Friday, December 11, 2015

Wringing In the Holidays

Here we are getting perilously close to Christmas, and even Mother Nature isn't ready.  There's no snow.  I'm not in the Christmas spirit yet,  not when the thermometer reads 51 degrees and I'm semi-seriously contemplating mowing the lawn one more time just for the heck of it.  (And to drain the gas tank for winter.)

In November I promised myself I would get a jump on the holiday season this year.  When I was wrapping the apple tree trunks against rabbit damage and was digging around in our junk to find my tree wrap,  I found the fake Christmas tree in the barn.  I placed it on the gazebo and was thrilled when I plugged it in and the lights actually worked, though it was crooked and needed some reinforcement on its perch on top of one of the white tables.  I left it plugged in as I worked around the yard that day, but it was before Thanksgiving and too early to have a lit Christmas tree, so I never got around to hooking up the extension cords.  A few days later Carl needed a cord for some reason or another and now my leaning, unlit tree sits forlornly listing back and forth in the wind.  Yeah, that's festive.

Below is a picture of what the gazebo looked like a few years back.  If I find another extension cord (and it snows) it might happen again. 

This is the view in the Quarry today; not exactly Christmas-ish, is it?  We were in the 50's this afternoon and when the weather is that balmy, thoughts of Christmas just don't register with me.  I went all gangbusters on the urn decorating in November and spent an inordinate amount of time on them when I should have been getting something done in the house.

Maybe we'll have our Christmas festivities outside by the urns.  Works for me.

Looking at the urn, I see I left the metal duck in the arrangement.  I was using the metal rod on the Duck on a Stick as a poker to put the greenery in the frozen potting soil and there he sits, hiding in the shrubbery.  Lately I'm as forgetful as Mom is; I can see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Speaking of Mom, she had another bad night on Wednesday, her stomach is still hurting and she wasn't able to sleep very well.  I was all dressed for my exercise class at church when I called her this morning.  She didn't answer the phone until the sixth ring and I was getting nervous.

"Hello?  Did I ever tell you that you have a knack for catching me when I'm making my bed or in the bathroom almost every time you call me?" Mom asked.

She makes her bed without fail every day, the day I go there and that bed isn't made, then I know the end is near.

"I'm sorry, I guess it's just one of my many talents, Mom.  How are you feeling today?"

"Do I have to answer that?  I think you know, I don't feel good.  Are you going to exercise class this morning?"

(Apparently the blood pressure pill is not the cause of her stomach problem since she didn't take it on Wednesday night.)  

"Yes, that's the plan," I said as I found my wallet and car keys.

"I'm going to wash clothes this morning," she said.  "My stomach hurts, but I've got to have clean clothes."

Oh, no.  Not laundry, not today....."Can you let it wait until I get home from exercise class so I can help you?"  But then I remembered my friend Nancy was going to give me a long overdue haircut this morning too, and I knew I wouldn't be able to hold her back from her Laundry Quest if I was gone more than an hour.

"No, I don't need any help.  Why would I need help with laundry?  I can do it myself, I'm capable," she protested.

"I know you're capable, but you don't feel good, so let me help you, please," I begged.

"Well, all right, I'll wait until you get home from town, if that's what you want," she said.  But I could tell that was a lie.  

Again, let's back up the truck here; Mom (and ok, yes, Yours Truly----me) use wringer washers for our laundry.  Mom has a Speed Queen that is half her age and I have a Maytag that's five years older than I am, so indeed, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  We're both Stubborn Like That, we never moved into the modern era of washers and dryers and all them there fancy gizmos the rest of the planet uses.  No sirree, we don't get our undies in a bundle unless they get wrapped around the wringer.  ( And we do our best to keep our, ahem, 'bosoms' out of aforementioned wringers, too.  I actually never could figure out how a woman could get that part of her anatomy in a wringer; fingers yes, but bosoms?  No.  I like my wringer washer, but I don't get THAT close to it.)

Anyhow, Mom was feisty, she did not need any help, why am I trying to insinuate she isn't capable after all of these years, I have a lot of work of my own to do, I don't need to do hers.

I said, "Remember the other day you said you were sorry you were giving me a hard time?  And you promised not to anymore?  You're giving me a hard time right now.   Let me help you so I don't have to worry, ok?  I'd much rather help you with your work than be driven to distraction wondering if you took a header going down the basement stairs.  I can't go to exercise class and wonder if you're safe while I'm gone.  It's fine, I'll do your laundry for my exercise today we'll get something accomplished together."

For the last few years I'd volunteered to take her laundry home with me and add it to my washing; the boys have grown up and gone, so Mom's few articles of clothing and towels wouldn't be a burden, but she's been extremely stubborn, nope, ain't gonna happen.  To avoid a fight, I gave up, but when I knew she was washing clothes I did my best to be there to at least haul everything up the steps and out to the washlines in the summer, anyway.  However, she is sneaky and wouldn't tell me until I saw the first load on the line from here.  And then I'd have a Battle Royale with her when I arrived to 'help'.  I know it's her independent spirit and sense of autonomy at stake, where many elderly (and not-so-elderly) people become helpless, she is determined not to.  I admire that, I really do, but there are limits to what a 95 year old woman should be doing on her own.

The washing machine is in the basement. The electrical plug for power is on the ceiling.  Yes, the very high ceiling, which means barely 5' tall Mom flips a five gallon pail upside down, climbs up on top of it and still has to strain to reach the outlet.  That situation alone gives me nightmares, the farm house is almost 100 years old, everything needs updating, and we never got around to doing it.  Shame on us, I know.  And after she washes all the clothes, she has to haul the wet laundry baskets up a flight of stairs and outside to the washline, except in the winter, when she hangs them in the basement to dry.   (This is also my weekly routine, too, except I have lower outlets and I'm nine inches taller than she is.)

I got out of my exercise attire, tossed on my jeans and walked up to Mom's who indeed wasn't going to wait for me until the afternoon; she was rounding up her laundry and heading down the stairs when I caught her red-handed.

"OH! You scared the living daylights out of me!"

"Glad to see you waited until this afternoon," I said, rolling my eyes at her.

"Well, I was only going to sort out the clothes," she said angrily.

"Uh-huh. I bet that's all you were going to do."

Mom calmed down and we set to work together, she had to give me a refresher course on her Speed Queen's controls, and in just over an hour we were done with one month's worth of washing.   The power cord on her washer needs replacing, so a perfect way to put a stop to this nonsense would be to remove the cord 'until we can get it fixed'.  I know that's rather mean of me, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  She'll be very hurt, but better mentally pained than physically injured.

I got her back upstairs and she promised me she was going to eat some dinner when I left for my haircut.   I guess that was wishful thinking on my part, because when Carl stopped in to visit with her at 3:30, she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast because of her stomach pain.  This can't go on.  I sure hope the doctor can give us some help tomorrow, but even he seems stumped.

Today I had a wonderful visit with our friends, Nancy and Bill, and a fantastic new haircut, too.  I have so much gratitude for my dear friends near and far who put up with me whining in person and in blogland about my misadventures with caretaking.  I know I'm a broken record and I apologize.  It has been a relief to get it out, though, and many of my friends have been or are currently in, the same situation.  I know I'm not alone in this struggle, many have traveled the same road.

 As I learned in Al-Anon years ago, it helps to envision wrapping our suffering loved ones in a warm blanket and handing them to our Higher Power, because at the end of the day, what more can we do? 

  I have to let go and let God.  
And trust in His will.


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh dearest Karen ~ You are so right, all we can do is let go and let God. Not always easy, but it's the best thing we can do.

Love, hugs & prayers ~ Rainey

Stephen Andrew said...

I learned a technique a while ago that sounds much like the blanket wrap: "put pink around it". Envisioning anything wrapped in pink makes you feel more calm about it. Works for me, for whatever reason!
I know it's awful when people start hurling advice but I just have to tell you that one of my grandmas had this terrible, long stomach problem that seemed to allude doctors and caused her a tremendous amount of pain. She was on a cruise and a fellow passenger gave her an activated charcoal pill and she started taking one every day and was better within a week. Who knows-but might be worth a shot. Or maybe you've already tried, I am two posts behind.
I'm "glad" I'm not the only one not feeling Christmas. Supposed to be 70 here. Awful! I want snow! Or at least cold enough that my greenery doesn't become my brownery.

Carol said...

Thinking of you as you travel this road. We cared for my mother-in-law in her final years and it was tough. She had dementia also so it made life all the more interesting in oh so many ways ♥ She's been gone 4 years now and I still wake up at night thinking I heard her up roaming around.

Karen said...

Thank you, Rainey, letting go is dreadfully hard. Thank you for your prayers, I so appreciate them.

Stephen Andrew, putting pink around it does indeed make it seem better, thank you for this. Feel free to hurl advice, I need all the help I can get! The activated charcoal idea is another one I will try. Again, my sympathies on your loss.

Carol, thank you! Hugs to you for being a caregiver for your late mother-in-law, she was very lucky to have you.

Garden Fancy said...

Hi Karen, I sympathize with your difficult situation. I haven't had to face those problems with my parents yet, but I know it must be very stressful. I wish you and your family much joy in the holiday season. Take care, -Beth

Alison said...

I never had to face this mind of situation with my mom, she lived the last few years of her life with my older sister. But I do sympathize. I can't help wondering if your mom's digestive problems are diet-related.

Indie said...

Oh my, I'm glad you were able to catch her and help her with her laundry if she has to do all that for it! It is so nice that you live so close and can help her, and I know you are doing all you can. It is amazing how warm it has been. We went into Boston for a night out and I took my heavy coat as it is usually so cold this time of year, but it was practically balmy!

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Oh dear: Sorry about the challenges with your mom. That on top of all the holiday busyness must be really tough. I haven't been in the holiday mood either, with all the mild weather and other happenings in the world. Then, today, I decorated the house and blasted Christmas music and it helped a little bit. Your urn looks fabulous. I hope life normalizes for you a little bit so you can relax and enjoy the holidays. :)

Pam's English Garden said...

So there is an advantage to being flat chested, Karen? My thoughts and prayers are with you and your Mom this Christmas season. P. x

Karen said...

Beth, thank you so much!

Alison, it's very possible diet is playing a big part in this, she refuses to eat much of any substance; my next biggest problem with her is getting her to eat anything at all, she's lost four pounds this month alone.

Indie, yes, living nearby is a blessing; she needs help (even though she won't admit it). We had a thunderstorm this morning, wow, balmy is right, in the 50's.

Thank you, Beth. I think it's time to do the same as you did; get the house decorated and bring on some holiday cheer!

Pam, thank you for the giggle; I'm a big bazoomed girl, so being flat-chested would be a bonus around the ol' wringer!

outlawgardener said...

A difficult time for both your mother and yourself for sure. It's difficult to see the parent/child roles reversed. You're a good daughter to be so involved and caring. You get an extra jewel in your crown in heaven!