Friday, December 27, 2013

merry christmas bitches

Yeah, right, get out of my chair my ass. I haven't sat down in the last twenty-seven days, merry christmas, bitches. The cleaning, the fudge-making, the frosting of star-shaped cookies, the Santa stickers on all those cards, empty tape dispensers piling up. Where's my Christmas spirit? Why, it's up your cranberry red asses, you little funky elves and elvettes, bah humbug.

That out of my system I need to say this. I like Christmas. I really do. It's all about the glitter and peppermint and Bing Crosby, have yourself a merry little whatever but I must tell you this. I often fantasize about escaping the family pit. Somewhere on an island, green bluffs silhouetted against an ocean, white caps bobbing on the horizon, perhaps a dolphin sighting, endless margaritaville. I can smell the Coppertone. I'm sweating and steaming in the tropical sun, rum and fruit juice mating in my half-coconut shell just waiting for that jerk chicken guy to swing on by.

I awake Christmas morning and I know I want someone else to cook me breakfast. Our usual greasy spoon is open, run by a ruthless Greek guy who never lets his poor wait staff rest. I am agitated because there are tables of 16, 20 people waiting, families who want to get the Christmas get-together over and in a public place so they can go home and watch Netflix and eat store-bought peanut brickle. I need to get back to mix up the cheesy potato casserole and my two eggs over easy are way way down on the cook's schedule thanks to these mega families.

I have invited my family for dinner. My sister and father arrive early so we can play the traditional Christmas Scrabble game. My father wins by three lousy points and I attribute this to the fact that he spends several evenings a month perusing the Scrabble dictionary. He comes up with "za" and "qi" for acceptable words. I want to disqualify anything coming out of that accursed book, but he's 89, enjoy the win old man, you won't have many more.

I'm just saying.

my sister's sentiments




Thursday, December 19, 2013

an afternoon with the cuzzes

"Sometimes Grandpa can be fun," I tell the pouting five-year-old on the couch. I am off to a cookie exchange in my mother's home town and this young princess would rather have me stay with her. "Have him roll you on his exercise ball." For some reason this is their activity of choice, jeesh.

Rats, it's Christmas and that means parties with people making small talk and asking dumb questions. I pick and choose what I attend because there is not enough of my entertaining self to go around and some of you will just have to suffer the absence of me.

Sitting in the back of my aunt Celine's car I consider unwrapping one of the hard candies on the floor, I'm hungry. The invitation promised food and I am picturing spinach quiche, fresh fruit salad, raspberry scones and champagne punch. I can wait.

My 93 year-old aunt Leona, all 4'3" of her is sitting next to me. She is wearing black leggings and knee-high boots. She is also sporting a white turtle-neck sweater with black leather vest and a Harley-Davidson cap. Her tiny fingernails are painted black with white stripes, a skunk manicure. She hangs out at several Harley bars and the propreiters always keep beer mugs on ice for her.

We are at my aunt Rita's country home spilling over with Santas and snowmen decorations and I am hearing a story about Dagwood's Pub, the town's waterhole and the ladies are talking about Dagwood, the owner. "Is that his real name?" I ask. Oh no, they shake their heads, but he is such a dagwood, they say. Huh? And then Rita is telling me about a pub crawl they have at four other neighborhood bars and everyone gets a playing card at each place. The fifth card is supplied at Dagwood's and the best poker hand wins. And what's the prize, I ask. Oh usually cash, or guns, they all nod their heads.

I was deemed unworthy to wear a Christmas headband.

Alas, there is no champagne punch. Instead everyone's drinking coffee, pot after pot. Since I do not I am offered milk. Who drinks milk at a party? I am finally handed a warm glass of Diet Rite. "I never chill my pop," says Rita, "it makes me cold when I drink it."

I kissed my spinach quiche a sad good-by when I saw the giant margarine tubs filled with grapes on the tables and Rita had made cinnamon rolls. Two of her daughters made muffins and the youngest brought a crock pot of bacon. "Thanks for the bacon, " I tell her. I made three trips to that crock, I needed protein. "And I like your shirt." It pictured the manger scene with a balloon above saying, "It's a girl!"

I love my mother's sisters. They are honest and warm, generous and hard-working. Debbie processed 500 pounds of tomatoes this fall and I always feel lazy next to these women. Aunt Helen, all of 96, snaps at me when I admire her red coat. "You can't have it!" she yells. After a minute of thought she changes her tune, "if you buy me a new one I'll give it to you."


Thursday, December 5, 2013

at work

I'm sitting in the Alzheimer's day room, a little space created at the end of a long hallway, far from the scrutiny of the casual visitor, someone who might react stongly to an elderly person animatedly talking to her shoes.  There are no blaring TVs here, no hip hop belching from radios, noise is deadly to the demented. Who needs this senseless cacophony, my favorite new word.

I am talking to Evelyn, a small intense woman obsessed with her body fluids and she tells me her eyes are weeping.  I hand her a napkin and offer a drink of cranberry juice but she says no, I don't want to pee in the bed, well who does.

And then there's Adrienne, a long lean horsey woman and her body never looks comfortable in her too small wheelchair. She lived in a high rise in New York with her impeccably dressed husband. They were missionaries in Japan and occasionally she will lapse into that Asian language but more frequently she stares past me into a corner of the ceiling and shrieks. She shakes all over and her eyes lock on this space and I am reminded of the movie The Grudge. The film depicts an elderly woman who cannot speak and she keeps seeing this ghoul hunched in a ceiling corner and no one else can see it. I look upward with a little shiver and move her and myself to the other side of the room.

Freida comes bustling in, she's the kindest woman I have ever known and she spends all her time in this little room administering to her children, adults who look in the mirror and ask, who is that old woman? Freida is large and sweaty and carries two paper plates and plops one down in front of me. It is a small yellow square with a circle of grease spreading beneath it and for some reason that fascinates me. It has orange and pink specks, the pink I believe is meat. I don't want to eat it but I want to be polite to Freida because I really like her. After I have consumed half Freida says, "Helen brought this last week and I think it's okay to eat."

"I'm feeling seepage from my anus," Evelyn announces and I smile and pat her hand and thank god I don't have to check that one out.