Monday, March 31, 2008

Please Pray for Toby and His Family

I know I have a readership of maybe five people, but Toby Pannone (see his link over there under "site" seeing?) is scheduled for a bunch of scans this week to determine whether his latest rounds of treatment in his nearly-year-long battle against neuroblastoma have finally eradicated the disease.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Confront Direction, Discover Confusion

Confessions of a Kiwanis Key Club Past President

Disclaimer: As I've mentioned many times before, my memory is truly awful when it comes to things I want to remember. Key Club is an experience I am more than happy to forget. Combining my unwilling heart with my reluctant brain cells will (I hope) bring very few facts into the unforgiving light.

During high school, my stepfather was a member of the local Kiwanis Club chapter. I never really held much interest or knowledge about Kiwanis except that they were the folks who rewarded you with a packet of stale peanuts as a "thank you" for your donation. Unfortunately, in either my sophomore or my junior year, Kiwanis founded a Key Club chapter at my high school. My mother and stepfather insisted that I join. Declining was not an option.

Well, I joined, and it was a rather nice group of service-minded students, and my membership in my junior year was a happy one. I dragged my friends on board, and Key Club became even more fun for me.

Unfortunately, each year the Key Club elected new officers to run the organization. In my junior year, Key Club was effectively and efficiently run by four smart and organized students, and Key Club was gearing up for another banner year.

I should mention here that in addition to a competent student governing body, the Key Club was blessed with the influence of two adult advisors. The first was Mr. D., one of the high-school art teachers who, for whatever reason, got the lucky job of being our faculty sponsor. It was basically Mr. D's job to make sure our actions didn't violate school policy as well as provide baby-sitting services while we met in his classroom after school. Our second grownup was one of the Kiwanis Club members. I suddenly forget his name even though I can picture him to this day, so for this post I shall call him Mr. Kiwanis. His job was to guide Key Club in its civic operations.

It was only a matter of time before Mr. Kiwanis discussed the upcoming Key Club elections at the monthly Kiwanis meeting. My stepfather reported it to my mother, and my mother immediately insisted that I should run for nothing other than president.

What? Huh? Me?

Most of us can tell at a fairly early age whether we'll be one of the leader types or one of the followers. I am much happier as a worker bee than I am as the boss. This wasn't yet a trait I defined for myself, but I wasn't bursting with confidence over the idea, either. Did I voice my concerns to my mom and stepfather? Are you crazy? Of course not!

Why? My mom was the absolute best, and I think of her and miss her every day. She was a brilliant, compassionate, and strong-willed person. The trouble is that last trait rendered me perpetually invertebrate when our opinions differed. Even as a grown woman with my own spouse and house, I very rarely challenged or talked back to my mother. Most of the arguments I had with The Oracle surrounded my chronic inability to stand up to my mother's wants and whims. As awful as it sounds, I must credit a portion of my happy marriage to my mother's absence.

That being said, if I could have Mom back, I'd gladly endure the ulcers and angina that I'd likely suffer.

Back to the point.

The Key Club membership must have been dozing on election day because -- horrors! I actually got elected. I credit my election to having half of my friends making up the membership. If an incompetent like me can attain a presidency of any sort, I can understand how people get elected to higher office with little or no competency to do the job. The cool part, of course, was that my closest friends got elected to serve with me. A was my vice pres., V was treasurer, and B was secretary. For the fun of it, we bestowed H with the title of Sergeant-at-Arms.

When I arrived home with news of my "successful" election to office, my stepfather rewarded me with a hand-crafted gavel and block which he lovingly made from ash. I took that to my first meeting and pounded it with glee every week until I surrendered my seat at the end of the year. H was the only one to successfully chip my ash gavel when he decided to try drumming the edge of a Pepsi can.

I still have my gavel, but I haven't pounded it since my final meeting.

Try as I might, I cannot remember one constructive thing accomplished during my term as Key Club President. I remember raffle fundraisers for a cordless phone and tickets to the Prince concert, but I believe the Prince ticket raffle was nixed because we learned it violated some school rule. So to raise funds for our burgeoning little Key Club, we resorted to candy sales.

Not just any candy sales, home-made candies. Under my mother's supervision, a hefty chunk of Key Club membership met in mom's dining room or her office basement to prepare and wrap molded chocolates as well as nut, raisin, or coconut clusters, and any other easy-peasy stuff a group of flighty high schoolers could manage. We toted boxes of the stuff to school and sold it between classes to fatten the student body as well as Key Club's coffers.

My shining moments as president, though, covered two specific and rather pathetic events. The most shameful of the two surrounded the secretary, B. (Yes, the same full of holes here.) Someone took issue with B's recording of minutes, which basically detailed nothing and said less every week. The dissent over B's minutes snowballed into a pathetic series of events that led to B being stripped of her office by membership vote and replaced with someone else. I don't remember who that was.

As much as B got on my nerves and drove me to distraction, she didn't deserve that kind of humiliation, and it shames me to this day when I think of it. I, as president, should have mustered a little intestinal fortitude and stopped the shenanigans, but I took the chickens--t way out and abstained from the vote, essentially washing my hands like Pontius Pilate. The only thing that eases some of my guilt is that we had two adult advisors who were present at every meeting leading to this debacle but who offered nothing in guidance or opinion.

My second shameful moment was the annual Key Club Convention held at a popular resort in our state. Students from high schools all over flocked to said resort to elect national leaders, learn what other Key Clubs were doing, and sing peppy Key Club lyrics written over old songs. Looking back, it was actually kind of disturbing. I clearly remember myself among the singing, cheering high-schoolers, and the image is eerily similar to the "youth rallies" you see in the old WWII newsreels. Creeeeeepy.

Two convention events taint my memories. The first was during the convention nominations and debates for officers. All of the wannabe candidates were walking around wearing these gigantic "ASK ME" buttons on their lapels. I was yawning my way through the umpteenth "Pick Me" speech, and I was downright stir crazy. When a good-looking candidate reached his Q&A portion I raised my hand, stood up when called, and said, "If I asked you, would you say yes?"

Huh? Did that come out of my mouth? What did I mean by that anyway? That surely ranks in the top ten of the most stupid moments in my pathetic adolesence. I don't remember his exact response, but I remember he deftly handled it with grace and humor.

Immediately above the "ask me" comment on my "pathetic moments" countdown has to be our club's entry in the Key Club International talent competition. Until the day of the competition, we had no idea how serious a matter this contest was. Amid all those awesome vocal and instrumental performances, dance routines, comedy stand-ups, etc., our club's costumed and lip-synced rendtion of The Time Warp really stood out, much like the obnoxious, drunken relative at a formal family dinner.

Even as I think of it now, I have to fight the urge to pull my shirt collar over my head. I was as big a Rocky Horror junkie as anyone. I still love the music and remember most of the audience cues, but I cringe when I recall baring my Rocky Horror fetish in that almost-puritan setting.

Funny, but my memories beyond the convention fade to black, either because we accomplished little or nothing else or my mind just can't handle any more reminiscing on the subject.

I vaguely remember a monstrous stink by none other than my mother upon our return from said convention. I don't completely remember why. I remember getting yelled at and lectured in a huge way. Maybe V can help me here. She didn't go to the convention, but as my successor (and treasurer at the time) she just might be able to refresh my recollection. It may have had something to do with funding the attendance of Ken, since he was the only one with a driver's license and his own car and the willingness to drive us to and from. The problematic part is that Ken had graduated the year before. Oops.

Can you help me here, V, and do you even want to?

I do remember the tremendous relief I felt when I turned the reins over to V, my unlucky successor. She wrongly blames herself for Key Club's imminent demise, but in reality she was just the unfortunate Gerald Ford to my Nixon presidency. I handed over a huge mess and a club with shattered credibility, and all thanks to me.

I'm sorry, V.

And I'm sorry, B, wherever you are.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Miss My Sister

Jenny Wren, as she was called in our childhood, would have been 45 years old today.

Jenny was the eldest of us three. In this photo, she is a few months younger than Precious Daughter. (My middle sister, V, is on the left, and I'm the brat in the middle)

Jenny was funny and talented and smart. My mother always boasted of the fact that Jennifer could read at the age of three, proving her skill as she read “Give ‘Em Hell, Says Tate,” off a headline as mom read the morning paper.

She later started piano lessons, and when my mother first realized that Jenny would not only learn to play but stick with it (unlike her baby sister who was fired by the piano teacher for not practicing), she took Jennifer piano shopping. I remember maple-colored Wurlitzer coming to our house as a loaner for a few weeks to make sure Jenny liked it, and later it was replaced with the same model in ebony.

Before that piano arrived, Jenny practiced on a monstrous old player piano my parents had in our basement. It was huge and out of tune and Jenny practiced faithfully. I used to lurk in the basement, pretending to play with whatever toys were down there just so I could listen. She’d hit an off note, and I, the dorky, know-it-all, trying-to-help sibling would sing the correct one -- “La!” -- like that would do anything besides irritate the heck out of her. As annoying as I was, she never evicted me. Whether that was kindheartedness or parental edict I’ll never know.

Despite our near-constant sibling rivalry (I was a brat), I know Jenny defended the underdog as a rule. She was the girl who befriended the unpopular kid who got picked on by everyone else, and she was the one who refused to complete a classroom-wide punishment (“I will not talk in class.”) when she was not the one talking. When she got older, the "underdogs" were the mostly-forgotten elderly at the nursing home where she worked.

As Jenny ran out the door to wherever, she was often beleaguered with, “take your sister!” Jenny obliged, and, although I have no independent memory of this, I am told that while she didn’t completely ditch me, she’d tell me to stay put somewhere and I’d stay put while she and her friends whispered. As lousy as my memory is, I do remember her friends understanding her plight and being fairly welcoming despite my pain-in-the-butt characteristics. In particular, I remember an afternoon of playing softball with a bunch of Jenny’s friends and their siblings in a yet-to-be developed chunk of land behind our neighborhood. I couldn’t swing a bat to save my life (I am still pathetically non-athletic), and one of the friend’s brothers defending my lame-o attempt as a “check swing,” whatever that is.

While my mom worked, Jennifer was given the dubious honor of being “in charge.” Part of that included making sure she, V, and I completed our daily chores. The chores were nothing hideous, really. One of us did dishes, one wiped down the bathroom, and the third de-cluttered the living room. Lazy slacker that I was, I hated these tasks, and I balked and stalled until Jennifer was driven to frustration and sent me to my room, which, while it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be, I wasn’t doing housework either. Never mind the repercussions when Mom got home.

All through high school, Jenny had this perfectionist obsession with her hair. She’d spend ages in front of the mirror, blow-drying, hot-rolling, and touching up her curls with a curling iron. If it didn’t come out just right, she’d dunk her head over the tub and start over again.

She never left the house without make-up or a hair out of place. More amazing is that leaving was at all possible. The fashion at that time was to wear your jeans as tight as they could go, and I remember Jenny laying on her bed, sucking in her already-flat stomach, and inching up the zipper of her jeans with the aid of the latch hook that came with one of those do-it-yourself rug kits. How she could stand up, let alone walk, amazed me.

By the time Jenny got her driver’s license, we entered a new era of conflict. She had already graduated high school by the time I started, but mom designated Jenny as my chauffer of sorts when it came to trucking my butt to and from band practice, choir performances, school plays, and such. Mom wouldn’t let me get a license when I was old enough, and Jenny often grouched, “Why can’t you ride with one of your friends?” My closest friend in band lived several miles in the wrong direction, a common plight when you live on the absolute edge of the school district. Ditto for choir. This may seem like a picky gripe from her, considering that the car was bought, paid for, and insured by mom, but in reality she had a legitimate gripe. Band camp started in August, which meant Jenny spent four nights a week shuttling my butt to and from the school with only occasional relief from my stepfather. From September through October-ish, it dwindled to two nights, but other stuff started up. Still a pain.

Jenny was a shoe hound. Her biggest shoe mistake clearly involved getting a job at Fayva, where she spent her paychecks on more and more shoes. It wasn’t enough to get one pair in a cute, new style; she bought them in every color. Long after Fayva was gone, her addiction remained. Her closet was positively stuffed with boxes of shoes, each box labeled with the style and color so she could find what she wanted.

From the time Jenny was little, she wanted to be a nurse. As a young kid, she devoured every Cherry Ames novel my mother brought home in a box (along with bunches of Nancy Drew and Dana Girls mysteries). She made her first attempt immediately after high school to her prerequisites for nursing school. After her third attempt and failure to pass Sociology, she gave up and tried her hand at beauty school instead. She wasn’t happy with that either (but she gained enough skill to keep my hair looking nice!) and got a job as a bank teller. She put up with that for a few years, but seeing those nurses depositing their paychecks tore at her and she gave nursing school another go. During nursing school, she worked at a local nursing home, and in her spare time she'd put her beauty-school training to work thrilling the old ladies by fixing their hair.

When she graduated, she started working in a large city hospital. I believe she later wanted to go into geriatric nursing, but she never got the chance.

Around the time of her graduation, our relationship began to change. We had some difficult conflicts here and there, but on the whole we were nearly adults and starting to get along.

In April of 1989, Jenny was diagnosed with cervical cancer. On the surface, cervical cancer is highly treatable and curable, but Jenny's wasn't discovered until the tumor was a 6 cm whopper, and biopsy revealed a nasty, aggressive cell type.

She underwent radiation therapy, and in the fall of 1989, things were looking really good. Her tumor was gone, and a number of tests looked positive, but by December of that year, she developed an unexplained low-grade fever, and we learned that her cancer had metastasized and grew to a large-sized tumor her liver. Radiation treatments were attempted on the liver, and by then she had lesions on her kidneys, spine, and heart.

Jenny's next option was chemotherapy, but she knew (we all knew) that the chemo wasn't a curative measure, and she opted to skip the chemo. Some may think that was a stupid decision, but she knew what her outcome would be, and she didn't want to spend her last months sickened and tired from chemo.

I can't adequately describe the awfulness of her 27th birthday in 1990. There she was, bravely "celebrating" her last birthday, pretending she'd actually get to use the gifts she opened. It was one of the most horrible and hopeless days of my life, and it must have been so much harder for her. I can't imagine what it did to my mother.

She spiraled downward very quickly after that, and on April 1, 1990, my sister was gone, three weeks shy of making the one-year mark from her diagnosis.

I think about her and miss her every day. Every time I look at my children, I wonder what her life would be like. I wonder what she'd think of them. Most of all, I wonder what our relationship would be like today. As I already mentioned, we were improving in baby steps after she finished school, and the stress of her illness certainly made improving our relationship a high priority. By the time she died, it was rather good, and I am so utterly thankful for that. Greedy I am, and I ache for more. My happiest and most reluctant mornings are those when I rise out of dreams of my sister.

I suspect she disliked this picture. It isn't one of the best (she is not missing a tooth), but it shows her pretty blue eyes. I have many others that are much better, but my photos are a chaotic jumble, and I had to work quickly before my children discovered my photo stash and revisited it when I wasn't looking. Nothing is sacred or personal with a six-year-old and a four-year-old in the house. I can't even close the bathroom door without them hounding me from the other side the minute they hear it click shut.

And now? Today we have a vaccine against the virus that caused my sister's cancer. When I think of it I am in awe. Something as simple as a vaccine! I wonder what Jenny and Mom would think of that.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Court Reporter's Worst Nightmare...

...often involves a career-ending hand injury.

When I started court reporting school, I was admonished by nearly every instructor to take care of my hands. I took those words to heart, and I no longer put myself in a hand-risk situation. When one of the court reporting message boards I use suggested organizing a trip to New Orleans to work with Habitat for Humanity, my mind whirled with cartoonish images of thumbs pounded with hammers, nail-gun accidents, digits crushed between planks or severed with jagged-edged tools. It was all I could do not to scream, "are you nuts!!??" in reply.

My mother always preached, "A dull knife is your worst enemy in the kitchen." She bought me a gorgeous set of Henkels knives and a Chef's Choice sharpener to keep their edges in good shape. Since I never mastered the use of a steel, I later shucked out a horrible sum of money for a Chantry, which is an awesome, perfectly-angled sharpening steel, and I use it religiously. I highly recommend it for your own kitchens.

Keeping my knives deadly sharp, I am extremely careful when handling them. While I'm no slowpoke at chopping and slicing, you won't see me flying along at the speed of light, either. I never never never slice a bagel across my hand. I set it on a cutting board, stab it from the side and turn the bagle from the top while cutting downward.

On an unrelated occasion, Mighty B got the notion to slice his orange without parental assistance. The kids know that the black-handled knives are off limits, but Mighty B, in his usual way, ignored our admonishings and helped himself to the knife block, using not the cute little parer but the 11" horror-movie carver. We both had minor MIs when he proudly showed us "the fruit of his labor." I have no doubt that, with a duller knife, he would have harmed himself during a task that would have required multiple passes over that orange.

Aaaaanyway, my in-laws invited us over for dinner last night. My father-in-law made sarma, aka stuffed cabbages. I think the Polish call them something that sounds like "galumpki" that I have no idea how to spell. Whatever. The important thing here is that my FIL's sarma are better than my mother's. I hate to say it, but it's true. My mom's sarma were awesome to say the least, and I think I still like her sarma kraut better, but his sarma surpasses hers.

Getting back on track, we were going to drive to the in-laws for dinner, but there was a glitch. My FIL forgot to buy potatoes for mashing, and he wasn't too thrilled with the notion of dragging DEB to the supermarket for a lousy bag of taters. I gladly offered mine, and to save time I set to peeling them with the intention of cutting them up and keeping them in cold water to carry to the in-laws' house and cook there since reheated mashies are gross.

I set to work, and on the third tater, I carelessly run my Oxo Good Grips vegetable peeler across my little finger. I've been peeling potatoes and carrots since I was a kid, and I can't imagine why or how this happened. The pain was hot and instantaneous, and my sink was bloodied in seconds. I sliced off the corner of my finger, including a chunk of my fingernail. After yelling a few expletives, Precious Daughter asks what happened. I tell her I cut myself, and I turned on the cold water so I could see past the blood to assess the damage. I know it was wrong to do this, but I needed to see what was going on, and it was bleeding furiously.

Precious daughter is suddenly next to me, holding out a Scooby Doo Band-Aid. Like lightning, that kid carried a play chair into the bathroom and raided the cabinet for one, bless her heart. Bless her heart for being there, because I was nowhere near ready for a Band-Aid, needing something bigger for a few minutes first, and I asked her to tear off a few paper towels instead.

So there I am, arm over my head, clamping paper towels down on my finger, and I know I need to do something more. Precious Daughter and I head over to the bathroom, and my little trooper helped me by opening gauze pads (went through three) and tearing off strips of adhesive tape until I got myself somewhat bandaged, no easy feat with only one hand. I disinfected and thoroughly washed my peeler, finished the potatoes, and my in-laws brought the sarma to our house instead of us driving to theirs.

By 10:30, I was still bleeding under my hideous bandage, and I carefully removed it and tightly wrapped it in a Band-Aid instead.

This morning it took over forty minutes of soaking, wincing, foot-stamping, pacing, and whining to successfully remove that stupid adhesive bandage, which had congealed to my wound despite it's non-sticking claims, without reopening the wound. The good news is that my doc verified my last tetanus shot was in 2005, so all I need to concern myself with is infection. I greased another Band-Aid with antibiotic cream and redressed my finger.

I cut off a chunk the size of a lentil. Thankfully, it is on the edge of my finger, not my fingertip, fingerprint, or tendons. Its edge is barely where I strike my steno machine, even though I do bump it when I type, so my ring finger is putting in overtime with A, Q, and Z duty.

I think the nail might grow back, but I suspect it's going to look funny. At least I no longer want to scream every time I brush it against something.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Car that Died (And Wouldn't Stay Dead)

Yes, I have cars on the brain. The imminent demise of our Bonneville is weighing on my mind. Back before we purchased Bonne's predecessor, the Intrepid, we suffered through a string of falling-apart cars that left me on a first-name basis with most of the AAA towing companies serving my end of the county.

It all started when I wrecked the Firebird as I mentioned in a prior post. We'd paid that loan off early and were looking to replace The Oracle's '83 Dodge 600 (a boxy-looking thing, but probably the most comfy car I ever drove), but we needed to replace the Firebird instead. I liked driving the 600, but its third transmission was on its way out, and The Oracle knew replacing it again wasn't worth the price of the car.

We bought the Caprice to replace the wrecked Firebird, and the 600 had the nerve to up and die for good shortly afterward. Being broke newlyweds with a year-old mortgage and a shiny-new car payment, my mom gave us her '72 Duster on permanent loan. The Duster (or "The Ruster," as I called it) was my very first ride, and I drove it the minute I got my license until The Oracle and I married, with only a brief period of driving the Firebird after my sister died and before the Oracle's purchase of it.

Ruster was once an attractive chocolate brown, but time and sun dulled and faded her paint to a bit of a poo color. When I tried waxing what was left of her finish, I finally understood the saying, "You can't polish a turd." Ruster had her nitpicky problems (condensation buildup in her engine the worst, brake lights that wouldn't shut off without holding up the pedal the least), but she always started. Keeping her going is what got iffy.

One evening, my mother called me in excitement one evening to hurry over to her house. She asked me to drive the Ruster over. Odd, I thought. When I arrived, I found this impossibly huge car sitting in the driveway and my mom jingling its keys at me. Said car was a '76 Cadillac Coupe Deville that Mom proudly purchased from an elderly neighbor who purchased it new sixteen years before. Mom was so proud. The car had only one owner, and knowing how the neighbor took care of everything else she owned, she just knew the car was an excellent buy.

Cadi was a funky faded orangey color with a white leather interior and white landau roof. It was an absolute monster, and I knew The Oracle would love it immediately. I happily took it home and a few days later Mom gave Ruster to a coworker who wanted to restore it. Within hours, I wanted Ruster back, but I shut my mouth thinking Cadi deserved a chance.

The Oracle and I took Cadi for a test drive that very night, and she crapped out a mere five minutes into our drive, leaving us stranded in the left-turn lane of a very busy intersection. We spent the next few hours waiting for and dealing with two AAA tow trucks, the first of which couldn't handle the weight of the Cadi, popping its hydraulic belts when the car was only six inches off the ground. Too low to tow and too high to push off, we were stranded there until the second truck arrived and until the first tower managed to figure out how to lower the car back down to earth so the second guy could step in.

Eventually the second truck was able to take over, using the old-fashioned tow sling to lift Cadi's bulk. Cadi creaked and groaned like an old ship in a pirate movie, her tailpipe spitting sparks as it dragged along the highway.

That night started a long, pitiful time in our ownership of the Cadi. The car was awesomely huge on the interior, and the trunk probably had a four-corpse capacity. When she was new, she was equipped with every fancy bell and whistle available at the time. What we didn't learn until later was that very few of the bells worked because years of mechanics cutting corners to save a little old lady a few bucks left Cadi's electrical system in a perpetual state of "lost cause." Still, when Cadi ran, driving her was fun. By the time I learned how little she would run, my Ruster was signed over to her new owner and gone forever.

I discovered Cadi's dysfunctional gas gauge when she stalled out at the quarter tank mark and I had to push her off the highway into a parking lot. Thank God it was downhill. Thank God I was still skinny and quick enough to hop inside and stand on the brakes before the optometrist's office stopped the car for me.

On one occasion, The Oracle's friend absently locked the Caprice while the engine was running. Some police departments will pop your car locks for you, but the PD where this happened wouldn't. I had to drive the spare set over. It took me forever. I was afraid of taking the interstate to the nice big bridge over the river because I didn't trust Cadi. If she stalled on the interstate, I was as good as dead. I wisely took the stop-and-go route, crossing over the river at a mega-skinny two-lane bridge. Cadi was so wide I could only crawl over that bridge at maybe fifteen miles an hour, my progress marked by the serenade of curses and angry, blaring horns behind me.

Around this time, The Oracle saw the writing on the wall and bought me a Nokia bag phone as an early Christmas present. (Packrat that I am, I still have the phone.) I was thankful for that and felt a little more confident until Cadi decided to short out her entire electrical system as I cruised along the highway at 45 miles an hour, which meant that I couldn't call for a tow from the comfort of my disabled car. NooOOoo. I had to cross the busy highway (over the guard rail) to the convenience store on the other side.

Winter struck, and -- drat! -- we discovered that the heat and defrosters didn't work. Along my drive to work I'd have to scrape my frozen exhalations off the inside of the windshield with a credit card at every traffic light. Hey, at least my maxed-out credit card maintained some form of usefulness.

I really started resenting Cadi, and couldn't wait until we got another car. The car sensed my dislike.

The following summer, I correctly assumed the A/C wouldn't work since the compressor couldn't defrost my windshield. I could live with that, but now it seemed like the heat I didn't have in winter now ran nonstop. Heat from the engine blew through the floor vents and burned the tops of my feet. I couldn't turn off the blower or redirect the vents. I'd get out of the car and my right foot would be flaming red to the ankle and sensitive to touch, much like a sunburn. I'd drive with my left foot when the right got too painful.

I began to openly pray for Cadi's excessive engine heat to engulf her in a fiery death because it was the only way The Oracle would agree to taking on another car payment before the Caprice's four-year-loan was paid up.

Cadi must've heard me, because she started ditching me in nearly every parking lot we visited. It was then that I really became acquainted with the area towing companies and their individual drivers. During this season, we got our money's worth out of our AAA membership. Sometimes AAA could get me going, and sometimes they'd have to tow it to the garage.

Once, on my way home from work, I passed a very long tailpipe and rusty muffler on the side of the road. I recognized the road-chewed end of the tail pipe and shamefully realized it was mine. More shameful still is that I left it there.

That car tortured my soul for nearly four years. Near the end, I didn't dare remove Cadi from the township unless it was absolutely necessary. By this time, The Oracle worked midway along my work commute, so I'd drive the Caprice and drop him off and pick him up on the way to and from. He'd take me to work during my weekend shifts. Cadi stayed in the driveway unless we encountered a true two-car need. It bought just enough time for us to pay off the Caprice, save a few pennies, and buy the Intrepid.

Not a tear was shed when Cadi left the driveway. Well, okay. I do miss the trunk space.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A classic line from DEB

DEB has been taking Aricept for a few weeks now, and little pieces are falling into place. My father-in-law describes it as "connecting the dots." Today, as he was directing her to do something (probably urging her into a bathroom trip since she usually denies having to go) she responds:

"You don't know your a@@ from first base, and they're both about the same size."


This comment is rather nasty, but its acidity is tempered by the fact that this feisty retort is very much a part of DEB's pre-stroke self, much like her depression-era frugality, which has also returned since starting on Aricept.

While she still mixes up where she is and who's deceased, seeing these flickers of her personality make coping with the forgetfulness easier.

And, for the record, when my father-in-law eventually gets her into the bathroom, it sounds like Niagara Falls.