A Slower, Simpler Time

We’ve settled into a daily routine of helping look after my cancer-stricken mother. Unless something goes amiss, the days are now pretty predictable. But when something does go awry, it can create minor panic.

Yesterday, when Mom’s oxygen was inexplicably not flowing, my father started to “lose it.” I had to step in and reassure him, “Easy. Let’s check it carefully….” All the lights were on indicating correct functionality.

It turned out the line had been loose at the connection on the machine.

* * *

In other tech news, naturally the four year old (that’s right, four) G.E. dishwasher gave up about three weeks ago – before we got here and before her cancer diagnosis. $450 to fix, minimum, the repair guy said; better to buy a new one. “We call G.E. short for ‘generally expensive,'” he added.

Visiting my parents is at times like stepping back into a slower, simpler time. They prefer to use cash. They still write checks. They still do bills by mail.

My parents' rural Pennsylvania house. [Photo by me, 2015.]
My parents’ rural Pennsylvania house. [Photo by me, 2015.]

While they do occasionally buy from Amazon and other online retailers, when it comes to MAJOR APPLIANCES they still go pretty traditional. At least my father does. I’d tried to help him buy a new dishwasher online, but he insisted on going to “old reliable” in person for a replacement.

Oh, my. And then it began.

Now, over a week and a half later, and after several phone calls to a call center that sounds like it was set up in the 1970s, there is still no dishwasher in sight. It was supposed to be delivered days ago. Fed up, I called on Thursday and impersonated him and tried to get to the bottom of this: I was told it will be delivered within 24 hours after the installer rings us.

Has the installer rung? Of course not. Today’s now Saturday. The earliest it could likely reasonably appear now is, logically, Tuesday. That’s the earliest.

My mother usually handled such purchases over the years. She worries now about my father after she’s gone. For example, he also bought an extended warranty – which almost doubled the purchase price. When he innocently said so, I could have run my head through a wall, but I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of her. (Those are an incredible waste of money. We NEVER buy them.)

Fortunately, she didn’t react to that. Yet my mother, bless her, can still launch zingers. Not the world’s easiest patient, when she felt the other day I was being too bossy, she assailed me, “You’re just like Hitler.”

I hit her back: “Well, that makes you Hitler’s mother then.”

During the similar briefly heated discussion with my father about the new dishwasher’s non-appearance thus far – “I’m gonna die,” she told him, “and you’re uptight about a g-ddamn dishwasher.” – and not yet aware of where he had bought it, from her sick bed she finally asked him, “Where did you go for it?”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of people in front of a store.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of people in front of a store.

“Sears,” he said.

After the word came out of his mouth, I could see anger rising on her face. Seconds later, as she glared at him, I thought her head was about to explode.

“What’s wrong with you?!” she thundered. “I’ve told you, stay the hell away from f-cking Sears!”

* * *

In a bizarre way, all of this “free time” I have helping care for her (and trying to look after him to an extent) is allowing me a chance to comb Distances extra-carefully. The deadline for completion is November 19. I’ll make that, I’m sure.

As the Emerson’s Essays photo I snapped the other day revealed somewhat, when I’m not in a chair right next to her I sit with my pile of “tech” – iPad, iPhone, and Microsoft Surface – at the kitchen table. It’s next to the dining room doorway and only feet away from where Mom’s bed is now. While being there for her, I often proof the 99.9 percent completed manuscript a little more.

Yesterday, I also received a wonderful email from my nephew in the U.K. Having lost my last uncle (I still can’t believe I’ll never hear from him again), now, suddenly, I suppose I’ve become “the uncle.” Life does move on….

As always, thanks for reading.

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.

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