Continue talking

I got back from my “time off” last Thursday and unlike my other trips where I felt refreshed and energized this time was different. Unfortunately, the minute I got back it felt like I never left. Miss Cathy was chatting at me the moment I opened the door.

Of course a lot of that has to do with me and not mom, my personal life seems to be in transition so I need to establish a secure foundation and some structure in my life here.

It was great to see mom, she gave me a big hug when I walked through the door and not long after she was gone to spend some time with Adele leaving me some time alone to unpack and unwind. I could see that she had taken good care of the place while I was gone and there wasn’t much to do till I had to take her to the doctor the next day.

So, Friday morning I found myself sitting in the orthopedic surgeon’s office with Miss Cathy for one of her follow up appointments after her knee replacement surgery.

The office was a hot, non descript room full of old people in wheelchairs, casts, canes or some other indication that they won’t be signing up for Arthur Murray anytime soon. Everybody seemed to be there at the same time for the same thing. We all sat and waited to be called back into an exam room, most people killing time by talking and/or watching whatever god-awful midmorning television show happened to on the flat screen TV perched high up on the wall.

What was frustrating was that you make an appointment and show up on time but the reality is that you’re not going to see the doctor until he was good and ready to see you.
It’s an abuse of power that I have little patience for in my life but this wasn’t about me-it was Miss Cathy’s doctor and her appointment and I try my best to stay out of it.

Since this all started last year she’s shown very little patience herself with being kept waiting and her reaction can range from mild irritation to a complete melt down in the waiting room (so the apple didn’t fall very far from that tree).

Rather than sit anywhere near the television I chose seats on the other side of the room, thinking it would quieter-but no, but no (just my luck) we ended up sitting next to a couple that wouldn’t shut the f*ck up. The husband was a big blowhard of man. He talked just loud enough so that everybody else could hear his voice (his favorite sound I imagine) but no loud that’d think he was at sports arena. He sounded like a reject from the Henry Higgins School of snobbery and pretension so unless the front row of Wimbledon I don’t think you’d see him there.

It was hard to “not” hear someone so intent on enunciating so clearly in such an affected and old-fashioned manner of speech, making everything he said sound like it was occurring in 1938 New England and not an orthopedic surgeon’s office in suburban Maryland in 2011. The wife was a mousy thing, hanging onto his every word out of obligation or inertia, the perfect female compliment to his pontificating; she was the woman beside (or behind) the “man about town”.

Earlier, I was bemoaning the fact (to me, myself and I) that anytime I left my room I’d be subjected to Miss Cathy’s ramblings (I know she’s lonely but egads, can’t there be a moment when the two of us are in the same room and words need not be spoken?). But, this, this is an assault on my ears and I’m not even related to the man.

I do not want to hear this man’s opinions or anecdotes. I’d move but the only other option would be to sit near the other old people swapping stories about their particular ailments or surgeries as “Judge Punch or Judy” roared in the background. Oye! It’s Sophie’s choice!

I’d been back about 24 hours after being gone for two weeks and I felt as if I’d never left. I had a feeling it was going to be a verrrrry long day and it was, we spent more than two hours waiting for the doctor to come spend about ten minutes with Miss Cathy.

They took an x-ray then the doctor said that her knee was healing better than expected so she could expect more than 100% mobility and range of motion out of her artificial knee and she doesn’t have to come back for two years for another check up.

It occurred to me as we were leaving the doctor’s office that in the past (say three or four months ago) Miss Cathy would have been very angry and agitated by the long wait, complaining or making a mini-scene. Not this time, she was calm and didn’t complain, she mentioned the wait but it was just a statement of fact, in fact she was even trying to sleep to pass the time till her name was called.

It was a marked difference in behavior and I don’t know if it was because of her time alone or what but she definitely seemed to have a different attitude. I really have to give her “props” for how she handled herself and I need to try to follow her example.

I may not want to listen to her but I can still learn from her.



“Hya son, I’m calling again. I just got off the telephone. I’m trying to look to see what time it is, I think this is….ahhhh, I can’t half way see the clock, looks like its twenty five minutes to eight. Well, anyway, I had called you earlier.

I’ve been on the telephone talking to Marcia so I don’t know if you had tried to call while I was on the phone talking to her. I didn’t get a signal, so anyway I was just letting you know. She said she’d be up tomorrow so anyway; I’m going back into the bedroom now to watch the “cooks” on TV.

I’m doing very well and I’ll talk with you later, love mom.”

That was a voicemail that Miss Cathy left for me not too long ago. We’ve bee playing “phone tag” for the a few days now (which is funny seeing how she never leaves the apartment). But, she discovered “screening” years ago when I first bought her an answering machine and now she just lets the call go to voicemail-listens to the message and then decides if she wants to call the person back.

She sounds good, she always leaves “mini” voice “letters” instead of messages, and I’ve always thought that was sweet.

By all accounts she’s doing well and has been enjoying her time alone. The upstairs neighbor, Ron came by one day last week and took her to the grocery store so I know that she’s gotten out at least once since I’ve been gone.

And I’m glad to hear that Marcia, another neighbor (downstairs) is coming up to visit.

I asked her to water the plants for me and she says she’s remembered the schedule of twice a week and the amount of water for each plant.

She says that she’s been keeping the cooking to a minimum (a promise she made to me before I left) and has been using the microwave to heat up a lot of the food that she cooked before I left-a lot of stews and casseroles.

I’m back on Thursday and have decided to get a part-time job out of the house since she’s doing so well (and lets be honest-I could use the money with art not selling like it used too). Depending on what I can find (I have few skills other than drawing for the past thirty five years so don’t be surprised if I’m you new barista at Starbucks).

So, whatever I get will be for about four to five hours a day for as many days a week. I think that being out of the house for a few hours each day will be good for both of us.

I think I’ll call her and let her know my plans…….oh, what do you know, it went to voicemail.


I’m in Kansas City now and won’t be back in Greenbelt till the 21st. Without balloons or fanfare I gave Miss Cathy a hug and a kiss and took the train to New York last Thursday to hang out with Chad in the Emerald City and now we’re in the land of Oz.

I feel like I’ve escaped from the Wicked witch’s tower but that would infer that Miss Cathy is Glinda’s evil sister from the East. By the look on her face (utter joy) when I was standing at the door to leave I could see that she was a fellow escapee, too. She was looking forward to getting rid of my ass and as much (or more) as I was looking forward to leaving. How can you blame her really, I mean, the poor woman hasn’t been alone in over a year.

So, I guess that would make Alzheimer’s the Wicked witch that’s swooped down and turned our little world to black and white from color; dementia the evil tower, her paranoia and anger issues would be the flying monkeys (which scared the be-Jesus out of me when I was kid by the way) and lately her behavior threaten to send me under the bed once more.

If it’s true what Mr. Baum says that I’ve been home all along then why is that when I click my heels nothing happens? I’ve lived in the Emerald City (New York), the land of Oz (Kansas City) and even over the rainbow (on the left bank in Paris) so why oh why do I keep waking up in Greenbelt? Since becoming suburbanized I’ve traded in my designer shoes for Nikes but the result should be the same-when am I going to wake up in an overstuffed feather bed next to some little hairy beast surrounded by extended family and the hired help?

I left Miss Cathy with her lifeline alert necklace (more powerful than ruby slippers) so I feel like she has some protection. I called to check on her yesterday and she sounded as happy as the mayor of Munchkin land. She could have been sitting there playing with her own feces for all I knew but that’s a stretch in behavior (thank the lord for now) but I am cognizant of the fact that one can give “good phone”-meaning that a lot people that are ill can “sound” healthy and capable over the airwaves.

So, I’m conscious of that and I also know that she couldn’t deteriorate that quickly in just a few days so I’m listening for things other than the scatological. Is she present? Is she clear? Does she sound calm or confused?

Once I ascertained all of that I could confidently sit back and let her tell her latest story of what hillbilly relative did what to whom wash over me and feel confident that I could hang up the phone and start skipping back down the yellow brick road.

Shades of grey

I’m off to the estate-planning seminar on Wednesday to get a jump on long term financial decisions that will have to be made but I’m coming up on a grey area in this whole care giving business. I try to stay out of Miss Cathy’s personal affairs as much as possible but we live in close quarters and lets face it-once you’ve had to bathe someone and help them in the bathroom the boundaries get a little blurred.

I’m sitting in the car right now writing as I wait for her while she’s in the bank “taking care of some business”. What the “business” is I didn’t ask (thinking it’s none of mine) and she didn’t offer. The caregiver in me who is aware of her finances is wondering what she’s up too and if it’s responsible of me to not be in there with her while she does whatever it is she’s doing (a light shade of grey).

Tony has taken over paying her bills and I handle her day-to-day financial needs. Now that she’s feeling empowered by the Neurologists visit it seems (to me) that she’s flexing her independent “muscles” a bit (if only that included some exercise like going outside and walking like the doctor suggested, too). Anyway, it’s her money but now that Tony and I are involved it’s our business, too.

I don’t know what she’s doing in there right now but I do know that she’s a senior citizen on a fixed income who’s been “pretty” responsible about her finances but she has made some (how shall I put this?) questionable choices money-wise that may or may not have anything to do with her condition-again (we’re in that grey area).

All I know is that I’ve “chosen” to respect her privacy and hopefully she’ll tell me what’s she’s up too. I’ll know soon enough because I have access to her accounts, but that’s not the point really. I just hope I’m not going to have to find a financial mess that Tony and I will have to clean up.

I guess the best I can do is to look for patterns, see what her financial reasoning is on paper, judge how responsible her choices are moving forward and deal with it then and that’s pretty black and white.