Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Little Tiny Piece of My Wednesday

But a good one. I talk to my mom on the phone every day. Because I can't stand to miss a day. During tonight's call:

Candy: So I had this dream last night that you and Dad and me and Sis were on some cruise around Australia, and we were at the side of the ship on these blow-up rafts and the water was gross and muddy and nasty and I was not happy that my feet were hanging down in it. Then Dad went ashore and was running down a hill, a concrete ramp, and couldn't stop himself, and you said "Candy, go help him!" I got to the hill and saw him running out of control and yelled, in a little girl voice, "Daddy! I need you!" And that made him stop and turn around and start to come back up the hill.

Mom: Well you know what I dreamed? I dreamed I had a pig, a little baby pig, and I was holding it and I had a diaper on it and the diaper came off and it shit all over the front of me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy 67th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

October 23rd, 1941, they were married.

My dad was home on leave, in Indiana, from his army service in World War II. He wore his uniform; she wore a dress in a color she calls "soldier blue." It snowed.

Their long love story has been an inspiration to me, and to many others.

This anniversary will be a quiet day for them. Yesterday, with the help of my brother and his wife, Mom was able to get Dad to the dentist. It takes a little group of people to get him places.

My sister will probably bring them a treat, maybe Frostys from Wendy's, and celebrate with them.

Given the choice, my dad, who was an extremely energetic, hard-working man until Alzheimers parked its demonic (truly) presence on top of his life, would now opt to stay in bed all day, if we would let him. However, if you go into the bedroom where he is curled up all cozy under his blankets, and say "Dad, you wanna get up and eat a pecan Blizzard/Wendy's frosty/piece of pie?" he will pretend to deliberate and then say "Oh, might as well." And then he's back in the living room with us for a little while. Sweets are the only surefire bribe. This is common with Alzheimers patients.

After all these years, and even with the very small subset of Dad's memories in his possession, the love between him and his bride still radiates.

If you'd like to read the longer posts from their 66th and 65th wedding anniversaries, go here.

The photo was taken 15 months ago.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's All About the Price

Today I am grading my freshman "Compare and Contrast" papers. Yes, this seems like a lightweight assignment to give to college students, but it's one of the required papers we are to assign at the community college. It is amazing to me that I've had to fail three of them so far. Weren't we doing this stuff in fourth grade?

OK, now, to the gem of the day. The writer is comparing "Jessie, who is married to a very wealthy old man" to "Amy, a call girl twice a month in Vegas."

Here are my favorite passages:

"Deep down, Jessie knew in her heart that she had only one responsibility and that was to sexually please her husband whenever he was home."

"Amy's responsibilities do not belong to a marriage based off of money, they go to what ever [sic] her client wants. But do not mistake a call girl for a hooker or stripper, they are the elite of the elite, and they have the bank accounts to prove it. Although some people might find her work dirty, Amy only has to work twice a month."

That's lovely for Amy.


Jessie's story goes on to be a tale similar to that of the woman in the Eagles song "Lyin' Eyes."

"She buys the finest clothes at little privet [sic] boutiques, but she knows she will have to pay for it in a different way with her old husband."

And this typo was unbelievably perfect:

"Amy's clients don't just pay for the sex; they pay for time. Whether it's catching one of the new shows in Vegas or going out to eat in some of the finest restraints."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Yeah, What SHE Said

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

~ Agatha Christie

Monday, October 13, 2008


Since we're on the topic of the hazards of growing old, I'll share with you my mother's take on it:

"All you do when you get old is sit around and grow things you don't need. Tumors, corns, bunyons, bone spurs, cysts, stiff hairs on your chin, moles, lumps, ingrown toenails, bumps on your skin,...did I say moles yet?"

She pauses.

"And then as soon as you go get one thing chopped off, you grow nine more."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Attitude is Everything

And mine is rotten.

For my entire life, my default emotions have been fear and anxiety. Period. That's my whole spectrum unless I forcefully push one of the ends off it and branch out to something more pleasant. Like dismay and indifference.

I will say that I've, at least, learned how to work on all this. I was making a good start a few years ago, and that became a better start when I met Scott. He was not born a positive person, but has taught himself over the last decade how to chew into the Sandwich of Positive Attitude and swallow it and digest it and make it part of his cells. It is a marvelous skill.

Me? Still a beginner. But now it's crucial. Yesterday at the doctor's office, my blood pressure was high. ME. The girl who has always had LOW blood pressure. Apparently it has to do with some, ahem, being a chick in midlife issues. Everything goes haywire. Hormones, ability to think, and formerly stable bio-systems that have never even hinted at malfunction before. Which I guess means I'm well on the road to hen-dom. The doctor gave me a one-time BP-lowering pill, which I took, then pretty much stayed horizontal the rest of the day out of my brain's hair trigger alarm system which screechs like a hoot owl: "You're going to die! SOON!"

The bottom line is that I have to correct this blood pressure thing. I had NO IDEA that this had anything to do with, as they called it in my mom's day "The Change". And the more you dip your ladle into your fear and anxiety stew (boiling and frothing in a vat the size of Saturn) the more you're probably not going to help your blood pressure. Or any other problem, especially mid-life ones.

I cannot believe I'm writing about this on my blog. These issues that belong out in the small tent of the cursed woman, whispered about, with only one small candle for light. And one small box of Cadbury eggs.

Let me just air ALL the dirty laundry in my life. I sat down yesterday in my fragile condition and watched a full episode of "The Bold and the Beautiful." So there. String me up. By the way, Marcus has recovered from the cobra biting him. And yes, the snake in the shipping box was actually meant for Donna.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Poem I Really Like

I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

Jack London

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Belated "Happy 86th Birthday, Mom!" Post

I didn't get a chance to write an on-time birthday post, because I was in Indiana visiting her and Dad.

I thought maybe I'd write about the things she's taught me in life. There are many. Hoardes. The most likeable parts of me are traits I learned from watching her.

How to be friendly to any stranger, anywhere. Elevator, plane, grocery store line, doctor's waiting room, church, department store ladies' room.

How to love and appreciate beauty. She sees so many things that I would miss otherwise. "Look at those little yellow flowers along that ditch. I wonder what those are?" This is what she says while I'm finding something in my head to stew about. Anything. She is noticing the flowers or the clouds or the sunset. I notice these things, too, sometimes, but I have to make myself do it. For Mom, it comes naturally. They are there; she sees them. She is a stew-aholic, too, and so is my sister and my niece. We are all worry addicts. But we try to be like her, and to notice little pretties.

How to be silly. With abandon. Her favorite joke is a visual one: "How does a pollock look for a land mine?" Then she puts her fingers in her ears and tiptoes across the room.

You can't help wanting to make her laugh. Once when my mom and I were shopping at a big discount store in Florida, there was a tangled up pile of shirts on a table, on sale for $1.88 each. She was digging in to see what she could find, way down deep, and I slid my arm under the pile of sweaters and grabbed her hand from below. She jumped back like she'd been bitten and then said "That's why I like you, Candy. Because you're silly."

How to keep my mouth shut when I need to. This one didn't "take" as well for me.

How to love animals. How to hate certain animals. My extreme, radiating joy from dogs and cats is her doing. My need to speak what I think they want to say to me, is her doing. But Mom does not love all of God's creatures. She despises snakes (her battles with those are here) and crocodiles. When we see a show on Animal Planet with crocodiles, she says "Look at that ugly bastard. They oughta kill 'em all." And I always picture the crocodiles, lined up dutifully, to be pushed off a cliff.

The list of what my mom has taught me is long. But I'm most interested in what she's teaching me now.

My mother is on blood pressure medication, struggles with painful arthritis in her hips, knees, feet and crooked, throbbing fingers. Her right heel is sometimes tender and sore from a bone spur that resists treatment, some days worse than others. She has a post-cataract surgery "wrinkle" on her cornea, and an artificial knee that has, since its arrival three years ago, been stiff and uncooperative.

And yet, she still takes care of my dad almost entirely by herself. Dad is 90, tormented by Alzheimers, unable to go to the bathroom without supervision, unable to correctly brush his teeth, unable to walk without a walker, and then almost unable to walk anyway. He can't get the shaving thing right anymore, so she shaves him. Then she puts lotion on his face. She does the bodily things for him that could lead to the end of his dignity. But she does them in a way that keeps his dignity intact. Whether he knows this consciously or not, he does seems to know it. And he knows beyond any doubt that he is loved.

She used to give him a shower all by herself until we, her children, demanded that she hire help to come in and do that. At least that. It was getting way too slippery and dangerous. We also talked her into a "Life Alert" button, compliments of my brother. My sister, who is still dealing with the loss of her husband in May, visits almost every evening, often taking dinner to our parents. I go and stay with them for a week every six weeks or so. But we are small buffers for our mother's exhaustion.

My mother is giving me a master's class on loving sacrificially. I watch her take care of Dad, make sure he takes his flurry of pills (he has to be told numerous times), sit with him as long as she can while he finishes a meal. With Alzheimers patients, this can take two hours. They chew and chew their food and can't seem to remember to swallow it. She mixes Ensure with his milk to give him extra protein. Makes sure he gets to the bathroom during the night, and back into bed safely. The list of her daily caretaking duties never ends. And neither do my dad's questions. His memory has dimmed steadily and now his top two questions are: "Is this where we live?" and the most crushing "Are you my wife?" Until you are the recipient of the questions, full blast, you don't know how draining they are.

When I'm visiting, I want to answer every one of his questions. Because he is my father and because this is his impulse to communicate and I will take that any way I can get it. When I was sitting on the porch with him last week, my mom and sister took a rare walk together. I told myself I was going to answer every question as though it was the first time he was asking it. This sometimes revs him up to ask even more. After just fifteen minutes of rapid-fire Q and A about where I live, whether or not I like it there, who I'm married to, whether or not I have kids, where Mom went, and do we live here, I was ready to cry from exhaustion. And from the knowledge of what my mom endures, and from the gut blow of missing my dad the way he used to be, and multiplying that by a thousand for her.

We all have our baggage, our character flaws. One of mine is my tendency to self absorb. Not only to BE self-absorbed, but to almost emotionally fold up and curl into myself like an inverted daisy. It's a protective thing, developed from years of various battles. I'm not unique.

Watching my mom take care of my dad is teaching me to unfold. To, as an old friend of mine used to put it, let the pain go through me. It's coming anyway, so you have to learn to stand firm and take it, and let it pass before the next wave hits. And, as obvious as this sounds, to love in high gear anyway. And when you are unfolded, you can see everything there is to see, good and bad. Even the little yellow flowers in the ditch. And the ugly bastard crocodiles.