Daddy’s Angels (but our devils)

Once an elder needs care, it is not so easy as having loving people come into the house and care for him or her.

No, you have given birth to a family unit, with individuals perhaps older than you.  Your elder has new kids.  No, this is not science fiction. This, THIS, is the new normal.

Dad has four aides — two share the 12-hour day shift and two share the night shift.  Everything revolves around his care.  Dad is a lovely man and three out of the four aides have become attached to him, and he to them.  The fourth one does her job.  And that is all we ask.

But in the fight over who is the favorite and who takes the best care of Dad, there is palace intrigue.  They check up on each other and rat out each other.  As if Dad is some power broker, rather than a jovial, yet clueless man.

So, these last 14 months, I have had to intervene, referee and speak with any number of supervisors in order to keep Dad’s routine the same.  Because we, as a family, do not believe that a night aide who is competent, but not warm and fuzzy, should lose her job because she and Dad don’t “connect”.  But there have been “cleanliness” issues and Dad is decidedly uncomfortable with her.  Reasons enough to make changes but we resisted, out of respect for a person’s right to earn a living.

Now, there is a battle royale between the aide of whom Dad is most fond and the one of whom he is least fond.  For those of you who are old enough to remember, think Linda Evans and Joan Collins in Dynasty.

You can imagine how little patience one can have for this when it is playing out in my life.  Sometimes I wonder if I am on Jerry Springer, i.e., Shit Time in the Day Time.  (Is he still around?)

In the end, we set out clearly both our priorities and must-haves with the agency.  And what will make us go to another care provider.

I want everyone to keep their jobs.  But Dad needs to be happy.  And so I was forced to prioritize jobs and positions.  In life, my parents have erred on the side of preserving peoples’ jobs, even if it meant less for our family.  I followed suit in the Great Recession (some called me a schmuck, but I can look in the mirror and only worry about wrinkles).

The problems started almost at the beginning, and I needed to make a decision.  If the internecine battles cannot be resolved, then I voted one off the island.  (Or whatever, the reality TV lingo is; now you know the cerebral punishment that is worst than death.)

I am good with my decision.  But I am sad about having to make it.  But I will stand by it, especially face-to-face with the reassigned aide.  Because I owe the aid that respect.

Maintaining Dad’s world is too important.  But not without unintended consequences arising out of new situations and relationships.

Nothing in this life is easy.  But the saving grace is that Dad doesn’t even have to know.

He can walk blithely on, happy and kibbitzing with his attendants during the day and sleep as well as possible in the night.  And, at long last, after all Mom and he did for us, this is the least we can do for him.

But I didn’t know making this type of decisions in this economy was in the bargain.

Dad is fine; my soul is diminished in the process. This is the reality of caring for the elderly and the infirm. The new world that needs the brave (and the compassionate and the guilty).


SIDEBAR:  Visiting day at camp with SOS was great.  More about that later.

On Saturday evening, I spoke with SOB about ULOB’s status.  It was critical enough to get in the car at 6pm, after a long (and wonderful) day with SOS at camp, to drive 5 hours home to New York City.

End of life can be harsh, unforgiving and terrifying.

Today, I met SOB at the hospital at 10am-ish.  I had packed my gym clothes, planned to stop by the office, see Dad and get ready for a Sunday late afternoon wedding.

But ULOB didn’t look so good.  I felt a foreboding aura.

Life in the hospital continues to move along, no matter whose heart is still beating.  At 10:30am, in his room, the intercom interrupted my panic.  “Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.  Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.”  

After SOB called POULOB to say that things were looking grim, I decided to walk around the corridors of the hospital, for “fresh” air.  A disturbed woman was walking around and I thought I could help her by pointing her to the other side of the floor — the Addiction Unit.

SIDEBAR:  I later learned that what I surmised was a drug issue was actually the absence-of-psyhotropic-drugs issue.

She found her former girlfriend’s room.  But the putative father of the former girlfriend’s baby was there as well.  Apparently, the disturbed woman had put her former giirlfriend in the hospital.  Upon seeing the boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, the woman grabbed a mop as a weapon.  When that weapon was taken away, she reached for a glass vase and threw it at the former girlfriend.  And then another.  SOB was within range and I could not get to her — there was a battle line between us.  Security, the cops, crazy calls from the jilted woman threatening to kill the ex-girlfriend patient followed.  “She’s coming back.  She ain’t stupid.  She’s psychotic.  Why you think I broke up with her!”

And, in a room in the midst of a war zone, lay my uncle not so gently dying of complications from a fall.  His lungs were full of fluid and no antibiotic was helping.  He was not lucid.

12:00 noon:  “Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.   Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.”  

SIDEBAR:  Who is Mildred and why is she MIA?  And why did her parents name her that?

ULOB’s breathing became increasing labored.  Sometimes he looked like he was in sheer terror and I told him to squeeze my hand, and he squeezed so hard that I felt faint.

Other times, I think he was in a different time and place.  At one point, I said, “Am I Elsie?” referring to my mother, his sister.  He nodded and calmed a bit.  He had happy memories with Mom.

But mostly there was desperation at not being able to catch his breath.  Regardless of the oxygen in his nose and the medicines coursing through his veins, ULOB couldn’t swallow, couldn’t breathe easily and couldn’t shake the pneumonia that developed in his lungs.  He was in a death spiral.

1:00pm:  “Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.   Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.”  

Mildred, for G-d’s sake, please answer the page or quit.  You have been AWOL for hours!!!

POULOB arrived in the time it took for my to drive from the middle of Cape Cod to Stamford, Connecticut.  (3 hours.)

ULOB perked up when POULOB came.  POULOB didn’t want to understand the severity of the situation.  She wanted to know what to tell his friends when she went dancing tonight, as ULOB and POULOB often did.

SOB, POULOB and I took turns holding his hands and reassuring him.

3:30pm: The ex-girlfriend patient was at the nurse’s station retelling the story to anyone who wanted to hear what happened.  Needless to say, many patients in hospital garb with open flaps were in the hallway to hear the story that proves life is a carnival (i.e., a freak show).

5:00pm:  “Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.   Mildred, please call the nurse’s station.”  

Really, Millie?

5:30pm:  ULOB had some chivalry left in him.  He didn’t fall of the cliff, as it were, until POULOB left.

SOB and I held his hands and whispered gently in his ears that we loved him and he was safe as his breathing got shallower, and as he got less agitated, thanks to modern medicine.

6:00pm:  “Shia, wakey, wakey!!”  ULOB’s roommate was asleep for too long and needed some exercise.  Earlier, another inmate had come by, looking to be amused by the man who talks to himself.  But Shia was sleepy, sleepy.

Note to self: if there are no private rooms, go to a different hospital.

In the cacophony of the world, ULOB’s breathing got slower and the blueness of death was in his fingers.

Slowly, gently, quietly, ULOB left this world living life on his terms, except for these last ten days.

Time of death: 7:15pm.

Rest in peace, Uncle Larry.

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.


More on role reversal

My daily mantra:  “It is what it is”.  Nope, not the serenity prayer.  Serenity doesn’t accomplish the gritty tasks of daily life.  And the serenity prayer implies I am good with the some of the things that children or nieces and nephews should never have to know about their elders.

First, family secrets are meant to be kept secret.  That is why they were secrets in the first place.  Because no one would understand and the younger generation would be saddened.  Not horrified (because this is 2013) but saddened about these lives as they had to be lived.  (No, I am not talking about Dad.  OTHER relatives in our care.)

The list of things I don’t need to know about my relatives (not my Dad):

  • that the bed linen was changed some time in the early part of the last century;
  • that elders can continue live in filth, even if they are part of “good families” and fight change;
  • that testosterone levels are low (ok, this is a good thing); and
  • every little detail about urinary tract and colon activity, with visuals.

Now comes the mantra:  “It is what it is.”

And SOB and I are the new sheriffs in town and so we need to invoke base level sanitary standards, base level responsiveness to our calls (other than just in times of crisis), and full capitulation to our will and our loving vision of how they will live out the remainder of their lives.  Because, although they didn’t ask for it (exactly), they understand that they need us.

Here is my bottom line:

If I need to know family secrets that disgust me and deal with facts on the ground that gross me out, there is a quid pro quo: Disobey SOB’s and my benevolently despotic decrees at your peril.

Because “it is what it is” is more than a phrase to live by; it is a threat AND a promise.


Lunchtime in the Coffee Shop of the Living Dead

I went down for a quick lunch with Dad.  We went to a nearby place that isn’t good, has bad service and smells like a bad diner.  But it is popular for the over-senile/decrepit set because it is a close walk from many once-bustling-high-rises-now-de-facto-old-age-homes (welcome to the Sutton Place area).   At the diner, there is a special area for canes and walkers, once the elder has been seated.  There are less chairs available than one would think necessary because — well — the proprietors need to accommodate wheelchairs. 

Dad looks better than most there. 

As we are looking at the menu, he says, “I don’t remember when I last had a hamburger.” 

Sidebar:  I think BUT DO NOT SAY, “Of course, you don’t remember, Dad.  It was last Saturday when we had this same conversation at the other diner, you know the one that is far enough away so there are fewer undead people there?  You had a hamburger.”

Still, Dad sometimes surprises me by retaining information from one day to the next.  “How was POB’s job interview?” he asked.  Whoa, POB told him about it on Thursday.  Awesome job, Dad.

I know many of the peope in the Diner of the Living Dead from the neighborhood.  I grew up here.  One, who is Dad’s friend, came over and wanted to talk to me only, almost ignoring Dad and Dad’s health aide (are people invisible?). 

Odd because he is usually a warm and friendly, if homophobic, guy. 

He was clearly in despair.  He needed home heath care information for his companion of decades.  Her kids were handling matters without talking to him and he didn’t know what to do.  He didn’t even bother to brag about his daughter’s life as a married, wealtlhy, successful, procreative heterosexual.  Now, that was a red flag for how the situation has deteriorated.

I listened and gave him what information I could.  He seemed unable to cope with the little I was able to offer.  I will follow up with him but I think he needs care, too. 

Sidebar: I might have to call his daughter.  I will start the conversation with, “as a married, well-to-do (before the crash), successful (before the crash), procreative (after a fashion) homosexual to you, the person I was supposed to be: get your ass back to New York and take care of your dad.” 

After the conversation, Dad said in a sad but resigned way, “he doesn’t look or sound so good.”  I nodded. 

And then I screamed so Dad could hear (relying on the deafness of those around me):

“Dad, you are doing so much better and you had a brain bleed that shorted out some electricity!!” 

We are nothing if not blunt.

This Week in Dad

Over the course of the week, Dad’s physical and mental state has improved at a miraculous rate.  He is the comeback kid. But he will never be the same or independent.  He tires quickly and when he is tired, he is confused.  

I learned many things this week about my father and me. 

Lesson 1:  I am in mourning for the end of his independence. 

He still thinks he can be independent again, which is uplifting and heartbreaking in the same moment.   

Lesson 2: Temporary is as temporary does. 

Dad kibbitzes with his home attendants.  He seems rather fond of them and they seem to dote on Dad.  But there is only one person with whom Dad will share a home and Mom is gone.  So, while these home attendant are a diversion for now, he views the situation as a temporary, necessary intrusion into his life.  But, I know temporary lasts until, looking back, you realize it was permanent.   So temporary is fine, as long as it is, in fact, permanent.

Lesson 3:  Unconditional love is tested both ways when a parent is declining.

I imagine we will have numerous conversations about whether and how much assistance he needs and some will not go well.  At some point in his miraculous recovery, my fiercely independent and proud father will be displeased  — righteously indignant, actually — at being told that the 24/7 care will not end.  And he will not understand our insistence on it.  And deep down he will know that we are in control.  Will he know that we are doing what we think is best and that we do what we do because we love him?  I never want Dad to feel let down by his kids.

Lesson 4:  I need to be the Grinch who stole Christmas.

It is my job to look for the chinks in his armor, to make sure that we have the systems in place to control for his deficits.  While I can be thrilled at his recovery, I cannot get lulled into a relaxed mindset.  His safety depends on my being the doomsday sayer.

Lessons 1 – 4 all together:  Being a parent to my father is among the scariest, saddest and most important roles of my life.


Things I learned today (and Phoenix was awesome)

I learned why the health care debate is bullshit.  It is sterile and removed from reality.

When a family member is ill and you cannot care for him or her, you must rely on strangers.  Strangers are not always reliable; not because they don’t want to do their jobs but because there are so many in need that your loved one is not necessarily the first on the list.

So, health care is flawed.  It is a morass.  It is frustrating.  It isn’t the well-intentioned attendant’s fault; it isn’t the overwhelmed agency’s fault; it isn’t the government’s fault.  (Sure there are bad people out there, but let’s discount that factor for a moment.)  Illness is at fault.  It is a problem that we are not all health care professionals who can leave our jobs to care for our loved ones.   Forget Federal Medical Leave Act during bad economic times.  Most people are too scared that there will be some other pretext for the employer to fire them.

When you delegate, you lose control of the outcome.  That is why there was poison in toothpaste imported from China.  That is why we throw away electronics when they stop working because it is cheaper to buy new than to fix the old.

People don’t fit into an economic model.  There is value in keeping people healthy; there is joy in adding quality to the waning years.  There is pain when science keeps the body going after the mind and soul have left.

I have lived the cushy private system for only a few days and it is hell.  When a patient can’t help him or herself, then it doesn’t matter who is providing the service.  If you are lucky, you can telecommute and keep an eye on the situation and reassure your loved one, with your words, hell, with just your presence.  But most people are not so lucky.

So, don’t talk to me about vouchers or Medicare or the Great Solution.  When your family member is in need, there are no good answers.


Dad remembered my name today.  He was true to his word last night.  He also remembered a host of other crazy facts and information.  We all thought he earned that scotch tonight with his hors d’oeuvres.  (Ok, let’s be honest, club soda with a splash of the good stuff.)  Clap if you agree.  (Yes, we hear you.  Thanks.)

Don’t bet against Phoenix.  He is roaring from the ashes.

In a flash

It is day three of the second worst ordeal of my life.  The first was the death of my mother.

On Monday, Dad came to Rosh HaShanah luncheon — cheery as always, gracious as always, happy to be with family, as always.  Lest you think he was an angel on earth, he did hold forth as to matters of politics, HOSOB’s painting, or poorly behaved people in his congregation.  He doesn’t say anything in a catty way; as to the latter category, he merely sees their inadequacies as explanation of their behavior.

As the lunch wound down, we all said our goodbyes.  We all kissed and hugged Dad and wished him a happy and healthy new year.  He wished us the same with a force that can only come from a parent to child.  It was not unusual.  No portents of the coming events.

SOB and I often talk about that one day when Dad is late to a dinner or doesn’t pick up the phone.  That one day when Dad leaves us.  We always wanted it to be quick and painless – a coda for a life well-lived and a fortunate man who shared his good fortune with others.

We were not prepared for a call that Dad collapsed in the street (on his way to a doctor’s appointment) and had a huge contusion on his head and some bleeding into his brain.  SOB and I rushed to the hospital.  As the day wore on, the confusion seemed more pronounced and settled.  He knows us but he doesn’t really except that he is calm with us and he trusts us.  So, there is some comprehension through the haze.  And his essential personality is intact.  He is a lovely man and the nurses are happy to take care of someone who says please and thank you and generally grateful for the help.

Dad is in ICU and there is a kids’ playroom, so the nurse gave us a ball to throw with him that first day.

Final score:  Reflexes: 90%;  Cognition: 0%; His humanity: 100%.

For day two, he mostly slept, with notable interruptions of bursts of songs from the Big Band years.  The nurses love it but, then again, they haven’t heard Dad’s limited set for as many years as we have.  Late that night he got confused and fell.

Day three started with physical therapy.  He can walk, with assistance.  He had a vague sense of POB and me.   He quickly fell back to asleep.  He slept through an echo-cardiogram (which looked good even to a non-doctor).  He had another round of physical therapy.  He walked fast and steady.  And he did call SOB by name (no, he does not call his eldest daughter “SOB”).  I hope the anti-seizure medication will wear off because it is adding to his confusion.  He seems to remember us by name now.  A few minutes have passed.  Ok, not so much any more. Reflexes: 30%; Cognition: 0.5%; His humanity: steady at 100%.

But wait there is more.  Today, the Kumbaya Guitar Lady/The Singing Nun came by because she heard that Dad likes to sing.  Fortunately, he slept through it.  We, however, could not.

While Dad slept, we spoke with nursing services and got things in order for Dad.

Then I called his long term care carrier.  After one hour of terrible telephone music, only interrupted by being transferred from claims to intake to woman from hell, I learned that long term care kicks in after 100 days of 24/7 care diagnosis.

“So, if Dad is still alive, we’ll talk,” I said.

“Oh, no, someone will contact you in 5 business days to go over everything we just went over.”

“But we just went over everything, didn’t we? And what if I am unavailable when the  call comes?”

“No problem, m’am, you can schedule the call.”

OK, I thought, let’s schedule a call for a hypothetical need that 3.5 months from now and they won’t pay the full freight. “Great, mornings are best for me —“

“Oh, no, m’am,” she interrupted, “you can’t schedule with ME.  When you missed the first call, you can call back to reschedule.  But we promise that we will make the first call within 5 business days.”

Oh, great.  “Take your time, really,” I said.

It was 5 pm on a Friday and the private nurse service hasn’t called.  So I called the service.

“Your call is important to us so please continue to hold, or if you would like, leave a message and we will return the call in 30 minutes.”

Really?  Nah.  So, I wait on the line.   After hearing those words not less than 9 times, I have imagined that the recording said, “if you are a patient and have died while waiting for us to answer, please accept our condolences.”  Actually, they were lovely when I finally reached a human.

So now we need to have someone manage the care that Dad needs.  A house manager, as it were.  We can sit with him and talk to him and feed him, but fill out the forms?  Are you kidding me?

So, SOB, POB and I chat while Dad is sleeping.  We discuss that HOSOB should bring the painting that Dad critiques and tell Dad that he won’t change the size of the car in the street scene.  Just get it off his chest.  Or maybe HOSOB can tell Dad about the dangers of fracking, because while we agree with him, we don’t need the details.  At least not now, when we can only focus on Dad and, possibly, showering and brushing our teeth.

BOB arrived and we sat with Dad through dinner and for a while afterward.  Dad was awake but confused.  BOB got to do the manly things that we girls hesitate to do so as to give Dad some privacy and dignity.

Sidebar:  BOB asked Dad if he was sleeping well in the hospital, and Dad nodded yes.  This surprised BOB because unfortunately he has been hospitalized a few times and can never get a good night’s sleep.  SOB offered matter-of-factly, “sleeping well in a hospital requires a brain injury”.  We say the craziest things when we have to wear hair-nets and sterilized robes, while sitting on in our Dad’s room in the ICU Burn unit because there are no beds in regular ICU.  All these plastic surgeons running around and my father is in bad shape and I have to stop from thinking, “should I ask someone about my droopy eyelids?”

So, what have we learned today: brain bleeds are bad but if you have one you can sleep soundly in a hospital and everyone looks ugly in hair-nets.  Was this knowledge really necessary? Nooooooooooooooooo.

I always worried how Dad would die.  But I never worried that there would be anything left unsaid.  I am lucky that way.

Something. Anything.

Some days (ok, weeks), I feel in suspended animation, waiting for a sign, a direction, something.  I don’t think it is just me alone; the news, the economy, the pundits all talk about uncertainty and the absence of bold action.  Universal stagnation.

The Eurozone has been on the verge of collapsing, or recovering, for months.  Every day, European leaders are frantically accomplishing nothing while “contagion” threatens to spread.  

And who let Cyprus into the euro-zone?  Aren’t Greece and Turkey still fighting over that island?  Does it really need a bail-out or did it just get in line because it didn’t want to be left out of all the fun?

And, of course, we on the other side of the big pond are frightened and our markets volatile and businesses unsure. 

So we sit.  And we wait.  This is like watching a documentary on the Black Death Plague in slooooooow moooooootion. 

And the Supreme Court doesn’t often hand down a landmark decision that also tosses a curve ball into a presidential election (ok, other than in 2000) and so the Supremes are teasing this out to the very last day.  Ok ok ok, Messrs. and Mses. Justices, we all agree that you are so fabulous and powerful.  Now, give us the f%@#ing decision, ok?

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why some of the Justices don’t like broccoli so much, and why that seems absurdly relevant to the court decision. 

And then there is Taxmaggedon: the economic cliff that our nation slides off on January 1, 2013.  We spent too much on our national credit card and still no one wants to admit that, first, we need to pay the bill and, then, we can shoot the spendthrifts.

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why every event has to have a catchy (or actually not-so-catchy) name in order to signal that it is a big deal.  Taxmaggedon is apparently catchier than “elected officials not doing their jobs and compromising for the good of our nation and our economy”.  I think “Operation Nero” might be better, althought Congress is playing with something other than its collective fiddle.

And then there are Syria and Iran.  Syria has a vague “window of time” until it implodes with civil war.  Iran has a vague “window of time” before it can explode a nuclear bomb.  What should we do?  And when?

So we sit.  And we wait. And what does a window have to do with time, anyway?  And if it turns out we blew that window with Iran, do I really need to keep saving for retirement or going to the gym?

I could go on.  (No, really, I could.)  And I fear that either the resolutions that won’t come or, if they do, they give rise to more questions and more uncertainty.  

Sooo, I’m sittin’ and I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ . . . .


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.