Come back Miss Cathy: Pt. V #CarefreeToCaregiver

I found myself back on the road, headed home.

I’d been parked the entire time I was having this internal debate just a few blocks from the restaurant downtown that was suppose to kick start my evening.

I was too embarrassed to walk the short distance to cancel in person so I called from the safety of my car.

As soon as I’d hung up I wondered if I’d have changed my mind and stayed if I’d gone inside the restaurant. Would I have sat down, ordered a drink, engaged my date in conversation and been able to be the person that I once was and longed to be again (at least for one night)?

The answer to that I will never know but my actions told me that it was time to stop looking back, longing for the life that I had and focus on how to create more balance in the life that I have now. Sometimes the greater challenge is accepting what is instead of expending energy trying to recreate what was.

I also made a promise to myself not to be angry with Miss Cathy.

Going back home was my decision and there was no reason to pout or act as if she’d done something wrong, she hadn’t, she was just being who she is, which is unpredictable and I was just going to have to accept that fact, too.

Once I was back at the condo I walked in, checked on her (as predicted she was back in bed wide awake and still agitated) so I sat with her for a moment so she could talk about what had happened.

In no time at all I could see that she was settling down and more relaxed because she was no longer alone.

I changed clothes (goodbye ‘carefree’ and hello ‘caregiver’) and in no time I was back into my nightly routine of washing dishes, straightening up the kitchen and setting the alarm, signaling that all was well and everyone (everyone meaning me) was in for the night as if just an hour before I hadn’t been out in the night.

As I often do, I walked through the apartment ‘fluffing and tucking’ stopping at the sliding glass doors that lead out onto the balcony.

I leaned my head against the cool glass and looked out over the complex, past the apartments across the parking lot, up to the sky, and it was then that I realized, agitated or not, confused or focused, in the past or present, manipulating me or being manipulated by her mind, Miss Cathy may be searching but she was always here….it was I who had to come back.



Noun: means great enjoyment, delight, pleasure, glee, satisfaction; humorous delectation.

“I appreciate everything you’re doing for me but I’m tired of going to all these doctors.” Miss Cathy said as we walked off the elevator in route to her latest appointment to see her new therapist.

Walking behind her (less like a Sherpa and more Bodyguard-meaning ‘guard of her body’ if she happens to fall) I thought to myself that I find it interesting that she forgets the day of the week, how to operate the can opener and whether or not she’s taken her meds but she never seems to forget how to complain.

But, for all her complaining before the thereapy sessions she seems and says that she feels better after.

It wasn’t exactly a fragile day (“fragile” are those days when she’s especially tired, confused and she looks as if the entire world is against her) but I could see that all the appointments of late to the various doctors were taking a toll on her.

My problem with her complaints (which are numerous and often) is that she just seems to be negative for the sake of being contrary.

No, it’s more than that, I get that she feels powerless; she can’t live alone, make decisions, drive, cook or even plan her own day for the most part, so I understand that the only thing she (may) feel she has control over is the ability to say “No”.

But, I also see (more often than not) that she’s not doing anything positive or constructive with her day (like exercising, going to adult daycare or anything else except lazing in bed watching TV and napping all day) that would prevent her from whatever it is that I’ve scheduled.

She may talk a good game about how she ‘loves to go places, talk to people, laughter, blah, blah’…but given the opportunity to engage with others (outside of talking on the telephone in her condo) and she will usually find an excuse to stay home and not participate.

Her therapy appointment is a good example.

She has an opportunity to talk her head off (to a captive audience no less) and after two sessions she was grousing that she didn’t want to go anymore.

“Well,” I replied, closing the door after we’d entered the office, relishing the opportunity to parrot back to her something that she’d said (and I loathed) my entire childhood, “Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do.”

You’ll understand that someday when you’re a parent and You have a child she always said.

“Yeah, well I know that.” Her voice trailed off as she plopped into a chair, unaware of the irony in the reversal of roles.

Shake and deflate

Thursdays seem to be “doctor day” lately, last week we were at the family doctor for a check up and last Thursday, I was waiting with Miss Cathy to see another doctor-only this time it was in an emergency room.

Let me back up a moment and tell you how we got there. Tony called me on Wednesday to tell me that Nile, my niece was in the hospital with a collapsed lung. It was just one of those rare, freaky things that “just happen sometimes” and unfortunately it happened to her. Thank God she was at home taking summer classes and not back at school alone when it happened. I was in shock listening to him tell me about tubes, fluids, punctures, thoracic this ‘n that, trying to make sense of it all. The only thing I could focus on was that he said she was out of danger.

We did the dance of “You don’t have to come, it’s too far” and “Of course I want to be there” two-step that loved ones do with each other when one feels they’ve imposed enough with the news let alone adding to the burden by expecting the other to drop whatever they’re doing to be there and the recipient of the news feels impotent to help but wants to take some kind of action to show they care, even though they know they can’t affect any real change in the situation-so, showing up is usually as good as it gets. The only thing holding me back from leaving right then was the question of what (if anything) to tell Miss Cathy. I told Tony I was going to leave it was up to him and that he should take some time to decide if he wanted to tell her; running the risk of getting her upset by telling her or running the risk of getting her upset later on after the fact-it was pretty much a lose, lose situation.

He decided to call and tell her.

I was in the kitchen making myself some lunch after running errands all morning and taking a yoga class when she came into the kitchen in her nightgown to talk about the news. Her timing couldn’t have been worse because I was already running on fumes so I just couldn’t handle listening to her (not that she didn’t have every right to be upset). I just needed a moment to sit down and digest some food and the news about Nile before I could be any use to her. I felt as if I was being cold or that I was putting her off but I’m learning to take care of myself first (so that I can best be there for her later). It’s kind of like when you’re on an airplane and they instruct you (in case of emergency) to put your oxygen mask on first and then the child’s because you’re no good to them if you’re deprived of air-well, I felt like I needed to put my mask on first.

I could see some disappointment on her face as I told her that I needed just a little time to sit down and eat, then I would come and talk to her about Nile. She acquiesced and went back to her room. Through my open door I could hear her making calls, reaching out to share her pain but no one seemed to be there when she called.

Tony called back to tell me that she seemed to take the news okay and that she didn’t give him any indication to him that she wanted to come to the hospital so I took that as a sign that she might not want to go anywhere. I looked in on her a few times while I was supposedly “taking care of me first” but I couldn’t help it, I just wanted to make sure she was okay. What I saw was that she was restless and she just couldn’t sit still; first she was on the phone (in her nightgown), then when I looked in on her again she was fully clothed, with lipstick and her hat on sitting on the edge of her bed ready to go somewhere, so I asked, ”What’s going on?”

She didn’t answer, she just looked at me. A few minutes later, realizing I wasn’t going to be able to “put my mask on first” I went back into her room but she wasn’t there. I found her sitting on the sofa in the living room (back in her nightgown) looking sad and lost, her hands shaking just a little. Knowing that she’s a very nervous person and upsets easily (even before her diagnosis) I wasn’t surprised but I checked to make sure that she was “just upset” over her granddaughter and not about to have a seizure or a repeat of her disorientation and near collapse of a few weeks ago. I brought in the bowl of soup and toast on a tray that she’d left in the kitchen and sat with her to make sure she didn’t spill anything on herself while she ate, raising the spoon to her mouth with a trembling hand.

After she finished eating I suggested that she lie back down so we walked back into her room and we talked about Nile when she was comfortably under the covers. At the end of our talk she asked, “When do you think we can go to the hospital?” I told her we could go right then, but it would have to be in the next fifteen minutes to beat the impending rush hour traffic on the Beltway. Knowing that she couldn’t get packed and ready in that time frame she agreed that we wait until rush hour was over before making the drive to the Virginia hospital across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on interstate 95, which is notorious for accidents, delays, construction and traffic congestion (and that’s on a good day). I told her that we should take advantage of the wait by napping because it was probably going to be a long night, so she and I both lay down but neither of us got much of a rest.

Even though she didn’t sleep and was “up” she was very slow getting out of bed. Bt the time she was packed and ready to go it was 8:00pm. As luck would have it, traffic had died down so we were at Mary Washington Hospital in a little over an hour hugging Nile and Tony, Suemi and Zachary, Nile’s brother. They had all been at the hospital since early morning and I could see the concern on their faces, all except Nile, she looked great-considering (and I’m sure the Percoset drip didn’t hurt). With Miss Cathy and me there out little family was complete, Nile being the last addition to the family nineteen years ago. She was remarkably composed and alert, not at all what I expected from someone with a tube sticking out of their side and only one functioning lung. She was sitting up in bed chatting with us, seemingly more concerned for everybody else than herself.

Miss Cathy sat in the chair by the bed holding Nile’s hand as Tony filled us in on her condition, saying that it was still a matter of “wait and see” whether or not surgery was going to be necessary. It was after nine when we got there and we stayed for a few hours, Mary Washington being one of a few hospitals I’d ever been in that had such a liberal policy for visiting patients. But, it was getting late so we ended our visit and drove to Tony’s house, everyone exhausted from the day and anxious to get a little sleep before being back at the hospital in the morning.

By eight am Suemi, Miss Cathy and I were in the kitchen having breakfast; Zachary had to go to work and Tony had decided to take another day off from his job and was already at the hospital. I was sitting in the family room that opened onto the kitchen, Suemi was at the kitchen counter preparing snacks for everyone and Miss Cathy was at the kitchen table with her back to me, talking to her daughter in law. Knowing that she could sit there and talk forever I suggested that she might want to think about getting ready since it would take her awhile and I knew she was anxious to see her granddaughter.

She said, “I think I’ll just sit here and relax for a little while” which I thought was an odd response since all she’d been talking about was getting to the hospital but I shrugged, and decided to fire up my laptop to distract me from overhearing the conversation between the women that I’ve heard many time before. A few moments later I caught something out of the corner of my eye and it was Miss Cathy’s hands that were shaking. I got up to go to her just as the shaking started to take over her body, Suemi saw this happening at the same time and reached her first, cradling mom’s head against her side talking to her soothingly as the shaking became uncontrollably.

No sooner had I reached the sink to get her a glass of water when her eyes started to roll back in her head and she vomited the oatmeal she’d had for breakfast. Suemi said, “Call 911” and I fumbled with their landline, surprised by how quickly the situation had gone from familiar to chaotic, panicking a little myself, before calling the paramedics on my iPhone and regaining my footing. Suemi was brilliant, she was in control and calm and I followed her lead, grateful for once, not be alone to cope with the situation. By the time I’d given the 911 dispatcher the address and told her the situation Miss Cathy had stopped shaking and I could see that she had “come back to herself” (her eyes were newly focused and she was coherent). She seemed out of any immediate danger and said that she didn’t want to go to the hospital but she still wanted the EMS to come. She was understandable upset and started to cry a little, Suemi by her side to comfort her. I knew she was out of danger when she started barking orders that Duke, the dog needed to be put away before the emergency service workers arrived- even with vomit on her nightgown she was still trying to be in control.

We’d cleaned her up as best we could and she was trying to change out of her nightgown into a pair of pants by the time the paramedics arrived (which was under ten minutes). Two paramedics worked on her while a third asked her questions to ascertain her condition and to determine how alert she was. I jumped in when necessary (to correct some misinformation she had given) and I took a mental note that I should always carry my “Mom” notebook (which has all her medical history, prescriptions and all relevant information in it) with me at all times so that I’m better prepared in a situation like this.

When the medic asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital she said “yes” and burst into tears. I went to her this time (Suemi was out in the garage with the dog) and held her close as she sat in the chair crying, saying that she was afraid and embarrassed, her ego de-flated. I told her that I was there, that Suemi was there and nothing was going to harm her. I told her that all the people in the room were there to help her. By this time another team had arrived from an ambulance service and they put her on a gurney and drove her to the local hospital emergency room. I grabbed as much of her stuff as I could and followed in my car, Suemi waving from the open garage door saying she’d be there soon.

We stayed in room 10 of the emergency room for about four hours while they took an EKG and chest x-ray. She’d calmed down considerably and slowly became her usual “Chatty Cathy” self with the nurses. The doctor examined her early on and came back a few hours later with the test results, which confirmed that her episode was anxiety related. Her blood sugar and pressure were understandably elevated so they wanted her to stay for awhile and relax until her levels could stabilize then I could take her home. This would be the third time she was in the emergency room due to a nervous response to a situation; it was obvious that she couldn’t handle stress anymore.

Once we were home I got her comfortably into bed where she napped for the rest of the day. I’d already talked to Suemi in the emergency room about what we needed to do moving forward and later I called Tony at the hospital where he was still waiting to hear from the doctor about Nile’s condition to tell him that Miss Cathy was okay. We all agreed that what happened to mom confirmed what we’d suspected all along. We decided that it was best that we no longer tell her anything that could upset her. She just can’t handle bad news or stressful situations anymore; it’s not good for her health.

While she was resting I washed her soiled clothes, refilled her meds and got back to some our day-to-day routine. Then I lay down for a nap myself and slept like a dead man for four hours, waking up at 7 pm to check in on Miss Cathy and she was sitting up in bed watching television.

Post script: On Saturday afternoon Nile was released from the hospital after her lung had “re-flated” without the need for surgery. Her prognosis is good and she should be able to return to her hectic, active lifestyle as a co-ed in a few weeks, but since this happened to she has a recurrence rate of 30% in her lifetime.

As for Miss Cathy, she woke up on Friday feeling like her old self, “pumped up” as good as new. Her cousin, Mary came to the apartment with her daughter Juanita for a visit and that lifted her spirits but nothing made her happier than finding out on Saturday that Nile was home. I could hear her on the phone talking to Tony offering to come over to “take care” of Nile while she was convalescing-completely oblivious that “she’s” the one in need of care.

Romancing the stone (granite)

Last Thursday was Miss Cathy’s quarterly visit to her primary care physician, Dr Granite; just a tune-up to kick the tires. As usual she’d been “mentioning” the appointment daily for the last week so when the day finally arrived she was all ready with her list of questions and sitting on the couch ready to go before I’d finished my first cup of coffee. She always gets a little “wound up” (anxious, hyper and nervous) whenever we go to see one of her doctors so I was having second thoughts about something I needed her to do.

My brother, Tony and I have met with a lawyer about setting up her estate and putting things in place so when the times comes and she needs to go to a nursing home that Medicaid will cover the entire cost. We’ve got a lot things going on and part of the process requires a form to filled out by her doctor. I knew I could ask the doctor about it but it might come off as predatory, like I was setting her up to rip her off (and I gotta say-it’s not like she’s Crystal Carrington and this is Dynasty or anything, but still…. ) so I thought it best if she asked for the form since he was her doctor and they have a good rapport.

The form that we need filled out is very subjective and completely voluntary so a lot of doctors don’t want to get involved, so it might require some finesse and tact to get it (and while Miss Cathy has still has many wonderful attributes “finesse” and “tact” are not two of them). But, it’s a pivotal part of what we’re trying to accomplish so it’s important. I took my time and patiently, in as simple a manner as possible told her that we still haven’t gotten anything finalized with the lawyer but it would be great to know if the doctor was even “willing” to help out. All that we needed from him right now was to know that we could count on him at some point in the future.

I stressed that all I needed was for her to ask Dr Granite was for his help at some point in the future with a form that would state her condition and that her son (me) is her primary caretaker-sounds easy enough but the simplest things can be complicated in her present condition. I took great pains to be as specific as possible and prep her on exactly what to ask. To be fair, I was springing all of this on her just an hour before the appointment but I thought better last minute than days earlier when she might forget or get confused.

As expected, she had a ton of questions, and they just kept coming-from the obvious to the inane, I felt like I was being ravaged by a swarm of bees. Patiently (without scratching myself) I tried my best to answer all of them knowing that the more she asked and the more she knew, the more likely it was that she’d get confused. But, all I could do was hope for the best and remember what I’d learned in AA, “take the action and let go of the result”.

As I stood getting ready to leave she looked up at me from the sofa, looking like a little girl lost and said, “I don’t know why but I’m nervous all of sudden.”

I suddenly wondered if I’d put too much pressure on her by asking her to talk to the doctor, or if she felt nervous that she’s say too much or get it wrong. I told her that she didn’t have to worry about talking to the doctor about the form, she could just stick to her list of questions and I would take care of it if that made her feel more comfortable. I started for the door but couldn’t shake the vulnerable look on her face from my mind so I went back to her, gave her a hug and said that I hoped that would help ease her nerves. She smiled back at me and then we were off.

We waited for the doctor in the tiny exam room after the nurse went over Miss Cathy’s vital signs. Dr Granite came in soon after and they fell into their years old pattern of small talk; catching up on each other’s lives with a few laughs and jokes before settling into the business at hand.

When the doctor asked her if she had any questions she made a big production of bringing her crinkled piece of notebook paper out of her handbag and all kibitzing aside she became very business-like and serious as she went down her list asking about her arthritis, the nausea she had a few weeks ago and a “popping’ she felt in her knee. Satisfied with the answers (and most of all his reassurance that everything was fine) I could see her fidgeting a little, winding herself up for the “big” question.

After “hemming” and “haw-ing” a little she said, “Doctor, I want to ask you one more thing..” She started to stammer about “putting her affairs in order” and “a piece of paper the lawyer says she needs” and “wanting her children to be able to do as she instructed” (jeez, it was painful to listen to her but I let her finish because I was the one that asked her to speak to the doctor. And, as wrong as she got it and as exasperated as I was, I couldn’t help but be proud of her for trying).

I could see the doctor trying his best to understand her, his eyes trying to follow her train of thought, like watching a drunk trying to walk a straight line during a sobriety test and all you saw was them weave from point A to point B, still you hoped they’d get to the end somehow. He listened (patient man that he is) and then, seeing an opportunity when she paused (just for a second) he jumped in to venture a guess and said, “You’re talking about a form that states your wishes?” and she said, “Yes, that’s it!”

“You’re talking about a ‘living will”.(No, actually that’s not what she was talking about)

They smiled at each other, very satisfied with themselves that they’d figured out the riddle. He assured her that she didn’t need him to fill out that “form” and any lawyer could supply that document for her. She seemed a little confused but determined because knew she hadn’t succeeded in getting what I’d asked so she tried again to ask for his help but this time I jumped in before she lost him completely (and I had to listen to her struggle to get it right).

I told Dr Granite that we already had an Advanced Medical Directive in place and that’s not what we needed. I said that we (she) were working with a lawyer and putting together her Personal Care Plan and we might need his help filling out a form so that she can get a “Child caregiver exception” to help expedite the rules that Medicaid have set up to be accepted for long term care. He took a moment to digest the information then said, “sure, just bring me the form and I’d be happy to help.”

There was sign on the wall of his office (one that I’d never noticed before) that Miss Cathy had seen when we first walked in that stated that forms and other documents were to be filled out at the doctors discretion and will be billed separately from the patient’s insurance. I told her not to mention the sign but of course she did, she couldn’t help herself.

He shrugged and seemed to dismiss it saying that it’d been there for years (so I took this as a “sign” not to worry about it). Not satisfied (after the doctor had just agreed to help us and had all but told us to not worry about the sign) Miss Cathy just would stop talking about the sign and let the subject drop. Once again, as soon as I found an opening to cut her off (not in a mean or rude way-I just waited for her to take a breath, regardless of whether she had finished her thought or ended her sentence) I reminded her that it was the doctors’ office, hence his rules and to let him finish talking. She acquiesced and he continued, he told us that lately a lot of his patients had been turned down for long term care for one reason or another and that concerned him, but not to worry, he was willing to help in any way that he could.

Miss Cathy thanked him and before she got up go to another room to have some blood drawn as she has had done hundreds of times before she said, “I don’t know why but I’m nervous all of sudden.” And like Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar named Desire” she innocently took the doctors hand as helped her up out of her seat to prepare for the short walk down a familiar hall.

Reaching out

I was talking to my good friend Stefano the other day, telling him that I’d been reaching out to people on Facebook more and that I had “friend-ed” someone I knew through him. He told me that he had just told this same friend about my blog because his friend was going through a similar situation with his mother and suggested that we talk to one another.

I had no idea of his situation when I “friend-ed” him, only remembering that he’s an interesting person that I met in New York but was living in Europe that I hadn’t been in touch with for awhile. Well, I don’t believe in coincidences and wasn’t surprised when Lester, the friend and I were on the phone soon after talking about Alzheimer’s.

He told me that a little over a week ago he had flown to New York to visit his mom in Queens after being in Los Angeles for work. He said that he was surprised by how different his mom was, that he knew something was wrong with her and that something had to be done immediately to get her help. I listened to his story, verbally nodding in agreement and acknowledgement that I knew exactly what he was talking about as he related stories of her erratic behavior.

His situation is different from mine (of course, no two experiences with dementia are exactly alike). For one his father is still alive, but elderly himself so isn’t able to cope (mine is dead) and Lester’s brother lives on the West coast (and mine is only an hour away in Virginia) so he’s more or less doing all of this by himself but the end result is the same-he’s the adult child of a parent that now needs his help to guide her through the end of life as she guided him at the beginning.

I listened as he told about her conspiracy theories, paranoia, forgetfulness, confusion and his very real fear that she was going to get in a car accident because she was still driving herself to school where she still teaches. He said that she was very clever about how she covered up her shortcomings and had developed shrewd methods to compensate for her mental deterioration.

I could hear in his voice how tired and sad he was and there was a moment as we talked when I could hear the realization hit that his mother as he knew her may be gone forever.
I told him to think of her in a different light, to (take some time and) mourn the loss of the mother he knew but to remembered to hold onto the love (which is still there and always will be) and to focus on developing a new relationship and new bonds with her, as she will be ever changing because of the disease.

From all that he told me and all that he’d learned (and learned to do) in just a week’s time I told him that he’d done a remarkable job considering. I shared bits of my experience where it made sense but tried to be sensitive and remind myself that this wasn’t about me and my experience-this was about listening and hopefully helping someone who was just joining the “brotherhood”.

As we talked I made a few suggestions; I learned in AA years ago never to “tell” someone what to do, the normal reaction from most adults (and kids, too) is to put up a wall and become defensive when being “told” what to do so whatever you’re saying never gets a chance to be absorbed, processed or possibly acted upon.

So I “suggested” that he not argue with his mom and that right now “being 100% honest with her” (which was the basis of the relationship that he had with her before all this happened) wasn’t as important as getting her to the lab for an MRI and an appointment with a neurologist for a complete evaluation to determine what her condition is and at what stage. I told him that I’m very much of the “ends justifies the means” school and to lie to her if he had to achieve his goal which is to help her.

I told him about (an organization he said he didn’t know existed) and how helpful they’d been for me with everything from resources to support groups. I told him about the legal ramifications of what he was about to undertake and what he might need; power of attorney, medical directives, estate planning, etc as well as thinking about long term care facilities and how to plan for that. I could imagine that his head was about to explode form so much information coming at him all at once. He said that it was more than he had anticipated but that he was grateful.

The best piece of advice I gave him was one that was given to me early on by several people-that as a “caregiver” to make sure that he takes to take care of himself.

I didn’t really know what that meant in the beginning, so focused was I on my mom and her welfare that I wasn’t really doing the best job of taking care of myself, so I don’t think I was best prepared for the “marathon” that this process of care is instead of the ‘sprint” that I was my initial approach.

Truth be told, l think that I’m “just’ beginning to take care of myself (a year into this process) which definitely impacts how I can care for my mom. But, it takes what it takes and as Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better”.

I told Lester that he wasn’t alone and that he could add me to list of people to call for support or if he ever just wanted to vent and have someone to listen (and not give advice, judgment or an opinion) I was here for him.

I got off the phone realizing that in talking to someone who was new to all this that I knew more than I thought I did. I was sorry for his situation but happy (for lack of a better word) that I could reach out and give what so many have given to me by way of support, empathy and information.

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.


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.