Sunday, February 17, 2008

"You Ditched Me"

This morning I tip-toed into the Reminiscence Neighborhood, nervous about what I might find. Would it be like Friday when Mom hadn't had breakfast and was refusing her meds? Or would I be able to take her out to church with a minimum of fuss?
I found her settled into her recliner in her room. Good! She was done with breakfast, though she looked a bit agitated. Someone had applied lipstick all around her mouth in a sloppy way--I would have to fix that before we left.
"Hi, Mom, it's Anne. Are you ready for church?" I asked, pushing the recliner's control to make her sit up and to transfer her to the wheelchair.
"You ditched me yesterday!" she hissed. "I was going to watch the news with you, how John is winning, but you never came." [Note: she still thinks he's running for President.]
"I cried all night. Oh well, it doesn't matter now."
I was stunned and felt tears come to my eyes. Not only did she not remember that I had come yesterday, but she thought I had "ditched" her.
"Don't you remember that we went and got a Nestle's Crunch?" I reminded her. "I came to see you yesterday."
"Oh yes, I remember. But you left without saying goodbye. You ditched me."
I didn't even argue it, just moved her into the wheelchair.
"My back is bare!" she cried, so I adjusted her blouse and sweater to make sure her waist was still covered after the transfer.
"Here's your purse," I said numbly.
"I wish you'd let me have your purse. You have nicer purses."
"Me? You don't like my canvas bags."
"You went away and your never came back. I cried all night--I did!"
I didn't answer. All that time I had given her yesterday, apparently to naught.
"I forgive you now," she continued. "I thought we could all watch tv together, but I just saw it myself, down in the dungeon."
Okay, I told myself, that's hallucination, thinking some place here is a dungeon.
"You said you'd come back, that we could look at it together, how John was winning, but you never did. I cried myself to sleep."
By now we had completed the trip by two elevators to the basement parking garage, and I was lifting her into the car.
We drove silently and without much traffic to San Marino Community Church where a friend of mine, Karen Berns, was preaching today. I turned the classical music up high so there'd be something to listen to. I didn't feel like talking, and I needed to distract her from this track she was on.
We arrived early for the service, and Mom was cooperative during it, nodding her head to the left and right with the rhythm of the hymns being sung.
After the service Karen and her husband invited us to go out to lunch, but I declined. Mom is not patient with sitting in a restaurant; I wouldn't be able to enjoy it.
Instead I drove her to the Huntington Library, just a few blocks away, thinking it would brighten her day as well as mine to wheel through the gardens, maybe take a peek at the Ellesmere Chaucer manuscript.
The roses weren't blooming, but I pushed her wheelchair through groves of huge camellia bushes and trees.
"I want one of them," she said, so I picked up fallen blossoms as we walked; she had a lap full of various kinds: luscious magenta, striped pink and white, single-petal red with huge stamens.
We spent maybe an hour there until she demanded to go home and we started back. I got her a butter pecan ice cream cone and myself mint chocolate chip.
On the way back, traffic stopped: I forgot that people would be driving toward the beach on this holiday weekend. Though I left the freeway to take city streets, our driving time was still doubled; as we neared her residence it was almost 4 pm.
"Now let's go to your house," she said, unaware that her six hours with me today was the limit.
I sat there with my hands on the steering wheel unsure how to explain to her that she was returning to Ocean View Assisted Living.
"No, the sun is going down," I finally said. "It's time to go back to Ocean View."
She started to argue with me, but I put my hands over my ears as I drove. It was just too painful to listen to more demands. We drove into the parking garage.
"My back is bare," she screeched as I eased her from the front carseat into her wheelchair, but actually it wasn't bare. I had carefully pulled the blouse and sweater down before the movement. "I hate you!" I thought to myself. "You say this even when your back is covered and warm. Your demands never stop."
"I love you," she said to me as if she had read my negative thoughts. "Thank you for everything you do."
I didn't answer. Somehow the correct reply just would not come out of my mouth.
I arrived home at 4:15 pm and, just like Friday, required more than an hour of rest and reflection before feeling able to start any other task.
Spending six hours with her exhausts me.
I made three decisions:
1) I will not take her out of Santa Irena again. Not to Women-Church in Claremont next week, not anywhere.
2) She will stay on a narrow track: her residence, church, my house--well, maybe 2-3 more P.E.O. meetings before I pull that plug too. That's all she really wants: to be at my house or her residence or church. No use taking her to the Huntington when what she really wanted was to sit in my kitchen.
3) I will go on a diet for time spent with her, limiting it to one hour per day. I just can't handle these longer days.

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