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