B.O.

Mom was a little smelly today. I stopped over to drop off a new bag of cat food since she called yesterday saying the supply is getting low. I have learned that providing a new bag of cat food is an easy way to reduce her anxiety. I also had to drop off some medicines to the nurse.

I was in Mom’s apartment and I noticed it smelled just a little bit bad. Slightly like pee. Possibly some litter odors. And something else I couldn’t immediately identify. I scooped the litter and opened the new bag of cat food and replaced the food that was in the bowls. She muttered a little bit here and there while I was doing these things. I also put stray socks into her laundry basket. And I noticed some clothing items wedged between the head of her bed and the wall and was able to retrieve two pairs of used disposable underwear from that same area and throw them away. That could have been a definite odor source.

Eventually, Mom moved onto the bed to lounge a little while I just walked around, scanning things, checking her underwear supply, looking for ants (those traps are really working), looking for any trash that needed to be thrown away. All in all, the place looked pretty good. And then I got close to her and I realized what I was smelling – her stinky armpits. I went to her bathroom to look for deodorant. I asked her if she needed some. She came in and held up her toothpaste and said she has had that for awhile. I said, what about deodorant? “What is that?” she asked. I said it’s the stuff you put on your underarms. She’s out of it, she said. I wish I had known. She really needs that stuff.

I hadn’t seen her since Sunday, the day my brother left. She did call Monday, a little agitated, fretting about the cat. I wrote some notes from that conversation. “I’m sad because the cat’s going to be gone pretty soon,” she said. “What should I do? I’m confused.” I had no idea what might have had her going in this direction. She said the cat “wants to have a place” and “I don’t know how long she’ll last.” If this is Mom applying worries about herself to the cat, it makes me sad. She is anxious, she seems to feel a total loss of place. I don’t know how to convince her she has a place to live, a safe home. My husband asked if she might have some inkling that she’ll be moving to the nursing home soon. But I can’t imagine how she would have any idea about that. I wonder if she just has a sense of loss of self. And if it feels scary.

Then she called yesterday to say she needed new cat food. She sounded fine otherwise. I told her I’d bring her cat food the next day so she wouldn’t have to worry about it. I knew she probably had at least a week’s supply left, but I figured the earlier a new bag arrives, the better she will feel. “You’re so good to me,” she said. “I’m not kidding.” When she says this, it almost startles me. It doesn’t mesh with my memories of our relationship leading up to the diagnosis, when she made me feel like I could never do enough for her. Now, though, she does occasionally express sincere thanks to me. She once gave me a card thanking me for everything I do. I just love it, of course. Being appreciated, receiving affirmation, is always welcome. But it also makes me feel a little guilty. I don’t want her to feel that she is a burden. Even if she is. I know she would prefer not to be. I try to brush things off, tell her everything is just fine, no big deal. Today, she said it again: “I really appreciate what you do for me.” I tapped her on the leg and said, “It’s no big deal. I’m happy to do it.”

Yesterday on the phone, when she said I am good to her, I said, “Well, you’ve been good to me for a very long time.” She has no idea anymore that she raised me and my siblings as a single mom, that she struggled with alcoholism and depression, that her professional life was probably not very satisfying, that despite her various flaws, she did make sacrifices for me. “Well, we think the same,” she said in response. I guess that is somewhat true.

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