Sunday, January 30, 2011


And with a huge electric POP, my teapot was no more. Well, not actually no more. It was very happy to just sit there with the light on, taking up counter space with a pitcher of water that would never boil. There's just too much true about life in that statement to go THERE at the moment, and so I rewind to Halloween, when the most recent of the broken started.

"Aren't you ready yet, Grandma?! You've been in there for a week!" It's the Friday before Halloween, and, after a week of hanging out with Great-grandma while Grandma was at her pre-op appointments, little boy was ready to see his big brother in the Halloween parade with Grandma and me.

We were, as usual, running late. The little one was dancing in his ninja costume from his own Halloween parade an hour earlier, shooting at Great-grandma, who is telling me once again, how lucky she is to have three girls. She does still remember that I'm her granddaughter, or that "Bethy" is her granddaughter. It's just that she doesn't equate Bethy with me. And my children simply blow her mind.

Grandma emerges from her room still buttoning her pants and confides, "My hernia's out, and I can't manipulate it back in!" These weren't the actual words she used. It was medical terminology, but when she was done translating that was what she meant. And it turns out that the problem can be serious. If the hernia protrudes for so many hours because it cuts off circulation to to bowel and can lead to bowel death. So Grandma called the doctor, and I asked her if she wanted to stay home. But she insisted that she wanted to live her life, so we left Great-grandma home with the dogs.

The Halloween parade was actually quite entertaining, and I, the evil Mrs. Kim, managed not to argue, fight, loudly discuss, or have any other less-than-pleasant interactions while there. Considering how the prior few months had been going school-wise, this was huge progress.

When we returned to Grandma's house an hour or so later, Great-grandma was a mite confused, and Grandma's hernia was still protruding. The doctor had called back and wanted Grandma to go into the emergency room. Grandpa came home to take her, and I returned home to get my big son from the bus and wait for my husband to arrive. I promised to come back and look after Great-grandma at least until my brother came home and maybe later, depending.

Great-grandma was slightly hysterical after the general excitement over the hernia, and it had not been good for her brain. Like my teapot, something had popped, albeit not permanently.

"Cheryl!" she called down the hallway to my aunt, who had remained in Ohio and not made the trip with her.

"Cheryl's not here, Grandma. It's Beth. Why don't we have some dinner?"

"Cheryl said she was coming back. We're going out to eat." Not likely, I thought. Cheryl is 300 miles away.

"Grandma, you're in Pittsburgh. Mom had to go in to the emergency room, and I'm going to be with you for a while. Would you like something to eat?"

"No, no. I just ate." No she didn't. "Barbie's sick, huh?"

"Yes. But they'll take care of her. We'll just wait for them here. Let's sit down and watch a show for a while."

"Oh! See if Matlock's on! I do like him."

In the hours I spent with her that evening, I discovered that she really liked the new shows like "Matlock," but they had a few too many murders. She felt more comfortable with shows like "Dragnet" that we managed to locate on Retro TV. She wasn't sure where Cheryl was (yes, this subject kept coming back up), but was sure that she had said she was coming back soon and then they could go out for dinner. Therefore, she wasn't going to eat dinner with me. They were going out. But her little girl Barbie (Grandma) was sick, so Great-grandma wasn't sure that they should really go.

I convinced Great-grandma that a little popcorn wouldn't spoil her appetite and might make her feel better. As I opened the microwave bag and offered her some of the hot buttered popcorn, she commented, "Mmmmm. This is good! You said you can make this in the microwave? What will they think of next? Where did you find this? Maybe I could get me some...."

Grandma has kept a stash of microwave popcorn for over twenty years. Something in her mind was just a little loose.

I should have gotten used to this "broken" state of affairs, because it would plague me over the following weeks. My grandfather and mother would both have surgeries. My grandmother would be hospitalized, and we would begin dealing with restricting her activities and looking for a permanent placement for her. Not that we jumped the gun on this. The incident above is just a sample. One day she left something on the stove, went outside to play with her dog, and returned to the house to meet the firemen inside. Now, I understand forgetting something on the stove--I have done this repeatedly. But how do you miss the sirens? How do you not see the fire trucks arriving at YOUR door? How do you not notice the firefighters entering your own home?

That same week, our furnace would quit. It started first with a click and hiss. Then it simply got cold--from 70 to 64, 63, 62, 59 one morning. I called the apartment at 8:00 AM. They had someone out at 8:04. Now that's service. But a few days later, it quit again. This was slightly more frustrating. Not only did we not have heat as the cold was approaching, but I just could not find my cell phone and had to find the number for the apartment (which had been on speed dial). I finally got through to them, and they once again, came out quickly. This time, the maintenance man showed me how to check the pilot, told me to call immediately if it went out again, left a long lighter to relight it, and showed me how to turn off the gas line running to the furnace if I needed to.

I woke a few days later at 4:45 shivering. I trudged downstairs to the laundry room. I bent down to check the pilot. WHOOSH! Flames shot 18 inches out of the furnace, singeing my hair on the left hand side and my eyelashes on my right eye. I used my new cell phone (I caved after a week of searching) to take a picture of my hair to convince myself I wasn't dreaming. It was, after all, not quite 5:00 AM.

Nope. Singed hair on film, or digital whatever. I turned off the gas to the furnace and moved everything out of the laundry room for good measure. Then I ran to the grocery store for a new plunger and something else to pour down the toilet. You see, the toilet wasn't working either.

If you have to wake to find, after your first act of the new day, that your toilet does not flush, at least console yourself that YOU found it and were not awakened by someone who was not as cheerful as yourself about such things.

I returned from the store to find a crying child.

"Mommy! Where did you go?!" wailed AJ. This is a common state of affairs in our house. I cannot be out of AJ's sight for more than one or two waking moments. If he has not checked on me in the bathroom approximately every seven and a half seconds, then I can be assured that he is up to no good.

"I just ran to the store, AJ. I had to get some things." He followed me up the stairs, and, seeing the plunger, forgot all of his prior anxiety.

"Is it broken AGAIN, Mommy!" He hopped gleefully around our small bathroom.

"Shhhh!" I hissed at him. "Do NOT wake your father and brother."

With a jig that could get him an audition for Riverdance, AJ exclaimed, "But you have to push it DOWN, Mommy! Can I? Can I?" He mimicked plunging with his arms complete with splashing sound effects.

I let him. He didn't push down the water, but he did "break all the toilet paper," which made him very happy, and didn't wake the rest of the family, which made me very happy.

After the furnace was replaced, we called for the toilet. After all, when Ilsuk was using the gym for the bathroom, and I was considering holding it until I could get to my parents, it was time to call persistently for real help.

They brought a plumbing snake. AJ was beside himself and dancing for sheer joy. "What is that? Can I do it?"

"You'll have to ask this gentleman," I answered.

"Can I, gentleman?" intoned AJ.

"Well, I think this is a little dirty for you," answered the maintenance man. "But you can watch."

I left AJ at the top of the steps, asking questions like, "Is it alive? What do you feed it? Can't I do it once? Do you need a license? If I eat all my vegetables, can I try?"

There was a squeal of delight as the snake plunged into the water and AJ announced, "Mom! The gentleman is starting his homework!!"

Finally, my husband heard the maintenance man ask, "Don't you have school today?"

My husband looked at me. It was time to take AJ to Grandma's house.

We got a call a few hours later.

They had found my cell phone. At least God has a sense of humor.

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