Friday, Jun. 30, 2006
Dear Diary:

A week ago Monday the spousal unit's mom, who is in her early 80's, had surgery for bowel cancer. She had a quadruple heart by-pass in her 60's and we were all more than a little worried that she might not make it through this.

Silly us.

The consensus in the family is that if there is a higher being, said higher being is not ready to deal with Norma. There's an on-going family joke that my mom-in-law, who has an elephantine memory for every ill ever committed against her, has been compiling a massive list of said misdeeds. The joke runs that when she leaves this mortal coil she fully intends to appraise any higher beings of each and every act of malfeasance, To Demand Justice.

If you were a higher being facing the prospect of Norma bending your ear for days � and days � and days with the details of 80 plus years of grievances, how would you react?

My guess is that she has a good crack at eternal life.

Within days of the surgery this tiny, sub 5' woman was busily ordering all of us around on various tasks that had to be performed at her home in her absentia. Wednesday night she decided that she was not going to a convalescent home post-hospital, but would instead go home.

They discharged her yesterday. So with 12 hours' warning, we had quite a bit of scurrying to do around here.

My list for yesterday morning: pay all her bills�a whack of them arrived in the mail last night; do a grocery shop for the low fibre foods she has to eat for the next month; buy her a Lazy Boy type chair because the hospital recommended one for her recovery; buy a new mattress for her bed because she has decided her current mattress is too hard; get a battery for the riding lawn mower so the grass at the home farm can be hayed mown.

None of it particularly fazed me except for one task. I have never bought new furniture. My own furniture has always been used, purchased from moving sales or Craig's List or some other such deal. It was with great trepidation that I walked into a real, gen-u-wine furniture store in search of a recliner.

I informed the saleswoman that I needed to buy a recliner for my mom-in-law who was recovering from surgery. The elegantly coifed, expensively manicured woman briskly trotted me over to the wall o' recliners. When I started to surreptitiously scan the price tags and saw that those puppies start around $600 I almost fainted. My mom-in-law had informed me I could go up to $1,000 but I had pooh poohed her cost estimate as being wildly out of the ballpark.

The saleswoman could feel my will wilting and with it her commission vanishing. Consummate sales pro that she was, she immediately began extolling the wonders of each and every chair, intimating that if I walked out without a chair I was virtually condemning my mother-in-law to an agonizing recovery, if not death itself.

Oh, but she was good.

Despite heavy air conditioning in the store, I started to sweat. This is serious coin for me, even if I wasn't spending my own money.

So I began to sit in every recliner they had. The ones that rocked, I made rock. The ones that swivelled, I made swivel. I checked the ease of reclining multiple times. The saleswoman pasted a frozen smile on her face, as if she had never seen anything more fascinating that a 55-year-old woman playing musical recliners.

After at least 20 minutes of this, I had it winnowed down to two. One was a wonderfully overstuffed chair. When I eased into it, it was the chair equivalent of a hug. I did not want to leave this chair. Ever. The other was a tiny bit smaller recliner in leather. A lovely piece of furniture, quite comfortable, but not an upholstered hug.

I could not make up my mind. My big concern was that something that was exquisitely comfortable for 5'9" plus me might not be so good for my sub 5' mom-in-law. Then I realized that the saleswoman was just a tad taller than my mom-in-law.

"Could you please sit in these chairs for me?" I asked her. From the look on her face I'm guessing that moment will be forever archived in her Top Ten List of Bizarre Furniture Happenings. But, like I said, the woman was a pro.

Into the leather wonder she climbed. She proclaimed it supremely comfortable, pointed out that $150 had recently been taken off the price, that this chair was a real, certified, bona fide bargain. I nodded and then pointed to Huggy Chair. She climbed into Huggy Chair. When she settled back, I saw the same look flash across her face that I had felt earlier. She relaxed into the chair, surrendered to the chair.


It is supposed to arrive today at my mom-in-law's. If it is not absolutely wonderful, if it is not the Florence Nightingale of reclining chairs, it will be returned and I will have to start my quest all over.

Thus, all "Norma, this is the most wonderful recliner in the world vibes" any of my three loyal readers care to send up to the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada will be mightily appreciated.

We are all feeling overwhelmed by this turn of events, by the unexpected return of my mom-in-law to the home farm. We had expected that she would be spending a month post-surgery in a convalescent home so that when she came back to the home farm she'd be fairly strong. Instead, my mom-in-law is quite weak and can only hobble around with a walker. She's going to take a lot of care and we're all going to have to tailor our lives around her for the next month or so, and for two months after that she'll need a lot of help.

Fortunately, the spousal unit's oldest brother will spend most nights at the home farm with her, leaving days for the rest of us to cover. It will be a scramble, but in addition to family, my mom-in-law has a network of friends who will drop by and keep her company. Her best friend was Johnny on the spot yesterday afternoon.

The spousal unit and I didn't get back to our own home until nearly 8 p.m. last night. As I took a last look at my mom-in-law on the sofa, Queen of all she surveyed, I had to grin. This tiny little woman who can talk the leg off a table, who orders us all around and still tells her kids (who are in their 50's and 60's) how to live their lives is a true force of nature.

As crazy as she can make me at times, my mom-in-law is the emotional engine of this family. As dispersed as my daughter's generation of the clan has become, because we have Norma we all congregate at the home farm for the big holidays. When she goes, we will splinter and probably not see nearly as much of each other, and that would be a shame.

Wait. Did I say "when she goes"? HA. As if that's ever going to happen. Like I said, with that huge scroll of endless grievances she fully expects rectified when she crosses to the far shore, I am convinced that this woman has a crack at eternal life.

Yep, she'll bury us all.


Mileage on the Marnometer: 406.43 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duck
Oh, man, but I am having a hard time building back stamina. Ouch.

Goal for 2006: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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