Upon my return….

We got in late last night from three wonderful days at the family cottage with our two-year-old granddaughter and her “staff,” also known as parents. She is telling everyone, “I just turned two!” and has learned to hold up the right number of fingers. Also, she has added “actually” to her vocabulary. “Akshly, Mommy…, akshly, Daddy”…oh, the charms and challenges of a Two.

After “redding up” the house so my terrific cleaning ladies could clean, I headed out to Bickford Cottage to see my parents. I checked with the nurse to see if the doctor’s office has responded to our request for a medication change to end Mom’s late-morning panic and anxiety, but no response yet. I just added my own voice to the triage line at the doc’s office, and hope to have something done by the end of the day. I so want to save my mother from feelings of anxiety.

I headed out across the courtyard to Mom’s room, and heard the jingle of Coco’s collar. Where Coco is, can Mom be far behind? And there she was, struggling like mad to open the heavy, too-quickly-closing doors to follow the dog out (I must ask if they could make those door handicapped accessible. Seems like an obvious need). I went to her, and she grabbed me with relief–”Oh, darlin’, it’s so good to see you again!” When I asked if she was worried about something, she agreed that she was, and it was that the dog might do something bad and be taken from her. I assured her that she needn’t worry, that wouldn’t happen. Further questioning revealed that she just felt anxious and she doesn’t know why.

Hello, Doc? Could we address this problem TODAY, please? I will be on this if I don’t hear back from the office.

It is beautiful today, with bright sunshine, clear skies, and a gentle, cool breeze to offset the intensity of the sun. Mom and I sat in the sun, and she said several times how good the warm sun felt, and how good it was to be with me again–as if I’d been gone a long time. It was only two days that she didn’t see me, and I called her both days, honest. But I think she can’t remember how long it’s been, two days or two weeks, and she’d probably be happier living with me! Of course I don’t really know that, but until we get the anxiety problem addressed, her loneliness will be more of a problem. Meanwhile, my guilt rears its ugly head, and I, who am leaving tomorrow for a jewelry class for two MORE days, and then am going to the cottage for an additional two with my daughter, feel like I’m not doing enough for Mom. As I hugged her goodbye, she asked, “Are you coming tomorrow?” And I lied. “You bet!” I said, in a phony, hearty voice, and I am ashamed. I’ve told her from time she moved to Bickford that I would tell her the truth, and now I’ve broken that promise. Mom’s pleading voice, though, made it impossible for me to tell the truth. How I hope that she won’t remember. Or notice? Guilt guilt guilt.

My parents belonged to a golf club in northern Michigan for 30 years, and both played a lot. Tuesday mornings were for the “ladies” (ew), and Mom almost never missed. She made some very good friends there, and led a Bible study for probably around 20 years. Last year, Mom and I made the drive north together for a one-day trip and lunch with the best of these friends. The hostess, Bonnie, invited us again this year, but it was in the middle of a lot of other crazy travel plans–Joe to Africa, me to Philadelphia–and I just didn’t have the energy. I wasn’t sure, and still am not, that Mom could have done the trip very readily. So while I was at the cottage this time, I rang the bell at the house of one of Mom’s good friends, Susan. I wanted to bring our greetings, and thank her for the kind notes she sent Mom. I was feeling a little uncomfortable doing this, after all, what if it was the wrong house? Or she was mad because I hadn’t written lately? But kind Susan came to the door, and invited sweaty me inside, and we had such a warm conversation about Mom, and how they loved each other. She told me how much help Mom’s welcoming friendship was to her when they joined the club, how much she missed her. Of course, we were both sad at Mom’s losses, but I assured her that Mom thought so much of her, and even if she didn’t remember Susan, nevertheless, I was passing on her love. Stopping to see her was good for both of us, and I was glad I had not chickened out. It turned out Mom did remember her, and was very pleased that I’d seen Susan.

Back to today and my visit to Mom and Dad: I took Mom back to her room, and finally understood that the dog has been getting hold of Mom’s used “briefs” (or Attends) and tearing them up all over the room. I think that is what she’s worried about–that someone would be upset about Coco making a mess and then take the dog away from Mom. I’m going to get another wastebasket with a lid so that poochy can’t get to the briefs no matter where Mom puts the used ones, and she does scatter them around. I left a note on Mom’s board to that effect, so I hope we can easily solve this issue. Seems like there is always another little problem–it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole.

As I left Mom’s room, one of the aides, Danielle, stopped me and said that she didn’t know what to do with Dad’s clothes after his shower. The clothes were very dirty, so when he told her to hang them up, she said they needed to be washed. In response, he announced that they weren’t to wash his clothes any more! He’d send them home with his daughters! Danielle left the clothes by the hamper rather than in, and wanted my advice. Since I have no intention of washing Dad’s clothes, I told her I’d try to find out what was going on. Soon I understood that he’d had his shower, and thought he’d had to wait around too long before/during it. Apparently, he told her that he had been neglected, and she said she’d been busy. “Busy? You are busy–with ME,” quoth Dad, and told me with satisfaction that he’d “made a point.” Hm. What he doesn’t know is that someone may have fallen, or pooped his or her pants, and yes, his shower can be delayed 10 minutes. I suggested that the aides have to sort of triage people’s needs, and there must have been people whose case was more urgent. “I understand that and sometimes that’s fine, but it does not apply IN THIS CASE,” he told me firmly. So I just I walked down to lunch with him, and told Danielle I thought he was just grumpy, and how much we (Kristi, my sister, and I) appreciated what they did and put up with. Meanwhile, she’d taken his hamper and all his other dirty clothes out of the room, so we’re hoping he’ll forget about the issue. This whole episode makes my heart sink, a little, because he’s been so rational recently that I convinced myself he was “Dad” again. He is, but he’s almost-89-year-old Dad now, and I have to remember that. It’s amazing that a woman of 58, me, is still trying to hang on to parental care for a sort of security. Do we ever outgrow that need?

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