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Archive for September, 2009

Did I eat breakfast?

This past Friday Mimi had a doctors appointment.  I called her the night before to remind her to be ready at 2:15.  She promised she’d be all ready to go.  At 2:30 I opened the door to find Mimi standing in the hallway in her nightgown.  That’s right, it was 2:30 and there she stood in her aqua, silk nightgown.  She looked at me with surprise, “Well, what are you doing here?”  I couldn’t even hide my frustration.  “What the hell are you doing?  You  have a doctor’s appointment at 2:45!”

“No I don’t, it’s on Tuesday.”

“Why would I be here in the middle of the day if you didn’t have an appointment? Get dressed, hurry up now!”

I shuffled her into her bedroom where she sat down and started putting her Depends on.  Gross, I know.  I struggled to find an outfit that matched and hurriedly dressed her, all the while she complained that, “I can dress myself!”

Yes, she can dress herself but not without it taking a half hour.  Finally, she grabbed her cane which I replaced with her walker at the front door.  And we were off.

Later that night her step-daughter called and told me Mimi said the doctor told her she was, “just perfect in every way!”  On that particular visit we were referred to an audiologist and podiatrist but she was just perfect!

And today, I was attempting to relax and kill some time on the internet when the following message appears from my father, “Don’t you have something to do, like clean some shitty pants?”  Fan-freaking-tastic!

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Granny A-Go, Go!

Every time my phone rings and the name, “Mimi” pops up, I close my eyes and attempt to think of what she’ll throw at me that day.  It was around this time last year that I answered the phone and was met with Mimi’s shrill yell, “Tara, you gave me the wrong keys to the car!”

You see, after Mimi broke her hip last summer we decided it’d be better if she didn’t drive anymore.  Sure, she’d been running stop signs for years now but the thought of  some poor child or dog running out in front of her car while I knew she didn’t have the reflexes to stop in time was just more than I could bear.  My husband and I took her keys for good last August.  Still, that didn’t stop her from asking for them every day.

I received that dreaded phone call in, probably, February nearly seven months after we took her keys.  “I had some errands to run and when I went to get into the car, the keys you gave me wouldn’t even unlock the door!”

“Well Mimi, that’s because they aren’t the keys to your car.  You can’t drive anymore.”

“I can too, drive.  You just give me back my keys!”

“Well, if you think you can drive let’s go down to the DMV.  You can take a driver’s test and if you pass, I”ll gladly give you the keys.”.

“No, nope.  I don’t need to take the test.  I already passed years ago.  I know how to drive.  See, just like that.”  It’s here that I assume she was moving her foot side to side but I was nearly 20 minutes away so I had no way of knowing for sure.

“Okay, Mimi.  We’ll talk later.”

I can only imagine what the neighbors thought.  It was probably something along the lines of, “Oh shit, they’re not letting her drive again, are they?”

Just a month or so before we took Mimi’s keys she recounted a story about her friend, Mary Fran.  Apparently, Mary Fran had been driving up and down her street, side swiping various parked cars for weeks before anyone discovered it was her.  I asked Mimi, “So she’d just hit these cars and keep driving?”

“Yep, she said they shouldn’t have parked so far into the street.”

It wasn’t long after that when Mary Fran’s family opted to check her into The Home.  Ironically, Mimi was visiting this same friend when she tripped over, of all things, a walker and broke her hip.  It was the fall that ultimately ended her driving days AND led to the purchase of her own walker.

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Teen Angst in her 80’s

After spending the weekend baking, I decided to bring Mimi a few sweet treats.  As I opened the front door I saw Mimi, sitting in her chair, foot rest extended with her legs scrunched up to her chest.  “What’d ya bring me?”

“Well, I made some brownies and thought you might like some.”

“Give me one now.  I’ll eat it now.”

Had it not been for her wrinkles and gray hair, she would’ve looked and acted exactly like a teenager.  She was wearing her pink and gray running suit, swaying her bent legs from side to side, oblivious of how rude she sounded at that moment.  I fixed her brownie but quickly noticed that the sink was full of dishes.  She hadn’t even taken her plate from lunch off the table.  It was by then, 3 p.m.

“Mimi, you need to clean up this kitchen.”

“Oh, no I don’t.  It’s not that bad.”

“Umm, yeah, it really is.”

I think I remember having similar arguments with my parents when I was 13 or 14 years-old.  I made a list of chores for her to complete and started fixing her medicine.  I asked my husband if he would collect the laundry that she had thrown to the bottom of the basement steps.

On our way out, he whispered, “Honey, you won’t be able to do this laundry.  I’ll have to do it.”

I could feel the tightness pulling across my shoulders, “Why?”

“Umm, well, there was something stiff and brown on a wash cloth so I think that’s shit.  And well, it sounds weird, but something smells like cheese.  Maybe she put some cheese in one of her pillow cases?  I don’t know but it smells pretty gross.”

For whatever reason, instead of putting her clothes in the provided hamper, Mimi chooses to wad them up in an empty pillow case.  I don’t know where she got this idea but it’s a habit we can’t seem to break.  My weak stomach prevents me from doing some of the grosser parts of elder care but it’s usually not a big deal for me to take these pillow cases and dump them in the washer, at least it wasn’t until yesterday.

For the rest of the evening, before he opened the laundry bag and put the offending items in the washer my husband would warn me.  “Don’t breathe for a minute.  I’m putting in another load.”

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During a recent trip to the grocery store as I stood in line I glanced into my basket of soon-to-be purchases and started laughing.  I’m sure the surrounding customers must’ve thought I was losing my mind but there at that moment it hit me just how obvious it was that I was shopping for an elderly person.  In my basket:  a package of Depends for women, rice pudding, a gallon of milk, a carton of orange juice (fortified with vitamin D and calcium), a container of pimento cheese, a half a pudding cake, pecan swirls and a bottle of cranberry juice.

Since Mimi’s fall I’ve been schooled in her likes and dislikes.  I thought I knew most of them beforehand but the ante was upped when she began burning her food beyond recognition when she used the oven or stove.  I call her on my way to the store.  “What would you like to have this week?”

“Well, I believe I’d like some eggs, bacon, maybe some ground beef for hamburgers, french fries.  Oh, and get me some green beans.”

It’s always green beans.  Once noted for her delicious green beans, even though they came from a can, Mimi was tapped to bring these to each and every gathering.  I suspect it was because, like my husband and me her friends knew this was the only dish she could cook decently.  Unlike most grandmothers Mimi was never a good cook.  I remember gagging down dinners for most of my life.  She instilled in me the phrase, “Don’t say, ‘I hate.’  Say, ‘I don’t care for it, Mimi.'”  There were several of her meals that I, “didn’t care for.”

On my way to the store I racked my brain for microwavable alternatives to her list.  Thank God for modern science.  I gathered microwavable french fries, sliders with cheese, a frozen boxed breakfast of eggs and bacon, and yes, a bag of microwavable green beans.

Even though I’ve purchased all microwavable meals, it’s no guarantee that Mimi won’t try to use the oven.  There have been times she’s called on friends or neighbors to pick her up a roll of refrigerated cookie dough or ground beef and sausage so she can make her meatloaf.  On each visit I inspect her refrigerator for the offending items.  On one visit I spied a casserole dish of some sort of breakfast casserole.  “Mimi, where did this casserole come from?”

“Oh, Frances, yeah, Frances brought that by.  Wasn’t that nice?”

I looked closer and realized that it must’ve been brought by Frances or another neighbor because it wasn’t burnt.  Another bullet dodged.

My husband and I discussed possibly unplugging the oven but decided against it.  If she did attempt to use it and realized it wasn’t working, we knew she’d call a repair man which, as we’ve recently experienced, would cost us an unnecessary few hundred dollars.  Yes, it’s best to stick to microwavable meals and pray that she doesn’t get a hankering for meatloaf or worse yet, her tasteless sugar cookies.

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Since my husband and I were married Mimi has sworn to anyone who will listen that she simply cannot live without her four T’s:  telephone, television, Tony and Tara, in that order.  Ever since I can remember the telephone has been Mimi’s lifeline.  I think I was the only college student forced to make weekly phone calls to my grandmother.  These days telephone and TV are really all she has.  She sits alone in her house waiting either for a visitor or one of the few friends she has left to pick her up for a church luncheon or dinner.  Every afternoon she has her date with Dr. Phil and now Dr. Oz.  And when I stop by in the evenings I’m given a complete rundown of the features of each show, in addition, to the latest happenings on Ellen and whether, “that Oprah is gettin’ fat again.”

On one such occasion Mimi, who is an 87 year-old southern woman, asked me just what it is, “those lesbians do.”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  She said, “Isn’t your friend one of those?”  One of my good friends is, in fact, a lesbian. “I just don’t get it.  I mean really, Tara, what do they do?”  Well, of course I know but how do you explain that to an 87 year-old woman, who at one time, informed me that she didn’t understand what the big to-do was about sex.  She could either take it or leave it.  It’s times like these that make me realize that no matter how bad things get, my husband and I could never move in with Mimi.  We would surely be forced to, “leave sex.”

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