Archive for March 17th, 2009|Daily archive page

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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