Bill and I were in the office when Mom got up from her second morning nap. After tooling all over the house, she finally landed back in front of the office door.
“Oh, hi there!” she said with a note of surprise.
“Hi,” I responded. “Did you have a nice nap?”
“I guess so. But I think you have termites.”
Bill and I looked at each other and, with a shrug, he returned to whatever he was doing on his computer.
“Why do you think we have termites?” I asked.
“Because they’re eating the paint off the walls,” she replied.
“First of all, I don’t think termites eat paint,” I said. “They eat wood. And second … “
“Well these termites are eating through the paint to get to the wood. See,” she said, pointing over her shoulder towards her bedroom.
“So you’re telling me there are termites in your bedroom?”
“Not yet. They’re in the hall, though, right outside my bedroom. Come and look.”
I slowly pushed up from my office chair and walked over to where she was parked in the doorway. “I’m afraid you’ll have to move if you want me to come out into the hall.”
“You don’t have to come out. You can see it right there,” she said, pointing toward the entry way into her bedroom. I glanced at the paint chips that were scattered on the floor.
“Mom, that’s damage from your wheelchair. Yesterday you scrapped the paint off all the way down to the flashing. We just haven’t vacuumed it up yet.”
“Oh, I don’t think I did that. I’m pretty sure it’s termites. You better call the bug guy.”
“I’m thinking maybe a wall repair guy would be better.”
“No, you have Bill for that, maybe when he gets back from his walk. But he doesn’t know about termites. Better get it checked out before the whole house falls down,” she ordered before driving away.
I glanced over at Bill, who was furiously pounding on his keyboard. “Honey, when you get back from your walk, you better call the bug guy,” I joked.
“Hmmmph,” he muttered. “How about I look on Angie’s List and find us a good general contractor. Or a good painter. Or, even better, a competent psychiatrist.”
“Or maybe a live-in bartender,” I offered with a grin.
Bill and I walked in the house at 8:45 the other morning after a couple of hours playing Pickleball. It’s only the middle of August, so we’re in the heart of monsoon season. The temperature had already reached 98, the humidity was in the high 40’s and we were completely sweat soaked. Mom greeted us with a wide-eyed stare as we trudged through the living room.
“Were you at the pool?” she asked, noting our saturated tee shirts.
“No, we were playing Pickleball,” I replied as I kept walking, hoping to beat Bill to the shower.
“Tell me again what Pickleball is,” she said, pulling me up short in the foyer. I heard Bill chuckle as he quickly passed me and made a beeline for the bathroom.
I turned and begrudgingly returned to the living room. “It’s sort of like tennis,” I explained for the 10th or 12th time, “but the court is smaller and you use a paddle instead of a racket, and a whiffle ball.”
“Like a ping pong ball?”
“No. The ball is about the same size as a tennis ball but it’s plastic and has holes in it.”
“But you use paddles.”
“So you have to hit the ball with two hands?” she asked as I turned to go.
“No, just one hand,” I said, pausing on my way out of the room. “Why would you think it took two hands?”
“Well a paddle is pretty big and heavy. It seems like a stupid thing to use to hit a waffle ball with.”
“Whiffle, not waffle. And besides, what would you use it for?”
“To get around a lake.”
“Mom, it isn’t that kind of paddle. It isn’t like an oar. It’s like a ping pong paddle on steroids,” I replied.
“Aren’t those bad for you?”
“Steroids? Sometimes I guess, but not for paddles,” I said over my shoulder as I walked away.
“Well you be careful when you’re playing so you don’t catch any of those steroid balls,” she shouted after me. “Just paddle them, don’t touch them.”
“Okay, Mom,” I yelled from halfway down the hall. “No ball touching.”
“What?” Bill called out from the shower. “Whose balls are you touching?”
“Pickle balls,” I answered as I poked my head into the bathroom. “Steroid laden pickle balls.”
“Don’t tell me,” he moaned, sticking his head back under the running water. “I don’t even want to know!”
It was 6:00 and time for Mom’s dinner and the news had been providing non-stop coverage of the latest terrorist attack in Nice, France.
“Who are the French mad at?” Mom asked when I walked into the living room with her meal.
“What do you mean? Why do you think the French are mad at anyone?” I asked, setting her iced tea down on the end table and placing her Beef Stroganoff dinner on her lap tray.
“I heard it on the news. They’re not being nice and they’re wrecking a bunch of cars on the street,” she replied, pointing towards the TV with her fork. “I just figured they were mad at someone.”
“No Mom,” I sighed. “The French aren’t mad at anyone. It was in Nice and it was a truck driven by a crazy… “
“Well maybe the cars were German,” she inserted.
“German? Cars? What are you…?”
“The ones that the French were wrecking.”
“Mom, it was a terrorist, not… “
“You know they’ve never liked the Germans. Especially after that time.”
“Time? Are you talking about World War II? Do you mean that time?”
“Probably. Or maybe the other time. Anyway, they don’t like the Germans much so maybe they were wrecking German cars.”
I shook my head in resignation and turned to go. “Yup, you’re probably right,” I said over my shoulder. “They were targeting Volkswagens because they’re still pissed off about the war. Makes perfect sense.”
“I thought so too,” she replied through a mouthful of noodles and brown mystery gravy.
When Mom wakes up – whether in the morning after a full night’s sleep or after one of her many daily naps, she tools all over the house looking for signs of life. Most of the time we’re home working in the office but, for reasons I cannot fathom, instead of checking right across the hall as soon as she emerges from her bedroom, she follows a rather circuitous path throughout the house only to end up back at the office door, looking surprised to see us in there.
This also applies to her bathroom trips. When she wakes up from a nap, she immediately leaves her bedroom and motors all over the place, frequently stopping to gaze out the dining room window at the invisible bird, going into the Arizona Room to see if we’re there and to check out the view through the patio door, returning to the living room and pausing by her loveseat to peruse the TV guide, swinging through the kitchen to see if we left anything interesting on the counters or kitchen table, then chugging back to her bedroom and into the master bath. Why she doesn’t stop there before wandering aimlessly all over the house is beyond me. Personally, that is the absolute FIRST thing I want to do when I wake up.
I asked her about this habit of ignoring her bladder in favor to taking a grand tour of the house a half a dozen times a day. Her response was typical Mom.
“If I wanted to spent all my time in my bathroom I’d grow gills.”
I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.
“You know how, when you peel a banana, you just never know what you’re going to get?” Mom blurted out the other morning when I brought in her breakfast. “That’s kind of what life’s like.”
“You mean like it might have a brown spot?” I commented.
“No, not that. More like it might be green.”
“As in not ripe?”
“No, not that. More like it’s a weird banana. Some kind that you never had before.”
“Okay, so you peel this banana and under the yellow skin it’s green. How’s that like life?” I asked.
“Because you go along thinking that life is like a bowl of bananas and then you get a green one and it screws you all up.”
“A bowl of bananas screws you up?”
“No, just the green one.”
“Alrighty, so then what do you do?” I asked, waiting expectantly for a bit of Mama Gumpish insight.
“I don’t know,” she replied with a shrug. “I guess you take a bite and if it tastes bad you throw it in the trash.”
“No, the green banana.”
“Okay, but what does that have to do with life?”
“It just goes to show you; you never know what you’re going to get when you grab a banana out of the bowl.”
“So I guess you should live your life to the fullest, right?”
“No, you just shouldn’t eat a green banana. It’ll probably make you sick.”
I throw produce refuse out into the backyard for the bunnies and the quail. I’ve named one of them Gomer for reasons I can’t remember. He’s gotten used to the evening salad bar opening up around 5:30 and waits for me next to the BBQ grill. And, if he isn’t there, I just shake the bag of cut up veggies a couple of times, call him, and he comes running from his home under the hedge along the back of the house behind ours.
Mom recently took notice of this little evening ritual and she started watching out the dining room window, waiting for the wildlife to show up. Last night, after I returned from tossing out some lettuce, carrots and celery, she stopped me on my way back into the kitchen.
“Did you throw out the crumbs yet?” she asked.
“Yes, I just did,” I replied as I waggled my bag of cut up produce to emphasize that the deed was done.
“Oh, good, I can look at the rabbits,” she said with a smile as she moved from the loveseat to the Red Menace and motored toward the dining room window.
Five minutes later she was back in the living room watching the evening news, so I brought her a selection of frozen meals from which she could choose her dinner.
“Chicken Fried Chicken or Lasagna?” I asked, showing her the appetizing pictures printed on the front of each box. After mulling over the selections, she finally landed on the lasagna.
As I walked away she asked, “How many are there now?”
I glanced out the dining room window on my way back into the kitchen. “Four,” I called over my shoulder. “But no Jacks tonight.”
“Jack Rabbits,” I clarified. “Sometimes there are a couple Jacks eating with the cottontails.”
A minute later, I had just finished prepping her meal and placing it in the microwave, when she called out for me. Pressing the timer, I walked back into the living room.
“What do you need?” I asked.
“How can you tell the difference?” she asked, cocking her head.
“The difference between what?”
“The rabbits. How can you tell which ones are boys and which ones are girls?”
I paused for a moment, trying to decipher the hidden logic in her question. “Because the boys are named Jack?” I speculated.
“Really?” she asked, wide-eyed.
“No, Mom,” I laughed. “Jack Rabbits are different than the little cotton tails. They’re bigger. Bigger ears, bigger legs, bigger tails, bigger everything.”
She pondered that for a second or two before responding, “Well, that’s probably because they’re all boys.”
On Father’s Day, when she got up from her morning nap, we were in the office posting and liking and commenting on all the great Father’s Day posts on Facebook. And, true to form, she proceeded to motor all around the house looking for us. A minute or two later she rolled up the hallway and stopped at the office door. “Oh, there you are,” she exclaimed. “I was afraid you’d gone out and your tires exploded or something.”
Bill looked at me, shrugged, and went back to Facebook. I looked at Mom for a beat before asking, “And why in the world would you think our tires exploded?”
“Because they said so on the news this morning. It’s going to get so hot that you shouldn’t drive your car because the tires could explode on the hot roads. You better stay put today.”
“But it’s only 10:30 in the morning and it’s not supposed to hit 117 until around 4:00,” I replied. “And we have to run out to the grocery store for dinner stuff so we’ll be leaving soon.”
“Well I think that’s a pretty bad idea. You shouldn’t take any chances. Besides,” she continued, “I’d think that if your tires exploded while you were driving it could really hurt your car.”
“Not to mention your body,” Bill responded, dryly.
“Maybe that too,” Mom answered, turning away to motor back into the living room. “Anyway,” she called over her shoulder, “I think you should just stay home. I’m pretty sure nothing will explode here.”
“That remains to be seen,” Bill muttered. “The day’s still young.”