I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression (13 page)

BOOK: I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression
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During the next few weeks, I worked like a demon to shake the new-racket stigma … playing with anyone I could trap.

The other day I ambled onto the courts and there was this tired-looking housewife in pedal pushers and a Howard Hughes sweatshirt.

“Have you ever played tennis before?” I asked.

She shook her head. “How can you tell?”

“You don’t wear the sweat band around your ankle, dear. I gotta go. I hear the timer on my stove going off.…”

Actually, my physical shape isn’t the only thing that bothers me about my twilight years.

A scientist in California has figured out that every day after thirty-five, the adult loses 100,000 brain cells which affect thinking and memory.

My kids would argue that the loss is considerably higher than this. Since age thirty-five, I haven’t had an original thought, done anything significant and while others were making giant steps for mankind, I was making giant steps with the garbage.

To prove to you this is not an idle observation, I took the trouble to keep a diary for an entire week, during which time I scientifically dropped 700,000 brain cells.

Monday: Twelve-year-old working on an English assignment asked me who the Earl of Sandwich was. When I suggested he was the one who always carried his lunch to the castle, twelve-year-old shook his head and said, “I’ll call up one of the guys.”

Tuesday: Reached a high level of incompetence by absentmindedly pouring powdered milk in dishwasher dispenser. Daughter suggested a companion to sit with me all day until Daddy could relieve her in the evening.

Wednesday: Heard a suspicious rattle in the car.
Drove it into the service station where they discovered an aerosol can of de-icer rolling around near my spare tire. I am permitted to drive now only if accompanied by a teen-ager.

Thursday: Was called upon to determine the sex of our hamster, which I did without hesitation, claiming no mating was possible. Male hamster is now in maternity tops.

Friday: Missed taking my discarded chicken innards from the freezer and putting them in garbage, thus bringing the total of chicken innards in my freezer to 320 pounds.

Saturday: Mental deterioration noted as someone mentioned having a paternity suit and I said I hoped they didn’t catch on because I don’t have the legs to wear them.

Sunday: Family found me laughing hysterically over Tom Jones singing, “I Who Have Nothing.” Family saw no humor in it and concluded I should be sent to a church camp.

The scientist from California is on to something. He has already figured out the brain drain is caused by aging, impaired circulation, and other causes. He has not figured out why thirty-five is the magic year for deterioration.

Even in the prime of my senility, I figured that one out.

At thirty-five most parents launch their first teen-ager. After that, professor, it’s Bananasville all the way.

As far as my memory is concerned, as I was telling my husband, what’s-his-name, “I’ve got to do something about my memory.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why what?”

“Why do you have to do something about your memory?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just little things have been getting
by me lately. Like letting your insurance policy lapse … and forgetting Christmas the way I did and the humiliating thing that happened to me at the airport last week.”

“What humiliating thing?” he asked, putting down his paper.

“Well, I was saying good-by to your sister when I saw this man smiling at me and he looked so familiar and I was sure I knew him, but I just couldn’t put a name to him. So, just to be safe I ran over and grabbed his hand, pumped it and said, ‘Gosh, it’s good to have you home again. We’ve all missed you. As soon as you’re settled, call and we’ll get together for dinner.’ ”

“What’s the matter with that?”

“In the car coming home I remembered who he is. It is Mr. Whitlock, the man who cleans our septic tank every year.”

“It could happen to anyone,” he said sympathetically.

“I suppose so. But ever since I took a memory quiz that appeared in the newspaper last week I’ve been real concerned.”

“What quiz?”

“It’s good to know someone else has a rotten memory. Don’t you remember? It’s the article I clipped out just before you got the paper. Here it is:

“1. When you cannot remember where you parked your car in town do you (a) have total recall of your make of car, serial number, and license plates, or (b) take a bus home and pretend it doesn’t matter?

“2. At class reunions, do you (a) use the Association Method to remember names (i.e., he is hairy and paunchy; ergo, his name is Harry Paunchy), or (b) do you squint at name tags upside down and say, ‘Nayr Mot, long time, no see’?

“3. Do you (a) have specific places for your sewing basket, office equipment, cleaning supplies, and cooking
utensils, or (b) are you content to put in hems with Band-Aids and take down phone messages using a cuticle stick on wax paper?

“4. Do you (a) keep tabs on your grocery shopping cart by remembering its contents, or (b) do you have to ‘mark it’ by forcing your twelve-year-old to sit in the basket in a fetal position?

“5. Do you (a) always remember the ages, sex, names, and grades of your children, or (b) do you have to stop and count backward or forward the year the cat came to live with you?

“6. Do you (a) always repeat the name of the person you are introduced to, or (b) repeatedly look perplexed and say ‘Abigail
Who?’

“7. Do you (a) always make a note in your checkbook of the amount of the check and to whom it was made out at the time you are writing the check, or (b) do you tell yourself that you’ll do it later when you’re not in such a hurry?

“You know what I think the trouble is?” I asked, folding the paper. “I share my house with four disorganized people. It isn’t easy trying to keep everything in a place with everyone going in separate directions. For example, the other day I opened the tea canister and some clown had put tea in it.”

“That’s wrong?” asked my husband.

“That’s wrong!” I shouted. “So where’s my rice now? And speaking of boots, do you know how long it took me to find the kids’ boots the other morning?”

“I can’t imagine.”

“Three hours. And just because some ding dong took them out of the soft drink cooler in the garage and didn’t put them back. I suppose I could be like Doris you-know-who.”

“You mean my sister?”

“Yes. She’s so organized she makes me sick. I was in
her house the other day and she had a pad and pencil right next to the phone. Can you imagine that? And when she wants a needle she doesn’t have to have kids run through the carpets in their bare feet. She keeps them in a package with her thread. (The needles, not the kids.) And here’s the zinger. She keeps her car keys on a little hook in the utility room so she always knows where they are. Oh well, what can you expect from a woman who numbers her checks consecutively?”

“Don’t you keep your car keys in the same spot?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? If it weren’t for looking for my car keys I’d never know where anything is. Take the other day. I was looking for the keys in the trunk of the car where I always leave them and found my new sweeper bags.

“When I went to put the sweeper bags on the broom-closet shelf, I found my rain hat which I haven’t seen in two years. And when I went to put the hat in the coat closet I discovered my checkbook, which had been missing.

“While returning the checkbook to the stove drawer where it belongs, guess what? There were the scissors I had been searching for during the last week. I returned the scissors to the bookcase where I hide them from the kids, and found my dental appointment, which I had been using for a bookmark. I always keep my dental appointment in my jewelry box, so when I dropped it in there, lo and behold, there was the freezer key.”

“And where are the car keys?” asked my husband.

“Well, if you can’t find yours either,” I sighed, “maybe I’m not as bad off as I thought.”

Minutes later the phone rang. As I replaced the receiver I said, “Hey, guess who’s coming to dinner Saturday? Wilma and Leroy Whitlock. You wanta give me a hint? Who are
they?

Who Packed the Garbage?

We had a couple of good years in our house, then it happened. The rooms shrank, the cupboards disappeared, and the schools and the shopping centers moved. The lawn spread, the closets diminished, and no one could find the garage that the buyer swore went with the house. “Maybe we could start looking for a larger house,” I suggested.

“Indeed not,” said my husband. “I am sick and tired of moving every time the ashtrays fill up. We stay!”

He would need a little convincing.

“Why am I sleeping with the storm windows?” he asked one morning.

“You devil, you noticed,” I said.

“I noticed. Why am I sleeping with the storm windows?”

“It’s a mistake,” I said. “The boys are supposed to sleep with the storm windows. You’re supposed to sleep with the bicycles. There’s no storage space in this house.”

“You’re as subtle as bad breath,” he said. “We stay.”

“I love these advanced schools out here,” I continued. “Did I tell you the primary grades are putting on
The Last Picture Show
for a Christmas pageant?”

“We stay,” he persisted.

“I hope you’re not in your safe office worrying around about us all day in a house with a front door that won’t lock, a clogged-up flue, an overloaded kitchen circuit, and Smokey the Bear posting signs all over the attic.

“The front spigot is broken, the lawn is ridden with crab grass, two dining room windows are stuffed with paper towels, the front door snaps behind you like a trap, the bathroom tile is rusting, and I took the Sears catalogue out of the bathroom. When the wind whistles down the vent.…”

“Maybe we’d better start looking around.…”

“I’ve already written the ad,” I smiled. “ ‘Charming three-bedroom home in the suburbs you have to see to believe. Spacious rooms, storage, fireplace, two baths, many extras. Convenient to progressive schools and shopping center. Will sacrifice to family who promises to love it.’ What are you doing?”

“I’m making a list of the things that have to be done. I had no idea the house was that bad. Where’s your pride, woman? Do you want people to think we live this way?”

Later that night we read the ad. “I’ll miss your homemade screens. Remember the night we almost named a mosquito in our divorce suit?”

“That was nothing compared to the day we hung wallpaper in the hallway. And your daffodil bulbs. Remember? You planted them upside down and they haven’t surfaced yet.”

“I love this kitchen. The trees are just beginning to look finished. We brought three babies to this happy house.”

“I hope no one buys it,” he said.

“Me too,” I sobbed.

Our sentiment gave way to practicality a few days later. As you know there are two methods of selling one’s house. You can try to sell it yourself or contract an agent to do it for you.

Real estate agents tell you if you attempt to do it yourself you will be badgered by phone calls, hounded by curiosity seekers, and driven crazy by Sunday lookers. They are right.

The first day our ad appeared we were badgered by eight agents on the phone, hounded by five agents who were curiosity seekers, and driven crazy by real estate agents who were Sunday lookers.

We were also discouraged by our homemade tours. Lord knows we tried. I would gather a couple of live ones in the hallway (my husband threatened to start biting his nails again if I involved him in my little off-Broadway production) and give them a brief history of the house.

I cautioned them about staying with the guide and reminded them that the closets would be opened only upon a written request submitted twenty-four hours in advance of the tour.

Some groups were quite ugly. When I gestured toward the lavatory and announced, “This is the bathroom,” one fat man with a cigar snarled, “You’re kidding! I thought it was a mess kitchen with a crazy soup pot!”

Some women, I discovered, made a profession of touring houses for sale. It was something to do on grocery day, like trying on hats in the dime store or looking at trusses in the medical-supply house.

We finally put the house in the hands of our friendly real estate agents. From that moment the family was on red alert.

When the agent called to say she was bringing a prospective customer through, one child would empty
ashtrays, gather all the dishes off the table, and dump them in the oven. (Later we found people look in ovens, so we stored them in the back seat of the car.) One would smooth the empty beds, put out fresh towels, and empty waste cans.

Another would cover the bird, tie up the dog, and douse the hamster cage with a strong deodorant. I would pull down the garage door, unscrew the bulb in the utility room, prop a few crummy plastic flowers in the bathroom, and as my last act on the way out … flush.

Satisfied that the house looked as if it had never been lived in, we scurried to the neighbor’s spirea bushes where we stayed until the entourage left.

This went on for weeks. The strain was beginning to
show on all of us. Then one night it happened. We showed the house with the kids in it … sitting on the sofa … with all the lights on. This was the night the house sold.

BOOK: I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression
8.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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