There are a lot of words pinging around in that space inside my head -- sometimes they come together and make some kind of sense. When they do, I put them here, to make room for more.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma!

My grandmother is 97. Which is a lot more like 7 than you might think. I spent the day with her recently – I know, I am so lucky to even still have a grandmother – and am always struck by how much we return to our toddler years as we age.

First off, she tells EVERYONE how old she is. It’s not that weird until you think, gee, do I go around telling people, hey, guess what, I’m 47? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. But it’s perfectly ok for her to make sure everyone knows her exact age, and for them to be suitably impressed. Just as they are for every child who proudly announces “I’m three!” And in a few weeks, when it’s her birthday, she will tell everyone “today is my birthday!” just as every small child does. And everyone will be charmed, and wish her a happy birthday, and no one will roll their eyes and deny her any attention. Because they will be impressed that she has made it to 98. Which they should be.

Until very recently, she lived on her own, in her own three-room apartment, cooking her meals (a scary thought, given her memory lapses), making her bed, paying her bills. But now, thanks to a fall, she’s in a “rehab facility” (aka nursing home), where it’s clear she needs to stay, because only now are her gaps becoming crystal clear. And yet she still harbors hopes of going back to her own place, even while she rings the nurse for help getting out of her chair, and while she’s relieved to not have to stand at the stove making her dinner. She still sees herself as independent and strong and capable of caring for herself.

She was telling the nurse the other day of how she was as capable as any man, knew how to use a hammer and screwdriver, and wasn’t afraid to climb a ladder to clean out her gutters. “You did this recently?” the nurse asked, ready to be amazed. I knew she hadn’t actually done any of this in over twenty years, but to my grandmother’s mind, it really wasn’t that long ago, and she could do it now, if it wasn’t for her darn bad knee.

But it’s more than just the knee, more than she even fully realizes. And now she needs help with dressing, and toileting, and remembering what happens next, just like a toddler. And she is just as delightful to spend time with, to listen to her sense of humor, her endless stories of life as a girl, her absolute faith that she is still the independent woman she always was. Because, unless she looks in the mirror, the woman she sees in her mind is still young and strong and capable.

It’s a revealing window into how we all age, if we are lucky, and how, no matter that our bodies sag and faces wrinkle, or how difficult it is to button a shirt or to open an envelope, we all have a picture of ourselves that is much younger and more vibrant than what others may see.

And I wish that woman, as well as the one I get to spend time with now, a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Laundry Day

Of all the household chores, I think I like laundry the most. Because, other than the tedious folding part, the machines really do all the work. I just bring all the clothes to them, feed them in, throw in some soap, push the button and presto! Like magic, the clothes get cleaned and dried. (Yes, I move them from one machine to the next, but any monkey could do it, it's really not that complicated.)

I don't sort beyond separating lights from darks, and I really only use a few of the many settings on my highly sophisticated machines. Really, I just want the darn things clean, no need to get all fancy.

Even so, it DOES take time, it IS a chore, and once the clothes are dried, I DO still need to fold them, including matching up socks, which for some reason I hate with a passion. But I do it. Usually late at night (because that's when everyone is done wearing clothes and it's most efficient to wash them). So I'm pretty tired when I finally bring the basket of freshly washed, dried, sorted, folded laundry up to the bedrooms to distribute to their wearers, who only have to put them away.

And still, said wearers have been known to roll their eyes and sigh with exasperation at this ONE THING required of them. And for awhile, I really did feel for them: after all, they are so busy with keeping up with homework, and cleaning up after their caged pets, and participating in after school sports, it really seemed harsh to put one more thing on their plates. I think it was the lateness of the hour that allowed me to feel this way -- if only they could go to bed, instead of having this last chore to do.

But then my eyes were opened, and I realized, I had already DONE all the hard work, and they really only had one teensy little thing to do. And I was tired of their whining about it. And as I told all this to my husband, he began to laugh, because he was suddenly remembering having the EXACT SAME CONVERSATION with his own mother, and really not understanding what the big deal was.

So this weekend, I teach them to do their own laundry. It will be my Mother's Day present to myself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Devil Lives in My House

My daughter has become Linda Blair.

For those of you too young to remember, Linda Blair played a girl possessed by the devil in the movie "The Exorcist." She would be perfectly normal one minute, then suddenly her head would spin almost completely around and vile things would spew from her mouth. And I don't just mean words. At the time, it was the scariest movie ever.

And now my 15-year-old daughter is channeling her. One minute, perfectly normal human child. And out of nowhere, with NO PROVOCATION WHATSOEVER, her head is spinning around and nasty stuff is spewing out of her mouth. I would understand it better if I knew what precipitated it, say, I'd just told her something horrifying like "you will be responsible for making dinner every night for the next month". But it generally happens after something quite innocent, like "I think it might rain today." Something so totally innocuous that her reaction literally blows me away.

It's so jarring because the rest of the time she is the sweetest, nicest kid. In fact, I call her the anti-teen, because she is so unlike most girls her age. She's not into fashion, doesn't ask to hang at the mall, keeps her phone off, never texts, doesn't Facebook, loves animals and reading and hanging out with her parents. I listen to other mothers rant about how nasty their teen girls are, and I'm generally thinking "whew, dodged that bullet!" But then she'll have a morning like this one, where she's suddenly stomping and slamming and growling, LOUDLY, and I'll think, oh my lord, my daughter's possessed by pure evil. And I can't do a thing about it.

Because as soon as I insert myself, the whole thing escalates, and it becomes even worse. So I cover my ears, hum to myself, and go about my business. My husband, hearing the hullabaloo, will poke his head out of his office and try to do his guy-fix-it thing, and then is shocked, EVERY TIME, when it doesn't work. I tell him "Don't engage the beast; leave it alone and it will go away." He still hasn't learned.

I know this is just teenage years, and I'm sure (well, I THINK, anyway) that it will end, or she'll go off to college and someone else will have to deal with it. But I still wish Linda Blair would leave the building. She's giving me a headache.