Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm sure it's a fine quality vehicle

You know how most car dealerships these days put their own little stamp on your car somehow so that you'll drive around unwillingly advertising for them? Sometimes it's a license plate holder or sometimes if the dealership has really big balls it's an outright chrome thingamajob that's welded directly to your car. That's irritating. Maybe just to me. I'm not a logo kind of gal.

I keep seeing vehicles all over town lately that have the outright chrome thingamajob logo and it says "Krapohl Ford". I assume this is pronounced craphole. I'm sure that the Krapohls are a wonderful familiy with a proud lineage, but I wouldn't want that welded to my car. I think I would be extra mad if I bought a car and was not only forced to provide free advertising for the dealership, but also to drive around with Kraphohl welded to my car for all to see. Is the chrome Krapohl optional? Do you get a discount for giving the dealership free advertising? Well, it's not worth it. I might even pay a little extra for my car not to say "Kraphohl".

Maybe the Krapohl's are just used to it and don't even give it a second thought. I mean, my maiden name was Greene and I kinda forgot after awhile that it's a color, and that people associate with Mr. Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo, it's not easy being green and so on. So maybe the Krapohls forget that their name reminds people of an outhouse and felt like it was ok to weld a small shiny version of it onto every car they sell for me to ponder over and giggle at while I'm at traffic lights.

Maybe it's pronounced crepe hole or craaa-pole with a long a - I don't know, but I would be disappointed if either one of those was right. It'll always be crap hole to me.

One might argue that I'm giving the Krapohls free advertising and to that I say fair enough. I have made fun of their name so the least I can do is offer a little free promotion of their fine business establishment to all of the 3 people who have ever read this blog. Kraphohl - you are welcome.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nobody In Their Right Mind Would Need This #1

I have decided to start a weekly feature called "Nobody In Their Right Mind Would Need This". I find myself saying it a lot when I'm out shopping. Also it will give me a reason to peruse the Harriet Carter catalog on a more regular basis since that will be one of my main sources of material. There is a lot of ridiculous shit out there and one of my greater joys in life is to make fun of it.

The Pet Pill Organizer
If your pet is so ill and on so much medication that you require this product - I have one word for you - Euthanasia.

Elk Bathroom Accessories
How much must you love Elk in order to consider purchasing any of these items individually - let alone have an entirely Elk themed room in your home? The fact your are the first among your friends or neighbors to have an Elk themed bathroom doesn't make you innovative and design savvy. It makes you crazy.

The Jerky Blaster
If you own this item and are making jerky in your own home as a hobby there is something wrong with you. Are you that guy that brings it to work and gives it as gifts in greasy ziplock bags? We only accept this stinky gift and say "thanks" because we are afraid of you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

If it's THAT important you should probably cancel

Earlier today while I was talking to my friend Rachel on the phone (since the invention of cordless phones I never sit still while conversing) I noticed my across the street neighbor. We've lived here since 2004 and I don't know these people. I waved to them once about 2 years ago as I was backing out of the driveway - they didn't see me. It's two men who live together so I have all these years assumed they are gay. I don't much care, but that's my best guess about their living arrangement. I usually see the two of them together in the evening (that's when I can best perform my Gladys Kravitz - when the curtains are closed but before we turn the lights on for the night) walking their dog (a boxer) while they smoke and talk. They look happy and are always dressed casually.

So today the more blondish one is poking around with some marketing-materials-three-ring-binder-importantish-looking kind of stuff in his open hatchback like maybe he's getting ready for something big. I can't help but notice that he's wearing possibly the worst suit ever. It's very wrinkled black pants that are an inch too short with black socks and a wrinkled gray corduroy blazer (it's August). I can't see the shirt or tie, but at this point I dread to picture it. I mentally reached out to him - wherever it is you're going dude - don't go. Postpone it and go find an iron.

Since I have never actually met them I have decided in my head that I really like these neighbors so at this point I'm kind of worried about him. Where is he going? Is he going to make some kind of presentation or sales call? MDH and I have a running joke when we see poorly-groomed men with extra long ear or nose hair, wearing bad suits or sporting bad haircuts and comb-overs that they must be single or their wife doesn't love them. I wonder where is his partner to stop him from leaving the house dressed like this.

And now he's gone. Good luck whatever it was buddy. I'll be thinking about 'ya.

Did he have surprise business meeting? Did he lose a bet? I thought gay guys were more fashion conscious than this so now I'm beginning to wonder if I have made up their whole gay relationship. I guess maybe I have known a few gay men in my life that weren't snazzy dressers, but still. I can see how wrinkled the suit is from a quarter of an acre across the street.

Regardless of sexual orientation it's never OK to wear a wrinkled, ill-fitting, out of season suit. I mean that's a triple whammy of bad men's fashion. Maybe if you were homeless people might overlook it. Whatever it is he's going through I hope he's OK.

Fox News & The Villages Brainwash Old Boring Farts Who Vote

I screen phone calls from my mom. Is that bad? I haven't been doing it as much lately. Since Jess has been sick Mom has been calling me twice weekly with updates - and the conversations tend to be concise. Normally I talk to her for about an hour twice a month. When I say "talk" what I really mean is that I grunt "uh-huh" over and over again while she repeats the same riveting stories she told me in our last conversation about how she and my dad went out drinking at the club and/or how constipated/irregular/gassy she and/or my dad have been lately. When it becomes my turn to speak she starts talking to my dad in the background (usually about his bowels) and/or I'll eventually hear the toilet flush. I feel so truly loved - oh Mommy, how I treasure these moments.

I talked to her for about 20 mins on Saturday - I screened then called her back an hour later. She gave me the update on Jess but also expressed concern for our safety since she'd seen on the news that tornadoes had touched down around Chicago on Thursday. We don't live anywhere near Chicago, but I guess it's closer than say Cuba, and by the way - it's now Saturday. If there are ever tornadoes 2 hours away that are big enough to be a threat to me and last longer than 3 days I'm probably going to crunch down on the cyanide tablet anyway.

The tornadoes were news to me because A: they occurred 2 and a half hours away and because #2 - MDH was out of town all last week. When MDH is out of town I don't turn on the news, not even NPR. It's pretty much all Super Sweet 16 all the time.

Mom: So you're OK?

Me: Uh huh.

Mom: Did you hear about those kids that drowned in that lake at that place?

Me: Uh huh. I mean what? Where was this?

Mom: I don't remember where it was but it looked like somewhere up north so I thought it might be near you.

Me: I didn't hear about that. I don't really watch the news much when MDH isn't here.

Mom: I thought I raised you better than that! You should always try to keep abreast of current events. In fact that's the first thing I do every morning is read the Daily Sun (the Villages local large-print newspaper - it's the Washington Post of the over 70 set in central Florida) then I turn on CNN Headline News to catch the big stories, I mean that's why it's called Headline News after all, and if anything catches my attention I turn to Fox later on so I can get the real story.


Mom: Are you still there?

Me: Uh huh.

Mom: Well you got awfully quiet... I don't mean to give you a lecture but you should always be aware of what's going on in the world. I thought I always taught you how important is is to watch the news.

Me: Uh huh. I mean - no, you taught me how important it is to read the news and try to get information from different sources. Um... when did you start watching Fox News?

Mom: Oh I don't know, but I trust them more than any other news source. They get down to business and tell the real stories.

Me: Uh huh. They tell stories all right. Anywaaay.... Hey did I tell you that Amy (my best friend) has viral meningitis and spent 2 days in the hospital this week?

Mom: Uh huh.

Me: Yeah, she is probably going to miss her first week of school and... (I keep talking).

Mom: (to my dad in the background while I'm still talking) Baby did you see that I set out your breakfast? Yes. Yes. It's on the counter by the stove. No! On the other side of the stove. It's the big PLATE OF FOOD in front of you. No, it's turkey sausage. Turkey sausage. Because the last time you ate the regular kind it gave you exploding diarrhea. What is your tee time this morning?

Mom to me: Your poor dad got so sick the last time he ate regular sausage.

Me: Uh huh.

Mom: Let me give you a minute by minute replay of how sick he was.

Me: OK

Mom describes for 5 minutes how sick my dad was while I sometimes interject with things like "wow", "that's quite a mess" and "that must have been horrible".

Who are you lady and what have you done with my mommy?

How can this be the same bright woman who worked on the Stevenson campaign and worshiped JFK? Is this the same woman who made me start reading Newsweek as soon as I was old enough to read? Is this the same woman who turned off the TV whenever Ronald Reagan was on it? Fox News? Really? They won you over with their journalistic integrity? You can't get enough of the snappy repartee of Fox and Friends? Really?

I blame The Villages. I really do. She wasn't like this before she and my dad moved there.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Yep. It's 5pm after having not slept all last night - seriously I finally went to sleep at at about 9am this morning and woke up around 2:30 when the phone rang.

So this is just what I needed:
It's me as a Simpson character. Although I'm not even that big of a Simpsons fan somehow this is exactly what I need right now and I say that with no sarcasm whatsoever. Don't get me wrong I realize that some sarcasm is required here, I mean I did stay up all night and sleep for 5 hours in the middle of a Monday afternoon. But I also ran the sweeper in 3 rooms, dusted the den, and cleaned up the kitchen (ran and emptied the dishwasher and swiped a rag across the countertops - but that counts!).

Not for nothing, here is MHD as a Simpson character too:

I made him without his glasses because he hasn't been wearing them much lately since he started wearing his new space-age contacts, but I love the bags under his eyes. I poofed up the eyebrows a little bit too. I couldn't get the outfits that I wanted and keep us as fat as we are in real life, but they are super cute.

Simpsonize yourself here but if you email it to yourself you won't be able to save the picture. I did a print screen and then cropped and made a new image in Paint to get these. Got an error when I chose the download option.

For My Weight Watchers Friends...

Because I'm wide awake at 3am and feeling so unoriginal - I found these in the archives of the onion:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Oil of Oh Crap

When it comes to beauty and personal grooming I've always taken the "less is more" tack. I'm usually either too busy or too lazy to worry about it much, but I tend to follow the holy trinity of wash, moisturize, and avoid the sun like a vampire. Lately however, I can't seem to stop myself from fussing and fretting over wrinkles and flaws. I think I can safely blame it on a combination of turning 40 and having too much time on my hands, but every time I cross the threshold of our bathroom I make a pit stop on my way to or from the toilet/sink/shower to gawk and gasp at the coin-slot sized creases that have developed between my eyebrows.

One of my first purchases at the hardware store when we moved into this house was a magnifying mirror with an extendo arm. We had one at the old house too. Until recently I used it exclusively for between-wax eyebrow tweezing and mascara application, but now it's become a tool for close scrutiny and harsh criticism. It probably started the day I noticed a 5 foot long gray hair growing out of my chin. Holy shit! Has it come to this? How long has it been there? Have other people seen it? What else has been happening on this face of mine? I eyed myself suspiciously and looked for signs of a moustache (so far so good).
Where I used to fast forward through commercials (we have DVR on our cable) I have found myself lingering on the ads for anti-aging, creams, serums, regenerating, age defying, correcting, hydrating, derma-pod, repair, recovery, whatever it is I'm convinced I need it. The women in these commercials look so beautiful and confident but to actually go to a store to try to buy these items is completely overwhelming.

My mom uses Estee Lauder products, I thought, she's older than dirt and looks pretty good so last week I went to to poke around and see what they had. I immediately clicked on the link that says, "What's Right For You?" I don't know please tell me! The page says this:

"It's easy to be beautiful with Estée Lauder Skincare.Now, let's find your Beautiful Skin Solutions."

Then it says: "First tell us which concern sounds most like you"

And then there are radio buttons of choices:
  • I'd like to revitalize dry and dull skin.

  • I'd like to help prevent the signs of aging before they appear.

  • I'd like to diminish the look of wrinkles.

  • I'd like to have a more lifted and firmer look.

Yes, that. All of that. But there's no choice for all of the above or for that matter weird gray hairs on face. Dammit.

Then I looked at the prices for some of these products and shit a brick. $70 for 2.5 ounces of Advanced Night Repair - I have no idea what it's for. $20 for "rebalancing" face wash - I don't even know what that means. What I do know is that these magic potions are way too expensive for an unemployed crone like me. I moved on to look for something more affordable and more accessible.

I went to - it seemed like a similar schtick, but the website felt more navigable because I didn't have to sort through make-up options. It's only skin care stuff. Still overwhelming, but I noticed a little blurb in the corner of the page that said, "Need help? Talk to someone from our team of Olay Consultants." and thus began an online chat with Janet. It went a little something like this (you don't have to read the whole thing - just note the big long science-y words and bomb diffusing-esqe instructions):

Janet: Hi, my name is Janet. How may I help you with Olay?

Me: I'm old, ugly and confused and I want to be pretty again.

Janet: I'm happy to help you. What are your top three skin concerns?

Me: I've become a wrinkled old crone, I want my skin to all be the same color and to stop getting zits - I'm middle aged - enough with the acne. (I don't bother to mention the facial hair).

Janet: Cleansing is the best thing you can do for blemish concerns. I would recommend trying the Clarify and Cleanse line (fka Clarity). It contains salicylic acid or beta hydroxy to help unblock plugged follicles. I would also recommend using the Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Treatment. This is a two step treatment combination of a microdermabrasion and mini-peel. Since fine lines seems to be your major concern, I would recommend our Regenerist boutique. Olay Regenerist with amino-peptides, regenerates your skin's appearance without chemical peels, cosmetic surgery or laser procedures by renewing the outer layer, one cell at a time.
After cleansing, apply the Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum all around the eye area. Moisturize your face and neck with the Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum and follow with the Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion.
At night, cleanse again and apply the Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum also. Follow with the Regenerist Night Recovery Moisturizing Treatment. Or you can try our new Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream contains the highest concentration of the amino-peptide formula to deliver skin that looks lifted & firmer.

Me: Chemical-Micro-derma-peel what? Are you fucking kidding me Janet?

Ok. So it didn't go exactly like that but it was pretty close. My text was only slightly more pathetic, but Janet's is verbatim. I thanked her for her help but her instructions were so complex that I actually copied and pasted our chat into Word so I could study it later and form a realistic shopping list. I am somewhat ashamed to say I purchased 5 of the 7 items she suggested for a grand total of around $90. (Have I mentioned that I don't have a fucking job??)

I have used these products night and day, religiously as instructed by Janet and have already performed at-home mircrodermabrasion and chemical peel on myself twice (as per package instructions). Just the sound of the words chemical peel, especially when referring to my face is frightening. Although I kept picturing Kathryn Helmond's character from the movie Brazil (above), it was surprisingly unpainful and my skin didn't peel off my face in bloody strips like I was afraid it might. It just got a little tingly and red for about an hour.

Are the products working? I want to say yes, but hell, I'm not even sure at this point that I needed them in the first place. I will use them until I am scraping the last drop from the containers with a toothpick because I really don't have $90 to throw out the window (or into my pores). In the meantime I have placed a post-it in the center of the magnifying side of the extendo-arm mirror that says "Hello Gorgeous" and flipped to the non magnifying side for good measure.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


If you haven't seen Madmen - you should get on that right away. Especially if you love retro 60's decor, fashions, lifestyle and attitude. It's so spot on accurate and also unbelievably good. It's unlike any other period show I've seen. The characters are real and say real things. They are sexist, racist, anti-Semitic and smoke like fish. The woman are actually round and robust and are dressed like the women in our old family photos. They could be your grandma, your father or your aunt - they say and do awful, ignorant things, but you love them and root for them anyway.

The show revolves around characters who work for a huge advertising agency called Sterling-Cooper in Manhattan in 1960.

I recorded the first episode on our DVR and begged MDH to watch it with me. He's not a big fan of serial dramas, but came around when I told him that it is created, produced and written by Matthew Weiner who also produced and wrote The Sopranos. We were both instantly hooked. The details drew us in and the story line seems to be keeping us there.

The details:
  • Full ashtrays in every room.

  • Lit cigarettes in every hand (I remember all grown ups doing everything including iron, pump gas, shave, eat while smoking).

  • Mile high rises on all the men's trousers.

  • Scotch, scotch, scotch...

  • A business meeting scene where such a big deal is made about a new client being Jewish the Sterling-Cooper "madmen" call in the only Jew in the firm to sit in on the meeting, a lowly writer whom no one has ever met, and instantly mistake him for the client. The client is actually a woman - they are stunned. The detail I love - the untouched shrimp cocktails on the conference table.

  • Beer cans before there were pull tabs.

  • Old fashioned - the cocktail people!

  • The characters start drinking the minute they walk into their offices.

  • The use of "china men" and references to them doing laundry.

  • There always seems to be a secretary crying in the bathroom.

  • State of the art IBM Selectric typewriters.

The story lines:

  • Creative Director Don Draper's double lives, wife, mistress, and an identity change sometime after the war.

  • Don's wife Betty and her mysterious hand tremor.

  • Salvatore Romano the effete - will he be outed?

  • Innocent Peggy the new secretary has already nailed Pete Campbell the night before his wedding - and seems to be starting up with Paul.

You know what? Just watch the damn show. If you've got cable then you probably have AMC. It's on all the damn time and if you've got the premium cable it's on AMC On Demand any time you want AND in HD if you've got that too.

Here's a link to some pictures of the sets:

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Fair To Remember (Shut up - I know it's corny (mmmm...corn!))

So it's raining and quite cold here today - in the middle of friggin' August. It's just not natural. Not that I particularly relish hot steaming summer days and all the mosquitoes, sweaty scalps, and burning car seats that come included, but it's weird to have all the windows closed this time of year and NOT have the air conditioner on. I'm just sayin'. (After my near death experience in a hot car in Houston last week it's probably wrong to complain about being cold - I know.)

If I was still in Columbus I probably would have been to the fair twice by now and plotting how to trick someone to go with me a third time. Why I have to beg people to go with me is incomprehensible. How could you not love the Ohio State Fair? It's your annual opportunity to see a cow sculpted entirely of butter, see the world's biggest workboot, watch pig races and a sheep shearing contest, gawk at people from all walks of mulleted life, and eat the worlds best corn dog and have a fried Twinkie for dessert - all in the same hour. I have been going my whole life as long as I can remember and with few exceptions have really only missed it since we've moved to Grand Rapids.

I'm sure Michigan has a fine state fair, but I'm not stoked about it enough to even bother to find out when and where it is. I'd sooner drive 5 hours to Columbus where I'm know I'm guaranteed the proper fair experience of manure, sweat, rain, red necks and roasted corn.

When I was a kid I went with my dad because he worked at the fair sometimes on the weekends, restocking and servicing the soda carts. I got to whip around with him, perched proudly in a Coca-Cola golf cart. It seemed like he knew everyone, people were constantly waving and shouting hello. People just naturally like him, and I've always felt lucky to be around him. When his shift was over he'd take me to the midway to go on the rides and then stuff me full of fair food (you should never eat before you ride). We would always bring home cotton candy for my mom and it would take half an hour for me to pick just the right color. These moments are some of the few in my life that I spent any time alone with my dad. I treasured them and that's probably why I get so sentimental about the fair.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


So I spent last weekend in Houston. It was 105 degrees and muggy. If it’s that hot how can it be muggy? I’m used to Phoenix where if it’s a 105, and yeah it’s hot, but I can still breathe and my hair remains smooth. In my old age humidity makes my hair frizz like a fright wig. Humidity has never been kind to my hair, when I was younger it would smash close to my head and sit there looking greasy.

The reason I was in Houston is because that’s the hole in the ground where my aunt Jessie has chosen to lay down and die. She lived in Columbus for a few happy years when my mother and I lived there, but Mom and Dad moved to Florida and MDH and I moved to Michigan and we left Jess there all alone. She moved to Texas two years ago to live as a slave labor babysitter to her son P and daughter-in law D. She’s been sick for a really long time and too stubborn to go see a doctor properly and the doctors she has been to have been too stupid to notice the basketball-sized tumor in her stomach and maybe take an x-ray. In between there’s also been a mess with having no insurance.

She basically is riddled with cancer. Starting in her lungs (yes, she smokes), lymph nodes, shoulders, stomach (basketball), and in her bones. She’s in a lot of pain and has been for awhile and never complained. She would pass out from this pain apparently and then act like she didn’t know what was happening and then not let P take her to the emergency room or call an ambulance. She has never wanted to burden P. I’m furious with her. Here’s a list of reasons:
  • She never wants anyone to know that she needs anything.

  • She will lie to cover up pain, illness, inability to pay bills, lack of groceries, busted toilets, broken windows, and lemon cars.

  • She acts like she doesn’t deserve nice things. When you give her a nice gift she will say “ohh that’s too nice” and then put it away and if it’s clothes or jewelry never wear them.

  • She won’t do anything to make herself more comfortable like ride in a rascal at Walmart, wear a hearing aid, or use a cane. “People will look at me” she’ll say, or “People will feel sorry for me”. Like it’s better to sit at home deaf and crippled?

  • She has allowed herself to be ignorant about finances and let the men in her life (3 husbands) be in charge of everything. She has allowed them to beat her, desert her and be twice widowed by men without the common sense to have life insurance, one of whom left her 3 mortgages, neither of these men left her with enough money to pay for their funerals. In both cases she had no idea because they “took care” of everything.

When she lived in Columbus, she had a small apartment blocks from my mother (her sister) and me. My mom helped her open a checking account, she had never had one in her own name, and then had to teach her how to use an ATM machine. Jess had never pumped her own gas. She would drive halfway across town to a gas station she knew had full service. (For those of you young-uns out there in the olden days people didn’t pump their own gas, you pulled up to the pump and a man would come out, ask you what kind of gas you wanted and pump it for you while he washed your windshield and checked your oil). These small gestures of independence were a revelation for her. She was 56.

I never really knew Jess until she moved to Columbus. She had always lived far away, in Marietta, Waterford, (these are both small towns in Southern Ohio near the West Virginia border) and for awhile in Charlotte, North Carolina. While Marietta and Waterford are only a couple of hours drive from Columbus, it might has well have been the other side of the world. We only saw her and P once or twice a year and those occasions were strained. There couldn’t be two more different sisters.

My mother is beautiful, tall and thin and in charge of everything. She has always been the head of our family (don’t tell my dad). My mom is whip-smart, witty, confident, opinionated, graceful and elegant. This was my role model for what a woman should be like and I never felt like I was living up to it. And then there was Jess… even though I rarely saw her, she and I have always had a connection. Mom called us kindred spirits in that we both were creative and quiet. We both have the same kind of bumbling, big-boned awkwardness and a strange combination of loud and shy (we’re also both fat and have bad posture).

At Christmas time I was always allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve and I always chose one of Aunt Jessie’s. I knew that it was going to be something amazing and possibly life changing – like the year I was 7 she sent me what I called the “I Dream of Jeannie” pajamas. It was the 70’s and most children’s pj’s were flannel (and/or flammable) with feet. These were pink gossamer, really more of a costume, they were fabulous and my mom could barely keep them off of me long enough to wash them. My friends would beg me to let them take turns wearing them at sleepovers. These pj’s rocked my world. How did she know I needed them so much?

I was grown when Jess moved to Columbus. Her third husband Herb (she called him Boo) had died and her son P was recently married to D and had been transferred to Houston. Jess had always lived with or near P, but Houston seemed too far away and she didn’t want to go with them. This worked out great for everyone. Jess got a good job and I got to see her whenever I spent time with my mother. They became kind of like a package deal. Mostly we would sit around my mom’s kitchen table on Sunday afternoons, smoking, talking, bitching about our jobs, laughing, and eating, all the while looking through the mountain of catalogs Mom got in the mail every week. “Oooh! Looky here at this! This would look beautiful on you!” or “ Jesus Christ that’s the ugliest damn thing I ever did see”. Both Jess and my mother have amazing laughs. They’re different, but similar in that they are both loud, extended cackling booms. Mom is more of a trill, Jess is more of a long chuckle. Both laughs have a sigh at the end.

The two of them developed breast cancer within a year of each other. Jess had never been to see an OBGYN. Never one to take risks (except for the cigarettes) Mom went every year like clockwork. Jess is more of the mentality that if you don’t know about something then it doesn’t exist. So sure enough when she got her first ever breast exam they found a lump. She acted like it was going to the doctor that had caused this to happen. The tumor was well developed so Jess’s treatment was pretty intensive. She lost a breast and had to undergo chemotherapy, and all the nausea, hair loss and humiliation that come along with it. A year later my mother was diagnosed, but they found the tumor early enough that although traumatic, her treatment was much less severe. She got to keep both her breasts and had radiation. My mother has recovered, quit smoking and is back to nearly her normal self. Jess has never been the same.

Throughout all of Jess’s drama with breast cancer, P never came to see her. Not once.

A couple of years later when my mom and dad moved to Florida I started looking after Jess. I never realized how frail and weak she was until Mom was gone. Before Mom moved Jess would always be at Mom’s house. With her gone, I began to go to Jess’s apartment. I saw that it was the apartment of an old person and that Jess just didn’t have the energy for house keeping. Jess had trouble taking out the trash on her own, it was too heavy so she would leave big bags of stinking trash in her apartment for days until she found the strength to take it to the dumpster herself or I came over and did it for her. She would always act embarrassed and tell me not to, but it was right there by the door stinking away, did she really think I’d keep letting it sit there?

Within a year after Mom left, Jess’s ankle gave out. (Mom, Jess and me all have similar ankle problems but that’s a tale for another day.) She was no longer able to walk and finally went to see an orthopedist who told her she needed to have her ankle fused, which means months and months of recovery. I had had mine fused a few years before and spent months in a cast and on crutches. She was unable to care for herself at home, so she spent 2 weeks in a nursing home after her surgery, then several weeks at home in a wheelchair with a visiting nurse. I took care of her. I took her to all of her doctor appointments, made sure she had groceries, cleaned her apartment and cooked for her etc., etc…

Throughout all of Jess’s drama with ankle fusion, P never came to see her. Not once.

My heart was broken for several reasons when I found out that MDH’s company was transferring him to Grand Rapids. They didn’t even give us a real choice, they implied that he would be fired if we didn’t move. I had never lived anywhere but Columbus for my entire life, 36 years. I had a job I loved, for a company I loved and had for the first time in my life a real chance for advancement. We had a house we loved in a neighborhood we were (and still are) active in. All our friends are still there and I still miss them. With all that the worst part of moving away was leaving Jess there by herself. If I cried over anything it was that.

I called and emailed her as often as I could, but my job was on the road, so it was difficult. MDH and I drove down once every couple of months and every time we saw her we were more and more scared for her. She seemed to be deteriorating right in front of our eyes. She talked crazy, and would cry in the middle of a normal conversation for no reason. She had never quite recovered from her ankle surgery and her “good” ankle now needed to be fused as well. On top of it all, she had always been a star at her job, but they were going through some major computer changes and she was having a hard time learning to use the new system. It was very traumatic for her.

She finally decided to retire and move to Texas to live with P and D. She has 3 grandchildren that she adores, who have never gotten to be around that wacky laugh full time. P and D also have a houseful of cats and dogs, which Jess has always loved.

Her son of course was too busy to go to Columbus to help her move. So MDH and I drove down and helped her pack and get ready. Her son was also too busy to go to Columbus and drive with her to Texas (or she had told him not to - I'm not sure what the real story is) so she was about to embark on the longest car trip she had ever taken, all alone. She had never driven by herself for longer than 2 hours or so – in her entire life. MDH and I Fed Ex’d a care package to her of Yahoo maps and directions and hotel reservations all along the way. We arranged a 3 day route from Columbus to Texas on the easiest roads to navigate as possible (rather than the fastest routes) and worked it so that she wouldn’t drive more than 8 hours each day. P and D bought her a cell phone so that she could call if she got into trouble and also for her to check in with me, P and Mom each night when she got to her hotel and each morning before she left for the day’s drive. She was scared shitless and I called her every day the week before she left to give her pep talks.

Somehow she made it to Houston and I haven’t heard much from her since. She takes care of her grand kids during the day, but doesn’t like to answer the phone because she knows it’s probably not for her. Her hearing is bad so even if you leave a message she can’t hear you talking on the answering machine. So if I want to talk to her I’ve got to call in the evening when P & D are home and either talk to one of them for half an hour before they put her on the phone or explain to one of the kids exactly who I am before they let me talk to her. It’s a royal pain in the ass so mostly I’ve been emailing or sending her funny cards in the mail. Her emails were getting less and less frequent and it seemed like she was never writing me back.

Last spring she went to visit my parent’s in Florida. She had lost almost 100 lbs and had turned a creepy shade of gray. Her laugh has changed and she has almost no mobility (of course she kept walking anyway). Mom took her to Mt. Dora (her favorite little town for shopping) and Jess nearly collapsed and they had to go home. When she left to go back to Texas, Dad said he reckoned it would be the last time they would see her alive. He was right.

She’s not dead yet, but she’s in a nursing home on hospice care. She gets an injection of morphine every 4 hours and a booster every 2. She started getting methadone on Saturday. She continued to smoke more than a pack a day until about 4 weeks ago when she first went into the hospital. She has lost all inhibitions about people staring at her or feeling sorry for her. She took a big shit in front of me on a potty chair in her hospital room within 5 minutes of my arrival and hasn’t had her teeth in for weeks.

P called my mother last Wednesday and said he didn’t think Jess would make it through the weekend. So mom and I were there on Friday. Do you see how easy that was P? You said she needed us and we somehow found a way to get there. Pronto.


She saw my face and I saw hers and we each got to be reminded of how much we love one another. Mom and I sat around her bed and we looked through giant stacks of catalogs to help her pick out a dress to wear in her coffin. It’s morbid, but it's what she said she’d like to do. “Well this would be pretty on you, but that color is dreadful”, “Hey, I can wear high heels on these nasty old ankles and it won’t hurt a bit!”, “maybe I’ll just go barefoot since no one will see my feet anyway”. We laughed, talked, ate, and in a lot of ways it was like being around Mom’s kitchen table except now none of us smoke and every so often Jess would moan in pain, or drift off to sleep.

I haven’t seen P & D for like 12 or 13 years, since right before they left for Texas. D talked about how inconvenient it has been for her to have “Granny” in the hospital because she has had to find someone else to take care of the kids (poor thing - I really feel for ya). P asked me to help him find a nursing care facility (at the time she was still in the regular hospital) and couldn't help but feel as though he was hinting around that maybe I could come and stay with Jess in Houston at their house to take care of her while he and D are at work during the day. I also got the feeling that he was hinting around that if I was unable to do this that maybe my mother could afford to help them pay someone else to do it. He never came out and said it, but it was like he was wording his sentences so that our replies would come as offers to help. Mom said she thought maybe he was just over verbalizing the situation.

Either way - Assholes.

The hospital she is in is near NASA, about an hours drive from the big airport in Houston and since I can’t bear to say the proper name I will call it He Who Will Not Be Named International. My flight left Sunday at 3:30 so I left the hospital at around noon. I hugged her as tight as she could stand and looked into her eyes for the last time. I didn’t cry. I hugged P and told him I loved him. I'm constantly disappointed in him, but I do love him. I squeezed my mom really tight and told her I love her and cried just a little.

I was looking forward to the drive because it would be the first moment I would have had alone for several days. I had been sharing a hotel room with Mom and she wasn’t more than 5 feet away from me for more than 5 minutes at any given moment. She doesn’t even close the bathroom door. Anyway… I stopped at a gas station a mile or so down the road from the hospital to get a bottle of water. The car hadn’t cooled down yet. I got on the highway and drove for about 10 minutes and realized that the car was still not cool. I look at the display in the dashboard - 105 degrees outside. I drive 15 more minutes and realize that I am drenched in sweat and the car is still not cool. I fiddle with the temperature controls wondering if Mom changed some setting (she’s now at that age where she is always cold and constantly fiddling with the air conditioning). Nope, it all looks good. The snowflake light is on, the dial is at full blast, all the vents are open and pointing straight at my head.

Halfway to He Who Will Not Be Named International I realize that my breathing is shallow and that the fucking air conditioning in this fucking rental car is not fucking working. I look at my face in the rearview mirror and notice that I am as red as a steamed lobster and my mascara is sweating off in bluish streaks down cheeks. I drive the rest of the way at a 70mph clip with all the windows rolled down. My hair, already well frizzed, riots around my head in circles and becomes the consistency of a brillo pad.

I start thinking, “I’m going to hug that car rental return agent when I get there”, “I’m almost there and I can get out of this car soon”, “I think I will ask the manager to take the charges off for today, I shouldn’t have to pay for this”. “Jesus Christ save me, I think I’m going to pass out!”. When I get close enough to see the signs for the airport I start to cry. By the time I pull into the rental car return parking garage I am sobbing uncontrollably. Through my tears I work out with the manager the broken air conditioning ordeal and explain to him how lucky he is that I am alive. I hear the sound of my own voice echoing the word “FUCKING” several times in the garage. He gives me the car for free. I realize that I have become hysterical.

I go to the ladies room and see that my white t-shirt has become completely transparent and I have been giving a free show to the entire rental car facility. I splash cold water on my face, wipe off the mascara, reapply, open my suitcase and pull out a clean bra, panties, t-shirt, and jeans and change my clothes in the handicap stall. I cry some more while I’m in there hoping to god that nobody can hear me and ask if I’m ok. I am not ok. I think I am losing my mind. I wipe off the mascara on my face and this time I don’t bother to reapply. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been home for a few days and I’m still exhausted. I still think I'm losing my mind. I'm angry and sad and frustrated. My hair looks better and my mascara isn't running, but I'm grieving.