Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

12 04 2017

My neighbor’s mother-in-law is in the hospital.

She has pneumonia.

She’s been under the weather for weeks, but refused to see a doctor – until she saw one in the ER a few nights ago.  She is not elderly; probably early sixties. She is stubborn.

When my neighbor shared that news, it was not, by itself, particularly interesting; it’s what he said next that caught my ear.

“As soon as my wife got home from getting her mother settled into her room at the hospital, I called my mom to thank her for taking such good care of herself.” 

What a thoughtful thing for a son to do.

What a thoughtful thing for a parent to do.

Many of my friends and family are proven fine care-givers, going to great lengths to assure the comfort and well-being of those whom they love.  They, upon gentle reminding, have come to recognize that they deserve the same care and consideration that they show others.

Thank you to my mother and my sister, who are amazingly generous and strong women, for understanding that one way to show their love for the rest of us is to keep themselves in good running order.  I am grateful that, no matter when I might need you, your tank is always full and your motor’s humming.


(Don’t) Help Me, I’ve Fallen

27 01 2016

A few days ago, my eight-five-year old mother called to tell me she was alright, but she had “done something stupid.” She would not have told me at all, but she was developing a shiner and she knew she could not keep it from me, so she had to confess her recklessness.

My mother LOVES the telephone. She is bound and determined to never miss a call. So, when her phone rang, she leapt from her Sunday afternoon nap-during-football, to answer it.  Unfortunately, when she lowered the footrest of her recliner, it caught the blanket she’d had at her feet and, as she put it, she threw herself into the dining room floor!

To appreciate this fully, you must understand that my mom was laughing as she told me the details:

Phone’s ringing.

Wakes with a start.

Feet hit floor.

Right foot refuses to move.

Left foot refuses to move.

Face really wants to answer the phone, so it continues toward the ringing . . . and directly to the floor, where, I kid you not, she bounces.

By now, she’s howling with laughter at her own stupidity. She assessed the damage – glasses not broken, nose still in center of face, carpet free of blood and determined that, all in all, it was a pretty cool fall.  Her outlook on life, which I’ve likened to Monty Python’s Black Knight, led her to the conclusion that it’s pretty badass that she could still take a hit and get right back up and keep going . . . and going . . . and going . . .

I sure hope I can be like Mom. It’s not that she doesn’t fall.; it’s that she doesn’t need a helping hand. She does deserve a standing ovation.

Thanks: Chapter One

4 11 2015

Given the disappointment (no more baseball until next year), depression (oh, Daylight Saving Time, why did you leave me?) and dismay (wait, the national elections are not until NEXT November?!) of the last few days, I’ve decided, as a kind of little pre-holiday hors d’oeuvre, to write about thanks-worthy stuff for the whole month of November.

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Gingko ‘Jade Butterflies’ leaves looking like an angel. Sweet Jessica.

Today was so beautiful, it almost didn’t seem real. The sun shone with that magic angle of autumn light that rendered everything in painterly richness. The temperature soared to the seventies. Leaves made almost bell-like sounds as they yielded to the breeze’s suggestion they let go of summer and they swirled toward the ground.

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Pseudolarix amabilis – first year for these amazing cones.

Yes, we can all agree, a beautiful day is thanks-worthy, but that’s not the whole story.

After running an errand, this morning, I discovered that someone had removed some old splintery deck boards from a pile in my back yard. I suspected the culprit, made one phone call, and it was confirmed; it was my mother. She’d mentioned that she could use a few of them in her landscape and we agreed that I’d help her get them to her house . . . she did not wait for my help.

Of course, not having something on one’s To-Do list is thanks-worthy, but that’s not the whole story.

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Live and let live! Happy dandelion puffball resting in the grass.

The truly thanks-worthy part of this story is that my mother, at age 85, drove her own van to my house, carried several 16’ deck boards around my house, loaded them into her van, and put them where she wanted them at her house – without any help.

This did not surprise me. Even though she has always been independent (as in “stay out of her way or you’re apt to get run over”), I remember not to take her good health for granted. I know many friends whose parents are gone or who are not able to care for themselves.

My mother is busy and capable and engaged every day.

That’s what makes her healthy.

That’s what makes her dangerous.

That’s thanks-worthy.

Golden Years

15 07 2015

Let’s talk about old people.

You know, people in their Golden Years.

Those people whose kids are long grown and gone from their care.

People whose faces display the well-worn paths of Time.

People who, at their age, must spend their days eating soft foods and waiting for the Grim Reaper to come calling for them.

I remember being young and dumb enough to have felt an odd mixture of contempt and pity for retirement-agers . . . now, I am one, but this is NOT about me.

This is about my mother.

My mother redefined Golden Years this week, when she won TWO GOLD MEDALS at the National Senior Games in Minneapolis, Minnesota – Ladies Singles Bowling 85-89 age group and Ladies Doubles Bowling  80-84 age group.

Here are the details, with a nod to Sports Center’s format:

Name: Millie Krauss, a.k.a. Mad Mildred

Height: 5’5”

Weight: 140 lbs.

Age: 85, yes, eighty-five!

Sport: Bowling, right handed, four-step approach.

Equipment: 14.5 lb fingertip bowling ball (Most women half her age are rolling balls that weigh less than 12 lbs.)

Mad Mildred, in her quest for gold,  bowled a total of 21 games over 6 days, averaging over 160 per game. (Average for women across all age groups nationally is about 130!) She bested her nearest competition by 30 pins in singles and, with her partner, 99 pins in doubles.

There are many more awe-inspiring things about my mother than her bowling scores, so that should give you an idea of just how spectacular she is. Even a bad photo, like this one my cousin snapped with her phone, is worth a thousand words. It was taken right after Mad Mildred won her singles event and it shows the kind of spirit that inhabits a body that refuses to acknowledge calendar years; the joy of achieving a goal (Hell, the determination to still set goals); and the satisfaction of a job well done.

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As a public service announcement, I’m warning the Grim Reaper that, if he comes for Millie, he’d better be ready to find her, then catch her, and then be prepared for the fight of his career!


Dear Diary

1 09 2010

Remember (way way back before the days of Facebook – Hell, before home computers,) when the closest anyone got to publishing their every thought was to keep a diary – a well-hidden, locked, protected-with-our-last-breath little leatherette-bound book?  I do.  I was confronted with six, yes six, of these wicked little reminders of my youthful shallowness and stupidity when my mother decided to clean out one of her spare bedroom closets this week. 

She may have wanted desperately to know the contents of my teen-aged mind, but I know my mother had not read them, even though she’d had ample opportunity. She could have never mentioned she’d found them; she could have had her way with them and I would never have known. My mother is NOT that kind of mother, though. She respected my privacy when I was fifteen, which is why I am a hundred percent open and honest with her to this day. 

What to do, what to do?  Should I burn them without even opening a page or should I revisit every high school crush, hurt feeling, insipid poem, raging sibling battle, and everything else I had so carefully memorialized all those years ago?  I knew I had to at least take a peek. I carried the volumes to my studio and opened the books. Inside, I discovered a person I can no longer remember being; someone whose goals and dreams are so foreign to me that I felt I was reading about someone else’s childhood.  Those words could not have come from me  .  .  .  but they had.

As embarrassed as I was to read those revelations, reveries, rants, and ridiculous notions, I felt relieved – relieved because I had grown up.  I had survived the ignorance and arrogance and insecurity of my youth and NOBODY had to know all those false starts and missteps that led me to who I am. 

I am planning a private celebratory burning of my diaries, erasing all physical evidence of my personal confessions of youthful irresponsibility and missed opportunity forever.  As I watch the flames consume my annotated foolishness, I will thank the Universe that Facebook did not exist in 1969 and hope today’s electronic diarists never have to regret not having kept some things to themselves – well-hidden and locked in fabulously flammable leatherette diaries.