Thursday, December 28, 2006

Aging sucks

My grandmother was a formidable woman in her time. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, and was incredibly intelligent, always devouring one book or another. She was a radio DJ in New Orleans during World War II. She was an actress in professional and community theater. She was a business owner in an era when most women didn’t work. She started her own upscale bridal business after working for years in the fashion industry. I remember parading around her store as a little 5 year old, trying on veils and pestering the seamstresses and saleswomen, and then working in the store during my summer vacations when I was in my teens. She taught me about style and cooking, took me to the theater and the symphony, and provided a great role model for me as a strong, independent, smart, opinionated woman. We occasionally clashed – I think because we’re both so hard-headed – but I always respected her for her strength and her ability to give as good as she got.

Old age has not been kind to her. Her health has been bad for years – back problems, knee problems, staph infections, pneumonia, hypoglycemia, you name it. Basically, she’s felt shitty for one reason or another for about 20 years. And now her mind is going as well. Dementia began creeping in around two years ago, and it has advanced aggressively, particularly in the last 9 or 10 months. She's still physically able to get around and take care of herself (somewhat), but is more and more unwilling to do so, which means that my 90-year-old grandfather is doing everything -- cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving, bathing.

This past weekend my mom and I went up to see them. As always, it was a pleasure to spend time with my mother, but the trip on the whole was rough. My grandmother doesn't like to leave the house, often resists getting dressed, and won't get up to go to the bathroom, or maybe she doesn't realize she has to go, so she ends up wetting the bed or the furniture. Then my grandfather has to clean it up.

My mom and I tried to encourage my grandmother to put herself on a bathroom schedule, so that she would go every couple or few hours automatically, thereby reducing the likelihood of having an accident. But she insisted that she didn't have a problem and that we were being mean to her (just like my grandfather) in trying to get her to go to the bathroom. Or to get dressed. Or take her medication. Everything is a protracted battle, and it never ends.

As a result, my grandfather is angry and bitter. He's always been a sweet, good-natured guy, but now he raises his voice at his wife and snaps at her in a way he never has before. He nags her, and she gets her back up and resists his requests even more. This is how they spend their days, fighting and bitching at each other. It's incredibly depressing and wearisome.

I don't know what the solution is, or if there will be one. My mom and her siblings are trying to encourage their parents to avail themselves of some of the services offered by the local Jewish family organization, or to consider assisted living. My grandfather is showing some reluctant willingness to try it, so we'll see what happens. Meanwhile, I've been looking at old pictures taken when my grandparents took me to New York City when I was 8, or when they came to visit us in Israel and India when I was in my teens. I marvel at how strong and beautiful they both were, and I try to remember them like that, rather than think about what I witnessed this past weekend.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

New years' eve party shopping list

    • 1 bunch sage leaves
    • cloth dolls representing 2006
    • pins (to stick in 2006 cloth dolls)
    • various items representing shitty 2006 events to burn and/or destroy
    • lots and lots of booze

This past weekend, my Girls' Night crew held its seventh annual Dirty Santa party. Everyone brings a gift purchased for $15 or less, we draw numbers, and the numbers determine the order you pick a gift. Later numbers are good, because if you don't like the gift you choose, you can force earlier numbers to swap with you. (That's the "dirty" part. The first year, one of the girls thought that the presents had to be dirty, so I ended up taking home a bag of condoms and K-Y jelly.)

The gift part was fun and funny, as always -- gifts ranged from pajama bottoms to Christmas-themed cheese spreaders. I ended up with a tiny bamboo cutting board, two tiny bowls (for miniscule amounts of dip?), a pedicure set, and the above-mentioned cheese spreader.

But the evening was more cathartic than anything else. For the first time in a long time, all of the original group was back together (with the obvious exception of Kristin), and we spent hours ruminating on the events of the past 12 months. Which kinda sucked. In the past year, our various members have dealt with 3 miscarriages, a horribly unjust lawsuit and verdict, spousal infidelity, severe family trauma, and the suicide of one of our best friends. Particularly in the last half of the year, it feels like it's been an onslaught of one bad thing after another, to the point that we're feeling a bit superstitious. Some sort of exorcism or spiritual cleansing is in order.

So, for New Year's Eve, I'm having a party. We're going to jump on a moon bounce, blow shit up, drink lots of champagne, burn sage and poke voodoo dolls representing 2006 with pins. The bad mojo of 2006 will be cleared out, and we will face 2007 with hope and optimism. We have each other, our husbands, our families, our brains and our senses of humor. We will prevail.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I'll take "really aggressive" for $2000, Alex

My brother has an accountant who does his taxes. Upon being hired, the accountant asked him, "do you want to be aggressive, or really aggressive?" I like this approach in accountants and, now, realtors.

We've decided to hire a shark. The prospect of renting the house from the other side of the planet is becoming less and less palatable, the more I think about it. We'll be losing money and it will be a big pain in the ass. So, we decided to put the house back on the market, using a realtor recommended by a friend. I know people who have had dealings with this realtor, and they wholeheartedly recommend him while describing him as an insufferable, unethical jerk. "He's a scumbag, but he'll move your house," seems to be the consensus.

Works for me.