By Kit-Bacon Gressitt / Excuse Me, I’m Writing / June 6, 2011
My mother tried to make a sandwich with the TV remote control.
It might seem sadly funny, but there was some context for her pursuit: She was watching a cooking show from her hospital bed. Watching and processing in her own inimitable style, and she just didn’t like the way the celebrity chef was doing it. She didn’t know where she was, but she knew she could do better.
“I need to put the bread on top,” she said with the slurred tongue of a stroke victim, pointing the remote in the television’s general direction.
“Yes, that would be good, but the remote won’t do that for you, Mother.”
She persisted, and my heart shrank into that tidily distant place that allows the practical to reign supreme, as I searched for unemotional words to explain to the hospital staff that Houston, we’ve had a problem; Houston, my mother is leaving us; Houston—
But then it occurred to me how glorious a response Mother’s was. How satisfying it would be to encounter idiocy, point the remote and press a button to fix it. I relished the thought as the chef smeared a heinous concoction on bread made from special grains probably harvested by child laborers in some far-off fascist stronghold.
Someplace like Libya or Saudi Arabia or Yemen, where people donate their lives for the hope of freedom; where women just want to be able to drive themselves to the market, unfettered by male watchdogs; where the innocent are splattered on city walls while power-seekers conduct pissing contests overhead with deadly weapons.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to just push a button on the remote and fix it all?
Or how about someplace like Uganda or Afghanistan or Colombia, where ignorance and hate might try again to decree death on homosexuals; where girls and women are tortured for trying to learn; where Chiquita swapped lives for bananas.
Hit the button and — zap! — all the bad guys are gone.
Or even someplace like the United States, where people I love are not allowed to marry or to be themselves without institutionalized condemnation; where women’s wombs are purchased with the campaign contributions of ideologues and theocrats; where free speech has descended to profanity; where voters cast their lots for their wallets and politicians run on egos — not ideals.
Zap, zap, zap, zap — all better!
Yes, Mother’s new world seemed a more satisfying — a healthier — place to be. Just point, press and be done with the horror. Except—
“This is frustrating,” she slurred through the neural fog, thrusting the remote at the chef with quixotic determination, pressing random buttons to no avail.
“Here,” I took the remote, “let me help you with that.” I held the thing with both hands, aimed at the bastard chef and fired with rage. “Bull’s eye — got the sucker! He didn’t know how to make a sandwich, anyway. And look: It’s one of your judge shows.”
She relaxed into the pillows, half a whispered smile on her peaceful face.