no more HGTV for you

19 10 2009

chipsWhat was I thinking?  During these months of hauling out junk from Billy’s basement, my guilty little pleasure has been wrestling the remote from the Mrs.’ hand and moving as far away from the Weather Channel and Fox News as I could.  Naturally, I’d land on HGTV.  She can watch all the Dr. Phil she wants when she is alone.  Truthfully, I have no idea what she spends her time watching when I’m not there.  She waited a long time to control her own remote and she can do as she pleases.

We would chat about the shows but I never really entertained the thought that she was taking in much information for her own personal use.  Last week, I walked into her house to find that she had decided that the mug rack on the kitchen wall was terribly outdated and no longer useful.  It was all taken down and she had rearranged some decorative plates to take over that space.  Nicely done, I might add.

On a rare trip to Kmart together a few months back, the Mrs. and I wandered through the bedding department and picked out a new bedspread.  With her full sized bed and bedroom furniture (given to her by her dad when she was still in high school) all back in her bedroom, it was time for a little pick-me-up.  I need to take down some balloon curtains she has had up since forever and replace them with something different.  She’s dreaming of a “soft dovey gray with blue undertones” for that room.  Maybe an early spring project for me will be getting some new paint up on those walls.

The long and short of this…I was delusional to think that the only thing I was doing there was cleaning out the basement.  I remember Billy being frustrated and vocal toward the end about her never ending project list.  It really isn’t much different than my list for our 100 plus year old Money Pit.  Truth be told, she couldn’t lift a finger around there in the last couple of years without him putting up a huge fuss about it so she stuffed it all down and waited.

I have opened Pandora’s Box.

On my current list of things to get accomplished in her space is spraying the basement walls with a bleach solution once a week for the next couple of weeks to try to put an end to the years of mold and mildew.  I realize though that I am like the Hoover Dam trying to hold back her rushing creative waters.  She wonders out loud what the re-cooped space would look like with a bright coat of paint on the walls.  Then we’ll get new shelving units for the walls…then…

I manage to control my voice to avert the guttural scream I feel building and tell her that first we’ll have to paint the new stair treads that Charlie & Co. replaced last Thursday.  Even before those three got damaged in the fun of the last months, she’d told me that she wanted to “spiff up” the stairs with new paint.  I have begged and begged her to not touch brushes till I am there for a few days.  Once I unleash that monster – there is no telling where we’ll end up.

Last week I took my shop vac along to start the process of cleaning the basement floor in a way that didn’t just re-locate all the cement dust left behind from all the jack hammering that went on.  I happened to look up at the ceiling of the basement only to see years and years of accumulated cobwebs and spider eggs that needed to find a new home.  She wanted to watch.  I was annoyed…until I remembered that young kids like watching adults do things that they can’t yet do.  I just needed to reverse the process in my mind and realize that she was watching NOT to be critical but with longing.  She wished I’d let her do the job but I didn’t want her craning her stenosis narrowed neck with arms over her head for about an hour.  It was a year ago this next week that she landed in the hospital for three days after a seemingly harmless trip to the dentist. Just having her head tilted back so the Dr. could see what he was doing, put her system in a nasty downward spiral for weeks and weeks.

But yesterday’s phone call just floored me.  “I was down in the basement and I know where the shower will go!” she excitedly exclaimed.  “EXCUSE ME?“, exploded the voice in my head just short of a rant of Tourettte’s.  Rationally and calmly, I agreed with her that it was an excellent idea and a good use of space but we might want to think about updating the bathroom on the first floor before we go there.  Built in 1958, there has been very little updating of the original bathroom with its gray plastic tiles and a nasty, carpeted floor which was THE update when I was in high school.  I’ve been secretly thinking about that space and even had a discussion with Charlie & Co. about a great Kohler tub and surround that he loves to install.

I felt Billy lose his cool.  The earth shook ever so slightly as he turned over in his grave.  Maybe there was a method to his madness keeping the basement wet all those years so he’d never have to tackle the next thing on the list.

As frustrated as I might get with all this,  she’s still on her own and I am supremely grateful.  We are lucky.  She is still mobile, thinking and dreaming.  She still gets more cleaning done on a weekly basis than I do in months.  It exhibits pride which signals a great sense self-awareness.  Any therapist would tell you that is a sure fire signal that some things are still working.  When she stops getting dressed in the morning because there is nothing to get dressed for – we’ll have a whole ‘nother set of issues to deal with.

So with punch list in hand…we face the winter months with projects to keep us busy.   She saw a new mail box she loved that was on sale so I picked that up along with the huge 4×4 post all waiting in the garage for when I can bamboozle some kind soul from her church to do an act of kindness for one of their widows.

And in my parallel universe, I need to clean out my basement so that I can have glass brick windows installed before the dead of winter.  When the estimator told me that they work from inside and outside, my heart sank.  I now HAVE to face my own demons to clear the way.  My goal this week is 10 bags of junk for the Salvation Army pick-up next Saturday.

Next, I’ll probably be hiring a painter to do my living room, entry, stairwell, upstairs hallway, kitchen, bathroom, etc. while I’m down at the Mrs.’ place painting the stairs, basement and bedroom for starters.  I have gone so far as to purchase my own Benjamin Moore color chip fans so that I don’t have to stand in the hardware store guessing at what I’m looking for.  This is serious business.

“Hello.  My name is Monkee and I’m a project-a-holic.”  Some addictions are hereditary.





back to work

26 10 2008

Sometimes we just need posted reminders about where things go. For eight years I had a job in a four star hotel where my uniform was stored in a locker that I would open five days a week at around 6:30 a.m.  There are things that I don’t miss about that life but others that I do…like the great memos that would appear from time to time, whether circulated or posted – and always good for a laugh.  I remember the day I took this picture with my phone.  It still makes me chuckle – NOT chuck – chuckle.

Now I’m doing my own memo posting.  The ma is “green-challenged”.  Before I left her house this afternoon, a note that explains what is garbage, what isn’t and where it all goes was taped to the counter.  After 81 years of putting rubbish in the one logical place – I’ve thrown her a huge curve ball by trying to get her to sort plastics, glass, metal and newspaper.  She generates so little trash as it is that I may just make life easier for both of us and let her throw it all away.  I’ll sort it when I’m there. It’s the least I can do to make her world a bit less complicated.

When I walked in the other day she was watching What Not to Wear and paying close attention.  The issue of the “right shape of jeans” came up, she mentioned again that she needed a new pair.  I’m wondering if Stacy and Clinton would be interested in doing an episode for octogenarians?  A quick run to Target while channeling my stylist Shop Girl, I found a pair I thought would work and tried to imagine Shop Girl doing the same for me in 30 years.

It’s been just over two months and the ma is still trying to find her way.  All she wanted to do last week was to visit the dentist in the hope of getting work done then finishing up the process with some whitening.  She’s not vain.  These are just things that have been on the back burner for a few years as Billy declined and kept her close to home as his full time caregiver.  

But from the dentist chair to the hospital she went as her world started to spin, blood pressure spiked, horrible headache set in and she couldn’t walk straight line to save her soul.  Two days later after a CAT scan, MRI, blood work and the like ruled out stroke or tumor, she got to go home.  Her internist, who works exclusively with the elderly, said he sees this with women that go to the hairdresser each week. The degeneration present in cervical bones causes a shift that messes with the two large nerves that meet at the base of the skull and go up into the head.  The result is that the women collapse in a heap after they have had their heads tilted back at the shampoo bowl. 

We are addressing the blood pressure with new meds and given all she’s been through in the last few years and especially the last few weeks – it is not a surprise that it is on the rise.  No more dentist’s chair for a while and I’ll have to follow up with that Dr. to see where things were left.  

Needless to say, I put a few miles on the car this week but I feel good.  I am going back to work tomorrow morning – my kind of work – cleaning my very dirty post-week-long-film-shoot house. Visiting Nurses will be checking in on her in Indiana twice this week and I’ll be back there in a couple of days.

Maybe I’ll be surprised that my memo does the trick – but if not, it will take me all of two minutes to sort through what it there.  At least, she knows where the “locker room” is!