Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Talk to Your Mother While She Is High

A while back, Mama C had a problem getting her Parkinson's meds. This problem had occurred before, but this time, we couldn't get the neurologist to OK the prescription before her supply ran out. So, by the time we got her more pills, she had gone without for a couple of days.

So, once we finally got the prescription filled, we--Billy C, Pammy C, the care-giver, and yours truly--all just figured we'd better put her back on the meds.

Soon, she became loopy: getting confused, hallucinating. This has happened before and was, as far as I can tell, meds-related. But Parkinson's can cause dementia, so each time this happened, we all wondered if we'd get her back. After a visit with her general phyzish, we'd get the meds cleared up and she'd eventually come down.

Brief Editorial: Yes, both Parkinson's and our health-care system are terrible.

Billy C and I take her to Doc Lars and, once again she gets things straightened out and instructs us to gradually re-introduce Mama C's meds just as if she were taking them for the first time.

Afterwards, I take Mama C out for a steak. But she's still kind of loopy, see. She's coming down, but she's loopy. We'd sit there talking, when her attention would suddenly focus on a large, illusionary spider crawling along the wall of our booth. Of course, I'd tell her it wasn't there and she'd come back into focus.

So she brought up the pictures of Officer Bertino at dinner.

Officer Bertino was the father of her boyfriend Kenny Bertino. She dated him before WWII. Officer Bertino died in the line of duty answering a routine domestic disturbance call that took him to the home of this guy he had arrested many times before in the "Mexican" part of town. This guy get drunk, get into a fight with his wife, maybe hit her a couple of times, and Officer Bertino would drive down and arrest him. While this guy sat in the jail cell, Officer Bertino and the other cops would get him cigarettes and play cards with him.

Except for this one night. The guy had a gun. He shot off a couple of rounds, one of which hit Officer Bertino in the head.

I learned about this one day while Mama C still lived in her house. She had been going through all of her old pictures. I came over and saw these three pictures of this middle-aged man in his police uniform: one with him just standing there, one with him and a little neighbor girl, and one with him posing on his motorcycle.

Apparently when she had found these pictures and contacted Kenny, whom she hadn't seen in about 60 years or so. She told him of the pictures. He told her that he didn't have a single picture of his father.

So, she promised to send these to Kenny. The next day one of the ladies that came in every other day to help Mama C around the house "put them away" and we couldn't find them anywhere. We knew they were in a manila envelope, but there were so many manila envelopes in every corner of Mama C's house. Everyone had kind of written them off as being thrown out with the trash.

Fast forward a couple of years. As I am taking out the last few boxes of keepsakes from Mama C's house, I find a manila envelope just sitting on top of one of the boxes of pictures that has been sitting out in the open in the same spot for the last two years. Yep, it held Officer Bertino's pictures.

This was just before Mama C's latest medication hub-bub. I had just mailed them to her Kenny. She has been very anxious about them and had asked me again if they got to him. And wondered why he hadn't called to say he had gotten them.

Knowing old people as I do now, I realize that the answer to that question, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

So she tells me her memories of Officer Bertino's funeral procession. She desribed how the entire Rio de Nada Police Department came out in their dress uniforms and lined Orange street as she sang "Ave Maria." She finished, saying "I was just never sure he cared about me."

"Mom," I said. "Are you saying that dad was your second choice?"

"No," she said. "It's just that Kenny was such a good-looking kid and all the girls just loved him."

Then she went on.

"I broke up with him during the war, while he was overseas. I wrote him a letter."

The things you don't know about your mother could fill a book, couldn't they? And if we were all given that book early on, we'd understand the so much better.