Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

The Hours

Since I arrived in Maryland Thursday evening, I've been spending most of my days at the long-term care facility with my mom. My evenings have been reserved for doing things with my dad to keep up his spirits. Tonight I prepared hamburger patties with green and chipotle chiles, a little flour and two egg whites, which he cooked on the gas grill, then made us strawberry shortcake. Afterwards, we watched the Syracuse men's lacrosse team get upset by Army in the first round of the NCAA tournament -- a real downer for him, as his mood has traditionally matched the fortunes of the Orange -- and then a Bell Television Hour special on the build-up to the September, 1966 grand opening of the new Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center.

I'd been meaning to make him a copy of it for the past two years, but I keep forgetting to ask my friends who have the technology to dub VHS tapes to do it. Luckily I remembered it to bring it on this trip, because it certainly helped to take the sting off the Syracuse loss. I remember when I found the tape for a buck at a discount store in Louisville back in February, 2008. I was stranded out by the airport after a huge ice storm and walked up the street to a largely abandoned strip mall because I had nothing else to do. When I saw the tape, inexplicably sequestered amid crappy B-movies even more crappily transferred to video, right next to a strange assortment of kitchen utensils, I knew it would be a special thing to share with him. And that was back when I was sure that he'd seen the direct cinema-style documentary's original broadcast. As it turns out, though, he had previously not known of its existence and was thus doubly delighted with its contents, despite the fact that he is exhausted and his leg and back are killing him.

Once my dad goes to bed, I try to take advantage of the fact that I'm on West Coast time and too itchy from allergens to sleep properly by making headway on the project that was my main reason for coming this week: clearing a pathway through the garage and laundry room so that the contractor who is going to create a wheelchair-accessible way of getting into the house will be able to get the job done before my mom comes home at the end of the month. People throw the term "herculean" around far too easily, but this task truly lives up to the mythological reference.

Instead of shit, though, I am bogged down among cans of highly flammable and toxic woodworking materials that my mother bought in vast quantities fifteen years ago and then left to rust after she no longer had the will or concentration to make bookshelves and the like. It's not fun trying to make sense of all the stuff that needs to be dispensed with, but there's no one else to do it but me. At least there are minor compensations now and then, like finding my favorite wood baseball bat from high school or a stash of still-usable colored pencils. That and the black widows, I mean. And the tarantula-sized brown recluse -- I am not exaggerating -- I found in the garage. Actually, I suppose the flash fire-inducing cans could qualify as similarly thrilling. It's like I've journeyed to my own personal theme park, where many of my greatest fears and fascinations -- the distinction between those two categories is blurry in the best of circumstances -- are condensed together into a kind of "haunted house" ride.
Tags: autobiography, everyday, family, travel
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