It’s been two and a half years since Mom passed away. A couple of months after she was gone, we started on the interior remodeling projects that we’d been putting off so it wouldn’t upset her. They included scraping all the asbestos-laden popcorn-textured ceilings, replacing all the floor molding, and painting every wall and ceiling. And that was just the beginning. We gutted the master bath and the kitchen and did a total makeover in both rooms plus the guest bathroom. We had all new appliances installed and replace the old toilets with new low-flow, high seat models. We replaced all the old moldy carpeting with new mold-free short shag carpeting and peeled up lumpy linoleum and replaced it with tile in both bathrooms and the kitchen. We installed bullet lights and recessed cabinet lights and, finally, we installed all new interior doors and frames.
It took four months, but once it was done the fun really began as we hit the furniture stores. Living room, dining room, breakfast nook, master bedroom. It was a whirlwind of Memorial Day sales.
But now the house finally feels like ours. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mom’s very happy with the changes.
It started about a week after we’d took delivery of our new bedroom furniture and moved out of the guest room and into the master bedroom. I was just starting to go to sleep after fumbling for the remote on my nightstand and turning off the end of the 10 o’clock news when a very distinct “Patty” came from out of nowhere. My eyes popped open and I lay on the pillow quietly waiting. And I wasn’t disappointed. “Patty” echoed in the hallway outside our bedroom.
“Bill,” I hissed to the snoring lump lying next to me. When he didn’t answer I nudge him with my elbow. “Are you awake?” I asked softly.
“I am now,” he grumbled. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s mom,” I said quietly. “She’s calling me.”
“Well then just turn off your phone,” he muttered as he rolled over.
“She’s not calling me on my phone,” I whispered to his back. “She’s out in the hall.”
There was a momentary pause and I heard him inhale and exhale, drawing on husbandly reserves of patience. “Patt, your mother isn’t in the hall. She’s in a crematory box in the guest room closet.”
“I know that,” I groused as I struggled into a sitting position. “I’m just telling you that she’s also in the hall. I heard her calling my name. And no, before you say anything, I wasn’t dreaming because I wasn’t asleep.”
“Okay,” he replied, rolling back toward me. “What do you think she wants?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she wants her bedroom back. Maybe we should move back into the guest room. Maybe she doesn’t like the changes in the house. Maybe she’s mad because we got rid of the dining room table from Danish modern hell.”
“Well we can’t change things back, we’re not returning the furniture, the damn dining table’s been sold and we are NOT going to sleep in the guest room because your dead mother wants her bedroom back!”
“I know all that,” I sighed. “But I heard her and I don’t know what to do.”
“How about you try to go to sleep and see if it happens again. Then maybe you can have a mother-daughter talk with her and work it all out.”
“Alright, I’ll try,” I murmured as I snuggled back under the bed covers and lay my head on my pillow.
“Don’t worry hon,” he said as he kissed my forehead. “If she yells for you again, I’ll just tell her to knock it off.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” I whispered. “And if she asks, tell her the Red Menace went to the farm!”
Mom passed away peacefully in her sleep last night. Because the stories, and the journey they chronicled, were written lightheartedly, with humor and laughter being the end goal, Bill and I composed, this, Mom’s unofficial obituary to reflect the craziness that passed for our lives during the last 7 years. Thank you, all my loyal followers, for sharing this time with me and Bill and especially Mom.
Mrs. Elaine… passed quietly into the night on September 5, 2016. She was married to John the Nazi for 22 not-so-fun-filled years until she decided that he’d gone bad and sent him back to his daughter.
She is survived by her three children, Patty, Jimmy and the one who never calls; by four grandchildren, Patty’s son Ryan and her daughter – whose either Dana or Amber, and Jimmy’s two girls, whose names she can’t remember but they live in Michigan except one of them moved, maybe to Boston or Ohio or someplace where it gets cold and is dangerous so she should not go out alone at night. She was also a great-grandmother of four. She didn’t know which kids belong to who, but she knew who they were – the older girl, that other boy, the little wild girl and the new one who might be a girl but is probably a boy.
She spent her last few years happily perched on her beloved loveseat where she carried on long and fulfilling relationships with Drew Carey, Tom Bergeron and Alex Trebeck. She’ll miss them.
She will be remembered fondly and thought of often. Good night Mom.
“Would you like a half of a turkey sandwich?” I yell to Mom from the kitchen as I dragged out plates and sandwich ingredients from the frig.
“Sure,” she called back. “Are you cutting it?”
“Cutting what? The turkey?”
“No, the bread.”
I paused next to the kitchen counter, juggling a package of turkey slices, another of Smoked Gouda slices, a jar of mayonnaise, a head of lettuce and a loaf of 12-grain bread. “The bread?” I asked loudly.
“Yes, are you cutting it or getting it?”
I dumped the lunch makings onto the counter and walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. “What do you mean am I cutting it. It’s bread.”
“But the last time you made me a sandwich, you cut it too thick and I could hardly bite down on it,” she explained, opening her mouth wide, then loudly chomping her teeth together three or four times for emphasis.
“Mom,” I sighed, “it’s just a loaf from the store. It’s already sliced.”
“Oh, okay. Then it must have been a different loaf the last time. It was almost too fat to eat.”
“It’s the same bread we always get,” I said, turning to go back into the kitchen.
“Then you probably got a mistake.”
“A mistake?” I asked, pausing in the kitchen doorway. “What do you mean, a mistake?”
“You know, a mistake. Like the checker people didn’t check close enough and fat slices got put in the package.”
“Yup, that must be it,” I laughed. “Those damn checker people. And I’ll bet they probably want $15 an hour too, just like the McDonald’s people.”
“Well that’s not right. If they aren’t smart enough to know a fat slice of bread from a skinny one, then they don’t deserve a raise.”
“They ratted ‘em out!” Mom yelled from the living room.
I looked over at Bill, who was busy designing user interface screens for our current project. “Ratted them out?” I whispered.
He shrugged and replied, “You better go check or she’ll come looking for you and by the time she gets here she’ll forget what she wanted to say.”
“Okay,” I sighed as I stood and started making my way toward the other end of the house.
“Who ratted out who?” I asked as I came into the living room.
“All three of them,” she exclaimed. “I just heard it on the radio.”
“Mom, you don’t have a radio in here,” I commented drily. “Do you mean you saw it on the TV?”
“No, I heard it. It must have been on the radio in the other house.”
“You don’t have another… Oh, never mine. So, who ratted out who?”
“I told you, the three of them. They all got ratted out.”
“What three. Are you talking about Trump and Hillary?”
“Yes, and the other one.”
“No, not him. I don’t know who that is. The other one trying to get elected.”
“Elected to President or some other office?”
“No, not an office. To President.”
Well, Mom, there’s only Hillary, the Donald, and Gary Johnson,” I explained.
“Not a Johnson. It was Hillary and Trump and the other one. That’s who got ratted on.”
“And what was the ratting about?”
“I don’t remember, but it was pretty good,” she said with a grin. “I just know I’m voting for the other guy.”
“What other guy?”
“The one they aren’t ratting on.”
“No, I told you, I don’t know who that is.”
“Don’t worry, neither does anyone else,” I replied. “But I still don’t know who you’re talking about. All that’s left is Trump and Clinton. There isn’t anyone else.”
“Are you sure,” she asked, squinting her eyes and looking at me suspiciously.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I concluded, turning to leave.
“Well that’s a pretty crappy choice.”
“Yup, pretty much,” I said, as I started back down the hall. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“I think you’re wrong and I’m voting for the other guy!” she called after me.
“Okay, Mom, you do that. An imaginary guy couldn’t be much worse.”
After cleaning the house on Sunday, I was in the shower and Bill was patiently waiting his turn while he sat in the office playing Solitaire on his computer.
As I lathered up, I thought I heard the distinctive sound of the Red Menace coming out of Mom’s bedroom, which meant she was up from her first nap of the day. I quickly rinsed off as I listened to her motoring down the hall toward the living room and, I presumed, into the Arizona room where I knew she’d be looking for me.
I squirted out a blob of shampoo and prepared to wash my hair, but stopped when I heard her returning up the hall. I mentally braced myself, waiting for her to bump the door open to see if I was in the bathroom, but instead she stopped just short of the bathroom at the office door.
“Where are the women?” I heard her say to Bill.
“Women? What women?” he responded.
“You know, the women. Where’d they go?”
“I don’t know,” he stuttered. “In the bathroom maybe?”
“What in the world would they both be doing in there?” she asked sharply.
“Taking a shower?” he offered lamely.
“Well that’s just not right,” she huffed. “I never took a shower with Shirley in my whole life and she’s my sister. That’s just not right.”
“Okay then,” he replied, still sounding somewhat befuddled, “if they’re not in the bathroom, I don’t know where they are.”
This was met with an abrupt harrumph, followed quickly by her rolling away, back down the hall toward the living room once again. Thinking that was the end of it, I quickly shampooed my hair, rinsed and turned off the water.
And then I heard the Red Menace returning up the hall.
“Crap,” I muttered to myself. I grabbed my bath towel, wrapped it snuggly around myself and stepped out of the shower onto the bath rug just as she slammed into the door with the wheelchair. I stepped quickly out of the way as the door stop slammed into the wall and the door ricocheted back toward the door frame.
“Oh, there you are,” she said brightly, ignoring the paint chips that snowed off the front of the door onto the floor as she backed up. “I was just coming to tell him that you and Bill went for a walk.”
“Him?” I asked, wiping water out of my eyes.
“You know, him, in there,” she said, indicating the office with a left jerk of her head. “Anyway, never mind, I guess you didn’t go.”
“Nope. Just trying to take a shower,” I sighed.
“Okay then, I guess I’m going to lay down for a while,” she replied.
“Didn’t you just get up?”
“Yes, but I was just resting my eyes. This time I’ll probably rest more than that.” And with that she performed a perfect U-turn, then hung a left into her bedroom just as Bill poked his head out of the office doorway.
“Is it safe to get in the shower,” he whispered.
“I guess it is, as long as Shirley isn’t in there with you,” I laughed.
I was showing Mom a couple of choices of frozen meals for dinner: oven-roasted turkey with red mashed potatoes or Angel Hair Pasta Prima Vera. “Do either one of these trip your trigger?” I asked after, what seemed like, two or three minutes of her staring at the labels.
“I’m just not sure,” she said, switching her attention back and forth between the two boxes.
“Mom, my fingers are starting to go numb,” I commented, trying to evoke a decision. “So if you don’t like either of these, I’ll go get a couple more out of the freezer.”
“Well, I’m just not sure. I’m not too crazy about the mashed potatoes.”
“Oh, and why don’t you like mashed potatoes anymore?”
“Because they taste too potatoey.”
“Okey dokey, that make absolutely no sense. But what about the Angel Hair pasta?”
“I really don’t think I’d like it very much.”
“No? Why not?”
“Because I don’t imagine food made out of some kind of hair would be very good. Angle hair? What is that, some kind of cat?
“It’s pasta, Mom. It’s made out of flour and water and salt, not cat hair! And its angel not angle.”
“Whatever. Besides, that’s like the food they make out of old thread. That’s probably pretty bad too.”
“Old thread? What on earth are you talking about?”
“You know, that stuff in Chinese food. Sewing beans. I swear to God, they’ll eat anything.”
“They? Do you mean Chinese people?”
“No, not them. Those hippies that like to eat with shop sticks because they think they can. But all they do is spill rice and sewing beans all over the tablecloth.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked in frustration as I shifted my grip on the boxes to avoid frostbite. “What hippies?”
“The ones on the TV this morning on some show. They were talking about healthy food and stuff and eating with shop sticks. They looked like idiots.”
“Okay then,” I sighed, trying to get the dinner planning back on track. “I’ll get a couple more meals for you to look at. But, just so you know, Angel Hair pasta isn’t made out of hair. It’s regular pasta but really thin, you know, kind of like hair.”
“Oh, well that makes more sense I guess. I’ll try that one but I think they should change the name to something better. Maybe Not Hairy Pasta.”
“I’ll pass that on to the Lean Cuisine people next time I see them,” I called over my shoulder as I escaped back into the kitchen.