Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Permanent House Guests of Pain

This is not a blog post about that time honored statement about relatives my dad taught me when I was young--quoting Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac: "Fish and visitors smell in three days."  They seem to, but anyone who ever watched Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau in the second Grumpy old men movie know that fish have to planted with stealth in your neighbor's car.  Visitors just show up---!

No, I'm not about telling stories about our Army buddies Dennis and Beth who always seemed to show up with all their hungry kids in tow just about dinner time---without calling--just, "Hi, howahya? and by the way, What's for supper?.

And I'm not going to chuckle with you about Ta and Jayne's Samoan friends, though it is worth mentioning that my most hospitable friends throw open their home to any Samoan who shows up--for as long as they like.  Jayne and Ta both work and they're happy to feed and house folks who beat a path to their door.  (I'm guessing that Samoans pass their names about like golden tickets to America.  "Be sure and stop at Ta and Jayne's in Utah!  They're good for at least a couple of weeks.    

Ta chuckled that he came home from work last Wednesday just after the enterprising neighbor kids had dropped off Ta and Jayne's subscription loaf of fresh baked whole wheat bread.   James, the delivery boy (and 7 year old co-owner of the Bread Subscription Service) had left two loaves by mistake. 

Well his house guests could not resist the aroma--and dived in to devour the first loaf--and were just about to dig into #2, when Ta came home and gently, but firmly redirected their attention back to the well stocked refrigerator.  Suddenly James, ever the responsible young man cam back for the second loaf.  Ta offered to buy it, but James stuck to his guns, "No, this loaf belonged to someone else!  Ta shrugged, handed over the coveted loaf and just gave up on having any fresh bread that week...

No this isn't about House Guests who overstay their welcome---its about Chuck Chainsaw, Nellie Knees and Millie Migrane--who run foot races on an ongoing conveyer belt of pain inside Gramma Rosie.

Chuck has put her back to bed for a nap in lieu of pain.  If we knew what to do about sending him away we would--but irritable bowel syndrome is just ---well, just irritable.  Gramma is robust and jolly most of the time.  She's laughing more than ever before...but when Chuck brings along Millie Migrane Rosie knows just how to handle both of them.   

Years ago her doctor suggested that a little caffiene would open up her blood vessels and cut down on the migrane pain.  She told Rosie to see her bishop and get special permission to drink coffee as a medication once in a while.  Bishop Black, one of Rosie's closest friends and a former employer gave permission--so Millie's visits every three or four weeks are occasions to brew up some "battery acid" and take it for the pain.   It doesn't completely take it away, but it does take the edge off the pain.

Funny how Gramma Rosie uses the glass half empty thought process to try and "guilt" me into doing my chores.   We have a little money in the bank, so we're not weighing every penny and waiting for the next Social Security Check.    We're not wealthy--but we're not skimping and scraping either.

Here conversation began this morning, after my walk and swim, "You don't have any money, do you---guess we're screwed.  We've got to order in Chinese for Donald's visit tonight--and you have all your money to Jeff last night for dinner at Arbies----Guess we're out of luck."

Smiling, I put it back to her.  As a teacher I thoroughly enjoy helping a student frame a problem and then challenging them to find a solution.  (What would you do to solve that problem if I were no where around?)

The key to this process is the courage to keep your mouth shut as the professor and lean on them psychologically to get on with the solution.  (So many of my students take this hang dog "I'm so screwed" approach to problems.  That defeatest attitude closes off possible solutions and discourages WHY NOT thinking.  I'm hoping to teach that it's easier and much more productive long term to make the solution a game--a test of intelligence that you cheerfully accept and go about solving with a smile trying every option you can think.

Back to Gramma Rosie.  She is so much like what my great dad turned into in his later years..Both of them are (and in my great Dad's case) and were affected by the Que Sera Sera philosophy of Doris Day.   What will be will be.    

On the other hand, I've operated on the philosophy that if it's gonna be it's up to me!   Can you see the difference.  It's the difference between Passive and Active---between being a Secondary Reactor and a Primary Actor.   Reactors don't get much done they want to-- they spend most all their time reacting to what people will think--how to keep the precious status quo--get out of work and do just enough so the boss doesn't toss you out.

Illness turns you into a reactor.   We used to kid that Rosie had the Sunday Flu---that nigh abouts midnight on Saturday night, she'd get a wild hair to clean out a closet or stay up tending the dish washer til 2 or 3 in the morning--and of course morning church was out of the question.

In the same way that Laman and Lemuel didn't get to be the saavages they ended up becoming, Rosie doesn't mean to skip church every Sunday.   Her Sunday flu thanks to Chuck and Millie and Nellie have developed a painful...and yet comfortable pattern that she is loath to break out of.   She will take her turn in scripture study--give a sincere and caring prayer and discuss spiritual things.  She has a great testimony--but the Sunday Flu is more of a test of patience for me, I've finally concluded.

Oh, she'll make it to church one day--when our annual rotation ends  in the afternoon--and either in late spring or early fall--when it's not too cold or too hot--and she can wear something that's not to light or too heavy--and, finally, when she can sit way in the back as far away from the dread vibrating organ pipes--to which she is absolutely allergic.

When we were first married, Rosie was invited to teach a little primary class with the dread bully Becky Turner, outspoken daughter of a BYU religion professor.    Rosie as a new convert had a hard time dealing with Becky's condemnation of the Catholic Church her older Brother was fighting against in Mexico at the time--and I don't think she's had a church assignment of an substance since.

Her mother rarely went to heir neighborhood catholic parish church.  Her dad had converted from being a nominal baptist to a lapsed Catholic to marry Mary Louise, Rosie's sweet mom.  Her devotion to things spiritual comes from an intense loyalty to the nuns who nurtured her at St. Patricks where she went through the early grades and both junior and high school.  (She occasionally prays in "Catholic" as I pray in Portugese)  Her habits include crossing herself when she hears an ambulance or fire siren and saying a little prayer for injured unknowns.

How many times have I beat the dead horse of her inactivity in the kingdom with the story of the little English Charwoman who saved her money for a steerage passage to America on a grand Ocean Liner?    The older woman had misunderstood--and when time for meals came, she reverted to her cabin to eat a few cheese and cracker meals.    She longed to have at least one grand meal with her glittering fellow passengers--so she reworked a skint budget and on the last night of the cruise wore her humble little best dress to the grand dining room.

The Captain made a special point of welcoming her by name--and asking about her health.  The management afloat had concluded that she was ill for much of the voyage.   She stammered another version of that old excuse...and finally came clean with the Captain--as he escorted her to his table as an honored guest.

"I didn't figure I had enough to pay for my ticket and afford all the meals during the crossing, Captain", she began.  He interuupted her, "But, ma'am someone should have told you--all the meals were included in the price of your ticket!"

On one level, Rosie gets it--that would be the level of the head--but in her heart she combines her sour experience with a bragadocio 7 year old in Provo with some goody two shoes sisters in their gaberdine Relief Socieity Uniform jumpers gossiping with every good intention, but still exchanging maloderous little insinuations about an unknown sister....and she stays home.

The Bishop and I invite the two elders assigned to bring the Sacrament to the homebound to visit here after church--and she has really come to love and appreciate them.  She loves her Visiting teachers and Home Teachers....but atually going there is still outside the realm of possibility, even under the best of circumstances.

I used to get a little testy when she'd skip her "duties" at the ward on Sunday and on Monday, she was off to the races--shopping and traveling, buying and solving our domestic challenges as actively as any woman can be with arthritic knees and a clear plastic TUBULAR CANE!

I wish her well.   I love her.   I wish she would enjoy the great "meals" of rubbing shoulders with so many of my good friends at church--but I'm prepared to assume that it will never happen!     JWS

" I

Guilt rarely works with me and Gramma Rosie rarely meets a problem with optimism and the game of solution like I do.    Once again there is one in every marriage who does and one who doesn't.    Opposites attract?  They do at 4534 Holladay Boulevard!   

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