Earlier this week, my grandmother had an appointment in Searcy, a town 30 miles from where we live, for an echo cardiogram, in preparation for her six-month visit with her cardiologist two weeks from now. My husband offered to drive us to the appointment, and knowing how that would please Mam-ma, I accepted. He left us at the doctor's office and went to do some shopping. The nurse called for my grandmother soon after we arrived and said to me, "She'll be back in 20 minutes." That was 3:20 p.m. At 4:00, I asked the receptionists if everything was okay. They assured me it was. I told them that the nurse had said 20 minutes - 40 minutes ago... and one of the receptionists said - yes, she actually said this - "Oh, time means nothing in a medical office!" I asked why the nurse even bothered to give me a 20-minute time line, and the girl shrugged.
A little after 4:00, Mam-ma emerged, no worse for the wear, but she mentioned in the car that "they really worked me over," and "they mentioned something about a valve problem, but they said the doctor would have to look at all that." We stopped on the way home for Mam-ma to select four pots of mums, which she wanted to set out around her pine tree with her other flowers. When we got to her house, I set the mums around the tree and asked if she planned to put them in the ground. She said, "No, I'm gonna dig around those pots so they will sit up better." Now, some of you will recall my failure at gardening to suit my grandmother last spring, so I didn't even dare offer to do this for her. Greg mentioned that "She has no business doing that herself," but he knew that she would not be happy with the efforts of anyone else. Besides, she had another project for him!
A week or so earlier, Mam-ma had called to talk to my husband. She said, "I need him to look at my bell on the front porch." I investigated when I went to do errands, and it was actually her wind chime. The clapper had broken off... well, actually, the string holding the clapper had rotted. Every time I tried to tie the wooden clapper back on, the string broke again. I finally managed to get it tied successfully, but it was several inches higher than it should have been and did not catch the wind well to clang the pipes and make the "chiming" noise. So when we returned from the doctor's office, Mam-ma told Greg, "I need you to look at that bell. Me and Debbie worked on it and we just messed it up." Now, there was no we in that deal... it was just me, and I was not aware that I messed up anything. However, a few inches of nylon string attached to the rotting string to extend the clapper beyond the pipes, and Greg was the Golden Savior of All Things Wind Chime!
Today, I went for the regular errands - grocery shopping while Mam-ma got her hair done. Her hair appointment is at 2:00 p.m. and usually lasts just over an hour. Mam-ma trudged along with her walker, and it seemed to me she was moving quite slowly today as she traveled from the car to the building and back. Once we left the beauty shop, she said, "I want you to tell me what they said about me at the doctor's on Monday." I explained that nothing was said - we just went for the test - and in two weeks we will return for the doctor visit and see what he says. She said, "Well, they scared the 'far' (Ozarkese for fire) out of me! They really worked me over, and Kathy even came in, and she never comes in!" I asked her what they said, and she repeated that the techs mentioned something about a valve, and "it scared me half to death!" So I said, "Well, first of all, it's now Friday, and that was Monday, and if anything were seriously wrong, someone would have called already. Every day you don't hear something is one more day you don't need to worry." Then I added... "Hopefully, if there IS something there, it can be controlled with medication." I asked, "If there was something that required surgery, are you up for that?" Mam-ma retorted, "Well NO! I'm not having surgery." So I replied, "Then I wouldn't worry about it. IF you have something wrong, they can either fix it with medication or they can't, so you don't need to worry about it." She said, "Well, I only lost one night of sleep over it!" I told her to quit worrying - we would find out what, if anything, was wrong in 2 weeks.
We got home, and I set her groceries on the counter and sat down to dispense her medications for the next 2 weeks. Mam-ma said, "Oh, I have a telephone message... I bet it's Ruby. She wanted me to go to Wal-Mart with her and shop for groceries when I got home from the beauty shop." I thought, "Hmm... I just CAME from the grocery store!" but I let it pass quickly. Ruby's message said something to the effect of, "Polly, it's 3:00... where are you?" Mam-ma called Ruby and got HER machine, so she left a message that we were back from the beauty shop. A few minutes went by, and Mam-ma put away her groceries while I worked on the medicine. Then she said, "Ruby wants me to go with her to Wal-Mart to look for some of those good apples I bought." I told Mam-ma that Wal-Mart was really low on produce today, and I had not seen this specific bag of Michigan apples she wanted in several weeks. But I added... "I bought some apples earlier today at the farmer's market, and they are so good... let me give you some of these. I've been meaning to share them with you." She said, "Well, I bet they are HARD!" I assured her they were not hard... and that if she would slice them, they would be plenty soft for her to chew.
I dashed out to the car and got her a couple. I brought them in and showed them to her, and she said, "Well, they're gonna be hard as a rock." I assured her again that they were NOT hard apples, and that we really liked them. She said, "Well, I'll just slice one and see." So she did, and the next words were, "Why, these aren't hard at all!" I told her I knew that, and she said, "This is delicious.. why, this is one of the best apples I've ever eaten... these are better than the ones I got! You can just get me some more of these!" So I went to the car and got the rest of my apples for her and told her I'd get some more for us later.
Meanwhile, Ruby had never called back, so Mam-ma declared, "She's gone on to Wal-Mart without me." She absolutely went into a tizzy like a little kid. I assured her that Ruby would not do that, and maybe she was just not able to answer the phone. "Well, I'll call again," Mam-ma said. And when the second call resulted in an answering machine recording, she left her name and hung up and said, "Well, she went without me." I told her Ruby would not do that, and she said, "Well, she said on that telephone message, 'it's after 3:00!'" I told Mam-ma, "I bet she's on her way over here now. She'll be here soon." "Well, no she won't!" Mam-ma retorted. "She's done gone to Wal-Mart!" I'm thinking, "So what?! You have apples and all of your groceries." But I could see she was really upset that her friend had gone without her.
I finished with the medicine, visited the restroom, and gathered my keys and cell phone. I still had to go to Wal-Mart for my own groceries, but I thought I would visit my mom first and hit a consignment store downtown and see what new bargains might be there. I put on my jacket and looked up, and Mam-ma was getting a cardigan sweater out of the closet. "Are you cold?" I asked. "No," she answered... "I'm going with you to Wal-Mart to meet Ruby!" Now, I could have told her I didn't plan to go straight to Wal-Mart, but I knew that would make her furious, so I just said, "Oh... well... how do you know Ruby is there?" "Well, I just know she is," she said. "And what do you plan to do if she isn't?" I asked. "Well..." she answered... "I guess I will walk home." I laughed and told her, "Okay... if Ruby isn't at Wal-Mart, I will bring you back home. But I have a LOT of grocery shopping to do, so it's going to be awhile." "That's okay," she said.
Then she added, "Wait just a minute... let me call ALPS." Now, ALPS is a discount grocery store that Mam-ma and Ruby love to frequent. "She might be there." I looked over and Mam-ma is sitting on her couch with the phone book, looking up the number for ALPS. The lady answered, apparently, and Mam-ma said, "Is Ruby XXXX there?" I don't know what the lady said, but Mam-ma said, "Can you ask and see if Ruby XXXX is shopping there?" Apparently they paged Ruby... but she was NOT there! So Mam-ma said, "Well... she's at Wal-Mart!" She slung her purse over her shoulder and got her remote for her garage door, and we started to leave. I asked, "Don't you want to take your good walker, in case you need to sit down?" She answered, "NO! I'm gonna push a buggy." Out in the garage, I tried to get her to take her aluminum walker that folds up... "NO!" she said adamantly, meaning she wanted to hold onto my arm for support - which meant if she hooked up with Ruby at Wal-Mart, it would be RUBY's arm she held onto for support to get home! Now for those of you who don't remember, Ruby is all of NINETY-ONE years young! Spry for her age she may be, but this is really unfair responsibility to impose on her.
Still not wanting to start WWIII, I complied and walked Mam-ma to the car. We drove the few blocks to the highway, then braved the after-school-on-Friday-afternoon traffic and headed to Wal-Mart. Just before we hit the turning lane for the store, Mam-ma said, "I bet Ruby is at the Ford place. We were going there, too." The Ford place is another quarter mile down the highway. "What were you going to the Ford place for?" I asked. "To get our money!" she answered. The Ford dealership is having a giveaway promotion. Every resident in the county, apparently, got a flyer with a key that might unlock a new car... and an offer to stop by for three gold one-dollar coins - and evidently the chance to win $500 in a drawing. Mam-ma and Ruby had done this once before, and she had given my sister and my niece and I each a gold dollar coin. It was a big deal to her.
I asked, "Do you have your papers with you for the money?" "Yes... right here in my purse!" So we headed to the Ford dealership. Now the owner is a friend of mine from church, and he was sitting outside on a bench, visiting with another man I know as an acquaintance. Mam-ma got out of the car as a very nice, tall young salesman approached... "Can I help you?" Mam-ma replied, "Yes, we're here for our money!" I wanted to die! I helped her get toddle inside, and the guy offered us a seat at one of many folding tables surrounded by metal folding chairs with balloons attached to them. The place was packed with people... many writing offers for new cars. The young salesman pulled out two registration forms, and I offered a seat to Mam-ma and said, "You sit here... I'm going outside to visit with the owner." I left her to fill out her form for the $3, and I went outside. I told my friend, "If you don't stop offering dollar coins to little old ladies, I'm going to have to whip you!" He laughed and said it had been great for business... "and she might even win $500!" I told him she had better not... that this would screw up the whole waterworks! He looked puzzled... clearly I need to explain to him what a windfall like that can do to seniors on a fixed income and Medicare/Medicaid!
So a few minutes later, Mam-ma emerged with her three gold coins, and a grin from ear to ear. She said, "That's three more dollars for Timmy (my new great-nephew, and her great-great-grandson)." I would have gladly given Timothy $3 to avoid this trip! Mam-ma went on to say that another friend of hers went and got HER three coins, "and she said she was going shopping and SPEND them!" Mam-ma said that with disgust, like there was something magical about these coins and spending them would be absurd.
We pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot, and you can only imagine how many cars and people were there. It was now probably about 4:00 p.m., so people were there after school, work shifts, and many deer hunters were stocking up to head to their camps to prepare for the upcoming season. It was, in short, a ZOO! I told Mam-ma, "I'm going to let you out at the door and you can sit inside while I go park the car." "Okay," she said. I pulled up at the front door, and with motor running, I started to get out. "You don't need to help me," she said sternly. "Yes, I do," I replied. I helped her get out of the car, and I walked her into the entryway. I pointed to two benches and said, "Now you go sit over there, and I'll park the car and be right back for you, and we'll look for Ruby. Wait right over there." "Okay," she said, and I hurried to my car and tried to find a parking space.
It took me a few minutes to find a parking space, and when I got inside, the benches were not empty... Mam-ma was not there. "Oh, geez," I thought. My next thought was, "Okay, she was cold, and she's waiting inside by the buggies or the produce." Wrong. She was nowhere to be seen. My heart was in my throat. Where could she have gone? I grabbed a buggy and put my purse in it and started looking around. Then, out of the corner of my eye, and wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy off in the distance, I saw a streak of white hair. Mam-ma was at the very BACK of the store near the fabric department. How she got back there so quickly was beyond me, given how she had toddled into the beauty shop a mere hour or so earlier!
I quickly started making my way through the people toward the back of the store, and by the time I got to where I had seen her, she was long gone - to the dairy case! I finally caught up with her there, and called to her, "Mam-ma!" Now, Mam-ma can't hear well at all any more, so I had to shout, and many of the people around me turned and stared. Mam-ma looked up at me like I was a space alien and said, "Huh?" I said, "Mam-ma! You scared me!" She looked so puzzled, and I said, "You were supposed to wait for me at the front of the store, and when I got in, you weren't there... and that scared me! I didn't know what had happened to you." "Oh I was?" she asked, as if she had never heard this before. Now I knew people were staring, and I felt like the mother of a three-year-old who just got caught pilfering grapes from the produce aisle. "Why didn't you wait?" I asked... but I already knew there was no answer... at least none that made sense.
So I told her, "I don't think Ruby is here." "Well," she said, "I need some butter." Okay, so butter was NOT on her list today... and she started looking at the butter. I told her, "I have a lot of shopping to do." "Well, go on," she said. "I'll be alright. I'll make my way back to the front of the store." I looked her square in the eye and said, "I will meet you at the front of the store when I'm done, but it might be awhile... " She said that was fine, and I asked, "You WILL be at the front of the store?" Yes, she said she would... and again she told me to go on and not worry about her. Yeah, right.
I started making my way up and down the aisles, my heart still beating faster than it should, and I was wondering the whole time... "Where is she? Is she okay? Will someone bump into her and knock her over?" About four aisles later, I look up, and there is Ruby. "Ruby!" I said, truly glad to see her... and by the way, she looked stunning in a beautiful tweed jacket and slacks, rhinestone pin on the lapel and her hair freshly styled. "How are you?" Ruby asked. "I'm not sure!" I answered. "I have Mam-ma with me - she's come to Wal-Mart to meet you!" Ruby told me that when Mam-ma did not answer at 3:00, she went on to Fred's to pick up her prescription medicines. She said, "I thought I would drive back by Polly's and surely she would be home and ready to go, but when I got there, she didn't answer her doorbell or a knock on the door, and I got worried something might even be wrong with her." I apologized and explained what had happened... and how Mam-ma had scared me by not being where I left her and dashing to the back of the store, and Ruby said, "She does that to me all the time. I drop her at the door and go to park, and when I get inside the store, I can't find her anywhere... she's already taken off somewhere!" I felt so bad to think Mam-ma is so inconsiderate of her dear friend.
Ruby told me that she would catch up with Mam-ma, and if I saw her at the front of the store, to tell her to wait there for Ruby. I continued shopping, making my way toward the front of the store. When I got there, Mam-ma was in a check-out line, and she had a bag of items. I don't know what she had, because she had already checked out. I walked over to her and told her I had found Ruby, and that she was to wait at the front of the store for her to get finished with HER shopping. Mam-ma froze in her tracks, trying to hear what I was saying and blocking customers behind her. I finally got her moved away from the register, and I could feel a cold blustery wind blowing in from the entryway. I said to Mam-ma... "It's too cold for you to sit on those benches... you aren't dressed warmly enough." She nodded in agreement. "That's okay, I'll wait inside." I reminded her she would have to stand up, kicking myself for not insisting she bring her walker. "That's okay," she said. I finally had no choice but to leave her and go ahead and finish my shopping. I thought about taking her to the deli to sit at a table, but then Ruby would not know where she was. So I left her.
I hurried through the rest of my shopping, but when I returned to the cash registers, neither Mam-ma nor Ruby were in sight. As I walked out of the store, I dialed Mam-ma's telephone number... and Ruby answered. She assured me that they had just gotten home and she was helping Mam-ma get settled. I thanked her and sighed a big sigh of relief. And God blessed me with His favor - the produce stand was still open a little after 5:00 p.m., and I was able to get more apples for our own table.
In retrospect, this is more funny than it was this afternoon. I am also amazed when I consider that my grandmother was like a blaze of lightning pushing that grocery cart, particularly in comparison to her speed behind the walker. I told my mom later, "If there was a way to fold it up and put it in the car for transport, I'd buy her a grocery cart and ditch her walkers!" Still, she would not have a place to sit. Don't even suggest she use the motorized carts at the store. I used one of those when my ankle was broken, and let me tell you, driving them is an ART and takes skill and coordination! They are not designed for 97-year-old grandmothers!
I am not so naive as to think that my "weekly shopping" for Mam-ma comes remotely close to stocking her pantry and refrigerator with everything she eats. I know for a fact she and Ruby go numerous times per week to shop for a handful of items. But this is not the first time that Mam-ma has beat me back to Wal-Mart... but it IS the first time I have driven her there for Trip #2! Clearly she is recovering well from her bout with shingles... and apparently a big part of her anxiety about the trip was getting to the Ford place for her three dollar coins! But I was amazed at HOW anxious she grew... fidgety, almost panicked, when she thought Ruby had gone without her! And again, as with trying to reassure a three-year-old, I could not convince her that Ruby would be along in a few minutes. While I was dispensing medications, I thought to myself, "I'll see these two again in Wal-Mart. Ruby will come by right after I leave and get Mam-ma, and they will probably beat me there today!" Had we waited a little bit longer, Ruby would indeed have been there to get my grandmother.
In retrospect, I realize I should have put my foot down and told Mam-ma that I was not going straight to Wal-Mart and let the chips fall. I told Mom I could hear her little voice saying, "This is a bad idea!" But I also know how in knots Mam-ma gets and how upset I get when she gets mad and ugly, so I took what I thought would be the easier path. What was I thinking?! I thank God that it ended well and everyone got home safely. Greg said, "Well, she yanked your chain good today!" My mom said to me, "Look at it this way... you don't have to do this again until next Friday!" Let's hope so!