Thursday, October 27, 2016

Send Me an Invitation

 On Tuesday, Mom and I made it to and from her doctor appointment in one piece.  There we were, two gray-haired ladies rolling on down the highway.   I managed my anxiety by taking deep cleansing breaths at every stop light.  (I call it Lunatic Lamaze.)  Traffic wasn't too bad and my alternate route thankfully didn't have any detour surprises.

As usual, Mom was amazed at all the cars on the road, "I think we should be in the gasoline business, don't you?"  

And her opinion on roundabouts hasn't changed either, "I think they put these things in to make old people give up their licenses."

I think she may be right.  Though we made it through the traffic circles with no incidents during rush hour, I'm still not certain everything I did was copacetic, but well, the car is back in the garage with no dents.  That's an accomplishment, right?

"If you had a flat tire, where would you stop?" Mom asked.  "There's no place to pull over and the cars are all going so fast.  This is awful.  I couldn't do it.  I'd never find my way home, either."

"Well, let's hope we don't get a flat so we don't have to figure that out," I joked.  "We're almost out of town now, won't be long before we're home."

I'd used the valet service at the hospital which worked like a charm.  The valet came out, asked my last name and handed me the springy wrist band with the number tag.  Mom waited obediently in the passenger seat until I opened her door for her.  The valet asked if she needed a wheelchair and she responded with her usual, "No, I don't."  

As we walked away from her Buick, Mom stopped in her tracks and wanted to know how I could leave the car sitting at the entrance.  I explained about the valet service and she was a bit mollified, but still not so sure if I made a good deal.  There I go again, swapping a Buick for a bracelet.  

"And how do we get the car back?" she asked.

"I'll give him the bracelet and the man will go get our car."  

"Really?  How far do away do they have to park?"

"I don't know, I guess we'll ask them when we're done here."

"Do they get paid to park cars all day?"

"Yes, I do believe they do."

"I wouldn't want to do it."

We arrived in the vestibule and I stopped by the wheelchairs.  After Monday's jaunt at Wal-Mart, I was curious if her attitude had softened toward the conveyances at all.  

"Did you want to ride in a chair?" I asked, and when she didn't immediately say no, I attempted to unfold the closest one.  I have to admit I've never dealt with wheelchairs before and the one I picked was a cantankerous unit; no amount of trying to pry the arms apart worked.  There I was fighting with a wheelchair in front of a bunch of people waiting for their cars.  I bet I looked great on the security cameras, too.   Finally one of the valets took pity on me.

"Here, let me help you, oh, you don't want this one, this is for large people, I don't think you need an extra-wide wheelchair, do you?" the man smiled at Mom.

Mom said, "I don't know, maybe I'm bigger than I look," and she grinned back at him.

The smaller wheelchair was easier to open (I think I have that down pat now) but the leg rests were far too long for her. Mom didn't complain, it was good enough, "I'm not going to be in this thing that long."

Luckily after Monday's dry run, I remembered exactly where we had to go and headed straight for the elevator without asking anyone for directions.  Since I'm a Nervous Nelly I often get turned around in unfamiliar areas and almost without fail in hospital settings.  

Once again, Mom was impressed with my sense of direction, "How do you know where you're going?   I wouldn't have any idea."

We arrived with ten minutes to spare at the receptionist's desk, took care of the co-pay and then retired to the waiting area to be called.  Mom had a questionnaire to be filled out and I sat next to her and read all the questions.

"Do you have any of the following symptoms? Headaches, fainting, dizziness, coughing, rashes, bladder issues, bleeding......."

Mom's hearing has gotten progressively worse, so I had to read the questions quite loudly; thank goodness there were only two other people in the room.  At the next set of questions, Mom laughed out right, "No, I don't have toothaches, I put my teeth in a glass at night.  Yes, I do have cramps, but not 'those' kind.  I'm a little old for that!"

While we were working on the health questionnaire a lady had come in and sat down near us.  She seemed to be casually listening to our conversation and seemed a bit put off.  I suppose I was talking too loudly, but there's no way to whisper to a person with hearing problems, is there?

A short time later a man arrived, choosing a seat across from the woman.  

On a side note, I know I shouldn't do this, but when I'm in doctor's offices (or anywhere, really) I often wonder about other people's lives and personalities.  The old adage about walking a mile in someone else's shoes is very true; we never know what other people are going through.  Since I spend a lot of time in waiting rooms, I often hear bits and pieces of conversations.  I don't try to eavesdrop, but I can't help hearing conversations a few feet away. 

Anyway, back to the other two people in the waiting room; the lady was a loud talker which made it easy for Mom to hear, too.  

"That sweater you're wearing makes you look fat," the lady told the man who had just arrived. 

"Does it?  The man looked down at his stomach in surprise.  "I don't think so, it's only because of the way I'm sitting," he protested, rising up in his seat a bit and pulling the sweater down.

"I guess you're right, maybe it is just the way you were sitting.   Now I guess it looks better, but looking at you before you moved, I was like, wow, you've got quite a pot belly on you.  But now I see it was your posture.  I guess you don't look as bad as I thought."

Mom and I were curious by this time; do they know each other?  Surely she wouldn't say such a thing to a stranger, would she?  Gosh, I hoped she wouldn't critique my apparel.  Or my posture.  

The lady went on, "Where was I?  Oh, yeah, I was telling you about our visit to the farm.  'Those' people, oh my.  The vernacular farmers use is; well, you know how they talk.  It's really quite primitive."

The man agreed, and they both chuckled like old buddies.  I noticed he was still sucking his gut in though.

Mom was openly staring at the pair, I know she heard the keyword 'farmer' because both of our heads swiveled at the same time.  I was able to refrain from being too obvious, but Mom wasn't.

The lady glanced at my mother and then at me, dismissed us and said to the man, "So, what else is new in your world?  Do tell me all about it."

"When I was taking my shower this morning, I bumped this darn thing," he said, rubbing his chest.  "It really hurt; he's going to have to do something about that."

"Hmmmm...well, what can you do?  You might just have to live with it, you know?  Are you sure that sweater is the right size?  I mean, you look nice, don't get me wrong..." but before she could finish her sentence, a nurse came into the waiting area and called the man's name.

The Sweater Fashion Victim got up immediately and scurried off with the nurse while the lady tried to get in her last two cent's worth, "At least the color is good on you, but I was thinking......"

He turned and waved at her and disappeared around the corner.

Luckily, another nurse called Mom's name almost simultaneously. I'm not certain if Mom could have contained her thoughts on the Fashionista Farmer/Sweater Critic if we'd had to sit there any longer.  With old age comes the dreaded 'Filter Loss' wherein a person loses their ability to control what they say; much as a small child might make an obvious statement about someone without regard for the effect it may have.  Couple 'Filter Loss-itis' with diminished hearing capacity and you end up with loudly whispered comments that weren't meant to be heard.  I do my best to avoid conflicts. 

I glanced at the Fashion Critic as I rolled Mom past in the wheel chair; she was a nice-looking lady, but most definitely not all that and a bag of chips.  One thing was clear however, she really hadn't liked the guy's sweater. 

I have to get used to pushing a wheelchair, though; I hit a chair and a side table on my way to the exam room.  

"I think they should take your license away," Mom said. 

Our nurse asked Mom if she could stand on the scale for her and was frankly a bit dazzled by the way Mom hopped up and onto the platform.  95.5 pounds.  (With her shoes on.)  We were ushered into the exam room and seated.

"This room looks just like the one in town," Mom said.

"Yes, it does, even the placement of the furniture is the same, " I agreed.

The nurse performed the perfunctory duties of blood pressure, pulse and temperature and then the cardiologist came in the room and greeted us.  He spent some time  looking at his computer as he asked Mom general health questions.  

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm ok."

"Do you have any pain?  Can you lie flat at night to sleep? "  

Mom said, no, she felt good.  Yes, she can lie on her back to sleep.   I chimed in about her stomach issues and he nodded and shrugged.  I know this is not his specialty, but he did listen.

He said, "It appears our work here is done.  If you have any more problems down the road, talk to your GP and if need be, he can contact me.  Looking at her past records, I have one question; Lucille, what did you decide to do about the lung?"

Now it was Mom's turn to shrug, she didn't know what he was talking about. 

A year ago Mom had gone in for a CT scan looking for problems with her digestion.  The results were unremarkable, except for a shadow of unknown origin in her lung.

So I piped up, "She was told the CT scan had picked up an inconclusive image (which could be merely a shadow, or possible something more sinister in her lung) but the only way to tell for sure would be to put her through more scans and possibly a biopsy and subsequent surgery and treatments," I said.

Mom was shaking her head, yes, now she remembered, but no, she didn't want to have any more tests.  Her GP was understanding and had said a year ago that we had to weigh quantity of life with quality of life; in other words, yes, she could be put through tests and all the rest, but at 95, would it improve her quality of life?  I truly believe Mom understood the conversation a year ago, she told the doctor she didn't want to look any further into the lung situation. 

Another year has passed since then.   When the cardiologist brought it up again and I repeated what he'd said, she replied, "I don't want to have any biopsies or other tests.  I'm 96.  How long do you think I can live? Do you think I'll live to be 100?" she asked.  "If I make it to 100, I'm going to throw a party, and you'll be invited." 

"96?  Well, it depends," the doctor said, "You're not that far away any more.  Though it's hard to say with the lungs," he said quietly, holding my gaze with a serious look.

 "If she were your mother, what would you do?" I asked with tears in my eyes.  

"Absolutely nothing," was his immediate reply.  "The treatment is brutal.  At 96, I don't think the outcome would be pleasant or efficacious."

Mom sat smiling brightly at the doctor while I stared at the ceiling and tried to stop the traitorous tears from overflowing.  I know, I know, my mother will die one day.  No one and nothing lives forever.  The lung thing-- who knows?  It may be serious, it may be only a shadow; but if she doesn't want to pursue it, I don't blame her.  

Mom asked, "How many 96 year old patients do you have?"

The doctor seemed startled and then smiled when he replied, "None.  In my line of work, that doesn't happen very often.  You're the first one."

 The visit was over and the doctor shook Mom's hand.  "I'll be looking for that invitation in my mailbox in four years," he said.  "Until then, take care, Lucille."

Mom painted a new mailbox for us this summer.
 I helped Mom back into her jacket and got her situated in the wheelchair one more time.  Off we went, back through the waiting room and on down the hall.  I had Mom push the elevator button and she was surprised when the door opened immediately.  

"Are we going home now?  I want to get back to my painting," Mom said.  

 She's got everything from ducks and ducklings, turtles, a man and boy fishing, butterflies and birds galore. 
Flowers and dragonflies...
Geese flying and a bird of prey ready to catch a fish for lunch.

"Yes, we're going home," I said, trying hard to hold back my tears.  She looked so tiny in the wheelchair, how can I possibly prepare myself for losing her?  

As I navigated our way out of town, we didn't talk much.  I kept thinking about the future.  And the past.  Thoughts of what we've gone through together overwhelm me at times; she has had an exceptionally hard life.  Her own mother died of tuberculosis when she was only eight years old, her father became an alcoholic after his wife's death and all four children were sent to live as hired help, split up to various families.  

She came to the farm at the age of twenty as a green city girl and her marriage of almost sixty years was far from a bed of roses.   Mom worked as hard as any man on the farm for over forty years until a tornado took the barn away.  She climbed her last silo and milked her last cow by hand at age sixty-two.  She survived abuse and neglect and yet has the sunniest disposition of anyone I've ever known.

My childhood wasn't easy, either; though he had no diagnosis, I believe my father suffered from some form of mental illness.  If Mom hadn't been there for me, I wouldn't have survived.  The verbal abuse we both suffered took a toll, but her incredible strength and sense of humor never failed me.  When the cruel words descended, or worse, when the Silent Treatment enveloped us both, we had each other to lean on.  

Mom was my rock.  

When we arrived at her home I parked the car in the garage and turned off the ignition. 

"It's so good to be home," she said, "What would I do without you?" 

I shrugged, looking through the windshield at the snow shovel hanging on the wall, blinking rapidly.

After a few seconds, I wiped my eyes, smiled and said, "What would I do without you?"  


I don't want to know.




Monday, October 24, 2016

I Had a Good Memory

Well, I used to.  After today, I'm sensing trouble on the horizon.....

What a day Monday was.  No, nothing tragic happened, but it was---well, how to explain what it was like?  I guess I should back up the truck to how Sunday went first in order to get this out of my system. 

Mom was invited to an 'Over 90' gathering at our church.  The invitation came a few weeks ago and I was at her house when she opened the envelope.  

She read it over and asked, "What's this about?"

"Looks like the church is having a celebration to honor people over ninety years old," I said.  "Do you want to go?  There's a number to call to RSVP."

"No, I don't want to go.  Why would I want to go?  Besides, I'd miss my Packer game."  (Mom is a huge Green Bay Packer fan.)

I didn't push the issue, but kept the invitation in plain sight.  Every day for the next few weeks when I went to give her medication she would ask me about the invitation. 

"Did you see this thing from church?"  

"Yes.  Do you want to go?"

"What's it all about?"

Cue the original explanation, worded as closely as possible to the first time we discussed this.  The more I repeat myself verbatim the more Mom retains. 

I rattled off my original spiel and asked again, "You still have time to RSVP.  Are you sure you don't want to go?  You might have fun talking to other ninety-year olds." 

"Who do I know that's 90?  How many of us are there, anyway?  I don't know anyone who's 90.  I want to watch my Packer Game."

Ok.  I didn't push the issue.  If she doesn't want to go, I'm not about to force her.  We had this conversation at least a dozen times and the answer was always the same.  She didn't want to go.

Until Sunday morning. Carl went to give Mom her medication and she was all dressed up.  

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To church for that 90 thing," Mom said. "We have to be there by 3:30PM."

Carl looked at the invitation and showed Mom the party started at 1:30PM.  Ok, she'd wait until I came to pick her up.  

"See you at 3:30," she said as Carl said goodbye.

He didn't bother correcting her. 

When Carl came home he told me our plans had changed; I was going back to church at 1:30.  I admit I was childishly not happy about it.  I'd been working in the garden and the weather was glorious, I had high hopes we'd get a lot accomplished with the garden cleanup with two of us working together.  But now I had to change my clothes again and get ready to take Mom to the party she hadn't wanted to go to.

"Great," I grumped.  "Just what I want to do this afternoon."  

I went in to make dinner for us and was taking out my frustration on a potato I was peeling.  I know how selfish this sounds, trust me, and I do love my mother very much, it's just sometimes I lose my caregiver's halo.  

I was reminded of the time when Joel was a teenager and did not want to go to confirmation class.  Carl and I forced him to go.  Carl literally dragged him out of the house, another moment in my life I am not proud of, though I did not do the dragging.  I had such ambivalence at the time, I knew just how Joel felt.  I disliked going to confirmation when I was his age, too.  Was it the right thing to do? I still don't know.

Anyway, I was feeling ornery and martyr-ish.  When Carl came in for dinner and asked what was wrong my petulant sock-puppet-self yelled, "I don't Wanna GO!"  Weirdly enough, I felt better after that.  

Carl looked at me quizzically, what was the big deal?  Did I want him to take Mom instead?  Or did I want him to come along with us?  

I couldn't really tell him what the problem was; I think it was just the change in plans that did me in.  I was angry and feeling ornery, I had a headache and my bladder was still keeping me tied to the bathroom. And did I mention I was feeling sorry for myself?  I'm really good at that.  Sometimes being a caretaker is overwhelming even though she deserves far more than I do for her. 

"I DON'T WANT TO GO!"  I yell-whined again.  Dang, that felt good.  I can see why two-year olds get a kick out of hollering.  It's a great tension reliever. 

Carl looked at me with some amusement (and a bit of alarm, hey, I don't blame him) and again offered to attend with us.  

"No, it's bad enough I have to go," I said.  "You don't need to have 'fun', too."

We finished our dinner and I headed up the road to pick Mom up.  She was seated at the table and stared blankly at me when I walked in.

"Are you ready?" I said abruptly, hating myself for being a twat.

"Oh, are we going?" Mom asked.  "Ok."

I led the way down the stairs to my car. 

"I don't know why I am going to this," Mom said on the drive in.

"You surprised me, too," I said, "What changed your mind?"  I was driving rather fast and still feeling resentful. 

"Rose called me yesterday and said I had to come," Mom said.  Rose is a friend of my mother's who lives in Appleton.

"Oh, ok," I said.  

I more or less thought this might be the case since I'd known Rose talked to Mom on Saturday.  She'd been unable to reach Mom on the phone and had called me to find out if Mom was ok.  Turns out Mom had unplugged her phone by accident so no calls were getting through.  Carl went up to Mom's to fix the phone and then had Mom return Rose's call.

"Do you know what this is all about?" Mom asked.  "I don't know why I'm going to this thing.  I really don't want to go.  What is it all about, do you know?"  She sighed as she looked out the window.

I calmed down some then.  I was taking Mom to church and she felt about the same way I did.  Confused.  I mentally chastised myself again and was calmed down by the time we got to the parking lot.

"I'm going to drop you off by the door so you don't have to walk so far.  If you wait for me, I'll be right there after I park the car," I said.

Mom got out of the Pontiac and carefully shut the car door.  I left her standing on the sidewalk and waited patiently for some elderly gentlemen to gingerly pick their way in front of me.  By the time I hit the lock button on the key chain and started trotting across the parking lot, she was nowhere to be seen.  She's done this before, even though she's 96, she can move like the wind.  I was relieved to find her sitting on a bench inside the church hall.

"What is this all about, do you know?" she asked as we went up the steps.

"We'll find out soon," I said.

I led the way into the Fellowship Hall and spotted Rose seated at a table. 

"There you go," I said to Mom.  "There's Rose, you can sit by her."

"Where?" Mom said, anxiously.

I pulled out her chair for her and she settled in.  I was immediately wrapped up in a bear hug from my friend Mary who was there for her 90-something friend, Helen.

The party was nice, there was a video and the pastor gave a presentation and then handed the microphone to all the nonagenarians present to state their names and birthdates and any other memories they cared to share.  The only problem is Mom doesn't hear very well, so I had to translate everything that was said.  And she didn't recognize the majority of the elders that spoke, either.  

When the pastor got to Mom, she held the microphone and looked at me mortified.  What was she supposed to say?  

I prompted her, "Say your name and your birthdate."

"I was born in 1920 and I go to this church," and she quickly handed the mike to me.

I took over, "This is my mother, Lucille.   As she said, she was born in 1920 and she is 96 years old.  She's been a lifelong member of this church.  She's been on the farm since 1940 and is doing well."

I really didn't know what else to say; Mom didn't want to add anything and was happy when I passed the microphone to Rose.

There was punch and desserts and each honoree was given a book of prayers as a gift.  Mom was visiting with Rose after the presentation was over and I decided to go talk to a few of the other elders seated at another table.  

The second I got to my feet, Mom said hopefully, "Are we going home now?"  

"No, no, you can visit, I'm just going to say hi to a few other people," I said.

The other elders were in much the same shape as Mom, most of them did not know me, which I expected, though they did remember my parents.  

One lady is legally blind, uses a walker and still lives alone.  She told me her daughter comes once a week with food in dishes for her which she heats up in her oven.  She knows what food is in which dish by the shape of the container.  She said she stays away from using the burners on the stove because she can't see and doesn't want to start a fire. She said her daughter's husband has a serious illness and needs care and since her daughter works full-time, it's a lot for her to deal with.  I was humbled.  Yes, that is a lot for her to deal with....I was feeling more guilty.

Then I talked to a man who was a friend of my late father's.  My father was born in 1913, which would have made him 103 this year.  Dad's friend just turned 90, so there was a thirteen year age difference, but Gerald remembered Dad very well.  

I talked to another daughter/caretaker, too; we shared what our experiences have been like and had a few laughs and then she told me her husband is suffering from late-stage cancer and she is also holding down a full-time job, tending her husband and her elderly parents.  And I complain??    

While we were commiserating,  she suddenly had to go because her father was starting to head out the door with his cane and her mother needed her walker.  And then I realized I'd lost track of Mom. We both laughed again, shared a heartfelt hug and wiped away some tears.  This whole thing is so reminiscent of raising small children, only in reverse.

By the time I got back to the table, Rose was long gone; she'd called her daughter to come pick her up and Mom was sitting with my friend Mary, waiting for me.

"Are we going home now?" Mom asked.

"Yes, if you're ready," I said.

She handed me some dessert wrapped up in a napkin the ladies from church asked her to take home and we headed down the stairs.

The other elders were slowly descending the staircase one step at a time and marveled at Mom who simply walked down them like a 20 year old.  That's one thing about Mom, she's really good on her feet and very agile.  The other caretakers were in awe; I'm lucky in comparison.  Mom is doing very well for her age.  (Note to self:  I'm Very LUCKY!) 

I asked her to wait on the sidewalk and I'd go get the car, but she opted to walk instead.  Halfway across the parking lot she spotted a leaf on the pavement and expressed such joy at it's beauty that she had to stop walking to admire it.  A sudden gust of wind took the leaf out of her hands and at her cry of dismay, I dashed after it, much to the amusement of the other people in the parking lot.  I was able to retrieve the leaf and when I put it in her hands she was as pleased as if it were a gem of great value.

"I love leaves, they are so pretty," she sighed.

I blinked back some more guilty tears.  "Yes, they are."

"Do you have time to go the grocery store?" she asked.


So off we went to the store.  I gave her a cart to push so she can lean on it if she needs to and she ceremoniously handed me her grocery list.  

"You lead the way," she said, "I don't know where anything is." 

 She always thinks I'm a genius because I know where all the food is in the store.  

"You could work here, you know?  You're so smart."

Yep, I'm a genius.

Her list was as follows:
Whole wheat bread
Potato chips
Chocolate syrup

I know, great wholesome food, right?  She picked out her Kit Kat's, Pringles (Ranch flavor is her favorite) and opted for a generic store brand over Hershey's syrup.

"Ok, that's everything on your list," I said.

"Really?  Is that all?" she looked at me skeptically.

"Well, did you need some fruit?  Meat?  Vegetables?"

At each suggestion, she shook her head.  No, she was done.

Ok, off to the checkout.  She painstakingly counts out her change to the penny and the young clerk waits patiently. Bless her heart.

I grab her bag of groceries and her gallon of milk and reach for her hand to help her across the parking lot.  She walks well, but I don't want her to fall.  We stroll hand in hand to the car and she shivers when a cold wind springs up.

I settle her in the passenger seat, put the groceries in the back seat and we head for home, arriving by 3:30. 

"I still don't know what that church thing was all about," Mom said.  "But at least there wasn't a Packer game today, so I didn't miss anything."

I hauled her groceries in the house, planted a kiss on her forehead and said Carl would be back at 9PM for her nighttime meds.  

"Thank you for taking me," she said with a smile.

Yes, you guessed it, I felt guilty.  

Fast forward to Monday morning.  Mom had a cardiologist appointment for a follow-up scheduled for Monday at 3PM.  I waited to tell her she had a doctor's appointment until after I gave her medication to her.  

"Who has a doctor's appointment?  You?"

"No, you do."

"For what?"

"A checkup."

"I'm going to tell him a thing or two, my stomach hurts all the time."

"Hopefully he can help with your stomach," I said.

"I don't think I need any of those pills, and I'm going to tell him so."

"Well, maybe he can adjust some of your medication," I said.  "But looking around at the party yesterday, I'd say you're doing very well, wouldn't you?  You're walking all by yourself and can go up and down stairs.  You still scrub your own floors and you just got done cutting all your hostas back outside.   Everyone was amazed by you."

"I just don't understand why we have to see him," Mom grumbled.  

She turned the volume back up on the Price Is Right and watched the final showcase.  When the winner was announced, she turned the TV off.

"What are you going to do today?" 

"Carl and I are taking you to the doctor at 2PM."

"What??  Who's going to the doctor?  You are??"

I repeated the story again.

"Well, I'm going to tell him a thing or two."

"Ok, we'll pick you up at 2," I said, kissing her forehead.

Carl had come home early from work to help me with the appointment; I can drive a tractor anywhere, help with rocks, tree-cutting and chain saw work and cows, mow any lawn, walk around at night in the dark, and now have a functioning .22 rifle again for varmint control (just call me Granny Clampett) but don't ask me to drive in traffic.  I hate traffic.

Monday afternoon was another beautiful day, but off we went to Green Bay with Mom and her dreaded doctor appointment.

On the way to the cardiologist's office at the hospital we ran into major road construction and Carl missed the detour because he doesn't read very well and I was in the back seat.  We ended up getting turned around in cul de sacs and stranded in endless Suburbia Land because we left the GPS at home in our car.  

Finally we found an alternate road and arrived in plenty of time at the hospital.  Carl did not want to have the valet parking, so I hopped out of the back seat and helped Mom out of the car leaving Carl to find parking.

Mom and I entered the building and I paused by the wheelchairs, did she want to ride?  

NO, she did not.

Ok, let's go. We wended our way through the corridor to the elevator and found the right office.  The receptionist waved us forward and asked for Mom's name.

I gave her the information and she frowned.

"Her appointment is for Tuesday at 3PM, not today.  Doctor is not in the office on Mondays.  You're quite early for your appointment, I'd say."

Ha ha.

I apologized as my face turned shades of red.  A few people in the waiting room (and there were lots of them) giggled in amusement.  

I apologized for my mistake and turned Mom around.

"Where do I sit? Where are we going?" she asked, looking at the chairs.

"I made a mistake, your appointment is tomorrow," I said, taking her by the hand.

"Where do we go now, do we sit here?"

"No, just come with me, we'll have to come back tomorrow."

"What?  My appointment is tomorrow?  Then why are we here today?"

"Because I don't know what day I'm on," I said. 

"What?  I thought my appointment was today!"

"So did I, but I'm sorry, Mom, I made a mistake."

As Mom and I slowly made our escape from the doctor's waiting room, I called Carl.

"Where are you?"

"OH, it took me forever to find a parking stall, I'm way out in the lot behind the hospital."

"Well, guess what?  Her appointment is tomorrow."


"I'm sorry, could you bring the car around?  We'll wait in the lobby."

So off Mom and I went, back to the elevator and out to the lobby.  I watched for the Buick while Mom speculated on what was wrong with all the people sitting in wheelchairs waiting for their rides.

When I saw the car approach, I took Mom's hand and we went across the parking lot.  Just as she reached the car door, she spotted a leaf on the ground and quickly bent over to retrieve it.  The poor leaf had been run over by a multitude of cars, but Mom held it carefully in her lap, admiring it as we headed back out into traffic.

I apologized to Carl who good-naturedly laughed it off, "Oh, well, it's ok.  We had a good time, didn't we?"

But I really felt foolish.  How could I have made such a mistake?

Carl's next adventure was to take Mom to Wal-Mart.  Mom hasn't been there in over a decade and wasn't looking forward to it, but she's run out of paint for her artwork and Carl felt she should pick out her own colors.

Once again, Carl dropped us off at the door and went to park the car.  I had my doubts about Mom walking in Wal-Mart, it's a big store and it had already been a big day for her.  When we walked into the entrance, I spotted a bunch of the motorized carts and asked her if she wanted to drive one.  

"NO, I can walk!  Those carts are for Old People."

"Ok, well, we'll walk slow," I said, eyeing the carts ruefully.  Just then I spotted a wheelchair-type cart with a shopping basket on the front; maybe that would work?  But I didn't want a melt-down in the store.

As I'd feared, we slowly made our way past the bakery and Mom was starting to fade.  

"Are you tired?" I asked.

"How far do I have to go?" she asked as she looked around her bewilderingly.

"A long way, I'm afraid," I said.  "Wait right here, I'll go get the wheelchair."

I sprinted back out of the store and met Carl who was on his way in.  He grabbed the wheelchair and arrived with a flourish in front of Mom, "Your chariot awaits, Madame."

Mom sheepishly looked around, and sat down gingerly.  Carl swung the basket part of the cart in front of her and off we went.  The way the cart is designed is really ingenious, no one stared at her as we shopped and I think she started to enjoy herself quite a bit.  She chose her new paint colors and a whole bunch of glitter, oh boy! and we checked out and wheeled her back to the car which was parked a long way out. 

I was headed to take the wheelchair back to the store when a nice lady walking alongside of me said, "I'm going into the store, do you want me to take that back for you?"

I thanked her warmly and she replied, "No problem!"

We took the long way home and Mom marveled at all the pretty leaves on the trees and the clouds.  

When we got her home, she was tired.

"Why did we go today?" she asked me, afraid she'd forgotten something important.

"I made a mistake, Mom.  I thought you had an appointment today, but I was wrong.  My memory is not what it used to be."

She looked at me and sighed.

"We have to go back tomorrow?"


"What time?"

"We'll leave at 2PM."



"Why are we going?'
"For a checkup."

She frowned.

"You're sure it's tomorrow?"

"Yes, I'm sure this time."  

"I hope I remember."

"It's not your memory I'm worried about!" I said.

"Just wait until you get to be my age," Mom said, "You'll see."

"I already do, Mom."

I kissed her forehead.

 Wish us luck on our adventure (without Carl) tomorrow.


My Annual Review Part One

Every June when I'm in the midst of planting my annuals and my knees start to ache, I stand up, stretch my back and catch myself sarcastically thinking the same thing, "In a few weeks you'll be tearing these all out again."  

Yes, I'm a pessimist, in case you hadn't noticed. 

Summer goes by too quickly; all the intense spring planting, weeding, pruning, and mulching seems so long ago already.  We'd had two killing frosts in a row complete with ice on the rain barrels.  The show's over for another year.

I started dismantling the garden last week, even though there are petunias and a few other plants still blooming.   I'll have to look the other way when I yank them out and toss them onto the trailer.  I find it difficult to remove flowering plants, but experience has taught me it is better to get it over with when the weather is nice.  It's a whole lot more unpleasant to wait and have fingers and toes achingly numb from working in cold, wet conditions.

Besides my passion for 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum' petunias and the new 'Red Velour Tidal Waves, there were two other petunias in the garden I haven't mentioned. 
Bubblegum petunias and would you look at the size of those cannas!  Lots of digging in my future.

Tidal Wave 'Red Velour' and 'Silver'

One night at the end of June I was shopping at a big box store and noticed two petunias I'd never seen before in the clearance area.  One was Supertunia 'Pink Star Charm' and the other was Supertunia 'Flamingo'.  The pots had been badly over-watered (petunias don't like to be soggy) but the rather small blooms were intriguing and I thought I'd give them a try. 

I had a tiny aluminum planter we'd bought at a thrift store which was just the right size for a smaller petunia.  The next day when I tipped the plants out of their plastic pots the soil was dripping and there was algae forming on the surface.  It seemed my bargain buy wasn't much of a bargain.

After transplanting, they looked more forlorn than ever and I really didn't have high hopes for the poor things.  I held off on watering for over a week, checking the soil daily for moisture.  In another week, I was pleased to see them perking up a bit.

I am definitely going to look into buying these petunias earlier next spring.  One thing to remember about annuals is not to stress them at any stage of growth as poor treatment will affect their performance throughout the growing season.

Pink Star Charm in late July

Same plant in early October

If these little guys hadn't had such a hard time, I'm almost certain they would have been even more impressive. 

The above is not a fantastic picture of 'Supertunia Flamingo' and yes, it does resemble 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum' quite a bit, but the plant and blooms are much more petite.  And it's still blooming after two hard frosts.  These two petunias are amazing in pots.

Let's see, what else did I plant?

 Nasturtiums, several different seed varieties; I think this one is a Park's Giant.
 Just before our killing frost, the vines had overtaken the East Quarry Hill and were heading out into the lawn.
A new nasturtium to me was 'Double Delight Cream'.  This was a very nice variety, stayed compact and was never out of flower. 

 I also grew some 'Empress of India' and a few other blends of old fashioned varieties in hanging pots on the gazebo.

Another old standby of mine is Zinnia 'Double Profusion Cherry'.  These are also from seed and they have always proven to be weather and mildew resistant.

I also tried a yellow celosia, 'Fresh Look Yellow'.  

There's nothing like zinnias to brighten up the joint.

 The Profusion Cherry zinnia always mixes well with 'Inca' marigolds and 'Fresh Look' yellow celosia, too.

Another favorite zinnia for me is  Zinnia Angustifolia 'Crystal White', or the narrow-leaved zinnia.  These little plants are as tough as nails and bloom non-stop making them true workhorses in the garden.

 These zinnias were planted in probably the worst soil in the garden; lining the driveway beds in better than fifty percent gravel.  They are still blooming despite two killing frosts.


 Let's see what else I had planted....

For some reason I had total crop failure on my Melampodium 'Melanie' seeds; this lonely plant came up as a volunteer in the garden, but we'll try again next year.  Melampodium is a fantastic annual and can take heat and drought.
 Another impulse buy for me in July was a tiny bag of dried up caladium bulbs marked down to twenty-five cents which turned out to be a great bargain.

I hope to be able to overwinter these bulbs; they were great performers.

For the second year in a row I planted marigold 'Alumia Cream' from seed, and added a new twist of mingling 'Fresh Look Yellow' celosia.  This was an interesting experiment as earlier in the season the marigolds were much more showy than the celosia.

For some reason, the marigolds started to decline earlier than usual, but then the celosia took over very well.  I removed the failing marigolds and let the celosias continue to do their thing.


  (It's October 24, and I still haven't removed them.)

Well, it's time to get moving for the day, I'll be back with more in my next post.