Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Friday was my turn to get a haircut. I had taken Ma to the same hairdresser the week before.

"So how did you mother like her haircut?"

"Oh, she was thrilled. She loved the way you pampered and princessed her."

"Your mother is so cute!" beamed the hairdresser.

"D'you want her? She comes as a bogo."


"Bogo. Buy one. Get one. She comes with Dad. They're a matched set of bookends, and I'd hate to break up the set."

The hairdresser giggled. I'm sure she thought I was kidding.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Weebles Don't Wear Prada

Wednesday. On the itinerary a visit to the foot doctor to order shoes and then upstairs to the eye doctor. Both appointments for Ma.

Ma was rushing to get ready and I told her we had plenty of time. The appointment wasn’t until 10:30 and then we’d go upstairs to the eye doctor.

“No, the eye doctor cancelled the appointment,” said Dad.

“When?” I had been with him two weeks ago when we went upstairs while Ma was having her feet checked to make this appointment so Ma could get her eye drop prescription refilled.

“I don’t know, but it was cancelled.”

“Did they reschedule?” He blinked at me like an owl.

I could hear Himself’s voice echoing in my head. Never trust appointments made by Weebles.

I found an old appointment card with the eye doctor’s office number.

“Yes, I want to check on an appointment for Ma. Is she scheduled for today? She is? At 11:30am. Thank you.”

Dad just shrugged.

The medical center parking lot was filled to capacity. They must have been running a sale. I offloaded the Weebles at the front door and cruised four circuits of the lot. As I’m in the holding pattern, I was thinking eyes and feet, eyes and feet. That lead me to a joke The Brother told me. What’s occularassimatosis? Dunno. It’s when the nerves of the eyes are crossed with the nerves of the a…butt which results in a crappy outlook on life.

At the top of the fourth circuit, I spotted a handicap spot. Great! Just as I was making the final approach, a weeble zipped into the spot. They can barely walk, but they sure drive like bats out of hell. I called the poor woman all sorts of names in as many languages as I could think. That was my space, damnit! Occularassimatosis, indeed.

A circuit of the main lot, and the far employee lot yielded bupkiss. Back to the medical building lot. At the top of the circuit, I saw another handicap spot opening up. I sat at the top of the loop, gunned the engine and pulled in on two wheels just as the driver cleared the space.

I poked my head into the foot doctor’s office. Standing room only so I told Dad, I’d wait in the lobby waiting area and settled in with a book. The door opened and closed and weebles filed out. A few minutes later, more weebles came out. I went in.

Ma had just finished. She was standing at the receptionist desk frowning at three pair of athletic shoes.

“But I wanted dress shoes!”

“I want dress shoes too,” piped up another weeble lady in the waiting room.

Ma wanted to see other shoes. The doctor gave me a help me look. I shrugged, but tried for the Gipper.

“These are your choices.” No strappy shoes for you!

She looked at the doctor as he took the next patient’s chart.

“What about the New Balance shoes. I want those.” She pointed to the case where he had samples.

“They don’t make them any more!” he snapped. He grabbed the shoe from the display and tossed it in a box.

“But I want those. They really help me.”

“Ma, New Balance is the name of the shoe company. They don’t actually help improve your balance.”

She scowled at her three choices. “I want white.”

There were two white shoe choices. White with putty trim, and white with lavender trim. The remaining shoe was black on black. All had deeply grooved soles more like tires than soles.

“I’ll get the black. I want a Velcro strap.”

The doctor was heading back into his office. “No! The Velcro strap wouldn’t be good for her! She needs her shoes to be tied securely.

I didn’t tell the doctor that Ma doesn’t tie her shoes. Once the shoes are tied, she just kicks them off and steps in. After awhile, the shoes aren’t any more secure than they would be if they were held by Velcro loops.

Resigned to have no strappy shoes, Ma turned towards the door. The other weeble lady frowned in sympathy. No cute shoes for you either.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Spread a Little Sunshine

Some days you just get everything right. Before the holidays, I had promised to take Ma to get her hair done. Between the holidays, bad weather, and my hairdresser being booked, the plan never happened until Friday.

There was a threat of bad weather, but the storm fizzled and a snowy mix turned to rain. Himself went to pick Ma up and bring her out. I’d take Ma to have her hair done, and then bring her over for lunch. Dad would have a welcome day off. That was the plan.

Himself called me just as he was getting on the offramp from the Pike. It was getting close to Ma’s appointment time so he dropped her off at the hairdresser’s and I bolted out the door to meet him. We executed a perfect Chinese fire drill with the cars.

The hairdresser pampered and catered to Ma. She did a beautiful job cutting and evening out her previous do which Dad had done for Ma. That was the reason for getting Ma to the hairdresser. My bad, just didn’t think about her hair. Didn’t think Dad and a pair of scissors was a good thing. I could just imagine one wrong “you’re stupid remark” and pffft! Sweeney Todd.

I had also decided to invite Prissy over for lunch. Figured Ma would have a new face to talk and sing to. Prissy would have a change of pace. It was a win win. High Five

Lunch went well. The weeble ladies had a nice time chatting with one another. As Hannibal used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Let the sun shine!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Optimistic Song

The day before the shopping expedition to Market Basket had been blessedly short, but not pleasant. In anticipation of the shopping day, I prepared as an athlete before running a marathon only instead of carbo loading, I acetaminophen loaded. Took some after the meltdown day when I got home. Took some before I went to bed and took some just before I left being careful not to exceed the maximum dosage in a 24 hr. period.

Thursday. 3. January. Market Basket day. After Wednesday’s weeble meltdown, I debated giving the Weebles the “There Will Be No PDA” speech while we were out in public. PDA. Weeble shorthand for Public Displays of Attention. They appeared to be in a good mood so I back burnered the speech.

Since the Summer, one of Dad’s friends had been taking the Weebles shopping sparing me the aggravation. I should have realized my freedom would have been short lived. Ma had said something to the woman and she refused to take them shopping. Maybe forever. Deep sigh. Forlorn look.

Driving down the road I was keeping my jubilee close to hand when Dad’s voice piped up from the back.

“This isn’t where you turn! You’re going the wrong way.”

Nothing can kill my good mood quicker than a backseat Weeble driver or a front seat one for that matter. Fortunately, Ma had dozed off and wasn’t paying attention.

“This is where we always make the turn!” I snapped. The morning dose of acetaminophen hadn’t quite kicked in.

“Oh, I see. You’re right.”

At 10:30AM, we pulled into the market parking lot. Us and every weeble from miles around. The third of the month. The date when all of the social security checks hit the weeble accounts. There were no handicap spots to be had so I offloaded the Weebles at the front door and went to find a parking spot. Every weeble for miles around coupled with lots of snow piles made parking rather scarce and I ended up parking in Nebraska.

Venturing into the store, I found Ma and Dad in the dairy aisle. She was caroming down the aisle with him pushing his carriage at a safe and respectable 20 paces behind. Ma had the little basket on go cart filled with two gallons of milk, a gallon of orange juice, two containers of cottage cheese with pineapple and her steamer trunk of a handbag (aka pockabook)

She came through dairy to the deli. She debated about getting deli meat asking me what I would like for lunch. I explained I wouldn’t be staying for lunch, but I took a ticket for the deli.

“Nevermind. He doesn’t deserve anything here.”

“Oh, I need eggs!”

Eggs live at the beginning of the dairy aisle which we had already passed through.

“How many dozen?”


I sprinted back to dairy and found Dad by the eggs with a deer in the headlights look.

He had a 12 pack of root beer in the carriage.

“She wants 3 dozen of large, brown eggs.”

He picked the egg cartons, put them in his carriage, crossed eggs off a shopping list .

“I need to get milk and…”

“She has milk, orange juice and cottage cheese.”

He crossed the items off the list.

I thought we would continue on our way on the outside of the store to the ritual of the Blessing of the Meat when Ma banged a left up the pickle and olive aisle. I could see Dad coming down the other end of the aisle. What the?

Before the friend had taken them shopping, they had a fairly organized way to shop. Ma did the outside circuit, covering dairy, the blessing of the meat, produce and frozen foods. Dad meandered his way through the aisles.

But now, they were duplicating where the other had already been.

We’d be here for days! Maybe months! This was not good. Not good at all.

At the end of the pickle aisle was a display of canned vegetables 10 cans for $5. Ma was trying to offload cans of peas into her cart. Dad came up behind us and I shifted the peas to his carriage.

I tried to convince him the wisdom of going back to them dividing the shopping chore. I was blinded by the reflection of his deer in the headlights glow.

“I want 5 cans of French cut green beans and 5 cans of regular green beans!” she demanded.
The cans were stacked 5 feet high and all the regular cut green beans were on the bottom.

“You can have 10 cans of French cut. I’m not unstacking cans!”

“I want 10 cans of corn, but not the creamed kind!”

I was tempted to toss one can of the creamed kind into the mix.

With cans of vegetables picked and stacked, Ma zoomed off to the other end of the store. Dad was following behind.

“No!” I shouted at him. “Go up and down the aisles. Let her do produce and meat. Her basket can’t hold all that and stuff from the aisles.”

Ma had turned the corner into produce.

“I need a 10 lb bag of potatoes. Make sure they are big ones.”

I hefted a few bags, showed her the large potatoes peeking through the mesh. She nodded in satisfaction. She took a fast right and whammed into the stand that holds the plastic produce bags. It banged to the floor with an almighty clang. Activity in produce came to a halt. Ma hit the accelerator and kept going with the dead stand blocking her way.

“Stop!” I yelled. “Just stop.”

She released the button.

“Back up. SLOWLY!”

I picked up the stand and moved it out of her way.

She was looking at egglplants. Pawing them. She had two candidates and handed the one she wanted for me to put in her basket. Ma went to put the other one back when it happened. The poor eggplant suicided with a ripe thump to the floor. There were no weebles in the aisle so no one saw an gave me an accusing, murderous look.

Unconcerned, Ma continued rolling along.

“Get me those pears. Those brown pears [Bosc] for him.”

Now since the summer, Dad had taken over the household funds. Ma had relinquished the purse strings, albeit reluctantly, in an attempt to “show HIM HE can’t manage the household funds by himself”. So far, if you’re keeping score, Dad was managing.

She began picking more produce. Bananas, apples, 2 pounds of tomatoes which I hand picked and none suicided.

“Get another one. He’s paying for it.” That became her mantra as she tried to sabotage Dad’s funds.

We finished in produce and then like salmon swimming upstream headed to meats. We blessed a few.

“Go over there,” Ma pointed, “and get him some sausage with fennel.”

I put the sausage in her now overflowing cart.

“Go get another one. He’s paying for it!”

Ma continued down the case eyeing specimens.

The meat manager had come out and was stocking that section of the case. He tried to remove a box that was in the way.

“Take your time,” I said inclining my head towards Ma by the roasts. “We’re going to be here all day.”

He chuckled.

With meats out of the way and her basket in the shape of a small mountain, Ma went down the cleaning aisle.

She stopped behind another weeble lady in another go cart.

Ma was fingering a box of Swiffer wet jet pads and frowning.

“Get me the thing that goes with the thing.”

“That’s a very helpful description.”

The other weeble lady snickered.

“Are you looking for the Swiffer cloths?” I asked.

“Yes, but not the wet ones and the store brand.”

“Oh, I have a plastic box with a lid,” said the other weeble lady. “I put the dry ones in the box and then add my own Lysol,” she added helpfully.

I smiled politely.

We continued down the aisle leaving Heloise to do her shopping. Ma grabbed laundry detergent, (2 because he’s paying), and a jug of bleach. There was no possible room in the basket so we put the detergent on the floor between her feet and Dad just happened down the aisle so the bleach went in his carriage.

Ma was contemplating brands of dishwasher detergents.

“I need to get laundry soap,” said Dad looking at his list.

“She got it.”

He crossed off his list

“Let’s see. Bleach.”

“Got it!”

“Well, we still need…” and Dad rattled off several more items from his list. “We’re going to need another carriage. You’ll have to get one.”

“Excuse me? I don’t think so. I don’t do my own shopping and now you expect me to push a carriage?” I said in my best Little Princess voice. Another empty carriage would just be begging to be filled. We had already spent an hour and a half in the store. Dad still had room in his carriage for the items left on his list.

As if Ma realized the time, she announced she would get into line and Dad would get the couple of items he still needed.

I was never so happy to bolt out of the store and sprinted to Nebraska to retrieve the car.

I trolled the parking lot, but there were no handicap spots to be had and after the second circuit, I lost my space in Nebraska. I pulled up to the end of the building and with my emergency blinkers flashing sat in the fire lane.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes went by and Ma came out. I offloaded her into the car because it was wicked cold outside. I started loading the car with grocery bags expecting Dad to come trotting out any minute.

I went to sit in the car to get out of the cold.

“Where’s Dad?”

“He was right behind me.”

Another five, ten, fifteen minutes. Right behind you. Right behind you and every other weeble across the country.

Dad came out of the store with that charming deer in the headlights glow.

We unloaded his carriage.

“I’ll take the carriage out of the way, you get in.”

“No, I have to give her this.”

He went to the passenger side and opened the door to hand Ma the receipt to show her how much they had spent.

I shook my head. Why didn’t he get in the car and hand her the freaking receipt? Weebles!

With Weebles and groceries loaded, I headed home.

“Oh! I forgot the frozen foods,” Ma said as the left arrow light out of the parking lot turned green.

I took the corner sharply and burned rubber down the street away from the grocery store.

“Well, I’ll have enough to get by. You’ll have to take me shopping in two weeks.”

Maybe we would have a blizzard.

As we got to the large intersection by Dennison Crossing, I debated going back by way of 135. It was now 12:15pm and the Labs would be letting out for lunch which meant 27 would be backed up in both directions. I decided to go by the Dennison plant to pick up Hartford Street cross Speen and down Rte. 9 to Weeble home. Ma nodded off.

Just as we passed by Boston Scientific, the old Carling Brewery, Ma woke up.

“Where are you going?”

“Taking you home.”

“I knew what she was doing,” said he who accused me of making the wrong turn at the start of the expedition.

Dad and I unloaded Ma and the groceries in record time. I announced I would be cutting it close to pick up the Young One and rolled to the Pike as fast as my Taurus wheels could go.

As I crossed under Rt 495, the imaginary demarcation of the Land of Here There Be Dragons and Ground Weeble, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from me. I described the sensation to Himself when I got home.

“The sky turned a brilliant blue and rays of sunlight streamed through the clouds.”

He started to sing the song from the Wizard of OZ when Dorothy and companions come out of the forest and realize they have reached the Emerald City.

You're out of the woods, You're out of the dark, You're out of the night.Step into the sun, Step into the light.Keep straight ahead for the most glorious place On the Face of the Earth or the sky.Hold onto your breath, Hold onto your heart, Hold onto your hope.March up to the gate and bid it open

"I'll go get the Young One," he said while I was still laughing.

"Thanks! I need more drugs."


Wednesday started out as a promising day. It wasn’t snowing though it was as cold as a witch’s heart. People must have taken an extra vacation day as there was hardly any traffic on the Pike and the tollbooths weren’t backed up. I zipped through in record time and arrived at the Weebles to take them to the heart doctor appointment. The appointment they missed two weeks ago because Ma had to hem her trousers minutes before we had to leave.

Ma was in the living room and since there was time to spare, I sat down for a chat.

One of the psychics Ma sends money to, had sent her a glossy, black and white, 5” x 7” photograph. Ma displayed the picture on the wall among the pictures of the family. The Nephew had christened this woman “Auntie Rose”. Auntie Rose smiled her “You’re Stupid For Sending Me Money” smile. Ma was sitting on the settee under Auntie Rose and as I looked at the photograph, I was wondering who’s picture got taken out of the frame so Auntie Rose could be added to the wall of shame.

Ma was singing her version of the Big Bopper’s “I ain’t got nooo money, Honey.” I supposed I should have kept my mouth shut, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

“You’d have plenty of money if you didn’t send all your money to your scammers.”

Auntie Rose smiled at me and Ma hit the roof.

I got told in no uncertain terms I had no business telling her what she could and could not do with her money. She didn’t need anybody.

I almost told her to ask Auntie Rose to take her to her appointments and shopping. I did tell her, if it wasn’t for me, she’d be out of luck, words more or less to that effect. We both simmered.

She lamented that Dad doesn’t make her lunch.

“Your not that much of an invalid that you can’t make your own lunch. Do you want him to eat it for you too? There are places for you if you can’t take care of yourself.” I fired a shot across her bow. Maybe it was an unfair shot, but I wish Ma would focus on what she still has and can do instead of woe is her.

“I’d go!”

The car’s warmed up. Let’s go! I’ll happily drive the bus, I thought.

We simmered. Apparently, Dad has been stinging Ma with if anything happens to him, the kids will put you in a home. They aren’t going to put up with you.

Dad came into her crosshairs on the ride to the office. The usual “He’s Stupid” song. We had just gotten into the lobby when he had his meltdown.

“I’m not taking this anymore!”

He tried to brush past me, but I caught him by the arm.

“Don’t be like that.” While I calmly said this I was thinking No way, Pal, I came all the way here, you're going to see the damn doctor whether you want to or not!

“I’m taking the stairs!” He pulled his arm from my grasp and pounded up the stairs while Ma and I waited for the elevator.

The doctor’s office was blessedly empty. Usually it is wall to wall weebles. Ma and Dad went to opposite corners and sat down and simmered.

The doctor was in the office, on time, and took them right away. Another miracle!
I wandered down to say hello to the med tech.

“How’s it going?” she asked.

“It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood…” I sang.

She laughed.

“Where is everybody?”

“I think they all went to Florida.”

Too bad I couldn’t send Ma and Dad to Florida.

“You’ll never guess what happened the last time you were here.”


“I spun down the tubes [of blood] and when I took them out of the centrifuge they had broken! I thought of you having to make another trip back so I drove to their house to redraw the blood.”

There really are good people in the world.

From the waiting room, I could hear Ma whining to the doctor. No one does anything for her. She continued her song all the way home.

Dad was in the middle of making lunch for them. I just wanted a cup of tea.

Ma started in on Dad again.


We jumped as Dad slammed his fist on the counter making it bounce. He grumbled and made his angry face. The one that used to put the fear of God into us as kids and set us making tracks.

“Ehhhh!”. I yelled the typical Italian retort of annoyance. I finished my cup of tea quickly and announced I had to shove off with the promise I’d return the following day for a trip to Market Basket. Apparently Ma offended Dad’s friend so my reprieve from grocery shopping had come to an end.

At home, I consulted the calendar to see if there was a full moon. Full moon is like a virus. Three days coming, three days with you, three days leaving. The full moon is still coming, but the moon was in waxing new moon phase. Which is a full moon on the dark side of the moon that we can’t see. No wonder the Weebles had a melt down. I began marking the calendar for full and new moon. Guess I'll have to risk the church roof falling in on me while I scoop some Holy Water from the baptismal fount.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Cooking with Gas

“So, how did your Christmas visit with the Weebles go?”

The Brother smiled at me, a gleam in his eye. “You want a story? Have I got a blog for you.” He regaled us with a tale while we ate dinner in the dining room.

The Brother had told Dad he would drop by after dinner on Christmas Day. When they arrived Dad was bustling around with dinner preparations. Mind, The Brother had emphatically told The Weebles he wouldn’t have dinner there, but would stop by with coffee after dinner.

Dad had told me on Christmas Eve, The Brother and his family were coming for dinner. I tried to tell him otherwise.

The Weebles are not equipped to handle dinner for more than two people. The wall oven in the kitchen only broils. The bake element no longer works. The door to the oven must remain closed or completely open when broiling the hinge has given way and if one is not careful the entire door falls off. They have a cook top and a small toaster oven which is sufficient to handle dinner for two.

The basement to the Weeble house has a complete kitchen, as well as a bathroom, laundry room, and family room. This remodel was one of Dad’s projects when he was in a this old house phase. The bathroom/laundry area was never finished though the fixtures work. This had more to do with tax assessment than Dad not completing projects.

The stove in the downstairs kitchen is an ancient, white General Electric box. Its appeal to the 1950’s housewife was storage for broiling and baking pans and takes up more than half the oven. If the oven was a gas model, the oven would be only large enough to fit one’s head.

“Where was Ma?”

“She was busy in the kitchen cutting a table pad for the kitchen table,” said the Sister-In-Law.

Typical of Ma at this stage. She had known about The Brother’s visit for three days, but for some OPD reason had waited until their arrival to cut and sew the padding. At least no doctor’s appointment would be missed because she was busy with her project.

Dad went downstairs to check on the chicken leaving The Brother and his family to their own amusement in the living room. Five, ten, fifteen minutes ticked by and no sign of Dad.

The Brother and The Nephew went downstairs to see what was keeping him.
“There he was,” said The Brother, “He had two sticks in his hand.”


“Yeah, he looked like this,” said The Nephew. “He was sitting in a chair in front of the oven.” The Nephew pushed his chair back, perched his glasses on the tip of his nose and hunched over in a fair imitation of his grandfather.

“At first, I thought Grandpa was using the sticks to pull the oven racks out, but then there was a blue spark and a whiff of ozone, and the sticks were charred and getting smaller.”

The element to the oven consists of a thin, coiled wire. Over the years, the wire has become brittle, but if the ends are twisted together the circuit will be complete and the oven will heat.

The Brother mimed holding two sticks and then writhed as if electrocuted while emitting an electrical BZZZZT. We roared in appreciation of his antics.

The story took on the images of a horror classic.

Dr. Frankendad was downstairs in his basement laboratory. His monster chicken was trussed and secured to the examination table.

Frankendad threw the switch. The machinery hummed to life. The electricity in the Jacob’s Ladder climbed to the top of the apparatus.
"Okay," he muttered to himself, "we're going to take it up a notch."
Dr. Frankendad opened his arms in benediction as the machines whined to an earsplitting pitch.

“Give my chicken a golden brown skin!”

There was a blue spark over the body of the pale chicken monster. A flash of blue lightning and the acrid scent of ozone, and the chicken monster skin was roasted to extra crispy perfection.