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  1. Play Solitaire.
  2. Spend an hour trying to find the oil burning lamp and oil.
  3. Spend another hour trying to light it.
  4. Worry if maybe oil lamps put off carbon monoxide and might kill you.
  5. Wonder how long it would take someone to find your body.
  6. Sing through every song you have memorized.
  7. Make up the lyrics to every song you know the chorus to.
  8. Work on your awards speeches.
  9. Work on your Ellen interview.
  10. Play through everything you know on the piano.
  11. Work out how you’re going to cover the hole burned in the piano from an overturned candle.
  12. Thank the lord you were able to put out the sheet music fire.
  13. Stand at the front door looking out at the other apartments, vaguely suspicious that yours is the only one without electricity.
  14. Look at yourself in the mirror and thing how much more attractive you are by candlelight.
  15. Realize you’ve got to find something to do before you lose your mind.
  16. Two words: shadow puppets
  17. Try to play your clarinet.
  18. Spend half an hour finding your damn Red Cross backpack with all the emergency supplies that you ordered in 2001 when the government said you needed to prepare for a terrorist attack. Stupid terrorists will never get me now. I have a flashlight, a battery powered radio and some power bars. And a plastic poncho. Suck it, Isis.
  19. Wonder if it’s possible to eat yourself in the event of a food shortage.
  20. Convince yourself you’re NOT too old for Josh Groban. Not if your love is true.
  21. Quiz yourself over geography.
  22. Translate the lyrics of Nat King Cole songs into French.
  23. Look at your checkbook to see if you have the funds for a brush up French class.
  24. Pine for stuff.
  25. Have a panic attack.
  26. Try to sleep.
  27. Dream that you have a baby but you misplace him and can’t remember where you left him, only to find out a year later that your mother gave him to a muslim village to raise for a while and that he was fathered by a gay man you knew in college but you can’t find the guy’s number to tell him he has a child and you still can’t think of a name for the child even though he’s two years old already.
  28. Cry.
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My dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Melvin, died. He was 77. It honestly never occurred to me that either or my dad could die, so it came as a kind of a shock to me. He died of cancer, like so many people I have known lately, which really pisses me off. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, if I ever find out Someone has known how to cure cancer for years and they just kept it under wraps for the money, my parents are going to end up on a news program apologizing to Someone’s family for raising a murderer. I understand that sounds mentally unstable but that’s what happens when you are, for all intents and purposes, a shut in.  Let me be a lesson to you.

Of course when I found out that he had cancer, the first thing I said to my mom was, “is it because he lived with second hand smoke for so long? Is that it?” Because I desperately don’t want the big C running in the family. So whenever I find out that someone I’m related to has it, I immediately start Encyclopedia Browning for a perfectly reasonable explanation that has nothing to do with genetics. “Now, she lived close to a power grid for years, didn’t she?” “I’ll bet it was all that asbestos he inhaled doing construction work in the 70s.” “Hey, he was a physicist wasn’t he? You think he ever handled plutonium?” I do, in fact, have an uncle who was a physicist for Dow and now has cancer. But I think he worked on non stick pans or something.

[Note to self:  google cancer causing agents in non stick cookware.]

Uncle Melvin’s funeral was very nice and dignified, I think he would have liked it. He was buried in a suit, which was weird because honest to god I don’t think I ever saw him in anything other than overalls and a trucker hat with the name of a local mechanic shop on it. He was a mechanic, a really good one. And did a little farming. On the video photo montage they do at all visitations now, the family chose the “farm” theme. You pick a theme like golf or farming or something that had meaning to the deceased and then they use stock footage as backgrounds and filler between the photos. Uncle Melvin only farmed the few acres behind his house, it was not a big operation or anything. More of a hobby.  But of course the footage features these giant threshers in wheat fields and silos and mountain ranges. The only problem with this concept is that it confuses the hell out of the old folks at the funeral home. They think it’s all real footage provided by the family. And we just kind of went with it. I stood watching it for a few moments with my cousin Roy, Uncle Melvin’s son. When footage of what looked like the middle of Montana came up, Roy said, “hey remember when we had that plantation in the Sierra Madres?” I wonder if the funeral home offers a “sinner” theme with footage of like theater stages, orgies and people snorting coke.

Roy also sounds *exactly* like his father. So he’d pitched the idea of having a small speaker in the casket so he could stand somewhere with a microphone, and when people approached the casket he could say, in his father’s voice, “well whaddya say there, buddy?” or “you sonofabitch, won’t be comin’ over unannounced any more, will ya?”   Roy had a heart attack two weeks before his father died and had a stint put in an artery.  He explained that it looks like a little spring and he was trying to find something that looked similar so he could put it in his mouth and then open his mouth to speak and have it fall out so he could yell, “OH GOD!  MY STINT!” Fambly.

There was the traditional KFC in the hospitality room as well as a lot…. people a LOT of pimento cheese (all good) and chicken salad. And some cupcakes which had experienced some kind of extreme trauma during transport. Disappointing lack of a casserole of any kind but the Church of Christ ladies fed us after the funeral which MORE than made up for that. Bitches can cook. But the most interesting thing to me about this particular family funeral is that for the first time it really struck me just how good my mother is, and to some extent my dad, at working a visitation. I mean, she was working. That. Room. I think she spoke to every single person there. Got their names. Got their stories. Gave the pertinent information. Which allowed my dad, who has never been one for small talk, to stand there and let her do all the work. Which I guess in times like this is kind of her job.  And y’all, she is GOOD. I just stood to the side and watched for a while, picking up on things she would say to keep the conversation going. Now, my mom can talk a hole in a wall but I wondered how she and my dad had become so very talented at working these things, until I realized that this is one of their hobbies. Visitations. They’ve been to at least 8,000 of them. Partly because my dad has been doing genealogy work for the family for 50 years and feels like he has to go to everyone’s death party, and partly because they’re getting to the age now that their people are starting to die off in alarming numbers. But their training appears to be paying off. If there were an elderly Olympics, my parents would be gold medalists in Funerals. Here are some other Geriatric Olympic sports.

*Quilting

*Funerals and Visitation

*Physical Therapy

*Baking

*Going to the Y

*Crafting

*Church

*Rides in the Country (my parents would also be contenders in this one)

*AM Radio Stations

*Family Reunions (and this one. I think they go to four a year)

*Rescuing Offspring from Financial Ruin

*Arguing

*Eating Out Really Early and Only at Cracker Barrel (No lie for my mother’s 70th birthday we ate at Cracker Barrel for “dinner.” At 3PM.)

What was I talking about? Oh yes, Uncle Melvin’s funeral. Well it was a simple graveside affair on what turned out to be a really lovely day. The preacher, for being Church of Christ, did a really good job and actually talked about the man we’d lost instead of just preaching a sermon. I always get nervous when preachers speak at funerals. I’ve seen them forget the name of the deceased and the Awkward is excrutiating. When it was over we strolled over and had a look at my parent’s future condo. They like to stop over and visit their plot every time they’re at the cemetery. They have two extra plots next to it but I’m hoping that when my time comes I will be lying in state in the Washington Cathedral for a few days before being enshrined somewhere like Lenin.

Dementia

I’d like to bring the room down a little now. Can we get the lights? Thanks, Diane.

Alright. The thing is, my mom has dementia. So I’m gonna do some real talk here. This disease, which is a massive cunt and can die in a fire, is progressing faster than I thought it would. I saw my mom’s mother progress through it but I wasn’t actually on the front lines of that war so maybe I just thought it was a slower process than it actually is. Cause y’all, it’s…it’s… yeah. It trucks. She’s taking that medication they advertise on tv that’s supposed to “slow the progression,” after my dad finally stood over her and made her call the doctor. (a scenario they do not usually include in commercials) If you’re only having a very brief encounter with her, you might not notice anything wrong. But her filter is disappearing, so she’s becoming a bit of a wildcard. Not really so much in that overly blunt, Ouiser, Steel Magnolia kind of way. She is still her sweet, kind self for the most part. Which is honestly kind of surprising to me because under the circumstances if I were her I feel like I might want to take out some anger and frustration with a baseball bat and a destructible object. But as I am learning, there isn’t really any directing this shit the way you want it to go. I wanted to think at this stage she would kind of be like a maverick, just overly blunt, you know, like throwing down uncomfortable truths at awkward times and throwing in some well earned profanity. Something to which I think everyone aspires in old age. But whereas that’s kind of cool? Bona fide, outright confusion is something else allllltogether.

I’ve tried talking to my dad about it. I can’t seem to get much information out of him about what’s going on, or maybe he’s as discombobulated about it as everyone else. Maybe this is just the way it is now and that’s all there is to say about it. But the thing is my parents have always been bad about telling my two older brothers and me anything negative like about illnesses or deaths in the family. Their attitude has always been “well, there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Why worry you?” Which, okay. But really, I feel like part of it is that they question if boys really care all that much about family business, and, because I’ve never married or had kids, they have always felt like, even in my 40s, I’m still the baby. In their day, spawning your own family was definitive proof of adulthood and capability, so they see me as some kind of perpetual teenager who can’t really handle much emotional heavy lifting. None of which bothers me all that much, just laying out the facts for you. I think a lot of single women find themselves in similar situations. Anyway, so I can’t tell now if my dad isn’t communicating much because he doesn’t want to burden or scare me, or if it’s because, as they have always done, my parents only really trust each other and just want everyone else to go away and leave them alone to get on with things. (#relationshipgoals) They’ve always kind of been like wounded animals when it comes to illness or grief. They retreat into the deepest part of the cave together to wait things out and growl at anyone who gets too close.

So I guess we’re all dealing with it in our own way. Like five, unrelated people who used to live together when they were very young and couldn’t wait to get their own places.  My brothers come to me for information and updates. They are both living out of town, and even if they were here, I’m the girl, and girls usually end up being the caretakers and managers in the family. Is that just a Southern thing? Before mama’s mind started to go, none of us really talked to each other much. Everyone told her their news and she disseminated it to everyone else on a need-to-know basis. Now, well, I guess we’re all kind of in free fall and figuring things out. “This is the new normal,” I keep telling family, my answers to their questions tinged with a minty we-can’t-do-shit-about-it-so-stop-asking-me, when their frustration and fear begins to exasperate and frustrate me. “Just accept it. It’s not going to get any better.” (“So stop complaining to me and stop making suggestions of things we should try and stop calling me and reporting every little thing she forgets.” That part is just for me. In my head. And now for you, my therapy animals.)

It’s probably a dumb risk to blog about this. I mean for the love of god if you know my parents PLEASE don’t drop a well meaning card in the mail. But I really thought it might help someone else who’s slogging through this same swamp. Maybe. I don’t know. I know it makes me feel a little better to voice it, so to speak. My parents don’t talk about it and don’t really want anyone to know about it, largely because they’re big believers in not being a bother to anyone. Not being a burden. Physically or mentally. These people bought nursing home insurance in their early 50s so they could choose their own end of life care. They also bought four cemetery plots (because two of their single children might need one someday (and by the way when they bought these plots, we were in our 20s and 30s, so clearly they had high hopes for their children’s future marriage statuses)). Then they paid for all of their own funeral expenses, and put down their engraved tombstone. All that’s left is to engrave the death dates and write the obits. I 100% appreciate all of this preparation, even though in his Operation: Deathquest zeal my dad, who is the long time family genealogist, had my brothers’ and my names chiseled into the back of my parents’ joint tombstone for future genealogists. Ever seen your name etched into a tombstone in a cemetery? It feels exactly like you think it would. Also also, my parents have made themselves unofficial caretakers of the small cemetery where they will be buried. And every time they go, they stop and visit THEIR OWN GRAVES. FOR FUN. This is not normal. The way they talk about it they sound almost excited about the prospect of their new digs. (I hope this will be a comfort to me when they actually die.)

My parents are big believers in “no one cares.” No one, with the possible exception of mothers and maybe spouses, cares about anything that happens to anyone. Not really. That thing you won? No one really cares. Not really. Only your mom and your spouse. Maybe your kids. That illness you have? Meh. I mean, people may feel bad for you, and they will say the things they’re supposed to say, but your news doesn’t really affect their day to day lives. Only your spouse’s. And your parents. So every award my parents have ever won, every achievement, every hardship, every illness, all of it has been kept very close to the chest. No one wants to hear someone brag or complain. Just tell your parents and the person/people legally bound to you and maybe your aunt who loves you and then move along. So when you’re not married and you don’t have kids, and this is what has been drilled into you your whole life, the prospect of losing your parents is especially frightening. I mean, I’m not scared enough to settle for someone I don’t really love just to have a spouse. Fuck that noise. We’re not ALL desperate. #NotAllFatGirls But it’s still a little scary, the prospect of the one person contractually bound by the Universe to give a shit about you, checking out, either mentally or physically. And even scarier when you are a woman who seems to have inherited an awful lot of traits from your mother’s family. And your mother has dementia. And her mother had it. And her mother had it. So there’s this delightful Waldorf salad of stories about your grandmother’s brain-wasting antics, and seeing your mother fade away, which you’re kind of watching happen through a glass window from a lobby (look out, I’m working in metaphors here, don’t be scared) and you only get to see it in person on visitation days and the rest of the time you have to trust her care to her orderly, and then on top is a terrible mayonnaise-based dressing of You’re Next Only There Won’t Be Any Orderlies You’re Just Going to Be That Batshit Old Woman Who Accidentally Sets Her Apartment Complex On Fire And Then They Haul Off to a State Run Nursing Home Where They’re Going to Abuse You Because Your Mind is Gone and They Can Get Away With It So You Should Go Ahead and Plan Your Suicide Now For When You Start to Realize You’re Slipping. (Pro Tip: Maybe save the movie Still Alice for a time when you are not feeling vulnerable about this kind of thing. Or maybe you never need to watch it. Ever.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!! YAY!!! The holidays really bring out the happiness, don’t they?? I mean I am LITERALLY drowning in happiness and good thoughts and positive energy and prayers and thoughts and prayers and all the prayers and the good vibes and thoughts and prayers over here! Which is fine because they are about as effective as medical science is for this shit! MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU OLD SAVINGS AND LOAN!!!

Hey did I ever tell you about that mouse infestation in my house?

So, one night I was taking a picture of some drinking glasses that my friend Stu sent me for Christmas. I loved them as they featured my second and third favorite members of KISS, The Spaceman and The Starchild

Then, suddenly, I noticed something large-ish and black out of the corner of my eye skittering down the hall toward the kitchen. I didn’t get a good look at it but judging from the size and color, it was either a mouse, a giant African cockroach, or a tarantula. So I got up and stood with my arms clutched to my chest and whinging to myself for about five minutes in my office before talking myself down and realizing that no one else was gonna take care of this. I’m single and I live alone. I had to pursue the perp myself. So I skulked about That End of the house with my camera (for evidence), a flashlight (to look under furniture), a broom (with which to subdue the suspect) and my iPhone for moral support.  I did what any reasonable, independent, college educated woman would do. I called my parents.

Who proceeded to support their only daughter in the only way they knew how. By laughing. And telling me it’s more scared of me blah blah blah if it crawls on me and murders me in the night YOU’LL BE SORRY. And not FIVE MINUTES EARLIER I had just called to wish my father a happy birthday! If I had been bitten my a mouse, tarantula or…. whatever the hell African cockroaches do to people which I’m sure is unpleasant and ultimately death-inducing, it would have been on THEIR HEADS. (and they would not have cared)

I sat on the dining room table with my feet on a chair for a while hoping the quiet would lure whateveritwas out of its hiding place. To no avail. Getting leftovers out of the fridge and heating them up was what I can only imagine looked like bad, overly dramatic pantomime. (if you have not had the unmitigated pleasure of seeing good, subtle Stanislavski mime, I feel sorry for you. It is magic.)  I apologize that I have no video footage available as I am sure you, like my cold, heartless parents who will be going to the creepiest nursing home I can find, would have enjoyed it. My father suggested if I kept a cleaner house, this wouldn’t be a problem. His room at the nursing home will not have a window. Or a door.

Finally I managed to trap the chupacabra in the hall closet!  Fat bastard ran under the door as I was walking into the bathroom the next morning. HI! GOOD MORNING! YOU HAVE VERMIN!!  Please shoot me.

I went by my parents’ house that morning and I updated my cold, heartless mother (who as you will recall laughed cruelly about the situation previously) and she told me to just put some DCON and water in the closet, it’ll die, and then just remove it. A dead chupacabra.  Decomposing in my coat closet. I had hoped there would be a way we could work together to liberate it without having to resort to violence, but my mother assured me that one cannot catch a live mouse, for they are crafty and wee. But my dad has a lot of experience with rodents so I waited around to ask him about it. My father is the neighborhood mole catcher/killer. My mother calls him The Mole-inator. He has some kind of trap that you put in the ground, it snaps down on the moles, killing them, and then you just pull it out and dispose of the evidence. Occasionally it only maims them so my dad has to finish them off. With a shovel. A SHOVEL. Anyway, he is so good at it that the neighbors started calling asking him to come help in their yards with their mole problems. So it’s like a new hobby I guess. Doesn’t bother him. This is the same man who sits on the back patio with a bb gun shooting the squirrels who try to steal “his peaches” from the next door neighbor’s peach trees. He really likes those peaches. What were we talking about?  Oh yes, I waited around to talk to my dad, hoping he wouldn’t mind removing the dead, probably vicious and rabies carrying mouse from my home. I just hoped he could figure out a way to do it without killing it.

Also I went by Home Depot that weekend and bought caulk, cement, and every other sealing device I could find and sealed up every opening to my home that wasn’t required in order to breathe. Or enter and exit. For PEOPLE.

Do you remember the books you used in elementary school to learn to read? Here are mine:

I started kindergarten in 1976 and in MY day, the school told parents not to teach their kids to read before starting school, because they had to follow the curriculum of teaching us the alphabet and if we could already read, we would be bored. So. My first day of school I informed my mother I was not going back because they didn’t teach me to read. I mean my body was READY. (that’s a gross reference to 5 year old me.) Anyway, for some reason, one day A Duck is a Duck popped into my head and then Helicopters and Gingerbread and I thought for some reason that I would really like to see these books again. So I went to Amazon and lo and behold, someone was actually selling them there. So I bought them. Because I live in America and I could.

WHOO BOY they are 70s-riffic, y’all. These books were originally published around 1969 and then re-copyrighted in ’73 and ’76. So YOU know what’s up in here.


I found a section in One to Grow On about the Wave of the Future. Something called, “computers.” Have you heard of these things? Behold 1976:
My brothers both had shirts like this.

 

 

Jesus. It looks like a cup is going to come down and start filling up with cappuccino. It’s like the computers in Desk Set. Which is terrific, by the way. You should watch it.

 

 

The TeleTypewriter. In a delightful olive green. This is the color of my every house I ever entered 1972 through 1980. Welcome. Come on in. Do you like pina coladas?

 

 

Dear Future, I hope these “computers” in the future do not develop to such a point that there are lots of video games that will paralyze my common sense with the mind-blowing juxtaposition of fun and utter dysfunction.

 

 

Oi! You kids! Don’t sit on the shelves in the library! Stupid kids… god I can’t wait…. 5 more years and I’ve got enough to retire…

 

 

I used to have a purple dress just like this. My mom made it for me. Including the rickrack around the bottom. This photo was taken before the “homerow keys” position was discovered.

 
These books are geared toward kids in the first and second or third grades, tops. Interestingly, I found this in the back of one of them:

Don’t do it, Robin McNamara. You’re only in third grade. This kid has been held back so many times he drives himself to school. He smokes cigarettes. He’ll tell you he loves you, talk you into drinking the half empty bottle of Tanqueray he found in the bushes and then knock you up in between stays at juvie. Stick with the cello lessons, Robin. You have so much to live for.