Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Christmas Eve day with the Weebles was a nice affair. They were excited about a recent visit from The Brother, and the fact he was going to drop by on Christmas Day.

I’m sure it was a not so subtle hint that we could drop by too and then the Weebles would have the whole family together on Christmas. Himself and I began a tradition when the Eldest came along. We stayed home for Christmas. The door is open to those that want to drop by, but we don’t move from the house.

“Oh wow, that will be nice for you,” I said and smiled at Ma.

A while ago, Dad had given me his old movie projector, screen, and some reels of film he had shot. The film had lived for five or more decades under the eaves of their house alternately sweating and freezing. I thought it would be fun to drag out the projector to watch the old home movies. Dad had told me the bulb on the projector was burned out and Himself and I wondered where we would even begin to look for a bulb. Fortunately, we had a fallback. Himself has his dad’s old movie projector, and it works as we had watched Himself’s home movies several years ago.

So, after dinner Himself lugged up the movie screen and set it up. We shifted the sofa and the Weebles around so they could see the screen. Their faces glowed as they watched the flickering images of their siblings (gone now) and themselves as young parents. We watched the antics of The Brother with cousins, waved at my Grandma (Ma’s mother) and admired how cute I was as a baby butterball.

As the Young One turned on the lights, Ma turned to me.

“Well, you certainly took everything you could get your hands on (film, projector, screen), didn’t you?” she sniped.

I felt my blood boil at her remark which was the only thing that had marred an otherwise pleasant visit. I had a very hard time controlling my tongue.

“Excuse me?” I croaked. “I didn’t take. I was given!”

She must have realized she was about to cross a dangerous line because she backpedaled the remark.

I served tea and pie, talk turned to very neutral subjects and soon it was time for the Weebles to go home.

After Himself got home from shuttling the Weebles to their home, I groused about the remark.
“Don’t let it upset you. It’s just your mother’s way,” he said.

I’m always amazed at his equanimity. His feathers rarely get ruffled, and he is easily able to give others the benefit of the doubt while I run around yelling grace off and muttering in tongues.

“Still, it hurts to be accused of stealing from your mother.”

“I know. There’s a faculty member at school who’s the same way. The focus always has to be about him. Your mother is the same way. Let it go.”

Christmas Morning

We had spent a leisurely time as we opened gifts one at a time to be admired, oohed, aahed and savored. (Himself thinks this organized method is weird as his family Christmas gift opening tradition was a feeding frenzy). The girls had gone to their rooms with new items while Himself and I were still in the livingroom.

Himself had given me a digital picture frame, and I was searching the packaging for instructions written in English. I had the Spanish pamphlet in my hand.

“Y’ know,” he began. “That would make a great gift for your folks.”

I looked up and gave him the look that goes with a politically incorrect Boston expression.

“No way.”

“It’d be great!” he insisted.

“Yeah, I can just hear Dad now. THEY don’t give him his email and now THEY won’t give him his pictures. No electronic gifts for the Weebles.

Himself chuckled.

An hour later he was sitting at the kitchen table using the laptop.

“Hey? I just had a thought about the burnt out bulb in Dad’s projector. Do you think the bulb from your dad’s projector would fit?” I asked.

“I’d hate to touch the bulb as it’s really sensitive. Just moving it, could shake the filament.”

“It was just a thought. I didn’t try out Dad’s projector. Just took his word that the bulb was blown out.”

“Yeah, like they don’t give him his email.”

"Point taken."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Caged Bird Sings

Dad’s side of the story.

A week of snow was over. I hadn’t heard from the Weebles. Wasn’t sure if no news was good news, but I was worried about the threat to lock Dad out in the snow.


“It’s me. How’ya doin?” I was relieved to hear his voice.

“The usual.”

“Did you go singing yesterday?”

“Of course.”

“Did she lock you out of the house?”


I laughed. Ma was always as good as her word.

“What happened?”

“I went singing. When I got home she had all the doors locked.”

“How did you get in?”

“Well, I was in the garage, looking for some tools to take the door [inside door from garage that leads to a small porch off the kitchen] off its hinges, but I didn’t have the right tools. I do now, though!”

I didn’t want to tell Dad how ridiculously easy it was to break into the house. Himself used to help me all the time when I was a kid and either lost or forgot my house key. One didn’t need to remove the door hinges, and the only tool needed was a screwdriver.

Dad was amazingly calm, and he laughed as he related the details. I expected him to be singing arias in tongues about Ma.

“So, how did you get in?”

“Well, like I said, I didn’t have the right tools so I was just about to walk over to Stop and Shop and get something to eat and @#$@#$ her!”
I didn’t mean to laugh.

“She must have heard me banging around in the garage,” Dad continued. “And she unlocked the screen door.”

He didn’t relate whether there were more fireworks, and I thought it prudent not to ask. I was just relieved to hear he wasn't in the hospital with a severe case of hypothermia or frostbite.

“Well, I just wanted to check to see if things are ok.”

“I appreciate it. Listen, I’m not going to tell her you called.”

“Ok.” Just Dad’s little way of tit for tat.

Ma’s side of the story

Ma called to chat. Dad must have gone out and she was lonely or ticked at him, or both.

Curiosity got the better of me.

“Did he go singing?”

“You know him.”

“Did you lock him out of the house like you said you would.”

“Of course!”
Like I said, Ma's as good as her word. With Dad out of the house, she doesn't have control over him.

I laughed. Couldn’t help it. Jackie Gleason’s show “The Honeymooners” is still going strong and Ma and Dad have the lead roles.

“What happened?”

“He was in the garage yelling and banging around.”

I had the image of the Flintstones with Fred locked out of the house after he tried to toss the sabertooth cat out for the night. Wilma! And Fred pounding on the door.

I lost some of the details and caught her explanation, the crux to the matter.

“Well, he goes out of the house and he leaves me for hours all alone. I’m afraid to be alone now if something happens, I have no help.”

Six or seven years ago now, Ma had a stroke while she was home alone. Dad had gone singing. Ma had gone outside to sweep leaves from the back walk when it happened. She sat outside on the ground for two hours until one of the kids coming home from school happened to hear Ma’s call for help.

“Still, you shouldn’t lock him out of the house.”

I could see her shrug an I don’t care.

I’ll have to remember to play the hole card next time. If you lock Dad out of the house, and something happens to you, how will he get in to help you? How will the rescue people get in? Maybe I should leave a screwdriver under the front mat.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fun In The Snow

Late in the afternoon, The Young One and I had just finished digging my car out of the snow. Cold and tired we were anticipating a well deserved rest and a cup of hot chocolate when the phone rang. Even before I looked at the caller ID, I knew it was Prissy.
Prissy has her large circular driveway plowed, but the plower doesn't shovel her front walk or clean off her car.
"Does the Young One want to earn some money? I'll pay her to shovel my walk and brush off the car." she asked.
"We just finished digging my car out. Do you have a shovel because I broke my good one?"
"Yes, I have shovels and a broom to brush off the car with."
Ok, give us an hour and we'll come over to do yours."
An hour later, The Young One groaned as we pulled on our boots and grabbed gloves.
"Why does she have to have her car dug out now? She won't be going anywhere." said the Young One looking longingly at the laptop.
"I know, but old people are funny that way. They worry about things." I grabbed the crappy shovel and we crossed the street.
"What does she have to worry about?"
"If the snow isn't cleared she'll worry about things like, if she has a heart attack, how will the rescue people get to the front door? How will the oil delivery man deliver the heating oil? How will the electric company read the meter? Stuff like that."
The Young One made the classic teen face and sighed deeply. Her breath plumed in front of her. She took the crappy shovel and began digging out the back of the car.
Prissy came to the front door with shovels and a broom. I waded up the front walk and she handed them to me.
"I'll put my boots on and come out and help you."
"No, that's ok. We got it covered." The last thing I would need would be for Prissy to have a heart attack while shoveling her stairs. I patted my coat pocket to make sure I had my cell phone with me.
"I don't need the whole front walk shoveled," she said. "Just a path so I can get to the car."
I nodded.
A few minutes later, Prissy came out dressed in her coat, boots, hat and gloves.
"Here, let me help you."
"No! Get in the house!"
"Young One, brush the snow off the car this way." Prissy made motions with her mittened hands and started down the stairs.
"Will you get in the house! Go make me a cup of tea!"
Prissy took another step and started to open her mouth.
"Get in the @%$@# house before you slip and fall and break a hip." I played the trump card. "Go put the kettle on, I want a cup of tea."
Prissy mumbled something and went into the house.
The Young One snickered. "Dude," she called to me. "She just wants to help."
"I know, but the last thing we need is her telling us how to shovel or having to call 9-1-1 to have someone come and pick her butt out of the snow. Besides, if she was able to do this, she could have come out earlier in the day and done this instead of waiting until it was dark. Old people," I grumbled.
The Young One regarded me for a minute and nodded sagely.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Day After

Friday, the day after the storm, I called the Weebles to see how they were doing and if they needed the driveway shoveled. Himself had packed a shovel in the trunk of his car and would stop at the Weebles after school to dig them out. Usually, one of the neighbors would snow blow the driveway for Dad, but just in case Himself would be prepared.

I called and the phone rang, and rang and rang. Ma doesn’t move fast and around the nineteenth ring she picked up the phone.


“Hi, I called to see how you were doing. Did you get a lot of snow? Do you need the driveway shoveled?”

“HE’s out there doing it.”


“Your father.”

Silently, I said some choice phrases concerning Weebles, and I looked to the heavens” Rolling Eyes

“He shouldn’t be doing that.”

“I know, but he has to go singing.”

I forgot the day. Friday is the Goldenaires glee club rehearsal. Dad is McNamara, the leader of the band, and he’d sooner cut of his right arm then miss anything to do with singing.

His singing is a bone of contention for Ma. She’s jealous of his mobility. He gets out of the house every chance he can get. Either he walks to the Senior Center or one of his “ladies” comes to pick him up. That’s another sore point, the ladies. While Dad is out and about, Ma can’t have him under her thumb.

“He shouldn’t be out shoveling,” I preached to the choir. I wasn’t sure if Dad’s bit of stupidity had to do with his OPD of singing, a death wish, or a combination of both. Most likely, the death wish. If he dropped dead from a heart attack in the middle of the driveway, he’d show her! “Himself will stop by after school to shovel.”

“No, he has his own work to do.”


“Don’t worry, I’ll fix HIM.”

I knew she meant Dad and not Himself.

“What will you do?”

“If he moves one toe over the driveway to go singing, I’ll lock him out.”

I laughed. She would too. I remembered a story I heard as a kid. Dad had been out at some Knights of Columbus event. Ma had imposed a Cinderella curfew. In by midnight or else. Midnight came and went with no sign of Dad. She locked both storm doors so he couldn’t get in. He spent the night in the car.

I sent Himself an email. C’mon home. The driveway will be taken care of. I didn’t add and so will Dad.

White Rabbit Appointment

Another doctor’s appointment. I arrived early per usual. Thought I would have a chance at visiting for a little bit, a chance for redemption in case the doctor kept them waiting and I had to leave after dropping them off at the house. We had a half an hour before we had to leave for the appointment. Ma was getting herself dressed. Dad wanted me to take a look at the computer.

“They won’t give me anything,” he explained.

“They” as if there are elves in the machine.

“They won’t give me my email. I put my password in, but they won’t let me do anything.”

I booted up his computer. Listened for the happy chime of the Windows logo. Signed onto his ISP with his password and was rewarded with his home page and the email preview.

With him looking over my shoulder, we sorted through his inbox.

In the middle of this, Ma came upstairs and went into the room across the landing which she turned into a sewing room. Dad got very paranoid.

“What’s she doing up here?”

I found Ma standing in front of her industrial Wilcox and Gibbs sewing machine fumbling with some thread. Ma was a seamstress and this antique machine was her baby.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to fix my pants.”

“We have to leave for your appointment in 15 minutes. Your appointment is at quarter to 11” I wasn’t sure why she didn’t fix her pants the say before when she had all day to sew, but questioning her was only going to get me yelled at.

“Here, thread the machine.” She gave me the navy thread.

I can’t sew. I can’t sew on a button to save my life, let alone thread a machine. Ma made me take sewing in jr. high school. (I wanted to take technical drawing, but that’s another story) I hated sewing and the sewing teacher. She wasn’t thrilled with me either and gave me a “C” because she knew my mother was a seamstress. Ma remade my dress at the end of the year so it could be worn.

I held the end of the thread as if it was a snake.

“Here put it through this guide.”

She made it sound so easy and it probably was if I could see the damn eye to the guide. I got the thread close a couple of times.

“Through here,” she yelled.

“I’m trying! I can’t see the damn hole!” The blind leading the blind.

“You have your glasses on!”

“Just because I have my glasses on doesn’t mean I can see!” I tilted my head this way and that trying to find the correct focal point in the bifocals.

“You’re doing it wrong!”

“I’m trying! Stop yelling at me!” The thread slipped through the first guide. Two more guides and then through the #$%@#! eye of the needle.

“Now through here!”

With shaky hands, I tried again.

Ma was breathing down my neck.

“No! Here!”

“Stop yelling at me! If you think you can do better, here!” I dropped the end of the thread.

“I didn’t ask for your help!”

“Yes, you did! You said ‘Here, thread the machine.’ I picked up the end of the thread and shoved it through the next two guides. I was worried about threading the needle without an electron microscope there was no way I would be able to see the eye of the needle.

I was too busy concentrating on the guides that I didn’t really see what Ma did. She had the end of the bobbin thread.

“Tie a square knot!”

I took the end of the bobbin thread and the thread through the guide. Right over left…

“It has to be a square knot!”

I bit my tongue and finished left over right and pulled the square knot taut.

She pulled on the bobbin thread. I was skeptical, but the navy thread flew through the eye of the needle. Ma grunted with satisfaction, pulled her chair out to sit down to her sewing.

I went back across the hall to Dad’s office.

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s sewing her pants.”

Dad started sputtering and rolled his eyes.

I told him I wanted to do some housekeeping on the machine, and he went downstairs. I cleaned out the temporary files. I also thought the problem he was having getting into his account was due to the old DSL access still in his tool tray. He was probably trying to sign on through that account which no longer exists so I happy deleted the programs.

I only had one point of contention with the FIOS ISP and that was virus security. Under the DSL account, the virus protection program was free. FIOS offered a 30 day trial subscription to Norton. Now, I pay $40 a month for “them” not “to give him anything” and I don’t want to pay an additional fee for him not to turn the computer on.

I wasn’t worried as there are plenty of free virus protection programs. AVG, Avast, Panda. They all work equally well. I downloaded Avast and in the middle of the download encountered a Windows error. Tried again. Same problem. Tried Panda. Same problem. What the… Checked his log in account to make sure he had administrator privileges. Yup, that was ok. Maybe I’d have to reinstall Windows.

It was now quarter to 11 and Dad with hat and coat on came upstairs.

We could hear the whirr of Ma’s sewing machine.

“Take your hat and coat off,” I said. “It’s going to be awhile.”

“But we’re going to be late.”

“I know.” I shut down the computer. I wasn't worried about the computer not having virus protection. Dad doesn't turn it on often enough for a viral invasion and because "they" don't give him his email, he's pretty much protected.

Dad started to sputter and was heading across the hall for a confrontation with Ma. I grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Look, yelling at her to hurry isn’t going to change anything. Her little trolley won’t slip the track.” I thought of the way The Brother let's Weeble aggravation roll off his back with an oh, wow. 'Oh,wow. We missed an appointment.' No worries.

“Why didn’t she sew yesterday?” He was gearing up to explode.

I shrugged. “Look, calm down. If she misses the appointment, you can schedule another, and I’ll take you.”

Dad looked at his watch. “Maybe I better tell them we’re going to be late.”

“Good idea.”

The appointment was rescheduled and Dad put the kettle on for tea.

Ma came downstairs. “I’m ready to go now.”

“You missed the appointment and it’s been rescheduled,” I said.

She looked at the clock.

“Your appointment was at quarter to 11,” I added.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did, but you had to sew your pants.”

“Hmm,” Ma sniffed indignantly. “That doctor wouldn’t even wait for me. Why didn’t he wait for me?”

I laughed. Ever La Signora, The Lady. “He has other patients and can’t wait until you’re good and ready to grant the doctor an audience.”

Ma made lunch and Dad and I sipped our tea in the living room.

“Come set the table,” Ma yelled. Dad and I both jumped as we didn’t know which one of us she was commanding.

She brought 3 cheeseburgers to the table.

I frowned.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t like cheese.”

“Since when?”

I laughed. “Since forever. Don’t you remember when I was at St. Pat’s when it was grilled cheese day, Mrs. Burns [a neighbor who was the head dietician at the parochial school] would stop the lunch line and bring me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so the nuns wouldn’t yell at me for wasting the grilled cheese sandwich I wouldn’t eat?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“Don’t worry about it.” We sat down, ate lunch and had a nice visit.

On the ride home I was congratulating myself for being so calm about the missed appointment. Surely, I must have risen to the eighth level of Hell for not losing my temper. Maybe even a small gem for my heavenly crown. I patted myself on the back. A thought struck me and my elation sank. Pride is the worse of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lucifer committed the sin of pride and fell. Being so smug about how I didn’t lose my temper was hubris. Oh, well, back to the ninth level of Hell.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


The mail arrived with a check for the phone bill and a letter from Dad, a newsy note. The Brother had gone to pay them a surprise visit on Sunday. The surprise was on The Brother as the Weebles were not at home. Dad's friend had taken them for storm supplies on a three hour shopping expedition to Market Basket. Lord knows how they would make it through the one to three inches of snow without a case of Pastene canned tomatoes. Dad was sorry they missed The Brother's visit but was pleased with The Brother's phone call later that evening.

The end of the letter turned to Dad venting. Seems Ma was singing the "He's Stupid" song. No surprise there. I did chuckle at the last paragraph, some words of advice from father to daughter.

Growing up, Dad really didn't have much to say to The Brother and myself. When he did have something to say, he was like that old E. F. Hutton commercial. "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. "

"...It's wonderful to have a perfect wife, pure as can be. I keep telling her that perfection was made 2,000 years ago. And we ain't going to sing Ave Marie.



P. S. Don't you ever get to be like her."

I'm listening, Dad, I'm listening.

Friday, November 30, 2007

One Car Funeral - Parte Deux

After we dropped the Weebles off after the dress rehearsal for the funeral, Himself looked at me and said, "What did we learn from this?"

"Never to trust directions from Mapquest?"


"Never to trust appointments made by the Weebles. If I don't personally make the appointment, I am to call and check the appointment with a person of authority, not a Weeble."

The morning of the funeral was a bit more hectic than the morning of the dress rehearsal. I wrote out a few more Christmas cards for my client, and then went to pull the Young One out of school. I couldn't ask Red to go pick the Young One up, so the girl had the afternoon off from school. She didn't seem too upset.

While the Young One had lunch, I made a phone call.

"Good morning, Sacred Heart Church, may I help you?"

"Yes, I would like to check the date and time for a funeral Mass for the Uncle?"

"Father Salducci will say the Mass today at 3 o'clock."

"Thank you."

The dress rehearsal certainly helped as Himself negotiated the streets without getting lost. The old woman must have been watching out for us because there was a parking space right in front of the church.

One eerie thing happened. We were introducing ourselves to Fr. Salducci so he would understand the theory of relativity. Ma introduced me as her sister, Doti, gone six years. I corrected the introduction.

The roof didn't fall in when I entered the church. Fr. Salducci said a beautiful service and was very attentive to Ma. She liked being treated like La Segnora, the lady.

After the funeral, we went back to Uncle Salvatore's for coffee and the old woman made sure we got a space right in front of the house. As we were removing coats, Ma told me when she looked at me when we were being introduced to the priest, she said she saw her sister instead of me. It didn't surprise me as Ma and her sister were very close. Ma seemed happy and comforted that her sister dropped by.
I performed a tech support service for Uncle Salvatore. The display on his phone was in Spanish. By pressing the menu button, I was able to select English for the display. Uncle was thrilled he could now read and understand the display on his phone. Maybe I've discovered a new career for myself. Weeble Tech Support. Could I handle the stress? Where's my Mahta-Cro?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

One Car Funeral

Ma’s youngest brother and last of her siblings passed away. I knew as soon as the arrangements were made it would be up to me to see that Ma got to the funeral. The funeral would be in East Boston, and that posed a problem for me.

See, I’m petrified to drive in the city. Put me on a highway, let me go fast and straight and I’m happy as a clam. Get me in the city where I don’t know my way around, where all the streets are one way and I lose my cool. I also don’t do well making left turns without a light and I panic if I have to parallel park. That’s the only kind of parking in East Boston so right away I was having conniptions. I did the only thing I could think of. I begged Himself to take a personal day from school so he could drive. I owe him big time.

She called to give me the details of the funeral.

“The funeral is at Wednesday at three o’clock at the Sacred Heart Church. We don’t have to go to the Rapino’s (funeral parlor) and there won’t be a graveside service, but I don’t know how we are going to get to the church!”

I heard the unmistakable sound of Velcro loops locking together as she raised her wrist to her forehead. Part of me wanted to sing the song by Vanity Fair. “A thumb goes up, a car goes by Oh, won't somebody stop and help a guy? Hitchin' a ride, hitchin' a ride” Instead, I stifled the ‘Help me, Lord’ sigh and said, “Don’t worry, Ma, Himself and I will see that you get there.”

I called my friend, Red, to see if she could pick the Young One up at school. I owe Red big time.

I knew where the church was. It was down the street from Grandma’s house and around the block from Auntie’s. I had walked to confession and Mass a million times as a kid, but I had no clue how to drive there. Himself and I consulted Mapquest. Sacred Heart Church. 336 Saratoga Street.

Armed with our directions, the Weebles firmly buckled in the car, we headed to East Boston, near Logan Airport. It was pretty much a straight shot down the Pike from the Weebles. We drove through the new, pristine Ted Williams Tunnel and marveled how quickly the ride to the airport now was. The Weebles haven’t driven into Boston since the beginning of the Big Dig and they were amazed at the changes.

Ma mentioned her brother-in-law, Salvatore, had invited us back to his house for coffee after the Mass. I called Uncle from the car to tell him we were on the Pike. He said he would meet us at the church and reminded me we were to go back to his house for coffee.
We were zipping along splendidly, found the exit at the end of the Pike, made the left turn onto Bennington and then onto Neptune Road. According to Mapquest, a left at Neptune would put us onto Saratoga. Neptune Road ended and suddenly we were in the middle of the Circus Maximus.

All the streets were marked one way and none of them seemed to be in the direction we wanted to go in. Even though the Weebles grew up in the area, they weren’t helpful with directions.

“The church is around the corner from Guy’s.” Guy owned a small grocery store and surprise, the store is no longer there.

Himself patiently drove up and down streets, weaving through the maze of one way streets like a mouse searching for cheese. He turned down Morris St.

“This is the street Grandma used to live on!” I said. “Look, there’s the Sister’s school (Sacred Heart School). The church is down the next block.”

Sure enough, we found the church at the end of the street and could legally make a left turn onto Brooks Street. Himself pulled up to the curb where there was a handicap ramp. We offloaded the Weebles and Himself and I negotiated the maze of one way streets looking for a place to park. We ended up back on Morris St. and there was a parking space right in front of Grandma’s door. I liked to think the old lady was looking out for us. Himself parked the car and we walked to the church.

As I started to go up the steps of the church, I saw an old lady at the corner. The old lady was wearing a black coat with a fur collar. The old lady was pushing a walker.

What the hell? “Ma! Ma!” I yelled and ran up alongside of her. “What are you doing?”

“The church is locked. Your father went to find a way in.”

I saw Dad by some brick steps.

“The church is locked.”

I climbed the stairs and looked through the glass window of the door. I saw a doorbell and rang it. The door was opened by an older woman and I suddenly realized I was at the rectory.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, we’re here for the funeral for my uncle, but the church is locked.”

She looked at me as if I my horns were showing, and I worried that the lintel was going to collapse because I was standing on the hallowed threshold.

“The funeral isn’t today,” she said.

I looked at her as if she was speaking a foreign language.

My mouth opened and closed and I realized I must have looked like a codfish.

“Won’t you come in?” and she opened the door wide.

I stepped into the foyer and she lead me into the church office. She pulled out the church record. “The funeral is tomorrow at 3pm.”

“But the funeral for the Uncle is today!” I pleaded. The small voice in my head reminded me there was no hearse out front and a submarine klaxon began to blare.

She stepped across the hall and stuck her head into another office and asked about the date and time for the funeral. "Father..." I could hear her voice drop in volume to a respectful whisper.

“Father Salducci has the Uncle’s funeral at three o’clock tomorrow afternoon,” said the priest.

I wanted to scream. But we came today! We came from Worcester [Land of Here There Be Dragons]. We drove the Weebles. There damn well better be a #$$%&^%^ funeral today! If not the Uncle’s, somebody’s! Can’t the priest say the Mass today? We don’t really need the casket. It’s just a decoration anyway.
All hands! Rig for crash! We're headed to the bottom!

The woman gently ushered me out to the steps. “Who told you the funeral was today?”

I pointed at Ma at the bottom of the stairs. J’accuse! I wanted to throttle someone. Ma was the first choice, followed by the church secretary, the Pastor, and Dad for good measure.

I spent a good ten minutes trying to get through to Ma the date and time were incorrect. Both Ma and Dad were befuddled. I tried calling Uncle Salvatore’s house, but there was no answer. He must have been on his way to the church. I told Ma and Dad to stay in front of the rectory and Himself and I would bring the car around. We headed for Morris St.

As we rounded the corner in front of the church, there was Uncle Salvatore walking up and down the sidewalk.

“Uncle! Uncle!”

He smiled, shouted my name, and opened his arms to me in a big hug.

“Ma got the date wrong. The funeral is tomorrow.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“She and Dad are waiting out in front of the rectory.”

Uncle introduced Himself and I to his lady friend, Bee. We shook hands and she invited us back to the house.

Himself said he would bring the car around and I was to bring Uncle Salvatore and his friend to Ma and Dad.

It was quite cold and the wind had picked up. Ma was shivering and whining she was cold. Not much I could do because the church was locked! We stood like penguins and the old folks caught up with each other. The last time we had been together was three years ago at Uncle Salvatore’s surprise 80th birthday. So we waited and waited for Himself to bring the car around.

Uncle Salvatore and Bee had walked to the church, and Bee decided she would walk back to put the coffee on.

I caught a glimpse of Himself coming around Neptune, but he missed the turn and disappeared. I ran to the front of the church hoping to flag him down as he came down Morris St. No such luck.

Uncle decided to go get his car so he could take Ma and Dad back to the house to get warmed up. I would wait for Himself. Uncle Salvatore gave me the directions to get back to his house.

Uncle brought his car around to the rectory and helped Ma and Dad to get in. I turned to walk to the front of the church and there was Himself parked in front of the church by the handicap ramp where we started nearly an hour before.

"Only my family can screw up a one car funeral! Can you believe the church is locked?"

"Sad, but the churches don't stay open like they used to."

"That sux! You can't claim sanctuary anymore!"

We negotiated the streets with Uncle Salvatore’s directions and pulled up in front of his house. There was an empty spot right in front of his door and Himself started the maneuver to parallel park the car.

“Wait! Don’t park here. This is probably Uncle Salvatore’s space. Go further down. If we don’t find a space we can take a right and park on Bremen St., behind Uncle’s house.”

Maybe the old lady was still watching out for us because there was a space about 3 or 4 houses down from Uncle Salvatore’s.

At Uncle Salvatore’s, Bee was bustling around the kitchen, setting the table with cups, plates and food. Italians always celebrate moments of great joy, sorrow or the mundane with copious amounts of food. She poured coffee and tea, and brought out cheese and crackers, Scali bread, eggplant Parmagiana, a frittata, and calzone.

It felt strange sitting around the dining room table and Auntie Dotie not there. Auntie passed away 6 years ago and her daughter, Dee (2 yrs older than me), passed away 8 months later. Bee was very gracious and I’m pleased Uncle Salvatore has a companion.
We spent the afternoon reminiscing and catching up on the doings of Uncle’s son, grandchildren, and great grandchild.

Bee thought I looked a lot like Cousin Dee’s friend Margaret.

“Oh, no,” Ma piped up. “Margaret is thin.”

“Want some ice for that burn?” Himself whispered.

The conversation turned to the improvements Uncle Salvatore made in the house.

“You know, Sal,” began Ma. “I need a good plumber, not you.”

I passed the ice pack to Uncle Salvatore.

Ma went on about the remodeling she wants to do in the bathroom when her millions come in.

Since Bee was a new audience Ma began telling her how I only go out to them once a month, if that, and I never visit. (Surprisingly, she didn’t sing the ‘He’s Stupid’ song. She must have realized she would be slam dunked with the ‘Who Effed Up the Date of the Funeral’ song.)

“Whoa, back up the Elder bus,” I said. “I take you to the foot doctor, the heart specialist, and the primary care doctor. When you broke your wrist, I took you to the emergency room. I took you to three follow up appointments with the orthopedist.”

“Well, you don’t come to visit,” she sniffed.

“I came to visit you one Sunday. You said ‘I fell, look at my wrist.’ I took you to the emergency room. I visited with you for four and a half hours in the emergency room. It wasn’t my fault, you fell and we had to spend our time in the emergency room.”

“Well, you don’t stay for lunch.”

“I planned on staying for lunch. It wasn’t my fault that your primary care doctor kept you waiting for your appointment for an hour and a half and I couldn’t stay for lunch because I had to get back to pick the Young One up from school. If I’m such an awful kid, see if my twin sister will do better by you!”

Ma furrowed her brow. “But you don’t have a twin.”

“Bingo! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Sensing the conversation might deteriorate to blows, Himself mentioned how it was getting late and we had best get on the road.
Uncle invited us back to the house tomorrow after the funeral.

Uncle Salvatore gave us directions back to the Pike. We missed the turn and passed the gas tanks.

Ma started singing the “You’re going the wrong way song.”

“We know!” we shouted.

“Why don’t you go through Chelsea?”

As kids, when we were annoying, one of the adults would say “Here’s a quarter. Go play in the tunnel.” The tunnel fare has gone up and I was tempted to give Ma three dollars.

A right turn brought us out to 1A. Himself missed the turn to the Pike, so we ended up going around Logan Airport on the exit road. Fortunately, Ma had nodded off and we eventually made it to the Pike and the tunnel and Boston rush hour traffic. All we would see for miles was red tail lights strung out like Christmas lights.

Back at the Weebles, Ma sank wearily into her chair. “Oh, I don’t know what we are going to do tomorrow. If you can’t make it, don’t worry about us.”

I should have said, “Great! See ya.” Instead, I told her not to worry. We would see that she got to her brother’s funeral.

After all, we were in an effin movie. Tomorrow, it would be Groundhog’s Day all over again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Perfect Gift

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Your Weeble is Showing

After the performance of the Shaolin Warrior Monks, we walked back to Park St. Station to catch the outbound subway.

As we descended the stairs, I breathed in the stale air. I’d been riding the Green Line since I was 7 years old and was taken with a wave of nostalgia. The stations have been cleaned up considerably. When I was younger the stale air had an underlying tang of beer, beer waste and by product and unwashed derelict. I sighed. Even without the pungency, entering the station felt like a homecoming.

We walked through the station took the stairs down to Park St. Under to the Red Line and then climbed another flight of stairs up to the Outbound side of the track.

The platform was crowded and I was surprised how many people, especially young people, were milling about waiting for the Outbound “D” train to Riverside.

My Young One was taken with the novelty of riding the subway and she looked up and down the track searching for the train. I reached a hand and pulled her behind the yellow caution line. As a youngster, I remembered stepping over the line with The Brother as he laid pennies on the track. We would watch with glee as the old green trolley cars would flatten the pennies into thin sheets of copper. With so many pennies laid end to end and stacked five high, it’s a wonder we didn’t derail any trains.

A blast of stale air, bright light from the tunnel, and a roar announced the arrival of the train. Even though the hour was late, the train was crowded. The doors whooshed open and we surged with the crowd like salmon swimming upstream. We moved to the back of the first car where it joins the second car. There were no seats available so I grabbed the hand hold on one of the seats. I poked the Young One to hold on. Himself was standing at the back of the first car and a glance behind him revealed all the seats in the second were filled too.

Sitting in a single seat facing me was a young man. He looked to be in his late teens or early twenties. “Excuse me,” he said. “Would you like to sit down?” he asked me.

I knew seats would be available after a few more stops so I declined. Then I caught sight of Himself hanging onto a hand hold and desperately trying not to laugh as the train lurched forward.

Now, I was perfectly happy thinking the young man was being polite and chivalrous. He couldn’t possibly have offered me his seat because he thought I was a old.

Himself pressed his lips in a tight line in an effort to stop them from curling into a smile. He quickly looked away from me and became engrossed in one of the advertisements across the aisle. His shoulders were shaking with suppressed mirth.
After several stops, the young man disembarked and other seats became available. The Young One and I sat in a double seat and Himself sat behind us. We swayed and lurched through the dark to the end of the line.

As we walked to the car, Himself started to laugh.

“He was just being polite!” I said sharply.

“He probably thought you were as old as his grandmother!”

“Shut up."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Herself's Fanabala*

Ma had been telling me about the latest shopping trip. A friend of Dad’s had taken them in the middle of a nor’easter to Revere. I implored the heavens as I imagined the car careening around Revere Beach Boulevard with the waves crashing over the sea wall. I thought the expedition was a pretty dumbass idea, but as I long as I didn’t have to make the trip no skin off my nose. Ma wasn’t happy about going all the way to Revere. It was a long trip for her.

In the next breath, she excitedly told me that Roche Bros. opened up a “beautiful new store” in Westboro and after coming home from Revere they went there. Now, I’m not really sure if this trip was done all in one day. As I mentioned, this might have been one of the game show conversations, To Tell the Truth or The Price is Right. The stores are 100 miles away from each other. Ma gushed about the store and the manager’s specials.

I was just getting my jacket on when she said, “Will you be able to come back this week?”

My radar kicked in. “Not this week, why?”

“Well, paper towels are on sale for $9.99 and the Carapelli olive oil is a good price for the gallon. I have some paper towels downstairs, but we’re running out of oil.”

“If you have paper towels, why do you need more?”

“I have to lay stores in for winter!”

“What are you ants?”

“Well, I can’t get to the stores and if the weather turns bad...” She let out an ominous sigh.

“Ma, if the weather turns bad and you’re really desperate for items, I can put an order in with Peapod and have it delivered.” I whispered it several more times in the hope it would become a subliminal message.

“Oh no! Those prices are too high! I can’t afford to shop like that.”

Well, if you stopped sending money to Nostradumbass and the phony lotteries, you’d have enough money to shop Peapod. I bit back the thought. “Well, you wouldn’t do your whole shopping there, just what you needed to get through the storm.”

Her little trolley wasn’t about to be sidetracked. “Can you pick up the paper towels and the oil?”

“But, you went to two stores. Why didn’t you buy those things there?”

“Because I could get them cheaper and save money.”

Yeah, you’d save money. Gas just hit $3.00 a gallon. This new store is a half an hour away from my house and then another half hour from Ma’s. I couldn’t see the savings.

“You don’t have to get them this week,” she said brightly. “The sale will run for two weeks.”

“I’ll see what I can do” and I ran out the door.

“Make sure you get the 15 roll Bounty, because those big rolls don’t fit on the holder,” she shouted after me as I burned rubber pulling out of the driveway.

When Himself came home, I whined about the problem.

“Price Chopper has the paper towels for the same price," he said calmly. Price Chopper is where Himself does our shopping.

“And the olive oil? It’s not the Phillipo Berrio that she usually buys. Some other brand that begins with a C.”

“I know the one.”

Himself went shopping, and picked up the items for Ma. The price tags were removed and on the way to school, Himself dropped the items off. Mission accomplished.

It was pouring buckets the day Himself dropped the items off. I called Ma to let her know the paper towels and olive oil were on the front stoop. She was less than happy.

“What’s the matter? I asked.

“You didn’t get these from Market Basket,” she fumed.

Busted by the Price Chopper bags. “Market Basket? I thought you told me they were on sale at the new Roche Bros.”

“No, I told you Market Basket.”

The game shows again. The items could have been on sale on the moon and I still wouldn’t have had Himself go to Market Basket to get two, lousy items. Look at the map of the Toonerville Trolley essay and you’ll understand.

“You didn’t get these!” she scolded.

“No, Himself went.”

“But I didn’t want them from Price Chopper.”
Now, I attended parochial school and I’ve lied to professionals, the nuns. I have no problem whatsoever lying to Ma. “What the hell difference does it matter what store they came from? They were the same price as what you saw in the flyer,” I said smoothly. I had no clue if they were the same price or not, and didn’t give a horse’s patoot if they were more. It would still be cheaper than driving around the countryside for two items.

“But I didn’t want him to go shopping.”

“Well, shopping ain’t my monkey so he picked them up for the same price at Price Chopper when he went to do our shopping.

“You shouldn’t have made him go.”

“I can't make him do anything he doesn’t want to,” I laughed.

“But I didn’t want HIM to go! Well, I can see I can’t ask you to do anything for me anymore.” I could see her raise her wrist to her forehead and strike a martyred pose.

Ah, the crux of the problem. Remember OPD is all about control.

“Fa nabala. Well, if you don’t want the paper towels or the olive oil. Throw them away. Or send Dad to the Senior Center with them. I’m sure one of the ladies would be more than happy to have those items.” My comment was reminiscent of the starving children in China speech.

“No, I’ll use them.”

I thought so.

*The title comes from an Italian expression (in the dialect my parents speak). It’s a term used in exasperation such as dropping a pencil on the floor (well, I say $%#@%), and means “darn” or “for heaven’s sakes”. It literary means “Go to Naples” and can also mean "Go to Hell". I was just tickled with the fact that it was a pun on “fable.” I just slay me.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Danse Macabre

Conversations with the Weebles can turn to morbid thoughts. Usually, this happens around the holidays . "Well, I wonder how many Christmases I have left." "This may be my last Thanksgiving." Deep sigh. Forlorn look. I'm never sure if the comments are to spark some sympathy or some sort of death wish.

Dad and I were having a cup of tea. Ma had nodded off and her tea sat untouched and getting cold. Dad shook his head and heaved a deep sigh.

"Sometimes, I don't know. Maybe it would be better to just." He raised his index finger and pointed it at his temple.

"Don't you dare!" I yelled horrified. "You're not going to leave me to handle this by myself."

He gave me that "what are you going to do about it look."

"If you do. If you do.." I tried to think of the worse thing. "I'll wear red to your funeral and dance on your grave."

He laughed. "That's alright. I won't mind."

I didn't think quickly enough on my feet. I thought of the perfect answer on the way home. What I should have said: If you do, I'll bury her in the same hole!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Another Appointment

Another doctor’s appointment. At least it beats going to Market Basket. I arrived at the Weebles a half hour before their appointment. I ring the bell, open the door and announce at the top of my lungs, “It’s me! I’m here!”

Ma screamed for Dad to answer the door.

I yelled “I’m here!”

Again, she screams for him to answer the door.

We were in a live version of “Who’s on First?”

Dad came downstairs and told me to present myself to Ma.

She was in her room getting dressed.

“Oh, you’re here.” It sounded as if she’s surprised. As if I would forget the appointment. Maybe she was hoping I’d forget the appointment just so she wouldn’t have to go.

I go back to the living room to sit and wait.

Dad is grousing because Ma isn’t ready and we’ll be late.

I pointed out the doctor always keeps them waiting so if we’re late, it’s really no big deal. If need be, we make another appointment.

“That’s not fair to you,” he grumbled.

I shrug, and begin collecting the necessaries. I moved the walker into position. Grabbed Ma’s coat and pockabook from the closet.

Ma finally toddled out. She yelled at Dad. “You know I need help putting my shoes and socks on.”

“You should have asked.”

“Thank you very much! You know I need help putting my shoes and socks on.”

“You should have asked.

The conversation spiraled to a Burn and Schreiber routine.

“You know?”


“You know?”


“You know?”


I tried not to laugh. I helped Ma into her coat and got to the two of them headed to the door. Got them in the car. Chug chug toot toot off we go. A half hour late for the appointment.

The parking lot is packed, and I sailed into the last handicap spot. The waiting room was filled with weebles. Dad checked them in and Ma pushed her walker to the back where the technician would draw her blood. Dad came back and had his turn.

I settled in to wait and Ma sat next to me.

The technician leaned out of her cubby.

“How are things today,” she asked.

“The same. How’s your mother?”

“She’s doing great. I just got off the phone with her.” She shrugged and gave the ‘Help me, Lord’ look.

“She sending you for more lotion?”

She laughed. “No not this time.”

Ma usually nodded off in her chair while waiting for the doctors, but she was very alert and was watching the two of us.

“So, Ma, you have your daughter with you,” smiled the tech. “She’s sitting there with valium in her back pocket.”

“No, I took it before I left the house.” We laughed and she ducked back into her cubby.

“Where do you know her mother from?”

“I don’t know her mother. Just from what she’s told me when we come here” Almost busted.

Ma was in a good mood. “Your father is so stupid. He called a plumber.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me to follow Ma’s conversation. She has forgotten that I haven’t lived under her roof in over 20 years. So she leaves out bits and pieces because she’s convinced I know the whole story. Sometimes, talking to Ma is like playing game shows. I never know whether it’s ‘To Tell the Truth, ‘What’s My Line’ or ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’. I tried to put bits and pieces of her conversation together about Dad, a leak in the basement, and the cost of the repair. Ma’s pricing system skidded to a halt during the depression.

Her eyes are round as saucers when I tell her a plumber and his helper get $100 an hour.

She told me she wanted to remodel the bathroom, but only if the contractor will do things her way. She wanted to have the tub removed and a shower installed, but she doesn’t want to replace the tile. Sounded like she asked the plumber about her idea and wasn’t happy with him. Course the remodel would have to wait until her money came in.

“All that work, and I’ll probably not live long enough to see it.”

Sad when their thoughts turned this way. “Ma, you’ll outlive all of us.”

She huddled in her chair with her own thoughts.

I turned my attention to Dad. He was having a conversation with an elderly gentleman. They were talking about the Red Sox winning the World Series. Then the conversation turned to the good old days of baseball.

“They don’t have pitchers like they used to.”

“No, they sure don’t.”

“I remember a pair of brothers. I think they pitched for St. Louis.”

“What were their names?”

“The Dean brothers,” I supplied.

“You know, the brothers,” Dad said to me.

“Yeah, Dizzy and Daffy Dean.”

“Well, I don’t remember their names, but one brother would pitch one game on Sunday. The whole game, and his brother would pitch the second of the double header.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember. What was their name?”

“Dean. Dizzy and Daffy Dean.”

“Yes, Dean!” The other gentleman smiled at me.

I smiled back. Third base!

Dad told the other gentleman how he used to go down to watch the Boston Braves play when he was a kid. He used to watch the game through a break in the fence.

“Course it’s not Braves Field anymore.”

“That’s right! What’s there now?”

“It’s part of BU. Nickerson Field,” I supplied.

“BU owns it now.”

“Nickerson Field.”

“Yes, Nickerson Field!” The other gentleman smiled at me.

I smiled back. Third base!

Finally after waiting an hour, one of the office workers calls out Dad’s first name. Dad and a gentleman further up the waiting room both got up and went to the young woman. That should teach her to use full names. The appointment wasn’t for Dad. He returned to his chair.

After an hour and a half, the Weebles were called into the examination room. A short time later they emerged. I got Ma’s coat and helped her into it while Dad waited at the reception desk to make the next appointment. The receptionist didn’t set aside her work to make Dad’s appointment. I gave the girl the evil eye.

On the counter was a pencil holder containing pens left by the drug reps. Ma and Dad each grabbed a pen. They took a pen each and every time we visit. It must be the grown up version of lollipops or the Treasure Chest at the dentist.

“Take a pen!” Ma urged me.

“No, I’ll try to keep medical expenses down.” It must cost a small fortune for the drug rep to replace the pens each month. If the drug companies didn’t have to spend so much money on advertising, drug costs wouldn’t be so high.

“Oh!” Ma exclaimed.

“What’s the matter?” I asked

“We forgot to ask the doctor about the shoes.”

The receptionist looked up. “What shoes?”

“The shoes,” Ma explained.

I’m able to translate. “She needs a form signed by the doctor so the podiatrist can send it to the insurance company so she can get orthopedic shoes.”

“Oh, just have the podiatrist send us the form.”

“Nay, nay, nay! We went through this last year,” I said. “The podiatrist’s office sent the form. Twice. The doctor never signed it and sent it back. I made 3 trips all the way from Worcester. I’m not doing that again.” Now I sounded like the martyr weeble.

“Tell them to mark it to the attention of Kath. I’ll see that it’s taken care of.”

She made the appointment for the next visit and I entered it into my PDA. Dad also needed an appointment for an echocardiogram. The test is only done on Saturday. She had an early morning appointment.

“Oh, you don’t have to take me,” Dad said. “I can walk.”

“You sure?” I had a feeling Caesar was refusing the crown three times.

“I can manage.”


“Oh!” Ma exclaimed again.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. I can’t believe they were in with the doctor for a half an hour and now she has questions for the doctor.

“We forgot to ask about the walker.”

The receptionist looked up. “The Walker?”

“She needs a form signed by the doctor for a walker so she can submit it to the insurance company for payment.”

The receptionist looked over the divider and looked at Ma standing there with her walker. Her walker has wheels on the front and whiffle balls to provide traction.

“She wants a walker that has handbrakes and a seat so she can sit when she gets tired.”

“What brand?”

What brand? How the hell should I know what brand! Get her a Raleigh. Make it pink. Raleigh has handbrakes. The Schwin she’s pushing now doesn’t and she has a hard time back pedaling to stop it. I try not to give the receptionist the ‘Help me, Lord’ look.

The doctor came out of the examination room and was giving instructions to another patient.

“I’ll have to ask the doctor about this.”

“You do that. In the mean time can you make a note to ask the doctor so we don’t have to stand here for another half an hour. You can give Dad the information when he comes for the EKG.”

With that settled, two and a half hours later, I herd the Weebles home. They are disappointed I can’t stay for lunch as I have to head back home to be in time to pick The Young One up from school.

“I’m afraid the doctor used up all my visiting time,” I said with I hope the right amount of sadness. It’s not that I don’t like visiting the Weebles. Sometimes it can be quite entertaining. I don’t like visiting at meal times. Dad’s culinary skills are not that polished and I didn’t have any Pepto Bismal with me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dia De Los Muertos

Getting the weebles to talk about final wishes is necessary, but difficult. When bringing up the subject, the perception is so how much of that $2 million that Nostradumbass is sending you do I get?

Not long ago, I was surprised when Dad began talking about his final wishes. He told me about an insurance policy through the Veterans Administration. I already knew this as several years ago, Ma showed me where she kept the important papers. She's quite fond of rearranging furniture and things so all bets are off that the important papers are still in the location where she showed me.

Anyway, Dad was telling me about the insurance policy. There would be enough money from the policy to bury him and Ma. He said he would like to be buried at the national cemetery down the Cape. I nodded though hoped if he passed the funeral wouldn't be on a weekend during the summer. Traffic would take days to move around the Bourne rotary. Guess we'll just have to burn that bridge when we come to it.

He also said he wanted a military funeral. As a WWII veteran, he said he was entitled. I'm assuming he meant a flag draped casket, honor guard, and bugler from the local VFW. I have to make a note how to get in touch with the Joint Chiefs as dignitaries, just in case.

"Now you don't have to worry about the burial plot. That will be provided. At no cost"

"Ok," I said as if I were taking notes.

"One other thing."

I thought he was going to give me a list of hymns he would like played at the funeral. Some years ago, he gave me his 27 page obituary to be put in the newspaper. I half expected to hear him say he wanted the Ave Maria sung at the Mass and wasn't it too bad Nelson Eddy was gone and couldn't sing it. Nelson Eddy had been a friend of a cousin and had sung at the cousin's wedding.

"I don't want HER buried in the same hole!"

I choked with laughter. "Okay, but what should we do with her."

"I don't care." It had been a difficult day for him with Ma sniping and singing the 'He's Stupid Song' to all within earshot. He paused in thought. "Burn the witch!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Forse Domani

It was close to lunch time when I got the Weebles home from the orthopedist. Usually I off load them and head home to do errands or to decompress before I go on the daily shuttle run to pick the Young One up from school. I was about to say, “Well, kids, it was fun, but I have to run…”

“You’re staying for lunch,” said Ma. It was a statement, not a question. “You can have your choice, tuna salad, crabmeat salad, or peppers and eggs.”

Mayonnaise was never a staple in our Italian household. In the old days, Ma bought tuna (tonno) imported from Italy and packed in olive oil. No need for mayo. If she had to use mayo, it was never real mayonnaise but that imitation whipped salad dressing. Lord knows how long the jar would be sitting in the fridge, so I opted for peppers and eggs. It seemed the harmless alternative.

The Weebles were happy I was staying for lunch. I was a welcome break from the tedium of SSDD. Same er…stuff, different day. Dad was bustling about the kitchen preparing lunch.
When I was a kid, The Brother and I used to beg Ma to cook for us if she had to go to a union meeting. (Ma was a seamstress and a card carrying member of ILGW. You remember their jingle? Look for the union label when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse. Remember somewhere our union's sewing, our wages going to feed the kids, and run the house. We work hard, but who's complaining? Thanks to the I.L.G. we're paying our way! So always look for the union label, it says we're able to make it in the U.S.A.! Sorry, got carried away. )

Anyway for a time Ma was the shop steward at her factory and she would have to go to meetings. We would be left in the care of Dad. Dad who was Patron. Head of the house. First born in his family and thus crown Prince. Growing up, his Ma did everything for him. Cooked, washed, cleaned and sewed. When he married Ma, she took over and did everything for him. He could not boil water without burning it.

“Would you like me to make the peppers and eggs?” I asked hopefully.

“No, I can handle it.”

Ma took my arm. “Can you put up the curtains for me in my bedroom?”

Twice a year as far back as I can remember, spring and fall, Ma thoroughly cleaned the house, washed windows, polished wood floors and changed curtains. She was still keeping up with the curtain tradition.

“HE was supposed to do it, but he never does anything!” The old song and soft shoe. She had two panels of dark purple sheers which she handed me. The rods were on her bed as if ready and waiting for me.

The windows are a corner arrangement in Ma’s bedroom, my old room. There’s a wooden valence with knick knacks to hide the rods. Ma’s desk is pushed into the corner under the windows. Not the easiest arrangement to hang curtains. The desk is piled and littered with papers, envelopes and all manner of junk mail, charity and sweepstake contests. $2 million coming this week! In order to get to the windows, I had to move the desk. No mean feat without causing a ticker tape parade. I got the step ladder from the hallway, threaded the panel on the rod, stood on the step ladder, ducked under the valence being careful not to bang my head and slipped the rod into the moorings. Pretty easy! Wonderbars.

Ma had the second panel ready and this one turned out to be a witchy kitty. In order to put this rod up, I had to stand on the sh…stuff on her desk. The rod kept slipping and wouldn’t go into the moorings. On the fifth try, after speaking in tongues, the rod held. I thought I was done when Ma brought out pinch pleated drapes.

“I’ll put the pins in and you can hang the panels.” She lifted the first panel and was puzzled. The second panel seemed to have disappeared. We looked in her room. I looked in the master bedroom. She held up the panel and I noticed a center seam.

“Ma, this looks like two panels have been sewn together?”

“Now who would have done that?”
“Duh, Ma! You’re the only one that knows how to use a sewing machine.”

She took the panel and ripped apart the seam. Broken wrist and all and no splint.
She began putting pins in one panel and I started on the other.

“Like this! Half way!”

“I’m doing it just like you. See?”

She watched and then her eyes grew big as saucers.


“You’re lefthanded!”

“I have been for 52 years. Where have you been?”

“Well, I knew you wrote lefthanded. I didn’t think you did anything else lefthanded.”

“God knows you and the nuns tried to break me of the habit, but you failed.”

The panels were a lot harder to put into the travois rod tabs. Even with my new glasses and my head under the valence I couldn’t see the little holes. I muttered more words in tongues and finally got the panels up. Ma was very happy.

“See? Ten minutes. That’s all it took” (More like a half an hour) “HE wouldn’t do it. Kept saying ‘tomorrow’, ‘tomorrow’, but tomorrow never comes.”

By now lunch was ready. Dad had set the table and the pan with the peppers and eggs took center stage on the table. They were swimming in oil. Dad had toasted bread. I took 2 slices and began making Ma a sandwich.

“I got the end piece!” She frowned.

I took the end slice which was on top and flipped it over. “There. Now you won’t know the difference.”

She looked at me and I laughed. “It’s what I used to do when the girls were little. No one wants to eat the heel of the bread, but if you flip it over, no one knows the difference.”

She laughed. We had a pleasant lunch and I complimented the chef even if the eggs were not as tight as I like them. He beamed.

Just as I was leaving Ma produced another set of drapes for the master bedroom.

“Do you want me to hang those up too?”

I could tell she wanted me to, but she frowned.

“No, they have to be pressed. Your father can hang them up for me.”

Forse domani. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Orthopedist Visit

After the eighth circuit around the parking lot, I headed to the main lot and then to the far employee lot, both were full. The hospital must have been running a sale. I went back to the medical office parking lot and spotted a man walking to what I hoped was his car. I slowly followed behind with my directional happily blinking to others, I had found a space.

On the way to the orthopedist’s office, I wondered if the Weebles had found the office alright. If they would remember the office was on the first floor. After all, we visit this building every other month to see the foot doctor on the third floor. I had a moment of panic when I entered the empty office. I hadn’t been trolling the parking lot that long. The last time we visited this doctor, his waiting room was wall to wall with patients and the line spilled out into the main lobby where there were several more chairs outside his door. As I approached the receptionist, she looked up.

“They are in the examination room. Would you like to go in with them?”

“God, no!” I said forcefully. “I just wanted to make sure they found the office ok. I’ll just wait over here.” I took a seat in the corner and flipped through a very la-di-dah architectural magazine. The kind of magazine that showcases “Homes Better Than Yours”. I could hear some of the conversation between Ma and the doctor. Complaint. Explanation. Complaint. Explanation.

“That’s because you are leaning on the walker instead of using a cane,” he patiently explained. “Well, everything is looking fine. I want to see you in another month for an x-ray. I’ll escort you to the waiting area.” He caught sight of me and added, “Your daughter is here.” He emphasized daughter and I wasn’t sure if I was elevated to a high status or if he was relieved to turn the weebles over to someone else. He then asked Ma if he could fill me in on how she was doing.

Now, I don’t mean to sound callous, but it’s not my monkey. Somehow he must think I’m the primary care giver, and I need this information. Ma takes care of herself very nicely and no thanks to anyone. So I put on my best intelligent look and listened as he explained Ma’s wrist is healing nicely. The pain she feels is because of the pressure as she leans on the walker. She had complained of shoulder pain, but he thought that was mostly due to the way people using a walker hunch their shoulders when they walk. I nodded. Very interesting.

Ma interrupted at this point to ask about the visiting nurse. I thought she was going to ask him if the visiting nurse could do the housework or take her to Market Basket.

“Ma, he has nothing to do with the visiting nurse.”

“Yes, he does. She wants me to have physical therapy.”

“I told you the therapy isn’t necessary,” he said to her. “Her hand is very arthritic,” he began to me.

“I don’t feel like I have Ahtha Ritis” That’s how a Bostonian pronounces, arthritis, just like it’s a man’s name.

“Well, you do. You don’t have much range of movement in your thumb. Therapy isn’t going to change that. No therapy.”

Ma was put out. “The nurse isn’t going to like you.”

I’m thinking he outranks the nurse and good for him for not prescribing services that won’t be a benefit except to make money for the insurance company.

At this point, the doctor noticed Dad was carrying Ma’s splint.

“Why does he have that? Why isn’t she wearing it?” he asked me as if I were the primary care giver.

“She doesn’t wear it. She hasn’t worn it in a few weeks.” He was about to ask another question and I shook my head. He has an Italian last name and I was tempted to ask speaka Italiano? You ask why? She’s a cetriolo. A cucumber. I knew Ma would selectively hear this remark. Not good for me. He wouldn’t understand that she wouldn’t wear the splint because she had to sign those checks so she could win the two million dollars that was coming this week. I shook my head. “I’m just the chauffeur.” On duty is tattooed on my butt cheeks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Man Who Never Returned

Today, we had a trip to the orthopedist. The parking lot at the medical center was filled, but there were a dozen handicap slots open. That is the plus side to hauling weeble butts around, being able to park in the handicap spots. I pulled into one very close to the building. Ma would have no difficulty pushing her walker to the entrance. I asked Dad for her handicap parking placard. He was rummaging in the pockabook, but couldn’t find it. Ma was halfway out of the car and across the parking lot. I told Dad not to worry, but to get out of the car and to see Ma got to the appointment. She had dillydallied so she was a half an hour late for the appointment. I pulled out of the handicap slot and started trolling the parking lot. After the sixth circuit, I felt like an Indy driver. On the seventh circuit, I started humming a line from an oldies tune changing “he” to “she” and taking poetic license with the lyrics. “Did she ever return? No, she never returned and her fate is still unlearned. She made ride forever round the hospital parking lot. She’s the gal who never returned.”

The song I was thinking about is the story of “Charlie on the MTA” by the Kingston Trio. You can crank up the Kingston Trio Jukebox to listen to it. Background for those of you too young to remember the song and/or those of you who live in The Land of Here There Be Dragons and have no clue what I’m talking about. The song commemorates an election campaign of a Boston candidate and his protest of the fare increase on the subway imposed by the MTA, The Massachusetts Tranportation Authority. The fare is raised from 10 cents to 15 cents. The extra nickel was to be paid as an exit fare. As the song goes, poor Charlie doesn’t have the extra nickel so the conductor wouldn’t let Charlie off the trolley. Charlie is forever known as “the man who never returned.” As I’m singing along, it occurs to me Charlie isn’t just caught without exact change, but he’s caught in the middle of OPD.

Charlie's wife goes down tothe Scollay Square station

Every day at quarter past two

And through the open window

She hands Charlie a sandwich

As the train comes rumblin' through.

Every day, Charlie’s faithful wife goes down to the Scollay Square (pronounced Sculley Skwayuh) station. It used to be the burlesque area of Boston and is now Government Center. Anyway, she’s handing Charlie a sandwich, right? Why the hell doesn’t she hand Charlie a nickel so he could get off the train? OPD! She controls the purse strings! Standing on the subway platform before “the train comes rumblin’ through”; she can tell her captive audience crowd what a stupid ass her husband is. He didn’t pay attention to her reading the notice of the fare increase in the paper, and now she has to come down to the station every blessed day to make sure Charlie got something to eat. Woe is her! She has to leave her children every day so her husband can have a sandwich!

Of course, OPD is a double-edged blade, and it cuts both ways. What about Charlie? To some extent, we might be able to extend the benefit of doubt to poor ol’ Charlie. Just about the time the song came out, the city of Boston had a building boom and make over. The seedy Scollay Square got a make over when the mayor’s office and a pedestrian plaza were built along with other government buildings. Scollay Square was renamed Government Center. Charlie could look out of the subway window, but wouldn’t know where he was because that wouldn’t be a stop he was familiar with. Why didn’t he ask someone about the new station and where he was? Why didn’t Charlie bum a nickel from a fellow rider? Maybe Charlie didn’t want to get off the train! He wouldn’t have to listen to the “He’s Stupid” song. He could be a good time Charlie and regale other captive passengers with stories from his youth and war service, over and over and over again. His wife was there with a sandwich every afternoon, and the roar of the train would drown out her yelling, “You stoooopid assssssssss!” Yup, Charlie just didn’t want to get off of that train.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Will

While chatting on the phone with Ma, I played Scrabble Blast on the computer with the sound turned off. I made sure to un huh, and yeah in the right places. Ma was riding the gravy train again, how she was going to win $2 million this week. It's always this week. Un huh.

I used to try to reason with her, to tell her people didn't gift you with huge sums of money. Her little trolley wouldn't slip the track, and I ended up with that familiar, pulsing pain behind my left eye. The Brother, ever the brilliant tactician, gave me a way to cope and to save me a pain blinding run to the Excedrin bottle. He said when she starts in on something (no one does anything for me, no one helps, I'm winning $2 million) just say "Oh, wow." Simply elegant.

She was saying Nostradumbass told her she was born under a lucky star. Oh, wow. Didn't PT Barnum of circus fame say there was a sucker born every minute? The conversation took a turn onto the no one does anything for me spur. I tuned Ma out concentrating instead on how to make a word with 4 eeees.

"You do things for your father, but you won't do them for me." She was still sore that I wouldn't take her pile of sweepstakes entries to the post office.

"You know that's not true. You didn't push your walker to the emergency room when you fell and broke your wrist. In fact, I was a God send that day because I almost decided not to visit, but I got a feeling something was wrong so I showed up." She likes the supernatural and it's a handy hole card so I played it.

There was some grumbling. "When I get my $2 million, I'm going to go to a lawyer. I'm gonna have a will made. All I'm leaving your father is $1, so you better make up your mind."

"About what?"

"Whether it's him or me. You jump when your father asks you to do something, but you never do anything for me. So you better make up your mind!"

"I'll take the dollar."
Disclaimer: This blog is not a legally binding written document. Flirty Wink

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Me Iuva, Domine

Me iuva, Domine. Help me, Lord. Dad’s phone bill arrived. My fingers trembled and beads of sweat dotted my forehead as I ran my finger under the flap. I wished the kid was here to recreate his role. I even have the cape he wore as a chasuble. No nevermind. I could play both parts. I took a deep breath and began the chant. The words of the prayer and responsorial familiar in the old language.

Kyrie, eléison
Christe, eléison.
Christe, audi nos.
Christe, exáudi nos
Pater de cælis, Deus
Miserére nobis
Sancta María, Regina perpetua clueless
Ora pro nobis
Sancta María, Mártyre solus ipse
Sancte Michael
Ora pro nobis.
Sancte Gabriel
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Raphael
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Concordia, materfamilias
Ora pro nobis
Omnes sancti Angeli et Archangeli
Orate pro nobis
Sancte Josephe, vox nihili
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Josephe, illigitimi imbecillus
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Petre
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Paule
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Andrea
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Jacobe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Joánnes
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Thoma
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Jacobe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Philippe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Bartholomæe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Matthæe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Simon
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Thaddæe
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Matthia
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Barnaba
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Luca
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Marce
Ora pro nobis
Omnes sancti Apóstoli et Evangelistæ.
Orate pro nobis
Sancte Sebastiane (because the nuns wouldn’t let me take his name at confirmation)
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Fratur, nizeboymutasomonabaitch
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Antoni
Ora pro nobis
Sancte Dominice
Ora pro nobis
Propitius esto
Parce nobis, Dómine
Ab omni malo Jamaica
Líbera nos, Dómine
Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam
Et clamor meus ad te véniat
Dóminus vobíscum.
Et cum spíritu tuo. (The Pope’s telephone number Et cum spriti 2-2-oh )
Exáudiat nos omnípotens et miséricors Dóminus

Carefully I pulled the bill from the envelope and scanned the International Calls.
Goose eggs.
Deo Gratias!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Let The Sun Shine

This little tidbit is about my weeble neighbor, Prissy, and the arrangement we have with regards to trash pick up. Rather than spend the amount of money the town wanted us to pay for a permit plus special bags to haul our own trash, we decided to contract with a waste management company. Since Prissy has such a teensy bag of trash, I told her she might as well put hers with ours. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, I would go over have a fast cup of tea and collect her trash. When she has some do ri me, she kindly kicks some our way towards the bill. Two weeks ago, our trash pick up day was changed from Monday afternoon to early Thursday morning. We had Prissy put her trash on her front stoop Wednesday night and when Himself got home from karate and T'ai Chi classes, he would go over to pick up the garbage.

Prissy called me to go over for tea this afternoon. It was a dreary, rainy day and I figured she wanted a little bit of company. We chatted as she set the tea things out. Bits of this and that. After an hour, I got up to leave.

"Oh, wait before you go." She brought out a plate of muffins. "I baked these for Himself. He's been so kind coming to get my trash." She held the offering and beamed.

Hello! Who picked up your trash for over a year on Sunday nights or Monday mornings? Through rain or snow and dark of night, weaving and dodging the peeping eyes of the Leaf Lady, I was ever faithful and stayed my rounds. Prissy never baked muffins for me! What is it with mothers and sons, even if they are adopted? Weebles, you can't win for losing. Well, Himself and I had a good laugh and enjoyed the muffins. When Himself bent to retrieve a muffin liner that fell on the floor, the sun came out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Just Say No

Usually children pit one parent against the other. If the child wants something and one parent says "no", the child goes to the other parent to try to get his way. At odd times while dealing with my weebles, I have become the parent.

Ma had a stack of letters to be mailed. There must have been a dozen or more. All were being sent to some sort of contest, pychic, or bogus charity. No doubt each envelope contained a check for a small amount, $5 or $10. A dozen and this was just one days' mailing.

She asked me to stop at the post office downtown on the way to the doctor's office. I said no. If these were bills to the electric company or property taxes, I would have stopped. (Well, in all honesty, not without a bit of whining. I hate driving downtown.) I thought "no" would be the end of it, but I should have known better.

A short time later, Dad approached me.

"Mother has some letters she needs to mail. She needs you to stop at the post office on the way to the doctor's office."

"Mother" when he's in the father you will do as I say mode.

I apologize if the following statement offends anyone. It is, or was a very common, Bostonian statement. I have spelled it phonetically to give the true flavor of a Boston accent. It translates to "What are you on, crack?"

"What ah you, retahded? She just asked me, and I said 'no'. I'm not going to enable her. She's only sending out things to the scammers. She can put the letters in the mailbox for your letter carrier to pick up. Though you should take them, tear them up, and throw them away." End of discussion, though I should have known better.

"She says you always do things for me and not for her." There was a note of glee in Dad's voice.

"Well, you can abuse of her of that notion. I just shot you down too. You can also remind her, she did not push her walker the two miles to the emergency room, or the eleven miles to Market Basket, the twenty doctor's appointments or the million other shuttle runs of my Toonerville Trolley takes her."

Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother. Easier carved in stone than done. Help me, Lord, I'm trying. There should be a corollary to that rule. Except when they are doing something stupid like flushing their income down the commode. Than thou shalt just say 'no'

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Amazing Carnac

Tea. A calming ritual. No matter how hectic or frazzled a day, the fragrance and heat of tea drains the tension. I don’t know how many cups of tea I’ve shared with Ma around the kitchen table. We’ve sipped tea since I was a teen. Himself’s mother used to be a part of the klatsch. We would laugh, gossip, share recipes, and the older women would impart bits of wisdom to me. Thou shalt do it this way.

With cups of tea in front of us, Ma always seems to be more like her old self. Opinionated, but good natured. We were having a cup of tea after the visit to the orthopedist. I took a sip from my favorite blue cup.

“Oh, we could have used you yesterday,” she said.

“What was yesterday?”

“Roche Brothers had Pastene tomatoes on sale for 77 cents.”

I could hear the good nature of the statement. Seventy seven cents must be a good price for a can of tomatoes. And behind the statement, the opinion that I had neglected my filial duty. I tried not to roll my eyes and looked in the bottom of my tea cup. Sadly, we use tea bags, there were no tea leaves to read. “Kreskin might be able to bend spoons with his mind, but I haven’t perfected mind reading just like you haven’t perfected mind control. Thank, God,” I thought and I bit back the sarcasm. So I pictured the Amazing Carnac holding the envelope to his forehead.

“Oh, wow,” I said.

And the question is, what do you say when you hear you should have called your mother the day before?