Monthly Archives: February 2016

Mystery Solved

When your parents live to a ripe old age, you sometimes get answers to questions that  have puzzled you for years.

For example, I always suspected that my mom had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  In fact, I was almost 100% sure about it. But I never questioned her about some of her compulsive behaviors, and thought that perhaps everyone’s mother dusted the furniture and baseboards and washed the kitchen and bathroom floors every single day.

But this morning Mom surprised me by asking, “Should I take five sips of my coffee before I eat my English muffin?”

I was floored. And of course — being the great daughter/caregiver that I am — I provided Mom with a kind and reassuring response.

“Sure, go ahead!” I laughed. “Knock yourself out!”

I almost added, “And make sure you do the same thing tomorrow!”

Some days I have a lot of patience and goodness in me. This just wasn’t one of those days.

Morning Glory

I woke up in an exuberant mood today, knowing that my Aunt Millie and three cousins would be meeting mom and I for lunch.

“Good morning, sunshine!!” I exclaimed a bit too loudly as I stood near the sink and my mom sat down nearby for breakfast. Mom looked around for a second, then raised her eyebrows and looked at me blankly. I could not resist teasing her.

“Yes, I’m talking to you!” I shouted giddily. “What did you think?”

“What did I think?” Mom replied. “You want to know what I was thinking?”

“Yes,” I answered, again too loudly.

“I thought, who the HELL is she YELLING at!” Mom answered.

Ah.

 

Life Lessons

Elder care has been, at least for me, an unnerving combination of dull routine and gut-wrenching anxiety. Most days I am able to push through it.  But when I find myself at loose ends due to outside pressures or the feeling of being trapped in the house, it can get overwhelming.

At times like these, I find myself becoming distant (either because I lack the energy to interact or I don’t want to burden others with my negative thoughts and anxiety). I don’t leave the house as often, or pick up the phone just to check in with friends and family. And when I do get out to enjoy time away, I feel that I have become somewhat socially awkward — saying things without my usual filter and sounding a lot more strident than I mean to, cracking too many jokes, or dominating the conversation (more so than usual, LOL).

Being in what I like to call the “Elder Care Bubble” keeps you disconnected from the world in a strange way. It is an often comforting place, almost like a cocoon, but at times the disconnection feels almost like punishment.

I often have to remind myself that it is, above all, a learning experience. I am finally learning  to disregard the petty and the trivial and the downright bogus and focus on the things that really matter. It’s a lesson that began when my grandma moved in with my parents for a couple of years when I was fifteen years old.  God. Family. Love. Respect. Virtue. Honesty. Devotion. Generosity. Selflessness. Humility. My Grandma drilled meaningful lessons into my head, by word and by deed, every single day. And then somehow, with the passing of time and the intrusion of others’ expectations of me, I became distracted and neglected to keep up my studies.

Sometimes life gives you a “refresher course” just when you need it.

 

 

The Right Words

As Mom’s disease progresses in fits and starts, it has become increasingly difficult for her to find the right words to convey her thoughts exactly. “Am I just sitting here?” could mean a host of things, I have learned, including “I’m bored,” “I’m tired,” “I’m hungry,” “I need to talk to someone,” “I don’t care for this TV show,” “I want to try crocheting (again!),” or basically, “I feel like I should be doing something but darned if I know what it is.” Before dementia struck, my mother was such a whirlwind of thought and activity that my husband used to refer to her as the “Mighty Mite.”

One of the scariest/funniest episodes happened last week, when I sent her upstairs to bed. A few minutes later, she yelled down to me.

“Is this thing supposed to move?”

Frankly, my blood went cold. I was hoping the “thing” was not a body part. I headed upstairs with trepidation.

As it turned out, the “thing” was Junior, who had settled himself in nicely smack in the middle of the bed and was refusing to budge.

Whew.

Fortunately, Mom has always been able to laugh at herself (and me), and her loss of language skills is no exception.

This morning when I set down her bagel and said that her son-in-law bought it specially for her (this always makes her so happy and proud), she realized that it was Saturday. But she is never quite sure of her facts.

“Are we in Saturday?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “And tomorrow we will be in Sunday.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes.

“Gee, thanks,” she replied sarcastically.

Oh, the Places You Shouldn’t Go!

The universe hates solid plans. At least mine! My plan a few years back was that when my husband John and I were empty nesters, with no school-age children to concern us, I would accompany him on some of his fairly frequent business trips. Since I was working in a school library at that time, I used to look at the cover of the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” and think  “That’ll be me!”

Fast-forward a few years, and John and I are indeed empty nesters — except that, as I like to joke, we brought in an old bird. But now my life has become a constant adventure that could be called, “Oh, the Things You and Your Mom Will Say.” It is hilarious, and best of all I don’t even have to leave home to live this adventure. Every. Single. Day.

Here is an example. The other day my highly photogenic and fat cat Junior was pretty much attached to my heels and meowing angrily as I prepared my mother’s breakfast. Yes, I had done the unthinkable. I had forgotten to give him his treats, which I do every time Mom comes down for breakfast.

“Wow, he’s really following you around,” Mom said.

“I forgot to give him his treats” I explained as I basically tossed Mom’s English Muffin into the toaster oven in my haste to get to my hands on Junior’s Whisker Lickins and get him off my back (technically, heels). John and I are always fearful of tripping over the cat or — more likely — ourselves in an effort to NOT fall on the cat.  And let’s face it, even if he DID have opposable thumbs Junior would most likely not dial 911. He would be more likely to tie on a bib. But I digress. Somehow I was still moving to slow for Junior, and he continued to harass me. I was getting exasperated.

“Wow, I don’t think you’re ever going to get rid of him,” Mom laughed.

“Yeah, him and someone else I know,” I said. Out loud. Oh no! That one went right from my brain to my mouth without passing GO. I felt horrible. Do something, say something! OH, I’ve got it.

I turned to mom. “You know that I was talking about John.”

Mom smiled smugly. “Oh yes, I knew that,” she said with complete confidence. And I did my best to keep a straight face as I said a silent prayer of thanks.

Love Is In the Air

OK, this is what happens when I am trying to work from home while repeating instructions to my mother for what seems like the hundredth time.

I just sent an email to a school administrator asking for the go-ahead on a press release, and I almost signed off with “Love,” instead of my usual “Thank you.” Caught it at the last second, thank goodness.

And to think my New Year’s Resolution is to “work smarter, not harder.”

Troothbrush

Lately I have been beating myself up a bit for a new tendency. Usually a fairly  trusting person, I have suddenly become very suspicious and for no good reason. Or so it seemed until this morning, when I realized that I have indeed earned this quality. Not only that, but it can really come in handy these days.

When I woke mom for breakfast and instructed her to use the ladies room, I noticed traces of toothpaste around her mouth as she headed down the hallway afterward. This is unusual, since I only instruct her to brush her teeth at night. “Mom, did you brush your teeth?” I asked. “I don’t think so,” she answered with about 10% confidence. “Are you sure?” I asked, sort of hating myself for being such a nag. “No, I’m not sure,” she said with 100% confidence.

Inspired by last night’s viewing of The People vs. OJ Simpson, I headed into the crime scene. And, like the detectives in that story, I proceeded to touch nearly everything in sight. Mom’s toothbrush was dry. Her toothpaste dispenser was cold. My toothbrush, however, was wet. My dispenser was open on the sink. Since I shamefully live in fear of “old people” germs, my blood went cold.

“Mom, did you use my toothbrush?” I asked with trepidation. “No, I would never use your toothbrush,” mom said, insulted by the thought. Then, “Why?”

“Because it’s wet,” I said apologetically. Mom wrinkled her nose. “Oh Mary Ann, I don’t remember but I really don’t think so.”

“It’s OK, I believe you,” I said.

As soon as I ushered mom downstairs I raced to the linen closet. Against all odds in my disorganized household, a brand new unopened toothbrush awaited me. Huzzah!  I wished for toothpaste, too, but that didn’t happen. I guess even the Tooth Fairy doesn’t want to visit my linen closet two times in a row.

I threw away the old toothbrush and spirited the new one away to my bedroom bureau, which is already home to hairbrushes, dental floss, nail files, and other items now known as “The Untouchables.”

As they say, it’s just another day for you and me in Paradise.