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.

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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.

 

Meal-in-a-Box (Pass the Wine, Please)

After seeing so many ads for how I could be my own chef with ingredients picked out just for me and a few hundred-thousand others, I was ready to order at 50% off my first shipment.

But wait. I had to choose whether I wanted shellfish, meat, vegetarian, vegan, non-GMO, organic, natural, low-sodium, gluten-free, or surprise-me. Instead I picked up the phone and dialed Pizzas Are Us, poured a glass of healthful red wine, and composed this ditty about my vexation of too many choices with these boxed ingredients for a meal. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.):

House Chef, Blue Chef,

isn’t there a Wine Chef?

Day Basket, fruit basket,

I think-I’m getting-looped basket.

Hi Fresh, farm fresh,

I really want a pizza fresh.

Carnivore, herbivore,

are there any fries du jour?

Black Apron, burnt apron,

too-close-to-the-stove apron.

Gluten free, cage free,

I’m-terribly-confused free.

Chop, stir, flip, stir,

the-meat-fell-on-the-floor stir.

Peas roll, carrots roll,

another glass of wine roll.

Fast food, quick food,

I-really-need-my-fix food.

And so the doorbell rang, and my boxed pizza came to me, cooked and piping hot, and my gleaming appliances and perfectly pressed apron stayed clean.

Cheers!

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

The house sported original hurricane shutters and eight-over-eight leaded glass windows. Most rooms had a brick fireplace and decorative molding over the doorways.

The gutters leaked and the old house cried. The gnarled branches of the silver maples joined hands over the sagging roof, protecting it from the wind. It was a house well-lived and much loved and held promise.

It was demolished.

The newcomers arrive with their good intentions and money. A lot of money. How else can they buy a Dutch colonial from the ’20s or a Victorian with a brick foundation from 1890, or one of the first farmhouses in this town from the middle of the 19th century, and with merely a cursory glance at the interior, sign on the dotted line as the buyers. But after only a few hours consideration, they decide it isn’t exactly what they wanted (perhaps those Dutch doors didn’t lend themselves to marble and granite foyers), so instead of renovating, they tear it down. It doesn’t stop there. The two hundred year old oak has to go too, since the Bobcat couldn’t maneuver around it, and besides, it doesn’t mesh with their imported flowers and shrubs. Their landscaper says so.

A neighbor, who has lived in the town for over half-century, tries to explain the importance of preserving history. The newcomers decide right then and there to pledge a substantial donation to the historical society, perhaps to assuage any guilt. But it’s doubtful there is any.

They build their homes “in keeping with the aesthetics of the area” with dormers and gables and large porches. The interiors, though, are made for entertaining: six burner stoves with designer tile backsplashes, state of the art appliances, and custom cabinetry. And while they’re away at their other homes or traveling the world, they monitor the houses and keep them looking lived in, all wirelessly. The lights are on but they’re not home. Their busy lives make the houses a touchstone for when they need a day or two to return to an easier lifestyle. Or throw a big bash.

Within a few years, For Sale signs dot the perfectly manicured and chemically doused front lawns. There are other houses that call to them. Or the one they built just doesn’t cut it for their present day lifestyle. And once again, immediately after signing on the dotted line, the bulldozers clawing into another once-grand Victorian. They say, after much introspection (and no inspection), it was “too dated.”

And as the song by Queen goes, “Another one bites the dust.”

–Anne Skalitza, 2016

A Day To Forget

I sit at my desk on a hot August day,

wondering whether to write or to play

Mystery Manor or 100 Floors,

or get on my bike and enjoy the outdoors.

 

The beach–it is beckoning, three blocks away,

my story revisions can wait a whole day.

I put on my suit and slather the lotion,

I grab up my chair and head to the ocean.

 

I sigh in content as I sit on the sand,

a best selling mystery in one of my hands.

A sea gull does fly overhead and then swoops,

and decides it is time to take a good poop.

 

It splatters my arm and the pages are struck;

I don’t need this type of so-called good luck.

I pack up my things and head off of the beach,

and stumble and fall and let out a loud screech.

 

I arise from the sand looking quite like

chicken that’s breaded (to observers’ delight).

On returning back home, I look at the date–

my work was due yesterday; now it’s too late.

–Anne Skalitza, 2013

*The above is fictitious.  Any resemblance to my everyday life would most definitely include chocolate. And I always meet deadlines. Yes, yes I do. 🙂