My Cylinders Are Dirty And My Mother Told Me So. For Free.

For several weeks, I’ve been pretending that I haven’t noticed that our six-year-old freezer is not really freezing. Having recently replaced a 5-year-old washing machine, the thought of our reasonably young major appliances dying off one by one was more than I could bear, so I scampered off to my happy place where appliances never break, my thighs are thin and chin whiskers are only for cats. La-luh-la-luh-lah!

But then the other day I noticed that the veggie burger that I pulled from the freezer felt more like a sponge than a frozen burger. Although a veggie burger usually tastes like a sponge, it normally doesn’t feel like one until after it’s been nuked. Nonetheless, I convinced myself that Sean had been in the freezer and that he probably hadn’t shut the freezer door all the way. Denial with a twist of logic.

However. It was hard to persist in my denial when my mother reported that she got an ice cream bar out of the freezer — and drank it.

“Have you cleaned your cylinders?” she asked. “Your cylinders are probably just dirty.” I tried to not take that personally.

I just looked at her because I couldn’t think of one thing to say other than “What are cylinders?”

“About once a year, your father brings in the leaf blower and cleans out our cylinders,” she persisted.

The image of my father in the kitchen wearing protective goggles, wrangling the leaf blower and giving the refrigerator a hot air enema while my mom, also wearing protective goggles looked on and supervised made me laugh. There’s got to be a Far Side cartoon in there somewhere.

I seriously doubted that our non-freezing freezer’s problem could be attributed to something as simple as dirt because my theory is that dirt is what’s holding this place together. So I found my owners manual and called the service number and scheduled a repairman out for this morning.

Mr. Cheerful pulled a panel off the front of the fridge and reported with a little too much satisfaction that my cylinders were dirty. I thought my mom was going to high-five him.

So then. Recap. I paid $75 plus tax for a strange man to come into my home and tell me what my mother already told me so that she could say she told me so.

Edited to add: Maybe they’re not cylinders. Maybe their coils. I don’t know. Because I wasn’t paying attention. I’m pretty sure they start with “c”. I only know that this c-word thing is dirty and I paid some guy $80 to tell me so. As if I needed something else to clean. Someone needs to invent self-cleaning cylinders and coils.

Final Edit: I’ve just been informed by experts who are standing by that it’s a compressor. So I was right. It starts with “c”.

Departure Day

Nothing has been more healing to me this past week than to see Sean interact with my parents. He simply adores them. And the feeling, of course, is mutual. Whereas I shaved about 20 years off their lives back in the 70s, he has added that many years and more back, just in the past week. He makes them laugh, and to hear the three of them giggling together, all caught up in some private joke, is a joyful noise.

I did not grow up with grandparents. Regrettably. And I guess we all want for our children that which we did not have ourselves. To see his eyes light up when my dad walks into the room or to watch him maneuver to sit next to my mother or hold her hand has blessed me and filled me beyond what I could describe here.

Yesterday morning at breakfast, my mother mentioned something about when they would be leaving, and no kidding, in mid-bite Sean dropped his fork to his plate. He could not believe his ears. He was incredulous. “You can’t leave!” he gasped in disbelief. “You can’t go!” He searched all the faces at the table for someone who would tell him it wasn’t so. It had not occurred to him that they would ever leave.

Last night after Antique Daddy had bathed and dressed him for bed, he scampered up the stairs to jump into bed between them to tell them goodnight. Papa Ed tells it that Wivian suggested to him that she might just take him home in her suitcase. “Okay!” he exclaimed. And then he sprang out of bed, dumped all of Papa Ed’s clothes out of his suitcase and onto the floor, tucked himself inside and pulled the lid shut. Then he popped open the lid like a jack-in-the-box and announced victoriously, “See!? I fit!” As if that sealed the deal.

Then, in the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of teeny tiny jingle bells – the familiar sound of Mr. Monkey accompanied by Sean, both stealing up the stairs to the room where my parents sleep.

“Sean!” I whispered in my stern mommy voice from the bottom of the stairs, “Get down here! What are you doing? It’s 4am.” He whispered back in a little boy way that is not really a whisper, “Oh, I was just going upstairs to look at Wivian.”

The image of him kneeling beside the bed, gazing upon the form of my sleeping mother made my heart stop. And in that split second of frozen eternity I allowed myself to wonder what he will remember of her. Maybe nothing more than looking upon the shadow and line of her face in the transparent moonlight as she slept. Maybe only that she adored him. And that would be enough.

Departure day is upon us and it is going to be a sad, sad day all around.

And let me tell you, there’s going to be an airport-style baggage check too.

What You Get For 52 Years

It is earlier in the week. We are sitting around the breakfast table. I am not actually sitting, I’m kind of slouched over in my chair with my head on the table because I’m still feeling like last night’s piñata from my adventures in organ removal. But I’m pretending. I’m trying real hard. My parents are reading the newspaper. Sean is being Sean.

My dad looks up from the newspaper and over his eggs and toast, he says, “Hmmph!” as though he’s just discovered something. And he has. He just noticed the day’s date and that today is their 52nd wedding anniversary. In the chaos and the crazy of the past week, everyone had forgotten.

Dad scans the heartwarming Norman Rockwell scene around the table: his doped up middle-aged daughter with her face in her plate, his grandson spooning yogurt down his pajamas and his bride of 52 years obliviously working a Sudoku puzzle.

From the look on my dad’s face, I was guessing that maybe he was imagining himself as a young man standing at the altar of St. Al’s 52-years ago, full of youth and hope, kissing my pretty mom with his hands around her tiny waist. Or maybe he was thinking he just didn’t see this coming.


Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad. We’ll celebrate next year, except without the morphine.


Guest Post – My Baby Is 47

by Wivian

1960 ~ I remember it well, as though it were just 47 years ago.

I was 27-years-old and ripe as a plum with my third child. I hadn’t seen my toes since Christmas. We already had two children, two little boys, who would turn 4 and 2 in March, but my husband wanted a little girl and so I had agreed to try one last time. It was extremely cold and windy that day, even by Illinois standards. Everyone was complaining about the weather and kept telling me, “You’re probably going to have that baby tonight ~ the weather always brings babies early.” Did I listen? Of course not. Was I wrong? Absolutely!

When my water broke, a neighbor came and stayed with my two boys. The night air was frigid and the wind battered our jalopy of a car as we made our way to the hospital. There are two sets of railroad tracks between our home and the nearest hospital, both of which almost always have a train sitting on them, and I believe it was only the power of prayer that kept the roads clear until we got to the hospital.

Three records were set in our town that night. The wind had never blown so hard and it had never been that cold on that date. The other record was the birth of our little daughter. This was the first girl in my husband’s family for many many years! She topped the scales at just over five pounds and looked like a little doll.

AM’s brothers figured their lives were ruined the day we brought her home and likewise, she was always convinced that there was some mix up at the hospital – that those two hellions could not possibly be her brothers, and would we please return her to the rich family across town where she was certain she belonged. Alas, there had been no mix up and after 40-some years, I believe they have finally come to appreciate one another.

The first word most babies say is “Mama”. AM’s first words were, “Where’s my coat?” I didn’t know at the time how prophetic those words were. As soon as she could toddle, she was ready to leave home. Her favorite place to visit was her Godparent’s house, across the street. At two-years-old, she would pack her dolls and nightgown in a brown paper sack and go across the street where she was appreciated ~ and where there were no brothers to pester her. They loved her as if she were their own and the feeling was mutual. Then when she was 21, she packed what few things she had and moved to Texas – where she seldom needs a coat – and she has been there since.

It has been a joy to be her mother and it has been an even greater joy to see her be a mother. Except for the years between 1973 and 1978, I’d love to do it all over again.

Photo Temporarily Unavailable


My parents left yesterday morning after a week-long visit.

When you start your family as late in life as I did, thoughts of time and how precious little there is of it, are never far away. When I look at my parents, I have to remind myself that they are not in their mid-40s, but in their mid-70s. I still think of my dad as a lean and wiry young man able to hurdle a 4-ft. fence. And I suppose that when they look at me they have to remind themselves that I’m in my mid-40s and not seven. No matter how many years go by, they’ll always be my mommy and daddy and I’ll always be their baby. After a week like this past one – one that went entirely too fast — I’d drain my bank account in exchange for the promise that I could get more time for Sean, for me, for all of us, before it all comes to pass.

The day after his Bivian and Papa Ed leave are always hard for Sean. He misses them and it takes some time for him to get over the fact that he is stuck with just me. So this afternoon as I was putting Sean down for his nap, I took some extra time to read to him and for a time, he let me just cradle him. His head rested in the crook of my arm and his long legs draped over the edge of the arm of the rocker. For a long time, we just sat there in silence listening to the sounds of the day – the creaking of the rocker, a lawn mower in the distance, an airplane, a passing car. As I looked long into his face, without realizing it, I wondered out loud “Where did my baby go?” He reached up and touched my face and whispered, “Here I am.”

When I’m 89 and he’s 46, I’ll still be his mommy and he’ll still be my baby.


PHOTO: Sean with Bivian who showed him how to decorate a stick wasting using an entire bolt of Christmas ribbon. Liberal usage of ribbon, scissors and tape is just one reason why Bivian is way more fun than Mommy.

The Auction

When I was home recently in central Illinois, a house down the street from my parent’s home was up for auction. The elderly owners had both passed away leaving everything in their home exactly as they had left it. Like my parents, they had lived in their home for 50 years. When you are in one place that long, you accumulate a lot of stuff.

In spite of having lived there for so long, few people had seen the inside of the home and there was a lot of curiosity.

On the day of the auction, my mom walked down the street to view the spectacle. Some people were there seeking a bargain, others were simply driven by the morbid curiosity of watching the accumulation of two lives being distributed among strangers.

My mom said she expected that the house, the car and the furniture would be sold off, but that she was surprised at the personal things that were being auctioned, particularly the shoes. She said that there is just something so very personal about someone’s shoes.

“I was a bit surprised that they sold their dad and mom’s shoes and a lot of other personal items,” she lamented. “That doesn’t seem right to sell them at auction.” Then she quickly added, “Will you please give our stuff to Goodwill rather than have someone hold up my panties for a bid!”

I promised her that I would spare her post-mortem humiliation in front of the entire neighborhood — even though she blew kisses to me from the car window embarrassing me in front of my entire 4th grade class.

Life is embarrassing and then you die. And then they auction off your panties.