Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who You Callin’ “Cute”?

A friend of mine just called my 92-year-old mother “cute.”  And it cracked me up. Why? Because no one – and I mean, NO ONE – would ever have called my mother “cute” back in the day.

She was a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, in-charge kinda woman. And you didn’t mess with her. Especially if she had had it – up to here – with one or more of her four children who preferred building forts and riding bikes over making beds and doing chores.

My mother’s rules were not to be broken unless we wanted to suffer the consequences. We knew the term “suffer the consequences” at a really young age, too.

Truth be told, I was a little afraid of that 5’2” dynamo – even though I towered over her by the age of twelve.

Most of the time I was a good kid, probably because I didn’t like suffering consequences.

My mom was an RN who worked at various nursing homes back in Alliance in the 70s and 80s. I worked with her as an aide my senior year of high school – and I saw a completely different side of her at Bel Air Nursing home.

My mom was honest and ethical and cared deeply about doing the right thing. She never called off sick from work and if anyone on staff did, my mother would ask them specific questions about their illness until they either agreed to come in – or found someone to take their place that day. They probably figured it was simply easier to come in and work with the sniffles than to deal with my mother.

But I saw that the other employees treated her with the utmost respect. They listened to her and followed her orders. And they didn’t talk back.  Maybe – like her children – they grumbled a bit behind her back, but she was the sort of person you didn’t talk back to.

Now, this was back in the day when both nurses and aides had to wear white. White uniforms. White pantyhose. White shoes. And the only way to tell nurses and aides apart was that nurses wore those white nurse hats. Aides, on the other hand, didn’t. Thankfully.

I was mortified enough by the white pantyhose and shoes.  

So while I wore the uniform to work every day, I was also a teenager who wanted to express her individuality and creativity – so I wore brightly-colored jewelry to work. That was the year that silk flower jewelry was popular and I had made myself some necklaces and earrings. I can still remember them – they were bright pink and white flowers on a white cord. And cute little flower post earrings.

So I sashayed into work one day wearing my bright pink silk flower necklace and matching earrings and thought I was rockin’ my outfit. Even with the white pantyhose and shoes.

My mother took one look at me and gave me her patented “Anne Marie” stare and told me to take that jewelry off immediately!

But to her dismay, HER boss – Queenie Burroughs – was there. I can still picture Queenie to this day – she was a large, black woman who could either strike fear in your heart if you messed up – or envelope you in a bear hug if she was happy with you.

Queenie thought I was a “doll-baby” – and gave me lots of hugs.

And she overturned my mother’s command to take off that silk floral jewelry. Queenie told my mom that I was a little ray of sunshine and the residents just loved me – and they would surely love seeing that bright jewelry for a change.

Mentally, I was gleefully thrusting my fist in the air and shouting, “YESSS!” But, in reality, I was quietly taking in the exchange with absolutely no expression on my face. I didn’t want my mother to see the victory that surely would have been etched all over it.

And, truthfully, I was wondering if I was going to suffer any consequences later from my mother getting rebuked in front of me over something she thought I had done wrong.

But, interestingly, my mother never mentioned my jewelry again. But neither did she ever call me her little ray of sunshine. Well, maybe she did behind my back. And if she did, it was probably said sarcastically.

But probably not. My mother was the what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort of woman. She wasn’t sarcastic. And she rarely did or said things behind anyone’s back.

That was that ethical, honest thing about her.

Nevertheless, for the rest of the year I worked at Bel Air Nursing home, I proceeded to wear bright jewelry to work along with all the white. And the residents DID seem to like it – they smiled when they saw me and commented about it frequently.

I’m sure I didn’t come across as professional, but then I was a seventeen-year-old girl who had absolutely no intention of going into the medical field as a career.

I couldn’t see myself in white pantyhose and shoes for the rest of my life.

And at that point, I didn’t care about looking professional; I only cared about doing a good job in taking care of the residents at the nursing home.

So it was a learning experience for me. I matured a bit. I learned a lot. And I found a new respect for my mother who was more than just my mom – she was a professional woman in charge of a whole lot of people at that nursing home – residents and employees alike. (Well, except for Queenie.)

But never once would I EVER have thought of my mother as “cute”!

Time changes things. And now that she’s a 92-year-old in a memory care unit, maybe she IS cute. Hmmm. Wonder if mom would wear a silk flower necklace if I were to make her one?

Probably. She likes brightly colored jewelry these days. But I think I’ll let things be and she can continue wearing the more dignified sterling silver chain she never takes off.

And I’ll also refrain from calling her either “cute” or my “little ray of sunshine.”

You just never know – there could be consequences to suffer.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Where Can I Sign up for the Extended Warranty?

Sometimes I feel like a used car whose warranty just expired and all the parts now need replacing.

Especially lately. Because in the past couple years I’ve been diagnosed with two bone spurs in my left foot, arthritis in my right knee and in the last week I found out my formerly pretty darn good teeth are now all shot to hell and need dental work to the tune of thousands (and thousands) of dollars.

Too bad we don’t come with an extended warranty. I would’ve signed right up for that.

I’m also a glutton for punishment. Last week, when we were preparing for 15 guests for our Father’s Day celebration, I was busy chopping and cutting and mixing and baking like a mad woman. I was determined to be well prepared ahead of time. And mostly I was. I had containers with all manner of food that merely needed to be mixed together or put out on plates and platters. And all those containers were labeled.  So I was pretty proud of myself for not procrastinating this time.

But it all came to a screeching halt late Friday night when I decided it was time to bring some of the containers of freshly chopped veggies and a big bowl of pasta salad to the downstairs fridge.

Vince, who was in charge of the meat, was soaking and tenderizing and marinating like a mad man. When he heard me say I was going downstairs and saw me loaded down with food, he asked me to take a plate of half-frozen steaks down to the fridge. And he proceeded to set the plate on top of the big bowl of pasta salad.

I said I didn’t think I could carry it all.

And this, folks, right here is when I should have put my foot down and said “No!”  Because I couldn’t carry it all. I got about ten steps into the hallway and that plate of half frozen steaks slid right off the container of pasta salad – and landed sideways on my second toe right behind the nail bed.

The good news is that the plate didn’t break. The bad news is that my toe did.

I yowled. I think there were actual tears. And I may have even said a couple bad words.

Vince, to my dismay, thought it was funny. He chuckled and said, “Hunh. I guess you couldn’t carry it all!”

But when I took my sock off and we watched my toe swell and turn purple before our eyes, his laughter dried up. He truly didn’t know I’d hurt myself. 

I guess that maybe I’m a bit of a drama queen when it comes to stubbing my toe or running into walls and bashing my elbow. And because I do that sort of thing all the time, he has gotten used to me not really hurting myself. But complaining about it. Loudly and with colorful words.

Except this time. Oh, man – did my toe hurt! There was no more party prep that night. Instead, I elevated my foot and applied an ice pack to my throbbing and swollen toe.

The next morning, I woke up to find my toe a lovely purplish-black color all the way to the base. It was pretty clear I was going to lose the toenail. And I could barely walk on it.

I certainly couldn’t put any pressure on it – so I limped my way through the day. Sadly, I couldn’t stop working because I still had a list of things to get done before our party on Sunday.

Because it was so swollen, the skin split and now there was blood. Oh joy. But I have good friends and family who were willing to help – and they’ve played nurse with the gauze and tape and Neosporin. I'm not saying they are experts at wrapping...but they've done a better job than I could.

At least it's wrapped.
And it’s getting better. But I still can’t walk normally on it. And I look a little silly with two toes taped together and a big white bandage on my foot. Plus, I need a pedicure. But that’s not happening anytime soon.

Fast forward a few days and I’m at the dentist’s office. I’m there to get a tooth removed. Why? Because it had cracked below my gum line and couldn’t be saved.

I’d been having some pain in my jaw in recent weeks and went to a dentist to have my tooth looked at. He said I needed a root canal and he proceeded to drill away. But then he stopped because he said my tooth was cracked too far down. This was my first root canal and I wasn’t happy about joining the club. And the worst thing was that it didn’t fix the problem.

Figures. Mine is the non-treatable one.
So he sent me to another dentist. This one took X-rays of my entire mouth and gave me the bad news that most of the teeth that had those old amalgam fillings needed some repair work. Some major repair work. And she agreed with the first guy that the tooth I was complaining about needed to come out.

So she sent me to a THIRD guy. Who knew that dentists nowadays were so specialized that one only does root canals and another does the tooth pulling? Not me, that’s for sure.

Back in the day, we went to our family dentist and Dr. Kelleher did it all. Cleaned teeth. Pulled teeth. Filled teeth. I’m sure he did root canals and crowns, but back then the worst thing my teeth needed were fillings.

The last filling I had was when I was about 12. And then when I was in college, I had to have four teeth pulled to prepare my mouth for braces. Two years of braces, and that was pretty much the end of my extensive dental work.

For years and years afterwards, I would go to the dentist who would clean my teeth and tell me I was good to go. I didn’t need root canals. I didn’t need crowns. Or implants. Or any of that stuff. So I thought I had pretty good teeth.

But throughout all those years, I would ask various dentists, “Shouldn’t I have these old fillings replaced? They’ve been in my mouth since I was 12.”

The response I invariably heard was, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I THOUGHT they were good teeth. Bad ones were lurking in the back!
So I thought Dr. Kelleher must have done an ah-mazing job on those fillings that they’ve lasted this many decades.

Well, I’m sure he DID do an ah-mazing job – but no filling is going to last forever.

As I recently found out.

The teeth have cracked around those fillings and they all need some sort of repair work. Fortunately, only the one tooth is cracked below the gum and needed to be removed.

But lemme just tell you – I don’t like going to the dentist and I did NOT want to have this procedure done.

When I had those four teeth removed before I got braces, it was an awful experience. Four strong, healthy teeth in a teenager’s mouth do NOT want to come out easily. So Dr. Kelleher pulled and yanked and those teeth cracked and crunched before finally giving up and coming out. While it didn’t hurt because I was shot full of Novocaine, the sound was so extreme, I was in tears.
And to this day, I vividly recall the sound.

So when I had to go in this week to have my tooth removed, I brought an ear plug. And while it wasn’t fun, it was not as traumatic as it was back in the day.

But now I’m literally hurting from my head down to my toe.

And I’m wondering where I can sign up for an extended warranty. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I Miss You, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

Typical "Dad" pose. Arms crossed - probably saying, "Yes, Dear."
I’ve been spending a lot of time this past week thinking about my dad and missing him. Not only because Father’s Day is coming up and it will be our first Father’s Day without him, but because I keep remembering last year at this time. When he fell and hit his head and we spent many sad, dark days in June by his bedside at the hospital and in hospice until his death on the 25th.

Although he was still alive on Father’s Day last year, he was in the ICU and was no longer responsive. My siblings and I had all mailed cards to him earlier that week, thinking that he was going to be all right.

But he wasn’t.

On Father’s Day, I stood by his bedside, opening each card and reading it to him while tears slid down my face. I wanted him to wake up and tell me it was all going to be okay.

But he didn’t and he couldn’t.

Later, when one of the nuns visited him in the ICU, she picked up all those cards and re-read them out loud to him. She told him he was so loved by his family and that God loved him, too. And if he was hanging on to care for his wife (our mom) who has dementia, he could let go because we were going to take good care of her.

When she called me later to tell me all this, I cried listening to her. I didn’t want dad to let go because I was being selfish – and wanted him still here with us. By that point, I knew there was very little hope and if he survived, he could no longer be the man we knew and loved.  His brain had suffered too much injury.

So I knew I didn’t want that either.

And so my dad missed Father’s Day 2016 and will miss all the Father’s Days to come. He missed his 90th birthday by a few weeks. And he missed his 64th wedding anniversary by a few days.

But we miss him even more. And even though mom no longer really asks about him, I know she misses him. He was her rock; the one person she knew she could count on and the one person who got her through each day.

Over the past few years, I would ask dad to come to Columbus for the weekend for whatever holiday we were celebrating because I didn’t want my parents to be alone.  They used to travel a lot and would usually be at one of our houses for every holiday. But Dad started hesitating before saying “yes” whenever I asked.

This was something he hadn’t done before and I thought he was merely being considerate of my time because I had to drive to Alliance, pick them up and then turn around and drive back to Columbus – a five hour undertaking that I would have to repeat once the weekend was over.

What I didn’t realize – until now – was how difficult it was for him to get mom out of her rocking chair and out of their house. She didn’t want to leave it. It was where she was most comfortable and where she felt most safe.

When she visited us in Columbus, there were distinct moments of real confusion. One Christmas morning she woke up thinking it was Easter and they were in a hotel. She was upset because she thought she had lost her glasses and she wanted us to call the Lost and Found to search for them.

She was talking about glasses she hadn’t worn in about 10 years.

It took over an hour for us to get mom calmed down and back to some semblance of normal. Dad said he hadn’t seen her like that before and it seemed almost more than he could handle. So I was at least glad I was here to help, but it made me realize how difficult it was sometimes for dad to care for mom.

Only he never ever complained.

It has only been in the last year since dad has been gone and mom is here with me in Columbus that I’ve realized how much work it was to care for her.

And I’m not even doing much of the work!  Mom is in a memory care unit and my only “duty” is to visit with her. Most of the time, she’s settled in her rocking chair and she’s fine. But whenever something is out of the normal routine for her – like when I have to take her to a doctor’s appointment – she asks a million questions about what we’re doing, where we’re going and why. Well, basically she asks those three questions. But she asks them over and over again – so I think it probably adds up to a million. At least.

My point is that this is what dad had to deal with when I asked the relatively simple question, “Will you and mom come to Columbus for the weekend, Dad?”

I wish I could tell him how much I appreciated what he did for mom. And what he did for all of us. That if I could be half the person he was, I’d feel like I should be fitted for those angel wings he clearly must have hidden under his light blue button down shirt. 

And I would just like to hug him one more time and tell him I love him.

So when we take the time this weekend to celebrate dads, I’ll be missing mine. But I’m grateful that I had such an honorable, good man as he to guide me through life. And even though he’s not here with us every day, I think he’s still watching out for us.

He just doesn’t have to hide those angel wings under the light blue button down shirt anymore.

I miss you and I love you. Mom and I will have a glass of wine together in your honor, okay? 

And I thank you, Dad – for everything.

Until we meet again.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Queen of the Night Owls is Now Officially an Old Fogey

It’s an interesting thing getting older. What you once could have sworn described you to a T is no longer necessarily true.

Like, for instance, I used to be the reigning queen of the Night Owls at one time in my life. In my 20s, friends used to marvel at how I could pull all-nighters to study or finish college papers, work all day and then attend classes that same evening without missing a beat.  

They used to tell me, of course, that it would all catch up to me one day.

Clearly, “one day” is here. And, okay, so for me, “one day” occurred sometime around the turn of the century. But now every time I try to do the night owl thing, it only serves to remind me that I have officially become an Old Fogey.

These days if I don’t get at least 7.25 hours of sleep per night, I am a basket case the next morning as the bags and dark circles under my eyes will attest.

When Vince and I went on our first cruise together, we selected the later 8 o’clock seating for dinner. This allowed us plenty of time for the daily activities on the ship or at port as well as time to unwind on the balcony with a glass of wine before dressing for dinner that evening. We’d attend a show or performance after dinner and felt thoroughly entertained. Then we’d get up early the next morning and do it all again.

It worked perfectly.

Then on our next cruise (a couple years ago) we went with friends who are the early-to-bed/early-to-rise-type of folk. They wanted the earlier dining slot, so we acquiesced to accommodate them. It worked out well, except we lost out on the relaxing happy hour on the balcony.

Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony…but it was a little more rushed than we had experienced on our earlier cruise.

So on our latest cruise, we once again selected the later dining time.

We were mostly able to enjoy our wine time on the balcony, but more times than not, we ended up drinking wine in the cabin while I got ready for dinner. I’d apply some makeup, take a swig of Pinot Noir, pat, swirl and blend (the makeup – not the Pinot) and then take another swig. It was not quite as restful and relaxing as sitting out on the balcony watching the sun set and the waves roll by.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Getting through dinner was fine, but finding the energy to do anything after dinner was the problem.

Apparently, once you hit 50, time moves at warp speed. And what I could do at 50, I can’t do a few scant years later.

By the time our meal was finished somewhere between 9:30 and 10PM, I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was head back to our cabin and go to sleep.

Sad, isn’t it? My partying days are over.

There were one or two nights during the cruise when I managed to keep my eyes open long enough to watch a show or attend an event. And that was enjoyable. But for the most part I was okay with going back to the cabin for a little shut-eye.

I think Vince would have liked to have seen a few more shows, but the only reason he didn’t protest was because he had caught a cold and was sneezing and coughing and generally feeling miserable. He was happy enough to pop a Nyquil and drift off for a short snooze before his next coughing jag woke him up.

Needless to say, we had no drinking and dancing ‘til dawn debauchery on this cruise. (Or the last cruise, for that matter…or the cruise before… or… Oh heck. Let’s just say it has been a LONG time since there was any debauchery going on!)

Ah well.  I’m okay with this new regime. I have to be. If I stayed up ‘til dawn these days I’d need a vat of Visine to get the red out and I’d be applying concealer with a trowel. And I simply don’t have the energy for that sort of nonsense these days.

So lesson learned. Looks like we’ll be selecting the “Old Fogey” dinnertime on our next cruise. We’ll be sound asleep before there’s even a whiff of debauchery going on. We’ll leave that to the reigning Queen of the Night Owls.

Aw man. Just writing about this is wearing me out. Might be time for a nap.

Yeah. I’m an Old Fogey. And the title no longer even bothers me.

That, my friends, makes it official.