Author's Note: I'm afraid I've come to the age where childhood memories are more vivid, and yesterday's breakfast is a mystery. My father (93) and my stepmother (96) have it much worse than I do, as you will see in "clinical observations". Flying, though better than driving long distances, is more and more frustrating, thanks to an agency dedicated to keeping us safe whether we need it or not.
towel as time machine
pre-trip checklist to be done in strict order shower with plenty of lather so nothing from today sticks rinse, repeat, and step out leave the high window cracked so the cool breeze can find you raise goosebumps, shiver you ready to jump. grab the towel first dry your face and hair begin your drift into the past draw towel around shoulders pull it tight, arms crossed and you are in the vivid past wisp of a skinny, shivering boy fresh from the public pool chlorine heavy in the air lips and fingers chilly blue but that towel, that towel that smells of mother's care eases the chattering teeth whispers comfort and security assures you that everything here, now, there, future will be okay. and if you doubt or the memories fade, return to this time and place when childhood's simplest needs were filled by a warm embrace a soft, dry towel and mother's face
"look" says my dad. he wraps his right hand around his left forearm thumb and middle finger nearly touching. "look. see how thin the skin is, how the bones stick out? feel this." i oblige, knowing exactly what i will feel. after forty years as a nurse, i know. the muscle is soft diminished. skin thinning. "atrophy" i tell him. "atropy is normal in men of your age." he knows he is ninety three, but believes he is forty. he tenses up his forearm. "feel it now. how's that?" i shake my head and answer "it feels just the same." not what he wanted to hear he tells me that this happened within the last three months but i know better. i saw it three years ago when i made it to his ninetieth birthday party my stepmother interrupts to ask "how many kids do you have?" not remembering that she asked the same thing five minutes ago and three minutes before that i give her the same answer, "five." and she changes the topic to grandchildren. how many? i tell her, as i did before, seventeen. she is surprised "i don't know how many i have, i would have to count" but she never does because dementia doesn't care i am visiting them to assess their level of functioning and i will hear her questions too many times to count in the forty-eight hours i'm there i carefully answer each time because i know she doesn't remember "look" says my dad again. wrapping his right hand around his left forearm thumb and middle finger nearly touching. "look."
the TSA keeps changing rules no warning, no explanation but they somehow think we should know by now airport one - iPad out separate tray, repeated loudly for those of us too dumb or too deaf to hear them above the ambient buzz airport two - iPad in "i said you don't have to take out your electronics leave them IN, leave them IN" repeated loudly because i already had my iPad out and wasn't putting it away fast enough to suit him then it was 'stay with your tray, don't walk ahead - STAY WITH YOUR TRAY to the guy in front of me which is impossible to do and then they are merging two lines into one and i am being fussed at to move "right behind that lady, right there. good." then it's hands up, stand still for the scanner, and "come out but hold up right here." hand wand, chemical test on two people before me when they finally came to me "hands out straight, wrists. now turn them over" why? because i had left my watch on and everyone who has ever seen a james bond film knows how deadly watches can be how very, very deadly.
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