Wednesday, December 28, 2011

So why is it?

During Christmas vacation we spent two days at my Mama and Daddy's house. On the way home, I related to hunky hubby that I was worried about my Mom.

"What do you mean? She seemed fine to me other than working too hard for a 79 year old woman."

It's true. She is my Grandmother's (who is 104.5) caregiver, bill payer, chauffeur, property manager, secretary, battering ram - y'know. She's everything. My Grandmother (who is 104.5) does not think of her daughter as a 79 year old woman, or if she does, my guess is that from her perspective that's a spring chicken. She has that syndrome that our seniors get sometimes; the one that is seated firmly in entitlement due to age, wisdom, experience, and maybe most of all, weariness. It's someone else's turn to do for them. Know that one?

So my Mama, who really should be the recipient of some caregiving of her own, "works" full time. Now, Mary Ellen wouldn't have it any other way. She's doing what she feels she's supposed to be doing with her life and for her family. But it takes its toll.

During our visit, Mama pulled out sausage balls and announced that we should warm them and put them on the table to snack on. But. She pulled them out of the pantry. . . NOT the refrigerator.

"Mama," I said. "Do those have meat in them?"

"Yes baby. They're sausage balls."

"Mama," I said. "How long have they been in that pantry?"

"Since yesterday when I made them."

Still nothing. I needed a stronger prompt, I guessed. Or maybe just an all-out, blatant one.

"Mom. Shouldn't they have been stored in the fridge?"

"Oh. I guess. I didn't think about that. Here. Put them on the table."


I changed tactics. I simply whispered a warning to each of my other family members to stay away from the sausage balls.

After dinner: "Wellll, nobody ate the sausage balls! Weren't they good?"

Now you understand why I'm worried?

The next morning, my Mama called me from Grandmother's. (She rises at 5:00 every morning and goes next door to her Mom's house, feeds her breakfast, helps her get her bath, and then begins the general housekeeping and chores.) "Honey I got waffles for the kids for breakfast, and there's bacon ready to be panfried, too."

"Ok Mama, I'll take care of it."

The frozen waffles were nowhere to be found - that is, if you were looking in the freezer. Guess where they were. No really, guess.

Right. The pantry.

Guess what WAS in the freezer though?! The bacon. Ready to be cooked? Don't think so. Ready to be thawed maybe.

During our visit there were a few other similar incidents. None of them were dangerous - well, unless you consider eating day old meat that hasn't been refrigerated dangerous. But you know what I mean. She wasn't driving down the wrong side of the road or anything. Not that she hasn't before in her life, but that was thirty four years ago when she was just ditzy.

So, my hunky husband reminds me, she's always been ditzy. Why is it you're worried now?

I don't know, but I am. Her responses are different than the lifelong ditziness we're accustomed to - they have a different tenor, a different underlying ummm - I don't know what.

So, my hunky husband reminds me, she's almost 80. Peoples' 'tenor' change with age.

Mind you, he's not trying to minimize my worry. Well, he is, but for altruistic reasons, not dismissive ones. He's trying to rationalize, to make me feel better, to help me put into perspective something I can't get ok with yet.

Only now, two days later, in the middle of the night, have I recognized why I'm worried now. She's my Mama and she's 79. Yes, genetically she may very well have a good shot at living another twenty five years, but I guess I am facing the thought, the very real idea, that sometime in the future, the relationship my Mama and I have will change. For good.

There aren't many things I'm afraid of. Really there aren't. Losing my Mama however, is high up on that short list. It's a totally selfish fear, for she knows where she's passing to when she passes, and she isn't afraid. She has a deep faith and a strong and committed Christian heart.

So why is it I'm worried? She does ditzy things and I worry she's displaying signs of dementia instead of the regular ditziness that's been a part of her personality always. It weakens my argument that I can't describe why I'm worried or give objective examples or reasons why I think recent occurrences are more serious or forboding than the ones we've always laughed about, shaken our head and sucked our teeth and looked at each other with glances that say, "Ohhhhh, that's just Mama."

My greatest hope is that I'm wrong. I haven't given thought to what life will be like without my Mama, and I don't want to give thought to such a thing. Maybe I won't have to for a couple of decades.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I don't know where they are and neither does she...

A few weeks ago I talked about Sylvia and Marie's Grandfather passing away. As a result, Sylvia had to bring her Grandmother to live with her in Alabama. With her dementia progressing, she is not able to take care of herself. We know what an incredibly difficult transition and situation it is when you take on this responsibility - I commend her for feeling such strong accountability for her family. If you have been in this position however, or even if you know someone who has, you will understand there is a flip side to the seriousness and critical nature of the situation.

You just have to laugh.

Comic relief is a necessary thing, folks. So you'll understand I'm not speaking out of disrespect or making light of the situation when I relate these humerous bits.

From the time Sylvia was in Alaska (where Grandmother and Grandfather lived) preparing to bring Grandmother home, she began her campaign to get her Grandmother to quit smoking.

"Once we get to Alabama there's gonna be no smoking. Maybe she'll forget she smokes."

I laughed so hard I choked. Didn't expect that. Then, a few weeks later, this:

"I'm missing three pairs of shoes. Grandmother has a new hiding place and I don't know where it is and neither does she."

Again, laughed so hard I snorted. Seems like when a comic statement is a surprise, it makes it even funnier.

My own Grandmother, who is 104 years old, had a toothache a couple of years ago. At 102 the dentist was not inclined to do anything restorative; his suggestion was to pull the tooth and leave it at that. Over the holidays while we were there, my Mother, having just sat with Grandmother while she ate her lunch, said, "If we'd known Mother was going to live this much longer we might've had that tooth fixed instead of yanked."

Funny stuff. She didn't intend for it to come out funny. Just happened.

Similarly, each year when Grandmother's birthday comes around, my sister and my cousins and I all put our heads together to decide what and where to have the party. For the 104th party planning, I said, "Well lets make it a big one. Might be her last."

My cousin Sheri said, "Oh Caren. We've been saying that for ten years."

Hee hee heeeeeeeeeeeeee. It's not funny. But it IS. IT IS. Every time I visit my Grandmother, when I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her I love her, I head out the door and get in the car to leave and spend the next few minutes wondering if that was the last time I would ever get to do that. It's so gut wrenching a thought that comic relief is a necessity. I tell myself every single day I get to spend with her is a gift. I'm sure Sylvia tells herself the same thing about her Grandmother.

Some gifts are more valuable and meaningful than others; some come with baggage, some come with strings. The gift of having our seniors comes with humor. Thankfully.

Monday, December 12, 2011


My hunky hubby has the George Bush Sr. Cost of Living Syndrome. That is to say, he's clueless about the current prices of groceries among other things, and accordingly, how much is generally and regularly spent for groceries for the average family of four. Uhh, family of four where 75% are male. I feel that statement is crucial because its insanely consequential to the bottom line.

Now then. I feel compelled to state for the record that Hunky Hubby can quote the exact and/or relational cost of an abundance of items, mostly related to commercial property and it's upkeep, maintenance and repair. Also he's acutely aware of the price of frozen pizza, Xochitl chips, salsa, guacamole, and hummus. And Diet Coke. Pretty much his repertoire as it relates to consumable grocery items. Now, if you're talking hunting gear that's a different saga. And a post for another day.

So when I got home from Costco yesterday and happened to mention that I'd spent $365, he. freaked. out. Lost his mind for a bit.

"You saw all the stuff we brought in baby," I say. "How much did you THINK it cost? You can't get this quantity of cases, multi-packs, and huge containers of consumables like this for peanuts y'know."
"Well . . . . well . . . . well, weeeeee're we're just spending a lot on extras right here at Christmas, that's all," he said with a frustrated hand raised to his forehead.

"Extras? Interesting viewpoint. I never looked at food for our family as extras, but if you insist."

"Are you kidding me?" He's hoarse by now. "Three HUNDRED and seventy DOLLARS worth? That's not EXTRAS?????

"Sad to say, but no my darling man. It's normal. And not only that, but I didn't get everything I needed either. I'll have to make a grocery store trip later in the week."

At this point I thought his eyeballs might just pop out of their sockets and the top of his head shoot off with projectile smoke billowing and a big ol' train horn sound for accompaniment. He looked at me like I had three heads.

"What? More? We still need MORE?"

*sigh* Bless his heart. Good thing I'm so in love with him.

Pregnant pause. Having known the man for somewhere over thirty years, I'm fully aware that now at this nano-second he's working that information in his brain to spin it so that somehow HIS reaction is MY fault.

"Well, you acted like $370 was a lot when you told me how much you spent."

"It is."

"It is what?"

"A lot."

Pregnant pause. Having known the man for somewhere over thirty years, I'm just now learning how to burst his blame bubble.

"Well then, see?"

"See what?"

"See? If you hadn't acted like it was a lot I wouldn't have - uh - said, yeah that's it, said what I did."

*sigh* Bless his heart.

"It is a lot, but it's not more than usual. See the difference there, Big Guy? And for the record, the term extras refers to something that can be done without. In excess. Ancillary. Extraneous. Last time I checked, it was not only illegal but unethical and abysmally negligent not to provide healthy and nutritional food for your children."

Okayyyyyy. So that parting shot may've been ever so slightly patronizing. But just WAIT until he asks me where the Diet Cokes are. Now THERE's an extra.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas in Dixie

It's snowin' in the pines....

Not really. It is supposed to snow tomorrow, but I've had that song stuck in my head since last week. That one and Sweet Home Alabama and yes I know it wins the prize for the most redneck song ever written. But tell me this. Do you know anyone who, when the very first four or five guitar notes of Sweet Home Alabama come on, does NOT say "Turn it up" along with Ronnie Van Zant?

I don't.

Nor do I know anyone who doesn't know Christmas in
Dixie. What's it doing in Memphis? Maybe Graceland's all in lights.

What about New York City?
By now there's snow on the ground.

It's windy and the kids are out of school.

What's goin' on in Motown?

It's magic and the city's on the move.

It's a warm, inviting, cozy song. Just like when you hear the first four notes of Sweet Home Alabama, you know for the next three and a half minutes Lynyrd Skynyrd is going to be right there with you, dependably twanging out the lines and guitar licks you know by heart and have for years. Who plays the air guitar when it comes on?

Mee, mee, meeeee!

Unabashedly. No shame. Riiiiiight out in the open, baby. If my kids are around when it comes on they scatter. Fast. So Mom doesn't embarrass them by playing her air guitar. They know I carry it everywhere with me.

And when Randy and Jeff Owens come on singing to me about Christmas in Dixie, there's no one that sings that last, sweet line louder than me.

And in Atlanta, Georgia, there's peace on earth tonight. For that one, my kids don't scatter. They sing it with me. At the top of their lungs.

It's special being Southern, no doubt. You see the quote "I'm American by choice and Southern by the grace of God", and you might think it's just a cute lil' catch phrase to put on a button or a bumper sticker, but no. Nnnnnnnnewp. We Southerners really feel it. I know other folks are proud of where they live or where they're from, but I don't ever hear the pride, the love, and the thankfulness come through like I do when I hear a Southerner talk about life in the South, or explain how to fry (or eat) fried chicken, how to make buttermilk biscuits, how to sit on the porch with a tall glass of iced tea, how to entertain while making guests feel like family, how to interpret Southern speak, or most importantly, how to speak gracefully and tactfully with a lovely, gentle drawl while shooting daggers from your eyeballs into someone's soul. It's the Southern feminine version of The Hairy Eyeball. The Stinkeye. Only we do it with a wink, a smile and a tilt of the head. A Southern woman must know this, as well as the backwards sympathetic comment "Bless your heart."

"Oh, she's gained at least twenty pounds. Bless her heart."

Anyway. Here I sit rambling on about being Southern when I need to be cooking dinner and helping J-rod with his homework. He's got a ton, bless his heart.