Oh Lorde!

10 05 2015

Maybe by the end of today there won’t be any more TV ads for charm bracelets, twinkling diamonds, perfumes with weird story lines in the sixty second mini-movies or yet ANOTHER “One Day!” sale at Macy’s. You’d have to be living under a rock to miss Mother’s Day. None of those things will be part of Ggma’s day. Not happening.

lordeThe highlight of her week was the much anticipated birth of HRH Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Thanks to the CNN loop, she was surprised time and time and time again with the long awaited news. At one point I had to explain that the Royals weren’t here in the States but that those cameras were taking pictures of them in England.

Her day usually winds down about the time that the network evening news is finishing up. On occasion she’ll push the envelope and still be watching when the programming switches to entertainment gossip.

Criminently!” was her assessment of Jay Z and Queen B’s arrival at the Met Gala. Ggma only likes certain Royals.

Before dawn on Friday I had two important things to grab at the grocery store before she was out of bed: milk and magazines. I figured one of the dozen or so at the check out aisle would have that new little princess’s sweet face on it. I scored TWO! I didn’t expect her to do more than hone in on those particular pages but she pretty much had her nose buried in those pages all day long. I had to pry them from her grip to set her night time pills, ham sandwich and a few chips in front of her at the end of the day on Saturday.

Ggma: “Is there any way you could possibly find another copy of this magazine?”

me: “Why?”

Ggma: “Well, I’d love to have one of my own to keep.”

me: “I bought those for you.”

Ggma: “Oh,really?”

me: “Happy Mother’s Day a day early!”

Ggma: “OH THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.”

She went on to tell me that she’d add them to the articles from the newspaper that Billy was keeping. (Whoa – where did THAT come from??) Translated: I bought her a couple of commemorative magazines when Prince George was born two years ago that have become a precious commodity not to be misplaced or thrown away. Billy’s newspaper collection days quit seven years ago in August.

Earlier in the week, I asked her if she remembered celebrating Mother’s Day with her dear Georgia. She supposed that she had made some things at school like Donny Diva did for Shop Girl this week. Those memories are so vague save for the summer of her 14th year when her mother died so suddenly and unexpectedly. rac Without warning the only daughter became a very young “mother” to her dad and three brothers and demented paternal grandmother. So, like others doing their own grief work on this day – mothers buried too soon, others wrestling with the sad reality that they long to have children wondering if that will ever come true, or who’s moms have been emotionally or physically absent or abusive – there is yet another sense of loss. The one I live with and watch fade away right before my eyes. Who’s to say how many more Mother’s Days we will celebrate together – I sure don’t know. As far as Ggma is concerned, this year I gave her an exceptional gift. Each and every one of these long strange days together now will be a gift to me in the future. I’ll treat her like Queen G today.

“And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.”





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





gone fishin’

26 06 2010

I never knew Billy as much of an outdoorsman in the hunting and fishing sort of way but by the looks of this picture – he was either channeling Tom Sawyer and Huck Fin or he enjoyed some time on a bank somewhere.  The Dr. took off earlier this week with some friends for a few days of some male bonding (chest pumping optional) in Wyoming that could have been the setting for A River Runs Through It or Legends of the Fall.  Early next week when the friends head home, he’ll stay behind and be joined by his brothers and dad.  They’ve never done this sort of thing and the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

Meanwhile, here I am.  I always have an imaginary list in my head of all the things I think I can accomplish with him gone.  It’s not that he’s all that much trouble when he is here – it’s just that he needs to eat a few times a day which means if I’m honest –  he’ll fix himself.  He’s become very self-reliant in these days of working from home and never quite sure when my schedule with the Mrs. will have me out-of-town for hours or overnight.  But there is still something that happens when I have the house to myself.

I dream of boundless energy and crews of invisible, off camera  helpers like those TV make-over shows that get done in 30 minutes some how???  Imagine me…no interruptions, moving around efficiently and swiftly, making as much noise as I want and staying up all night tackling project after project.

My list looks like this:

  1. I could paint the bathroom
  2. I could paint the living room
  3. I could strip the 70’s wall paper off the kitchen walls
  4. I could tear down the acoustical ceiling from hell that is also in the kitchen.
  5. I could get every picture album, CD, raw film footage tapes, and any other kind of media that floats around here…organized and in one place.
  6. I could do more of the great work I started in the basement back in February but stopped when there was enough room for the workman to install the  glass block windows
  7. I could clean out 4 bedroom closets
  8. I could re-organize and clean the kitchen cabinets
  9. I could work on the 100-year-old plus double hung windows that don’t work because someone cut the sash cords
  10. I could finish stripping the old linoleum tile off the kitchen floor (a job that has been in process for years and I can ignore until we have company then I die of embarrassment when I see the look on their faces.)

Let’s face it – I have options.  That list could easily double if I wanted to type more.  Time will tell if anything gets done or not.

One of the first things I knew I needed to do was to decide when to go down to the Mrs.’ place.  When I called her the evening that the Dr. left, I was just about to open my mouth and tell her that the Weather channel would surely be talking about the earthquake felt here in MI and the impending tornados headed her way.  Before I could get any of that out of my mouth, she apologetically whimpered, “I hate to trouble you…but I seem to have messed up the TV and I can’t get it to turn on.”   Right then and there I decided that no news was good news – she’d NOT hear about the trembler and she’d slept through the storm warnings a half a dozen other times this season – so what the heck…we’d play the Toto Lotto. So yesterday, my first day of Bliss Week, I went down to the Mrs.’ place – 1 week and 1 day after hooking up the new Comcast digital box.  I wondered just how long it would take before the remote got so screwed up that her TV wouldn’t work.  I may have found her Christmas gift already.  Check it out.

I really am happy that the Dr. has been unchained from his computer screen and gets to breathe real fresh air and enjoy being surrounded by nature these days.  It will refresh his soul.

And I know it would do my soul a world of good to get a bunch of things crossed off that nagging list.  With the fresh motivation that Best Boy and Mimi are headed to town next week – I might just get them all done…that, or I’ll be watching all five seasons of Six Feet Under.  After all, I am also the General Contractor / Supervisor on two projects that will be continuing next week – the painting of the house trim and the landscapers start their three day make-over.  Would you care to place any bets about my making it off the couch?  It would be my version of “Gone Fishin'”.  Oh wait, I can’t fly fish right now coz…





The Social Butterfly

12 03 2010

Shop Girl and I took the “twins” on an outing the other day.  Well, they aren’t exactly twins – they are 992 months apart – but there are some remarkable similarities.  I kept getting wide-eyed looks from Shop Girl that made me laugh…looks that spoke volumes without even having to see her mouth form silent screams and “OMG!”s.

The brick path outlining the five-story tropical garden isn’t long but taking time to see all the gorgeous butterflies that were flitting around our heads was worth enduring the suffocating humidity and 80º microclimate.  Managing that space with a stroller and a senior was the real trip.  Reminders to “Watch where you’re going!” and what NOT to touch rang out as if Donny Diva was a two-year-old even though those comments weren’t directed to him.

One of my biggest struggles is dealing with the Mrs. outside of her normal environment.  If it is me, visiting her on her turf and just the two of us – that I can do.  Take her out of that, reacting to other people, in “normal” conversation, managing unfamiliar territory either geographically or emotionally, and I’m stretched.

I remember feeling this way with Best Boy and Shop Girl even though there are 18 months that separate them. In our own space, the normal routines of them playing together, sometimes fighting but generally being pleasant – I really liked them.  There were situations and certain friends where the chemistry between all the components sent the delicate balance into chaos.  They could be asked questions and I couldn’t control how they’d answer.  I didn’t know how they’d react – what they’d say that would embarrass me.  Over-stimulation of easily taxed brains had consequences long after the actual events were over.  I’d breathe a deep sigh of relief to be back in the surroundings that I could control.

That’s how I felt on my return trip after dropping the Mrs. off at her home last Monday afternoon.  A bridal shower and fortnightly Sunday clan gathering was WAY too much stimulation – too many conversations, too many food choices, too much fun…it was time for a nap.

Social gatherings in her company feel like mine fields to me.  I had to find another punch cup for a niece at the Saturday night soirée because the Mrs. was drinking from the cup on her snack tray AND the one my niece had placed beside her own chair on the floor.  We’d laugh if Donny Diva was doing that but it takes a bizarre twist with the older twin.  When asked to give a word of advice to the soon-to-be-bride, she started a tale that went back to when her mother died when she was only 14…then WWII was thrown in there somewhere and her brothers off to war- till I let it twist and turn just a bit more – and chimed in to get her back on track.  Some 36 hours later when we got out of the car at the butterfly exhibit, I noticed she was still wearing the Mardi Gras beads we’d used for a shower game…they were white and looked like pearls to her.

So what I am really dealing with here is both ends of childhood.  The first part is amusing, cute and entertaining.  The other end makes me feel embarrassed and I don’t like that.  I don’t want to be talking down to her – nagging her – always challenging her.  So as a parent of my very late in life child, I’m having to reach back to my own experience and remember that there is still a fragile ego inside of her.  I need to be as tender and patient with her as I am with Donny Diva.  I have to remember that this caregiving gig isn’t about my comfort – it’s about continuing to give her a quality life experience.

With the exception of regular church gatherings and doctor’s appointments, weddings and funerals are about the only other things that become red-letter days on her calendar any more.  So I will do my best till it is no longer practical or safe to be her driver/chaperone.  I feel a little like Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy but the prejudice I battle is neither racial nor religious.  It is the prejudice I carry inside – the one that used to apply to kidlettes that we wanted seen NOT heard and the “inconvenience” of aging and all the unknowns in that future.

Just like that yearly exhibit that is here one day and seemingly gone the next…I need to keep the perspective that Spring only comes once a year.  I don’t know how many more weddings, funerals, births or birthdays are left on her calendar and the least I can do for her is to make it feel like there are lots of candy dishes to sample right up until the very end.





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.





zombie walk

31 10 2009

1031zpk

“Did you take your antibiotic this morning?”

-“What antibiotic?”

“Those ones that the pharmacy delivered yesterday?  You took two right when they came, then you have to take one a day for the next few days?  It’s called a Z-Pack?”

-“Well that doesn’t make any sense…there is only one left in the box. I can’t find them anywhere around here.  Is it the Tussin DM stuff?”

That phone conversation was yesterday morning.

Cue flashback…

We talked on Tuesday and all sounded well.  I forgot to call on Wednesday and by the time I remembered, she would have been in bed.  When she called me on Thursday to say she was back from the nail salon (something I won’t be doing when I’m almost 83 but then again you knew that…) she sounded absolutely awful.

At least twice a year for the last – oh say, twenty years or so – she gets a nasty bout of bronchitis spring and fall – about the time we have to change our clocks.  I called her doctor to see how we could handle this with me still here in the North on Donny Diva watch and the Mrs. 150 miles away hacking up a storm.

They decided to start her on a round of Zithromax and Tussin DM for the cough.  Standard procedure.  I’ve done the same cocktail myself many times.  I thought I was being soooo clever and had them call the Rx into a pharmacy down the road that delivers.  I get on the phone, talk to the tech, give her my credit card…no hassle…it will be delivered in an hour or so to the Mrs.’ house.  I am feeling oh-so-smug and smarty-pants to boot taking care of business from afar.

Another phone call after a couple of hours to confirm the delivery and all is well.  The nurse from her Dr.’s office had called and explained the dosage to the Mrs. who wrote it all down.  “Take two tablets on the first day and then one a day for tablets 2 through 5…then 1 teaspoon of Tussin every 6 hours.”  What’s not to love about that system?

Cue B-roll footage of elderly woman doing the zombie walk …

So where could those pills have disappeared to?  There was only one way to do this.  It was only fitting that I had a two hour drive in pouring rain and gale force winds again.  At least it wasn’t 2 feet of snow.  There was alot to be thankful for really.

Sure enough when I got there I found the box empty – save the one last blister packed pill marked “DAY 5”.  I checked her regular pill stash to see if she had changed her mind about putting that daily dose in with her regular pills so she didn’t have to worry about it.  “No – that’s not necessary,” she had responded when we were doing this over the phone, “I have it all written out.”  I’m kicking myself for not having insisted she do it MY way.

I checked the garbage and sure enough there were FIVE empty blister packs to prove that she had taken what was intended to be FOUR DAYS WORTH OF DOSAGE IN LESS THAN 24 HOURS!  “Oh that cough medicine really makes me loosey goosey if you know what I mean,” she giggled and disappeared into the bathroom as I grabbed my phone to speed dial the doctor’s office.  That explained it.  She had been taking the pills thinking they were the Tussin which barely had a teaspoon gone out of the bottle.

“Oh MY!…Can I put you on hold while I check with the Dr.?,” the nurse whispered.   When she came back on line, she explained that I was to start some Kaopectate and if it didn’t work, try Imodium.  No more antibiotics till Sunday. (There is only one pill left anyway!)  Since they were only 250mg and time released at that – we were barely at a megadose like the kind you can get in the hospital.  But the trots could certainly be a side effect.  I went for broke at this point and did the dose of Imodium.  How much could that hurt after all the “candy” she’d had?

I grabbed the fattest marker I could and started making signs…BIG PRINTING EXPLAINING THAT SHE HAD TO TAKE ONE TEASPOON OF COUGH MEDICINE AT 8 a.m. / 2 p.m. / 8 p.m., etc. etc.

Adding insult to injury – I remember that Saturday night we set the clocks back.  I didn’t want her up on step ladders changing her kitchen clock so I decided to do it early.  I’m so screwed at this point – what difference can it make that she’ll think it is an hour earlier than it really is all day Saturday?

What really has her concerned is how to pass out candy on Billy’s birthday without contaminating all the kids – then I remember…this day was a highlight of their year.  He always made it so fun.  He could have been selfish about his birthday but it was always about everyone else. It was as if he had invited the whole world to his party.   He never pouted that his day was “eclipsed” with so much hubbub.

“I don’t suppose Billy has much sense of what day it is in heaven, do you?”

“No I don’t suppose.”

That quiet little exchange before I took off like a bat out of hell headed back North, haunted me the rest of the way home.  It’s all a little sad to be alone and sick on such a special day. If I had to pick a costume for today, it would a floppy, straw-stuffed scarecrow…the kind that I could leave little bits of myself in each space I’m trying to fill.