First, I want to thank all of you who read and shared my previous blog post about New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward. As of this writing, I have had an impressive 250 hits.(http://nooksandvales.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-orleans-lower-9th-ward-today.html )
This week my father was in the hospital. His simple outpatient, half-day, procedure turned into a five-day event. While the original surgery went smoothly, his heart rate was all over the map. At 87 years old, he landed in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit.
My mother thought she would be at my house just from Thursday evening until Friday afternoon, but her stay extended through Tuesday. I ran between my house, the hospital, and a daunting schedule of orchestra rehearsals and a concert. Both of my parents often expressed their gratitude for my help, but these are my parents--this is what family is all about.
My mother's stress level mounted, especially when we arrived at the hospital on Saturday to find that my father had been put on oxygen and that his mood was running the gamut. At first, he had joked with the staff, then he became angry. We were all exhausted.
In the end, all he needed was a simple ablation procedure (beyond the earlier minor surgery), and by Tuesday, he was ready to go home. He looked like his usual ruddy self in his plaid flannel shirt, corduroys, and Irish cap when I drove them back to their Saratoga home.
Independently, we had just received a letter stating that exemptions on my parents' home had not been filed, and absolutely had to be taken care of this day or my parents would have to pay an additional $500 in school taxes. I hoped to resolve the problem in the brief time between leaving my parents at their house, and getting back to Albany in time for my French class (some readers may remember my January post about taking French http://nooksandvales.blogspot.com/2011/01/le-francais-madame.html).
Pressure mounted while, on the sneak as my father ate his lunch in the kitchen, my mother and I scoured the kitchen, office, and basement, for the papers I would need. It would not do to have my father worked up about money in his first hour at home. I took a variety of forms, none of which looked official, to the Saratoga Springs City Hall Assessor's office. All I have to say is, if you live in Saratoga and you ever have a property tax issue, you could not find a nicer assessor than the woman who helped me. Within twenty minutes, the problem was solved.
I was excited about my success, but I had only fifty minutes to get from downtown Saratoga to the College of St. Rose in Albany, and to find a parking place. I love my French class. It is fun and different from anything else that I do. Getting there today became my whole focus. Checking the clock as I drove, I figured I would be late. I rationalized, "A few of the students arrive late for every class. It won't kill me if I'm not exactly on time."
I had ten minutes left when I pulled onto North Main Ave., and there was a spot just waiting for me. I parallel parked and walked the couple of blocks to the class building, getting to my seat with a few minutes to spare.
My French professor has created a participatory experience, giving the students many opportunities to speak in French. Our class is relaxed and the professor appears to love his job. He went through the homework assignment asking each student to read a sentence and pick the appropriate picture on the paper that fit the sentence. He asked me to read one that said, in French, " This is my grandmother. She is a widow..."
After I read the sentence, the professor said, "This is actually quite sad. What is sad in this picture?" I looked at the picture of the old lady, standing a bit bent, leaning on her cane. She did not look sad to me. After all, I had spent the last five days visiting the Cardiac CCU at Albany Med. She sure looked a lot happier than any of the folks there.
But, good heavens, what was she wearing? If there is anything worse than an old woman wearing capri pants, it is her wearing capris with a loud floral print. While some of you know that my sense of fashion does not stray far beyond L.L.Bean, if you see me someday wearing pants like these, please pull me aside and find me something else!
When the professor asked what was sad about this picture, it took me only seconds to respond in a clear straight-forward voice, "her pants." He looked up. Apparently, this was not the answer he had expected, so I qualified my statement, saying, "her pants are saaad!" At this the entire class, including the professor, began to laugh.
I realized how absurd my answer had been, and could barely stop laughing as he brought the class back to order, and began to describe the fact that the woman was a widow and had to use a cane, ending by saying, "and she's having a bad pants day." I was in stitches again. I had what my mother would call "a jag on," and it crossed my mind how close laughing is to crying. I pulled myself together, and remained quiet for the duration of the class period.
To add to an already crazy day, I had to be in Schenectady for an evening orchestra rehearsal, and only saw Bill in passing until nearly 10 p.m. At last, I proceeded to tell him my sad pants story. I could hardly get it out, choking with laughter as I stood in the livingroom while he sat in a chair with the laptop computer. Finally, I ended the story by reiterating the professor's words that the old lady, otherwise sad from being a widow with physical problems, was also having a bad pants day.
My story finished, Bill suddenly played a woman's voice coming from the computer, rattling off a sentence in perfect French. With his customary black humor, Bill explained that the voice was saying, "the old lady is happy that her husband kicked the bucket, but her pants are sad." He played it a couple of times over with the impeccable school-teacher voice making my original statement even more hilarious. The next evening, while he dried the dishes, Bill stated, sotto voce, "her pants are sad." It would take a while for me to live this one down.
I wondered what my fellow students thought of me. I could do worse than be viewed as a middle-aged nut case. Now a few days later, I am going to go with Charles Dickens, who once said that it was better for people to "wrinkle up their eyes in grins" at someone else's expense than to have "less attractive forms." Besides which, I have been back to French class, and so far have managed to behave myself.