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You wanna do a Richard Simmons tape?

May 20, 2012

Society expresses great sympathy for Alzheimer’s sufferers, but people often forget the ones who are affected just as much or more than the diseased – the caregivers. Since Daddy’s forced retirement and diagnosis, Mother’s life has dramatically changed. She once spent the majority of her waking hours in solitude and now serves as Daddy’s 24/7 guardian. Daddy used to do all the driving, but Mother chauffeurs him to all his hot dog outings, not to mention his appointments. Opportunities to work in the yard and spend time with friends have shifted from abundant to scarce. While I try to regularly remember and celebrate her superpowers, I appreciated the recent national recognition of Mother’s Day.

The weekend kicked off with befuddlement. A few days prior, Timber briefly visited home after spring finals and before her trip to San Francisco, and insisted that she and Mother enjoy an afternoon of pedicures and plant-shopping alone. Mother worried about leaving Daddy unattended, particularly since a handyman was scheduled to stop by and assess some jobs to do around the house, like replace the molding and closet doors. Mother wrote a detailed list of the desired updates and even notified the handyman of the list in addition to Daddy’s memory problems. In the midst of Mother’s perennial browsing, Daddy frantically called to say he’d lost the list. Timber walked him through checkpoints such as the stove island, counters and trash cans with no luck. Plus, the handyman phoned Daddy to say he was on his way but never showed up.

Mother carped all weekend about the “blasted list,” and how no one is good for their word these days. Adding to Mother’s confusion, the handyman eventually followed up on his preliminary evaluation of the house. Apparently he came by and took the list from Daddy – all of which escaped Daddy’s memory. The stress of keeping up with the list overpowered Daddy’s ability to focus on another responsibility. Even when the doctor diagnosed Daddy with mild cognitive impairment, he noted that Daddy’s multi-tasking competence was gone.

Despite that frustration in addition to healthcare and prescription refill hassles, the three of us managed to maximize our time together. One highlight involved eating a late lunch at Simply Southern, a “meat and three” restaurant attached to the nearby Citgo station. Why the establishment is advertised as a meat and three confounds me, since the closest thing to a vegetable on the menu was fried green tomatoes with a side of Ranch dressing. Still, the patron mullet-watching and indoor murals compensated for the gurgles that erupted from my stomach for the rest of the afternoon. Perhaps my favorite mural is a wedding cake painted beside a booth, with the following message scrawled across its three tiers: “If the sun refuses to shine, I would still be loving you.” If “refuses” were changed to the past tense, the cake would accurately quote Led Zeppelin. I love that it doesn’t. The Wall of Flame also amuses me, with three photographs tacked beneath a large stuffed pepper. Only three men have been able to stomach Simply Southern’s spicy chili. I think one of them was in my kindergarten class.

On Sunday morning I stumbled into the kitchen to find Mother huffing over the kitchen sink holding pieces of the faucet. In an effort to clean the dirty spout, Daddy took apart the end of the nozzle but obviously forgot how to put it back together. We assembled and disassembled the parts for more than an hour without success. Even when the faucet looked right, water spewed from it in odd directions.

“I’m irritated with you,” Mother emanated stinkeye when Daddy walked in.


“You took this. APART.”

“I did?”

Mother holds her Richard Simmons DVD.

To relieve stress and my Simply Southern bloat, I desperately longed to go for a jog, but it had been raining all weekend.

“You wanna do a Richard Simmons tape?” Mother offered. “I’ve got one in here.”

I used to sweat to the oldies in high school when I was anorexic and exercised all day, burning calories after indulging in a Fudgsicle. Despite my eating disorder, I couldn’t complete the workout more than three times because it was so boring.

“Oh my God. Why do you have that?” I asked Mother mid-guffaw.

“I got it at Wal-Mart. It’s the 20th anniversary edition. Wanna do it?”

“Okay…” I hesitated.

“Well it’s an hour and a half long. Never mind.”

Feeling flabby, I jogged in the rain while listening to the Fugees. I found the combination of splattered sunglasses and Lauryn Hill strangely cathartic. Still, I sort of wish Mother and I had completed the Richard Simmons DVD together. It might have made Mother’s Day weekend even more epic.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    June 16, 2012 11:56 am

    Yes, I know Mother’s transition has been difficult. We should both visit home at the same time and go out together!

  2. June 16, 2012 1:22 pm

    I know – I can’t wait for you to move back from the swamps of Augusta.

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