Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Come for Tea at Eight

Last night my husband and I sat down after dinner to watch some sitcoms we had recorded on DVR.  A little after 8:30, he woke me and said, "Do you need to go to bed?"  I had been dozing for the last couple of 30-minute episodes.  I was even more tired than I realized, and I had no trouble falling asleep for good... or sleeping through the night.  A little after 6:00, I had tucked Mam-ma into her new bed in her new home, and told her, "Welcome home!"  She said, "Y'all have done a wonderful thing today."  I knew she meant it.

Friday, I took Mam-ma to the beauty shop, and I returned to her house to sort and pack.  After she returned from the beauty shop, we sorted some more items - the medicine chest, some jewelry and cologne, and more.  At almost 5:30 p.m., she was exhausted, and so was I.  We declared it a good day, and I left, suggesting she get some rest. 

I decided on Saturday that I should go back and pack a few more things, feeling the more we had packed and ready to roll on Monday, the better.  When I arrived at Mam-ma's before 2:00 p.m., Ruby was entering the house, and she was all dressed up.  Another friend, Geneva, was picking them up to go to Southridge to visit friends.  "Go ahead," I told Mam-ma.  "I'm going to pack and sort things here, and you go have a good time." 

I did all I could to get things organized, labeled, packed and ready, and at 4:00, I vacuumed the carpets and walked across the street to visit a next-door neighbor who is also a dear friend.  About 4:30, I heard the familiar scraping of Mam-ma's walker being dragged across concrete.  I walked to my friend's front door, and there stood Mam-ma.  "You've locked me out!" she said.  I reminded her that she had her remote control garage door opener, and she said, "Yes, but you locked the interior door."  Indeed, I had done that out of habit.  So I unlocked the house and let her inside... and I realized right away that she was completely spent.

Apparently these little ladies had walked from one end to the other of two facilities at Southridge - the assisted living center AND the skilled care nursing facility.  Mam-ma was so tired she could not even put a sentence together.  I quickly showed her where I had put her underwear and asked a couple of questions, and then I seated her at her dining table and heated some food for her dinner.  She took her night-time medicine and said, "I think I'll go to bed."  I turned down her bed, laid out her pajamas, and sat with her while she ate.  The food helped, and she began to rally a bit and was able to speak in rational sentences.  I offered to help her put on her pj's, but she sat down on her couch and said, "I think I will rest here for awhile."

Sunday, I did not leave my house - and neither did Mam-ma.  We rested for THE BIG DAY.  But she phoned me at 9:15 a.m. - "WHERE is my underwear?"  She did not remember most of what I had told her Saturday evening.  I reminded her it was in the dresser drawer - ready to go to Southridge.  Oh, yes... now she knew.

Yesterday morning, my husband and I left home at 8:00 and headed for Mam-ma's, where we loaded her furniture into our vehicles and a utility trailer.  We then went to Southridge and unloaded the furniture, getting everything in place.  A local furniture company was to deliver a new mattress set after lunch... we had the bed frame in place and ready.  The mattress set arrived promptly after lunch.

After that, Greg went to deliver Meals on Wheels, and I returned to Mam-ma's to get her medicine dispersed into the daily compartments - see if any needed to be ordered - and to load her clothes and toiletries, etc., into my vehicle.  It will take a week or more for the pharmacy associated with the ALF to begin sending medicine for Mam-ma, so we needed to do this one last personal dispensation.  I went back to Mam-ma's new room and unloaded the clothes, toiletries, and other items.

I was scheduled for a mammogram... of all days, on this morning at 11:30.  So I drove up the hill to our hospital and checked in at the radiology lab.  Greg met me there and waited while I had the procedure.  The beauty of small towns is that we know so many people.  Fellow church members were my admissions clerk, and my radiology technician, and they whisked me in and out quickly and with little fanfare.  Greg and I grabbed a quick, delicious lunch at our hospital cafeteria (the best food in town!), and then we returned for another load of odds and ends at my grandmother's.

My sister met us at my grandmother's, and we loaded pictures, lamps, plants and other items into the cars and made another trip to Southridge.  This time, the maintenance man - James - met us and helped my husband connect and program the television.  He also hung ALL of the pictures for me - I would hold one up and point, and he would hang a nail and the picture - and he hung a little cabinet/shelf unit over the toilet in the bathroom.  James was wonderful... but then, so was all of the staff - many of whom dropped in throughout the day to say "Hello" and "Welcome!"  My sister and I made the bed and straightened the room.

By about 2:00 p.m., we were ready for Mam-ma.  Her room looked like she had lived there for years.  The bed was made... her pictures (many of which she painted herself) were hung on the walls... our family mantel clock was tick-tocking on the dresser, and her family Bible was on the coffee table.  Everything was in the drawers... pretty dishes held cosmetics on the counter in the bathroom, and her Mylanta and creams and ointMENTS were in the bathroom cabinets.  A decorative corner cabinet sat just inside the door - with seven shelves laden with family photos.  The room screamed "Mam-ma Polly!"

Greg and I drove to Mam-ma's house, and she was pretty well "locked and loaded."  She had turned out the lights, locked the doors, and she was ready to go.  She looked around... but not much... and Greg helped her to the car.  Earlier that morning, she had picked up a pocket-knife and handed it to Greg... her eyes filling with tears.  "This was Truman's," she said.  Truman was my grandfather.  "Would you like to have it?"  Greg sweetly told her, "I will hold onto it until Timmy is big enough to have it... and then I will give it to him - how's that?"  She replied, "That'd be okay."

I fully expected a tearful scene as we left for the last time.  There were a few tears and sniffles from the back seat... but really very few.  And the reaction when we presented her with the new apartment was priceless.  She was astounded... and thrilled.  You could see it on her face.  It was HERS.  Everything was familiar.  We had used all of her things, and she felt so comfortable.  She asked a few times, "Now, where is this or that?" and we showed her, but she settled into a chair and was grinning from ear to ear.  Greg showed her how to use the thermostat, and we got a list of the television channels so he could go over those with her and find "Wheel of Fortune" and the Fox16 nightly news.

Several staff members came and went, introducing themselves and welcoming Mam-ma to the facility.  I took the medicine box to the R.N. and went over the medication schedule with her... and I almost danced back to Mam-ma's room - glad to be relieved of that responsibility!  Around 4:00, Greg and I went home, and I started calling utility companies and cancelling services.  The first call I made was to the telephone company.  The very helpful rep I was assigned told me that no technician was required (although she was completely unable to remove the $45 connection charge - and she tried several times), and that phone service would be switched from Mam-ma's house to her apartment by 10:00 a.m. today... no later than 8:00 p.m. tonight.

I called the cable company and cancelled Mam-ma's cable TV service.  She has a rebate coming for pro-rated, and unused service.  By now it was almost time for dinner, which is served at 5:00 p.m., so I decided I should go back and help Mam-ma get to the dining hall and acclimate for her first meal there.  For the record, we live about ½ mile from Southridge.  My grandmother's house was on the other end of town, probably almost five miles from our home.  So this is not inconvenient at all for back-and-forth trips.

I located James and asked him to help me plug in Mam-ma's phone, so that when the switch was made today, everything would be in place.  James did this, and I recorded a new message on the answering machine.

I helped Mam-ma to the dining room, where she sat at a table with Charley and Kathleen... two very nice people.  Charley is a retired minister from Texas, and he didn't seem too interested in visiting a lot, but we did make acquaintance.  Mam-ma's friends were seated at other tables, and the administrator had told us that some of them have agreed to move to a new table today and sit with her.  So she will have a group of friends to share conversation with over her meals now... something she has not had in years.

I had ordered soup from the menu for Mam-ma - the "daily dinner special" was fish sticks, and as luck would have it - that was her last Meals on Wheels lunch entree!  So she had a big bowl of chicken noodle soup, a cornbread muffin, buttermilk, and banana split pie with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  And she ate heartily.  As she scraped the last bite of whipped cream from her dessert, she laughed and said, "If they feed us like this every meal, I don't know what I will do!"  I told her we'll buy her a muu-muu - this is her time to live it up!  Truly, the food appears to be wonderful - the menu was extensive and sounded delicious. I gained five pounds just reading it!

Before dinner, one of Mam-ma's long-time friends and fellow Sunday School class members Ms. Viola, came over to welcome her again to Southridge. Ms. Viola is one classy little lady - and she has lived at Southridge for eight years now.  She will be a tremendous friend to Mam-ma.  She patted Charley's arm and said, "Charley, this is my good friend.  You be nice to her."  Charley shrugged and said, "Okay."  A few minutes later, another life-long friend, Ms. Evelyn, came to her table, and she shouted across to Charley, "She is my good friend... you be nice to her!"  Charley again said he would do that.

During dinner, the R.N. came around and dispensed medications.  Mam-ma will get her meds with each meal... and someone will watch her take them.  Yippee!!!  After dinner, Ms. Viola came over to the table and told Mam-ma, "Now, I know you are tired tonight, so we won't expect you to come out and do anything.  But tomorrow night at 8:00, some of us are gathering for a cup of tea, and we want you to come."  Mam-ma said she would.

I helped Mam-ma back to her room, and she said she was exhausted.  We turned down the bed, and she put on her pajamas.  I helped her find her denture cup, face cream, and other things in the bathroom. She fussed that she wished she had her "sleeping pill" - an anti-anxiety medication she takes "as needed."  I told her all she had to do was punch her little life alert button, and a nurse would bring it.  She wasn't happy that she can't keep that in her room, but it's a controlled substance and must be locked away safely.  I said, "Let's just test this..."  She pressed her button, and an aide unlocked her door pretty quickly and came to see what was needed.  Mam-ma told her, and soon, a nurse was back with the pill.  Mam-ma fussed about liking to take one "in the night," and the nurse assured her that all she had to do was buzz, and someone would bring her another any hour of the night or day. (And they will document this, so we know when she takes them - and how often - WHEW!)

I was getting ready to leave when my cousins arrived - just to stop by and make sure all was well.  They were amazed and impressed with the room and how nice things were.  And then, Mam-ma's phone rang.  At first I thought I had imagined this... but I answered, and a friend of Mam-ma's, who she knows from the dance hall, asked how she was doing!  Thank you, Lord... my grandmother was without phone service less than 3 hours!  I told Mam-ma - "This is a miracle!"  She agreed.  I also told her, "You now have EVERYTHING you need.  If you figure out something that we've missed, I can get it from your house any time."

My cousins left, and I tucked Mam-ma in and told her, "You're home, Polly."  That is when she said, "Y'all have done a wonderful thing today.  I bet Greg is tired!"  I told her I am sure he was, but he would survive it.  I have the most amazing husband, and he never complained about a single thing all day - was there to help me at every turn - and thought of things I completely forgot in my tizzy to get this all done!  As I opened the door to leave, I told Mam-ma I would return today, and she called out, "I love you!"  "I love you, too, Mam-ma," I replied.  I locked the door and shut it, knowing she would be asleep in no time... and not only would the staff watch over her, but clearly, Someone else was taking great care, as well.
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This morning, I phoned Mam-ma around 9:15.  She said she slept well... was up a few times because "My air conditioner was blowing cold air."  Now, Greg adjusted the unit, and he showed her how to adjust it, but we'll have to review that again today.  She said she had a "wonderful" breakfast - scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, juice and more.  And she was headed for exercise class at 9:30 a.m.  I told her to have a good time, and I would see her this afternoon.  Greg is going to surprise her with a bird feeder placed just outside her south-facing window (the room is very sunny!), and she will love that.

Mam-ma is doing just what I expected - jumping in with both feet and embracing this "new chapter" in her life.  I feel like I have just gotten my life back... and I get to keep my Mam-ma, too.  And that's a heckuva sweet deal.


Mark said...

That's great news! I wonder, though, what in the world will you write out here now? I can identify with falling asleep while watching shows with the spouse.

Debbie Robus said...

Ha! Not to worry - the "stinger" came out on Tuesday when reality set in that my grandmother had really moved. I will have PLENTY to write about! I also hope that others will share their experiences... and we both have our own mothers, who I am sure will provide much "fodder for the blog" in years to come!

I will try to post an update on the first few days of Southridge living soon!