Monday, August 19, 2019

Dad, in decline

The only thing more boring than watching golf on television is watching someone else watch golf on television, but that's how I spent a good part of the weekend. I'm in Florida helping to get my dad out of the hospital and into rehab, and I thought he would blow a gasket when he discovered that the hospital doesn't have the Golf Channel. But we finally found some golf coverage for him and saved the day.

I won't lie: it's hard to be here. It's hard to see Dad weak and confused and needing a shave, and it's hard to sit by helplessly as he tries to grapple with everything that's happening. Sometimes he can converse intelligently about his condition, but then an unexpected question throws him into confusion and he's convinced that it's just a little touch of gout. Sometimes he thinks I'm my mom, and then he gets distraught when it turns out I'm not. I'm tempted to go along with his delusion, but that gets awkward.

Last year at this time my brothers and I and some other family members and friends gathered at Dad's house to celebrate his 85th birthday; today we're trying to get him transported to a rehab facility out of state--close to my brother's house--and I'm not sure when he'll see his own home again (but don't tell him that). The house feels empty and sterile, as if it's settling down for a long lonely rest. If I work at it, I can hear echoes of voices, see ghosts of events: here's where Dad took all our prom photos, next to Mom's beloved rose bushes (now sadly neglected). Here's Dad's TV-watching chair, still untouchable even in his absence--and you'd better believe I still feel like a scofflaw every time I adjust the thermostat. Here's the room where I donned my wedding gown, and here's where my toddler daughter slammed straight into the glass door and cut her head. Here's the kitchen where we cooked so many meals and the table where we gathered to eat and share news and sometimes disagree (loudly), and here's the driveway where we so often said goodbye.

I'll say goodbye to the house again on Wednesday when I head back to Ohio, and I don't know when I'll set foot in this house again. I'm relieved to know that the house will be in good hands, and so will Dad, getting the help he needs in a place where his family can keep a closer eye on him. My brother had a sudden moment of panic yesterday when he realized that he hadn't checked to be sure that the rehab facility has televisions in the rooms, but sure enough they do. Now all we need is the Golf Channel and all will be well with the world. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

A modest proposal for improving the sanity of the general populace

First, eliminate televisions from all waiting areas: airport terminals, dentist's offices, car repair shops, wherever. It's impossible to select a show that will please everyone in the room, so someone is bound to be disappointed or offended, which increases the general stress level in the room.

And if we must have televisions in waiting areas where captive audiences can't get away from them, then require that they be tuned to something innocuous. Last time I got my car serviced, the television in the waiting area showed a steady stream of home improvement shows. Perfect: nothing is more soothing than watching someone else solve a home improvement problem that costs me no time, stress, or money.

Today was a different story. I don't know which of a dozen previous customers was responsible for selecting the channel and I didn't want to confront them because they were all large, heavily bearded men, but no one should be forced to wait for a car repair while listening to William Shatner solemnly speculating about the possible existence of Mothman. By the time I heard the phrase "ancient astronaut theorists," I wanted to run screaming from the room. I don't want to know what ancient astronaut theorists have to say about anything, but I especially don't want to be stuck in a waiting room with a bunch of large, bearded men earnestly nodding over bizarre conspiracy theories guaranteed to lower the collective IQ by a dozen points at least.

Who will decide which shows are innocuous enough to merit public viewing in waiting rooms? Easy: I will. Problem solved.

Finally, if it is impossible to eliminate public televisions or regulate their content, then I propose that every establishment that has a waiting-room television be required to provide noise-cancelling earphones to anyone who requests them. You can make me sit and wait while you drill my teeth or change the oil in my car, but if you want me to remain sane during the waiting period, then you'd better give me a mute button.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Tangled web

the needs
of these:
my dad
my kids
my sick
my syllabi,
my lawn,
the bills,
the tele-
(it gives
me chills
each time
it rings)
my head
my eyes
so many
that pounce
on me
who knew
that life
was such
a tangle?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The campus buzz

I'd like to give a gold star to whoever came up with the idea of tearing out a bunch of boring bushes on campus and replacing them with zinnias, sunflowers, and other plants that attract pollinators. Every morning I walk to the office and thrill to the bright colors and the bees, birds, and butterflies zipping about the area. It must have taken a ton of work, but if it helps me start the academic day with a smile, then I heartily applaud the effort. And so, I assume, would the bees.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

My plant-destroying skills seem to be intact

And then, this happened:

Yesterday morning this dragon tree had a full, bushy head of foliage--until it was decapitated. By me. Accidentally. (I fell into it while retrieving a fallen book.)


The resident green thumb tells me that the plant could sprout new foliage and burst back into healthy life, but meanwhile it lurks beside my desk looking like a stand microphone. What what message does it send? If this is an omen about how this semester will go, I'm in trouble already. 

I prefer to see the decapitated plant as a sign of hope: like many of my students, it may appear to be stunted and lifeless, but with enough tender loving care, it can burst forth into lush green growth. 

I hope.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Pausing at the base of the stairs

The first thing I did when I got to campus this morning was to retrieve my houseplant from the department office, where the administrative assistant has very kindly been caring for it during my sabbatical and summer break. This is it, then: the party's over and it's time to get back to work. 

The plant looks great, and so does campus, but I still regret coming back. My reluctance may have more to do with the marathon of meetings facing me this week, followed by matriculation that somehow got scheduled at 4 p.m. Friday (because we all know how much  everyone loves to get into regalia and listen to speeches at the end of a week full of long boring meetings).

I've worked hard all summer, but ten days before classes start I still have tons of work to do, in addition to all the meetings: cleaning my desk, finishing my syllabi, assembling course packs for my capstone students, and more. But already I'm having trouble focusing: I miss the grandkids and I'm worried about my dad (facing a serious health scare in Florida at a time when I can't get away) and I'm concerned about a colleague's health problems and I need to finish mowing the lawn, and in my current state of distraction, it's hard to discern which of those things needs attention first. 

Shoes, maybe? I desperately need teaching shoes, but when I stopped off at the Skechers outlet on the way home from my daughter's house the other day, I first delighted in finding the usual long row of wide shoes but then noticed the largest size available was 8. I haven't worn shoes that small since fourth grade. Time to do some online shopping.

But what about my dad? I need to call or arrange to visit or at least send a card, but I've already forgotten the name of his nursing home so I have to text my brother first, and then I look up the address and discover that my father, whose parents emigrated from Lithuania with empty pockets 100 years ago, is staying at a place called The Mayflower, located at 1620 Mayflower Place. I suppose it's better than steerage. I hope.

The only way I'm getting through this week is one step at a time, but which step comes first? I waver and wobble and hover at the base of the staircase, looking longingly at the top so very far away. How will I ever make it up there? (Maybe it would be easier with new shoes.)

The plants are doing fine. Now how about the rest of the office?

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Shopping for adventure

Someone asked my oldest grandchild what she's been doing since she's been at my house, and she said, "Lately we've mostly been shopping."

Shopping? I'd call that selective memory. In ten days I can recall three times we've been inside a store, once for groceries and twice for craft supplies. The rest of the time we've been exploring caves, going to playgrounds, having picnics, splashing in the kiddie pool, going out for ice cream, making craft projects, and basically having every kind of fun it's possible to have. Today we made the long drive back to the grandchildren's house, where whole family will be reunited tomorrow, but we broke up the drive today with a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, where we could have spent all day just in the children's gardens and butterfly house. 

Not a lot of shopping in there, but that's okay. We've been shopping for adventure, wonder, and really great ice cream, and one of these days those memories will matter.