Clouds Being Torn By Mountains


I.  Confabulation

TV looms large giving Nana her daily bread.  Into her own life Nana filled her inner theater,  would reminisce about long lost nonexistent dance partners.  "It's called Simple Green, and it's a juice. You can find it in the Health Food section." The mixture is almost always uneven, but there is no recipe for this.  Nana would lament, "That poor lost child Jon-Benet Ramsey, she was so terribly young."  Poppy made a slicing motion across his neck.  No one dies at home anymore.  If it were Alzheimer's, it would be easier; Poppy would forget how mad he was at me.  They call it the Saint Vitus Dance.

Marvel at how well Nana blends details seamlessly from make-believe media, how she pines for the pounds gained by Oprah.  Ronald Reagan was the best president this country ever had.  Poppy stared out the window at clouds being torn by mountains. Yes, that's it exactly.  Fractured.  Sundered, split, ripped.  He only has one or two of the symptoms, though.  Convince the Green Valley horse doctor to prescribe Aricept, he doesn't care, does he.  Nana knows things.  He couldn't move, his breath hurt, his toes growing numb.  He takes the pills she hands him.

Let's watch Dancing with the Stars, reminisce about long lost nonexistent dance partners.  A friend must have explained this to her before.  Maybe it was actually sister Fran or brother George.  I certainly did not change my history, did I.  Lament, yes, it must have been on the TV show.  Simple Green is not a drink, it is a cleaning product.  Ask Dr. Phil, he knows, give him a call.  Younger sister Susie could not be bothered.  These 'dance-like' movements of choreia (from the same root word as "choreography") often occur with athetosis, which adds twisting and writhing movements.  His walk a swagger now.  Keep the walls close.

Nana decided that must be what Poppy had.  She would lament.  The walls are never close enough to hold Poppy up.  When a friend told her about something, it was usually Oprah or Dr. Phil, they were so close, almost daily visitors.  The toes grow numb. "That's why he doesn't like to garden anymore."  Red sauce on the chin.  She would get excited watching game shows, she followed Tiger Woods, worried about his day.  "I don't know why Poppy doesn't use the lift on the chair, that's what it's there for."  The legs grow numb.  The things I found in the cupboard.  Loadstones.  Broken, fractured. Twenty-seven vases, no flowers.  Stamps on un-mailed envelopes.

I stood in the Health Food section for thirty minutes looking.  The Biggest Loser was a hit, she started to diet in earnest.  Who wants to be a Millionaire? It must be her cousin or high school pal up there on stage. "I hope Sarah wins, I think she really deserves it after what she's been through."  Channel changer needs batteries, again.  Push the button harder.  Pliers work good on these childproof bottles, pills spill, scatter everywhere.  It must have been her sister Fran.  Brother George.  Catch her changing her history.  Buy more cards at the Walgreen's, put them on the cupboard shelf.  Underneath, stains of cleanliness.  Red sauce and Simple Green.  Breathing shouldn't hurt.

II.  Recognition

My wife said "Adult Protective Services is going to be called if someone doesn't go out there and take care of them. They need 24-hour care."  No one dies at home anymore.  Slicing motion, chin. Persuaded by a Midwestern bias, crushed by a Catholic guilt that good daughters take care of family, Nana's daughter Mary Ellen volunteered to move them back to St. Louis to live with her (younger sister Susie couldn't be bothered).  "I'll finish remodeling the basement and live down there."  Simple green is toxic.  "They can have the upstairs to themselves."  Black trash bags, with the ties, or else he'll be madder than a son-of-a-bitch.  He doesn't need clean, he needs sameness.  Catch drips in the kitchen sink so they do not mark the drain with their wetness.  "Make sure to mail their pillows. They need their things."  He woke up, cold air from the frig blowing on his feet.  "I'll get Ben and Alex to help, they'll like Poppy's stories about the farm." Red sauce on shirt and chin.  "I had 300 cows once, in the morning they'd line up and kiss me."  He couldn't move, his breath hurt (usually he got up quick so his wife wouldn't find him).  Leftover spaghetti, spat out on the floor, cold, red, slippery.  Never mind that his doctor didn't think so.  Their pillows?  "If I'd a known what it'd be like, I'd a never left the farm."

It came time to sell their house, Mary Ellen wanted to keep the new refrigerator, have it shipped back to St. Louis along with their (shit-stained) bed, their (broken particle board) furniture, their (monstrosity of a) console Television, the (tape eating) VCR.  Their pillows.  The pills she hands him.  Channel changer, batteries.  We hid the ladder in the neighbor's yard, no more getting on the roof.  His walk a swagger now, across the room, a Saint Vitus Dance for no one.  Drugs may intensify, or even cause choreia. Walking may become peculiar. "What is that bastard hippie grandson still doing here, I thought I asked him to leave."

He would offer to buy me a razor.  This time, he couldn't, just lay there for a long while noticing nothing.  Toes growing numb.  My son gave Nana his baby quilt to keep her lap warm in St. Louis.  They need 24-hour care.  We all told her to call a friend in town, not knowing she had none left.  I don't know why Poppy doesn't use the lift on the chair, that's what it's there for.  Nana would lament, she was so young and pretty.  The legs grow numb.  Vintage Tupperware without lids clutter the bottom shelf.  It was clear to me that I was only accepted into the family because I married into it.  I knew that 30 years ago he would have been able to hate me and have it mean something.  There is no recipe for this, I've checked.  The people at Walgreen's knew which cookies Nana liked, but not what Simple Green was.  The old horse doctor thought he may have Parkinson's, warned Nana that Aricept may worsen Poppy's symptoms.  It's cold, his feet grow numb; he'll check the thermostat, but can't read it.  Turn it up, now Hell is cooler.  Chicken fried steak, white gravy; can't chew it, dentures punch his gums.

III.  Poppy's Ailment

Because then he would forget.  When she found out that her favorite president Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's.  The old horse doctor in Green Valley didn't want to argue with Nana.  Toes growing numb, the walls are never close enough.  "That's why he doesn't like to garden anymore."  On the garage floor.  Hands and knees, looking for all the world's cracks.  Simple Green can be used to clean tile and grout, you can't find it in the Health Food section.  He would methodically wipe the sink out after each use.  "Pliers work good on these childproof bottles," pills spill, scatter everywhere.  "That's why he forgets my name."  Don't buy the white trash bags, or he'll be madder than a son-of-a-bitch.

Poppy asked me when I was leaving; he didn't want me there to watch his struggle.  Never mind that he only had one or two of the symptoms.  Dreadlocks, beard, hippie van; I am what had gone wrong in America.  Mary Ellen was flying out soon, to take them back to St. Louis with her.  "That's why he is so cruel to me."  I used to joke with my wife that it was too bad he didn't have Alzheimer's, because then he would forget how mad he was at me.  Nana convinced the local Green Valley horse doctor to prescribe Aricept, but handing her the prescription, he told her she might want to take Poppy up to Tucson to get an MRI scan to check his brain, "Just in case you're mistaken."  Nana found him on the kitchen floor, red sauce on shirt and chin.  Dried blood.  Toes grow numb.  "Would you kill me? Just get it over with?"  No one dies at home anymore.  Well, that isn't exactly true, there were some dead flowers in the 27 vases.  She handed him pills.  My son gave Nana his baby quilt to keep her lap warm in St. Louis.

Ben and Alex are 12 and 10, not strong enough to lift a decrepit old man who has fallen, or help an old grandmother who has soiled herself.  Mary Ellen hadn't seen them in years (younger sister Susie could not be bothered), didn't listen to her daughter when she told them how bad off they were, didn't hear clearly the words "24-hour care." He woke up, cold air from the frig blowing on his feet.  The helpers only came once a week now, for communion.  No, Saint Vitus Dance.  Short term memory fizzles.  When the walls are close enough, you can feel them.  The clouds are torn by the mountains, yes, that's it exactly.  Ripped.

IV.  Recognition 2

You don't understand that they are children, very old, misbehaving, delirious, near helpless, children, desperately in need of a spanking.  Toilet overflows.  Quick! Hide! (that bastard hippie grandson will clean it up).  It blurs into angry outbursts, it falls when it bends over.  It.  It, he, him. Running into walls and tumbling down.  He didn't see any reason to pack. "This is my house, and I'm going to die here."  You are not allowed to die at home anymore.  Simple Green is a house cleaner, you shouldn't drink it.  Toes grow numb.  She called an ambulance instead.  Poppy went to the hospital, dried blood.  Addicted to high doses of oxycontin, she was constipated all the time. Embarrassment would ring through her voice as she called for help. 

Stool softeners, her attempts at purging sometimes worked too well.  Toilet overflows.  Poppy staring at me for long periods of time an anger burning in him, demanding to know when I was going to shave, offering to buy me a razor.  Unshaven-Guitar-Playing-Bastard Hippie Grandson (In-Law).  Thirty years ago he would have been able to hate me and have it mean something.  Nana drank jugs of prune juice.  Always taking any of the pills she handed him.  On the garage floor, hands and knees, looking for sameness.  Repetition.  I bought white trash bags by mistake, and he was madder than a son-of-a-bitch.  Nana would lament, that poor child.

She called us out in New Mexico, called daughter Susie in Georgia, called Mary Ellen in St. Louis; we all told her to call a friend in town, not knowing she had none left.  The helpers only visited for communion.  Red sauce stain on his shirt, dried blood.  Why are you here?  Unshaven-Guitar-Playing-Bastard Hippie Grandson (In-Law).  I brought my guitar with me, knew I'd be out there a long time and would miss it.  Poppy's silent anger exploding across the living room at me, "Get out, We don't need  anything from you!"  Poppy had tuned out Nana's constant chatter long ago.  I don't think he cared that people go to prison for murder.  He made a slicing motion.  Many nights I'd wake up sweating because both of them had turned up the heat.  Simple Green doesn't exist, at least not in the Health Food section.  Hallmark cards in un-mailed stamped envelopes, un-addressed.

Soon I figured out that if I played guitar, I wouldn't have to talk; even better, Nana would stop talking.  "As soon as Mary Ellen gets here, I'll help you pack and leave."  On a weekend visit my wife took Nana out shopping so it was just me and Poppy.  He made a slicing motion with his hand across his neck - "Would you kill me? Just get it over with?"  Crushed by a Catholic guilt, a Midwestern bias.  He had 300 cows once, in the morning they would line up and kiss him.  He didn't care that people go to prison for murder.  Legs grow numb.

I played everything I knew over and over again, changing time signatures, tunings, strumming         everything.  I played Ramones' riffs, slowed down, over and over again. 2nd verse, same as the 1st                  (Nana said she liked my chamber music).  Sometimes, if she said his name, he'd look her way, a defiant angry look on his face.  Since they no longer really spoke to one another things would get done twice, three times, or not done at all.  Always the Walgreen's cookies, but I could never find Simple Green.  Saint Vitus is the patron saint of actors, comedians, dancers and epileptics.  Poppy sat in his chair, watching clouds being torn by mountains.  There was no recipe for this, I looked it up.