Did you ever just watch a wreak about to happen and wish you could stop it? That was my weekend. But in a good way.
I took off for L.A. on Friday night, enjoying the ending to the Kite Runner on CD. I got to my parents house in the San Fernando Valley a little after 10:00 and was greeted as always with the promise they will open the garage door for me, so I can park in out of the rain. So, I pull up outside the garage door and wait. My windshield wipers flapping back and forth, the hum of my motor and the heat from my butt warming seat heater doing their work. The garage door doesn't open. Finally I flip open my cell phone and call. Their phone is turned up so loud, I think I can hear it ringing from outside. Poops answers, cheerful as always.
"Hi I said, I'm out here-can you push the garage opener?"
"Wow, you got here fast." my dad says, apparently forgetting he just spoke to me a block ago. My stomach clenches with sadness, remembering my father, my strong, tall, everything will be all right, father-the man I could turn to for anything. And he can't remember I just spoke to him.
The garage opens and they're both standing side by side, walker to cane, waiting for me with big smiles. Mom helps me out of the car, talking a mile a minute. Finally she stops, and throws her arms around me. "It's just so good to see you!"
I love coming home. Hate the drive, but I love being here. We walk into the house arm and arm and I'm hit by how hot the house is. The fireplace is up high, and the thermostat is registering 78.
Can I turn this down?" I ask.
My mother shakes her head. "Why? It's freezing in here." I don't argue. Skins thins as people grow older. I just wait until she walks away to switch the heater off. I notice the t.v is on in the living room, they're watching the Olympics, and I wonder by the next Olympics if I will be here, with them. That thought always chokes me up.
My mother makes me some tea and brings out a dish of cookies. "Russ told me we've got an appointment tomorrow to go to the Mortuary."
I nod, reaching for a cookie. "This one is suppose to be pretty nice, not like the last one."
"Oh!" she says, rolling her head with dramatic movement. "Nothing could be worse than that last one. That man behind the desk was so rude! He said we couldn't be together, Norm and I, we have to be in separate urns."
My brother is urging them to take care of their Pre-need" just in case something happens. He's practical that way. I guess it's a good idea, because there is no way I will be able to handle taking care of their burial when the time comes. I'll be the basket case of the family, that I already know. But Russ, he's morbid that way, really getting into the whole casket search. He likes it. likes to tour the offices, likes to chat with the employees and fill up on free cookies. He's great with people, charming, funny.
The last mortuary he told me was rude. Snippy, uncaring, tossing out comments about costs and availability, never really looking at the two elderly people before them, still holding hands after 65 years. Their only concern-to have their ashes together so they always be together in the after life.
We drink tea, my father joins us and asks all about me, about Kyle. I talk loud, he nods, frustrated as my mother cuts him off, again. "Dorth! I'm talking."
"You're always talking," she retorts. "Julie, can you take me to Costco tomorrow?"
She loves Costco. We get there, walk around the place and buy a couple of things that we can split. Then we get home and inevitably says, "Oh shoot! I forgot blank!"
The morning comes and I spend the next three hours trying to get them ready for the 1:30 appointment time. My father gets his walker wheel stuck on a rug, can't get to his office to take his blood sugar so he sits down to have his breakfast without taking his medicine. The argument begins. I knew this would happen. It always does.
"Norm!" You can't eat until you've taken your blood sugar, then you know how much medication you need. Why can't you get that through your head? The doctor keeps telling you that you are taking too much insulin."
My father rolls his blue eyes-eyes I love to look into and get lost in. "You're always so smart," he says. "You know what the doctor says and you're not even there. What's it like to be so smart?"
Half dressed, my mother looks like she could strange him with the pair of socks she's holding. "Well, if I had diabetes I'd certainly handle it better you, you old poop."
I know the fight, I know it by heart. They've had the same fight for ten years. My mother paces, tries to talk sense to him, he ignores her and finally after hours of listening to her rant, says in a calm but irritated voice, "Dorothy, what do you want me to do!"
I break up the fight, get dad to take his blood sugar, it's 99, very good, help mom put on her make up since she wants to go into the mortuary looking "fancy," "I want to go out looking good!" she laughs. During this whole time, I'm calling down the hall for my father to stop watching TV, to come and shower. Now, it's too late for him to shower. I instead tell him to come dress, that we need to leave soon. This used to be his job. I remember him after us all because he couldn't stand to be late for anything. He lets out an annoyed sigh.
"I just sat down!"
"Tough," I laugh, "We got places to go and people to see. Come on, get dressed." I help him stand, pull his walker into his bedroom because if I don't he'll sit back down. "Get dressed." I say and go out to dry my own hair.
When I come back into his bed room, my mother is still half dressed and singing "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" humming the parts she doesn't know. My dad has dressed. In the same damn thing he wore yesterday.
"Dad! you can't wear that."
He lets out an exasperated sigh. "Why?"
"Because you wore it yesterday."
"And the day before" my mother adds from the bath room.
I glance at the clock. I'm going to have to dress him. I remember dressing little children, arms up, stick the hands and head through the hole, smooth the hair...
My mom is walking through the house brushing her teeth and asking the cat where her brace is. "Mom, come on, we've got to hurry."
"I'll be ready," she promises.
We were suppose to meet my brother in West Lake at 1:00-it's now twenty till, which my father points out as he waits for us to finish getting ready. "Jul? You said we have to leave by 12:30, so I'm ready and you're not! Just thought I'd point that out."
I repress the urge to snap back that I was dressing him the whole time-that's why I'm late. Instead, I'm ticking off things we need for the trip. Dad needs a sandwich just in case, a water, a jacket. I start him off into the garage to get into the car, and forgot about is walker. Folding that thing and getting into my truck is an art form I don't have patience for. I finally get dad into the front seat, swearing to myself about the damn arms of the walker sticking out from the trunk. My mom comes out of the house, starts over to the car and says, "oh! My cane!"
I rush past her, back into the house. "I'll get it." As I'm coming back outside with her cane, my Mother is on her way back in.
"What do you need?" I ask, trying not to be breathless.
"I want to turn the radio on for the cat."
"The cat doesn't need music."
My Mother gives me a sharp look. "Yes she does! She'll wonder where we are."
As I'm trying to talk my Mother back to the car, I see my Father has opened his car door and is trying to get out. I glance at the clock. We have 15 minutes. "Dad? Why are you getting out?"
He looks at me before testing his hearing aid. "Hm?"
"Why are you getting out?" I said louder. "What do you need?"
He laughs, embarrassed, not wanting to shout it to the world. "I need to go to the bathroom." Oh god.
"Can you hold it until we get there?"
They both say in unison. "No!"
Long story short, we arrived on time, the people were very nice and I didn't cry. Well, at least not during the meeting. They picked out a beautiful spot by a waterfall, very close by a friend of theirs who passed two years before. My Mother had been afraid to be buried in a place where she knew no one. Now she'd be only a few feet from her best friend, Lucille. Also, their beloved little dog, Heidi, can be buried with them.
As I stare at the spot that will one day hold my parents remains, I hear my brother come up behind me. He puts his hand on my shoulder. "What do you think?"
"It's nice," I say. "Beautiful."
"We can sit right here and have picnics, bring in pizza and hang out. Tell them all about life." Tears rush to my eyes and I smile. The catholic guilt hits me full force and I choke. I promise myself to not to raise my voice at them anymore.
My mother sees I'm possibly becoming emotional. "No honey," she says, putting her arm around me. "There's no need for that. We're here, and today's a beautiful day to be together. I nod, not trusting my voice. "Always remember," she says, "to treat each day like your last, be grateful for the little things and don't take Kyle for granted."
I look at her and try to smile. "Did he complain about me?"
She pats my hand, and squeezes it. "Every day is a gift that we've been together." She looks across the lawn to the little elderly gray haired man, dapper in his new blue jeans and the brand new blue sweater that matches his eyes. His son towers over him, talking loud and pointing out the landscaping and the military eternal flame that honors WW11 veterans like him. "We've had a great life together," she continues. "65 years and he'll be 85 in just a few weeks."
"I want to you know, "I said, "I'm thankful for you both and love you with all my heart."
"I know," she smiles. "We love you and are so proud of all our children. You're all so wonderful and we're so blessed. Now let's not be sad anymore today. I know," she says, trying to change the subject. "Let's go to Costco!"