Haunted Groceries

I like ghosts just as much as they like themselves. Occasionally they put on a show, either for our entertainment and theirs (they’re bored perhaps, watching us dull humans), or they want to make a statement. I believe it’s more of the latter.

For instance–two of the houses I’ve lived in have had ghosts. One house had  the spirit of a small child who padded around in the middle of the night, ringing bells that hung on the inside of the doors, playing with my sons’ toys (he or she loved trains), or opening kitchen cabinets, playing with the mixing bowls, then walking away. The house I live in now has a spirit who likes to play with some sort of tiny ghostly metal ball in the attic, rolling it across the boards while we (try) to sleep. Or once when I was angry, she shoved my shoulder so hard I lost my balance. (And yes, a ghostly hand feels very real.) I told her to knock it off and she floated away.

Today I shopped at my favorite supermarket, the kind where the employees know my name, my sons’ names, and my husband’s job. It’s like meeting up with old friends every Tuesday (discount day). I stood chatting with two employees at the head of Aisle Nine when a package of candies flew off a hook nearby, as if thrown by an unseen hand. Laughingly, I said, “So you have ghosts here now.” One of the employees nodded her head and the other said, “We’ve always had them here.” Mind you, this is a store that is only twenty-eight years old, built on a horse farm. What spirits would wander a 24-hour, brightly lit, supermarket, where horses used to roam?

I must have looked bewildered because they began to regale me with stories of framed pictures of their coworkers being flung from the wall, or, like in the tossed bag of candy I witnessed, throwing a pizza or two at a passer-by.

So now when I push my shopping cart up and down the aisles, I’ll be watching the shelves and my head. I really do hope, though, that the people I meet there are all on this side of the grave.

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EVIL VS.DEMONS

The other day I sat among a crowd of people in church, some of us listening, others snoring softly, as a person whom I respected tried to engage the congregation. He began with a mention of The Exorcist, the movie from the ’70s about a priest exorcising a devil from a child, well-played by the actress Linda Blair. He segued into Jesus exorcising demons from certain people who, as we now know, to be mentally ill. My hands clenched into fists and I willed myself to not jump up and yell, “This is the twenty-first century!” I didn’t want to wake up my husband whose eyes were slowly closing. Besides, embarrassment and I don’t get along.

Unfortunately, more than a few people nodded their heads in agreement as the speaker regaled us with stories in which he compared evil with demons. “Sin is all around us,” he stated. “And alcoholism and drug addiction and schizophrenia and….”

No. Just no. Sin is one thing. Sin, as in those with no morals who kill and then smile for the cameras and jury. That is evil. Facing one’s demons though, as in mental illness and addiction is another. They’d be horrified to physically hurt others.

We are not in the Dark Ages. Heck, we’re not even in the twentieth century. Let’s call evil what it is, and leave “demons” out of it.

SUMMER’S OVER (Hear Me Sigh)

The air is crisp,
my walk is brisk,
to lose the weight
from funnel cake.

I breathe in deep,
the climb is steep,
summer’s over,
must get over
chocolate ice cream,
(now a dream),
cannot forget
sweet baguettes.

Boardwalk food–
cannot brood
for greasy fries,
tomato pies.

Must bid adieu
to barbeque,
Margaritas
with fajitas.

The fall
it calls–
pumpkin lattes
mocha lattes.
Cider donuts,
luscious spiced nuts.

Beef stew,
comfort food.
I bid adieu–
my waistline too.

OF ICE AND ZEN

Grass crackles under feet,
hair like hay in this heat.

Wetness pools underarms,
Eau d’ Sweat doesn’t charm.

Rush inside for cooling drink,
central air is on the blink.

Lemonade made with ice,
would be better if it’s spiked.

Freezer has ice cold air,
I think I’ll keep my head in there.

Husband wanders in the room,
laughs out loud–who’s this loon?

Hair and eyebrows frozen stiff,
I dash outside till air is fixed.

Pavement hot, bare feet sizzle,
I dance and jump and do a jiggle.

Race back in and heave a sigh,
day is done, and so am I.

–A.S.

Obituaries Aren’t Us

Death is never humorous. It’s the obituaries that sometimes are.

Years ago when someone died, forms were filled out by the deceased’s loved one at the funeral home, then it was sent to the local newspaper for the obituary editor to compile into a well-written, just-the-facts, notice. Within the last fifteen years or so, our local paper has allowed self-written essays (for a fee, of course. The more words the better) in the obituary section. This has produced the gamut of writing styles and decimation of the English language. It also gives the reader insight into the family’s dynamics, whether the writer intended to or not.

This morning I was sipping my jolt of high-octane coffee when I nearly choked. Not from the hot liquid, but from a 95-year-old woman’s obituary. It ran three half-page columns exhorting her privileged life.

This is the part of the obituary that had me just about spew my coffee:

“Despite recommendations and pressure from bank trust officers to diversify the family’s (stock) portfolio, (deceased person) followed the wishes of her parents and held the (certain company) shares, some of which were purchased more than 100 years ago. The company continued to pay through the Great Depression. It is a quintessential long term investing story of which the family is very proud. The family is grateful for her faith and vision in the benefits (of) long-term stock investing.”

I’m sure the family is very grateful.

And then, about a year ago, another family seemed to have a hard time expressing how bereaved they were. They lamented that the deceased woman’s children and grandchildren now “lost a piece of their minds” over her death.

I am so sorry brains were wasted in the process.

There is also the improper use of grammar that has me become apoplectic. But that, since I wish to remain calm, is for another day.

Lost Among the Gurneys

December 9

7 am–I’m at the hospital, wondering as I wander. My older son needs minor surgery today. As he’s whisked away on a gurney,  I’m told to sit in the waiting room, right around the corner.

Five minutes later and I’ve lost my way. I finally meander into a waiting room but the lights are out and the coffee machine is stone cold. I am in desperate need of caffeine and a map of the place. I wonder if they’ll find me.

7:45 am–After flagging down another lost person, we find our way to the correct waiting area. I settle in but realize that I lost my purse. A wonderful young man who works here probably sees a woman who looks like she’s in the early stages of dementia. He helps by walking me through the hallways to where I first sat, then after retrieving my errant purse, guides me safely back, past patients being wheeled on stretchers and gurneys into the sunrise. At least they know where they’re going.

9:30 am–After three cups of coffee and four bathroom breaks, I see my son being wheeled on a stretcher down the corridor. I rush after them. The transport person eyes me and says, “We looked for you. You must have been in the wrong waiting room.”

December 10

My older son is out and about. I’m on the couch, resting up from yesterday’s ordeal.

 

THE SPECIAL NEEDS PATIENT (notes from a caretaker)

And it has happened yet again.

I accompany my adult son, whom I call the “walking wounded,” into his primary care doctor’s office. This son is a special needs person who seems typical enough, yet when having to converse with someone, his expressive vocabulary exhibits signs of deficits. This doctor has known my son for over nine years, through many tests and diagnoses (of which he has several, one of which is a chromosomal abnormality).

An hour later after sitting and waiting in the exam room, my son is on edge. Unfortunately, a wait time of over an hour is the norm. His head hurts and his hands are clenching and unclenching. He needs to sit in a chair instead of on the exam table. Fine. He climbs down and sits next to me. Finally his doctor walks in. The doctor looks over a paper on which I have written symptoms my son has been exhibiting for a long time. I do this to refresh the doctor’s memory, as my son’s file resembles a bible. The doctor says my son should get one of those self-driving cars so when he feels ill, he could get to where he needs to go. I think this is a rather odd joke. Turns out it’s odd–but not a joke. He’s serious. My son mumbles something under his breath. This visit is going downhill fast, and this doctor, who says he did his part of his residency in psychiatry, doesn’t see my son’s body language which is of an animal ready to bolt.

Then the doctor turns to my son and asks him what he’s feeling. Feeling? As in, confused? Angry? Tense? Headachy? Nauseous? This is too vague a question for him. I know this. My son is about to bolt out the door. I speak up. I begin to tell the doctor what our visit is about. The doctor puts up his hand and says firmly to me: “Wait. I want your son to answer. You can’t jump in like that and answer for him.”

My son, in protective mode, sits up straight and says, “My mom can answer.”

I hand my son the car keys and tell him to go outside to wait. He leaves. Doctor says, “Well, now I can’t treat him. I needed him to tell me what was wrong.”

I point to the paper. “He dictated that to me. Those are his words. It’s what he does sometimes. I’m his mother and I know when he can’t express himself to the doctor. You’ve known him for almost a decade.”

Doesn’t make a difference. The doctor defends himself; tells me to bring him back in. Right. I again repeat, “I’m his mother. I know he won’t. It all went downhill, first when we had the first appointment of the afternoon yet waited over an hour, then when you mentioned the self-driving car which to him is like a slap in the face, and now the generalized question that he would have trouble answering.” I don’t want to say anything I’ll regret, so I open the exam room door and say, “This isn’t working.”

I hear, as I walk away, “Don’t you want the prescription for (name of latest test)?”

I shake my head, more in disbelief than to just say no.

Please, doctors and nurses, please understand that there are times when a patient prefers the caretaker to answer. Perhaps the patient isn’t well enough to speak up at that time, or maybe they asked the caretaker to answer all questions. And yes we, the caretakers, do know the ten-second rule; that when the patient is asked a question, the caretaker should wait ten seconds to see if the patient responds. If not, then the caretaker speaks up. And please do not speak authoritatively to the caretaker. Nor laugh. Nor be demeaning. We put up with a lot on a daily basis.

We know you have studied and worked hard to get to where you are today, and we respect that. But please, walk a mile in our shoes before you assume. Many impressive degrees after your name doesn’t begin to shed light on a caretaker’s responsibilities. Please respect us, too.