Monthly Archives: February 2009

Driving Ms. Eleanor in Heaven

I bought a newer car last week. It’s a little embarrassing because it’s exactly the same color and style as my last one (except that it has some very cool little features like remote start and a sunroof). Anyway, I was thinking about how important driving is to my independence.

About a week before my dad died last year, the hospice people came to his house to tell him what to expect in the coming days. They talked about moving from a walker to a wheelchair, about the eventual possibility of a hospital bed, about what kinds of drugs would be available. Near the end of the conversation, the nurse said, “And of course you won’t be driving.” That seemed to be the only thing in the entire conversation that my dad heard—forget wheelchairs, hospital beds, and imminent death—when he heard that he got the saddest look on his face and said, “You mean I can’t drive anymore?”

It struck me so forcefully how driving in our country is almost the only way to get around. When we can’t drive, we can’t be independent. Something should change here.

My dad was competitive, so he liked to drive sort of fast. He didn’t like anyone passing him on the freeway—or on Center Street. He’d immediately speed up to catch up and pass the offending vehicle. I talked to him about it when he was in his 80’s and he agreed it probably wasn’t a good idea and said he’d try to stop doing it. I’m not sure if he was successful. But I like to picture him in heaven in the ’68 Thunderbird he had for a while, with its giant engine and its super get-up-and-go. My mom is in the seat next to him saying, “Hell’s bells, Ed, you’re going to kill us both!” He’ll say, “Eleanor, don’t you remember? We’re already dead!” as he puts the pedal to the metal.

Why do women need to be liked?

I have a theory that may or may not be true.

It seems to me that women are more socialized to care whether somebody likes them or not–and to worry more if someone is upset with them.

Something interesting happened to me yesterday. I’ve been very frustrated with my optomotrist, and in fact have tried to get a full refund and start again with somebody else. I was arguing with the female optician in the office about this yesterday (after showing up for my umpteenth appointment and having to wait for half an hour and STILL having four people in front of me) when she said something that really took me off guard.

She said, “Look, Barbara, I really like you, and want to make things right for you.”
My response probably wasn’t very nice–something like, “Frankly, I don’t care whether you like me or not–I just want glasses that help me see properly!”
So that’s my question: Would anyone ever try to reassure a man that they were liked?

Do I dare to eat a peach?

When I was a senior in high school I studied “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” and I have often thought about why the persona felt it required some sort of courage to eat a peach. Because it’s messy? Did it always give him indigestion? But now I find myself asking the same question as I wonder about my succulent peach’s carbon footprint. I LOVE peaches. The very whiff of a peach brings back happy memories of eating peaches–as many as I wanted–right off the tree in our back yard. Even before that I had happy peach memories. As a fairly small girl I can remember standing on a chair in the basement kitchen helping my mother can peaches. She showed me how to scald them quickly so that the skin just slipped off. Then we could cut them in half and pack them into jars, pour syrup over them, seal the jars, and then process them in boiling water. And months later we could eat those wonderful peaches that we had preserved ourselves for Sunday dinner with waffles. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

But it’s pretty unnatural to be able to eat a ripe fresh peach in the middle of winter. I’ve been reading a little bit about the “locavore” movement, and I’m starting Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and I am fairly certain this peach I have didn’t grow in Indiana or anywhere remotely close.

So how do I know if I’m being a good person anymore? Does eating this peach harm the environment? Twenty years ago or so I said to a friend, “You’re a good person,” and his response was, “But that’s the only thing I have ever really wanted to be.” I’ve remembered that, because I want that, too. But it’s hard to know how to do it sometimes.

True confession: I dared do it. And it was exceptionally good!