Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Silent Meeting

The waiting room was long and narrow with a row of chairs along each wall. It reminded me of a subway car only there were no advertisements above the heads of the passengers to allow you to discreetly observe fellow travelers. A young man sat across from me. He was thoroughly absorbed in one of the dozen of sports magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. Next to him sat an elderly women with her arm supported in a sling. A woman roughly my age was sitting next to the elderly woman. We smiled politely to each other.

Ma started grousing about the wait.

I tried to count the impressions on the dentil molding and not to eavesdrop on the elderly woman and her companion. The elderly woman was complaining about the wait too.

I smiled politely to the companion. She inclined her chin towards Ma and Dad and then pointed her chin my way.

I nodded with a sheepish smile. Yup, they’re my folks.

She tipped her head towards the elderly woman sitting next to her and then rolled her eyes. This is my Ma.

We both hid our smiles. We had made a connection like Masons and the secret handshake.

Ma was called into the examination room. Dad trailed after her dragging the pockabook behind. Several minutes passed and then Ma could be heard complaining about the wait. She had to use the ladies’ room and it would serve the doctor right if she went right then and there.

I shook my head at my sympathetic companion and rolled my eyes. Help me, Lord!

She shrugged. What can you do?

A short time later, Ma’s examination was done and she pushed her walker down the hallway. More complaints about the wait. At least she seemed happy she didn’t have to wear the sling any longer.

I got up and opened the door to the lobby. I was standing next to the woman with the elderly mother. Sotto vocce, I hummed the theme to Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighbor…

The woman patted my hand. You are not alone.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Solution

The following day after Dad's phone bill arrived, I called Dad to tell him the amount on the phone bill. He had the same reaction I did. Pissed He asked me to call the phone company to see if they would remove the charge from the bill.

"Like they did for the past two months?"

"Uh, yeah, and see if they can block the number so Ma can't call.

"I'll try."

Kelly at the phone company was very sympathetic and understanding. "I'm not allowed to credit calls to Jamaica anymore", she said. "However, I will give him a credit as if he had the International dialing plan on his service. That would bring the call to Jamaica down to 38 cents per minute instead of $4.96 per minute. That call would be $8.74 plus tax."

I thanked her and then asked if there was anyway that could prevent Ma from placing international calls. She suggested having the international plan of $4.00 per month added to the bill. As she pointed out, Ma isn't going to stop calling these scam numbers and at least the phone call would be a reasonable amount to pay instead of the $100 calls. She had a point, but I wanted to find a better solution. I asked to be connected to the fraud department to see if they could help out.

After spending the day on the phone talking to the phone company representatives, I was sharing a large glass of whine with a friend. "Other than the international calling plan, the only other thing they could suggest would be to prevent the Weebles from placing any calls where they have to dial a one before the number. Only that wouldn't be good because then if they needed me, they couldn't call me."

"I'm not seeing the downside to the problem," she said.

Himself had the same reaction.

While pacing from the kitchen to the livingroom, I came up with a solution. "I know what to do."

"Yeah, what?" Himself asked.

"I'll give Tony Soprano a call to see if he can send Pauley Walnuts over to Ma's to break her other wrist."

The Bill

Last month after talking to customer service about Dad's phone bill, I was warned the FIOS portion of the bill would be high as the installation crossed into two billing periods. The bill arrived and the to be paid number forced the words "what the eff" up out of my throat. Something was very wrong, and if we were billed for the FIOS installation heads were going to roll as I had been assured there would be no installation fee.

I scanned the itemized section to see where the problem was. There was the $39.99 for the flat rate talk all you want all across the lower contiguous 48. Ok. There was the month and a half FIOS. I scanned further down the bill. I could hear the theme music from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho playing in the background. Ning, Ning, Ning, Ning...$114.08 plus tax for a call to Jamaica. Pissed

Himself happened by about this time. "Something wrong, Kid?"

"Is something wrong? I'll tell you what's wrong! $114.08 plus tax for a call to effing Jamaica! That's what's wrong!"

Himself choked back a laugh.

"You're not being very helpful."

"Come to Jamaica and be alright," Himself sang. "Better?"


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weebles Wobble

If I plan to visit the Weebles for the sake of a visit and not a trip to Market Basket or a ride on the Tunerville Trolley, I keep them on a need to know basis. If I decide not to go or something comes up, dealing with their disappointment is like dealing with toddlers. There’s a lot of whining. It’s easier to call them last minute to ask if they want some company.

I was planning such a visit one Sunday. I thought I’d drop in for tea, run some diagnostics on Dad’s computer, and have a nice visit. That Sunday morning I debated. Would they behave? I wasn’t sure I was up to watching another round in the Weeble Weight Division. Still it wouldn’t hurt to score some brownie points. I’d take the Young One along and she’d be the favorite grandchild du jour. So after lunch, I made the phone call.


“How would you like some company this afternoon?”

“Yeah, I think you’d better come.” Dad’s voice sounded strained.

“What’s the matter?”

“Ma fell.”

“Ok, I’ll be there in an hour.”

I grabbed the Young One. We stopped for gas and a box of donuts. I wasn’t worried that Ma fell. She falls at least a couple of times a month. It’s like that little jingle. Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.

When we got to the Weeble’s house, Ma was sitting at the kitchen table. She was still wearing her housecoat, and Dad was wearing his usual hang dog expression.

“How are you?” I put the box of donuts on the counter.

“I fell. See?”

The ball of her thumb was swollen to the size of a softball.

“I can’t move my shoulder.”

“That’s not normal. Let’s get you dressed, and take a trip to the emergency room.”

There was no protest. None of the usual hemming or hawing. I helped Ma get dressed. We found the “pockabook”, went on the treasure hunt for the checkbook, and made sure the insurance cards were in the zippered section of her wallet. Off we went to the hospital.

I pulled up to the emergency circle and stopped the car. Dad was halfway to the ER entrance. “Hey!” I yelled. “Get a wheelchair for her.”

It must have looked like a Three Stooges routine getting Ma into the wheelchair.

“Move the leg rest out of the way.”

“Put your feet on the metal plates.”

“Her legs are too short, she can’t reach the metal plates. They have to be adjusted.”

After much pushing and pulling levers, Ma was in the chair. Dad was halfway to the ER entrance. “Hey!” I yelled. “Take her with you!” He looked at me with a puzzled expression. “I can’t leave the car in the emergency circle. I have to move it. Take her in and get her registered.”

With Ma’s handicap placard, I was able to get a handicap space a few steps away from the emergency circle. A nice perc. When I got to registration, Ma was still going through the process. It seems a new system was installed and the receptionist wasn’t familiar with the procedure. After fifteen minutes, Ma was registered and we sat in the lobby waiting for her to be called. Fortunately, or so it seemed, the ER was quiet. After a few minutes of waiting, the triage nurse took Ma to an examination room.

“How did you fall, dear?”

“He went to church, and I had to prepare the meal…” and then Ma launched into the “He’s Stupid” song. “No one does anything for me.”

“You didn’t walk to the emergency room.” I think I said that aloud.

After an hour, the attending physician ordered an x-ray. Ma was wheeled away and Dad and I were told to wait in the lobby. Where we waited and waited.

“So, Dad, when did she fall?”

“Oh, this morning.”

“And if I didn’t show up what were you going to do?”

He just looked at me.

“Next time, you call 9-1-1.”

“But she’s fallen before. Like the time I found her on her hands and knees in the closet…”

“Yes, and you should have called 9-1-1 then. She could have had a diabetic episode or another stroke.”

“I was able to get her up.”

Some days it just doesn’t pay to chew through the straps.

The emergency room started filling up, and as the Young One observed, people who came in after Grandma were going home. Dad had found an old crony whose wife was also in the emergency room so they kept each other company. I went to find out what was taking so long.

One of the nurses directed me to the examination room. Ma had her x-ray and had been brought back. Her arm was propped on a pillow. She was wearing a sling and had an ice pack. A blanket was draped around her shoulders and she had nodded off. I waited a while longer and then went back to the ER desk to talk to the attending. She was busy dictating charts. Gave me a wait a minute sign. It was more like ten minutes.

“I have your mother’s x-ray.”

“Good may I see them?”

We went to a light box and the image of Ma’s hand floated on the screen.

“She’s fractured her wrist. We’ll put her in a splint.” As she said this, another nurse wheeled Ma into a room on the other side of the ER desk. I followed along and watched as Ma’s hand was wrapped in a temporary cast and aced bandaged. Ma was wheeled back to the examination room to wait to be discharged. By now the emergency room was hopping. Some poor soul was put in the room across from Ma’s. He was either on drugs or intoxicated or both. He was yelling and screaming. A security guard was sitting outside the door. Dad wandered over to the security guard for some male company and a chat.

“God bless you,” I mouthed to the security guard.

“Aw, he’s cute.”

“You can have him on a BOGO.”

He laughed.

After more waiting, I went in search of the attending.

“What’s going on here? We’ve been waiting four and a half hours for a broken wrist. Are you finished with her?”

The attending became quite indignant. “I’ve been busy. I want to evaluate your mother. I don’t think she should go home. She’s not steady on her feet and the cast with throw her off balance.”

“Then evaluate her!”

I swear sometime physicians see the old people, figure they have nothing better to do and so they are kept waiting.

The attending didn’t care for my attitude. I didn’t care for hers.

As I knew, Ma was going to have no part of spending a day or two in the hospital. The doctor had a cane sent up and Ma showed her she could manage quite well without assistance because no one does anything for her thank you very much.

Now, the attending might have convinced Ma to stay if Dad hadn’t been drumming into her each time she fell that she would be put into a nursing home.

Finally, the discharge papers were printed, Dad signed Ma out while I brought the car around the front.

And the real reason Ma wouldn’t stay overnight?

“I’m getting $2M and I have to sign the check and get it in the mail.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Up, Down, No side side!

Ma wanted a mop. Every time we were down the housekeeping aisle in Market Basket, she fondled the mops. She would look each and every model over, and each and every time she would reject them as too expensive. This was so ridiculous to my little princess way of thinking. If you need a mop, you buy a mop. Besides, she has enough each week to enter bogus lotteries or send money to psychics. If she held off for just one day, she’d have enough money to buy the mop at Market Basket. She might even have enough to buy two mops!

She called me a few days before a trip to the foot doctor.

“I want you to take me to the Dollar Store, after we go to the doctor. He doesn’t keep me waiting long and we’ll already be out.”

Now, I’m not much for shopping. I hate crowded stores and crowded parking lots. I hate driving through congested suburban streets while dodging construction from one turn to the next. My idea of a perfectly good shopping expedition, is to point and click my way through my virtual mall. I wasn’t too keen on a trip to the Dollar Store. I could see what would happen. The Dollar Store is “on the way” to Market Basket. Ma would wheedle a trip there since we were “already out.”

I’d take Ma on her outing. I figured it would be like buying an indulgence for my soul. I’d arrive early with my Floor Mate to show her a better way of washing the floor. She can’t lug a bucket of water and according to her, Dad doesn’t do anything. (The polite refrain of the He’s Stupid song.) I’d show her how quickly the floor could be washed with a source of clean water, no rinsing or wringing a filthy, disgusting mop. I’d show her the little princess way. The Floor Mate is a handy machine that scrubs the floor and sucks up the dirty water with a push of a button. Empty the catch cup of the dirty water and voila. Clean floor. No scrubbing on hands and knees. Hands don’t touch the filth, disgusting mophead.

I arrived an hour early on the day of her appointment. I brought the Floor Mate and just for chuckles I brought the Swiffer Wet Mop which I use in between Floor Mate cleanings for quick touch ups. I was running the Floor Mate around the kitchen, and I stopped to show her how easy it was and how to use the Swiffer.

“Well, you didn’t do a very good job!” She grabbed the Swiffer from me. “Like this. Up down.”

I’m lucky she didn’t hand me the can of Butcher’s. “Wax on, wax off.”

She was taken with both the Swiffer and the Floor Mate.

“I’ll leave them here, you can have them.”

“No, I want a new one!”

I bought another indulgence by holding my tongue. I almost said, “Nope, too expensive.” At least Christmas gift giving will be easy this year.