A live-in caregiver (Annie) has arrived, and none too soon. On the morning (two weeks ago) when I returned to Wisconsin to prepare for Annie, Mom had made coffee out of powdered cloves, and had watered her plastic flowers.[caption id="attachment_186" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Mom’s House, about to be cleaned . . .[/caption]
As more and more nonsense takes over her thinking, as her clothing choices reflect a patchwork of patterns, accessorized by big shoes and any one of a half-dozen hats she likes to lay out on the bed and try on, I wonder how she still cares so well for herself hygienically, and how it is she still makes her bed each morning. But she does. She fixes her hair. She puts on lipstick. She primps in the way a lady primps before going out someplace where there will be gentlemen. When Annie and I take her to eat, she comments on the nice-looking man in the next booth. ‘If you were smart,” she quips to Annie, “You’d sit with him.’
Annie will work 12 days on and two off. Right off the bat, we put a lock on Annie’s bedroom door because Mom keeps going into her room pull out the electric plugs. Annie, who is Asian, seems to take this behavior in stride, which is good. She has done this work before.
Mom’s friend Ron has had to go into the hospital for a blocked artery, so he is unable to come around these days. That means Mom must spend more time in Her World. I’ve shown Annie all the places she can take her – the library, the grocery store, the resale shop, the Senior Center daily luncheon, and McDonalds (free internet). But even with these assorted distractions of place, the job of taking care of Mom 24/7 is going to be intense.
I am reminded with each and every conversation just what has been washed away by the storm of disease, and what remnants of a whole mind are left. She points to a picture of her son (my dead brother) and tears come to her eyes. She heats water on the stove and forgets why, or she holds a tea bag in her hand and ponders what it might be for.
Three days after Annie has moved in, when I’ve slipped out for a few hours to get goods for a party at my sister’s house, mom gives me the ‘evil eye’ when I return.
‘She’s cooking in my kitchen,’ she says. ‘Who does she think she is?’
She’s your care giver, I say. She will be living here all 24 hours. Living with you.
‘Absolutely not,’ she replies somewhere between despair and helplessness. ‘I don’t need any care.’
Pinned with magnets to the refrigerator is something Mom wrote out in calligraphy many years ago. A Tidy House is a Sign of a Misspent Life. She loved that concept. She’s had it on her refrigerator for at least three decades. She never was very clean, and a glance inside her kitchen drawers and fridge validates that ‘comfortably dirty’ is still the norm.
But Annie says she’ll be cleaning.
“Don’t worry about anything,’ she tells me as I get ready to head back to NY. ‘I will take care of her.”