Column: A Confederacy of Excuses By SUSAN PARKER

Tuesday August 30, 2005

If I didn’t have this column to write I could deal with Ralph’s broken wheelchair. It hasn’t worked in over five weeks, forcing him to stay in bed except for the occasions when he must go to doctor appointments and attend meetings at the Center for Indep endent Living, in which case he and chair must be pushed, not an easy task considering their combined weight tops 300 pounds. 

If I didn’t have this column to write I could confront my identity theft problems, prepare for my upcoming appearance at the Sup erior Court of Alameda County where I have to prove that I was not a black woman with blonde hair driving a Jaguar recklessly on Powell Street. I could dispatch with the pesky $250 ticket from Solano County’s Superior Court that claims I ran a stop sign in Vallejo when in fact I was in New York City at the time of the alleged crime. 

If I didn’t have this column to write I could reason calmly with Ralph’s dentist, explaining why we can’t pay his $2,093 bill. I’ll tactfully suggest to him that we’ll begin with a partial payment equal to the amount of money he puts into making his office wheelchair-accessible. I’ll suggest that a simple wooden ramp up his front steps will suffice, although wider doors and hallways would be appreciated. 

If I didn’t have this column to write I could find the time to call my handyman neighbor Teddy to remind him I need the holes in the dining room ceiling plastered, the plywood on the wheelchair ramp replaced, the gasket in the upstairs bathroom faucet fixed, and the washing machine looked at again because it leaks water 24/7. 

If I didn’t have this column to write I could weed the garden, clean the rugs, match up my orphan socks, contend with the alarming notice from the Social Security Administration that has melded Ralph’s name with my Social Security number and claims a discrepancy of $1,659 in self-employment earnings in 2004. 

I could inform Apria Healthcare that the bill for Ralph’s $3,816 specialized mattress should be paid by Kaiser, and I could explain to the cell p hone company that I didn’t know my teenage houseguest Jernae was making numerous long-distance calls late at night while I was sleeping. 

I could take out the trash, repaint the bathroom, organize my computer files, return the broken television to Berk La nd TV and Appliances and point out to them that it’s still under warranty from the last time they repaired it. 

I could respond to the red warning light that comes on whenever I put the key in the ignition of the van. 

I could finish writing the novel I started when I began the MFA program at San Francisco State and which I must complete before graduation, an event with a stress-inducing final deadline of 2010. 

If I didn’t have this column to write I could go see the new play at the new Marsh Theater on Allston Way. I could attend the Thursday Caregivers meetings at the South Berkeley Senior Center. I could take a walk with my friend Lynn. I could zip down to the pharmacy and pick up Ralph’s overdue prescription. 

I could shop for a present for my mother’s upcoming 80th birthday and carefully choose something that commemorates such a noteworthy milestone, forever making up for the numerous birthdays I’ve forgotten or acknowledged only with a cheapskate Hallmark card. 

I could take up where I left off in the Confederacy of Dunces, a novel I began reading in 1980 and have always meant to finish. I could then sit down with my unopened copies of Moby Dick and Anna Karenina, and read them from cover to cover so that I would no longer have to nod my head in ag reement when someone talks about how great they are, pretending that I know exactly how they feel when, in fact, I have no clue.c