So, a person with light skin that never tans cannot endure a summer near the sea without some mental cadaver trying to shame him for having the wrong skin.
“Hey! You ought to get some color on that skin.”
Well, genius, since you asked, I spent hours in the sun, when I was young and you know where it got me?
Metastatic melanoma on the brain. I had whole-brain radiation. I lost my hair. My short-term memory is shot. I am hard of hearing, and I have to go to the dermatologist at least twice a year for a pruning. With a scalpel. Or with a spray of super-cold liquid nitrogen.
I’ve been sprayed a lot, and it shocks me every time. When you get sprayed, an electric current passes through a wire that becomes hot and is used to burn off the upper layers of skin.
If you survive that, you get to use sunscreen on every piece of skin that might be burned by sun exposure. For the rest of your life. My doctor recommended one that works, but I hate applying it because its active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and it’s like spreading tar. It also makes me whiter.
So one morning, there I was after a shower, dutifully applying my doctor-recommended Neutrogena fragrance-free sensitive-skin SPF 60+ suncare.
It was unpleasant, as usual. I put a coin of the stuff on my palm and went to do my face when I noticed my sunscreen was not fragrance-free. It smelled minty fresh. It took me a minute, but I caught on and looked at the white tube in my hand. It read: Crest GUM Detoxify fluoride toothpaste for deep cleaning.
I am losing my ability to shock myself. But everyone I tell that story to has laughed. I hope you do, too.
* * *
There was a time last week when I was home alone with Greg. The staffers at his day program had a training day, my husband was going to be late, and Therese was working in Ocean City.
Greg scans the calendar for his next day off. Even if it’s two months away, it doesn’t matter; he feels the need to nail down a diner where we can eat breakfast out.
“Mommy,” he’ll start, looking hopeful. “IHOP? Denny’s?”
Of course, if the day is weeks away, it takes me a while to catch his meaning. He’ll rifle through the weeks and point: “August 11? Pegasus?”
I have to tread lightly here, because it’s never a short event. On his days off, I don’t usually get up as early as he does, and his Dad has one heck of a time keeping him from raiding the refrigerator before I take him out to breakfast.
He always orders a Belgian waffle with no butter or powdered sugar, syrup and potatoes. I always order eggs and split my potatoes with him.
We wait for our food to come, and then the race is on. Before my first sip of coffee, the waffle is gone. I practice table manners with him; “Slow down. Eat smaller bites. Close your mouth when you chew.”
Well, some of that means nothing because he seldom chews. He loads and swallows like a prisoner who’s afraid some big jamoke will steal his food.
(Digression for Fun Fact: “jamoke” appeared at the end of the 19th century as a blend of java and mocha, by the 1920s it became slang for someone who lacked mental abilities beyond that of a cup of coffee. In the 1960s, it also began to be used as slang for a male organ.)
So, breakfast outings do not end when the food is gone. He likes to go to a store—Wal-Mart and any furniture store will entertain him for a while. I like to shop, too, but he just likes to look. He could spend an hour at the book aisle and slowly peruse the DVDs. I like to look around, but I don’t like to leave him alone.
Also, when breakfast is all gone, the stores are often a couple of hours from opening. If I suggest going home for a while and coming back, he becomes jazzed up and repeats what he wants until I begin to get a sick headache.
I give him a long explanation about most stores staying asleep until 10 o’clock and then opening.
“Kohls Mays Landing?”