Ggma Reviews Airbnb

27 04 2015

Last summer Best Boy bought the Dr. a big toy for his birthday – a “mid-life” motorcycle. Two safety courses and MDOT endorsement secured had us planning a week long trek mid-September from LA up the Cali coast on the Pacific Coast Highway-Route 1 and back down via Yosemite and the Mojave. The guys on their bikes with Mimi and me in their GTI (chase vehicle), we were off. IMG_0027IMG_0028-1

This adventure will be recounted eventually but for now it’s just to set the scene. I was going to be MIA for a bit. Ggma was all set-up safe and sound tucked in at TOH (The Old Homestead).  Meanwhile we were exploring abodes via Airbnb. Each one of the places we stayed had a unique charm.

Airbnb isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – opening a home to complete strangers or being the stranger inhabiting someone else’s space. Nightly, with great expectation we’d drive up to an address, secure the keys and play house. There were a few places we wanted to pocket the keys and become squatters while others weren’t more than a lay-over for our weary heads – glad to move on down the road after a few hours rest. Nothing was so scary or strange to make us want to pack up and leave.

Surprise sleeping arrangements weren’t much of a stretch for Best Boy, the Dr. and me. In our previous life, it was called a furlough. An ironic term -“furlough”. The standard scenario was a missionary family would report to churches that had financially invested in them (you know Return On Investment and reporting to the shareholders type of thing). I think we had 30 churches to visit. Typically we were hosted in parishioner’s homes. I shudder as I write those words. 99% of the meals and accommodations were perfectly lovely encounters (especially if you, dear reader, happened to have hosted us at some point). But that 1% is like gravel imbedded in a leg after laying a motorcycle down on a curve – too painful to dig out every last piece and just barely visible under the skin so as to never be forgotten. Again, I go on record to declare I have writing material for years to come as this is way cheaper than any therapy.

It takes some serious chops to continually be in someone else’s personal space and not go bonkers. An overnight might not be long enough to notice things that would be a complete creep out. Since being hosted was part of our lifestyle, we had zero reservations about letting others use our apartments in Spain (yes, plural because we lived in five places in a little over a decade). If we were Stateside for the summer visiting those churches, our empty place was open to house travelers with co-workers managing the bookings. Sometimes guests would leave behind thoughtful hostess gifts. One in particular was  unforgettable and left in the most interesting place – peeking out from under a bookshelf in our bedroom – a hot pink thong. Honeymooners. ’nuff said.

Back to the story at hand. Having returned from the West Coast, I went to catch up with Ggma and immediately assessed she was no longer comfortable with any kind of absence on my part. We were at another fork in the road. By December, with nasty weather threatening our doorsteps, a new plan was improvised. Ggma would now be “riding in a sidecar”.  She’s in our space at the Money Pit or I’m in her space at The Old Homestead.

After about two months journeying on this new path during an extended stay at the Money Pit she asked,

“Where’s the lady who owns this house?”

“Well, the Dr. & I own this house.”

She scowled at me with that look like I was lying through my teeth. Clearly we were having one of those moments. This can’t be fixed.  This can only be managed. This I know: in her eyes, at that moment, I couldn’t possibly be the owner of the Money Pit and she wanted a word with whoever was in charge.

“Well, (with a tone of disgust) I am ITCHING to get at that filthy front window I’m staring at all day!!”

Distraction is the best course of action to move us along this road to ruin. Trying to go over the fine points of the family tree is futile. I had opened the drapes and sheers so that she could enjoy a clear view as she monitors the comings and goings of UPS, FedEx, USPS, garbage trucks, day-care drop offs and pick ups across the street, and oh, yeah – school buses. I hear it all. She’s got an eagle eye on when school is out and those kids are running hither thither and yon – when they aren’t wearing jackets and they should be headed indoors to get at their homework.

mcscWith a subtle move, simultaneously opening the front door to grab the mail,

the sheers were drawn shut.

Out of sight. Out of mind. End of discussion.

But this place where she’s staying – whoever owns it – needs a housekeeper.

Her Airbnb rating: Two stars…maybe.

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Mama said there’d be days like this…

20 04 2015

There are times that I really think that I’m getting agoraphobic…or truth be told I’m just a lazy caregiver.  I’m now living the reality that was my standard advice for new moms,     “If your teeth get brushed before noon – it’s a good day.”  Or I am suffering from Stockholm Syndrome – Ggma doesn’t complain any more if she’s in her pjs all day – why should I be any different?

A friend’s darling daughter included my name on the list of well-wishers for a surprise 60th birthday party for her mom.  We were high school friends that had reconnected after decades of radio silence. Panic set in immediately. I rarely go public.  At least, this kind of public.  My kind of public is my ghetto grocery store where they only know me with my unruly witch worthy mane yanked up on the top of my head.  I pulled off a miraculous appointment at a “shi shi la la” (Best Boy vocabulary) salon where I’m sure they thought I was a homeless woman who’d found a gracious patron to invest in a make-over.  The salon girls kept looking for the hidden cameras to pop out for the before/after money shots for a human interest story to be aired on local news at noon. Sorry girls. No cameras.  It was just me trying to get my act together in one small way. That at least made me feel like I’d be somewhat presentable for this crowd of sophisticated strangers.

My real insecurities go back to high school with this group.  In 7th grade, we’d moved from a very URBAN Gary IN to a very SUBURBAN Valparaiso.  Billy was blue collar – I mean really blue collar since his work shirt was blue.  Their dads were suits: school administrators and factory, restaurant and radio station owners.  Ggma worked for ten years as an administrative assistant to a foreman in one of those factories.  Another friend’s dad gave me my first of many restaurant kitchen jobs.

The appointed time to head out to the party had come and Ggma was all set up for me to be gone two hours.  She had my phone number plopped on her lap, though not actually sure she would have known the difference between the TV remote or the phone but she had the number and was very glad that I had friends who wanted to see me.

I entered the packed house, ducked my head and headed to the back of the room to await the moment of the surprise and find the one or two other familiar faces I knew would be there.  Someone yelled my name and I was embraced by birthday girl’s older sister who I’d not laid eyes on since 1971 or so. There were a few more of those reunions before the bday girl arrived. Surprising connections, things in common I never would have imagined, and memories long forgotten – were the things tucked in my pocket when it was time to head back to Ggma.

That sneak away refreshed me in whole bunches of ways.  It forced a much needed hair cut for one. Now two days later I’m at the end of what has been just another challenging Ggma day.

“Does she have a Mom?”  I had just disconnected from a FaceTime chat with Shop Girl, Donny Diva and Littles that Ggma had enjoyed.  “What?  Who?  Shop Girl?  Yes – ME!”  That pesky family tree thing again.  “I guess I never knew that, ” her voice trailed off in confusion.

IMG_4042Again, I’m in a room and wondering

if anyone will remember who

I am…

 





Ggma’s version of Hide & Seek

30 01 2015

You’d think with all of my years of experience this would be no big deal.  Things go missing almost daily so I stop and prepare myself for getting into the “hunt mode”.  Those TV commercials about finding the wife’s keys in the fridge are such old news at this point.  At this stage we are talking about Hide & Seek v4.0.  I take my time and try not get rattled and remember it is just stuff (most of which can be easily replaced).

My chronically messed up sinuses look forward to a good bath each morning from a squeeze bottle netipot.ggmhs2 I used it yesterday – took it apart, washed it properly and left it in the sink to dry.  Or so I thought.  So this morning I microwaved the distilled water, added the saline mix and went to screw on the top…and…suddenly the top was MIA.  I had seen it during the day yesterday hadn’t I?  I looked in all the places I thought it could have gotten on its own – then I switched gears.  Freezer?  All kitchen drawers?  Bathroom?  Floor?  Garbage?  Under the microwave?  It was about an hour’s worth of hide and seek before I decided to just consider it another one of those mysterious vanishing things that will some day all be revealed.

My last resort is always to ask. Ggma gave me that blank stare like I was talkin’ gibberish…”What?  The black tip to a squeeze bottle with a straw kind of thing attached to it?  What?”  #($*0)@#%#&2 is what she heard.

Then I noticed the two week old wilting arrangement of birthday flowers.  Daily she will pull out whatever looks past gone, add more water and enjoy it for yet another day.  She’d moved it off the kitchen table yesterday when I was out picking up her prescriptions and put it on another surface.  I stepped closer.  Tucked into the lovely last days of the arrangement was exactly what I expected to find…ggmhs1





counting candles

16 01 2010

Oh this wasn’t just any birthday celebration…no, this one was special.  There was something quite different about this one as compared to the one a year ago. My  83 year old mother got her driver’s license renewed.

Months ago the State of Indiana was kind enough to send out two separate letters reminding us of the need to renew her license.  They sent TWO (count them – TWO) letters outlining the multiple documents we needed to present so that she could get the new SecureID  – “to ensure that you can use your driver’s license to board commercial airplanes and enter certain federal buildings.” Now there’s something new for 2010.

We had to have an original certified copy of her birth certificate.  Fortunately for me, she’d gotten a copy of that back in 1984 when she got the other “SecureID” called a passport when she and Billy crossed the pond to come visit us in Spain.  In this last couple of years of practicing my new hobby of document gathering, it had been filed in a folder with a tab that said “Birth Certificates.”  Imagine my surprise when I found the REAL deal right there for me to use!

We also needed to have a social security card (NO idea where her original is of that), a W-2, tax form, an SSA-1099 form, or a pay stub showing name and Social Security number.  And to prove “residency” we needed two statements issued within 60 days from a utility company, bank, credit card company, doctor or hospital, federal or state agency showing her name and residence.

So the afternoon before her birthday with a wad of documents in hand, we made the trek to the BMV.  It was late in the day so there wasn’t much of a line – save a handful of teens with parents in tow – so we didn’t wait long before our number was called.  The clerk began asking for the docs in a certain order…the birth certificate – check…

Next she wanted the marriage license…”Excuse me, what?”  “The marriage license to prove the name change from her birth certificate to the present…” “OH DEAR GOD.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”  The ONE STUPID DOCUMENT I HAD FAILED TO INCLUDE!!!  I should have known better by now…after all, my book, The Boomer’s Guide to Dying is about to break into the New York Times Bestseller List.  I could have bloodied my toes kicking myself for being so stupid as to not put the entire fireproof filing system in the car before we left the house.  Never, never, never again…

I get it.  It was my fault.  I needed to connect the dots for the state.  After all, she’s only had a driver’s license in this state since Heck was a pup (click here to figure out where this saying came from) and now we need to start verifying she is who she’s been pretending to be since she moved here at the age of 16 or so?  We can’t connect the government dots that this person has held a valid passport in the past – our most vetted document?  Wait – what is this for?  This makes it secure for us to get on airplanes and to get into government buildings?  Hummmm….will that really make a difference?

Anyway – then and there, I opted for the straight up license renewal.  We will give the state another $11 at a later date and be able to sleep more soundly knowing that SHE has a SecureID in her possession.

Adding to the excitement of that outing, we tacked on two doctors appointments the next day and put a bow on yet another year by getting a store bought cake topped off with twenty little polka dot candles to mark her milestone.

As she was on her way to bed after the cake and ice cream dessert we had, she poked her head into the TV room and thanked me for making it easy.  She would have been overwhelmed with 83 candles she said.  Twenty was just enough to remember it was her birthday.

I go back and forth with this stuff – personally I wouldn’t be offended at all if my kids never lit the candles on a cake and stuck it in front of my face.  But for her, at least it is a way to mark a special day in the year – a date she doesn’t have to think much about…she doesn’t hesitate a lick when you ask her when she was born – month, date, and year.  And maybe a day made a little less lonely – after all, since the day after she turned 21, she had Billy by her side up until two years ago. She reflected a bit on that too…and was glad to have had those long years with him walking beside her.

What’s it like  when suddenly you don’t really have a wedding anniversary any more?

Anyway, back to where we started…we have three more years till this new driver’s license expires.  I wonder how many more documents it will take to renew the document.  I wonder if the State of Indiana will ask itself if it is wise or safe for her to be driving.  I wonder if we’ll still be able to use those SecureID’s for anything at all.  But if she’s around – there’s no doubt that we’ll be having more chocolate cake and ice cream.  Maybe I’ll do 40 candles for dramatic effect.





christmas cookies

19 12 2009

The Mrs. was a working girl.  When I was in elementary school she went back to working full time and continued to do so until after she and Billy had put three kids through college and I was married.  Elaborately decorated Christmas cookies were never her style but she’d find time to bake between doing laundry and housekeeping on those weeks leading up to the Holidays.  Mexican wedding cakes, pecan tarts and peanut butter blossoms to name a few would be around the house for snacking and sharing.

This year it was just before Thanksgiving that she started to make noises about getting the ingredients for the peanut butter blossoms – those ones with the chocolate Hershey’s kiss on top.  It used to be Billy’s job to unwrap the candy as she prepared the dough. It goes without saying that lots has changed since those days.

There was a profound bewilderment in her eyes as she said, “I just get all screwed up…I don’t know what’s wrong with my memory.”  She wonders out loud about why a simple recipe that she’s done so many times before with such success seems so overwhelming to her now.  I talk about the realities of aging (I chose to not use the D word – dementia) and motor planning.  I’ve been witness to hundreds of hours of physical and occupational therapy working as an interpreter at a rehab hospital and with wonder been a casual observer of the fragile nature of our gray matter.  Sometimes I’d get to see the lights come back on and other times – the lights were out for good.

She insisted that she’d made the peanut butter cookies and another batch. “You know those ones with the cereal and the melted marshmallows?” I got excited thinking that I’d be soon snacking on rice crispy treats while I balanced her check book, filed bills and spent time on the phone taking Billy’s name off all the utilities and switch over the auto-pay billing to a new checking account we had to open in her name alone.

But she couldn’t remember where she had put them.  I defaulted to what I had told the Fabulous Mrs. T not long ago. “There is always a thread…there is always some logic behind the twisted thinking.”  A few months ago our dear family friend had stopped by for a cup of coffee with the Mrs. and as soon as she got home to her computer – she quickly pounded out an email to me concerned about the confusion in the Mrs. mind about when Billy had passed away, etc.  I could easily explain all the faulty thinking probably because I am a lunatic myself at this point and it all makes perfect sense.  Some call it denial – I call it coping.

Back to the missing cookies – as if I am a a principal actor on CSI, I try to uncover the truth.  She had gone to the store to gather ingredients – the receipt I found proved that she’d found the baking aisle and brought home brown sugar, powdered sugar (enough to make cookies from now until next Christmas) and a box of puffed wheat cereal.  She explained that she’d not been able to find the one that was specifically listed and figured if she just got one of the same brand (Post) then it would all be the same.

I had a hunch…I went to the front closet and there sat a pan of “cookies”.  See, that closet is cold and not insulated and if the recipe says to “store in a cool place”…then why wouldn’t she put the cookies there?  And once I got a look at the pan, there was even more clarity.

There is a fine physics involved in baking.  Baking powder and baking soda can’t be substituted one for the other.  Rice crispy cereal can’t be substituted with a puffed wheat cereal – or at least not without a very distinct result.  I gently reminded her that a Ford Fiesta is not the same as a Ford F-150 truck…but when she doesn’t really understand or comprehend she gets this look on her face and nods with a half smile like you do agreeing with a two-year old about some preposterous statement they’ve just made. To her it was all the same.  And in a way, it’s all the same to me too.

She just wanted to make some cookies for the Holidays.  I learned a valuable lesson.  I need to hear her words…listen to the intent behind them.  I need to stop my busy life and with grace – as much as is humanly possible –  just help her do those things that give her some sense of fulfillment.  I could have avoided this whole mess if I would have taken the time to be with her while she made those cookies she felt she needed to have in the house.  But I live on a teeter-tooter full of tensions…struggling to keep my balance between the things I want to do, should do, have to do and those that are my responsibility to do. Always straddling the center – never really in one world or the other – always somewhere in the middle.

I feel her slipping away – tired of things that once made her excited.  Maybe it is happening to me too – I haven’t decorated for the last three Christmases and if I stop to review I find the thread that I told the Fab Mrs. T about…this time of the year has become sad to me.  One year it was a Dec. 17th pink slip for the Dr., another was a Christmas morning visit with Billy that I called 911 when he couldn’t get out of his chair – (the paramedics were sure it was nothing but I stood there watching him have a TIA), another was spent in the hospital with Best Boy having his gut re-opened.

There will be new memories soon enough when Donny Diva is up and running around and I’ll be that Momo that decorates and bakes. I’ll get it back.  Right now I’m stretched…doing it for the Mrs. makes me not want to do the same here and have two messes to clean in January.  Mine own is mess enough any time of the year.

So here’s a big head’s up to Sister Sib and Nascar Guy about the cookies awaiting them.  Enjoy them with big smiles on your faces next weekend as you sit with her around the tiny little pitiful tree sparkling away in her TV room.  Know they were made with lots of love.  And please let me know if you find the peanut butter blossoms she supposedly made.





I’m at a loss for words…

11 12 2008

img_3810I was attacking it with great gusto.  An old refrigerator, doors long ago torn off and disposed of – used for storage in that dark, damp space of the basement.  The next day was garbage day – my goal…one more bag.  This was a “special” place of storage for disposable tableware: little plastic coffee cups with handles, knives, forks, spoons, cups – you get the picture.

But what you don’t know is that some of them I am SURE were left overs from my wedding 30 years ago.  Again, the recycler in me had to think twice.  Surely there was a homeless shelter somewhere that could use this stuff but could I live with the news the next day that the crowd that gathered for Christmas dinner was all hospitalized with some mysterious illness from black mold or something?  I had to throw them away.

When I get angry, I can’t fill the bags fast enough.  Nothing is quite as satisfying as a good purge.  Of course, it is much easier to do in someone else’s space.  I turn off my brain and think of the good I’m doing for what remains of my mom’s respiratory health and well being by getting this stuff out of the house.

As has happened before, something takes my breath away (besides the fact that I’m working without a face mask)…I find something so sacred that Billy wrapped it specially and even wrote on the outside to keep predators like me at bay.

img_3818

I shake my head again at the cruelty of dementia…it took away his letters. This guy who loved crossword puzzles and got them done in the time after dinner and before the end of the news,  lost so many words in the end.  Cooky contaner.  I expected a pretty colored tin and all I found was the cheapest plastic kind that held a bunch of common store bought cookies.  Nothing special.  Except to Billy.  It was kooky!

We were having dinner with friends tonight and got to talking about toddlers (they have one),  brain injuries and dementia.  They all have things in common.  Spending any time at all with anyone in these three categories as a caregiver, you do a lot of repetition.

With the toddler you don’t mind as much because you are introducing them to the wonders of the world around them.  To the one with a brain injury you are re-teaching and anxious with wild hope that they will reconnect. Dementia just leaves sadness and loss.  It is a step into the abyss.

Today I’m OK with walking along side those who didn’t ask for this to be their lot and help them face each day with whatever dignity they still have left.  There are days that are exasperating.  I just have to pretend I’m an speech therapist and get into the zone.  How many times to do we need to look at the calendar to see the date when we are writing ten checks one right after the other?

The answer is 10.  Ten times we go over the date and look at it again. Maybe it was to remind me that I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now.





When I get a…

26 09 2008

I don’t even feel like writing and I take that as a sign that I should.  There are only 15 minutes left till the 25th is officially history.  I wasn’t even tracking on what day it was today until late this evening she drew my attention to it.  A month has gone by and today I feel pretty overwhelmed.

She wanted to go to George’s for breakfast – it was strange to be there without Billy.  George wasn’t even there so she couldn’t personally give him the little card thingy from the funeral.  We left it with the other guy and hope he gives it to him.  Maybe it was being there again that silently set the tone of the day.

I thought I’d be responsible and proactive by fixing the outdoor sconce first thing so soon as we got back home,  I had it taken it down and taken apart. Ninety percent of the project went off without a hitch.  But before long I found myself in the garage and in the basement staring at his work bench looking for specific things I couldn’t fine.  Finally, two more trips to the hardware store and four hours of work lead to so much frustration that by early afternoon,  I called an electrician’s shop and took the stupid thing in to have them fix it.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t figure out how to repair it, it was just a simple logistical matter that got me in the end.

I knew I should get something else accomplished…something significant.  But I had been sabotaged early on.  Looking for what I “needed” and seeing all the things I need to sort through – I hit a wall.  A big wall.  One that reminds me that there is plenty of work to be had around here.  

It’s not lost on me that I was so energized last week by reading someone else’s blog about organizing their work space.  This is my work space. I’ll start with the four boxes method:  Goodwill, garbage, keep and the “Oh God what do I do with this now” box.  I have to be disciplined and remember that this didn’t get here in a day (more like 41 years!) and it’s not going to be taken care of in a day. There will be days that I will be able to do alot…and there will be days that I don’t do much.  I’m really very grateful that she doesn’t have to do this alone.  

I found myself in the basement wishing a dumpster would magically appear in the driveway accompanied by six strong men without bad backs – like the kind you can hire outside the Home Depot on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles for a song and a dance ‘coz they are just thrilled to find “work”.  People I don’t know – but people I can boss – people that won’t engage me in conversation or distract me.  But they aren’t here…

Or someone that walks behind me snapping digital pictures that are automatically uploaded to eBay with the perfect descriptions and eager buyers already bidding by the time it is posted.  There really is a gold mine here.  But do I have the patience, time or energy to recognize it all?  If the group from Antique Roadshow would just pull up outside they could tape 10 episodes for sure.

Tomorrow is another day.  The day after the day he died a month ago.  Supposedly that will make the 25th of next month easier.  Maybe I will have made so much progress by then I will feel better. But for now, I’m officially giving myself permission to take this a baby step at a time and say …it’ll get done when I get a round tuit.