What a week it has been! My husband went to Mam-ma's on Monday and checked on her. That's when she told him she had baked a cake. So much for not using the stove!
Tuesday, I was in Mam-ma's neighborhood to visit a friend, and I stopped in at her house late in the afternoon. She showed me her first lunch from Meals on Wheels - ham, green beans, mixed vegetables, and a dessert. She declared that it was good, and she was reheating the remainder of the lunch in her microwave for dinner. I told her I wanted to get some things out of her freezer for our family dinner this next week.
Mam-ma led me to the "deep freeze," and it was far less full than she had indicated, and much of what was there was so badly freezer burned or outdated that it was inedible. But I sacked up quite a bit - some to try to salvage, and some to toss. I noticed the cake on a table on her back porch, but I didn't mention it. I brought home a big package of Spanish peanuts, several packages of pecans, and some vegetables. I left two bags of peanuts that Mam-ma insisted belonged to her deacon. He told my mom he got his peanut brittle ingredients, but Mam-ma was positive these peanuts belonged to him. I told her to be sure and give them to him!
Tuesday night, Mam-ma called me and asked if I wanted her cake. I told her no, and I could tell she was irritated. I asked, "Why would I want your cake?" She answered, "Well aren't you having us over for dinner?" I told her, "Yes ... but not until next Monday!" She said, "Well, it could go in the freezer!" I told her no... she should eat the cake. I didn't want it, but thanks anyway. She hung up on me.
Wednesday, my sister and her husband went over to Mam-ma's. She wanted my brother-in-law to re-pot a violet that was root bound, and she wanted my sister to help her sew a quilt top and backing together so that she could make a quilt for Timothy. My husband stopped in and looked at a light fixture that was broken and changed out her heating and air conditioner filter. That evening, Mam-ma told both my mom and me on the phone that the quilt was not right, and she had "ripped it all out." She discussed this at length with my mom and set up a trip to Wal-Mart to look for new quilt backing and some thin quilt batting. That is in the works for Monday.
My sister doesn't see Mam-ma nearly as often as I do, so she was quite upset about how frail and feeble she seemed. Mam-ma showed her the freezer, and my sister got a few things, but she told me later how much of what she took had to be tossed at home. I understood completely. Oh, and by the way, my sister said the cake was in the freezer! She's betting it comes to our house on Monday for the family dinner, whether I wanted it or not!
I called every evening to make sure Mam-ma took her medicine. Thursday evening, she was entertaining a friend from church whose husband has recently died. The lady is supposed to be moving to Texas today to live with her children. Mam-ma shared dinner with this woman Thursday night - leftovers from her Meals on Wheels for Wednesday and Thursday. I can only imagine how that was ... or how much was there to eat! But she insisted they both ate well. When I called Thursday evening, Mam-ma said, "I want to talk to you tomorrow about several things." I asked if I should come early. She replied, "Well it wouldn't hurt."
So Friday, I went early for the hair appointment/errands. I sat down in a chair and said, "You told me to come early so we could talk about some things - what do you want to talk about?" She pointed her finger at me, shook it and gave me the "evil eye," and said, "I want a toaster oven to go on my counter like the one Ruby has." I shook my head and said, "No... I'm sorry ... we've had this discussion twice already. Those are not safe, and you cannot have onel." She was furious. "Well Ruby has one and she says they are safe." I told her that I have one, and the first time I toasted crackers, flames leapt out and up my cabinet! The big stove is safer than a counter-top toaster oven.
Mam-ma's protest was, "Well, I'm not going to toast crackers!" I told her that, contrary to what Ruby claimed, these were not designed to bake a pan of cornbread or a cake and the racks will not even support the weight. She argued with me for several minutes, and finally I said, "So what else did you want to talk about? I'm done talking about this!" And I laughed. She laughed a little, and then said, "Well, if I can't have a toaster oven, there's nothing else to talk about!"
I offered to make her some cornbread. I told her my mom had offered to bring her cornbread. She shook her head, "No! No! No!" she said. She added... "I've got to have cornbread - I need the roughage!" I suggested she make it on Tuesdays when her housekeeper, Mary, was there. She said, "Well, a pan of cornbread will last me nearly 2 weeks. I keep it in the refrigerator." I told her to make a pan next Tuesday. She added... "They don't ever send cornbread in them meals." I told her I was quite sure that I've seen cornbread when I've helped Greg deliver Meals on Wheels. She backpedaled and retorted, "Well, they DO send it ... but none that's fit to eat!"
Then she slumped into her chair and said, "I guess it's eat that stuff from that place (meaning the Meals on Wheels) or forget it!" I told her, "Pretty much ... unless you want to cook when someone is here."
She also asked if I knew where to get a little electric skillet. Apparently she doesn't understand that no cooking means NO COOKING! She has gotten out her electric skillet and set it on her counter top. She said, "Well, that skillet is so big that when I fry my egg in it, it just runs everywhere." I mentioned something about how I thought she was going to eat cereal, and she ignored me. I told her that the purpose of having the meals was so she wouldn't need to cook. That, too, got an icy stare and no further response.
We ended our discussion and gathered her things to go to the beauty shop. On the way to the hairdresser's, we talked about how much to pay for the Meals on Wheels, and she asked how much the meals were costing. I told her two dollars per day. She looked at me as if she were stunned and said, "TWO DOLLARS per DAY? You've got to be kidding!" I told her no... and that was a bargain! She didn't mention it further.
Then she asked about something on her grocery list, and I looked at the list - orange juice, mayonnaise, eggs, bread, and straws for her milk cartons from the Senior Center. I asked, "Don't you need some milk?" "Well, yes, I do need sweet milk," she commented. Many older folks in the South refer to whole milk as "sweet milk." She also said she was drinking all of her buttermilk provided with her meals at lunchtime, and I offered to get a quart of buttermilk for her to drink at dinner. She said that would be good and added, "I need some sweet milk because I'm gonna make a pudding."
I asked, "Are you going to make that pudding Tuesday when Mary is there?" She whipped around in her seat in the car and screamed, "HONEY! All I need to make pudding is a bowl!" I asked, "You're making instant pudding?" "Well, YES!" she retorted. I told her, "Mam-ma, I'm so sorry - I didn't know you were making instant pudding." For the record, I don't know that I have ever bought her an instant pudding mix. I know I have bought the kind you make on the stove top. Anyway, I told her again, "I'm sorry - I just didn't realize you made instant pudding," to which she retorted, "No, y'all don't ever come to see me, so you don't know anything about how I operate!"
I had just had it... I said, "Mam-ma, that is not true. We have been at your house nearly every day this week." She retorted, "No, you haven't!" with a little extra emphasis on you! I told her I was not going to argue, but yes, one of us had been there four out of 5 days. I pulled into the parking lot at the beauty shop, got out and walked around to open her door and the back door to retrieve her walker. She said, "I'm just frustrated." I said, "I'm frustrated, too." I was also mad! I added... "We are just doing all we can to keep you living at home in your house as long as possible, and we don't know how else to do it. Do you want to stay at home?" "Well, yes," she said. I didn't say anything else - I knew better.
The ride home was fairly silent, too. When we got home, the garage door remote opener would not work - dead battery. Mam-ma didn't have any more - a 12-volt special kind. I unpacked her groceries, took the dead battery and headed to Fred's, which is not but a few blocks away. Traffic was horrible. Fred's didn't carry the 12-volt size. I was not going to make a trip to Wal-Mart for the battery. It would have to wait. I told her to put the battery on the list for her trip to Wal-Mart with Mom on Monday.
Meanwhile, I discovered that my mom was shopping at Wal-Mart, and I asked her to pick up the battery. I'm not sure why she couldn't find one - the sales people told her there were several kinds of 12-volts, and they needed to see the battery. And I still had it, so Mom would not be able to purchase one, apparently. I walked right into the store on Saturday morning to the electronics department and got the only 12-volt package on the rack. Oh, well...
So Friday night, my husband and I went to the high school football game. We were walking in the door at 10:00 when our phone rang - Mam-ma. She told he she had been tossing and turning for an hour and wanted to apologize for the things she said to me that afternoon. I told her to forget it ... that I knew that these changes are hard - for all of us - and it was okay. She replied, "Well, I don't want you to be hurt over this." I told her I didn't want her to be hurt, either, but she is, and I can't help it. I smoothed her feelings as best I could and told her to get to sleep and forget it.
This is how Mam-ma operates. When she is especially mean or hateful - to me or Ruby particularly - she calls and cries and apologizes later, and basically expects that to solve everything. And for the most part, it does, because we are not going to stay mad at her for very long. And I do hate that she is upset and hurting... and basically panicked because things in her world are changing so fast. But most people understand that the world doesn't operate on the principal of being mean and hateful one hour and apologizing and making it all better the next ... except for my Mam-ma!
So yesterday when I took the battery and installed it, Mam-ma did not mention the day before - or the apology - and she surely didn't apologize any further. When I phoned last night to make sure she had taken her medicine, she said, "I tell you what ... they brought the awfullest mess of stuff over here and put in my freezer!" I questioned her - "Who put what in your freezer?" The friend who is moving to Texas. She and her son brought all of the things in her freezer they didn't want to my grandmother's and left them!
I asked, "Mam-ma, didn't she know you aren't cooking any more?" "No." "But she ate your leftover Meals on Wheels with you, so she knows you're getting them. Didn't the son know?" "Probably not," she said, adding... "he said 'whatever you don't want, just toss.'" I told her that aggravates me at HIM to think he expects HER to handle his junk! She said it was peas and other vegetables and things, and I have no doubt it is vegetables grown in the garden of the man who recently passed. So I called my sister and suggested she go over sometime this week and empty the freezer - once again!
I also learned that Mam-ma called a mutual friend this week to "vent" and she asked this dear woman, an LPN, to come over to her house. The woman cares for her own family members, who are seriously ill, and she told her she would gladly visit on the phone any time, but she could NOT come over there. Then she mentioned she goes two mornings each week (if her family's health permits) to walk at our new Community Center. She said she walks at 6:00 a.m. so that she can be home by 7:00 when her family wakes up and needs help and medication. Mam-ma replied to her, "Oh, I can't get up by 6:00."
Now, the woman did not invite my grandmother to go to the Community Center and walk, but Mam-ma just automatically assumed that this woman would give her a ride. The woman told me, "She can't even walk across the parking lot to get to the building ... much less climb the hill to get back to the car afterward! That will not be happening!" This was good news to me. I thought we had already covered the fact that my grandmother exercising at the Community Center is not an option. Apparently not!
So Mam-ma is still trying to find a ride to the Community Center - and probably to Wal-Mart for a toaster oven! Someone told me I might have to disconnect her stove, and that has been discussed, but clearly she is already conspiring to cook without it ... via crock pot, electric skillet, and perhaps a toaster oven (until I discover she has one!).
I feel like it truly is only a matter of time until we are revisiting the Assisted Living facility issue. The administrator was very kind when I called to decline the available room for now. She said, "I'll just put your file back in my drawer, and if/when you are ready, just call me." Sadly, that may be sooner than we think.
My friend told me she hopes that I am not beating myself up about this and feeling guilty over these decisions ... "and I know you are." I told her that truly, I am not. I have outlined for my grandmother what it will take for her to be able to stay in her home a while longer. The rest is up to her. If she cooperates, I think she can stay at least several more months. If she doesn't shape up soon, it's not going to be long at all. But it is her decision at this point. I have done all I can humanly do, so I have no regrets. It truly is up to her - and God - what happens next. I feel pretty good about leaving things in His hands. Hers, however, are another matter altogether.