Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Impostors and Heroes

I spent the past five days as an impostor in my own life. Here's what it looked like:

Thursday afternoon I took public transportation (bus and train) to the airport. Usually I get on the train going the opposite direction, so I felt like a runaway housewife, with my carry-on bag, my wallet loaded with cash, my ID in my pocket. I pretended I was somebody with an interesting life.

I love traveling, I love flying, I love having conversations with strangers that I will never see again. Like Miriam, who was flying from LA to visit her sister in Bucks County, PA. She was reading Harry Potter and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, or whatever the latest tale of HP's
adversities is called; so of course we started talking books and movies.

The pilot must've switched on the turbo boosters, because we got to Philly speedy quick (as Junie B. Jones would say). Again, I was a cosmopolitan pretender, trekking through the airport on my own and navigating public transportation from the airport to the end of the train line.

The whole point of this exercise in impersonation is for me to give my enfeebled parents a hand for a few days. (They'd love that word, I'm sure. Sorry, Ma. I couldn't resist.) Mom's been suffering from an undiagnosed malady that causes debilitating pain and weakness. Meanwhile, my 86-year-old dad's been handling mom's care, plus the running of the household, all by himself, for the first time in nearly 60 years of marriage. It's too much for him; too much for both of them.

So I get to play Rescue Hero, swooping in from my cluttered life to chill with the cronies, toss in a few loads of laundry, whip up a few gourmet delight meals to freeze in pint-size zipper bags, and generally save the day. I get credit for being a hero, when the real hero is Mr. Peevie, who's holding down the fort at home, juggling camp schedules and swimming pool maintenance, meals, laundry, and general household upkeep, while trying not to get fired from his real job.

I'm also posing as a Healer. The day I arrived, mom's pain departed as mysteriously and suddenly as it arrived. We visited the pain management specialist the next day. He looked at us through the tiniest pupils I have ever seen on a human being and basically said to come back and see him if the pain returns. Of course, I'm taking all the credit, and I plan to start my own healing ministry. Send $7.77 today for your personal healing miracle!!!

Dad and I went grocery shopping, and I wore him out. I sent him off to get some turkey gravy while I browsed the meat and dairy aisles; when I found him a half hour later, he was forlornly standing by the check-out with a carton of OJ, but no gravy.

The next day I turned into Rachael Ray, dicing, slicing, sauteeing, mixing, pouring, simmering, boiling, and baking. Finally, when every pot, pan, mixing bowl, baking dish, and cooking utensil was dirty, and two weeks' worth of dinner smells permeated the house, I was done. I loaded up the freezer with individual servings of lasagna, spaghetti, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chicken with mushroom gravy, and one lone broiled chicken breast.

Then came the hard part: washing the dishes with one hand while pushing my mom away from the sink with the other. That woman has some kind of genetic anomaly that forces her to clean things, even when she's too shaky to stand for more than three consecutive minutes. It must be a recessive trait, because I didn't get that one. I got the dirt-blindness gene. If you don't see it, you don't have to clean it; that's my motto.

I tried to do the "Be healed by my presence" miracle on Uppie, but for some reason it didn't take. So instead she popped pills and sucked on pain pops while we watched my boyfriend solve crimes on cable TV. (Have I mentioned lately that I really wish I had cable?)

Uppie let me borrow her 'Stang, so I got to affect a persona way cooler than a mini-van driving, PBJ-making, laundry-doing middle-aged mom for a couple of days. I tooled around town with the top down, Harry Connick's smooth and moody strains blasting, and my fake cigarette (props to King!) dangling between my fingers. (OK, so maybe it's not so much "cool" as it is "queer" to have a fake cigarette. But whatever. I yam what I yam.)

In my final nod to imaginary alter egos, I sat at an airport bar drinking no-name merlot and teaching a Texan how to do sudoku. I was exactly as successful as you might have guessed. Meanwhile, I figured out that the slightly tipsy and slightly loud guy on my left was waiting for the same delayed flight to Chicago. How surprised would you be if I told you that Tipsy Guy ended up sitting in my same row on the plane? Ain't life funny.

Anyway, the clock has struck midnight, and I've reverted from my swinging, day-saving, Mustang-driving cosmopolite facade back to regular me.

It was fun while it lasted, but as it turns out, I like being me after all.

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