The Awful Stuff
The oncologist at Sloan-Kettering is being cautiously optimistic about my
father's condition. Of course, every single conversation with her includes a
kindly worded disclaimer that "stage IV metastatic cancer is not curable,
but it is treatable."
What was reassuring is that this very, very kind, genuinely concerned woman
spent a whopping three (count 'em, three) hours with dad and I during his last
visit. My brother, who was conferenced via telephone, kept asking ridiculous
questions and acting pessimistic. He's three thousand miles away and will not
fly out until September.
Dad has applied to a new nursing home. The one he's in seems not to care
whether he lives or dies. The oncologist's recommendations, orders and
prescriptions took three days to get any notice from them whatsoever,
despite my daily visits. Each visit is spent 75% with dad, and 25% with the
nurses, making sure things move along. I asked one particularly air-headed R.N.
about what they were going to do regarding a referral to an ear, nose and throat
doctor. I just said "ENT doctor." She said, "what's that?" I said "ear, nose
and throat doctor." She attempted to repeat my words, saying "Eye, Ear,
Nose..." Where in God's Green Earth did this woman receive her certification
as an R.N.?!
The new nursing home expects to have a room open within a week or so. Their
rating according to some sort of accreditation board for nursing homes is
top-notch. (The one dad's in now isn't even on their radar screen.) I'll feel a
lot better when he gets there. He said he will, too.
Mother, who's in a very, very expensive "Senior Independent Living" facility,
is now living in surroundings that can be conservatively called de luxe.
Her every whim is catered to. She's playing the "Princess and the Pea" role
really well there. The staff, despite her shortcomings, are really delightful
with her. They're polite enough with me, but I can't get out of my head that
their eyes say to me "what did we do to you to make you visit upon
us a woman who can only be described as Joan Crawford, Nancy Reagan, and
The Wicked Witch of the West wrapped up all in one."
Now, one of the reasons my father is in such poor health is that he'd
continued to attend to my mother's every need, although he was enduring a very,
very painful protocol of multi-drug chemotherapy on an outpatient basis. It
landed him in the hospital, 75 pounds lighter, in three months, malnourished and
dehydrated. After much counseling, he's come to the conclusion that my brother
and I have agreed upon for a year now; she doesn't give a shit about anyone but
herself. Of course, my mother dismissed the idea of having help in the house (at
my expense), because nobody could care for her as could her beloved,
I explain to folks who're astounded that my mother's not by his side morning,
noon and night that they're "estranged," and have been, on and off, for years.
Dad's had a habit of coming to live with me when her outrageous behavior just
gets too much to tolerate.
Perhaps it was some inkling of her duty as a wife to go visit him the other
day. Despite the fact that my car addresses every conceivable creature comfort,
she wasn't happy. Her left ear was cold. This despite individual climate
controls for the driver and passenger. She'd forgotten her beloved hooded
sweatshirt. So she asked my father for one of his blankets. Imagine, asking a
cold, emaciated cancer patient for one of his blankets. I was in no way going to
impose upon the nursing facility for one of their blankets, no way. She
announced that she was "very disappointed" that I didn't care that she was
The Funny Stuff
I made a "pit stop" in dad's bathroom before leaving. In a cabinet was a neat
stack of adult diapers, the kind that have sticky tabs to hold them together.
Upon opening one, I found it to be fluffy, comfortable, and most of all, warm. I
handed it to her. My father, stifling laughter, said, "Betty, I assure you that
that will keep your head warm. They keep my behind quite warm; and
comfortable to boot." Mom wore it on the top of her head all the way home from
the nursing home (an hour's ride).
When I related this to my wife, she immediately related the story to anyone
who'd listen. You can probably imagine the trouble my hard-working, selflessly
compassionate wife has with my mother. Suffice it to say that she's polite but
very uninterested in interacting with mom. The "diaper-on-her-head" story about
mom was the most hilarious thing that my usually serious and reserved spouse had
heard in a long, long time.
I've instructed mother that she must wear a diaper on her head upon entering
my restaurant sometime within the next week, or she'll ruin everything. The
staff's been very careful to be extra pleasant around me, and for that I'm
extremely grateful. I want them to witness what they think was just my wife's
relating to them a product of my fertile imagination.
A link to a photo of my mother wearing a Depends on her head will be posted
here on E2, as soon as I take the photo and upload it to the "media only"
section of my website (accessible by URL only).
Now the next thing I need to do is get a photo of my brother wearing a diaper
on his head.
I bought their car, now that neither one drives. It's a Honda Civic Hybrid. A
far cry from the gas-guzzling smog machine I'm used to. The sight of me driving
this thing around has caused raised eyebrows among my friends. My staff thinks
it's hysterical - and I enjoy the fact that they find humor in my new-found
automotive humility. The fact that the gasoline engine cuts out at a full stop
was quite unsettling at first, but I've gotten used to the thing suddenly going
silent at red lights, stop signs, and the like.
At 65 miles per hour, it whines pitifully. At 80, it is obviously breaking a
sweat. But it just goes and goes -- and gets over 40 miles per gallon, to boot!
Every time I get behind the wheel, I delight in the fact that I'm sitting in
the seat where dad sat until he could no more. And I'm continuing his commitment
to make the world a better place to live in.
Six months ago, I swore to my wife that I'd buy the Cadillac Escalade I've
wanted for a long, long time. Nowadays, thoughts of an Explorer Hybrid have
actually crossed my mind. Thanks, Dad.