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

12 July, 2016

Hoppin' Madness

...along came a man by the name of Charlie Mops/ and he invented a wonderful drink and he made it out of hops.....

Yesterday, the dog food was in the refrigerator. Today it was in the dog dishes on the floor in the kitchen. It's a warped life when normal looks odd.

Extremely Athletic Sister said today that Mother was on a tear about people lying to her and stealing from her. She said she didn't inquire, just redirected. Because from Mother's perspective, we did steal her dog and lied about taking the car to the mechanic.

When I arrived to share a beer, she pulled out that loop on me. Since she'd been spoiling for it all day, I went ahead and gave her an argument.

I gave her an argument.

She told me I was patronizing. I told her that her perception of her abilities and her actual abilities did not match, and that I could list examples all she liked, but she wouldn't believe me, and wouldn't remember, and then wouldn't remember later that I'd listed things for her.

And then I changed my tone, and we weren't arguing anymore.

I wasn't invested in the actual argument; I know I can't win. She can't, either, but if she wanted a good grouseabout, it's no skin off my nose.

She drank about half of the Natty Boh I poured into her glass, which was about half the can. I drank the other half, and then the rest of hers when she passed it to me.

I'm'a have beer with her again tomorrow.

Yes, I think I will.

Traditional Irish; Beer Beer Beer

11 July, 2016

Sedimentary Revelations

...memories/ light the corners of my mind/ misty, water-coloured memories....

I've compared the progress of the disease to sedimentary rock in a sandstorm, with the sand gradually wearing away the recent layers, destroying the rock formation, but in the process, revealing forgotten nuggets of information, memory, personal history.

"When I was a girl, there were places on the streetcar for white people to sit, and black people sat in another area. Same with the busses, everywhere. When I took a trip to New York City to visit an aunt, I saw a man and a woman, black and white, walking hand in hand. I had never seen that before. You didn't see it, not in the South."

My mother was born in 1944.

This one is more personal, and to do with Mason jar coffee.

"My mother used to carry her coffee with her in little bottles everywhere. She didn't make it, one of the maids did, but she'd carry it in glass bottles when we were away from home. We were on vacation, at a restaurant, and she ordered milk, and asked them to heat it up. And they would, you know. So the waitress comes with the hot milk on a tray. Meanwhile, my mother has poured coffee from the bottle in her bag into her cup that was on the table. So when this waitress pours hot milk into my mother's cup, all this dark stuff swirls up from the cup and wasn't she astonished, like a magic trick. Her face was very surprised."

I'm going to catch as many of these time capsules as I can manage, like ancient Pokemons of the mind. Now THERE's a Fixed Point event for you; it's been just 4 days since the Big Release of Go.

Barbara Streisand; The Way We Were 

10 July, 2016

Absurdness Normalized

...teach me how to be sensible/ logical, responsible, practical/ and they showed me a world where I could be so dependable/ clinical, intellectual, cynical.....

Four days ago:

When Extremely Athletic Sister comes in, talking to herself, except she isn't, she's on the phone, I beckon her to peek in the microwave.

In one of the divided dishes EAS got for meals-on-wheels- esque prepared suppers that we've been doing for her is....dry dog food. In the microwave.

I do not understand this. I do not expect to understand this. What I want right now is for someone else to not understand it with me.

EAS peeks. Her face crumples into a bulldog frown- I've always loved my sister's expressive face- and it tilts to the side a little. She waves arms and hands in a "What is this new madness?" gesture.

Mission accomplished. I am satisfied. I shrug at her and she, still frowning, wanders away, talking, listening.

Yesterday, via text, Extremely Athletic Sister to me:

         Discovered why mom puts the dog food in the microwave

And there is a longish pause. For suspense, I guess. 

        To keep the flies off of it
        Aha. Except not really.
               Since she keeps dog poo on the porch. And ties the screen door open.

    That kind of logic doesn't work here.

Damn straight it doesn't.

Supertramp; The Logical Song

08 July, 2016

Girl Scout

...any way you want to eat them it's / impossible to beat them/ but bananas like the climate/ of the very,
very tropical equator.....

She has an appointment at ten. Sister intends to arrive at nine, be at the office at nine thirty. It's eight thirty and she's not answering her phone. I drive over at 8:45, finally reaching her over the phone.

"I'm just going to take the dogs for a quick walk, just up the block and back, and then I'll jump in the shower and become clean, dried and dressed." I hear her, but I don't believe her.

I arrive, and the shower is running. I pull two gowns from her closet and leave them on her bed, then head downstairs to make some preparations. She's not going to have time for second or third breakfast, and I hope she's had first breakfast already.

Excerpt from the Jackie's World document I created for the person Mother calls "the babysitter."

Schedule, such as it is:Jackie thinks she wakes up early in the morning, by six-thirty or seven, so we’re going to let her go on thinking that, okay? She is almost always up before eight, though, and letting dogs out, giving them breakfast and having her grapefruit half. (note: the dogs do wake her up to be let outside between 6-6:30 but she will often go back to bed)

Breakfast comes in 4 parts: Grapefruit halfHavarti cheese and half a pearCoffee and crossword puzzlesTwo eggs and toast or English muffin

She doesn’t always get to all four of these parts, but can become agitated if any one part is missing. I think she phoned me 3 times in the amount of time it took me to get from my home to the grocery to her home, because she was out of grapefruit. I live ten minutes from her neighborhood, and the grocery is five minutes away from her. So. No more running out of grapefruit.

The most often skipped bit is the eggs and toast. She’s crabbier if she doesn’t eat eggs, but she doesn’t always feel hungry.
After Breakfast 1-3, she’s ready for her shower, if she has somewhere to go. She’s pokey about getting into the shower, but once there, washing and dressing (and doing hair and makeup!) takes maybe 20 minutes. If I put a clean outfit on her bed, she’ll choose a clean shirt and pants from the folded ones on top of her dresser. If I don’t put an outfit on the bed, she’ll put on whatever is on top of her dresser, which might be clean shirts and pants, but often is the clothes she took off last night. I try to put her already worn clothes into the laundry hamper, but I’m not always speedy enough to get to the dresser before she does.

If there’s time before we go out to our comings and goings, she has eggs. I offer her water and vitamins around now, if she hasn’t had them already. She likes the gummy vitamins very much.

She thinks she’s been making the coffee that’s in her carafe, but she hasn’t. I brew it in a ceramic cone and a mason jar, because I don’t understand that stupid little coffeemaker of hers.

"I don't eat the crossword puzzle," she always argues, but it doesn't matter whether she EATS it or not. If she NEEDS it for her good morning, it's part of her complete breakfast.

While she's in the shower, I'm in the kitchen. I found her newspaper. She's called three days in a row, claiming her paper isn't being delivered, asking me to get one for her. I don't know why she thinks she's not getting one. The paper I bought for her on Monday, I found two copies of on Tuesday. Tuesday's paper was on the table. It's Thursday. I unwrap the paper, fold it so the crossword is exposed, grab a pencil, tuck it in my bag. I peel a hard boiled egg, put it in a container, get a small container for salt and pepper, moisten some paper towels, fetch a plastic container of melon from her fridge. Everything goes into the Jackie Bag.

Sister arrives as I'm prepping, talking on the phone. Some very important work thing. Most of her work seems to be about phone calls and meetings. I don't really understand what she does. Whatever it is, it pays a lot better than what I do, which is take care of Mother, write, perform and work at the school or flower shop when I can.

I go to the car to get a gift I bought for Sister while I was on a tiny four-day vacation with my family, find a bottle of water and take it with me to tuck into the Jackie Bag.

"I'll be ready when I'm ready," she snaps, coming downstairs in a floral sundress, snatching her grapefruit half from the fridge. She roots through her silverware drawer, hunting.

"It's probably in the refrigerator," Sister offers.

"What is?" snarls Mother.

"You're looking for the grapefruit knife, aren't you?"

I fetch all three of them from the cheese drawer, where they appear to live now. Aha! This explains the frequent appearance of half the contents of her silverware drawer on the counter. She looks for the knife, gets frustrated, decides to have pear and cheese, and finds the grapefruit knives when she opens the cheese drawer. And the flatware doesn't put itself away in the drawer.

At the table, Mother mangles her grapefruit half, stuffing sections into her face. I hand her a cup of hot coffee, sit down opposite her, calmly, while Sister opens her gift.

"Your gift is in the fridge. I brought fudge for you. You had some last night, for dinner, I think."

"Sounds like dinner to me!" She brightens as she eats her fruit.

Once we've packed ourselves into the car and she finishes the cup of coffee, I begin offering breakfast items.

"I peeled an egg, would you like it?"

"Wow, an already-peeled egg, what luxury." She takes it. I pass the smaller container with salt and pepper, thinking she'll dip the egg. No, she sprinkles the spice onto the egg.

"Here, I have this container- you could sprinkle over that, instead of over your lap."

"It's a black and white dress. It won't show." She takes the plastic dish.

Next, I offer the banana, then take the peel, put it in the container that had the egg, offer a wet towel, then the bottled water.

"What a Girl Scout," my sister observes. No, these are skills left over from my diaper bag days. But I keep those words on the inside of my teeth. No need to point out what Sister has never done, or equate my mother, right in front of her, to a small child.

It does make me ponder, though, about how nobody bats an eye when one straps a human being into a seat, then ignores the resultant screaming with an indulgent smile, and it's all perfectly legal, as long as that human being is under three feet tall.

Elsa Miranda; The Chiquita Banana Song, 1945