Sounds of Silence

I don’t usually wear headphones in the subway and I try not to look at my emails or texts.  I like to be “in the moment” with the chaos and the subhuman conditions of the New York transit system.

It was Friday evening around 7pm. Maybe the slog of a week of work, the intense cold, the endless winter, the bleakness of the gray-black ice still on the streets were heavy on most of the passengers in the subway car.

Those are my guesses, but I don’t really know why the West Side 96th Street station was quiet and the subway car, too, was quiet.  Silent, actually.  I could feel the silence because I was not connected by headphones to another reality.

It was a rare moment of peace in the City That Never Sleeps (or Shuts Up).  In fact, it was a cosmic anomaly.

And then this bubble of peace was punctured by a man with a nervous laugh and a too-loud voice saying to his co-worker (I was following the thread since 42nd Street), “It is literally so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  Where did that saying come from?  The quiet is freaking me out a little.” [screechy giggle followed by senseless ramblings.]

Actually, dude, it wasn’t quiet anymore.  But your interruption of it made it so much sweeter by the contrast.

And the co-worker you were hitting on isn’t interested.  Just sayin’.

The Garden Gnome

I work in Rockefeller Center.  You know, the place in Midtown with the humongous Christmas tree. That august, old, and beautiful tree that was alive before someone decided to kill it to decorate Rockefeller Center.  Soon it will be mulch.  But I digress (of course).

Being a New Yorker with some compassion for tourists, I try to walk around (as opposed to through) a snapshot taken by one tourist of others.  Sometimes, I even offer to take a picture of the whole brood.  And I don’t cut off the one with the biggest hair, just for spite.  (Who says I have been naughty this year?)

But being in Rockefeller Center in December is like living your life on a rush-hour subway car.

As quickly as I dodge one photo op of tourists, I am captured in another.  My face appears in so many photos of treasured memories of strangers.  I am part of their New York experience.  So close to them; just sooooo not a part of their family or experience.

I was just trying to steamroll them so I could get to the subway faster.

But now I am a part of their photo albums.  Short and with a beard (ok, the beard is fake.)

That’s Aunt Garden Gnome to you, thank you very much.

images

Whoa, I need a shave and a wardrobe consult.

Tales of Aging in the City

It was, more or less, a typical Saturday.

SOB and I disposed of a week’s worth of scam mail that Dad receives.  Official-looking scams targeting the elderly.  Here is three days’ worth on its way to the shredder:  photo200Dad was affable enough about our rummaging through the house in search of mail and chucking it.  I guess he was hungry and wanted to see his pals at COTUD (Coffee Shop of the UnDead).

Yes, the Coffee Shop of the UnDead

(cue suspenseful music)

En route, we bumped into a man who was once our upstairs neighbor and our playmate 40 years ago.  His mother, who always seemed a lovely woman, still lives in Dad’s building and she is sick.  And he is taking care of her.  I wanted to think kind thoughts but he is a convicted pedophile.  He wanted to hug and kiss us all hello and I wanted to vomit.  I kept my distance.  I was so close to screaming and beating him about the head and face.

(Cue clip of Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order: SVU ‘cuffing him.)

He served some (not enough) time and was released.  As a citizen, I believe in a criminal justice system that gives convicts a second chance.  As a mother, I believe in the death penalty for pedophiles and other predators.

Sidebar:  Ain’t the old neighborhood great?  There are scary, bad secrets scattered all along the sun-soaked streets of the East Side.

I decided I didn’t need to remind my father of this former neighbor’s felonies.  I didn’t think Dad could process it.  There are some things Dad doesn’t need to remember.  I, of course, was thinking about castration.

We were late to COTUD.  I wondered if any of the regulars wondered whether Dad might be more than undead, as it were.

(cue suspenseful music)

No table for us.  It was bustling at COTUD.  But, because we are regulars and we don’t stay all afternoon, the management likes us.  So do the main waiters, Nick and Vassily.

Vassily asked an old woman with a walker to get up and move, so they could put tables together and accommodate us.  I was mortified.  I went over to the woman and apologized and thanked her.

(cue sadess about the indignities of being old in a fast-paced, youth obsessed world)

We saw Sam and his long-time companion, Norma, who were eating with Norma’s daughter and sons. We had never met Norma’s family.

(cue immediate suspicion)

It was good to see Norma out and about. She is frail.  As people grow older, their face lifts and other work seem so distorted against the natural aging (and sagging) of the rest of their bodies.   (Just a note to those who are considering “face work”.  Even her daughter’s face work could use a little — how do you say? — refreshment.)

Last time SOB saw Norma at the COTUD, they had a pleasant conversation, after which SOB overheard Norma say about Mom:

“Elsie was a special person.  It was the first time at a funeral that people used superlatives and they were true!”

(cue sigh and teary eyes)

Ok, so we love Norma.  And Sam.

Vassily didn’t even give us menus.  The only thing that needed to be said was “french fries, too”.

The fries came.  I offered them around.  Something was stuck to the underside of the plate.

It was gum. 

Peppermint gum. 

First, what cretin sticks gum on the underside of a plate and, second, what dishwasher doesn’t clean that?

And this place has an “A” health rating. 

(cue visions of the horror flicks like, ‘Wilbur,” about a killer rat.)

Ugh.  I scrubbed my hands raw in the less than Grade A bathroom.

Then Harvey came in.  He had to take a cab the 1.5 blocks from his apartment building to the diner because it was uphill and he has two canes.  (I saw him through the window.)

He took a table right next to us.  We greeted him warmly and asked about his wife and (now middle-aged) son.

Barbara, his wife, was at home.  “She has dementia and cysts on her legs.  But me, I turned 90 and I still work and drive!”

OMG. This is the second public menace we have met today.

I was worried about the driving thing but he can’t get in and out of a car without assistance, so I am pretty sure he doesn’t really drive.

He said to SOB, “you look great  — just the same — and still working hard, I am sure.”  He looked at me.  “You look different.”

Harvey, whom I never liked, was telling me I looked old.  I liked his wife, even with her screechy voice.  She was always making a jello mold.  She always had a bouffant “do”.  She perpetually lived in 1969.  Even in the 1990s, she brought jello molds to my parents’ Yom Kippur break fast.  By then, it was totally cool and retro.

By the end of lunch, SOB and I staggered out. Overwhelmed by the faint smell of peppermint.  Horrified at seeing the pedophile free among us.  Wistful about time gone by for Sam, Norma, Harvey, Barbara and Dad.

Dad, however, thought it was a fine time in the neighborhood.  And that is how it should be for Dad at 93.

ULOB

I had a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  No one else in my family did.

I was away and SOB wanted to protect me from the weekly crisis.

On Friday afternoon, ULOB was not answering his phone.  POULOB, panicked, called SOB.  SOB ran to ULOB’s fourth floor walk up in Hell’s Kitchen (where he lives in voluntary squalor).  She found him, half dead.  He had tripped on a cord and probably grabbed for the chair (with piles of stuff on it) and brought everything down on top of him.

SIDEBAR:  We had been begging him to use LifeAlert for so long.  But he is stubborn and independent.  You could buy him every gadget in the work and he won’t crack open the box, let alone wear it.  He doesn’t use an umbrella when it rains.  Why? “My father never did.”

ULOB had been lying there for quite a while (based on the level of dehydration).  Had SOB not gotten there when she did . . . .  Well, let’s just say that she found him in the nick of time.

SIDEBAR:  What a difference a day makes.  His friend Frank spoke to him on Thursday afternoon.  By Friday afternoon, his world had changed.  

SOB “unburied” him, got him water, and called an ambulance. She called BOB (who was in town, taking the Dad call) to meet her.  SOB rode in the ambulance.  BOB and POULOB came later.

Still, SOB did not call me.  She wanted me to have a fun weekend in Boston.  Even if she was left to deal with ULOB while the other adults were kicking back with cold ones.  Even holding back the the gross details of what happened to the urine-soaked pants, and ULOB’s aspiration of gross smoker’s phlegm.

Saturday afternoon, I turned my phone off after seeing my college friends.  I really wanted to disconnect a little.  What could happen in 12 hours?  Hell, I didn’t even know about the last 24 hours.

But during those 12 hours, when I went off the grid, that’s REALLY when SOB needed me.

ULOB worsened significantly as the pneumonia took hold and needed a ventilator.    Thank G-d for HOSOB who anchored SOB and kept ULOB entertained.

Sunday morning, the hotel phone woke me.  POB, who was having her own nightmarish weekend tending to her much-diminished and ornery father, called and said, “Call your sister.  It is not your Dad.”

I called SOB and got the download.  I hopped into my car and drove straight to the hospital.

When I arrived, ULOB was on the ventilator but he was alert, hungry and cranky.  In reasonable shape, all things considered.  We will take the future day by day.

Strong work, SOB.  From now on, I will sleep with my phone beside my ear.  I will never let you go through an episode like this again without me right next to you.

Seinfeld and the Gang — Part 3: The Love Hangover

Every generation has its sci-fi flick about hell having no fury like an artificially intelligent computer scorned.

And, because I am partial to women, my own personal horror flick would probably have a robot/computer who looks like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (www.imdb.com/title/tt0093010/).

NOTE TO ALL:  I really do not spend much time thinking about this.  Really.  No, really!!

All I can say is welcome to our new family relationship with mini storage.  On Saturday, both my cousin and I engaged (grudgingly) in the ceremonial coma-signing of more paper than anyone could imagine for less than 100 square feet of real estate (even in New York).  On Tuesday (today), we were both sent TWO questionnaires about the quality of service and attention and our overall experience when renting the storage space.  I guess the computer really wants to feel the love.  Whoa.

SIBEBAR:  Maybe, my cousin, who is straight, would agree on my choice of Glenn Close.  Note to self: ask cousin about his ideal pyscho stalker.  P.S.: try not to freak him out by the question.

We exchanged ooked-out emails about the incredible attention paid to our mere rental, albeit on the NEW 9th floor of the facility.

SIDEBAR:  I am thinking about the movie adaptation:  trapped with the devil on a non-existent floor of an apartment building . . . maybe a twist on Rosemary’s Baby?  Paging Mia Farrow (even if you looked like a pre-adolescent boy in that movie and really DID marry Woody Allen).

I told my cousin that maybe he should have thought to send flowers and candy, because they know where we live.  He did not respond to that email.

SIDEBAR:  I am thinking that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will freak him out.  I already have.

But, hey, I am still not as scary as a computer in need of love and affection.

 

Seinfeld Gang and me, Part II

Picking up from the prior blog entry:

SOB and I park the car and go to AROB’s house.  POB meets us there.  Our cousin and his wife are already packing things up.  This is a hoarder’s home.  Don’t look too closely.  POB had to leave in short order.

photo(6)

 

We box up anything and everything of value — sentimental or otherwise.  We load into the BIG F’ING rental car and we all drive down to the storage place.

SIDEBAR:  Did we ever determine whether I needed a trucker’s license and a tattoo?

I had two emails from Alan Dumpit, my reservation number and the memories of two inane conversations to poison my mood as soon as the guy behind the counter welcomed us, and wanted to understand our storage needs.

“I told this all to Alan Dumpit!”

“Why are you not smiling at me?  This is all good.  Alan isn’t here and I want to welcome you and make sure you are getting what you want.”

“I want a storage room big enough to store a one bedroom apartment equivalent of stuff.”  [Of course, if we were talking about all the stuff crammed into that apartment, then I would need a McMansion sized locker.]

“Who is renting the storage space?”

OMG.  SOB doesn’t understand why I am foaming at the mouth.  She doesn’t know the whole back story.  [Until she read it last night in the last blog entry.]

“I am, but it will be under my cousin’s name.”

“So, I should be talking to your cousin,” and, as he turns, I realize my poor cousin is a sitting duck, “Let’s discuss what your needs are . . . .”

After I watch my cousin endure the “creation of the storage relationship” phase for 30 minutes, I take pity and I interpose my credit card between the men and offer to move on to the paying ceremony.

photo(3)

Oh no no no no.  We had not begun the ceremonial paper signing phase of the new relationship.  That required two storage consultants to get the papers and involved initialing obscure provisions everywhere in the documents.  My cousin and I were not exactly robo-signing; I think we were more probably coma-signing. I was waiting for incense, holy water and Aaron’s priestly blessing.

And, of course it was a very, very special day because, we were told, it was the grand opening of the 9th floor of the building.  Still, no discount; instead, overpoweringly toxic paint smells and near-deafening drilling noise.

Finally, we were all initiated into the storage community, complete with the ceremonial handing over of the dead bolt.  I was, in fact, a little disappointed about the absence of incense, holy water and Aaron’s priestly blessing (especially since the latter is in this week’s Torah portion).

We ran to claim the dollies to haul the stuff. Or, rather, we ran FROM the storage consultants.  We unloaded the behemoth of a car and did a quite respectful send-up to Four Stooges and The Marx Brothers, as we dropped boxes, scraped the newly painted walls and drew a little blood from each of us.  The race to the elevators from different aisles was kind of fun, too.

Finally, the FAB FOUR put Aunt R’s valuables and effects in a safe (if toxic) place and closed that dead bolt, baby.  (SOB, photographer.)photo(2)Relief and laughter broke out as we got back into the BIG CAR, and I asked, “any other justice need dispensing? We have the car until tomorrow!”

To review:

  1. AROB was buried by two cornerstones of family (her chosen family and her family of origin) in a plot that will have her headstone.  CHECK
  2. ULOB’s rights, etc., are resolved.  CHECK
  3. AROB’s sister is being looked after and my cousin and his wife are rehabilitating the souls of a generation who neglected her.  CHECK
  4. Apartment to be given back to Landlord.  HALF CHECK  (some things need to happen still)
  5. My cousin needs his well-deserved, if surprising, inheritance.  OPEN

SOB and I will be there to help with the last points.

SIDEBAR:  But first, after this day, we needed some wine and hors d’oeuvres.

We will be there to help because our cousin and his wife are good and kind people who are generous with their time and concern.   And by helping AROB’s sister, they (who are not Jewish) are doing charity in AROB’s name as is Jewish custom.

And I think for SOB and me, through this excruciating process, we have accepted that AROB had flaws that recalibrate our views of her present but don’t tarnish our visions of her as a hero of our youth.  I know I have gone from harshly judgmental to willing to allow that there may facts I will never know that may be kinder to AROB’s choices.

This week, we will tackle Item 4.

Stay tuned.

 

The Seinfeld Gang and me, PART 1

SOB 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: Aunt R. is buried.  Her undead sister 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 ersatz 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.  I can’t let you pay for the lawyers —-“

“[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 interests, and you have rehabilitated the souls of that entire generation by visiting [undead sister] because, at long last, someone claimed her as family.  So, let me get the storage.  Really, this is easy.”

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

 

Mother’s Day Weekend

Dear Mom:

I miss you and, just between us, Mother’s Day is really all about you.

But CLSFOB (camp/law school FOB) helped me reach an epiphany.  We were talking before the weekend (she, too, is a mom) and she wished me a happy Mother’s Day.

I, of course, responded:

“It is about my mom and she is gone.”

“Wow, so [SOS] doesn’t celebrate you or anything?  It is just a sad day?”

“Well, I didn’t mean it that way…”

SIDEBAR:  Ok, yes, yes, I did.

“But he should be able to celebrate!! Does he feel the heaviness?”

SIDEBAR: OK, CLSFOB, I get it.  Sheeeesh.  I should introduce you to SNOBFOB. 

“Move on, Counselor, you’ve made your point.”

I was getting testy because CLSFOB hit a chord.  But she was right.  

So, this weekend, I have tried to be more open to taking my position as MOM on Mother’s Day. And it feels good.  Ok, not so good, but better than I thought.  But I am not going to say that CLSFOB is right again.  Nope.  Not gonna do that.

To tell you the truth, I feel a little like a mom with Dad.  And I think SOB does, too.

I had the “Dad call” this weekend.  SOB was in the ICU and saving lives (just not ours).  So, I had lunch with Dad on Saturday and we all went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art today.

I chronicle the days so BOB and SOB feel like they were there.  The emails are entitled “This Day in Dad”:

“Dear [SOB] and [BOB]:

I had lunch with Dad today. Dad tried to hide those scam solicitations [that target the elderly] from me when I picked him up. But I commenced a search and rescue mission with critical help from [home aide]. I rescued Dad from an entire shopping bag’s worth of scams and shams. In the midst of the junk, there were important papers. Aaargh.

We may need new night people. They do nothing apparently and Dad cleans up after them. They don’t help him with personal hygiene. That’s a big part of the job.  But, I don’t know if I can deal with trying out new people.  I am tired just thinking about that process.

Worked up an appetite by the time we got to the Coffee Shop of the Undead. I ordered a large Greek salad and a hamburger deluxe and the waiter asked if we expecting another person. I replied that I am quite hungry and quite capable of finishing both before my companions finished their meals. I didn’t disappoint.

Dad wondered why Sam wasn’t at the coffee shop.  I had a moment:  was Sam no longer UNdead?  But, phew, it turns out that he is still alive, but failing unfortunately.

We had a perfectly lovely lunch. After I left, he handed [home aide] a sweepstakes envelope with a check in it to mail. He didn’t want me to see it. So he is not as clueless as everyone thinks. She called me and I told her not to mail it.

Then, because I am a glutton for punishment, I went to ULOB’s bank branch to get more information for AROB’s nephew so he can have a proper paper trail of what was transferred to ULOB when AROB died.  I get why he is stressed out but I really want to introduce him to some “chill” meds.  Now I feel bad thinking that because it turns out he was spending the day with AROB’s newly discovered UNdead sister in the psychiatric facility.  He is a good and kind man. I am not as good and kind.

End of Report.

Love, [Blogger]”

Of course, these emails engender discussion:  BOB wants me to take away his checks (I did that once before and he just went to the bank and got more) because he can’t discern good charities from bad ones and he likes to enter sweepstakes. BOB worries that Dad is well intentioned but vulnerable and impaired.  SOB observes (correctly) that he likes to feel generous with charities but maybe he will accept some oversight (not so confident about this part of the assessment).  I think that he really needs to conserve resources but I cannot take away his checks but I don’t want him to think he is running out of money.  Too emasculating.  With no more emails flying, the debated ends.  Because I have the final say (for now), I render a reasoned decision (for now).

Decision for the day (mine):  We continue to run a loose ship, with BOB dissenting.  I have no extra time to be the enforcer.  It will not be perfect.  It just has to work.  Most of the time.  We will review the status quo weekly and re-calibrate as necessary. Signed, [Blogger], President of Dad, Inc.

*********************************************************************************************

Today, we had a great time at the Met.  SOS walked a lot with Dad.  They are quite bonded.  I can imagine how happy you would be seeing them together.

After the Met, we went to a coffee shop that just doesn’t cater to the Undead.  What a nice change in scenery, but the turn-over in big tables was not as fast.  At this coffee shop, the patrons probably buy green bananas.

********************************************************************************************

So, after almost 11 years, this was my first Mother’s Day where I accept wearing that mantle.  I will never forget you on Mother’s Day or on any other day, ever.  It is just that being mom to SOS and in loco parentis to Dad may entitle me to an honorable mention today and a little celebration.  Then, again, SOS didn’t make cards, so I tortured him and now I am not such a good mom.

I love you,

Blogger

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.