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?