Bedroom Farce, Rated G

On weekend mornings, SOS and I often rough-house on POB’s and my bed — we wrestle, tussle, the usual.  (At other times, even POB and I can fit in a little tussle, but I digress).

The bed held up as best it could, for 12 years.  So, last night when SOS jumped on the bed to reach me for a kiss good-night, we heard a ◊craaaack◊ followed by a creeeeeak!!!!! followed by a THUUUUNK of a falling “decorative” wood brace in the headboard.

After assuring SOS that it was not his fault, I set about trying to repair the bed before it sloped into total collapse.  Mind you, this is no IKEA-born-to-break-in-three-months bed; this is — or should have been — a stand-up-to-kids, Odysseus-built-around-a-tree-trunk type of bed, notwithstanding its modern aesthetic.

After getting the mattress off, I saw that the hinges and the connectors were bent.  Ok, so this is not a bed deserving of any analogy to that in the Homeric epic.

POB just thought we should dismantle the whole thing, set it aside and put the mattress on the floor.  “I am too old to sleep on some kind of a FUTON!!” I exclaim, shocking even me.  “We are sleeping on a proper bed because we are going to fix it.  All I need is a hammer and screw driver!!”

POB dutifully brought a hammer and screw driver.  She is always doing sweet things like that, like the time she gave me enough rope to hang myself.

It is a heavy bed, as in more than our combined body weight.  We took turns heaving the pieces into the correct position while the other tried to hammer the pieces into the correct grooves.  Let’s just say I would be in traction if I hadn’t been working on my abs.

At one point, when POB was doing the heavy lifting job, I tried to get at the mangled joint.  That required that I slither between her legs — just below the knees — with a hammer, all the while sweating and panting from all of the lifting I had just been doing.

What are you doing?” POB screeeeeched in horror, as she was now in charge of holding up a really heavy bed frame. 

As if I needed to say this, but I did:  “Sweetie, this is not a novel attempt at seduction.  Right now I don’t care where I am relative to your anatomy.  I care that I am close to the mangled joint that I need to fix!!”  At that point, I realized I needed a pliers.  “Don’t move,” I told POB.

Since this is rated G (General Audiences), I will not repeat her response.

After I hit my fingers with the hammer and squeezed part of my finger in the pliers, I made the damage to the bed parts (they were then officially “parts” not a “bed frame”) even worse.  But the decisive factor is, well, I suck at home improvement.  Another lesbian myth blown sky-high.

The long and short of it is that we slept futon-style with the mattress on the floor.  And the bed frame company is sending someone up from its SoHo store to fix the mangled mess on Thursday.  If a gay man show up and puts the frame back together without anyone’s help, then I will give up my lesbian boot camp standard issue: hammer, pliers, screw driver  and variable speed drill (both with various size bits).

But I am keeping the toaster oven.

Good Medicine

I have been sick this week.  I stayed home one full day (Tuesday) and, by this afternoon (Friday), it was clear I was not recovered.  My colleagues even told me to go home.  The COB even cheerfully took over responsibility for some thankless and unglamorous tasks so that I could just go home and climb into bed.  A true colleague.  Our assistant, who usually tortures me in that negative affection type of way, was actually kind and looked worried.  I must have looked bad.

I came home and collapsed into bed.  I was almost immediately overcome with the need to sleep.  As I was dozing, I half-dreamed of being sick as a kid.

Mom would hug me and say, “my poor tsatskele [Yiddish endearment], if I could have this for you, I would!”  Then she would kiss my forehead to check for fever.  Then she would direct me to my bed.  And to be doubly sure that I didn’t have a fever, Mom would get one of those mercury thermometers (on the list of pre-1980 household hazards) doused in rubbing alcohol (for sterilization) and tucked under the tongue.

“Tea and toast and rest” was the basic remedy.  If needed, I could have aspirin and, at night, cough suppressant. Mom would set up the vaporizer — that contraption that made steam heat and bred bacteria — to clear my clogged sinuses.  Ok, maybe a little Vaseline on my chapped nose and lips, but Mom was very cautious about its use. When she was young, there were instances when sick babies who suffocated because mothers applied Vaseline too liberally in their babies’ noses.

Throughout the course of my cold, she administered loving hugs and kisses liberally and got up every few hours during the night to touch my cheek and make sure all was ok.

There weren’t many over-the-counter products then to relieve cold symptoms.  But my mother would have had none of that.   If it was just a head cold to suffer through, a little extra tender loving care (and tea and toast) was medicine enough.

Mom was a working professional, so if any of us was sick during the week, Leta, our nanny, would be in charge.  But Mom lingered in the mornings, and came home early. Dad also canceled his last patient so he could be on hand for the evening love-not-drugs fest.

Leta was no slouch when it came to smothering us with love, under any circumstance.  And when one of us was sick, she outdid herself.  Leta would pour half a cup of sugar in the tea because she thought it was heartless of Mom and Dad to ration sugar (my Dad was a dentist, after all).  And she prescribed sucking candy (a banned substance in our house) as throat lozenges.

Sidebar:  I don’t think I told my parents about the candy and sugar and the other broken rules until after Leta died in the 1990s.  That was our secret with Leta.  Mom and Dad would have certain rules, and Leta would ignore those rules, much to our delight.

And, of course, my grandmother, Mom’s mother, couldn’t bear that any of her little darling grandchildren was sick.  So, she would come laden down with food like stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, and a whole host of time-honored Jewish-Ashkenazic comfort food.   Grandma and Leta had a grudging respect for each other which over the years turned into real affection, but when one of us was sick, it was all-out turf warfare.  No wonder Mom went to her office.

Even with today’s magic potions, Nyquil or Dayquil or the equivalent, there is no better medicine than Mom’s hugs, Leta’s smother and Grandma’s food.  Just thinking about it makes me feel better already.

Our Greatest Generation Losing the Race with Time

Once there were five brothers standing tall.  A photo of them hung on my parents’ wall.

Dad had four brothers and (more than) four sisters-in-law.  They were our greatest generation.  Not because they were all wonderful people (not all were in fact good people).  But because they had the resilience, grit and determination to make it in 1940s and 1950s America and survive and thrive in the upheavals of the 1960s though the 1980s.

You need to listen to Cousin Gentle’s ballad of  The Family.  Our greatest generation fought in the war that America won, left the cramped apartment of their immigrant parents, and lived the American dream.  They cemented our family’s place in America.

Dad and AG (Aunt Glue) are who remain of the greatest generation. AG hosted every Rosh Ha-Shana of my childhood at their big house in the suburbs.  She introduced my parents.  She soothed her husband’s scars of life as an American POW in a WWII Nazi concentration camp.  She raised three sons, and buried one of them.  AG forced the blue grass band to play Hava Nagilah at BOB’s not-so-Jewish wedding in Texas.  While the band knew the music, they couldn’t pronounce the words, so they sang “Have a Tequila” instead.  She danced and qvelled at my sister’s wedding, and soothed the sadness of our own mother’s not being alive to see it.

AG is the venerated matriarch — the last surviving mother — of our generation.  Our generation’s ages range from 48 to near 70 years old; still, as old as we get, we never outgrow the need for a mother figure.  Her presence at our life cycle events is the seal of approval of the generation whose voices are mostly in our heads and hearts.

She will not make it to my wedding.  The trajectory of her recently diagnosed disease makes that clear.  It is so shocking because just 8 months ago she was able to travel by plane and negotiate some arduous travel.

On Saturday, Dad, Cousin Gentle, SOB, POB, SOS, BOB and I drove 3 hours each way to see her, near her new home.  BOB flew half-way across the country to make this trip.  Because we know too well the finality of death and the torment of missing what might be that last visit.

On the drive up everyone was subdued.  Dad didn’t even break out with “When the Saints Go Marching In” or “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” two of his favorite car ride tunes.  SOB and I didn’t even have the emotional energy to make our usual million dollar bets on these things.  (As a result, I am still $2 million in debt since January 1.)

And Dad was having his own crazy senior moments — from confusing family with friends to eating with serving forks — so it really added to the gestalt of the day.  He has known AG for 70 years and I think he was reacting to the situation but unable to express it.

Sidebar:  I, of course, was hungry (because sad things make me hungry) and, after a three hour car ride and visiting for an hour, I finally said to my cousin, “Look, I know we were rude not to bring house gift, but we are really starving and I would like to help you put out lunch.”  She said she was so glad that I was honest because she would have kept talking.  And then she did.  So, I asked, “Cousin, is it ok if I open your refrigerator and start taking out food??”  Because in our family, the strong eat the weak or, in this case, corned beef and knishes.

Sidebar on the Sidebar:  Corned beef, on rye with coleslaw and sliced pickles and a little mustard, is, as Mom would say “a little bit of Heaven”, with her eyes half-closed as if imagining Elysian Fields.

AG is very diminished physically (less so mentally); even when she forgets, her personality is still in tact.  She is at peace and grateful for the time she has left.

Yesterday, we were witness to the spirit of the greatest generation, facing down the darkest hours and the biggest tests, with a quiet determination and “we will handle what comes when it comes” attitude.

So much more is the profound loss when our greatest generation is no more.

Absolutely Flabulous

I am working on my abdominal muscles.  But the leaner I get in front, the flabbier I get in the back.  What is with back flab?

I asked POB who is my oracle on things like this.  She said that back flab is, in fact, a topic of articles in those self-help/keep-it-real magazines.

Essentially, it is an aging thing.

It’s a little like the hint of Hadassah arms (fleshy upper arms prevalent among members of the Women’s Zionist Organization of America) that appeared one day four years ago.  No amount of tri-cep exercises can change it.  Hadassah arms are a real advantage when entertaining young children — they make excellent flapping noises when one is trying to mimic a bird in flight (what, you mean, you don’t often, and spontaneously, do avian impressions?)

Despite my best efforts at the gym and POB’s best efforts at feeding us healthy, lean foods, I have a vision of turning into Grandma Dora, with the house-dress, the Hadassah arms, the corset pushing her sagging breasts up to her clavicle, and the bra-strap hanging half-way down her arm.  And those old people shoes that were gentle on the bunions.  And wait, the stockings knotted at her knees.  Just the vision could trigger a fatal seizure.

I know, I know.  I started with back flab and ended up with corrective shoes.  From the Upper West Side, Manhattan, 2012, to Pelham Parkway, Bronx, circa 1969 in three paragraphs.  But maybe I am just overreacting.

But the back flab is seriously unappealing.


Valentine’s Day

POB doesn’t like roses (“Can you just imagine the carbon footprint expended on getting all of those roses here . . . “) and she doesn’t eat chocolate (we have to fit into our wedding dresses).  And, POB rolls her eyes at Hallmark-made holidays.

So, I did not spend a dime on this Valentine’s Day.  Not even a card.  Nothing.  Zip. Nada.

I got a free pass, even from the President of the United States.  Prior to his formal press conference today on his budget, President Obama made a public service announcement to the gentlemen in attendance, exhorting them to remember it is Valentine’s Day and “go big”.  I may be no lady, but I am surely not a gentleman.  Double exemption.  So golden.

I did come home to a home-made spicy tofu dish that POB discovered in a recipe book.  “It is just like chicken,” she said.  “This is sooooooooo not chicken,” I thought, as I ate all of it.  And I loved it, because it is Valentine’s Day and I have some Prilosec handy for the reflux anschluss.

So remind me again, what is so wrong with some empty, unnecessary calories, some dead flowers and a ten-dollar greetings card?  Going from golden (ok, smug) to dyspepsic in less than 12 hours is to experience a true a karma boomerang.

Hard of hearing? Well. . . .

Dad has always been an optimistic and happy man.  So, he forgets the bad stuff, which is great for him and us.

Except when it comes to filling out forms about medical history.  And Dad needed to complete one as part of his Life Alert system service.  So, voila, instant family activity helping Dad recreate his past and present issues.  Some families go to museums for outings; we go over past illnesses, trials and tribulations.  Usually, right before a meal.

Sidebar:  For the record, today we went to a museum en famille.

Last Sunday, right before dinner, Dr. SOB (with SOS as her helper) did what she does “at the office”; she took a patient’s medical history.  This time it was Dad’s.  (Actually, she keeps a detailed one on each of us, but it was a good memory exercise for Dad.)  SOB helped SOS pronounce the words, like “emphysema,” etc.  Dad responded with the answers.  Then we corrected him on relevant issues.

But sometimes he didn’t hear that well.  SOS said “neurological” and Dad asked “urological?”  (I guess he does know his issues.)  In the middle of the recitation of possible respiratory ailments, I interjected, “hard of hearing?”  Even though I was on the other side of the room, Dad turned and said, “No, dear,” with a watch-yourself look.  Then, SOS was asking about skin ailments, and Dad (for whom none of these words is new) needed SOS and SOB to repeat them a few times.  So, I interjected, “hard of hearing?”  Dad shot me another look.  Ok, I don’t know when to stop.

The medical history was more arduous because my Dad was having trouble hearing or understanding.  So, from even farther away from him, I interjected, “some wine, anyone?”  “Yes, please,” Dad quickly responded.

He isn’t really hard of hearing.  Sometimes, he is practically deaf.  But, mostly, he is just tired of listening.

Life Imitating Art

Life Alert.  Remember when the company roared onto the home health care scene with the commercial about an old woman on the ground and yelling in a very nasal grandma voice, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up”?

That commercial went viral — as much as it could in the 1980s before YouTube.  The Company went so far as to copyright that line.  Today their commercials are more respectable and less kitschy.  Still, they are morbidly amusing until you have to send away for information on the product.

In order to keep Dad in his home on his own, we needed to get Dad the life alert system.   Because we absolutely want him to have a hands-free intercom into which he can yell if HE has fallen and can’t get up.

Life Alert still has its quirks.  One of the selling points for the product is that there is a total refund if the person dies within 3 years of signing-up for the service.  No questions asked. Other than maybe, “may we see the death certificate?”  So, actually, at least one question asked.

Sounds like a stupid business model, since people who get Life Alert are not in the best of shape when signing-up for the service.  What will that person need with the money?  The person is DEAD.  Maybe the company banks on the fact that no one will remember about the money-back guarantee.  I guess it is a shrewd calculation about the probability of dementia afflicting the survivors rather than the probability of an aged, infirm person surviving another three years.

I went to Dad’s house today to have lunch and to try to reintroduce him to the Internet.  About once a month, we try this.  He doesn’t type well, so he is unlikely to send an email.  He can’t get the hang of the left click/right click, one-click/two-click protocols even though he was previously able to navigate them.

We spent an hour practicing getting in and out of Google, getting in and out of email, etc.  He would set up the email and I would type for him.  Then he would click send a few extra times.  We sent (mostly unintentionally) multiple emails to SOB and BOB.  They responded.  Uh oh.  Now what?  “Dad, do you remember which is the reply icon?”  He nodded.  “Great, now click.”  “Dad, click once.  ONCE.  only ONCE.  Ok Ok ok ok ok ok ok. Let me get us back to the right screen.”  And so it went.

SOB emailed me, “I am plunking down a cool million that by tomorrow he will be blaming something about the computer that is not allowing him to send or pick up his emails.”  So, I called Dad and said, “remember to try again a few times tonight to make sure you have the email and Google thing down.”  Either he will declare defeat tonight (and then I win the bet) or he will make it work and not try again until Monday (in which case I win the bet).  Insider information.   SOB uses her powers for good.  Me, not so much.

Time for a nap.  Tomorrow, POB, SOS and I are taking Dad to the Met to look at the new American Wing.  More bloggable moments.

The Indignities of my Inner Bridezilla

I could write about the impending disasters in the Middle East, the despicable nature of politics generally, or the Super Bowl.  I could write about my utter despair at my dear aunt’s recent and precipitous medical decline or the crazy, sad moments at Sunday night dinner.  But no, let’s go for the total self-indulgent.

I have gray hair.  Lots of it.  I have worn each hair as a badge of honor and spoils of battles well fought (but mostly lost).  The ones in the front are courtesy of POB (partner of blogger).  The ones on either side of my head are gifts from SOS (our son, source of sanity).  The top gray, well, those are genetic.

Still, the salt and pepper is getting too salty.  I am ok with this.  Well, I WAS ok with this until I thought about the wedding.  SOS wants to walk the two of us down the aisle.  POB is blond (and even the color that lurks beneath is not gray yet). So, I had this picture in my mind’s eye of a young man, SOS, walking POB and this other person who looked his grandmother down the aisle.

There was a low rumble, that got steadily louder, and then rose to a roar:





I ran to the hairdresser for some “hair painting”.  POB and our hair dresser said it would only be a few strands here and there.  “Low lights,” they said.  Ok, I thought, having NO idea what that meant.

Sidebar:  A personal note to SNOBFOB (slightly neurotic obsessive about being identified as an FOB).  SNOBFOB, I am sorry.  Together, we pledged our allegiance to graying naturally.  But yours is beautiful and textured and I am getting married.

I went for my hair procedure on Friday.  I was busy emailing and not paying much attention to all the ministrations around me.  I looked up and I thought, “Oh, shit.  This is a full-on dye job!! I look like something out of Star Wars.  What have I done??!!!!!”

As horrified and embarrassed as I was, I needed to have our hair dresser take a picture:

I understand that this is self-inflicted public humiliation.  But when one is so self-righteous (as I was) about not fighting back the gray, I deserve a little humiliation.  You can see the utter despair in my body language.

I woke a sleeping Bridezilla and as a result, I need to knock her down with sedation.