Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Something about my mother that puzzles me...

Since finding out that my mother has cancer, and the disease is at most something that we can try and postpone, I've been thinking about her in ways that I haven't thought about her in many years. 

Looking back at life, many of the little things that I had tucked away about her have been pulled out of the resources of my mind at odd moments as I try to savor as much about her while she is still with us.  Like when she decided that my sandwich's would be cut on the diagonal instead of at right angles to the crust, or when she decided that when we moved from Shaker Heights to Marion that we would drive our own U-Haul truck.  We've talked about some of these moments and she's surprised us by looking back and smiling.  "Boy, we had some fun adventures, haven't we," she'll say and that is our cue to change the subject.  Mom is not an emotional person, so she sets limits on conversations and we respect them.

One of those things that I thought of that have always been a mystery, was her love of Circus Peanuts.

Growing up as the only child of an marriage between two older parents in the 1960s was uncommon at the time.  So many of my friends had parent who had been children during World War II, not the 1920s and 1930s.  While I had two older brothers from my father's first marriage, I am my mother's only child.  And, given the polarizing dynamics that resulted in some horrific fights between them, growing up it was "us", against "them".  So I spent a lot of time with her, whether it was going to spend Christmas with my grandparents, or hiding in her bedroom while she and my father got into some very physical fights.

But in those alone times, in the car, on a trip, she would bring along a bag of circus peanuts, which is the culinary equivalent of a platypus.

There are many things about circus peanuts that are a mystery, but one thing is for certain, most people hate them.  Why are they called "peanuts" but they are not made of peanuts?  Why do they taste of banana, and not peanuts.  Why are they orange and not peanut colored?  And most of all, why do some people continue to buy these things.

For me, the greatest sin about these "candies" are their texture, which on a good day are soft and chewy, but dry and tough at the same time.  As a child I tried to like them seeing that they were a constant in the house, yet I could never past all the stuff that made them nasty.  In my opinion, eat one circus peanut and  one should never feel guilty about refusing a second.

But she ate them, though never with great abandon.  And she never complained about them, even when they were at their worst.

So one day when their was a lull in our conversation, I asked her, why she ate Circus Peanuts, and her answer was simple.  "Growing up we didn't have a lot of money for things, so you ate what was given to you, or what you earned.  Your grandfather liked circus peanuts, so when there was money for candy, this is what was around."

As a candy omnivore, the idea that these nasty things that are not what they represent represent a treat is a foreign concept.  And even though they were always around in my childhood, they never made the leap to my preferred menu.

So I asked her, if I bought her some, would she try one and her answer was no.  "They're all sugar and they'll rot my teeth out.  But if you would like them, go buy some."  She made a face, her signal that we had reached the end of the conversation about circus peanuts.  For her, the peanuts weren't a source of great memories, just memories and habit. So we toke our cue and ended the conversation.

Just then I wondered when was the last time she thought of circus peanuts.  With the end of life for her like a distant light in a dark tunnel, I wondered if she would have thought about them again before she died, or if she had buried the thought too deep in her mind to make it to the forefront of thoughts that she is dealing with.

I can talk about Circus Peanuts with my mother, or the weather or what's on TV.  What we can't talk about are the more personal things like why she stayed with my father, or what she thinks of death.   I guess when you've been hurt badly by the things life has thrown your way, you deal with them by becoming what you need to be to get through it.   Such is our relationship at this pivotal moment in her life - its a bit like a circus peanut.  It isn't what it should be, it just is what it is.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

True story...

In my career, I have been many things to many people.  My 13 years inside a "free trade association" meant that I filled any job that was thrown my way.  One of those jobs was as a human resource consultant. 

It wasn't a good fit. I don't enjoy being place in no win situations.

So after eight or ten years, my employor got the message and I was transferred to another position.  Then they hired a "Human Resources Professional" who seemed like a nice person.  She was personable.  She was verty qualified.  But she had a hobby that created a problem.

"People don't like coming to me and talking about the issues.  Most of the clients insist that I come to them.  I have this fabulous office.  I don't know what to do.  I looked around her office and told her, that I too, was a bit creeped out.

Her hobby was collecting clown statues.  And they were everywhere in her office.

Really, I said looking over the office, which was very nice, if you could ignore the forced smiles of clowns whose physical features seldom were in sync with their face painted designs.

I suggested that she declown it.  But she loved them so.  Having little else to say, and with one the voices that plays nonstop in my mind singing "Laugh Clown Laugh," I left.  You can lead a consultant to water, but you can't force them to redecorate. 

Shortly thereafter, she quit without notice.  So I helped the chief admin pack up her office, and I jokingly said "Oh, goody - we get to keep these!"  Big mistake.  My coworker was sweet, but she was also somewhat of an idiot savant who's supernatural gifted powers manifested itself not in music or art, but in typing 125 words a minute.  This left her unable to understand abstract concepts like sarcasm, and she proceeded to lecture me on the evils of the clown statues.   "Many people don't finds clowns to be a happy memory," she said in her monotone twangy southern Illinois drawl.  As if I didn't know about that.  This co-worker may have been able to type the entire Magna Carta in under five minutes flat, but she wasn't the brightest light bulb in the chandelier of life.

We boxed them up and shipped them to the former employee.  I wondered how they would be received in her next place of employment, which I found out through my sources was a Juvenile Prison.

Friday, September 24, 2010


There is only ONE MILDRED PIERCE and thy name is JOAN CRAWFORD.

(But of course I am going to watch it...)

Losing more than my mind

Thank God for Thombeau!

While catching up on my blogging I saw where he posted the Liza Minelli "official video" for this song produced by the Pet Shop Boys. And it brought back a lot of really great memories. After 21 years something you forget these things.

So I went looking for various versions of the song. Almost all of them, except Liza's version are sung as Sondheim wrote them into Follies - plantive ballads, filled with longing and plantive silences.

But then I found this version. Liza looks good, TPSB's look good, and the song is sung as a seemless ode set in the carefree 1980s. It was like tonic that cheered me up. If anyone were going to do a cover of my life, I would want TPSB's to produce it.

And given what we have been through with my mother in the past month, and especially the last couple days, this was just what I needed.

So, as the Pineapple Sage blooms, it heralds the beginning of Autumn. Have a great weekend. I'm going to give it my best!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fashion Plate Friday!

These are some dear friends from Shaker.  The little man is my friend Ken and behind him in the fabulous dress is his grandmother, and the woman in the flawless hat is his great aunt.

Have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The tale of the good son who bought his mother new panties.

Now that Mother Cookie is out of the hospital and in a physical therapy center, I can unburden myself of the tale of having to buy my mother underwear.

You see, Mother Cookie was so besides herself and in shock from hearing the world “cancer” that all she packed for the hospital stay was a puzzle book, pen, toothbrush, toothpaste, lipstick and her FDS. The FDS reminded me of the last time we went through a cancer scare about ten years ago: on that occasion she got her Alberto VO5 confused with the FDS.  Mother's hair smelled springtime fresh, but her nether regions went all crispy on her.

This left her literally only with the clothes on her back and one set of undergarments.  And this time the scare wasn't a near miss, but the real thing and treally bad. This meant a protracted hospital stay.

On day two of her stay, she announced that she “need clean pants” she said.

But, I pointed out, you have the hospital gown. Out of head from the morphine and all the other pain killers, she hoisted the sheet, and showed her pantiless self. (A note to any of you who may design hospitals: you really need to add a wet bar with good liquor – for medicinal purposes only, of course – to each patient room.) After recovering my composure, I was forced into action and went shopping for underwear for my mother.

Men, if you have never gone shopping for granny panties, you have no idea what it is like.

First of all, its not women’s underwear; its “lingerie”. Secondly, like all women’s departments, the lingerie section is just one big mess. There is no rhyme or reason as to how it is laid out. Different vendors may have their racks, but it’s every man for himself, so to speak.

So I found the oldest woman working in the undergarment section and we played twenty questions:

How’s your mother shaped?


Is she hippy? Large bottom?

I never really noticed?

Does she like a European cut?


Boy cut?

Granny panties?

Are you sure?

I think so.

"She could be a 5 or a 6.  You know once you buy these there is no returning them," she advised me.

So we found granny panties, in white cotton and told my helper this would do. She frowned.

“Look,” she says, “All women, even your mother like to ‘feel pretty’. You don’t feel pretty in white panties. Buy her something with a little color. Hot Pink, pastels, but not the white unless it’s got some lace. It’ll make her feel better. Trust me.”

I almost gagged. The idea of buying my mother underwear was creepy, the act of buying her leopard lingerie made my flesh turn cold and clammy. 

“Suit yourself.,” says my helper.

So I take the article home and we wash them, fold them and take them to my mother. I hand her the bag.

“What’s this?” she asks. “White? Didn’t they have any with flowers? Didn’t they have any red or hot pink?” She looked at me. “I’m not dead…yet.”

She may not be dead yet, but during that underwear expedition I died of embarrassment a thousand times over.

So when we were able to go to her house and get her real clothing, I raided her underwear drawer with great abandon, stuffed as many of the items as I could into her bag, which I presented to her feeling a great victory wash over me.

Mother held up the reddest pair in the lot and gleefully shuffled off to the bathroom to change into them.

This leaves me with a question – when did I become the old fuddy duddy, and my 86 year old mother the young kid?

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've been spending a lot time trying to find a wonderfully entertaining picture to go with this disclosure, but everything has escaped my imagination, so I'll just say it: Mom has Stage-4 cancer.

The past two weeks have been exhausting, from traveling to her house, the hospital, our house, back to her, and so forth.

Officially, the diagnosis is "Stage-4 Carcinoma of Undiagnosed Origin". This means they can't agree on where it started, but it has spread throughout her body. They *think* that it started in her pancreas, but get this - ten years ago. in 2000 they found a *cyst* on the errant organ and they have been monitoring it. They never wanted to do a biopsy because the pancreas is buried under lots of other organs and they thought it better to leave sleeping dogs lie than to piss it off.

When the ER doctor came up, he said that the news was bad. "We found cancer." He went onto explain that the cancer was throughout her body. The cancer was terminal. She's looking at months.

The immediate danger is that a sarcoma and bone tumor have devoured about one fifth of he C7 neck bone, which translates to extreme pain in her left arm and has rendered her left hand useless. She's taking radiation to shrink the tumor and hopefully elevate the pain.

Here's the worst - she knows this is the beginning of the end. Last night she said that stopping the pain at any price is better than staying in the here and now.

My heart sank a bit.

But its her life, her wishes, her decision. On the plus side, we don't have to go through Chemo. She doesn't have to suffer, and I don't have to watch her suffer.

The doctors wanted her to go to a nursing facility, in fact - they insisted. Not my mom. She wants to be in her own house. I have to figure out how to do this. A person should be able to remain in their own home as life draws to a close.

The object is to make her comfortable. The other object is to keep me sane so I can help her stay comfortable.

HELP! is on the way, we hope!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And what do we think Miss Francis has had a snort of today?

Can YOU watch the ENTIRE video?  Can YOU believe that she is making a sandwich out of BREAD? BANANAS? LETTUCE? WTF, boys and girls!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sorry, Sargent, but don't ask, don't tell.

As my longtime "fans" will remember, I have a certain weakness for the Columbia Pictures movie "Parachute Nurse" - a "C" film that told the story of the U.S. Army Air Corps Parachute Nurse program during WWII.

One of the reasons why I love this movie is that PR for this stinker is so terrible.  In the original placard that the Bucyrus Historical Society has, everyone is looking at someone else and there is a veritable tale to tell of jealousy and blank stares.  In the card featured above the man (second from left) is supposedly saying "Sorry, Sargent, blonds are my weakness!" to a woman dancing with a blond man.  Really!

On another matter, family duty continues to call me.  So I'm a week away from resuming real posts.  Hang in there, baby.  Things just have to get better!