One Day They Won’t Need Me

rage-1015611_1280“Thank God it’s you.”

This was my mom, sounding somewhat panicky. Apparently she’d received a letter from some administration or other, and it had her in a bit of an uproar. “I don’t know what it means!” she said, and I could hear the shaky anxiety in her voice. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I need you to look at it. I need you to figure it out.”

My dad, for his part, would probably tell you he doesn’t need me at all – that is, if he knew who “Melissa Janisin” was, when you asked. Or if he understood the meaning of the word “need.” My dad is 80 and living in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. He does not understand that he needs to eat; he certainly doesn’t know that the nursing home has me listed as his sole Power of Attorney and therefore point of contact. He doesn’t realize that he needs regular visitors, not only to keep him from feeling totally abandoned but also to let the staff know he should never be left lounging around in wet Depends. Not that I think they would, but, you know. Better safe than sorry.

As I write this, my youngest child asks me to unlock the tricky back door; you have to kind of push on it and pull it at the same time. He’s seven and hasn’t quite mastered the technique. “Mommy!” he says. “I need you!”

This shouldn’t be a big deal. It actually isn’t a big deal. I can unlock a back door in like four seconds flat.

I go to unlock the door and my phone starts ringing. I ignore it rather than backtracking because, I just can’t.

“Mommy, can you come here?” calls the 8-year-old.

Deep breath. Several. Maybe try a little deeper? Inhale. Hold. Face turning blue.

This photo came up when I searched for "frustration" in an image website. I don't know. You tell me.
This photo came up when I searched for “frustration” in an image website. I don’t know. You tell me.


“Thank God it’s you.”

“You’re dad’s eating crayons.”

“We need you.”

“They need you.”

“I need you.”


Let me be clear: everyone has problems, and I know that being needed isn’t among the worst of them. If I’m looking at it from the outside – which I can’t, but I try – I realize it’s actually a good problem to have. I have parents, I have kids; they all need me. Too bad. Really, I should shut up and quit writing right now.

It’s just, a person can only take so many deep breaths.

Sometimes I’ll be in my bedroom folding laundry or in my office writing something and I’ll hear my husband say to our kids: “Where’s Mommy?” And I immediately tense up. Teeth clenched and everything. Quite irrationally and somewhat unfairly I think, Really?? What does he need? What can anyone else possibly need???

The other day he said to me, “This needs cleaned. Bad.” He was referring to our silverware drawer. An innocent enough comment and one that was undoubtedly true.

I very nearly lost my mind.

My husband may or may not have noticed that I didn’t reply to his remark. This took some effort, but I managed to keep my mouth shut. Had I opened it I’d have said, “So clean the fucking thing! Why are you telling me about it? Do I go around making announcements about what needs to be done, or do I just do it? Just do it! Clean it! Clean the fucking drawer and shut the fuck up!”

Most likely not the response he was expecting. Also, probably not the communication style I’d like my kids to one day mimic.

Deep breath. Several deep breaths. My lungs have never had this much air.

This one came up when I searched for "rage." WHAT EVEN IS THIS?
This one came up when I searched for “rage.” WHAT EVEN IS THIS?

I’m lucky. I am, and I know it. My life is good. I love my family. I have many funny friends. My cousin visits my mom once a week to help and yesterday, my aunt clipped my dad’s fingernails because I never do it. People help. The world is good. My life is good.

“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy!”

“What? What? WHAAAAAAAAT?            

Stop it. Take another deep breath. Walk away if you have to. It’s cooler outside now and the windows are open and the neighbors can hear you, maniac.

Not that my reactions are always out of proportion to the question. They’re really not. Some days, my patience exceeds even my own expectations. Unfortunately, it seems the top blows off more and more quickly, these days. I tell myself a lot of things: This is just life. Everyone has problems. Calm down, you’re not unique, why are you so selfish?

I tell myself, one day, none of them will need you anymore.

Which, not really surprisingly, is the best and absolute worst news of all.

On the Bright Side, I Now Wear Support Hose

grandma-145012_1280I am 45 years old.  Which might sound quite elderly to my teenaged readers (just kidding, I sincerely doubt I have any teenaged readers), but I am here to tell you that in reality, 45 is quite youthful.  Especially if you plan to live to 150 like I do.  The age of 45 is when you realize you probably don’t have enough savings but then you think, eh, I’ve got time.  45 is when plastic surgery might start to look appealing, and yet, you’re not quite panicking.  You’re closer to 50 than you are to 40, but still, middle age seems ages away.  45 is the new 26!  This is what you tell yourself.

And then you get your support hose.

In the spirit of absolute accuracy, I should tell you that what I have is not technically what you might consider “hose.”  This is not a control top/sandal toe situation; in fact, it is for one leg only.  Singular hose.  Ho?  That can’t be right.  Sort of like that one-legged thing Sheila E. used to wear, except totally not.  Maybe it’s more like a single-leg Spanx.  Or sausage casing.

“We can get you the open-toed variety,” they told me, which was excellent because nothing says summer like a thigh-high leg warmer with your toes sticking out.  Also, I had a choice of colors.  I would have liked a vibrant Alice-in-Wonderland-type pattern, maybe wacky stripes or miniature teacups or something.  No can do, said the remarkably unimaginative medical supply community, and so I chose black.  It was either that or one of several shades of “nude,” and if you’ve ever been to a nursing home, you know the shades of nude that I mean.  More like shades of doom and despair.  Shades of, “I have totally given up and this is what I wear on my leg now.”

    Nope, this is not what it looks like.

It turns out black isn’t much better.  Say you have on black yoga pants of the capri-length variety.  From a distance now you look like you have inexplicably rolled your pants to the knee on one side only.  Or like you are wearing one-legged open-toed pantyhose for no reason other than that you are insane.  Still, I can accept this.  You gotta do what you gotta do, and so forth.  What I cannot accept is how totally primitive the whole situation is.

I mean, really.  It is the year 2016.  We have a pill that can give a man an erection lasting up to four hours, pills to make you happy or skinny or sleepy, pills to make you more masculine or more feminine.  We have all that, but there is NO PILL TO SHRINK A LEG.  Instead, my doctor suggests the best course of action would be to squash it to death.  Next perhaps he will throw me in a vat of leeches.

I’m not bitter it, though; I’m really not.  I try not to be bitter in any area of my life.  Instead, I’m looking at it as a blessing.  You might be thinking, “Wow, how does she do it,” or “I could never be as strong as her,” but I’m telling you it’s no big deal.  I have simply come up with some mantras which I repeat in my head on a regular basis.  I will share them with you in case you ever have a need for them.

  • I could have easily had both my legs crushed in a tragic tractor accident, but luckily I only have to wear these support hose.  This support ho.  I don’t know.
  • It might be 95 degrees out and I am dressed in layers, one of them being black and very tight, but on the bright side I have access to clean running water and as many to-do list apps as I can possibly download.
  • I am going to totally love this thing in the winter!
  • Some percentage of the Earth’s population is currently in full body casts.  I am not one of them.
  • If I ever happen to wear black tights, and I find that the one pair I own is missing a leg – well what do you know, problem solved!

So when you really think about it, I’m pretty lucky.

The luckiest part of the whole situation is that no one has said “wear this thing or you will die.”  So after the first three days of diligence, I took it off and have come up with my own possible cures, including “lose approximately 700 pounds” and “drink 8 gallons of water per day in the hopes of reducing the swelling via nonstop peeing.”  Quite frankly I think these methods sound just as promising as the “squash it to death” route, and if they work, well, then you can call me Dr. Janisin.  If they don’t work, I guess it is back to the sausage casing.  In the fall, though, when it’s not 95 degrees outside.  Maybe around Halloween.  So if you happen to see a 45-year-old trick-or-treater in a Shiela E. costume – by all means, stop and say hello.