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
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."
"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."
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?"
"We'll leave at 2PM."
"Why are we going?'
"For a checkup."
"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.