Sunday, August 03, 2014

Point of View

When they were small it was all one could do to get a LITTLE respect. My daughter, age 3, used to shout, "You're not the boss of me!" I begged to differ, and we struggled over authority; but then suddenly, she has not just grown up to be her own boss. Suddenly, so it seems, SHE is the boss of ME.

This morning I noticed a Times column called "Reverse Parenting." A glib writer has moved her family into her childhood home; she has bought her parents out. And now, to make room for her stuff, her parents' stuff must go. "But that is your grandmother's," the mother protests when a precious linen dresser scarf goes on the "throw" pile.

I realize that for quite a while now I have been reading writers making a meal about elderly parents. Roz Chast had an affectionate sendup of her mother making her father a vest out of old bottle caps. "Your mother is a brilliant woman!" the father shouts at the New Yorker cartoonist. Now, Roz draws their ashes in little bags at the bottom of her closet, among her shoes.

Then I further realize how many putting-mom-in-the-nursing-home essays I have read. I have even written one myself! Even as I wrote it I thought a better piece would do it from the parent's point of view.

But how write the mom whose children take charge of her life? I could start one, but then my attention would just drift away.

In old age one learns to "gouter humiliation," as the monks say. Well, I don't think I'll get to like it, but we'll certainly have to get used to it.

Just: the next time you read one of those "reverse parenting" pieces, have a thought for the parent whose role has reversed. (At least I have reserved a place for my ashes.)


Saturday, May 03, 2014

It's Not Just Willpower

I think this is the last think I will post about getting old.

Because from now on I won't have time. Time is something I am running out of; the future is shrinking.

But for now, I will just post about yesterday. The past? I have plenty of past.

Rising at 6:30, I ran to make coffee and walk the dog and say my prayers and practice the piano and pay bills and do a lot of writing at my computer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's just a matter of getting up early!!! See how much I get done!  Just like the "old" me, who was the "young" me who still must be the "real" me.

At 12:30 I crashed and crawled in to bed and slept for three hours. When my daughter Winifred called from Hong Kong I told her it's not just a matter of getting up early or even a matter of willpower.

My body will not do what it used to to. But if I'm not nice to it, it will do even less.

So today I got up a little later and worked a little slower. The situation, in spite of the American creed of improvement and progress, will not improve. I am lucky to be alive. I am lucky to be healthy. I am even lucky to be old, which I actually am.

I actually am old.

It's a bit embarrassing.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

E-mail from George H. W. Bush

I don’t know what your guilty pleasures are in life, but one of mine is socks....
I’m a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern -- the better! It’s usually the first thing people notice I’m wearing whenever I’m out in public and that’s the way I like it.
So when Chairman Reince Priebus asked me to write to you on behalf of the Republican National Committee (RNC), I told him... my letter to you had to involve socks.....

Republicans are up against an opposition that is willing to do, say and spend whatever it takes to expand their hold on power. The Democrats are desperate and determined to fully implement ObamaCare and force their agenda of higher taxes, more      spending and less freedom on the American people.
You can get your own [socks]  today or as a gift for your favorite Republican by sending a special campaign contribution of $35 or more to the RNC now...
George H.W. Bush

 And my reply:
Dear Mr. President:

Is there anything I have said or done that made you think I'd be receptive to this approach?

I am very opposed to the Republican agenda! 

If you like, I can offer detailed reasons:

--I am pro-choice. You, George H. W. Bush used to be, too, before you changed your position to run with Ronald Reagan.

-Congressional Republicans oppose the President at every turn, following an obstructionist agenda. We voters
do not forget who shut down the government, closing our national parks, et cetera.

--State Republicans have gerrymandered districts to a fare-thee-well, and are now trying to
push unconstitutional restrictions on the right to vote.

--Republicans are associated with the Koch Brothers and other billionaires who are destroying our
democracy and our economy.

--Republican fiscal policies are cruel. For example, the Republican states that have refused
Medicaid expansion have hurt low-income and unemployed persons substantially. For another
example, House Republicans have been trying to make cuts in programs that help the poor, while
continuing to subsidize the mega-rich with tax breaks.

And just for the record, I remember that you, George H. W. Bush, initiated the methods
of Roger Ailes in 1988. You owed your his election to lies about Kitty Dukakis using cocaine and burning an
American flag. The dreaded "Willie Horton" ad set the standard for negative campaigning. Ever since,
I have noticed that Republican candidates have a problematic relationship with the truth and even
with reality.

Sincerely yours,
Pat Andrews

Friday, January 03, 2014

Epiphany 2014 Letter

"He became a man and he dwelt amongst us and we behold his glory...."

In 2013 I enjoyed the sameness in days—the glinting from dog's golden coat as she scampers through her walk; the grandsons growing tall, conversing in strange speech of minecraft and clash of clans. For the fall semester. Cassie and I brought Louis to school M-W-F mornings, walking over in time for the morning bell. As I've said before, "my boundaries enclose a pleasant land."

And fun! Last night quizzing Angus for his Geography Bee at school, we conversed about dams, rivers, the location of Custer's Last Stand, the area of The Solomon Islands. Things to think about
when walking Cassie: "Hmmmn, does Czechoslovakia still exist?" 

And now the daily Office reveals the Glory of Epiphany: great fountains of Light. Pretty good times:  the kids, the dog, the book group, a memoir-writing group, piano lessons. I plan to give a Psalms talk to the Episcopal Church Women in March, which I love to do. 

In St. Louis last April to my sister and I visited our 91-year-old uncle Frank He can't see any more, is confined to a chair, where he listens to books on tape. Call him at random and you'll discuss the Armada ("that Philip was so stupid!") or the History of Music. Sue and I also enjoyed a visit with our cousin Tracy and three of her "grands." 

A couple months after visiting Frank, I joined the Tams on their summer college tour for Amelia. We met up in Amherst, where we stopped in to Grace Church Columbarium to visit dear Denny's niche. We continued to Boston, where we got together with the Perrys and two of the Andrews sisters, Heather and Kristen. Kristen has a wonderful new house in Wendell, MA, and she too has been practicing the piano. Emmet and Jack enjoy their pet snakes, and they help out with shoveling snow which there is a lot of about now. Sammy and Jack McCarthy continue as the fastest swimmers in the family and also more competitive leagues. I returned from Massachusetts well "familied."

In addition to Kristen, Karen also moved this year and now lives in Haverhill nearer the quads. They helped her every step of the way; and, as we all do, they said, “No more moving!” Connor, Ben, and Megan started jobs over the summer; Rachel came back to Davidson with me for a good long visit. In between introducing me to “Merlin” and “Sherlock” on Netflix, Rachel edited the family cookbook revision. Thanks to her work, it should be ready by the end of 2014.

I hope to get to Mass.  again this summer to see our quadruplets graduate from Pentucket High School (!) Connor, Megan, Rachel, Ben, and Amelia make five planning to start college this coming fall. Max and Hannah are already in their junior and freshman years respectively out in Colorado. They keep on growing into amazing young adults.

I hope this letter finds you going from strength to strength even as many of us struggle with challenges that mount as the years go by. My prayers go with you all in things said and unsaid in our annual connection of friendship and love.  

Love and Blessings,

                  Deb Cannavino m. Alan Caplan --- div. --- Patricia Caplan Andrews --- wid. Denison Andrews
Karen-Caplan      Tory Caplan       Nick               Amanda &              Heidi&                 Heather& Drew         Kristen                             
Perry                     & Peter Tam      Caplan       Craig Ewington         Brad Rude            McCarthy                  Andrews    
Megan, Connor    Amelia (17)     Sophie(16)   Angus(13)                Max (21)               Samantha (11)              Jack Semler(9)  
Rachel, Ben (17)   Isaac (15)        True (13)       Louis (10)                Hannah (18)         Jack (9)                    Emmett Semler(6)


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Bah Humbug

I don't like it, I wouldn't miss it if it went poof, and yet Halloween is a civic duty. The neighbors decorate their houses, and the kids come around and we give out candy. In my town, kids even stand in line for hours to receive candy from local merchants. Yes, I curmudgeonly ungoodnaturedly disapprove of all that candy.

In fact, I like it even less than Scrooge liked Christmas. At least Christmas is ABOUT something. All the candy et cetera have something holy and good at the center of it all. Ditto Easter, Mother's Day, July 4th, and so forth. Even holidays without candy are about something: veterans, civil rights martyrs, the day the British left Boston.

So that's the first thing: it's not about anything except candy and scariness. The scariness is something else I dislike. I hate skeletons and ghosts and witches and death eaters (yes, my grandson was a death eater one year, where a few years earlier he had asked to be a flower). I do scare easily, especially of the big kids who seem to maraud around at the end of the night. In Cambridge, the moped-riders across the street chose Halloween to egg our house, thoroughly because we had asked them to keep the noise down. That'll teach us.

Plus, our neighbor has a big skeleton of a man sitting down holding a skeleton of a dog on a leash that about makes my heart stop every time I turn into my driveway.

On the Internet some posters tried to make up mythological background--some old Druid thing that Christianity took over when they could not stamp it out. But who knows. Our Halloween customs aren't that longstanding, going back maybe two hundred years. How do I know that? Well, like every other thing you see or read on-line you'll just have to accept it because I have typed it.

I would make up a better mythology myself. I would say, it's the day Persephone has to pack her bags and kiss Old Demeter good-bye while she returns to her husband Hades in the underworld. And as she enters there, some of the ghouls and goblins get loose and drift back up to earth for a while.

It's just one of those things you put up with and don't talk about. That's what I mean by civic duty. But here I am talking about it, oh well.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Poor Relations

In the parking garage beneath
The Club, disembarked from someone-in-the
Family’s Buick,
The woman returning met the girl who left
Unfortunately wearing the same clothes,
Too tight for her midlife waistline and with
Charm bracelets jingling; this was
Before she sold the gold.
They rode up the elevator, of course, how else would they
Ride up; and she handed her coat to
A uniformed maid who cast a jaded glance.

They walked across a totally marble
Atrium. But: “Jack, look, the plants are plastic!!”
Jack her true love,
There’s a tale! He was so alive that day!
She’d do it all again with the stupid-looking dress and
Hateful shoes to walk next to him through the family’s Club,
Slowly, in no hurry to join
The matriarch around that fire I think was real
With various siblings strange brothers-in-law nieces a few strays
Assembled to join the Relations’ favorite
Pastime, drinking.


Composed from 1986 to 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Standing in the checkout line while the nice man was bagging my groceries, I started daydreaming about Odysseus' dog, who recognized his returning master after twenty years of absence. I thought I'd like to find the passage and later, by synchronicity, I did.

"The Death of Argos" appears on pages 90-91 of September 23, 2013, New Yorker, translated by Stephen Mitchell.

Wonderful, wonderful lines in front of Odysseus' palace:

"As they spoke, a dog who was lying there lifted his head
and pricked up his ears. It was Argos, Odysseus' dog;
he had trained him and brought him up as a puppy....
but he had grown old in his master's absence, and now
he lay abandoned on one of the heaps of mule
and cattle dung that piled up... And so the dog Argos lay there,
covered with ticks. As soon as he was aware
of Odysseus he wagged his tail and flattened his ears,
but he lacked the strength to get up and go to his master...."

I was daydreaming and then I read it. Don't you just love the civilized world.