(not the teenage kind)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Recliner Buddy

My dog is tall and skinny and weighs 48 pounds. About a month or two ago he started every once in a while coming into my office while I was working, putting his two front paws up on my lap and just staying there. I could not figure out what he wanted.

We have done a bit of redecorating in the last week and a half. My front bedroom was a catchall entertainment room, exercise room, guestroom. In preparation for the arrival of my dad's recliner, I decided it was time to let the treadmill go. I walk outside almost every day now and the treadmill takes up quite a bit of room. I got a guy named Memo to haul the treadmill away. I met Memo while I was at my dad's house. He was working for the charity that took the last of my dad's stuff away. Apparently there are some things that even a charity won't take like a falling apart, big plywood desk and like, say, a huge treadmill. Memo heard my dad's assistant and I talking about how you can find people in the Penny Saver to haul stuff away and Memo spoke up and told us that he happened to have that exact kind of business on the side. Though my dad's assistant thought that maybe Memo was a little exploitative and unethical, the way I see it is that Memo saw a need and filled it. I applaud his entreprenuerialism.

The only thing of my dad's I knew I really wanted was his recliner and don dokken brought the recliner to me last Monday. My dad was so active all his life, even when he was sick, so it is funny that it is the recliner that makes me feel the closest to him. When I think about my dad now I keep replaying the last few weeks of his life and the recliner is where I saw him the most. A few weeks before he died he was sitting in the recliner giving himself a breathing treatment. He did not want to sit alone so I laid on his bed and every once in awhile he would remove the breathing tube, say "I love you" in his raspy voice, and then put the breathing tube back in his mouth. He died in his recliner and in the days following his death I could sit in that chair and feel his presence.

Last night I was sitting in the recliner having a glass of wine and reading my Money magazine. The dog approached tentatively. He has been a little afraid of the recliner because it moves and makes a scary noise when you lift the leg rest. He put his front paws up on the chair and then jumped up and awkwardly positioned himself on my lap. I think sitting on my lap is what he has been wanting to do all along. We watched Charlie Brown on TV. It was precious time spent enjoying the two things that don dokken delivered to me - my dog and my recliner.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No Sleep + No Water + Too Much Coffee = Very Shaky Hands

I woke up around 3 am this morning because a water main broke in my neighborhood. I did not know at the time that was the reason why. In fact, I looked out my front window and saw water in the street and thought it had been raining. In the morning, I saw my car was dry and my backyard was dry and thought it was strange that the rain had stopped at the street in front of the house. And then I went to brush my teeth and the water would not turn on.

311 must know my voice by now. They verified that, yes, a water main had broken around 3 am and, being the emergency situation that it was, they could not notify the people affected by the water shut-off. I work from home and many days I really do not need to get out of my pajamas. But, of course, today I had a breakfast meeting at 8am, close to downtown.

And here's where I must give a shout-out to In-Style magazine. In the most recent issue, a make-up, face guy noted a beauty trick whereby when you are too tired at night to wash your face, there are great products on the market which are basically moist towelettes which do not have alcohol and do not have oil making ingredients either. He highly recommended them, named the best brand, said they were just as good as washing with a cleanser. Since I am too tired at night to wash my face about 99% of the time, that sounded like a good idea to me and I actually bought some to try out just a few days ago. Those and perfume and some bottled water to brush my teeth came in very handy this morning. We won't talk about my hair.

But I was tired and since there was no water to heat for my tea and I had been awake since the wee hours of the morning, I needed caffeine and at the breakfast meeting I drank cups and cups and more cups of coffee. That was nine hours ago and my hands are still shaking and I have not eaten since breakfast because I am so caffeine sensitive that I have no appetite. I have decided that the only thing that will calm me down and make things right is a nice glass of red wine and a warm bath. The water, being off most of the day, is finally back on.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Volunteer Diary

I was cleaning out one of my drawers the other day and found a piece of paper dated 11/11/92 on which I had written notes about my first day of volunteering at an infant/toddler shelter. The shelter was for children under the age of five who had been taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect and temporarily placed in the shelter until the family could, hopefully, be reunified. My intention I know was to keep a diary about the experience and I only wrote this one page but it really doesn't matter because I remember the days I spent there better than I remember what I had for breakfast an hour ago. It was one of the better experiences of my life as I met the most inspiring children and (very young) staff members who I still think about all the time. From the "diary":
There were six children - 3 girls, 3 boys - ages ten months to five years. The girls: Jennifer, Deneva, and the baby (can't remember her name - starts with a T.) The baby's mother, Penny, was there - the social worker says she comes every day. Penny told me five times she liked my silver and onyx bracelet. She started talking about two year old Matthew and how she didn't like him and he was hyperactive and they should put him on ritalin. All this, right in front of him. The baby seemed to be doing really well. She's walking, smiling, trying to talk.

Jennifer's a big, pudgy, freckly redhead who clings to you immediately. "I love you" she said to me almost right away. "Let's play house," she kept saying. We drove through Carl's Junior (the six kids, two staff members, and me) and then brought the food back to the house. One little boy, Blair, wanted to know why I was going with them. He did not like me! But later he gave me a french fry which I dipped into Deneva's ketchup. Deneva wanted to save french fries for her mother. She put a bag aside for her.

Jennifer said her father was in heaven and Blair asked one of the staff people why God took Jennifer's father away. She said God had a plan for everyone and it was Jennifer's dad's time. She said that God wasn't doing it to be mean and that Jennifer's dad was having fun in heaven.
I got the name wrong in that entry. Her name was Stephanie and her father was killed while holding up a Subway sandwich store. I put Stephanie to bed one night and said the words my mother always said to me "Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite." Instead of being comforted, Stephanie became hysterical. "Bed bugs? There are bed bugs?" The staff had to change her clothes and sheets to get her to settle down.

We took the kids to Disneyland a couple of times. One time, Matthew was being potty trained and exhuberantly ran into the men's bathroom before any of the all female staff members could stop him. We waited anxiously at the entrance until, finally, Matthew came running out triumphantly and butt naked screaming in his baby voice, "I did it! I did it!"

On that same trip, Blair asked the whole way there over and over again "Are we going to Disneyland? Are we going to Disneyland?" And the whole way there we assured him that, yes, we are going to Disneyland. Finally, we were in line at the parking lot, right at the gates that said "Welcome to Disneyland - the happiest place in the world" and he asked again. Using the sarcastic humor that my parents used to use on me, I said "No, Blair, we are not. We are not going to Disneyland." Everyone else in the car laughed but Blair burst out in tears. We explained to him that I was joking. Between sobs he said, "But jokes are supposed to be funny." You were right, Blair, and I still remind myself of that all the time.

The idea of the Infant/Toddler shelter was for it to be a temporary place for the children while the parents worked on improving themselves and their lives and got to a point where it was safe for them to have their children back. Unfortunately, while the children healed really quickly, the parents took a long time recovering and it would be years or never before they were ready not the weeks or months as hoped. Three of us volunteers were asked to speak to the Board of Directors of the agency running the shelter to plead with them to keep it open. We tried our best but in 1994 they voted to close the shelter down anyway.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bank of America Abuses Elders

This past summer I thought it might be prudent to have myself added to my dad's bank account. Not wanting to single anyone out I also decided it might be prudent to have myself added to my mom's bank account. We all three use Bank of America.

The transaction with my mom went very smoothly. I met her at the bank near both of our houses, they helped us right away, the woman who assisted us was quick. Easy. I then walked back home, stopping at the Borders bookstore, where I bonded with some strangers about books and how lucky we were to be shopping for books in the middle of the day in the middle of the week on a beautiful summer day. Tra la la.

The transaction with my dad actually occurred before the transaction with my mom and did not go as well. In just itsy bitsy fairness to B of A, we went on a Saturday and it was a little crowded. We had to wait for a long time to be helped. We finally were helped by Mary Ann who acted like what we were asking was as complicated as a real estate transaction in California, took half the day to complete it, and then tried to convince my dad to transfer some of his money into a CD.

Let us stop here and make sure everyone has the proper picture in their heads. An elderly man in a scooter (i.e. unable to walk) and on oxygen (i.e. unable to breathe) with a fading voice because there is a tumor pressing against whatever it is that lets people talk (vocal cords?) is adding his daughter to his checking account. Got it?

Apparently, my dad went back and got the CD which was no problem. No problem really except that devil woman Mary Ann took the opportunity to talk him into increasing his home equity line of credit. What must she have said to convince a dying man that he needed to add $50,000 to a line of credit that he had just paid off less than a year ago? Also, apparently, he tried to cancel follow up appointments with Mary Ann regarding the additional home equity line of credit and she would cajole him to reschedule.

Thank goodness he was too tired to actually complete the paperwork. And he had a vigilant assistant who notified his financial advisor and called Mary Ann to tell her to back off. Mary Ann hung up on her.

My dad kept saying he wanted me more involved in his finances. I took that to mean he wanted me to know how much money he had and where it was. I would periodically go through his drawers and files. But what I didn't realize, because my dad was a smart and sharp man, was that when someone is ill or old there are opportunities for their exploitation and people who will exploit and this will happen even to people who are of sound mind. When I saw the bill for my dad's insurance on his condominium, I actually started shaking. He was paying more for his condo insurance than I pay for my home insurance and four times as much as my mom pays for her condo insurance. Someone had convinced him he needed a premium policy and coverage far exceeding the value of his assets. That was two days before he died.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

This morning I was talking on the telephone when I saw a splash of color go by my living room window. There was no noise and I somehow knew that it was something out of the ordinary, definitely not a car or a person. I looked out the window and saw this:

Yes, that's right, the tree across the street fell down into the middle of the street for no apparent reason. I called the city's 311 hotline number and they said they would send someone to get the tree out of the middle of the street. As you can see, the tree was blocking traffic. As you can also see, someone or someone's car could have gotten smushed.

The City really rocks because they were here in just a bit over an hour and the tree was removed within a half an hour. I snapped the picture with my cellphone camera just as they arrived because I thought the people across the street might want some sort of record of what had happened.

An hour later a very angry, aggressive sounding man called. It was the guy across the street. You see that white thing behind my yucca/palm tree? That belongs to the nanny across the street. The nanny across the street told her employer that the City had asked her to move her car so that they could take down the tree. The people across the street then called the City who told them that I had called them to remove the tree. The guy across the street wanted to know if I was the person responsible for having their tree removed and ruining their fence. It appears that no one mentioned to him that the tree was already lying in the middle of the street when I called.

I am so glad I took that picture which clearly shows that, yes, the tree was already lying in the middle of the street before the nanny was asked to move her car. I told him he should be thanking me not yelling at me. I told him that either he didn't understand the nanny or the nanny didn't understand the City or maybe their nanny is just a liar. Plus, let's think this through. Would the City really rush out and cut down a tree because someone across the street told them to?

He later sent me an apologetic email and his wife came knocking on the door to apologize in person. She said "Not that we wouldn't have believed you but it's great that you took that picture."

It has not been a good day.

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