Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pyro Roadside Assistance & Towing

To recap, Dad’s 1967 Charger had been garaged at my mom’s house for years. A friend of hers had taken it out for spins every so often to keep it in shape. Still it needed some work to get it in condition for transport to Toledo. I called AAA for towing to a mechanic. AAA gave me no choice on the towing company.

Stuck using Pyro Towing, I thought. My tummy queasy, I watched the Charger hoisted onto a large flatbed tow truck.

With the Charger safely onto his truck, the driver inched forward on Mom’s driveway and turned his steering wheel in a sharp right.


Noooooo! I watched in horror as fissures spread across the driveway.

The left wheel sank into the cracks. Huge chunks of concrete rose up looking like the aftermath of an earthquake disaster movie in miniature. The left side of the truck swayed and slumped. The Charger swayed.

Now what? The truck driver stopped, got out, and examined the damage. He called someone on his cell phone. He lowered his head and leaned against the side of the truck as he spoke. I heard snatches of what he said.

“Yeah… the driveway…. Real bad.” As I stepped closer he spotted me and lowered his voice. A worried frown creased his forehead.

“Sorry about the driveway,” he said.

I bet you are, I thought and I looked at the Charger sitting high up on his truck. At least, that was intact.

“Let’s get on with this,” I said, sternly. I didn't want any more to do with this guy then I have to. Switching tow trucks could risk damage to the car.

I followed him to the mechanic, all the way keeping an eye on the back of the Charger. It made it without mishap I am pleased to say. By the next day, her engine was purring.

“That’s so cool that you have the original owner’s manual,” the mechanic remarked.

By Monday, I was going over her with a fine-toothed comb with the transport guy. Everyone in the garage, mechanics and customers came out to see the Charger off to her new home.

As for Mom’s driveway, I turned that over to the insurance company. I don’t need any additional headaches.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roadside Assistance

Between cleaning a jam-packed, spider-infested garage, sorting through boxes of old bank statements, correspondence, notes from Toastmaster Speeches, and junk mail, I have been trying to get my dad's 1967 Charger out of the garage. Yes, I said 1967. He bought it new when I was a little girl. Don't tell my mom, but I knew about the car before she did. Dad took me, not Mom, to Stanley Dodge on the National City Mile of Cars. He asked me to I choose the interior color. I remember it as if it was yesterday... but that's another story.

The Charger will be coming to Toledo. We arranged for transport. The only catch is that it must be able to drive onto the transport rig. It had no gas and the locking gas cap would not come off. I had a locksmith out and we got the gas cap off. One problem solved, so I call the auto club for assistance.

“I need gas, some air in the tires, and the battery checked,” I told the dispatcher. “It’s a ‘67 Charger.”

Silence. “Did you say 2007 Charger?”

“No, 1967 Charger.” Emphasis on the nineteen.

“Oh! Oh my!”

I love it when people react that way about the car.

Thirty minutes later a young man arrived driving a shiny white truck with AAA Towing & Roadside Assistance painted in big red letters on the sides. He put a couple of gallons of gas in the tank, added air to the tires, and checked the battery.

“It’s marginal.”

He installed the battery, and then asked me to crank the engine. The big engine rumbled and started after a few tries, but then it died.

“Could it be that the gas hasn’t gotten to the engine yet?” I asked, while still sitting behind the wheel.

He shrugged.

“Try it again,” he said.

I turned the key and pressed the gas pedal. The ignition revved and the engine rumbled for a few seconds. The young man took the air filter cover off. Before I realized what he was doing he poured gasoline directly on the carburetor. Red, orange, and blue flames erupted from the engine. I immediately released the gas pedal and turned of the ignition.

“FIRE!” I shouted, jumping from the driver’s seat. “Fire! Where’s your fire extinguisher?”

For an instant, he gaped at the flames in seeming disbelief.

“Fire extinguisher!” I shouted. “Look what you did to my dad’s car. FIRE!

He scuttled to his truck, running to and fro, to the back, behind the front seat, the side, tossing things and muttering as he went.

Call 911. I told myself.

I retreated from the garage and pulled my cell phone from my jeans pocket. As I was pressing the panic button on my cell phone, he rushed by, a bottle of drinking water in his hands. He tossed the water on the carburetor, dousing the fire.

Disaster averted. I have nothing good to say about that roadside assistance. Suffice to say the Charger is all right, the house wasn’t burned, and I came out unscathed, at least physically.

But that’s not the end of my experiences with this towing company. As it turned out, the Charger needed a new fuel pump and some work on the transmission. Bottom line, I needed it towed to a mechanic. I called AAA again. This time I said, “Don’t send that company.”

“In your area that’s the only towing company we have.” He said. “You don’t really have a choice. I’ll make a note for them to be very careful.”

With misgivings I reassured myself it would be a different driver and a flat bed truck.

When he came and started loading the Charger onto the truck, I never took my eyes off him.

Things seemed to be going well, I thought. We’re making progress. With a twist of the front wheels the truck lurched forward.


(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Exhausted and Discouraged in Chula Vista

It's been an age since I posted here. Now I find myself in California again. How many trips has it been? I've lost count.

After a sleepless night, I flew from Detroit. This morning I feel like an elephant sat on me. Last night I unlocked the door to Mom's old house at nine 0'clock San Diego time. Yet again, the state of the house assaulted me. I had forgotten how many boxes were left when we were here in August. Worse yet, on a cursory walk through, I discovered some more stuff we missed last trip. Some mementos from Mom and Dad's wedding and anniversaries and two big boxes that brim with what looks like correspondence. I scrubbed a scum ring from the unused toilet and cleaned the daddy long legs and cobwebs from the bathroom. And then there's the garage. I don't even want to ponder that. It's overwhelming.

One small miracle, the mercury started after one groan and sigh. I was too exhausted to go out and get food. I scrounged some ramen noodles, from our foray in March, and a small can of V8, from Mom's meals-on-wheels stash. The neighbor's dog barked and barked. I didn't remember that last trip.

I sighed.

After my snack, I dressed in my PJs. Bed and sleep was all I wanted. As I was brushing my teeth, I thought I heard the doorbell ring.

Naw, I thought. Who would be visiting at half past ten? I continued with my ablutions.

Knock.. knock, heavy and loud, unmistakable.

Could it be Frank? Not likely, he goes to bed early.

I turned on the porch light and peered through the peephole. Nothing was clear. I had locked the security door so I figured it would be safe to open the inner door a crack.

"Police!" A gruff voice said.

Two tall burly men dressed in dark police uniforms stood on the porch. I don't remember them showing me badges. In retrospect, I should have asked for them. What if they had been robbers impersonating police.

Duh! I was so tired that I didn't think to ask.

"We received a report that there was a robbery in progress," One of the men said. "A neighbor said they heard breaking glass. Something about a husband being away... "

This is all I need, I thought. A image of me being handcuffed and hauled off to the police station flashed through my mind.

"I'm the daughter." I said, from behind the inner door.

"May we come in? We need to check the report out."

I asked them to wait while I put something on. From the back bedroom I grabbed my U of M ECMO sweat shirt and put it on. It didn't occur to me until later that they might think I was getting a weapon.

Tired and flustered I unlocked the door. As the two six-plus, linebacker types walked into the living room an even taller man emerged from the night.

"Three of you! You sent out the army." I said. One of them could take me down with one arm tied behind his back, I thought. A soft nervous chuckle escaped my lips.

"We need to be prepared. The report was of a robbery in progress." Sitting here in Starbucks this morning, I can't stop wondering what possessed me to let them in now.

"What would you like to see?" I noted the guns and billy clubs on their belts. "The other time a policemen came out they didn't ask to come in. What's different this time?"

"They weren't doing their job then." One of the men said. "We need to check the report out."

His companions surveyed the room. The thought occurred to me that the boxes strewn around the room might look suspicious.

"If I show you the Power of Attorney papers would that be enough?"

"Yes, that will do."

I gave them my copies of the PoA and then my driver's license.

They seemed satisfied.

As they were leaving, I thanked them and wished them a good night.

"I hope that I'm the worst encounter you have tonight."

"Yeah. Me, too." One called as he walked away.

I had trouble falling asleep, despite my exhaustion. My back hurt. All the events of the day and all the things I need to do swirled in my mind. I'm glad the neighbors are keeping an eye on the house. Still, three policemen. Wow!

After some tossing and turning, I managed to twist the sheet into a knot. I gave up on straightening it out. As I drifted off to sleep amidst the remaining clutter, dust, and lurking spiders, the neighbors dog barked and barked.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


We spend hours sorting through the books, papers and stuff filling Mom's house. Dad died in 1995, yet his books, electronic gadgets, and clothing are still there. She could not let him go. We are unearthing a time capsule of two lives. Each item holds meaning to Mom. She jotted notes to herself on scraps of paper and receipts. We are finding snatches of her days, who she met and talked to. There are letters from family and friends. Photos of young Mom and Dad before the years had etched their faces.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Many Hats?

How many hats can one person wear? Wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, accountant, travel agent, housekeeper,laundress, nurse, etc. etc. I am constantly going – literally morning, noon, and night. No time for a workout. Sleep? That’s something I seem to get in snatches.

On March 5, I flew home with my mother. I took her straight to the airport from the nursing home. Why? I feared that if she returned to her old environment she would refuse to come with me. Mom agreed with the plan. We had one plane change in Denver. I must say, Frontier Airlines does a great job when it comes to assisting disabled passengers, especially at Denver International Airport.

My work is constant, there’s always something to do. Call Medicare. Call Mom’s doctor. Answer the phone. Mom needs toothpaste. Run to the grocery store and then to Mom’s place. Work. I find myself falling asleep on the computer keyboard at work and at home. No room for sleep.

So who am I? Am I the myriad roles I take? Am I the jobs I do? It’s all a blur. No time to reflect. Even now, I am writing this as I wait in Detroit airport for my flight that will eventually take me back to San Diego and then Chula Vista. Shoshannah, Fox, Barry, and Wolfgang are all meeting there to clean and pack Mom’s stuff. Wow is there a lot of stuff!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


She started crying when she read a card from one of her work friends. I immediately went to her side and hugged her.

"I'll be okay," she said through her tears.

It's hard on her. I worry about that and I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Intellectually I know it's right. I've had to take off from work and fly out here three times within six months. Her home isn't safe. She cannot depend upon her friends. Still when I see how hard this is on her, I wish things could be different.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Apple Pie

Saturday, up again at dawn on . Too much to do! Too little time!

I wanted to a birthday card in the mail for my soon to be 15-year-old son. Mom needed a warm coat. So I drove to Veteran’s Thrift where I found two possibilities, a heavy tan wool coat with a button missing and a fax fur, white with black spots. I sent cell phone pixs of the coats to my daughter. We chose the fax fur one.

From Veteran’s Thrift I drove to the shoe store to return the double wide shoes I’d bought for Mom. They didn’t fit. The less expensive single wide athletic trainers that I bought at Sears fit. Go figure. The shoe keeper tried to sell me another size.

Now to my going away party for Mom. I had suggested it. At first, she'd said no. When one of the nurses said it was a good idea, she said yes. So she picked the date and invited her friends. I bought chocolate & yellow cupcakes, butter cookies with sprinkles, 7ups, plates, napkins and cups. Mom had asked me to bring apple pie. One of her new male friends, Henry, wanted apple pie. Late Friday night, as I stood in the bakery pondering apple pie versus cookies I decided that apple pie would be too messy. So I did not buy apple pie.

I wanted flowers for the party. Wendy's, a local floral shop was around the corner from the shoe store. Still unchanged all these years, Wendy’s had done the flowers for my wedding. While I waited for the florist to put together the arrangement I pondered my choice of not buying apple pie.

She’ll be disappointed, my inner voice said. I’ll explain. She’ll understand, I told myself.

Reo Vista provided formal dining room, coffee and ice at my request. I set up the room, arranging the flowers on a table with the food on a couple of Mom’s pretty serving plates.

What a dummy! I forgot to bring a music CD. We were stuck listening to the radio which was set on some disco station.

I found Mom in the dining room. Dressed up in her lavender and white floral PJs, Mom’s eyes sparkled. Her braids were coiled on top of her head, as she'd done most of her life. Clearly she was taking more interest in her appearance. I pushed her in her wheel chair to the formal dining

She surveyed my work with a critical eye.

“Do you think there’s enough food?” She said.

“Yes, there’s plenty.”

“Where’s the apple pie?”

I explained my reasoning. “People aren’t coming for the food. They are coming to see you,” I added. “Besides, you don’t know if Henry is coming.”

Frowning, she stared at the table.

She is disappointed.

“I could go buy an apple pie.” I said, hoping she would say, please don’t bother. The nearest places I might find an apple pie were miles away. I’d have to loose my parking place and drive through busy traffic.

“Henry said he wanted some apple pie.” She said, still staring at the table. Suddenly, she brightened. “Maybe the kitchen has one! Let’s find someone from the kitchen, ask them.”

I was reminded of that painting by Picasso, “Silent Scream”!

How typical I thought. Here I knocked myself out, trying to make something nice for her. Even the party was my idea, although Mom’s choice of dates and times was hers. She focused on the one thing that I had not brought.

She started working the wheels of the chair, inching her way to back to the big dining room. I felt compelled to help.

In the big dining room, she spotted a woman feeding a resident.

“Joan! Joan!” Mom waved her arms as I wheeled her toward the woman. “Joan, we need an apple pie.”

Joan paused spoon in mid air.

“What for?”

“For my going away party.” Mom said.

“We have cup cakes and cookies,” I said.

“Yes, but we need apple pie.”

“When do you need it?” Joan asked.

Mom looked at me.

“In about an hour.” I said.

Joan shook her head and began spooning food into the woman’s open mouth.

“You don’t need apple pie,” She said. “People aren’t coming to have apple pie. They’re coming to see you.”

In the end, Henry did not come.

Task Oriented

On Friday, I woke at 6 am, showered, and tried to reach one of the nurse managers at work. Three phone calls later all I’d gotten was voice mail. I left messages. After I packed all the stuff I needed to give Mom’s CPA, my appointment with the lady was at 11, I ate breakfast at Starbucks. I could get on the Internet there. My indulgence was to check my email.

Working from dawn to into the night, much longer than my 12-hour shifts in the PICU. I woke when the pearlescent sky peeked through Mom’s dusty curtains. Dust, clutter, and grime… so much to do and only me to do it. My mind raced with all the tasks ahead – Mom’s taxes, finding her shoes, and packing, finding the important stuff amongst all the dross. Before I felt the enormity of my tasks bearing down on me, I moved on, tapped the feelings down

“One step at a time.” I heard that before, a platitude.

When you’re working as hard as I am… when there’s not enough hours to get what needs doing done… then the day goes fast. Lately, I am so task oriented it sickens me. On second thought, I’m not completely lost. I paused to enjoy…

Reading an encouraging text message from a friend.

Mom’s smile when she saw me coming through the door.

The clear crescent moon shining so close to Venus that the two could almost touch.

I called Barry to ask him if he could see it.

“No, it’s snowing.”

“Snowing!” Ah, it’s still winter back there.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Haunted by Hoarding

This afternoon I find myself exhausted and in a different time zone, three hours earlier to be exact. I'm in a Starbucks. There's no Internet where I'm staying, Mom's place. She's in the skilled nursing facility still.

Yesterday I traveled over 2000 miles, starting early in the morning and ending up on my mother's dark doorstep and empty house. The airport shuttle dropped me off at what for me was close to midnight. Thirsty, hungry and tired, I tried the key in the door. It worked for one lock, but the deadbolt did not budge. My heart sank. I was so looking forward to some rest. I called Frank, Mom's boy friend neighbor.

"The person you are calling is not available." No option for voice mail. What good would voice mail have done for me, stuck outside an empty house 2000 miles from home?

I tried her other friend. She answered.

"Give me a chance to put some shoes on. I'll be right there," she said.

Once inside, she said she had to go. Good. I was in no mood for social chit chat. Relieved, I thanked her.

I went to the bedroom that Frank and I had spent days cleaning up in October. To my horror boxes of old shoes, books, and nicknacks encircled the bed and a mountain of clothes covered the bed. Yes, the bed I intended to sleep in. I found a stash of used Kleenx. In a laundry, basket near the door to that bedroom were used... well suffice to say, it was disgusting. In the kitchen, I found more signs of Mom's hoarding. In one of the cabinets, she had stacked the neatly-folded white paper bags that Meals-on-Wheels delivered her lunches in. Beside those were stacked used zip locks bags obviously also saved from those same meals.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Turkey on Rye

I feel like a slice of turkey on rye bread, a piece of a dumb bird stuck in the middle. Here I am, preparing to leave for California. This is not a pleasure trip mind you. I shall spend my waking hours attended to my mother's needs. Meanwhile, I leave my 14-year-old son and my husband behind. I must take leave from work. My plans are to be back the day before my son's 15th birthday. Also, I shall return to work the next night for a 12 hour shift.

My son is active in skating and music. I want to be present for him in these last years before he leaves the nest. There's bills to pay, laundry to do, housekeeping chores and the list goes on. On the other side of the continent, my mother languishes in a nursing home with a broken knee. I am responsible for her welfare and all that entails. There is no one else to share that burden as I am an only child.

Am I stressed? Yes. When I think of all the things I must accomplish I feel overwhelmed. I am pulled in so many directions. Yet, there are many people who are much worse off then myself. People who do not have jobs or are deathly ill. People who are starving. What do I have to complain about?