Thursday, July 12, 2012

Questions and Answers

I knew this would happen. I KNEW it! My favorite – not to mention my only – firing neuron flamed out! Like a shooting star that lights the evening sky and then disappears, a super-nova that dazzles astronomers, never to be seen again.

I know exactly what caused this catastrophic phenomenon that permanently altered the flow of mental lava in my brain, and cooled into an entirely unrecognizable landscape. It’s decision fatigue. Choice depletion. Option oblivion. I made one too many universe-altering adjudications, and in an instant, it overloaded the system, short circuited the connection, and blew a fuse. Any residual thoughts became casualties of cellular breakdown, festering into abscesses floating in warm pools of confusion. (Boy Howdy! That was profound.)

My mind had become devoid of any distinguishing thoughts, because this past week was dedicated to going to every manner of doctor imaginable. Apparently, over the course of the last few months, I had neglected certain yearly exams touted by ads laden with scare tactics that finally got my attention.

So I began with the dermatologist. Locked and loaded with a Q tip, a Styrofoam cup of nitrous glycerin, a hedonistic glaze to his eye, and a maniacal laugh, he stood his ground and scatter-shot my entire dermis with his cotton-tip harpoon, until, pustuled and welted, I retreated to my home in humiliation, and decided to sequester and conceal myself behind heavy curtains so as not to spook the young and impressionable…sort of like Boo Radley.

My next appointment involved a dentist, a drill, and a whole lot of nitrous oxide, for both of us. He drilled so long and so deep that plumes of smoke arose from the excavation site like the mushroom clouds at the Nevada testing site. Really. He requested the Haz-Mat clean-up crew and a new drill when we were done. I requested caffeine.

And then there are the questions. Always the questions. Like:

1. What’s your social security number?
2. Do you want to roll this over to a roth IRA? (What the ---- is a roth IRA?)
3. Do you want to roll over and D-I-E?
4. How many dimples on a golf ball?
5. What’s your maiden name?
6. What’s your husband’s maiden name?
7. How many fingers am I holding up? Eleven? Close enough.
8. Who’s Yo Daddy?

I literally hemorrhaged answers.

So in order to keep my mind from losing its suppleness, Brodi and I went to lunch. I needed time out to re-charge my mental agility.

Soon the waiter took my order. He asked me if I wanted Thousand Island or Ranch on my salad. Well, I just looked at him and cowered in the corner. I finally answered, “You choose and surprise me.”

Despondent and bewildered, I whined to Brodi that the whole cosmos could be sucked down the black hole that had just taken up residence where my mind once was. (Hyperbolic exaggeration has always been my strong suit.) My ability to reason had been reduced to emitting unintelligible guttural sounds to no one in particular. My linear deductive skills evaporated. What a world! What a world!

There seems to be a moment in everyone’s life when the child becomes the parent. It’s called “role reversal.” In an instant, Brodi and I exchanged roles. Her voice was hushed and soothing, and she said, “I know. I know. You can’t Brain today. You’ve got the Dumb.”

It was like the light went on. It was an “Aha!” moment. That’s it! I’VE. GOT. THE. DUMB!

She further suggested that from now on, whenever someone asks a question, no matter what it is, just reply, “I’ll have Ranch.” If they should look perplexed, simply explain, “I can’t brain today. I’ve got the dumb.” She assured me that there is no question that could be posed in this universe, or the next, either by doctors or Social Security, that couldn’t be answered by one of those two responses.

It made perfect sense.

I felt empowered. I felt emancipated. I came out from behind my curtains, donned my stilletoes, and applied three layers of Kardashian Elephantine-Lash mascara. Oh yeah! Bring it on!

Am I ready to face the world???? Is Boo Radley ready to come out from behind the curtain????


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Independence and Insanity

I thought after my last blog post that I wouldn’t have much more to say. Everything, it seemed, had been said. Any further words would be suffocated and extinguished by the complete absence of thought.

Boy, was I wrong. I began to reconsider. The complete absence of thought has never prevented me from unleashing my vocalization upon the innocent and the insane, so why should I harness my voice now? Being mute has never been my long suit. I failed the entrance exam to the Mafia School of Thumb Breakers and Contract Snuffing because I flunked out of remedial “omerta.” I simply couldn’t stop talking about the virtues of my vow of silence. I am a Zen Master of the filibuster.

Besides, how do I know what I think until I hear what I have to say? There’s a certain perverted logic to that reasoning. I like to think of this as the gift of tongues…and, in this at least, I’m well endowed.

I have been reflecting a lot lately about independence. Maybe that’s because the Fourth of July is approaching. Maybe it’s because of my own personal odyssey.

Independence – autonomy, sovereignty, self-reliance – is a powerful and noble concept. Independence is not accomplished easily or without sacrifice. It demands ingenuity. And sometimes it taxes one’s resolve. Our collective national history bears that out – as does my own particular experience.

Some seek independence. Others have it thrust upon them. Either way, it is a quest.

My personal road to independence has been less an inspiring crusade and more a mad scramble toward self-sufficiency. Because grief is so complex, and I must continually balance the joy and the sorrow, functioning with a degree of rationality is often elusive.

I have discovered that independence demands creative imagination, guts, and knowing whom to call with questions.

Independence is a journey, not a destination.

On my journey, I have planted trees, recharged car batteries, replaced light bulbs, repaired sprinkler heads, learned to mow the lawn, put salt pellets in the water softener, and talked smack with guys getting petrol. “Mighty fine pumps at Sev, eh?” I even got a new set of tires for the Toyota. There’s nothing like the smell of new tires. So singular. And it evokes memories from high school, when we would steal tires from the blind center (Yes, the blind center!) to burn the “W” on Ensign Peak after a football game. We were arrogant enough to suppose the reason we never got caught was because of stealth and cunning. Obviously, those of us involved didn’t exactly achieve Honors at Entrance. Ah, but I digress. That’s a story for another blog.

AND I killed a black widow. She was as big as a Volkswagen and twice as venomous. For a nanosecond, I actually had second thoughts about offing a mother with so many children. We are both widows. But does that make us friends? I think not. I thought better of it. Becoming a widow through spousal consumption is frowned upon in polite society. So, like Ripley in mortal combat with the Alien, I whacked her with the only weapon available – the newspaper. Thankfully, it was the sports section that made the actual impact. The visceral arachnid spatter strategically obliterated the devastating headlines that Rafa Nadal had just been ousted from Wimbledon by an unknown. NUMBER 100! I was spared the heartache…and the world had one less spider.

In addition, I have been thrust, by necessity, into the world of high finance and maniacal equilibrium loss that ensnares the cranially inept and holds them in perpetual bondage.

I have had to learn about the Hong Kong, the Hang Seng, S & P, Nasdaq, and the Yin Yang. I have had to decide if I want to “annuitize” my “annuities” – noun confusion and verb disorientation - forms of the same principle that I wouldn’t understand if they were adverbs, gerunds or dangling participles. Lately, all my participles have been dangling.

Stocks, bonds, trusts, wills, and my portfolio. They all may as well have been written in cuniform. I am now convinced that SS really refers to some kind of neo-Nazi government military conspiracy specifically designed to confound the neuronically feeble. It’s working! I had severe post-traumatic decision fatigue.

Trying to navigate sorrow and social security made me weary and uncomprehending, and I feared for my psychological welfare. I worried that my eyes would go all googly and rotate in opposite directions, while I smiled the vacant smile that makes me appear slightly genetically challenged.

One day, as Brodi and I were discussing our induction into the world of the certifiably deranged, Beckham drew a stick figure of a baby on a piece of paper. He placed a frown on its face, meticulously cut it out, and gave it to me as he mimed that the baby was crying. Well, as a dutiful and caring grandma, I wrapped the paper doll in a blanket, sat in the rocking chair, and began cooing and crooning lullabies to soothe and comfort this infant. It was musical propofol worthy of the most ardent insomniac.

I conversed with Brodi in hushed tones so as not to wake the baby, that I refused to become psychotic, crazed or a citizen of the lunatic fringe. I would not become absurd, farcical, preposterous or pathologically obsessed. NOT I.

Brodi listened with admirable composure. And then, with barely detectable detachment, she made the observation that I was rocking, singing lullabies and murmuring endearments to a 3-inch paper doll. Apparently, Beckham had long ago relocated to another room to watch “Phineas and Ferb.”

Regally, I rose from my chair, which rendered me officially off my rocker, gently placed the baby on the bed, and madly began ransacking the cupboards for chocolate stimulants and performance enhancing caffeine. It was a full frontal assault on the refrigerator. At that point, we were laughing so hard that it caused us to snort carbonated sputum from our nasal passages and drool pools of chocolate down our chins.

Independence is a journey, not a destination. Independence is a concept of hope – an affirmation of confidence. It is a virtue worth pursuing. Being independent means relying on others.

Independence takes a village.

Insanity I can do on my own.