Archive for April, 2012

We Forget
April 30, 2012

ROME, GA — We have our own prejudices. I, for one, didn’t stop making allusions to “Deliverance” from the day we pulled out of Atlanta, to the day we arrived in Athens, where, to my great relief the visitors’ center was staffed by a man with a Brooklyn accent (actually it was Queens, I found out, when I elicited his credentials for credibility, but whatever — it was, in spite of being the land of Howard Beach, it wasn’t associated with inbred toothless banjo-playing sodomizing-rapist woods-dwelling strangers. The whole point of Deliverance after all is to tap into the universal fear of being set upon by hostile strangers. And while I probably would have made it out of Howard Beach alive back in the ’80s I also had the added insurance of having no interest in driving through there.

Whereas Rome was quaint and pretty, and on the way to Cave Springs where the woman who pointed us in that direction used to bring jugs to fill with the fresh water that bursts from the ground there, and as it turned out the setting for a comfortable and well decorated bed and breakfast. But first we had a stop in a convenience story where the tooth-compromised clerk complimented me by saying I had hair like Farrah Fawcett, and used that as a segue into a “joke” that I think she left something out of to make it even hold together, about hoping for our president’s death.  Accompanied by a tooth-compromised grin and no apparent thought that I would differ from her thinking in the least.

Which led me to think how isolated a place we were in. Pleasant, pastoral, but so little linked to the outside world as to take in no difference of opinion. You have to wonder, from Queens, New York to Rome, Ga, how many places like that there must be.

What’s wrong with this picture
April 14, 2012

SOUTH PALM BEACH, FL — Well, listen and I’ll tell you. What’s wrong with this picture is that it if it was taken sometime last year you could see the sign for Tropicana Gardens, which is the next door neighbor to 3605.

You can, if you are on foot, and crane your head around, like this:

See. The reason you can’t see it when you’re driving by in a car, looking for it, so you know when to turn on your turn signal and not cause a Mercedes, Cadillac pile-up on State Road A1A is because the nogoodfuckingbastards in the condo next door decided to plant a tree right in front of the sign that helps guests of 4001 Tropicana . . . know where they are going.

The ngfb’s at 3605 have explained that when the tree grows people will be able to see most of the sign, so what’s the big deal. They also are said to have advised the people at Tropicana to move their sign.

None of which seems like they are treating their neighbors as they would wish to be treated. It’s hard to imagine an imported, exotic tree is that important.

In the meantime, a friend of mine who lives out west about two miles away has been waging a three-year battle with his home owner association to be allowed to plant flowers and vegetables in his own backyard which fronts a drainage ditch they call a lake there, so it won’t look quite so much like a post-apocalyptic scorched earth wasteland. It’s hard, again, to imagine the other side of that argument, but my friend assures me that the HOA not only wants it to look like, but to be a scorched earth wasteland, and have demonstrated this with a ruthless use of pesticides and herbicides in the drainage ditch to make sure nothing put there by nature survives.

Which is all to explain why, when homeowner associations, which could be expected to act in their own best interests, and those of their immediate environment, instead do nasty meanspirited petty bullshit things like that instead, we, a vast diverse nation are in such deep shit.

Life is hard and then . . .
April 6, 2012

God’s Little Waiting Room, FL — A friend of mine who is one of the bravest and strongest people I know wrote an unexpectedly heartening blog telling a conversation she recently had with her dad about how he came to live in an assisted living home, or rather, about why she put him there.

I remember that time well because it was memorably traumatic — for her, for anyone who imagined being her, which, unless orphaned, we all might be — and because it wasn’t that long ago.

He didn’t remember it, because among the other problems of old age he has, including no teeth and a catheter, he has memory loss. So he was sorry to hear what a hard time he gave her about it back then. That was a very nice sign that he is comfortable, maybe even content now. He has a flat screen tv. The staff calls him “Dr.” because he has a Ph.D. He gets regular meals, and his place is kept tidy for him. My friend visits weekly, bringing her son, her dad’s lively little grandchild. They had a recent outbreak of norovirus there, and they seem to have lost his teeth (or at least failed to prevent him from losing them) more than once recently. But considering the general untold suffering around the world, and the current state of old age — eternal, and yet generally unplanned for — my friend can feel good about his situation, and he can feel good about raising a girl who did right by him.

In the meantime, as my sibling and I sometimes tell each other, we are luckier. My mother has all her marbles — and then some. She is in robust health. There is very little wrong with her that wasn’t in some form, something she learned to live with long ago. That includes:

  1. She tends to dwell on the unchangeable past;
  2. Everyone she grew up or spent a meaningful portion of her life with, aside from us is dead, including her younger brother, and our father, or missing a few marbles themselves;
  3. She tends to be sad, brought on by 1. and 2, and she was melancholy to begin with;
  4. All of this keeps her from doing things she would like, including keeping her home comfortable, and from getting around much, so she is in a vicious circle;
  5. She has no intention of changing. Never has, never will.

In spite of all of those things she is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known, one of the most thoughtful and moral, and best read. She has always been ahead of her peers, in my view, in her more radical views of the conditions that breed classism, sexism, greed. Like all parents she has terribly annoying faults that I could go on and on about, but then I might leave something out. In spite of those faults I am often very proud of her. She also is my first phone call, to this day, when I have a problem.

Still her situation makes me miserable. I worry that the vicious circle will spiral downward, faster than it needs to and I worry about losing her. Her intransigence makes me crazy. I would like to see her through to a comfortable dignified old age.

My father, an ebullient eccentric, worked for the man his whole life and took great pride in the result: “Your mother (from whom he was separated longer than he was married to: 20 years together, 30 apart) can live in enormous dignity for the rest of her life,” he used to say.

Not exactly, but it’s not like he could have done much more than he did. Doctors and nurses talk to her like she’s retarded sometimes. Sometimes they talk to her like she’s annoying and retarded, which hardly seems right, and which since she’s only one of those, she notices. Doctors, the grocery store, the health food store, the store where nice things to buy are, are a good long drive away, and she gets tired more easily and rightly is increasingly cautious about driving long distances.

Keeping her household tidy is a challenge with her limited mobility, and let’s face it, boredom of a lifetime of housework, which she was never much into to begin with. Her cats keep her sane, but they also drive her nuts with their demands: litter, vet visits, let me in, let me out . . .

Life is hard. It was always hard, and it gets harder the longer it goes on.

As one of a kind as she is, her situation isn’t. And yet we have a giant generation of old people, as we barrel towards that end ourselves, whose needs seem to be a big surprise.

Maybe some day, the greed that isn’t afraid to say its name this election season will win out and we really will just euthanize everyone on retirement. Or when they can’t pass the driver license test anymore. Or have trouble finding their car keys . . .

But instead, what if we paid our taxes joyfully, knowing that instead of stuffing the pockets of people like “Rominy” (as my mother just called him), they were for us, our parents, the next generation, too. What if when my mom makes a doctors appointment, she was told, “thank you, Madam, the car will pick you up half an hour before.” What if they went on to say, “Would you like us to send the house cleaning service over while you’re here?” and “The support group of grieving old people will be meeting that afternoon, in the garden, if you’d like to stay.” And that’s how it would be for everyone — whether you were an heir or a house-cleaner in your prime.

That’s how it should be.  Why isn’t it?