother's bed is a consuming obsession for her. It's beyond creepy. But then again, as Anthony has astutely summed up: "She does spend a lot of time there."

Two morning's ago, she toddled into the kitchen at the outrageously early hour of 11-ish and immediately attached herself to me.

Sally: "I want my bed back."

This is about the 100th time I've gone through this issue with her. She brought her bed with her from Winnipeg, but it wouldn't fit in her bedroom, so we had to buy a smaller, single bed. Which she's been snoring like a log upon ever since.

Me: (emitting immense sigh). "What now?"

Sally: "My back is hurting me. I've been suffering with the pain, hoping I'd adjust to this bed. But it's too hard for me. I want my bed back."

Me: "Well." (I paused to give myself enough time to compose myself. I wanted to howl out loud, because the notion of my mother suffering in silence for two years with a sore back, hoping to adjust, was quite hilarious. My mother adjusts to nothing. Everything adjusts to my mother).

Me: "As you know mom, your bed didn't fit in the room. Anthony moved your bed in and out about five times, in the first month you moved here, to prove to you it doesn't fit. We're not giving you another demo."

In fact, the bed does fit. Just. Once in the room, it doesn't leave any space to walk around it. Sally would have had to pause at the entrance to the bedroom and crawl onto the bed to sleep. And crawl over the bed to reach her dresser, which wouldn't be necessary anyway, because the drawers would be blocked with her big bed in the room. So, bad idea.

After that first month, when poor Anthony assembled and disassembled the crazy-heavy teak headboard and moved the whole contraption in and out of the room at my mother's whim ("I want my bed. The bed is too big, take it out. But I want my bed back in the room. Hey, the bed is too big! Why did you move it back in here? Etc.), I put my foot down.

No more bed-moving. But every few months, my mother wakes up with the old-lady-crazy look in her eyes, and demands we give back her bed.

Me: "You do realize you've been sleeping on the single bed for over TWO YEARS? That's a long time to be trying to adjust to back pain."

Her: (mouth hanging open, swaying in the breeze.) "Huh?"

Me: "Two years. You've been her almost 2-1/2 years, actually.

Her: (cricket. cricket.)

Me: "Your old bed won't fit. We can buy you a new, single-size mattress, though, if this one is bothering your back."

Sally: (recovering power of speech) "Yes, that's what we need to do. I can't suffer like this anymore."

The Next Morning -
Me: "Anthony and I are going mattress-shopping for you mom."

Sal: "Oh you may as well forget about it. My back is fine today."

Yep. Until she gets a hankering for her old bed once again. And forgets she's been with us for this long. And makes up more lies about how she's "suffering" so she can get that old, big bed back in that little room.

Later that day, Anthony told me she had asked him recently if this was our first winter in the house.

He told her it was "our" (her included) third winter in the house. She had nothing to say to that, either. But it's clear to both Anthony and to me that the compression of time is getting worse and worse for her.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Top Ten List of Highlights...

Top ten attractions from my life in the past week:
  • It's spring break, and Anthony used a week's worth of holidays to stay home with my (our) kids. They went out for lunch and shot pool together, and he took them for their annual check-up with their pediatrician. Additionally, he made some meals, did some housework and picked me up/drove me to work when I asked. You can see why this is my #1 item.
  • My mother told me she had an appointment with the bank (another one!!!) but when I called to find out exactly when and why, they said she had no appointment.
  • My son bit me overly hard on the shoulder, albeit out of affection (I do believe?), causing me to shriek, causing Anthony to wince and tell me I was screaming too loudly, causing me to accuse him of a "blame-the-victim" mentality, causing some chilly moments, causing me once again to rethink and wonder why I ever had children.
  • Doris asked Anthony what she should give us for Christmas. She of course means last Christmas.
  • Sally went for a hair cut (a short 4 weeks since the last) because, she told me,  they'd done such a crappy job the last time around that she couldn't bear how it looked. "Why go back to a place that charges you $75 and doesn't do a good job?" I asked. No answer.
  • I keep finding the garbage in the recycling, the recycling in the cupboards and no sugar, orange juice or butter in their appropriate containers as they get used up, and never replaced. The electric cords for the fry pan and wok now reside (ie are crammed) in the tiny drawer where I keep oven mitts, because that's where my mother used to keep cords in her kitchen in the house where I grew up.
  • My fridge and freezer contain a dizzying assortment of bread bags, all containing the two heels of the bread. When I tried to throw some of these away recently, Sally gave me a filthy look and said "Oh, so YOU don't eat the ends of bread, eh?" 
  • I've been writing freelance articles in my "spare time" a lot lately. This, on top of a full-time job, and caring for an active family, is going to kill me.
  • I keep hitting my toes on the heavy boxes of backsplash tiles that we bought two months ago which are still sitting in the corner of the kitchen because the contractor changed his mind about when he could do the job.
  • the redwinged blackbirds are back in town, and singing up a storm in our backyard. Spring!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging With Benefits



All right! I scored!

Tim Tams straight from the great Down Under, courtesy of Ms Martinis-for-Breakfast. This is what blogging's all about, I do declare: winning treats from other bloggers :)

And they are dee-lish. Won't last long around here.

OK (munch, munch). Just a real quick little update (slurp, munch).

Doris wandered off with her niece's child (what relationship is that?) a couple of weekends ago, whilst out for a stroll (with the little one's parents, no less).

But that Doris is a quick, sly one. She got away with the the 5-year-old and walked for miles. By the time the cops caught up with them, niece was frantic, and Doris and her charge were in central Kookytown, right outside the doors of the local legislature. Said cops were a might testy, according to Doris.

Of course, Anthony only found out about the event yesterday. No one told him for two weeks, least of all Doris. Or the frantic, if somewhat silly, mother. ( I say that because being a mother myself, I know the last person I'd leave my 5-year-old with would be Doris)

But yesterday, she confessed that she'd been hauled home by the police, and she was quite indignant over it.

Doris: "Why'd they (her niece and husband) call the police?"

Anthony: "Oh who knows. Worried sick that you'd disappeared in the crowds with their little girl, perhaps? Without telling them you were taking off? Maybe, ya think?"

Anthony was furious. He's been dealing with his mother's Alzheimer's Disease for two years now. No one else in the family helps. Doris won't budge out of her house. And the rest of them, well, they don't even seem to acknowledge that she is rapidly losing her mind. I mean, you just don't let Doris loose with a little child. Anything could have happenend, and it could have been bad.

But, this is life. And these are family dynamics.

At least, these are the family dynamics, in Anthony's clan.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Oh Fuddle Duddle

You heard me right.

Oh Fuddle Duddle! Of course, you may remember that phrase as the cutesy "cover-up" reply that P.E.T. made up, many a year ago now, when asked by reporters if he'd dropped an F-bomb in Parliament.

I was a kid when it happened, but remember the fuddle-duddle episode with amazing clarity. It was the talk of the town, that's for sure. Of the country, in fact.

Trudeau was like that, a PM who hogged the spotlight with charming audacity. I was reminded of his charm when Anthony and I visited Doris a couple of days ago.

When she answered our knock, she didn't recognize her son, but claimed she knew me instantly. Slowly, it dawned on her who Anthony was.

We came in and Anthony started sorting through the piles of paper and junk, hoping to find some T-slips, as he'll have to somehow prepare Doris' tax return for her again this year.  This awful task is becoming more and more difficult with every passing year, as Doris becomes less and less of this world. She throws out or loses important documents, but saves things like...well, like the ancient Christmas card from the former Prime Minister of Canada that Anthony found amid the detritus sliding off every table-top in her house.

Amused, he handed it to me. I stared at the picture of a youthful man, the signature red rose adorning his lapel, and at his side, an extremely youthful Margaret, smiling up at her hubby, while baby Justin giggled in their arms.

It took me right back.

Me: " Wow. You have an old card from Pierre Trudeau. They look so young."

Doris: "Oh my yes. How old is Margaret now?

We reminisced for a few minutes about the continuing life and times of Margaret and her surviving offspring.

Doris: "(of Pierre Trudeau) He was such a nice man. He'd always come right in and say hello. Just like one of the regular workers."

Anthony and I froze. I saw my husband's eyebrows inch up.

Anthony: "Pierre Trudeau. He'd come right in? When did you meet him?"

Doris: "Oh, many times. He never walked past the house that he didn't come right in and say hello."

This is exactly what my ex-husband does, apparently, as well.

And what Barack Obama did, apparently, just the other day.

Anthony and I gathered up our coats and gloves and hats, and took our leave. We smiled at each other, and drove home. What else can you do when your mother-in-law is convinced that prime ministers, US presidents and other, sundry divorced guys are in the habit of dropping in to her falling-down Kookytown house, just for a quick visit and maybe a cup of tea?

Smile about it, that's all.

Friday, January 28, 2011

And What Did I Just Say?

So yesterday, I wrote about Anthony's mother. The pressure cooker.

Today, Anthony paid her a visit with the social worker. Now, this isn't the social worker that Anthony hired privately to do his bidding. This is the social worker who was assigned to Doris after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and this is the social worker who is trying to help her, as is her job.

Anthony: "Mom, Hi, I'm here with so-and-so, the nice lady who visits you from time-to-time. Remember her?"

Doris: "Who are you? Why are you here? You (glaring at Anthony) are trying to put me in a 'home!' AND you are trying to get all my money! You and that wife of yours! What's her name again?!"
Anthony: "Right. And her name is Delia."
Social worker: "Doris, we're not here to talk about Anthony, or his wife. I'm here to see you. How are you?"
Doris: "I'm just fine!!! Why, Barack Obama just dropped by to see me. He thinks I'm great, so why shouldn't you?"
SW: "Barack Obama. You mean the President of the United States?"
Doris: "Yes!!! That's how important I am! Errrrr....well. Ok, it wasn't him. I think it was Delia's ex-husband who dropped by, actually."

SW sneaks a look at Anthony. Anthony sighs heavily.

Anthony: "Really mom? Delia's ex-husband dropped by to see you again? Now why would he do that?"

Doris: "How should I know? I expect he wonders what his wife is up-to, I'd think. And no good is what I'd tell him, if he asked."

Anthony: "Really. And again, mom, how does he know you, and how does he know where you live? And why would he keep coming here?"

Doris: "How should I know? He dropped by the day after you married her! And he keeps coming back!"

I wasn't there today, but I can just imagine Anthony's tired look at that reply. Doris has maintained this fantasy ever since Anthony and I married. In her mind, my ex-husband dropped by to visit her, the day after Anthony and I got married.  He just wanted to see her house, she says. She showed him through. He was "good-looking" and important, she claims.

Of course, my ex-husband never did any such thing. He has never met Doris, has no idea of her existence. He doesn't know her name, or where she lives. Nor, I have no doubt, does he care to learn anything about her. He and I divorced about 6 years before I married Anthony. It's all a part of Doris' weird psychology around the fact that her son married a divorced woman. She's obviously speculated long and hard about the man to whom I used to be married. And she really, really wants to meet him. So much so, that she's made up this very persistent fantasy about him.

Anyway, I figure it's better that she thinks my X visited her, than Barack Obama. That could get you in some serious trouble, if you kept making that claim.

The conversation continued in the same vein. How are you? Oh just fine (I only eat sugar). And do you think you are OK taking care of yourself? Of course! Who wouldn't, just because I get lost walking around the block and lose my purse and all its contents every second day or so? And what if you fell and broke your leg? What about that? What if you fell and hurt yourself? Who would you call and what would happen? Well....I'd call for help. And? How do you do that? Well...I'd call. What number would you call? What number...well. I'm not sure.

Doris does not remember that you have to call 911 for help.

But she's just fine. Anthony and social worker left after their visit, no further ahead in convincing Doris she can't take care of herself anymore.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's Up?

I don't know about you, but I feel like my head's in a whirl.

This is what it's like being me. I usually feel just about out-of-control. Hamster on the wheel, type-of-thing. Whoa, slow down, we're going to crash type-of-feeling.

I don't know, maybe that's what it's like being in mid-life, and it's a pretty full life, I think. I have the two kids, and their lives are very full. These days, just that alone means my life is busy. Parents nowadays have to be chauffeurs, gourmet cooks, expert project managers, life coaches and just nice people. No crap like our parents handed us.

On top of that, I have my mother. I won't harp about that right now. You've already heard me on the topic, ad nauseum.

Then, there's marriage (good, but some work, if minor), house (Jeez, what a lot of work!), assorted responsibilities (mortgage, kids RESPs, planning for vacations, RRSPs, TFSAs, all my mother's finances, and all of Anthony's mother's finances, income taxes coming up for filing, auto and house insurance, blah,blah,blah, you know the drill).

Add to this pile, the fact that I am self-employed and always going from one new contract to another. It's inevitably interesting, but often challenging and involving a steep learning curve. I find it harder and harder with every passing year to handle the stress of the constant change in my work environment.

I am about to take on a new contract again, but this one is easy: it's a place where I've worked before. I know most of the people, and the work. But it's still stressful, contemplating this realignment in my world, once again.

And then there's Anthony's mother; I feel like she, and her situation, is a pressure-cooker just waiting to explode. She should not be living in her home. She should be in some sort of assisted living situation. But she won't go, and prying her out against her will is not going to be pretty.

She has a brother and a sister here in Kookyville. They won't do it. It's all up to Anthony to worry about her and try to figure out how to keep her safe. Which makes her spit nails at him, of course. She is so paranoid, it's scary. Anthony is the only one who gives a hoot enough to try and help her. And that fact makes her venemous toward him.

Meanwhile, her other son just helps himself to her assets. But she likes him. Hmppphhh.....

So what I started out to say is, what's up? I mean, which end is up? That's how I feel these days.

I've got this feeling...something's gotta give...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kids These Days

Many parts of Canada are under a deep freeze right now, including Kookytown. It's about -30 out there, a fact my son is determined to ignore.

Me: "It's -30 out there. Wear a hat and some gloves. Better yet...mitts."
Alexander: "Are you crazy Mom?"
Me: "I'm not the one walking out the door wearing summer clothing."
Alex: "Mom! Stop it! You are such a bully!"

And so it goes. He came home from school early today, dragging a frozen friend with him. They'd finished their exam early, and arrived here looking to play Call of Duty, an XBox game I don't want to discuss.

I noticed Alex's friend also had no hat, gloves or boots. They wear their puffy skateboarding Vans all year round. Including through three-foot-high snow drifts. Paired with ankle socks.

Meanwhile, Kathleen, at least, still takes my advice. This morning she wore tights under her pants, and took a thick scarf to protect her face in case of a wind. She always wears boots, mitts and a hat.

I can't wait until she, too, abandons sanity for adolescence.

Well, she's got the jump in one respect. She already plays COD like a pro, having learned from Alexander. They get on their headsets and she plays as part of his team, with the boys, who seem mildly impressed. Yep, that's my girl, a real killer :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Meant That as a Compliment, Right?

Yesterday, Anthony told me that I'm just like my mother.

He clarified that statement by adding: "Vain just like her." The context was a bit odd, and difficult to explain. But that's what he said, and I can tell you, it got my attention, because I've spent years and a good deal of effort in trying to be unlike most of my relatives, including my mother.

Now, I'd like to somehow twist his words around to mean something less nasty than what I think they mean. But how do you get a compliment out of an accusation of vanity? It's at least one, and possibly even two, of the seven deadly sins, for God's sake.

I thought about it for much of the night. I can't figure it out. If there is one thing I am not, it's vain.

I've never taken particular care with my appearance. My hair has been a wreck for most of my life. I don't wear make-up, except for a little dab on special occasions, about 3x/year.

I've never had a professional manicure and my nails are usually cut short, often nervously nibbled at, with resulting serrated edges. And I detest clothes shopping, and so put it off for years at a time. When I do shop, I'll spend $2000 at a time, just to get everything I need for the next 5 years.

On the issue of clothes, I am today wearing a sweater that someone gave me long before Alexander was born, which was 15 years ago yesterday. My pants are about 13 years old, ripped at the bottoms and waaaaaayyyyy out of style (one of the benefits of working from home is the ability to dress like a slob).

I do clean up nicely, and dress appropriately for the occasion, be it outside work, a wedding, or whatever.

I own barely any jewelery and most of it is worthless junk. I could care less about other people's careers, their luxury cars, and their mobile devices (no, I don't even own a cell phone).

I do like to have some nice things around me, like furniture to sit upon. But the collection of same has taken me years, and honestly, I have no objects in my house of any great value at this point.

Really, the only things I take pride in are my children, the food I prepare for all of us to eat, and when I do work or play music, I like to do it approximately right. That's about it.

This one is going to require more thought. I'm hoping to eventually understand what he meant. In the meantime, I'm going to wrap Alexander's gifts because we are celebrating his birthday today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Brief Summary

I have not much time to write, so here's just a snapshot of our lives as they stand today:

-the entire main floor of the house is coated in a fine layer of dust, courtesy of the workman who proceeded to cut and sand  in our dining room, instead of the garage. 
-it's going down to -25 tonight. Reminds me of Winnipeg.
-Alexander is turning 15 in a few days. I remember the day he was born like the proverbial "yesterday."
-Ergo, I feel old. Well, old-ish.
-My mother saw Lorandro for her hair cut, and after Anthony praised her clip, she positively glowed and simpered and I swear there was a low trill in her voice as she thanked him for his compliment.
-Anthony's mother has called us a few times in the past week. Each call has been to ask for help: she's lost her purse (again), she can't figure out the letter that came in the morning mail, she's lost her bank card (again), etc. etc.
-Anthony went to see her to discuss these issues, and how she keeps calling him at work when he's busy, and to remind her that it's all inappropriate. She immediately attacked him for being selfish, and accused him (and me, apparently I'm quite the gold-digger) of trying to steal her money. Anthony tiredly told me this when he came home that night.
-the next day, Doris called me and asked to speak to Anthony. I informed her he was at work as would be the norm on a  weekday afternoon (she has no clue about dates).  She proceeded to ask me for his number (she's forgotten his work number of 20 years), and then told me what a lovely person I was, and how young my voice sounded. I'm so pleased.
-Kathleen is class president and says the school council meetings are keeping her busy. They've been discussing what kind of spirit days they might hold, including "gum and hat" day.
-I went both ice skating and downhill skiing in the past week. I'm pretty outdoorsy. At least, compared to Anthony.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Want Your Help, But Only How I Want It, and When I Want It.

My mother constantly asks me for help.

She asks me to take all her phone calls (she can't hear well on the phone), and place all the calls she needs to place. This includes making hair appointments (an activity that keeps her mighty busy, let me tell you. You'd think a few thin gray hairs would be a simple matter to comb into place. Unh unh.), doctor appointments, podiatrist appointments (for her monthly poodle clipping, as I call it), and on all banking matters.

Somehow, I never please her with the way I help her. This is because of two things:
(1) I want to make the calls when it's convenient for me, often not at the instant she asks me, which 99% of the time is when I'm in the middle of doing something intricate);
(2) I want to make appointments and do things like banking, differently from her. She would have me call on a phone to make all appointments, and set up in-person meetings to do things. I like using email to set things up, and phone or email for things like banking. In person appointments for banking are something I haven't done in a decade, at least.

I've humoured her many times, taking her on tours of several local banks, allowing her to meet and flirt with the male bankers, and making millions of medical-related appointments for her, after which I've taken her to, and retrieved her from, said appointments. Often, I come in with her, because she likes having me there, she says.

But I can't do this all the time. And more-over, I simply don't want to do everything she asks all the time, nor even in the manner in which she wants me to accomplish her ends.

This is simply unacceptable to her.

Apparently I will do it the way she wants and when she wants, or I risk her dismayed, angry, stubborn and frankly hurtful behavior, not to mention that she ends up harassing me relentlessly for months on end.

Let me point out here that everything essential to my mother's health and happiness I give to her without any ado.

It's the optional stuff I linger over. You know, the hair appointment every four weeks, rather than five. She will ask for that appointment just during the week that I'm incredibly busy with, oh, little matters such as my own children's medical appointments, or overwhelmed with serious work matters, or, heaven forbid, with my own medical concerns. And she'll ask right when I'm literally in the middle of something that needs my serious concentration: talking on the phone over a contentious issue, carrying a heavy object down a flight of stairs, perched on a ladder carefully painting a thin line.

All these things my mother expects to pale in light of the fact that she wants a hair cut.

She: "Dear, please make an appointment with Lorandro for my hair. I SO need a cut."

This said with a light laugh, to which I am supposed to respond, nodding like a moron, because of course, ANYONE should know that 4 weeks after a cut, one's hair becomes SIMPLY GROTESQUE and UNMANAGEABLE to the point of being publicly unacceptable. Never mind I'm in the middle of open-heart surgery. I should look over, blood spurting from every open vein of my unfortunate patient, while I laugh lightly back at my mother's delightfully patient acceptance of the fact that her hair has GROWN OUT OF ALL PROPER SHAPE, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

Ok, Ok. The activities she interrupts me at are not quite as important as surgery. But I think you get my drift.

Meanwhile, neither Anthony nor I can tell that her hair has even grown at all since the last cut. It probably hasn't. And she so rarely goes out in public in any event, I doubt that the fashion mavens will be calling her out for her faux pas.

In any event, her approach to life is becoming more than intolerable. She will not bend.

But at 91, when you can't do for yourself, and you have a daughter who's willing to do everything for you, why would you be so hell bent on maintaining control over such tiny details?

Why does she care who cuts her hair, as long as it's properly cut every few weeks or so? Why, why why? Why, when your daughter is almost begging you to just toddle up the street to the nice ladies at the end of the block, would you make such an obscene, childish, vain fuss about seeing Lorandro? My God, it just about makes me weep to write about it.

Why would she care to make my life such a hell, because she wants to go to the bank and mull over some paper for an hour, while the employees get bored and start to glare at her, and then finally she'll point to "3 years" so the GIC will once again be invested? Why, why why? Why, particularly, when I'd already told her the options, told her that I'd checked all the other banks' rates, and told her I could set up a telephone banking agreement so we could just call the bank to let them know what we wanted? Why, my God why?

She: "What is this?" (you have to picture the prune lips she's making while holding the standard phone/fax agreement sheet which the Bank of Montreal has cordially forwarded to us at my request).

Me: "It's the bank document I told you about  (50 times already [muttered under my breath]). So they can call you on the phone and you can tell them how many years to reinvest the GIC."

She: Long silence. Pursing of prune lips. Angrily lowered brow. "I don't know."

This is the part where I'm supposed to cower, then beg her indulgence.

Out of patience at this point in my life, I say: "Well, you better figure it out. I'm not taking you down there."

She: "Doesn't this say that ANYONE can call them and invest my money? Hmmmm???" (more prune lips)

Now picture twin columns of steam coming out of my ears.

Me: "Yes. Mother. That's what it says (it doesn't). ANYONE. CAN just CALL. AND DO STUFF with YOUR money."

I have to leave the room, I'm so apoplectic.

My mother, not an idiot, knows exactly what the document says. It says she and I can call, jointly, to discuss the accounts and investments. This reflects how the accounts and investments are set up, and reflects her direction to the Bank of Montreal. It also assists, may I add, in helping her (as she asks) because she SAYS SHE CAN'T HEAR, SO I NEED TO BE ON EVERY PHONE CALL TO THE BANK WITH HER.

But I am not to be trusted.

Even though she has already trusted me with everything. And, in point of fact, I'm the only one left in this world whom she has to leave trusted things to. No one else cares. No one else will have her.

I do wonder at myself.

Why can she rile me up? She is rude, condescending, hurtful, no, actually, HATEFUL in many things she does to me. But should I care so much?

Well. I think to myself, if my children did these things to me, I'd be hurt and riled up. If Anthony treated me this way, I'd be amazed, angry and hurt. So it shouldn't be surprising that I react this way.

Yet, so many people have told me they are surprised. Anthony, in particular, is constantly amazed (so he professes) that I react to her.

He: "Why do you let her get to you?"

Me: "Because she is unbelievably hurtful? Because her behavior wounds me? Because she's such a bitch?"

He: "Oh, can't you let it go?"

Me: "Well, obviously not. Should I?"

He: "Yes. My mother says equally hurtful things, and I could care less."

Me: (sound of my brain's gears churning, and a bit more steam coming out of my ears). "Oh."

I have thought about this a lot.

Anthony says I should not be upset. Some other people have said the same. Yet whenever my mother treats me like a hired serf, I feel hurt. And when I gently explain to her that I don't want to be a serf, but I'd like to utilize options that reduce my serfdom (like banking telephone agreements), she acts like I'm an outrageously spoiled brat who won't indulge her own mother (a helpless, dying old lady), and, again, I feel hurt.

I continue to think about it all.

Really, at this point, after a lot of thinking, I'm still at point A. I think that anyone I care about, (mother, child, spouse, whatever) will hurt me if they try, because I care, so they can.

I also think that all these people who are telling me that I need to stop feeling, may be wrong.

Actually, I think they may be the ones who need to adjust.

After all, if the few people in life we care for ( parents, children, spouses) treat us hurtfully, and we don't feel hurt, what does that say? What does it mean about turning one's feelings on and off whenever it becomes convenient to do that? What?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Creepy Walk ( Or is it a Run?)

Ok.

My husband and children and I have discussed this about two dozen times, since my mother moved in with us.

To our faces, my mother walks like she's 91 (which is her physical age).

This charade includes: (1) shuffling which is so loud it shuts out pretty much all the conversation in the room,
(2) shuddering due to the cold (temperature in the house set at 80 F.),
(3) shaking which is inevitably set off by some "upset" caused by someone asking her to lift a pinky, or contrarily, someone asking her to think about something other than her next hair appointment,
(4)"heart palpitations" (or "chest pains," depending on her mood) set off by someone suggesting she might not need to go to the hairdresser, and;
(5) A mighty heave every time she needs to get up from a chair. We're talking about tipping the house over here, by the way she grabs whatever's near, and makes it tip and groan and lean scarily on its side, all in the aid of helping her up.

Behind our backs, the charade disappears:
(1) Not only doesn't she shuffle, but she walks and RUNS like a lithe teenager, over our heads on the hardwood in the house..."run, run, run." (Us: "Who is upstairs? Can't be Granny! Someone is RUNNING!)
(2) Shuddering? Uh uh. She's often up all night, while we set the temp down to 17C. No prob staying up obsessing all night adding and re-adding her "assets." My mother adds and re-adds her columns of figures every second day. It's an endless fascination, apparently, to add the money up. It keeps the cold away. Some people have named this "Avarice," one of the 7 deadly sins.
(3) The last time she had one her "shaking" episodes (the implication is that one of us has SO upset her, she is shaking with the absolute horror of it), Anthony asked her what it was all about.
This was unprecedented. No one had ever dared raise the subject before. She stared at him for a moment, slack jaw swaying in the wind, then pronounced: "I don't remember." I kid you not.
(4) Every time someone challenges her in the least (we're talking really minor here), she claims she's about to have a heart attack. If challenged on this point, the pains disappear.
(5) She can move like a cat, whenever and wherever she wants. We've heard it, over and over. She puts this "heavy heaving" act on, when she thinks we're here. If she thinks she's without an audience, suddenly, she's 16 again.

So, the point is, my mother is here on some sort of pretense. Of course, we knew that. She told us she had pancreatic cancer. That was an outright lie.

But the outrageous boundaries of the lie are truly magnificent. She's 91. I get it. She's tired and a bit confused and wants help.

But the lying. She has lied up one end and down the other end of Canada to get in here with us. It defines her life, the lying.

All I've ever asked of her is to speak honestly. She really never has.

So what do we have?

A 91 year-old woman who literally RUNS up and down the stairs when she thinks we aren't around (freaks Kathleen out, let me tell you), who obviously thinks out and plans how frail she will APPEAR in front of us, and she is someone who is my mother, but whom I don't know at all.

It's pathetic. That's what we have. Pathetic.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Whoa Now!

Long time, no post.

Sorry, gentle readers. It's the old excuse: been too busy.

Anyway, we're all through the rush of holidays now, so I'm back to writing, at least for the moment.

It's been crazy. The entire Christmas season has become an insane parody of what it was. The day was supposed to be a religious celebration of the birth of Christ, and all that represents. What exactly is it now?

When I was a child, we did put up lights on our house, decorate a tree and gifts magically appeared under said tree, via Santa Klaus, Dasher, Dancer, etc.

But on the Eve, we also went to Midnight Mass, after making the night before as hallowed as the big day itself, by consuming a meatless dinner (usually perogies, sometimes with fish) with family gathered near, inviting a stranger to share the meal (part of the Polish tradition of Christmas Eve), always topped off by slogging to Mass through the bitter Winnipeg winter night, where we held candles aloft, sang religious carols and nodded and stifled yawns side-by-side with our neighbors.

I remember clearly the delicious feeling of finally falling into my warm bed, and drifting quickly to sleep with the anticipation of more to come. I'd wake with the sense that something momentous had happened. And by that, I don't mean the arrival of the gifts.

Christmas day meant more eating, glorious piles of homemade delicacies, and spending time with family. We never went shopping on Boxing Day, but often gathered at the homes of families and friends for Open House, a tradition I've noticed that's also gone the way of the Dodo bird. Open Houses now occur Pre-Christmas, sometimes weeks in advance, because the holidays have somehow become a month-long orgy of eating, celebrating, consuming and drinking.

Nowadays, Boxing Day is relegated to the status of just another day to buy crap, to the chore of lining up in the pre-dawn freezing cold in front of Best Buy, hoping to nab some fricking electronic device on sale, the likes of which will inevitably break down within a year or so. You take your kids to this activity, of course. They have to learn all about tradition, after all.

How empty and shallow it seems, so pale in comparison to the rich, meaningful memories I carry.

I have tried to keep the traditions going with my children. In the month preceding Christmas, I bake and bake and bake, a necessary activity. The baking must age, you know. I hide it in nooks and crannies, away from thieving fingers, so that by Christmas, the shortbread is perfect in its lightness and flaky, buttery taste, the flavour of the Nanaimo Squares is blended to the maximum potential, and the lemon raisin slice is...gone. I can never hide that one well enough :)

We keep meatless Christmas Eve, with some family or friends present at the table. I haven't attended Midnight Mass in years, but did raise my kids in the church, attending the Children's Mass at 5pm on Christmas Eve for many years, until my son started asserting his Atheism (so he calls it).

Christmas morning is a gift-unwrapping debacle, growing in volume with every year it seems, as I continue to prosper and increase my (er...I mean Santa's) gift-giving capacity.

I've never stood in a Boxing Day lineup.

Well, the best I can hope, I suppose, is that my children will think of their childhood Christmases with the same fondness as I do of mine. Will their memories seem as rich as mine do?

Maybe I'll hold an Open House on Boxing Day next year. Just to screw up my friends' shopping plans.