Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Going Home -- Part 3

She sleeps thirteen hours straight, without interruption. I imagine this is wonderful for body restoration, yet a few hours of normal daily activities and visiting make her eyes droopy. I write an hour while she dozes, then a verbal “knock-knock” announces company. The man who bought her mother’s house has come to say hello, which reminds me of good friends we have in St. Louis, who came all the way to Virginia to celebrate my birthday earlier this year. When we moved to St. Louis, we bought their house.
            Mother remains asleep until the next pair, one of her best friends for 70 years escorted by a daughter-in-law. (My mother dated her future husband a few times.) As they visit, I remember being surprised about 50 years ago when my mom answered one of those questions parents usually refuse to consider, “Which of our friends would you choose if you had to date one of them?” And another moment…as our family drove past their house, Mother commented on the “tomcat” running through the yard. Eureka! Until that day I thought cats were female and dogs were male.
            An aide brings another barely-nibbled lunch as the neighbor whose dog’s leash prompted this hospitalization arrives for her almost daily apologia. I head for a new restaurant in town. My bosom buddies at the next table explain that the place takes a day off on Tuesdays. Last Wednesday, the sign said “Closed” when they came for lunch. They stopped the next day to check hours, and the owner explained they’d had a break-in Tuesday night. Not knowing what had been touched, they threw out all the food and hung the sign an extra day. I doubt they would have taken that precaution fifteen years ago. Now terrorists lurk behind every tree.
            I presume the restaurant locks its doors. Perhaps the experience illustrates a difference between a small town and a larger town, where burglar alarm systems are popular. On the other hand, maybe even small towns have criminals smart enough to disarm burglar alarms.
A good capitalist would cause as little collateral damage as possible, focusing on his or her profit-making objective. So says Adam Smith, which is why our air is clean, waters are pure, only minimal government is necessary, and folks in our neighborhood don't lock their doors (I realize I'm repeating myself here, perhaps due to my current environment).
            Speaking of regulation, on the way to the restaurant I make a point of passing an infamous house mentioned during dinner the evening I arrived. The town’s attorney stopped at our table to ask what we thought about publishing, before arraignment, the name of an adult suspected of breaking-and-entering. Is he a public figure, my digital newspaperman brother-in-law inquired. The conversation veered to a recent citizen-of-the-year who has since been identified as a slumlord, the owner of the only boarded-up house in town. When the city finished serving notices demanding repair or demolition, the citizen-of-the-year transferred title to his daughter. The house looks bad, maybe not that bad.
            My mother’s roommate has been complaining that her pants are too tight. An aide says she has changed four times today, that if they’re really too small, she needs to ask her family to bring a larger size. Her daughter shows up to explain, “1X, we just bought those. She tried 2X, which slid off.” The aide says she weighs the same she weighed last fall when she moved in, “Maybe her stomach hurts.”
Yesterday afternoon she asked her husband what he’s been watching on television. He talked about the Oklahoma tornadoes and the family party scheduled for later that afternoon. “Why aren’t I going?” she asked. “Because you said you didn’t want to.” “Well, I do, why aren’t I going?” “You said you didn’t want to.” “Well, I do, why can’t I go?” Back and forth, back and forth, until she kept repeating, “You are so dumb.” Later she said the party was “Wonderful, six generations, and we were the oldest.” Still later, “Help, I need help. Move my pillow up. How does this work?” Her television suddenly blasted so loud several aides came running. “Sweetie, what are you doing? It’s too loud and way too late. Time for bed."
           If Mother were counting her blessings, a need for hearing aids might be one of them. She can remove them and sleep through everything except the TV explosion.
           In my mother's apartment, a wall clock and an alarm tick-tock a musical storm. Sleeping on my left side does not help. I banish one to a closet and the other to a drawer.
           "You're putting me to sleep," says Virginia.
           Okay. Give me one more installment.

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