Candy, formerly Candida, heard her phone buzz again vibrating furiously on the table and her stomach tightened. It was her, again! Why, why, why?! She’s got Susie, the beautiful daughter, or Joey, the sweet son, why does she want the daughter she named after a hideous fungal infection (which was revealed to her in the 7th grade by her best friend!) Buzz buzz.
“Not today!” she shouted at the phone.
Susie gave her the heads up last night that Mom might want her nails done today and she was going to be at the beach with kids – “Sooooo, she might be calling you for a ride.” Susie apologetically whined.
“Why can’t Joey get off his butt and give her ride?” Candy pouted.
“It’s Saturday morning Candy, you know Joey’s hung over and can barely answer a phone let alone drive Mom anywhere” she lectured.
“Besides you haven’t see her in a while” the guilt transcended through the phone line. This really burned Candy. She hadn’t seen her mother because her mother didn’t want to see her. The last three times she wanted to visit when she had the time and had her emotional armor on her mother begged off.
“Not today, too tired.” Her mother texted her the first time.
The second text read, “Not you, call Susie.”
The third, “Joey coming?” to which Candy responded “No, just me.”
“No, too tired” was the last and final reply.
Candy never liked her Mom before the stroke but she was manageable because Dad would always tell her off and take Candy’s side. Candy knew she was well loved by her Dad as they had so much in common, running, reading and maple bars. She and her Mom, not a bloody thing in common. She and her Dad would run together every Sunday morning and end up at Dee’s Donuts for a maple bar and intense conversation about the latest murder novel or autobiography. All growing up it was like her mother didn’t like her. She fawned all over Susie about the latest fashions and they would go get their nails done together and she was the team Mom and booster for Joey for every football team he was on. Tons of team pins with a picture of Joey in every team color imaginable openly displayed on her jacket and the overflow on her purse. Since Candy’s only passions were running and reading, her Mother had no real use for her as a source of pride. It was one thing her Dad and she shared over the rest of the family and today she missed him terribly. The last run she had with him ended with their return to the house and their mother ready and waiting to berate them.
“Well, took you both long enough! Why you still run is beyond me. Don’t think I don’t know you had donuts. Which is probably why you’re still fat and you’re going to die of a heart attack at your age.”
At the time, Candy was pretty sure she only aimed that at her Dad. But later she was sure, as ironically, her Dad died of a heart attack 43 days later. Mom used their donut runs against Candy every chance she could get, “Those runs took my beloved Manny away! He was the love of my life!” Although you would never have known it because their marriage was a front row seat to arguments, insults and dysfunction.
“Fine!” She exclaimed in a shout.
“Morning Mom, what do you need? (smiley face)” Candy texted quickly.
“Susie not answering need nails done.” She replied.
“On my way.”
Candy knew she wasn’t really “ready now” as her mother always kept her waiting. So, she got out of her pajamas, took a shower and mentally prepared herself as the hot water beat down on her face. Her mind sufficiently cleansed, she glanced at her new comfy tracksuit, but knew better and picked a skirt and pretty top so her mother wouldn’t make any comment about her running attire. She put her knew pink sneakers on and a pink hair band to pull her reddish brown curls back away from her face. She put a little blush on and light lipstick with a touch of mascara so her mother wouldn’t roll her eyes at her for not “making an effort.” She called April’s Nails for a normal Mom manicure appointment of “between 1pm and 3pm-ish as there always had to be a window of time for Mom not to be ready, due to insults and/or fights with the nurses that she had to break-up or apologize for or just plain cancel because she was “too tired.”
Candy can’t remember much about her Mom’s stroke but that it was six years ago and that it felt like it happened after all the attention for her being “Manny’s Widow” wore off and just in time to ruin the family Christmas cruise they all had chipped in to surprise her with. It was Candy’s idea, one which she was never going to receive any kudos for from her mother but only blame from her brother and sister for the loss of money. Candy could never get a break.
She made it to the Grandview Adult Care facility just before noon. She parked her little red Jetta, took a deep breath and braced herself for the expected antics of her Mother. She spotted Carson through her windshield, one of the day nurses and waved at him. He smiled and waved back and mouthed “Good Luck.” She laughed. She pulled her big bag out from the back and went up to the front desk like it was her own kitchen counter with a friendly smile,
“Hi Maricella, how are you and your girls today?”
Jenny and Bree looked up from the floor from behind the counter with big smiles while they held two mangled haired Barbie dolls in evening gowns. Maricella’s girls were five and seven and were allowed to be at work with Maricella on Saturdays.
“Hi Candy! How long did you run today?” The girls around the counter to greet her.
She hugged them both, “Well, I didn’t run today but there is a 12K run I’m doing next weekend.” With wide eyes they both mouthed “Wow.”
“How long is 12K?” Candy playfully quizzed them.
Tongues out and thinking, then Jenny piped up, “7.4 miles!”
“Right!” Candy cheered. She then pulled two shoe boxes out of her big bag and handed them to the girls.
“Early Christmas presents.” Candy winked with a smile to their mother.
Jenny and Bree quickly opened them up and there were two of the cutest pairs of Saucony running shoes you would ever see.
“Mama look, Mama look!” the girls yelled with glee.
“Miss Candy, you did not need to do that.” Maricella half-heartedly scolded.
“No, but I wanted to.” Candy bowed her head.
To Candy’s amusement, the girls quickly took them behind the counter to try them on whispering “we are going to be the fastest runners in school.”
“So how is my mother today?”
Maricella smile quickly turned upside down. “She slapped Carson last week.”
“Yea, I heard about that. Is he ok?”
She shook her head No, “He refuses to enter her room until she is sitting in her wheelchair facing away from the door.”
“Smart man.” Candy complimented. “Can I go on back?”
“Yes, but I don’t think she is ready.”
“That’s ok. I have plenty of time.”
Candy walked down the hotel looking hallway that was lined with beautiful seascapes and lighthouse paintings. She was stopped by James who was wheeling an older gentleman out for lunch.
“Hi Mr. Parsons” she said loudly.
James stopped her, “Hearing aid broke.”
She took his hand instead and mouthed “Nice to see you.”
His cloudy eyes focused in on her, “I’ll have potatoes.”
Candy and James shared a grin and she continued down the pristine blue carpet with coordinated mauve walls. Grandview was one of the more expensive “adult hospices” and the fourth one her mother had been in over the past two years. Luckily her Dad left her with plenty of money and although Candy was sure before the stroke her mother was going to blow through it all with clothes, trips and maybe some plastic surgery, her Mom found a way to enjoy the money a very different way now.
Candy made it to her mother’s room and saw they finely got her gold name plaque on her door. “Dolores Camden Alonso.” Why her Mom insisted on her surname being included when she never used it during her entire married life was just typical of her mother. She knocked quickly and let herself in. She made it into the suite and saw her mother sitting on the edge of her bed grunting and kicking at her slip on shoe as if she was kicking a bad dog that had bit her. “Ehh sue”
Candy quickly got down on one knee and retrieved the shoe and slid it onto her Mom’s foot.
“Where’s the other one?”
“Ehh er beh.”
Candy looked under the bed and found it and slipped it on her foot. She stood up and surveyed the room. It was filled with pictures of her Mom and Dad (albeit 40 years ago when she was young, thin and really quite beautiful.)
Candy turned around, found her mother’s purse on the dresser next to a picture of her at Susie’s Wedding. Although it was Susie’s special day, you couldn’t tell it from this photo as it had her mother front and center in a loud blue sequined dress her mother squeezed into with the help of Spanx while the bride and groom were in the background. The only real photos of Candy were the ones she happened to be in because they were “family” portraits. She quickly dismissed this and pulled out her Mom’s favorite coral lipstick and said like so many times before,
Darlene Alonso has been permanently paralyzed on the entire left side including her face for six years. Although she would never be normal looking with the extreme droop in her face, she could have had a more mobile life if she had cooperated with the strict physical therapy prescribed to her during the first year and even the second year for that matter after the stroke. But what the doctor’s didn’t know but Candy did, her mother absolutely LOVED this new and absolute attention and care she was getting. She used to devote so much time to her looks before the stroke, before her Dad passed so that she would receive the requisite amount of compliments for it. As she got older though, they were harder to come by. So, never a holiday dinner would pass when she would bring up not only was she the Prom Queen she was first runner up in the Miss Madison County Beauty Contest. She even lapped up some waiter begging for a bigger tip at the age of 68 and sitting next to Candy and swooning after her, “You look amazing, I thought you were sisters!” But her Mom threw that all away after the stroke and made it her mission to have everyone at her beck and call. She willfully sabotaged all physical therapy attempts by pretending to be too tired, feigning paralysis on her right side and even making herself fall. It was after the first two full years of hell, and after Candy and her siblings tried to just get her to stand up on her own that they gave up and allowed her to have her immobile reign.
She never goes out much, but she gets her hair and nails done every two weeks. She can really only have protein drinks for sustenance but they take her out for Pasta Alfredo or ice cream only to have it fall out of her mouth to be cleaned up by her children or the day nurse. She insists on going shopping for things she cannot wear nor use. Funny how she is too tired for physical therapy but she can whip around in a store scooter cart like it’s the Grand Prix. She thinks she has them all fooled, but what she doesn’t know is that her kids are fully aware and decided to make their lives easier and give in.
Candy put the lipstick on her mother’s lips as best she could. She then got her wheelchair ready and placed her arm out. Her mother leaned on it, pulled herself up, swiveled and then promptly fell into the chair with a “Oof.” Candy tried to adjust her in her seat only to be elbowed away with an “Op!” Candy then patiently picked up her feet and put them in the foot rests, put her bag in her lap and placed her good right hand over it. “Hold.” She said firmly.
“Ag.” Her mother said motioning to the big bag Candy put in the corner of her room.
“Oh, that’s just some snacks and stuff I got you.”
“No, not now Mom after we get your nails done.”
“Ow.” She said louder.
“Ok, now.” Candy pulled out some pudding cups, some marshmallows, lavender hand cream and a red chenille scarf. “Merry Christmas Mom.”
“On ow.” Motioning with her right hand to the scarf. Candy took the scarf and gently wrapped it around her Mom’s neck and tucked it under her paralyzed arm. Like a newly adorned monarch, she sat up straight and with a slight arrogant tilt of her head she motioned Candy forward. Noticing this, Candy took a beat and then started to push her down the hallway.
“Oft.” As her mother caressed the scarf.
Candy gave a weary smile. “Yes, it is really soft.”
As a treat, Candy drove to King Burger to get the shakes her Mom liked.
“Mom, they have dollar shake day at King Burger do you want chocolate or strawberry?”
Candy placed the order for two strawberry shakes and drove up to the window to pay.
“That’ll be $2.18 cents.”
Candy saw her mother wrestling with her purse and thought for a second, how nice…she’s going to pay for it... then she pulled out a crumpled dollar.
Candy took the dollar and paid the cashier the balance and put a shake in her mother’s good hand and she slurped happily.
They made it to April’s Nails by 1:35 and Candy watched while her mother got the Queen’s treatment. First, they welcomed her like she had come home from a cruise, hugs and fanfare and lead her to her thrown. Candy just turned away and rolled her eyes. The three girls that were tending to her mother made a huge deal out of the red scarf that she had on. Candy’s mother nodded and allowed them to touch it like it was her very own cherished family heirloom. “Oft…Oft” The three girls didn’t understand her and just went on with the royal manicure treatment. They quickly brought the strawed sparkling water to her lips when she grunted, soaked her hands in warm sudsy rose water, let her fall asleep for a while, then carefully massaged each hand, manicured each nail and then brought out every shade of the rainbow for her to pick from, only to have her choose the same color she always chose, Coral Pink. Candy finished her shake and had been checking her phone in her car when she noticed one of the girls waving at her from the front door. Times up and Candy made her way back to the Nail Salon. To her surprise, her mother was actually standing and leaning up against their counter motioning to Candy.
“Ah ett” “Ah ett” AH ETT!”
The girls were baffled but Candy knew what she wanted. She pulled her wallet out and set it on the counter. Candy watched her mother take five minutes to unclasp it (with no help), unzip a secret compartment and then scratch and claw at the money, pulling out $20 dollar bills and hand them to each of the three grinning girls who could barely contain themselves. So, a $15 manicure ended up costing $75 bucks. Her mother started to slip off the counter a bit and Candy caught her and carefully walked her to the car. She could see that she was really tired and knew it was time to take her back.
She texted Maricella that they were on their way and to have the wheel chair ready. She drove up and on queue there was Carson ready and waiting to help her mother out.
“Mom, do you want me to come in and visit with you a while?”
Candy was relieved.
As Carson gently placed her in the wheel chair, he noticed the scarf. It was about to fall off her shoulder so he picked it up only to have mother angrily grab it, clutch it to her chest as if he was going to steal it and swatted his hands away in fury. Candy shook her head. She rolled down the passenger window.
“Bye Mom, gets some rest. Love you.”
She grunted and furiously motioned Carson to get her inside. Maricella waived through the window from the front desk with her two girls and Candy waived back with a big smile. Candy blew out a big breath of relief and headed home.
As Candy pulled into her apartment building, she received a text,
“Thank you for that.” Her mother wrote.
Candy texted back, “You’re welcome.”