Sunday, October 16, 2005

Remembering the Fifties

I took Mom to see The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, today after church. It's part of my campaign to give both of us something interesting to do on Sundays when I am her caregiver from 8 am to 6 pm.
We had a lunch of canned tamales and raisin toast before driving to the Beverly Center, where it was showing. Parking and getting up the elevator to the eighth floor was exciting because AIDS Walk 2005 had just ended nearby, but we navigated the crowds and bought two matinee tickets for $13.50.
Mom just wanted to go to Macy's and Bloomingdale's, not a movie. It's not often she gets to wheel past so many sparkling store windows.
"You'll like this movie," I said. "It's about a mother with ten kids who has to raise them by herself."
Having just watched Good Night and Good Luck, I wasn't sure I'd like another film about the pre-feminist, smothering '50 years, but I figured it was right up her alley, kind of an updated Please Don't Eat the Daisies.
"I don't know what's so special about her--I had four kids and raised them," she said.
Then she announced, "I want potato chips" as I bought a cranberry drink for her and a lemonade for me. I knew she meant popcorn or French fries, but I managed to steer her past all temptations and into the theater, just at the end of the previews. She is only allowed soft, moist foods, and I didn't feel like breaking the rules and dealing with a possible airway emergency during the film.
As it turned out, she got through the whole two hours uneventfully, other than some mild choking on the cranberry juice, and she stayed awake, even though her afternoon are usually devoted to naps. After I convinced her not to talk during the show, she sat there alert, rapt the whole time. (Two weeks ago, she began asking to leave March of the Penguins half-way through the 95 minutes, but not today.)
As for me, I hardly remembered she was with me.
It turned out that the heroine was named Evelyn, slim and dark-haired as Mom had been, and her husband was alcoholic. After the first scene of him drinking, throwing things out the back door, and bashing the brand-new freezer Evelyn had won in a jingle contest, I regressed to about ten years old and sat there in paralyzed fear, hating him and wanting her to divorce him or at least get the deed to the house changed to her name, not his.
I had lived through this whole scenario, the oldest of four children watching Mom cope with Pop's alcoholism, and I knew that the film was a true story based on a memoir by one of the daughters, Terry Ryan.
Afterward I asked Mom how she liked the movie.
"I saw some similarities," she said. Pretty sharp for someone who can't even remember the names of all her children.
And we were off to Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and back to Ocean View by 5:30 pm. On the way home, Mom got her French fries.

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