Column: On Tuesday, I’ll Take the Hamster

By Susan Parker
Tuesday November 28, 2006

I have received a lot of advice since Ralph passed away. It has been given with good intention and compassionate concern.  

Many people have made suggestions that involve money and lawyers, stocks and bonds, taxes and creative loopholes.  

“Have you got your finances figured out yet?” my dad asks everyday.  

“Have you thought about getting a job?” asks Mom.  

“I think you should move,” suggests a neighbor.  

“No,” says another. “I think she should stay right here for the next six months.”  

“At least a year,” argues a third person.  

“What’s her hurry?” asks someone else.  

“Get your hair styled differently and go on a long vacation,” says my friend, Amy. “To India,” she adds. “That’s where you should go. You’ll get some perspective and see how your own problems don’t matter.”  

“Have you seen a therapist?” asks Karen.  

“Are you taking your meds?” inquires Corey.  

“When are you finishing your MFA?” asks Pearl.  

“Have you thought about getting a job?” repeats Mom.  

Andrew insists I go wireless. “You only need a cell phone and a modem,” he says, then looks at my face and changes his mind. “Better get cable,” he adds. “You know, in case you need something to do.”  

Ann from Idaho suggests I follow a raw vegan diet. “No meat, cheese or eggs.” she recommends. “Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed nuts at the same time each day, but never in combo with one another.”  

“Drink only bottled water,” adds her husband, Tom. “And maybe an occasional beer.”  

“Drink only dirty martinis,” says Dad. “Make sure you use good vodka, and olives with a bite.”  

“Everything in moderation,” cautions Mom. “Have you thought about getting a job?”  

“Get the house professionally cleaned, the windows washed, and the weeds pulled,” instructs Suzanne. “Plant daffodil and tulip bulbs so you’ll have something to look forward to in the spring.”  

“Join a gym,” says my brother, Bill, “and work on those abs.”  

“Join a country club,” says my sister-in-law, Chris, “and take up golf and bridge.”  

“Come up to Tahoe and ski with us,” invites Diane.  

“Come to Bend and ski here,” counters Patrick.  

“Come out to Crested Butte and ski with me,” insists Jill.  

“Don’t go anywhere,” says Mom, “until you get a job.”  

“What about a cute little pet?” asks my nephew, Bryce, holding something fuzzy and wiggly close to his chest, “My hamster just had babies.”  

“Here, drink this protein shake,” demands Taffy during a visit with her over Thanksgiving. “And take these special vitamins.”  

She hands me a large glass full of yogurt, brewer’s yeast, and wheat grass, then rips open a small sealed cellophane bag and spreads five large white capsules on the table in front of me. “These are special,” she says again.  

“How?” I ask.  

“I had them custom-made.”  

“Explain that,” I say, staring down at the pills. They look like plastic bullets.  

“I sent a urine sample and a large check to a lab in Chicago and they did some tests and came up with a formula based on what they found. Then they put it into powder form, stuffed it into capsules, and shipped it off.”  

She smiles. “One-of-a-kind,” she says. “Or in this case a thousand. It was a very big check.”  

“Do you really think vitamins created especially for you will work for me?” I ask.  

Just then Taffy’s husband walks into the kitchen. “Whose vitamins are you taking?” he interrupts. “Yours or mine?”  

“Mine,” says Taffy. “But tomorrow we’re taking yours.”  

I listen to every piece of advice I am given. I consider each new recommendation and proposal. I shake my head up and down and side to side, and smile with cautious resignation. I take Taffy’s special pills on Sunday, and Gary’s special pills on Monday, but I turn down, with regret, the generous offer of a free hamster. Next week, perhaps, I’ll start looking for a job.