Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Downside of Life with Dorian ...

Dorian and I attended the National Institute for Artists with Disabilities (NIAD) reception this evening and it was a mixed blessing. Two of her paintings are being displayed prominently in the front windows and she has two or three pieces in the gallery. But most important is that there were articles about her and her work in last Friday's edition of the S.F. Chronicle and another in Sunday's West County Times. I've seen neither, though I did give an interview for the Times. Learned this evening that her sculpture, "Tsumani," is being featured at an art gallery in Benicia where it is the centerpiece of the exhibit. She's loving every minute of her celebrity, but in the process is becoming more and more difficult to deal with.

Tonight we experienced a true blowout just before leaving for the reception. I learned by running across some receipts that she'd bought a pager ($91.00) last week. Since we live within two blocks of the city's major shopping mall, she happily spends much of her leisure time there. However, she's also watching a lot of television while crocheting her afghans and therein lies a major problem. Television commercials were designed to attract Dorrie. She's hopelessly seduced by T-Mobile, Cingular, AT&T, and any other cell phone kiosk within range. Though she has a phone that serves as an umbilical chord for us both and adds some security for me, each time she hears a new plan with "minutes" or "roaming privileges," or anything else -- she's off to the mall for a new purchase. She has no idea what minutes or roaming privileges mean but they sound cool in the commercials. I've returned 5 cell phones over the past 2 months; each time at a significant financial loss. They will usually accept the phones back, but the minutes are purchased in advance and are not returnable. Besides, when I call customer service to make a complaint -- the operator has a far eastern accent so I presume is sitting at a communication center in New Delhi or Bombay!

No amount of explaining that she is suit-proof, mentally retarded, illiterate so cannot be held to any contract changes the outcome. I'm reduced to taking her photograph, scanning and copying it, distributing it to every electronic communications kiosk or storefront in the mall in the hope of ending the problem. This is when I feel old and overwhelmed by a world that has become alien to the one I grew up in. Just one of the many hidden problems of living with the retarded. Her grasp of the world of her times is fragile at best, but the distances between our intellectual capacities as well as our natural generational differences works against us both. When we get caught up in these irresolvable cul de sacs there are no exits -- so the end results are these emotional explosions that flatten the landscape!

So today it wasn't a cell phone. She'd found a pager store and signed a contract that now demands $91.00 payment for services rendered. The thought of facing still one more young salesperson tomorrow to try one more time to return her purchase and erase the contract is almost more than I can bear.

After a useless shouting match that I resoundingly lost, we started out for the party where she would enjoy her celebrity and where I would continue to smolder! And she did - and I did. Watching her from a distance as she charmingly led guests to where her work was being exhibited -- I could see the hopelessness in my being angry. She simply doesn't have the capacity to understand the problem. I tried to remind myself of her considerable disabilities, but failed miserably as I continued to quietly simmer in anger at myself -- in my inability to get through to her. The frustration was even greater when someone came up to me to announce in a tactful whisper that Dorian was upset and that I ought to know since she was crying in the other room. She was telling anyone who was willing to listen how mean I'd been to her and how I'd yelled at her...! All true. And now embarrassment was added to my frustration and I wanted to shake her 'til her teeth rattled! And still my feeling of helplessness crowded out all else. I was furious!

Tomorrow she goes on a field trip with NIAD staff to Benicia to see the exhibit. It will be exciting for her and she will have forgotten all about our ugly argument. I will stay at home and go about the returning of the pager and hope that I'm successful one more time -- or at least until she sees another cell phone commercial and on impulse sets up one more of these stupid one-act plays designed to reduce her mother to a blithering idiot!

Maybe if I eliminated television ... .

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