Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Deja vu.




A few weeks ago, I asked my mother a serious question:

"Mom?" I said. "When I was growing up, was there ever a time when you looked at me and said, 'You know, Lori? You are really great at taking care of people. I think you should be a nurse.'"

 "Absolutely not!" she replied.

Then how in the hell did I get here?

Right about five years ago, just two weeks after the former daily Times-Picayune gave me my gold watch for 25 years of service then laid me off, I became the Mother-In-Law keeper, a full time caretaker for my husband's 83-year-old mother.

For the next 16 months I fed her, dressed her, medicated her, drove her to her thrice-weekly dialysis appointments and picked her up and spent the remaining time tiptoeing around my house so as not to wake her.

Many, many, many times Mother-in-Law Jane would complain (rather loudly) about the level of care she received, to which I replied many, many, many times, "I am NOT a health care professional!"

To which she would reply, "Believe me, I KNOW."

When she finally got to a point that she needed more assistance than I could physically provide, my husband made the very difficult decision to put her in a nearby nursing home. She was only there a week before she took ill and died.

But I knew -- and apparently God knew -- that my caretaker days were not over.

I've been sorta watching out for my Mama for the past 11 years, when she divorced her third husband and bought a house around the corner from me under the chemical flare in the suburbs of New Orleans.

She was only in her early 70s, so she didn't need a whole lot of assistance, but apparently she believed that I, her youngest child, could do anything if I put my mind to it.

So, I'd get a call:

"Lori. There's a tree branch that needs cutting down in my yard. When you get a minute, can you come cut it?"

"Lori. My toilet is not working. When you get a minute, can you come fix it?"

"Lori. I know you failed math several times when you were a kid and I had to get you tutors to get through high school, but, when you get a minute, can you come do my taxes?"

Um. WTF?

"Mom," I'd say. "I am a SPORTS WRITER." Even when I wasn't any more.

Eventually Mama went to work in the French Quarter as a fortune teller, reading drunk tourists' Tarot cards and spending just about every dime she made during the day at Harrah's that night.

But as she got into her 70s, she started slowing down. She's had a heart murmur since she contracted Rheumatic Fever when she was pregnant for me. Every time she had trouble breathing and I had to take her to the ER, the doctors would tell her to get her affairs in order because she was in heart failure. That happened a few times over 11 years.

And she did have a few what we believe to be TIAs, where she would make no sense or talk jibberish. They could have been UTIs, too. Who knows?

Two years ago they even convinced her to let them do an experimental trick on her leaky valve, which worked pretty good. But she never went back to work. Fearful of running out of money, she put her house up for sale one day in May.

She sold it two days later.

After months of cleaning, tossing  and not tossing, selling and giving away her life's treasures, my 84-year-old Mama moved into a cute little one bedroom apartment in a senior living complex in our old home town. She liked to call it "The Home." I told her, "Ma. You have to be 55 to live there. I can move next door to you."

Maybe I should have.

Things weren't right. She was silly on the phone, forgetful. She became a little paranoid, believing the hospital had stolen all her money. She forgot to pay bills or paid them more than once. One night when she needed help, she called me -- but now I was an hour away.

Knowing she had a doctor's appointment in early August, I planned to go with her to discuss these things with her doctor. When I arrived to pick her up, she wasn't even dressed. She was groggy. When we got to the doctor's office, she dozed off. When she awoke, she couldn't move.

A stroke, we thought.

It wasn't. But it was the beginning of a three week odyssey that saw my Mama go from her usual kooky self to Chuckie to the Exorcist to Sleeping Beauty and back again as the doctors tried to control her out-of-control blood pressure. There were hallucinations, paranoia, ugly words said. Things I will never forget.

She remembers none of it.

I posted this in Mama's hospital room so the nurses could see the "real Lettie." They all loved it. 

Whatever this was took a huge hit on her short term memory. While she can tell you clear as a bell what she ate for breakfast on her first day of school, she can't tell you what number is the Weather Channel. Or if she ate or took her pills or the last time she took a bath.

She's Dory.

So, at the end of August, Mama left her fourth hospital and came home with me. For good. We are in the process of packing up her things from her little apartment and moving her full scale into the mother-in-law cave, where Jane spent her final year and a half. Only a few months ago I converted it from our guest room to The Coach's baseball cave.

That same day, my employer and I decided to part ways. I had worked 14 hours the day before.

Mama isn't too happy about all this. She loved her little apartment, for one thing. She was making friends. She was close to the great grandkids. But now, she can't drive any more. She's not ready for a nursing home and assisted living is outrageously expensive. My sister lives in Baton Rouge, but she's still rebuilding her house, which was flooded last August.

So she's stuck with me.

Mama she thinks she is "putting us out." She moaned and groaned about being in the way all day yesterday as I moved the Coach's pictures and plaques from his cave to a wall in my upstairs home office, which I dusted off and reorganized for my freelancing gig (hire me!)

"He's going to be upset," she said.

"Yes," I replied. "He's going to be so pissed off that I moved his bobble heads. What was I thinking?"

For the record, he loves his wall (mainly because it shows he has more stuff than me.) We still have to find a spot for the FOUR sets of golf clubs, though. And we are thinking about building a pub/pool shed in the backyard so he has a place to put his stuff.

To all of our surprise, it has been a rather smooth transition though. My mother and I fight. A lot. And we have been estranged several times. We didn't speak for three months after my wedding because she thought the photographer took too many photos (and, well, I was marrying that man). She says I don't make her feel welcome in my home; She makes me feel like I can do nothing right. Now we are living in the same house for the first time since I was 17.  

Mama and me. 1962. 
Of course, this time, the roles are reversed. 

I'm now the one telling my mother that she needs to take a bath, that she needs to get out of the damn bed, that she needs to learn how to do things for herself and grow up. I'm the one showing her how to turn on the washing machine and the dryer. And I'm the one making doctor appointments and driving her to her appointments.

And I'm the one who gave her a stern talking to this morning after I found out that she had slipped out of the bed (she didn't fall, she kind of slid to the floor -- thank goodness). That's not why I got mad, though.

I got mad because she didn't call for help, didn't bang on the floor, didn't reach for her cell phone to call me (even though I was right upstairs) because she "didn't want to bother" me.

Seriously.

"You're always fussing at me," she said.

I should ground her. Or take away her car.

That'll teach her a lesson. Right?

We all knew this day would come. It was only a matter of time. I've been saying it to Coach; Coach has been saying it to me. We've been saying it to Mama, but she kept saying "never."

But this is what we're supposed to do. She keeps saying, "I don't want to be a burden."

Mama, you're not a burden.

But you can be a pain in the ass.




















Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sixteen



As much a fuss as my mama made over all of my birthdays growing up, I have to say she let me down on my 16th.

I wanted a party. A big, fancy Sweet 16 party with lots of people, friends, balloons and a big ass cake.

I didn't get that.

I did get a cake, and a couple of friends and I went to the big hangout at the time -- Shakey's Pizza Parlor. I had invited a bunch of friends from school, but not many of them came. I ended up offering my cake to other diners and their kids.

When my stepdaughter, Courtney, turned 16, she got the big fancy party. She and some of her girlfriends who were having March birthdays got together for a big party with lots of people, friends, balloons and a big ass cake. They wore long dresses and got to dance with their dads. It was sweet.

Just a few days ago, my little baby girl turned Sweet 16. 

Knowing her the way I do, I gave her the option: Do you want a big party or a trip somewhere fun?

She wanted a trip.

OK. Where to? The beach? New York? Somewhere historic?

Disneyworld. 

And she wanted to spend her day in Epcot.

OK.

So, after consulting with a cousin-in-law who used to be a sports writer but now is a Disney travel specialist (smart guy), we booked ourselves a 3-day trip to Orlando.

Oh, this wasn't our first Disney rodeo. We took her when she was 4, then again when she was 9 and 11. Keep in mind, my stepdaughter worked as a Photopass photographer for a few years, so believe me when I say we've done Disney. I also went with my mom and my niece way before I met any of current family members.

So I've stayed at the Grand Floridian, All Star Movies, All Star Music and the Caribbean  Beach Resort. I wanted my budding little artist to have a turn at the Art of Imagination Resort, but they were booked. We had to settle on Pop Century, right across the lake.

She still was excited. She started packing on Sunday, bringing out pairs of outfits for the Coach and me to choose between. (They all looked the same to me). We also had to go to Bed Bath and Beyond so she could buy travel sized items of all the things she couldn't live without.

And I went to Amazon.com and ordered her a beautiful tiara, complete with a rhinestone 16 in the center. If you're going to go to princess land,  you must dress the part. Right?

On a Wednesday afternoon after school, we set out from New Orleans to Florida, stopping for orange juice at the official welcome center. We even let our newly licensed driver have a (very brief) turn on the highway -- not realizing that particular stretch would turn out to be completely under construction with absolutely no shoulder. It also was my first time as a passenger with her behind the wheel.





Oh she did great.... And I survived.

After about six hours on the road, we stopped for the night at a little hotel in Lake City, Florida, where I learned how difficult it is to share a small hotel sink and counter space with a teenager who spends her days and nights watching makeup tutorials.

"Just give me a spot," I told her.

We survived that too.

On Thursday, January 26, I woke up to having a 16-year-old daughter snoring in her bed next to me. We woke her up with song and hugs and kisses, only for her to complain about how loudly WE snored in our bed next to her.

After a breakfast at the local Waffle House, we drove the remaining few hours to DisneyWorld. Thanks to modern technology, we didn't even have to check into the hotel. We parked the car by the shuttle, hopped on board and, within minutes, we were in Epcot.

She wore her crown and received a birthday button at the front gate. We spent the day strolling from country to country, dashing in just about every store and having people from around the world wishing her "Happy Birthday."

We ate fish and chips in England, had French pastries and champagne in Paris and (her choice) Japanese food in Japan.



And it was, truly, magical. Friday we went to Magic Kingdom and Saturday we spent a small fortune visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We even caught the Pro Bowl parade, which is another story (you can read it here... I wrote a column about it.)

And I cried.

Even as we were making memories, I was surrounded by them....

Her face when she saw the princesses on the castle stage for the first time....

When she saw Mickey and Minnie....

When she was the little girl dressed in her Cinderella costume sound asleep in her daddy's arms after a long day at Magic Kingdom....

When she was getting autographs for her book....

The moment she balked at getting onto the Hogwarts ride a the last minute (Hey! Those warning signs were scary!)

Now she's nearly a grown up. She doesn't believe in the magic much. She believes in Netflix, Lush, Sephora and Etsy. She refused to get on the Small World ride because it's "creepy," and she almost refused to go on Splash Mountain. And we never saw the Magic Kingdom fireworks because she was tired and ready to go.

And in two years -- just two years -- she'll be off to college.

And Coach and I can go to DisneyWorld all by ourselves.








Friday, December 16, 2016

Neglected blog needs action

Look at this poor little blog.

Nobody writes on it anymore.

A few people still read it.

Some are Russian bots, according to my analytics. Some are women who are trying to come to terms with infertility and are just beginning to turn their thoughts to adoption.Some are moms whose daughters have just been diagnosed with scoliosis.

Some are folks thinking about heading down to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras.

Some just googled "big tits."

Yeah. Sad isn't it?

I just haven't had much time to write for "fun." That's because, for the last year, I've had this full time job. And I do mean full time. Today was my ONE day of vacation. For the year. 

One year ago last month, I became the sports editor at this little paper called L'Observateur"  in LaPlace, Louisiana, which is a suburb of New Orleans.

"L'Observateur" is French for "the observer." No one can pronounce it, though. Most people call it "the L'ObservaTOR." Or just "The Lobster." That's easier to say and to spell. If they would make it our email name that would be soooo much easier.

I joined a staff of eight -- an editor, a receptionist, a graphics person, a news reporter who was greener than grass, a circulation person and two ad reps.

A few months in, the news reporter left us. And, suddenly, I became a news staff of one.

Well, that's not completely true. The editor does most of the crime and government stuff. I just do the sports. And the features. And anything else that comes up.

I've covered football, basketball, baseball, golf, track and soccer, grand openings, closings and a sausage eating contest.

I've covered great athletes, old athletes and some that will be someday. I've seen teams win championships and just fall short. I even got to cover a game coached by my own kid.

I learned how to paginate, write headlines and take pictures. Maybe someday I'll learn how to take an action shot. For now, all my athletes have to stand still. Somebody tell that to the basketball players. And could you ask the referees to stay out of my frame. I have more photos of their butts.

I'm lucky that there have been no shortages of stories in my area. In the past year I have written about a former NBA great and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer who now is coaching girls basketball, a volleyball coach who went on a mission and entered a body building bikini contest, a rock and roll band that just missed getting a Grammy nomination, a young lady who earned a college scholarship for riding a horse and this newish fad called vaping.

I've also covered the aftermath of a tornado, a deadly car crash that took the life of a local fire chief and the various fundraisers our community has organized to help them.

I've been to schools, the Veterans Home and inside people's houses.

I've written about special kids and kids with special needs.

I interviewed a 3-year-old. Well, I tried.

And remember my friend who lost her sheriff's deputy husband? I got to write about her and her new husband -- yes, another cop.

I write a lot, about a lot of different subjects. On week I wrote 10 stories for two editions. My phone contact list includes the local Sheriff, the DA about 60 different coaches and a dozen or so players.

At least I'm never bored. But I am pretty tired.

So I'm sorry that I don't have much time to write about The Teen, who is now a sophomore in high school and excelling at school. She is fully recovered from her scoliosis surgery with little effects except she can't bend over. That means she can't pick up her socks, much to the delight of the little dog who likes to drag them into the living room. She tried golf at school, but that didn't go too well. You know how they say "address the ball"? She had to propose to it on one knee.

The Coach is still a coach, just without a team. He's actively looking for another team to coach and has applied for a few positions. It has to be right, though. In his free time, he drives an Uber in New Orleans and he really loves it. Keeps him busy too.

He is still teaching Special Education at the local school. The emotionally disturbed kids. That's why I rarely complain about my job.

And Mama is still Mama, calling every other day for help with her phone or her iPad. She's no longer reading cards in the French Quarter, I'm sad to say. But she had a little procedure on her heart about a year ago, which has kept her going and out of the Hospital on the Hill. (Knock wood)

And I still have this little blog. I wish I had more time. I wish had more stories.

Monday, March 7, 2016

When I'm 54


As much as I love birthdays, sometimes they do make us want to turn back the clock.

I mean, I can put up with the lines and the wrinkles, but I really hate the little dots that start showing up all over the place. The aches in the feet. The pains in the hips. The bad eyes and the finicky digestive system.

And what I wouldn't give for hair that stays one color or for eyebrows that just stay (what the hell is up with that?)

And when you start thinking about themes for a birthday party, it's fun to turn back the clock. My niece had an 80s party for her 16th birthday. My sister-in-law Lou had a 50s party when she turned 60. And last year I gave Lora a 60s/Beatles themed party when she turned 14.

So, what do you do when you turn 54? You have a 70s party of course!

Actually, it was a Studio 54 Party.

I just kind of threw it out there to the Coach on the way to dinner a few weeks ago, as we were mulling over the idea of a backyard barbeque or a fancy dinner out to mark the occasion.

"We could have a Studio 54 party!"I said.

He smiled. Then he smiled wider. He was down with it.

In case you're too young to remember, Studio 54 was a very famous disco in New York City during the 1970s. It was THE hot spot for movie stars, rock stars, groupies and famous nobodies (like the Kardashians). You just had to be one of the "beautiful people" to get past the velvet rope.

Well, that wasn't necessarily the case at our Studio 54. We let everybody in because they were all my beautiful friends and family members, some of whom spent the day at Goodwill searching for an appropriately tacky 1970s outfit to wear.

Lora and I went to our local thrift shop over the weekend. She found a lovely black velvet dress that could have been in fashion in the 70s but was just as cool today. She bought it for $3.

I lucked out and found an all-in-one pantsuit that I think had been there since the 70s. It had a halter top and wide flare legs and gold studs all around the draped neck. It was perfect and it was on the $5 rack. Of course I had to pay extra -- $7 -- because it was all-in-one, the clerk said. Yes, I got ripped off at the Goodwill Store.

I eschewed the platform shoes, however. Having actually worn them in the 70s, the 80s and most of the 90s, I can no longer feel my little toes and have some spurs growing in some joints. I elected to wear big, clunky sandals instead which is good considering I walked about three miles on this day doing party prep. I did search for roller skates. Those might have helped.

My friend Kristal found a nice silky, polyester shirt which she paired with her favorite flare leg Yoga pants and a pair of big, clunky animal print shoes. She could barely walk the next day.

Ouch.


Lisa found herself a sexy dress and some sexy black boots. "I wanted white ones but beggars can't be choosy," she said. "If I had time I would have tried to spray paint them."

My friend Daniell went but got discouraged when she couldn't find anything. I told her just to buy a mullet dress -- you know, one of those dresses that is short in the front, long in the back. Those were a staple of the 1970s. I wore one to my prom in 1978. And in 1979.

Sadly, they made a comeback just a few years ago. Daniell had one in her closet.

I really tried to get The Coach to come as a 1970s Coach with the Bike coach shorts, the white tube socks and a trucker hat. He opted for the lounge lizard pants and sweater vest instead.

A few just showed up in tie-dye.

Of course we all wore blue eye shadow with glitter and kohl eyeliner and lots of mascara and tied things around our heads. I moved my usual part from the side to the middle and gave myself some "wings." Everyone says I should leave it like that. Hmmm.

Then there was my nephew-in-law who pasted on bushy black sideburns and chest hair.

We drank Boone's Farm wine and sang like the Bee Gees and boogied to the beat. But none of us could remember exactly how to do The Hustle.

Hey. We're lucky we could remember the 70s at all.

We actually remember the 70s!
                                      

And my husband bought me a disco ball.


That's French for "Disco Ball."




What more could a 54 year old woman ask for?




Groovy girls!











Saturday, January 30, 2016

Fifteen


I remember my 15th birthday.

My grandmother pulled out her best white tablecloth and the fancy milkglass pedestal punch bowl. My mom got me a fancy cake from Caro's in Houma that was decorated to look like a pair of blue jeans (but was really just a horseshoe). And my cousins Gloria and Laura and Aunt Rosita, my sister Jo Lee and her kids, and a couple of good friends came over to watch me blow out my candles.

And I think the very next day, my mom took me to the Driver's License Office.

Yes, back then the legal driving age was 15, and we didn't even have to go to Driver's Ed class to get it. It was an elective at the high school. Just like HomeEc.

It was 1977.

On Tuesday of this week, the Coach and I were joined by my stepdaughter Courtney, my stepson Daniel and his wife Cori and their two kids, Robi and Laken, at the local Sicily's Italian Buffet in LaPlace, where we watched Lora Leigh blow out two candles -- a "1" and a "5" --  on a Mardi Gras colored cake from the local grocery store.

 I guess by the age of 15, we're just too cool for themed parties with balloons and coordinating paper plates. By 15, it's just about family and friends.


On the Saturday before she turned 15, Lora had a couple of friends over to "celebrate." By celebrate I mean, they sat around my dining room table playing on their phones, took selfies, SnapChatted with each other, ordered an obscene amount of pizza, listened to some crazy-ass music on Spotify and, before the night was over, watched an "Office" marathon on Netflix

Welcome to 2016.

Welcome to my world.

We've moved on from the pink parties, from the princess parties, from the mermaid party, from the Kim Possible party, from the Hannah Montana parties, from the Harry Potter party, from the Doctor Who party, from the Beatles party.

I didn't know what to do with myself. I had no dishes to cook, no dips to make. No themed goody bags to put together. At least she agreed to use the left over tye dyed plates and napkins from last year.

Yes, I now have a full-fledged teenager. I think. It's hard to remember when she hardly ever comes out of her room. When she does, it's for pizza rolls, Dr. Pepper or chicken pot pies. Or to take a shower. Or another one. Or to ask if her friend Devin can come over. Or if she can dye her hair blue.

I swear, sometimes she comes stalking into the living room and I jump in surprise because I'm almost forgotten that she lives here. She doesn't think that's funny.

I don't either, really.

The Coach and I have now reversed our roles a bit. Where I used to be the one who got her up, got her dressed, got her on the bus and talked to her about endless things, now he's the one. She is a freshman and he is a teacher at her high school. Now, he gets her up, makes sure she's dressed appropriately and has her school ID. There's no more bus, though. They ride together.

Now, he knows her routine, her dramas, her friends, her frenemies.

There's not much to know, really. She's an outstanding Honor Roll student. She sings in the choir. She's in the art class. She's on the girls golf team (because her dad is coaching it). She has nice friends both male and female. She doesn't bully. Doesn't get bullied. In fact, she's the one who will tell the bully to knock it off. All her teachers rave about her.

And she has a straight spine that only occasionally bothers her, like when she stands for a long time or when she just wants to get out of doing something.

Maybe I should be waiting for a shoe to drop.

Well, there is Driver's Ed in the very near future.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

30 to 360






On the day that the Men in Ties removed me from my post as sports writer and moved me to Bitter and Bored Clerk/Receptionist/Crime Reporter at The Times-Picayune, I posted the news on Facebook with a simple: "I am no longer a sports writer."

Word spread quickly.

Soon, dozens upon dozens of my friends, family and peers were there to express their shock and anger, then to offer their love and support. And more than a few told me, "You will always be a sports writer."

I guess they were right.

After the TP unceremoniously dumped me and 199 or so other souls in 2012, I set myself up to be a freelancer -- as in, freelance sports writer. And over the past three years, I have had pretty steady work covering games and writing features for anyone who would ask me, namely The New Orleans Advocate, The St. Charles Herald-Guide, Riverparishfootball.com, Sportsnola.com even The Shreveport Times. I even wrote about black market trees for Louisiana Forestry Magazine. It kept me in the game (so to speak) as I sent out resume after resume and my 401K dwindled to nothing.

Even when the library called, telling me they had checked me out and would I like to come work for them, I kept my night job. After 8-hour shifts at the library, I would make my way to football games on Fridays and, somehow, managed to stay awake and alert enough to write up a story and drive home.

Then I got an email from a guy at a newspaper. He was looking for a new sports editor. Did I want to talk?

What do you think?

And after the conversation was over it came down to this: "I just can't make any less money than I do now working three jobs."

He said, "OK."

So two weeks ago, with half a tear in one eye, I informed the lovely ladies and one gentleman at the library that I was checking out. When I told them why, not one batted an eye. Even in the short time I was there, they knew that, in my heart, I was a sports writer. Always have been. Always will be.

Actually, now I am a SPORTS EDITOR (cool, huh?) On Monday morning I will join the staff of the L'Observateur newspaper in LaPlace as its Sports Editor. I'm back covering sports. Full time. In the same place I spent 21 years covering high school sports -- but only half the teams this time.

And just as it was 15 years ago, the response has been overwhelming. But positive this time. People are happy for me and happy to see me again. And I them.

It has been a long, arduous journey from there to here. From prep writer to perp writer to freelance writer to caretaker for cantankerous old lady to wedding invitation writer to slow public relations writer to library lady.

The last three years have been utter hell -- as these blog posts can attest. The doors and windows everyone said would open, didn't. There wasn't much call for a 53-year-old woman who could write real well and parallel park like a champ but had no retail experience. The World War II Museum, East Jefferson Hospital, Nicholls State University, Nunez College, Loyola University, Barnes and Noble -- all said. no. Or nothing at all. (Loyola did give me a very nice part time temporary freelance job which helped me keep my cars.)

There were times I wanted to just quit, give up and run away. There were times I felt so low I didn't think I'd ever be able to climb up again. Fortunately, I have a husband who kept scraping me up and lifting me up in his belief that, it could only get better. It certainly couldn't get any worse.

So I begin this new adventure with high hopes and the love and support of my friends, family and peers.

And I couldn't be more grateful.


Read the announcement here at the L'Observateur






Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mothering Mama

It's not like I was kidding myself.

I knew my days as a caretaker were not over after my mother-in-law, Hurricane Jane, passed away in February of last year.  And after we all survived my daughter's harrowing spinal fusion surgery. And after The Coach got his knee replaced.

I knew I wasn't done.

I knew I still had Mama.

But Mama is no Jane. While Jane had a long list of medical problems  -- and an even longer list of medications -- when she came to live with us for the last time in 2012, Mama is an 82-year-old spitfire of a woman. Yes, she has high blood pressure. And a bout with Rheumatic Fever while she was pregnant for me in 1961-62 left her with a leaky heart valve. But while Jane rattled when she walked after taking some 20-plus pills every day and night, Mama takes one or two and goes on her merry way to the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Several years ago, my Mama found herself a full time job working as a Tarot card reader at The Bottom of the Cup Tea Room in the French Quarter. (She isn't one of those wacky folks who sets up a table on the sidewalk.) And she has done wonderfully in her fourth or fifth career. She has built a steady following with her talents, and even earned a few TV spots with her eccentricities.



She always wears black. Nothing but black. And lots and lots of jewelry.

She also has made a bunch of new friends -- the lady who makes pralines at Laura's Candies, the lady who sells shoes at Feet First and the guys who park her car at Harrah's Casino. They love her. They park her car right out front.

Those who know her are in no way surprised by any of this. Mama has always been able to reinvent herself. She has been a lifeguard, a bookkeeper, an office supervisor, a barmaid, a restaurant hostess, a bar manager, a hotel manager, an artist and an art teacher.  Now she is a New Orleans character.

But over the past few years Mama has started to slow down. That leaky heart valve and the too many packs of cigarettes over the years are starting to take their toll. She's had a few bouts of pneumonia and anemia. With much drama and flair, we make the trip to the little Hospital on the Hill in Kenner (whoever decided to build a hospital on a hill needs to be seriously drugged). With much drama and flair she tries to explain to the doctors and nurses what's bothering her. With much drama and flair -- and a great deal of pride -- she tells them, no, she is not home bound she still drives and works. In the French Quarter. Every day.

Her resilience is extraordinary. It was just a few months ago that her shortness of breath necessitated a trip to the hospital by ambulance. When I arrived a few minutes later, I was informed by a very nice doctor that my mother had stopped breathing on the ride, but that they managed to get her back. I was gently urged to gather the family, those who wanted to see her one more time. One by one, my sister, my nieces and nephews arrived in the middle of the night to see their "Nana" in the emergency room.

The next day she was moved into a regular room.

The day after that, she went home.

A few days after that, she went back to work.

But for the last week Mama has been felled by some mysterious illness. No fever, no aches, no pains, no shortness of breath. She just doesn't feel good.

So she has spent the past week in my spare bedroom, being pampered and primped and waited on hand and foot -- by my husband -- and fighting night and day with me while I try to get her to eat, drink and get out of the bed. I suck at it, though. I'm "mean," she says. He is sweet, she says. I think she's faking, she says. He takes good care of her, she says. And he really does.

It's funny. When Jane was alive, she and Marty fought like crazy. They could hardly stand to be in the same room with each other without screaming and yelling. Neither had the patience for the other.
Now, it's the same with my mother. Rather than get yelled at for doing it wrong, I just let go and let him. It works.

My best Halloween costume ever. Me as Mama. Scary.


I have no idea if this new bout of illness is Mama's last. We don't know what she has or how sick she is. Perhaps she has driven her last drive. Perhaps she has turned her last card.

Probably not.

I know she hasn't fought her last fight.

After a week in our spare bedroom -- Jane's old room -- Mama and I had enough of each other and Marty had enough of us.

So now she is in Baton Rouge, fighting with my sister. But I'm sure she'll be back.