Ma had an appointment with the ear doctor. She was to have her ears flushed out and then we would all have to mind our p's and q's.
I thought I'd arrive early, have a bit of a visit, and score some brownie points. I rang the bell several times and waited as bolts and locks were turned.
"What? Still in your pajamas?"
"I knew I didn't have to rush today."
"He went to the library."
She finished getting dressed and then came into the living room with her shoes. "Put my shoes on for me."
Ma had told me her father used to tease her, call her Donna Fifi, The Lady Fifi. I had an odd feeling as to whether I was lady in waiting or parent. "These aren't your new shoes? Why aren't you wearing your new shoes?"
"I don't like them, they hurt my feet."
"Why didn't you tell the doctor?"
"He got awful angry with me last year when I sent the shoes back because he ordered the wrong size. Put the kettle on for tea."
We sat in the kitchen, sipping tea. I had an odd sense of deja vu as I sat at my place. We were woven into a fabric of tea and gossip. Ma used to invite Himself's mother over for tea and I was always included. Even as a young teen, Ma never excluded me. How sad that most of the people that we talked about were gone. Grandma, Auntie, her daughter, Himself's mother. Still it was a pleasant ritual of chatting bits of nothing, and it was peaceful. A momentary stab of guilt sliced through me as I thought how pleasant it is spending time with only one parent at a time. How different they are when they are not with each other.
I glanced at the clock. "Will Dad be coming to the doctor's with you?"
"I don't know."
I looked at the clock again, still time, but I only knew the location of the office, date and time of the appointment, not which doctor she had to see. "Do you know which doctor you're supposed to see?"
"No, HE knows, but HE doesn't tell me." I'm a little irritated. Dad has a habit of not keeping Ma in the loop, and there are some two hundred doctors at the medical building. I wondered what percentage of them are ENTs. No, matter. I decided I could call the doctor's office that gave her the referral. I went upstairs to Dad's office to hunt for a telephone directory. As luck would have it, on the keyboard of the dusty computer, is a scrap of paper with the ear doctor's name, suit number, phone number, time and date of the appointment. Thank you, Jesus!
We finished tea and moved the gossip session to the livingroom. Ma had the curtains pulled back and was watching out the window for Dad.
He came into the house and sank into a nearby chair. He was breathing heavily. "I..I...ran...all...the...way...up...the....hill."
"Ya dumbass! What did you do that for?" I should have been more sympathetic, but I was alarmed and the worry came out as a smartass remark.
"I completely forgot she had an appointment today. I didn't remember until I was halfway up the hill."
Ma sat down with me standing behind her. "If you're starting to forget things," she said, "I'm going to put you in the home!"
I chuckled and held up two fingers.
"What?" he asked.
"You go as a two-fer."
"A BOGO. By one, get one free," I winked.
"I'm not going to the nursing home with him!" shouted Ma.
Somehow the conversation turned to final wishes.
"And you're not going to bury me in this town! For 63 years, I've been buried up here..." Ma was a city girl born and bred and the town isn't on the subway line. It's been a sore point as long as I could remember. Though according to Dad when they found the house some 56 years ago, this was the dream house, the one Ma had to have.
"Alright, Ma, where do you want to be buried? Do you want to be buried in the cemetary where your parents are?"
"Oh, no! That's too hard to get into. Besides, no one will come to visit. IF I have to be buried in the ground, I want to be buried where your Uncle Chick is buried."
We've had this conversation before. Ma has some sort of problem about being buried in the ground. She wanted to be buried in a vault or mausoleum. I actually think it's more of a case of sibling rivalry as her sister is buried in a vault. I had once related this information to Dad. His answer was "We'll burn her!" I never figured out whether that was to be considered an economical alternative or a funeral for a witch. I also refrained from telling Ma that since Uncle Chick is buried near the NH border, chances are no one would want to make the Memorial Day trip. Like most New Englanders, we barely drive an hour from our home area.
It was time to drop the morbid subject and head to the doctor's office. There was a moment of tension in the elevator as Ma yelled at Dad to get out all the insurance cards she would need. He had been fishing in her pocketbook for the wallet and she snatched it out of his hands and it fell to the floor.
"Knock it off!" I roared. "We can take care of this in the doctor's office."
I approached the secretary's cage, handed her the Donna Fifi's insurance cards, and sat down with my book in the waiting room. The doctor was writing notes on a patient's chart on the far side of the secretary's cage.
Ma had thought this was the first time she would be seeing this doctor and then remembered she had seen him once before. "Oh, I don't like this doctor. He's not as good as the one your girlfriend sent me to." I try very hard not to laugh. Ma is as subtle as a rash, and she does not whisper.
The doctor came to call Ma into his office. Dad picked up a magazine and I settled in with my book. We could hear the doctor admonish Ma about the use of Q-tips. The doctor stands before Dad and I.
"Are you with Mary?"
I go back to reading my book.
"When you get home. Take the Q-tips and throw them away! She has impacted the wax against her ear drum. The Q-tips are not necessary and are bad to use." The doctor returned to Ma with a huff.
I leaned over to Dad and whispered, "Good luck." As if Ma will throw away the Q-tips or allow them to be tossed out.
On the ride home, I noticed Ma has her hand against her left ear as if she's an old time radio announcer.
"Are you okay? What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to see if I can hear out of this ear."
"It would probably help if people were talking. Can you hear me now?"