Thursday, March 29, 2012

i'm not happy

The noise is head-splitting and any shred of humane behavior I may want to exhibit has left the room.  I need to relax so I concentrate on my breathing, in and out, I imagine a Zen-like setting, a chair on the beach, looking up into the branches of an oak tree.  I live in a townhouse next to the Franciscan mother house, on the same street as a nursing home and two senior citizen complexes.  In short, I am surrounded by old, sick and dying people and I love it. These are quiet, unobtrusive, slow-moving citizens and this is what I want in my neighborhood.

And then this idiot and his Harley moved across from me and every morning he revs that blasted hog like a huge animal practicing its roar and I want to throw a brick at him and cram peanut butter up those pipes. There would be a reason we live here and it's called quiet, can you hear me now?

Oh, there's more.  Sonny is pumped up on prednisone, the drug they give you when nothing else works. The prescription lasts for only six days but the myriad of side effects seems endless in the duration. You don't sleep on the little white pill and you can't stop talking so you have this tired, red-eyed unfortunate sitting across from you at the supper table prattling about WWI statistics, the anatomy of a B-29 and how to calculate a farenheit temperature to celsius, in short, totally useless and unsolicited information.  Your chicken white bean chili is growing cold but now you know to multiply by 5/9 to get that celcius digit.

And did I mention I'm having a colonoscopy?  Do you want me to mention I'm having a colonoscopy?  I love my gastroenterologist.  I have a lot of respect for someone who goes into a profession with a name few people can spell much less pronounce. My man is all of 5'4" and he plays Queen CDs during the procedure. And wait, there's more, he is a published mystery novel author, what's not to love?  And he does admire my colon exclaiming about the healthy pink folds and glistening tissue.  Gotta love a guy so passionate about his work and my colon.  And it's lovely hearing  "We-e-e  are the champions" when coming out of an anesthetic.

  Did I mention my toenails are falling off?

Friday, March 23, 2012

okay, so I had a good time

As a rule I make it a point never to get drunk at family events although there's a situation that screams for alcohol.  Eventually a relative will die and you will need to face those people you called monkey cretins last Christmas even though there were strong and legitimate reasons for doing so. You just can't remember what they were.  I encourage blackouts, we all need little vacations from ourselves.

 I'm attending the 75th birthday party of my aunt hosted by her daughter and I have not seen my cousin in thirty-two years. There is no whiskey in their kitchen cupboards, I just know it and I pour a large goblet of something red and dark that tastes mossy.

Big Dave looks awkward with his meaty paw wrapped around a delicate wine glass but all the beer cans in the fridge have some body's name on them, not his.

I grab a paper plate with jack-o-lanterns on it and step up to the worst buffet ever. A pot full of scary-looking sausages in a dark dingy sauce that made me cough, hard toast triangles covered with bottled salsa, a store-bought cake with a plastic 75 number offset and lopsided  and two slabs of cream cheese with peppery jelly slathered all over. The fresh vegetables with raspberry spicy dressing was the contribution of moi, thank you very much and I win the buffet contest.

Cuz invites me out on the porch on the swing and I hesitate because I prefer my anonymous position in the back of the room but what can I do.  We swig wine and talk about many things and I start to realize we have some ideas in common like women getting screwed in the workplace, husbands who are too visible, the endless creativity of our children and how much we really, really like being in this family. Dave comes out and so does her boyfriend and we growl, "go away, girl talk going on here."

After awhile we go back to the living room and the boyfriend is strumming his guitar and he's not half bad with his little folksy riffs and Big Dave starts talking about window screens for some reason. And then some guy mentions he washed his screens that afternoon  and the droplets on the mesh reminded him of key punch cards, whoa, deep or what.

There is not enough wine in this humble home to get me interested in that conversation and it is time to leave so I start hugging people.  Yes, I will hug on occasion  because it gets you out the door quicker.

Monday, March 19, 2012


"That tissue doesn't look right to me. I want to go ahead with the biopsy,"  says the oral surgeon. I had been referred by my dentist and this wasn't supposed to be happening. I wanted the guy to look in my mouth, make a few muttering sounds and tell me to get out of here, quit wasting his time. But instead I am looking up at that overhead lamp shining through his thinning hair, not a split end in sight and my abdominal muscles curl into themselves. I feel light-headed and sluggish, useless and expendable.

Was twenty years of smoking finally catching up with me?  I had repented, sinner that I was, and have been smokeless since 1995, okay there was that one year of back sliding. Was my reformation too late?  And then there was the fact that I regularly bathe the insides of my mouth with diet Coke and jalapeno-laced food, of course! the tissue will look mutilated.  I wanted to offer him all this information, served up on a platter of logical recourse and he would say, why didn't you say so?  He and the technician would laugh and shake their heads and I would be free, back out in the world of the living and the breathing, all the lovely people unfettered by odd-looking tissue embedded in their inner cheeks.

It's all about attitude say the cancer support groups and my attitude has always sucked. Any intelligent citizen in this country is a hypochondriac, we're saturated with Reader's Digest and AARP articles spouting  "Ten Things Your Doctor Won't Tell You" and those damn YouDocs keep using their cutesy language to convince us that fish oil capsules and cumerin are the formula for eternal life.

I hear the phone ringing and I am staring out the window wondering if I should play Neil Young's Harvest at the beginning of my memorial service or at the end.  Everything is in slow motion as I pick up and after an extremely long minute place that phone back in its cradle. A line comes back from a movie. Woody Allen is stammering and looking pointedly into the camera and he says, "the most beautiful, the most beautiful word in the English language is benign."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

let the children sing

I arrive moments before a grade school concert and I am in a packed gym. Even finding standing room vacancy ain't gonna be happening. Goddamn, these parents and grandparents are committed. And all those minivans taking up all that space means I practically had to park in the next county.  I see my daughter eight bleachers up and I need to squirm and thread my way through a lot of adult bodies encased in heavy winter coats.  I plunge in and suddenly arms and hands are reaching to assist me although I thought I was doing okay and some old geezer has his hand on my thigh. I get handed up to the spot next to Carrie without touching the floor murmuring, "next week the wheelchair."  In the eyes of the general public I look fragile and ancient.

The music teacher wants us to introduce ourselves to the people around us, "because those people are also here to nurture a child."   I'm here because if I wasn't my grandson will make me feel evil and guilty and annihilate me with those puppy dog eyes and he knows I attended his brother's basketball game earlier in the day. And the lady to my left identifies herself as Grandma Kitty "to an adorable first grader!" Seems like a lengthy title and she is perky and annoying and I think she wants to jump in my lap so I turn hastily to my daughter, "okay, that's enough introduction." I've already told my husband long ago I do not need to meet any more people, ever and Grandma Kitty keeps leaning into me and nudging me with her elbow every time her grandson blinks. I'm hot and sweaty and I want to take my coat off but I have a stained t-shirt underneath and I didn't have time to shower after my exercise routine. I am unacceptable on so many levels.

Each class of students stands in the center of the gym and sings their tunes and the theme of this concert is water, probably taken right out of some music teacher magazine that the director gets every month and it seems like a pretty weak excuse for entertainment.  The kindergartners are fun to watch because a couple of them always cry and that breaks the monotony. Thank God that's not my kid, we're all muttering under our collective breath.
At last we are relieved of our familial duties after an hour and fifteen minutes of enforced sitting on those hard wooden bleachers.  We would have been released earlier but the student teacher from Bogota had taught the fifth graders this boring, repetitive Hispanic dance that was trapped in some eternal mariachi loop. Dear God, when will this end?  I just want my couch and a drink.
Out into the blessed cold and I begin my walk to the next county.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

an introvert's dilemma

My seventh month of indoor pool use and the other swimmers are making noises like they want to know me better.  It's inevitable, this human need to reach out and make other people uncomfortable but I just wanna swim in my own self-imposed state of oblivion. If I compromise those boundaries chaos and calamity will result, the sun will explode and my stomach lining will curdle.

Not me swimming, but it could be
Marty is 78 years old and she is swimming in the lane next to me.  She wears a black wig that stands up about eight inches off her scalp and she has thick kohl liner on both eye lids making her look like a raccoon with head fur on steroids. Today she tells me, "your eyes and complexion and hair all go well together."  God, did she have to say that.  Physical compliments make me uncomfortable and like a lot of American women I jump in quickly to downplay.  "That's because I have a bit of a Jamaican tan but when that fades I will be paleface butt-ugly again." Didn't exactly use those words.

Sandy has been swimming next to me for over two years.  From scraps of conversation I have divulged that she recycles, goes to the library, always tries to find the perfect gift, hasn't eaten a french fry since 2003 and never says, "have a nice day!" She comes highly qualified in the "possible friend" category. But what if  I say something really dumb and she recasts me as a commoner, a cliche user, an insufferable bore, all my teen-age angst issues coming back at me in rapid succession.  And then I realize I don't give a rat's ass but then there's that other discussion, do I really want to invest time and relinquish my precious hard-earned privacy to this new unresearched person?

Sandy is here today and she hasn't seen me in a while.  She says, "I called your house on two occasions wanting to know if you would like a ride to the pool."  Jesus Christ!  How did we jump from, "maybe I'll see you at the pool next week" to paging through the phone book for my address and number?  I pulled myself up to the side of the pool, my thoughts racing and my eyes wide and cautionary and my voice coming out slowly and carefully,  "Are --  you --  sure . . . it was my number?  There were no messages."   And Sandy says, "I didn't leave any," and she saunters away to the locker room.  I like that and perhaps I should say, next time leave a message because I never answer the phone but then the ball is back in my court, a newly formed responsibility, a required return phone call.  Quickly, I close my mouth.  It's all so complicated this business of making friends but I kinda like that girl.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

ms. cat's opinion

"A cup of sugar, mostly brown," reads my mother's exasperating directions for pudding.  On any normal Thursday I would have called up the hill and said, "please Marie, be more specific," and she would have growled wondering why I didn't inherit her talent at literally reading between the lines of that recipe card.  Instead I possess my father's love of structure and the need to compulsively and painstakingly organize every facet in life. All science, no artistry here. At the end of the recipe she has written, "look at it."  No surprise, Marie has written her recipes for her eyes only. She always was a solitary girl. Geniuses in any field including the culinary arts don't have a clue how the rest of us common folk struggle and muddle through what looks to them to be a simple process.

If Sonny was not coming to dinner dessert would consist of Girl Scout cookies, you pick, I got'em all. But my father was accustomed to apple pie or strawberries in sauce on a homemade biscuit.  "Your mother cooked in the German fashion,"  says Dad's new paramour, a woman I have known since childhood, a safe bet for the old man.  "Big meals, lots of sides, and dessert. Your dad doesn't need all that."  In otherwards, quit  spoiling him. Easy for Cathy to say.  It's in her best interests to groom him for independence in case they take up housekeeping together. I'm still a lonely woman who achingly misses her mother and turning Dad into my child somewhat eases the dilemma. I know, probably a Freudian response, but then isn't everything.

So, I'm looking at this pudding as I have been instructed and it resembles watery cocoa, not what we want. Eureka! It has cornstarch in it and cornstarch gets thicker the more you cook it.  Back in the microwave again and again and now's it's a thick sludge but passable for human consumption.  Spent too much tme on the damn pudding, there will be baked potatoes instead of scalloped with swiss and parmesan cheeses.  Ahoy, Ms.Cat,  how'em I doing?