In this picture, you can find so many things that make my visits to my parents' home in Buffalo veer into the Torturous Lane of the Annoyance Highway to Irritation City.
1) See the pie plate? Dollar store gift from my mom's hairdresser.
2) Probably lead-glazed.
3) Food kept in it.
4) For over a week.
5) It was a dried up ring of store-bought "coffee cake" , with one four-inch wide slice out of it.
6) Sitting on a pot-holder, even though neither the faux pie nor the coffee cake inside it, were hot. Ever.
7) Because she had her lady friends over last week, and had to offer SOMETHING. Yet, on the counter and stacked on the microwave: a box of donuts, a container of cookies, four personal sized apple pies. and another pastry.
8) Yet somehow, those lady friends only had the equivalent of a single piece of said cake.
9) It certainly wasn't purchased so she could have just one bit, and then forget it was there.
10) And it went to waste.
11) Yet she clips coupons to save money.
12) And mostly buys food on sale, from a certain grocery store because the other one "is too expensive". That's right, the whole store, not the items in it.
13) And being friends with your hairdresser? Sometimes a bad idea.
14) Because if you don't like what she does, you still feel obligated to use her services and maintain the friendship.
14) Especially if she picks you up and drives you home from your appointments.
15) Because even though your husband is a cab driver, it's more important that he drives other people around even if it means your hair looks like an orange Brillo pad.
16) And then you have to buy gifts for your hair dresser friend on holidays and birthdays.
17) But you don't want to spend a lot of money, since you already pay her for services you're not happy with.
18) And she has to do the same for you, of course, and she doesn't want to spend a lot of money either.
19) So the volley of dollar-store gifts continues for years.
20) Until the hairdresser friend sells her house and moves to Florida, which I have to hear the continuing saga of.
21) And then when the hairdresser friend gets to Florida, the house she buys is more expensive than she thought it would be, so the hairdresser friend who can't get a license there gets a job at a grocery store and then gets diagnosed with Lupus and I have to care because she's my mother's friend and we talk about subjects like this rather than other, perhaps more important things.
22) And so my mom can't get rid of the pie plate thingy because her hairdresser friend has Lupus and she'd feel guilty, even though her friend will never come to visit and though the dish hides food for so long, possibly contaminating it with lead, that the food becomes petrified, stuck to the bottom plate with its glue-like frosting, and solidifies in such a manner that it has to be shaved off the plate with a metal spatula, because after three days I couldn't stand knowing that it was STILL IN THERE and had to remove it myself so I didn't go crazy and try to knock myself unconscious with it, thus leaving my mother to let my daughter run around naked in a house I have hygienic issues with.
23) Also, the polyester lace tablecloth which is laid over another polyester tablecloth, is covered with plastic.
24) And the chair seats at this table are still partially covered in plastic (partially because some of it is ripped, but still it hasn't been completely removed).
25) When did we become a family who covers things in plastic ?!?
26) Because the lace tablecloth is polyester, remember? And that material washable and stain-resistant !?!
27) Why not just use a plastic tablecloth !?! Because they make white plastic lace-like tablecloths, you know.
28) And yet, the plastic tablecloth cover (not called a tablecloth itself, by the way) is not that clean.
29) Also, my dad uses a pocket protecter.
30) Worse, a pocket protecter with the logo of a place I've never heard of.
31) And all of those pens suck - none of them writes well. Not well enough to drip ink through a pocket, at any rate.
32) He wears it to "protect" the shirts he loves to buy from a thrift store.
33) Because the thrill of getting cheap clothing at half the price on senior discount day is one of his favourite things.
34) He buys shirts that already have little spots on them.
35) But he protects them anyway.
36) And then the pockets rip because his protecter is too heavy.
37) Also because he has a very heavy calculator in there.
38) Because he doesn't trust modern thin ones.
39) That is indeed a very long shoe horn.
40) And he uses it.
41) And he has toenail fungus and crusty heels that send foot flakes through his black polyester stretched-out socks.
41) And the shoehorn is on a table that we eat from (after I scrub the plastic tablecloth, being marginally grateful for that small washable mercy).
42) Also, the shoehorn on the table reminds me that there are other germy, disgusting bacteria covered things on other tables around the house, like a flyswatter, crumpled knee-high nylons, and nail clippers. Because he gets dressed and undressed in the dining room on the way to the bedroom, leaving his clothes hanging on the backs of the chairs.
43) And the table and chairs are too big for that room, and so nobody can move around and get in and out if others are seated.
44) And there are too many pieces of furniture that are of the oversized variety, and too many cluttery things so that you just can't walk from room to room without twisting and turning, and saying "Excuse me, I have to go (HERE)." because otherwise the person that needs to move will always shift in the exactly wrong direction; and yet they keep buying more dressers and storage tubs and things to hold the clutter instead of getting rid of any of it. In addition to storing things for other people, like boxes for the cousin that is moving and apparently can't get to a liquor store herself to get her own damn boxes. Yet, this is preferable, in that they have something to hold against her.
45) And the colours are all brown and orange and patterned and busy, and it all gives me a headache even when nothing and nobody is moving.
46) And all of the table lamps can't be reached easily, so the living room is often dark, and I have to crawl over the sofa arms to turn them on if I want to because my mom can't with her bad knee.
47) They use one light only, the socket it is plugged into hooked up to a switch on the wall to the left as you walk in the door. Furthermore, the switchplate has holes for four switches, yet there are only two, but they won't change it themselves because they rent the apartment and so it has been that way for the eighteen years they've lived there.
48) The TV is also hooked up to that switch, so when you walk in and flip the switch, the TV and the one light go on.
49) And then the TV is always on. Tuned in to the cooking channel for the most part, though my mom never cooks anything they demonstrate.
50) And it is impossible to think when I'm there, because of all of these things colliding in my brain; and what I wanted to think about is how when I returned to my home, my own table was going to look like this:
Which it does now, because this past weekend became about the last visit to my grandmother's home. Today, as I write, she is being removed to a care facility, and I want to think about anything but that. Because when I look at the last few things I chose during our visit - the old things that have been in my life since forever, and how strange they look in my home, my eyes tear a little.
And even that is better than what I am trying to block out of my ears - the sound of my aunt crying as she told me that while the home is as good as can be hoped for, it is still going to be scary and awful. That they have had remarkably little guidance as to how to make a smooth transition - and so all they'll be doing is packing a suitcase with clothing, a few pictures, and the new slippers I bought, and driving my grandmother over this afternoon. I can't think about that journey. I choose to think about how even though she can't walk any longer, she still should have something on her feet for when they wheel her around, right? And finding the perfect slippers became a mission. Because slippers seem to fall into only two categories these days - silly or sexy. So finding some that would be comforable, safe and dignified for her days in her wheelchair in this home became a mission and a distraction.
And then I can think about something nice like that - instead of the other thought about her wheelchair - the one where she begs for the seatbelt to be unbuckled all day long, which nearly exhausted my ability to distract her and respond in a kind and patient tone, "Oh Gram, I'm so sorry, I can't because you might fall out and get hurt". What will the response be in the home? Will someone spend four hours offering her crackers, finding her hand towels to fold badly and endlessly, holding her hands and talking about her beautiful nail polish, and encouraging a busy toddler to come over so she could stroke a fluffly little head just to stop the moaning and wringing and asking for something I could not do? And that was just one afternoon...one visit...for me. Can someone who doesn't love her, well, love her like that?
Which is still a rather normal and only depressing thought, as opposed to the utter despair I feel when I can't block out the sound of my mother and her sisters fighting about how they don't want to keep a schedule for visiting her and checking on her. So it could be days without a visit from a loved one. Or, I'll bet sometimes, weeks.
And even that is only a despairing thought, as opposed to the devasting thoughts regarding the concern that there are male attendants in this home, and that my mom and aunts are going to have to make it very very clear that having a male moving her and being present during the twice weekly bathing can not happen. In her paranoid delusions, it is always men that she sees and is suspicious of. It has been fifteen years since my grandfather died, and since then she's had visits from her sons-in-law and grandsons; but no men caring for her. It cannot be but frightening for her, even in her state. But we cannot know if this request will be adhered to, and so this loss of control, upon so many others, is so far beyond devastating that I'm not even going to bother checking the Thesaurus for a word to describe it.
Instead I am going to look across the room at Josephine playing with something she chose from my grandmother's home - a paperweight. It always sat on the table by the telephone, and when I was little, I too would pick it up and roll it around, feeling its smoothness across my skin. I am charmed and fascinated that she too feels compelled to rub it across her eyes and forehead, and circle her lips and cheeks and chin with it.
And I am going to look at this picture one more time, and cry a little, hoping Josephine is too distracted with her snacks while I steal the paperweight back for a minute and press its round coolness hard against my burning, tearstained eyes.