Banks County Opinions...

AUGUST 28, 2002


Column

By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
August 28, 2002

The apartment
As I put the key in the door, I dreaded what awaited me inside.
With a sigh, I pushed the door open and before me lay the remains of a life that had gone on for 83 years.
The tiny apartment had been her home for the past five years. So much of our family’s history had to be left behind as she moved from our family home to here.
We had whittled her life down to three rooms just five short years ago, now, we had to whittle her down again. Down to a chest of three drawers, a three-foot closet and a bedside table. A condensed life. Sort of like her condensed memory. I tried to smile at the weak humor, but no smile would cross my face this evening.
I looked around at the neatly hung pictures of family on the walls and placed on the windowsill. Pictures of us, her children. All her grandchildren and great-grandchildren smiled down, innocent and free. She didn’t know who they were at Christmas, but she thought they looked nice on her wall.
There in the center was the composite picture I had made of her and Dad from their high school senior photos for their 40th anniversary. How pretty she was; how handsome Dad was. Their smiling faces, too, had the look of youthful happiness. Life had yet to make them adults.
Numb feet took me to her bedroom and the closet door. She had to have some clothes to wear at the nursing home.
I slid the closet door open and before me hung years of presents from Mother’s Days, birthdays and Christmases. Some clothes had never been worn. The tags were still in them. I came across the outfit I had bought her for her first grandchild’s wedding. I remember her in it, how sweet she looked, how proud she was. I took it off the hanger and folded it gently. It would go into the donation pile. Having lost so much weight, she would never be able to wear it again.
One by one, I went through her shirts, pants, jackets and dresses. Most went to the donation pile.
I found the one dress that was so special to her. It had taken me years to find it. She had always wanted a dress the color of her wedding dress, a light blue. Having never seen a color picture of it, I wasn’t sure just what shade she wanted. Nor did I realize just how many shades there were until I tried to find the one she wanted. I’d find one, show it to her and ask if it was the right shade. I always got the same reply, not the right color. Finally, one day, the box she opened brought a big smile. She had her blue dress.
She told me at the time, she wanted to be buried in it. As I held it up, and heard her telling me that all over again, I couldn’t stop the tears. I sat down on her bed and wept. It seemed like if I could cry all my tears now, I wouldn’t have to worry about crying again when she did pass on. Then, I remembered how that didn’t work with Dad. Though I knew the cancer would take him, and prepared as best I could to get it all out of me beforehand, it was impossible not to cry in grief the day he died.
I shook my head, and straightened my back, got up and placed the dress back in the closet. That would have to go to my sister Mary’s house for storage.
I continued my task of picking out Mom’s clothes. These days, she lives in fleece. Even in the heat of summer, she is cold. There is no fat on her aged bones to hold any heat. The nurses will think I’m crazy bringing all this winter stuff.
Next, Mom needed PJ’s, undergarments and socks. I opened her drawers and pulled out enough to last over a week. I wasn’t sure how often laundry was done at the nursing home.
Next, everything had to labeled with her name. In a daze, I carefully printed her name on each and every piece of her clothing.
Then I noticed all the stuffed animals on her bed. They were her companions. She had even named some of them. But, one in particular was her favorite. It was a black and white pooch. We got it for her soon after moving her to the apartment. It looked like her dog, Bonnie, a border collie.
Bonnie had lived a long life and had to be put to sleep when her health deteriorated. I don’t think Mom ever really got over the loss of her old friend. She had kept Mom company for nearly 11 years and many of those years were after Dad had died.
I grabbed the dog and placed it on the pile going to the nursing home. Mom was going to have that dog with her.
I went through a couple of her drawers and came across two hand puppets she had started sewing God knows when. She used to make puppets for the kids she taught at Sunday School.
I also found three beautiful old aprons I had given her when I was young and women wore such things. They looked as new as the day they were given to her. She kept them as her “special aprons” for when company came to dinner. There were also a number of dainty handkerchiefs perfectly folded.
So many memories locked up in these drawers. I had to stop. My heart was breaking and I couldn’t go any further.
I called Mary and told her I had gotten Mom’s clothes together and would take them over the next day. Mary heaved a sigh of relief. She said she wasn’t sure she would have been able to do it. I told her of the puppets and aprons and of Mom’s dress.
She fell silent, and I knew she was fighting back tears. I told her it was all right to let go and cry. It was natural, and besides, I joked, I didn’t want to be the only one wailing.
As I made my way to the door, I stopped and looked back at the rooms that would soon be emptied of Mom’s last possessions. I knew the job had only begun. Everything in Mom’s apartment would have to go.
As the deadbolt clicked into place, I felt relieved. I hadn’t anticipated the depth of emotion and I was glad to leave. I knew I’d have to come back with Mary to finish the job. But, thankfully, that would be another day.
Shar Porier is a reporter with The Banks County News.

Column

By: Phillip Sartain
T
he Banks County News
August 28, 2002

Signs: The sequel
For the last several weeks, I’ve been hearing a lot about a movie starring Mel Gibson and a cornfield. It has something to do with weird signs supposedly left by aliens. I don’t have a cornpatch, but I can relate to the weird signs and aliens.
It’s possible that the weird signs in my home have been around a long time and I just didn’t notice. But ever since we had children, it’s occurred to me that there might be more going on here than meets the eye.
Initially, I just thought that my children were remarkably lazy. Instead, as I discovered in the course of an investigation just recently, strange and unseen forces are at work here. It all came to light when I made the mistake of asking them to clean up their rooms.
The answer was predictable. “But, Daddy, we can’t.”
In response, I assumed my traditional role of “Dopey Dad,” and asked the predictably stupid question, “Why not?” They were in the middle of a far-flung explanation when it first occurred to me that my children might, in fact, be from an advanced alien civilization.
In other words, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the convoluted rationale they gave me for why they couldn’t clean up after themselves. It had something to do with gravitational pulls and alignment of the planets and Albert Einstein trading cards and the cereal they had for breakfast and something they saw on television. It only reinforced my suspicions about them being aliens.
Even so, I decided that I needed to press the issue just in case I was wrong and they were really my children and thus my responsibility if and when I unleash them on the world. “That’s odd,” I suggested. “You were able to get all that stuff out of the closet and mess up your rooms in the first place.”
“Yes, but you don’t understand,” they rebutted. Obviously, my brain is not as well developed as their alien brains. That’s why they tried to simplify it for me. “If we do that, then we won’t be able to finish the experiment we’re working on in the kitchen.”
Experiments in the kitchen are considered my wife’s province, and I usually try to stay out of the way. Even so, I took a stab at sanity and suggested, “Why don’t you take a break from your experiment and try cleaning up?”
“Well, because our kitchen experiment is more important than cleaning up. And besides, we can’t get the stuff up off the floor. It won’t move.”
That prompted me to take a more serious investigative approach. “You mean that there is some physical law of nature at work here that we ordinary humans don’t understand? Is there some sort of invisible forcefield that has developed around all your dirty clothes preventing you from touching them once they hit the floor?”
“Yes,” they yelled excitedly. “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you all this time. But you wouldn’t listen.” I was speechless, and apparently, deaf as well. Unfortunately, while I was considering all this, the three of them were able to break free from the Father-Daughter Conversational Forcefield and returned to their kitchen experiment.
I was still mulling over the potential dangers and drawbacks of raising aliens without a license when I wandered into the bedroom and found my wife. “What are you doing?,” she asked.
“Oh, I just came up here to warn you that the girls are experimenting in the kitchen again.” The blood drained from her face fairly rapidly. Her mouth opened but no words came out and I figured she had gone deaf and speechless, too.
But before she left for the kitchen, I told her that I would be in the backyard making weird geometric patterns in our lawn if she needed me. I explained that I wanted the aliens to know that they can come back and get their kids whenever they’re ready.
You know, just in case.
Phillip Sartain is an attorney in Gainesville.

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