The reason I made this blog was to talk about how amazing it was to be 40licious. It would be an aggregation of all things learned up to this point, smoke signals from the other side of the mountains that, “yes! It’s good here! Come over and settle!”
One not-very-amazing thing about being 40licious is watching your parents get old and/or die. I am in the tiny Victorian seaport of Port Townsend right now. Instead of poking around antique stores, wondering if that nautical art would look good in my parlor, we are working to get everything in order after my mother’s fire six weeks ago. Mounds of receipts. Will the insurance company pay for dog food that she had to buy? Do we have to list each sock, each shirt, each random piece of fabric damaged by the fire? Does anybody actually work at Foremost Insurance — the specialty company for mobile properties — or are they all robots with a voicemail extension? We are trying to figure this out. We are trying to understand each other’s language, and not snap and not bite when one of says the stupidest and most obvious thing.
Me: You snub your nose at all these galleries downtown, but there were a
ton of people in them last night at the art walk. Why don’t you put your art there?
Mom: Nobody buys art here.
Me: They can’t buy what’s not for sale.
And then there’s this perennial favorite that is getting terrific airplay between us:
Me: Why don’t you get a place where you can rent out a room to someone who
might be able to drive you around and do some housekeeping?
Mom: Homeless people always move out, they can’t afford the rent. And the
utilites cost just as much as the rent does. I can’t afford it.
Me: Do you need to have a homeless person there?
Mom: Why would they need a room, then, if they weren’t homeless?
Me: OK, I guess you’re right, you can’t afford anything. I’m putting you in
an old folks’ home.
Mom: I’ll move back to New Zealand.
Me: Great, that will give me a place to visit.
That kind of thing. Plus, I am having neurotic episodes from seeing people I knew 10 years ago, people I sort of remember, that I can’t place, that I know I should say something to, so I smile and nod and say, “I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Vanessa,” and then they say “yes, of course,” and then they still don’t tell me where I know them from and excuse my self to eat some more cheese on a cracker, feeling empty and shallow.
This trip is not fun. It is not glam. I have also realized that Mom is going deaf in one ear — OR she may have wax buildup, she won’t go to a doctor. And her dog has fleas. Tomorrow I will pile them both in my rented Jeep and get them fixed up.
Forced to take a look at whatever the sweet side of this is, it would be that tonight I get to see my junior-high and high school best friend, Knitting Architect, and meet her child who is probably more little lady than little baby at this point. And we will eat salmon that is swimming right now, and she will fill in huge gaping holes in my memory about stuff we did when I lived off the grid so that I can put more stories in my book.
The bottom line is that I know I am being the best daughter I can possibly be. Even though neither me, nor Mom, are feeling particularly celebratory about it.