It started coming apart early last week, after Mom had gone over to my sister's for a few days. My sister starts a new job today, and wanted to get this week away from Mom-related stress.
It was becoming obvious that her clan--my brother-in-law in particular--were losing patience with Mom. That revelation hit my wife and me pretty hard. There's been a slow recognition that they're part of the problem. My sister relayed her husband's solution to the Mom Problem last week: just sit down at the table and tell her she was going to a home, get packed. Mission accomplished.
We've also come to realize, slowly, again, that my sister's medical plan was that we'd get Mom into assisted living, where they'd take care of it. Last week I finally said No, and No, she's not going back to your family doctor, the one who upset her with some flippant remarks. There's an appointment with a geriatric clinic next month, assuming we all live that long.
I've sworn there will be no open hostilities between me and my sister, and I'm keeping to it, but it's surprising just how easily people can get under your skin even when you're on guard. Last week she announced (I could hear the sound of her husband pulling the strings to make her dance) that each household needed to take her a full week at a time, and that Dad and The Girls would be at The Lake for a week's vacation, starting this (last) weekend. This just happened to coincide with my wife leaving town for a week-long class at a major university three hours to our north. I guess it hadn't occurred to them we might have things to do as well. So I got to be the beta-tester of the new One Week rule, and the going away party I'd planned for my wife had to go back in my shorts.
Okay, some people live through the truly horrible every day and come up punching, so I'd soldier on. But then Friday morning, while I was out, my Poor Wife gets a call from Mom. Agitated. Wants to talk to me. Informed I'm not there she say's I'd better be there to pick her up within the hour "or she's getting on a plane and flying back to Florida". Which, of course, is what she wants to do anyway. I get home, get the story, then get a call from my sister (who's left Mom in the care of her eleven-year-old, her informant). It turns out that they had decided Mom would go with them to The Lake for the weekend, then come to my place Sunday night. Only Mom didn't get the memo (neither did we) and is now refusing to go.
I said we'd be over to get her. My sister said, "Okay, I'll tell [my husband] he can stop arguing with her now."
That is also part of the plan, I guess. Argue the point with her until she sees the error of her Alzheimer's.
She was on the couch, weeping. The daughter was freaked. My sister was jumping out of her skin. Hubby and older daughter were gone, lakeward. Got Mom home and, as usual with these strong emotional episodes, she went right to sleep. I figured she'd be out for 24 hours, but she was up by dinner time, feeling chipper and acting like nothing had happened.
This went on for the next 36 hours--I'd already resolved not to bring up any unpleasantness until my wife left. Just after she did Mom fell asleep on the couch, so I went outside and washed the deck and tidied up the garden, then climbed the stairs to read awhile.
She was up when I came back down and I could sense there was trouble. She asked if I'd do her a favor. Sure thing, Mom, just name it. Take me to Florida tomorrow. You, mother dear, are out of your frickin' mind.
Which is not quite the way I put it. More like, "Why do you need to go to Florida?" in my best nurse's/Lite Rock DJ voice. Seems the bank had called her and she was needed there right away to handle some paperwork. I was not supposed to find it odd that her Florida bank called her at my house. On a Saturday afternoon. I was, in fact, Calling Her a Liar. I told her that my sister had all the finances under control, which I knew would let me in for a ten-minute tirade about how she's stealing Mom's money, and "made herself the attorney because that girl at the bank told her to." Girls at the Bank are incredibly powerful in Mom's universe. Like purses they are some sort of portal to the Inner Light. The waves kept coming and coming, and I just tried to remain upright. "You wouldn't have to stay. Just take me down there." "I'll just go by myself. You can just drive me to the airport. You don't have to tell anybody." Finally she asked for a phone book, as though I couldn't figure out what she was going to do with it.
Phone books, too, are a mysterious force in this strange galaxy of hers. She will pore over them endlessly, fall asleep with them on her lap, leave slips of paper to mark pages she can't possibly need. I let her have the thing. She's still at it this morning. She managed to find Airport Transportation in the Yellow Pages, but she can't figure out how to dial the phone, or where to tell them to come. She called a friend of hers in Florida for assistance, but left off the dial tone. I think she got somebody's answering machine, since she just said Hello a couple times and hung up.
What goes on in her head? Emotion reigns supreme; strong emotional scenes and the emotional attachments she puts on other, non-emotional events, trump everything else. Rational thought--not in the philosophical sense, but in the sense of acting in such a way as to not be run over by a bus while crossing the street--registers mostly as emotion. It's good to take your pills or see to the day's hygiene, when the subject comes up, but these aren't guiding principles. If the phone or the remote control do not work to her satisfaction she puts them down and later mumbles about how they aren't working, which seems merely to indicate her emotional relationship to them, not a plea for someone to do anything about it. I've let her wash some dishes, twice. She'll leave the water running in the wash sink as she rinses, and moving it while warning her it's about to overflow will do no good unless you maintain the vigilance; the faucet will be aimed back at the brimming sink within thirty seconds, aimed at the single sink of suburbs long since past, I suppose, since she's used nothing but dishwashers since 1968. She dries everything, but them gets sidetracked because she doesn't know where anything goes. Never checks any of the cupboards to find out.
The phone book is much in evidence again this morning, and she still imagines she's going back to Florida. She tried to convince me to drive her to the bank for funds. I'm letting it play out until this afternoon, when we'll sit down and have the same conversation about her future we've had five times before, and maybe I'll get her to agree to get an apartment up here. In which case I'll be driving her where she wants to go, as quickly as I can get her in the car.