This past Monday morning, as I’m getting our cups of coffee, I hear the “click” of a pill hitting the floor. Did I miss seeing her drop one in her lap? I turn to find the dog nosing a yellow aspirin tablet and quickly move to pick it up. It’s damp. I guess the dog didn’t want it after all.
I put it on the table and start to get a replacement, but Mom waves me away.
“I don’t want that. It’s hard.”
The light bulb comes on. It’s not wet from the dog; it’s wet because she took it out of her mouth and threw it on the floor.
She had gotten up early, before our alarms, and had already been eating her breakfast cookie by the time I got her meds ready. She didn’t bother to finish chewing her cookie before taking her meds, I didn’t think about it, and the aspirin got cheeked with cookie bits, then mistaken for something hard in the cookie.
This morning, she’s up before our alarms again, and already tucking into her breakfast cookie. I move it out of her reach and tell her to finish what’s in her mouth before I put her meds down on the napkin.
“Okay, I’m finished.”
“You’re still chewing.”
She fishes a bothersome raisin out of her mouth and puts it on one of the four paper napkins spread out in front of her across the tablecloth. That’s one less for this morning’s paper napkin on the end table, I guess.
I lay her meds out on the cloth napkin. She takes all of them. The dogs start barking and I hurry to let them in, since it’s 6:15 am and many of our neighbors are retired.
The dogs run ahead of me, back into the kitchen.
“Are you going to give me my cookie back?”
I move the paper napkin holding the broken cookie back in front of her and take the three steps back to the kitchen counter. I pull her small coffee cup and my giant mug from the cabinet. I fill hers one-third full (the other one-third will be cream), hover the coffee pot above mine, just about to pour and…
My alarm goes off at 6:30 am. I don’t hear Mom’s alarm going off – this means she woke up early, turned it off, and is already up. Not always a good thing.
I go outside with the dogs because the new fence our neighbor is putting up is not quite finished. The mosquitoes are happy to see me. The dogs do their doggie business and we all come back in. Gracie bounces back and forth between her kennel and the fireplace, willing me to walk faster so she can have her breakfast. Sophie stays safely back so as not to get bounced on.
Mom is already sitting at the dining table, getting fresh paper napkins to crumble her oatmeal cookie on. I go to Mom’s bathroom to check to see if her sink is wet, which tells me she’s washed her hands, which in turn tells me that she changed her Depends before coming to the table, unlike Tuesday when she was up before me and I had to refuse to give her her coffee until she went back to pee and change her Depends. The sink is wet this morning – all is well.
I get Mom a new glass of water and her meds. I stand beside her to make sure she takes one pill at a time, as she is less likely to drop them on the floor than when she tries to shove three or four pills in together. If I’m watching, it’s one pill at a time. If I turn away, I find pills on the floor later. At least the dogs don’t eat them.
I pour our cups of coffee, give Mom hers, and walk mine to my desk (really my sewing machine case, closed, with a desk pad on top – it actually works quite well).
Sophie barks to let me know she’s finished eating, so I step back outside with the dogs for additional doggie business. Gracie takes care of hers right away. Sophie stares at me, wondering why I’m standing out there. I wait a couple more minutes, wave away a couple more mosquitoes, then call the dogs in. Gracie runs through the door, but Sophie realizes her window is closing and heads for the far corner of the yard. I wait just inside the slightly open door, hoping I’m successfully hiding from the mosquitoes. Sophie disappears around the corner where the fence is unfinished. I go look for her and I think interrupt her looking for good sand to eat. She finally comes inside with me.
I move toward me desk and see my to-do list from yesterday and remember Mom’s laundry. I go to the laundry room, pull her clothes from the washer to put in the dryer with her pants that I forgot about yesterday and which are now all wrinkled. That’s okay – the wrinkles will come out with the addition of the other wet clothes. I hope I don’t forget them again today. I put the towels from the Bath Lady visit last night into the washer, along with the spider I surprised as I gathered them up.
I go back to the living room to pull the two pairs of socks from under her little pillow. “You can put these in your hamper yourself, you know.” She says, “Okay”, but it’s not the ‘I understand and will do what you ask’ Okay. It’s the ‘If I say Okay maybe she’ll go on and let me watch my TV’ Okay. I take the socks and put them in hamper.
I ask Mom to trim her fingernails (another item on my to-do list). She says, “Not now,” which is what she always says. It usually take two or three requests before she does it.
I finally move back to my desk, sit down for morning journaling, and have my first sip of coffee. As I’m writing, the phone starts singing a calypso song to remind me that it is now 7:05 and I need to tell Mom to get dressed, as she has, as near always, fallen asleep sitting up on the couch. I move to the couch, touch her arm, and say “Time to get dressed!” She gathers up several napkins and tissues to stash under her pillow, but I take them to throw them away. She puts the nail trimmers back in the little glass dish on the end table. I move them back to the arm of the couch and remind her she needs to trim her nails. “I don’t want to do it now!”
She leans back against the couch cushion, and I have to say, again, “Time to get dressed!” because she’s forgotten in our exchange with the napkins and nail clippers.
I come back to my desk, have my second sip of coffee, and resume journaling. I absentmindedly scratch at a mosquito bite on my leg. A few minutes later, I notice Mom come out of her bedroom, move toward the couch, then turn around and head back to the bedroom. For socks. She remembered that I had just cleared out her cache. She returns to the couch, and I hear her whistling, wheezing breaths as she works to get her socks and shoes on. I know if I offer to help, she will forever relinquish the task to me, and that will be one less thing she does for herself. One less thing she does at all.
The dogs start barking as the Wheelchair Transport car rounds the corner and approaches our house. Over their noise, Mom yells, “Kay! Kay! My ride is here.” I walk into the living room to check her shoes. Today, unlike most mornings, she has succeeded in getting both shoes on properly. Hooray! I take the pop-clip from the glass dish she has returned the nail clippers to, and clip her hair back out of her eyes. She keeps refusing a trip to the salon, even though a couple of weeks ago she asked Vickie to trim her hair with the kitchen shears. Vickie politely refused, reminding her grandmother that she is a nurse, and hasn’t been a hairdresser for almost 30 years. Mom still doesn’t understand why Vickie won’t just whack her hair off with those scissors in the kitchen drawer.
I corral the dogs into the studio and open the front door. “Will you be home at regular time?” she asks. I nod. “Tell Steve hello for me. Have a good day and I’ll see y’all tonight!”
She steps out the door, and I watch as she approaches the edge of the porch, heaves her walker up into the air and then down the one step. I want her to continue to have the strength to do things like this. I worry about her toppling over. Today she is fine. I wave to the transport driver and close the door behind her.
I finish up my journaling by writing out three affirmations, five times each. This morning’s affirmations are:
I envision my life as I want it to be.
All is well, and even better things are coming.
I attract positive people and great opportunities.
Sometimes I find myself repeating them in my head later in the day, which I guess is the whole point.
The dryer buzzes. Back to the laundry room. I dump all the clothes from the dryer into the ‘Clean Clothes Only’ basket and take it into Mom’s room to put everything away: 8 shirts, 8 pairs of pants, 2 nightgowns, 2 housecoats – and 2-1/2 pairs of socks.
Every morning, when I get up, the dogs get up. I let the dogs go out, then go to the kitchen to give Mom her meds. I watch her take her meds, the dogs come back in (unless they’re barking, then they come in in the middle of me trying to watch Mom take her meds), I feed the dogs. I give Mom her coffee, I let the dogs back out. Finally, I get to pour my cup of coffee. By this time, it is almost 7 am.
This week, I’ve been trying to get up a half-hour earlier, 6 am instead of 6:30. Sunday night, I forgot to change the alarm setting on my phone for Monday morning. Monday night, I didn’t sleep well, so Tuesday morning, I turned off my alarm and waited to get up until I heard Mom’s alarm at 6:30. Yesterday morning, I got up at 6:00 am – hooray! – and Mom woke up early, too. *sigh*
Today, Thursday, is the first day the process has gone as envisioned. I got up at 6, got the dog circus out of the way by 6:15, emptied the dishwasher, got a cup of coffee, got Mom’s meds and coffee ready, and sat down at my writing table at 6:19 am. Mom got up a little early, about 6:25, but I had already had a tiny bit of writing time and a few sips of coffee. I was almost zen.
I finished my morning journaling at 7:05, just in time to wake Mom up from her post-coffee nap, get yesterday’s socks out of her shoes (she’s given up hiding them), and toss them, along with yesterday’s clothing, into her hamper and out of sight. A quick refill of my coffee cup, and here I am, at the computer by 7:15, blogging away.
I think this new schedule is going to work out quite well. Now I just have to figure out how to get to bed before 11 pm.
I round the corner into the living room and see Mom coming out of her bedroom, housedress hanging open, entering the bathroom. “Good morning!” she says.
Since she is already out of her gown, I head into her room, expecting a wet bed needing to be stripped and linens laundered. I find the wet bed, topped by the wet gown, with the added bonus of a giant puddle between the bed and closet, trodden in and tracked to the bathroom. Her slippers will need washing, too, then.
I take the towel from the couch (left there from Sunday’s incident, to cover the cushions damp from the odor-eating enzyme spray), and throw it over the puddle before heading to the laundry room for the dirty-clothes basket. As I pass the bathroom, Mom appears at the door, sans disposable briefs, and asks me to snap her housedress closed. She was able to do it yesterday; why not this morning? Rhetorical question.
She points out that the floor is all wet. I ask if she changed her briefs last night before bed. She says yes. I ask if she tried to pee before bed. She says no. I tell her to always pee before bedtime. She nods. We’ve had this conversation before.
As I snap her housedress, she asks me how old my brother is for his birthday today. I yell, “62”. She says, “57?” I repeat, “62”, this time holding up six fingers and then two fingers in succession. She says, “57”? I yell “62” and flail my fingers around a couple more times, until she says “Okay.”
“Okay, whatever you said.”
I give up and go back to stripping the bed. We’ll use the whiteboard later.
I take the overflowing basket to the laundry room and return with the swiffer to mop her bedroom floor, the trail, and into the bathroom. By this time, she has made it to the table, where I had placed her coffee on one of my passes through the kitchen, and calls out to me to ask for her medicine. I yell that I am cleaning up and to please wait a minute.
I finish with the mop and head back to the laundry room to start the washer. She asks for her medicine. I yell, “Just a minute.”
I let the dogs out, change out of the robe that by now is way too warm, and come back to the dining room for her med box. She asks for her medicine again. I yell, “Give me a minute!” She tells me, “Never mind.”
Now, I yell not just for volume, but in anger and frustration, about all the things I had to do to clean up her room and how I can’t just give her her meds because I have to stand by to watch her so she doesn’t drop any on the floor for the dogs to get, all the while knowing that she can’t really hear anything I’m saying, only that she knows that I’m angry and yelling. I lean against the wall and take a couple of deep breaths.
I give her her meds. The dogs are barking from the backyard. I watch to make sure she takes every pill and doesn’t drop anything to her lap or the floor. I let the dogs in.
I finally get to fill my coffee cup. It’s 6:55 a.m.