Saturday, December 10, 2005

All in a day's work

Say, since this is my blog and stuff, is it okay if I vent a bit? If you're here for political insight (admittedly slight lately), Sherrod Brown updates (also slight) or snark, you may just want to ignore this post.

Cool? Cool.

Okay, now that the formalities are over: AAAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!

Someone yank me off this habitrail wheel. I'm so done.

I'm running out of paperclips, wire hangers and super glue and just can't MacGyver loved ones' lives anymore. It's just not working, and didn't even MacGyver get a hiatus? Some summer re-run time? A chance to recharge his batteries (and assorted power packs used for derailing the plans of bad guys)?

Someone call Richard Dean Anderson, quick. I need a stunt double.

Yesterday, the phone rang about 1 p.m. and it was my youngest.

"You're never gonna believe this, mom. I need you to pick me up. I twisted my other ankle."

Boy, did she. It's swollen to the size of a tennis ball, and maybe broken. I say maybe, because we decided to wait overnight before deciding if an ER or doctor visit was necessary. Judging from watching her crawl through the house - an act she finds easier than leaning on me and hopping around - it's necessary.

Only I'm supposed to be at my mom's today, helping install a new hot water tank. By helping, I mean simply handing Dennis tools while I do their laundry.

My mom, yet another goofy gimp these days due to the ravages of rheumatoid arthritis on 79 year old bones, really shouldn't go downstairs. So I try to do her laundry. Which sounds simple, but ends up being something more.

And by "something more" I mean a Cecil B. DeMille or David O. Selznick production, where Mom gets to be Selznick, bullhorn in hand, barking orders:

"Make sure you put the plug in the water basin! I save the water between loads of darks! Now don't forget the fabric softener. No, no, not that fabric softener, the other stuff. No, not that other stuff - the other, other stuff!"

(She's long since left behind just having mom-eyes in the back of her head. Now she can see through corridor walls, down steps, and into basements from the top floor.)

When the call came yesterday, I was enjoying my active social life -- talking to Andy and John, of Home Depot and Lowe's, respectively. They were seductively laying-out all the fabulous details of 40 gallon hot water tanks and their attendant warranties.

Before that, after finishing work and foolishly assuming I'd have from noon on to read George Plimpton's Capote oral history, I realized my oldest needed the finishing touches on her outline delivered.

For better or worse, this is my life. Right now, maybe forever, it belongs to everyone else.

All I get out of letting that bother me is a sense of guilt. This is my family. My parents have done so much for me throughout my life that a simple day, week, month, year or decade of helping them is just a drop in the reciprocity bucket.

And my kids? Well, they're my kids. And I'm the only parent they have, anymore. They're called dependents for more than just tax purposes, right?

Since my parents have gone so downhill over the past five years or so, it's become increasingly hard to keep up the pace. I wanted to sell my house and move home to deal with their yardwork, housework, laundry and other domestic stuff, but frankly, they're pretty happy living alone. The noise and flurry of teenagers would just disrupt that.

But trying to take care of two homes and work enough to pay the bills is beginning to eclipse other, seemingly trivial matters. My sanity, for instance. The quality of all our lives, for another. Well, their lives.

When there's time, we can examine my life. If we can find it.

Sometimes, mostly when I'm sleeping because that's my time, I dream about a future where I'm an active, happy participant. Usually Al Pacino factors in there somewhere. But young Al, circa The Godfather era. Pre Scarface, pre Scent of a Woman Al Pacino, who pops-in with flowers and whisks me off on a private plane to dine in New York. Just as things are getting good, the waiter brings a shiny, gold phone over to our table.

It's my parents, asking me to fly home with some good bagels.

If I'm not actually there at my parents' house, then I'm out somewhere buying one of the many things my dad decides he suddenly needs: new plastic to cover the perfectly fine current plastic over the fireplace, more fertilizer for the yard, or two bolts. I kid you not. Twobolts he sent me out for, in the middle of a perfectly lovely day at home. He never even used them, as far as we know.

And the calls. They never stop. I tried getting on their "Do Not Call" list. Sent the form and everything. I'll be doing dishes and the phone rings:


"Don't you ever pick up the phone?"

"Uh, yeah. We're talking right now, aren't we?"

"Ha-ha, very funny. Remember when I asked you (six months ago/two weeks ago/two days ago) to come trim the bushes? Do you think you could do that (today/five minutes from now/yesterday)? Mom says they're getting kind of tall."

"But, dad, I trimmed them two weeks ago. They can't have grown that much --"

"Oh, they have. They really need trimming. And while you're out, could you pick up a package of plastic sandwich bags? We're all out."

"Anne...where did you go? Did you hear the part about the sandwich bags? Oh, and a loaf of bread. Anne?"

"Yeah. I'm here. Just tossing the rope over the beam to make sure it'll hold my weight."

"Oh. Okay. We need some milk, too, okay? Just not the 1 percent. Remember you got that last time and it was awful. Two percent or more. Oh, and don't buy it at Convenient. They'll charge you an arm and a leg. Buy it at Giant Eagle..."

Yes. They do direct me which stores to go to in order to get their stuff. Because getting the stuff isn't enough. It has to be "from" the proper place.

Well, what can you do, really? I mean, this is life, after all. The time to run screaming came and went a long, long time ago.

In the meantime, I've got some knots to make in this rope. With any luck, I'll actually finish before the phone rings again. . .
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