Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Death Becomes Her

Death becomes her.
Mortality is a sobering topic, especially when discussing your own. I hadn’t given it much thought until I spent a few weeks caring for aging men and women, some with varying stages of dementia.

I started to visualize myself in 30 or 40 years. It’s not a pretty picture for a woman vain enough to create a blog about resisting going gray, and battling bulges!

In a couple of decades I’ll be blogging about resisting the effects of gravity on my boobies, and lack of elasticity elsewhere . . . probably . . . unless Kegel wards off droop forever. But, I digress.

Death is inevitable. For some it comes early due to trauma or illness. For others, who insist upon controlling their own fate, it comes at their own hand.

Regardless of how the Grim Reaper arrives, he makes no apologies for his visit; he exhibits no sentimentality.

Coroners have the same cold approach in their job–necessarily, of course. When put into the context of yourself, however, the indifference with which coroners sum up the demise of a newly dead human being is . . . well, horrifying.

I inserted my own name into this actual autopsy report, and then experienced a fright-induced temporary rigor mortis, followed by laughing out loud hysteria.

You try it. Put in your name at the top of this report, and fill in your own stats. I dare you.

#2054 12245 Tina Holden
Tina Holden is identified by toe tags, and is that of an unembalmed, refrigerated (ugh!) adult female Caucasian. The body is not clothed. The body weighs 135 pounds, and measures 60.5 inches.

Tina's head is otherwise norm-cephalic, and covered by brown hair, with slight graying at the roots. (Say it ain't so.) There is no balding, and the hair can be described as long and wavy. Mustache and beard are absent.

     The cronasal passages are unobstructed. Upper and lower teeth are present. The neck is unremarkable. There is no chest deformity.

     Tina's skin shows early decomposition change with a green-gray discoloration of the face and red skin marbling noted over the upper extremities.

     Tina's fresh brain weighs 1420 grams. A normal convolutionary pattern is observed.

     There are no aneurysms. Tina's cranial nerves are intact.
Scary, isn't it?

     Organs of the abdominal cavity have a normal arrangement and none are absent.

     Tina's heart weighs 390 grams. It has a normal configuration.

This is, of course, a truncated autopsy report. But, nevertheless, I am grateful that my teeth are present and my abdominal organs managed to attend the autopsy "well arranged", and that my mustache and beard are absent.

I take exception, however, to the comment about my neck being “unremarkable,” but am pleased my chest shows no deformity. (Not even a little sag?)

My heart seems heavy, but who can blame it–I’m dead.

As for the green-gray discoloration of my face–that’s nothing a little Cover Girl can’t handle! Indeed, I think death will become me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

High Maintenance

Middle age.  It's the period where we discover that our parts are in various stages of breaking down, filling out, and succumbing to gravity.  This transition is wholly unkind and unapologetic.

In fact, it sometimes feels like the gruesome, writhing metamorphosis Bruce Banner experiences every time the Hulk emerges, only slower.  His transformation does look painful--as is ours.

The first clue is Banner's eyes stop dead in their tracks, and turn bluish/white.  He rears back his head with a grimace on his face, as his neck begins to bulge, veins rising under the strain.  At the same time, muscle groups enlarge out of control, bursting through Banner's shirt sleeves and forcing buttons to pop.  For me, blouse-bursting happens at the most inopportune times, and without the blue/white eye-change warning.  I'm just sitting there trying to enjoy a dessert at brunch with friends, for example, when POP!

And I am thinking, C'mon, give me a break, this top can't contain me and a few bites of cheesecake!  Really?  That's just wrong.

To keep the monster at bay, I engage in all manner of preventative maintenance.  Okay, not really, but I should.  I engage in a few.  Being a die hard Do-It-Yourselfer, I purchased some exercise equipment for home, lots of moisturizing products, specially formulated shampoo and conditioner, and I stock piled L'Oreal hair color, in Espresso, for resistant gray, of course.  So far, I've managed to use these products successfully.

One area of maintenance, however, that I have finally decided needs to be left to the experts is feet.  My feet, size 5-1/2, require a lot more attention than one might think for such small pedestals.  First, feet have to be marinated in oil, then nails have to be clipped, filed, buffed and polished.  Then, calluses have to be sanded with pads resembling S.O.S. steel wool.  And you are supposed to take a grater-like thing to your heels.

The problem with trying to maintain your feet yourself is that it's tricky, and involves bending over.  Besides, feet are too important to be left to amateurs like ourselves.  Steel wool and skin graters can be brutal in the hands of an inexperienced, unlicensed, aging Do-It-Yourselfer.  I came to this conclusion after whittling my heels down to a point where I now inadvertently step out of my shoes in mid-step.

I just hope I don't burst through my blouse and lose my shoes at the same time.  It could happen, especially if I'm eating cheesecake on the run!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On the Verge of Old

You may be on the verge of old if . . .

  • You trade in your purebred greyhounds for an elderly Maltese 
  • Ballet flats replace your stilettos
  • Elastic waist pants creep into your wardrobe
  • You gain poise by buying PoiseTM
  • AARP sends you increasingly demanding promotional offers insinuating that you should respond promptly because your expiration date may be sooner than the one on the coupon
  • You've gone from no eye glasses to six pair placed strategically about the house and car, but still require 60 minutes to find one
  • A pre-schooler refers to your undyed roots as "old hair" and is perplexed on your behalf
  • You think hash tag means chasing your brother around the front yard slinging meat and potatoes
  • You guess that Twitter is the comparative form of twit (twittest, being the superlative).
  • You are one of the thousands of Americans who asked their kids what "twerking" is, and why is Miley Cyrus doing it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Very Small Men

As most of you know, I am the mother of three girly-girls. Actually they are women now. But all three wear their hair long, they have perfected the smokey eye look with top shelf makeup, and have become fashionistas extraordinaire. At least in my humble opinion they are.
Grandma Tina, a.k.a. L'ma
They don't shave, they get waxed. And, if I'm not mistaken, they have their hair and nail stylists on retainer, and in the Top 5 speed dialed numbers.

My daughters are not vain, just well cared for. And, oh so feminine.

Whenever they are not at the hospital working as R.N.s. the girls have luncheon with their BFFs and talk Kardashian drama and What Not to Wear.

All three daughters are married; two have just had babies. BOY babies! Each of them exclaimed when the gender was revealed, "I don't know nuthin' bout raising BOY babies!"

And, of course, I am of little use, not having raised BOYS myself. I keep hoping they are not simply Very Small Men. Oy! THAT would be a disaster.

The disaster would look something like this: 

A Very Small Man is lying in a crib, scratching his belly and yawning, calling out at the same time, "MaaaahhM! Get me another teat, would ya? The left one this time. And some teething biscuits while you're at it."

Or he's in the tub, peeing  . . .  ON his rubber ducky's face . . . because HE CAN.

Later, while putting away toys into his toy box he mimics Dad putting dishes in the dishwasher. "I'll just shove a few more in and close the door quick before SHE sees the breakage. I only play with this limited edition porcelain Mickey Mouse on special occasions anyway."

I know I'm getting ahead of myself. Sarah's Luke is only 2-1/2 months old; Sammy Jo's Gavin is two days old. 

And I'm still in denial about being a grandmother. Grand. Mother. Grand Ma. Grandma.

I am struggling with the terminology as if it's a tight turtleneck sweater having to be matched up with my head and arms a couple of times first; then pulled, tugged and untwisted down over my defiant body, the neck staying outstretched over my mouth and nose, suffocating me.

But then we come up with an appealing term for my status, L'ma (a derivative of "Llama Mama"--my American Sign Language name sign), and I am no longer smothered. I am overwhelmed with awe. I have grandbabies. Grandsons. Baby BOYS who are not Very Small Men looking for a busty woman 24/7. (It's more like 14/7.)

Each is an amazing combination of his mother and father. And, strangely each resembles extended family as well. Cousins, aunts, uncles, great grandparents appear in their newborn faces. My father and I can be seen when Luke is turned to a 45 degree angle; but for Gavin you can see me in his profile, while his own daddy is there when looking head-on face-to-face.

Halos hover over their soft fuzzy baby BOY heads. And they stretch, lenthening their footed pastel jammies to a full 20 inches. They coo quietly, dreamily sinking into mommy's arms, knowing only warmth first inside and now outside of her body. They are fed and held and loved by mommy and daddy . . .

Until Grandma comes over. Then I hold them, sing to them, stare at them in wonder. I pat them and stroke them. I am in love. I am grateful they are healthy. I am grateful they are handsome.

But mostly, I am grateful they are not very small men.

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Latte?

This blog differs from my usual in that it's more serious, and not so much about growing older except in gaining wisdom through experience. Here goes:
Homelessness in my southern California community has weighed heavily on me for a couple of years now because of what appears to be a great increase in the numbers of people sleeping on benches, loitering at Starbucks, cruising the streets on bikes towing a makeshift trailer, or pushing a grocery cart full of all their worldly possessions, often including a dog either for companionship (Chihuahua) or protection (Pit Bull).
Sometimes groups of homeless gather at a prominent corner to commiserate their state of affairs. At least that’s what I imagine they are doing. Talking about their shared experience. I’ve been told that the homeless tend to be possessive of their meager belongings, willing to fight off anyone who threatens to steal them.
Likewise, they are aggressive in their attempts to gain basic needs–blankets, food, clothing. And anyone fortunate enough to homeless Billbe in possession of a large cardboard box, previously the housing for a refrigerator, is likely to have to fight off a fellow homeless person coveting their prize.
The truth is I have been on the threshold of homelessness myself, and it’s a scary situation. Really scary. So, I may be more sympathetic than the average Good Samaritan.
My sympathies for the homeless among us had kept me on the fence about whether or not to give them some money (or something to eat) or not. Proponents of withholding help argue that giving freely reinforces an entitlement mentality, and doesn't incite them to get out of their rut.
A recent series of interchanges with homeless men has moved me off the fence and into the camp of those who say, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
The first in the series of encounters occurred when I parked in a strip mall parking lot, intending to get some lunch at Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. I was approached, even before completely exiting my car, by a young man in tattered clothing covered in filth, with straggly hair and beard.
“Ma’am, could you spare some change?”
“No, I use plastic. But I’ll buy you something to eat. I’m going in to Yoshinoya,” I said cheerfully.
“I’m vegetarian. I was going to go to a place where I could get a veggie burger,” was his reply.
Now, I was really feeling charitable since for once in a very long time I could spare a few bucks for someone less fortunate than myself. So, I persisted, “Yoshinoya has veggie and rice bowls. You don’t have to have meat.”
“I don’t like their food,” he said. Oh, I thought, I to help a fellow with a meal and he’s turning me down. Strange.
Later, while dining on rice and teriyaki chicken, I saw him rummaging through a garbage can outside of Yoshinoya. Humph. Suit yourself, I guess.
The next encounter with a hungry, homeless young man happened outside a Starbucks. He was sitting with his extremely large puppy, a black and white mixed breed with gigantic paws.
“Ma’am? Could you spare some change?” Same line as the last guy.
“No, but I’ll be glad to buy you something to eat. I’ll run down to McDonald’s.”
“I don’t really like their food.” Here we go again. “But, of course I’d be grateful for anything.” That’s more like it.
“And a couple of burgers for my pooch, please.” He’s thinking there’s no way she can resist Buster’s hopeful look. I couldn’t. I bought the dog a couple of burgers, all the while thinking this homeless kid should really learn to live within his means.
The third experience I was at a gas station, needing to fill up, and needing even more, to wash my windshield. Lo and behold there was a poverty stricken man across the parking lot with a squeegee in hand. To my surprise, he did not approach. But another, looking equally poor, did approach me.
homeless beer“Ma’am, could you spare some change, or maybe buy me a doughnut or somethin’?” This time, I was feeling less charitable and more curious about how this would play out. I bet he offers to wash my windshield when he sees me go for the scrubber.
“Sure. Just a minute,” I said, scrubber in hand. Wait for it. Wait . . . for . . . it. Hmm. No offer to ‘work for food.’ Instead, he plopped his dirty, but able bodied self on the island dividing the lanes between gasoline pumps. Really? What about WWFF, “Will Work for Food?” Have all y’all become entirely without even a drop of work ethic? C’mon, there might be a 10 dollar bill in it for ya.
My charitable inclination diminished then and there. I gave him 50 cents.
The final encounter occurred again at a Starbucks. A pitiful young man explained that his wife and he would be grateful for a  cup of coffee. I reasoned, It’s chilly outside where they are restricted. Coffee is a modest request. Here is my opportunity to give a little. How much could a couple of cups of coffee set me back? Not much. The least I can do is see to it they have a beverage to warm them up.
“Okay,” I said, feeling that this man would redeem all homeless. He would gratefully accept a small token of my charitable nature: a simple cup of coffee which I can afford to provide. Win/win.
“We’ll have two Venti blended Caramel Macchiatos with extra whip,” he said.
“Oh! Get outta here with your greedy self.” That’s what I wanted to say. Instead, I controlled my reaction, and said, “I’ll buy one Venti for you and your wife to share. They’re pretty big.” Sheesh. My esteem for the down-and-out was beginning to evaporate. Venti Caramel Macchiato, indeed!
Since the last of these situations, I have become a believer in supporting organizations working to help the homeless help themselves. I’m working three jobs to make ends meet, but still find opportunities to donate clothing and toiletries to shelters, and I gladly pay to have my windshield washed . . . if anyone does that kind of job still.