Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has gotten a lot of airplay on the telly lately. Monk, the show about a San Francisco detective with OCD, won Tony Shalhoub, who played the title character, a bunch of Emmys and a Golden Globe. There was also a show called Obsessed on A&E that profiled real people struggling with OCD, phobias and anxiety disorders. Another A&E show that we watch from time to time is Hoarders, which can be really hard to take with its scenes of rotting food, waist-high garbage, scurrying cockroaches, squirmy maggots, animal poop, and squished kitty cats. For some reason, it's always cats, those supposedly agile creatures, that fall victim to the mounds of trash.
Personally, I think most folks suffer from varying degrees of OCD in one form or another. My mother was (and still is) a packrat. Moving my parents to Dallas six years ago meant downsizing them from a two-story house to a two-bedroom apartment, and the process was especially painful for my mother. The move was a huge physical and emotional wrench, and I tried very hard to be considerate and understanding, but my patience wore thin. We were on a tight schedule and falling so far behind, because my mother kept shilly-shallying over this pot or that picture, that I finally started throwing things into boxes just to get it done, thinking we'd deal with it once we got to Dallas and the pressure of the actual move was behind us. Despite the roadblocks, we managed to throw out an unholy amount of junk. Six years later, the junk we took with us is still with us, moldering in her garage. Occasionally, Mom will insist we go out there and sort through it. We'll spend 20 or 30 minutes pushing things around and then back in their boxes it all goes.
Like mother, like daughter, but for me, it's the garage door, for some bizarre reason. Since I'm usually the last to go to bed, it falls to me to turn the house down for the night, turning off lights, checking that the doors are locked, the cats are accounted for, etc. I will peek into the garage to make sure the door is down and then a few minutes later, will have to check it once more, just to be sure. I don't double-check anything else, just the garage door. Whenever I leave the house, I make sure the door goes down all the way as I back out of the drive and into the alley. Then, when I'm out in the street, I'll glance to my right through a gap between houses, where I can see my garage door once more and make sure it didn't sneak up while my back was turned. If I'm preoccupied and forget to make that important secondary glance, I'll hang a u-turn and go back. (Bet you didn't know that, did you, honey?)
In the interest of fair play, I think it's time I gave equal space to my 88-year-old father-in-law. He's a widower, having recently lost his wife of 65 years. Harry is in remarkable health for a man his age. Never had a cavity. Uses glasses for reading only. Has had one surgery in his life and that was for a hip replacement in his 70's. My husband jokes that his dad will probably outlive us all, but unfortunately, his mind is not doing so well.
The first time I ever met my future in-laws, in October '78, they arranged a cookout during my visit. Back in the day, Harry enjoyed grilling and he was quite good at it, a technique my husband has never mastered, darn it. Anyway, the food was served and my steak was delicious. In fact, I think it was the first time I'd ever tasted a steak that wasn't cremated into something with the texture of roofing shingles --- my mother cooked all our beef well done --- and this one was a nice medium. But I had a hard time enjoying the meal with the chef hovering over and around me, anxious to the point of panic that everything be perfect. It was a constant barrage of "Is your steak okay?" "I can put it back on the grill." "It's no trouble to cook it a little longer." "That looks a shade too red, are you sure it's okay?" My future MIL finally took pity on me and told him to back off and leave me alone. We are just now realizing how grounded Anna kept him all the years they were married, and now that she is gone, his OCD/anxiety is in overdrive.
Last week, my husband and his siblings bullied their dad into seeing a neurologist. He was not happy about this, but they were concerned on a number of fronts: some significant memory lapses, falls, and an occasional inability to string words and sentences together. They did an MRI and the doctor said she would call with the results today. Instead, it was my husband who got the call --- from a harried nurse pleading with him to please ask his father to quit clogging up their phone lines; he had called no less than twelve times. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the MRI did not show anything remarkable other than some slight brain atrophy that is very common in elderly people.
My husband and I are definitely members of the Sandwich Generation: still raising kids (or at least funding them) and looking after our elderly parents. It's not a fun spot to be in, but we've managed to keep a sense of humor through it all. I do know this --- when my turn comes, my kids will be fighting over me, and not in a good way, either. "I had her at my house the last two Christmases, now it's your turn to have the old bat!"
Since we moved my parents from Houston to the Dallas area six years ago, I have spent a lot of time cooling my heels --- along with other body parts --- in doctors' waiting rooms. Medical offices are set at temps cold enough to freeze the youknowwhats off a brass monkey. So are emergency rooms, hospital rooms, intensive care wards, and day surgeries. They claim that the cold inhibits germy growth. Personally, I'd rather take my chances with a bug than freeze to death, but that is not the point of this blog.
As anyone who's been to a doctor knows, the first visit requires a lot of paperwork: name, address, phone, insurance information, emergency contacts, and then it segues into the all-important patient history. Being both blind and hard-of-hearing, my parents depended on me to fill out their forms. I quickly discovered that Dante missed a tenth circle of hell, and that particular circle is found only in subarctic waiting rooms. It is impossible to be discreet while taking a patient history from an elderly parent who compensates for bad hearing by ratcheting up the volume. The following, or something close to it, happened not once, but, God help me, several times:
ME (leaning in, looking around furtively): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
ME (leaning closer): A bowel movement? When was the last time you had one?
DADDY: YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEAK UP!
ME (sighing): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
DADDY (to my mother): WHAT'S SHE SAYING?
MOM: WHEN DID YOU LAST HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT?
ME: Can you keep it down? Geez...
ME (giving up): WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR LAST BOWEL MOVEMENT?
DADDY: THAT'S THE PROBLEM, I'M CONSTIPATED!
MOM: I THINK IT WAS WEDNESDAY MORNING.
DADDY: YOU SURE?
ME (to self): Shoot me. Now.
Then there was the first time I had to list my father's surgical history on a patient form. I managed to get through the tonsillectomy and the appendectomy and the dental surgeries without flinching, but when we got to the prostate surgery, I was in waiting room hell again. I thought he had it removed. No, it was reamed out, or as Daddy described the procedure for me and everyone else in two counties to hear, "THEY PUT A ROTO-ROOTER UP THE PENIS AND REAM THE THING OUT!" I swear on my life, those were his exact words. I don't know which made me wince more: the visual or the audio at full bawl.
Thankfully, my mother is long past menopause and sex. I can whip right through that minefield labeled "For Ladies Only". Are you pregnant? (Not bloody likely.) When was the date of your last menstrual period? (Around the time of the Nixon administration.) Do you have painful intercourse? (At 86, everything is painful.)
After the Roto-rooter episode, I typed up both parents' surgical histories and made copies for distribution. Ditto their medication. When there's a new doctor to see, I'll ask if they will mail the paperwork to me so I can fill it out ahead of time. These pre-emptive strikes have done wonders for my blood pressure. Now if only I could do something about the frostbite.
While out Christmas shopping one day, my husband and I went to a store across from the SMU campus called McCartney's. This place sells everything Greek you can imagine and we bought our daughter some Zeta Tau Alpha knick-knacks. It wasn't until I got home and started wrapping the items that I realized what I had done...I had become my mother. Let me explain.
One Christmas, during my tenure at Texas A&M, my mother went overboard on the Aggie stuff. That wouldn't have been so bad if the gifts had been useful. Among other things, I remember getting an Aggie mug (a ceramic mug with the handle inside), a couple of Aggie joke books, and TWO different kinds of calculators. One was a giant pencil attached to an electrical cord, the other a thin plastic rectangle with holes to stick your fingers through. I also got a maroon and white striped necktie. I never really understood the significance of the tie. Did she mean for me to wear it? because neckties were a preppy fashion statement for ladies back in the day, a la Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Or did she mean for me to hang it over my dorm room door knob, which was a whole other kind of statement?
At any rate, by loading up on sorority stuff, I was doing to my daughter what my mother had done to me. The apple didn't fall far from the tree, no matter how much I try to kick the damn thing out from under its shade.
Speaking of ties, my older son got three of them. Two from us were an early Christmas gift. He needed a tie for a dress-up office party and was going to borrow one from his dad, when I told him I would buy a couple for him instead and make them an early gift. Then his grandfather got in the act and bought him another tie. Poor kid already knows what Father's Day is going to be like down the road. I couldn't blame him for wanting to exchange one of the ties for something else.
In keeping with the mandate that middle children are overlooked, I don't remember what we got Brent.
Yes, I know. I've been bad about blogging. Again. My problem is that my life is not exciting enough to write about everyday, or even every week. The fact that it's been more than a month since the last blog tells a lot. Plus, I got busy with Christmas and having a houseful of kids again.
I did what I swore I would never do and got a Facebook page. I was in a weak moment and as is often the case with these kinds of moments, you live to regret them. Already, I'm considering ditching my account, but I'll stick it out a bit longer.
As of this writing, I have 64 friends. Unlike my daughter who probably doesn't know half of her FB "friends" (she has close to 1400), I can honestly say that I know and like these people, and am interested in their lives UP TO A POINT. Meaning, I'm interested in the important stuff, but I don't need to know that the dog threw up or that it's raining or how tired they are. It's obvious some folks are incapable of having a random thought synapse through their heads without running to the computer to let the rest of us know about it. To you I say, GET OVER YOURSELVES. That being said, one could point out that my blogs are just another form of FB status updates, only longer.
I got a webcam for Christmas. The idea was to be able to Skype with my daughter every now and then. The two of us did a test run before she left to go back to school and the experience wasn't what I imagined it would be.
First, the video, or whatever it is of me in the corner, is just a split second off of real time. I can actually see myself blink because of the time lapse and for some reason, I found this hugely entertaining. Also, disturbing.
Secondly, the video and the audio don't quite match up. Being just this side of stone deaf, I rely on lip-reading to communicate and this was a lip-reader's version of playing a 45 RPM record at 33 speed. My daughter tried slowing down her speech, but that only made it worse. Plus, she looked retarded. Fortunately, there is a texting function and we used that instead of attempting a real conversation, which would have gone something like this, from my perspective, anyway:
PAIGE: Goudhhhh cheeewwwwww.
PAIGE: Ahhhhhh ssszzzzzzzzzzzzzz goudhhhh cheeewwwwww
ME: Come again?
ME: Watch your language.
At least I can see her while she busily types what she has to say. In the meantime, I watch myself blink.
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