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The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers
5 January 2015
Amazon Prime's free shipping and the site's "one click" button (meaning that in an eyeblink you have set in motion a purchase which by the time you think about it more seriously is already on the conveyer belt and off to the post office) have taken impulse purchases to a whole new level.
I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I now routinely order the Duck easy-stick tape that I use for journals and scrapbooks from Amazon. They come in a 4-roll pack for $12.49, shipped free. If I were to buy the tape locally, I would make the drive across town to Office Max and find the tape there and while I'm in one of my favorite stores, pick up a few other things and probably walk out with more than $50 worth of things I hadn't intended to buy in the first place.
When we were in Santa Barbara, I borrowed a pen from Joe, which I just loved. I'm a sucker for pens and am always looking for something that feels good in my hand and feels good when I write. I looked it up on Amazon, bought a package of five pens for $9 and ordered them with one-click. They were there when I got home.
I tell myself I save money on gas and other impulse buys this way.
But occasionally, I make impulse buys just because Amazon is easily available. The other day, I was in the car and listening to a program of the Best of NPR interviews of 2014 and someone was interviewing a woman named Roz Chast about her new book, "Can't we talk about something more PLEASANT?" which was a book about the last years of her parents' life, when they developed dementia and were in first an assisted living facility and then a nursing home.
Before I got out of the car, I had whipped out my cell phone, connected to Amazon and purchased the book, without even paying attention to the price. I knew I had to get this book.
The first surprise was learning that it was written in handwriting, and secondly that it relied heavily on cartoons. I hadn't picked up on the fact that Chast is one of the top New Yorker cartoonists.
But once I adjusted to that, I realized that this was a woman who knows me. Her situation was a bit different from mine (she was dealing with two parents, at first, who were united in fighting her), but many of the situations we face as our parents age were the same. In fact, when I listened to her interview, I thought this was a book my children should be reading!
There are whole conversations with her mother that could have been transcribed verbatim from conversations I've had with my mother.
Chast's mother died in 2009, outliving her husband by three years. Chast's story is a no holds barred look at everything from realizing that she had to start overseeing things through the decisions, the paperwork, the opposition from her parents, then worsening dementia and then the astronomical cost of broken bones, hospitalization, nursing help, and finally death. It's a subject we don't want to think about, for our parents or for ourselves.
We all have this Pollyanna view of how the end will be.
But the reality may be much different. In many of the situations Chast discussed, I saw myself every day dealing with my mother. Today, for example, she called me and I didn't hear the phone so it was 2 hours later when I called back. By then, of course, she had forgotten why she called, but thought it had something to do with pills I was supposed to bring her. I told her I brought her pills two days ago and asked her to check on them. She didn't know where I put them (though they have been in the same place ever since she moved to Atria--she didn't remember having to take pills). She finally found them and I asked her to read me the letter that was on top of the next closed box. She didn't understand what I meant but after a long series of descriptions from me, she finally told me that her box still had the T, F, S boxes unopened, which means she has not taken her pills for 3 days. Fortunately none of those pills are keeping her alive, just keeping her healthier.
But what this means (probably) is that I will start going over there every day now to make sure she has taken her pills. Not looking forward to that, but if she can't remember from the time she puts the telephone down to when she takes her first step away from it, there's not much choice.
Yes, there is a level of care at Atria that will have someone stop by and make sure she takes her pills, but it raises her rent significantly and with me living so close, it seems an extravagance we don't need to pay. For every extra $1,000 she spends in fees at Atria it cuts the time she will be able to afford to stay there if she actually lives to hunnert.
I feel this was a very good impulse purchase. I literally devoured the book in a day and want to reread it. I don't know that it has taught me anything (except to be terrified of any physical ailments my mother may develop), but it sure is good to read something by someone who has walked through this valley before.
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