Elder Rage, J. Marcell (Excerpt)

Elder Rage or Take My Father... Please!: How to Survive Caring
for Aging Parents
by Jacqueline Marcell

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Liar Liar, Pants on Fire
(Excerpt)

Dad had not tried to drive since his foot "slipped" off the brake taking us on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in the carport. Once I was gone, however, he started telling Ariana that he wanted to drive again. I told her to keep the car keys with her at all times and to just evade his pleas with distractions. One day she saw him going out the back door with his jacket on. "Where ya going, Jake?" she called after him.

"Ohhh, I’m gonna take a little ride. Please give me my keys and please move your car."

"It’s too dangerous for you to drive because you don’t see that well anymore. I’d be happy to take you wherever you’d like to go."

"I’m the boss here and I say move your goddamn car!"

"Well, I’m sorry. I know it must be hard on you but I can’t let you hurt yourself or some innocent person now can I?"

"Goddamn it! I was driving Model T’s before your grandmother was born. You work for me and you do what I say, or else!" he yelled inches from her face, pounding his fists on the kitchen table again. (It’s really amazing that it’s not concave by now.) Ariana didn’t flinch—she’d learned my mother’s technique already.

Later that day—Ariana came back from the store, threw her purse in her room and got Mom up to go to the pottie. Dad sprinted out of bed, doing the ten yard shuffle racing into her room. Ariana’s little Gary yelled, "Mommy, Mommy, he took the keys out of your purse!"

"Jaaake," she said to her other child, "give me the keys. It’s too dangerous for you to drive. Where would you like to go? Come on, let’s go out for a nice ride. I’d be happy to take you if you give me the keys."

His wrinkled up nose started to grow. "I don’t have ’em." She tried every which way to persuade him into giving her the keys on his own. No luck all day. Nope, he just didn’t have them. I tried to talk some sense into him.

"Daaad, I’m sorry you can’t drive anymore. I know how much you love driving but we can’t risk an accident. What if you hurt someone? Wouldn’t you feel just awful? Please give Ariana the car keys."

"I don’t know where they are—I swear to God."

"If you won’t give her the keys on your own, you’re forcing me to have to get them away from you forcefully. You don’t want to go through that do you?" He went into a rambling rage calling me every nasty name he could think of and then hung up on me. Yeah, yeah, I know—I’m a bitch, I’m a sleazy whore again. Gee, no new terms of endearment?

Mom got so upset with his screaming rampage she passed out at the table, head-first, right into her mashed potatoes. Ariana rushed to the phone, but Dad physically blocked her attempt to reach it with his outstretched arms and wouldn’t let her call 911.

"You let her go," he commanded. "That’s what she wants!"

She must have just fainted because she came to quickly and Ariana asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. "No! I just want to go to my bed and go to sleep, and I hope I don’t wake up to this living hellhole." My poor Mom.

When I checked my answering machine that evening my father had left me several nasty messages saying that if I took his car keys away he’d, "Put a curse on me, so help me God!" Perfect, a new theme song for the week:

"I put a spell on you." Um, gee, could you possibly remove the existing curse, prior to putting on the new curse, Mr. Hocus Pocus Voodoo Maniac?

I told Ariana to wait until he went to sleep and then she could find the keys. She was up all night trying to find them and then called me exasperated when nothing turned up. "Did you check in his shoes?"

"Jackie, I swear to you, I have looked absolutely everywhere and they are not here," she said in total exhaustion.

"They’re on his body then, I’m sure of it. Did you check inside little Napoleon’s jacket? He kept his hand in there for a reason."

"Yes, I patted him down and they weren’t in his pockets. I can’t imagine what he did with them." Hmmm, tricky little dictator. The next morning clever Boris Badenov tried to get her to go to the store for some milk for his cereal. "Not until you give me your keys, Jake. I’m not moving my car out of the way."

"I told you, I swear I don’t know where they are. I wouldn’t lie to you. Maybe you lost them." ("Yeah, that’s the ticket!")

Ariana called with a brilliant plan. "Once I finally get the keys away from him, I’ll get a copy made, and then I’ll go buy The Club, and put that on his steering wheel. That way he can keep his darn keys and he still won’t be able to go anywhere."

"Wow, I’m ashamed I didn’t think of that myself, Ms. Einstein-ela. You’re a genius. Maybe try secretly asking Mom where he hid them."

Ariana got Mom up and took her in the back bathroom and tried to get her to rat on Dad, and for the first time ever Mom was mean to Ariana. "He’s a good driver and that’s our car and you can’t have it, and you can’t have my dining-room set either!"

Ariana called again, "Jackie, I found the baby monitor covered with a blanket so I couldn’t hear them last night. It appears he’s brain-washed her all night because now, she sounds just like him! You won’t believe the words coming out of your mother. Here, you try to talk to her."

"Hi, Mom. You know, Dad’s eyes aren’t good enough to drive anymore. You don’t want him to accidentally hurt someone do you?"

"No, of course not, honey, but Dad’s never had an accident and that’s our car and he’s a good driver and I can drive too. And that’s my Mustang out there and I can still drive her if I want. And that’s my dining-room set and nobody’s gettin’ it!" Alllll-righty-then.

Ariana took Mom to the kitchen table and waited for Dad to get up. All of a sudden she heard, "clink, clink, clink" as he walked to the table.

"Jaaake, what’s that clinking noise I hear?"

"I don’t hear nothin’." Uh, General Stockdale, turn up your hearing aid. Dad refused to wear his hearing aid, so, he really didn’t hear nothin’.

"Jaaaake, lift up your pant leg, on the double!" He finally complied, and there, masking-taped to his calf, were the car keys. "Okay, so you lied to me, huh? You’ve had the keys all along. I’m very disappointed in you, Jake. Are you going to hand them over?"

"NO, they’re mine!"

"Okay, then I’m not going to speak to you today." She made breakfast and fed Mom her last few bites and didn’t acknowledge him. Eventually he couldn’t stand it. "You’re a traitor. You’re supposed to be on my team. You called Jackie and tattled on me."

"Jake, there are no teams or sides here. We’re all working together to keep you and Mariel together in your own home as long as possible. You’ve lied to me for days about the keys—you had them all along."

"I don’t give a goddamn about the keys. You’re a traitor!" he yelled across the kitchen table as he pounded his fists.

"And you’re a liar," she told him.

"Traitor, traitor, traitor!" he started chanting and pounding.

"Liar!"

"TRAITOR!"

"LIAR!" Nah-nah-nah-nah-nahhhh. Poor Ariana realized that she was starting to lose it. She retreated into the "cone of silence" and ignored him for hours.

Finally he gave up. "OK! Will this make you happy?" he said as he untaped the keys from his leg, which by then was losing all circulation.

"Yes, very happy indeed. Thank you very much. You will not be getting dessert tonight for lying to me." (Major exhaling required here.) Then... he started harping that he had to have his eyes tested again. We learned that if she just ignored these demands, usually by the next day he would forget all about them. This time he wouldn’t let up and made her absolutely miserable for days on end. Back to the optometrist, Dr. Cei. I had her call ahead and explain the situation. Even if his eyes were somehow better, he shouldn’t be driving with such slow reflexes. Next door to Dr. Cei’s was the hair dresser who colored Mom’s hair, so she made appointments for the same time. Dad insisted that Ariana stay with Mom during her hair treatment while he went next door to Dr. Cei’s. In a half hour he came back to the beauty salon wearing a big smile. "Guess what? I have great news—my eyes are much better and I can drive!"

"Reeeally? That’s great," Ariana told him as she smelled a skunk. "Stay here with Mom and I’ll go get a written report from Dr. Cei." Ariana said Dad sounded just like an elderly Mr. Bill getting smashed. "No, no, no, nooooooo."

Dr. Cei protested, "I never said that. His eyes are terrible. He barely has any vision left out of one eye and the other one isn’t much better. I told him his eyes were quite bad and he should not  drive at all."

Ariana walked back to the beauty shop to find Sorry Cyclops with his head down like a bratty school boy waiting for his detention. "What am I going to do with you?" she scolded one-eyed Jake.

"Well... it was worth a try," he sighed heavily in the agony of defeat. "I’m a very good driver," said Rainman. A few days later he called me practically crying, "Dr. Cei doesn’t know anything. I know I can still drive. Why are you doing this to me?"

"Oh, Dad, tell you what—Ariana will take you to the DMV and you can take the eye test. If you pass it you can drive home, no questions asked, okay?" (And be sure to drive past the grassy knoll.) I had Ariana talk to the supervisor at the DMV and if by some fluke Mr. Magoo passed the eye test, they’d make him take the written test too. She had it all lined up and they were dressed and ready to walk out the door when suddenly he had a change of heart.

"Awhhh, you just take us wherever we want to go, Ariana. I don’t really feel like driving anymore."

Okay, all together now: let’s inhale and hold it... and breathe out. And another deep inhale in... and hold it... and out. And again... hold it... that’s right, continue hyperventilating until you just don’t give a—you know what!

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