grady baby

31 07 2008

Oh you sweet thing. I just wanted to welcome you to our part of the universe and let you know that I have you in mind alot when I write about your great-grandfather. And I was realizing that you two really have alot in common – even with 85 years 9 months and 20 some odd days difference in your ages.

You both have a tough time sleeping through the night. It is rough for you both expressing exactly what it is that you’re trying to get across which leads us caregivers to guessing games to get you settled down. Naps can be only minutes long – do you sense that we are sneaking off to catch a nap too because we’re exhausted? Or when you sleep too long and everyone in the house gets really nervous and huddles over you to see if you’re breathing.

Actually the list is quite long but I’ll stop with the one I thought of today – you had the same thing for lunch…just out of different containers. Papa doesn’t feel like eating anything much these days…but he will drink a glass of milk.

So maybe Elton John knew what he was talking about when he wrote “The Circle of Life”…but why do so few people my age have the tenderness, patience, awe and wonder around their bubbes as they do for their grand-babies? Don’t they know they are next in line to be the old ones no one likes to be around? Too many times I see bubbes being bossed around by know-it-all-loud-mouth-laundromat-type-moms – screaming their heads off and embarrassing everyone around them. Well enough of that…

Oh and one last thing – when your grandma was a little girl and I was her new babysister there were guys that would come around in trucks every morning and deliver glass bottles of milk to our house. They were called milkmen and our’s was named Grady. What a coinkydink! I really liked him and I think I’ll really like you too. So welcome little Grady baby – we’ve been waiting a long time to meet you and we’re glad you’re here!

Billy Scissorhands

30 07 2008

Sensing an approaching thunderstorm, our dear Berner started barking at 3 a.m. (read: foreshadowing!). At that point, so many things on my mind left me little hope of catching more shut eye. But since it never hurts to try, I curled up on the couch and fell back to sleep deeply enough to start dreaming…I needed that REM sleep earlier – thank you very much- when my alarm started shouting at me. I had a two hour drive ahead of me, a time change and an audiologist appointment to make by 8:30 a.m. their time.

I’d been on the highway about an hour and a half, when I got a call from my brother who having just spoken with my mom on the phone, asked if I knew anything about her cryptic shortness with him. “Nah, she’s probably just stressing about getting to the appointment on time”, I responded. It’s quite normal for her to leave a full half hour early for the seven minute trip to arrive anywhere in town then be annoyed because she has to sit and wait for doctors.

Unsure about whether or not she was going on ahead and I’d just meet her at the office or I’d find her pacing in the breezeway wondering where I was, I decided to stop at the house on my way into town. I found my Dad alone at the kitchen table finishing his breakfast.

“Is Mom here?”, I asked. “NO – thank GOD!!” was his reply. You need to understand that I have never in 53 years heard my Dad answer that way. It was official: I was in for a doozy.

When I got to the audiologist’s office, my Mom was already in her appointment so with a deliciously juicy copy of People magazine in hand, I tried to overhear what was being said for later comparison to what she’d “thought” they said. A debit card swipe, two appointments on the books and as the glass door closed behind me, I asked her what had happened with Dad. She very graphically told me that he had come to the breakfast table with his T-shirt SLASHED.

“Oh…, I’ve seen him tugging at the neck of his T-shirt lately and he feels like it’s choking him so maybe it ripped,” I suggested.

“No – he took scissors and slashed it like this..,”(running her fingers in 6” slashes down her chest to illustrate).

Red flares were shooting off in my head…new dangers were lurking around the corner. He uses scissors all day long on the worst of days. He sits in his chair and either shreds newsprint in three inch strips with his hands or cuts things out that seem to have no relevance whatsoever. So now I imagine that his sheets, bedspread, the livingroom curtains, the couch (though that would be a stroke of genius) will be shredded by… Billy Scissorhands.

When we finally get back to the house and I have a chance to carefully look at the collar of said T-shirt I see that about 1/4″ is snipped. SNIPPED – not slashed – and it was just the collar band. But he did have the scissors in his hand all day and it was a bad day. Words were like smeared ink on newsprint in his brain – and even worse when he tried to get them out of his mouth.

It’s painful watching his brain scramble and his eyes dart to and fro trying to make sense of what is going on around here. “Big dummy,” he spits out in frustration, referring to himself.

She, on the other hand, has to be reminded that it’s not nice to giggle at people when they can’t pronounce words correctly…or that she should try to play along when he’s trying to describe something from his past and every fifth word makes zero sense. “You have to be a good detective and give him clues now and then…” and by the time I explain this – she’ll ask me again why he can remember anything. What are the chances – we scored double dementia. I’m playing MegaMillions tomorrow.

the times they are a changin’

29 07 2008

In the early 60’s, listening to WLS radio in our house was a misdmeanor. Good Baptist kids didn’t listen to that kind of music, but my sister was six years older and apparently quite savvy to the ways of the heathen. Sharing a room and a 3/4 sized roll-away bed where a line was carefully drawn down the center, I remember a small beige transistor radio being stuffed under a pillow and with the volume barely above a whisper, we’d be carried away to where we’d never be caught dead in the daylight…only to dream of being able to dance to those tunes. Dancing was, after all, a crime punishable by death.

Clark Weber and Larry Lujack were two of that era’s DJ’s who were our hosts on the forbidden airwaves. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the best of Motown and so many more. God help us if we fell asleep without first moving the dial to disguise where we’d been wandering around in the dark.

So it really caught my attention the other day while at the house, walking by the garage to hear the “oldies but goodies” playing on a radio tuned to WLS/Chicago. I laughed out loud to see my parents now oblivious to the fact that it was the same music once deemed an anathema. And the real kicker is that the radio was there for their dog – may she rest in peace – who apparently was a classic rocker in her last days.

It may be that old habits die hard and her presence with them for 17 years can be evoked with the hook of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”- but it plays on. For noone. This radio comes with a special set of instructions – written in my father’s distinctive block print… it’s own tell tale sign that the times they are a changin’. Just like the old house rules about what music was acceptable …there are certain things we just let slide ‘coz the “button” really has 2 “t”s.

bubbe-sitting 101

28 07 2008



some of you have already received the syllabus for this course and i thought that it would be good to get an early start on your vocabulary building before we continue.  from time to time we will be looking at special adaptive tools, how to manage parentals without them knowing it, and the proper use of humor in the work place – all within an ethnographic research setting.  i’d like you all to use the following new vocabulary word in a sentence…and be aware that we will be having pop quizzes throughout the semester.  This week’s word:

klep·to·ge·nar·i·an  ( klep-tu-juhnair-ee-uhn)

someone between 80 and 90 years old with an irrational urge

to steal in the absence of an economic motive 


flutterbies & feathers

26 07 2008

for years his garage was famous. filled to the roof with things someone might need sometime – the door could barely be opened let alone park a car or lawnmower inside. then he retired and she made him clean it out. but every once in a while when no one is watching, i sneak in for treasures yet to be uncovered…i gasp – it’s just where i’d think to put it – next to the oil can and in the plastic tub with the goggles…butterfly wings and feathers. he was saving them for me…just like the dead cardinal he kept for weeks last winter until i could brave the perils of the frozen north to make the trip south…it was carefully laid in a tin box until we could have the wake. all for me because only trinket tinkerers understand.

tin can alley

25 07 2008

Months and months of preparation go into this outing.  In my world we take them to the grocery store where we first bought them and get money back but here they really make you work for it.  So since Heck was a pup each can is washed, the tab saved in another location for the Ronald McDonald House, promply smashed and stored in the garage till the bin is full to overflowing. Then the day arrives and the announcement is proclaimed…we must go to the can place.  There was only one hitch in our plan – he couldn’t remember how to get there.  But I have a crystal ball and google saved the day.  Twisting, turning, down by the cement trucks in a part of town rarely seen by most I surprised him with my magical powers.  A crisp 5 dollar bill and and 2 brand new quarters were his…


breakfast at tiffany’s…almost

24 07 2008

It’s a good day when he gets to have breakfast at George’s. Greek meets grab n’ go. Half order of biscuits and gravy topped with 2 oz. of hot maple syrup. Enough “slopkins” to circle the globe a time or two. But oh…the bounty this pirate man takes. Two or three more mini-cups of maple syrup get stealthily dropped into the empty pop cup as if no one is noticing. Those get put into the fridge at home to become the ultimate topping for “p-buzzes” (Honey Nut Cheerios). It’s hardest to watch him lick out the empty containers with his tongue – I dare say I’m sure I tried along the way somewhere, sometime and can guarantee I got the message that it wasn’t necessary. But the rules have changed. Now what is important is that he took enough breaths to wake up another day, remembered how to put his pants on, and got to have breakfast at George’s at least one more time.

looking out for myself

24 07 2008

No one is keeping track of how many little errands I must run. Most times I just disappear…buy a

bottle of water, drive around the block, it doesn’t matter – I just need the break. As I glanced up I saw myself in the rearview mirror driving the car behind me. Woman: mid-50’s Two passengers: 80 something male – front passengers side. 80 something female – back passengers side.

We had just been out for a scoop of ice cream and to pick up a repaired left hearing aid…where were they going? Did the chauffer live in town? Had she just quit her job to take on this new venture? Was there tension in her shoulders? Did she hope against hope that she’d sleep like a rock very very soon? But most importantly was her heart as happy as mine was knowing I was doing the right thing?

She speaks…

23 07 2008

So many things she has seen – though only through one eye. Years collecting exit stamps from foreign lands. Now settled – not nearly enough but settled nonetheless – the brain chatter is muted for reasons beyond her control. Exiled to a new port – this purveyor of trinkets– begins to absorb her new culture, keenly cocking her head to one side to catch the nuances of tones and inflections but alas, she realizes that there is no room for new unless she off-loads the old…

thus she speaks.