Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Today's been a little hard to control...

...for both my mother and me, but it lead to an interesting conversation along the way.
    My errand for today was to have the car reshod. I'd ordered the tires last week, was contacted yesterday that they were in, the sale price applied to the specific make and model I wanted...so I took the car in this morning, making sure I was there when they opened, so I could get back long before Mom arose. So was everyone else in town, and their dogs. That's a small town for you.
    Three hours later my car was ready to roll. In the meantime, though, although I'd wandered over to a companion store and bought a book to read during my wait, a woman sitting to my left and I struck up a conversation. I was sitting on the floor, much more comfortable for me than the benches provided which are made for tall people with very long legs. The woman commented to me that I was lucky I could "do that"; sit, relaxed, in a half lotus on the floor.
    I laughed. "Believe me," I said, "it's strictly inherited. It has nothing to do with any health regimens I should probably doggedly be following, but don't. I'm my mother's companion; she's 89 and has Dementia-Lite. It's not uncommon for her to sit on the floor, forgetting that she isn't going to be able to get herself up. I guess I got the flexibility from her."
    The woman told me she was a nurse who specialized in people with Alzheimer's. "Your mother's on Aricept?" she asked.
    "No," I explained, "she has Chronic Renal Failure and Anemia..."
    "Oh, no, then, you don't want her on that."
    I was pleased for the added confirmation. She solicited a brief description of my mother's dementia and reconfirmed that it is, mostly likely, vascular dementia.
    Turns out, the woman and her husband have also embraced her mother-in-law, who is 94 and "fine", mentally and physically, into their home. She's been with them for several years. I asked how she came to be with them. She related some interesting tidbits.
    Her mother-in-law had previously homed out of Arizona, in the same state all her life. Just previous to merging her life with that of her son's and daughter-in-law's, she began experiencing a variety of internal health problems, none of which were being handled with any adequacy by the medical professionals in her life. As a result, her life took a swift downhill turn. She was staying in bed most of the time from pain. She was unable to eat much without suffering severe indigestion. The two problems, combined, caused her to not go to the trouble of eating. She began to languish. Her daughter-in-law flew to her rescue. She intervened with the doctor. "Advocating is so important," she said.
    Yes!, I thought, my internal fist raised in salute. Nothing like having an experienced nurse confirm this.
    With some common surgeries, all the mother-in-law's ailments were cured. Medicine suggested putting the mother-in-law into temporary, live-in rehab therapy.
    The daughter-in-law shook her head. "I'm a nursing home administrator. I know where that would lead."
    Interesting, I thought, that even those who are employed by nursing homes don't feel in control of the environments.
    "So, I told her," she continued, "Mother, I can get you all set up here [indicating, as I understood, into an assisted living situation] or you can come home with us."
    "'Let's pack my bags,'" the mother-in-law said.
    We talked, some, too, about the relief of taking care of a beloved elder at home. Her mother-in-law requires less intense care than my mother. The woman mentioned that, today, her mother-in-law was home "doing the laundry. She likes to do it."
    "My mother still likes to feel a part of chores, too," I said. "I include her as much as possible, even though most of it, now, is in a strictly supervisory position."
    We grinned at one another.
    The woman and her family haven't always lived in this area. When their mother-in-law joined them, they lived in southern Arizona. Up to the time of this move, the daughter-in-law pursued her profession. When they moved she decided, for a variety of reasons, including being outrageously over qualified for any positions in this area, she would be more valuable at home.
    When it became apparent that my car was ready, I lingered for some minutes because the woman and I had begun to compare notes about the peculiar ease and relief of having one's beloved Ancient Ones at home. Neither of us said anything earth shattering. I remember, though, that we talked about how each of us was "chosen" for this. She related how her mother-in-law had, at one time, stated that she would never want any of her daughters to "take care of" her. The woman said, this was fine with her. She'd always been peculiarly close to her mother-in-law, "for 39 years," she added.
    I mentioned that, of all Mom's daughters, I was shocked when she asked me to be her final companion. "All my sisters had husbands and families and worked; very involved family lives. I was the one who never wanted marriage, never wanted kids," wasn't at all interested in setting up a classically domestic situation for myself, "and, yet, my mother knew, somehow, that I was the right one. She and I had the relationship that would serve her well in her old age. Funny how that happens," I added.
    The woman nodded her vigorous agreement.
    We talked, too, about the risks involved in doing this. It seems, at this time, they are the same for a family as they are for an individual. "I think about it, sometimes," I said, "What I'll have to do when 'it's all over'."
    The woman nodded again. "Knowing you can't just 'go back', I know," she said. "But I think about my life with my mother-in-law and..."
    I know.

    When I arrived home, Mom was up, in the dinette at the table, reading her newspaper. She had leaked, vigorously, last night, but was unaware of this, hadn't, of course, changed out her underwear, but had dressed herself in a skirt (really unusual) and sweater (which were reeking of urine).
    "Gail, is that you?" she called as I entered the house.
    I scurried into the dinette. "I'm so sorry, Mom. It took three hours to get the car shod. I had planned to be back before you awoke. How long have you been up?"
    "Oh, just a few minutes," she said, dismissing my absence at her arousal with typical aplomb; almost, I considered, glee.
    It was obvious that she'd been up much longer than this, but I didn't argue. "Well, I'm glad you're all set up, here. I prefer to be here when you wake up, you know. I was sure I would be."
    "I knew you'd show up sooner or later."
    "Did you remember what I was doing this morning?" I'd briefed her several times yesterday and last night, just in case the morning unfolded exactly as it did.
    "No, but you're never gone long." She leaned across the table and patted my forearm. "I can take care of myself, you know." She said this as though the most absurd joke she can think of is that I'm here taking care of her.
    I laughed. "I know you can, Mom. It's better to do it together though, don't you think?"
    "Oh, definitely, child. I've had enough of living alone. I'm glad you're here." She patted my forearm, again.
    "I've had enough of living alone." This is exactly what she said to me when she asked me to live with her for the rest of her life. Although, unlike my mother, I don't suppose I'll ever get enough of living alone, I will never get enough of my mother, either. Being alone will happen, again, for me. My mother, however, is happening now. This is exactly why I'm here.

    She just awoke from her nap. "What do we have planned for tomorrow?" she asked, still on the toilet.
    "Nothing in particular. Want to plan something?"
    "I think so," she said. "I've been sitting around long enough."
    Aaah-lay-lu-yah! "Anything in mind?"
    "Maybe we could pick up [her dead sister] and go window shopping, have lunch out..."
    These are two of her favorite out-of-home activities. I didn't bother to remind her that getting her sister a pass to cross back over the river Styx for the afternoon might be difficult. "Great idea! I'm sure the mall has their Christmas displays up, there are loads of little restaurants there, we can wander and people watch and eat...remember that store with all those unusual glass ornaments?"
    "Oh yes. We must go there."
    We checked the weather. No more rain tomorrow (today has been one of my beloved rain-rain-rainy days). Temperature up about 10 degrees from yesterday.
    "It's a date, then, Mom. We'll style your hair tonight."
    Will it happen? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see. If it doesn't happen tomorrow, though, she won't forget being fed up with "sitting around". It'll happen soon.

Originally posted by Mike: Wed Oct 25, 12:28:00 AM 2006

This is such a good, enjoyable, multi-dimensional post. It is very humourous in the second half, but it is the first half that struck me deepest. I cannot imagine ever having that kind of conversation with a stranger I met in a book shop. I'm both too secretive and too aloof, but it does me good to see others doing it and talking about it.
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