Monthly Archives: November 2013

Time Travelers


ImageFor the first time in 50 years, I had an argument with my Mother.

We were chatting on the phone and reminiscing, when the subject turned to my Dad being mad at me.

“You know what you should do?” She said.

 “What?” I could not imagine what she was about to say.

“You should apologize to your Dad.” she said in a matter of  fact tone.

“Apologize?  For What?”

“Just apologize. He’ll like that.”

Then, in a sing-songy voice she continued, “When he gets home, why don’t you just say:  Dad…I’m really sorry…I didn’t mean to make you so mad. Will you forgive me?”

Instantly, I flamed. I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“Mom! I have NOTHING to apologize for!”

“Just do it.”she suggested.

“I didn’t do anything WRONG, Mother!”

“Come on, just apologize!”she said oh-so-very-sweetly.

“NO! Absolutely NOT. I am NOT apologizing to him!”

I stood my ground.

This is embarrassing because my Mother has advanced dementia. And my Dad passed away in 1986.

So yes, I had an argument with my 83-year old Mother….and refused to apologize for something that happened when I was 19… to my Dad who has been dead nearly 30 years.

Ridiculous, I know, and certainly not my proudest moment.

I dialed up my friend Nancy.

She was familiar with  my loving, but head-butting relationship with my Dad, and she is actively dealing with two aging parents . It’s a full circle friendship. I knew she would understand, and most importantly, laugh with me about the absurdity.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked her, after we had finished laughing.

Nancy said, “It’s those damn letters!  You read all those letters, and now YOU’RE  back in the 80’s with Lois!”

Maybe she was onto to something.

I had recently found a box of old letters, written to me throughout both terms of the Reagan Presidency. Letters from high school friends, college friends, and several family members.

I scanned the letters from my girlfriends, and emailed copies to the authors. (More on that, later.)

I also read the letters – all except the dozens from my Mom. I bundled those up and tucked them away for another day. I’ve gotten used to the  current version of my Mother, and I don’t want to reacquaint myself  just yet, with the previous version of her that I miss so terribly.

The event my Mom and I we were reminiscing about during our phone conversation was a coming of age moment for me, in the early 80’s. My Dad was not adjusting too well to my increasing independence, and during our debate of the day, I had outfoxed him for the first time.

He was openly furious.  I was silently victorious. Mom was secretly amused.

It has been one of my Mother’s favorite stories. The former version of my Mother would re-enact the conversation with me and we would have a good giggle.

However the current version of my Mother, who’s  mind was  somewhere back in the 1980’s  during our phone conversation, viewed it differently.

As Nancy had so insightfully pointed out, just maybe those old letters had opened a portal to emotional time travel for me, too.

So during the phone call, there I was, transported back to that summer evening, only to discover my Mom had switched  sides. I had no ally. Like the  cheese in the dell, I  stood alone.

Dementia can be magical thinking. It’s also a trickster, and it certainly keeps you on your toes. As such, our phone conversation quickly turned, and suddenly we were  back to the current day.

My Mom quizzed me.

“Where are you?”

“When did you move?”

“How old am I?”

“How old is your Dad?”

“How old are you?”

I answered truthfully (except for the teensy fib about Dad still being alive.)

She was shocked: “I can’t believe  you’re 50. Well, at least you’re not older than me, yet!”

Magical thinking indeed.

We began to wrap up our phone conversation.

Dad would be home from work soon, and she needed to get home to make dinner. She told me there wasn’t much in the fridge, so she planned to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We said our “I love you’s” and hung up.

I admit, I was still  a bit miffed.

Hmmmphh. I thought smugly.

I should apologize?  I don’t think so.

SHE is the one who should be  apologizing…for that menu.

That’ll be the first and last time Dad eats a PB & J sandwich for dinner. 


No Waiting (or privacy) In Lane 3


I actually enjoy grocery shopping. Like many shoppers, I have my favorite cashiers at the stores I frequent.We talk about local news, the weather,silly tabloid headlines, or what they did on their day off. This is all welcomed and enjoyable chit-chat. Sometimes they comment on my purchases, ask what I’ll be cooking and we discuss recipes.

However, on occasion I am taken aback by judgmental commentary on my purchases – from cashiers I am not familiar with. It stuns me. I am  always able to come up with a witty retort …..minutes later during the drive home.

Like the time  I went grocery shopping at a major chain, in preparation for houseguests. My guests included a little one. I wanted the sweet little lass to feel at home, so I was stocking up on her favorite foods. As the cashier scanned all the yummie “kiddie” food, he said, “Wow.”

“Pardon me?” I said.

“Do you know what the ingredients are in all this food?” he asked.

I explained about my company arriving the next day. He proceeded to shame me for my purchases, and told me I shouldn’t be so accommodating. He then added that he would never buy groceries from this store. He told me he shopped exclusively in organic markets and health food stores. I can only imagine his moral conflict: collecting a paycheck from a supposed poison peddler.

I should have complimented the store manager on his crusading cashier. Instead, I scurried to the parking lot and stuffed my reusable shopping bags full of shame into the car.

I’ve also dealt with the cashier who was thoroughly annoyed when I purchased a selection of  lovely Winter root vegetables  to oven roast. The vegetables were all unrecognizable to him. He had to first identify them, and then look up the code for each one. This involved a great deal of exasperated eye rolling. “Dude! You  buy  weird stuff!” he finally  huffed.

I can’t win. I’ve been equally shamed for  buying processed junk food and healthy whole food. I can’t handle the judgement. I’m thinking about going  to the market incognito.

Shhhh...Just keep your trap shut and put it in the bag

Shhhh…Just keep your trap shut and put the goods  in the bag

For me, the most awkward commentary happens at the neighborhood drugstore.

I cringe when I discreetly pile my goods on the counter only to hear the cashier say “Uh-Oh!” or “You poor thing.” or “Somebody isn’t havin’ a good day.”

I  feel like this intentionally sympathetic commentary unintentionlly spotlights my shopping basket, or more specifically: the current conditions south of the border.

I mean, where else do your purchases indicate your current issues in such a revealing and public way?  There is privacy at the pharmacy counter, but we share freely with the group at the checkout counter, whether we want to or not.

Decades ago while traveling with my Mother and sister, one of us daughters was suffering an uncomfortable bout of the ‘ole vacation constipation. My mother, an old school R.N., suggested a Fleet’s Enema. My sister and I were horrified at the thought, but we promptly hoofed it to a very busy downtown drugstore  to purchase the prescribed relief for… one of us.

We waited uncomfortably (one of us more uncomfortable than the other) in a very long line. Finally,as  we awkwardly plopped that enema on the counter, I loudly asked my sister, “Are you SURE this is the kind Mom likes?”

Mother unknowingly took one for the team that day. Heaven forbid anyone in line know that one of us had an issue.

Really, shouldn’t there be a partition or privacy screen separating the customer who is being helped, from the rest of the gawkers in line?

A gentleman could discreetly pick up feminine products for his lady.

It would eliminate the awkwardness for all of us when purchasing unmentionables like: wart remover; hemorrhoid remedies; lice shampoo; anti-fungal anything; Kaopectate; laxatives; the triple-threat of tampons, Cheeto’s and M&M’s; or anything associated with the care or treatment of lady parts in general.

Drugstore pic

Sure, buying discreetly online is an option, except for the sense of urgency usually associated with the need for the embarrassing stuff.

Until there is a privacy screen, I guess it’s dark glasses and the drive thru lane for me the next time I need to buy a Fleet’s enema…..for Mother.