Billy Scissorhands

30 07 2008

Sensing an approaching thunderstorm, our dear Berner started barking at 3 a.m. (read: foreshadowing!). At that point, so many things on my mind left me little hope of catching more shut eye. But since it never hurts to try, I curled up on the couch and fell back to sleep deeply enough to start dreaming…I needed that REM sleep earlier – thank you very much- when my alarm started shouting at me. I had a two hour drive ahead of me, a time change and an audiologist appointment to make by 8:30 a.m. their time.

I’d been on the highway about an hour and a half, when I got a call from my brother who having just spoken with my mom on the phone, asked if I knew anything about her cryptic shortness with him. “Nah, she’s probably just stressing about getting to the appointment on time”, I responded. It’s quite normal for her to leave a full half hour early for the seven minute trip to arrive anywhere in town then be annoyed because she has to sit and wait for doctors.

Unsure about whether or not she was going on ahead and I’d just meet her at the office or I’d find her pacing in the breezeway wondering where I was, I decided to stop at the house on my way into town. I found my Dad alone at the kitchen table finishing his breakfast.

“Is Mom here?”, I asked. “NO – thank GOD!!” was his reply. You need to understand that I have never in 53 years heard my Dad answer that way. It was official: I was in for a doozy.

When I got to the audiologist’s office, my Mom was already in her appointment so with a deliciously juicy copy of People magazine in hand, I tried to overhear what was being said for later comparison to what she’d “thought” they said. A debit card swipe, two appointments on the books and as the glass door closed behind me, I asked her what had happened with Dad. She very graphically told me that he had come to the breakfast table with his T-shirt SLASHED.

“Oh…, I’ve seen him tugging at the neck of his T-shirt lately and he feels like it’s choking him so maybe it ripped,” I suggested.

“No – he took scissors and slashed it like this..,”(running her fingers in 6” slashes down her chest to illustrate).

Red flares were shooting off in my head…new dangers were lurking around the corner. He uses scissors all day long on the worst of days. He sits in his chair and either shreds newsprint in three inch strips with his hands or cuts things out that seem to have no relevance whatsoever. So now I imagine that his sheets, bedspread, the livingroom curtains, the couch (though that would be a stroke of genius) will be shredded by… Billy Scissorhands.

When we finally get back to the house and I have a chance to carefully look at the collar of said T-shirt I see that about 1/4″ is snipped. SNIPPED – not slashed – and it was just the collar band. But he did have the scissors in his hand all day and it was a bad day. Words were like smeared ink on newsprint in his brain – and even worse when he tried to get them out of his mouth.

It’s painful watching his brain scramble and his eyes dart to and fro trying to make sense of what is going on around here. “Big dummy,” he spits out in frustration, referring to himself.

She, on the other hand, has to be reminded that it’s not nice to giggle at people when they can’t pronounce words correctly…or that she should try to play along when he’s trying to describe something from his past and every fifth word makes zero sense. “You have to be a good detective and give him clues now and then…” and by the time I explain this – she’ll ask me again why he can remember anything. What are the chances – we scored double dementia. I’m playing MegaMillions tomorrow.



8 responses

30 07 2008
Amy Jo

Thank you – the sharing of your journey is helping me prepare for the inevitable, while, I can imagine it is quite cathartic for you. I appreciate the sacrifice you’ve made, Aunt Wendy, because no matter how “right” it is, it is still an incredibly difficult thing you are doing.

BTW, I’d be interested to see if you could make out a pattern to his random clippings – what he’d say if you asked him why he cut out a particular item. Hmmmmm.

30 07 2008

Thanks Amy – it is incredibly tiring…not too unlike your life with little ones. In fact I’ve got some funny comparisons that will surface soon. In his clippings – sometimes it’s just full columns or parts of articles. He’ll have a reason but not always able to articulate it. He was really struggling today and it’s sad to watch. He’ll be so much more of the man we remember on the other side. Looking forward to that.

31 07 2008

Thanks for sharing with me, your blog. I find myself having several different emotions while reading it-some sorrow along with a dash of humor. Many of your daily frustrations and confusion with mundane chores are felt by my comparison to caring for a toddler who is trying to find his voice. God knows he’s opinionated and stubborn. Some days go on for years and I wonder why I do it but I also know that the investment is somehow worth it. Keep writing my friend.

31 07 2008

jules, that comparison between toddler and “dawdler” is about to be explored big time. it has really helped me with the patience factor thinking I’d never lose my temper with little one for not understanding how something works, or having to repeat something. But I see it ALL the time with the elderly – but so much of this is just the breaking down of brain function. My time at MFB has really helped me here too. Thanks for reading – and I will do what I have to do to see you when you’re in GRapids this month!!!

31 07 2008

BTW amy – i checked another pile of his clippings today and there are soooo many of them that are crossword puzzles. that made me so sad since he was an avid and great crossword puzzler…and there they all sit in a sad stack on his desk. his mind recognizes that it is something familiar to him – but there is no way to sort out what to do. Like even knowing how to dress for bed takes my coaching. just your kids in reverse.

31 07 2008
Amy Jo

tears . . . I was just talking to a girlfriend today about how he got me into crosswords. Interesting, too, how a mind never forgets certain things completely. It knows it should know it, but like you said, doesn’t know WHY it should know it.

1 08 2008

hugs to you! I help care for my Parents, both of whom have Alzheimer’s. Some days, the things they remember surprise me; some days, the things they forget break my heart. Caring for them is like raising children, in reverse. They unlearn things at an alarming rate. Brushing teeth was something they seemingly did without thinking – now sometimes the toothbrush goes unrecognized. Showering every day was just something that happened – now they not only need to be reminded to do it, but also reminded to use soap and shampoo, need an explanation as to why it even matters to take a shower.
Like your crossword puzzles, Dad used to fix watches and clocks. Now, when something needs new batteries, he will take it apart. Mom used to be quite organized, now she’s compulsive/obsessive – sorting into piles, repeat, repeat, repeat…
Keep your humor about you – it’s the only thing that gets us through to the end of the day.

2 08 2008

thanks nauri – it’s obvious we’re in the same boat here. I’m not sure where I am on the showering thing…especially with my dad as he INSISTS he’s been up during the night and done it. I think I’m gonna start leaving some sort of booby trap item so I’ll know he’s telling the truth. Knowing that it won’t kill him NOT to shower as often as I’d like…I’m gonna see about some way to incentivize the whole process. Maybe Mr. Bubble?

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