I am astounded at the similarities in the world of two-year-olds and ninety-nine-year-olds. Last week, we took Timothy to see his first football game. Our junior high team played at home, and it was a cool, crisp fall evening, so we decided to see if Timmy would sit still for at least a few plays. Did he ever! He was so intrigued with all of the movement and action - especially the band sitting in the next section over - and he made it through an entire half of the game without leaving my lap.
We decided to leave on a happy note. Timmy was starting to yawn, and it was about 8:30 p.m. His day had been full... daycare, then the ballgame and all of that fresh air. He nearly dropped off to sleep on the ride home after the game. By the time we got him inside, he had "hit the wall," and a hysterical tantrum ensued. I removed his clothes and diapered and dressed him while he screamed hysterically at the top of his lungs, big tears rolling down his bright red cheeks. I just steeled myself and kept working until I had gotten everything changed. Soon, he was calm and sitting in my lap, "slubbing" his tears and composing himself... and by a little after 9:00 p.m., he was sound asleep.
The next evening, my phone rang around 8:30, and it was Mam-ma. She was upset and started telling me that someone had come into her room and taken her tweezers. The story was convoluted at best, but from what I could determine, she has had the activities director buy her several pair of tweezers at Wal-Mart... and they all disappeared. I told her I could not imagine that anyone would steal just tweezers - was anything else missing? No, just her tweezers.
Then she said "that girl" came in and dumped everything on the bed and showed her a pair of tweezers and said, "Now I don't want to hear anything else about us taking your tweezers." I couldn't discern who "that girl" was... but I decided that the container she dumped was Mam-ma's pencil container. She also said the girl who brought her laundry went through every drawer... and "I don't know what she was looking for."
I assured Mam-ma that this was not a problem... that we were not talking "the war debt" here (as my maternal grandmother used to say). She began to cry and say, "Well, I'm just so tore up." I asked her why... was she that upset over a pair of tweezers? No, she said, it was not the tweezers... but "I'm just so tore up." I asked if she was in bed... no. I told her to get her pj's on and get into bed... and to ask for a whole Ativan to help her sleep. I assured her that I would check on this the following week... that I had Timothy and could not come down there right away, but I would look into this. She hung up sobbing.
I let my mom know about this, assuming that Mam-ma would never mention it to her - even if she remembered - but just in case, I wanted Mom to know what was happening. I was not able to get down to the ALF for a few days, but Mom went to see Mam-ma on Monday, and she never mentioned the tweezers. But she did tell her that she had not slept well and hinted that there was a problem. Mom didn't bite, and Mam-ma didn't elaborate.
So Tuesday, I planned to visit Mam-ma, but that was the day that Timmy had his meltdown and I had to turn around in the parking lot. Wednesday morning, I dropped Timothy at the daycare and headed directly to the ALF. It was just after 8:00 a.m. and Mam-ma was having her breakfast in the dining room - fried eggs, bacon, toast and jelly - a delicious looking meal. She ate well. Afterward, we returned to her room and had a nice long visit. I tried to think of things to talk to her about, but the conversation waned.
At one point, Mam-ma mentioned MawMac - my birthday buddy and her friend, who passed last month. She said, "I think about her trying to sit at the dining table and eat..." and she shook her head sadly. I reminded her that MawMac is whole and perfect now... stately and able to do whatever she pleases. Mam-ma said, "Well, that's right!" Then I related a joke that I heard lately about an older couple killed in a car wreck. They get to heaven and everything is so nice and lavish - and FREE - no restrictions on diet, no workouts needed, free golfing for him, and more. The man tells his wife, "I'm so mad at you... if I had known it was like this, I wouldn't have eaten all that fiber. We could have been here years ago!" Mam-ma laughed.
Then she said, "Well, the other night I prayed to die." I asked, "You did?" "Yes," she replied, "I did." I asked if she was ready to die, and she said, "Yes, I am..." and she began to cry. I told her that we could not make that decision... that obviously God is not ready for her yet, but maybe He will be soon. She quickly changed back to an earlier topic of discussion, and I let it go.
So I told her I would speak to the LPN. I walked out to the nurses' station and talked to the LPN, and she was clearly in the dark. She doesn't work on Fridays, but she said this was the first she had ever heard about any tweezers. So I clued her in on what had transpired and the hysterical phone call on Friday night, and she just shook her head. This truly appeared to be news to her - or she deserves the biggest Oscar in history.
I returned to Mam-ma's room and told her that the nurse did not know anything about this. Mam-ma said, "Oh yes she does!" and she got up to walk me back out to talk to her. Now this is where it got really weird. Her story now was that someone was accusing HER of taking the tweezers. She told the nurse, "Y'all are out to get me." The nurse sat down on Mam-ma's walker seat and looked her straight in the eye and said, "Look at me. Nobody is accusing you of anything. You have done nothing wrong. Nobody thinks you took anything." Mam-ma replied, "Well, I just want my name cleared. I don't want to be accused of anything. As God is my witness, I've never stolen anything in my life." And she began to cry.
The nurse tried again to tell her that she was making something out of nothing... that there was nothing to this. Mam-ma said, "Well, I'm not sleeping at night. I'm just so upset. I don't like walking down the halls and people looking at me and thinking I did this." She also shook her finger at the nurse and said, "Now you and the maintenance guy both came to my table and told me you would take care of this." The nurse didn't have a clue.
This went on for maybe ten minutes. We finally got Mam-ma to quit crying a bit, and the nurse kissed her and assured her that everything was okay, but they were going to go back to a whole tablet of Ativan at night so she could get some rest. We returned to Mam-ma's room. She was still crying. I hugged her and said, "You do believe us, don't you, that this is over?" "No!" she said, "I don't, because they know what's going on, and they are a makin' this up." I told her that I was totally convinced that this nurse was telling the truth, and that she loved Mam-ma and would not do anything to hurt her - or lie to her. Mam-ma was not convinced.
The nurse just laughed... she said she had assumed it was a staff member... and that Mam-ma would not tell her a name. I told her, "That's because she didn't want to rat on her friend." The nurse laughed and said, "So this may be something that a resident has said and not a staff member." We both agreed... we don't know who Mam-ma thinks has accused her... or exactly WHAT has been accused by whom. It's totally convoluted. But the bottom line is, Mam-ma is upset and paranoid that people are talking about her.
I told the nurse, we've been through this before - but not to this extent. When Mam-ma first moved to the ALF, she called me one day and said her postage stamps were missing. They weren't, although she loudly insisted they were. I found them right where they belonged in her little secretary. Another day it was the room key. Even when she lived at home, she lost her life alert button (it was in a pants pocket), and she had deacons searching the church sanctuary for it. We even purchased a second one before she put those pants on one day and found her missing button!
But this is different. She has really worked this up in her mind... and she is in quite a state. I told my mom, I had a 2-year-old temper tantrum on Thursday night - and the next night, it was Mam-ma! And soothing either one was about the same! With Timmy's allergies, I've found myself wiping his little nose quite often lately... and yesterday, I was doing the same for Mam-ma. Do you see where I'm going with this? The age gap may be enormous, but the needs are much the same.
My husband stopped by later to check on Mam-ma, and he found her sitting sadly in her room. He was concerned by how she has declined... he said for the first time, she looked 99. She told him she was not leaving her room much - she can't see to read, and she just sits and looks out the window - and most days are "boring."
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I am not the only one with such challenges. My cousin's wife called Sunday evening to ask if I knew someone who could do home health care on the spur of the moment. Her 90-year-old aunt had been released from the hospital following an episode of a UTI that caused her to be incoherent and confused. She thought she was ambulatory (she is not!) and got up in the night to take herself to the bathroom... fell and hit her head (CT scan was clear and no broken bones)... and then her legs were numb and she was incoherent.
Apparently the elderly aunt was released too soon... she was incoherent when they got home, and after allowing her to sleep for a few hours to see if she improved, she became unresponsive and had to return to the hospital. She appears to be recovering quickly now after giving the family quite a scare. Meanwhile, my cousin's son and his wife delivered their first baby in the middle of Sunday night at a hospital 45 miles away. So someone had to be secured to stay with the aunt while the grandmother attended the birth of her new grandbaby! Yes, these sandwiches have many layers... more or less depending on the day!
As I told Mam-ma a few weeks ago, I will not be sad when she goes to heaven. She has indicated to both my mom and me in recent days that she is tired - and ready. I don't know what God has in store for her, no more than I know what He plans for each of us. This could very well be my last day on earth, for that matter! We don't know when babies will be born... I don't know how much longer Timothy will be staying with us... or whether any of us will make it through this day. But in the words of my grandmother, "As God is my witness..." we will make it through under His power and protection. At the end of the day, that's really all that matters.