The Seinfeld Gang and me, PART 1

SOB (Sister of blogger) and I believe in sharing every heart-wrenching or morbidly humorous moment (sometimes all in one) of taking care of our elders.  If one of us has to handle an elder matter alone, it is recounted with every excruciating detail, so that the other commits the event to the collective memory.  Invariably, at some point in every vignette, SOB turns to me and says, “this was on Seinfeld.”

SIDEBAR:  I was never a fan of Seinfeld.  Now I know why.  I live it.

So, join us, won’t you on our excruciating journey on Saturday.  But first we need to start with a little back story.

BACK BACK STORY: AROB (Aunt R.) is buried.  Her undead sister Shirley has been found, and our newly-found cousin and his wife, by their sheer gentle souls, have gotten the sister to speak after decades of silence.

The apartment is still a hoarder disaster.  The landlord is starting eviction proceedings. My cousin needs SOB and me to pull him out of the abyss, because it is dragging him down, and he is overwhelmed.

“Cousin, on Saturday, we are taking the valuables to storage in the name of the estate and then you can give up the apartment.  SOB and I will cover the costs.”

“I can’t let you do that —-“

“Cousin, SOB and I are committed to put all of AROB’s affairs in order.  You enabled us to bury her with dignity, you have looked out for ULOB’s (Uncle L’s) interests, and you have rehabilitated the souls of that entire generation by visiting Shirley because, at long last, someone claimed her as family.  So, let me get the storage.  Really, this is the least we can do for you and AROB.”

MORE RECENT BACK STORY:  I go online and reserve mini-storage locker big enough for the valuables. I receive a confirming email from “Alan Dumpit”.  You cannot make up his name.  Then Alan calls me to discuss storage conceptually and what I was hoping to gain from my storage experience.  No joke.  Because there can be no joking with a “storage consultant” named Dumpit.  It wouldn’t even be funny if his name were Storeit.  We went over everything I did on the website.  I thought that is why I chose the impersonal route of using a computer so that I could keep this a non-relationship.  No strings. I never wanted anonymity so much as in that conversation with Mr. Dumpit.

Then, he offered me something and, I hesitated, thinking this would cost something, but I realized that if I could throw a few more dollars at this conversation to end it, it was soooo worth it.

So, I get a second email confirmation from Al the Dumpster (we are close now).  Friday, I get a call from A the D just to make sure I was coming, as if maybe he would be waiting with flowers.  I expect this stuff from people at funeral homes, but mini-storage?

I was freaked out, but AROB’s apartment freaks me out more (you will see) so I resolved to have sedatives at hand on Saturday.

THE BIG DAY ARRIVES. (subtitled: SOB and Blogger dispense some justice, resolve some issues, all without delaying cocktail hour)

SOB and I meet at the Hertz Rent-a-Car near our apartments.  I have reserved a big SUV to haul the stuff to storage.

“I am sorry, we have no cars.  We were all out of cars by 9am.  That train wreck [MetroNorth tragedy] really messed up our inventory!  It’ll be 20 minutes.  Will a compact do?”

Waitwaitwaitwait.  I reserved a car.  A BIG car.  I am a Gold member (obviously a waste of money).  My reservation was backed by a credit card.  And my “customer service representative” gave away my car.  No apologies.  Nothing.

“Um, actually, I need a big car.  That is why I reserved an SUV.  Why did you give away my car?”

“I can’t really answer that, but allow me to provide you with excellent customer service in getting you another car.”

So many thoughts, some criminal, were playing bumper cars in my head.  I was speechless. I hear Quay (my alleged customer service representative) on the phone to another Hertz outlet, saying:

“The customer would like a big car.  Do you have one at your location?  Yes, she would like an upgrade.”

WAITWAITWAITWAIT.  Noooo, I don’t want an upgrade.  I want the car I reserved magically to appear before my eyes.

“We have a car for you at 40th Street and Second Avenue.  There will be a $75 upgrade fee.  But we will pay for your cab [later, I learned that doesn’t include the tip] to that location.”

“I don’t want to pay for an upgrade.  I have a reservation —–”

She interrupts, “Shall I add that amount to your bill and reserve the car for you?”

I had an epiphany.  Hertz employs genetically engineered pod people to act like flight attendants in economy class.  I snap.  But SOB takes control of the situation and calms me down (threatening in-patient treatment at the psychiatric ward of a local hospital) and redirects the conversation to a more fruitful, if more costly, conclusion.

We did get a BIG F’ING CAR.  We city dwellers do not drive these behemoths.  I wasn’t sure whether I needed a trucker’s license and a tattoo.  If I were in a highway rest stop, would I go in the car lot or the truck lot?

 

photo(7)SOB and me.  I’m driving wild and crazy and she is riding shot gun.  We drive past where HOSOB is having lunch with Dad.   I cross several lanes of traffic so SOB could take a picture of them through the window of the coffee shop and send it to everyone’s smart phones.  We are the law.  The city was never sooooo dangerous.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Hobbies and Diversions

SOS is taking trumpet lessons now.  Louis Armstrong is his hero.  SOS blows out sounds that only his moms could think were dulcet tones.

Although he doesn’t read my blog (thank G-d), he wanted me to take a picture of his trumpet and post it here.  I told him that when he is older, I will post a picture of him wearing awesomely cool sunglasses and playing the trumpet.  He really liked that idea.

I was telling a friend about SOS’s new avocation.  She said, “THAT’S what you need!  You have too many things going on in your life.  A hobby will relieve the stress.  Either that or yoga.  Because you look like hell.”

Sidebar:  Friends try not to let friends look like hell.  I guess. Also, if I have too many things to do, how is adding another thing going to help?

I recounted this story to another friend.  She thought for a moment.  She got serious.

“I have two comments.  One, you really don’t look that bad given all the things that you are balancing and how sick you have been and —

Sidebar:  Damning with faint praise.

two, some people can do yoga or play an instrument or collect stamps.  You and I?  We are stress collectors.  That’s what we do.”

Finally, an avocation, with a built-in diagnosis and guilt relief.  For a middle-aged New York Jewish woman with Woody Allen-like angst, it is a cultural trifecta.

And I am already doing it.  Phew, what a time saver.

Too bad it doesn’t come with a prescription for the migraines and illnesses that never seem really to go away.  Paging Dr. SOB.

 

 

SOB, welcome home

Welcome back, SOB. You took a jaunt across “the Pond” and all hell broke loose.  Just as I flipped you the keys to the family’s asylum, put my feet up and broke open a bottle of red wine, I got really sick.  So glad you are a doctor, and the prescriptions were wine and soup.  Because I am so much easier when I am mentally lubricated.

Happily, SOB shared her first day back as MOW (medical officer of the week):
  • Lunch with Dad.  He looks good.  He won’t remember though.  I threw out LOTs of solicitations and sweepstakes.  I think we should send those sweepstakes people to jail.

SIDEBAR:  I am thinking death penalty for scammers targeting the elderly.  For crimes against people and against the environment (so much paper).

  • Called Michael’s dad.  He really appreciated seeing you, BOB and Dad at Michael’s funeral.

SIDEBAR: Whoa, can you imagine a father thanking us for paying respects at his 36 year-old’s funeral?  The pain is burning a hole in my heart.  I don’t know if I could breathe if anything happened SOS.

  • ULOB.  No medicare services unless patient needs physical therapy or nursing. So, ULOB’s frailty and general inability to handle life don’t count. Nevertheless I tried suggesting to ULOB he may need help with daily living, even if it costs money.  But ULOB is not really interested help with food, cleaning, shopping if it costs money [sidebar: he can afford it; WE can afford it].  But, he “will consider this.” The dentist wants ULOB to have implants since he teeth are horrible; he is concerned about cost. And he said that he wasn’t sure it was worth it as he didn’t think he would live that much longer.  OY OY OY OY.

SIDEBAR:  We are more concerned that the several month period of wounds, healing from the incisions would lead him to not eat and lose even more weight, which is more of a health threat.

SIDEBAR OF SIDEBARI can’t possibly handle a health threat at this moment.  Please, let us have a quiet period in our family.

Keep going, SOB, you are doing great as MOW.  I am going to a spa for a day and then I will camp out on your couch on Saturday and let you recount war stories.  This is how I like to lead — supine and from behind.

You are doing such a great job, maybe, we will make you UOF (uber officer forever).  BOB, you agree?  2/3 vote carries.

Be afraid, SOB.

SIDEBAR:  I would never do this to SOB.  What we have to do we do together.  Oh, and, SOB? no more vacations until you know when . . . .

I love my family and I am grateful for SOB.

When Life Alert Calls

As I walk upstairs to The COB’s office to consult about a deal, my cell phone rings. It is a California number.  I am suspicious; I assume that it is a spam call.  At the same time, I get an email that I have voicemail on my office phone. 

After some confusion, I ascertain that the “dispatch center” calling from California is Life Alert.  Oh, no.  Dad has Life Alert and Life Alert is on the phone.  My heart is now in my throat.

The dispatcher advised that the fire alarm went off in Dad’s house and he did not answer the Life Alert intercom, his house phone and his cell phone. The dispatcher already called the fire department. I get off the phone with Life Alert and retrieve my voice mail from SOB. Cool as a cucumber, she says, “hey, [Blogger], it’s [SOB]. Hope all is good with you and the family. [Pause] Listen, Life Alert called me and told me [and she recounted the above].  Anyway, call when you can. Bye.”

Wow, SOB could describe the horrors of war and make it sound like a bedtime story. But even before I could call her back, she called again. Because SOB panics gracefully. Even from across the Pond in London.

Dad’s cell is useless; he can’t hear it and, if he does, has no idea what the beeping is for. His attendant doesn’t answer her cell. So, I keep hitting redial until she answers.

I reached the attendant just as Dad and she were rounding the corner and seeing the firetrucks.

SIDEBAR They were at the library. Before they left, the attendant put fabric softener in water and heated it on the stove, to freshen the air. Then Dad wanted to leave and she forgot.

The pot was burning on the stove and made a lot of smoke and a noxious smell.  The firemen opened the windows and all was good.  While I was talking to the fireman, I hear Dad’s attendant in the background, repeating: “He didn’t do it.  It is MY fault.”  I love her for making sure that everyone knew that it wasn’t Dad’s fault.

So, I spoke with the fireman who was lovely, with Dad’s attendant who was so upset, and with Dad who had no clue.

Since we love Dad’s attendants, I told her that I would be happy to get an attendant for her as well so the attendant could watch her minding Dad, but we just can’t afford it right now.  For now, she, like Dad, is not allowed to operate any electrical equipment until further notice. 

SOB spoke to the attendant and reassured her as she was feeling so badly about it all.  I called later and she was feeling better.  Dad?  Still confused.  A typical day.

So, everyone was safe at all times, except for SOB and me. Both of us were out on the ledge.

At least I have blog material.

 

 

Minding the Elderly Can Age a Person

Today, the paternal side of the Blogger family buried one of our own.  My cousin was not even 37.  Family members spanning nearly a century — 4 generations — were present, as if to beam a harsh light on the tragedy that my cousin would never grow old.

BOB, who flew in from Texas for the funeral, thought that we should visit Mom’s brother, Uncle L., the last surviving uncle of blogger (ULOB), and that he should meet ULOB’s paramour (POULOB).

SIDEBAR:  Why not make it the day a total beat-down?  In for a little hearbreak, in for a trifecta.   Like that penny and pound thing.

This was so last minute.  And I didn’t want ULOB to think that BOB would come to town and not see him (even though that does happen from time to time).  So, I call ULOB from the car on our way back from the funeral and tried to frame the narrative:

“Hi, Uncle, it’s [Blogger].  [BOB] just came into town at the last minute for a [paternal Blogger] family funeral.  We didn’t want to call to early to wake you [ULOB sleeps until noon].  We would like to stop by and visit this afternoon.”

“Can I invite [POULOB]?”

“Of course.  Does 4pm work?”

“See you then.”

Great.  Death. Destruction. Tears. Lamentations. And a visit to the apartment that is gross by the slums-of-Calcutta standards.  I guess I am not getting a nap today.

BOB and I walked [3 miles] to ULOB’s apartment.  It was good to talk to BOB.  I don’t think we have an hour to talk just the two of us in three decades.

But, we were running late.  So I called ULOB’s apartment.  No answer.  Hmmmm.  Odd.

We arrive at his building.  He lives on the fourth floor of a five story walk-up in what is formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen.  We buzz his intercom.  No answer.

I call again his phone again.  No answer.  BOB leans his palm on ULOB’s buzzer.  I go inside the first door (which is never locked) and start buzzing every apartment in the building until someone lets us in.

We walk up four flights to his apartment.  There is a radio blasting.  We go inside his apartment (don’t you mind the details), expecting to find a body.  BOB says helpfully, “you know, bad things happen in threes, so this would be event no. 2.”

SIDEBAR: BOB needs a refresher in the Blogger family protocol, as in “unhelpful comments in scary, potentially life and death situations are punishable by a different kind of scary, life and death situation.”  Rule No. 3, for those of you following in the handbook.

The place looks like it has been ransacked.  BOB is a little rattled, but I remind him that that is usually what the place looks like.  I am still calm.  I start to look around for a body.  The stench of 54 years of filter-less cigarettes would cover any smell of a decomposing body.

No body here.  Thank G-d.  But nobody here either, so he must be dead in the street.

BOB and I decide not to panic.  Instead, we sit at an outdoor cafe doing our version a TV crime drama stake-out, only with cocktails.  I watch his building while BOB looks for him along the street.

We leave countless more messages on ULOB’s message machine in case he shuffled in while traffic was stopped and a bus obscured my view.

ULOB doesn’t have a cell phone.  We don’t have any contact information on POULOB except her address and her phone number is unlisted.  (I tried.)  This is the time when I wish I didn’t avoid information about her and just embraced her, regardless of their relationship’s beginnings.  Sometimes, principles just bite you in the ass.

SOB knows POULOB’s phone number.  Except, SOB is in London. My phone is running out of juice. And I am rattling off phone numbers to BOB as my phone dies.

BOB calls SOB, “Hey, [SOB], [ULOB] is a no-show at his house.  But he isn’t dead IN his house.  We need POULOB’s number.  Oh, I love you, [BOB]by.”

We abandon our stake-out after 1.5 hours.  Police work is not for me, unless lubricated with a nice cabernet.  BOB goes to Dad’s to have dinner with him.  I go home, preparing myself to call hospitals or go to POULOB’s house and knock on the door.

I get home. The doorman hands me a message from ULOB and POULOB. They were here, thinking the gathering was here. The message says they are at a nearby restaurant. I RUN there.  We clear up the miscommunication.  POULOB says ULOB told her we were having a gathering either at 2, 3 or 4.  They opted for 4:15. Ok, I am not so devastated about missing them.

I say, “we were at a funeral, although I could understand the mix-up”.  Wow, cabernet is the opposite of a truth serum.  Because, who, in the world invites guests, who don’t know the deceased, to a post-funeral gathering?

We resolve the following things:

  • ULOB needs a cell phone.
  • POULOB needs all of our contact information and we, hers, because she is here to stay.  And she does take really good care of ULOB.
  • Nobody dies on my watch.  And when I say nobody, I also mean no body on my watch.

I did remember to text SOB that we were really sorry we gave her a heart attack, especially when she would get care in the UK hospital system.  I called Dad to tell him to tell BOB that all is well, but Dad already started cocktail hour, so at some point I ask him to pass the phone to his attendant, because I could not live another moment in loopy land.

This Abbott and Costello afternoon happened on the heels of the real tragedy — my young cousin’s untimely death.  Today I experienced universal grief, elderly confusion and existential anxiety, some at both ends of the spectrum of life.

For now, I am grateful to be in the middle.

 

Seder Part 2

Seder, Part 2:  Subtitled “Kol B’Seder?” (all ok?  literally in good order?)

Meanwhile, Uncle L looked slovenly despite his well-heeled paramour and family.  Just take a look at his coat:  No wonder his paramour thought we were wolves.  A generation from the ghettos of Europe, born in the country, and still.  But he is a Yankees fan, so some things are forgiven.

photo(12)

Ok, so we started the Seder.  As commanded, we go through our “emblems of festive rejoicing” which are the symbols of Passover:  rebirth, renewal, bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom, and the remembrance of the night of death in Egypt that led to the Exodus.  But wait, there’s more.

In our family, we have our own symbols of festive rejoicing, requiring a second Seder plate.  First, G-d didn’t deliver us from Egypt, then the pogroms of Europe, then the Holocaust, then to two generations of prosperity in the United States for us to drink that gross Manischevitz wine.  So, we have a “Manischevitz Free Zone” in our house, where there is (reasonably) good Kosher wine and some good other wine.  Second, courtesy of HOSOB (we love him so), we have a Moses action figure (which was a bonus with any Nintendo purchase) that has detachable staff and Ten Commandments for the requisite slamming at the sight of the Golden Calf.  Third, have a watch to symbolize the ONE hour that SOB allows for the ceremony before she takes away the Haggadot and announces the first course will be served. In a nod to the modern age, SOB flashes her iPhone timer, so I know exactly, to the nanosecond, how much time I have left.

passover(1)

Finally (not pictured here), we have a brisket and not a turkey, because G-d didn’t work miracles and deliver us from five millennia of trials and tribulations so that we would have to eat dry turkey.  No, G-d delivered us so that we could enjoy a nice, juicy, marbled brisket with just the right amount of fat to make it tasty and moist.  (Unless you are vegan or vegetarian, in which case we had a delicious Mediterranean bean dish.)  That is my interpretation of the wisdom of the ages.  You can have yours, just not in my house.

We tried a different approach to Seder this year — we would go quickly through the retelling of the story (see the cheat sheet on the chalk board)

photo(12) And then we proceeded to discuss who was the most righteous in the story.  I emailed everyone with the assignment to determine the most righteous person, and people really read up on it.

Sidebar:  GDJOB, who had never cracked the spine of the Bible, was at a loss until her spouse GDKOB showed up.  GDKOB was in charge of preparing for Seder.  Unfortunately, she was a little late for the debate but her righteous person was discussed.  They brought dessert, so all was forgiven.

There was a catch:  what is the definition of righteous?  Depending on our definitions, we had different answers.  There was a second catch:  there is no right answer, except that we can agree that among the wrong answers are: (i) Pharaoh and (ii) the Edward G. Robinson’s character in Cecil B. DeMille’s, “The Ten Commandments” (did he chew on a cigar or is that just my imagination?).

We came up with four righteous people (with our varying definitions of righteousness):

  • Moses (trite);
  • Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law who advises Moses;
  • Tzipporah, Moses’ wife who saves him when G-d tried to kill him; and
  • Pharaoh’s daughter, who, knowing Moses was an Israelite, nevertheless saves the baby from the Nile.

My choice? Pharaoh’s daughter.  Who has no name, except in Chronicles, the Koran and the writings of Josephus.  In the Hebrew Bible, she is known only by her relationship to a man, Seti I, who decreed that male babies of the Israelites must die.  She defied her father’s decree and saved a life and raised Moses as her son.  She stepped outside her rarefied, privileged world and extended her hand to a slave child.  Because a child is a child.  Because a life is a life.  And she risked everything, maybe for the knowledge that she was doing the right thing and her heart and soul would not be sullied by the death of a child.

And she was exiled when later it was found out that Moses, her son, was an Israelite.

Her name was Bithia.

Bithia.  A person to be remembered as a human who saved a life of a baby who would grow up to liberate a people.

Bithia was her name.  And at Passover, I remember Bithia.  Because she is the person I most admire in this story.

Chag sameach.  (Happy holidays.)

Seder

One month ago, when I invited the “family” to Seder, there was some trepidation.

Why trepidation at just another annual ritual?  Well, here is a partial list of the invitees:

  • Dad (who is not the man he was prior to his brain injury), accompanied by his Guyanese home attendant who had never been to a Seder;
  • Shelly who is not romantically involved with Dad, regardless of what Uncle L thinks (we will get to THAT later);
  • Our g-ddaughters, who are not Jewish and one of whom has never cracked open the Bible (but she makes amazing Kosher for Passover desserts, so go figure);
  • My Uncle L, who having recently lost Aunt R just a few months ago, wanted bring his paramour of 25 years (will someone PLEASE shoot me);
  • My Aunt R’s blood nephew and his wife, who may not be so psyched to know that Uncle L had a side gig (a shonda — embarrassment — for the neighbors);
  • FOPOB who is not always emotionally or mentally “present” and SOPOB who is not always physically present;
  • Cousin Gentle, CB, SOB and HOSOB — thank G-d; and
  • my personal trainer who gave me good arms for my wedding dress.

So, bottom line:  lesbians, their baker g-ddaughter, an uncle, his lover, a Greek Chorus and a brisket.  La follie. Madness.

Ok, by the grace of G-d, my aunt’s nephew and his wife couldn’t come so we didn’t have to create even more lies about the state of affairs (pardon the pun) of the family.

Because Uncle L keeps white wine in his refrigerator for his paramour, I bought very good bottles of various white grapes. Only to find out that she likes red wine, but Uncle L won’t buy red because he thinks it doesn’t keep for long.

Sidebar:  Really, Uncle?  Dirt has thrived in your home since 1954.  New life forms and strains of antibiotics could be discovered in your slums-of-Calcutta-apartment and you are worried about whether red wine will go bad?  I know people draw lines in the sand but, but, whoa, that is really strange.

A second sidebar:  I asked S, Uncle Larry’s paramour (and our new relative), whether she had been to a Seder before, and she said she had been to four, to which SOS exclaimed, “wow, she has more Jewish connections than we thought!!”  Oy. Oy. Oy. Out of the mouths of babes, indeed, but, sometimes, a muzzle would work just fine.

Even another sidebar:  When will I stop calling her, “the paramour”?  Check back with me in 25 years.  A generation is a biblical time period and quite possibly after 25 years we will not remember that there was an “overlap” when Uncle L was with Aunt R.

I told S she was welcome in our home as long as she could handle loving references to Aunt R.  Wow, now that was a tense moment.

And I haven’t even talked about the preparation for the Seder or the Seder itself.  More anon.  Stay tuned (with pictures from SOB).

 

 

Once they were young

I was cleaning out a relative’s apartment this weekend (yeah, more death and destruction in Bloggerville).

While I was cleaning the Collyer Brothers-like apartment (though not a home) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collyer_brothers, two timeless axioms of my youth (one from my grandmother and one from the rabbis) came to mind:

  • Wear good (and clean) underwear just in case you are hit by a bus so the emergency room doctors will know you come from a good family (and presumably treat you better); and
  • Live every day as if it were your last on earth.

How do these concepts work together, you ask?  Work with me, here.

While there may be loftier connections, mine is decidedly mundane:

DON’T EMBARRASS US OR MAKE US CRINGE AFTER YOU DIE.

And the corollary:  Get rid of pictures, outfits you haven’t used in a long time, do your laundry EVERY DAY so that no one has to see anything that could make him or her go blind.

Because everyone was young, wild and stupid, once (maybe more than once).  Just don’t leave a record of it, for others who are cleaning out your home to find.

Examples of acceptable things to leave behind:

  • Kick-ass black leather skirts (regardless of your age at death) and even tasteful lingerie;
  • Memorabilia and photo albums (that don’t have nude or semi-nude pictures of you with other, now aged or dead relatives, however young or not you were at the time);
  • Keepsakes, necklaces, etc. (of whatever or no value) that your family members can wear to carry you with them always;
  • Phone number of 24-hour cartage company to cart away some of the inevitable detritus;
  • List of accounts and financial representatives; and
  • A last will and testament.

Examples of things NOT to leave behind:

  • Dominatrix outfits, even if still in the box;
  • 1970s Polaroid photo album of various poses of you and your partner naked from the waist down;
  • ANYTHING from the 1970s for that matter;
  • Collection of 20 years of junk mail (not every collection has value); and
  • Gross piles of dirty laundry strewn about.

Did you stop at “Polaroid photo album of various poses of you and your partner naked from the waist down”?  Yeah, I knew you would.  Yep.  I almost went blind.  And I had to stop once I realized what it was I was looking at.

I know, once they (and we) were young.  Once, they (and we) were middle-aged.  Hell, do it in your 80s.  But if you are in your 80s, burn the pictures every night.  And in your 90s, don’t take pictures.  Because you will forget that you have them.  Because, with most of your life in the rear-view mirror, it is almost a certainty that you violate the Rule of the Ages:

DON’T EMBARRASS US OR MAKE US CRINGE AFTER YOU DIE.

This blog will self-destruct in 25 years.

Blessings of a Snow Ball Fight

SOB and I went over to Dad’s house to pick him up for lunch.  Our destination? The Coffee Shop of the Un-Dead.

SIDEBAR:  SOB and I, in or nearing our 50s, bring down the average age of the patrons by at least twenty years.

After the usual scavenger hunt for important papers that Dad has hidden among the solicitations for fraudulent charities, we worked up an appetite.  His home attendant, Heather (who is fabulous) joined us for lunch.  (Dad’s and her rapport is terrific.  We are soooo lucky.  And I hope she feels the same way.)

The snow made getting to the Coffee Shop of the Un-Dead a little treacherous.  SOB took Dad’s left arm, Heather took his right and I walked behind, with my arms out and my stomach tight, ready to catch him under his arms if he fell.  All was fine and Blogger Family Protocol, while ready, did not have to be engaged.

After lunch, when we cleared the treacherous parts, and having survived the meal without any of the Un-Dead patrons actually becoming Dead, we all got a little giddy.

SOB was walking behind, and I was holding Dad’s right arm.  When I came upon some snow that had settled on shrubbery, I whipped my hand around and —

SCORE!!

Direct hit on SOB.  Heather, holding Dad’s left arm, not to be outdone, slammed me with snow with an impressive hook shot behind Dad.  I made SOB substitute for me on Dad’s right, so I could take the offense and pummel Heather.  Then SOB and Heather ganged up on me.  All the while, two people are making sure Dad didn’t fall.

It was a winter ballet performed by people in their 50s with the precision and grace of children (ok, maybe not, but this is my blog).  Then, as we are about to walk into his lobby, we needed to pelt Dad a little and very gently, so he didn’t feel left out.  So add a 92 year-old to our folly and frolic.

When the doorman saw us all, he said to Dad, “Doc, looks like you won!!”

He did.  We did.  A snow ball fight (after a fashion) in New York City with my Dad and our new extended family that includes Heather.  In life, things never turn out the way you imagine.  But not everything has to be tossed out just because life has its own trajectory and its own timeline, separate from our hopes and expectations.  Nope, not everything we know needs to be tossed out, even in the despair of reality.  Except for snow balls.  They need to be tossed every time there is snow.

The art of racing past the pain

Shortly after Dad’s injury, SNOBFOB took me to lunch, to guide my entry into the “new normal” of my family responsibilities.  She ever so gently (ok, Jewish-gently) inducted me into the club of people with dead and dying parents.  It was also a little like when your mom talked to you about the joys of tampons.  You knew you needed the information but you really wished you weren’t old enough for the conversation.

SNOBFOB set about to prepare me for the ups-and-downs, the despair and the acceptance.  The rollercoaster.  As only someone who has lived this can.

In the months since, SNOBFOB has tried to help me see what is doable (and the best way) and what is not doable.  What is and IS NOT my responsibility.  What I can and CANNOT change.  I am not always good at setting limits.

So, just yesterday, over lunch, SNOBFOB hit me with a whopping reality check:  I do not need to take on every enfeebled family member’s problems and still I can keep my promises to Mom and Grandpa. I know what SNOBFOB did for her parents and aunts and uncles.  She can tell me to slow down or “chill” or stop being so damn depressing.  It was so incredibly LIBERATING.  Because Dad I can handle, but . . . .

Today, SOB and I were reviewing the past week’s worth of Dad-related snafus, bizarre behaviors and tense moments.   And, the tone of our conversation was, well, (new) normal. 

The new normal is getting to be ok.  Not great, but ok.  And I can even laugh and have fun during the ups-and-downs.  In fact, the laughs and the fun are much more important now.  Precisely, because life is a roller-coaster. 

Thank you, SNOBFOB, my very wise friend.