Just Wait Until You’re 95!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am in the process of writing a novel loosely based on my mother’s childhood years in the south during the 1930s. I just finished chapter thirteen, with 17 chapters to go. Yes, it is a slow process, but shaping up to be a riveting, entertaining, and sometimes ill-fated story.

My mother’s memory has faltered for the last two years, particularly during the pandemic. She has exhibited signs of early dementia. Repetitious statements with occasional confusion about past events have been more prominent this year. Sometimes she forgets to eat, which causes me concern.

Mother has stairs in her home and a very steep driveway. Although she walks better than most people her age, she is at high risk for falls. Last summer, she fractured her foot and had fallen recently with no injuries. I lived in Georgia but have stayed with her for over six months.  I help her with the minor chores, such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, transportation to appointments, getting her mail, and pulling the trash cans up the steep driveway weekly to set out on the curb for the garbage collector.

I am on a contract with one of the local hospitals in Washington State that will end this week, and I plan to return to Georgia. I have two sisters who live in the area, but they both have full-time jobs. Anticipating my leaving, my sisters and I talked with our mother about hiring a part-time caregiver in the home one morning over breakfast. My mother spent the weekend with my sister, Cheryl, where the conversation took place. . Needless to say,  she had plenty of witty comebacks for every argument we had.  It went something like this:

“Mom, you know I’m leaving soon, and we need to talk about what’s going to happen after I leave.”

“Oh, really?” she frowned. “Where you’re going?”

“Remember, I’m going back home next Friday.”

“What are you going to do there?” she asked with big eyes.

“Mom, I lived there. It’s my home!”

“No, your home is where you grew up! Your home is here!” Then she made a face.  “Why, you want to go somewhere where they still pick cotton?”

“Mom, Atlanta is a metropolitan city. They’re not picking cotton,” I laughed.

She stared at me with those big hazel eyes of hers. “Mm, you can have the south!”

“Mom, Nita is leaving, and we need to get you help at home because Crys and I work,” Cheryl interjected with wide eyes. “You need someone to do those little chores during the week.”

“Yeah, Cheryl and I will come over on the weekends and help out,” Crys said.  But it’s hard to get over there during the week with our work schedules.”

Mom looked around Cheryl’s place with a big smile on her face.  “Well,  Cheryl, I can stay here with you. I can stay in the room I slept in last night, and there’s a bathroom across the hall. The laundry on the right is at my fingertips. The perfect setup for this old lady.”

“Mom, you’re welcome to stay, but you will need someone to come in every day because I work,” Cheryl reminded her.

“Come in to do what?” Deep creases appeared on her forehead. Mother leaned forward, placing her hand on her thigh. “Let me tell you something. I can bathe and dress. I prepare my own meals, and for an old lady, I can walk better than you! I think I do well for myself for a ninety-five-year-old!”

I took a deep breath. “Mom, that’s true. You can do those things, but you need extra help. That’s all we’re…”

“Help doing what?” she angrily interrupted me. “I have a housekeeper coming in monthly to clean the house.  A lawn man to do the yard. What else is there? What are you talking about?”

“Mom, you get confused sometimes. You have short-term memory loss…”

“So, do you, my dear,” she slyly replied with a smirk, cutting me off.

We cracked up laughing. “Mom, I’m serious!” Feeling exasperated. “You forget to eat, and you have lost weight!”

“I don’t need a lot of food. I’m not doing nothing but sitting on my behind! I have worked most of my life, and I deserve to sit on my behind! Besides, I like my weight. I’m trying to get me a boyfriend.”

“How will you do that, sitting in front of the TV all day, watching Jimmy Swaggert?” I earnestly asked, trying not to laugh.

“None of your damn business!” Then her expression turned childlike, and she asked. “Tell me again, what’s this conversation about?”

“Mom, it’s about you getting some help at home,” Crys sighed, frustrated. “If you don’t want someone coming to your home, how about going to that place you like, Patriots Landing.”

“What do I need to go there for?” She stared at Crys with steely hazel eyes. “Are you trying to put me away?”

“NO, MOM!” We all shouted simultaneously.

“Remember we went there to visit last month, and you like the place,” I  quickly reminded her. “You said you wanted that one-bedroom apartment. Remember?”

“And you been talking lately about how hard it’s getting keeping up with the house,” Crys added.

“Yes, I have friends there.  It’s a nice place. If I moved anywhere, I would go there,” she said, smiling. “I really like that apartment.”

“Then you should go! No time is better than now!” Cheryl piped in.

“Yeah, Mom,  you should go! After all, you can afford it,” Crys chimed in.

Mom gave Crys a dirty look.  “How do you know what I can afford?” she snapped with her head gyrating.

“I have seen your bank account!”

“What you saw was nothing but pocket change!” she frowned. “It’s not enough there to support an ant!”

“Mom, listen. I think you’ll like it!” I tried to convince her.  “There’s plenty of activities and things to do there. “

“Like what?”

“Exercise classes, gardening, entertainment, even wine tasting hour,” I explained. “Plenty of exercise and activity to keep one busy and engaged.”

“I get plenty of exercise at home,” she quipped.

I rolled my eyes.  “Really, mother? Like what?”

“I walk around the house, straighten the pillows on the couch and look out the window. That’s plenty!”

“Don’t forget you watch Jimmy Swaggert!”

“Oh yeah, well, at least it’s doing something!” Blinking her eyes erratically.

“Mom, you’re stubborn, and you’re stalling!” I angrily pushed back.

“Really? I’ll like to see how you are when you get ninety-five!” she snapped, glaring at me.

“Mom, you have to do something different. You can’t stay in your home without help,” I huffed.

“If I need help, I’ll call Cheryl and Crys, and that’s that!”

Cheryl leaned forward, folding her arms on the table. “That’s not going to work, Mom!”

“And why not?” she glared at Cheryl with that stern, motherly look, taking me back to my childhood days in the 70s.

“We have to work! We can’t be available like that!”

Mother pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. “I understand. Let me think about it,” she half-heartedly relented.

“Mom, you had plenty of time to think about it. Nita leaves…”

“Cheryl, pass me that quiche?” Mother gestured. Cheryl pushed the quiche closer to her, and Mother helped herself to a slice, sliding it on her plate. She grabbed her fork and looked up at us, “Now, tell me. What are we talking about?”

Note: Dementia is a slow progression of cognitive decline. Subtle short-term memory changes, confusion, loss of interest in hobbies, difficulty completing tasks, repetitious statements, poor judgment, etc. The risk of dementia increases as you get older with the majority of people developing the condition over the age of 65.

Enjoy your Sunday! Thank you For Reading!