Here today, Gone today

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I awaken to the light, the sun coming through the window. Happily drowsy, fresh from a good nights sleep, I celebrate morning. It’s morning, at last and I get to go sledding with my sister. Momma said we could last night as we watched the snow falling furiously like there’s no tomorrow.

“Mae, wake up” I whisper before turning towards her bed. “They have cancelled school and we get to go sledding,” I say, hardly able to contain my excitement. But, something is strangely different.  I do not see her bed. An unfamiliar armoire looms where her bed should be. I’m confused. How did her bed simply go away? Where did this ugly piece of furniture come from? Where did Mae’s bed go? Where did Mae go?

“Mae,” I yell. But there is still no answer. “Mae!”

It suddenly hits me.  “My God, this isn’t even our room,”  What is this place?  I don’t know this place. I don’t know how I got here. I feel sick.  I swallow the vomit that is inching up my throat.  I am rigid with fear. Panic, I think. This is what panic feels like. Take a deep breath. Think.

A stern-faced woman is looking at me from the open door to my room.  She seems tired and frustrated.  She looks mad.  I think she is mad at me.  I have never seen her before. “Where am I?” I ask her. “Where is my family?”  She shakes her head and asks me if I need anything.  Suddenly, I have to pee.  I bolt upright and put my feet to the floor.  A loud buzzer goes off.

“You know you cannot get out of bed without help,”  says the dreary woman as she helps me to a chrome walker.  A walker?

“What happened to me?” I ask.  She smiles weakly and follows me to the bathroom.  “Does my family know I’m here?”

She responds this time.  It is like she is playing a tape recorder.  “Your family comes to see you everyday,” she drones.  “Your grandson from Houston came yesterday, don’t you remember?”

I have a grandson?  Where is my mother?  She will come get me and take me home.  There has been some mistake.

I see a table on wheels beside my bed.  It holds a tray of food covered with an ugly brown plastic dome.  I curiously open the lid.  The food looks disgusting.  They tell me that I must eat.   I try, I really try, because if I don’t eat I will never get out of here.

That’s odd.  Every nauseating bite that I manage to swallow does nothing to lessen the amount on the plate.  “I can’t eat this stuff,”  I cry.  They give me thick white milky stuff to drink.

Oh, thank God.  My son is here.  He has found me.  I ask him if the other children know where I am.  He has the same look on his face that the weird lady had.  Disgust?  Pity?  Sadness?  What is that look?  He doesn’t answer me but starts to tell me about the happenings in his life.  Of course, I know he has a new grandson, but I cannot remember the name of his wife.  I do not want him to think I am loosing my mind so I smile and nod like I give a damn.  Streams of words are pouring out of him, but I do not know what he’s talking about.

“Do you want to call your daughter from Houston,”  he asks.

“No.” I’m a little concerned that I can’t remember having a daughter in Houston.  “Where’s daddy,”  I ask him.

“Daddy’s dead, Mom.  He died 20 years ago.”

Oh, now I remember.  He fell.  No, I fell.  That’s where all the bruises on my arms came from.  “Look at the bruises on my arms, son.”

My arms look wrinkly, like an old lady’s.  Who’s arms are these?  Am I old?

My son shows me pictures of people he thinks that I should know.  I pretend to be interested but what I’m really thinking is, whats my boyfriend doing right now? We are going to the football game on Saturday night, our second date.  I wonder if he’ll kiss me.  I think I want to marry him.

“Did you see that old woman across the hall with a baby doll,”  I  ask my son.  There are crazy old people in wheel chairs all over this place.

“How long have I been here?”  I hear myself say.  My son looks chagrined.

I change the subject, “How is Judy?”

“She’s great mom. She came to see you Wednesday.  I’m so happy you remember her now.”

Of course I remember my daughter-in law.  What on earth makes him think I don’t?  He’s probably confused.  He works awfully hard.

My son fills me in on his three children and his new job and I ask when I can see his new grand baby.  I love it when he comes to see me.  It feels so wonderful to talk with him, just the two of us.  He is such a good boy.  He always makes me laugh.  We talk about old times until he has to leave and go to work.  He kisses me and says good-bye.  I smile wildly as I watch my handsome husband walk away. He’ll be home for dinner tonight.  I wonder what I will fix for the two of us.

Now, where is my mother and what time is she coming to get me.

 

 

 

 

 

Granny get your gun

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Maybe it’s just me, but I find it a little disturbing to think of Grandma packing a hand gun.  Can you picture your grandmother with a gun?  I’ve asked many of my friends lately, “Do you own a handgun?”  The overwhelming response has been “yes,” followed by impassioned explanations of self-protection and the fear of an upcoming revocation of the sacred constitutional right to do so.  Is it because I live in the south? the bible belt? a red state?  Trust me when I say that I get it.  I understand the need to bear arms.  Please don’t interpret my sly grin and my nodding head as a sign of disapproval.  It’s more like a sign of disbelief.

I’m a grandma myself and I try to imagine the scenario.  It’s Monday and I can’t find my cell phone, I forgot that I left my flat-iron on and I didn’t write down that the pest control guy was coming at 10.   I am getting out of the shower when I hear a noise, it’s a burglar.  I quickly wrap a towel around me, run to the kitchen, grab a step stool, run to the closet where I keep my gun high on the shelf away from the children, find the box of ammo (in the drawer by my bed-away from the gun-to avoid an accident),  find my reading glasses because I can’t see a thing without them,  load the gun, aim it with a steady arm, fire and shoot the guy standing at the front door while holding up the towel with my chin.  Don’t worry about the poor pest control guy, I missed him by a mile.

My husband took me to a shooting range once.  You had to put on earphones because the sound was unbelievably loud.  My first shot was pretty darn good, but when the instructor kept cautioning me to keep my thumb wrapped around the handle, or I might cut it off when the casing shoots out the back, my aim got worse and worse.  I don’t do too well when I’m scared.  So at least (in my made up scenario), I still have my thumb, though I’m quite deaf and the would-be robber got away.

I joke, when I’m sad and I’m saddened by the times.  I wonder what is real and what is perception driven by fear and manipulation.  Admittedly, I don’t know, but it seems like we’re back to those wild west days pictured in old movies.  And, like a scene from another old movie, my stomach tightens slightly when I think of my gentle, kind, loving, girlfriends with guns in their hands.  I feel like the mother in Christmas Story when Ralphie begs for a BB gun and I think,

Go ahead Granny, get your gun.  “But don’t shoot your eye out.”

Or mine.

 

 

What happens on girl trips?

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Somewhere, towards the end of an unusually long, cold, patience-busting winter, there comes a summons.  It can take the form of a text, e-mail or phone call and almost always contains the word beach.  Hearts respond and flap like the wings of migratory birds, all caution to the wind.  The chosen few force themselves to forget their many responsibilities and actually entertain the thought that their families could actually function without them for a week, and they go forth.

They travel alone or in pairs, by plane or automobile and arrive at random times.  They exchange squeals and hugs of salutation again and again as each one arrives. They give each other long adoring looks. There is genuine happiness in being together.  They pick up old conversations, for they instinctively know that no conversation is ever really over. They can carry on multiple conversations, talking at the same time on various subjects and they somehow, magically understand each other.

There is suddenly a new-found freedom to eat what you want, shop for glitzy shoes, stay up late, sleep in, dance like a teenager, share stories, books, recipes, opinions.  Everyone becomes an authority on everything and it is okay.  There are serious discussions and light-hearted talk, tears and belly laughter.  Empathy and hope are lavishly distributed.

On a girls trip nothing ever gets done.  Ain’t that grand?