Grandma Jane passed away early Thursday morning. Thanks for all the support and phone calls, everyone.
Go in Peace
Alzheimer's is finally finishing with my Grandma. I got a call today from The Mom that it would be soon, probably before I get there Saturday morning.
There are lots of plaintive essays about what the disease does to a person and their family. It is almost impossible to overstate the personal disgust one feels as the illness takes away the intimate, warps the familiar and mocks lifelong bonds.
My goal today was to find something good to hold onto out of this mess. Here's what I got:
At the earliest onset of the disease it is common for the inflicted to become more nostalgic- they remember clearly some event from 40 years ago but have trouble remembering where the keys are. By the dumb luck of a bus transfer point, a desire for a home cooked meal, and a good woman's generosity and love I might have missed this brief phase and never gotten my fondest memories of Grandma Jane.
She was always a very busy, serious woman. I was a silly child who wouldn't sit still. Grandma Jane was always warm and loving towards me, but she might as well have tried showering the same affection on fruit fly with ADD. There was one way to hold my attention: tell me a story.
Some family's tell stories, some don't. I had one of each. Grandma Clem (The Mom's mom) told stories and so did everyone else on that side of the family. On my Dad's side the only one I remember telling stories was my Great Grandma. Of course, she had the greatest story to tell a 4 year old boy: how I lost my fingertip in the punch-press. And there were some other stories that I only remember bits and fragments of. But from Grandma Jane- nothing until 1990.
Maybe I'd just grown up enough that she finally felt I was worth telling stories to. I'd believe that. At 23, back in college, making plans to move forward in life after a detour through the bars of Hamtramck, she invited me to come by for dinner seeing as how I was taking classes a few miles away and my bus transferred near by. I held out until she promised to make meatloaf and, most importantly, give me the recipe.
I was sure what to expect that first dinner. I'd get there and she'd be in kitchen scrambling to finish the dinner. She'd kick me out to the living room where Grandpa Bob would tell me his favorite Sonny Eliot jokes of the week. Once dinner started she'd fuss over how everything was and get up once or twice for something she forgot or wanted. When the meal was over she'd go to the kitchen to clean and I'd be evicted to another half hour of how we had SNow in the morning and rAIN in the evening- we had SNAIN.
I got there and she sat me right at the old kitchen table and took me through meatloaf step by step. She told me which butchers to buy the ground pork and beef from and which one to get the veal from. She showed me exactly how large to cut the cubes of rye bread and how to shape the loaf. Once it was in the oven she opened a can of German Potato Salad into a pot for later and had me start peeling parsnips. Grandpa Bob was kept out of the kitchen with the chores of setting the table, getting me a Vernors or just told to go watch his TV.
At dinner, she had a drink. Just one, because she was going to drive me home, but she had a drink, a cocktail. Aside from an occasional glass of wine, I don't remember her having cocktails . . . ever.
During dinner, she started telling stories from her life as natural as an NPR weekend host. These stories were about the time she worked for a manufacturer and she got sent on a trip to Pennsylvania to troubleshoot a production problem. I sat there entranced.
She drove me home and we agreed to have dinner again each month.
All together there were maybe 9 meals like this. She told me about when she worked for a doctor, games she and her brothers used to play, and other bits from her life that always left me amazed. I wondered why she'd waited so long to tell me these stories.
Two years later I was home again and we went to Miller's for lunch- Grandma, me, The Dad and The Mom. At first she seemed fine, but then came a long period of disturbing silence while the rest of us yakked. Just as I noticed it, she snapped to and said she was picking up the check, her usual self.
The next time I saw her, she couldn't remember my name.
It's not a silver lining I've come up with. My favorite memories only exist because she was on a 15 year trip into hell and I'd gladly have lost out if she could have kept everything.
Go in Peace
I remember walking into Chef Bossio's office on X-mas eve and it was impossible to see the desk for all the gift baskets puveyors had sent by that day. These were huge things loaded with booze, sports tickets, expensive perfums for the wife . . . we're talking quality perqs here.
This was 20 years ago, back before Bush brought integrity back to the White House and we saw the errors of our ways.
I don't personally take gifts from purveyors. I value my right to threaten, cajole, and intimidate salespeople too much to compromise it for Giants tickets. When stuff does get sent my way, I put it in the box o' stuff that we periodically raffle off to the staff.
Of course it helps that the current graft is not of the same level that Chef B used to get. T-shirts, calendars, a chef's hat shaped salt/pepper/toothpick dispenser, and notepads are the bulk of what we get these days. Easy stuff to take a pass on.
However. The pest control company gave us the coolest thing this year! It's a bottle of merlot with their own lable on. Who doesn't want to drink from a bottle labled A-1 Pest Control??
Even better: Beneath the Currier & Ives-esque drawing of a decorated family room reads the legend not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Gave it to a co-worker with just the right sense of humor.
Go in Peace
Yesterday I needed to spend time with people I did not work with.
As there were no dogs in the park, I filled up the jeep and headed down to Fremont where I spent an hour with Vincent in my lap. Much like a puppy, he absolved my stresses and frustrrations. Due to his cold, he even was breathing like a pug, all slurps and snorts. It did me a world of good to hold a happy baby.
His sister, Zoe, was not so thrilled to see me. In fact, she screamed like a banshee.
It's all fallout from her orphanage experience. She wants to be held and she really wants it to be her new mom or dad. Two minutes in the door Luke plopped her in my arms and all peace was shattered. She's not the first girl to cry fearful tears in my arms, but at least I wasn't out the price of a good dinner. We agreed that she'd stay in Mom's lap and I'd hold her brother instead.
After a while we could make eye contact without either of us hyper-ventilating. By the time I left, we'd started playing together a bit, taking turns hitting her drum. Just before being taken to her crib I saw her smile, briefly. And my heart almost imploded. She's beautiful. At just one year old she's working out personal relationships more complex than any I'll ever have with a co-worker and she seems to be making better headway than I am.
Go in Peace
I loved Howard Stern back when he was on WWWW. The Leather Weather Lady, the softball team (the W-4 Skins) and his total disdain for traffic, sports, and other sleeves in the traditional morning drive straight-jacket made him a must listen every morning back in 1979ish.
For about three months. I was 14 and had already outgrown Howard.
He is capable of funny, to be sure. But it was too much work to get past the far too easy trash comedy for the few minutes of true wit. A good number of SF residents were sooo very proud that our pathetic radio market had managed to resist Howard up until the death rattle of the '90s. But, hey, we were all living the bubble and got sloppy. I tried to listen to him a few times . . . I was twenty five years older but the show was the same, now sans music.
So, here's my take on his migration to Sirius, a digital station where he will be free of FCC censorship: Good.
He's free to say what he wants, hosts what whom he wants, pull whatever stunts his fans will applaud. And he will disappear from our collective consciousness and news feeds.
Outrage only works when there "The People" can be offended. Well, the AFA doesn't go after the private. They'll organize a protest against Target using "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" because malls are public and it is easier to get people to go from one end of the mall than to get them to stop a on-going financial commitment that they have. Notice that nobody bothers Playboy?
Howard will be marginalized by his closed circle of success. Good for his fans and also for those of us who wish him no ill but would like to not have his antics topping our yahoo news homepage.
Go in Peace
This morning I had three great things happen.
1. I managed to fall back asleep from 7am to 10am, giving me a cumulative 8 hours sleep for the first time this month!!
2. What woke me up? Why a real, honest to gosh thunderstorm complete with lightening. We get one of these every couple of years and lying in bed listening to the rain and thunder was bliss.
3. KC and I had our first prolonged conversation over the phone in a long time. I managed to hit golden time when all three kids were pre-occupied and quiet. Now, I just need to manage another conversation with the biggest kid- we haven't really spoken since he got back from China.
Okay, 6 more days of work to go. Everyone hit a wall the first half of yesterday's shift, but we all seemed to be on a second wind by the end of the night. I've been through these prolonged work periods before. There develops a group psychology like women menstruating together (we all get mood swings and enjoy chocolate). Today and tomorrow will be good, I'm sure. All we have to deal with is the diminishing returns; we'll hit another wall by Wednesday and then I'm hoping we'll pull out for the last two days.
Hi, ho. Hi, ho.
Go in Peace