I entered my mother’s bedroom this morning confidently singing “Nathan Detroit,” from Guys and Dolls. When her body didn’t wiggle under the cotton blanket, I knew there was potential for trouble. The look she shot me over the edge of the pink-flowered sheet confirmed it; this would not be a happy sing-along morning.
“Time to get up!” I said in my best June Cleaver voice.
“Whe’re my goin’?”
“You know where Ma, to the Dream Center.”
“I’m not goin’ today.”
“Ma, today is Thursday,” deep breathe, ”and you know Dan works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” quick prayer, “He needs the house for the other developers.” Huge lie, and one that is apparently losing its power.
“I’ll stay in the room…”
“You know they have to come in here.”
“I’ll go in the basement.”
“They have to work there too.”
“I am not going…”
“If he loses his job we’ll both be out on the streets.”
“Good. What do I care.”
I called in reinforcements (Dan) but even his charm lacked its potency.
What transpired then was the worst morning I have spent thus far with my mother. There was name calling, “You’re a jerk!” Attempts to instill guilt, “I have a sore throat…how can you push me out of bed?” And then…the kick.
My mother was called Betty Grable by the neighborhood boys for the glory of her perfectly shaped legs and they haven’t lost an ounce of their beauty. But when one of them is coming at you with the power of a freight train, it’s not so pretty. And she’s strong! Her mind is a crinkled pickle but her body has maintained most of its muscle.
She brought her knee up as far as it would go over her pot-bellied middle and extended her leg with the force of an aging Ninja. She caught me right on the upper thigh.
“You just kicked me…” I said incredulously.
“Yeah, that’s right.” Not a speck of remorse.
“How could you do that?”
“Want me to do it again?”
But I had to get her up. One day out of daycare and my mother begins to lose what I call her peripheries; time, location (which is already sketchy), general purpose. We have an issue on the weekends when her schedule is interrupted. She is most confused on Sundays after a day of unstructured activity.
Twenty minutes later (of unadulterated torture) and she was dressed (without a shower). My heart and head were swirling with emotion, and my body couldn’t hold either in check. I had to ask Dan to “take it from here.”
He walked her out to the bus, trying to engage her in cheerful conversation. All I heard in return were nasty mutterings. We never said goodbye.
I wonder sometimes if it is the woman with dementia who is fighting me, or an 82-year old who is just plain tired and wants to spend the morning in bed. And that’s when the guilt sets in. How do I know?
I called daycare to “warn” them of the geriatric beast that was about to descend upon them. The director of the facility threw me the lifeline I needed. “She is never tired when she gets here, Lisa. Ever. It is the dementia. You did the right thing for her.”
Now dry your eyes girl and get on with your day…