July 4, 2021 – Uncertainty

What an unusual week it’s been! Between the historic heatwave in the Northwest, the tragic condo collapse in Miami, the fire in the Gulf of Mexico, and numerous other newsworthy events, I am beginning to wonder if a state of ‘normal’ will ever return. Where we live, I’ve never experienced ongoing hot weather like I’m experiencing now and forecasters are saying this might be an indicator of things to come. That’s not very reassuring. I have a friend who is convinced that the ‘end of times’ is upon us. I cannot say one way or the other. I have very little certainty about anything in my life right now. Whether I work again and where? No idea. Whether our house sells and we move? No clue. Whether I’ll die next week or twenty years from now? You got me. But I imagine most people must feel this way. The pandemic seems to have permanently changed people’s expectations. Personally, I have very few (expectations). I have dreams and desires, but expectations? It seems like developing those only leads to disappointment.

What I am certain about is my mother’s ‘condition’. There is no doubt that it (her Alzheimer’s) is getting worse. My brother is having a heck of a time convincing her to bathe. She keeps promising him that she will and then she doesn’t. Recently, when he broached the topic, she responded defensively with, “What?! Do I stink??!!” She also refuses to eat the food provided by the center where she lives. She is paying for 3 meals a day but she insists on staying in her apartment and eating cold cereal with milk (that she has my niece purchase). I briefly visited her last week when I swept through town in order to drop off my ‘not-so-little black stove’. I thought it’d be fun to surprise her so I asked my daughter to pick her up and bring her to a nearby restaurant, where I intended to meet them. We all arrived at the same time, which was great; however, we quickly learned that the Chinese restaurant we planned on eating at was closed (as the lights were off and there wasn’t a soul in sight).

Upon scanning the other businesses in the strip mall, we noticed a restaurant serving Mexican fare (sub-standard as it turns out). After a brief discussion, it was decided that we’d eat there (to my regret). My daughter had to move her car in order not to get towed (since she had parked in a spot designated for the Chinese restaurant). Because my mom had already climbed out of her car and was standing beside it with the door ajar, I told my daughter to go ahead and leave my mom’s walker with us, and that we would go ahead and walk over and meet her at the restaurant. Immediately after we crossed the parking lot and stepped onto the sidewalk, my mom asked me a question, “Have you lost weight recently?” “Ummm, yes. I have. But it’s been about a year and a half since I lost it,” I replied. “I thought so,” she said, “You look different. You used to look like that.” When she made that comment, I glanced over at her and noticed that she was looking and pointing to her right.

Are you ready for this? I sure wasn’t! “What are you referring to?” I asked, as I looked in the direction of where she was pointing. There was something there alright, it was quite a sight to behold! It was a statue, at least 4 feet tall, possibly made from bronze, and rather comical in appearance. But I have to tell you, in my wildest dreams I never imagined she would make such a comparison and say something so incredibly insulting. But no, there was no denying it, “Like that, like a pig!” she exclaimed. Yes, the statue was that of a rather portly pig. Wow! I was bowled over! “Did my mother just say that I used to look like a pig?” I thought to myself. She did, in fact, and after I made it known that I thought what she said was pretty crappy, she responded with, “Oh…I was just joking!” “Nope, I don’t think you were,” I replied, a bit stung from the thoughtless remark. Of course, it’s hard to know whether she was clear at the time and knew what she was saying or whether Alzheimer’s was to blame.

I don’t know anymore. My mom has made thoughtless remarks in the past and really hurt my feelings so it’s hard to tell. Having said that, she’s never compared me to a pig before. I still remember when I lost a bunch of weight about 13 years ago and when I flew out to see her, rather than saying, “Honey, you look great!” she asked accusingly, “Are you bulimic?!” In case you’re wondering, no, I wasn’t bulimic. I worked really hard and lost the weight slow and steady by eating right and exercising (and then I later gained most of it back). Sigh. I have to admit, it’s hard to want to spend any time with her when she says stuff like that. I’ve always been a sensitive person and it really hurts when a stranger says something cruel, let alone a parent (who is supposed to be loving and supportive). I guess I should be grateful because even though she can come up with some zingers, she’s nothing like my mother-in-law. Holy crap! That woman is practically rabid! She is capable of not only verbal assaults (insults), but physical assaults as well.

My poor father-in-law and sister-in-law have got their hands full! My mother-in-law was never one to back down given the option, and since she’s developed Alzheimer’s, that ‘side’ of her is really coming out in full force. My father-in-law has had her at home and has been taking care of her for nearly 4 years (with the help of my sister-in-law) but after what occurred last week, he’s finally decided to put her in a care facility. When my husband and I visited a month ago, she still seemed pretty harmless. Aside from talking to dolls, getting up in the middle of the night and frantically taking things out of drawers and trying to pack them, or trying to run away, I didn’t see her do anything ‘threatening’. However, I guess things came to a head last week. She decided that ‘people were coming over for dinner and she was going to cook’. Nobody was coming over but she had it in her mind that someone was so she got busy ‘cooking’. Her cooking involves pulling stuff out of the fridge, placing it in an array of large bowls, and adding water.

She had a few bowls filled with water and (what I understood to be) an assortment of donuts and other baked goods before anyone took notice. When her daughter realized what she was up to, she tried to intervene, but my mother-in-law wasn’t having it. She was determined to ‘cook’ and didn’t appreciate someone interfering with her plans. Her actions went well beyond what anyone thought was possible because in lieu of loudly objecting (which is what she used to do), she actually grabbed a can of furniture polish and sprayed it in my sister-in-law’s face. It was at that time that my father-in-law (who was in another room) became aware of what was happening and stepped in, to which she responded by spraying him in the face with window cleaner. It’s amazing what a little window cleaner can do. If you ever watched ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’, you’ll know that it can do quite a bit. In this case, however, it finally convinced my father-in-law that it was time for his wife to move into memory care.

If I live to a ‘ripe old age’, I am all but certain that I’m going to wind up with Alzheimer’s and probably take out my frustrations by randomly whacking people over the head with a cane. It runs (not the cane, the Alzheimer’s) in my family (on my mom’s side) and has affected generations of women. The irony is, I probably won’t develop Alzheimer’s because I don’t intend or expect to live to a ‘ripe old age’. I’ve mentioned before that my ‘loaned’ kidney has a 15-20 year life span. The best case scenario is that I live to be 73 (unless something miraculous happens). If I were able to choose, I’d rather kick the bucket at 73 with a clear mind than live to be 93 and totally bonkers. But I cannot be certain when I’m going to leave this planet and meet my maker. I don’t think anybody really knows. I am certain about a few things in this life (i.e.; I love and am grateful for my husband and my kids, chocolate is delicious and more chocolate is even more delicious, spiders give me the willies, and cilantro tastes like soap and totally ruins every dish it’s used in). Aside from that, it’s anybody’s guess.

Alright, I’d better go. It’s been yet another long, arduous day. Happy Fourth of July/Independence Day, everyone! Thanks for stopping by!!

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