Thursday, January 26, 2017

Checking In With Mom

My eighty-nine year-old mother’s Parkinson’s is progressing.  “My mind is great,” she said yesterday on my visit, “but the body…well, not so good.”

“It’s definitely more pronounced lately. Mostly, it’s her balance,” Rosalind, my favorite nurse on her skilled nursing floor at The Jewish Home, told me. “But, we are trying new things and adjusting her meds.”

Rosalind had come into Mom’s room to check on her and have a chat with me. She rubbed Mom’s arm. “We love her.”

“Even when she tries to get up by herself and presses the call button fifty times a day?” I laughed.

My mother reached for her lipstick and the mirror on her little table.  “You dirty bird,” she said to me. “Don’t start in with that.”

The nurse gave me a wink and a knowing smile and left to tend to the resident across the hall.

As usual, Mom’s television was on in the background.  Trump’s speech the day before at CIA Headquarters was being rebroadcast.

“So, Mom, how are you feeling about our new President?”

“It’s a shame that he blew all the people off who really cared about something.”

“You mean the Women’s March yesterday?” I asked.

She looked up from the mirror. “Yeah, he got ‘em all wound up, then didn’t listen to them.”

Mom went back to applying her lipstick with a shaky hand.

“How about Melania?”I asked.

“Too skinny. Great inaugural dress, but too skinny. And, Trump’s big on Nepotism. ‘Gotta have his tribe around.”

“I felt for Hillary to be there and watch this whole thing,” I said. “Must have been hard.”

“I know,” Mom replied. “She killed herself through the whole campaign. It’s a man’s world, though. Sorry about that but it is.”

“You saw yesterday’s marches,” I said. “Strength in numbers, Mom.”

“Maybe.” She paused. “I’m just fascinated with it all.”

“What’s your thought about that Kellyanne Conway?”

Mom looked up at the television. “Which one is she, again?”

“You know, Trump’s campaign manager. Now, Counselor to the President.”

“The gaudy blonde? Is she married?”

Just then, my eyes went to the balloon that was hovering near the ceiling. “Where’s that from?”

“Oh, we had a circus-theme party yesterday.”

“Really? Did you have fun?”

“I had a ball even though I was stuck in this wheelchair and couldn’t dance, but I tapped my feet to the music. They closed with Hava Nagila in a circle. I loved that.”

“If only I could dance again,” she sighed, trying to cap her lipstick. Then, added: “You just learn to do something else.”

“Do you miss the booze? I mean, Mom, you loved parties with the wine.”

“Not really. It’s a waste of time now. I’ve got this new thing – pink lemonade. I drank that with the potato chips and the colored M&M’s at the party.”

I sat looking at her, waiting for more that I knew was coming.

She finally got the cap on the lipstick. “Make lemonade out of a lemon. That’s what I say.”

We looked back at President Trump on the TV.

“There’s no grey area with that one,” Mom said. “He’ll either sink or swim.”

Friday, January 6, 2017

Sleepless in Pasadena

Sleepless in Pasadena

“Enjoy your sleep tonight,” my mother told me just before I was due to give birth to our first child. “It’ll be the last good night of sleep you’ll ever have.”

I recalled these words this past Monday morning as I wound my way around the barricaded streets of my neighborhood in Pasadena, blocked off for the Rose Bowl Game traffic later that day.

“It’s never what you think it’s going to be,” I said to Hank, navigating through the road closures en route to Huntington Memorial Hospital. 

Just a few blocks north on Colorado Boulevard the 103rd Rose Parade was in full steam while I was on my way to visit our grown daughter, Hilary, in the hospital.

A dog bite?

I’d spent the better part of this fall worried about our youngest, Joseph, back and forth between Malawi and Zambia, shooting a documentary about elephant poaching in the national parks.

I’d seen Joe’s pictures. Guns, flack jackets, undercover operations to capture the poachers, filming night raids…I was a wreck. 

For Christmas, all I wanted was for Joseph to arrive home safely on the 18th of December. Before then, if I woke in the night, I drummed up all sorts of scenarios where he was in danger.

“Joe knows what he’s doing,” Hank would try to reassure.

But, a mother always worries.

When Joe got home, I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked the Man upstairs and crossed that worry off my list.

Then, Hilary’s dog got into a fight with, Hank’s sister’s dog while we were visiting Hank’s mother in Santa Barbara.   It got ugly, and on impulse, I tried to pull on the collar of one dog while our daughter, Hilary, pulled on the other – we were doing exactly what NOT to do when two dogs are fighting.

The result was a dog bite on Hilary’s finger.  She cleaned and bandaged it, but later the finger swelled and became infected. Eventually, this led to the ER at Huntington Memorial in Pasadena around dinnertime on New Year’s Day.

“They’re admitting her,” her husband, Doug, said when he called us later at 11:30pm.

Forget sleep. I started in with all the night thoughts. “Don’t worry, Heath,” Doug had said. “They just want to keep an eye on her and IV antibiotics.”

My mind raced, though. What if they can’t get the infection under control?

Again, Hank tried to reassure. “She’s going to be fine. She’s where she needs to be…”

But, I’m a mother. And, mother always worries.

Hilary was discharged two days later, on Wednesday to the comfort of her home and her husband in nearby Los Feliz armed with antibiotics and instructions to help the bitten finger heal.

“The doctor says it looks good,” she’d told me.

Again, I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked heaven above then, searched for the pink journal I’d packed away in the garage.  I wanted to see what I had written all those years ago the night before our first child, Allan, was born.

June 8, 1982

Mom says that I will never sleep well again after this baby is born.

Mom is so dramatic.  What does she know?