Monthly Archives: October 2012

She’s Such A Doll!


My 82-year old Mother has a lifelong gal pal named Susie. They are about the same age, however Susie looks decades younger. In fact, she is positively ageless. Susie was a fixture in our home during my childhood, and after all these years, they are still inseparable.

My Mom’s voice is strong and she is very conversational and pleasant.  Susie may have retained her girlish appearance, however her voice is weak. You have to listen closely to hear what she says, and frankly, her vocabulary is pretty limited.

Susie’s given name was Mary Ann, but my Mom has always called her Susie. While she is not a blood relative, there is a strong family resemblance. In fact, she has my Grandmother’s hair. Seriously…..she literally has my Grandmother’s hair. Ten inches of auburn tresses, that were once Thelma’s crowning glory, have remained sewn onto and fairly neatly coiffed on Susie’s head for almost 80 years. Yes, it’s true, Susie is a doll.

As freakish as it may sound, dolls with wigs made of human hair were not uncommon in the early part of the 20th Century. Plastics hadn’t expanded to the toy industry, so many dolls had yarn for hair. Knowing how creative and artistic my Grandmother Thelma was, I can imagine how tickled she must have been when she was able to use her own hair to give her little girl’s doll a head full of luxurious, real hair.  It was a “locks of love” gesture of a different kind.

The novelty of Susie’s hair is what saved her from the trash or donation bag as my Mom grew older.  Susie even spent a few years in my bedroom with my Raggedy Ann, when I was a girl. Many years ago, long before the onset of my Mom’s dementia, Raggedy Ann made her way cross-country to me, along with the pink antique doll bed from my Mom’s childhood. Susie wasn’t in the box. I was surprised she hadn’t made the trip, but Mom wasn’t ready to part with her.

Two years ago, as her dementia started to progress, my Mom was in perpetual motion, cleaning closets and drawers, and purging clutter. Her lovely assisted living apartment, tidy by anyone’s standards, was constantly “just a mess” as far as she was concerned. Dementia patients sometimes react to the clutter in their mind, by trying to de-clutter their surroundings. She had lost the ability to recognize the monetary or sentimental value of her possessions. It was stunning to hear about the items recovered from her trash, by a sharp, honest, and caring member of the housekeeping staff. Despite all the “clean sweeps,” somehow,  Susie survived.

Eight months ago, Susie made the move with my Mom to the Care Facility where she now resides. My mom enjoys walking down the hall to happy hour and playing bingo. She used to enjoy listening to music; was a self-professed news-junkie; enjoyed watching her “story”  and always tuned into whatever the current major sporting event happened to be.  Now she spends a lot of  time in her softly lit room without the background music of Frank Sinatra or the TV tuned to current events on CNN.

Yes, sometimes the television is off  because she’s hidden the remote control in a drawer and has forgotten about it.  More often, it is because the noise of life is too much stimulation for her brain that is working hard to sort out things. As sad  as it can be for me to think of her sitting quietly in her room with the draperies closed on a sunny day, I know that sometimes, this is how she is most comfortable. When I call my Mom on the telephone and ask what she is doing, sometimes she says with a chuckle, “Oh, I’m just awfully busy!”  She’ll continue, “Not really.  I feel like I should be doing something, but I’m not sure what that is. Until I figure it out, I’m just sitting here relaxing. It’s just Susie and me.” So there Mom sits in her favorite chair, with Susie over on the sofa.

After my last trip to the Midwest, I thought Susie  needed a new dress and shoes. I couldn’t remember what type of doll she was. I dispatched my brother (recently celebrated during Jubilee Week) to do some investigating. I knew the pertinent info was somewhere on Susie’s body. A few days later after having lunch with Mom, he reported back:  Mission accomplished.  Susie is an Effanbee Lovums Mary Ann doll. Thankfully, no one saw him examining Susie, so there won’t be rumors circulating amongst the nurses and aides about Lois’s son:  you know, the pervy one who plays with dolls?

I should clarify that my Mom isn’t actually playing with Susie either. In her words, she  hasn’t “completely lost it!” I believe Susie is much more than a toy, anyway. Susie is a symbol of a mother’s love for a daughter. She is a link to the childhood years that are clear in memory, amid a lifetime that is sometimes forgotten. She is a source of familiar reassurance when things seem  confusing. She represents family (well, they do share DNA) when she feels disconnected.

For me, Susie reaffirms that while aging and dementia may have changed my Mom, altered her behavior and the way she is able to interact with us;  dementia doesn’t change who she is. Dementia has already taken much from her, but it can never steal her heart. When I look at a photo of  a young Lois Ann posing with Susie, I easily recognize a familiar mannerism of my Mother’s. Her arm is wrapped around the doll, and her hand is relaxed with her thumb tucked between her index and middle fingers. My Mom surely sat this way with her children, as I have seen her as Grandma Loie sit this way with her grandchildren. A lifetime of dogs sat in that spot and received countless pats on the head as well. The little girl in the old photo, and the 82-year old Mother I know now, share the same heart as the smart, funny and oh-so-wise Lois who raised me.

When I look at the old photo I also wonder what ever happened to that cool rattan settee.

Even knowing Susie’s pedigree, it has been difficult to determine her dress size. A few days ago, my sister took a tape measure with her when she went to see Mom. Mom asked her what she was doing, and my sister explained that I wanted to know how long Susie is. My mom corrected her, “You mean how tall she is?” As my sister wrapped the tape measure around Susie, Mom again asked what she was doing. My sister explained she was measuring Susie’s chest. “That’s her waist!”  Mom interjected. In my sister’s defense, Susie is a petite gal. She may be a bit short-waisted as a result of her 22″ stature.

So, the hunt for a new, age appropriate outfit for Susie continues. It will be a well-deserved rejuvenation to match her renewed importance. In the circle of my Mom’s life, she once again refers to herself as Lois Ann, and her little corner of the world is once again only a bedroom. I am so thankful that Susie and her angelic little face are still around to finish the journey.  It is at once miraculous, blessed, and magical.


Weighing In


I’m sure you’ve heard about Jennifer Livingston, the La Crosse news anchor who received an email from a viewer criticizing her weight, saying in part:

“Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.”

I wondered if this viewer had the guts to email the same verbiage to Oprah. He certainly couldn’t want that fatty influencing our young girls either. I think everyone agrees that being overweight is not healthy, but I believe Ms. Livingston’s weight is her business, and has nothing to do with the news business. This situation really got me thinking about the business of television news, and as often happens with my thinking, one rambling thought led to another.

A few years ago, the (now cancelled) NBC show Mercy featured a character named “Still Bill” who awoke from a 10-year coma. He was busy processing all the changes that had occurred in the world since 1999. With halted speech, he remarked,

“I’m starting….to notice…..things…. like…now the TV weather MEN are all beautiful Asian women with big boobs.”

Yes, the news business has definitely changed.  Thankfully, women now have an equal presence, and much of the credit for this should go to Barbara Walters. Not only was Barbara a trailblazer, she has had a front row seat to almost every event in modern history.  Her memoir Audition is a great read. As a child of the 60’s, I was fascinated to read her account of how women were treated in the business world and newsroom at the start of her career, and to see how things have evolved. In addition to women, we also have anchors and correspondents of all races working in television news. It is amazing to think that all these advancements have taken place in my lifetime.

However, as with many things, aesthetics play a role. Recently, I have noticed a Baywatch effect in the newsroom. Remember how David Hasselhoff’s character, Mitch Buchannon would hold a meeting in the lifeguard office? He’d be all bundled up and snuggly warm in his red jacket, while poor C.J. (Pamela Anderson) and the girls (and by “girls” I really am referring to the other female guards) surely must have been shivering, attired only in their red swimsuits. The same thing is happening in the newsroom:  Men are all buttoned-up in suits and ties, while some women  are going sleeveless, wearing tank tops, spaghetti straps and even one-shoulder tops. I hope these news women chose their wardrobe, and would be free to wear a crisp blouse if they wanted to.

It seems the dress code isn’t the only thing that has relaxed. I think we need to bring some decorum back to the newsroom. No, not Victorian collars for women. I could however, do with a little less glamour and a little more focus on grammar. It is the sloppy use of the English language that needs to be tightened up, because bad grammar is rampant. Even the distracting crawl at the bottom of the screen has errors. I realize not every talking head on television graduated with a degree in journalism, but I’d like to think that having a basic knowledge of proper grammar would be a requirement for the job.

There are two offenses in particular that have become commonplace, and they drive me CRAZY.

  1. “Let’s look at these ones.” Thirty-five years ago, I actually paid attention to the prim and proper Mrs. Johnston, so I know “these ones” is redundant. It is sufficient and correct to say: “Let’s look at these.”  How do the professionals who have landed a spot on a major network not know this?
  2. We are in prime season for the offense that is my biggest pet peeve. Talking points are frequently and painfully listed as follows:  Firstly….Secondly…..Thirdly….and then the conclusion of the talking points is what really annoys me. I cringe in anticipation. I know its coming, and then….there it is, the grating finish:  Lastly….

I had the good fortune to be in Mrs. Adele Nelson’s Speech class during my senior year of high school. Speech was widely considered a “cake” class. It didn’t compare in difficulty to Advanced Chemistry or Calculus. However, I believe that anyone who took this course gained knowledge and communication skills applicable on a daily basis, to life as an adult. In contrast, I am not sure I would be utilizing any Advanced Chemistry lessons at this point in my life.

Because of this class, I know the proper way to list talking points is:

  • First, state your most important point and refrain from saying firstly
  • Second, notice that the word second is not secondly
  • Third, notice how we don’t even miss the “ly”!
  • Finally, and most importantly, never say lastly

Not only is this grammatically correct, but  “finally” is smoother and more polished than “lastly.”

Maybe hoping for the return of proper grammar is futile, when we are using fewer actual words, and life is moving too fast to use complete sentences. OMG. IDK. LOL. The word “okay” was so long it had to be shortened to “OK.” Now it is just too exhausting to type that pesky O (at least while driving) so we have made the maximum cuts possible and downsized to “K.” Poor K has to do all the work once done by the entire okey-dokey team.

Downsizing may soon affect the television news. It appears we could get by with fewer interviewers, because lately, interview subjects seem to be able to take care of both the answers and the questions. Have you noticed this annoying trend? During interviews, people commonly respond to an interviewer’s initial question with a question, and then proceed to ask and answer their own line of questioning. For example:

Anderson Cooper:  “What do you think of the situation with Ms. Livingston in La Crosse?”

Me:   “Thank you for asking, Andy.

Do I think she would be healthier and feel better if she lost weight? Maybe, but that is her business, not mine.

Do I think her weight is a factor in her job performance or appeal to viewers? Not at all, in fact I think diversity of all types is good. Women should not have a size requirement, or feel that they need to wear sexy cocktail hour attire to deliver the news, any more than men should be required to have a full head of hair.

What man needs hair anyway? I mean, have you seen Jim Cantore? Forget the funnel cloud, I’d chase him.

What did you say? Have I actually ever been to La Crosse? No, where is it at?”

Yes, I’m aware I ended that sentence with a preposition. It only appears to be grammatically incorrect. Where I come from, that particular sentence is regionally, perfectly, beautifully, grammatically correct. It is an exception to the rule, and music to my ears. It sounds like home and I’ll keep saying it, at least until my television debut.

Sure,  I’d like to be glamorous, but I’m busy striving to be more grammarous.

How bout u?  What is ur grammar pet peeve?