Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Please Pray for My Sister

My sister's husband was just killed this afternoon in a motorcycle accident. He was hit from behind by a guy who was doing 60 mph, and knocked 50 feet onto the pavement. It is the worst day of my sister's life, and she is still in complete shock.

If you are the praying sort, and I know many of you who come here are, please lift her up in prayer, as well as the rest of our family.

My sister has always been the strong one. I'm the sister who falls apart during this or that divorce, etc. Seeing her in such open agony is like watching a national monument fall. I love her so much.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Dad Still Has His Sense of Humor

It doesn't appear often, but when a little glimmer of it does show up, we love it.

I'm in Indiana again. Here are a couple of examples.

Dad: Candy, where do you live?

Candy: You know where I live.

Dad: No I don't.

Candy: Take a guess.

Dad: Phoenix.

Candy: That's right.

Dad: Then what are you doing here?

Candy: I'm visiting you. Are you enjoying my visit?

Dad: Oh yes. Immensely.

And my favorite from this trip so far happened when my sister and I were trying to convince Dad to go get on his exercise bike. It's not exactly a bike anymore. He was too wobbly for it, so we've removed the seat and put a straight-backed chair behind the pedals. The goal is to get him to pedal for ten minutes. He doesn't have to pedal fast, he just has to keep going, no matter how slow. We're trying hard to keep his legs working, because he can barely get around even with a walker. And when he stops being mobile, he stops being able to live at home. It is a constant battle.

Candy: Dad, it's time to get on your bike.

Dad: How come?

Candy: To exercise your legs.

Dad: Don't need to.

Candy: Yes you do.

Dad: How come?

Candy: Because if you don't, you won't be able to walk anymore.

Dad: Oh bullshit.

Candy: OK. You have a choice. You can either go get on that bike and ride it, or I can ram a hot poker up your ass. Which do you want?

Dad: Oh, either one. It doesn't make any difference.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Hey, What's That Up Ahead?"

When Scott's mom and stepdad were here visiting in April, we went to the Arizona Science Center to see the Titanic exhibit. Included in the exhibit were about 150 items that had been rescued from the wreckage. Talk about creepy.

First, we were treated to an IMAX movie, showing how the guys on the "Let's Go Get Some Shit From the Titanic" team got into their tiny little deep sea pod and descended. Deep, deep into the ocean they went. For two hours straight they descended. There were three men inside, one of them quite hefty. A scary, claustrophobic version of "Three Men in a Tub." As one of my old college friends would say when he crowded with 5 others into an Opel Cadet: "Not enough room to scratch your nuts." While watching the coverage of their downward trip, I felt my breaths getting panicky, and had to look away from the screen and squeeze my water bottle for a snap back to reality. At least I think it was my water bottle. Heh, that was for you, Scott.

On the ocean floor they did their thing, taking photos and scraping up stuff and landing right on the deck of the ship. The narrator (Leonard Nimoy) pointed out that even if there was the tiniest puncture in the sea pod, the water would shoot through like a javelin, and it'd be instant cousteau-in-a-blender. Or something like that. Oh, and if they lost power? They'd just have to sit there and die. Because it's not like they could call a tow truck.

I have always been morbidly interested in the Titanic story. Not the one with Leo Di Saprio and the strains of emaciated Celine's annoying pipes in the background. The real one. So I was anxious to see the stuff in the exhibit.

And stuff they had. Dinner plates with the White Star Line (the Titanic's company) red logo on them, jewelry, children's toys, nearly disintegrated telegrams, pieces of rusty pipes, faded passports, a pair of worn leather shoes.

Imagine. Packing your shoes into your suitcase only to have them end up on the bottom of the ocean. Oh, and so do you.

Perhaps the creepiest thing: A wall of ice you were encouraged to lay your hands on, in order to feel exactly how cold the saltwater was that night. Though you could only keep your palm on it for 10 or 15 seconds before it started to burn, there were a couple of deep hand prints, courtesy of some dedicated pre-teens, who took turns on the same spot.

Just as the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. does, this exhibit provided you with a card before you entered, attaching to you the identity of one of those involved. This added the suspense of whether or not you survived the sinking. Scott accidentally got the I.D. card of a female passenger, but quickly regained his dignity when he pointed out to me that he had been assigned the role of a Countess. So there. When we got to the end of the line, we sat down on benches to look for our names on the gigantic lists of the survivors and the not-so-luckys. We had both lived.

That evening, Scott looked into a book on the Titanic and found out that not only was his person a Countess, but she had actually manned the till on one of the lifeboats. Which means she steered it. He was very proud of this tidbit of history. Though he was not amused when I addressed him many times as "Countess." I still do, occasionally.

There were four things about the day that were my favorites.

1. I could not bring myself to buy a souvenir. This never happens to me. I always get a souvenir. There were replica plates, T-shirts, shot glasses, and tiny pewter Titanics the size of cigarettes. I almost bought one of those, but at the last minute the idea of having a happy little memento of the biggest deathtrap in history kind of soured.

2. There was a poster in the exhibit quoting a guy who was pissed off because he had to take the Titanic instead of his original ship, the Oceanic. (Anybody watch "Lost?") This had caused him to miss getting together with a friend of his. He wrote the friend just before his departure, saying "As far as I'm concerned, I wish the Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean."


3. Equal in dumbass stature were the people who, partying like it was 1899 on the deck, thought the iceberg was funny. They could reach out and touch it, and some of them even put little chunks of it in their drinks. Oh ha ha! Look at the silly iceberg! Look, Margaret! Hand me my monocle.

4. And my very favorite. The guest book on the way out where you are invited to record your comments about the exhibit. Here are the ones I wrote down in my checkbook while standing there:

"I died again."

"It was amazing but I died oh well."

"Brittany ate mint jelly and lamb just like those people on the Titanic."

"Duh. Raise up the WHOLE ship."

"I like chicken."

"I lived because I am awesome!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why I Never Joined the Babysitters' Club

All this talk about Tang has launched me back to my teenage years, and my one and only experience with babysitting.

My best friend in high school, Mary, and I both lived out in the pukeweeds. In the summer our only companions were the stickiness of humidity and the silence of roads where nothing drove by but farm implements. Even Mary and I lived so far apart that we didn't visit much in the summer. At 15 we were at the mercy of whether or not one of our moms would drive us back and forth. When we did see each other, we laid out on a blanket in the backyard, sunbathing and sweating and talking about guys we knew and guys we wish we knew, surrounded by cornfields on all sides and steeped in the misery that is the isolation from the "town" kids.

Mary found occasional work babysitting for a couple who lived just a quarter mile from my house. You would never know they were there, since they'd built their house way back in the woods, down a dirt path that used to be a railroad track. (When the railroad track was still in use, years earlier, my older sister used to take me outside to watch the train go by and to wave at the man in the caboose. I don't think there are men in the cabooses anymore. Maybe there aren't even cabooses.)

The couple, both of them doctors, were wealthy as sin and we had never seen their fancy house. Only the steady flurry of vehicles going back and forth on the path, now covered with limestone gravel.

Mary, having met one of the doctors while getting her school physical (remember those?) usually babysat their two youngest boys. "They're completely rotten," she said.

There were also two older ones, from the husband's previous marriage, but she hadn't met them yet. Mary told us about the big elaborate house and its full walls of glass, looking out into the forest. The giant closets filled with expensive clothes, the uppity stainless steel sink in the kitchen with its fancy spigot.

Once when Mary was not available for sitting, she recommended me. The doctors were thrilled to have another sitter, and just a stone's throw away. My parents gave their OK and I was off to my first ever chance to make money that wasn't inside my family.

When I arrived, I was told my Mrs. Doctor that my duties were to watch all FOUR boys, feed them, and do housecleaning. All this for $1.25 per hour. For 8 hours. It seemed a bit much to ask of me, even way back then when money was money.

The boys were 12, 11, 6, and 5. Which is what I will call them.

12 was pissed off beyond all reason at the idea of being young enough to need a sitter. He spent the day cussing and hocking up big loogies, pretending he was going to spit them in my direction. (Here is one of those moments when one wishes with all of one's heart that one could go back to a particular day while carrying not only the wisdom earned by middle age, but also the pure willingness to punch.)

11 was moonie-eyed over me from the start. He was a hole of black need. I'm sure that no matter which female sitter had shown up, he'd have wanted her all to himself.

6 and 5? Total hellions. As though the devil himself had mated with two small, vicious hyenas, and this was the wretched spawn.

"I want Tang!" screamed 6.

"I want Tang too!" echoed 5.

"Give us Tang or we'll kill you!" yelled 6.

"Yeah, we'll piss on you!" sweet little 5 said.

Rugged little foul-mouthed bastards with scabby knees and filthy feet, these boys were obviously not acquainted with manners or discipline. I wanted to acquaint them with a sledgehammer, but none were in plain sight.

I searched through the state-of-the-art kitchen cupboards and found the giant jar of Tang. As I put it on the counter and started to look for glasses, 6 took the jar and opened it.

"Wait until I mix it up!" I said.

But I was unaware of their customs. 6 stuck out his considerable tongue, made a tight fist, and licked all over every speck of it. He then dipped his fist into the jar of Tang and ground it down as though he were a flesh pestle in a Tang mortar. When he was satisfied, he pulled his fist out, orange and powdery and sticky with spit, and licked it like a dog with a succulent bone, far from the madding crowd. It was so slurping and so elaborate a licking it would have caused a crowd of proper Victorians to mass-faint, just as they took their last horrified glimpse at a curvy wooden Jezebel piano leg.

I could not speak. I could not believe my eyes. I imagined the bitchslapping my own mother would've delivered had she seen such a behavior from me. She had bitchslapped me just recently, one morning, for ripping open a box of kleenexes (instead of using the perforations) when I was freaking out because the school bus was on its way and my nose was running. Had my mother seen me performing this lewd and horrible act with a jar of Tang, she'd have beheaded me. I could just hear her before the axe came down: "I don't give a god damn if it IS the favorite drink of astronauts!"

6 took his fill, then passed the jar to 5, who fist-licked himself into glucose oblivion. When they were finished, I begged them to wash their hands, but they were quickly off into the far corners of the house, leaving Tang-prints on furniture and walls.

What to do?

11 skulked forward, suggesting that 6 and 5 might go for a bath. They like baths, he said.

It was a plan. I ran the bathwater, added unreasonable amounts of Mr. Bubble, and lured them in.

"Get a bath and I'll make brownies," I lied. No way in hell was I going to make brownies.

They insisted they could bathe alone. I left the bathroom door open so I could hear them, and then sat down in the uber-groovy mid-1970s hanging wicker chair in the family room. As I took a moment for myself, barely swaying to and fro, 11 came back.

"Can I sit with you?"

"Sure." I made room, and once he got next to me, he wanted to cuddle. Like a baby. I held onto him and listened to the little hyenas cussing in the bathroom.

"No, YOU are a pissf*ck!" And so on. I had never heard such high level cussing from such young kids before. (Remember, this was 33 years ago.)

11 just hung on to me, sighing with contentment, and I wondered where 12 was.

"He's in his room," 11 told me. "Hating us."

Suddenly 5 and 6 ran, soapsuds dripping everywhere, through the family room.

"Look at our penises!" 5 yelled.

They were carrying what I found out later to be their favorite book: All About Our Bodies. Guess which page they had worn out.

"LOOK!" yelled 6.

"I see your penises," I said. "Now could you please put on some pants?"


The day went dragging on. I didn't care what it took to shut them up. I let them finish the Tang. I let them wrestle and cuss and roll around the kitchen trying to shish-kabob one another with wooden spoons. I let them open the back door and bring their St. Bernard, Hal, into the house.

"We ALWAYS bring him in!" they lied.

Hal urinated on the corner of the white, flowered couch in the family room. St. Bernard's are able to carry an entire bucket of steaming urine in their mighty bladders. There was no hiding it. The couch looked jaundiced and smelled to high heaven and 5 and 6 were laughing themselves into a seizure. I was doomed.

I tried to clean it off with paper towels and Fantastic, and this was an utter failure. I gave up on that, and on getting 5 and 6 to stop riding Hal.

Years later, it was finally time to go home. Mrs. Doctor showed up, gave me a crisp ten dollar bill, thanked me, and sent me on my way.

The next day, the phone rang. It was her. I was sure she was going to sue me over her couch. But she was telling me the boys liked me, and could I babysit this Saturday? It would be just the boys and some of their friends. Oh, and they'd be swimming most of the day in the pond way out behind the house. I could swim, couldn't I? I could keep an eye on them?

After I stupidly said yes, I got my mom to call back and tell her that she wasn't comfortable with me being a lifeguard (true) since I really wasn't that good a swimmer (true) and besides that, what would I do if two of the boys needed help at the same time. Go Mom!

And thus ended my babysitting career. Mary continued to go, and she paid dearly for it. Her last day to take on the doctors' boys did not go well. Mister Doctor, a would-be pheasant hunter, purchased a big wooden crate of 100 not-quite-flying pheasants. He planned to release them into the woods and then he'd have something to shoot at. He put the crate just inside the back door of the house. They weren't old enough, yet, to be released.

His mistake was in leaving a babysitter with the boys and the box of pheasants and a BB gun. Mary came onto the scene too late, because she probably WAS making brownies. 5 and 6 had pried open the crate, lifted some pheasants out of it, and were taking turns shooting at them, inside the house, in their half-flying, half-jumping bird panic. I don't know how many they hit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Their Own Little Cul-de-Sac

The three couples got together every week or so, played board games, and drank many tall glasses of their favorite beverage: Tang.

Though their friendships were easy and comfortable, the gorillas were most likely to put a foot in their mouth.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Apologizing to God

Hello, God. I didn't make it to church this morning because I couldn't sleep last night. It's Mother's Day and when I finally did roll out of bed, I read the emails that told me that my mom is having what is the worst Mother's Day of her life.

As you know, since you know everything, my dad has entered a new phase today. He was agitated all night and kept asking fearful, and even angry, questions. Suddenly, he thinks I am 4 years old, and that he needs to go find me. When Mom tells him "Candy isn't 4. She's 48," he says "God dammit, I'm talking about OUR Candy." When he wants to know where I am, and Mom tells him I'm in Phoenix, he says "How can she be in Phoenix? She's only FOUR!"

He also wants to know what has happened to his farm and all his tractors. When Mom tells him we sold all that, he wants to know "How can I make a living now?" Don't worry, she tells him. You're retired. We're fine.

And the biggest heartbreak of all: He thinks she is lying to him, and says "The next thing you'll tell me is that you're my wife." Yes, she says. I have been your wife for 66 years.

And then Dad thinks he's figured it out: He's been in the hospital all these years and has missed everything.

So, God. I am trying not to despise you. I know I shouldn't be thinking like this. I know I'm supposed to love you and trust you. I get it. I get the rules. I'm hoping that if you're the source of all love, as I've been told, and the God of Mercy, as I've been told, that you'll accept how very sickeningly angry I am at you.

I've heard it before: God can take it. He can take your anger. He's GOD! He MADE your emotions. He knows how you feel whether you tell him or not.

But you scare me. The way you just let things happens terrifies me.

You know that my big problem with you, and that the big problem MANY people have with you, is that you let so much suffering float by on the big river of misery that ends up rising from its banks and drowning us all anyway. I know, I know. It's our original sin. It's our free will causing the shit to hit the fan.

I heard a very smart man say "Those who believe in God only have to explain suffering. Atheists have to explain everything else." Nice quip. Very useless at the moment.

Here is my apology:

I'm sorry, God, that, for awhile now, I've felt like you are the King and I'm a sniveling, sycophant of a court jester who is at your needling mercy. And that I have to keep thanking you for things all the time, even as things get worse. Like you're saying "You're thanking me, aren't you? You have to thank me. Did you thank me? I don't think I heard you. Oh, OK, I heard you thank me, but I'm throwing this javelin through your mother anyway."

I'm sorry that my sincere prayers of gratitude are always laced with fear and resentment.

I'm sorry that I didn't cherish the better days with my dad. I'm sorry for the anger I've felt for not having been of more interest to him, back when he had things he was interested in.

I'm sorry for making this about how I feel, when it's about what my dad and mom are going through.

I'm afraid you'll respond to this apology, and I'm afraid you won't.

Either way, I'm sorry that I've accidentally locked the rickety door on my heart. I'll keep checking outside for a note.

Please be with my dad. Please soothe him. Please put your arm around my mother.

I'm sorry for asking, when I've just written my own name on your shit list.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Last Sunday Morning

Rushed around, trying not to be late for church.
Grabbed a banana, peeled it. A big chunk fell off the end.
It was immediately a fashionable hat.
Ran through the house like the prince searching for Cinderella, trying to find someone it would fit.
Photo op.
Late for church.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Things He Repeats, Part Two

In an earlier post, I took you on a tour through my dad's repetitive questioning, due to his Alzheimer's Disease. Each month when I go to Indiana for a visit, the questions have slightly shifted. He keeps the most popular, such as "Candy, where do you call home?" and "Do you like it there?" and "Weren't you a valedictorian?" in his repertoire, drops a few, and adds others. There were two main characters in the latest new additions:

Dad: Candy, did you ever know Mutt Hickey?

Candy: Nope. Never did.

Dad: What ever happened to him?

Candy: I don't know, Dad. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mutt Hickey.



Dad: Say, did you know a guy by the name of Mutt Hickey?

I think you will agree with me when I say that "Mutt Hickey" is one of the most idiotic names ever spoken.

We do know that Mutt Hickey once existed, because I remember hearing my dad talking to a friend of his, Orville (now deceased), around 15 years ago about having known Mutt Hickey when they were young. (Apparently Mutt was not a member of Mensa.) So Mutt Hickey is not imaginary. But we can't locate even the slightest tidbit of information about him. My brother has googled himself numb over it.

It has become customary for me to change my answers to my dad's many questions, not only to offer a variety of responses with which to entertain him, but to keep my own brain from splattering like a robin's egg under a medicine ball.

Dad: Candy, do you remember Mutt Hickey?

Candy: Yep.

Dad: What ever happened to him?

Candy: He hauled off and died.

Dad: Oh? He did? How come?

Candy: It was just Mutt Hickey's time to go.

Dad: How come?

Candy: I don't know.

Dad: Whatever.

[Note: It has been my practice for years not to accept any whatever-ing from my father.}

Candy: WHAT did you just say to me?

Dad: Whatever.

Candy: WHAT?!

Dad: I said 'I don't know either.'

My favorite new line of questioning concerns an old, old bit of family history. Around 45 years ago, at a family gathering, my dad's Aunt Ida (Idie, as she was called) was in attendance with her toddler granddaughter, Nancy Ann. At some point during the day, Ida detected a foul smell and exclaimed "Nancy Ann! I think you've shit yerself!"

The framework for the questioning takes a familiar form.

Dad: Candy, did you know Nancy Ann?

We are sitting at the counter with my mother, eating lunch. Broccoli cheese soup and chicken salad croissants.

Candy: I heard about her once.

Dad: Did you know she shit herself?

Candy: Yes.

Dad: Where IS Nancy Ann?

I crumble crackers into my soup. My mother sips hers from her spoon.

Candy: I don't know where she is now.

He takes a bite of his croissant.

Dad: Nancy Ann shit herself. Did you know that?

Candy: I heard something to that effect.

I take a drink of ice water. Dad looks into his soup bowl as though it is a crystal ball. I wish I could go inside his mind just for a minute. Better yet, I wish he could come out.

Dad: Say, did you know Mutt Hickey?

Mom: I wish you had Mutt Hickey up your ass.

Dad: How come?

Sometimes it's hard to remember that "how come" is like a period on the end of Dad's sentences. He usually doesn't expect or even care to hear an answer.

Mom: Because I'm sick of hearing about MUTT HICKEY!

Dad: Whatever.

I let it go. I can't battle every single "whatever" he utters. It used to be an easier banter between us that he played with vigor. But he is losing interest.

Mom picks up the remote control and turns on the TV. Montel Williams is discussing his daily consumption of 64 ounces of vegetable juice. Then he says he's giving each audience member his favorite juicer to take home with them.

Mom: He's getting just like that damned Oprah. Buying people with all that shit he gives away.

Candy: I want to drown them both.

Dad is almost done with his soup.

Dad: Candy, did you know Nancy Ann?

Mom: Here we go again.

Dad: Did you? Did you know Nancy Ann?

Candy: Not very well.

Mom finishes off her croissant, wipes her mouth with a napkin.

Fifteen seconds of silence.

Dad: She shit herself.