Monday, November 8, 2010

Voting, Life Alerts, and Parties... All in the Same Week!

A lot has happened in the last 10 days. The Thursday before Halloween, we hosted my family for a chili supper. We invited my mom and her husband, my sister and her family (including Timothy, of course), Mam-ma Polly, my cousin and her two children, their spouses and two children. There were seventeen of us in all. We had a great time, and Timothy got to play with his two cousins, Owen and Olivia, which was fantastic. Mam-ma so enjoyed watching the children play and dance to NickJr. shows on television.

Mam-ma and Timothy

Timothy and his cousin Olivia.

Owen and Timothy

Mam-ma and my cousin watch the boys dance to a NickJr show.

The next day, everything went well when we went to the beauty shop and ran errands... until I got home. My phone rang around 4:30 p.m. - Mam-ma. "Go look in your car and see if my life alert button is there. My pants pockets are shallow, and it fell out somewhere." I looked. The life alert was not in my car. Mam-ma will not wear this device around her neck - she insists it bothers her. She had called the beauty shop, and one of the hairdressers had scoured the building - and even the parking lot. No button! I told Mam-ma not to worry... it would turn up. Frankly, I'm not sure how long it had been missing.

Mam-ma did worry... and she searched every inch of her house and stewed over the missing device all night. When I called her at 7:00 p.m. Friday night to see if she took her night-time medicine, she had not eaten - she had searched for the device since 4:30. I told her to STOP... to eat and take her medicine, and quit worrying. She said, "Well, I worry about everything these days." I gently suggested she try to stop worrying. Saturday morning, she called the company and reported that she had lost her life alert button and needed a new one. The company delivered her new device on Monday. The cost was $30.

Tuesday, Greg and I drove Mam-ma to her cardiologist's office, 30 miles away, for an echo cardiogram in preparation for her 6-month check-up in a couple of weeks. We stopped and had lunch at a restaurant in town, then drove to her appointment. When we returned, we took Mam-ma to a church in her neighborhood to vote in the mid-term election. I had to read the names to her on the voting machine, but she cast her own votes. While Mam-ma was voting, we visited with some of her peers... three more folks in their 90s. It was a humbling experience to see these little people make such a monumental effort to participate in the election process.

"MawMac" - my birthday buddy

Funny story about voting... one of the other "seniors" voting was my birthday buddy, who I call "MawMac."  She is 91, and we share the same birthday.  The volunteer got MawMac set up on a machine to vote, and I was standing with Mam-ma.  The volunteer left the room.  MawMac's daughter, Marsha, had said she was going to let her mother do her own voting.  Everything was going well, when I heard MawMac say, "No! No! No!  I don't want that.  Oh, WHY did it do that?  That's not what I want!"  I said, "MawMac, hold on... I'll come help you in a minute when we finish."  Mam-ma finished and walked back out to wait with Greg, and I walked over to MawMac's area.  She had advanced to a screen with a lot of text and only a couple of voting boxes, and I said, "This is the page to vote for unopposed candidates and start voting on the issues."  "OH!" she said, "Well, I DO want to do that!" 

I showed her where the section was for the unopposed, and then I pointed to the first issue up for vote.  She said, "I do want to vote on these, but I want to read them first!"  There were four long issues, and I said, "Let me get Marsha."  I walked out into the common area and told MawMac's daughter that she wanted to read the issues (I learned later she had already reviewed them at home), and she was on her own!  The daughter rolled her eyes and went into the voting room to see if she could help.

Mam-ma always enjoys having Greg around, and she was on her best behavior Tuesday. She insisted on buying lunch, and she was kind and sweet and cooperative all day. She really didn't complain a single time about anything.  We always get a "history lesson" on that drive as we travel through the country back roads where she lived as a child and young woman.

The "Birthday Girl!"
Friday was Mam-ma's 98th birthday. My mom hosted a party for her and the other ladies in her Sunday School class after Mam-ma got her hair done. Mom said she underestimated the ladies... she had set out her glass snack trays and cups for cake and punch, nuts and mints, thinking the ladies could fill their plates and step out onto the sun porch to eat. The median age of this group was probably 90, and these ladies were not able to navigate steps and carry glass trays and cups. So Mom asked my sister and Greg to place the cake and punch on the table for the ladies and help them get seated, while I took photos.

All of the ladies enjoyed sitting around my mother's dining table and having refreshments while visiting. They even stopped after everyone was seated, held hands, and "said a blessing," led by their Sunday School teacher, who is quite a bit younger than the class members. She is a wonderful lady who cares deeply for these senior matriarchs of the church... and it shows.

Mam-ma and her friend, Ruby
Mam-ma got cards and more time with Timothy, and the accolades of her friends for making it to 98. Someone said, "Polly, you have to hang on to 100 now," and Mam-ma replied, "I'm not sure I can." This was a humbling day for me. I've grown up with many of these ladies... and many more in Mam-ma's class have already gone to be with Jesus. I honestly don't know how many of these ladies will be with us next November 5th. They really enjoyed the party... and they LOVED having a tall, handsome man (Greg) help them get seated at the table and out to their cars afterward.

Before we left for the beauty shop, Mam-ma had asked me to hang her electric blanket outside on the clothesline to air. When we got home, I got the blanket off the line and told her I would hook it up for her. She drug herself into the house, totally exhausted from the activities and excitement of this day. She made an attempt to help me with the blanket, but I insisted she sit in a chair and rest, and she did not protest at all. She was spent! I hooked up her blanket and turned it on for her... the evening was cooling off quickly, and I knew she would want a warm, snug bed to get into very soon.

Saturday evening, I called to remind Mam-ma to take her medicine. I asked if she had slept well, and she said, "Well, I was warm!" Then she said she turned her blanket off when she went to bed. I asked her why she did that, and she said, "Oh, I never leave my blanket on all night... you know, that takes electricity and costs money!" I fussed at her and told her to leave her blanket on... it doesn't take that much energy.

Then she totally surprised me and said, "I've been thinking about moving to Southridge (the assisted living facility). What do you think?" I didn't know what to say... I told her, "It doesn't matter what I think... it's totally your decision." She said, "Well, now that I can't ride with Ruby, I am just stuck here. I've been thinking, maybe I should move." We talked about the positives... being with people, having everything covered, being safe and cared for if we have bad weather this winter, and more. I pointed out the negatives... "It's a small room... probably the size of your living room. You can't take everything with you... we'll have to pare down your clothes and things." She replied that "I don't need a big room. That's all I need." She seemed to understand all I was telling her.

I assured her that I would handle everything for her, if she chose to move... and all she would have to worry about was picking out what to take with her. I would make her room nice and comfortable, handle the moving, and handle disposing of the other things afterward. She said she was going to think about it. I offered to take her to the facility to look at a room and see firsthand what it was like. She said she would consider that, as well. Mom's husband rang the doorbell... he had come to change Mam-ma's clocks for her... and she said she'd give this some thought and hung up. I learned later that she discussed Southridge with Mom's husband... the advantages, as well as how hard it would be to make the change.

Sunday, my mom took Mam-ma to church and back, and she never mentioned the assisted living facility. That night when I phoned her to make sure she took her evening meds, she didn't mention it. Finally, I asked... "Have you decided if you want to go tour Southridge?" She replied... "Well, I've thought about it, and that room is gonna be really small." I agreed, but I suggested she go check it out in person to decide for sure. She asked, "Is the room dark?" I assured her that the room I previewed was nice and bright, with one wall of south-facing windows. I can't guarantee she would get a room in that wing, but I feel sure all rooms are light and bright.

I am hoping she will decide to go this week and preview the facility. This is not going to be quick... or easy. And I realize that for every "pro" about this choice, there will be a "con"... and in the end, this move might even mean more work for me. For one thing, this facility is right down the road from my house, so Mam-ma may feel she has more ready access to me and I should drop everything and run when she beckons me. Then again, she may become so busy and involved with fellow residents that she doesn't have time for me... and she hasn't moved yet!

So changes are in the air. I think Mam-ma is working her way into this move... as well she should. The clock is ticking, somewhat, but there is still time for her to adjust to this concept. I'm praying for a good outcome - not necessarily the move itself, because this is not my "call" - one that makes sense for Mam-ma and will be right for her. An elderly cousin told me last month that "anyone in their right mind would wonder why she isn't there already," and I know he is right. But I also know that the slightest nudge one way or the other from me will result in future claims that "Debbie made me do this," and at this point, Mam-ma is still able to make this choice for herself.

I'm "resting in the Lord" for now... trusting His timing and influence, knowing that my grandmother is on her knees, too... if only figuratively. The next few weeks may be busy and challenging, but we'll get through them. I realized after Friday that the clock is ticking for my grandmother and her peers... and I'm trying to "chill out" and take her antics in stride... and savor the time I have left with her this side of heaven. Some days are easier than others... but every day at this point is a treasure - even those that test my patience!

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