Friday, June 1, 2018

Lighten Up!

I'm kind of hard on keyboards.

I mean, I don't use them to beat up intruders, zombies, or politicians, nor do I pound senselessly on them in anger. I just use them. A lot. And sometimes I get up before everybody in order to write in peace. Which brings me to the problem of sitting down in the semi-dark of early morning, looking at the computer screen while attempting to write.

Despite years of keyboarding, my hands cannot find the damn home keys without me peering myopically at the damn keyboard. Actually, it's easy when there's light, but in the dark? Nope. Interesting things appear on the screen when I can't see the 'board. Then there's a lot of fumbling and farting around until I finally get settled. Then, of course, I suddenly feel the need for a sip of coffee and there goes the neighborhood again.

I was using a small laptop USB light with some success. Unfortunately it's on a gooseneck which isn't quite strong enough to hold it in position, so it begins to droop and I get to adjust it frequently. Not impossible, just annoying.

Then the keyboard that came with  my computer finally gave up. After years of writing stories, a couple of the keys, important keys, began to fail. It was annoying to not be able to type using the shift key, the space bar, and the letter H.

Enter the ergonomic keyboard that was given to us. You know the kind: it curves and has a bump at the space bar.

Yeah, that was fun.

I tried it, I really did, but it didn't help. It took so much effort to press the keys, that my hands ached more after using the keyboard that was supposed to alleviate such discomfort. Plus, I had to relearn the keyboard. It was still the standard QWERTY style, but the shape was just different enough that I couldn't just watch the words appear on the screen, because those weren't words. I'd have to watch my hands and hope things were going the way I wanted.


Then I started reading reviews of mechanical keyboards. 80 million keystroke lifetime (damn, that's a lot, even for me) and they are easier to press. And then there's the amazing clicking sound... I just had to find one to try it.

But they aren't all the same. Some have Cherry switches, others have green ones, and they are different. Of course they are. Why make it simple, when complicating things with options that make people like me whimper is way more fun. Ordering an expensive keyboard and discovering it wasn't for me, isn't high on my list of fun things to do, so I just waited until I could try one out myself.

Luckily, my "local" office supply store had some. I fell in love. The ease of keyboarding, coupled with the delicious click of the keys created a wholly satisfying typing experience that I've not had since my old IBM keyboard back before computer mice were a thing. I loathed the tiny "enter" and backspace keys on it, but the sound and feel were delicious. I missed that.

So, there I was, shopping for keyboards. The guy helping me said his store does price-matching, so I got the same deal I would have if I'd made the purchase online, plus I didn't have to pay tax on it. I figure I saved somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, and I'm ok with that. Ok, I was kind of not stoked about the cost in general, but I had to try. If I was going to keep writing, I was going to have to do something. The less my hands ache from typing, the more I can do and since writing is one thing that makes me truly happy, it's worth it.

Plus, this beast feels super sturdy. Nice and heavy, so it's not going to go skittering all over the keyboard drawer, or creeping away from me until I find myself hunched over like Quasimodo for hours on end.

I was worried that my old computer wouldn't understand what this fancy-schmancy keyboard was trying to say, but after a few restarts and words of fury, I was able to get everything hooked up and working.

At the beginning of this post, I was whinging about the difficulty of typing in the dark. My new keyboard lights up. It LIGHTS UP! In RAINBOW colors.

Actually, I can make it do all kinds of things, like ripple (oh, that was cool until I realized it was making me dizzy), activate (which kept the keyboard dark until I was pressing a key, not exactly helpful for writing in the dark) and about five other lovely tricks that threatened to give me seizures. I've settled on the one that just changes the color, slipping gracefully through the 16 million colors of the rainbow in a gentle flow of joy.

I can find the home keys. Even in the dark!

No more droopy light, no more desk lamp that wakes the dog, who then insists I stop everything and do his bidding, despite being an hour earlier than he ever gets up, and no more groping for the right keys, hitting keystroke combinations that erase vast quantities of work.

And the sound... Not too loud, just nice clicking. FYI, my keyboard has green switches. I'm still not sure what that means, but I like it.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Walking the Dog

My quest to combat diabetes has resulted in several big changes in my life, most of which surround the areas of diet and exercise. The food part has been pretty easy, but exercise isn’t my favorite thing to do.

At all.

Which is why diabetes took it upon itself to make my life miserable. It’s in my genes, therefore I made it easy to settle in and change everything.

So we got a dog.

Ok, we didn’t get the dog because of my diabetes, we actually got the dog because my dad loves dogs and I thought it would be a good idea to have a critter that would keep him company those few hours he had to hang out by himself on weekends, and to sleep with him at night.

That didn’t last long.

“He snores,” Ye Olde Fartte said the morning after he spent his first night with the dog. “He doesn’t just snore, but he also grunts, twitches, and hogs the bed.”
“Hmm, sounds like someone else I know,” I said, risking a glance at Tammie.
“Yeah, well I don’t want him sleeping with me any more.”

I worried that the dog would get into the cat food, or worse, the cat boxes if he was left to himself at night. But I needn’t have worried. He’s actually quite the little gentleman.

Except when he’s on a leash. The minute a lead is clipped to his halter, he turns into the Tasmanian devil from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. He chases things and feels compelled to RUN from one P-mail spot to the next. This crazy dog even wanders while he’s leaving emojies. That’s fun to pick up. I feel like a demented reenactment of Hansel and Gretel, only instead of stones or breadcrumbs, I’m following dog turds.

It took a couple weeks, and a new halter, but now he’s doing a bit better, not pulling quite so hard on the lead, unless all this exercise has just made me faster and better able to keep up with him. This is all fine and good until he sees another dog, then my little sweet doggie goes from ridiculous Tasmanian Devil, to a hell hound, all bark, snark, and teeth.
“I’mma gonna kill ‘im. I’mma gonna kill ‘im and eat ‘im! I’mma gonna do it NOW! NOW! NOW!”
“You may NOT eat that dog.” I find myself repeating that several times on our walks. The owners of the other dogs think I’m being funny, but I’m totally serious. He WILL eat their dog!

And then there’s “THE Dog!”

It goes around town, pulling a wagon filled with tourists. It clip-clops down the street several times a day, and sometimes when we’re out on our walk, we see it. We see it and we want it. We want it because we want to EAT IT!!!  Because we haven’t figured out it ISN’T a dog. A funny smelling, giant-assed monster of a dog. But we don’t care, WE WILL EAT IT!!

And another wrassling match ensues, with me insisting he cannot eat the horse, and people think I’m being funny. They laugh as I hoist the little beast into my arms, doing my best to keep my face away from all those damn teeth and flailing paws bedecked with sharp claws.
“No. You have to check your P-mail and I’m pretty sure I smell an emoji or two lurking about in your gut.”
“DIE! DIE! DIE! HATEFUL BEAST! I SHALL DESTROY—” I turned away so he couldn’t see the horse any more and the threats ceased.
“You were saying?” I asked.
“Do you smell that?”
“Can you be more specific?”
“I think Angel from the book store left me a message over by the hotel parking lot. Let’s go!!!” And off we go, the horse completely forgotten as we resume our trek to find the holy grail of pee spots and offload a few emojies. Thankfully, I am equipped with emoji traps, which I employ, then hang on the handy-dandy clip attached to the dispenser. We finish our trek with me sporting a bracelet of dangling poop sacks.

I’m not sure how this is going to help me combat diabetes, but it certainly is keeping my ego in check.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


The cats are cowards.

I mean, they're brave enough when string is involved, or those damn toy mousies. In fact, with the exception of Thud, they're fine with the red dot of death.

Even when new people come in, they're curious enough to stare from their favorite vantage points. But... we have visitors. Noisy visitors.

See, my dad has to use a commode in the bathroom because he tends to fall. But when he sits down, he "flops" into whatever seat awaits him. He has broken more chairs than the whole WWF combined. Recliners, dining chairs, he's even done damage to car seats! Unfortunately, his flopping caused the commode over the toilet to push against the tank. This broke the seal and we had water. Lots of water. We got it cleaned up, and I fixed the problem, then told him to keep watch.

I try to give him privacy and only go into his room when he says he needs something. Apparently, mushrooms growing in his bathroom don't bother him, so he didn't say anything. Then the other day he fell against the toilet harder than usual and it started to leak. But he either didn't notice or thought it would stop before it got bad. It didn't and water began leaking rapidly from the toilet and no one was the wiser.

So away it leaked. A lot, like two streams from the tank, all the way across the bathroom to the bedroom door, a good eight feet distance. Knowing what I know about modular homes, I didn't want the problem to get any bigger, or the floor to get soft and rot away. Mold had already become a problem, so this just solidified our resolve to get it fixed before it became a much bigger, more expensive, problem requiring us to fish the toilet out from under the house.

Enter, contractor dudes, a.k.a., TEH MONZERZ!! They brought their big, stompy feet, their loud voices, and worst of all, THE SAW!!! Jeebus H. Crispy, that thing is horrifying to the cats.

When it started up, Meow dashed under the vanity and Freya Fish-whore took up her place under the bed. Thud, with nowhere else to go where he could be alone, attempted to take up residence under the recliner but changed his mind when Ye Olde Fartte pushed the button to lower the footrest. This caused much hilarity for about ten seconds. I had no idea where he'd gone until I went to heat up some soup for lunch. I opened the cabinet door and...

Me: What the hell?
Thud: Yeah, that's what I'd like to know. What hell has come here now? I thought you'd be the last of it.
Me: Asshole. You'd better be nice or I'll sic the red dot of tail death on you.
Thud: No, YOU be nice. I have yet to shit in your shoes, but don't think I haven't considered it before this moment.
Me: You shit in my shoes and I'll toss your furry ass outside. Remember what happened the last time you went outside?
Thud: Mommy cried.
Me: I was referring to the wild things-
Thud: NO! Don't remind me! Damn long-eared menaces. They LOOKED at me! WITH THEIR EARS!
Me: Those were slugs.
Thud: Yeah, whatever. They were horrible.
Me: Look, just move over, I need to heat up some lunch for Ye Olde Fartte.
Thud: Well, for him, I'll let you have a pot. I bet he'll appreciate the special seasoning I put in it.
Me: I'll be sure to wash it well before I put food in it.
Thud: Why do the others actually like you?

Just then the reciprocal saw started up and with a loud POP! Thud poofed out before disappearing deeper into the cabinet.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tuna Dance

“Make some tuna salad for your folks’ lunch today.” Tam said as she got ready for work.

I wanted to yell, “NO! Anything but that!” but I refrained from doing so. It was such a small thing, and well, with no electric can opener, I thought I might actually have a chance to survive the task. I sighed. “Ok.”

She had already set the can of tuna on the counter, so I pulled the mayo, pickles, and onion from the fridge and started chopping. Everything was smooth and easy. I went from one section of the kitchen to the other, smoothly and easily. It was SO smooth and easy, I considered adding singing and dancing to my kitchen activities. I’m usually hindered in my kitchen waltzes and arias by the feline members of the family, but not this time. I had all that floor space to myself.

I opened the drawer with all the kitchen gadgets and pulled out the hand-operated can opener and glided my way to the sink where the can of tuna awaited. “Click! Clunk! Hiss!” went the can opener and the tuna can.

“MEOW!” said Frey Fishwhore. “Gimme fish! You got fish!”
“Yeow!” I exclaimed, stepping away from reaching claws, “back off, fur-face. I’m fixing lunch for my parents.”
“No fish! This is people food.”
“Fish juice! Fish juice! Fish juice!”
“I have nothing to put it in because there is too much food in your dish.”
“Ha! No such thing as too much food. Gimme fish juice.”
“That’s my foot.”
“It nice foot. I pat it.”
“Remove. Your. Claw.”
“Gimme juice?”
“Fine, I’ll put it in here until I’m done with the can, then you can have your juice in that.”
“You gonna leave me chunks?”
“Not if you sink that claw into my leg again.”
“Ok. Look. No claws. I pat you nice leg.”
“I need to get this over there. You need to move out of my way.”
“OOH! Fish juice in fish can! Juicy, juicy, fish juice!”
“Move! Out of the way! No! Not that way! Dammit! Oh, shit, look out!”
“Whee! We’re doing the fish juice dance!”
“No! I don’t want to do that dance. Let me finish making lunch, then you can have juice.”
“AAAAH! YOU STEPPED ON MY TOE! I HISS AT YOU! Now, I touch you with my non-hurting claw.”
“Sorry, kit—HEY! Ow!”
Silent glares from Freya Fishwhore as I began mixing the tuna salad. The moment I began to hint that I MIGHT be heading back to the sink, she darted into what she knew would be my path.
“Oh! Cat! Just! No! Look out! Move your tail! And the rest of your body!” My smooth and easy kitchen experience was taking on all the grace and tranquility of a mosh pit.
“Fish, fish, fish, fish, MY TOE! I HISS!”
“Missed me, you idiot.”
“I not even try to hit you, beast, but next time I draw blood!”
“You want fish juice?” I asked, waving the container of tuna water over the sink drain.
“You better not!”
“Yeah? Or what?”
“You aske me ‘or what???’ I tell you what! I know where your shoes are! Gimme fish juice or I leave you present you only find with toes!”

Yeah…still not a cat person.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lemonade Stand

I’m trying to make lemonade. I’m doing a pretty good job of it, but I will admit I’m a little tired from the effort. I’d try to sell you a glass, but it’s not that kind of lemonade. It’s the kind you make when life hands you lemons…

My holiday plans were radically shifted when my father became very ill one night. He’d been working on it for a few weeks, gradually losing his apatite, feeling very nauseated, and, because he does love to share such information, NOT POOPING. My father has very few boundaries.

Sunday night, he was in so much pain, my mother woke Tam at 2:30 and said, “Pop needs to go to the hospital.”

Fast forward to the ER doctor saying they need to transport him to Portland immediately, because he needs surgery and their surgeon won’t be there for another week. “He will not live if we wait.”

Things get a little confusing here, because my mother insists he was taken by helicopter, while Tam says they went by ambulance, running lights and sirens the whole way. Whatever the method of transport they used, Pop lost consciousness twice on the way due to pain.

When they got to Portland they rushed him into emergency surgery where they discovered a ruptured duodenal ulcer, approximately 3 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a quarter). The surgeon had never seen one so large, and called in the other surgeons on his team. They all agreed it was the biggest they’d seen and now they had to figure out how to fix it.

Long medical story short, they patched him up, drained off the fluid in his abdominal cavity (about three liters), blasted him with heavy duty antibiotics and stuck him into ICU, where he stayed for two nights (and almost ended up there for a third, because the old fart kept pulling tubes out of places they needed to remain). Good times.

My mother, whose grip on reality keeps shifting without warning, has been spending a lot of the time being very sad (understandable, unless you’ve been a witness to the skirmish they call a marriage for the past 65 years). All of a sudden, they’re back in love and she’s a weepy mess. It’s kind of weird, but whatever.

We ended up staying with my dad’s sister, Aunt “This Looks Bad”. Seriously, she can look at your hangnail and make you want to end your life before it does. Every time my cousin called, she’d say, “Oh, honey, it doesn’t look good…” even though I told her he’s only in ICU until his blood pressure stabilizes, but otherwise things are going fine.

She and I had many long chats, and I will freely admit she was very helpful with my mother, and I’m extremely grateful for her allowing us to stay in her lovely home. But… she’s a little shallow at times. We were talking about my plans and what my schedule is for making it happen. I said I’m working on it as quickly as I can, but when I’m called away for things like this, it does hinder my progress. I had also mentioned that I work on my manuscript in the mornings before I go to work because it’s the only time I have right now.

That’s when she suggested I “put [my] little book project on hold.”

Put my “little book project…”

Little. Book. Project.

Oh, yes she did.

The sky fell, my world screamed, and my heart wept. I went numb. I smiled and said, “I only work on it in the morning, or after I’ve exhausted myself getting the house ready and I need to stop.”

She barely acknowledged my words, just reminding me of what my priorities are, or what she says they should be. Then I was informed that I will not be able to take care of my parents and I need to put them in a home, because she knows what it’s like.

Funny, people tell me that, but people don’t really know what I’m capable of doing or how strong I really am. I held back my desire to write while I raised a family and it nearly ended me.

I work in a job where I’ve come home with concussions, jammed fingers, and bruises in the shape of footprints on my chest, all from out-of-control students. Yet I went back. I lifted, changed diapers on students almost as big as I am, and kept a wild child from injuring several students just by speaking calmly and gently.

I’m not normal. Most people don’t have jobs with those things in the description, so to tell me I can’t do something because THEY can’t do it makes no damn sense to me. Seriously, would you approach a cowboy and tell him he can’t ride a horse because you tried it once but it was too hard and you fell off? Or telling a nurse she can’t give shots to people because YOU’RE afraid of needles???

Yeah, that’s kind of what it feels like to me. People who haven’t been doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years are telling me I can’t do what I’ve been doing, only with my parents instead of students. I can’t do it because they couldn’t do it.

So. To all those folks who think everyone is equally skilled at every damn thing, have some fucking lemonade. I’m gonna go work on my “little book project.” 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Taking a Look Around

I’ve been busy. Work takes up an inordinate amount of my time, which is a shame, but since it pays the bills (or most of them, anyway) and my writing hasn’t quite reached that level, I’ve got to keep the job. Money is more than a little tight, and my parents have decided they can’t help with expenses, even though they promised they would do so when we were working on getting the house. Ok, I’m drowning in debt right now and it sucks. Like a lot. And I’m a little scared. But I have a job…

The manuscript is coming along. Editing is taking a great deal of time, since I’m trying to be more careful and not let some of those “brain bumps” slide by. It takes a lot more effort and energy on my part, but I’m pretty sure the final outcome will be worth it.

Moving has hit a low point, however. I’ve been working on trying to get the place in order, but there is so much stuff here, stuff that isn’t even mine, that I’m more than a little overwhelmed. It’s taking a lot longer than I expected, which depresses me, which slows me down, then I have to leave to take care of the parental units, so I lose time working on the house, which depresses me, and stuff doesn’t get done, which depress—you get the picture. I’m a little depressed.

Here’s the deal: these are first-world problems. I have a job. I have a home (well, technically, I have two of them, which is one too many, but that’s a twisted tale filled with “are you fucking kidding me?”)

But these are problems only those with plenty can claim.

Yes, my life is currently a shit-storm of messy, but I’m whole. My children were able to grow up without fear of being blasted into oblivion by a car bomber (although there was always that fear in my heart of some lunatic gunman coming onto campus and fucking everything up), there was food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our vehicles were usually functional, and if one went toes up, I was a stay-at-home mom who could drive the man to work and pick him up again if I needed the car for anything.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it was good. It still is.

Life isn’t perfect, but it is still good. I have so much, and a great deal for which I am thankful.

And I just realized that I am lucky.

If my house wasn’t so full of other people’s stuff… if there was room in my house, I would be happy to host a refugee family. I would do my best to give them some security, shelter, and whatever they need that I have.

But the place is a wreck and stuff is piled everywhere while I attempt to get organized, so I’m reluctant to open my doors to anyone. Maybe they wouldn’t care. Maybe they would be so grateful for a safe place to stay, they wouldn’t mind the boxes of stuff piled here and there, boxes of embarrassing excess that makes me want to scream and tear my hair. Maybe they could use that stuff when they have their own place to stay.

Looking around, I see now that I have so much, and I’m a very lucky woman.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Return to Home

I don’t know why I made the deal with my parents. At the time, it was the only thing I could think of that would appease their sense of upheaval, and quell their desire to run away, to head back to the place they’ve known for over 20 years. I had to promise we’d go back to get more of their “stuff.”
“I got to get my stuff,” my father would say, shaking his head on each word for emphasis. His stuff. His fucking stuff. I was sick to death of hearing about his stuff. Then my mother would start in on how I “swooped in” and took them away “without warning.”

They had warning. They had several months of warning. They had a couple of years of warning, because we discussed it and it was agreed upon. I went down to their place to help them begin the massive process of mucking out, not just their 20 years of hoarding like packrats, but the decades of organized hoarding of my grandfather. There is a LOT of stuff to sift through.

But I set them to the task. I wrote it all down, several times, exactly how they could start. I made it as easy as possible, considering their ages, and called regularly to chat and find out how they were doing. My mother always apologized for not making any progress, and I did my best to assure her that it would be ok. I’d be able to help them during the summer when school was out.

Had the house deal closed when it was supposed to, instead of six weeks later, there would have been time. I wouldn’t have had to “swoop in” and “scoop them up.” But their health was deteriorating so quickly, I had no choice. They, of course, argued that point, insisting they were “fine” and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.

Except when my father fell and my mother cracked several vertebrae trying to help him back to his feet. Or when he fell again and they were too embarrassed by the condition of their house to call 9-1-1, but my cousin insisted they call anyway.

Then there was the day my mother could not get out of bed because her back hurt so bad, so my other cousin came up and insisted they call 9-1-1…

No, you can’t make it on your own any more, not living 10 miles from the nearest city and no neighbors within shouting distance who were home during the day. Besides, even those who were home didn’t check on them because my parents were too embarrassed by the condition of their house that they wouldn’t invite anyone over.

So they wanted their “stuff” and they only way I could keep them somewhat happy was to drag them back down so they could collect their things. Granted, my mother did not take many clothes with her that first trip. She wandered around, looking dazed and very confused, picking up loose change and stuffing it into socks that she set down all over the house.

I managed to convince Middle Minion to join in the fun, and he had enough paid time off, so he figured, “why not?” I’m sure that is a question that will haunt him for the rest of his days.

We headed south with my father constantly commenting on how long a drive it was. I took those opportunities to remind him that he thought he could make the drive himself and how difficult it would be, considering he couldn’t find his way to the grocery store less than a mile away. He would grunt his assent then my mother would ask if anyone needed any water.

Too late to put out those fires, Ma.

They were confused when we arrived at their old homestead, wondering who lived there. We greeted the cats that my mother couldn’t remember and I silently kicked myself for not making sure she was keeping up with her water intake. She had recently suffered a UTI, which I later found out can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It would have been nice to know that sooner.

We arrived on Sunday and would be there until Thursday morning. I had as much planned out as I possibly could and we hit the ground running. We had eaten a very late lunch (my error in the location of the restaurant we planned on visiting) so when we got to the house, no one was very hungry. We had a few snack things left from the trip and they assured me they would be fine until morning. Minion and I were going to stay in a motel, since neither of us felt like sharing the bed in the basement. Because, ew. I love my son, but, ew.

Besides, it was a nice break from everything going on at the house. The next morning we picked up a fast-food breakfast and coffees and took them with us to the house. That’s when I discovered my parents had eaten one of the “frozen” dinners that had been sitting in the FRIDGE for six weeks. Not only did they eat them, they ate them COLD because there is no oven in the house.

FYI, here’s some TMI for you, my mother still has diarrhea from it.

Mom and I went to town to tend to some business and then we went grocery shopping. I picked up enough stuff to get us through the next few days, planning carefully so there would be very few leftovers to haul back. I also had to remind myself that I only have a single electric skillet in which to cook ALL our meals, so they would have to accommodate those limits as well.

I’m kind of over chicken and rice, just so you know.

While I was downstairs digging out mysterious things, wrestling spiders, discovering the skeletal remains of a lizard, and searching for dresser drawers, I heard someone talking. My cousin’s wife had heard we were there and had come out to see us. She helped out, trying to keep my mother comforted and on track, and reminding me that I’m doing the right thing. She kept saying she wasn’t being much of a help, but I can assure you she was a rock for all of us. She’d been through pretty much the same thing with her father, so she knew the path well. I am so thankful for her presence during that time, and even more thankful to have found a friend in the process. One does not meet such loving and caring people every day, and I consider myself very lucky to have someone like that in my family.

She came out every day we were there, and did her best to help. My mother spent a great deal of time just picking at stuff, not gathering her clothes like I kept asking. She would find a box of very old paperwork from a job she held 30 years ago, and look at it, wondering if she needed to keep anything.

Finally my cousin-in-law took it upon herself to go into my mother’s room and begin sorting through clothes. She managed to gather enough garments she thought would fit, and get them into a box. She also picked up several bags of garbage, stacked photographs, collected loose change into a box in a drawer, and managed to clear a decent pathway to the bed. Of course, the bed was stacked with books and strange odds and ends, so my mother couldn’t sleep on it, but at least we could get to it.

I made C-I-L take the bags of garbage out of the house and hide them somewhere, lest my mother open them up and begin picking through it. When she looked like she wasn’t sure I was telling her the truth, I showed her the bags I’d left there several months ago when they were still living there and I’d come out to help them clean. They had taken the bags from the back of my dad’s truck and gone through them, pulling out canned foods with expiration dates going back to the 1990’s.

We rented the truck, which was a shock to my parents. They expected the cost to be around $50 dollars. They were off by about $350. My father nearly wet himself, and not just because he forgot to go to the bathroom. Again.

Loading began on Tuesday and while I’d hoped we’d get it all done by Wednesday morning, we were still tossing “one more thing” into the back of the truck late that evening. My father packed a HUGE box of underwear. He already had a HUGE box of it at the new place, now he had TWO of them. The man can go two months before he needs to do a load of underwear. My mother, on the other hand, wears threadbare bands of elastic with shredded cotton holding it all together. She couldn’t remember the last time she bought underwear, stating she was “from a time when you used things all the way up.” Achievement unlocked, Mom, you wore those things to shreds.

Bags of stuff: old pens, slips of paper with nothing written on them, receipts so faded they can no longer be read, gum wrappers, broken flashlights, an old stereo speaker that stopped working when I was in high school…were the things they packed. I tried telling them they don’t need all that stuff, but they wouldn’t listen. My mother told C-I-L about being swept up unawares and taken to “a home” with strange people in it and I lost my shit. I yelled at my senile mother, in front of my cousin and my son. I reminded her that we had talked about it for months, she wrote it all down many times.
“I didn’t believe you,” she finally said.
“There are no strangers at the house, Ma. It’s just you two, Tam, and Tam’s son. I’m there when I can be, but no one else lives there.”
“Are you part of an organization that does this?”
“Does what?”
“Takes in old people.”
“No, it was just a crazy thing Tam and I decided to do, and you two agreed it was a good plan.”

Wednesday night, Minion and I were toast and heading back to the motel. My mother was wide-eyed and wearing several articles of clothing, none of which matched. My father was wearing the jacket from one of her polyester pantsuits. When questioned, he shrugged and said, “I don’t know. She just came up to me and told me to put it on. So I did.”
“You look very fancy,” Minion said
“It’s too tight,” Pop said, struggling out of the seafoam green garment.
“Not your color, either,” I said, taking it from him and tossing it into the back of the truck. It was about then that I realized they thought we were leaving that night. It took me several minutes to calm them and assure them that we’d be back in the morning to get them and that’s when we’d leave.

Little did I know how much I’d come to regret that decision.

The next morning, I discovered they had taken their golden opportunity of extra time and collected more bags of crap to be loaded into the truck. There was another argument as I was attempting to clean up the cooking mess I’d left so the kitchen area would be ready for the next visit (although jut now, I realize that I forgot to pull the other unfrozen meal from the fridge, so that should be a lovely science experiment by the time I get back down there).

It was time to go. Mom was wandering around, clutching an old purse and a single shoe. “I can’t find the mate to this one,” she said.
“Mom, it’s time to go. I don’t know where the other shoe is, so you’ll need to leave it here.”
Oh, she left it, all right. She THREW that shoe across the room. “Fine!” she said, “There, now we have a pair somewhere in this house.”
I couldn’t decide if I should scold her as she would have scolded me when I was young for throwing a fit like that, or cheer because the shoe landed inside a box on the other side of the room.

She was crying on the way to the car and I kept trying to assure her I knew it was hard, and I was sorry she was feeling so sad, and I understood, but she was having nothing to do with that. She would mumble something and when Pop or I asked her to repeat herself, she would say, “I was just talking to Pop, but it doesn’t matter. It’s nothing important.” After the fifth time she did that, I had to struggle to keep from shouting, “BINGO! Another unimportant utterance from the queen of misery.”

With her mood as it was, she didn’t screech at my father for attempting to roll down the window just a little bit. He can’t quite grasp the buttons on the damn things. A light touch will allow you to control how far down it goes, but if you press too hard, the window goes all the way automatically. It’s the same with rolling it up.
“You want some help with that, Pop?”
“Ok, maybe a little help.”
“You want your window down a little bit, Ma?”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.”
The speedometer inched up to 75. I was going to do whatever it took to shorten the trip.

We got to the rest stop at the halfway point and her mood had finally improved enough she could finish a sentence with a period, rather than “it doesn’t matter” or “it wasn’t important.” I found a water cup with a straw that she could use for the rest of the trip, which seemed to delight her. She kept offering water to Pop and I every five minutes or so.
“Does anyone need water? Pop? Do you need water?”
“No, I’m good. I have my own.”
“Karen? Do you need water?”
“No thank, Ma, I have mine. That’s your water. You get it all to yourself.”
“You don’t need any?”
“Pop? Do you need water?”
I couldn’t make out exactly what he said, but I’m pretty sure he was making a suggestion where she could put the water.

It was time for a snack, so I asked my mother to hand me the bag of chips. She passed it forward and my dad put a pile on his lap then offered the bag to me. I took one chip then he passed the bag back to my mother.
“I’m done,” he said.
“Hey! I’m not! Mom, could you hand that back up here when you’ve had some?”
“Ok. Do you need water?”
“No. I need chips.”
“We have chips?”
“They’re in your hand, Ma.”
“I don’t like these,” she said, rolling up the top of the bag.
“I do, and I’d like some more, please.” Pop took the bag from her, grabbed a few more out before offering me any more. He started to take it away but stopped when I growled at him.
“Sorry,” he muttered.

“Anybody need water?”