Archive for March, 2009|Monthly archive page

‘Have a good happy’

Monday passed with no word from Mom. And I did not call her. I felt so rotten on Sunday that I just didn’t want to risk a repeat of those emotions. I skipped exercise, which probably wasn’t a terrific idea. But I was so tired. I had napped Sunday and went to bed fairly early. And I was still really tired on Monday. So I went home and cooked whole grain pasta with sugar snap peas, onions, black olives and feta. Not my best creation taste-wise, but cooking and eating it made me feel like I was being responsible for my health in a different way since I was missing a workout. And now I have lunches for a few days, too.

I called Mom this morning, probably about an hour after she finished breakfast. She sounded fairly chipper, not like she had been sleeping. She started talking about the women sitting in the lobby – perhaps she had been with them for awhile, or perhaps she was considering joining them. “What about my hair?” she asked. I am glad that appointment is near, so we can stop talking about it. The cat seems to be fine, she said. I decided to ask about the ants, something Mom hasn’t seemed to be very interested in. I asked if she could see many of them. She said she had looked around and saw only a few. I told her I had put traps down in her bedroom and she said she had seen those. I asked if the housekeeper came to clean yesterday. “I don’t know,” she said. She never seems to remember that, even though the housekeeper is so nice and it is a regular weekly event.

The conversation was going pretty well and that was a relief. We started to move toward a goodbye and I said, “Well, I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.” She said, “I’m trying to think if there’s anything I don’t like. So far, everything is OK.” This struck me as funny, because I would have described Mom at one time as someone who always had something to complain about. I confess I can have those same tendencies myself. So when she can’t complain, things are really going well. As we signed off, she said, “Have a good happy.” Sometimes, we joke when we say goodbye and she’ll say, “Merry Christmas,” and I’ll say “Happy New Year” no matter what time of year it is. She may have been trying that today. So I said, “Happy New Year,” and we laughed and hung up.

The almond jar reappears

I made a quick stop at Mom’s on Friday because she called at about 4 p.m. to report the cat had escaped. She didn’t seem agitated and she didn’t make much sense, but I told her I’d come by just to see if everything was OK. The cat was in his usual spot by the window. Mom was already at dinner by the time I arrived. I assessed the ant situation and tried something new – I moved the cat food bowls and water to a little corner by Mom’s kitchen area, thinking it might be far enough from the wall in her bedroom, the apparent source of the ants, to cause them to lose the food trail and try something different. I considered taking the weekend off from Mom, and now I wish I had.

I took Saturday off, but it’s hard for me to take a weekend off from Mom because I think about her anyway and I have more time so I figure I ought to see what’s going on with her. I got a late start today and arrived just before lunch. She was already in the dining room when I got there, so I just went straight to her apartment to check on things. I had bought some ant traps at the grocery on the way. I discovered my strategy of moving the cat food had completely backfired. There is an apparent source of ants in the wall right beside the corner in which I put the food, so both food bowls had ants in them, and there was a stready stream of ants between the bowl and the wall. It was as if they were having a party. I dumped the food, washed the bowls and moved everything back to Mom’s bedroom, but just a little farther from the ant wall. I put four traps along the ant wall and now I hope for the best. I vacuumed up all the ants in the little kitchen area, and all the stray food they and the cat had scattered on the floor. I scooped some litter and sealed the ant-covered food and litter together in a bag and started a new trash bag.

I decided that with Mom out of the way, I could look around for her driver’s license. It has been missing from her purse for a number of weeks/months, and I’m afraid I will need it for the application to Medicaid. I do have Mom’s birth certificate – I ordered it online one day and it arrived the next. I was stunned by the speed of that service. So I started with a tray and jewelry box on her dresser, and as I scanned the contents, I noticed the almond jar. Sitting on the dresser. Full of old, stale almonds and little bits of cat food. And the stink and dust, I’m sure, of two rounds of being thrown away with cat poop and dead ants. I was horrified. This clearly means Mom rifles through her trash, at least for certain items. This time, I emptied the almonds and food bits into the sealed trash bag of litter and dead ants, placed the empty jar in a bag and threw that bag away in the facility’s guest bathroom. That ought to end the almond jar saga for good. But as I made that discovery, I had a brief emotion resembling something like, “I can’t take this anymore.” Of course, that thinking does me no good, as I have no choice at all in the matter. I have to keep taking it, for an indefinite period of time.

I continued looking, after a thorough wash of my hands, for the driver’s license. I looked through two little chests of drawers on either side of Mom’s bed. There are pictures everywhere, and I kind of assume the driver’s license is tucked in among a stack of photos, for some reason. But I was feeling rushed, grossed out, uncomfortable, and I had a headache, so I didn’t take time to go through the pictures. So I never did find the license. But I did find dirty socks, a pair of disposable underwear behind Mom’s pillows, and a delicate ruby ring that I didn’t know Mom had ever owned. Mom’s bed was a little malodorous, and I figured it was pee. The fitted sheet wasn’t wet or stained, though. Mom had hung her top sheet over the shower curtain rod in her bathroom, and I decided that if she had indeed peed, the housekeeper will take care of that tomorrow. Monday is the day Mom’s apartment is cleaned. I was becoming sweaty, as Mom keeps her heat on pretty high all the time, and I decided to give up for the time being.

I stopped in the dining room to say hello and goodbye to Mom. I could have skipped this step, but I thought that since I had moved the cat food in her apartment, I ought to let her know I was there. Not that she’ll necessarily remember. I asked how she was, and she said fine. She said she had had something to tell me. “She puked,” she said. I asked: the cat? Mom? She said no to both, but she didn’t know who she was talking about. Two seats down at her table, one of the residents had a huge wet stain on the tablecloth in front of her, and I thought it could have been her, and just now. But there was no effort to be cleaning up, and I figured she had just had a spill, which is not uncommon because she seems to have a movement disorder resembling Parkinson’s disease. I worried that Mom might have an intestinal virus, and began inching backward away from her a little bit. And I wondered if her bed stinks and her sheet is hanging in the bathroom because of puke – though I feel doubtful about it, because that’s a smell I think I would have recognized. I told Mom to go ahead and eat, that I would see her soon. In the car, I applied antibacterial gel twice.

And in the car, I thought I would like to cry. I felt a need to do some crying. But I couldn’t. I was on my way to buy the week’s groceries, so it’s just as well. I did the shopping and returned to my car in light rain and a lot of wind. While I was putting the groceries in the back of my car, the wind blew the hatch door and it hit me in the head. That sting provided just what I needed. On the drive home, I thought, I think I can cry now. And I did.

Better today

I called Mom, with some trepidation. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another circular conversation about her apartment and her cat. But I really wanted to check on her. Otherwise I assume the worst.

I think I woke her from a little nap, but I’m not sure. She didn’t seem groggy, but she said she had been sleeping with her cat. She also said her cat is on the bed, and I’m pretty sure the only phone she uses is in the living room. But it’s not important.

I asked how everything was and she said, “I think everything is OK.” Great response. She asked if any events are occurring. I said, not for a week. In a week, we’ll get her hair cut. But I told her I would visit tomorrow. And she said, “It’s always fun to see the kitty.” True enough. She sounded a little more chipper, and her voice gave away no signs of anxiety. I am relieved.

I sense I have had nothing but bad news to report about Mom recently. It has been an odd week with her. But I do also have a dad, and today is his 70th birthday. And that is significant, because at age 55, he had a heart transplant. I am so happy to be able to celebrate this milestone birthday with him and his wife tonight. We’re all going out to dinner. My husband and I will secretly, in our minds, also be observing our own 14th wedding anniversary, which was March 25. So there is much good in my life to balance this bad thing. And I do try to maintain that perspective.

Phone notes

So, I’m decent at note-taking because of my profession. I called Mom today just to see how things were, whether she seemed to be feeling anxiety. I tend to jot little meaningless notes when I talk on the phone, and I was doing that when I realized she was saying so many things that indicated she is so very lost. I decided to try to write it all down and just put it all in one place. In between, I might have tried to say something reassuring, or yes or no, or agree with her. But it was hard to know how to respond.

“I called a couple of times. To tell you the usual stuff. I thought you were mad at me or something.”

“The cat is not very nervous about it. We were there for a little bit.”

“I still can’t figure out where my place is. You ought to come over and see him one of these days.”

Here, I mentioned I had been there yesterday. I also asked, “Doesn’t that feel like your home, your apartment?” And she replied: “I don’t know. The cat hasn’t told me.”

“Everything has been going pretty well. People would be nice if something happened.”

“I can’t figure out what it is. It’s my usual craziness.”

“My cat doesn’t know how to do a telephone.”

“I had called a couple of times.”

“Is he (the cat) at your house?”

You can’t talk for awhile, I assume [because I said I was at work].”

“We still haven’t done anything about my hair.”

“The cat is comfortable where she is. She likes it.”

“I can open the door and let her out. What do you think?” Here, I said it’s better not to let the cat out, but that Mom can come and go as she pleases.

“Today I’d been around doing things. I don’t know, I still haven’t figured it out. I know the thing to do is go ahead and do what you want to. You told me it was afterwards. This is a different thing. It’s older.” Here, I’m pretty sure she was looking at facility calendars on her coffee table.

“So I won’t be seeing you for awhile? I called many times and I couldn’t get anyone on the telephone.”

“Is there any other news?”

“There was a thing, this might be last week.”

I asked her if she attended an activity today.

“It’s OK to me to miss one because I get worried about my cat.”

“Oh, the issue was. What was it? … Are you waiting for me? I may not want to go out to bingo.”

“Next time, we can do something different.”

“Thanks for calling. What is your phone number? Let me write it down. Hello?”

“Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.”

“OK, I’ll remember about the hair.”

I really have no words. Except that if she did call, she didn’t leave messages.

Maybe tomorrow WILL be a better day.

I should know by now

Mom called this morning, fairly early, just after her breakfast. She had a dull sound to her voice, and it was a little unsteady, like she might have been crying. She said things were “pretty bad.” She went on to say everyone else has their own apartment, but she doesn’t. And the cat needs a place to live, too. I asked her if someone had said something to her – thinking maybe, I don’t know, the maintenance people want to spray for ants so Mom and the cat have to leave the apartment for awhile. Or that when the housekeeper came to clean on Monday, she somehow gave Mom the impression that the apartment was no longer Mom’s. Nothing like that rang a bell for her. That doesn’t mean someone didn’t say something to her that triggered her concern. She just doesn’t remember it.

I had been planning to go over today anyhow, to drop off a new jug of cat litter and check on the ant situation, so I told her I would be by later. When I arrived, just as people were filing out of the dining room after lunch, I found her in her apartment, lying on her couch and watching TV. The channel was tuned to the TV guide station – where the listings crawl along the bottom half of the screen and entertainment “news” is featured in the top half. I wondered if she was watching that entertainment news or somehow might be calmed by the symmetry of the channel listing on the screen.

I had left just one bowl of cat food on the floor the other day and realized I should probably put another one out so the ants would, I hoped, pick one bowl to contaminate and leave the other for the cat to eat from. I should have known Mom would take care of this. She had put a second bowl out before I got there – surely, the cat might have starved without two bowls of food, at least in her mind. So in this case, both bowls had ants in them. So I threw away the food, again, cleaned the bowls and refilled them, again, and vacuumed up the little ants, again. And decided I will buy ant traps for Mom’s place because after two reports and no remedy, it’s obviously not going to be taken care of by staff at the facility. I scooped litter and put some fresh litter on top. I could smell a distinct urine odor today in the apartment. But I think it was human and not cat urine I was smelling.

I then sat with Mom for a little bit just to see if I could figure out what was wrong with her. She said she doesn’t have an apartment. I said, waving my arms around, that we are in her apartment, that this is her apartment. That it is where she lives. And the cat lives there with her. “Mmm hmm,” she said. She does that a lot, and usually I take it as a signal that either she doesn’t believe me or isn’t absorbing what I’m saying. I asked, “Don’t you feel like this is your home?” “Well, yeah,” she said. But I could just tell she isn’t convinced. Something, somehow is leaving her feeling unsettled. And I started feeling frustrated, and annoyed that this is all we ever talk about now. The damn cat. The mysterious status of this apartment. Whether the cat is happy. Whether the cat will get out. And then, just letting myself pause, it did occur to me that Mom doesn’t want to be having this conversation. She doesn’t know I have reassured her dozens of times that this is her home and she is safe there. And that the cat is happy and safe. She doesn’t know because she can’t remember. So really she is being tortured by these thoughts over and over again. I feel tortured by the recurring theme of the conversation, but my torment is nothing compared to the anxiety she must feel, doubting that she and her cat have a safe, secure place to stay. So I mellowed out and quit telling her the same things over and over again and said, “Why don’t you go play bingo.” And that’s what she did.

The almond jar

I stopped in for a quick visit with Mom today. She was sound asleep when I arrived, didn’t hear me come in, was breathing deeply, and I hated to wake her but it was almost time for lunch. I was taking off my jacket and she sat up and said, “Hello?” I told her I hoped I didn’t scare her and she said she wasn’t scared. I don’t know how she could not have been scared. But I’m glad she wasn’t. She had been on top of her bedspread with a yellow blanket over her, lying on her back with her glasses and shoes on. She just sat up, got out of bed and started walking around a little aimlessly. She peed and then went and sat on the couch. I, meanwhile, noticed ants crawling through one of the two bowls of cat food on the floor. I just threw that food away and put the bowl in the sink with soap, and hope a single bowl might mean no ants. They ants had always gone to just one of the two bowls. Maybe it had a particular odor. But I am also just now thinking that one bowl might mean one bowl with ants in it. I’ll probably have to go remedy that tomorrow for the poor cat’s sake. I did a little vacuuming and reported, for the second time, that my mom has ants in her apartment.

I went to scoop the litter, and what did I see but the jar of almonds sitting on Mom’s bathroom floor. These were almonds I have thrown away twice, once by just tossing them into the trash can and a second time by sealing them in a bag with litter and other trash. I was horrified to see the jar. Is Mom going through her trash? Is she compelled to keep that jar? I have replaced those almonds with other snacks. I did the same thing again, putting the jar in a sealed bag with litter and other trash. This time, the bag was gray, so she can’t see through it and hopefully won’t retrieve that jar again. If she does, clearly I will have to carry it out to the dumpster. But I will also be facing one weird behavior if she is prone to picking through her trash. I don’t go out to the dumpster anymore because Mom used to like to come with me out back when I threw away litter, and the staff worried that I was encouraging her to roam around behind the building. So now I just leave the litter sealed in a bag within her trash. I’m pretty sure trash is picked up daily so it’s not a big, stinky problem.

The receptionist working today is one of my favorites. She took a full-time job at another assisted living facility so she works only weekends now at Mom’s place. She has always seemed to like me and she really likes Mom. And I like her – she’s just so friendly and seems to enjoy interacting with the residents. It’s as if she gets joy out of their idiosyncrasies rather than being annoyed by them. She said Mom doesn’t crack her up the way she used to – not because she’s no longer funny, but because she just doesn’t talk as much. Mom doesn’t seem to necessarily fully recognize her, either. The receptionist greeted her loudly and happily when we came out so I could drop Mom off at the dining room. Mom sort of shyly responded hello. Mom had talked to her earlier, though, saying she was looking for her cat. Oh, that cat. The receptionist wondered if Mom is wandering around looking for the cat that recently died. I hadn’t thought of that, because we sometimes mention her death and Mom remembers that it was sad, but she also seems to realize that cat is gone for good. I just don’t know what to think about that cat. But I’m more patient with Mom’s obsession about the cat than I am about her attraction to the dirty almond jar.

Trials and tribulations

I discovered that the clinical trial I am in ran out of funding early, or lost funding, or something, so it’s not a five-year commitment. Just a one-time visit for me. It was a lengthy visit, and really interesting. This study is looking at genetic markers in Alzheimer’s caregivers, as well as some general health characteristics, and then seeks tons of information about depression and anxiety. So after signing consent forms, I had a visit with a nurse in our institution’s clinical research center. She took my height and weight, BP (which was a little high, perhaps because I was concerned about the amount of blood I had to give). And then came the stick. I am not really skittish about blood draws, but I usually have to give just a tube or two at any given time. This time, eight tubes were lined up beside my arm. I have small veins, too, so sometimes they’re hard to find. This nurse was a pro and very gentle, so after the stick, she started asking me questions to distract me while she filled all the tubes. My inadequate vein held up well. It was a little uncomfortable, but nothing I couldn’t handle. No lightheadedness, no stomach ache. And today, not even a little bruise. Then she took measures of my waist and hips. I held the measuring tape on my side and twirled around – this is the technique intended to give the most accurate measurement, she told me. I’m sure those numbers say something unpleasant about my girth, but she didn’t tell me the numbers and I didn’t care to know them. I really try hard not to obsess about the size of my body, but instead focus on its health and ability to get me around. I do exercise, because my mantra is blood flow to the brain, blood flow to the brain. But I do not restrict my eating. I try to eat healthful foods and think of food as fuel. And that’s enough about that.

I returned to the dreary little office in which the rest of the clinical trial interviewing took place. I completed one questionnaire about my exercise habits and other general health information. Then research coordinator Lisa came in to conduct three interviews tracking my moods for the past 24 hours, the past three months, and for my entire life. The past 24 hours were easy. The past three months weren’t so bad, either. I have been feeling more intensely in general about my caregiving status, and I have definitely had some symptoms that might be called depression, especially in the area of concentration, which is very difficult for me to do these days. Then, looking back on my entire life, I essentially had to pin down a span of time during which I had classic symptoms of depression, and another during which I had classic symptoms of anxiety. It wasn’t difficult, necessarily, to look back and select some clear tough spots, but it was hard to pick months and years that marked the beginning and end of these “episodes,” as they were called. But I did OK, I think, as far as the accuracy goes. I recall clearly the difficult months I spent at my first job after college, dealing with a break-up, intense loneliness, and recognition that I was the child of an alcoholic and all that might entail. And then later, when I seemed to have everything going for me, a happy marriage and a good job and the usual things that keep a person in her early 30s satisfied, I spent most of my time second-guessing my every move, sure that I was fucking up my work and relationships because I was an utter failure at everything. Meds helped fix that and though I was never suicidal, I consider those meds life-savers.

Recalling this period also influences my feelings about my body now. Hating myself was no fun. It was damaging to people around me and to myself. So really, what is the use of hating the size of my body and doing unkind things to it, like starving, so it will look more aesthetically pleasing to a certain segment of society (a BIG one) that DOES care about the size of everybody’s body? I spent lots of time hating it and trying to hide it as a younger person, thinking I was fat, and I look at pictures now from my 20s and 30s and SO regret how terrible I felt about my appearance because, in my current opinion, I think I was more proportional, or whatever, than I am now. So my body was a better size, but my mind was unclear and unhappy. I wasted lots of time on self-loathing that I simply do not want to repeat.

I brought home one last questionnaire that we weren’t able to finish within the scheduled time – 22 pages about my feelings related to all things caregiving. What are Mom’s various behaviors, and do they bother me, and if so, how much? I have recited these things a number of times, or written them down, because of my required participation in the two clinical trials that Mom was in. What I can see as time has passed is that I am more used to many of her behaviors, and while they might bother me, they usually don’t bother me very much or for very long. I still feel frustrated, or even angry, sometimes, but my focus has shifted so that when Mom is exhibiting some behavior that is weird, my main concern is whether she is in a state of upset herself. First, calm her. Then think about how I feel. Then eventually leave her and those feelings behind. I do dwell on the caregiving a lot, and have thoughts about Mom drift in and out of my head even when I do not want them to. But they are sort of big-picture concerns rather than isolated incidents, at least most of the time. I suppose I can also predict a little more about her behavior now, as well, at least for the time being, until she declines some more. She hasn’t done lots of things I have heard and read about, like raging, ranting, hitting, running around naked, stuff like that. And I am grateful for that. But I also realize some or all of that could be in her future, and in mine.

Human subject(s)

Since I saw Mom on Tuesday, I haven’t talked to her. She hasn’t called me and I haven’t called her. I often say that no word from Mom is generally a signal that she is content, satisfied, not worried, not thinking something bad is happening, not feeling like she is lacking something. But I can’t help worrying, too, that she forgets she can call, or she no longer knows which number to use, or her social abilities are slipping, or something like that. I will call tomorrow if she doesn’t call me. And then I’ll probably see her sometime this weekend.

Tomorrow I begin a five-year clinical trial – for me. Mom went through two clinical trials testing the effectiveness of potential Alzheimer’s drugs. She completed one, but she had to stop the second trial because when she moved to assisted living, the nurses didn’t think they had a doctor’s order for these mysterious unmarked pills, so they didn’t give them to Mom for more than two weeks. That ruined the protocol, and she had to be dumped from the trial. And the nurses did, in fact, have in their possession a doctor’s order for these experimental drugs. So they felt terrible. I felt terrible for the investigator, because every human subject is precious in medical research. But I admit I was secretly a little relieved, too, to be able to stop with the monthly visits to the clinic. As for the results, I have no idea. I always suspected Mom was on placebo in both studies because she showed no signs of improvement. But that could also mean the experimental drugs didn’t work out after all and she was getting the active drug. We will never know for sure.

This time, my health and stress levels will be studied in relation to my role as a primary caregiver for a relative with Alzheimer’s. I’ll be at the study site for about four hours tomorrow answering lots of questions and giving a lot of blood – a quarter cup, they tell me. I already know from previous studies done by this research group that caregivers tend to have so much stress that their lives are shortened by four to eight years compared to how long they’d live without the caregiving burden. Kind of a bummer. I want to defy the odds. I think I’m in decent health, but I also know there is plenty of room for improvement. Only time will tell what the stress hormones have to say about my future. Should be interesting.

My mom, the cat

Mom called this afternoon. “The cat has escaped,” she said. I truly don’t know what to believe when she reports this now. I asked if she could see him somewhere there in her apartment. “Right now I’m using your telephone,” she responded. I really don’t know what that meant. She tried to describe how she had lost track of the cat. She wasn’t making sense. She didn’t seem as distressed as she was the time the cat actually was gone, having trotted off to a neighbor’s apartment. “Do you want me to come over there?” I asked. “Yes,” she said.

Today it is 68 degrees and sunny, so conditions could have been worse for this surprise afternoon visit. I arrived at the facility, signed in and picked up Mom’s mail, mostly junk. The receptionist wasn’t at her desk, so I couldn’t ask about whether the cat was loose. I went to the apartment, knocked and walked in. No sign of Mom, but big fatso kitty was sitting by the window, in one of his favorite spots. That was a relief. I had noticed some wheelchairs near the door to the first-floor lounge when I walked in, so I assumed Mom was in that lounge for an activity. I quickly scooped litter, flushed the toilet and scanned the cat food bowl. More ants. I threw it out and replaced it with new food. The food bag doesn’t appear to contain any ants, so they must get to the food once it’s in the bowl on the floor. I could see a fair number of ants on the floor and behind the closet door, where there were tiny crumbs of cat food. I killed as many ants as I could with a paper towel, wiped up those food crumbs and then vacuumed that part of the floor. When I was done, there was still no sign of Mom.

I went to the lobby, and Mom waved to me from the lounge, which was crowded with residents. A glance at the wall calendar indicated this was a St. Patrick’s Day trivia activity, but the activities director was away getting coffee, so I scooted in to give Mom a quick hello. She walked out and we hugged, and she went back to her activity. I told her the cat was fine. She seemed sort of uninterested in why I was there. One of her friends told me not to worry about her.

I ran into the day nurse in the lobby, who said, “Did you hear your mom was in the back parking lot today?” No, I had not heard. It is a beautiful sunny day, so I’m hoping that’s why Mom decided to take a walk. The fact she went out the back instead of the front, however, is a little unnerving. The housekeeper found Mom and brought her back in. She did not argue. She did say that she no longer had an apartment, something she has said before. She is just so confused. The nurse felt compelled to report it to the administrator because if she didn’t, the receptionist probably would, according to the nurse. I asked her to please keep it nonchalant, to not make a big deal. The last time the administrator was worried about Mom escaping, I ended up staying over two nights in her apartment, missing work, generally feeling terrible about everything, losing sleep and getting a cold. Mom also will take a drug at 5 p.m. that will relax her to a near stupor and, I would guess, make a walk outdoors seem very unappealing. The nurse and I hoped we wouldn’t talk again, because if we did, that would mean the administrator wants me to do something, or that he insists on hiring a “sitter” nurse to watch outside her door overnight so she doesn’t leave. So far, no word from the nurse, and no news is definitely good news in this case.

So others’ theory that Mom talks about the cat to describe her own behavior and movement around the facility seems to be spot on. There isn’t really any other explanation for how she talks about the cat getting out, going to places he has no business going, and somehow being retrieved and put back in his place.

One other thing I noticed was a near-empty jar of almonds on the bathroom floor. I had thrown this jar away on Saturday, considering it likely very old and stale, and also spying a single piece of cat food among the few remaining almonds. My mom the scavenger likely would have ended up eating that piece of cat food, I feared. So I threw it away, only to have her retrieve it from the trash. This time, I threw it away with the dirty litter and sealed the bag shut. I don’t know why it’s such a big deal to me, but I do not want my mother to accidentally eat cat food, even if it won’t hurt her. I just can’t handle that.

Phone calls

After my uneventful (despite the ants) visit with Mom on Saturday, I tricked myself into thinking I was off the hook for the weekend. I finished up the day by watching basketball and having a nice surf-and-turf dinner cooked by my husband in honor of his parents’ visit, and we watched a movie on HBO. On Sunday, we had a leisurely morning. My mother-in-law and I did a little shopping. We reconvened to watch one more basketball game before heading out for dinner about a half-hour away, near my husband’s aunt’s house, my in-laws’ next stop. That evening, though, I figured I ought to check my work voice mail just in case Mom had called. I had two messages waiting for me. Both were timed shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday. I felt awful. I always try to call Mom back on the same day. Here is what she had to say:

Saturday 3:47 p.m. “Hello this is B and, uh, I just wanted to let you know the cat. I don’t know, I think the cat’s OK but I’m worried about the other cat. The other animal. OK. Bye. Hello?”

Saturday 3:49 p.m. “Hello this is B trying to get in touch with her, uh, because yeah, anyway [chuckles.] You can talk to me…call later.”

I didn’t call her back because it was fairly late, and by dinnertime, she takes two meds that make her sleepy. I didn’t call Monday either. I was exhausted. My in-laws use our bed so my husband and I sleep on a futon-like couch, except that it is not firm and stable like a futon, but instead sags on my side. So I never sleep particularly well when they visit. I also might have some remnants of a cold, or maybe allergies, so I have just been a little run down, and I could really feel it on Monday. I happened to stay at the office late Monday for a non-work-related workshop, and I had a voice mail waiting for me after 5 p.m. Unbelievably, it was Mom again. She rarely calls in the evening. I have no idea what might have prompted her to think about calling me after her dinner. Below is what she had to say this time.

Monday 6:07 p.m. “This is E, I mean not E. 292-8310 [she does this with some regularity, recites my phone number into the voice mail, sometimes over and over]. I couldn’t figure that out. I don’t know if you could get in touch ’cause you had told me you would cut my hair and change it and I haven’t heard anything since then. So I guess I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”

So she called herself by my name, which she also does occasionally. And she was recalling our conversation about her upcoming haircut, scheduled for a few Saturdays from now. I called her this morning, Tuesday. I told her she left a message last night wondering when I was going to cut her hair. “Did I say that?” she said. She has no memory of the call. “I like that stuff you gave me, in the containers,” she said. That was a reference to the cashews and almonds I took over on Saturday. “I did try to call once, but everything is OK now. I haven’t heard any bad news.” I’m not sure which phone call she was thinking of. Before we hung up, she said, “Let me know so I don’t have to come out naked.” My interpretation skills must be improving. I was pretty sure she was referring to when I take her to get her hair cut, and she confirmed that.

All in all, despite the evening call, nothing too far out of what I now consider ordinary.

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