No matter how many times I visit Las Vegas, it always plays out the same way.
At first, I am excited and enthusiastic as the plane lifts off from rainy Vancouver and heads due south to the hot, palm tree environs of Sin City. I usually consider a cocktail as my self-control slips the surly bonds of real life on earth, but the good angel on my shoulder pokes me in the conscience a few times and I opt for tea or maybe a Canada Dry Ginger Ale and feel good about myself. Also, as it is not quite noon, I think about pacing myself.
“How Much is that Jesus in the Window?”
I actually asked a clerk this weird question today at the card store in a relatively new shopping area in my neighbourhood. She laughed, awkwardly, and blurted out, “Isn’t he cute? We’ve sold a lot of these today. He’s $14.99. See, right there on the little card that says he loves you. He comes with a book, too. Separately.”
I could barely contain myself at her earnest demeanor. I had to hold back my initial retort of, “Yes, I hear Jesus does have a Book.”
I wake up virtually every morning at 4:00am, hours before I need to start my day, and I lie in my bed and fret. Some part of my brain, perhaps the anxiety cortex, if there is such a thing, fires on all cylinders and torments me for about an hour. I wrestle with the covers and the idea of simply giving in and getting up, but for some reason, I resist. It’s a standoff with my psyche.
Sunday afternoon at Mom’s
“Hey Mom. MOM. HELLOOO.”
“Oh, I didn’t hear you come in. Wasn’t expecting you.”
“Your TV is really loud. I’m going to turn it down.”
“YOUR TV IS….”
“I was just watching the golf.”
“Yes, it’s amazing. The BC guy might just win!”
“Mom, do you have your hearing aids in?”
“I think there’s a guy from BC.”
“MOM, I THINK YOUR BATTERIES ARE DEAD.”
“So, what’s up?”
“GIVE ME YOUR HEARING AIDS.”
The significant difference between how life begins and how life ends might be that a baby has no idea what it can’t do on its own and an elderly person knows exactly what independence they are losing with each passing day.
For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been caring for my 94 year-old Mom who suffered a stress fracture of her lower right leg. Before she could be treated for the broken bone, she had to endure a flu outbreak at the hospital she was admitted to. The ordeal tested Mom’s will to carry on and challenged my tolerance of the health care system that is trapped under the weight of its own dysfunction.
January 26, 2017 8:00am
I am listening to you eat your brown crunchy things that we buy at the Canadian Tire Store. You’ve always sounded the very same when you eat. You push a mound of mini chunks across your silver bowl three times, then you take just two morsels in your mouth and turn away to crunch them a few times before swallowing them and pausing to consider having some more.
Charlotte’s christening in 1961 at St. John’s Anglican Church in Shaughnessy
The way my Mom tells it, I hung on for five minutes past midnight just to have my own birthday instead of being born on hers. At 12:05am on December 18th I made my debut there in the swank maternity ward of Vancouver’s Grace Hospital. I’m sure it was a great relief to the doctor and nurses coaxing my entrance into the world.
In 1960, ladies ‘went in’ to have babies in the manner of a weeklong spa getaway. It was apparently a different era in public healthcare budgets. My Mom soaked up the attention and relative luxury of a break from her busy life and at the end of that week she jumped right back in, with me in the mix.
Because You Watched……
Because we’ve been watching you watch us, we’ve come up with some “suggestions” to help you through this phase in your life. You’re not alone. Remember that. Even if you are technically alone on a Friday night with a half empty bottle of pinot noir leftover from lunch and nothing but a frozen veggie burger to gnaw on for dinner, we are here.
We at Netfriend are just a wireless connection away from your MacBook over there on the coffee table. We’re taking note of every movie you watch and other activities you’ve engaged in online, virtually 24/7. We’ve been analyzing your algorithms since you signed up 3 years ago for $7.95 a month. Back when what’s-his-name was still sleeping on the couch across from you snoring through that romantic comedy you fought over; the one you settled on because it was your turn to pick something and you were sick of Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker and even though you thought Ben Affleck was kind of handsome in Argo, you really had had enough of the foreign wars thing.
Charlotte and her Mom.
“I’d like to walk over to Safeway again. Do you think I could do that, Charlotte?”
“No, Mom. It has been more than two years since you did that. It’s not safe anymore.”
It is such a simple desire. Put on her coat, get her purse, push her walker across the parking lot and over to the automatic door that leads to the elevator. A few steps, a few buttons and the freedom to meander through the grocery store, choosing whatever her heart desired. It was a solitary outing that gave Mom much joy. It also used up a couple of hours in her increasingly long days.
She would chat up the store clerks and other shoppers, buy an O Henry bar, linger in the bakery area, marvel at the offerings, and sometimes sit and have a cup of tea in the little market café by the deli department. It meant she was out in the world on her own, of her own accord, on her own schedule.
Now, a few weeks shy of her 94th birthday, Mom’s world is shrinking in some ways while expanding fearfully in others.