Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funeral Black Friday

My mom said I looked like the friendly undertaker. This from a woman dressed in a dirty sweatshirt, inside-out underwear and nothing else. She had just gotten up.

I arrived at 8:55, five minutes before the agreed-upon 9 a.m. She couldn't remember the time she had told me to come and help her dress.

After sloshing down her lukewarm coffee, she stood. The crumbs of her Thanksgiving-leftover breakfast disappeared between her dimpled thighs. They could still be there.

Supporting herself on her walker, she shuffled down the hall to her room and dug through her closet, looking for the pants she wanted to wear. They zip up the back, so I'd have to do that for her. She found a gray suit and set it on her bed.

"Here, sister. Take the pants."

"Just the pants?" It was a nice looking outfit. I didn't remember it. The top had short sleeves, and she wouldn't want that. The embroidered flowers she wouldn't mind.

"Just the pants. The blouse looks too summery."

She ambled around her little hospital bed. The mattress has been squashed nearly flat in spots. It can't be very comfortable, but she can raise the foot of it and drain the fluid from her feet and legs, something she doesn't do often enough.

Lowering herself onto her rumpled sheets, she groaned and caught her breath. "Here. Put my socks on."

Her socks are for male diabetics, black and gigantic and very, very stretchy. I'm glad she finally found some that fit, and I'm glad when she wears clean ones. Her feet are at once dry and flaky and moist and stinky.

"Do you think I should wear a brassiere?" I can't remember the last time she wore one. She is big.

"Yes." She knew she should, but I suppose she hoped I'd say she needn't bother. No such luck.

"Oh, I guess so." She heaved a sigh. "Get the new one that clasps in the front."

I held up one that clasps in the back.

"That's the one," she said.

She slipped her arms through the wide straps and started jiggling herself into the cups, which might be better called bowls. Mixing bowls. I tugged hard on the hooks, trying to stretch them enough to clasp them. I think I broke a sweat. Finally she was attached, the cloth digging deep into her skin.

"That looks like it hurts," I said, coming around to the front of her.

"I think I'm falling out the bottom," she said, pressing her escaping boob up inside the material. The cups were pointed to the sky. She looked like Madonna in her cone period. A really big Madonna. And old.

"You need a bigger one," I said.

"This is the bigger one! This is the 'Oh, my God' woman one." When she'd gone to get fitted for a new boulder holder, the fitting diva/mistress/technician took one look at her and said, "Oh, my God." They had to special order something.

"Well, it's time for her to call upon the Lord once again," I said.

She chuckled. "Don't make me laugh. Now I've piddled."

Looking in her drawer for new underpants, I saw more bras. 44DD. 46F. 50G. That's the one.

I handed her some clean undies and started unhooking her. She was happy to be out of the 42 we'd managed to squeeze her into, happy to be breathing again. I put the little mite of a brassiere in the trash. The 50G went on much more easily.

"Hell, we forgot my toe thing," she said. "Don't let me forget my teeth!"

We got her assembled in plenty of time. She sat in her chair for a while, fretting about what coat to wear and when to be there. Eric would meet us there.

We were soon off to the funeral of a friend. John had been our minister for a while. He married Eric and me. He was a gentle soul, and his wife, Margaret, was and is one of my mother's best friends. When Eric and I got home from our honeymoon, Margaret was the first person after my parents I went to see. As a minister's wife, she had a public persona. But we know the woman behind the smile, and we love her.

We came to honor John and give our love to Margaret and her family. It was a fine funeral full of mostly old people. You don't live to be 90 and have many young friends. There were a lot of white collars in attendance, and one of the ministers who used to work at the church came to participate in the funeral. I was happy to see her. She is looking older, too. We all are.

People said nice things, honest things. We sang and we prayed, and then we went downstairs to eat.

Watching my mother and Margaret together made me sad and hopeful. When I was a little girl, these two women were strong and smart and kind and jubilant and I wanted to be just like them. Now they are old and a little teetery but still smart and kind, though less jubilant. My mother has shrunk and gotten fatter. Margaret has shrunk and gotten skinnier. They both have white hair and wrinkled everything and gigantic glasses. How their bodies have changed, how their minds have not, how lucky they are to have gotten old together.

"We're both widows now," Margaret said to my mom, holding her shoulders. Margaret is actually a widow for the second time. It wasn't any easier the second time, she said.

They chatted about their failing bodies, the deaths of their husbands. They'll talk more later, they said. And they will.

I hugged Margaret's stooped, slight frame and wished her well, then my mom and I made the slow, deliberate walk to the church elevator.

At home, I unzipped my mom's pants and unhooked her bra. I took off her shoes and socks and cut off as much of the callous on the ball of her foot as I could.

"You should write about dressing Mother," she said to me.

So I did.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Going to the printer--Thank you!

Well, thanks to you and many others, we have raised enough money to get our magazine printed! Yea!

We are all very happy – and relieved! We have a launch party on Dec. 9. I'm telling you, come Dec. 10, there will be a such a collective sigh of relief we might alter weather patterns the world over.

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brother, can you spare a dime?

So, I'm taking a magazine class. I'm one of the lead writers. My story is about niche farming. I got to talk to lots of farmers, visit their farms and their sales stands, pet their cows, eat their organic veggies, hold ostrich eggs. It was fun.

The editorial philosophy is "Move Wisconsin Forward." We've got cool stories about advancing the state in the areas of body, mind and soul. We've got Trek Bicycle, we've got Chad Vader. (See the clerk at the three-minute mark? He was in my play.) We're in the final throes of getting this thing put together. Check out last year's class Web site: Curb. Ours is still under construction. Every year, the class starts from scratch.

We have to raise money to get our magazine published. Our original plan was to print 10,000 copies, but it became apparent quickly that we would not be able to raise that much money. So we cut it in half.

Selling ads has been quite a task given the downturn in the economy, but our business team has done pretty well. They've raised almost $6,000. We only need another $230 to get printed. But we need it fast.

So I'm asking for your help. Can you send a few dollars our way? Can you send a lot of dollars our way? Instead of stopping for a $5 coffee, could you please help fund this magazine? Next time I see you, I'll buy your $5 coffee. I'll even get you that pumpkin chocolate chip pound cake to go with it, and I promise not to drool while I watch you eat it.

Please, donate here. It's a completely secure site through the University of Wisconsin Foundation. All money will be directed to our class for the purpose of publishing our magazine.

Thank you! Now, go on. Do it for me. Do it for higher education. Do it because it feels SO GOOD! Yes, yes, yes!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

We don't need no education

Kelsey skipped school yesterday.

There was about 40 minutes left in the day, and the teacher was talking about the buses. Kelsey thought since she was talking about the buses, it was time to go. So she put her stuff on and left. Out the door. By herself. No one stopped her.

She realized as she was walking home that she'd made a mistake, but she just kept coming home. By the time she got here, she was bawling, a little confused, and terrified she was going to get in trouble.

I was at work, but Eric was home, thankfully. He called the school, but no one answered. So he called her teacher directly, who was upset a child could just leave without being noticed. I'm sure she was imagining the wrist-slapping she and the school would get for allowing it to happen.

It's not the first time a kid has wandered off from school, and it's hard to keep track of every child at every moment. But, geez.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


You can tell it's those high-flying days after Halloween. Kelsey is sick. And Kayleigh – well, Kayleigh is Kayleigh:

"Mom, I've licked this Tootsie Pop 340 times, and I still haven't gotten to the center."

UPDATE: "It's been 460 licks now, and I exposed a little bit here [she points to a mocha-colored spot on the right side of the cherry candy]."

The coolest part of this is that she's only licking one side. So the other side of the Tootsie Pop is still perfect, never-been-licked.

Hmm, there's something vulgar passing through my mind.

Stay tuned. I wonder how much Tootsie Roll she wants to expose before she has the answer: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know, but Kayleigh will.

And you can, too.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kayleigh is chomping the cherry Tootsie Pop, having found the center of the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop at 640 licks. That's a lot of licks.

Now, let's consider the science of Tootsie Pops. Sometimes the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop is not actually in the center, and it's rarely spherical. Nor is the candy surrounding the Tootsie Roll. Also, we probably need to consider the quality of her spit. I mean, warmer spit would dissolve the candy faster. And what about her spit viscosity? And how about the age of the candy? I would think that older candy would have deteriorated a bit already, thereby requiring fewer licks. Perhaps temperature and humidity would come into play. So, really, we (as in, she) needs to conduct more trials.

She said she tried this experiment once before, but she got bored after three licks and just chomped the sucker, so to speak. Must have been in the pre-Adderall days.