4 hours ago
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I take the advice of my brother, in advance of any possible New Year’s resolutions. I request a copy well ahead of the December meeting of the Mystery Book Club. Once a month, early evening, more than doable.
People differ so much in their doings but I know my own preferences. By page 247 I know who did what, when and why, but I leave the last chapter, the solution, untouched, so that I’ll be able to relish the moment. It shouldn’t be gobbled in snatched seconds, stolen from my other responsibilities during the day, but savored, like the last chocolate in the box.
I have that time slot ear-marked, late morning, where I plan to sit in the front room by the window and wait for the boys to return on the school bus. 20 minutes of uninterrupted silence. Indulgence, once duty is fulfilled, so that the all will be clean and fresh and bright in my mind for the evening meeting. Who needs a lunch break when you can have a book break and brain food?
Or at least that’s the plan.
I drive home – with a bit of luck Nonna will be up so that we can have the third breakfast sitting. The combined expedition: school drop off, supermarket, post office and library pick-up, was swift. I pause at traffic lights, knee deep in bags of stuff. I review my latest campaign, the one I think I can manage, rather than the one that I know that I can’t.
The ‘can’t’ issue is delegated to her son. I’m aware that elderly people often worry about money. I’ve experienced it first hand. My dad has one version, the version where you hand it out to every Tom, Dick and Harry, smile without a care. His signature began to falter on the cheques, so my mum intervened. It was a joint account, no choice. Now he’s limited to cash, small denominations only. But I do exaggerate.
Nonna has another version, the kind where everyone is a thief, no-one can be trusted, least of all light fingered daughter’s in law. I claim ignorance – ‘ask your son, not my department.’ I agreed at the time – so clever – so non-confrontational - no travelers cheques. No Greenbacks. He’s in charge of the finances. So what if I’m not a woman of independent means. What would I do with a stash of pounds sterling? Did I mention the exaggeration?
I stick to doable things, manageable campaigns, as I know my limits, or at least some of them. I cannot rationally explain why this issue is quite so irritating. All I know is that I’ve had enough. I've devised a counter measure to stop one of the repeats, just one, the second new repeat. This one repeats at approximately 20 minute intervals, just after the money repeat, just before the other repeats.
Nonna arrives in the kitchen, cross, clutching her carrier bag to her chest; Christmas presents which she has forgotten about. It is a very heated exchange – necessarily louder than I would wish. Often the children are well within ear-shot. They have known for over a week that Nonna has chocolate for them for Christmas. Whilst we have this conversation, each boy echoes the exchange, word for word, which is presumably why it has become ever more excruciating, not for them, but for me.
“Wot about deez tings den Maddy?”
“They’re for the children, for Christmas, remember?”
“They are for me?”
“From you. We bought them for you, because you were worried about the presents, remember?”
“But I don’t ave any money?”
“I know, we paid at the time. It’s fine. Don’t worry.”
But she does worry.
She continues to worry.
My answers were inadequate the first time around and have continued to fall short of the mark thereafter. I am aware of my failing but unable to climb back out of the mire. Hence, like most cowards, I’ve decided to simply remove the object of obsession. As soon as I get home I shall take the bag elsewhere, for safe keeping, for the next 21 days, because I am selfish and do not want to flail incompetently for the next three weeks. Not a time out or a confiscation, merely moved to a pending file, out of sight and hopefully out of mine. Far from perfect, but ‘good enough’ is all we can manage these days.
Mercifully we usually shift gears seamlessly into other, older, more familiar repeats:-
“Wot about dis one den?” she’ll ask, every time a knife is in sight.
“I’ll put the cover on in a minute, don’t worry.”
“Ferocious dey are, fiendish weapons!” So animated and expressive with her powerful Italian accent and flourishing hand gestures, each time, every time, because each time is the first time.
The boys love it. They think it’s hilarious. All cutlery has been renamed in accordance; not 'pass me the knife please,' but ‘hand me the ferocious,’ the infection is contagious and permeates every mealtime.
As I pull into the driveway I notice that the front door is open. I run in to check but nobody is home. Her coat is gone, as is her bag, which is good. There is no note, not that I expected one. I nip over to my neighbor to see if anyone saw her leave:- “sure, while after you left in the car. Did you know you’ve left the door open?” We have a brief exchange, eyes on the look-out for wandering elderly people or would be burglars and I’m off, trolling the streets. I am aware that I am a danger on the road as my attention is directed to pedestrians rather than cars. I have my phone but no-one to call:- ‘dear husband of mine, sorry I mislaid your mother today whilst I wasn’t paying attention, I’m sure she’ll be fine with her deafness, diabetes, heart condition, high blood pressure, one leg an inch shorter than the other, intermittent attention, left over jet lag, in unfamiliar territory, on the wrong side of the road and a penchant for jay walking.’ I have a whole two hours to find her, two hours before my loyalties will be divided by the impending arrival of the school bus.
She’s cross and defensive when I find her, just by the main road, heading in the wrong direction.
I’m cross and worried, but less worried than I was as I lock her into her seat belt.
I press a cup of coffee into her chilly hands as she sits hunched in the family room, diminished.
I wait until I am calm and then ask if she can recall our address. She’s almost right but the difference between 10,000 and 1,000 is about 10 blocks – it’s a very long road. I also know that like everyone else, if she were flustered and lost, her recall would also be challenged, assuming she could hear them, assuming they could understand her. It’s assuming too much by a long chalk.
She is adamant that there were people, other people, in the house when she left. She is not responsible for leaving anything unlocked - “but I can’t be a prisoner in dah house!” Luckily she’s only half teasing. I can see how elder abuse comes about, no matter how unwittingly; it doesn’t have to be physical restraints, merely the denial of freedom of movement. For her well being? For my well being? Where does one start and the other end?
I ask if she has her map or the card or the ‘locator’ in her bag, which is mean because I already know the answer. I step out to answer the phone as she rummages in search of what is not there.
I assure her son that all is safe and well, if a bit shaky. We decide to talk, later. Something must be done, but what? My last chapter beckons but the book club will have to wait til next month, as there are some things you can’t sweep under the carpet.
I replace the receiver to the cradle as I think. It’s tough to be reliant on other people for transport, especially when you’re used to your independence. Although she’s a voracious reader, she can’t be expected to be stuck in the house, morning, noon and night with a book. I step over to the computer, flip to the library page and reserve two copies. In a month’s time we can go together, to the Mystery book club meeting, leave the hungry hoards to fend for themselves. I return to the family room where Nonna sips coffee and nibbles from a Holiday print candy wrapper from her bag, “nice chocolate dis! Such a nice present. I love Christmas. Thank you.”
One down, 2 to go.