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

18 June, 2016

Gradual Progression

...I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker/ and in short, I was afraid...

I went. It was fine. Pugsley helped.

Okay, I'm going to Muzzy's now. Do you want to come with me?

"Do you want me to come with you?"

It would be nice to have your company.

"Okay, let me get my wallet. We can have snowballs afterward."

With Muzzy, or without her?

"Either way."

He is a good human. We arrive and he plops on her sofa. I fiddle with food for her, cut in half the half a turkey sandwich on a plate inside a bread bag in her fridge, cut a few chunks off the mostly-dead pear on the plate in the cheese drawer with two paring knives and a grapefruit knife, put some grapes on it. Give it to her while I heat chicken-lentils and rice with green beans. She eats the sandwich and pears, a few of the grapes. I bring the warm food. She takes the pills I give her, complaining that she's likely to rattle. She pats the dog and tells him what a good dog he is, even though he ignores her when she tells him to sit. She keeps getting up to check on the other dog, see what that noise is, hunt in the fridge.

Whatchoo want, Mama?

"Some protein. I've got nothing but carbs there."

She pulls something, brings it to the table.

You have protein. There's lentils and chicken with that rice. There's fried chicken in the fridge if you want it, though.

"What is this, pizza?"

Looks like your daughter's lasagna to me. Do you want me to heat it for you?

"No, it's fine."

She has a few bites of it, cold, then puts it, the few green beans she doesn't want and the plate of grapes in the fridge, uncovered, on top of the egg carton. I show her the plastic boxes of pancakes and sliced bananas I've made up for her. I didn't say anything about the last batch I did for her, but I spotted their plastic dishes in the sink, so I know she found and ate them.

Is it okay if I close this back door? The bugs are getting in again. I ordered a screen curtain for you, like we talked about- it should be here any day. 

"Okay, but the dogs want a walk, even though they've had four walks today, the greedy things."

I'll go with you. 

I unclip the two leashes from the giant palm-sized D ring that's attached to them, hand the pink one to her. I clip the young dog to his leash. She fusses with the D ring.

Could we leave that home this time? You don't need it.

"Why do I need to leave it?"

You hit me with it yesterday.

"No I didn't! Did I?"

Yeah, so if it's okay with you, I'd rather it stayed home.

"On purpose?"

Yes, you hit me on purpose. 

I don't show her the bruises.

Is it okay with you if I move these bags of dog poop off of the porch, maybe near the garage? It'll decrease the flies on your porch and in your house.

"Why am I keeping dog poop on the porch? That's stupid."

I shrug and move the planter that has newspaper bag filled with poo. I'll deal with them tomorrow.

Our walk goes without incident, though she wants to argue with me that several walks up to the corner and back at her toddler's pace are enough exercise for her year-and-a-half old 75-pound dog.

Well, if you're too tired to want to go all the way around the block, you can go back home with Winnie, and Panda and I will get a bit more exercise.

"No, I think I can manage a whole block."

Of course she can. When she began getting easily fatigued, needing to stop and rest, moving at half speed, I don't quite recall. I think maybe three years? It's hard to pinpoint. When we arrive home, I give her a deck of cards, lay out a Solitaire hand with a second one. She shuffles the cards once and sets them aside. She looks towards the sofa a little longingly, but Pugsley is snoozing on it. I think that sofa is covered in sleeping powder. Anyone who sits on it goes to sleep fairly quickly. I ask if she wants to get ready to go out with her friend Dottie.

"Well, no. The corpuscles just aren't feeling up to it. I'd better not."

You ought to phone her, then, before you go having any naps. 

"You're right. I should do that."

She does not move.

Would you like me to bring the phone to you?

"Yes, thank you. That would be nice."

She makes a call while I lose at Solitaire, leaves a message.

"Want me to vacate the sofa so you can have your nap, Muzzy?" comes Pugsley's voice from the other room when she presses the disconnect button.

"No, that's why I have two sofas!" she says, making her way into the living room.

"Okay, then we'll leave you to nap in peace," he says.

"You don't need to. I can nap no matter who's here."

Good to know, but we should go now. 

We give her kisses and exit, but after we've closed her back door against the bugs, we notice it open again.

"How did that damn dog get out?" Pugsley wonders.

Did we not close the door firmly?

"No, we did... look, Muzzy isn't napping, she's sitting on the porch."

Well, whatever. I don't even know anymore. Thank you for coming with me.

"Sure. What flavor snowball do you think would go nicely with marshmallow? You said I owed it to myself to at least try it."

And we discuss. With these few words, he sidetracks me from despair.

T. S. Eliot; The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

17 June, 2016

Medication Roulette

...let her under your skin/ then you begin to make it better....

I should have been there already.

I should have phoned already, probably twice.

I'll go, I will. I just can't, not yet.

It's not just that I'm sore (which I am) or that I don't know what to say (which I don't) or that I can pretend nothing happened and everything is fine (because I can't, and it isn't), but much more that I haven't forgotten, (though I'm fairly sure she has), I have almost but not quite forgiven, and that I don't trust her.

Do my bruises show? I can hide them; should I?

What do I say if she asks why I'm bruised?

How do I keep her from bringing the trowel with her every time we walk the dogs? (It wasn't the trowel this time, it was the metal part of the leash, but it could've been)

How do I feel if she doesn't notice the bruises?

When do I say, I can't handle this anymore?

Who needs to know? (So far, only Pugsley, who said, "Yeah, you should ice that." Much later he asked how I got it.)

The second medication is absurdly costly: $990 for a 90 day supply- the pharmacist called to warn me, because he said he'd almost fallen over when he saw the price; he'd knocked it down to 30 days' worth for $330- so we're making due for now with the samples from her neurologist's office.

Her first medication, which is supposed to slow progression of the disease, makes her irritable but alert, and (conversely) inclined to sleep more. The second medication, the expensive one which we added after a month, makes her pleasant and cheerful and sleepy. It came in a step-up pack, and she did gradually better with the increased dosage to a certain point. When she started being more sleepy than cheerful, I contacted her doctor to get a reduced dosage prescribed.

I went out of town for one day. Left at 10:30 in the morning, returned at 4:30 the next day. Called her, brought dinner to her. Walked the dogs. Didn't give pills to her. Did I leave some for Wednesday's dose? There weren't any there. Did her part-time helper give them to her, or did I not leave them in her pill box?

Last night I did the same, but she did get her pills. I made sure. Tonight I will do likewise. This may be entirely my fault.

Knowing that, strangely, doesn't make me feel better.

Beatles; Hey, Jude

24 May, 2016

Monday Morning

...feelings like I've never lost you/and feelings like I'll never have you/again in my heart....

She's taking more and more time to get ready for things, spending more and more time "examining the insides of her eyelids" and "holding down the sofa". She's happy, but blurry and out of focus.

We go out to the Honey Bee Diner for brunch after she teaches her yoga class. She's like a toddler, hungry every three hours or so, but not usually able to eat very much at one go.

Over pancakes, we discuss this and that. I try to play Hangman with her on the back of the placemat, but she doesn't remember how to play. I explain. She guesses O. I fill in an O.

What letter do you guess next?

"No, it's your turn to guess a letter. I guessed the last one."

She says it's hard to see the page. I ask why she didn't wear her new bifocals. She says she needs some new readers, as she can't find hers. I know why. Very Athletic Sister has removed most of them. I tell her we can go to the dollar store, but not for that.

"If you can't be bothered to take me to the dollar store for some new reading glasses, I'll ask a neighbor. Or I'll walk!"  As if that's a threat.

Of course I'd be happy to take you to the dollar store for anything you wish. But the dollar store readers don't help you. I say this because I've seen you with three pair of them stacked on your nose, and you asking me for the magnifying glass, which is right there on the table. 

We have this conversation two or three more times as she finishes eggs and bacon.

I distract her from eyewear, focus on her handbag. So we go instead to the Goodwill to shop for a small summer purse. I convinced her to let go of her threadbare denim one in December, I think, and now I tell her tweed isn't for spring and summer. We discuss how persistent February is this year, as today hardly seems springlike. I remind her of her mother, who used to keep many handbags in a doorhanger plastic sleeve, one bag for every three or four pair of shoes. I tell her we're not going to go overboard, but one bag for fall/winter and another for spring/summer is probably a reasonable thing. She agrees. We find also a pair of beige Crocs. I like that they have the heel strap. The sidewalks in her neighborhood conspire with her big dogs to make her stumble and fall. Her shoes do not need to become co-conspirators in her tumbles, the ones she swears she doesn't have.

We return to her home and she seems ready for a nap. I ask if it's okay if I take the dogs out for a walk while she gets started holding down the sofa. She agrees, but doesn't actually settle. When we three return, she's still dithering in the house. I give her kisses, fairly certain that once I leave, she'll lie down awhile. It is almost 2 pm. I arrived at 10 am. I try to imagine someone else doing things for and with my mother, having the morning with her that I have just had. I have several feelings wrap themselves into the folds of my brain, and am too weary to sort them just now. One that I can identify, however, is a sense of being left out. Another is relief. The anxiousness is understandable. There are at least three more, though, snarled in a bunch, that will require patience and maybe a pin to untease.

Morris Albert; Feelings

10 May, 2016

Walking Stubborn

...got my own trick up my sleeve/I can make you disappear....

7:35 AM: Very Athletic Sister

               Mollie task list- vacuum dust dishes wipe microwave               counters change sheets bathroom (clean sink tub                   toilet)start load of sheets and bath towels toss spoiled         food from fridge

       what shall I do about the vacuum? I need to buy a replacement?

              No it's new
         Or only a few months old
            She could use the rainbow but its much harder
              rainbow's in the upstairs closet

7:55 AM: I phone to tell her I'm coming to her house to take her to teach her yoga class at the Senior Center.

But I need a few things at Target first, so I'm stopping there and then I'll come fetch you. Do you need anything?

"Would you buy a box of tissues for me? I seem to be all out of tissues. Or two, two would be nice."

I'll be happy to buy some sneezers for you. That's why I called, to see if you needed anything.

"Oh, sneezers! Or snotrags, whatever. Maybe two boxes would be nice. If you don't mind."

Of course I don't mind. And then I'll be over to fetch you to take you for yoga, probably nine thirty or quarter to ten. 

8:01 AM: Pugsley

       whatall did we need at target
               I need Nivea shaving cream but I'm not sure what else

      mop moisturizer olive boil ??

              Dunno, sounds like that is it

      Maddie want tishoose we need toilet paper?

               More wouldn't hurt

       Kitty litter?

               Wednesday needs to be there for that

8:22 AM: VAS

       Am at Target now, will price a vacuum. Just sopoke to Mother; confused about taxi vouchers.       I told her one of us would go with the first time.

       Please don't buy a vacuum

       And that she didn't need to worry about it today cuz I'm taking her

              I described it to her yesterday
                  to mom- the taxi thing
                      the vacuum at moms is fine

       She can't learn new things except by repetition. Mollie says not. I refuse to be in this pissing          contest.

So of course the phone rings because VAS needs to explain to me that she isn't arguing with me. Except of course she is. Except I'm not really the one she's arguing with, because I have no dog in this race. I just want the vacuuming to be done, by someone other than me. 

I poke things into the cart (buggy, basket; where ya from?) during this, and after I finish not arguing about a vacuum with VAS I discover Target doesn't have the moisturizer I usually buy. I spend more time than I ought researching what Paula deems a good eye cream, facial moisturizer, and I'd've liked to search mascaras, too, but I stop myself. 

9:42 AM: Mollie
               On my way.

I don't text back, because I'm later than I meant to be and she's probably driving.

9:55 AM: I phone to tell her I'm on my way, but there is no answer.

10:00 AM: I phone... no answer.

10:05 AM: I knock, enter and frighten Mollie, who has arrived and begun working. 

Where's my mother?

"What? I though she was with you. I thought youz had already left. The door was unlocked. One dog was outside the house, the light one, and the other one, the jumping one, was inside. I thought youz had gone already."

Yeah, no, I'm running late. Did she take her yoga things? Or her purse?

The answer to both is No.

Mollie presses her hands to her chest, then flaps them. "Go, go! Find your mother! Aren't you worried sick?"

I should be, shouldn't I? I think about Wheres and Whys. She didn't phone and chew me out for being late. She might've phoned her neighborhood friend, who is IN the yoga class she teaches, but her yoga things are still there. Her glasses, the good ones, are on the desk. One dog in the house, one dog in the yard; maybe she thought she'd lost one and has gone looking. I do not phone VAS. My phone is mysteriously nearly battery-dead, despite having been plugged in to charge all night. I grab glasses, purse and yoga bag and back out of the driveway.

Hi, Ms. C. This is Cybele. Is my mother- is Jackie there? Has she come there already?

"I don't think so- hang on, I'll go look."

The pause is probably shorter than it seems.

"No, she's not here. I checked the yoga room and nobody's there yet."

I don't want to panic anyone, but I don't know where she is. She may have taken it into her head to walk to the Center. I'm driving there now. I'll let you know. 

I drive the mile or so to the Center. I spot her as she crosses the road. I pull up and park.

Hey there, Mama. Whatcha doing?

"Well, I didn't get a call, and I needed to get here."

She's clutching a paper in her hand.

I did call. I told you I was going to the Target. You asked me to buy tissues for you.

"I have no memory of that conversation. I needed to get here, so I walked."

I brought your yoga things.

"It's seated shiatsu, I don't need them."

No, Ma'am, today's Monday and you have yoga.

I follow her inside, into Ms. C's office, where I hear her muttering, probably something unpleasant in reference to me.

"But Jackie, your daughter brings you here every Monday. Tuesdays, too."

She looks at me.

"Well, what are we doing? Are we coming or going?"

I thought you might like to teach your yoga class.

"If there's anybody still there, I guess I'll teach them, if they want."

You're not late yet. Only one or two of your students have arrived. Do you feel like teaching?

"Since I'm here, I may as well."

She wanders away and disappears, not into the room where her students are waiting, then emerges from the bathroom, still clutching that paper.

Whatcha got there? May I see it?

"It's the taxi voucher. I need to figure it out so I can use it."

I told you I'd help you with that. May I look at it while you go teach?

She hands it to me, and goes into the room. I look at the paper- it's an order form for taxi voucher books.

I can't manage to sort my feelings. She had a busy day yesterday, Mother's Day. Admitted when I phoned that she was wandering around her house feeling confused. She walked more than a mile and a half to arrive safely, and early, to get to her class. But forgot that I'd called, forgot that I always bring her to the Center. Didn't think to call her friend, the one who lives in her neighborhood and takes her yoga class. Didn't call me wondering why I was late to fetch her.  Didn't... could have... What am I supposed to do?

Channing and Quinn; The Vanishing Act

27 April, 2016

Missing Items

...you try hard to hide/the emptiness inside/ooh, I can tell I'm losing you....

What's missing recently?

Sunday: her day planner.

Monday evening: her old, perhaps non-operative, outdoor thermometer, the one with the bear on it.

This morning: her new outdoor thermometer, the one with the bird on it.

This evening, three dog leashes, one red, one black, one pink.

"Well, I'll just be like Scarlett O'Hara and worry about it tomorrow. I'm sure once we start looking for something else, it'll pop right up. Isn't it always the way? The minute we stop needing it, there it'll be."

Except the grapefruit knife. We bought a new grapefruit knife, and the old one still didn't show up for about  a week.

"But it did show up, didn't it? It was right there in the refrigerator."

The dog leashes aren't in the refrigerator. I checked.

"I know. So did I. Twice."

The Temptations; I'm Losing You

26 April, 2016

Shadow Marks

...why am I so doubtful whenever you are out of sight?/suspicion torments my heart....

The bruises have come in along my chin, right where the shadow of my jawline falls.

Being as she is unable to learn new things, I wonder where she learned to hit like that.

She never hit me like that before, only an open palm to the face (and once, the flat side of a butter knife, because it was in her hand.) So someone hit her like that, deep in her past. Under the chin, calculated to not show.

Logically, I should suspect my grandmother, which indicates someone did that when SHE was a child.

I actually suspect my great-grandmother, my grandaddy's mother, who was by all accounts a fierce, harsh diva who only wanted things one way: hers.

Of course, anyone who could confirm this for me is long dead.

Elvis Presley; Suspicion

25 April, 2016

Descending Spiral

...You spin me right round, baby/right round like a record, baby/right round round round....

"What's this round white one for?"

That's your Aricept. It is to help prevent further memory loss.

"And this little yellow one?"

That's the Levothyroxin that you've been taking all your life.

"Not all my life, just since I was thirteen years old."

(The age changes. She used to tell me 'since I was fifteen years old', or sometimes 'sixteen'.)

Okay, just since you were thirteen. What else can I tell you?

"What's the red one on the other side?"

That's a vitamin called luetine, and it's for your eyes.

"What's this big white one, then?

Magnesium and calcium for your bones.

"Well, I already have bones, so I don't need that. What about the little round white one?"

That's the Aricept for your memory. You should probably take it at night, because one side effect is that it causes dizziness in some people. If you take it before bed, you won't care that you're dizzy."

"And the little yellow one? What is that?"

That's your thyroid medicine.

"I'm going to rattle if I take all these pills!"

You don't need to take the vitamins if you don't want them. The eye doctor just suggested it would be good for you to have some luetine, and calcium is good for your bones. 

"Which ones are the vitamins? The gummy ones I know are multivitamin. I've taken those already."

The red one is for your eyesight and the white one is for your bones.

"I guess that's calcium. But what's this round white one? Is that a vitamin?"

That one is your Aricept. For your memory. It's not a vitamin, it's a prescription medication. 

"Am I supposed to take that one at night? What about this little yellow one?"

That's your thyroid medicine. Yes, you should take the white one at night. If you want to take the yellow one at night, too that should be fine.

"I'll see what I feel like doing when the time comes. If I don't want to do it, I'm not going to do it, and you can't stop me, so nyah-nyah to you. What about this red one?"

Take that one whenever you want. It's a vitamin to help your eyesight. 

"I'm going to rattle if I take all these! Doctors, they just want to prescribe pills for everything now."

Only the little yellow one and the round white one are prescriptions. The others are vitamin supplements. You don't need to take them if you'd rather not.

"Is this yellow one my thyroid medication?"

Yes, that's levothyroxin.

"What's this white one? Did I already ask you that?"

You did, but I'll tell you again as often as you need. It's Aricept, to help prevent further memory loss.

"I think you probably told me that already."

Dead Or Alive; You Spin Me 'Round(Like A Record)

24 April, 2016

Coffee Additive

....Alligator creepin round the corner of my cabin door...

Sometime in January:

She peers into her coffee cup, then looks around.

What are you looking for?

"Something to put in my coffee."

Like what?
She takes it black, no sugar.

"Like.... sweetener. Or.... an alligator."

I think she probably wants some chocolate syrup in her coffee. She's gotten a sweet tooth these past two years or so. I surreptitiously peek in her kitchen, but she seems to be out of chocolate syrup. I must remember to put that on her list of staples, along with Havarti cheese, bananas, bread, Bosc pears, sliced turkey breast, grapefruit, goat milk, graham crackers, bread, sweet potatoes and ice cream. She's not eating much, and cooking hardly at all. Remind me, and I'll talk about the Christmas Turkey Fiasco.

I joke with her about alligators often being acceptable substitutes for both coffee sweeteners and whiteners. She laughs, she drinks her coffee. Without sweetener.

Also without alligators.

Grateful Dead; Alligator

22 April, 2016

Chin Music

...one little cross leads to shots, grit your teeth/You run for cover so discreet, why don't they/Do what they say, say what you mean/One thing leads to another/ You told me something wrong, I know I listen too long.....

Today, she hits me.

It's not the first time ever, but it is the first time since she's been diagnosed as 'impaired'. The other times were 'parenting' and I've mostly forgiven her for them.

I've mostly forgiven her for this, too.

I'm not sure what I'll tell her if she asks why I have bruises on my chin and throat.  And I don't know whether I'm hoping to have them, or hoping to not have them.

Today, I check her medications. She seemed to have taken today's supply. She should've waited until bedtime for the one in the red pillbox, but it's already gone. She may have taken it last night before bed, but there's no way for me to verify that. She's complained of dizziness, and taking the responsible medication before bed would keep the dizziness from annoying her.

I heat for her some of the tuna casserole I've brought for her. I heat one of the two cups of cold coffee she has sitting around. I put the red pillbox back upstairs on her nightstand. I don't put a slash through yesterday on her upstairs calendar, the one she keeps taking down, because I don't have a pen on me. I'll need to start remembering to carry a pen upstairs always.

I ask if it is okay if I walk her dogs. She says she's just walked them. I ask if she walked them barefoot. She checks the soles of her feet, and says she guesses so.

I'm pleased she likes the pink hat I knit for her. It doesn't go so well with bare feet, even though she's got capri pants and a fleece sweatshirt (both in need of washing) between them.

I tell her I have my phone with me and she can call if she wishes, and set off. She tires easily now, so I walk down the block, around the corner, up the block, across the street, around the corner, down the block, around the corner, up the street, across the street, down the block, around the corner and back up her street. About halfway, she meets me. Still barefoot, still unshowered, still wearing the pink hat.

"I didn't know where my dogs were," she says.

They were with me. You said it was okay. I told you I had my phone. You could've called me.

"I didn't know where my dogs were."

When we get to the gate, I make them sit. She takes off the leashes, despite them not being inside the yard yet. She has to have her way. I make them keep sitting, and she tries to wrestle them from me, raises her hand and that's when she hits me.

I lose my temper and ask if she's going to hit me again. Not nicely. She does. Several times. My throat still hurts, and it's been a few hours.

She continues to rail at me and threaten me before we go inside. She orders me to leave her property. She says she'll get a restraining order. I do not leave. We go inside. She accuses me of trying to control her. I tell her she looked like a crazy woman, wandering in the neighborhood unwashed and barefoot. She says she doesn't care what the neighbors think of her. I tell her that if she is deemed incapable of living alone, she'll need to go into a home.

"That's what you've wanted all along anyway," she shouts at me. It's not true. I know it's not true, and I suspect on some level she knows it, too.  I reiterate that I'm trying to protect her, trying to keep her in her home, keep her doing the things she likes to do. After some more shouting, and a phone call from Coco saying we need to scram now, (hair appointment; her, not me), I say I have to go, I love you, and I lean down to give her a kiss on each cheek, which is the only acceptable way to do it. She gets up, telling me to wait. She wants to give me a hug. "Unless you don't want one," she says, with a nasty edge. I squeeze her very tight and she whispers that she knows I'm trying to help her but it's hard because she has been so cussed independent for so long. I promise I will never leave her no matter how unpleasant she is to me. She says, "I know. I appreciate that. It's just..."

I know.


The Fixx; One Thing Leads To Another

19 April, 2016

Medias Res

...put on your red shoes and dance the blues......

I'd planned to begin at the beginning, but that would mean backtracking, so I'd better just begin.

Tonight, she waited on the porch for me with a baseball bat.

"She's stolen from me before," she tells Pugsley, who waits with her.

"They just went for a walk," Pugsley reminds her.

"Well, they've been gone long enough. She's stolen from me before, you know."

Pugsley explains to his grandmother that Wednesday and I probably were walking the dogs a longer while than she herself usually does (we were) and that the young boy dog (who my family has been calling 'Dogmeat') needed more stimulation than he usually had with just her. He assures her that we would return with the dogs. It wasn't until he held up the car keys to show her that there was no way we could leave without coming back to the house first that she began to calm down a little.

"I just want to clarify," he tells me later, "that I didn't talk down to her, I talked her down."

I glance at the clock. It's past seven. Of course she was upset and worried.

Her 'terrible two o'clocks' are coming as early as 1 PM now. Today at 1:20, she left a message about the third dog, the one I stole, the one she's not getting back.

I don't know how to not feel terrible about any of this.

David Bowie; Let's Dance

09 March, 2016

Fresh Start

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

I find the top of a FULL cup far more inspiring than the bottom of an empty one. A filled coffee cup is practically poetry. Before the first sip, anticipation and joy reign. After the first sip, disappointment, cooling, bitterness and emptiness are possible.  But in those before moments, it's all aroma and promise.

I'm back, watching the Olympics.