Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Gift of Grace

I was just speaking with my mother on the phone and she said she was cutting photos of decorating ideas out of a magazine earlier when she realized she had already cut the same photos out of the same magazine -- she bought the same magazine twice and didn't realize it. I laughed and called her "Grace," which has become code for, "early onset Alzheimer's."

My grandmother Grace did in fact suffer from Alzheimer's. And anyone who has dealt with this disease understands that it's equal parts horror, heartache, and humor. To appreciate the horror and heartache, you have to know a little bit of what my grandmother was to me. I'll just scratch the surface for the sake of this blurb. When I was very young, I thought my grandmother, my "Mom" as I called her (my mother was "Mommy"), was Lucy on "I Love Lucy." No, I'm serious. There was a distinct period of time when I couldn't tell them apart. OK, I wasn't a terribly bright child. But she was a superhero to me. She was beautiful, and funny, and worked, and bowled, and played golf, and smoked, and drank... Yes, these are questionable superhero qualitites nowadays, but as compared to my paternal grandmother who was all prim and proper and religion and discipline (in my eyes), "Mom" was nothing short of amazing. What's truly amazing, is that Grace (my maternal grandmother) and Alice (my paternal grandmother) as different as they were to me, were in fact best friends in their early adult years, before they were married. But that's a whooooole other story for another day.

So where was I? Grace was my hero and her strongest quality to me was that she adored me in no uncertain terms. She referred to me as her shadow and I believe I was quite literally attached to her at every possible moment during my childhood. So to watch this magnificent woman start to fade after the death of my grandfather and the onset of Alzheimer's was tragic. Thank God it was also funny. I don't know how my mother and I would have gotten through it if it weren't for the humor.

My grandparents owned a two family house around the block from us when I was growing up. After my grandfather died, my grandmother moved downstairs into the first floor apartment and my mother and I moved into my grandparents' apartment on the second and third floors. The third floor was a finished attic and was my bedroom. It was my mother's bedroom when she was in high school, was where my parents first lived when they married, and was haunted. Again, story for another day.

When my mother, grandmother, and I were living in the same house in the early-to-mid 90s, my mother had two of our local newspapers delivered to the house so that my mother and grandmother, both avid crossword puzzlers, could each do the daily crossword in the newspaper. At some point, my grandmother became confused and began stealing my mother's paper and doing the same crossword puzzle TWICE in one day. I used to ask her if the answers came to her a little more quickly the second time around, but she had no idea what I was talking about.

My mother blew a disk in her back around this time and after two back surgeries, wound up worse off than when she started. As a result, it came to me to tie up all the newspapers in the house and take them out to the curb once a week for recycling. Now, my mother didn't just get the two local papers for herself and my grandmother. There were also several weeklies and I believe no less than three different papers on Sundays. When I moved to Richmond in '96 this resulted in a great backlog of newspapers. I had braces at the time and fortunately drove home to NJ once a month to get them tightened, so I was able to help out. My mother took out very small bundles of newspapers as best she could, but on one particular trip enough newspapers had stacked up that we could build furniture out of them. I was leaving Jersey on a Monday and recycling wasn't until Thursday. But these papers really needed to get recycled, so I trucked them all out to the curb. By the time I was done, we had a pretty hefty seawall running the length of our property. The fact that this was done on a Monday and they wouldn't be picked up until Thursday put my grandmother in quite a little tizzy. I reassured her that it would be fine and that they needed to be out there. Being stubborn and Irish, with a touch of dementia, my grandmother had taken in recent years to lying in an attempt to get her own way. Whenever she wanted my mother or me to do something or not do something, she told us the police had stopped by and had told her that whatever action should or should not be done. We had a never-ending porch light battle with my grandmother that resulted in our front porch looking like a strobe-lit disco on any given night as we repeatedly turned the light on and off. As such, my grandmother told me the police had stopped by at some point and told her the recycling shouldn't go out early. Now, it really shouldn't, but I had no choice as I was leaving on a Monday. I hugged that dear woman, kissed her, said goodbye and drove off for Richmond.

Later that night, my mother called and asked, "Um...what happened with the newspapers?" I assumed my grandmother had said something, so I explained the whole story to her. My mother started laughing and said something to the effect that "Grace has struck again."

You see, when my mother returned from work that afternoon, every last newspaper was ON THE FRONT PORCH! The tied bundles were too heavy for my grandmother to lift, so she had to have made countless trips back and forth to bring all the papers onto the porch. My mother said they were everywhere. And when my mother asked my grandmother why they were on the porch? My grandmother responded, "I don't know. Amy Jo put them up here."


My grandmother LIED!!! This beloved woman, who adored me and coddled me and encouraged me and proudly displayed me to everyone she knew, LIED AND SOLD ME OUT!!!!!!

It was hysterical of course, which helped stem my shock and sense of betrayal. And what of the newspapers? My mother had a friend come over and help her take them all out to the curb Wednesday night, for Thursday morning's pickup. So the stubborn old Irishwoman got her way, as stubborn old Irishwomen are wont to do...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

30 Rock

I'd just like to publicly thank 30 Rock for employing Elaine Stritch as Alec Baldwin's mother. Hot damn, what a dame! They don't make 'em like that anymore...

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

I started reading this and thought of a friend of mine, but by the time I got to the author, all I could think was, "How the hell would she know???" LOL! Am I the only one with a visual of her walking into walls and closed doors?? I know, I know, it's crude; but damn it's funny!

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door, that we do not see the one which has opened for us." - Helen Keller

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twofer Tuesday!

My earlier blog was a little too serious for my taste (I loathe overly serious people), so let's see what else I can dig up...

It was the 4th of July 1981 and I was entering seventh grade in the fall. My father, a volunteer with the local Rescue Squad, was set to march in the Plainfield/North Plainfield parade once again. I was going to watch from squad headquarters (a choice viewing location because you could still see the parade from the air conditioned interior) and my mother was somehow charged with walking the dog that day. My mother has never been the most graceful woman on the planet, but much like alerting a child to something's value and warning him not to break it almost ensures its imminent destruction, my father's incessant teasing made my mother even more klutzy. To the point that she had a very difficult time walking anywhere in the 70s or 80s without tripping and/or falling. On this particular day, she tripped while walking the dog and wrenched her ankle pretty badly. I don't remember the specifics, but my mother wound up being tended by the Rescue Squad workers who were on duty and not marching in the parade -- men and women who were friends with my parents or at the very least knew who they were. My mother was very well endowed that particular summer and in a foreshadowing of my own sense of humor, was wearing a tasteful T-shirt that had a saying in large Braille letters across the chest. Anyone looking at the shirt would ask, "What does it say?" to which my mother would respond truthfully, "Let your fingers do the walking."

Bah dum bum.

Off she went to the hospital while word of what had happened got to my father and me. Mom spent the day spreading American Sign Language awareness and a touch of class, while I imagine my father did a good deal of shaking his head and sighing. Mom eventually came home with a large splint around her ankle, crutches, and less love for the dog. I escaped to my grandparents' house around the corner to enjoy the yearly fireworks battle between two of their neighbors. I was all set to hunker down and watch the insanity as two families who lived across the street from each other aimed fireworks at each others' homes and occasionally into the sky. I decided to pop some popcorn for the show. My grandparents had an old popper that could either hold oil in the bottom (which is the way I always did it) or could use butter melted from above the lid. For whatever reason, I went the butter route this time around. I followed the directions and added the butter to the lid. As best I can tell, the butter was supposed to melt, drip down, heat, and then cause the corn to pop. As an adult, I'm fairly confident I DIDN'T read the directions, made that horribly wrong assumption, and screwed the whole thing up. I'm sure the little butter reservoir was just to add butter towards the end of the popping to butter the popped kernels, not to provide the oil necessary for popping. So I added the butter, and nothing happened. And I added more butter, and nothing happened. I must have melted a stick or two in there and all the while the melted butter is heating in the bottom of the popper. At some point, I surrendered and decided to start over with oil. So I flipped the popper over to dump everything into the huge plastic lid -- the way one normally would retrieve the popcorn. Well, what I didn't notice was all the little cutouts around the circumference of the plastic lid -- that is, until the boiling hot butter dripped through the cutouts and down onto my bare foot. Holy hell. The largest blister I had ever seen immediately started forming across the entire surface of my foot and I started screaming my head off. My grandfather came running in and proceeded to rub BUTTER on the blister and I lost it. I never understood what he was doing until years later when I learned that prior to pasteurization, butter used to contain natural antibodies and was routinely used to treat burns. My grandfather, having been raised on a farm, would know this. Sorry I yelled at you, "Dad." (I called my mother's parents "Mom" and "Dad" because that's what I heard her call them. I've always been a terribly confused person!)

Anyway, I survived but went barefoot for the rest of the summer. I returned home the next day and hobbled about in unison with my mother who was on crutches. My father was left tending to us both and there's one other little tidbit....we both had our periods at the time and were crazy bitchy. I remember going with him to the Acme for "mouse mattresses." I had no idea what he was referring to. I kept asking and he kept whispering "mouse mattresses" with more and more emphasis. It was only when I saw him sheepishly approach the checkout line with a package of maxi pads that I understood what he was saying. I really had no chance -- both of my parents were completely bent!

T-T-T-Too Much Time on My Hands

Being home lo these many days has allowed me to revisit my Buddhist leanings that I had abandoned ages ago when my life got very loud and busy with the addition of Voldemort (The Dark Lord, my ex-LTR). Not coincidentally, an author appeared on Oprah last week discussing her book “Eat, Pray, Love” and I knew that I had to read it. Sure enough, it’s got me thinking again and remembering – remembering what used to be important to me and the path I was exploring way back when during my time in Richmond. All this quiet and thought has allowed me to start spotting the coincidences again, but it’s also been a little unsettling. There is something to be said for busily distracting oneself. I’m dizzy and excited and forcing myself to do some reality checks. But I’m also feeling somewhat raw and vulnerable. I have my own romantic issues to sort through and in speaking with a good friend of mine earlier this morning, know that she does too. She’s found herself in virtually the same position I was in when I began seeing The Dark Lord. She’s falling for a man who lives some distance away and who is separated from his wife and has two young children. I’ve warned her (from experience) that situations like that tend to lend an immediate intimacy and depth to a relationship that might not have existed if the person was 100% available and in the same city. She says she knows, but knows of no other way to explore this relationship. She’s not ready to throw in the towel because of the circumstances so she must instead forge ahead, hopefully slowly and with her eyes open.

Likewise, I was discussing my current, clearly futile crush with another friend of mine this morning. She asked, “Is there really not anyone in your geographical area that you’re interested in?” I laughed and explained that I’m not a dog – you can’t take away the pillow I’m not supposed to chew and then quickly substitute a bone. She said that’s not what she meant but that I tend to be interested in people who are not available – straight girls or girls across the country. Which is EXACTLY what I said to my other friend earlier – that she seems to really let go and be interested in the guys who aren’t fully available. I’m not entirely sure what to make of any of this. I responded that I like who I like and don’t seek out unavailable people. But maybe that’s my lot in life. Maybe I’m not supposed to be with anyone and I’m supposed to be channeling my energy elsewhere. Who knows? The only thing I know right now is that I have t-t-t-too much time on my hands!!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Girl That I Marry

The original Irving Berlin lyrics to that song include things like, "The girl that I marry will have to be as soft and as pink as a nursery." I spent most of the day exchanging emails with a friend of mine who I feel may very well have the one characteristic I haven't been able to find in a woman and the one characteristic that might reflect a truly healthy romantic relationship for me: I think she's the girl I can fart in front of.

Now, now, just hear me out. And yes, I know I ended not only a sentence but a whole paragraph with a preposition, but get over it. Because I think she's the girl I can fart in front of and I'm not ashamed to say it! I come from hideously flatulent parents, one of whom is dead and one of whom is thoroughly embarrassed right about now (thanks for coming down here to take care of me, Moo!) My parents made a sport of their gas. My mother has friends she's had since kindergarten who have had to listen to her toot through the decades. She must be one hell of a friend, because I can't imagine anyone putting up with that unless there was a good tradeoff. My father would routinely use his "skills" as a way to embarrass me in public. His fave move was dropping a random bomb in public and then blaming it on me. I can still hear the disgusted cries of the grocery store patrons as they unknowingly walked into his wall of sulfur while we had already moved several aisles away. Oh, the humanity.

But I digress. I was a hostage to my parents' noises and smells throughout my childhood and somehow rebelled and wound up barely flatulent. I'm sure I produce gas, but my body must reabsorb it or something. Maybe I get it all out by belching after a few beers. Who knows? But I am human and I do need to squeak a few out occasionally. I have one hard and fast rule however -- never does this occur in front of another person!! The horror! I can't even imagine. I've had a couple LTRs and I've lived with friends and lovers before, but I have never willingly let fly in front of them. One or two have slipped out and they're still a great source of shame. I know, I know, everyone poots, but for whatever reason, I can't unless solo. And it doesn't really bother me when someone else does. I just can't do it.

But this girl, there's something about her. I think she's the one. The one with whom I'd feel so totally comfortable and at ease and accepted, that I could just blast away. Where's my Kleenex? I'm getting all choked up here. Alas, we may never find out, my friends. She's really not into me that way even though she knows about the flatulence thing. It's just so hard to woo women these days. Wish me luck and if you're ever with me -- whatever you smelled, there's no way in hell it was me!

Monday, December 3, 2007

I Should Have Slid

So here I am the night before my first ever surgery. I guess I should consider myself pretty lucky. I was completely accident-prone growing up but managed to avoid anything serious. And as far as first surgery's go, this one seems pretty innocuous. Hell, my dad's first surgery was 22 hours long, so what's 45 minutes??

I don't really have anything of note to say tonight, but I kind of felt like I should type something while I still can. Not sure how efficient I'll be when I'm hunting and pecking with my left hand. And no perverts, I'm not adept at one-handed typing!

So, if I'm not around for a few days, I hope you all have a wonderful week and that you keep finding the funny. Here's a nice little story from Saturday night:

I hailed a cab outside Time on Granby Street. The cabbie was older and kind of burly. We were be-bopping along on our way to my house and he asked about my husband and kids. Being a wee bit inebriated, I didn't brush his question off the way I normally did, but instead said that I used to have kids but that they were my ex-girlfriend's and that she's got them. He said, "Ohhhhh, you're gay.....that's cool." And then he added, "You know, I think I might be bisexual................we should hang out some time."

Where do I find these people? He then proceeds to tell me that he lives on my street and points out his house as we go by. Sure enough, I walk my dog by there.

"Oh yeah, that's the one with the Steelers sticker on the garage door!"
"Yeah, that's it."
"I walk by there all the time with my dog; we've said Hi to each other!"
"Hey wait a minute, do you run?"
"Yeah, that's me."

And so, I have a new friend. Who knows where I live. Oh goody! Sometimes it's safer to meet people online instead of the good old fashioned way!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I've Heard This Song Before

Don't grill me about why I prefer your friend over you. Don't question me when you're not willing to do anything differently. Don't toy with me when you have no intention of fulfilling your fantasies. Don't use me to inflate your ego. Don't waste my time. Don't make me feel guilty for preferring your friend to you. Don't ask me to dance if you don't plan to dip. Don't talk. Don't use me. Don't. Don't.