Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'd Like to Buy a Vowel

I visited with my grandmother after church today.  She had called last night, but a thunderstorm was in progress with very serious lightning, and I suggested we talk another time.  When I arrived at the ALF today, Mam-ma's room was unlocked, but she was nowhere to be found.  An aide suggested she was out walking the halls.  I started searching for her, but I couldn't locate her.

I visited a dear friend of mine who moved to the ALF last week.  My little "birthday buddy" who shares my birthday has declined tremendously in recent weeks, and I found her in bed, under oxygen, looking frail and quite unwell. However, when I squeezed her hand and spoke to her, she immediately began talking to me, and she seemed quite lucid.  She told me she had been very sick, but today she had eaten four bites of oatmeal and drunk a cup of milk.  She said, "Oh, the milk tasted so good."  She also told me she had fallen again, and she felt so badly that she didn't think she would dress today.  This little spitfire who has been my hero for over 50 years is now in tremendous decline, and it saddened me greatly to see her this way.  As I left, she said, "Happy Birthday."  Our birthday is not until July 4th, and I told her, "Happy Birthday to you... we've still got a few weeks, but we're gonna make it."  Secretly, I wonder if she truly will see 93.

I let myself out and started looking for Mam-ma again.  A resident told me she was sitting on the front porch.  And that's where I found her... sitting in a rocking chair, looking at the redwing blackbirds and enjoying the relatively cool morning under a cloudy sky.  As I sat down in a rocker beside her, she said, "Well, I didn't know you was here... I've been a lookin' for you all day."  It was nearly noon, and I asked, "How did you know I was coming?"  She replied, "Well, you told me last night that you might come today."  I had to wonder... would she have sat there all day waiting for me?

We had a good visit, and my grandmother talked about my "birthday buddy"... who is also her friend... and an elderly cousin who is ill... and Mam-ma cried.  She said, "Sometimes I wonder why I am still here... and I wish I wasn't."  I told her about a book I read this week... 90 Minutes in Heaven.  The author tells of crying out to God and asking why he had to leave and return to earth to suffer terribly through nearly 2 years of excruciating recovery.  Heaven was so amazing it defies description... yet he didn't get to stay.  He learned that God had a purpose for him... on earth... to minister to specific people in a way that no one else could.  He was directed to several people who were enduring the same recovery that he had endured... and they could only relate to the empathy of someone who had "been there done that."

I explained to Mam-ma that she has a purpose... at Southridge.  I didn't even acknowledge that she is important to us... that she serves a purpose in our lives.  She might not even believe me!  But I pointed out several at the ALF to whom she is ministering... friends, aides, nurses, staff.  I told her, "Maybe your purpose is to help James (the maintenance man) to become a better gardener!"  That made her laugh.  I also told her that heaven will be just as glorious - if not more so - when it truly is her time to go... but for now, she has work to do here!

I stayed until Mam-ma went to lunch, and then I filled her bird feeder and came home.  Mam-ma called a little before 6:00 p.m., and I didn't get to the phone in time, so the machine picked up as I answered. She said, "I can't get my TV to work... it says cable." I told her to hang up and I would call her right back. "Okay," she said. I hung up, but she didn't, and I waited a few seconds, and finally she DID hang up, and I called RIGHT back... and ... wait for it... I got her machine!

Lately, there have been a few times when I have told Mam-ma, "Let me call you right back," and she has said okay... and when I phone her immediately, she doesn't answer after six rings... and I get her answering machine!  I had to try three more times before the machine finished its cycle, and the phone would ring. I heard her pick up and start dialing. "Mam-ma! Mam-ma! POLLY!!!" "What?" she asked innocently. "Where did you go? I told you I would call right back." "Well, I don't know... I don't know what I did."

So she said her TV was messed up - "It's on cable, and I can't change it." I told her she is supposed to be on cable. No, she wasn't... it wasn't right. She didn't know what she had punched. I tried to talk her through punching the "TV" button on her remote - she could barely see the markings to read them to me. Then she started reading SS1, HDTV, Dolby... "No, that's not it," I told her. She said something about only getting an orange screen. Finally, I said, "I'll just come down there... I'll be right there." "Okay," she said.

I collected the manuals for Mam-ma's TV and headed to Southridge. When I got there, her TV was on, and it appeared everything was fine. I picked up the remote and started flipping through the channels, and everything was fine. "No, it's not!" she insisted... "It says 'Cable'." "Yes, you are on cable," I told her. I explained that this little display shows "cable" when she punches the "TV" button on her remote, but it will go away after a few seconds.

I flipped all the way to what appeared to be RFDTV. "How many channels are you supposed to get?" "40," she said. "Okay, I'm on channel 40." She showed me her channel guide, and I showed her the Weather Channel, "60 Minutes" on CBS, "Dateline NBC" on NBC, and RFDTV on Channel 40. She said, "Well, all of my programs is not there." I looked at the clock... 6:25. "Are you looking for 'Wheel of Fortune'?" I asked. "Yes." "Mam-ma, this is Sunday... 'Wheel of Fortune' isn't on tonight." "Yes it is!" "No, it's not... that show is on every night of the week except Sunday. You should be getting 'America's Funniest Home Videos' and 'Extreme Home Makeover,' but there is a ballgame tonight on ABC, so that's what you will get there."

I FINALLY convinced her that "Wheel of Fortune" was not on tonight, and there was nothing wrong with her remote, and I showed her the button to press to be sure she was on TV. She showed me the SS1 and HDTV settings she was referring to on the phone - they were on a sticker on the front of her TV! They were for Surround Sound, Dolby Sound, HDTV, etc. - and just indicated her TV was programmed for these features. I explained that these were part of a sticker and were not actual buttons - pressing them did NOTHING.

Finally, she was convinced all was well, and she said, "Well, Sugar, I'm real sorry." I told her it was fine... I did not mind running down to check. I told her what might be on tonight that would be of interest to her, and she said, "Well, I'm a fixin' to go to tea!" I said, "Okay... well, your 9:00 news will be on for you when you return."

So next time, I will know a few more questions to ask before I make the trip.  And I have no doubt I will have to return again at some point to "fix" the remote.  As for the phone, I don't have a clue.  Mam-ma's apartment is less than 300 square feet... she has a cordless phone.  How she gets that far away from it in 15 seconds is beyond me!  Mam-ma had asked for pretzels and raisinets for "tea time" - and I'm sure by the time she got there tonight, all was forgotten about the television and the remote - and the phone... until the next time Pat and Vanna are not on at the appointed hour.  Once again, I'll be called upon to "solve the puzzle" and get things back in order.  And so it goes...


Mark said...

Quite an adventure you're on with Mam-ma. I remember typing out detailed directions for my grandfather for programming his VCR and switching between TV and VCR. Brutal. Also, he was profoundly deaf, so talking him through something on the phone was not an option. Your patience knows no (well, few) bounds.

Debbie Robus said...

Mark, you are right about the brutality of "talking through" such things. We've tried that more than once with my grandmother and others... it's not good! ;-/ Too much gets lost in translation! I honestly thought since I did "tech support" when we still owned our business that I could talk through a few of these little things... nah... what was I thinking?! It's not the same at all!