Not a care in the world…
Me: Pearl, you have to lose some weight.
Pearl: What’s weight? I don’t want to lose anything. Old people lose stuff and I’m not old.
Me: Pearl, I’m telling you the vet says you’re fat. You are 2 pounds over weight.
Pearl: VET? That man is crazy. You’re taking advice from a man who puts sticks in my butt and pokes around on me?
Me: It’s for your own good. He is simply checking your health.
Pearl: FINE! Next time let him put sticks in your butt.
Me: The Vet can’t put…. oh dear..
Pearl: See! The man is crazy.
Me: But Pearl, you can get arthritis from being over weight.
Pearl: Kool! I’ve never had an arthritis before. Does it taste like chicken?
Me: NO! Arthritis is pain in your joints. It is not food.
Pearl: Well, why on earth would you want to give me arthritis then? That’s it! That’s the last time you’re hanging around that crazy Vet. He puts the strangest ideas into your head.
Me: No Pearl, you have to stop eating so much food or you will get arthritis.
Pearl: I’ll just refuse to take it. I don’t want arthritis so I’ll just say no when that crazy Vet tries to give it to me. It’s probably on them white sticks he tries to put in my butt.
Me: Why do I bother?
Pearl: I don’t know but we need to hurry cause it’s happy hour at Sonic and I need my banana taffy slushee.
Ms. Nancy from Clarksdale Mississippi shuffles over to hover around Uncle Charles as he picks at today’s lunch. Since Uncle Charles is the only white man left in this wing that can still walk, many of the women assume he is their spouse. Now, I should probably tell you first that Ms. Nay-an-see is from Clawks-day-yell Miss-uh-sip-pee. She’s an old southern bell with a twist. Ms. Nancy is wearing her hot pink capris backwards today and her zebra striped tennis shoes are on the wrong feet. She hones in on me to let me know that the Minister gave the finest sermon this morning over at Clarksdale Baptist. Ms. Nancy does not know she is in Tennessee. She tries to place me and decides I must have lived over on School Street. Before I could get away my chin was grasped in her tiny hand as she declares that I am the most precious thing ever.
I tried to encourage Uncle Charles to eat as he is down to all bones these days. He carefully places a little square of hamburger bun on his spoon and raises it to his mouth. It plops to his lap but Ms. Nancy is ready. She grabs a napkin and reaches for his lap when she stops in midair. She turns to me and says “Honey, you better get that as I do not wish to get slapped today.”
Aunt Tiny is oblivious to the flirtation happening with her husband just one table over. It really doesn’t matter as he is oblivious too. Ms. Helen yells out “IT’S NOT MY FAULT!” Uncle Charles glares at her so she throws in a loud “BASTARD!” He is fuming now though he does not know why. He tells Ms. Helen to shut her damn mouth. The sweet little elderly ladies at the Manor have become foul mouth balls of anger. They spit out words they would have never said before.
We decorated Aunt Tiny’s room though she would not sit with us today. She did thank us for coming by but she really had to go. She grabbed Uncle Charles and began her pacing up and down the hall. She does this every day. I don’t think they knew who we were today. Sometimes I think a faded memory passes by but it is too muddled to sort through.
I do not wish to wait for God in this manner.
He walked up and down the River Market careful not to linger anywhere too long so as not to be called a vagrant or a nuisance. His hair was matted and his black jeans were caked with brown. He passed many people on his strolls but all turned away. He is not part of our world. He wanders as a ghost in a land he does not belong. We sat in a restaurant and I watched as the world avoided his presence. I had my camera and longed to take his picture. He was gone when we stepped out from our fulfilling lunch. His belly empty except for the remnants of last night’s cheap whiskey.
They say children don’t come with instructions but I have learned, neither do the elderly. Do you laugh? Cry? Maybe you should just pet the damned elephant in the back yard. For many years I teased my Mother because our family is notorious for not talking about the elephant in the room. Then one day out of the blue folks got old. The ones I grew up following around like a puppy suddenly don’t know who I am. It’s OK though. Apparently they don’t know who they are either.
The people I spent my summers with throughout my childhood are but standing shells now. It occurred to me yesterday that they will probably never get to come home again. The home they have lived in for as far back as my memory goes now stands as a reminder of lives gone. My brother and I spent endless hours with a deck of cards carefully creating houses in her perfectly plush carpet. She taught me the joys of a good dress shop. I know, I speak as if they’re in the ground though they still walk this earth. The ones I knew are gone now. In their place stands haunting bones with mouths to speak but not a memory left. I will not torment myself with hope.
When my Granny faced this challenge it was these two who saw her through to the end. She tore paneling from the walls, made pies with no sugar and left bruises on her caregivers as they desperately tried to keep her dignity. Now they walk in her shoes. Dignity is no where to be found in those who spent their lives keeping up appearances.
So, what have I learned? If you work hard and save your pennies it will all be taken for your medical care. You will be cruel to the ones who love you most. One morning you wake up with a mission on your mind. You throw on some jeans under your gown tail, chunk a bra in your purse and of course an olive oil cruet. Jump in your car and start driving until you can no longer remember how. The fighting spirit is still in there though you have no idea what you’re fighting for. Whatever you do, don’t forget to feed the concrete statues in your yard before you leave.
Yeah, dementia sucks.
I like to scream to relieve stress. It freaks out the callers a bit but they should know better than to call when I’m busy. I’m learning to organize better though. I have piles for everything. There’s the “Got more problems than I got time for” pile. The “Doable and hope to get to real soon” pile. The “They want me to do some extra stuff” pile. And of course the “This is what’s in front of me so I’m gonna work on this” pile.
I started with sticky notes everywhere and I’ve upgraded to copy paper covered in “URGENT” notes. “Can not forget these things.”
Never fear though, I can do anything. I actually really like this job. It’s just that I spend most days chasing my own tail. I feel like a squirrel on espresso.
I was watching a video this morning when this occurred to me. Why do Caucasian gals think we’re supposed to look like toothpicks yet African American girls are perfectly fine with the junk in their trunk? I wonder if my inner Shameka is coming out as I get older. Can I just change my reasoning and be comfortable in my own skin? OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhhh, If Shameka does come out will I suddenly be able to dance?
What if Shameka and my alter ego Sabrina don’t get along? Hmm…. They can fight that out with Mr. Shrink.
Yes, I know. This post is full of stereotypes but the truth is. I can’t dance and I’m too fat to be a white girl anymore. I’m thinking about changing races.