Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Indignity of Incapacity

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a serious situation to deal with. My mother became quite ill and nearly died. For four weeks she lay in a coma in a hospital, hovering in a strange in-between place between life and death. Fortunately, she decided to return to us and is recovering quite well. The family is relieved and thankful. 

Now that the worst is over, my mind returns to those excruciating weeks. More than once over that period of time, the phrase ‘death with dignity’ popped into my head. Why? Because there was no dignity in hovering around not quite alive and not quite dead. The thought that this someday could be my future and the future of other loved ones sends a chill down my spine. 

My poor mother. The hospital stay was not kind to her from an aesthetic point of view. And yes, I realize looks are not important, at least not when one views the big picture of struggling for life itself. But still, had she known how she looked, she might never venture from her home again. I can just imagine her horror if I told her how it had been. “You saw me like that???” She’d never allow us to take her to the hospital for any reason if she knew, even if Jason from Friday the 13th showed up and hacked her limbs off all over the place. She’d bite us, screaming like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail, “’Tis but a scratch! Have at you!” 

She's okay! It’s just a flesh wound.

I can’t say I’d blame her. Being thoroughly incapacitated is mortifying enough on its own. Few of us like to rely on others for anything. We take a lot of pride in our independence. 

But add on the rest, and it becomes downright humiliating. How humiliating? Let’s run down the list: 

First of all, bathing. People come in and wash you. All over. Thoroughly. Everything is on display. Sure, it’s just the orderlies and nurses for that part, but still. Most women, particularly those of us over a certain age, don’t want our parts on parade. Heck, we don’t even want to look at ourselves. For my part, I prefer to shower blindfolded. With the lights off.


My reflection in the faucet! NOOOOOO!

 Second of all, what is that gunk the hospital uses that masquerades as shampoo? It doesn’t make your hair look good at all. Half the time, Mom looked like an otter pulled from an oil spill. The rest of the time, she looked like Kramer from Seinfeld. Because like aspirin, a comb-out costs $50 at the hospital. 

Speaking of hair care, no shaves happen when you’re hooked up to every machine in the hospital. Hair does not take time off growing either. In fact, it seems to accelerate. My stepfather made so many comments of “Well, she was always the gorilla of my dreams anyway” that I wanted to practice my field goal kicking on his rear. I suppose I shouldn’t give him too hard a time about it though. I admit to wondering if I should bring in flowers or Jack Link’s Jerky. 

It’s okay, Sleeping Beauty. We still love you.

Possibly the most humiliating thing of all was that everyone could see Mom’s business. I don’t mean her accounting books and contracts either. I’m talking bags of waste. Right there. In front of every single visitor she had.  


Okay, she’s out cold. She can’t get out of bed. Catheters and tubes and holding receptacles are a must. But come on, does it have to be RIGHT THERE where all could see it? Couldn’t it be camouflaged or dressed up somehow? I mean, come on. There has to be some way of preserving this poor woman’s dignity. 

What about a nice tiny house at the foot of her bed to keep that stuff in?

Now we're talking dignified
Get the kids involved and make a cute paper-mache cover. If nothing spills, it can be converted to a pinata later.

Please replace original contents with candy first

For heaven’s sake, there has to be some way of covering that (literal) sh!t up, preserving the patient’s self-respect.  

I’m sorry folks, but my mother’s ordeal is one many of us will face as we get older and our bodies fail us. I’m coming to terms with that the way I come to terms with everything: by laughing about it. No matter what awaits me at the end of the journey, I’m sure it will be neither dignified nor pretty. I’m either going to go out quickly (and probably messily) or hang on to the bitter end. That end is bitter indeed when I’m bidding everyone goodbye with my pelt fully grown in, greasy hair sticking up in all directions, and a bag of poop at my feet.  

So let’s live it up and make life worthwhile as long as we can. I’ve got my plan in place. I will allow myself only one regret as I exit the mortal plane: that the bag of poop is out of my throwing arm’s reach for anyone who calls me the gorilla of his dreams.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – The Willow and the Stone


                The hair on the back of her neck stood up. The next instant, the alien chittered behind them.
                Renee swiveled, raising her gun. A heavy clout to her ribs knocked her backwards and drove the air from her lungs. Her gun spun loose and disappeared into the darkness. The cement floor rushed up to greet her. Dull pain reverberated throughout her body.
                She fought off the shock and twisted about just in time to see the flash of light explode from Adam's gun. The bullet pinged off the wall. The alien looming over Adam swung a mantis arm. The former police officer careened through the air like a broken puppet. His head collided with the top of the door frame with a solid thunk. He dropped to the ground, and his gun skittered outside. He slumped and did not move again.
                Renee raised her gaze, her ears still ringing with the blast from the gun. The insectoid alien horror stalked on its wisp thin legs to stand over her. The moonlight showed it in glaring detail; seven feet of alien. Its proboscis writhed and lengthened. The end narrowed to a needle tip. Hypnotized with terror, she watched as a drop appeared at the end of the profane appendage. The nightmarish face approached hers. Sparse tufts of hair sprouted out of its elongated skull. The skin reflected the moonlight like shiny new plastic. Light colored, obscenely humanlike eyes stared at her.
                It brushed against her throat. Its proboscis slid against her skin with a lover's caress. Renee didn’t have the strength to even moan. It was over.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Track ... Sort Of

I jog. I’m rather serious about it too. After letting my weight sneak up just four pounds shy of the 200 mark and seeing my blood pressure skyrocket a few years back, I did something about it. I have moments of good behavior like that. 

I found out running is addictive. Plus I have a love affair with bacon that no drive to be healthy will ever erase. Running helps to cancel out the bacon ... and allows me to eat more bacon. Bacon. Just the word makes me smile. Bacon.

 I am getting very hungry.

Anyway, about the running. I do it. A lot. Which means I’m out at the track most days. It’s a nice track, winding about a picturesque pond with ducks and geese and turtles. And though I feel good about my running, I’m usually pretty grumpy about actually doing it. How grumpy? Every morning as I set off, my husband doesn’t wish me a good run. Instead he cautions me, “Please don’t toss the strollers in the pond and don’t strangle any ducks.” 

This is one of the more normal things said in my household. I am often reminded to not do violence to property and wildlife. It’s a thing. 

In my defense, I must point out that the running takes place before I’ve had an adequate silo of coffee. Morning is when I run, because I live in southeast Georgia. We’re just two levels up from Hell itself as far as the heat is concerned. First thing in the morning is the only time one can venture outdoors and still breathe. Breathing is essential to jogging – lesson one for you would-be runners. 

So I show up at the track bleary-eyed and improperly caffeinated. It’s already a recipe for disaster. Then I must face the fact that others use the park too. I don’t get to have it to myself. No one alerted these people that the world should revolve around me and I need to have private time at the track.  

Most of them are not a problem, in all honesty. We pass each other with quick nods, half-hearted smiles, and then quickly go back to our physical fitness misery. Few try to pierce my bubble of ‘Am I really doing this today? Why can’t I go back home and sleep until lunch? Why can’t I run with a carafe of coffee? Why? By all that is holy, WHY?’ 

I like those people. They are my silent friends, and I wish them all the goodness that life brings. Thank you for leaving me the heck alone.

You know that saying, ‘One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch’? I call bull-hockey on that one. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch ... and the track has more than one of those.

First are the dog walkers. Not all the dog walkers, mind you. Many dogs I see out and about with their owners are nice, well-behaved pets. I’m fine with those. My ire is reserved for the people who insist on walking slavering, barking, foaming-at-the-mouths beasts on a public track. Every day at least two of these animals rage at me as I trot by. I watch with worry as their owners – almost always tiny old people who look like they’d be pushed over by a breeze – struggle to keep their monsters from running me down. Apparently, my legs resemble beef jerky to these fur-bearing brutes. They can’t wait to gnaw on me.


 You stop eyeballing me too, Squatch.

Listen, folks. If you weigh under a hundred pounds, collect Social Security, and your dog could have been Cujo’s understudy, don’t bring it to a public track. Unless it’s a railroad track. Feel free to walk your bloodthirsty beast there until it catches a passing train. 

And while we’re talking about animals – ducks. Lovely ducks with their pretty plumage. What can be more serene than the sight of ducks gliding effortlessly over the surface of a pond? Nothing. It’s when they get out of the pond that you have to worry. 

First of all, ducks poop. Unlike the dogs that people bring to the park, no one has to clean up that poop. There is duck guano everywhere, especially on the track. It looks like someone dropped every Tootsie Roll ever produced out of a passing blimp. There are four ducks who live where I run. Who knew those birds could make so much guano?  

We who frequent the track try to put a good face on the mess. “Ha ha, it looks like they’ve installed an obstacle course for us!” Yeah, ha-ha. I’m hysterical with laughter as I weave amongst the pellets and pray I don’t slip and fall. 

However, the poop is a minor irritation compared to the ducks themselves. The ducks are wild, but they’ve been around people so long that they have lost all fear of us. So as I jog up to them, they have no problem with standing right there and not moving. Not freaking giving way. They just stare. It’s like Children of the Damned, but they’re ducks.


On second thought, bring your rabid dog back to the track, Grandma.

That brings me to my final and biggest peeve. Ducks standing around in the way is irritating, but in the end, they’re animals. They aren’t supposed to have good sense, not like people. 

Enter the Stroller Mom Gang. 

This is the worst of the worst. These are young women with children. In strollers. You wouldn’t think such a thing would set anyone’s blood boiling ... not even mine. And yet, they do. 

The individual mommies getting back into pre-baby shape are an okay bunch. I applaud them for getting out there not only to exercise, but setting a great example for their little sweetlings. Go, you awesome women! 

The Stroller Mom Gang is a different story. These half dozen women travel in a pack. Their strollers are huge. They walk two abreast, the entire width of the track. They like to stop in the middle of said track and chat for several minutes at a time. And they move for no one.


It looks something like this

This obnoxious bunch of track-bully princesses really brings out the devil in me. They are the prime reason for Hubby’s warning to not toss strollers in the water. But I wouldn’t do that. There are innocent babies in those strollers. I wouldn’t hurt them. 

Instead, I am inspired by large, thick tree branches. I long to pick them up and swing at the perky little ponytailed heads of the Stroller Mom Gang. Picturesque rocks would weight them in the middle of the pond so well. I’d be doing a public service by removing these nuisances. Really. 

When I start talking like that, Hubs says, “Finish your run and we’ll go to Waffle House. I’ll buy you coffee and bacon.” 

Coffee. Bacon. Coffee. Bacon. I chant those magic words as I run. Okay, we’re good again. I even forget how fulfilling committing mayhem might be as another dog snarls and nearly jerks the arm off his owner as he tries to get at me. 

Hold off for better game, Fido. There are approaching Stroller Moms for you to play with. Please do.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Lilith’s Return


Alex’s face filled with torment, and for the first time, Lena really saw her mother.  Not the demon killing, bloodthirsty warrior, but a woman filled with doubt and fear and guilt.  “You don’t take any life without dying a little inside, Lena.  Even when the life you end is an evil one.”

“You kill demonkind all the time.”

Alex bowed her head.  “I know.  But in that case it’s the same idea as killing Hitler to stop him from killing millions of innocents.  Killing one to save many.”  Drops fell from her eyes, spilling over her clenched hands.  She was actually crying again, though her voice remained steady.  “Once upon a time I killed demonkind indiscriminately.  Don’t think it doesn’t haunt me to this very day.  Who knows how many of my victims were like you?  Like your father and Uncle Jacob?”

Lena had never realized the burden Alex had carried all her life.  It was a revelation to see that the tough woman felt every bit as vulnerable as she.  That she was in need of the same support that Lena sought.  Maybe needing even more.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet Me in the Middle

People are funny, but not always in a humorous fashion. I’ve seen a lot of interesting reactions to Kiddo when it comes to his autism. There are two extremes: one that drives me up the wall, and another that makes my husband want to take up golfing just so he can club people.

My issue: the people who look at a child and assume that just because he/she is having a tantrum in public, he/she should be beaten into good behavior. Let’s break this down.

First, all children are going to have a bad day from time to time, and yes, they are going to do it in public. It’s inescapable. Kids are kids. Even the best behaved ones are going to melt down and become little terrors that make the parents want to crawl away and hide behind the 20-pound bags of dog food in the pet food aisle.


See how fast Daddy can run away!


Kids on the spectrum have it even worse. First of all, stores can be loud. There’s a lot to process visually. It can be overwhelming for an autistic kid to try and figure out everything going on around him. However, Kiddo’s sudden descent into wailing and screaming is no worse than any other child’s. It just happens more frequently. 


Full-on freak out in T-minus 3 seconds...

So I really don’t get it when adults, particularly ones with children of their own, give that disapproving look during a scream-a-thon. They level it at Kiddo and then at me, as if I’m some sort of criminal for not making my child behave better. As if I said, “Okay child of my loins and inheritor of the dystopia I plan to sow...when we get into the most crowded part of the store, make sure you lose your mind and shatter the unsuspecting public’s eardrums.”

Then you get the real winners of the bunch.


You touch my child, and YOU won’t walk for a week. It’s called defending my special needs kid.

I don’t care that my child looks neuro-typical and you can’t tell he’s on the spectrum. Just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean it’s not there. This is called compassion. YOU should try it.

Then there’s Hubs’ peeve: the overly sympathetic people who want to know all about our child. You know this type; they act concerned just to find out why the kid acts that way. 

This particular animal came out to sniff the air the last time Kiddo got his hair cut. It wore the distinctive camouflage of Nosy Old Lady. As we waited for my son’s turn in the barber’s chair, he sat on my lap. He chattered happily, though nonsensically, about whatever was playing in his head. The woman sitting two chairs away turned and sized him up. 

“Hello,” she said in syrupy sweet tones. “How old are you?” 

Kiddo was in his own little world, so I nudged him. This was, after all, an opportunity for him to practice interaction. It’s unwanted but useful, so I played along. “The lady wants to know how old you are.” 

After a little more prodding, he finally admitted to being eight. On the other side of me, Hubs’ lips are set in a tight line. 

Old Lady is really staring at Kiddo now. “What grade are you in?” 

Hubs is turning red. I ask the question a few more times, because my son is deep into his world and doesn’t want to be a part of this boring conversation. At last he sighs and says, “Second grade.”

Fortunately, the time has come for that haircut. The Inquisition is over.

However, Hubs is still seething afterward in the car. “I hate that. They know he’s different and keep doing their best to find out what’s going on. When you finally tell them ‘autism’ they light up like they just won a contest and say, “I knew it!”


Following Price is Right, win a new car on Guess That Disorder!

He’s right about such people. You’d think they’d just gotten their medical degree by figuring out Kiddo is on the spectrum.


Four out of five real doctors agree such people are asshats.

Look folks, it’s not that hard to deal with a special needs person. First of all, it’s not your place to judge anyone unless you’ve wield a gavel and wear a robe to work. Even then, you shouldn’t do your job outside the courtroom. If you can’t help but judge, keep it to yourself. If you still feel the urge to share your unwanted opinion, think of the kid (or his foul-tempered mother) as a big, strong guy who enjoys stomping others as a hobby. Ask yourself if you’d run your mouth at him.

This is my inner man. He will hurt you.

On the other side of the coin, don’t play like you really care about my child when all you want to do is satisfy your curiosity. I’m not grilling you on how old you are and what you want to be when you grow up (since maturity has still apparently not happened). Don’t interrogate my child in the hopes you can figure out why he’s talking gibberish at the moment. It’s rude.  

How does one treat others, particularly those with challenges? With the same respect you would want to be treated with. With the same sympathy you wish for when your kids or grandkids are having a trying moment in public. With the same regard you expect when you’re not at your best. With the compassion that should be there simply because we’re all in this together. 

See? Not so hard after all.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday's Serving - Lilith

           Despite her best efforts, Alex dropped right on top of the dead man. The body squelched beneath her, and the air went muddy with the scent of spoiled meat. His blank eyes stare into hers, the windows to his soul looking into a bare, unfurnished room.
           She controlled an urge to scream – barely. Her stomach heaved, and she scrambled off the bed. The ripe odor of death hung about her. Alex held her breath as she hurried to the door. There she paused, willing her galloping heartbeat to slow to a trot. Panic edged back but kept a hungry eye on her.
            Alex pulled the vial of holy water from her coat pocket and unstoppered it. With a shuddering breath she cracked the door open.
            A powerful thrum slammed through her body. The force made her stumble backwards. Demon recognition hit her with the force of a tidal wave. She tried to scream, but only a whistling hiss of breath escaped.
            Alex staggered in a drunken pirouette to the middle of the room. One hand outstretched to ward off the demonic presence. The other pulled back the holy water as if she readied to throw the first pitch of a baseball game.
            Alone and small, Alex had indeed blundered into the lair of the Beast. A moaned litany escaped her lips. “I can’t. I can’t. I can’t...”
            Staring at the dark hallway beyond the open door, she wept the tears of a terrified child. Who was she to confront such a monster? Lilith would surely annihilate her within seconds. With all that power, she couldn’t be stopped, couldn’t even be slowed. Lilith would destroy them all. Such malevolence would crush everything in its path. Alex’s puny arsenal of prayers and spells would be like pebbles thrown at a tank. Incantations would be no more to the ancient demoness than nursery rhymes.  

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014


As most parents know, vegetables are profane objects to kids. Jokes about getting them to eat broccoli and cauliflower have probably been around since God was a kid.  

Enter the child with autism who not only despises vegetables but also has a heightened sensitivity to textures. Oh joy. Now you’re talking the Battle of Dinner. 

I love the parents who say, “Let them go hungry. After a little while, self-preservation will take over and he’ll eat.” Oh, you are so cute when you’re condescending. Let me pinch your cheeks, you adorable naive creature. 

Let me clear up something right off the top here: my kid will starve to death before putting a food he doesn’t readily identify and like in his mouth. I am not exaggerating (for once). Animal instinct will not overpower his incredible sensitivity to taste and texture.  

Unfortunately, the vast majority of foods I can get the little fiend to unclamp his jaws for are nowhere to be found in the nutritional column. If given the opportunity, Kiddo would live on hot dogs, corn dogs, cheeseburgers, Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese, and PBJ sandwiches. This is his menu, along with anything that contains a pound of sugar. 

This calls for a little ingenuity on my part. Thank goodness, because a little ingenuity is about all I have. I have learned to hide nutritional items in the most non-nutritional creations posing as food. I smuggle in vegetables like a James Bond villain making off with plutonium to destroy the planet. 

Some things are easy to get away with. Gummi vitamins, for instance. What sugar-dependent kid can resist? Shoring up my son’s main diet of mystery meat and high-fructose corn syrup is the multivitamin that, yes, is also half candy.  

My second simple trick is V-8 Fusion juice. A serving of fruit AND vegetables in each cup? Oh yes, indeed. Sure it’s got mystery chemicals galore in there, but he’s already a walking scientific experiment after inhaling all those hot dogs. It can’t get any worse. Maybe he’ll even mutate into a cool superhero one day, and I’ll get free passes to Comic Con. 

From that point, it’s time to get crafty. I’ve convinced the child that white flour is a bizarre legend, and that such a creation is evil if it does indeed exist. All those gazillions of PBJ’s are made on whole-grain bread. He picks all the seeds and grains out, but I know some slip past. Bwa-ha-ha-ha. I win. 

My other big go-to is baby food. No, he won’t eat it...knowingly. However, I’ve discovered that the sweet potato ooze has little flavor. Mix it in with the other funky ooze of packaged mac ‘n cheese, and Kiddo doesn’t know the difference. He doesn’t have a clue! I win again. 

Every time I figure out how to get a veggie past Mr. Pre-Packaged Nitrates is a reason to celebrate. If I had the time and energy, I could probably take over the world. It takes Evil Mastermind levels to stir pureed plant matter into concoctions without being caught by that kid. It’s like he’s got some kind of anti-healthy food alert that starts pinging the moment I add something good for him into his meals. He appears at my elbow, staring suspiciously at the food I’ve doctored only seconds before. It’s an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse. It’s reached the point that I often have visions of him strapped to a table while I approach with plate and fork. 

“So Mother, do you expect me to talk?” 

“No my child. I expect you to dine.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday’s Serving – Willow in the Desert


Arner took up the questioning again.  “Tell me more about the mutant aliens, son.  Whatever you can think of.” 

“Is that what they are?”

Carli said, “We think so.”

The boy snorted.  “Like the Old Ones weren’t bad enough just being what they were.”  He sounded way too adult to Carli’s ears.  Her anger grew.

Jon took a deep breath.  “They don’t drink blood like the regular aliens.  They eat people instead, I guess ‘cause they have all those teeth instead of the siphons.  And they don’t hate the sunlight.  It doesn’t bother them a bit.  That’s why I move around only at night.”

Arner gave him an approving pat on the shoulder.  “That’s smart.”

Jon suddenly asked, “You got some food?  All I’ve had is bugs.  Those monsters keep the food stores guarded.”

Carli told him, “Probably because they know the survivors are going to be hungry.  They’re hoping they’ll eventually get desperate enough to try for it.”  She unslung her backpack and pulled out two ration meals. 

The child gobbled them so fast she wasn’t sure he’d bothered to chew.  He was starved, all right.  The fact he continued to stay in Gander’s Gulch, hoping to find his parents, was all the more commendable and depressing.

After he swallowed the last, he asked, “Are you going to bring more help?”

Carli and Leo turned to Arner, letting his expertise run the show.  He considered a few minutes before answering.  “I think your plan to evacuate people, not just your parents, will be our best bet.  Get everyone to Freetown.”

“Won’t the monsters follow us there?  When they don’t have no one left here to eat, I mean.”

One side of Arner’s mouth lifted in a half smile.  “You’re a smart kid, Jon.  We’ve got some defenses at Freetown you don’t have here.  Plus we got fair warning what was happening.  They won’t be able to ambush us like they did you.”  His grin grew to wolfish proportions.  “And there will be a lot less of them to attack us by the time I’m through.” 

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