Thursday, October 25, 2007

here, have a rerun...Second Cousin Leota

You have BEAST to thank for this one. Go bitch at him.
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I have no idea if Bill T was really related to us. What I recollect is that he was supposed to have been some kind of cousin on my grandmothers' side. Anyway, he was a nice old guy. He used to come over to our house quite a bit, his wife in tow, and play cribbage with my mom and her friends until the wee hours. Every hour or so he'd slip off outside to the trunk of his car where he had a bottle of Canadian Mist stashed and sip on that while he stood in the driveway and admired the stars.

His wife's name was Leota.


She was 5000 years old, had eight hairs left, weighed maybe 75 pounds and stood four feet tall.
Smoked constantly. Sometimes she'd have a cigarette going in each hand and one in the ashtray. We would find more of them smoldering away all over the house, long black foul things melting a line in the counter top or the arm of a chair, or lying on the wool carpet in the middle of a glowing patch of nap.

Little Leota wasn't much for conversation. The complete lack of teeth was a barrier, as was the advanced senile dementia. Being perpetually pickled in vodka didn't help.
You have to stop and consider that for a moment. I can guarantee you she wasn't driving down to the liquor store even before the Altzheimers' set in because she couldn't drive and wouldn't have been able to see through the windsheild anyway. Where was she getting the stuff?
Every morning, Bill would get her up, run her through the tub, get her dressed,
shovel some Malt-O-Meal down her (very occasionally Maypo...she refused to eat anything else) and then set her in a chair out on the porch with her fifth of vodka and let her wave at the cars going by.
This was how a lot of poor, older people coped with a loved one's dementia, and still do.
She was loved. She was cared for. And as far as I could see she didn't have a bad life at all. What the fuck, you know?
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Now Bill and my mom would get playing Crib and nothing could stop them. They played like demons. My dad and I weren't big card players, and we would have had to have been real hot shots to keep up with them anyway, so dad napped on the couch and I hung out in my room listening to records.
Dad could fall asleep anywhere, anytime. And when he did, more often than than not he would have really interesting dreams. I grew up with it so I didn't notice so much but it could really freak a visitor out. From a dead sleep he'd suddenly burst forth with something like"Gahno farah muld gahyub! Call Jim!"with his arms waving around randomly.

Leota would sit at the kitchen table, watching the card playing. Occasionally she'd giggle. No reason, just joie d' vivre. Other times she'd come out with a brief statement and end it by saying Ha!
"You horse you, get that ol' cat! Fan room the store. Ha!"

Evenings at my house could be interesting.

The only thing she ever contributed regularly to the conversation was this kind of a verbal tic. She'd WUP.

Just out of the blue. No reason. She'd just be sitting there smoking quietly and suddenly out would pop 'WUP!'

Some days, you'd only hear one every two or three minutes. Other days she'd be wuppin' all over the place.

Sometimes she'd come up missing during the summer, when we kept the doors open. But all you had to do was be very quiet for a few minutes, and then off in the distance you'd hear 'Wup!' and you'd follow that. My parents were rather impressed when I showed them this discovery. You'd find her over in my Grandma's yard, looking over the fence at the neibors having a barbecue, take her by the hand, everyone would wave 'bye', and home you went, wuppin' all the way.

One night I was lying on my bed reading and listening to the intermittent 'Wups' coming from the kitchen when I was struck by a bolt of inspiration so hard it hurt my brain. Inspirations like these came frequently the year I was thirteen.

I crept down the hall into the entryway, where I was hidden from the view of anyone in the kitchen, except Leota.
Leota went 'Wup!'

I went 'Wup!"

Then she said 'Wup!"

I answered 'Wup!"

And she replied 'Wup!"

Everyone playing cards at the kitchen table was totally oblivious. Leota was having fun. I was having fun too when dad caught me.
He thought it was hysterical. I mean, yeah, he sent me to my room, but he was laughing.

An hour later I happen to glance up towards the living room and there's dad on the couch, peeking over the easy chair towards the kitchen.
'Wup!" said my dad.

The ensuing silence was so thick you could cut it!

"Wup!" came from the kitchen.
"Niilo! Now stop that! That's not funny!" yelled my mom.

Man, I fell OFF THE BED. I laughed so hard I think it stunted my growth.
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You couldn't help but like Leota. She was in a happy, simple place, like a (really really wrinkly) baby (who smoked) enjoying a sunbeam.

Now, ninety-nine times out of a hundred Leota was happy to watch the card players; but sometimes she wanted a change of scene. However, because she had a form of Tourettes' that caused her to chirp "WUP!' at regular intervals like a smoke alarm with a failing battery, she was fairly easy to ride herd on.

The thing was, you had to be paying attention. She would go into closed rooms and stand quietly in the dark, nothing evident but the ember on her smoke and you'd never know she was there until you happened to hear 'wup!' float out from behind the door.

Once in the bathroom I heard a cheery 'wup!' coming from the cabinet right next to where I was sitting and about died of a heart attack. We found her in the basement standing under the metal laundry chute, wupping away, entertained by the echo.
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This is what happened the very last time she visited:

One November afternoon, everyone was sitting around the kitchen table, my mom and all the other card sharks, partying it up loud and happy, knocking back the 7 and 7's. As usual I was avoiding all this by hiding in my room.

My mom came knocking on my door. "Leota's gone. Is she in here?"

Nope.

Since it was cold, and I was the kid, I got sent outside to look for her while everyone else staggered around the house hooting 'LeOOOOTaaaa....'

Me, I glanced around close by, listened for her, didn't hear her, and promptly put all thought of her completely out of my mind. Evidently everyone else did too, because when I returned they were all pretty surprised to see me. "Where'd you go?" asked Mom.

I needed to hit the Ritz. The half bath was for the card players, so I went down the hall to the master bathroom.

Knocked on the door. Nobody answered. I opened the door.

I found Leota.

My moms beautiful pink bathroom with the pink fixtures and the pink towels and pink curtains, yeah. Not any more.

Leota had been fingerpainting.
She had decorated the entire wall, from the floor up as high as she could reach, with shit.
She had painted the entire side of the bathtub with shit.
She had painted the entire inside of the bathtub with shit.
And the faces of all the cabinets.
And the mirror, the counter, the sink, and the floor.

Everything except the toilet, oddly enough.

The entire bathroom was covered in shit. And so was she.

She had a smoke going. She smiled at me toothlessly from where she sat on the bathmat. 'Wup!' she said.

Complete disaster. Yelling, buckets, throwing things out the bathroom window onto the lawn, people running in and out of the house brandishing Pine-Sol, playing cards on the floor, forget it. Total chaos.

I was gone when it happened, but I understand Leota got her very first shower that day at our house and didn't care for it much. She went home in a bathrobe. She got to keep it.

I was outside at the time. My parents put me outside. They were pissed off because I wasn't helping. I wasn't helping because I could not stop laughing and I couldn't walk. I laid on the back stoop with the tears streaming back into my ears and lost my mind, man; I howled. It was not my finest moment.

Yes I know that lacks class. But I was 13 years old. I had no class.

Not like I do now.

22 comments:

  1. OH MY GAWD!!!!!! why the hell didn't i read this earlier??? talk about a sure fire way to get out of the dumps (no pun intended) sugar, i have been laughing for the past 5 minutes!!! hysterical!!! thank you, i think i can finally get to sleep...laughing is so much better than crying!! *hugs*

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  2. I loved your story.
    Your hilarious/heartbreaking recollections are always brimming with exquisite detail and insight.

    The tragedy of Leota's life, and everyone else who survives the death of their memory function, is that they can't sit back and enjoy the lifetime's worth of experience that they fought for inch by inch.

    Here is the thing, the Gen-Xers aren't going to put up with the expense and tedium of keeping 90 million of us Baby Boomers around when we start drooling and redecorating bathrooms like Leota.
    NFW.

    Those uppity little bastards are going to build drive-thru euthanising stations (that will look like banks or restaurants) where you and I will someday be unceremoniously dropped off and come out the back door in shiny packages of Soylent Green Dog Chow.

    So I am delighted that you celebrated the life of Leota because chances are nobody is going to write funny stories about us.

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  3. Canadian Mist.

    What can you say about 1.75 litres of fun that comes in a plastic bottle with an easy-grip handle?

    WUP!

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  4. Leota for President! Free smokes for oldies!

    WUP!

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  5. I like her. WUP! Did she have any tatoos? Somehow I think she must have.

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  6. I enjoyed read that again, thank you.

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  7. or even "reading"?

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  8. 7/7s? That's a Polish drink! -- the only beverage (besides boilermakers) served in half the bars in southern Michigan.

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  9. thank you for sharing that...it put a smile on my face...as i remembered my father in his failing years...he had parkensons and being the old deigo man he was...would always pinch the butt of a female...he thought it to be a high compliment...and to be honest most women did to and loved him for his attention...he told me it doesn't matter if they are ugly or pretty...fat or skinny...all women want to know that a man wants their ass...he was a character...while he couldn't walk at the end...there was no ass safe in his presence! i remember rubbing his back one day and he turned to me and said "i don't know who you are but you are a very nice lady"...as i was walking out the door...you guessed it...he pinched my ass...i can still feel it all these years later and it brings a smile to my face...

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  10. There was a nice old fella called Jack who lived next door to us and had altzheimers, he used to occasionally knock at the door, and expecting someone who lived here 20 years ago always said 'hello, who are you?' then 'I locked myself out' I used to walk him back to his door (his son let us have the code for the key locker) and let him back in. I'd sit him in front of the TV with a fresh cup of tea and he'd grin at me and say 'biscuits' I'd go to the cupboard and get him out 5 biscuits (Custard cream, bourbon, malted milk, hobnob and chocolate digestive) and leave him smiling happily to himself.

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  11. Shouldn't that be a Baby Ruth? I always thought they looked more like .

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  12. savannah: well there ya go! GOOD LUCK AT THE DR.S APPT TODAY CHICKIE!!!! bring something to read; god knows who's been sneezing on the magazines.

    homoE: i belong to a couple of online groups for people taking care of aging relatives, and as far as altzheimers goes...? hand me a beer and put me right in line at the EuthaQuick. no problem.in fact, design it like a car wash. there is NO WAY IN HELL that i will put my family through the horror, expense and indignity of taking care of my Altzheimers butt. as god and/or ceiling cat is my witness, man.

    mj: you got it! and that's why he drank it...the plastic bottle wouldn't break in the trunk of the car, it had a screwtop and the handle made it easier to ride herd on. and people claim that canadian society has never made any significant worldwide contributions. HA.

    garfy: we would have peace in our times. and a lot of cleaning up to do. vote 'WUP' in 08!

    gale: all i know about her is that she was delivered by an NA midwife in the back of a wagon, and they kept her in a shoebox until they reached Oregon.

    frobi: sounds like toking to me. :)

    cb: huh! maybe Bill was polish? is the boilermaker the one where you sink a shotglass of whiskey in the stein of beer and knock it straight back until the shotglass lands on your nose? i'm more of a 'red beer' kinda gal.

    daisy: that made me smile, daisy. what a great memory!

    Mr. Gaskin: welcome! what a nice neighbor you were, sir. you made him safe and happy. that's an act of heroism.

    joe: hey, that's what they used in 'Caddyshack' and who am i to argue?
    remember 'Mountain Bars'? like puppy poo. delicious puppy poo. except for the one with the cherries inside; that was just weird.

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  13. I love that story
    Its wuptastic
    It features shite fingerpainting
    and toothless batty old ladies

    Marvelous stuff
    WUP :-)

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  14. I remember this! Gets me every dang time to! You are a master storyteller that is fer darn sure!

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  15. An absolute classic.

    For the 587th time: you must publish.

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  16. EVERYONE
    Yes indeed, idle hands are the devils workshop. this is how my comments got turned off and i became, briefly (some say differently) 'Evil Incarnate'. that way too went my profile info, but I might leave that up, actually.
    Sorry about that. I was experimenting with templates by 'making' a new blog, and didn't realize that the settings carried through to all ones other blogs. Well, KNOW WE KNOW, GI JOE. AND KNOWING IS HALF THE BATTLE.

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  17. New blog? Tell us more!

    "nobody reads this anyway so woo woo lallalala, blub blub flub glub doo doo snot, lalalala, woo"

    DO TOO!

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  18. ****finger painting in FN's bathroom****

    WUP !

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  19. mj: nothin doin. i was just messing around experimenting with a new template and playing with the different settings because I am a fricken'chimp who can't leave things alone.

    beast: feed your whirling grandma some of frobishers cauliflower death casserole and turn her loose!

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