Thursday, May 28, 2015


My mother--ninety-five and sinking ever more steadily into the abyss of dementia--is now living in a board-and-care facility, attended by caregivers whose native language is Hungarian (as is hers).  These people are devoted to their charges, kind beyond all expectation, gentle in the face of imminent death.  I am so relieved that our paths crossed, and that my mother can live out her life in such a lovely home.

I am learning that her decline precipitates a lot of chaos.  Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Comcast, trying to cancel her account.  This should have been simple, but as any inhabitant of the modern era knows, it wasn't.  I had to fax proof of my power of attorney, and the company's fax machine was out of ink.  Hours.  Plus, I had to talk to a Comcast employee, which is just the sort of thing writers hate doing.  I mean, everyone hates doing it, but writers hate doing it more, because it involves 1) talking to someone who isn't very interesting and 2) not writing.  

Today I am supposed to cancel my mother's subscription to MagicJack, which has something to do with phones, and which she evidently signed herself up for and never used.  I figure this will take at least a month.

In the last few weeks, there have been three trips to the emergency room, two hospital admissions, and phone consultations with a variety of doctors.  There has been the misery of learning that my mother's apartment is unlivable--black mold in the kitchen, not her fault--and trying to coordinate repairs.  (Again, more phone conversations, more dolts.)  There is the matter of an  insurance-policy premium payment.  In the next week, I have to close out a bank account.  Everything is urgently needed, deadline-dependent, required ASAP.  


Of course, the non-chaotic parts of life go on, and these are wonderful, or at the very least, a welcome respite: pedaling to exhaustion in spin class, getting trounced by an old high-school buddy in Words with Friends, baking gluten-free beignets while listening to Frank Sinatra, texting someone far away, grabbing quick dinners with adult children.  Reading (most recently, The Gold Finch, All the Light We Cannot See, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: all excellent).  Fulfilling orders at my online store (

Best of all, I've started working on a new YA novel.  Because, as Flannery O'Connor said, "Not-writing is a good deal worse than writing."  And also, because it beats talking to Heather at Comcast (who was perfectly nice and who I hope doesn't read this).

Back to chaos, which, in this case, is really another word for distraction.  It is a way of focusing on small, meaningless tasks so that when you finally accomplish something--close an account, pay a bill--you feel a tiny, empowering surge of control, a sense that You Are Handling Things.  This is important.  It is nice to be reminded that some aspects of life are manageable, and that you are not always a dithering crazy person who was so addled talking to the palliative-care nurse outside the ER that you accidentally lost your purse and had to spend the entire weekend cancelling credit cards and now have no money and have to ask Robert to pay for gas.  

And it is nice to forget, if only momentarily, the big thing that is happening, that will make you ache with sadness for a long, long time, that will change everything.  

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