Category Archives: family

The Great Art Heist

Last month my dad got sick and then ended up in the hospital for a low blood count. As his discharge neared, my family went into red alert mode and started sorting out which sibling needed to be where for coverage when he came home, and oh, he was coming home with a catheter. I volunteered to come on the weekend, and although I can be squeamish, I am also a mother, so honestly, my squeamishness is probably more of a state of mind than a real thing. But he’s my dad, so, I volunteered and got assigned … art show pick-up duty.

Wait, wha? Luckily my friend had texted me a week earlier saying her mom really liked my dad’s art show. And I was like, what art show? The art show itself wasn’t unusual, he paints a lot and does 1 or 2 shows year. It’s just that he usually tells us about it. I couldn’t decide if the sickness had made him forget, or he’s 90 years old, or, most likely, is the worse artistic self-promoter on the planet.

In any event, my coworkers were giving me weird looks and repeating slowly, “So your dad’s coming home from the hospital and you have to leave work early and drive to another state to … pick up his artwork?” You could almost see the thought bubble above their head, “Don’t have a medical emergency with that one — sibs only trust her with inanimate objects.”

But, the show must come down, so my sister also volunteered, and soon were emailing with the woman who coordinates the space. It’s in a common room in an assisted living, and she said there were 16 or 17 pieces.

Um, OK. I have a Toyota Corolla, but my dad packed and brought the paintings himself in his car which is not really any bigger than mine, so we decide to drive his car. Yeah, we got this!

Of course the artist was feeling better and giving very pointed directions on how properly stack and transport the paintings to anyone in earshot, whether they were picking them up or not. It involves card board separators and stacking them back to back, then frame to frame. Saturday arrives and of course, it’s raining — a hard, steady, gonna-get-your-pretty-paintings-wet rain. Nature can be a real jerk sometimes.

The sit-com shenanigans began the minute we arrived at the assisted living lobby.

“Hi, we’re here to meet Jane,” I said brightly to the receptionist.

“So am I,” she responded in a slightly exasperated tone. “She’s late!”

I was a little confused, but I thought, well, maybe Jane works there and coordinates the art. A few moments later, Jane, a tall blonde woman in her early 30s swoops in with the rain, shaking drops from her rain coat.

“Jane!” the receptionist and I exclaim together. She quickly apologizes to the receptionist, and then turns slowly to me, with a blank look on her face.

“It’s me, Sandy and my sister.” Nothing. “We’re here for the art.” Nada. “Are you Jane White?”

No, of course she isn’t. And just like that, they pay no more attention to us. OK, then.

Not long after an older, white-haired lady shows up and it’s our Jane. Great. I’m just happy to have someone who knows the ropes, because the people here don’t seem to know anything about Jane or the art. My sister is looking at her wondering how this little old lady is going to help us at all. Jane goes off to find the luggage rack she usually uses to stack the art, and my sister and I head upstairs to start taking down the pieces. We end up making a good team, I take the art down and put it in a large trash bag to keep the rain off it. I was too impatient to do more than just fold the end of the bag over, but my sister happily, and I might add, painstakingly taped each bag closed. That rain was really not going to get in.

After a while Jane came back. She usually takes the shows down during the week — we were taking it down a few days early because that’s when we were available. It seems because it’s the weekend, the large rack she usually uses is nowhere to be found, and no one seems to know where it is. She did find a smaller one that seems kind of rickety, but it’s all we have, so we’ll make do. We chat while we’re working and we learn she is 86, and yet she keeps saying what an inspiration my dad is because he’s 90. I think they are both pretty inspiring. My dad, however, can be a mass of contradictions and is stubborn, and even in the face of other artists telling him they like his work, he continues to deny it’s any good and he’s terrible with people. Yes, that’s why they ask you to have a show, because you suck and they hate you. We explain this side of him, which of course is news to her. It always is.

She seems like a nice, positive person who has a sense of humor, so I decide to throw my dad under the bus.

“He didn’t tell us he was having an art show.” She of course then lists all the things she did to promote the show, including sending a PDF flyer to him to send to friends and family. I assured her at least her newspaper and other promotions worked because my friend’s mom learned about it and came to see the show.

We have stacked most of the 17 art pieces upright like books on a shelf onto the rickety cart. Jane and I start to push it carefully to the elevator to get it to the first floor. There are a few people sitting in easy chairs on our way, but no one challenges us. I joke with Jane that we’re like two art thieves making the big heist, pretending to be the gallery coordinator and the artist’s daughters. We both start laughing about that. I decide I want to be like Jane when I grow up.

We manage to get the cart outside. The good news is the walkway to my car is mostly covered, protecting us and the art from the rain; the bad news is the walk is really long, especially when you are pushing a too small cart, loaded down with your father’s treasured art. We’re laughing and struggling, and just before we get to the end, the cart falls apart, and half the paintings slide off. I manage to hold them upright with my body and start laughing even harder. Also, hooray for the plastic bags. Jane joins me because, at this point there really is nothing you can do except laugh. Well you can call your sister upstairs and say with a barely straight face, “Um, can you come down here? We have a situation.” I was so grateful Jane was so good-humored and not anxious or upset. As I waited for my sister to come down and stared out into the rain, I thought, this would really suck if Jane weren’t so cool.

My sister comes down and it takes her a minute to realize I am holding up the entire contraption and art with my body. We switch places, and I back up my car just to the end of the walk.

Of course, it’s still raining hard.

But the art is securely taped up and soon we have it loaded into his care and in her car, and I’m wrangling the cart back together.

We decide that we can do better to take the remaining pieces ourselves and leave the little cart where we found it, so it can collapse under some coats or luggage. The “little old lady” has a number paintings with frames under her arms and is marching down the stairs with them.

We wave goodbye and head back to my dad’s house. He is impressed with the secure tape, and believe me he’s not easy to impress. He seems happy the art is back. He had the cheek to comment how no one from the family went to see the exhibit. See why I threw him under the bus? Just so I could defend our honor. “Jane said she sent you a flyer to send to family and friends; I can’t go to an exhibit I don’t know about,” which sent him into a sputtering admission that maybe he hadn’t sent it out. I told him my friend’s mother did read it in the paper and saw it, and he was genuinely surprised. You gotta love this guy.

In the meantime, another friend of his came by to pick up art she wanted for a show she was putting together. This guy doesn’t need a home health aide, he needs an art coordinator. He claimed he didn’t have any more art shows in the making, but I don’t believe a word of it. I set my Google alerts for any mention of John Deden exhibitions, so I’ll be ready for the next art heist.

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting Room Sendoff

My sister and brother-in-law had warned me that my dad’s follow-up eye appointment would take a while, perhaps even several hours. But I wasn’t worried. I had cleared the day to give them a break from the parent care-giving duties that had kicked up a notch in the past several months. Plus, I thought the previous appointments had been long because they involved a procedure. This was a follow-up appointment. Even if we waited for an hour, we still had time to swing by and pick up my mom and go to dinner. How bad could it be?

My optimism is a really a fascinating thing.

At first it was typical waiting. They shuffled us from one waiting room to another for a couple of eye tests the doctor would need. Fair enough, and I kept thinking of it as passing the time we would already be waiting, and it would bring us closer to the actual appointment. We waited maybe 20 minutes for each test, and each test took about 5-10 minutes. So far, not so bad. And we got there early, so I was thinking we were actually ahead of the game.

I work in a large academic medical center. You’d think I’d know better.

After about an hour or so we landed in what we came to think of as the Final Waiting Room. The inner sanctum, the final boss fight. It was smaller than the others, and there was only one seat available when we got there. Soon after a woman got up and left, so we sat together. Time passed. My dad and I chatted pleasantly, had spells of companionable silence. We tried to get some of his favorite news websites to come up on my phone, but nothing would load at first. When they finally did, it was the mobile version, which was unfamiliar to him, and he couldn’t find the articles he wanted.

Outside the late fall afternoon light started to fade. I checked my watch. 4 pm. Still time to see the doctor and pick up my mother.

Suddenly a newcomer swept in and started chatting, asking questions. The spell of quiet of the Final Waiting Room was broken. The woman was new to this doctor, and she was quickly told by the old-timers that the wait could be 3 or more hours. They were mostly sanguine about it, and were soon telling stories of past waits like we were huddled around a campfire, which considering how dark it was getting outside, would have felt kinda nice. My dad and I are introverted in those kind of situations, so we just listened. But then people began sharing their appointment times. I perked up, expecting our 2:30 time to be the earliest.

I sometimes wonder if unbridled optimism is something that needs to be treated medically.

People started chiming in: 1:45 pm, 1:15 pm, 2 pm, 1 pm. Turns out there were two of us with a 2:30. I marveled that the energy in the room had not changed. People were actually kind of laughing, as if we had cracked a code. We had no idea when we’d get called, but at least we knew the order. The assistant came into the room and called out a name — it was Mr. 1 pm; we all cheered for him. The assistant looked surprised and a little uncomfortable. That’s right, lady, I thought, we’re all in this together now, so you just keep calling those names, and we’ll be just fine. The talk turned to recipes and food, so I tuned out (read about my glorious food fails). Outside, the predicted storm had begun with a steady rain.

The assistant came in and called Ms. 1:15, and now we were really getting into it.

“Goodbye!” “Good luck!” “Have a great weekend!”

The woman next to me leaned over and said, “I feel like we should have handkerchiefs.”

“Yes!” I answered.

So when Ms. 1:45 got called, we waved our hands like handkerchiefs, and sent her off properly like the Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton.

At 5 pm I asked my sister to tell my mom we were running late. At 5:30, it was finally our turn. There were only a few of us left at that point, but the pretend handkerchiefs waved just as energetically. We got sent off, the doctor was happy with my dad’s progress, and we did, eventually, get to have dinner with my mom.

I just looked up at the Eckhart Tolle calendar I have, and this month it says, “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically, it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. With every kind of waiting, you unconsciously create inner conflict between your now and your projected future. This greatly reduces the quality of your life by making you lose the present.”

Wise words — I would only add that waving handkerchiefs in the now works too.

 

 

Here’s What We’re Going to Do

My grandmother, who we called Memere (we’re 1/2 French Canadian), would say, after listening to whatever childish request we’d cooked up or if it were a rainy day and we were moping around, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And some amazing activity would ensue: cooking up cripes (that was our version of crepes), or making a dress for an off-brand Barbie, or figuring out what fun thing to do with a piece of a float that had washed up on the shore of her tiny lake cottage.

She has moved on, but her words came back to me as I have been thinking about the three ballot questions we have in Massachusetts. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve read up, or have been reading the flyers that are inundating your mailbox, or you’re getting phone calls from engaged young enthusiastic people. But you’re still not sure?

Here’s what you’re going to do. And because my Memere’s involved, at least in memory, you know you can trust this:

  1. Ballot Question 1, NO: Do you approve of a law that would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. No on 1.

I work at a hospital that is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation–OK once we went down to #4, but they changed the criteria that year–and we say no. The nurses at my hospital have complete control over how many nurses they need to take care of patients who are always changing and have changing needs. One size does not fit all. Here’s is the chief nurse speaking plainly about it to one of our docs. It’s not a slick advertisement, just an iPhone video of reality.  Our chief nurse says no on 1

2. Ballot Question 2, YES: Do you approve of this proposed law that would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Yes on 2.

We’re Massachusetts, and we have lots of smart eggheads who can help clarify this. I know being smart is totally out of fashion right now.  But we can’t help ourselves. Let’s show the rest of the county how it’s done, shall we? They hate us anyway, so what do we have to lose?

3. Ballot Question 3. YES: This one is do you essentially re-approve of a law that has been in existence since 2016? This law already adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Yes on 3. 

WTF? Look, whatever feelings you have about people who may be different from you. THIS LAW ALREADY EXISTS. No children, pets, or people’s silly pride had been harmed by this law.

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? You live in Massachusetts–we’re a bunch of blue snowflakes, deal with it. If you have a problem, there are lots of other states you can be happy in. Buh-bye.

Happy voting people, and please don’t disappoint my Memere!

Image credit: National Monitor

 

 

Driving on Empty

Between personal busyness and the frantic pre-election energy, I’m feeling like I’m driving on empty. But I recently had an experience with an actual empty tank that reminded me that things are only half full or half empty, depending on how you look at it. Or maybe if things are fully empty, it’s only half negative if you have enough wine?

Anyway, here’s the story. The kid got his license this summer, yay! He came home from college in October for a long weekend, yay! He took the car to see his friends in another town, yay, yay! I don’t have to drive him around! I really didn’t worry, he’s generally not a reckless kid, yay!

He got back and forth with nary a scratch to himself or the car, yay! He also managed to find parking and parallel park on our city street, yay!

The day after he left, I got in the car and was greeted with this:

Sigh. In my 7 years of owning this car, I have never let it go this far.

But here’s the thing. The kid had a rough spring and summer to the point where we had to entertain the idea that maybe college wasn’t his thing. It’s not the worst thing, but it required lots of different supports and trying to figure out some not so easy stuff.

But this? This empty gas tank after driving his friends all over the place? This is straight on, run of the mill teenage forgetfulness or neglect, depending on the kid and the day.

And that makes me feel pretty full with gratitude. So thanks. And also, Kid, next time fill the tank. You only get one half full pass with that.

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

It’s Time for Cuteness

Kid is back to college, house is a wreck, work busy, family stuff going on, so what it’s time for? Total cuteness. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did when the kid showed it to me as part of his ongoing campaign to get another hamster. I prefer mine 2-dimensional.

It’s so effing cute, you have to swear! lemonade hamster

Beach Wedding!

Hey there! I was at a fabulous lesbian sunset wedding at the beach, so all you get this week is a picture of said beach. It was absolutely perfect, and because these woman have some hard-won wisdom, I believe this union can go the distance. So I’m here to report, despite everything, there is still love, joy, peace, and sunset beach weddings in the world.