“Milk of Magnesia” or at least that’s what I think my mother is saying. It’s hard to hear her since I’m standing in Aisle 3 of a Rite Aid, not the best for cell calls, and she’s mumbling. She’s 78 and has a mouth full of sores. Some chronic problem she hasn’t had in years, but got hit with bad yesterday. It’s called Liken Planten or something like that. She refused to see my doctor because, “Why should I do that when I have a doctor in NY?” I don’t know Mom, maybe because you’re in terrible pain and you’re three thousand miles away from NYC?  And because I am taking care of a three year old and an 8 year old by myself while their Daddy is out of the country for two weeks and, deep breath, nursing the sores in your mouth in addition to keeping the boys fed and safe and from killing each other might just put me over the fucking edge for once and for all even though I know I have been threatening this since I was 12 for which I am very sorry.

“What Mom? Mom? Did you say “Milk of Magnesia”? Is that what the doctor said to get?”
“Maybe. I can’t remember to tell you the truth. I think so. But I know he said Benadryl”
“Okay, Mom, I heard that. I’ll get them both and be home in a few minutes.”

The conversation with her doctor took place less than half an hour ago. So in addition to the mouth sores, and my mother’s ethnocentrism I am tackling with this visit, there is also the memory issue. I’m not going to call it early on-set-something-dire. I’m not. But let’s just say I could. Because I don’t think it’s normal to ask the same question three times in an hour and be completely surprised by the answer. Or forget that you opened the milk on one side of the kitchen, a very small kitchen, or where you put your phone at least five, (I wish I were exaggerating), times. My mother talks a lot about her mother, her hatred of, contempt for, and disappointment in, her mother. She rarely talks about her father. It is her father who was ultimately hospitalized for Alzheimers.

Last week I taped a segment for The Madeleine Brand Show about “the sandwich generation.” It was for her Parenting On The Edge feature and I was supposed to be hysterically funny about the challenges of waiting so long to have children that your parents are old when your children are toddlers. The segment was cut. Because I was not funny. Caring for my aging mother and my young children has landed me smack in front of a comedy wall I fear I will not be able to scale.


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