15 April, 2017

Everyday Exchange

...even though you're crazy you will never be a bother....

She returns from the MRI, smiling. I hand her pocketbook to her.

How was it?

"It was fine. I guess. It's like being in a coffin."

I don't ask how she would know.

I made sure you were dressed warmly this time. Last time, you were cold and squirmed a lot. 

She sits and begins rummaging in her bag.

Whatcha looking for, Mama?

"Hair brush. I don't know if I have one, though."

You do. I saw it when I moved it from your winter purse.

"Why did you have my winter purse?"

You were carrying it this afternoon when we came here today. I transferred the things from your winter purse to the summer one.

"So you weren't totally idle."

Yes, I amused myself moving your things from one purse to another. Well, most of the things.

She looks alarmed.

"What do you mean, most of them?"

Well, I threw away all the used tissues.

She feigns irritation. "Hmph. I was saving those."

And dumped the crumbs.

"Poor ducks will starve."

But your hairbrush and your lipsticks are there.

"So I can be beautiful. I just don't know for who. You, I guess."

You do clean up nicely, I must say. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers; The Hunter

10 March, 2017

Biscuit, Please?

...you may not like/ the things we do/ only idiots/ ignore the truth....

We enter though the gate, returning from an outing. She holds it open for me, turns around to make sure it closes behind.

"Good girl," she murmurs, "good dog, good doggies."

Mother. Did you just say 'Good Dog' to me?

"Of course not."

Of course not.

Dog Eat Dog; Adam and the Ants

02 February, 2017

One Direction

...I would walk through the desert/ I would walk down the aisle/ I would swim all the oceans....

We exit the gate, dogs in tow. We all walk down the driveway. She heads left with Winnie, the way she always does. I and the dog with the stupidest name in the world move a bit to the right.

Why don't we go this way for a change? Change the scenery around a little.

She shakes her head. "Too much traffic on Maple."

Mother. It's exactly the same as we usually do, just around the block this way instead of that way.

She sighs. "Fine. We'll do it YOUR way. But I still say there's too much traffic in that direction."

One Direction; Stand Up

01 February, 2017

A Door, Ajar

...no one remembers your name/ when you're strange....

Clever and Athletic Sister put a spring thing on the gate, so it closes itself.

This did not solve the problem of Mother leaving the back door wide open while she walked the dogs, allowing insect access, escape of air-conditioned coolness or furnace-generated heat.

It also didn't solve the horrorshow of back door madness that resulted when she allowed some unqualified hucksters to put an addition onto the side of her house. Aside from the 'powder room' that's completely non-functional due to uninsulated pipes that we turn off in the winter time, the inner door opened outward, and the outer door, one step away, opened inward. It also was crooked and wouldn't lock properly.

CAS thought a new outer door would be a good idea. I shopped at Lowe's for a hot minute, sent photographs of things I thought were nice and the price range they were. CAS's contractor husband ordered a thing called a "left hand outswing steel door".

Wes The Handyman came to install the door, which was a big hairy deal. Pugsley helped, because installing a door is really a two-person job, but Mother was so put out, hovering and disagreeable that CAS finally took her away to do some shopping and have lunch. Don't move Mother's water dish. Or, if you must, do it when she's not looking.

It became a two day job. On the second day, Wes put the old wooden outer door back on the inner door, where it always had used to be. It swings inward, and has a lovely old glass doorknob. The hooks for the dog leashes are embedded in it. But the hucksters had chopped it so it no longer fills the doorframe, leaving a four-inch gap at the bottom. The steel door helps keep the cold out, but the pipes in the "addition" aren't all that is uninsulated. Wes said he'd put a two-by on the bottom or something like that. I suggested "mudflap" because that's the sort of brain I have. He said he'd look when he went to get supplies to finish the cosmetic interior of the outer doorframe. CAS had purchased a programmable door lock, so that keys wouldn't be an issue. Pugsley did the programming. We all learned to use the fancy lock, including Lucy, so that she could teach Mother when Mother was calm.

Wes came back with some rubber stair treads, one for each side of the door. He cut them to fit, mounted them at the bottom and they work beautifully.

So. Mother has two doors that work, are no longer a booby trap because the inner one opens outward and the outer one opens inward and there's no space between them. Egress is smooth and easy. The cold mostly stays outside and the warmth inside, which I imagine will reverse when summer comes.


The gate shuts by itself, but the door hangs open again. Because Mother walks out with the dogs, leaving the door open. Both doors, actually.

When Lucy or I are with her, not so much. But she's still by herself for a significant portion of each day, for the time being.  This is worrisome if she's going to walk the dogs and leave the door open, notice she's low on dog food and decide to walk the mile or so to the grocery at 5pm on a windy evening, say Yes to various contractors who knock on her door... but she wants to retain her independence. Or her illusion thereof, which, between CAS, Lucy and me, we manage to permit.

So CAS orders a pump to make the outer door close automatically, just as the gate does. It solves the problem, mostly. The door doesn't actually latch unless it's pushed into place. However, it appears closed and it keeps the cold and the bugs on the outside.

We've showed her how to operate the lock. She understands it, mostly. It is a myth that Alzheimer's patients can't learn new things. It just takes repetition and mimicry. I've asked Lucy to implement the phrase, "Let's turn around and close the door," so that it will sink in, but with the new pump, that's not as important.

Yesterday, I took down three (well, two and a half; she came back into the room before I could finish) weird little contraptions that she's put on the inside of the inside door, to lock it. "For protection. I'm a woman living alone," she explained to Lucy on Monday, when she put up two different such mechanisms.

Never mind that the open doors left routinely by this woman living alone are much more of a hazard. That sort of logic doesn't apply.  I show Mother how to operate the lock mechanism from the inside of the outer door, so she won't need a hook and eye on the inside of the inside door, which will mostly just keep out people who come to help her.

Look. If you lock this one, you're safe, and only people who love you can come inside. She agrees that this is secure. But that was yesterday. She may have put up a new, poorly executed latch by this morning.

Daily entertainment. Never a dull moment.

The Doors; People Are Strange

02 January, 2017

Quick Update

...it's a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in bacon...mmmmmmm....

Happy 2017. I could post about everything that kept me from writing in 2016, but even I don't care about that very much.

Mother isn't better, but she's not getting worse very quickly. If one loosens one's definition of 'conversation', she's still conversational, and somewhat lively. She is at the moment safe, comfortable and relatively happy. She still lives in her own house with two dogs. We're talking about screening her for participation in a drug study. Is it awful that I said to my sister, "It's one way in which her life can be meaningful at this point." ?

She says silly things like "Put the chicken in the car and the car won't go, and that's how you spell Chicago!"  apropos of usually nothing at all. I decorated her house for Xms, and we had some nice little holiday celebration activities.

Today we take her older dog to the vet, so I must go over and breakfast her. It's a gloomy day and she'll probably be extra sluggish. Must remove all the items I've snuck out of her house from the back of the truck before I leave, though. Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full.

21 August, 2016

Six Things

...just me and you/and then we can na-na, na-na/just like before/and you will say na-na, na-na/lease give me more/and you will think na-na, na-na/hey, that's what I'm livin' for....

We have almost a routine.

I go in the morning, give breakfast and vitamins, visit a little, chat, make iced coffee for her, do chores. Smuggle more of the fudgicles I've made for her into the freezer. We go to her yoga class or seated shiatsu. I make a sandwich or some other lunch thing, usually with a pickle.

Then I go away and do something else.

Between 5 and 6, I go back, make dinner, sit down, eat a little something with her, give her medications, then either walk the dogs with her or just go away.

By seven, she's grouchy and ready for me to leave. I think it's bedtime.

When Leela, our part-time caregiver comes, I don't rush over to make breakfast. For this first week of Leela being with us, I've been going, just to interact with Mother and Leela, so that Mother feels safe and comfortable, and so that Leela can see how it's done, adopt my tactics, put the packaged hospital juice in a real glass with ice, tease Mother, tell her what we're doing instead of ask what Mother wants to do. Mother doesn't know what she wants to do. She changed her mind four times in half a block about whether she'd go all the way around the block or just to the corner and back.

So, when Leela's going to be there, I can work from when I wake until suppertime, unless Extremely Athletic Sister intends to be there (Once in the last ten days, briefly, because I had a funeral to attend in New Jersey. Mother remembered that someone had delivered dinner to her, but not that EAS had shown up in person. "I wasn't there long, so I'm not surprised," she said.), in which case I have a 'day off'.

Yesterday was Saturday. Pugsley leaves to look after Neighbor Cat, which he is doing twice daily while Neighbor is away. A package comes for Wednesday. I have an excuse to wake her. I do. I hand her a box cutter and stand in the doorway.

So do you need privacy or something to open this package? Are you waiting for me to leave?

"I need pants."

To open a package?

"I was going to review the contents, either with video or photographs, so, yeah."

I leave. Pugsley returns.

Would you like me to cook some eggs for you?

"I wouldn't say No to that."

Look, let's hurry your sister, we'll go to the bank and to Muzzy's house, I'll feed ALL of you, then we'll go to Costco and Aldi.

"Uh, okay. Is she awake?"

We scramble out of the house. Mother has ingredients on the counter. Evidently, she did want pancakes and eggs, and either was distracted from cooking them for herself, or this is her 'helping'. I heat frozen pancakes, cook six fried eggs, hand Mother the coffee I find warm in the microwave. Then I scurry to the bank.

Everyone is playing some sort of game when I return. Mother has her crosswords and both Pugsley and Wednesday are playing Solitaire. As I wash dishes, I hear Wednesday berate her brother for 'ruining her game.' I open a WordFind book, discover a few Stevie Wonder -themed phrases then realize we're not going anywhere until I signal readiness by standing with my bag on my shoulder. After Wednesday wins one round (Pugsley has stalked off to the living room), I do.

You ready, Mother? Did you want a different dress today?

"No, I'm fine."

She had a shower- there was a trace of talcum powder on the floor and her towel was wet. She just put on the same dress as yesterday. She's right, it's fine. I hand her a pair of shoes.

We go to Costco.

What were we doing at Costco today, my son?

"Eating samples."

Really? We didn't plan to buy anything? Or eat pizza? Or, no. You guys just had breakfast.

"It's always Pizza Time if you're under thirty, Mom."


"But we did want those Udon noodle bowls."

We eat samples, look at Halloween costumes, try to not get into a collision with other Costco shoppers. Mother spies someone with a very large behind, says, "As my mother used to say, I'll never eat another piece of bread." Yes, her mother did used to say that. It was embarrassing then, too. Neither Mother nor Grandmother was very good at 'quiet asides.' Oh, the aside part, sure, but quiet? Not so much. I fumble in my brain for things to say to Mother, gentle admonishment, consideration for people's feelings, public appropriateness, decide there's no point, and besides in the 45 seconds it's taken me to consider, she's forgotten all about it and I'd need to explain. Sigh.

We collect lettuce, noodle bowls and a large jar of pickles. The line is long. I hand Pugsley a $20 and tell him to get a coffee slushie for his Muzzy and whatever he and Wednesday want. They go to the food court. A cashier suddenly opens a register, and I'm finished with purchasing before the kids have gotten food. I sit with Mother.

Before we go to the grocery, we'll go to the dollar store. We need three things.

Mother digs in her purse, finds a pencil and a scrap of paper.

Trash can.

"I don't need a trash can."

Wednesday needs one for her dorm room.

She writes 'trash can.'

Carbine clips, for me. And a butter dish for you.

She writes things down. "I don't need a butter dish. I have a butter dish."

This morning, while I was cooking, your refrigerator spat the butter dish out at me. The glass base didn't break, but the plastic lid did. I wanted to look for a new lid. 

When the kids have finished their pizza and Mother and I have finished coffee slushies, we drive one mile to Aldi and the dollar store. I pull into a parking place and turn to Mother.

Now, we need three things at the dollar store.

"Good sense, money and chocolate?"

Okay, six things. 

Mouth & MacNeal; How Do You Do

18 August, 2016

Unsuitable Caregiver

...and if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won't have to cry no more....

I am not cut out for this. Look, I'm nobody's ideal of a caretaker. I'm nobody's ideal of a mother: I curse too much, tell the kids to hush when I'm writing and in general allow them to fend for themselves and scrounge for food instead of making regular meals. Naptime? Bedtime? Pffffff.

And yet. Due to Gomez being on the road pretty much full time, I've had sole responsibility for their upbringing in many areas. Parent teacher meetings (which were pretty low-key when we were homeschooling), extracurricular functions, social functions, age appropriate apparati, special projects, shopping, meals, rules and enforcement thereof... almost exclusively me.

It was exhausting.

I'd anticipated a few years of regrouping, maybe one or two pet projects completed in between children and Mother care. I don't get to have even one year, or even half a project. Mother needs more intervention: November. Monitoring her medication on a weekly basis: December. Remove Mother's car from her possession and start driving her everywhere she needs to go: January. Mother's diagnosis: February. Pugsley turns twenty-one: February. Daily monitoring of Mother's medications: March. Pugsley's accepted as a transfer student to UMD: March. Wednesday's accepted into art school: April. Pugsley graduates community college: May. Wednesday's senior class trip: May/June. Hire a part time companion for Mother: May. Wednesday graduates from Baltimore School for the Arts: June. Home visit from Department of Aging representative: June. Wednesday visits Poppi: June. Tiny four-day family vacation: June/July. Mother's friend actively resistant to letting us know when she's taking Mother for an outing: July. Part-time companion informs us she starts new full-time job soon: July. Interview with Case Manager to find new part-time companion: July. Robocall cancelling Mother's primary care doctor visit : July.  Lack of communication from companion provider company: July.

Her bifocals are missing. ExceedinglyAthleticAndVeryAdorableSister thinks the dog ate them.

That dog. THAT DOG.

He puts his mouth on EVERYTHING, including fingers, but Mother will tolerate discipline not one bit.

And as far as dogs go- and this is a sidebar- I have this to say about that, regarding Depression.

Likening depression to Winston Churchill's Black Dog helps me sometimes. Sometimes I glare at him and he lies down in the corner. Sometimes I wrestle him and I don't win, but neither does he. Sometimes he comes and lies down on top of me and all I can do is keep calm and keep breathing and wait for him to go away. He always goes away, but the days when he sits on me are now full of frustration and irritation instead of hopelessness and despair.

I'm thinking about Depression a lot lately, Since we've been unisured all year (it's complicated and Mother-related) I haven't been having my anti-depressants. I've been rationing my ADD/Narcolepsy drug I find myself responding to people my age-ish who complain about their parents being nosy, or old-school, or rude, or any number of complaints with comments like this one:

I go over to feed my mother once or twice a day, generally. Left to herself, she'll consume an entire box of fudgeicles and have no actual meals. She thinks she cooks for herself. She thinks she's 77. She's 72. The mind is a terrible thing.

I wish I had a point with this post, but sometimes, sometimes, it's nothing but complaints. It's nothing but exhaustion. 

No. Not "nothing but," because there are also moments such as this.

Mother spots a dried rose petal on my dash when she gets into the car. 

"Do you mind if I throw away this bit of... this... this dead..."


"Yes, petal. Is it all right if I throw it away, out the window?"

I put it there especially for you so you could have a fun activity.

"A fun activity. Just like Romper Room."

And she tosses the petal out the open window as we drive. 

Cat Stevens; Moonshadow