Forget me not.

A couple of Thanksgiving’s ago, my parents hosted my dad’s family for dinner. My grandmother on that side of the family suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease. If I’m not mistaken, she’s had it for close to five years now. I don’t remember exactly when she was first diagnosed. It actually might be even longer than that.

Regardless, as time passes, she deteriorates. It’s horrible. So sad. I don’t handle these sort of things well, so I always feel tremendously awkward when around her. I want to talk to her, but she doesn’t know who I am anymore. She does, however, know that I’m tall.

Actually, this is sort of weird, but ever since the day I showed up to my grandmother’s house and was taller than her, not a visit went by where she didn’t talk about how tall I am. Literally every single visit, “Hoo, my. Michael, you just keep growing.” “I can’t get over how tall you are.” “Goodness. What happened to little Michael?” The thing is, I’ve been the same height now since I was about 17 years old, but this wouldn’t stop her from gasping at the sight of me well into my twenties.

I tried to come up with new things to say to her in an attempt to explain my lanky physique, but there’s only so much you can do. But the funny thing is that even now, though she doesn’t seem to know who I am, she does have that look of recognition in her eyes because of my height. She’ll look up and sort of smile shyly and look away as she mumbles something like, “boy…tall…whoo.”

For the record, I’m only 6’3″. That’s really not that tall. But I guess it did make me the tallest on that side of the family.

Anyway, getting back to that Thanksgiving a couple/few years ago. We were all sitting around the living room and my grandmother was in there. A few of us were eating dinner there as the dining room table was full. But I’d notice my grandmother staring at me. So I’d smile at her and look away to engage someone in conversation or watch TV. Then I’d look back at her and she’d be sort of staring at me again. So I’d smile.

This sort of went on for awhile through out the afternoon/evening. I didn’t think anything of it. Until, that is, much later when she and my grandfather were on their way out. My grandfather was leading her by the hand and he’d stopped to say goodbye to someone. My proximity to them was such that my grandmother was now standing directly to my right as I sat on the sofa. She looked down at me, almost umcomfortably and with what seemed like disapproval.

“I’ve seen you watching me today,” she said in a half whisper. “But you should know that this is my husband.”

It took a moment for my brain to register the assumption that my grandmother’s corroded mind had made.

“Grandma!” I said. “I know who that is.”

But that’s all I could say. She looked away from me, then back at me, almost as if giving me a warning. I smiled at her again. Then they left.

It took a little while before I could confess to my dad that his mother had basically accused me of hitting on her. Just the mere thought of it was disturbing on several levels. First and foremost: that’s just gross. But secondly, it was an indication of just how sick she is.

But there’s little that one can do when a family member is faced with this condition. You can only try to make them comfortable really. As they sort of regress to a more childlike state of mind, you can’t help but be amused by them in the same way we’re amused by young children who are learning and discovering things for the first time.

Anyway, in a few weeks my family and I will be participating in one of the many annual Alheimer’s Memory Walks. This is an event meant to serve as a means to raise money for research to find out more about Alzheimer’s.

I know many of us have been donating to relief funds supporting those who have lost everything to Katrina, so it’s hard to even consider asking for support for something else, but here I am. I guess I’d like to get this thing figured out. So, I’ll just post the Alzheimer’s Association address and if you think you might be capable of helping out, please, please do. And feel free to make your donations in the name of Fran Fertig, my grandmother.

If I happen to know you, and you’d like to help out, feel free to give me your checks personally. Make them out to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Memory Walk takes place on the 24th of September, so there’s time. And I’ll put your donation with the others I’ve already received.

Otherwise, to make a donation by phone, please call 1.800.272.3900. To make a donation by mail, send a check to Alzheimer’s Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17, Chicago, Ill. 60601-7633.

There are a lot of things I don’t want to forget when I’m older, so help out if you can.


More vending, less stealing my money, please.

In the past two days I’ve lost $3.70 to the vending machines in my office. I’m not as concerned about the actual loss of the money as I am about the loss of faith I now have in our machines.

Just to make sure you’re not sitting there saying, “Mikey, you’re a freaking idiot. Quit putting money in a broken machine.” You have to realize that I lost this money in three different machines on three different tries.

The first loss was a dollar. I wanted to buy an ice-cream bar. I put my money in and noticed that only one of the three options had the “please make another selection” light fired up. That indicated to me that I should not select this item, but rather, one of the other two. So I did. As the little machine whirred I lifted the door to watch the empty slot that should have been holding my delicious frozen treat come into view.

“Drats!” I exclaimed. I was foiled. Oh well, I thought. It happens. I went back to my desk disheartened but I quickly got over it.

Later that afternoon, looking for a little 4 o’clock sugar rush, I went back to the machines. This time I stayed away from the ice-cream machine and decided to take the traditional approach and get some candy. I eyed a bag of Runts as my mouth drooled with anticipation. I slid my 70 cents into the machine, pressed the buttons for my selection, and stood horrified as I watched by bag of Runts get caught up in the corkscrew device that is supposed to send my bag of sugary goodness hurtling to the retrieval bin at the base of the machine. I shake the machine lightly. Nothing. I shake the machine more vigerously. Nothing. I pick up the goddamn machine, body slam it to the ground, climb up on one of the other machines and leap from it like I’m Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Nothing.

I put the machine back, straighten my clothes, and walk away dignified, but defeated.

Today I return to the kitchen. I’m hungry and am now eyeing the turkey and cheddar Lunchable box that is in a third and completely different vending machine than the other two that have already played me for a sucker. I put two brand new dollar bills into the machine. At first it doesn’t want to accept one of my dollars. I wince as I think about yesterday’s problems. The machine finally accepts the dollar along with the second one. I reach up to slide the door that will grant me access to the midmorning snack that I’m so craving.

The door won’t budge. It’s just stuck there. I look at the message indicator on the machine and it’s telling me that I have supplied insufficient funds for that selection. According the the machine, I haven’t actually put ANY money into it.

“Fuck I haven’t!” I yell at the machine much to the dismay of the cookbook team that’s having a meeting behind me. I try to coax the change return button to give me back my two bucks, but it will do no such thing. I stand there for a moment, dazed. I’m completely confounded by what has just transpired. This is my third consecutive attempt to purchase something from our vending machines, only to be denied.

I can’t help but wonder what the significance of this is. Do the machines know something I don’t? Are they prophesizing my release from work? Are they telling me I should lay off the snacks? Do they know that I’m broke as it is and they just want to laugh as they blatantly steal my money giving me nothing in return? Is one’s inability to successfully navigate a vending machine an indication that one has no soul? Could I be souless? Or is it that these machines are trying to take over the world, and they’re gonna do it by raising money by stealing from me!

I don’t know what the answer is, but whatever you do, do not activate SkyNET.

(SkyNET is a Terminator reference. Research it if you don’t get it.)