Courtesy of her childbearing days, my mom had to undergo some extensive surgery this week. In spite of being arch estrogen-influenced rivals when I was a teenager, time has healed all wounds and my mom asked if I would take a few days and come upstate to take care of her the first few days out of the hospital. 1. I am not a homemaker in any capacity, and 2. I do not deal well with medical conditions, bodily fluids, or illness. Still, I bought my one-way ticket to Kingston and stopped by a grocery store to buy her these beautiful purple flowers. The temperature change from 60 degrees to 10 degrees back to 70 degrees sucked the life out of the potted plant. It would serve as a nice metaphor.
I arrived at our house, instantly feeling the suffocation, as my former bedroom has become my sister’s storage space and the now spare bedroom is a makeshift office. Nothing like feeling at home. My mom, slightly groggy and physically imbalanced greeted me with her catheter “purse” attached to her wrist. Did I mention my squeamishness around bodily fluids? I joined her in the living room, where she was engaged “Extreme Makeover” and I was exposed to more bodily fluids, surgeries, and physical pain. I now can see the audience this show once garnered, across the country Americans sitting on their couch, snacking on their over-sized bag of chips, and dreaming about their own extreme makeover. The show disgusts me, but I was the guest/attendant and sat through it.
Mom went to bed early, and I enjoyed surfing through the hundreds of Direct-TV channels. The next morning I awoke and the housework began, from changing cat litter boxes to soiled laundry, to more laundry and cooking dinner. I refused to scrub the basement floor, which was one of my mom’s requests, but it was just plain nasty. As I prepared dinner, I noticed a flood was taking place beneath the refrigerator door and ruining the wood flooring. I asked my mom about it, and she hobbled to investigate. Apparently the icemaker was leaking and my mom, always the first to offer help, got on the floor (injuries and all!) to investigate and start cleaning it up! I, on the other hand, was hesitant to reach in and touch the black gunk growing on the water tray. The fridge had to be moved, and it was me who had to do the moving. Now, my parents, in every regard have the super-sized appliances from television to washer and dryer, and the double-doored stainless steel fridge became a tough opponent for me. At least double my weight, I used every bit of strength I had and my entire body weight to move the fridge one side at a time on the slippery wood floor. My mom erupted in guffaws that were quickly answered by cries of pain, as her body was not healed quite enough for that level of laughter. The mess was cleaned up and I went on with making dinner.
The day was a far cry from the fashion show I was supposed to model at in the morning and forfeited for family loyalty, but I was looking forward to a quiet family dinner with my parents. My mom requested the soft office chair that occupies the dining room/ Dad’s office (yeah he has two. A spare bedroom and the dining room… can you just taste the organization in that house), and he sparks an attitude about why she couldn’t sit in the hard, wooden chairs. I was instantly incited, and said “When someone’s rectum is realigned and hurts, maybe you should offer the soft seat without making her guilty. And you know, if you didn’t sperminate her, she wouldn’t have needed this surgery!” He said if he hadn’t, then I wouldn’t be there… honestly, not such a bad idea either. Mom got the soft seat but the tension was set and they started bickering about nonsensical things. Next thing, she’s in tears and he’s growling, and I’m taking out my anger for all insensitive men on him. Just remembering that night is enough for me to want to make a drink right now.
Now, onto Day 2. I was feeling especially isolated and trapped in that small, cluttered house, and was granted the chance to escape and run errands. It was 10 degrees outside, but for some reason I looked forward to the escape. One of the errands was a trip to the DMV, which I had been informed changed offices (NOT BUILDINGS) and so I parked at the wrong part of Main St. and had to walk an extra six blocks. Nothing like walking by the Hudson River on a chilly day, but I think I needed the exercise and found Main St. to be more picturesque than I remembered it. I returned home and my brother arrived soon after, visiting from college. He brought a different energy to the house and the drama was lowered (he’s always been a good buffer). It was an easier day that I intended to end with a nice hot shower. In my parents’ house, the shower has little-to no water pressure, and because of the broken faucet, it takes about ten minutes to get the temperature right and you almost need a wrench to control it. I cut the palm of my hand on the corner of the damn thing and waited five minutes for hot water, but the little pellets were ice cold. I called for my dad, who instantly blamed me for the lack of warm water (it’s one of his favourite tactics) and then checked downstairs to see we were out of fuel! I sat on the couch, wrapped in a towel, and thinking of my home… where the water pressure is magical, the water is hot, and the rent is being paid so my sister could enjoy its comforts while cat-sitting, and I was just wishing to clean myself of the damn day!
Water was a theme in my days upstate, as I slept on my sister’s waterbed and awoke at 7AM my final morning in that house with my pajama pants soaked. I was cranky, nauseous, and still battling a sinus infection that I kept to myself because the woes paled in comparison to my mom’s own ailments. The night before, in addition to be denied a hot shower when I needed it most, my brother and dad had stayed up until 2AM playing the WII and stomping on the floor above me in their interactive bowling match. Needless to say, I was not happy, and when my mother asked me to wash me a sink full of crusty, smelly dishes that my dad has used for his pasta and cream cheese dip, bowls dirtied by his midnight snacks and saturated in grease and grime, I nearly lost it. I realized that for YEARS my mom has been at the mercy of other people’s messes. In my apartment, I wash each dish as I’m done with it so I never have to wake up to a mess. I already cleaned the man’s underwear and dirty clothes, I cooked his dinner, and was now washing his goddamned dishes, on little sleep, and I almost started crying. And while I cleaned these nasty dishes, one smelling so gross I nearly gagged from my already upset stomach, and couldn’t get through the dishes without complaining about how my dad has NEVER had to any of the disgusting work around the house. My dad had to retort that “It’ll be impossible for you to find a husband. Good luck.” As if I want one! If it translates to a life sentence to cleaning up some man’s shit, then I’m a cat lady for life. And even if I were, the guys I date as my mom declared, “Didn’t go from living with his mother to living with his wife.”
With a half-hour left before I caught my bus, I gave the family pooch a much-needed bath in the newly replenished hot water. I happily packed my bags and got on the bus back home, sleeping throughout the ride. When we approached the Lincoln Tunnel I felt an instant rush of endorphins and peace and happiness and glee. Normally the underground path between Port Authority and the 1-train is a long, obnoxious journey, but I could not be happier to walk highspeed, cutting in and out of tourists and fellow New Yorkers, and live musicians thrived in the tunnel. When I reached my neighborhood, I was ready to kiss the frozen pavement beneath my feet. This is my home.
This morning I awoke and my nausea and illness had all disappeared. My mom called this afternoon and informed the water matress I was sleeping on was covered in black mold, and could have contributed to all that nausea. I’m sure the mold mixing with the drama and the caved in feeling took it’s toll. And with utter certainly, from the core of my being, with my indignant and irreverant streak in a nuclear family, I do declare that I did NOT come to this world to be a homemaker or wife or cleaning lady and I give every ounce of respect and admiration and praise for women (and men) who can fulfill any of these roles.