Sunday, August 5, 2012

180 Minutes

It’s only been two weeks. He’ll remember me, right?  I see him more often than anyone else--well, not his caregivers, but other then them, I definitely see him the most.  He’ll remember. I’m a good daughter. He’ll remember. When I arrive to find him hanging up his shirt, he looks at me and says nothing. His eyes are searching mine, darting back and forth. After a moment he says, quietly, “Hi.”

I don’t think he remembers.

While he gets ready, I straighten his closet, I re-fold his sweaters, I collect his junk mail, I throw away a pile of rubber bands he has collected on his dresser, I think for a moment maybe I shouldn't, I chat with his caregivers, I head to Target for something they tell me he needs.  I try to think of other things I can do, and instead sit down for a cup of coffee.

I wonder what the caregivers think of me.

I return to find Dad dressed, but part of his clothes are inside out. His face is shaved sporadically. His hair is noticeably thinner than the last time I saw him.  When he bends over to tie his shoes, I can’t stop looking at the top of his head.  I want to reach out and touch it, but I don’t. Instead, I offer to help him shave the stubborn hairs he couldn’t get rid of.  He agrees, and I’m struck by how accommodating he is.  He just doesn’t mind.  It occurs to me he’s losing his mind, but before he does, he gets to lose his car, his home, his freedom to just go outside and take a walk. I’m the one who gets to tell him those things are gone. Yet, he smiles and agrees to whatever I suggest. He trusts me.

I want to run out of the room, cry, and punch someone really hard.

He lifts his head, juts out his neck and appropriately scrunches his face while I shave it.  I wonder if the kind of sweetness I find in this moment is what a mother feels when helping her child. I praise him, joke with him about the stubborn hairs that have taken on a life of their own, and ask him to help me in ways I know he’ll succeed.

I want a million more moments like this and try to make it last as long as possible.

A caregiver comes into his room to ask if he wants to join in a game of bingo.  He has somewhere to go, he explains, and he’ll be back later.  He’s going out with his daughter.  I suggest we might go to Bob Evans. He repeats it, proudly, to the caretaker. “We’re going to Bob Evans. “

All I can think is that he called me five days ago and begged me to help him move away from this place. 
I tell him I have a special surprise, and I can’t wait to show it to him. He smiles and says, “Did you get a car?”  He knew, and I didn’t even have to tell him.  He is still here, but it only lasts a moment. We go across the street for dinner and he reads the menu, but doesn’t remember what the words mean. He asks me what meatloaf is, and he wonders aloud what chicken fried steak tastes like. He is talkative, and explains to me me over and over again that his dinner has "big pieces of chicken." I know if I ask him if he's ready to go, that's when he'll ask me questions, thinking of ways to have dinner last longer.  

I ask him if he's ready to go.

We drive back to his home at the memory care neighborhood, and he stands by his seat, waiting to hug me. I’m walking out, and I hear him talking.  “That’s my daughter.  She just got a new car.”  I turn around in time to see one of his neighbors smiling and nodding, listening to him.  I walk out the door and head out to the car. I head home, where I know my husband will be waiting to hear which one of the two days this was.
It was a good day.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Advice Gains Meaning, 26 Years Later

This post shared by my friend Ryan inspired me to ponder my 12-year-old psyche and what I would say now to who I was then. In remembering what was important to me at that time, I realized many strange connections to who I would later become.

Dear Andrea,

I know you hate your name but don't a few years your dream will come true and you'll finally get to live vicariously as Molly Ringwald's character in Pretty in Pink. You'll grow lousy with teen angst from not fitting in, you'll settle in to your record store job, and you'll own your very own Duckie. Right on cue, you'll break his heart, and years from now you will still remember your senior prom as one of the best nights of your life, thanks to him.

But first, you'll have to survive high school. Yes, it will be worse than getting glasses, worse than getting braces (spoiler alert!) and even worse than that summer vacation Mom and Dad forced you to spend in Williamsburg, Virginia. I just want you to be prepared when the demon who doubles as your human sister is voted Ms. Personality, when the entire student body forgets your name on the class t-shirt, and when your best friend passes you a note just before graduation, telling you she no longer wants to be your friend at all. Sorry if this is overwhelming, but there's more. The same goes for your first job, at Arby's. It will, indeed, crush your soul. Ironically, you will continue to crave Arby's sauce well into your 30's, despite the fact that your career in roast beef will come to a cold, calculated end by your thieving, moronic boss. The good news is, you'll be inspired to write the story, and many others from your youth, which will help you land a job as an advertising copywriter.

Be proud; you've made some good choices.  Stick with these:  paying attention in English class, running away from the strange car that appears in your driveway one day, and reading your sister's diary. Just give a second thought to blowing off your grandparents for more time with your friends.  Trust me, you'll wish you could have them back someday for miniature golf and Dairy Queen sundaes.

Mom's annoying advice is almost always right.  Life ISN'T fair and your sister WILL be your best friend someday. That bullshit about Huey Lewis worshiping the devil was way off base, though.  Seriously, what was she thinking?  Huey Lewis?!?

I digress, and I also must have exceeded your attention span by now, so I'll conclude by saying stop worrying so much about being cool.  I mean, come on.  You're 12.  You're not going to get cool for a long, long time. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

You Are the Man

Had dinner with my dad tonight, and I caught a little glimpse of the man I used to know. I'd like to think that even when he doesn't remember the person he used to be, I will.

You are the man who went swimming with your friends in high school and watched as your clothes were stolen by hooligans (I’m assuming that’s what you called assholes in the 1940’s). Later, when that fact was included in the town newspaper, you saved it in your box of keepsakes. You are the man who saved embarrassing newspaper clippings about yourself.

You are the man who, when mistaken for Joe DiMaggio on a commercial airline flight, said nothing to correct the stewardess. You are the man who let an airplane full of people think you were cheating on Marilyn Monroe with my mother.

You are the man who, when playing restaurant with your daughters, ignored the plastic peas and pork chops, and ordered a Manhattan instead.

You are the man who once convinced the staff of a Holiday Inn to take your daughter’s puke-covered teddy bear and clean it up. You then convinced the same staff to sew the bear back together when it came undone in the wash. You are the man who saved the life of Snuggles.

You are the man who once ate a chocolate-covered grasshopper with your business associates when visiting New York City, and you are the man who still refuses to eat at any restaurant that features a buffet.

You are the man who took me to celebrity-studded theatrical performances, five-star restaurants, and once drove around Washington, DC for three hours to ensure I was able to spend the night in a hotel with a pool. You are the man who first introduced me to duck a l’orange and filet mignon. And you are the only man who loved the movie Dumb and Dumber as much as I do.

You are the man who, upon learning I was going to marry a man you’d never met, who drove a motorcycle, pierced his own ear, wore his hair longer than mine, and doubled as the lead singer and the drummer in a rock band — continued to say nothing. You are the man who ignored the fact that my mother’s head began to spin off her body in front of you, and you are the man who stood up, headed for the nearest bar, and bought your future son-in-law a drink. You are the man who accepted my husband just as you did me — unconditionally.

You are the man who still watches Saturday Night Live, even though you often don’t know who the host is, and never like the musical guest.

You are the man who can stay out later than me, get up earlier than me, and accomplish more than me in between.

And that is the man I will always remember.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Inside Beauty.

Will someone else break the news to my favorite aunt that I am not, as she has labeled me all these years, "beautiful inside and out"? I always had a feeling, but now I know it is officially true. I know, because today a really cute inside-parts doctor told me in no uncertain terms that my kidneys aren't pretty. Which is really a drag, since they were on my short list of things I don't hate about myself. Size of feet, number of arms, formation of kidneys. Now the list is even shorter.

Once a boy tells you you're not pretty inside, you change a little. I'm not going to turn to prostitution or anything, but I sure won't be wearing a kidney-exposing outfit anytime soon. I just know people are going to sense it when they pass me in stores.

"Mommy! Mommy! What's wrong with that lady?" (Pointing.)

(Mother slaps rude pointing child's hand for being rude and pointing.)

"She has ugly kidneys. Now stop staring or you'll get ugly kidneys, too."

As of now the prognosis is still unknown, so I just hope all my pretty-kidneyed friends will still like me. I know my sister will, but I'm pretty sure that's only because we're on an even playing field, since her liver has got to need a makeover by now.