Saturday morning, my phone rang... Mam-ma. "I don't know how I'm going to get to that party." I reminded her that my sister was taking her. "Oh... well... I didn't know." "Remember? She told you yesterday that she was coming to help you dress. Why would you think she wouldn't come?" "Well, you know... people have other things to do!" Funny how she considered my sister's schedule... and this will be important later in this post!
I assured Mam-ma that Suzanne was indeed coming to get her... and should something arise, my mom had said she would step in and serve as the taxi. I thought I had her convinced all was well, and we hung up.
That afternoon, my niece phoned from Texas, where she and the babies are staying with her boyfriend's family while he works in that area. We visited, and she put Timothy on the line to speak with us. He asked about all of us... the kitties, Grandma "E" (my husband's mother), Great-granny (my mother), and then... the moon? "Yes," I assured him, "the moon is still here, and we will look at it when you come to visit." (We'll also read about it in his favorite "night-night" books!)
Saturday evening, my husband and I went out for awhile, and when we returned, there was a message on our machine from my grandmother, "Bring me some light bulbs tomorrow." Click! (End of message - she hung up!) Mam-ma is on a kick about needing light bulbs (although she has plenty), so I set aside some light bulbs to deliver to her at the baby shower.
When we got home from church on Sunday, my sister had called... Mam-ma had called her that morning to say she didn't think this would work. The bottom line was that she had decided she could not eat her lunch and be ready in time for the shower. Now, lunch is served at noon. My sister was not coming until 1:00 for a 2:00 shower. My grandmother was actually trying to back out of attending the shower. This former social butterfly who never missed anything has become the queen of saying she wants to go to something all the way up to time for the event, then backing out.
So when my sister and Mam-ma arrived at the shower, Mam-ma was muttering, "I shouldn't have come. I shouldn't have come." We assured her that all was well, and yes, she needed to be there. I think she had a good time, but she told me again, "I shouldn't have come." And as we helped her to the car, she began to cry and said, "I shouldn't have come." We assured her that we were all glad she was there, and everything had been fine. But we can see the pattern emerging... she has curtailed her Wal-Mart trips to almost zero. I used to drop her at home after beauty shop day, and she and her friend Ruby would beat me back to Wal-Mart! Now she is making a shopping list and sending it to Wal-Mart with the Activities Director. She said recently, "I guess I'm just too old to shop at Wal-Mart any more."
My sister had alerted me during the shower that a cousin was having a retirement party later this week in another city 30 miles away, and Mam-ma planned to ask me to take her. But after she was so adamant about this shower and how she shouldn't have gone, I hoped she might dismiss going to the next party. However, by 7:00 p.m., Mam-ma was phoning me... "We got a letter that Martha is having a retirement party. It's this Friday from 2:00 to 3:00." No "Will you take me?" or "I would like to go," just "This is when it is."
I told Mam-ma, "I cannot make this work." I have too much else going on next weekend. And this is partly the truth... although the people who "have other things going on" almost never includes me. Anyway, I told her that I did not think that Martha truly expected her to make the trip and come to her party. "Oh, yes, she does!" Mam-ma replied. "She told me so the last time she visited!" The party is in a courthouse on a downtown square. Parking is a problem, and the forecast is for triple digit heat.
I explained to Mam-ma that I didn't feel she was up to the 30-mile ride, followed by a big walk in the heat for a few minutes at a retirement party in a crowd of people. She said, "Well, if you can't take me, so be it." I knew she didn't understand, but honestly, by Friday, I figure she would back out anyway... and I truly don't believe she is able. The changes are subtle, but she is declining, slowly. I assured her that Martha would understand... although I don't think she was fully convinced.
My grandmother has become very comfortable and secure in her environment at the ALF... and that's not a bad thing. She knows the "lay of the land" there and has a pretty solid schedule and routine... and she has to make very few decisions. And this is a great comfort - to her, and to me. But there are times when she still wants to function in the "outside world" as she did before. She wants to be a part of social situations and family events... until she considers the logistics of getting ready, getting there, seating and more. I thought about the birthday party I took her to a few weeks ago, and how well she did. But this was an event she has attended for years. She knows exactly where we are going... where she will sit... who will be there, and what will happen. There is very little element of "newness" there... everything is familiar and comfortable, and I think that is the difference.
Try as we might to assure my grandmother that we can still make some of these things happen, I think she is often far less than convinced. Both my grandmother and Timothy often ask for "the moon". These days, delivering on the promise to a child is often far easier.
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In the spirit of offering helpful hints/suggestions, I would like to talk about "boundaries." I am presently reading Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. In this book, the authors talk about how setting boundaries and saying "No" in certain situations is not cruel or selfish. In fact, sometimes refusing to participate in certain activities is in the best interest of each party... and I think my cousin's retirement party falls in this category. My husband suggested that I have given my grandmother an "excuse" - she can blame me and her "lack of a ride" for not attending. Yes, my mother would drive her if she asked... but I've told my mother that I don't feel Mam-ma is physically able to go, and she has agreed with me.
If I felt my grandmother was able to make this party, I would do so. This cousin is the last remaining niece... the daughter of one of my grandmother's older sisters. It would mean the world to her to have my grandmother there, I'm sure... but not at the expense of her health and well being.
I've also taken advantage lately of a service provided by the ALF for driving residents to doctor appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at no additional charge. My grandmother had a pacemaker check on Tuesday morning at our local hospital. Thursday afternoon, she had an appointment for an adjustment on her dentures. The staff at the ALF was able to drive her to both of these. There was no need for me to go... no doctors were consulted at the hospital, and the dentist has made these adjustments numerous times - there is nothingdiscuss there. And even if there were, the dentist would be happy to phone me. So I scheduled the appointments on the days when delivery service was available and made sure I got them on the calendar at the ALF. And I was able to accomplish some of the things on my own "To-Do" list at home, knowing all was well with my grandmother.
A year ago, when Mam-ma still lived at home, I would have had to take her to the Tuesday a.m. appointment, the Thursday p.m. dentist visit, and to the beauty shop on Friday. That would have, in essence, eaten up the better part of three days in one week. And often we had weeks like that, followed by a party or church event on the weekend to which Mam-ma expected an escort. I am so thankful that I now have such reliable assistance available... and people my grandmother trusts. She appears to be just as confident going to these appointments with a staff member as with me. In that regard, we have both shifted the boundaries a bit... I'm depending more on the staff for assistance, and she is allowing me to do so!
My point is to examine your situation and ask yourself where you could possibly let go a little and allow others to help... and where you could lovingly step back and say, "I'm not doing this"... because it's the right thing for everyone.