Monday, December 22, 2008

Fading Messengers

Fading Messengers

My last entry lauded the talents of filmmaker John Cannizzaro, whose program of animation at the Echo Park Film Center blessed me with a small rebirth of wonder. Instead of appreciation for my fawning, no sooner had I arrived at the office, before I even poured my coffee, I was admonished for failing to note that his tour de force "Fifty Feet that Shook the World" was also, as I had explained with regard to his film "Gulliver's Travels,” created for the eponymous competition “Fifty Feet that Shook the World” which requires filmmakers to create and edit a film solely inside the camera. I apologize for this erratum and express my thanks for the appreciation I did receive, after being corrected for my omission, for the (well deserved) extravagant praise I have heaped on the oeuvre of Mr. Cannizzaro, now thrice.

I signed up for online traffic school to make reparations for the speeding ticket I got on my way to Santa Cruz. The sixteen year old has had some DMV heartbreak and because I made a conscious decision to flout the law and knew that I was risking a ticket, I decided I was not really in need of re-education and that the on-line program might be most cost effective as a study tool for the written driver's test. He was off school last week because there was an emergency staff meeting of two days' duration precipitated by the carving of, by an unidentifiable hand, "Fuck this school' onto a class computer. I dragged the 16 year old to work with me for two mornings and he arrived to begin a four hour morning nap. When he was rested and luncheon digested, I hooked up my laptop on my desk and we listened together as the five chapters of traffic training droned on. At the end of each section, we completed the quizzes together with good success. We breezed through the final exam, confident of all of our answers and I was sure he had great command of the material.

Himself took the 16 year old for his second exam, but before entering the building made sure he was able to correctly answer all the questions from the five practice tests published by the DMV and also from the first failed test. Fewer questions were missed on this go round and a number of the ones he missed were confusing to me and pertained to topics not covered by the sample DMV tests we'd printed or in our on-line efforts to have my crime expunged. What is astonishing to me is that so many of the drooling fools on the road purportedly passed this written test which has caused us so much grief.

I was called in for a meeting with the director and medical staff of the dementia facility which houses my mother and that we refer to as the "hotel." My mom has drifted away bit by bit over the nearly 2 1/2 years she has lived there but in the past month, I noticed a marked decline. I was prepared to hear that there would be a rate increase now that she required more care and that the cat was a goner but these are kind people, devoted to my mother's comfort and safety. It was determined that my mother would be bereft sans cat and we negotiated a greater involvement by the staff in caring for it. I was also advised that it was time to move Mom "downstairs" and I agreed to the change. I have snuck up to my mom's room a few times and removed a number of garments that were either worn or stained or not to my taste. My mother had a penchant for jejune attire and I smuggled out a number of shirtmaker blouses, worn with tails tied high on the waist, in my handbag. It was determined that the staff lady who fixes her hair and manicures her would sort through her possessions and move her and cat downstairs on Saturday. This required me and the kids to keep her away from the hotel for several hours.

She was sitting in the lobby when we arrived. It was raining. She had her raincoat. "I'm surprised I still have this raincoat. It's reversible." She sees the kids. Their names and relationship to her are lost. "They're taller than I am." We get in the car. "Oh, Layne. You're driving now. You learned to drive really fast. You sure know your way around."

I order her a hamburger at the restaurant. "I can't eat all these fries. Eat them Layne." "No thanks Mom." "Layne, you don't eat very much. Eat these fries." "No thanks." "Look at all these fries. Do you want some of them?" "No thanks Mom. I've got plenty to eat." "You sure don't eat very much. Take these fries." Her coffee is served with tiny sealed containers of cream. "I don't use these." She grabs them in her fist. "Take them home." "I don't need them Mom." "They're good. Take them home." She shoves them at me. I palm them off for one of the kids to hide under a napkin. "Look at all these fries. You should eat some."

I help her with her raincoat. "This raincoat is reversible. I'm surprised I still have it." The kids help her into the car. "Look, they're taller than I am." We fasten her in. "Layne, you're driving now. You learned to drive one-two-three." We've decided to take her to a movie to kill time while her stuff is being moved downstairs. "You sure know your way around." I chose a movie based on convenient starting time and proximity to the hotel. I had assumed Slumdog Millionaire was a colorful frothy comedy, set in India. In the first scene, the main character is strung up at a police station and tortured with electric current and it really didn't lighten up until the beautiful big production number finale. My mother whispered "This isn't my cup of tea" a couple times but for the most part sat quietly, except for a loud and long foray to the restroom, for the film which the three of us thought was quite wonderful, and even though it was inappropriate for Grandma, she won't remember a single frame.

I helped her with her raincoat. "This is a good raincoat you know. It's reversible. One side is black and the other blue. I've had it for years. It's reversible." I park her and the boys in front of the theatre to bring the car around. "Look. They're taller than I am now." I pull up for them. "Oh, Layne. You're driving now. You learned so fast. Boy, you sure know your way around."

We were all very nervous about her reaction to the new room. A new key on a bracelet that says in big letters "ADELE NEW ROOM" is placed on her wrist. Our plan was to tell her that her boyfriend, Charlie, THE DOCTOR, had thrown his weight around and arranged for her to be moved to a better (identical to the old one) room, closer to his own. We placed a large photo of them all dressed up and holding hands on the door of the room and I bought a potted plant (she always reviled cut flowers as wasteful) and a box of chocolates as his welcome gifts for her and Sally the cat.

Two months ago this would have been a delightful fulfillment of romantic fantasy but she was quite non-plussed by the new room and only irritated that she was expected to wear the key on her wrist. We stayed a while to make sure she was adjusting and the kids and I looked through their old baby photos and I was reminded of how extraordinarily cute they were and how extraordinarily fat I had been. I reminded her again that she was in a new room and would no longer have to take the elevator. I told her again that Charlie had wanted her closer to him. She said, "Who's Charlie?" "Your boyfriend!" I reminded and pointed to the picture. She examined it and then spat, with disgust, "That fat thing?" My kids startled, and then both looked at me tenderly, hearing the vitrol with which she said, "fat."

I was floored when I saw the cover of the latest issue of Oprah's magazine. Oprah, after having gained 40 lbs. has been doing lots of headshots but on the Jan. cover sheepish fat Oprah is side by side with bare midriffed thin Oprah. "How did I Let this Happen Again?" sobs the banner. Oprah had an undiagnosed thyroid problem but also she was working too hard. She wasn't getting enough love. She took a vacation in Maui and sipped soy milk and snacked on flax seed and played with her dogs on the beach. Oprah says her goal is to "reorder my life so there's time to replenish my energy." It’s hard to muster a lot of pity for Oprah but I thought it was courageous of her to approve that cover and it inspired me to have a thyroid panel run.

Carnie Wilson is another celeb whose weight gain has garnered much snark. Carnie was interviewed about her accretion of poundage by skinny skank bitch Diane Sawyer who looked throughout the interview like she smelled a fart. Carnie was cool and got it that we suffer so much over the single issue of fat when what we need to aspire to is better management of global physical and mental health. But photos of Oprah or Carnie or Kirstie Alley eating are golden for paparazzi. Imagine what a shot of the three of them at a buffet would be worth. Rosie O’Donnell did a great cameo as a guest at a Weight Watcher type group that’s moderated by an insensitive monster on the HBO show Little Britain. I have replayed this skit a zillion times. My husband is sick of it but I especially like it when the group leader asks Rosie if she’s a lesbian because she’s fat or if she’s fat because she’s a lesbian. I have asked myself my whole life if I’m fucked up because I’m fat or I’m fat because I’m fucked up. My thyroid is normal. My mother said the word “fat” with a venom that took my breath away. But they have moved her downstairs because she is fading.


Pat said...

I was so touched by all the things you did to make your mother's move more comfortable for her. Sorry she is fading but it sounds like all your efforts are really comforting for her.
happy hanukah and merry christmas,

FionnchĂș said...

Well, thanks for not posting the punchline that mercifully brings down the curtain on that "Little Britain" snippet. xxx me