The Crazy, Old Woman

 

Every time she came to visit, my brothers and I would hide out in the basement, barricaded behind boxes and musty suitcases, terrified that crazy Aunt Fay would somehow find us. For years we lived in fear that during one of her monthly visits to our home my grandmother’s spinster sister would find us. She was kind enough, always bringing us candy and gifts, but she smelled weird. Everything she touched carried the scent. It made me want to throw up. Years later, I was able to identify the pungent aroma as moth balls.

I was asked to go to her home and transport her to a medical appointment. She was ailing, and I suppose that my sense of obligation got the best of me, and I agreed to go. I had planned that she would meet me outside, and then I would assist her into the back seat of the car, purely for safety reasons, and whisk her to the doctor’s, windows open in order to avoid the toxic fallout that regularly seeped out from her pores and enveloped everyone within a 100 foot radius. But, as often happens, the best laid plans get all mucked up.

I arrived and had to go into the house to assist her in getting ready. The entire house was filled with the stench of poison. There were moth balls everywhere, strategically placed in every cupboard, closet and drawer. They were placed in candy dishes and ashtrays scattered about the house, and left loose atop the television and hi-fi. Aunt Fay loved music, and as I rummaged through her collection of assorted alphabetized jazz albums, I found moth balls hidden every few letters. It appeared that this crazy old woman was anticipating some kind of invasion from The Moth People. If she was right, she was clearly well prepared. On the other hand, if she was wrong, then clearly, she was out of her mind.

By the time I got her into the car, after politely refusing her repeated offerings of candies from the mothball laden dishes, I was beginning to experience the effects of exposure to the toxic fumes. I was stomach sick, and my eyes were burning, but it seemed to have no effect on Aunt Fay, who by the way, insisted on sitting in the front seat, claiming she became car sick riding in the back, all the way to the doctor’s office.

She spoke to me about her life and though I have no idea if what she told me was true or just the ramblings of a crazy, old woman, it was an interesting life. She was born in Russia and just as the Bolsheviks mounted their horses, the family fled, and settled in North America. She was a secretary by trade but would  frequent jazz clubs where she appeared as a singer, and claimed to have known Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. She told me that she also painted, had met a man, got engaged, but unfortunately, he was killed fighting the Nazis in France. And yet, despite her talents and celebrity acquaintances, she had no money, and no current friends to speak of. I felt sorry for her in a way, but I couldn’t be certain that the sympathy was real, and not just the effects of the brain disease I was sure I had developed from inhaling the scent that emanated from her clothing.

Following the appointment, of which she didn’t speak during the ride home, I dropped her off, and we went our separate ways. I didn’t see her again until 6 months later. She had passed away, and at her funeral my brothers and I were asked to be pallbearers. I swear I could smell the moth balls rising up through the sealed casket, burning holes in my head. We all suspected that she died from toxic poisoning, but apparently it was an aneurysm. Interestingly enough, and I suppose it was after I took her to the doctor, she had bequeathed me her jazz albums. It was pretty cool, actually. I still have them all, and on occasion I do listen to those old recordings. I am particularly fond of the 1957 Verve Records recording of Billie Holiday’s ‘Songs For Distingue Lovers’ which, to my surprised is autographed by Ms. Holiday. Or perhaps not. I have often considered the possibility that this crazy, old woman forged the signature herself. It doesn’t really matter though. In the end, she turned out to be okay.

 

Bubbie Has A Boyfriend

 

There was quite a furor in my house. The kids were upset, my wife was uncharacteristically quiet, and once again I found myself in the role of therapist for this band of brooding, yet quite lovable barbarians. As innocent as it appeared to me, there was much anxiety over the news that my 80 year old mother-in-law had a boyfriend.

“Who is this man?”, one of my daughters asked.

“What does Bubbie need a boyfriend for?”, another one shouted out.

“We need to check this guy out.”, a son chimed in. “What if he’s after her money or something?” I sat listening to this diatribe, wondering what he hell had happened to what I thought was a reasonably sensible family.

“I don’t know who he is.”, my wife said. “Except that he’s younger than her, and he’s French.”

“He’s a gigolo.”, another son entered the fray.

“Are they, like dating?”, a daughter asked.

“It appears that way.”, my wife responded. “He just moved into her building.”

“Oh my God!”, a daughter quipped. “Are they living together?”

“No.”, my wife said. “He has his own apartment. A few floors above hers.”

“Well, that’s convenient.”, I said. Its probably not even furnished..”

“What is that supposed to mean?”, my wife asked, with arms folded.

“It means they are probably living together.”, a son replied. “He just rented his own apartment to make it look good.”

“They are not living together.”, my wife stated. “And please”, she added as she looked directly at me, “If you’re not going to help, then just say nothing.”

“I just don’t think there’s anything to get so upset about.”, I said. “The woman has been a widow for almost 40 years. She spent all of that time alone. I think its good for her to meet someone and try to be happy.”

“Well, it’s not your mother, is it?”, my wife reminded me. And true enough, it wasn’t.

“We need to meet this guy.”, a son said. “We need to check him out and make sure he’s okay for Bubbie.”

“We should just put him in the trunk of his car and leave him in the parking lot at the Airport.”, someone said.

“This isn’t a Mafia hit.”, I interjected.

“What if they’re having sex?”, a daughter asked.

“They’re not having sex.”, my wife answered.

“How do you know?”, I asked.

“Because they’re not.”, she said. “You’re still not helping.”, she said to me.

“Well”, I offered.”Why don’t we ask your mother and her friend to join us for lunch. We’ll all go. We can meet him, and see what’s going on. Maybe then you can all stop talking about it.” There are times when I have wonderfully brilliant solutions to all of my families troubles, but not one of them will ever let me know. This was one of those times.

“Okay.”, my wife said. “I call my mother and make arrangements for this weekend.”

“I’m going to grill him.”, a daughter said. “No one messes with my Bubbie.”

“We could take him outside and threaten him.”, a son said. “You know, scare the crap out of him.”

“Who are you?”, I asked him. “We’re not the Sopranos!”

“We will all behave.”, my wife said. “It will be a nice getting to know you, and welcome to the family lunch.”

“He’s not in my family.”, a daughter said.

“Does he even speak English?”, a daughter asked.

“He speaks English.”, I assured her. “But like a Frenchman. Just mumble, close your eyes and move your head around a bit when you speak to him. He’ll understand perfectly.”

As the day of the luncheon rolled around, everyone was working on their own agendas. There were those who had plans to batter the man with incessant questioning, while others were planning on intimidating and threatening. My wife wasn’t sure how she would react. She hoped that she would like him, for her mother’s sake, but she already had issue with him. Me, well, it made no difference to me whatsoever. I was pretty far removed from the emotional turbulence that had overwhelmed my family. If he was alright, then I was alright. All of the kids and their significant others met at the restaurant about 20 minutes before we arranged for them to come. We were an intimidating site for a newcomer, all 10 of us, seated at the table, some with a scornful demeanor, and visible uneasiness. “Please make sure your children behave.”, my wife whispered to me.

“Why are they suddenly mine?”, I asked.

“Because you taught them to be rude and disrespectful.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said to my kids. “You really need to tone it down, and behave yourselves. Be nice. Be polite. We’re hear for your grandmother. Let’s try to make her happy.”

When they arrived, we all sat there talking, introducing ourselves, and trying to get to know the Frenchman. I’m sure he knew the scrutiny he was under. I’m sure my mother-in-law warned him about our family. But he was alright. He held his own. One of my daughters kept giving him the ‘stink eye’, and I had to glare at her to get her to stop. It turned out that the Frenchman had a crap load of money, owned several properties across Canada, including a beach house in Nova Scotia, and a Condo in Vancouver. I could see my daughter’s eyes light up,  with dollar signs floating around her face. My mother-in-law seemed happy, the happiest I had seen her in many, many years. My wife, struggling a little to let go of the ghost of her father, also saw her mother’s happiness. We finished lunch, and said our goodbyes, as they had a long drive back to Windsor. As the rest of us walked towards our cars, there was much chatter about the Frenchman.

“He seems okay.”, a son said.

“I still don’t like him.”, a daughter said.

“Do you think I could get him to pay off my student loan?”, another daughter asked.

“I hate the French.”, someone stated.

In the car, heading home, my wife asked me what I thought of him. “I don’t know.”, I told her. “He seems nice enough, and your mother is very happy.”

“I don’t want her to get hurt.”, she said.

“Ah, honey.”, I said. “They’re 80 years old. He can’t get her money because we have signing authority. What’s left for him to take? Her virtue? That ship sailed a long, long time ago. Let her have fun. We will take care of her, but she needs to live.”

“I know.”, she said. “I just worry that he’ll leave or something, and then she’ll have nothing.”

“She’ll have us.”, I reminded her.

“Thank you for looking out for my mother.”, she told me.

“And besides”, I stated. “If he hurts her, we can always have him stuffed into the trunk of a car parked at the airport. Your gangster son would gladly do the job.”

“Oh, so now he’s my son.”, she exclaimed.

“Yes.”, I explained. “The crazy shit they get from you. The kids and I refer to it as ‘getting Moroccan’.”

“Well”, she said, “We have some time without any kids. Interested in some crazy Moroccan sex?”

“It so happens that’s my favorite kind.”, I told her. Man, I love this woman..

 

 

 

 

The Man Who Lived Upstairs

There was something weird about the man who lived upstairs. Day and night he was at it. The sound of power tools, from drills to circular saws, axes to hammers, led us to believe he was up to something. Quite likely, something sinister.

We had never seen him, and so we had been forced to speculate just what he might be doing up there in the dead of night. All of the most plausible suggestions were rejected by the expert panel of demented daring do that I live with.

2adc44b206391da1cf4fb13163b94500The silence of the peaceful night was shattered by an electric saw, working tirelessly to cut through something seemingly uncuttable. This was followed by a power drill, and then a hand saw. After a few moments of silence there came the sound of an axe,  crushing through something not meant to be axed, and then hammering. It would go on for hours. We would sit and listen. “You should go up there and see what he’s doing”., my wife said “And tell him to stop.”

“You understand he has weapons of slash destruction.”, I replied.

My daughter was convinced that he was some sort of serial killer, torturing the poor souls he regularly abducted. Another daughter suggested that we simply go up and ask.  It didn’t matter to me. He had, at his disposal saws and axes, and there was no way that I planned to knock on his door and find out what he was doing up there.

My daughter revealed that she has heard weird noises coming from upstairs. Not just the power tools, but moaning and other strange sounds. My wife decided that we must do something, She called building security. “Let them go see what he’s doing up there.”

45 minutes later, the noises were still ringing out. “I don’t know why security hasn’t been up there yet?”, she muttered.

affe2d949928ebaecb1758b52e16ff47-d4we8ks“Perhaps they did go”, I offered

“I’m calling security again”, she replied..

The news from security was not what she expected. A guard did attend the unit. They will dispatch another guard.

There was a silent, but visible “Oh hell” frozen on everyone’s face. “He killed the security guy”, my daughter mumbled. “Probably cut him up in little pieces”.

“I can’t take it anymore.”, my wife said, “it goes on all night”.

We had all agreed that something horrific was going on upstairs. We had to find out. The next day my wife called the property manager and described the situation. As luck would have it, while on the phone with property management, the sawing and drilling began, and was clearly heard by the property manager. He promised to investigate at once.

“If this doesn’t stop”, my wife stated, “we’re moving. I can’t live like this!”

Several days passed, and we heard nothing from property management. “Doesn’t anybody care that there’s a lunatic living up there?”. my wife queried.

download-1“I will go up and see.”, I told her. Putting on my brave face, and grabbing a baseball bat, I bid farewell to my family, and headed out. I stood before the door that might have hidden secrets of the criminally insane. I could hear the whirr of a chain saw as I knocked.  There was no response, so I knocked again. I had my bat on my shoulder, ready to swing. The sawing stopped. From behind the door, a voice called out. It was hard, and gruff, cold, as if devoid of all feeling. “Who is it?” I wasn’t about to tell him. I really had no idea what to say.

I returned home several minutes later. “So”, my wife spoke out, “What did you find out?”

I sat down on the couch, and presented my wife with a hammer. “I found out that I could borrow the hammer for a few days.” I  took a deep breath. “I have no intention of taking it back. We may as well start packing now.”

By the end of the week, the sounds had stopped, No sawing, no drilling, and no chopping. It was eerily quiet. The police had been around a few days after I borrowed the hammer, and the noises stopped.

“They probably arrested him”, a daughter said. “for murder or something.”

“Maybe he just moved.”, I suggested.

“Yeah. To prison.”, she added.

“You know,” another daughter chimed in, “there might be blood or something on that hammer. I wonder if the police will come looking for it, or for you.”

We never did find out what the man who lived upstairs was doing, but I got a pretty nice hammer out of that experience.

 

 

 

 

SHE SEES DEAD PEOPLE…

She sees dead people. My wife. Well, not people, but ghosts. Spirits. She always has. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have seen her looking at something that I swear wasn’t there. Staring in wonder, gb3she has, on occasion, attempted to communicate with these other world entities. Pretty freakin’ weird, I know, but it runs in her family. There was a great aunt who they claim was a witch. No, don’t laugh. Everyone in the family was afraid of her, lest she cast a spell on them. Rumour has it that she put a spell on her husband, and he became catatonic for the last 15 years of his life. People would flock to her for advice and assistance. A curse on this person, a pox on that person. It was a sight to behold!! I met her twice, and she scared the hell out of me.

These spirits, as my wife sees it, come to let her know all is gb2well. I would much prefer a postcard, however she eagerly waits their appearance. She feels their presence, in a very deep, spiritual way. A connection she calls it. They do not speak to her. I am glad for that! She says that the spirits let her know that all is well through their energy. Still, I find it all a little disconcerting. I try to ignore her “something’s here”, or “they’re here again” opening sentences that announce the start of the visits. They do not visit me, for which I am grateful, but my wife says that they know I am there, and watch over me as well. So far, there have been no disturbing events: Tableware does not fly through the air, chairs do not move, and the lights do not flicker off and on.

I hope that my wife is right. I hope these visitors are only here to confirm that we are on the right path. But what if she is wrong? What if they are lying? What if they are really here to push us in the wrong direction? Not to worry, my wife advises, one of the spirits is her father, who would never harm her. I hope that he feels the same way about me, I mean, I have been doing his daughter for years and years. It would piss me off.

There are times when I think this is all in her head, you know, a little trip on the crazy train, but I have to believe that she feels what she says she feels. For now. In the meantime, I don’t sleep. I lay awake at night waiting for them to gbcome. I wonder if I should do something, like put out snacks, make tea, or put up streamers. Just in case she is right. I do not see dead people, nor do I want to. Hearing about things flying around my home in the dead of night is unsettling. But, if needed, I think I know who to call!