Tuesday, July 18

By Way of an Apology for That Picture Staying Up All Weekend

Thursday: Pick up Mom at my sister's so they can have a peaceful weekend. Had a very productive talk with her in the afternoon. Tried to make her understand that her children just want what's best for her, that she cannot return to Florida to be looked after by the two widder women living on either side of her house, and that she must a) see a geriatric specialist up here and b) following that, get an apartment.

She kept going on about needing her (prescription) eye drops, despite the fact that we'd refilled the script just ten days before. But she obviously didn't have them with her, and my sister had already left for her summer cottage. Called Walmart, and since I now know they need the prescription numbers for phone orders I have the list. We have to use Walmart, where I'd never set foot otherwise, because her prescriptions are there from Florida, and the first place in Indiana we tried (lobby of the GP's office) wouldn't refill them because she had her husband's insurance card instead of her own. With Walmart there was no problem. Okay, one problem, because my sister let Mom do her own packing and we got no handicapped parking tag, so my wife had to go along so I could drop Mom off and the door and find a space 0.5 mi away.

Then when we got the pharmacist's attention she informed us that insurance wouldn't cover it because the last refill was too recent. I got a little hot at her--I called in that order three hours ago, you had the phone number, why didn't you call back?--but I was really cheesed at my sister for not making sure all the meds got to us, and at the confused elderly woman who kept saying she didn't know she was out and no, she couldn't just use Visine until Monday when the insurance would pick up the bill again, even though last week she said she could. Then it turned out she didn't have enough money--money is a big, big problem with her--which brought on a panic until my wife and I assured her she ever didn't have to worry, we'd cover it gladly (just get me out of Walmart).

When we got home she said, "We should have just waited until Monday." Then she started fumbling with her purse--her life is in there, somewhere--and pulled out eighty dollars and handed it to me. "I thought you didn't have enough money, Mom," sez I. "Oh, I cashed a check," she told me.

I sorta lost it. God help me, I sorta lost it. Her denial that she has Alzheimer's has gotten a little worse, as it became attached to an argument she had with my sister, and now it's my evil sister spreading rumors about her behind her back. I forgot to use my Late-Night Seduction radio voice. "Mom, this is precisely why we need to get you into an apartment. You can't keep track of your money!" She sort of sunk into the corner of the couch.

But then she came up swinging. She was going back to Florida regardless of what anybody thinks, and we'll see what a judge has to say about it. We're conspiring against her, trying to take her money. The lawyer who handled my sister getting power of attorney is a womanizer. Her neighbors are drunks who never cut their grass. Not the widder woman neighbors. The two with cancer.

We got things calmed down and repaired some of the plaster, but the agreement to get an apartment was void, not to be brought up again. She slept, all night, no wandering. I stayed up until three to keep an eye on her. Larry kept jumping up on the bed, because it's really his room, but didn't wake her.

Friday: The idée fixe was the bank and a check she'd gotten from one of her husband's children for some minor funeral expense. You do not want to get her started about funeral expenses.

I kept putting her off. My sister has the pursestrings, and I don't want to feed the obsession, but she kept worming every discussion back to the bank so I finally relented.

Cannon Copier guy parked in the handicapped spot. So I just parked in front of the steps. Got a chance to chew him out as we left. Best part of the week.

She didn't realize, and I didn't know, she had a account at that bank (it's the one the check was drawn on) so she was about to pay the guy seven bucks for the privilege of cashing a check drawn on that very institution when he realized she was a customer after all. After we got home she explained to my wife how rude that black teller had been.

I fixed stuffed potatoes, which went over big with her. She wanted to go buy Larry a new toy. She had begun to relax about being with us, for the first time. Slept the night through again. Larry took out the loss of his preferred space on me, all night long.

Saturday: The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business, on Turner in the morning. We all had a wonderful time. I was trying to get the garden watered for the first of what was predicted to be about five straight days over 90º with no chance of rain. My wife was scheduled to go to a family gathering. While I'm outside she invites my Mom.

I had hoped to use that time to try to reestablish the apartment idea, and I was not happy about the trip, but the deed was done. And my wife's family are good people and were very solicitous of her, plus our newest nephew, the one I call Annoying Baby because his parents--my wife's youngest brother and his wife--have, while otherwise behaving as typical American suburbanites, chosen to name their children after French cooking terms, which they misspell and proceed to pronounce in a way that reflects neither the original French nor any possible phonetic solution to the jumble of letters. But the kid was cute, and Mom wore down just after lunch so we came back home.

Two new obsessions had appeared: visiting her late husband's grave, some ninety miles distant, after first attending a 9 AM church service so she can thank everyone who was at the funeral, and watching "that Adventures of somebody movie" on Turner at 10 Sunday evening, since she'd seen the ad for it that morning. Don Juan, as it turns out. Errol Flynn plays a charming roué in this one.

But Saturday she stays up late, and allows as how she probably won't be getting up early enough to make it to church, and besides, "I paid for the funeral." This is satisfactory all the way around; I haven't been in a church lately and the risk of spontaneous combustion is too great.

Still, Sunday morning we're on the road by 8:45 and it's already like 88 degrees already. The plan is that we're going to stop at a shop in town to buy some flowers. My wife has decided to stay home.

We get to the town, and she snakes me around before we find the shop, and the nearest parking space is three blocks away, so I'm walking her step by step through what is now at least 90 of Mr. Fahrenheit's units, and over a large bump at the curb, through the potpourri, to the counter, where she tells the woman she wants something for a burial and the woman looks at her like she asked where they keep the levitating chocolate bicycles. Finally the supervisor shows up, the waves of confusion having finally overtaken the dead flower smell, and asks what day she'd like them for? And I decide that maybe it's time for some understanding to enter into the proceedings in spite of everyone else's wishes, and I mention in the sort of voice usually reserved for explaining some amusing peculiarity or other of your pet to a person with allergies how we'd like something we can take with us to place on a grave.

"Oh," quoth the supervisor, still seemingly uncertain as to whether they actually sell flowers in this shop, despite the sliding cooler of cut flowers just to our east. And she proceeds to lead us outside into a small courtyard, disappearing around a corner (there are steps, we are not making good time) to return with a terra-cotta-potted begonia arrangement with a $30 tag hanging from it. Mom thinks it's great.

Now supervisor explains it'll take about ten minutes to put foil and a bow around it. How 'bout just a bow? sez I. Done. She explains her initial confusion by noting they were busy putting together a funeral job that very moment which had her in the wrong "mode". Charitably I assume this explains things to her satisfaction. I wandered through the nicks and knacks while this was being finished until I heard the unmistakable sounds of financial confusion, whence I dash back to find that, once again, Mom doesn't have enough money, so I take up half her bills, replace them with a larger one of my own, and heft the pot which I only now realize weights something like 50 pounds and which will be residing in the crook of my left arm while I lead my mother, step by step, back through the heat to the car. When we got in and I got her and the plant situated, one buckled up, the other wedged in, she gave me $40 gas money.

I have the world's worst sense of direction. The worst. It's congenital. My thought was that I'd go to the mortuary (which I knew I could find) and retrace the route to the cemetery, which I didn't drive on the day of the funeral. It turned out there was a funeral in progress there. I drove in, turned around, headed back the way I thought we'd come, and got lost.

Got turned around, back to the mortuary and past it this time, knew for certain we didn't come that way, turned back, and got lost again.

No problem, we'll just go ask at this convenience store. Where's the cemetery? Well, which one? I have no idea because, you see, my mother has no idea what the name is, but it's not far away from here. Well, there are three, but two of them are together, I think, out on Johnson Road. Okey-dokey, do you have a Yellow Pages? Which they do, though it doesn't help except to clear up that there can't be three which fit my question and I need to leave now. Nice folks, though. Just a shame they didn't realize the cemetery was about four blocks up the road.

One more pass of the mortuary, then pull in to see if there's someone outside minding the hearse, which there isn't. Pull back out again to find that a road has miraculously appeared just next to the place, because the motherfucker who parked his truck blocking it and its sign had now moved on. The road is familiar. It's the way to one of the dead husband's son's house.

So we get the directions, and we hit the road--after Mom explained to the son that she was being held prisoner by my sister--just behind the funeral procession which. as luck--whatever that is--would have it is on the way to the same cemetery as we. And which, as luck would have it, is set to bury some mortal-coil shuffler-offer in precisely the spot where we parked last time, thus eliminating my one plan for finding the grave, which was to retrace my steps from three weeks earlier. My wife would have gone to the spot like an arrow.

And my mother, now, has decided he was buried across the road, in the one spot I can be certain he wasn't, but even so I'm now leading her step by step up a steep incline in what must be an ambient air temp of 95º, let alone what's bouncing back off the asphalt, and she's pulling us off to examine headstones dating to the Garfield administration. Mom, does he actually have a headstone yet? Oh, yes. Fortunately the walk plus the heat have taken enough of a toll that I can get her to the car and turn on the AC so I can go search on my own.

I put the plant down, too. It weighed around 135 at this point.

My wife and I are cemetery buffs, fans of funerary art, so I had collected a few points of interest the last time through and I went looking for those as a way of not interrupting the funeral which was going on right where I needed to be. I had my bearings in only about five minutes of marching around a setting remarkably devoid of shade in the now record-setting heat wave which has me eyeing the tent set up just about fifty yards away, but I have to pass over the place a couple of times because, as you might have already guessed--I know I had--there wasn't any headstone. And now with both respiration and water loss increasing I have a brief moment of Castenada desert hallucination of telling an elderly Alzheimer's patient Someone must have stolen the headstone! Or the body! But I come to my senses quickly enough to realize this probably isn't worth the short-term amusement it would provide.

Instead, dammit, this patch of straw-covered earth here is him! Officially! No question! I don't care if I'm wrong. (In fact I'm 98% positive it was, and it was the only fresh grave it the area. I can attest to that. ) So back to the car--the funeral's finally letting out, so I can drive us over to the spot, and we go place the flowers at the edge of the straw, and that's it. She's ready to go home.

Sunday night, Don Juan, starting at 10. She rejects the idea of it being taped for her. She's partial to the big teevee, rather than the one in her room, so I go upstairs to read and come back down to check on her and find her nearly asleep. I slip a tape in, make sure she gets her night-time meds, kiss her goodnight.

Monday: She watches the end of the movie (SPOILER: there's a swordfight) and I wait for the call from my sister I thought was supposed to come in the AM but doesn't. Today's obsession is that she has to call somebody long distance and wants to give me $6 for it. I tell her there's no way I'm charging her for a phone call, and finally the money gets put away. Find her asleep on the couch a while later with the phone book in her lap. My wife takes her out for lunch while I try to catch up on some things. I hear from my sister while they're gone. They come back with a new toy for Larry.

Get her packed up, find the stuff that's fallen, or been hidden, behind the bed, pull together the meds and the checkbook and the stuff I keep hidden. Make the transfer around 4:30. We wave goodbye. "How'd lunch go?" I ask. "She asked if she could stay with us," my wife says.


Anonymous said...


I've been through this, lots. First with my grandmother, then my stepfather (both now dead) and now my mother. Whatever foundations have been laid down with regards to relationships get put to the test now. It sounds like you are handling yourself well, and you are fortunate to have family to share it with. The hardest thing for me is knowing that I'm next, and that it's not that far off. I would really like for my kids to not have to deal with this. Warmest regards to you and your sweet mom.

Anonymous said...

I can only echo encouragement, and to admit the photo of the dog "thing" being up for so long didn't bother me. Much.

Anonymous said...

I just giggled every time I checked in.

My advice is basically to pack up and move in the middle of the night before you let anyone move in with you. On the other hand, the people who've moved in with me were friends, but not people I was generally responsible for in any way. I don't think you get that out with your parents, a fact I may find myself facing down at some point here.

And prescriptions are the only thing WalMart does right. If it's working, don't let anyone talk you into changing it. Prescriptions are a gigantic pain in the ass. Keep it as simple as possible.

Anonymous said...

My dad always said, "I just want to live long enough to become a burden on my children," and it's the one goal in life that he failed to achieve.

My mom was kind of a big infant my whole life, but her parents took care of her, so it wasn't much of a problem for me once I grew out of infant status myself. But when she died (fairly young) I inherited her mom and dad, who were hard to look after only because they were so embarrassed by their dependency. Then grandma died two months ago, and now I'm down to grandpa, who is witty, wicked smart, and painfully self-conscious about still being alive.

All of which is a grossly self-aggrandizing way of saying that I admire your forebearance in not racking up a hefty body count by now, despite the manifold provocations, and you're completely forgiven for the long-lasting, deep-friend strawberry dick on a stick.

Mudge said...

I'll never complain again. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Flambe? Julienne? Bechamel?

Jeebus. Sorry.

jill said...

I was kind of thinking Mise en Place. But that's just me.

isabelita said...

Dsang, you do wing a wicked funny story throughout trials and tribulations!
Um...Creme Brulee? Boulliabaise?

Anonymous said...

Greetings to your niecephews from our imaginary children: Aubergine, Vector II, and little Vinda Lou.

And for the sake of that story, I'll retract the "Bite me" about the merely 35-year-old woman in the post downstream. Just -- come on, I bet her boobs don't even reach her waist yet. And I'm old enough to be her mother. (And even mine don't, unless I really slouch.)

Good luck with your mother. Ever wonder if she tells your sister that you're holding her as a prisoner?