My Belated Love Letter to Bukowski: Our Chance Encounter at the Racetrack

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Bukowski was not a man I loved early in life.

I remember one of my male acquaintances, a member of a well-known local punk band, used to walk around town semi-stoned or drunk with a copy of a Bukowski book pinned tightly in the crook of his arm: the cover always pointed outward… pages systematically dog-eared for effect… a literary badge of sorts pinned to his chest which represented his own relationship with addiction. A prop used to prove that he was deep and not sauced and sloppy like most addicts and that like Bukowski he was literate, poetic, misunderstood and in need of a woman to “get him” but not get too close.

I of course considered this pathetic attempt for attention and literary greatness comical.

Although I did not love Bukowski I knew literary realism at its best and unlike Bukowski, this poor pathetic excuse for a “literary musician” would never be a literary master. He would in fact spend his lifetime writing anthems that would be sung by few… remembered by some, but only die-hard fans in need of their own “metaphorical version” of a Bukowski book pinned to their chests proclaiming to all within ear shot that they were in the scene when those lamentable anthems were written.

Bukowski, therefore represented to me a dark mentor, an abusive father figure, a symbol of the broken men that I dated. Men that could have been great artists in their own right if they hadn’t tried so hard to follow in his footsteps… relish in his painful life, which was difficult enough for him to survive, without passing down the legacy to the next generation.

I spent years angry at him… angry that he stood as a model for the great Los Angeles artist: broken, worn, drunk, sexually inappropriate, distant and unwilling to let anyone of real substance close for fear of having to give of himself or of the pain it might cause him.

I was like a petulant child unwilling to see past my own wounds to examine his.

Selfish, self-centered, alcoholic bastard I whispered to myself each time my husband watched Barfly, drank, used and slapped me with a barrage of verbal abuse. I blamed Bukowski for my lot in life and hoped that his pain was as great as mine… that where ever that mother fucker was… he was suffering.

And then… I stepped aside from my childish view of love; the view of a young woman who has not yet learned that all love holds pain… that there is no fairy tale formula… there is no perfect relationship. I decided as all good readers do that to ban him from my mind was literary sacrilege and that it wasn’t “giving in to him” it was “getting to know my enemy better” and soon… the deeper I delved into his world I found myself seduced by his words… his repetitive whisper that “all lovers betray.” I found solace in the knowledge that we all suffered this “betrayal” together and that we were all hopelessly flawed: even me.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties I considered myself taken… won over by his word. I longed to be the good woman he wrote about, the one that would have willingly stolen what he had left of his soul to find myself immortalized in his words.

But unfortunately, I did not have my moment with him until I was 28 years-old and it was barely a moment… and then… a year later… he was gone.

I was at the Los Alamitos racetrack: a favorite place of mine and a favorite place of his.

I had spent my childhood there with my own father who unlike Bukowski was most of the time a happy drunk, and loved to let me and my brothers make bets on the racetrack ponies. Each time we scored a winning  he turned and grinned at all of his friends as if we were protégés in the making.

These were good memories for me… the only girl in a group of boys and men… always trying to fit in… always trying to be on equal footing… always trying to make my father proud.

But the day I met Bukowski, my father was already years gone from me and the racetrack had become a place I liked to go to feel close to him by letting those memories of my childhood wash over me as I gambled with my friends.

I was with a group of people who were all in infamous bands at the time, all cult-followers of the writer, but the only one who spotted him through the crowd was my friend Chris.

He turned to me and grabbed my arm. “That’s Bukowski!” he said in an excited whisper. As if the man could hear us half a short track away.

 

“Come on,” Chris said as he dragged me across the great hall, past the ticket windows to meet him.

 

I stood back at first, almost as if Chris and I weren’t even together… as I watched Chris rush forward, tap the writer’s shoulder, reach for his hand.

I couldn’t hear what he was saying to him but I could see Bukowski becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the attention. His head was down, a small embarrassed smile on his face, nodding politely as Chris yammered on.

And then, Bukowski looked up, looked at me.

I noted so many things in that brief moment: his weathered skin, pock marks across his nose and cheeks, thick lips, his receding hairline, his large ears, before I stopped at his eyes which were still intensely focused on me.

And then I let myself be seen.

I smiled big and laughed.

I watched as he perked up… there was a coming to… a connection… and I saw the amusement in his eyes as he enjoyed first my shyness and then my exuberance. For once I was glad I was a girl, able to make Bukowski smile, and I ran forward with abandon and hugged him hard.

I don’t know what expression registered on Chris’s face when I did this but I heard later from the group it was a mixture of shock and embarrassment that I had over-stepped my bounds, and then.. complete and utter disappointment that he hadn’t thought to hug him first once he saw how Bukowski responded to me.

He opened his arms and pulled me close to his chest… pinning me in the crook… and any shock he may have felt at my reaching out to him so freely softened and left him quickly as I snuggled in, smelled the scent of him on his coat, my forehead pressed against the rough patch of hair on his chin and I knew that I was a metaphorical badge for him: he was not distant from me… he let me in and embraced the moment.

And then… the sounds of the racetrack returned… the quiet was broken as he patted my shoulder… the way a grandfather does… now uncomfortable with the outburst of my emotion but… wanting to let me know that it was wanted just the same.

My hand lingered with his for a moment and then he took his rolled up newspaper and tapped my fingers as if to say Enough child, before he bowed his head and stepped off with purpose to find a good spot to watch the fifth race.

We left the racetrack shortly after. Chris still yammering on about the encounter. Me… quiet… reflective… unwilling to talk for fear I would break the magic of the moment. But, it seemed to me, that I met him at the perfect time in my life… at the perfect place. It felt like I could feel my own father lingering in that hug… and maybe it’s just that melancholy and nostalgia now sets in as I write this… but it was one of the most tender moments of my life… maybe… because I chose to love him… as is.

 

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My moment with Allen Ginsberg resulting in a misunderstanding over the word “asshole.”

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Allen Ginsberg

I had grown up in the shadow of the 60’s.

Being born in 65, you could say that yes… I was a child of the era, but seeing that I would not be coming of age until well into the 80’s, what I picked up from that time period came directly from my older sister, Char, who was actually a senior in high school the year that I was born.

She spent my formative years raising me on the art, music, writing, pop culture of that time period and though I was so very small… it was not lost on me:

Being painted up with designs of psychedelic flowers and taken to the Griffith Park 1967 Summer of Love Love-in.

Studying the artwork in R. Crumb’s Big Yum Yum book; though my parents thought it was “inappropriate” for small children.

Going to the Glide church in San Francisco to get a hug from Reverend Cecil Williams and listen to the “Church of Rock n Roll.” And of course browsing in the City Lights bookstore (where on any given day) we could have a chance run-in with one of the numerous beat poets my sister taught me to emulate and admire.

It wasn’t really a normal childhood but… one that made me blessed with awareness of the greater world around me and the numerous possibilities that lay ahead.

And so… influenced by it all, I carried it with me over the years and hoped that someday… my path would cross with some of the greats of that time period.

So it was with profound joy, that in my early 20’s, just after finishing my first album with Hollywood Records, that I finally had my moment with Allen Ginsberg.

I couldn’t believe it.

I’d basically been waiting to meet the man since I was three and as luck would have it, he was signing books in Long Beach that week.

I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had no babysitter that day…

Joe, my husband was “on the road.”

I was broke and waiting for my advance to come in from just making my first record.

But I didn’t care… I grabbed my son, who was just a baby at the time, grabbed my vintage Ginsberg books, one of which was a rare photo diary of the Beat Poets in Tangiers only 2,000 copies ever made, and off I went.

When I walked inside, I found a decent, yet modest line, and I was surprised that he hadn’t drawn more of a crowd.

But I stood there in awe: watching every move he made until it was my turn to approach him.

And when I was finally next in line, he finished talking to the person he was with and turned to look at me.

I think now I must have seemed so young to him… standing there in cut off shorts, an old pair of chucks, an old worn wife beater, a baby with a baby slung up on my hip… some of his oldest books clasped tightly in my hand.

I looked at his large eyes… what was left of his graying hair… he seemed a bit removed… stone-like, a Founding Father of literature…. looking at me as if I were puzzling to him… without a smile on his face… and I was immediately intimidated by his presence.

In a small voice, I told him how much his writing had influenced my own, how I hoped that he would sign these books I had brought with me… and that as soon as my advance came in from my record, I would buy his new book, but barely had enough money today to pay for the gas to come and see him. And then, I pulled my cd from my pocket and asked him if he would accept it as a gift.

He took the books and the cd from my hands.

He paused as he looked over the two books I had brought, before looking up at me and saying, “These books are older than you are.”

I smiled as he flipped through the photos of him frolicking with Kerouac, Burroughs and the others down in Tangiers.

“And this?” he said as he looked at my cd. “Is this spoken word?”

“No,” I said.  Almost embarrassed that it wasn’t. But then I held my head up and bravely said,  “It’s music. These are my songs. I wrote them.”

He looked at the photo of me holding the baby on the cd cover and then back at me holding the baby in real life.

He didn’t speak again.

He opened both books… signed them… and handed them back to me.

I smiled… thanked him… and remained in a daze the entire ride home.

I didn’t need much.

I wasn’t necessarily “star struck” but I was silenced by the magnitude of his work and the influence it had had on so many.

When I got home I put Dylan down to play and sat on the swing to look at what he had written.

In each of the books he had signed his name… the date… and then had printed a large A and a large H inside of a circle.

I didn’t know what to think.

What did it mean?

Why A.H.?

What was with the circle?

I felt a bit uneasy suddenly about the whole exchange… I began to wonder if this was some secret code to distinguish me as one of the jerks that hadn’t bought his new book and then I realized what it meant.

“Asshole,” I whispered.

He totally got away with calling me an “ASSHOLE” for not buying his book. 

Suddenly my heart went cold.

I was embarrassed.

Furious.

Disappointed that he would do something so low.

I fumed about the insult all evening until my husband called me from the road.

“Did he really write the word asshole?” my husband asked.

“No,” I said. “But he put A. H. with a circle.”

“Yeah…” he said. “Sounds like code for asshole. Especially with that circle and all.”

I suddenly hated Allen Ginsberg.

How could he be so cruel?

Hadn’t he once been a young struggling artist?

I wanted to go find where he was staying in Long Beach and slap his old face.

But instead.. I sat down and wrote a vicious and scathing poem about him and then shoved it in a box, along with my bruised ego, and let the years brush the incident aside.

It wasn’t until Dylan, my baby boy, was in his early 20’s that the memory came back to me… when I found my son, in my writing room, looking at my signed copies of Ginsberg’s books, Dylan’s hands gingerly touching the pages, studying the faces of the Beat Poets in Tangiers.

“Did Allen Ginsberg really sign this for you mom?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “But he was a jerk.”

“How so?” Dylan asked.

And so I sat down and told him the story of when we met Ginsberg.

Dylan, obviously not as idiotic as his parents, listened to my story before looking at me and saying, “Yeah but how do you know he was being a jerk? You just assumed he was being a jerk because you felt bad you couldn’t buy his book that day.” He closed the books and put them back on the shelf. “Now that we have internet have you ever gone on line and looked to see if he wrote that in anyone else’s book?”

I stared at him.

Of course I had never thought to do that.

After I had been so humbled by the incident I tried to never think about it again.

“Come on,” Dylan said. “Let’s look.”

I sat down on the computer, beyond trepidacious, with my son standing behind me, and my hands on the keyboard.

I typed the words: Allen Ginsberg A H in books.

And a moment later… this explanation appeared:

From the Holy Soul Jelly Roll liner notes Ginsberg explains how he came up with “Ah”, “…[I] got in the middle of the group who were going off to blockade a highway and started chanting “Ah” after asking them to chant with me. Everybody sat down, then we discussed strategy calmly rather than as a hysterical mob. “Om” closes out at the end but “Ah” leaves the mouth open, breath goes out [see Ginsberg’s Mind Breaths poem for more]. On the 4th of July you see the fireworks and say “Ah”, or you recognize something and say “Ah!” When Trungpa said “Why don’t you try ‘Ah’?” he joined an American sound with Himalayan wisdom, and I’ve used it ever since. “Ah” for recognition, appreciation, the intelligence of speech joining body and mind and for a measure of the breath.”

Suddenly, I felt sick.

All of these years… all of this time…

He had died with me angry at him.

“Wow,” Dylan said. “That’s really cool and super sad that you thought you were an asshole all of these years when really he was showing you recognition for being an artist.”

I wanted to cry.

I wanted to shout, “I AM AN ASSHOLE for thinking Ginsberg was the asshole.”

I wanted to go back in time and rush back into the store and hug him until it felt like his old bones would break.

But I couldn’t.

That’s not how life works.

We make our mistakes.

We misjudge those we love.

We allow skewed perspectives to lead to rash judgements which get in our way.

I would never have a chance to meet with Ginsberg again… and the sting of that… painful.

“It’s okay Mom,” Dylan said. “He didn’t know what you thought all of these years.” And then hugged me hard. “Think about it…” he continued. “He might have been listening to your music this whole time… and glad that he inspired you to write it.”

And I was proud of my son.

Proud of his voice.

Soothed by the comfort he offered me… when I was unable to forgive myself.

Nana Tries to Get Me in the Shower

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I have lived with my mother for many years.

First, out of necessity and later by choice.

Most of the time, we get along just fine but every once in awhile, like every parent-child relationship, we “get into it.”

Maybe it’s when I’m trying to leave for work in the morning and she decides that it is absolutely imperative to stop me in my tracks and tell me a story about when she… “Stepped on a small animal once and didn’t like it.”

Or…it could be when she asks me for the millionth time to show her which button to push to turn on the cable, so that she can BLAST Two and a Half Men re-runs for the entire day.

Or… Maybe it’s when I’m just about to nod off to sleep and I hear her cane thumping down our entrance walkway, my hall door creak open quietly, as she screeches at the top of her lungs,  “Are you awake? I said Deidre… ARE YOU AWAKE?”

No… I want to shout back… I’m just lying here pretending to be dead.

It is in these moments, that I must admit, that I feel like Danny DeVito’s character “Owen” in Throw Momma from the Train, and the fantasies of knocking the old woman down and rolling her out the front door are actually palpable.

But… I love her… and so… I deal with her quirks and foibles as I’m sure she must deal with mine.

But the day she tried to get me into the shower with her naked… was the day I knew she had really gone too far.

It was after her second knee surgery.

She hadn’t bathed in over a week and ripe, as only an old person can be, I suggested that it might be a good idea to wash up a bit.

“Well,” she countered. “I have been using these wet wipes they gave me at the hospital.” I watched as she picked the pack up and waved them at me… as if I couldn’t possibly see them lying on the table next to her.

She then threw them back down, disgusted with my lack of hospital hygiene knowledge, and became engrossed in a quick newsflash related to Charlie Sheen’s latest antics.

“That Charlie,” she shook her head at the television and looked back at me. “I don’t know what he thinks he’s doing going at it with those girls.”

I tried not to roll my eyes but it felt like they went on automatic pilot and circled my head for a good minute.

I was sure that everyone in the world knew why Charlie Sheen was getting it on with porno girls.

“Mom,” I said trying to direct her attention back to bathing. “Mom…” I said again a bit louder.

She sighed, exasperated by my interruptions, held up the TV remote, pressed the mute button repeatedly… confused each time the sound turned on and off… on and off.

“I just don’t get this remote,” she said. “Something must be wrong with it,” she pressed the button with a flamboyant finger flare one too many times and I snatched it from her hand and showed her, with a very exaggerated face and a snide tone, “One time, Mom.” I paused for emphasis after pressing the button. “See?” I said again. “One time.”

She ignored my demonstration and fed one of the chihuahuas the left over bits of her Breakfast Jack.

“Don’t feed them that Mom,” I pleaded. “It’s not good for them.” She grabbed another piece of egg sandwich off her plate, stared me down, smirked, and gave the dog another bite of food.

I felt my eye actually twitch.

The thought of hurling the chihuahua across the room and knocking my mom’s old, worn, blue recliner chair out from under her while shouting, “Look Old Woman! How do you feel about feeding that damn dog now?” Crossed my mind but I refrained from acting on impulse.

“You have to take a shower,” I said calmly.

“Fine,” she snapped as she snatched the remote from my hand, dropped it on the TV table, and slowly got up from her chair to walk to her room and get her things together.

“Can you at least help me?” She asked.

“Sure mom,” I said. “Just call me when you’re ready.”

I went back into my office to type, and catch up on my writing, I didn’t hear my hall door open, or the cane thump down the wood floor towards the bathroom, or the shower water begin to run, until I heard, “READY!” from somewhere inside my bathroom.

I stopped.

Paused.

Not sure if I had heard her correctly.

I got up from my computer and opened the office door.

“Mom?” I said.

“YES I’m in the BATHROOM!” She shouted over the blast of the water.

“What are you doing in my bathroom?” I asked through the closed door.

“You said you’d help me,” she shouted. “It will just be easier if I’m in here.”

My shower had an eight inch step over ledge.

My shower had no elderly hand rails, or grip tape on the floor, only an old white porcelain soap dish attached to the wall that you could hang on to in case of emergency.

It would not be easier in my bathroom.

“But Mom!” I shouted. “It’s not safe and…”

“Just come in and help me!”

Suddenly the horrible realization of what she meant by helping her with her shower became quite clear.

She didn’t want me to hand her a towel, or give her a robe or clean clothing discreetly from my side of the door, she wanted me there with her the entire time.

Oh God… I thought to myself. I hadn’t prepared for this.

I opened the door slowly and found my mom naked… a full frontal assault…  standing there… waiting for me.

I tried to divert my eyes anywhere away from her naked flesh but dealing with my present…. and confronted with what would be, one day, my inevitable future… I felt like I had suddenly stumbled into a chapter of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch or a deleted scene from Lynch’s, Blue Velvet.

It was horrific.

I watched as she carefully climbed into the shower, and I steadied her by keeping my hand pressed gently to her back as she grabbed the soap dish on the wall and centered herself beneath the shower head.

“Oh that’s nice,” she said as she felt the warm water rinse over her and began to scrub up with the bar of soap.

I stood, my back pressed against the wall, listening to her wash and thought, Okay… it’s really not that bad. I think I can handle doing this every now and then if she needs me to.

I smiled to myself… feeling a bit altruistic actually, impressed with my ability to handle the situation so calmly.

And then…  I heard the bar of soap hit the tile floor.

“Deidre,” my mom said. “Can you come pick up this soap for me and wash my back?”

I felt like I was pinned to the wall.

Like some unknown force was holding me back and warning me not to go in there alone.

“Deidre” I heard my mom call again.

I steeled myself for the moment and like a good offensive player in football, who tries to recover the play after he fumbles the ball, I took a quick step, bent forward, grabbed the bar of soap from the floor, while trying to ignore my mother’s naked ass, and jumped up satisfied that I had completed my play and began scrubbing her back.

Everything was right in my world for exactly a second.

One second.

Then… I heard her say, “Oh this is ridiculous! Just take off your clothes and get in here with me. It will be so much easier if you just get naked and wash me down. I need help with my butt.”

I don’t really remember much after that, but I do know that I threw the soap towards the soap dish, threw my hands up into the air, and did some type of cha-cha back pedal out of the bathroom as I waved my hands back in forth in front of my ears, trying to erase the words I had just heard, while babbling something like, “LALALALALALALALALLA.”

It was horrible.

I was out of the bathroom door faster than ever before in my life and I slammed that door behind me.

“What the hell are you doing?” She shouted after me.

“That’s it!” I screamed. “Get your ass washed and get the fuck out of that shower now!”

My mom didn’t say a word. I heard her humming softly to herself and knew that she had won this battle.

The water soon stopped.

She dried herself with the towel I’d left hanging on the rod before asking me to go grab her robe that she had left hanging in her bedroom.

I walked across the house, mumbling angrily to myself, furious that I had been so stupid as to be the one to sign up to live with mom.

I stomped into the room that she had shared with my father for most of my life, and stopped… stared… at the many photographs and mementos she had placed about the room:

My baby teeth sitting in a small glass cup.

A photograph of me smiling, a tooth missing, red jump suit on, doll in one hand.

A card I had given her for Mother’s day last year… displayed prominently next to her bed.

A photograph of both of us together at my college graduation, her arm wrapped proudly around my shoulders and I felt overwhelmed by the passage of the years.

I grabbed her robe and quietly walked back down the hall.

“Mom?” I said suddenly humbled by my experience. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” she said, “I’m clean now. Are you happy?”

I handed her the robe through the crack in the open door.

I wanted to tell her, “No actually. I’m not. I would prefer you to be young again. I would prefer you to live forever. I would prefer to never think of the day when you won’t be here to shout at me from inside of a shower to hurry up and get naked and get in there and help you.”

But… that’s not what I said… and that’s not the way the world works… so being the good daughter that I am… I said, “I can’t believe you wanted me to wash your ass.”

She smiled as she picked up her cane, thumped the floor, and hobbled out past me.

“Well,” she said. “I always washed yours you little shit.”

I smiled.

I knew this dance.

It was our, I love you, and it would always be this way.

My First Love: Hugo Man of a Thousand Faces

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hugo-thousand-faces

Just recently one of my good friends procured a doll that I had coveted since elementary school: Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces.

You should of seen my expression when he told me about finding Hugo in almost mint condition… that most of his pieces were included (even his sideburns!)… and yes… he had received him in the original packaging.

I tell you… my face must have shown the pain and longing I felt for my first love… the shame and humiliation I had endured… knowing that I one day carelessly tossed him aside, left him to fend on his own, while I headed off to a joyous time at summer camp, not knowing that my mother would seize the opportunity of my absence, root through my room, and quickly hand Hugo and other misfit toys over to the Goodwill.

I looked at my friend’s new Hugo doll and suddenly, I felt an irrational anger. Just like a child unwilling to share, I wanted to snatch that Hugo box from out of his hands and make a mad dash to my car where I could sit and play with him free from interruption.

But just as I was about to throw a tantrum and exclaim that Hugo should really be mine, my friend said, his voice sweet as he held the box gingerly in his large manly hands and looked lovingly at the photos and description, “I always wanted a Hugo. But no one ever got him for me.”

And I felt my heart give… I wanted to steel myself to the moment but I couldn’t… my envy turned into understanding: I knew what it felt like to pray for Hugo and believe you weren’t going to get him.

I couldn’t begrudge him this gift. I smiled and expressed my happiness at his find, while my thoughts turned back to my own childhood.

It was Christmas, 1975. I was ten years old.

My world had consisted of a multitude of Barbies and G.I Joes.

I had every doll that you could imagine.

I had dream houses and Barbie jets.

G.I Joe tanks and an arsenal of weapons.

I had elaborate stories for each one of my dolls; most of them hinging on the fact that we were in the midst of the Vietnam war during 1975 and my Barbies were always waiting, hoping, praying that my G.I Joe dolls would return safely from war.

I had just come back inside after making my large and very scary clown doll, attack my entire Barbie village while the G.I Joes tried to contain the situation to a “20 mile radius,” when I heard an announcer’s voice from our old Zenith console TV shout: HUGO CAN BE ANYTHING AND HE’S A HAND PUPPET TOO!

Something about his voice seemed “urgent.”

As if I was about to miss out on the deal of a life time.

I ran to the living room and watched as a boy, about the same age as me, used Hugo’s numerous disguises to create “thousands of pretend fiends.”

I knew immediately: I had to have him.

I screamed for my mother who took one look at the TV and said, “That is the most hideously ugly doll I have every seen. I’m not buying you that” and headed back to the kitchen to finish making our tuna, toast and gravy for our Saturday dinner.

I was barely deterred.

I knew how to lobby for a toy.

I would make a campaign to win my Hugo.

I started by leaving my Richie Rich and Little Archie comic books laying around the house, because I found that they always had an ad for Hugo, on the back page.

Each time the commercial came on the TV I would mimic the announcer’s voice loudly and draw attention to the screen.

I wrote my Christmas list early and HUGO was the only item on it.

And when I was afraid that even that might fail, I prayed out loud each night that Jesus would not only protect me while I slept but also bring me Hugo… just Hugo… and with him… I could save the world!

By the time Christmas morning arrived I could barely contain myself.

I was up by 3am, begging at my parents’ bedside, to open presents early.

I’m surprised they didn’t get out of bed and spank me senseless with the orange Hot Wheel track… their weapon of choice… but they didn’t. They told me I could grab my Christmas stocking, open it in my room, and not to come back to wake them again until it was a more reasonable hour like 5am.

I sat on the floor of my room and looked at the pathetic offering in my stocking: a candy cane, an orange, a bag of jacks, a box of crayons and a coloring book.

Nothing was enough without Hugo.

The hours until 5am were some of the most painful of my young life… each second an eternity… as I lay on my stomach, ate my orange, and colored.

When my kitty cat clock finally hit the magic hour of FIVE OH OH… I ran down the stairs at a furious pace… rushed past the Christmas tree to scream for my brothers who slept in the downstairs rooms off the back hallway, and then did a quick reverse and ran back to our tree.

I looked at all of the unwrapped gifts Santa had brought to us: Schwinn banana seat bicycles, Malibu Barbie, the game of Sorry, but no Hugo in sight.

I tried to look happy.

I tried not to behave as a spoiled brat.

But I would have traded everything under that tree for my Hugo: EVERYTHING.

An hour passed by with each of us taking turns opening gifts while my mother and father sat in the recliner chairs, sipping their coffee, and trying to keep some semblance of order in the present opening rotation.

And soon… all of the presents were open…

All of the wrapping paper was being burned brilliantly, by my brothers, in our fireplace… while I sat in the corner by the stairs, pretending to play with my Malibu Barbie, my head down, big warm tears rolling down my cheeks.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of being quiet and hiding my pain but I guess I should have known that I couldn’t hide my emotions from my parents.

My father came over and stood beside me, his COOL menthol cigarette in one hand, coffee cup in the other.

“What’s a matter with you?” he barked.

I shook my head… afraid to speak… afraid that I would sob and look like an idiot that didn’t appreciate what was given to me.

My mom shouted from the kitchen, “I think you have another present behind the tree.”

And for a brief moment… my hope returned.

I dropped Malibu Barbie and crawled across the floor, slid under the pine branches of our tree, and reached to the far back corner where I found a box that looked… unfortunately… like a shoebox.

I pressed my back against the wood paneling of our wall and sat… unwilling to come out and open yet another disappointment… a new pair of Ked’s or worse yet… Wallabees.

“Come out,” my dad said.

I crawled from behind the tree and sat with the box in my hands.

“Open it,” he told me.

I said a silent prayer… a final prayer for Hugo.

I reached up and slowly began to rip the Santa paper off the box.

Through a small hole in the top I saw a large “H” and suddenly the rest of the moment escapes me.

I think I actually lost my mind.

There he was!

MY HUGO!

MY MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES!

I squealed with delight and rushed up the stairs to open the box in private.

It was even better than I imagined.

I opened the instruction manual and began to count off the itemized list of disguises:

  • 1 wig
  • 1 goatee/hairpiece
  • 2 glue sticks
  • 2 sideburns
  • 1 mask
  • 4 eyebrows/mustaches
  • 2 noses
  • 2 glasses
  • 2 chins
  • 1 eye patch
  • 2 eye pieces
  • 1 bandage (with fake bloodstain!)
  • 4 scars A bunch of warts/moles
  • 1 set of fangs

It was fantastic.

I spent the entire morning making Hugo into numerous fiends while my brothers sat next to me, eating crispy bacon, mesmerized by my immediate “mastery” of disguises.

Hugo became the villain and the hero in each and everyone of my stories.

He sat proudly on my desk, his mysterious smile, holding all of my childhood secrets that I had quietly whispered to him in moments of play.

Yes… Hugo was my best friend and confidant until that fated day my mother got her hands on him and finally got rid of the “hideously ugly” doll I had begged for.

I often wondered why she got him for me to begin with if she felt so strongly about him?

Maybe she had once wished for a toy that she had never received.

Or maybe it was my father’s doing.

But either way… Hugo was the best Christmas present of my entire childhood.

In Honor of the Pope: Nana Rents a Porno

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stock-footage-overweight-woman-eating-cake-and-watching-vintage-tv

Being the caregiver to an 87-year-old woman is never easy. I won’t go into specifics but, I will say, that waking up to find used Poise pads for women who have bladder control issues filling the trashcans, soiled, silky grandma panties piled up by the washer waiting to be washed, and a slew of semi-empty cat food cans strategically placed in every corner of the house just in case “kitty gets hungry during the night” should round the image nicely.

I love her. Don’t get me wrong. She is my mother, a pain in my ass, but an all-around good time when it comes to story material.

She’s in love with Charlie Sheen, a man she considers perfect. She will circle, with red pen, in her very important TV guide, exactly when Two and a Half Men will be on the television, and how many re-runs she can chalk up each day—to having a laugh with Charlie—while I’m off teaching high school English to the youth of America.

On special days, she will repeatedly dial me at work, unrelenting until I pick up, whether I’m teaching a class or not, long past the days of caring about anyone else’s schedule or needs. Queen of the blue Lazy Boy recliner, Empress of All to tell me, You’re never going to believe what Charlie did today, as if he were actually in the room with her—her bosom buddy—her best friend.

“It said in People magazine that he was dating one of those porno girls.” She told me. “Really…” (Here she actually paused for emphasis) “I don’t know what he sees in those porno girls.”

“I think everyone knows what he sees in those porno girls, Mom,” I mumbled.

“Well, I don’t think you’re very funny,” she snapped and turned up the television to block me out to suffer the theme song of Two and a Half Men—blasting through the house—my temporal punishment until willing to make reparation for my sin of mocking her beloved.

Fuck, I whispered and went about my business trying to find where I had just set my noise canceling headphones to get in a few precious quiet moments of writing time.

My mother’s love for Charlie was palpable and everyone knew it. Which is why I am sure that you can imagine her misery when after twelve years of having Charlie, exactly where she wanted him, I accidentally kept her from her love by switching our media service from Charter to FIOS and introducing her to a new remote control.

Now, any one who has dealt with an “Old” knows that Olds don’t do well with any type of new system and especially new remote controls. Olds push every button. Olds push just the blue buttons. Olds turn off the TV and sit and pout in the dark until you come in and manage the controller. And Olds expect you to drop everything and fucking figure it out now or you will be berated for weeks on end for keeping The Olds from what they love: a sense of continued control provided by familiarity.

Suddenly, she couldn’t find Charlie and she hated me for it and let me tell you: Hell hath no fury like a Nana scorned.

I spent several weeks trying to be patient. Trying to teach Nana the new remote. Trying to explain that Charlie was still there on channel 5.

“But how do I get to him?” she would lament in obvious pain.

“Just press five, Mom.”

She would then hold up the remote in a grand gesture, hold her finger down for an eternity on the number 5 and we would both watch as it registered 555555555 on the television screen and took us to some strange FIOS advertisement channel.

‘You see?” she would cry, her eyes big and sad like one of those horrible 70’s paintings that still hangs on the wall in our den.

“He’s not there!”

I would show her once again how to lift her finger quickly when pressing the 5, and suddenly, Charlie would appear. Her eyes would widen, her toes would flutter, and all would be right in the world for a moment but of course… it never lasted.

I had my students create giant charts that we taped all around her television set, letting Nana know when her favorite show was on and exactly how to find it but to no avail. I would still come home to find her pushing buttons repeatedly, creating channels I’ve never heard of, as if she was trying to cosmically call someone to make the damn thing work.

Each of my brothers took his shot, spending lengthy phone conversations hoping to walk her through the steps yet, she still couldn’t get the remote to work and I would return home from a long day of teaching to hear her cry, “Why did you have to change things? Why are you trying to ruin my life?”

So one day I just gave up. I left and went around the corner to my significant other’s house. Where we sat, blissfully TV free, Stephen reading some fascinating article in MOPAR magazine about neutral safety switches and me, rapt in Mira Bartok’s, The Memory Palace, envying Mira’s bleak situation, when she actually had to change her name, move away, to find solace from her mentally ill mother.

“I could move away,” I said casually to Stephen. “Change my name.”

“We’d miss you,” he said without even looking up from his read: as always, impossible to get a rise from the calmest man in the world.

We went back to our silent ways before I noticed a text pop up quietly on my phone screen. It was from my son’s girlfriend, Penny. My favorite Nor Cal person now transplanted to my home in Long Beach. Heavily tattooed, Vegan, dark-haired Latina beauty, quiet like Stephen, but unwilling to take any shit from anyone, including “The Nana.”

The note read: Nana accidentally rented a porno. It will be on your next bill. Just thought you should know.

I could only imagine what had just happened. My mother: Trying to find Charlie. The repeated pressing of the buttons, the skip to On Demand, how she got down to the Adult movie folder would always be a mystery and one I really didn’t want to solve.

I didn’t even move.

I just texted back, always the writer, What was the title of it?

There was a long pause, ellipses of text flickering in anticipation before the response…

Lots of Big Butts for Every Guy.

There’s no need to tell you that the FIOS agent could not suppress laughter when I called to have the charge for Lots of Big Butts for Every Guy removed from the next bill.

Or that Dylan, my twenty-something son was mortified when he was the one to find her shouting, “Get it off! Get it off! Dylan you’re not going to believe what they are doing on my TV. Please get it off!”

He later told me that it was the most horrific moment of his life: accidentally watching porn with his Nana. “There are just some things you don’t want to do with your Nana, Mom… and watching porno is one of them.”

He said it was comical, the way she was waving the remote at the screen, in a large sweeping circle, as if it was some magical Harry Potter wand that would somehow make the debauchery; the big butts bouncing and banging go away. That said the joy of that visual was not worth what he had to witness on her TV screen.

I’d like to say that I felt sorry for her that I felt the need to comfort my mother but by the time I returned home, she was happily watching Two and a Half Men and seemed to now be unfazed by the incident, eating a pint of strawberry Haagen-Dazs, numerous miniature Chihuahuas parked upon her portly lap waiting for their bites, and Charlie on the TV saying, “Everybody’s got a little baggage … I drink and try to mouth kiss hookers.” My mom giggling like a fool.

“I heard you and Charlie have something in common,” I teased her during the commercial break.

“What’s that?” She asked.

“Ummm, that you both want Lots of Big Butts for Every Guy.”

She took a bite of ice cream, her look full of disdain before pointing her spoon at me as if to banish me from her kingdom.

No come back.

She knew she must concede and admit that she and Charlie were now forever connected… to porno girls.

 

Nana falls on her tailbone and decides it will be fine if someone puts a finger up there to “adjust” it.

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old-lady-squat

Living with OLDS isn’t easy.

I basically wake up each morning in a state of panic until I’m sure that everyone… including the OLD dog is still breathing.

And once I’ve made the rounds of the geriatric crowd… sure in my belief that we all can make it through one more day… I let my guard down and ready for other battles.

But not the morning of the broken ass incident… I don’t know if I will ever let my guard down again after that particularly disturbing event.

It was about 6 am when I heard a loud startling CRACK from the living room.

I knew immediately that my mom had taken a fall: It wasn’t the first time she had landed hard.

Eighty-five but still absolutely obstinate that she was not ready for a walker… that a cane would do her just fine… but the truth?

The cane was unstable.

Add our slick hardwood floors and it was literally a recipe for disaster and so… on this morning… it was.

I jumped from the bed and ran down the hallway to find my mom; legs splayed out in front of her, back pressed against the leg of a chair that had luckily inched back and pinned itself on the brick wall somewhat breaking her fall. Her cane flat on the floor next to her… a large angry scratch on the floor betraying the truth: that she had leaned on the cane for help but it had buckled and let her down.

I wanted to pick it up and throw it through the plate glass window and scream at her for not using the walker but, I held my temper and waited for Dylan as I knew he would soon be rushing down the stairs, to help me lift her into the chair and assess the damage.

“Something’s wrong with my butt,” she said. “It feels like something’s stuck up inside of it.”

Dylan, my son, looked at me and though he didn’t want to laugh at his Nana, especially if she was truly hurt, had to fight back amusement in regards to the cadence of my mother’s voice: Her comic timing, without realizing it, was impeccable.

I couldn’t stop myself.

I laughed loudly.

“Oh you think it’s so funny to have something up your ass?” She snapped.

At this time, Dylan completely lost it.

My mom frowned at both of us.

“Wait until it happens to you,” she said.

“You mean wait until I have something stuck up my ass or wait until I refuse to use a walker and fall on my ass?” my sarcasm beyond blatant.

“Oh you think you’re so funny,” she said as she grabbed hold of my arm and Dylan’s, righting herself, as she made Dylan hand her the cane.

“But Nana,” Dylan said sweetly. “What if…”

“I’ll be fine,” she barked at him. “It’s just a swore ass.”

She hobbled off to the TV room where moments later I heard Regis and Kelly blasting from the set and so I assumed… “it was only a flesh wound” and that she had already gotten over it.

I told Dylan to go back upstairs but to keep an eye and an ear out for Nana once I left for school.

He kissed Nana on the head and walked away… a bit of a giggle escaping unexpectedly somewhere around the 10th stair-step.

I got dressed, left for work, believing everything was okay until later that day my mother fell again.

This time, she just slipped right out of her recliner and fell butt first on the floor.

Luckily, my good friend Darryl was doing some work on the house, and heard her calling for help over the sound of his power tools.

When I saw his number pop up on my phone at school, I told the students that it might be an emergency and I’d have to take the call.

They all leaned forward in their desks, wondering what “Ms. Wood escapades” they would be privy to this morning.

“Hey D.D.” Darryl said. “Your mom fell out of her chair and hurt her butt.”

“Is she okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was able to get her back up into her chair but…” he paused. “She says she has something stuck up her butt and I can’t really do anything about that.”

“She actually told you that?” I asked. “She actually told you she had something stuck up her butt?”

I couldn’t believe it. My mom was totally out of control.

At that moment… I was reminded how much like my mother I was… when I turned to see 35 young and highly interested faces wonder:

Who was on the phone?

Who had something stuck up their butt?

And thank God Ms. Wood was so absent-minded she would repeat the up-the-butt scenario in front of her entire class.

I saw Tyler Ericksen in the back of the room turn to A.J. Santos and mouth the words “Up her butt” before they both just fell out laughing.

I turned my best glare at them and they immediately silenced themselves.

“Does she want me to come home?” I said to Darryl.

“No,” Darryl said. “She’s okay. She said she could wait to get up when you get home and… I’m here.”

“Fine,” I said and hung up the phone.

“Who’s got something up their butt?” Tyler asked as he tried not to smirk or giggle.

“You’re gonna have something up your butt Tyler if you don’t crack that book and get back to work.”

A.J. put his face down on his desk. His shoulders heaving with laughter.

“A.J.?” I asked.

He looked up, tears streaming down his face and whispered, “You said crack.”

“OH JESUS!” I screeched. “It’s my mom. She took a fall. She hit her ass. Now she thinks somethings stuck up there!”

The entire room went silent.

“My brother stuck a small mallet up his butt once,” Kylie said. “Maybe your mom landed on something and it…”

“My mother does not have a small mallet up her ass!” I screamed.

Kylie looked around the room as if she was only trying to help.

Everyone else just seemed dumbfounded that 11th grade American History had turned into Local Current Affairs in under a minute.

“Let’s just go back to work,” I said calmly now. “My mom will be fine. I’m sure she just bruised her tailbone.”

And so… my class went back to silently working and I counted the minutes until I could get home and check on my mother.

By 3 pm I realized my mother was not fine.

Darryl was long gone, smart man, and mom was bent over the kitchen sink.

She had her arms folded in front of her and her ass up in the air.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Taking the pressure off.”

I watched her shift her weight from one orthopedic sandal to the other her short cotton blend roomy capris moving with her.

“I think I need to go to the doctor,” she said.

I waited… listening… watching her in action.

“Yep,” she said. “I’m sure of it.”

Here she turned to look at me head on.

“You know when it just feels like you need someone to stick a finger up there and set it right. That’s what I need. A finger adjustment.”

I cannot describe my face at the moment these words registered in my brain.

In fact, I’m not sure if Hemingway could have described it.

Or even Palahniuk or Leonard.

“Did you really just say that?” I asked.

“What? That I need a finger up my ass. Yes Dede. That is what I said. I need a finger up my ass.”

I couldn’t take anymore. “Jesus Christ Old Woman!” I screamed. “Do you hear the shit that comes out of your mouth?”

I stomped from the kitchen and down the hall, where I slammed the door behind me and called my oldest daughter, who was in nursing school, to help me out with this situation.

Lexi answered the phone on the first ring.

“I hear Nana needs a finger up her ass,” she said followed by her hysterical laughter. “Don’t worry Mom,” she said. “I’m already on the way.”

I stayed in the back of the house unwilling to watch the full-blown fiasco of Dylan and Lex trying to get Nana out the door, and into the car, to go to the doctor’s to get her much needed “finger adjustment.”

I actually laid on the bed the entire time they were gone and tried to envision Dr. Yeske’s face when my mom repeated to him in her perfect comic tone. “I just feel like I need you to put your finger up my ass and adjust it.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

When they returned, Nana was upright with a frosty chocolate shake in her hand as if all was right in the world.

“You okay,” I asked though I was terribly afraid of the answer.

“Yes,” she said as she took a giant slurp off her shake. “I have a small fracture in my tailbone. I don’t need a finger adjustment. It’s just going to take a bit of time to heal.”

“Oh that’s wonderful,” I said as the kids put a pillow in the seat of her recliner and helped her to sit back.

“Yes,” she said as she took another slurp of shake. “Will you put a movie on for me?’

“Sure,” I said. Happy in the knowledge that we were moving past butt talk. “What do you want to watch?”

“Get me Bad Santa,” she said. “I just love that movie and all this ass talk reminded me of that great scene when he…”

“Don’t!” I screamed. “Don’t say it.”

She took another slurp off her shake and smiled. And though she didn’t say a word… I swear I could hear her say, That’s right, Sweetheart. I’m not out of the sarcasm game yet.

Part Two: The Olds go out for Dinner and Come Back Hungry

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old lady driving

It started out as a simple plan.

The Olds, tired of Jack-in-the-Box salads and McDonald’s apple turnovers decided they would make a night of it.

Yes… they would go to Olive Garden for the unlimited soup/salad/breadstick special and God knows what else.

The only problem?

My 85 year-old mother and her 85 year-old friend, Ernie, are in my opinion, unfit to drive.

In fact, barely a month ago, my mom hit the gas, instead of the brakes, in the fast food drive-thru line and shocked the shit out of a guy trying to grab hold of his Big Mac, while being rammed from behind by an old woman. To add insult to injury, she refused to offer him her information and instead, tried to hand him 50 bucks to cover the damage, before climbing back into her car, and leaving the scene of the crime.

And Ernie… was no better. He had just rented a car at his daughter’s house in Phoenix, drove home without our knowledge, missed the turn-off to the 91 freeway that would have brought him straight to our house and confused… had driven two more hours out of his way, ending up in Santa Monica where finally, road-weary and frustrated, he exited the off-ramp and slammed into a car that had a small child in the back seat.

No… I wasn’t really into either of them driving but unfortunately… I had no idea of their “big” plan until after they both blew the coop.

“Where’s Nana?” I asked Dylan, my son, when I saw that the blue recliner in the living room was empty, and the house was blissfully silent without Two and a Half Men, her all-time favorite show, blasting from the television.

“Her and Ernie went to Olive Garden,” he said.

I made a face… not really sure what to say…. if they were heading to Olive Garden, they were going all the way to Cerritos. Not a big jog for us… but for the Olds… that was like taking a trip to China.

I must have really grimaced, or Dylan must have sensed my discomfort with the entire situation, because he quickly added, “Yeah, they’ve been gone like a really long time. Like almost three hours. I’m getting pretty worried.”

I was a bit concerned when I heard this but not overly so.

I know how my mom eats.

She really likes to take her time and make it a full-on event and not in a fun way.

It’s painful going out to dinner or lunch with her these days.

She’s grown quite defiant in her eating: she knows you’re waiting on her and she likes it.

She can swirl a small piece of steak around on her plate a good four or five minutes and reposition it like ten times before actually even lifting it towards her mouth and don’t even get me started on the chewing.

Yeah… If they had gone to Olive Garden… and they were drinking wine and partying with the unlimited bread basket, who knew when they would be home.

I smiled at Dylan, told him not to worry, and went back to my writing until just a few minutes later, I heard a loud commotion in the kitchen.

I thought it was the kids messing around until Dylan came back into my office with his eyes big and round.

“There’s been an incident,” he said in a hushed voice.

“Is everyone okay?” I asked. “What kind of incident?”

Dylan went on to explain that apparently his “Nana” and Ernie had gotten lost on the way to Olive Garden and instead of coming home, drove around for over two-and-a-half hours looking for it.

“Yeah,” Dylan said. “And I guess Nana had to go to the bathroom the entire time and Ernie yelled at her, and now they are fighting in the kitchen.”

Oh God, I thought to myself, Please don’t make me go out there and for once… he seemed to answer my prayers because that’s when Stephen rolled through the front door.

Stephen.

My dude and all around good guy.

Everyone loves Stephen.

He is the anchor… the cool one…. he always brings the action down and thank God, that was when he walked in.

He corralled Ernie and put him out on the front swing, where I heard them speaking in hushed voices.

I took the opportunity to act casual, and head out to the kitchen for a glass of water so that I could check on my mom.

She was stomping about near the bathroom, her cane thump reminiscent of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart and for a moment, I almost turned and ran away to leave Stephen and Dylan to deal with the mess but I waited and played dumb.

“Hey mom,” I said calmly as I pretended to rinse off a plate in the sink. “How was Olive Garden?”

She thumped closer.

“We didn’t make it there,” she said. “We couldn’t find it.”

I heard silence from the front porch and saw Ernie and Stephen nestled together… listening to her response through the kitchen window, fearful of another angry tangent.

“Well, let’s just get you some food here,” I said.

“No,” she snapped. “I want to go to Hof’s Hut.”

I looked at the clock.

It was almost 9 pm.

“It’s a bit late,” I said. “How about…”

“Well that doesn’t mean I’m not hungry!” she yelled.

I heard Ernie and Stephen scurry away from the window, and their voices dropped to excited hushed whispers again.

Jesus.

I turned around to face my mom and smiled sweetly, “Well that’s why I was going to make you some…”

“NO!” she said firmly. “We’re going to Hof’s Hut.”

I was about to concede, figuring Hof’s was close, an easy drive for my mom from our house, and that if I just gave in… we could all go to bed at a decent time, when she said, “Where is Hof’s Hut? I can’t remember? Can you tell me how to get there?”

This is the moment I realized that my mom might be actually losing it and so I asked her to hang on a minute as I opened the front door and walked out to see Ernie and Stephen.

Ernie, a tall thin man with large eyes, looked like one of those sad-eyed Mexican children in those black velvet 70’s paintings I still loved. He was leaning into Stephen’s crook, as if he was seeking protection.

“She wouldn’t let me get her home,” he said sadly. “I finally had to yell at her.”

I thought he was going to cry.

He put his hands together and continued, “She won’t turn right I tell you. She wouldn’t turn right. Maybe I should just buy my plane ticket back to New Zealand now and go home.”

He put his head down and looked at his feet. I watched as he wiggled his toes as if acting “natural” about the whole thing would make it go away.

I felt a profound sadness in the moment.

I didn’t want Ernie to go home.

The Olds were a pain in the ass.

The Olds really knew how to fuck up a good time.

The Olds were 99% of each day out of their God damn minds.

But they were my Olds… and this might be the last time I would ever see Ernie.

He had already spent most of his trip telling everyone, “I just came to say goodbye before I head back to New Zealand to die.” and that…. was a bit too much for me.

I looked at Stephen and sighed.

Stephen patted Ernie’s shoulder, assured him that everything would be fine, as I walked back into the house to get this thing figured out.

“I do love that woman,” I heard Ernie say as I shut the front door.

And I knew it was true.

My mom and Ernie had been friends for many years, since my father’s death, and I knew that what seemed like a “dinner incident” to us was much more to them in the grand scheme of their relationship.

I knew what I was going to have to do and I had to do it quickly and panic set in at the idea of it…

If I couldn’t negotiate a deal with Dylan to drive the Olds to dinner and act as a mediator throughout the entire event… I was going to have to do it myself.

Oh God, I prayed, I’ll give him anything… anything… if he just takes them.

I grabbed the cell and called Dylan who was upstairs.

“Yeah?” he said, obviously preoccupied with something.

“I need you to take the Olds to Hof’s Hut.”

“NOOOOOOOOOO!” He whined.

“You’re the baby,” I said. “They love you. You have to take them.”

“Make them eat here,” he said defiantly.

“They won’t,” I said. “You have to take them. You have to save their relationship.”

There was a long pause before Dylan quietly gave in and said, “Okay.”

Just a few minutes later, Dylan was acting as mediator to the Olds… escorting Nana to the car, her arm linked to his… Ernie… a few steps behind… fearful… but like a scared animal… trusting in Dylan’s calm presence.

I watched as they made it into the car, pulled out of the drive, and headed off to the restaurant.

Stephen stood next to me and said, “I can’t end up like that…” he turned and looked at me, “I just can’t do it.”

This statement I’m sure has been said by many caretakers but coming from someone always so sound and calm was disturbing.

I gave Stephen a big hug before he headed home to walk the dogs.

Fifteen minutes later, I was back to writing when a text message came through from Dylan: This… is getting pretty intense.

I could only imagine the scene:

Dylan, my big curly haired, bearded bear… smiling between the two Olds as Mom tried to bash Ernie’s brains in with her cane and Ernie, tired of her bullshit, holding a plate full of Snicker’s cheesecake, her favorite, in his hand…refusing to give it to her… laughing and brandishing his fork with glee each time he gulped down another big bite at the distress to my mother while he shouted, “Are you gonna turn right next time Old Woman? Are you gonna turn right?”

Of course, the true dinner scene was nothing of the sort… Dylan told me later it was eaten in almost total silence as he made small talk and wiggled uncomfortably.

I gave him a big hug, when he returned and held him tight.

“Will you take me and Stephen out when we are Old?” I asked… referring to the fact that both of us preferred a date with death in Oregon, where it was legal, over a painful meal at Hof’s Hut.

“As long as we don’t have to go to Hof’s Hut,” he said, oblivious to my dark humor.

I paused for a minute and beamed at him.

“What?” He asked a small quizzical smile on his face.

“Nothing,” I said. “Doesn’t matter.”

And then I went back to my writing, Dylan went back upstairs, and I spent the last few minutes before bed listening to the soothing bickering of the Olds in the living room…. everyone back on task.