Gary: "You're so much cleaner when your Mom's around!"
Before I begin, I love the show I Shouldn't Be Alive, first because it makes me feel superior to rich fools who think they can swim the Amazon instead of lying at home and watching the Discovery Channel, and because even though you know the people survive because there they are on the screen, it still manages to keep up the suspense. That is why I bring you:
I Shouldn't Be Alive! Queen Mother Edition
Voice-over: This week on I Shouldn't Be Alive - a seventy-year old woman falls in her breezeway. How does she survive? On (pause for drama) I Shouldn't Be Alive.
The Queen Mother (not her real name) was a typical suburban seventy-year old. Her outdoor activities had been limited in the last few years by post-polio syndrome, a condition that affects survivors of polio and is marked by weakened muscles. This can be difficult when coupled with the damage done by the initial polio, in QM's case atrophied arm muscles.
QM was in the breezeway, a room in the back of the house between the den and the kitchen, searching for a nice treat to end her pleasant day. It was 7:30. She rooted through some un-emptied grocery bags. It was Friday, and Ellen would be there to empty them that Sunday. As she reached in to a grocery bag, she felt herself lose her balance.
Next! on I Shouldn't Be Alive - Is QM able to get back up? Has she broken a hip? Find out when we return on I Shouldn't Be Alive.
[Commercial: This Friday! July 14! Live on the Levee Brings you Sister Hazel and Better Than Ezra playing Live under the Arch at the Saint Louis riverfront! Free! Friday! Friday! Friday! Come downtown, eat Saint Louis style pizza, and meet some friends at the BTE concert!]
Previously seen on I Shouldn't Be Alive: QM is reaching for a grocery bag in her breezeway when she unexpectedly falls. Luckily, she doesn't break a hip. She remains conscious and after collecting herself tries to stand up, but her legs are too weak to stand and her arms are of course unable to pull herself up. After thirty minutes of spinning on the brick floor like an upturned turtle, QM manages to get to her knees and bloodies them knee-walking to the kitchen. There she snags a broom with her good hand, and tries to get off her knees but hasn't the strength. Instead, she puts a bag of napkins under her head, lies on her back and pushes herself with her Mighty Legs through the kitchen and family room onto the the carpeted hall, where she hopes she can get to her feet. Can she? Tune in for more I Shouldn't Be Alive.
[Commercial: Come Friday the 14th to the Better Than Ezra show under the Arch! Sister Hazel might only sing for half an hour, but the Ezra concert will be great! Dance with the Ezralites! Rock on Oblivious That Your Mother Is In Danger! Friday! Friday! Friday!]
Previously seen on I Shouldn't Be Alive: QM has fallen in her back room and crawled half-way through her ninety-foot long house to reach the carpeting. Unfortunately, her exhaustion keeps her from struggling up to her feet, and the effort of break-dancing on the carpet has made her considerably weaker now. She looks back at the kitchen where her cell phone with her daughter's cell phone number is. In a critical decision, she decides not to push back into the kitchen to snag it with the nearby grabber. Instead she plans to lie on her back, propel herself into the computer room, and call her daughter's house from the speakerphone, unaware her daughter and son-in-law are not at home on this Friday night, but instead are deafening themselves at a concert standing fifteen feet away from the speakers, where they couldn't possibly hear their cell phones anyway.
SurvivoMom makes it into the computer room, and before tackling the phone uses her Mighty Legs to assemble a campsite. She has the broom, a throw, the bag of napkins, and the speakerphone out of reach on the desk. Can she make the call? Will she be rescued? When we return on I. Shouldn't. Be. Alive.
[Commercial: On the Discovery Channel: a documentary recounting how on July 3rd a woman killed a penguin with her bare hands. What would cause a woman to commit such a horrible crime? Was it love? Was it for money? Decide for yourself on Pudding and the Penguin, next week on the Discovery Channel.]
Previously on I Shouldn't Be Alive, QM has made it through a harrowing ordeal to crawl back to the computer room and get to the speakerphone. She eyes the phone. She weighs her options. She grasps the cord with her big toe and yanks it down to the floor. She rolls to the speakerphone and punches numbers. Her daughter's voice mail answers and she speaks into the speakerphone. But what QM doesn't know is that the speakerphone doesn't work. So instead of taking a message, an automated voice says it hasn't received her message and she can hit 4 for more options. Disgusted, she hits 4 and finds the best she can do is to mark her silent message urgent. Then she rests her head on the napkins and listens to Dateline.
[Commercial: Live at the Levee! Come downtown! Dance Under the Arch! Watch young folks who evidently follow this band take photos of BTE with their cell phones, and then snap photos of the Arch like they've never seen it before. Enjoy the Saint Louis pizza that is still stuck to the back of your teeth. Decide, hey, lets stay for the fireworks, the dog was never house-trained and nothings calling you home ANYWAY.]
Previously (etc.): QM has fallen in her back room, possibly dented the brick floor with her Hips of Steel, crawled through her house on her back into the computer room where she has yanked down the speakerphone and left a message for her daughter, who is selfishly acting like a child downtown and then is stuck in traffic at 11:00 because the exit to the bridge to her suburb is shut entirely. Ellen doesn't get home until 11:30, when she picks up her voice mail. "Huh," she thinks, "I didn't even know you could leave urgent messages OH MY GOD THIS IS FROM MOM'S NUMBER WHAT'S WRONG WITH MOM? THERE'S NO MESSAGE!" Ellen calls QM back and heads there with Gary to haul her up onto her feet and give her water and healing Fusion.
The QM reports she will continue to walk in her breezeway and that she remains at the ready to drink her own urine and saw off her arm with a penknife if need be. Oh, and she is happy to be alive. Her daughter and son-in-law are relieved. Ellen reports that while she is relieved she is still going to renege on the deal she made with God that if her mother was okay she would never go to another concert again and will be at the Cheap Trick concert next weekend.
First the Queen Mother starts a blog. I comment. She slaps my comment off the site with blinding speed.
Now, she has asked I take her link of my blog list. Either a) she wants to be guaranteed anonymity or b) she feels I am trucking in a stream of readers as vulgar and coarse as I.
The Queen Mother, you will be surprised to hear, contracted polio when she was 13. This was after the iron lung but before the polio vaccine. The polio affected her legs until college, and it affected her arms permanently. She has one good opposable hand on one arm and one good bendable elbow on another, and she soldiers on. She creates cunning patent-pending assistive devices and adapts to any setback. (I just think it is so handy she had polio just to be a good role model for me when I got MS. Always thinking ahead.)
Anyway, she always joked the reduced ability in her arms made her compensate by developing uncanny strength in her legs. We called her "Mighty Leg" in my youth. She is much like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, all powerful legs and scrawny arms.
At any rate, we were in the car a few days ago and I hopped in to a fast food place, leaving her in the car. I came out five minutes later and was puzzled when I unlocked the door. "Huh," I thought, "I thought I left that unlocked."
Mom looked at me panting. "A gentle reminder," she said, "when you leave babies, dogs and mothers in the car in the 90 degree heat, CRACK A WINDOW."
She explained that when the guy parked next to us unlocked his car door with his remote keyless entry, it locked the car doors on our car. So she was trapped, she said.
She continued, "I was considering drinking my own urine."
"Ooo. Sorry." I said.
"I might have chewed off my foot, but I couldn't see what good that would do."
Then we began to speculate how she would have gotten out if the car had not been locked, since she can't operate the seat belt. I still think she could have kicked out the windshield with the Mighty Legs. Of course, then she would have just had her legs stuck in the windshield, but there would have been air.
So, Gary and I watched South Park this past Wednesday, waiting for them to bring the funny. No funny. Also no Cartman, no Kenny, no Kyle, no Stan, no Butters, no Timmy ("TimmmMAAHHH!"), and again, no funny. Oprah's vagina holding a gun. But no funny was brought.
I turned to Gary and said "Is this the worst South Park ever?"
He agreed. "Is Ming-ey some term for a woman's privates that I just don't know?"
"If it is, it's new to me." I said. "God, wouldn't it be awful if this was the one and only episode of South Park someone had ever seen?"
And of COURSE, Wednesday's episode marks the one and only time my mother has watched a full episode of South Park. She said she felt she could get through this particular episode because it did not have those squeaky-voiced kids. She finds Stan, Kyle, and Cartman's voices grating. (I assume Kenny's voice does not grate.) She was waiting for the David Spade show (also, no funny) and figured she would JUST THIS WEEK give South Park a chance. ("You know, you kids like it")
I can only imagine the South Park creators were so enraged that they were not allowed to show Mohammad last week that they got their revenge by doing their worst possible job ever. And now my mom thinks I watch truly dreadful and UNFUNNY cartoons.
My uncle Jack died and I went to the visitation today. Jack was my Dad's brother, and therefore my step-uncle. It's a little complicated: I consider Dan (my stepfather) to be my Dad, my step-grandmother my grandma, but Jack is my step-uncle. Since Dad died seventeen years ago, we haven't heard much from that side of the family, which isn't all that surprising, I suppose.
I went fully expecting two things: 1. I expected the corpse to be photographed. 2. I expected no one would recognize me.
First, about corpse photography. Dad's aunt had a book of daguerreotypes and old photos and quite a few of them were of the dead. (I suppose they wouldn't move much and it made them good daguerreotype subjects. Plus, the photo wouldn't steal their souls.) This was fascinating to me.
I know some families feel even today that the dearly departed is an apt subject for photos. I find this repellent. You know what else is repellent? Touching the corpse. This brings me to:
Mom's mom died and was outlived by her husband Ray, my STEP-(oh SO step)-Grandfather. He did a scandalous thing at her funeral. Well, he brought his girlfriend, but this in my eyes was even more scandalous: he touched the dead body. He was discussing her arthritis and hauled her hand out of the coffin as a visual aid. Aunt Carleen hustled up to him and said, haughtily and distinctly, "Have you LOST your mind?" I don't know what happened next, Gary dragged me over to some flowers and distracted me.
Gary's family has a long history of touching the corpse. This is why I donated my body to science.
Step-uncle Jack was not photographed or touched during the time I was there (approx 12 minutes). I didn't stay long, but I went because he was related to my Dad, and because Mom would expect a report. I have attended visitations as Mom's proxy before. For example, I went to:
Mom's Friend Carolyn's Father's Funeral
Nothing much happened at that funeral per se - I went to give Carolyn a hug from my mom. I did not view the corpse, since I had not only never met him, I had never heard stories about him. So the corpse of honor was of no interest to me. I did not view the corpse, I just gave Carolyn my mom's respects.
A few weeks later, Mom asked Carolyn, "So how's your Dad feeling?"
"Dead." (I was not there but I can guess there was an awkward pause.) "... Your daughter was at the funeral."
Mom stepped up to the challenge. "She did not report seeing a coffin. How am I to know he's really dead?"
So I called Mom from the parking lot to remind her not to make any faux pas if she encountered her in-laws. I was expecting to go unrecognized by this family because as I said, it had been seventeen years, and sixty pounds, but as soon as I walked in Brad saw me and introduced me to someone as his cousin Ellen. It reminded me of:
My STEP-Grandfather Ray's funeral
On the way to Southern Missouri to attend Ray's funeral, Mom alerted me that I would meet some distant relatives I might not recognize. (Not that "those people" would care if I didn't know them. ) Ray had a family from his first wife and there were quite a few of them. I had heard stories of embezzling and babies born in tubs, but I hadn't known what connection "those people" had with Grandpa Ray. It seems I hadn't seen them at Grandpa and Grandma's EVER because "those people" weren't all that welcome at my Grandma's house. This is why I was floored when they saw mom and said:
"Margie! Come over here! This is our sister Margie! And who is this? Hey, kids, that's your Cousin Ellen!"
That is why is was kind of nice that my cousin Brad did recognize me and introduced me as his cousin Ellen. This immediately elevated him from step-cousin to cousin status. In fact, cousin Jayne and cousin Sandy recognized me too. That's why I went over to the body and and looked (but did not touch).
"Why, Ellen" my step-uncle Jack's corpse said, "How ya doin'?" Then he reached out of the coffin and slapped my back. Well, no, I made that up. But he looked like he could have. He was barely dead. It was creepy. I have never seen such an alive-looking corpse. He looked just like Jack did while alive. Draw your own conclusions.