Fractured Facade


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cold Heart

After a good night's sleep I was in a much better mood Saturday morning. Our guest reported that she had slept very well. The only problem she had was finding her missing sock that Bella had hid. By the time I had put up coffee, my husband had found it under the chaise. Our guest did not want anything for breakfast and thanked us for letting her stay. She said she had things to do and needed to get home so my husband walked her back to her house.

When he returned I thanked him for his hospitality. He replied, "Well, I would hope that if I wasn't around, someone here would do the same thing for you." I found that very funny because I couldn't think of one single person I would feel comfortable calling to ask if I could spend the night at their house. My neighbor has lived here her whole life, is very active in her church, and has friends and family all around, yet she too apparently had no one she could call. That's very sad, and I wonder if it's the times we live in, or, where we live.

Frankly, too many native Virginians I've met have caused me to characterize them as a "cold lot." I figured their indifferent nature was just directed towards me because I was an "Eyetalian" Yankee, but now seeing what this native Virginian who has lived in the same house over 50 years had just experienced, I'm thinking maybe it's not just me. And then my husband reminded me of what had happened to his elderly friend around Christmas. The 80-year-old had lost power for five days, and not once did any of his daughters check up on him. He spent every night sleeping at his shop on a couch where he had a wood-burning stove and shower. For the record, we did invite him to sleep in our spare room but he wouldn't. I'm not looking to disparage the entire Irish/Scotch heritage of this area, but many of the ones I've met are waaaay different than the Italian/Jewish heritage folks of the place where I grew up. I can tell you this...no Italian or Jewish son or daughter would EVER let his mother or father sleep in a cold, powerless house, even if they "hated" them. It's just not the right thing to do. I pray my children would never leave me out in the cold.

In any event, Saturday morning brought the next hurdle. Where would we take showers? My daughter was practically crawling out of her skin after missing one day of clean hair. She wouldn't dream of using a dry shampoo and she had work later that morning. Now, the 80-year-old friend of my husband, is one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back, and he offered his shop shower to us. My daughter took him up on his offer. An older friend of mine also e-mailed me and offered her shower, but I felt funny. You know, maybe it's just the younger generation of Southerners that have grown cold, because come to think of it, the "older" ones we have become friends with have been the most accommodating and friendly to us throughout the years we've lived here. Hmmmmm.

After the girl and my husband left, I decided to take a shower right here. I figured there was probably some hot, or at least warm water left in the heater, so maybe if I was really fast it wouldn't be freezing cold. I turned the hot water knob to max and waited to see what came out. As I had hoped, it was not cold, but warm. I jumped in and quickly went to work. By the time the conditioner was being rinsed out the water had turned cold. All in all, not as bad as it could have been, but I knew that was my last shot at a shower home.

Finally a crew showed up outside my door. I was thrilled to say the least. They were from Florida and really nice guys. They asked to see where the electric wires were connected to my home and I showed them the mast. A rep from Appalachian Power was with them, and although he said they're not supposed to go onto the roof, they did. It was then I found out that my new roof had been damaged. The pole had lifted some of it off when it bent and dislodged.



Although they checked the wires to the box and said they hadn't been pulled out, I was told I would have to get the mast replaced. They didn't know if the wires were pinched inside or what. I asked if Appalachian Power was responsible and I got a "maybe" but more likely "no." They said I would probably have to get a licensed electrician, but for now they would try to hook me up "as is." There was the possibility that there was a problem, and I would be the one house without electricity. It seems I'm first on the electric line, and last on the mail line. They wouldn't know until they were done and would hang by the meter to see what happened when I switched my main back on.

I pleaded with them to please try and get me up and running, and I offered them coffee. It was cold out there! The rep said my husband, who had spoken to them before going to work, and I, were the nicest folks they had met over the last couple of days. I said I could only imagine. He said I couldn't imagine. I called my husband and told him he might want to line up an electrician, just in case.

About an hour later, around noon, I heard a knock on the door and saw a guy with a heavy duty vest standing there. "Are you the electrician? That was fast!" I said happily. "No, I'm X's son. How's my mom doing?" "She did fine. She slept well, had a cup of coffee and then my husband walked her home." "She's home now?! Well, she doesn't have power!" I wanted to say, No shit, Sherlock! Are you for real? but said, "Ummm, yeah, neither do we." "Well, what is she going to do?" "What is she going to do? Well, I hope what you're going to do is take your mother home with you." I put my hand on my hip and stared him down. He was silent and then asked, "When is the power going to be fixed?" I wanted to say, How the fuck should I know? Instead I said, "Well for the rest of the block, hopefully within a couple of  days." He looked like he was going to shit a pill so I said, "I really don't know. We still don't know about my house as my mast got damaged." And I made him go outside to look at the roof.

He still wasn't "getting it" and said, "I guess she'll just stay here." Now I was getting angry. "Maybe you don't understand me. We do not have power either. We have a generator that is giving me a couple of lamps and a tv, but other than my bedroom fireplace, no heat or hot water. I understand you do have power. Don't you think your mother should stay with you?" "I don't have an extra bed." "Neither do I. I brought a chaise lounge into my bedroom for your mother, and had my son sleep at a friend's house." I was tempted to show him the damage it had caused, but it wouldn't have affected him in the least. Still he wouldn't take her in, and said, "Maybe she should get a hotel room. Do you know when the power is coming back on?" He was really pissing me off now.

Before I could ungrit my teeth, he then said his mother has "issues" and should be in a home. "She doesn't even eat anymore." "Oh really? Well, she ate fine here. She had dinner, dessert and wine. She didn't want breakfast, but did have coffee." "I was speaking with X (a neighbor of his mother) and she deals with elderly people and agreed with me, but I know my mother is going to give me a hard time." "I don't know what to tell you. We had very nice conversations last night. She's a lovely woman. Maybe she can live with you, or you can hire someone for her." "I don't trust her by herself." And then he just stares at me like he expects me to offer to watch his mother! I was going to get nasty, but instead I said, "Look you can leave your number, and God forbid I see something that's not right with your mom I'll call you. I already gave your mother my number." So he writes his number down. After he hands it to me, I said, "And I really hope you do the right thing by her and make sure she's in a warm bed tonight. I gotta go."

I had to be hard on him, and truth be told, if we didn't have power later that night and she was stuck in her house, I would have insisted on her spending the night again, but I didn't want to tell him that. I had hoped to stir something in him, but I don't think I got through his cold heart. I understand that when an older person starts to develop mental issues it's hard on the family, but that's their job. They have to take care of their elders. You can't just throw them to the side because it's inconvenient for you. And who wants to be put into a home? No one I know of, but if it has to be that way, you better make damn sure to visit them often. When my father was alive he made me swear I would never do that to him. And I wouldn't. It was agreed that when he got to the point where he couldn't take care of himself he would come live with us. We had the room all ready for him. Unfortunately, we never got there. If you read my book, you know why. What I wouldn't give to provide a warm bed and hot meal for him. After my neighbor's son left, I sat on the cold couch cradling Bella, and weeped, not just for myself, but for society as well.

2 comments:

  1. I think the coldness you've experienced from younger southerners is a product of city life, or even city/suburban life. No one I know out here in the sticks would behave in such a way to an elderly parent. Or even an elderly neighbor.

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  2. Thank you Charlie...I was hoping these were "isolated" incidents.

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