Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Test

We've been hemming and hawing about getting The Happy Wanderer a cellphone for emergencies. Emergencies such as Ma locking Dad out of the house. Ma is afraid of being alone in the house. She's convinced that men are going to break in. It's an old hold over fear from the time some twenty years ago when the Weebles home was broken into when the Weebles had gone to church. The house is now armed with deadbolts and medieval gate locks. You know a giant piece of timber held in place by iron brackets. When Dad goes out, Ma goes into lockdown with a speed that would astonish Iron Mountain. Screen doors are locked. Dead bolts are slid home. And because she's as deaf as a fence post, she doesn't always hear him ringing the doorbell like Quosimodo ringing the church bells or pounding on the door like Fred Flintstone. Wilmaaa! WilMAAAA!

Trouble is technology and weebles don't always go hand in hand. I field enough phone calls because "they don't give him his email" or how to print, without taking on how to work the cellphone.

Himself and I had talked about getting Dad the Jitterbug phone. Large buttons and one model has to have calls put through by an operator. It sounded like a perfect solution. The downside is the phone is expensive and then there is the cost of the monthly plan.

We were watching television the other night when an ad came on about Safe Link Wireless, a free cell phone program in our state if you received food stamps or receive a social security check. Our ears perked up. Free is good. I went online to check it out. Looked good. The phone is a Tracfone. You've seen them. You can buy airtime cards at places like Target or Walmart. Himself and the girls each have a cellphone. The phones are small and lightweight. Fairly easy to use.

On Christmas Day, Himself drove to pick the Weebles up. Himself usually calls me to let me know they have left the launch pad. This gives me time to adjust the meal preparation time or a last minute tidy. As expected, the phone rang and caller ID flashed Himself's cellphone number.

"Hi, Kid!"

"Hello? Hello?"

"Hi Dad!"

"Hello?" and then faintly "Where do I talk? Hello?"

We spent a pleasant holiday. The Brother made a surprise visit. The Weebles were thrilled. It was a good day.

Christmas night we were relaxing in front of the television.

"So, your phone test was an epic fail," I said to Himself.

"It was awful. Poor guy was in the back seat and I'm trying to give him directions to turn the phone on and get the phone directory. 'Push the red button. The red button.' When I heard the happy chimes that the phone was on I told him to press the round button and then to scroll down. ''Use the down arrow button to scroll through the directory. The down arrow. In the center.' I think he called your friend Teague."

We laughed.

"I guess the Tracfone isn't the way to go."

"Definitely not. I'm not even sure the Jitterbug is a good solution."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ms Pacman

The Mahket parking lot was crowded so I pulled into the fire lane by the front door to offload the Weebles. There's a ramp so it's easier for Ma to push her walker instead of trying to negotiate the sidewalk. I set the emergency flashers and ran around in my Chinese fire drill fashion to help Ma out of the car.

A few people stopped with their carriages to let Ma negotiate the ramp. Except one man. Another weeble not as old as my weebles, but a weeble.

"Perfect! She stops right in front of the ramp."

Now in two and nearly a half years of making this trip, we've never had a problem with making the maneuver. If people were annoyed, they never said anything within my earshot.

"She's crippled!" I said as I unfolded Ma's walker in front her. "Where do you think I should stop, Idiot." Oh I just love the holiday time of year. Brings out the best in people.

There were other words I wanted to say. Stronger words. Angry and more colorful words., but I had to remind myself Ma was with me. She would die of embarrassment.

The man slunk off and that was enough.

Ma kept apologizing to the people waiting to go down the ramp.

"Take your time. They can wait." I gave the group a menacing glare daring someone to make a remark.

With Ma safely toddling to the front door and Dad bringing a scooter for her, I moved the car and instantly found a handicap spot. A reward for restraining my tongue.

When I entered the store, Ma was just settling herself on the scooter. Dad was trying to figure out how to stow the walker. I took it from him, folded it, and sprinted out the door to stash the walker in the car. The last part of the fire drill maneuver.

When I returned, Ma was trying to make her way by the last check out aisle. A woman with a young child in the carriage was just about to load her groceries on the conveyer belt.

"Excuse, me. Could you let my mother by?"

The woman made way and Ma roared by.

"Thank you!" I cheerily called over my shoulder as I raced to keep up with Ma. She was heading for the produce department.

Dad had given her a list which she had retrieved from her pockabook. The list. The list makes me laugh. Two and almost a half years and she has picked the items she needs. The same items. Each and every visit to the Mahket. A package of Bosc pears with six pears, not five. A bag of McIntosh apples. Not the other kind even though Dad likes the other kind better. And not one glance at the list.

She had stopped by the bananas. I picked up a hand with three large bananas in it.

"Get three more."

I found another hand with three large bananas and proceeded to rape the package to remove the three large ones in that package. From the first bag, I removed the three smaller and added the second grouping of three. I'm always uncomfortable with the procedure but Ma is quite satisfied. Takes pick your own to a new level.

"Get me a pound of beans."

Ma scoots down the aisle.

"And pick them one at a time," I mouth. Everything looks like it has been left out a day too long. I know there are people who swear by this store. They love the freshness of the produce and the prices can't be beat. I can't see it.

I picked the beans as best I could while thinking frozen beans are just as good as fresh. I headed to the other end of the produce department to weigh the bag. A huge produce department and only one scale. I'm shy the necessary beans to make a pound.

As I picked the rest of the beans, I became aware of conversation at the other end of the aisle.

"This is soft. You don't really want this one. This one isn't much better."

As I turned, I saw Ma with another woman who is offering broccoli candidates to Ma for inspection.

"I wanted broccoli," said Ma as I came alongside.

"I can see that, and if you wait half a minute, I will help you. I'm using all my arms and all my legs and dancing as fast as I can."

I thanked the woman for her help. She giggled as she went about her business.

We turned our attention to the broccoli. First this one. Limp. That one. Grey.

"These are all rotted. Everything is rotted," I shouted at Ma so she could hear.

A few aisles over was the produce manager and he was glaring at me. Guess he heard my remark. I gave him a nod and smile. I hoped it looked like have a nice day.

We finished with produce, zipped down the frozen food aisle and headed to meat. All in record time. Out of curiosity, I glanced at the list. We had everything except oil. The olive oil is a sore spot with me. See, that item comes from the aisles and should be Dad's territory as the gallon can will take up three quarters of the basket on Ma's scooter.

We stopped at the deli. Ma wanted Italian roast beef and provolone cheese. I took a ticket. My number was up next. I felt as if I had won one of Auntie Rose's lotteries.

Ma had decided she wanted some mozzarella cheese like I buy. Technically I don't buy. Himself buys shredded mozzarella in a package. Kraft, Sargento, store brand whatever looks good to him.

"That's at the other end of the dairy." And we headed off picking up a box of bread crumbs along the way.

"I'll get the oil and then we're done with our list except for one item and I need Dad to translate for me."
"Make sure it's Italian olive oil!" I mouthed as Ma shouted after me. I've often wondered if there's a difference between the cans of oil labeled Greek olive oil and olive oil. And if there is supposed to be a difference why aren't the other cans labeled Italian olive oil?

Ma parked along side a bin with snack items on special.

"Stay here. I'll go find Dad."

Holding the oil can like a small infant, I walk towards produce took a peek down each aisle. The store is not that large and through our entire expedition, I haven't caught sight of Dad. Not once. As I made my way across the front of the store, I felt like Ms. Pacman hunting the power pill through the maze. Beep. Beep. Beep.

"Get some Italian bread!" Ma shouted after me.

I raised my hand to acknowledge the command.

I finally found Dad looking at boxes of salt. The store brand and national brand are the same price. Three boxes for $5.

Dad was frowning.

"What's the matter?" I asked him.

"I don't know which one to get. They're both the same price. But which is better?"

I wondered how long he had been in the aisle contemplating the merits of store brand versus national brand.

I took a quick glance.

"Get the national brand. It's iodized and the store brand isn't."

Dad gave me a questioning look.

"We need iodine in our diet and salt is about the only way to get it."

I quickly retrieved three boxes of salt from the bottom shelf and we put them in his carriage. I noted there wasn't much in his carriage for the amount of time we had spent in the grocery store.

"Ma's done with her list except for this item. I'm not sure what you mean by it." I held the list so he could read his writing.

Macaroni cheese.

That made me worry. I know they are living social security check to check and are pinching pennies.

"You're not eating macaroni and cheese from the blue boxes?

He laughed. "No. Macaroni cheese. You know what you sprinkle on macaroni and soup?"

"You mean grated cheese?"

"Yeah. In the shaker."

Guess Romano cheese got expensive. Ma used to buy a great hunk of the hard cheese and grate it herself.

Ms Pacman raced for the macaroni cheese.

When I got back, they were done and found an open check out register. Usually I leave them while I take a few minutes in the car to decompress. As I was leaving, I turned and watched the tableau.

Dad was carefully placing one item at a time on the conveyer. The woman at the cash register was slowly running the item across the scanner and the bag man was becoming one with the bag and slowly place the item in the bag.

"No wonder it takes a half an hour to get through the check out line!" I said and began grabbing several items at a time from Dad's carriage and juggling them onto the conveyer. The cashier was still slow, but now she had more to be slow with. The bagger had four bags ready in the carriage. I pushed Dad's empty carriage to the bagger and grabbed the four bagger.

"I'll run this out to the car and come back for the rest."

Hopefully, by the time I got back the cashier and the bagman would have finally reached Nirvana.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Leaf Lady

Another character in my pantheon of weebles is the woman who lives next door known as The Leaf Lady. When we first moved here, she spent nearly every part of her waking day raking leaves. I had taken The Eldest then 3 yrs old trick or treating to The Leaf Lady's house. This was in 1991 and the day after the No Name Hurricane (aka Perfect Storm). The Leaf Lady was furious with me because all my leaves had blown into her yard. She knew they were my leaves because I had use gold thread to embroider our monogram on all the leaves. After heated words, I left her house with The Eldest in tow. The Leaf Lady has not spoken to me since that time. The Eldest is now 20 yrs. old. The Leaf Lady shuns me. If she is outside and I go across the street to get the mail, she turns her back to me so she won't see me. Sometimes she scrambles so quickly into her home, I'm surprised she hasn't broken an ankle.

Sunday, Himself and I returned to our home to inspect the aftermath of an ice storm. A tree had fallen down in the corner of the backyard into The Leaf Lady's yard. We discovered to our great joy we had electricity. The day before with the help of the generator, Himself had gotten the sump pump and a couple of other smaller pumps up and running, happily gurgling out the five inches of water from the basement. The water had come up to the furnace and we were concerned the furnace would need to be replaced. While waiting for a call from our oil man, we were cleaning out things that had gotten damaged in the flood. Note to self: Even though items are stored in plastic bins and boxes, plastic bins and boxes float and upend in water. Add bricks to weight things down.

We had cleaned as much as we could. Hadn't heard from the oil man who was probably out straight. We were heading back to Himself's brother's home. Himself had gone out to start up the car. I heard his name called by The Leaf Lady. Her voice is loud, and irksome. (Yes, she irks me) She would have made a great fishmonger's wife. From the front porch, I could see Himself speaking to The Leaf Lady and her husband. I fought the urge to go shrieking out the front door like a banshee. A few minutes later Himself came in.

"What the hell did she want? I suppose she was griping about the tree in the backyard."

"Yes. I explained to them we knew about it, would take care of it, but were dealing with a wet basement. They were vey nice. The conversation was quite pleasant."

Himself is too kind. I would have questioned her mental faculties in tongues. She didn't so much as ask if we were alright, needed anything. Just had to control the situation and point out the tree had fallen. OPD at its finest.

Parts of the state were devastated with downed trees and power lines. Many towns still have no electricity and crews are working round the clock clearing downed trees and reconnecting wires. Does she honestly think we're going to call a tree service company to come out and take care of a tree that is lying in her back half acre? The tree is not on her walkway, not through her house, on her car or in an area where people need access and egress. No one will be available this week. Next week is Christmas and the following week New Year's. If she wants the tree removed quickly, perhaps I should call Jason to come take care of her.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Scam Warning

The gas station was busy when I pulled in, but a bay with the pump on the side I needed opened up. Gas was $1.75 per gallon and seemed like a real bargain. Exiting the gas station back to the highway was easy as if traffic stopped just so I could get on my way. The traffic was very light on the Pike. I was in a good mood. Not the I'm ecstatic to be going to the Mahket mood, but not dreading the journey either. These were all premonitions, but I missed the signs.

I yelled my familiar "I'm here!" as I barged into the Weebles house. Ma was in the kitchen cleaning up her breakfast dishes.

"Don't take your coat off," Ma said. "I'm ready."

Heard that a thousand times before and knew it would be another fifteen or twenty minutes before we left.

Dad greeted me with a very deep, depressive sigh. Lately, he's turned into Eeyore.

"How's it going?" I asked cheerfully.

He shook his head.

"I have big problems."

I thought don't we all.

"I need to talk to you."

"G'head," I said sitting down making myself comfortable. I didn't take off my jacket.

"Upstairs?" He motioned his head to the stairs leading to his office.

As I climbed the stairs, I was thinking this was our version of Maxwell Smart's Cone of Silence. We would be able to have a secret conversation away from Ma's ears. We could have had this conversation in the living room as Ma is as deaf as a haddock. I sat in the chair behind Dad's desk leaving him to sit in the subordinate position.

"What's up?"

"I got a phone call last night."

My mind raced through the handful of elderly relatives. I didn't recall hearing that an aunt or uncle was very ill.

"From Toronto," Dad continued. He was visibly upset.

How odd that Auntie Rose would leave the warm climate of the Islands to move her operation to freeze her assets off in Toronto. Then my heart froze. Instantly, I knew what he was going to tell me. Supposedly, the Grandson called saying he was in trouble in Toronto and needed money. I follow an Eldercare blog and read about this scam a month or two ago. Didn't give it much thought at the time. The it won't happen to us mentality.

"This is a scam. It's not him!"

"I don't know how to help him. I don't have the money."

"It's not him! It's a scammer!

He kept going on and on about how helpless he felt. How he was up sick all night worrying for The Boy and no way to help.

I wanted to shake Dad and slap him silly.

"You didn't give them any information? You didn't give him your bank account number?"


I breathed a sigh of relief that Dad's generation operated on a strict cash basis. They didn't believe in credit. Everything except their home was paid with cash on the barrel head.

I pulled out my cellphone.

"What are you doing?" Dad's voice rose in panic

"I'm calling Uncle Ted [Kennedy, Massachusetts Senior Senator] to see if he can get the State Department working on this. Who the hell do you think I'm calling? I'm calling The Brother."

"No! He said not to call his father!"

"It's not him!" Third base in the Abbott and Costello routine.

The phone rang a few times and the Brother picked up.

I asked if his son was traveling in Canada knowing what the answer was going to be. I explained why I was calling and hoped I sounded sane. When problems of this nature occur, one tends to get sucked into the OPD. You can't help it. It's a miasma that you breathe in and then it spreads through your body until you're the one acting like a weeble. I know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies! I just remember I kept repeating that I couldn't convince Dad this was a scam and had nothing to do with his Grandson.

"Put him on."

I passed my tiny phone to Dad. Dad once told me he felt as if the world was passing him by with all the changes in technology, he couldn't keep up. He kept moving the phone from his ear to his mouth to talk into it like a microphone.

"Just keep it next to your ear. He'll [The Brother] be able to hear you!"

Thank God for The Brother as he was able to convince Dad it was all a cruel hoax. Poor old guy felt pretty foolish. I told him it was very easy to get taken in especially where a loved one was concerned.

"Should it happen again, the first thing you need to do is call Your Son or me to verify."

He nodded his head.

Later after our trip to the Mahket, I told Ma about scammers calling posing as grandchildren. Because if Dad was vulnerable, Ma would be giving out state secrets.

As I was talking to her the phone rang and she answered. She seemed put out by the call.

"Who's on the phone?" I asked.

"Some man. I can hardly hear him. He's stupid."

"Then hang up!"

She obeyed and less than six second later the phone rang again.

I answered the phone and demanded the caller identify himself. All I could hear was a foreign speaker. The scammer alarm went off.

"Don't call this number again." I hung up.

Again the phone rang. I picked it up and immediately slammed the receiver home.

"Ma, if any of the grandchildren are in trouble, they aren't going to call here for help."

She acknowledged that fact.

So, a plea to all you out there reading this to alert your elders to scams such as the call from Toronto. Callers pose as a family member and not necessarily by name. Just this is your grandson or granddaughter. That's enough to panic anyone into not thinking straight especially if the call comes late at night. Or not asking the caller to identify him or herself. Or asking a question that only a family member would know. Like what happened at an event. Something an outsider couldn't possibly know. Remind your elders to never, ever give out personal information such as social security numbers, credit card or bank numbers. And not to give out family information such as addresses and phone numbers. Most important, to verify the phone call with their children.

I try to look at the humorous side of OPD only to keep myself from going off the deep end. It's frightening and sad to see once savvy parents become unable to see through some of the situations.

First thing tomorrow morning I'll be calling the telephone company on Dad's behalf to see if his phone service has caller ID. If not, I told him I was going to add it so his phone bill would be going up a few dollars more each month. He balked at first. Worried about the expense. I told him this was serious and if he couldn't afford the few dollars, I'd spring for it. As well as a phone with caller ID.

I'll have to prepare a telephone lesson. The old don't talk to strangers. If the call is from anonymous, unavailable, or they don't recognize the name or phone number, they aren't to answer the phone.

Help me, Lord.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Election Day

The plan was for me to show up early to take Ma and Dad to vote. It was an excellent plan. So good in fact, all the other Seniors thought of the same thing. They all showed up to vote at 10:30am.

The handicap slots were jammed. Ma entertained herself by screaming at me to "park over there." I dropped them off at the front of the building and then circled around and by a miracle a handicap slot was open and I slid neatly in and settled in to wait.

The Weebles had made it into the building when a very long line began to form out and around the building. There were so many fluffy white heads, it looked like Q-Tips had been arranged around the building. I have to give the Seniors credit for getting out to vote. Ma complained about having to go there pushing her walker, but there were lots of others that were in worse shape than Ma. Not only were they pushing walkers but hauling oxygen tanks. God bless them for making the effort.

The line kept getting longer and longer. I was reminded of the movie Logan's Run where people over 30 were called to attend Carousel, a cute euphemism for euthanasia. People kept going into the school, but none were coming out. I looked at my hand just in case my indicator was glowing red. I didn't hear the disembodied computer voice calling "Leo 28. Leo 28"

A van pulled into the handicap slot to my right and the driver got out and went into the building to vote.

A police officer was across the street from the school trying to prevent people from parking in the clearly marked No Parking area. One bright spark failed to listen and move his Jeep. I watched the officer write out a ticket and place it on the windshield. The gentleman was not happy when he came out from voting. He was about to say something to the officer, but the officer said, "You were warned."

All the handicap slots were filled when a woman pulled into the horseshoe driveway. The officer told her she had to move her car.

Since it was a warm day, I had the driver's window opened as did the elderly woman. She saw me sitting in the car.

"What's she waiting for?" she screamed at the police officer, but looked at me.

The officer started walking towards me, but stopped when he saw the handicap placcard prominently hanging from the rearview mirror. I was legally parked.

"She's waiting for her crippled mother to exercise her right to vote as guaranteed to her by the 19th amendment to the Constitution," I shouted through the open window. I refrained from sticking my tongue out at the woman. I also fought the urge to yell, "You have two choices. Either trawl the lot until a spot opens up or go home and come back later!"

The officer made a placating motion to her.

"It's a very busy morning here," he said. He moved a caution sawhorse so she could squeeze into a handicap slot.

About 10 minutes had elsapsed since the man in the van had parked and gone into the school to vote. I had been waiting in the car close to 20 minutes.

I got out of the car and hollered over.

"Excuse me, but did you vote already?"


"Where the hell are they?" I thought I had said this to myself.

"There are two precincts voting here and there's a really long line for precinct 7"

I thanked him and settled back to wait with a weary sigh.

The police officer's watch ended and as soon as his squad car left, not one but two elderly lady drivers came through the Do Not Enter end of the horseshoe. The clearly marked Do Not Enter end of the driveway. Yikes! Where was the police officer when he was really needed!

Finally, Ma and Dad came out. I got out of the car and waved so they would see me. Everyone got in the car. I very carefully backed out of the spot. The approach to the exit was clear. No blue haired ladies in sight. How do you spell relief?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ashley Jane Butternut

Ashley Jane Butternut, died Tuesday from a fall during the Squash Squad practice.

Ashley was an honor student at Produce Mahket High School. She was a member of the Squash Squad and recently was elected to the student council.

She leaves her parents Cushaw and Summer (Squash) Butternut, two sisters, Delicata, and Patty Pan, and a brother, Peter Pan.

Memorial Services will be held Tuesday at 7pm at Our Lady of the Perpetually Clueless Cathedral.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you send a donation to the You're-The-Grand-Prize-Winner Sweepstakes. Donations can be sent to Rose Dewy-Cheatham, And Howe Avenue, Mahket City.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Squad Member Squashed

Tuesday dawned like any other day. Members of the Winter Squash Squad were up early and hard at work preparing for the big Thanksgiving festival. They were rehearsing their signature move, the pyramid, when the unthinkable happened. Ashley Butternut plummeted to her death.

Coach Al Zucchini was at a loss to explain the accident. "These are good kids. They lookout for one another. They've done this move a thousand times. Ashley was a good squash, so young and fresh."

Team member, Amber Hubbard described what happened. "It was like, you know. Like Ash was on top of the pyramid and like this like you know like giant like hand came out of the sky and grabbed her and like dropped her like to the ground."

Ashley Butternut was pronounced dead at the scene. Mahket officials are investigating the incident. Mark A. Corn of the Mahket released an official statement. "This was a very tragic accident. Our hearts and prayers are with the Butternut family at this difficult time."

Ashley's mother, Summer Squash Butternut told the squad members. "Ash was so proud to have made the squad. She loved the sport and her teammates and loved being on the top of the pyramid. She died doing what she loved best."

Grief counselors will be on hand to help squad members cope with their loss. A memorial service is being planned.

Mrs. Butternut said Ashley's rind would be composted in a private family service.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ancient Mariner

The Young One and I were watching a program.

"Water, water, everywhere. And not a drop to drink," quoted The Young One.

"Water, water, everywhere. And all the boards did shrink," I added. I was pleasantly surprised she knew the quote. "Did you read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in school?"

"We spend thousands of dollars on your tuition, and they don't teach you the Classics?" My favorite rant.
She fixed me with "the look" as only a teenager can.

"That's because no body cares."

"I care," the English major in me said indignantly.

"That's because you were around when all these guys wrote this junk."

Looks like the mariner isn't the only one that's ancient.

Wipe, Please.

During the last Mahket run, Ma toodled on the scooter to the produce department with me trailing a safe ten paces behind.

Ma stopped and surveyed the department. A hunter getting the lay of the land.

"You know those green peppers you picked last time went bad. Your father put them in the basement."

"That's not my fault if you don't store the food properly."

"I know," she conceded. Ma horned in on the display of green beans.

A younger woman was carefully selecting her choices, one by one, and putting them in a plastic bag.

"You didn't do a good job picking out the green beans last time," Ma sniffed. "Some of them were touched."

I almost commented on what was touched, but kept my mouth shut.

"I want a pound. Pick them like that girl over there is doing."

"Maybe we should let her pick out your green beans," I muttered.

The woman turned as she overheard the conversation. I smiled politely as I pulled a plastic bag from the roll.

My turn came, and I approached the altar of the green beans. Under Ma's hawk gaze, I selected a candidate and promptly rejected it. I was sure there was nothing particularly wrong with that green bean, but it seemed the prudent way to go. I selected another and put it in the bag. Ma must have approved because she zoomed down the aisle in search of other veggie prey.

By now, you've all picked up the fact I hate shopping. I hate grocery shopping in particular, and I especially despise shopping at the Mahket. I don't do the grocery shopping for my own family. Himself came to me as the designated slayer of grocery since he did the food shopping for his mother, and he naturally assumed the role in our marriage. It was either that or starve. Grocery shopping falls under the "not a Little Princess job" like yard work or bathroom cleaning.

I looked at the mound of green beans as if they were writhing adders. I pushed my hand into the underlayers to see if the specimens were any better than the fellows on the top. As I did this, I began to wonder how many people, during the start of flu season, have pawed through the beans before I arrived. Had they washed their hands before they arrived for shopping? Had some child picked and wiped his hand on his nose and helpfully helped his mother select green beans? I shuddered, and made a mental note for next time. Grab another bag and use it as a glove so I wouldn't have to actually touch the produce.

More selecting and my eye caught the sign announcing Fresh Green Beans. Fresh my Aunt Fanny. How fresh can green beans be sitting in a bin that is not refrigerated and sitting in the bin for God knows how long? Do the beans stay in the bin overnight? Does the produce manager have his clerks restock the vegetables into a refrigerator overnight? The beans sitting in the bin can't be fresh. Fresh is being shipped to the produce plant minutes after picking and being flash frozen and ensconced in a polybag. If vegetables are not sealed in a polybag, they shouldn't be brought home.

I took my bag of beans to the scale to be weighed. My hands felt gritty. Another mental note, bring some wipes next time. Better yet, try to get Ma and Dad to subscribe to Peapod, the online grocery shopping service in their area. Though that wouldn't work, I'd be getting calls at all hours that "they didn't send me my green beans."

I found Ma in the aisle looking at polybags of apples.

"I want a bag of MacIntosh."

Shopping with your mother, $200.00. Not having to hand select MacIntosh apples? Priceless.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Major Award

If you didn't go back to read all the comments on the Bloggerversary Contest Winner, Alesia sent this comment:

Thanks everyone! My box arrived yesterday, sadly (yet somehow appropriately) the lottery ticket was a loser. Auntie Rose is now in a place of honor in the dining room hutch.

Just like Auntie Rose to send you bupkiss. She stiffed Ma too, out of $2M yesterday. At least you have the consolation of the Little Debbies. Ma's only consolation was me raining on her parade.

It started yesterday when I brought lunch to have a visit with the Weebles. Ma wanted me to take her to the post office because she had received a registered letter. She took a half an hour to get ready.

In the meantime, I found the card the mailman left to see who sent the letter. There was no name, no company, just a bunch of numbers. A bogus notice. Secretly, I hoped it was from the FBI indicting Ma with illegal gambling or terrorist funding. Or maybe a bill from the telephone company with all the charges for calls to Jamaica that I had the phone company remove from the bill.

I was also wondering why the mailman didn't leave the letter. Ma is a virtual shut in and she's home all the time. If she ventures outside, it's to sit in a chair on the front porch. I guess the mailman knew it was a fake letter and didn't want to bother about it.

Finally, Ma is ready. We drive to the post office. Wait in line for days because there is only one clerk working. A second clerk was at the counter but he was ignoring the line.

Ma got her letter and two books of stamps. As I'm juggling, the letter, her pockabook, and trying to put away her checkbook, she's demanding I open her letter.

"Let's go to the car, Ma. My hands are full and I'm dancing as fast as I can."

I got her settled in the car and she opened her letter.

"I don't have my glasses. Read this to me."

"I can't read and drive, Ma. You'll have to wait until we get home." Besides not wanting to drive into the guard rail, I can't read while driving as I get motion sick.

On the ride home, Ma is dreaming of riches. She'll pay for my girls' college education in full. I'd rather she pay me for the furnace, but I don't say anything. All I can think of is if she won, all the strings that would be attached to the winnings.

At home, Ma looks at the letter and focuses on the big $2 Million printed on an official looking certificate.

She's fairly dancing around the living room with joy. I started thinking of the father from "The Christmas Story" when he won a prize for entering a crossword puzzle contest.

"A major award! A major award. Hot damn!"

Too bad Ma didn't win the leg lamp. At least she would have something to show for all the do-re-mi she's spent on these contests.

"See," she said shoving the letter at me. "I told you I was going to win."

I read the letter. It stated if Ma sent $20 her name would be put in the next round of entries for a chance to win the $2 million. Just like Auntie Rose to stiff Ma again.

"You didn't win anything."

It was sad to see her face fall. All the dreams and all the control she would have with the money.

"All they want you to do is send them more money so they can trick you into thinking you won a contest."

I should have brought Ma a box of Little Debbies. She already has the framed picture of Auntie Rose.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

New Washer Works

A week after the Weebles got their new washer, I called to find out how it was working out and to see if there were any fire works. I related the story to Himself.

"I called to find out how the washer was working. Dad answered the phone."

"What did he say?"

"He was thrilled. 'It really works!'"

"He sounded surprised."

"Yeah, like DUH! I guess he was surprised the machine got faster RPM's than he did spinning the drum."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bloggerversary Contest - Winner

Auntie Rose drew the winning entry in the Bloggerversary Contest. She is pleased to announce if you wish to see if your name is on the Winner's List. Send $11.95 to Auntie Rose.

Ok, just kidding.

The winner is....

Alesia! Congratulations, Al, you've won the fabulous prize package which includes a Scary Money Instant Lottery ticket from the Massachusetts Lottery Commission, a package of Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies to savor the thrill of victory or the agony of the eat (don't groan, it's funny!), and a framed picture of Auntie Rose to proudly display as your relative. Which also means we are related because we share the same auntie.

I want to thank everyone for participating and helping me celebrate two years of fine whining.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Exploding Washing Machine

This story appeared in our local news. Exploding Washing Machine Sparks Fears Sounded like wishful thinking. LOL

This is the last day for you to leave a comment on the blog to be entered into the Bloggerversary Contest Contest ends at 11:59PM Friday 3. October 2008. US residents only. Auntie Rose will announce the winner at noon EDT on Saturday 4. October 2008

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Shopping with Popeye

Don't forget. Leave a comment on the blog this week to be entered into the Bloggerversary Contest Enter each day to increase your chances of winning. Contest ends at 11:59PM Friday 3. October 2008

Dad is a mumbler. If you listen carefully, you can hear him mutter under his breath. Sort of like Popeye the cartoon sailor used to make snide remarks and then chuckle. Heh-heh-heh. Dad usually mumbles things like "justifiable" as in justifiable homicide.

We were on our way to the big orange store. Ma has their charge card, and she received a $10 off coupon in the mail for a purchase over $200 if you put the purchase on the charge card. No interest, no payments for a year. Ma wanted to buy a new washing machine. She was excited about the outing and was animated on the ride up.

From the back seat came Popeye's comment, "She needs a good whack."

Sometimes when I hear nuggets like these, I have a hard time keeping a straight face.

Needs a good whack. We'll call Tony Soprano to see if Paulie Walnuts is available to take care of it for ya. Just remember you're dealing with Tony and it's gonna cost ya.

Usually Dad's mumbling isn't too bad unless we are in public, and then it can be downright embarassing.

I had once again reminded Ma of the price for a washer. I told her to expect a price between $450 and $550.

The back legs on Ma's walker, the ones with the Whiffle ball covers, made a screaching sound as Ma made her way to the appliance department. The sound of fingernails on a blackboard echoed through the warehouse. EEEEEEEEEeeeeeee EEEEEEEEeeeeeeee. People stopped to stare like that old E. F. Hutton commercial. When E.F Hutton talks everyone listens. EEEEEEEeeee EEEEEEeeee. I could see people through the entire store cringing at the sound.

Popeye was mumbling behind me.

"Listen to that! Can't even use the walker right."

"Stop it!" I hissed back at him.

The salesman approached us and immediately Ma informed him she wanted to see a Maytag.

"What the hell does she need a washer for?" Popeye muttered.

"Behave!" I hissed again.

The salesman showed Ma a Maytag with a porcelain drum for $419. Ma frowned. She wanted the Maytag with the stainless steel drum which was $100 more.

The salesman showed her a Whirlpool that was less expensive.

No, she wanted a Maytag.

"Where the hell does she think she's getting the money for this? I'm not paying for it!"

"Quit it!"

I know where Ma is getting the money from. Auntie Rose is supposed to send Ma seven grand on the third of October. Auntie Rose didn't specify the year so it could be this year, or next year or the year after.

I moved Dad away from the salesman while Ma looked at the Maytag with the stainless steel drum.

"I know how to make the washing machine work," sputtered Dad. "All I have to do is turn it."

A small shudder went up my spine. The Brother had a friend in grammar school who lost an arm in a washing machine accident. I pictured the boy with his empty sleeve pinned to his shoulder to keep the sleeve out of the way. My stomach clenched because I wasn't sure if Dad meant all he had to do was fiddle with the control knob or if he spun the drum to get the washer moving. I didn't want to ask. I tried not to picture Dad with his empty sleeve pinned to his shoulder to keep the sleeve from flapping around. Lord, I wished I had taken a second dose of aspirin.

The store was running a promotion. Buy a washer and dryer and get $75 off in a rebate. Ma's eyes sparkled with washer/dryer lust. I told her the whole shebang would cost over $1,000. She had a year to pay off the charge without interest. If she didn't send any money to Auntie Rose and the other scammers, she could easily pay off the bill in ten months by sending $100 a month to the big orange store. Yes, she understood. Yes, a good plan. She would be able to pay it off in two months time. I was hoping she was thinking it would take two months of her Social Security checks to pay the debt though deep down I knew she was counting on Auntie Rose to kick in with millions.

She handed her charge card to the salesman. He checked the availability and delivery schedule while Dad huffed and moaned.

The salesman explained the terms to Ma. $75 in rebate. No payments, no interest for a year. There would be a $60 delivery and old machine pick up, but sending in a form would reimburse her.


The salesman escorted Ma to the front of the store to complete the transaction and to print out the rebate and delivery reimbursement forms.

The salesman and I were in lockstep. Ma screeching her way to the front of the store. EEEEEEEeeee EEEEEEEeee EEEEEEeee. Dad a few paces behind us.

"Justifiable...out of her mind...I'm not paying...." floated around us.

"How long have they been married?" the salesman asked me.

"Sixty-five years."

"That's a long time. Do they get along?"

"Yup, like oil and water."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Washer

Don't forget. Leave a comment on the blog this week to be entered into the Bloggerversary Contest Enter each day to increase your chances of winning. Contest ends at 11:59PM Friday 3. October 2008

The faithful washing machine had seen better days. Ma wanted to go to the appliance store where she's bought all her appliances for the past 56 years. So I loaded up the bus, and we went. It's only a couple of miles down the road. On the way I prepared Ma for what she could expect to pay. $400-$550 for a top loader.

The store was filled with high-end front loaders. Bosch, Whirlpool Duet, LG. All equipped with steam cleaning and from the looks of them, your wash would not only come out clean, but neatly folded. Just like Maureen Robinson's wash from Lost in Space.

A salesman came around to help. He started to talk to me and I pointed to Ma. I was not going to miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut.

"I want a Maytag."

The salesman started moving towards the Maytag Neptune.

"She wants a top-loader."

"This is what I have in a Maytag," He showed her a washer with a price tag of $519.00

Ma frowned.

"I have a Whirlpool for $419.00"

"I want a Maytag."

"Whirlpool owns Maytag."

"What kind do you have?" Ma asked me.

"I have a Whirlpool."

"I've had my Maytag for 56 years," Ma told the salesman.

Ma's had the washer for a long time, but there was another machine in between the 56 years.

"Is that a fact."

"I've bought all my appliances here."

Ma was angling for a discount.

The salesman smiled.

"I'm 90 years old."

She played the hole card.

"Isn't that wonderful."

"We've been married 65 years," chimed in Dad.

Double teamed.

"You didn't say 65 happy years."

Don't go there.

The Weebles began backpedaling.

"There were happy years."

"He just had an operation."

The sympathy route.

"I had lots of gallstones removed."

I tried shooing the Weebles to the door.

"C'mon, kids, the man doesn't want to hear about your operations."

In the car on the way home, Ma sniffed.

"Those machines were too expensive. I want to go to the big orange store."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bloggerversary Contest

Help me celebrate my second bloggerversary. Just look at the fabulous prize package you will win: A Massachusetts instant game ticket, Scary Money 2008 with a chance to win a cash prize. See odds of winning, a box of Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies to savor the sweetness of winning or the consolation of losing, and a framed picture of Auntie Rose to have as your very own.

Entry is easy. All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog. You lurkers out there; don't be shy. Just say "Hi". Tell me about the weather in your area. Whine. Relate an anecdote. Anything. Each day you comment, your name will be entered into the contest. Comment each day and increase your chances of winning! The contest will run until 11:59PM EDT on Friday 3. October 2008. The winner will be announced at noon on Saturday 4. October 2008. U.S. residents only.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bloggerversary Contest

Saturday, 4. October 2008 will mark my second year blogging at Whine. Can you believe it? Two years of fine whining. I didn't pay attention the first year to the date so missed the bloggerversary. This year, I'd like to do something to mark the occasion.

I wanted to run a contest, but didn't know what to offer as a prize. 24 cans of beets? 20 loaves of bread? The Weebles? While brainstorming with Erica and later Himself, a grand prize was suggested.

First, the contest rules. Stop by CJ's Whine and Cheeze and leave a comment this week. That's it. Just leave a comment. Say "Hi". Tell me about the weather in your area. Whine about your own sandwich experiences. Relate an anecdote. Anything. Each day you comment, your name will be entered into the contest. Comment each day and increase your chance of winning! The contest will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday 3. October 2008.

Saturday, 4. October 2008, Auntie Rose will draw the name of the contest winner by lottery. You don't even have to send $11.95 to see if your name is on the contest list like Ma does. At noon EDT, I'll post the name of the winner.

The winner of the contest will win a legitimate Massachusetts Lottery scratch ticket with a chance to win a cash prize, a box of Little Debbie treats, and a picture of Auntie Rose.

The contest is open to U.S. residents only.

Good luck!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Twilight Zone

Shortly after Dad has his second procedure to remove gallstones, he related a story to me.

"I woke up and there was a man in my room. He was wearing a white suit."

"It was probably just a dream, Dad." Either that or tripping on whatever medication the hospital sent him home with.

"No, it wasn't a dream. I was awake."

"Did you know the man?"

"No, just that he was wearing a white suit."

All I could picture was Mr. Roarke from the television show Fantasy Island or Tattoo, Mr. Roarke's little dude sidekick. Boss, de plane! de plane!

Did this man talk to you?"

"No, but I heard a voice say, 'Not now, they still have time.'"

Dad was not at all upset about a stranger in his room.

"Your mother heard the voice too."

"She did?"

"Yes, because she asked me the next morning who was in the house."

Not exactly what I would call a good witness as Ma hears someone singing risque Italian songs all the time.

"God sends someone to come and take you home."

Dad seemed quite comforted by this thought. Now I have heard this type of story, though I had heard it was always a family member or someone you knew who came to help you cross over. Not a complete stranger. On the other hand, The Happy Wanderer would gladly go with anyone that offered him a lift.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


At the beginning of the week, my Palm Z22, my brains just up and died. The Z22 was my electronic calendar and synced to Outlook. Just the thing I needed to keep track of all the appointments including Weeble appointments. I had been thinking about a smartphone, phone and PDA all in one device, but hadn't been able to rationalize the expense until the Z22 bought the farm.

Rather than buy another Palm device (this was my third from two previous upgrades), I decided to bite the bullet and go for the smartphone. Since the Weebles have a doctor's appointment on Tues. the decision had to be made right quick. So this is Chip, Verizon's SMT 5800. It's a candybar style with a slide out QWERTY key pad.

Now I'll be able to run out the door with the smartphone and my wallet in my jacket pocket. Not often that I carry a purse. Just ask Frauee what a minimalist I was in TX. I can transfer calls from the home phone to the smartphone. I have my calendar and Weeble appointments at my fingertips and I can surf the web while waiting in the doctor's office. That's a nice feature. Not a necessity, but nice.

I even managed to download a couple of my own ringtones to Chip. Where would I be without the theme from The Big Valley as the general ringtone? I can even associate ringtones with contacts so I can instantly know who is calling. I've been searching the Internet for The Happy Wanderer to associate with the Weebles. I'm sure The Stupid Song isn't available.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Birthday Party

Ma turned 90 years old last Tuesday. Ordinarily, I would have held a holy day of obligation on the Sunday before. This year, I had a conflict as Sunday was the day The Eldest was to move back into her dorm. I had thought I could hold the festivities on Saturday, but after dealing with Dad's illness, doing Weeble laundry, and trying to get The Eldest organized, I just didn't have the energy to deal with a party. The house was a wreck with health and beauty items, office supplies, snacks, and other sundry items that needed to go live at college. So I decided if I had time, I'd drop in on Monday (Labor Day) or Tuesday (Ma's birthday). I'd bring a cake and a bouquet of flowers and call it good.

Ma was pleasantly surprised by our visit especially because The Young One had come for a visit, too. She thought everyone had forgotten about her. Dad had gone out (See The Happy Wanderer) and she was left alone. She had also fallen earlier that morning too, but that might have been a sympathy ploy.

As I was getting the cake ready to serve, Ma served me a slice of guilt. In all fairness, she did not comment to make me feel guilt, but it was the way I interpreted her comment.

"Did you ever think you get this far?"

"Ninety years old? No, never. I told your father I wanted a big party, but he didn't bother."

"Oh." The guily version of "Oh, Wow."

And for a split second, I took a bite out of the guilt slice. I could have had her and Dad over for cake and coffee on Saturday. I didn't have to do a seven course meal. So the house was a disaster, the family would have been too polite to remark about my lack of housekeeping skills. I just didn't want to expend the effort.

Ma said she wanted a big party. She was probably thinking of the big party Uncle Salvatore had for his 80th birthday, about five years ago. His son had hired a function hall, invited friends and relatives and given his father a surprise party.

A surprise party. That would have been nice. Except all her relatives and friends are dead. Sad but true. We would have had to hold the festivities at the Holy Name Cemetary where the bulk of the relatives are buried.

I suppose I could have tried talking The Brother into making an appearance for cake and coffee at Ma's. I didn't want to make him feel guilty. Ma would have been very happy to The Brother and his family and me and mine sans The Eldest. Auntie Rose and Grandma Celeste would be smiling down at us from the wall of pictures. But can you imagine the horror of having 91 candles, open flame and all of Ma's papers around? Yup, would sure clean the place out, but as I said before I don't want to be there when it happens.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Happy Wanderer

Labor Day found us heading to the Weebles to celebrate Ma's 90th birthday a day early. We had picked up a cake, a bouquet of flowers, and a card. Traffic wasn't too heavy so we were zipping along.

"There's your father," Himself said as we zipped by the old brewery.

"What? Where? Are you sure it's him?"

"There's no mistaking him. He's wearing a straw hat that looks like a dog chewed its brim, a plaid jacket that looks like some poor VW bug is missing seat covers, and he has his cane slung over his shoulder with a shopping bag on the end of it like a hobo's pack. Should I loop around to pick him up?"

Himself likes to drive in the passing lane and there was no way to pull over to pick up the old man. Dad was some two miles from home.

"Yeah, don't let him walk home. What the hell was he doing up here anyway?" I could feel the muscles in my neck clench and me without my Tylenol.

"Do you think Grandpa dresses like he's homeless on purpose?" asked The Young One.

"Maybe he thinks if he dresses poor mouth, no one will bother him while he's wandering around town," I answered smoothly. I wasn't really sure of the reason. He has tons of clothes, many of them new, still in their original plastic with pins holding the folds neatly in place. I've teased him for years that he has a trousseau. I have a feeling this is another instance of Weeblenomics. The clothes he wears are threadbare and out of style, but perfectly serviceable. What's a few holes? The new clothes are to be saved. I'm not sure what occasion he's saving them for, perhaps his funeral. I might have to tell him, we can only bury him in one outfit. He won't be able to take his wardrobe with him. Wonder if we'll be able find a short, portly fellow on eBay to buy Dad's expensive Hickey-Freeman suits, he used to wear them to work and they are still hanging in the closet?

Himself took the half cloverleaf turn and headed back up the highway. We were now on the Westbound side, and I was anxiously watching the Eastbound side for a glimpse of Dad.

A black SUV, what Dad calls a "Soove" had stopped on the highway next to Dad. My heart leaped to my throat, and I watched with horror as Dad accepted the ride.

Note to self: Get a pack of Tylenol Meltaways (no water needed) to keep in the car in case of Weeble induced headaches while on the road.

By the time we made the second loop, the black SUV was gone.

We turned into the Weebles street, and there was the SUV parked in front of the Weebles' driveway. Dad was leaning in and chatting with the driver.

The driver was a young, good-looking fella in his mid-thirties.

"I take it this is your dad?" he asked.

"Yup, that's him. Thanks for picking him up."

"No problem." We watched as the driver turned the black SUV around.

"Did you know that man?" I asked Dad.


I sighed heavily. "Y'know the old rule about accepting rides from strangers applies to you too."

Dad shrugged and gave me a sheepish grin.

"What the hell were you doing up there anyway?"

"I went to Eliot to visit a friend. Then Roche Bros. had a deal on paper towels."

That's what was in the bag that was looped around his cane. The store was close to two miles away from where we saw Dad on the highway. The shoes on Dad walk round and round.

"You couldn't have waited until I came Thursday to take you guys to the Mahket?"

Another sheepish grin.

Maybe we need to have an electronic fence installed around the Weebles' house. Then if he crosses the line, the electronic collar will zap Dad to remind him to stay in his own yard. On the other hand, the Happy Wanderer would probably learn pretty quickly that if you took a running start and ran through the electronic wire, the zap would only hurt for a second or two. Or if he sat by the boundary long enough, the collar battery would wear out, and he could happily wander away without a zap.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God's clear blue sky!
My knapsack on my back.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

You're A Winner

Conversation with my cousin turned to Ma and her scammer contests.
"The house is cluttered with papers. You can barely find a place to sit down."
"I know."
"She's convinced she's winning millions of dollars. All she's doing is throwing her money down the drain."
"Preachin' to the choir."
"You really should make her stop."
"You know, I've had conversations with Ma about the foolish way she's spending her money. You know what she told me?"
"She told me to mind my own damn business."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Who Is That Woman?

My Cousin was telling me about her visit with Ma.

"We were sitting in the living room having a nice chat. I was looking at the family pictures your mother has on the wall. By the way, who is that woman?"

"What woman?"

"Your mother has a picture of a woman I've never seen before. She has white hair and is smiling."

"Oh, you mean Auntie Rose?"

"Auntie Rose? I don't remember an Auntie Rose."

"Oh, she's new. Auntie Rose is Ma's psychic. Auntie Rose tells Ma to send her money and Ma will be rich. Ma sends the money. Because her picture is on the wall with the other relatives, The Nephew christened her Auntie Rose."

Auntie Rose and her chit eating grin. Wonder what the story will be if Aunt Jemima's picture ends up on the wall? Maybe we can say Aunt Jemima's from the Sicilian side of the family.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Not A Little Princess Job

Ma's washer went on the fritz. Somehow, I ended up volunteering my washer and services and Himself to pick up and deliver the Weeble laundry. Y'know, doing other people's laundry is definitely not a Little Princess job. And the moral of this story? Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. Next time I hear "My washer is broken." The response is "Oh, wow."

I suppose the job could have been worse. I could have had to take it to the laundromat. You can read all about my first laundromat experience The Princess and the Laundromat.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I picked Dad up from the hospital after he had a procedure. Hed was sent home though he was looped to the gills. Poor fella couldn't get warm and was shivering so much his teeth chattered like castanets. I called the day surgery to ask if this was normal. Nope. Try to get him warm and if that doesn't work, bring him back. Warmed a quilt in the dryer. That and Dad's fave ratty Turkish terry bathrobe made him feel better. He was running a low grade fever, but I thought that was due to him being over dressed and tucked up with 1,000 quilts. After he was warmed up, I got him to just wear pjs and blanket and sheet. His temp came down. I ended up staying the night because Ma can barely take care of herself let alone trying to cope with Dad. Sat. morning, he was up, about and had cereal for breakfast. He grumped at Ma for hovering so figured he was back to normal, and I went home.

"You look horrible," said Himself as I flopped on my chair in the sunroom.

"Thanks, Kid. Just the kind of fuzzy welcome home feeling I was looking for."

"Rough night with your Dad?"

"No, he did alright. Just that I forgot how hot the upstairs room is. My God, how did we live like that? And my bed had tons of junk piled on it so I slept in the other bed. The other bed had junk too, but not so much that I couldn't pile it on a chair. There were too many peas in the bed and the pillow wasn't soft and comfy."

The Young One had come upstairs while I was whining.

"You sound like the Little Princess from the story," she chuckled.

"She was based on me. What's your point?"

"Guess you won't feel like cooking us supper because you didn't sleep well," Himself said flipping through the channels while the ballgame was in commercial. His comment was a statement and not a question.

"You got that right. Though it just wasn't because of two star accommodations at the hotel. Dad perked up around 10pm and he was looking for a playmate. So I sat up and chatted with him for an hour or so. Ma was busy shuffling papers. Around 11, I decided to go to bed. I'm heading through the livingroom and there's Ma standing in the middle of her papers with a candle and match that had to be yard long. She was burning papers in the fireplace."

Himself laughed.

"It's not funny."

"Don't you and your brother joke that a Zippo would do wonders to clean that place out?"

"Yeah, but I don't want to be in the middle of the house when it goes up! So I slept with one ear open listening to see if Dad was having any problems. Do they even have a smoke detector in the house?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I stayed awake wondering about that, and then trying to plan my escape route from the second floor. Do I go out my bedroom window, hang from the sill and drop hoping I'd fall into the bushes instead of the concrete where the clothes line is or do I go out the office window and jump to the concrete patio?"

"You wouldn't have to worry about jumping?"

"Why not?"

"The fumes from the burning Styrofoam plates would probably kill you first."

"Thank you, Gretchen Sunshine. She's not burning the plates anymore. She's putting them through the dishwasher now."

"Hey! I know what you can get your mother for her birthday?"


"A fire extinguisher."

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Sound of Music

I was spending the day with Ma, waiting to hear the results of a procedure Dad was having at the hospital. Ma was sitting on the settee under the picture of Auntie Rose. I was sitting opposite Ma and flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine.

"There she goes again," Ma said with an irritated edge to her voice.


"The music."

"What music?"

"Don't you hear the music?" Ma looked at me as if I was dumb as well as deaf.

I concentrated. I could hear the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, the refrigerator gurgling, and if I listened real hard, the roar of the highway. "I don't hear any music, Ma."

"You mean to tell me you can't hear that? She does this every single day, all day long. It's driving me crazy."

"Who?" There isn't a soul around the neighborhood. Everyone works.

"She must have a Victrola, and she plays those records."

"What kind of songs?"

"Dirty, Italian songs."

I might have half believed her if she had said that jungle music you used to listen to as a kid. I laughed. "Ma, who around here would be playing Italian songs? Let alone dirty, Italian songs. No one is Italian."

"Come sit with me and then tell me you don't hear the music."

So I crossed the room and sat on the settee next to Ma. She watched my face expectantly.

I shook my head. "Sorry, Ma. I only hear the clock and the refrigerator.

The only part of the Italian language I ever got a handle on were the swear words. Ma and Dad only spoke Italian when they didn't want The Brother or me to know what was going on. No mistaking swear words, and usually you knew what was going on because you were at the bottom of it or soon would be. So if there were Italian swear words to be heard, I knew I'd be able to pick up on them.

I tried to get Ma to tell me the songs she was hearing, but she couldn't quite put a title to any one of them. We used to have a couple of records by Italian singer Lou Monte. He sang a few of the old favorites like "Eh Cumpare." He sang a couple of funny songs a mixture of English and Italian like "What Did Washington Say When He Crossed the Delaware." It wasn't a dirty song. Ol ' George laments the fact that it's wicked cold and he must have forgotten his mudandies (long underwear). The Brother and I enjoyed the song about Pepino a mischievous mouse who eats Lou's cheese, drinks his wine and scares the mudandies off his girl.

Ma hearing voices is sad and funny at the same time. Dirty, Italian songs. I suppose it's a blessing she's hearing them. She could be hearing voices telling her to kill those who can't hear the music.

If you want to sing along with Lou, here are the lyrics to Pepino.

Pepino, oh, you little mouse
Oh, won't you go away
Find yourself another house to run around and play
You scare my girl, you eat my cheese, you even drink my wine
I try so hard to catch you but you trick me all the time

Cesta no surecillo a basoccella dinda mur
Ogna sere quella esce quanda casa scura
Endo dindo la cucina balla sulasu
A parrano malandrino pura un gabo sapaur

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa

The other nightI called my girl
I asked her could we meet
I said let's go to my house
We could have a bite to eat
And as we walked in through the door
she screamed at what she saw
There was little Pepino
Doin' the cha, cha on the floor

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa
Quella non ci piace u formaggio American
Quella va trova no poca Parmesan
La fatto ghiata ghiat gusto ena cor
Quando cella camina para probino caladur

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa

Theory of Relativity

Back in April, I introduced you to Auntie Rose. She's the psychic whose picture adorns the wall of shame in the Weebles livingroom.

While visiting last week, I happened to notice tucked into The Nephew's high school graduation picture is another long lost relative. She's quite famous too. Seems we have another grandma. None other than Mama Celeste of frozen pizza fame. Well, that would explain why we aren't abbondanza. Ma must have sent the do-re-mi to Auntie Rose.

The Nephew had told me he was going to stick Mama Celeste on the wall next time he went for a visit. Just to see if the Weebles would notice. I thought he was joking and the Weebles haven't noticed. Or if they did, they haven't mentioned it.

Hey Kid! You know what would be really funny? A picture of Aunt Jemima.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Perceptions. How we look at things. How we see them. How we interpret them. How we judge, but unless you’re in the situation, you don’t really know.

The daughter of a friend of the Weebles had recently dropped in to visit them after work. She called to tell me about the visit.

“They were making toast by putting it under the broiler. They should have a toaster.”

“They did. It’s broken. They have a perfectly good toaster oven, but for some reason won’t use it to make toast.

“I think I have a toaster down in the basement they can have. I’ll have to look for it.”

“That’s kind of you, but I bought Ma a toaster for her birthday in another week.”

“Oh, that’s good because they shouldn’t make the toast in the broiler.”

They shouldn’t do a lot of things they do,

“Your mother was telling me all about the Mahket. I think she was hinting that I would take her sometime.”

Yeah, Ma was trying to guilt her into taking her, and as much as I hoped someone else would take Ma to the Mahket, I couldn’t in all good conscience let that happen.

“You don’t really want to do that.”

“Well, I could take her once in a while.”

“Got three hours to kill?”


“The trip to the Mahket takes three hours from the time we leave the house til we get back.” Three hours. Same time as it would take to drive one way to New York.

“You’re making that up.”

“Hand to God. It’s true. Three hours because Ma has to bless all the meat.”


“Your mother was also telling me I could stay with them if the weather got bad and I couldn’t make it home from work.”

“I have two words for you.”

“What’s that?”


Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Nutterone asked: ok, it just occured to me as I was dumping an old loaf of bread... What on Earth do TWO people do with TWENTY loaves of bread?

That’s an excellent question, Nutterone, and the answer can be found in nature. Ants, squirrels and other critters stocking up so they would have food for the Winter.

The Weebles were born just after The Great War, WWI. Their childhood was spent during the roaring Twenties and their teenage years during the Great Depression, then as young adults during WWII. My theory is that knowing the hardship of not having and then the frugality of rationing, they decided when they had their own family, this would not happen. They and their children would never want for anything. How often we, the children, heard about that too. We had because of their sacrifice.

When I was in my teens, the Weebles converted the cellar into a three room “apartment”. There’s a kitchen with stove, sink, one wall lined with tall cabinets, and a standing freezer. There’s a sitting area and then a laundry/bathroom. The bathroom has a stall shower, toilet and sink. All they need to have would be a few 55 gallon drums of water, a couple of bunk beds, and they would have a nice, cozy bomb shelter. Wouldn’t surprise me if bomb shelter was the underlying reason for the remodel. After all, The Brother and I grew up during the Cold War.

In the old days, before Auntie Rose scammed Ma, and when Dad had a car and was still driving, shopping was an all day expedition, not just a three hour tour around the Mahket. The Weebles made a circuit of five stores in four towns, and Ma would shop the specials for each store. If Pastene tomatoes went on sale for 69 cents a can, Ma would buy a case, 24 cans. Anything that went on sale, Ma would buy extra, and it would be stored away in the downstairs kitchen. If the store limited how many cans of an item customers could have, the Weebles would each get in line, each with the legal limit. The pantry downstairs would be filled with canned fruits and vegetables. (I counted 24 cans of beets a couple of years ago) Pastene tomatoes and tomato paste to make gravy (spaghetti sauce), pasta of every shape and size. Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, paper cups, toilet paper, cans and bottles of tonic (soda pop). The freezer was jammed with beef, chicken, sausage, bread, bagels, ice cream. If unexpected company showed up, Ma would be able to pull together enough items to make a complete feast.

The cabinets and freezer items reminded me of those bulk superstores. I used to tell Himself that if anything happened to the Weebles, the first thing we go for is the food and stuff downstairs. There had to be thousands of dollars worth of inventory.

Ma prided herself on being thrifty and frugal. She bought things because they were a good price. Though I sometimes wondered what the savings really were considering the amount of gas burned toodling around the countryside. Made no nevermind. Ma was convinced she was saving big bucks.

That frugality also shows up in other areas, too. Remember last year, when Dad had to have FIOS because the phone company had a deal where the phone and computer would be bundled? Their phone bill dropped from $50 (or over, depending if Ma called Jamaica or not) to a flat $39.99 per month. Yup, Dad was pleased as punch he was saving on the phone bill. Never mind my end of the computer bill went up from a manageable $14.95 a month to $39.99 a month. Yup, Dad is saving and I’m out $25.04. My fault, I offered him the computer. Lesson learned. Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.

Dad was recently bragging the town granted senior citizens a special dispensation. If the seniors used only a certain amount of water, the seniors would be exempt from paying a water/sewerage bill which in recent years had skyrocketed above the property taxes. Yes, Dad was insufferably pleased with their low water consumption and no water bill. How do they do it? I’ll share the dirty, little secret. They don’t flush the toilet unless they absolutely have to. Yes, you are all allowed to utter a loud and long EWWWWW. I do quite frequently when I’m at the Weebles. I think water savings also extends to hand washing, and bathing, but I don’t like to think about that, and I’m sure you don’t want to think about that either.

I’m sure they don’t run the dishwasher that often. They eat off of Styrofoam plates which Ma used to burn (I hope that’s past tense) in the fireplace. There’s only two of them so the laundry isn’t piled that high. I’m pretty sure Dad doesn’t sort the laundry into whites and darks, just piles clothes in the machine. More like a guy thing than frugality.

We’ve had so much rain; there’s been no reason to water the lawn. No car, so no car to wash. So that’s the why of having 20 loaves of bread. And so we come to the conclusion of Weeblenomics . Any questions? Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Seven Things

Nutterone asked: ok, it just occured to me as I was dumping an old loaf of bread... What on Earth do TWO people do with TWENTY loaves of bread?

So, Nutterone, seven things you can do with 20 loaves of bread. (Wonderbread was not on sale 2 loaves for $1. Ma bought the Mahket store brand big sandwich loaf, but I needed a picture of loaves of bread and Wonderbread used to be baked in the town where the Weebles live)

1. Make toast.

2. Make sandwiches.

3. Make bread crumbs

4. Use bread to sop up gravy (spaghetti sauce for non-Italians.) Scali bread works better and tastes better, but Ma didn't buy the scali bread because that was not on sale.

5. Make fairy bread. Spread a little butter and sprinkle with a little (colored) sugar. (No Australian child's party is complete without fairy bread)

6. Tear the crust off slices of bread. (Bread crusts can be used to make the bread crumbs) Roll the white bread out thin and flat with a rolling pin. Cut out bread circles with a shot glass. (The Brother was a master at this technique). Now you have the communion wafers to play Mass

7. When the loaves of bread go bad, you'll have lots of penicillin.

Okay, okay. The real reason is to be continued tomorrow. I love cliffhangers! ROTFL

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mamabinladen and The Shopping Expedition, continued

When we last left the Weebles, Dad was staring at me, horrified to realize we didn't have all the groceries. The saga continues:

“Go back to the check out while I get Ma in the car.”

Ma had finished writing in her check book and I helped her into the car to wait.

“Where’s your father?”

“He went to get the other carriage.” I didn't want to tell her the groceries were missing because I didn't want her singing the He's Stupid Song on the sidewalk.

She nodded, and we waited, and waited.

I was now illegally parked in a clearly marked no parking fire lane. Even though the tailgate was raised, Ma’s door was open, and the handicap placard was hanging from the rear view mirror, I was still illegally parked. Across the way I could see a handicap spot. I was just about to buckle Ma in when around the corner, came a fire truck. The firefighters glared at me. Great, I’d probably end up with a ticket.

Dad came out all smiles, pushing a carriage overflowing with groceries. We unloaded the bags.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d be eating bread for the next month.”

We drove home and Dad and I unloaded groceries.

“Are you staying for lunch?”


Dad gave me the Ma isn’t going to like it grimace.

I had left the house at 9:50 am with The Eldest to drop her off at work. I back tracked and headed to the Weebles arriving there at 10:50am. By the time Ma was done dithering around, and we got to The Mahket, it was 11:30 am. I called Himself from the car at exactly 1:30pm. Dad came out with the first load of groceries at 1:50 pm. Another 15 minutes or so to hunt up the carriage. We left the parking lot and got to the Weebles at 2:30 pm. And 15 minutes later the car was unloaded. I was hoping to be home by 3:30 pm.

Dad went into the kitchen where Ma was putting groceries away.

“The girl wants to go home, Ma.”

“I have to get the cards.”

I sat down silently fuming. It’s always like this. When I want to leave there’s a last minute thing that has to be gotten or showed or given.

Ma went looking for the birthday cards. Then a pen to sign the cards. She handed me checks, cards, envelopes to assemble.

“Don’t cash the checks until Saturday,” she said. Because Auntie Rose got most of Ma’s money, Ma is singing Mafundsalo [my funds are low] along with the ever popular I got a lot of money coming in two weeks.

A squeal of tires, the pleasant smell of burning rubber, and I was on the Pike. Home at 3:45 pm. I could just hear Ma spouting off all the way home. Ma holds the world and Olympic records for emotional terrorism.

“Hmph, she just came for her money. Doesn’t do anything for me.”

I should have left the last load of groceries in the store. Let her eat her 20 loaves of bread for the month.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mamabinladen and the Shopping Expedition

Emotional terrorists. You must have run into them. The ones that try to hold you hostage with guilt. Everything from who you link to on your webpages to doing favors.

After 53 years, it comes as no surprise that Ma is an emotional terrorist, Mamabinladen. “No one does anything for me.” Her hallmark motto. So I don’t pay too much attention when Ma has me in her emotional gunsights, but it does chap me when she drives her spurs into the grandchildren.

Tuesday last, I was to take the Weebles to my favorite destination and activity, grocery shopping at The Mahket. Before I left my house, I took a dose of Tylenol and asked my Young One if she wanted to tag along. I already knew what the answer would be, but asked out of courtesy. After all, what teen wanted to spend three hours standing by the meat cases watching the blood in the packages congeal?

I arrived at the Weebles after I dropped The Eldest off at work. Dad answered the door with a big smile on his face, a huge hug for me, happy to see me. He announced my arrival at the same time I shouted “I’m here”, and I sat down to wait for Ma to finish dithering. Dad and I chatted.

After twenty minutes, she came out to the livingroom and took note of me.

“You didn’t tell me you were here!” Meaning I didn’t go into her room, genuflect and kiss her…hand.

“Where’s The Young One?”

“She’s home.”

“How come she didn’t come with you?”

I tried to hold my patience in check as I waited for Ma to finish.

“She didn’t want to come and visit her grandma? She doesn’t love me.”


“She’s a teen. She’s got her own life and things to do.”

“It’s too much to ask for them to come visit their grandmother…”

Emotional terrorists. They force you to give explanations or apologies. I was in no mood to do either.

“I had birthday cards for the girls.”

That translated into if they don’t come to visit, they don’t get the money in the cards.

“Oh for Chr…” I could feel my voice rising in tempo to the throbbing of my blood pressure. “Are we going to The Mahket, or not?”

Ma grumbled as she made her way down the front steps to the car.

Dad just kept shaking his head with that dear-Lord-take-me-now-look.

It was a quiet ride to the Mahket. Thank God. It was the end of the month, so the store was busy, but not overly crowded with elders spending their social security checks. I had my choice of handicap parking spaces.

Dad ran to the front door of the store, went inside and brought out the scooter for Ma. I returned her walker to the car and went back to the store. Dad was feeding soda cans into the return machine.

“Tell her, I’ll get the bread,” he said, and he handed me a grocery list. The grocery list makes me laugh. Ma has bought the same produce and meats every time we’ve made the trip for the last two years.

I sprinted ahead to see Ma by the bread display. It was on sale, two loaves of giant sandwich loaf for one dollar.

“Get twenty loaves,” Ma snapped at me.

I was going to say something, but decided to keep my pie hole shut. I counted out twenty loaves of bread and completely filled the double bicycle sized basket on the front of Ma’s scooter.

Go ‘head. See where you’re going to put the produce.

The thought must have crossed Ma’s mind because she sat blinking her eyes at the bread.

Sure, I could have gotten a carriage and put the bread in it, but I refuse to push around a carriage. I have enough problems getting items for Ma and helping her maneuver the scooter without pushing a carriage into the mix. An extra cart would also mean extra time to fill. A three hour trip to the grocery store from start to finish is long enough. Thank you very much.

Dad came up behind us, saw Ma with the bread, and he started to sputter.

“I told her, I’d get the bread!”

I held up my hand signaling fussing was futile. I offloaded the bread from Ma’s basket to Dad’s carriage.

“We’re being punished,” I told him.

“Punished? Why?”

“Because The Young One didn’t want to come, Ma is going to punish us.”

He mumbled something that sounded like justifiable and ended with homicide.

Ma toodled off to produce with me trailing behind. She came to an endcap of bagels.

“Get me two bags of the raisin ones.”

Ma was more pleasant when we got to produce. She complained about the high prices while I sympathetically nodded and un-huhed in the right places.

She sent me to get a bag of carrots while she wheeled over to inspect some zucchini. When I got back she was leaning over trying to reach the squash when a small one, took a header.

Another shopper was trying to get between Ma and the scooter so she could rescue the poor little squash. The woman looked over to me.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Are you together?”


I got between Ma and the cart, retrieved the squash, gave it Last Rites, and sadly set it aside from the rest of its family.

Ma had moved on to eggplant. She reached over and the eggplant mountain shifted and one started a slide.

I lunged with my hand outstretched. Safe!

“Get me the eggplant on top. Not that one. No, over. There. Your cousin came to visit me last week. She said she’s coming every week to visit, and she would take me where I wanted to go.”

This snack of guilt was meant to get a rise out of me.

“That’s nice.” One three hour trip to the Mahket, and Ma wouldn’t see hide nor hair of that girl.

After we finished Produce, Ma made her way to the meat counter.

“Wait, do you need frozen vegetables?”


“Well, that aisle is here. Let’s go get them so we don’t have to come back.”

The Frozen Foods Manager and a helper were unpacking cases as Ma whipped up the aisle.

“How ya doin?” he asked.

“Fine, thanks. You?”

“Couldn’t be better.” He gave me a wide happy to see you smile. Happy to see me because the last trip I made to The Mahket, he helped me get Ma the items she wanted.

The manager stayed busy while I dove into the cases. My hands were blue, my teeth chattering. It was quite nipply in the aisle.

Coming out of frozen foods on the way to meat, we met Dad. He caught sight of the two packages of bagels.

“I can get those cheaper at The Building.”

“You can?” Ma queried. The Weebles launched into a cost discussion about the bagels.

“Get those out of there,” he whispered to me. “I told her not to go overboard, and I can get them cheaper.”

This type of logic just eludes me. Each bag of bagels wasn’t more than $2.00. Looking at what was piled in Dad’s carriage and Ma’s basket, I figured he was close to $200. In order to get to The Building for the cheaper bagels, he would have to walk to the store. I’m thinking, you’re here. You’ve already spent a good $200. What’s another $4?

It’s the same logic he used on me when I suggested, once in a while he could pay the Senior Van $2 round trip to take him where he wanted to go.

“But that would cost me money!” he said indignantly.

Yes, and I get my gas for free. What would you do if you had your car? Whiz into the tank? You’d still have to pay for gas and the $4 trip by the van is cheaper than burning my gas.
What would they do if dropped dead?

I shook my head trying to grasp the logic as I struggled to remove the bagels. Bagels out, I headed to the other end of the store to return them. I hadn’t done my daily mile on the treadmill figuring that a few laps around the store would more than make up for skipping my morning

When I got back, Ma was just beginning the blessing of the meat. The ritual went quickly as Ma was not happy with the high cost of the meat.

They turned to check out, and I happily skipped out to sit in the car. There would be a 15 or 20 minute wait as the Weebles got through the check out. I called Himself on my cellphone to pass the time.

“I usually pull the car up in the fire lane to load the groceries,” he said.

My thought had been to punish Ma by making her drive the scooter across the drive to the handicap space. Considering she looks neither right nor left as she enters the crosswalk, I decided like Himself I should be generous even though I felt more like Grace Off!

“Okay, I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” I cheerfully told him and hung up. I caught sight of Dad, got out of the car, and signaled for him to wait while I moved the car.

Ma was still on the scooter. She had her checkbook out and was writing checks. No, not for Auntie Rose and the rest of the scammers, but birthday money for the girls and myself.

Dad was beaming as he folded the cash register receipt. “We did pretty good. I thought she had spent close to $300, but she only spent $212”

Four dollars more would have saved you a long walk for bagels.

I smiled and began taking the bundles out of Ma’s basket. She had 4 paper bags with the loaves of bread. I put them in the back seat so they wouldn’t be crushed.

Dad had emptied his carriage, and I was about to close the tailgate hatch when I noticed the cargo bay was halfway loaded.

“Dad, where’s the other carriage?”

“There’s no other carriage; this is it.”

I rummaged through a couple of bags. I had packed twenty loaves of bread in the back seat along with four dozen eggs. There were two gallons of milk and a gallon of orange juice.

“There has to be more. Ma bought vegetables. There’s no vegetables and no meat. You bought laundry detergent and a gallon of bleach. Where are they? All you have in the car is twenty loaves of bread.”

He looked at me horror stricken, a deer frozen in the headlights.
To Be Continued....