Monday, August 7, 2017

Sandwich Generation, C'Est Moi


I'm just back from second cross-country trip, this time to help Mom with the final steps of her downsizing and, ostensibly, her move.

Note: I did not understand this to mean that I was one of her "movers." I assumed that since she is an adult woman of means, she would hire professionals.

Oh, silly me. My mother can nickel and dime a person to death. No, she "hired" my brother's best friend from high school and his young co-worker, Big Ben. She is paying Brother's BF in furniture (he gets her king-size bed, her extension ladder, and a few other things — all fine with the Chardonnay kids, believe me, and we love BBF), and she's paying Big Ben the princely sum of $100!

To move four truckloads of furniture!

Without a dolly!

On a 103-degree summer day!

No insurance, of course — no safety net whatsoever if either non-professional gets injured in the course of the move (or breaks her stuff).

Yeah. I declined to have any part of this, so after I got her fully packed and ready for the movers (necessitating bringing three carloads of stuff to Goodwill, and carrying I don't know how many boxes of books into the living room — Mom is bringing four bookcases with her to her new residence), I fled, taking myself to the movies.

But that was just one day — I worked like a Trojan the other nine days of my visit.

(Note: She ended up paying Big Ben $140, and she's giving him two couches and a TV.)

My last day was devoted to packing up all the treasures I'd culled, things that I wanted and thought my brothers might want. My goal was to send only one box to each of us; instead, I sent two boxes to each brother and four to myself. But one box (which is HUGE) is completely full of the family videos I'd faithfully mailed to my parents since 1997, when they gifted us with a video camera to record the wonders of their first grandchild. I am not going to watch all these movies, I highly doubt that I will ever (a) want to or (b) figure out how to transcribe and edit them into a single highlight reel, and yet, and yet. I could not throw them away, and Mom wouldn't take them. What else was there to do? Thank God for flat-rate boxes.

Mom used to be overly sentimental, but I think surviving the death of both parents and subsequently dealing with all of their "stuff" has cured her of that; she was giving away family treasures with nary a second look. I'm not sentimental either; Mom's sister Aunt Nasti visited while we were packing up/throwing out (to pick up the table that either Grandpa or Great-Grandpa made in high school shop class — which, admittedly, is pretty cool), and she said, "What did you do with Grandma's pitcher?" Mom and I looked at each other and said, "Uh . . ." (though we're pretty sure Mom kept it). Nasti frowned at me, and I said, "Dude, I have pitchers. If it's beautiful and I think I'll use it, I will take it — but if neither of those things is true, the fact that it was Grandma's is not reason enough for me to keep it." Nasti frowned harder, but I headed off the coming lecture by opening another beer for her. Thank God for my family's reliable lushy tendencies.

Though, I did have trouble with a few items. For example, Mom is renowned for her homemade French bread, which — every batch since the beginning of Time — has begun its life in the same blue ceramic bowl.

(I'm trying so hard to find a picture of something like it, but everything online is too pretty. This is sort of it . . .

. . . but remove the handles, change the color to this —>, and make some big chips in the paint — that's pretty close. The point is: It's not all that attractive.)

I do not need this bowl, I do not want this bowl, I do not find this bowl enticing in any way — and yet, it holds so much history, this bowl, and I couldn't bear to see it thrown away. (I can't imagine Goodwill would want it, given all the chips.) But I couldn't convince my brothers to take it, either.

Honestly, I left it on the kitchen counter (after giving it a kiss and thanking it for its years of service, because I am just that queer), and I don't know what Mom did with it.

She was very bad about allowing me to throw things away that I thought were not Goodwill-worthy (like, stained Tupperware so old it's not even recyclable), and even though she usually gave in, I often sneaked things into the trash when she wasn't looking.

Oh, it was not a fun trip. Not one single second of it. I was always hot and always tired and always emotionally spent, and throughout it all I watched my once confident, bright mother devolve into a doddering idiot. Which I say with love, but still.


I arrived around 4, and she tells me that the screen guy is coming at 4:30 to replace the newly repaired screens. Around 4:15, we hear stirring in the garage. She jumps up, looking alarmed, then comes back and tells me that it's just the screen guy. I said, Yeah, I assumed. She stares and says, You knew he was coming???

Later I asked her, Why do you think you're forgetting so many things?, and she said, like it's obvious, Oh, I have dementia. OK, now I'm freaking a little, because this is what I have feared (based on an article I just read about Holly Robinson Peete's father, who, like Mom, has Parkinson's disease — you know, a solid reliable source), so I said, Who told you you have dementia? and she points to herself and says Me.

I cover my face for a while, and she says, At least it's not Alzheimer's! I said, No, go ahead, diagnose yourself with Alzheimer's too, why not? And then pronounce yourself cured! (Husband says she should diagnose herself with multiple personality disorder, then give herself a second opinion)

Oh, Mom.

So that's done, and I didn't kill her nor did I die, both of which seemed possible on a daily basis, and she's happy "enough" in her new place. I'm in no rush to head back out again; we'll just see.

But in two weeks I get to enjoy Transition #2, when my angel Mimosa returns to college in the Big Scary City. Her first year was pretty much a disaster. We've put some excellent supports in place, but who knows how Year 2 will go. She knows that if it doesn't work out this semester, we're done with NYC — she can fail a lot closer to home for a lot less money.


We'll be in the city for a few days before she moves in to her dorm room, ideally to have her meet with potential therapists and apply for jobs. I thought about trying to see some shows or visiting a museum or two, but I am so freaking exhausted, I will likely sit on a bench in Central Park with my book and stare vacantly while my eldest roams the city.

(My birthday is this week, and I want to do NOTHING. Though I'll probably do nothing at a restaurant with air conditioning and a good cocktail list. It's kind of a milestone birthday — I'm turning 55 [fifty-thrive!] — but I just. don't. care. Someday I will have energy and care about life again, but today is not that day.)

Enough for now — my clients all seem to be on summer vacay, which is just fine; I gave them each a gentle poke to let them know I'm back and ready to edit, but I will use my "free" time to get all the other crap done that tends to pile up.

This is cool: My client at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (I've done two big books for them now) wrote me today:
I know you are on the freelancer A-list, so you'll be hearing from someone else here, no doubt.
Freelancer A-list! Who knew there was such a thing?! I shall don my new status with aplomb.


Lady C

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