Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here We Go!

It's earlier than usual to be headed to mother's house, but this morning, I will be taking my granddaughter to school. I look out the window and see that the sun has not yet made it over the mountain. Knowing that mother is probably still sleeping, I reach for the phone and dial her number. "Hello, " I hear her say. "Mother, I'm going to come a little early this morning, so go ahead and get up, I'll be there in about five minutes" I tell her. "Well, I'm sure glad you called, I need to get home before somebody around here wakes up and finds me here!" I let out a deep breath and tell her to just be at the side door to let me in. On my way down, I dread to think what awaits me.

Driving up to the garage, I can see the side door slowly opening, only to reveal mother standing there wearing her green shirt, holding a Krispy Kreme Crueller's donut bag; bearing two donuts, a plate of dog food and her pocketbook. A little startled at this site, I grab my cell phone to take a picture so I can show my siblings and husband, my surprise. Sometimes, only a picture can tell the story in its entirety. She gladly comes inside the garage and poses for me without a word said. Some of you may find this a little on the strange side, but I assure you, if you've experienced some of the things we have, you would understand.

Mother looks over at her car which is parked in her garage and wants to know whose it is. I answer her with another question, "whose car do you think it is mother?" She says it looks like one she had but she wasn't sure. Her mind is well focused on just how she has ended up at this "Lake House" and when am I going to take her home.

I go in and turn the kitchen light on and began making her coffee. "What are you doing Jean," she says. "Fixing your coffee, go sit down and I'll bring you some water and your pills." Nothing doing, mother begins looking around and is amazed at the furnishings in her house which look hauntingly familiar. "Well, that looks like Annie's treats over there and that picture looks like one of mine." I can't help but chuckle and tell her that everything in here is hers. She begins quizzing me on who had brought her to this place and when will I be taking her home. Over and over again, I explain to her that this is her home and that she hasn't been anywhere.

I pour her coffee and grab a couple of donuts for her usual breakfast. Finally she asks me what in the world made her think that this wasn't her home. I calmly tell her that she was probably dreaming. This explanation usually triggers a firestorm of not so flattering remarks aimed directly at me, but this morning, she seems to accept the solution that I've offered up to explain her predicament.

I complete all of my usual morning tasks, take a quick look at my watch and give out my usual goodbyes. As I leave her house, I hurry to my car so I can text my siblings, informing them of the morning's event. All of a sudden I hear someone shout out my name. Shocked that mother could make it out to my car that fast, and aware that she nurses a bum knee and usually walks slow and decrepit, I jump, almost dropping my cell phone as I look up and see her standing there. "What in the world am I going to do about my dog?" she frantically asks. "What do you mean" I say. "Well, I left her over at that other house, how's she going to get home?" Just as I began to answer, Annie comes running up to her, begging for a morning hug. My only words were, "see you later, mother" and off I drove.

Calling to check on mother some hours later, I find that she is completely oblivious to anything which had transpired in the wee early morning hours. My sister has a favorite saying everytime something crazy happens..."Here we go!" So, this morning, my thoughts were exactly that, "Here We Go!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fries With That?

It's morning time at mother's and my routine is usual these days. Since mother hasn't met me at the garage door, I move to the kitchen side door and look in. I can only see a dark kitchen with the coffee pot sitting idle, waiting for mother to come and make use of it. Knocking and calling, I finally hear her coming. I can hear her words as she approaches the door. "Well, I don't know what you are or who's let you in here, but I'm going to put you out." With a big knowing grin, I say "howdy" and call for Annie to come on out. Mother wants to know whose dog that is and how did she get in. For the past week or so, mother has been accusing me and my husband of sneaking down to her house during the night and putting dogs with bushy tails in her bed.

Mother has always been a very clean, personable lady, never allowing her pets to enter the house but for only a short visit. Now, for her to think that she is allowing a dog to sleep in her room at night, is beyond anything that her mind can fathom.

I began to make her coffee and do the usual things as mother sits down at the table, only to begin telling of her latest adventure. Today was a Sunday, so this meant that my sister Sue and husband Bill had been there the day before and brought mother lunch. Mother enjoys salads and sandwiches from a place called Zaxby's, in Hendersonville, NC. This stop is convenient since it's right on the way for Sue and Bill while traveling to mother's house each Saturday. Here recently, it seems that mother has been favoring a chicken salad sandwich with fries.

As she continues with her tale, she has a slight giggle about herself, this tells me that I need to pay close attention. She asks me if there's been a certain holiday like Halloween or a Fall Festival lately. By the mere mention of Halloween, I began to fear what will come next; goblins and monsters are some of the thoughts I imagine. I tell her that it will soon be fall but there hasn't been a festival or anything and Halloween won't be for another month or so. She tells me that there had been a festival in her front yard last night with hundreds of people gathering on her front porch and into her livingroom. I naturally inform her that she has been dreaming and that there hasn't been anyone at her house since Sue and Bill were here the day before. Aggravated at what I was saying, mother snapped back at me and told me to go outside and look in the yard at all the french fries lying in the yard. I did as she asked and made my way outside. There in the front yard, just as she said, laid about 20 french fries. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this mystery out.

On more than one occasion, when mother didn't want the food that me or others have prepared for her, she will gladly toss it out into the front yard for her dog Annie. I try to explain to her that she was the culprit who had tossed the fries. Of course this didn't sit well with her and she began expressing her displeasure with me. As I feel her becoming very upset, I began pretending curious as to where the french fries actually came from. Mother felt believed and continued to tell more of her escapade. She told how she had started to get into bed when she pulled back the covers and found that one of her visitors had placed a little boy who was wearing blue jeans or overalls into her bed and he had a tail. Interested as to what kind of tail this little boy adorned, I asked, was it bushy or like Annie's. My asking her this, causes me to question my own sanity as I have become accustomed to the stories of mother finding dogs, humans and the like in her bed at night, bearing bushy tails.

Many times when mother shares with me the events of the night, I feel worried and become frustrated trying to convince her that she was only dreaming. Today is no different. Mother assures me that she will never tell me anything else and will tell another family member who will be more inclined to believe her next time.

I must say, of all the hallucinations that mother has shared with me, I have laughed the most when visualizing her bed full of bushy tailed dogs and little boys at night. I truly believe that if mother was about herself, and knew of this demented tale, she would have the biggest laugh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Clock

In a hurry to get to work, I grab mother's medicine baggy filled with seven pills and head down to her house. I jump out of the car and notice that the baggy is open with one pill remaining, an "Aleve." By this time mother has opened the garage door and is wondering what has happened. By far, this isn't the first time I've managed to somehow lose mother's medicine somewhere between my house and hers. Once I had thrown it in the garbage trailer with a trashbag I had tossed out that morning. Another time, I returned home to find the dog actually "ate it" recovering the bag with teeth marks and no pills. I began looking hurriedly over the driveway, searching for six important medications. With unfruitful results, I assured her that I would bring another supply later in the day.

The pills aren't the only thing that she and I have been in search of. My mother is the owner of a beautiful grandfather clock made of cherry wood, which stands proud and tall in the living room. This clock has been a member of the Gibson and Williams family for some 40 years now. As a teenager living at my old homeplace, I would lie in bed at night, worrying about something needless or thinking about a day gone wrong, when mother's clock would chime throughout the house, telling me I'd better get to sleep before morning came. Today, the old grandfather clock is in need of repair.

My brother Jay is basically the only family member who has ever tried to fidget with the old clock only to do a possible winding or so. He has come for a visit and sees that one of the chimes has fallen off. This being a chore larger than he can accomplish, he calls my Uncle Lawrence, a man who has gained a reputation as someone who tinkers with clocks and the like, to see if he might know what to do. Uncle Lawrence is my deceased daddy's baby brother. I see him about once a year. Last year, I was walking through a thrift store and happened to see the back of someone's head that looked like my dad. I began to walk over to where he was and just as I reached him, he turned around. I was startled to see just how much he looked like my dad. I remember crying all the way home that day, thinking about how much I missed daddy.

Uncle Lawrence tells my brother that he'll be glad to come over and take a look at the clock. Upon examination, he decides to carry the clock back to his house for a closer diagnosis of the problem. As the two are carrying it out of mother's house, it slips, doing minor damage and spilling some innards out. Prior to this episode, Jay had noticed something lying in the floor, he picked it up and saw that it was the number "8" which had fallen off the clock. He stuck it up on a ledge inside the clock, thinking that one day it would need to be repaired. As Uncle Lawrence reaches his house and begins to take inventory on the clock mishap, he notices that the number "8" is missing. He calls my brother telling him about the loss. Jay informs Lawrence that the number "8" had been inside the clock and must have fallen out when they had their little accident. The next call is made to me so that I can be on the look out for this eluding number. Of all the things that I have searched for in my life, I must say that this is the funniest and most unusual item.

I have also put mother on alert by writing it down in huge blue letters on her writing tablet, "KEEP ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THE NUMBER EIGHT!" I mention to her that Jay and Lawrence had lost the number while moving the clock. She tells me that she must have been gone when they did it because she hadn't seen Lawrence in years. I assured her that he was there the day before and for some reason, she takes my word for it.

So far, the number has not been found. The old clock is the subject of the day now for mother, only because it is written on her tablet. When I become tired of hearing it, I'll remove the note and she will forget all about it. Dementia does have it's upside from time to time. Or so I think.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Smell a Rat!

As I enter mother's house, I smell an odor that probably most of us have smelled at least once in our life...a rat! I have been smelling this unpleasantry for the past several days. I have searched high and low for this menace, but no luck! I also have questioned others who have visited mother in the past several days if they have experienced the same odor as I, but to no avail, I have not been able to hear a yes. I can't believe that anyone who has a nose, couldn't come up with at least a "maybe!" I even brought my husband Bob in for a sniff and he as well didn't think it to be anything serious. Not even mother can smell this creature and I can assure you that she doesn't take kindly to my complaining about this foul odor in her house. Quickly, I run to the bathroom to grab a can of Renuzit and spray anything and everything I can before heading out to work.

Today is grocery day, so after finishing my day up with work and afternoon chores, I run to the grocery store and buy the needed items for mother to make it through another week. Entering the kitchen, I can still smell a faint odor of rat and Renuzit, but think that the odor can be manageable now. I comment to mother that the smell isn't as bad as before and she remarks to me that "You should know, since I know everything that goes on down there." It doesn't take me long to see that mother is in a bad mood. I ask if she isn't feeling well. That was not a wise question to say the least! Mother gives me a look and says "If you had to live in this place for a day, you wouldn't feel so good either. Who in the world would want to live in a Hell hole like this!" As always, my reply is "well you know you can go live in a retirement home if you don't like it here." As I put mother's groceries away, she sits at the kitchen table, dishing it out to me, and I don't mean "food!"

I remember how proud mother was of her beautiful home some 17 years ago as she and her new husband Yates had built their dream home. Every detail of every square inch of this house was orchestrated by mother and Yates.

After the passing of my dad, mother struck up a friendship with Yates at the local nursing home while visiting my grandmother and while he was visiting his mom. One thing led to another and mother and Yates fell in love. Mother wasn't the only one smitten, the entire family fell in love with this kind, gentle man who had a quick, shy smile for everyone, a gentle touch for mother's children and a soft lap and silly song for all of her grandchildren.

Wedding plans were soon made, but first, house plans were laid. Yates and mother chose a plot of land located nearby his old home place. Everyone agreed that it was just the perfect spot for these two newlyweds to build their home and live out the rest of their lives. Their home was built with much love and care. This house has played host to many wonderful family gatherings throughout the years as well as serving as a place of mourning for the sweetheart of the house, Yates, and my oldest sister Doris.

Driving home, I feel frustrated as I think about the rat that nobody can smell but me, and how dementia has stolen mother's love for her beautiful home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hairdresser

For as long as I can remember, mother has always had a weekly standing hair appointment. For many years now, she has traveled down to the nearby town each week to a place called "Linda's Hairtaker." Some of Linda's workers have come and gone, but the owner, Linda, has always remained. I can't say enough about Linda and the young lady who fixes mother's hair nowadays, Kim. They are very caring, loving and personable people, and especially when it comes to my mother.

It was "hair day" and I had come to pick mother up. Arriving a little more than thirty minutes early, in case I got into a fix or something unusual happened that I might need to take care of while there. I had left mother a note telling her what time I would get there and exactly what she needed to do before I came. As she opened the side garage door, I could see that she had followed my instructions and changed from her raggedy, old, baby blue tennis shoes to her black "going out" walking shoes. I said, "well mother, you did change your shoes!" A usual "Uh huh" and a grin was all she gave me.

Since there was plenty of time to kill, she and I headed for the living room. I could see that mother had something on her mind. "You know, I'm not going to call the law or anything, but I'd like to, It just burns me up, all these people coming down here seining my creeks at night for fishing minnows! And the thing that makes me so mad is that they don't even ask permission." Well, mother does have a creek which runs down through her pasture, but it is not in a place for her to see anyone who might be seining for minnows, especially during the night. Through the years, mother has had one more time with people, lights and animals she has envisioned to be in her creek at night. I don't feel like debating this subject with her so she seems pleased and we move on to another complaint.

I have written several times about the "old lady" who mother claims to live up above her in a house with dog cages circling her home. To hear mother tell it, this woman has stolen every female dog she has leaving her with the one dog which she calls "Annie," but has taken all the other dogs which she just so happened to name "Annie" as well. This conversation is becoming tiring to me so I glance at my watch and say, "mother, we have some time, so let's drive up the road and you show me where this lady lives." Well, to say the least, she didn't like that. She told me that the last time she went up there, the old lady's husband came out and he acted like he didn't much care for her being there. I said well, you can just point to me where the house is and we won't get out. Of course, mother was unable to show me where this house was and became agitated at me at the very thought my of not believing her.

By this time now, we need to be traveling on down the road to Linda's. As we drive up I tell mother that I will run get her a plate of food while she's inside and assure her that I will return in plenty of time to pick her up. As a rule, we would go out to eat after her hair appointment but there had to be a change in mother's appointment time which puts us getting home much later so I decided to try this arrangement for a while. As I take mother in, Linda stands fixing one other lady's hair. "Hello Margie!" Linda says. Mother takes a double look at Linda and says, "Well, who are you? I say, "it's Linda mother!" "You're name's not Linda!" I say "why yes it is mother!" In disbelief, mother says, "now what is your name really." Linda said, "well, just for today, I'm Linda."

I turn and leave, giving Linda a look and telling mother to sit down and wait until she finishes with her other customer and to please stay put and not go anywhere!"

I recall one day when I had dropped mother off and came back to pick her up. Mother's dementia had just begun and none of us were as protective of her as we are now. As I drove up to the top of the hill, Linda's assistant, Kim, was right on mother's heels as she had left her sitting on the bench outside to wait for me and mother had decided to meet me out at the end of the parking lot. Another time, my niece Shelly, had come down on her summer break from teaching to help out with mother. She had taken her for her hair appointment and when mother finished up with her hair, Shelly decided to get her eyebrows waxed. As she sat in the chair, she whispered to Kim that she sure hoped "Mema" didn't go anywhere. Kim told Shelly that if she started out the door, Linda would yell." This tickled Shelly as she thought about the system these two had worked out in order to keep "Mema" safe.

I appreciate Linda and Kim for the love, kindness and patience that they have shown mother through the years. Every time we leave there, I wonder if it will be the last hair appointment that mother will have.