Friday, June 22, 2007

Painting the Roses Red

Tuesday, the last day of the trifecta. The Weebles would be running out of milk. Ma would make Dad walk to the store to buy the milk. Too humid for a healthy, young person to walk a few miles, let alone an 88 year old man with heart problems. Though Ma knows she is 88 years old, she somehow thinks Dad is still in his forties and in good health. So, I stopped to pick up a gallon of milk to save Dad the walk. I also stopped so I wouldn’t be roped into a trip to Market Basket for a lousy gallon of milk.

Were they happy I brought the milk? I might as well have brought them magic beans.

“What’s that?” Dad asked.


“What did you do that for!”

“To save you a walk!”

See Dad would like nothing better than to be running out for milk per Ma’s order and to drop dead in the middle of the road. Freedom for him with a helping of guilt for the rest of us.

“How much did you pay?” Ma asked.


“You paid too much!”

“Well, if you people learned to drink 1% milk you could get a gallon cheaper!”

“I don’t like 1%. It’s watery.”

As if she could tell. She has a bit with her cereal for breakfast, and the rest is used in coffee. Ma was put out because there wasn’t going to be a quick dash for the milk after the visit to the foot doctor.

“Chalk one up for Herself,” I though smugly. I can play the game too.

Ma started to pick on Dad again about the blood and urine tests. She had the urine sample, but we’d have to drop it off at the doctor’s office.

“No, problem. I’ll take it with me and drop it off on my way home.” I go right by the doctor’s office.

Off to the foot doctor we go. The hospital medical building where his office is located must have been running a sale. There were no parking spaces available, let alone the handicap space. I offloaded the Weebles in front of the building and trolled for a parking space. I even went to the main hospital lot and that was filled! After a few circuits, I finally got a handicap space in front of the main entrance to the hospital. A primo space, but on the other side of the building and too far for Ma to walk. I no sooner got up to the doctor’s office when she came out. So I told them to wait in the lobby and I’d bring the car around.

I’m heading for their house when Ma announced I had to go to the other doctor’s office to drop off the specimen. She had it in her handbag. Punishment for bringing the milk is a different Toonerville Trolley run.

“I told you I’d take it with me when I went home. I go by this building.”

Ma crossed her arms across her ample chest. “I thought I was saving you a trip and doing you a favor.”

“No, this is now an extra trip.”

She sighed deeply. “I don’t give the orders, I just take them.”

And I'm painting the roses red.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Never Miss An Opportunity to Keep Your Mouth Shut

Monday, day two of the trifecta, the Weebles had an appointment at their primary care physician. I arrived to hear Ma singing the lament of no one doing anything for her. I was going to point out she didn’t have to walk to the doctor’s office, but decided it would be best for me to keep my mouth shut.

She noticed I was alone and wanted to know why the girls weren’t with me.

“They’re teens. They don’t want to be with old people.”

“I’m not old, I’m their grandmother. They should be here.”

I tried to keep the ‘Help me, Lord’ look off my face.

“You were never left alone.”

I shouldn’t have risen to the bait, but I did. I reminded her she worked, and was not home in the afternoons. I had my own key to the house when I was seven years old. I was a latch-key child only we didn’t have that term back then.

My keychain was attached to the side buttonhole of my uniform jumper. When I forgot or lost my key, Himself, who grew up next door, would break into my parent’s house to let me in. Usually, Himself enlisted the aid of his skinny Middle Brother. At that time, we had a 9 pane bow window. Two of the upper windows were like transoms. Himself would get Dad’s ladder, haul the Middle Brother up the ladder, pry open the transom and push the Middle Brother through while holding onto his legs to try to lower him the 4 foot drop to the sill. The Middle Brother would then unlock the front door to let me in. When Himself wasn’t around, I sat on the front steps waiting for someone, usually The Brother, to come.

I didn’t tell her about Himself breaking into the house. I didn’t tell her about the exciting times with The Brother, ever creative. Lighter fluid squirted into the toilet, set alight with a cigarette lighter, and flushed in a swirling blue flame. A hair raising ride ass over teakettle, in a sealed, cardboard box down a flight of stairs. Being told a cigarette was a punk and when I took a puff like the older, cool kids and began to choke, I was rushed over to The Brother’s friend’s where they put the garden hose down my throat and turned the water on full force. Water fights with basins of water that soaked the walls and were dried with a box fan. Shaken bottles of ketchup that exploded, and a red rose bloomed on the ceiling (forty years later the stain still bleeds through!) Sitting on the roof while The Brother pinged birds and dogs with a BB gun. Putting piles of pennies on the tracks of the subway while waiting for the trolley to take us to Grandma’s house. Yup, never alone and never well supervised.

Ma seemed surprised at the doctor’s office when she was asked to give a blood and urine sample. Of course, she blamed Dad.

“You didn’t tell me we were having tests.”
“For heaven’s sakes, Ma, you’re here every other week. You should know by now that you will have a blood and urine test.”

“We’re supposed to go have the tests a week before our appointment.”

“Save me a trip. The doctor will have the test results later in the afternoon. If something is wrong, he’ll call you.”

Back at the house, I put the kettle on for tea. Made a mental note to pick up milk and bring it the following day. I was not going to get roped into a trip to Market Basket for a gallon of milk.

At the table, Ma sighed. “I want to go into a nursing home.”

I almost said, “From your mouth to God’s ear”, but kept my mouth shut. I just sipped my tea. Angel 2Wasn’t going to poke that bear for love nor money. On the surface it sounded as if Ma realized she needed round the clock help. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Ma would like either myself or The Brother to take them in. Neither one of us have the room for one, or the energy and inclination. Ma was hinting since The Eldest would be heading off to college, I’d have a spare room. Help me, Lord, I’d check myself into the nursing home, first.

One Ping, Only

Sunday. A Holy Day of Obligation. Pater Venite Adoremus, otherwise known as Father’s Day. Himself went to pick up the Weebles while I finished the cleaning frenzy, and meal preparations. Everything was moving on my schedule until I glanced at the clock. Himself and the Weebles should have arrived. Himself was supposed to sacrifice chicken breasts on the grill. The fire wasn’t started. The rolls were almost done and no sign of Himself and the Weebles. I was just about to go out and fire up the grill when they pulled up.

“Everything ok?” I asked Himself.

He looked to the Heavens in that familiar gesture that said, ‘Help me, Lord!’ “You can blog later,” he added with a wink.

All the parishioners of Our Lady for the Perpetually Clueless arrived. We gathered around the table and spent a pleasant, relaxed time eating and talking.

Ma has a habit of nodding off, more like zoning out, or so we thought. She sat at the head of the table, seemingly under the surface, her sonar silently pinging away until the talk turned to cars. The Boy mentioned he had two cars, and like the submarine, Seaview, breaching the waves, Ma came alert and she fired the number one torpedo.

“You have two cars, and you can’t come to take me shopping?”

[Some will recall that a year ago the Weebles were in a fender bender. Fortunately, they were shaken, not stirred, but their little green car was totaled, and I became the Elderbus driver.

True, it’s a pain in the ( ! ) sometimes, but there’s always a silver lining, besides blog fodder. See, it ain’t a bad thing that Dad can’t drive anymore. He had two accidents within four years, and both were his fault. He shouldn’t be on the road. Dad has his own OPD symptoms. He feels senior citizens are discriminated against. He hates that term, by the way. He feels it’s derogatory. He wants to be called an Elder. Dad is convinced the insurance company discriminated against him for both accidents simply because of his age. He’s convinced the accidents were not his fault.

The last accident was a blessing in disguise. Dad wouldn’t be one to realize he shouldn’t be driving anymore, and calmly hand over his car keys. Hell, I can remember as a teen asking to borrow the damn car keys and what a fight I had then! So, the Brother and I are spared that brouhaha. Dad has his car keys. No one has taken them from him. He doesn’t have a car, and no money to buy a new one. It’s not our fault. As I said, a pain in the ( ! ) from time to time, but in reality a blessing.]

An uncomfortable silence followed, and Ma subsided into teary sighs. “No one does anything for me.” She ladled out heaping helpings of guilt or tried to. The same old song and dance routine.

When Himself returned after taking the Weebles home, I asked him to tell me why they were so late in arriving.

I thought perhaps, Ma was in her I’m not going mood. Dad had called me earlier in the morning to say she didn’t want to come. Dad speculated he had done something wrong, but didn’t know what, and Ma was trying to punish him. More likely, she was jealous it was Father’s Day. We had already celebrated Mother’s Day so she didn’t care whether Dad got his due or not.

Himself and I discussed our options. Himself could go pick Dad up and leave Ma home. Not good. There’d be hell to pay all around. We could cancel the Weebles and enjoy the day with just the Brother and his family. While enjoyable for us, not good in the long run as there’d be hell to pay. I called back, spoke to Ma and dropped the hole card. “Everything’s nearly ready. The TEN chicken breasts are marinating, the dough for the rolls are nearly done. I’ve made a salad. Himself made a bean salad. He’ll be leaving in a half an hour. Will you be ready when he arrives?” I can play the game too. Nothing like a hot dish of guilt.

“We were late because your mother had to stop at the bank to deposit a check.”

“Stop at the bank? Why? She doesn’t have any money until the next social security check arrives.”

“Remember I told you she had that prize check from the Zenith Corporation?”

I felt the familiar throbbing behind my left eye. The damn scammer checks from the phony contests she receives. The bank finally got fed up with her pestering them to cash the checks. They opened a “special” account for her to deposit her prize winnings in. This way, what little they have in savings and checking won’t be wiped out by scammers gaining access to their real account. So far, only one check cleared. That was the one where I had called the postal inspector. That scammer knew he was being investigated so after 3 weeks, he made good on that check for $250.00

I feel I should be lighting candles. I’m not sure whether I should pray she hits millions. She can thumb her nose at all of us who didn’t believe in her. She can buy her own car. She can buy her own chauffeur. I can pray Ma is picked up by the Feds for trying to pass phony checks. They’ll put her in the slammer, and then she’ll be their problem. I can pray. Help me, Lord!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Toonerville Trolley

Himself called to me as I was dumping my tiny saddlebag on the butler table. “How were the Weebles?”

I groaned.

“Do you need an aspirin?”

“No, I took some before I left the house this morning.”

“Need to blog?”

“Boy howdy, do I ever!”

He chuckled sympathetically. “What happened?”

After I dropped the Eldest off at work, I made good time getting to the Weebles. There wasn’t much traffic on The Pike (I-90). They finally finished (after 5 years!) the bridge reconstruction by the old Carling Brewery. Got to the Weebles, in 35 minutes without speeding! Got them loaded in the wagon, and we head to Market Basket.

Course, it poured buckets on Monday, the day social security check funds were available, so all the Weebles in Middlesex county were shopping at Market Basket. There were no handicap spaces available. Off loaded the Weebles in front of the store and parked the car.

When I got into the store, Dad was feeding cans into the can return machine. Ahead, I saw people jumping out of the way so knew Ma had headed towards Dairy. As I get there, Ma is lifting 12 packs of root beer and ginger ale into her cart.

“Just wait a minute for him! Let him put the soda in his cart. This basket isn’t big enough.”

Dad shows up with a carriage and the two off us offload the soda. We’re down to the last pack. (3 rootbeer, 3 gingerale) when Ma suddenly decides to take off too look at the special on shredded mozzarella cheese.

I yell at her as I’m the one hanging onto a carton of gingerale and the side of the scooter basket.

Finally, everyone is settled and heading in the right direction. Ma calling for this item and that item over her shoulder and me chucking items into her basket as I trot along. Once in a while she is forced to stop and wait because some poor Weeble lady is debating the fine points of sour cream or cottage cheese.

“Oh, lady! Hurry up!” Ma mumbles rather loudly.

I think of the traffic jam Ma will cause when she has to sain all the meat. Tit for tat in my not so humble opinion.

We passed the fish market, which doesn’t smell as bad as it has in the past. Either that, or I’ve become immune to the smell. We arrived in the meat department and the ritual of the Monthly Blessing of the Meat begins.

Ma points and I lean over the counter, grab a candidate, and pass the package to Ma. She pokes, prods, stares at the meat, passes the package back. Occasionally, she places the blessed meat into her basket, and we repeat the ritual down the miles of refrigerated meat cases.

In front of the roasts, a Weeble gentleman turns to speak to us. “Beef is $6..99 a pound! Can you believe that?”

Now, I don’t do the grocery shopping. I wouldn’t know good prices from high. I can tell by the inflection of his voice he must be shocked with the price so I respond by dropping my jaw into a wordless “Oh” and widening my eyes.

He seems pleased by my reaction. “I used to be a butcher. Top to bottom, beef has the same nutritional value. Doesn’t matter whether you are buying filet mignon or the hoof. You tell your sister over there.”

Now, I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be gallant and complimentary to Ma or to intentionally insult me. I held my tongue.

“Y’know, my wife says I talk to all the women, but I only talk to the pretty ones.”

I chuckle and realize he must be like Dad, married to a shrew (God bless Ma) and has to chat with strangers to pass a pleasant moment or receive validation. I put on my best smile, and we continue our separate ways.

Ma has accosted one of the meat managers and asks for a particular cut of meat. He goes through the swinging doors and returns with a half dozen packages. He carefully places them in the meat case.

I select a likely candidate and present it to Ma for the ritual blessing until she has found one she is well pleased with.

The meat manager is stocking the roast chicken bin.

“The meat’s all blessed and kosher,” I tell him as I go by.

He chuckles.

In produce, I notice several adult children helping Weeble parents. We sound like a herd of barnyard kids. “Maaaah, do you want the plum tomatoes or the Big Boys?” “Maaaaah, are these carrots ok?” Maaaaah. Goat 2

Ma is fingering the plum tomatoes. Her eye catches the 99 cent per pound over the Big Boys and one of the plums suicides to the floor and rolls under the counter.

I look around, but no one notices the sacrifice the little tomato made.

Ma wants two pounds of the Big Boys. As I’m stuffing tomatoes into the plastic bag, I mouth, “Don’t get the biggest ones. Take the smallest you can find.”

Around and around produce we go. Ma exclaims over the high prices. There are sympathetic replies from other Weebles across the department.

Dad finally catches up to us, his basket amazingly laden with good. Cereal, toilet paper, paper towels.

“Her Royal Heiney has a desire for prune juice,” I tell him and send him on a quest to the other side of the store from whence he came.

Ma zips over to the bakery. She wants a loaf of French bread. Some loaves have been put out that are warm and fragrant.

Another display captures Ma’s attention, and the old lady caroms off a table laden with pies. One pie box gets caught by the backrest of her scooter. She does not stop but hits the accelerator and the pie box crumples, and the tin pie pan curls up slightly.

We have a brand of commercial pies called ‘Table Talk’. This pie should be labeled ‘Table Gag’. I wonder how long before it will appear on the bargain table.

Dad has witnessed the pie fiasco and sings his own version of the “She’s Stupid” song.

Finally shopping is finished in record 2 hours. I direct the Weebles to a checkout line and leave to troll the parking lot for a handicap space. No handicap spaces are available, but one next to a handicap slot miraculously opens up.

The Weelbes come out. Ma is toddling and pushing a carriage. Usually, she zips across the parking lot in her scooter, neither looking right nor left for on coming traffic. I’m wondering why the change of routine. She hit an incline and the carriage slowly rolls forward with Ma wobbling behind. I’m reminded of a little toy I used to have. Donald Duck had a wheel barrow. If you put Donald with his wheel barrow on an incline, he would shuffle and sway his way down the track. Ma looked just like that.

I grab the carriage and Ma and we slowly make our way to the car. I tuck her hand into the crook of my arm for support and carefully guide her to the front seat. I’m struck by the idea of our role reversals. She is small and frail. How many times did she take my hand and guide my shaky steps when I was a toddler?

Groceries and Weebles finally loaded into the car. I head for the Weebledom. One quarter a mile away from Market Basket, Ma asks, “Would your husband be able to do me a favor later today?”

“What do you need?” I’m thinking she wants their postage stamp of a lawn mowed.

“I need toilet paper, paper towels and Tide.” Her tone is wheedling, pathetic, and at the same time manipulative.

“What the ^#$@?” I shout in tongues. “Dad had toilet paper in his carriage.”

“I made him put them back. They were too high priced. If there’s time, you could take me to Donlan’s and that other place.”

“Why the %$@#$@ didn’t you just buy them at Market Basket.” My voice is rising to a dangerous level. I can feel a pain form behind my left eye and the fleeting thought to slam the car into the nearest phone pole.

“He wanted $9.99. Brooks has it for $6.99. I save $3 dollars!” she says smugly.

“You save money? You what about me? Gas is $3.00 a gallon. I’ll burn one getting you to Brooks. There’s the $9.99 you tell me where the savings is.”

She folds her arms across her chest and begins shouting "I know what I’m talking about."


I’m steaming. Yes, go ahead, I can hear you laughing your Moony 1 off! “Better you than me!” I can hear you. I should have just driven them home, but instead, cut across three towns to get over to Donlan’s and Brooks. Donlan’s for a jumbo pack of paper towels and Brook’s for toilet paper and Tide.

“Joe, what would be the best way for her to go?”

“I’m going the best way!” I roar. “Sit back, shut up, and enjoy the ride.”

I hear “You go, girl!” from the back seat.

I’m not very familiar with the area. It’s changed a lot in the nearly 22 years I’ve been married, but I find Donlan’s and pull into their parking lot. “Where’s this other store?”

“Across the street.” She is fumbling for blank checks.

Across the street is an Einstein bagel store. I’m pretty sure they don’t carry Tide and toilet paper there. Maybe they’ve come up with a new go together and slogan. ‘Let our hole take care of your hole.’

Dad points to another building just opposite Donlan’s , “That’s Brook’s”.


“You go in Brook’s and I go in Donlan’s otherwise we’ll be hear all %@#%@#$ day!”

“What am I going to get in Brook’s?”

“Toilet paper and Tide!” Ma shouts at him.

I’m fuming as I head into the store. “Driving the #$@!@# Toonerville Trolley!” I really loathe grocery shopping.

Back at Weebledom as I help Dad unload the groceries I tell him. “You better warn her this is the last time we go all over creation for one item here and one item there. It won’t happen again.

He’s sympathetic, but I know his hands are tied.

I burn rubber out of the driveway. I give a primal scream at the end of their street as I leave. I head back to The Pike, one hand on the horn and one hand out the window. I feel the tension ease as I cross under I-495, the line of demarcation between Civilization and The Land of Here There Be Dragons.

“Y’know, Kid,” I tell Himself as I wind down my tale. “The idea of moving to some Godforsaken place like Minnesota is starting to look appealing. Might have to go online to start job hunting for you. They must have one community college that needs a chemistry professor. Maybe you could work for some company that refines ethanol from corn. That’s about all they have out there anyway.”

“Your day could have been worse. You might have had to travel to Millis to pick up a pair of pinking shears because they were on sale like my mother wanted. Remember?”

“I think I’ll have that aspirin, now.”
NB: The total mileage for the Toonervill Trolley is 84.12 miles. My car averages 19 miles per gallon. So, that's 4.42 gallons of gas burned. At $3.03, that's $13.41 plus 90 cents each way for Pike tolls. $15.21 spent for the round trip. Yup, Ma sure is saving money. By the way, may I direct your attention to the map. Notice the nice Stop and Shop grocery store just two miles from the Weebles house? Also Roche Bros. and Donlan's. One stop, one store. Sounds like a good mantra for me.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Stamp of the Weeble

We had just dropped the Eldest off at work.

"I need to go to the post office."

Himself paused a the edge of the parking lot, tongue sticking out, brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to figure out which direction the post office was in.

"The Sutton post office."

He snorted.


"You sound just like your mother! 'You have to take me to the Framingham post office,'" he mimicked.

"Hey! It's not like I'm mailing a sweepstakes entry or sending a request to Nostradamus! I have to make the 3pm truck." I had an oversized package to mail to a client.

He laughed .

"Jan will take care of me."

He laughed again.

"Shut up, and take me to the post office."

"Yes, your Weebleness."

Friday, June 01, 2007

Professor Einstein

The phone rang. Caller ID identified the caller as Prissy.

"Hi, Prissy."

"What's 20 percent of $15?

"20 percent of $15?" Himself was getting ready for graduation, and he chuckled. I'm not know as the bright crayon in the math box.

"How do you get 20 percent of $15?"

"Oh, the easiest way is to take 10 percent and double it." I stuck my tongue out at Himself. There was dead silence on the end of the phone. Ten percent of $15 is a buck and a half. A buck and a half and a buck and a half is...."

"Three dollars."

"Good. Ok?"

"I thought she cheated me. But I can see now she didn't." She hung up the phone.

After I hung up the phone, I turned smugly to Himself. "Proud of me? I did the math in my head."

He snorted. "You could have multiplied the dollar amount by 2 and just moved the decimal point."

I stuck my tongue out.

All Around the Elderly Bush

Himself opened the door and headed to the bedroom.

"So, how are the Weebles?" I cheerfully called.

I heard a muffled groan sounding something like "argh".

"What happened? Do you need an aspirin?"


"Do you need to blog?"

A chuckle.

"What happened?"

"I went to the Weebles to mow the lawn. Your mother was still in her bathrobe. I didn't see your dad. Figured he was roaming around town. Went to get the lawnmower started and blue smoke poured out of it."

"That doesn't sound good."

"Anyway, I got the mower going and mowed the front. Got to the back and there's your dad standing on a ladder trimming the bushes!"

I shook my head.

"I told him, 'If you fall and kill yourself and Herself finds out I was here when it happened, she'll kill me'"

I laughed.

"He started singing he wished he was dead song. I made him get off the ladder, I finished the lawn and then trimmed the bushes. The bushes were too wide. I couldn't reach all the way to the back so I told him he would have to do the trimming from the inside. He started going on how he would have to climb on the desk under the window. Then he asked me to wash the stairs. "

"I thought you needed a special solution to take the masonry residue off the stairs?"

"Nah, I could use vinegar. So I found a steel brush in the garage, and he got the vinegar. Your mother came to the door as I was scrubbing. She said, 'Don't do that! I need you to take the old man to the bank and the post office'"

"The post office? I gave her a whole roll of stamps with the new postage! I told her that!"

"I know. Your dad was trying to count out pennies so he could buy the extra postage stamps. I told him that her letters didn't need extra postage. He didn't believe me so I sent him into the post office to ask the clerk, and of course, extra postage was not needed."

"What a surprise. Why did he have to go to the bank? Their checks don't come in until the first of the month. She doesn't have any money."

"Well, she had this check 'they' sent her for $4,000. She wanted him to deposit the check and if the bank wouldn't cash it, she wanted him to bring the check back. She's convinced the bank is cheating her."

I borrowed a phrase from Himself. "Help me, Lord. Did the bank cash the check?"

"He went in, but came right out. Said there was a long line, the girls were busy, and he didn't want to bother them. Y'know, one of those checks is going to be for a loan or something."

"I know," I sighed.

"I told your dad he should tear up the contest entries and throw them away. She'd never know. He said your mother would kill him. Actually, that might be a win situation for him. He'd be dead and get his wish. What's for lunch?"