Just Put It In Your Purse…And Keep On Walking


Oh how I love my mom. She’s done such wacky things in her life. I love all the crazy stories, from her. She is obsessed with moving back to Wisconsin. Even though, she is totally incapable of caring for herself. I try to appease her, by being part of the fantasy.  She will be ‘stuck,’ on something for days, weeks, even months. 

david performs exorcism on mom

For example; “Since when did McDonald’s begin serving chicken?” She asks. “They should have stuck with hamburgers.” As if McDonald’s is losing market share, since they started this ‘new product.’ I used to say, “mom, they have served chicken for years.” But that’s a losing battle.

The other day, she brought up the story about her taking a bag of garbage to work, one day, instead of her lunch. “Oh, I remember that.” I said. It seems I was just thinking about this recently. But I remember laughing about this for years. She took a small brown bag, off of the windowsill. She thought it was the lunch, she had prepared. But she found, when lunch time arrived, she had grabbed a bag full of cigarette butts, and trash.

She came out of the family room and into the kitchen to tell me, “You know that happened before I was married. So you couldn’t have remembered this.” “Mom, that happened when we lived in Parklawn,” I said.  “I was about  10 years 0ld.”

Now, she was really annoyed. “Well, it must have happened to me twice. I remember, and I was still living at home.”

“”Ok, here I am again,” I’m thinking. “There’s no way, I’m going to argue about something so foolish. And especially, since, she is feeling self-conscious about, her forgetfulness. I will snap, and then instantly realize, “hey, this will be me, one day.” It must be difficult to know you’re not able to do the things you once were able to do. And you can’t remember the things you could remember.

Some people handle it with more grace, than others. I have grasped the understanding, that to my mother, I’m the enemy. I’m the reminder, of her life, slowing down. When she needs me, she won’t tell me. She makes comments, which suggest, her need. When I comply, she will say, “If you want to, you can help.” But she isn’t the kind to say thank you. I don’t ever think I’ve heard my mother say, “I’m sorry,” for anything.

So I may have learned to adapt, by making a joke out of everything. I remembered another story, and said, “Hey mom. Don’t you remember when you told us you were walking down the street, in downtown Milwaukee, and your slip fell down?” “Oh yea!” She said. “That was funny. I just stepped out of my slip. Put it in my purse, and kept on walking, like nothing happened.”

I love that story, because, it pretty much sums up my mother. No crisis, too big, nothing too embarrassing. She’s done it, and seen it, all. She just, “puts it in her purse, and keeps walking.” She’s more amazing, than she realizes. And this is the reason, she has all of my respect.

Even now, when it isn’t her slip, but her own memory,which is slipping, I keep my respect level, higher, than my impatience. I can’t bring pain to her. I think that the ‘life lessons, which she has taught me, have kept me from drowning in my own fears, or grief.

I took her to the neurologist, last week. I knew she required some tests. A casual-dressed, doctor ,walked into the room. Full of experience, with aging mom’s and dad’s. He knew the repetitive behaviors. The obsession with certain subjects. and he took  it all with humor. “How long have you lived with your daughter ?” He asked. “I DON’T LIVE WITH HER! I’m from Wisconsin!” “Ok,” he said. “How long have you been co-habitating with her?” I smirked at his remark, as she answered, “For about a year.” “Oh, you have been co-habitating with her for a year.”

He moved on; “Do you know what state you’re in?” “Of course, Florida.” She answered. “What city?” Now she was stuck. She said, “Florida.” “That’s a state, what city?” He asked again. She was getting flustered. “Ok, what county?” “Florida.” She answered again. “That’s a state, what county?” “I have no idea,” she said. I do believe,it’s the first time I’ve ever heard her acknowledge that either.

Now, he holds up his pen. “What’s this?”he asks. “A pen!” She seems clearly annoyed at this point. Then he started to ask her some math problems. With quite a bit of hesitation, she seemed to come up with a good deal of answers, and proudly proclaimed, “I told you, I worked at a bank!” He said, “I’m going to write something on a paper, and I want to you to read it. “Well, she says, “if you write like most doctor’s, no one will be able to read it!”

He continued to ask  more questions, and then he told her, “Now, I’m going to take a walk with you.” She became very fearful, as she stated, “my socks will get dirty!” “Well, that’s what washing machines are for,” He said. All the while, I’m thinking, I’m the one who does the laundry, anyway.

I realized that she had blamed her lack of mobility on her shoes. After buying a few more pairs, she now claims that it is her knee, which is sore. From a fall she had taken months ago. Never mind that I’ve taken her on walks, around the block, since this time. She uses a walker, go around the block, but refuses to use it in the house.

When she last complained about the knees, she claimed, if I got something, like Icy Hot, and placed this on her knee’s, she could walk. I hate the smell of these products, but my son assured me, “as soon as you put it on, grandma will say.” “Oh, this feels good.” “Then she’ll start screaming, a few minutes later.” “Take this off of me!!!” I laughed, as it’s probably true. But then again, I will be compromising her last straw. I don’t know how long she’ll stick to her story.

So now, the doctor is holding her arm, as he very slowly, walks her into the hall. I cannot see her, but I can hear her. I’m guessing he didn’t get too far, considering, the very small, measured steps, she takes.

Then I hear her, and I start laughing. He tells her, “Now, I’m going to push you.” “What?” She says. “Yes, I’m going to push you, and I want you to hold your balance.” I hear her say, “I’m going to push you again. Hold onto my arm.” Then he pushes her again, and I hear him say, “I told you to keep your balance!” She yells back, “I would! But you keep pushing me!” At this point, I was cracking up. What a scene this must have been.

Later, as he shared some of his findings, I nodded, at the advice, he had given me. And that  we need more tests.

When we were driving home, I said, “Hey mom, what did you think of those tests?” “Oh, they were silly!” She said. “Of course, I knew the math. And what about when he held up his pen?” I said, “Yea, you should have said, “Hey, how is it you managed to become a neurologist, when you don’t know, basic math, and don’t even know what a pen is?”

We were laughing so hard as I said, “If you think that was funny. You should have been on my end. When I was sitting in the room and you went into the hall!” “Oh, did you hear that?” She asked. “Yea, it seemed like he took you out of the room so I wouldn’t see him pushing you around! And those questions, really did make you want to ask, “Are you smarter than a neurologist?”

I told her I had a test similar,when I had a PTSD, test. They asked me so many questions, about states, capitals, presidents, etc. I knew all the answers, but I was perplexed by the questioning. I was telling some friends, and I said, “Hey, I’m not delusional” As they laughed, they said, “I don’t think I could have answered, half of those questions!”

I told my mom, as she laughed, “who knows, maybe they are recruiting for a game show!”

So, as I continue in my quest to help her, I just keep reminding myself of the sage wisdom, she had given me so many years, before; “Just put it in your purse and keep on walking!”

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