• Lisa

art, rats, and wrestling kisses

The family has been trying to keep me away from mom, for fear seeing me would agitate her more. I’ve been torn about it, because while of course I don’t want to get her wound up, I miss her! I really do, even though there’s not much ‘her’ left there.

When the hospital called that she was ready to move back into the psych unit, though, I was the only one available. I took a deep breath and went into the room. Mom looked a bit disheveled, needless to say, though no more or less confused than she has been. She knew my name, but kept asking things like when would I get off work, and when my uncle arrived to help, she expressed surprise because she had thought he was dead. Thankfully, she didn’t get upset, and we moved her downstairs and left while a swarm of staff busily buzzed around settling her in.

That evening, I had plans. Remember I mentioned Mick Foley, the legendary wrestler, coming to our local comedy club? After we moved mom, I checked, found tickets still available, and took the leap. I dressed up (had to remember how to put on full makeup, LOL), crossed my fingers that the hospital wouldn’t need to call, and headed off. The general admission line was nearly around the building, over an hour before showtime!

I ended up sitting at the bar next to a lady and her son, ordered a snack and a cold drink (sweet potato waffle fries with jalapeno ketchup. YUM) and watched the fortunate meet and greet recipients go onstage and get a word, an autograph, a picture with Mick. At one point during a lull, he looked over at the GA seats and waved. We hollered and waved back. I put down my fry and blew him a kiss. He laughed, and returned the favor. Yes, right at me. Nobody else was blowing the Hardcore Legend kisses! I mimed clutching my heart and falling off my barstool, which earned me another laugh from him and from my seatmates. Yeah, drama sometimes, so?

The show was great by the way. If you ever cared anything about wrestling, or even if you don’t but would like to learn or just listen to a hilarious storyteller, it’s way worth the price of admission to go see him.

I’ve spent a lot of time working through things on my to-do list. A thrift store raid replaced the little table I took to mom’s apartment. I cleared a bunch of shows off my dvr, read some books, finished some knitting, got some sleep, went to the library, early voted.

On Friday, the local farmer’s market had their monthly Night Market: vendors, food, drinks, and live music. A friend I used to work with, who had to quit physical therapy after throwing her back out, is now an artist with a booth there, so I planned to visit with her. On the way my phone rang, from the hospital. When I answered, though, it was mom. She launched into a lengthy explanation of how she was working at a hotel and was about to clock out but didn’t know how to get home. So there I am trying to find a place I haven’t been since I was a small child, while simultaneously trying to reassure her somebody could find her and she should have a bite to eat while waiting. Um, tell me again, why is she at a hospital if they have to call me to calm her down?

Finally I got her off the phone. I enjoyed my visit and meal, brought home a strawberry-rhubarb turnover for breakfast the next day, and cleaned up and sat down—and dang if the phone didn’t ring again, and dang if it wasn’t mom again. This time she was more agitated, but a little more oriented. At least this time, she knew she was in a hospital and demanded to know why I hadn’t come to get her. With a little mutual background of truth, I was able to keep reminding her she had been admitted by her doctor, it was the middle of the night, and she couldn’t be discharged until her doctor said so. She got mad and hung up—which was pretty much what I am used to with her.

Next morning, I called to ask what the unit policy was on phone calls. Basically, there is no set policy; if they think a patient needs to make a call, they let them. Ooooookay. So, like everybody else, when mom fries their brains and wears them out, they have her call me to get her off their backs for a few, and hope maybe I can settle her down, even though I’ve told them and everybody else I can’t. Guess I should be thankful, after a fashion, that she remembers my phone number, and sometimes that I am a person who cares for her.

Let’s see, what else have I gotten to do that everybody else would think is seriously boring, but that excites me to no end? Got a haircut, called a friend, painted my daddy’s old floor lamp to replace the one I took to mom’s. Went to Wal-mart and left and realized I needed something else, and was able to turn around and go back and get it. That was really special to me. Seriously!

Oh yes! Our art museum had a free day last week and I’ve never been (it’s on that looong wish list of mine) so I went and enjoyed it. Got inspired a bit, too. I haven’t done anything art-y in years, but last weekend, I gathered some things and tried my hand. I love to collage, but didn’t realize it actually has an ‘art’ name, mixed media. So I thought about it and decided to try to depict mom’s dementia.

I washed some color across a cardboard canvas and made copies of some paper items that represented things important to mom: her notes on medicines, family pictures, a photo of her old box of ceramic paints, a picture of Winnie the Pooh, a recipe she liked to bake, a class reunion notice, the cover of a paperback by an author she used to like. Then with wet fingers and some sandpaper, I tried to make them look like mice or rats had been chewing on them, because that’s kind of how I feel about her mind now. In the center I put some worn return address labels she carried in her purse to help her remember where she lived.

I also roughed up an old ceramic paint brush of hers, and some silk flowers and ribbon she used to use when she loved to make flower arrangements for the cemetery. Then I put them all together. I added a couple of things she still likes, or did as of a few weeks ago, and some highlighted bits of text about dementia, leaving all those intact and un-‘chewed’.

One of the mods of the caregivers’ group I belong to said she felt I had really captured dementia on paper, which felt good, in a weird way. Somebody else sent a message criticizing me for, I think, differentiating the things I perceive as still intact in her thoughts, versus the ones that aren’t? I think. I didn’t really understand what they were getting at. But I got criticism, so maybe that makes me an actual artist? LOL. Anyway, I’m going to try to do some more, but I suspect this one will always mean the most to me.

Next time, progress reports all around. I’m content overall, but still get teary. Making things helps. Blogging does too, so stay tuned.

#dementia #selfcare #caregiver #art

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