I spend the night at my mom's house on special occasions and early doctor appointments. I have trouble getting up in the morning. I can remember my mother wrangling me into my underwear, getting me dressed for the day as a kid. I'm sure I put up a fuss then, because I still do.
I can get up and get out the door very quickly if I have to. Mom, on the other hand takes time to go though the various stages of gradual greeting of the day. We're two opposites.
She hates me to ask her to get me up, because if I do not jump immediately out of bed, she takes it as a personal insult. It actually gets her blood pressure up and everything. I guess it's a love-hate thing.
Well, we have lived our lives together long enough that the worm has turned. I've gotten he up twice recently, and the look on her face when she realizes I'm waking her is hilarious to me. This isn't a mean thing. It's an adjunct to watching the grandchild do what the child did, and the parent learning the lesson. Somehow, what goes around comes around.
The previous night I'd laid out my morning time requirements, deciding a 7:45 awakening would give me a leisurely wake up routine with time to partake of all the morning rituals a female requires before exiting home for the day. Mom's schedule for leaving the house was independent of mine. She had her own schedule. We were supposed to leave by 8:45. Her appointment was at 9:00 at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.
The alarm on my cell phone went off at 8:15, and I hit the snooze. I got out of bed at 8:25, and realized mom wasn't out of bed.
I heard her awake an hour before when the puppy was scratching and whining "good morning" to her. I heard her tell the dog, "Stop it, Regal. I can rest for another hour."
I went to bed at 11:00 pm. Mom wanted to stay up to take her pain pill as late as possible so it wouldn't wear off before she got back from seeing the doctor. She wanted to be not hurting, but also not too dopey form the pain pill so she could talk and make sense. Sometimes she's gone to the doctor by herself, and left not knowing what happened. She has some aspects of health down to a science. Other things are more difficult.
Going to sleep is more difficult. Now she's the one who's up in the middle of the night instead of me. Many nights she can't settle in because of her backache and restless legs. It's really miserable to feel bad and not be able to sleep through it. She has puzzles, jigsaws, word finds, and other things to occupy her attention in the middle of the night. She even turns on the television sometimes, usually to listen to music on cable. When she feels really rebellious, she brews a cup of coffee and drinks it.
She finally got cable TV too. I was sure she would never pay for television. I remember one time I ended up moving out of the house because she didn't want cable installers poking holes and stringing wire. After the fact, most of our arguments are silly, but I'm capable of being very hurtful. I'm not proud of that. I'm glad she got cable TV, and I'm proud of her mastery of multiple remotes. The world becomes increasingly electronically confusing, especially for seniors.
We discuss these things like this if I wake up at her usual 3:00 am cup of coffee time. If she's still awake at 3:00, she gives in to caffeine. Because she worked at a coffee company for many years before I was born, coffee gives her a special pick-me-up. The doctors discourage Mom from drinking coffee at all, because of her congestive heart failure, but I can't make her stop if she wants it. Heck, I canít turn the tables that far around. So we both become non-adults at times, doing what we know is not best for us.
So, now, she's the more likely one to be wandering around the house in the middle of the night. When I wake up, I listen for some of her normal night sounds, and when I hear it's okay, I go back to sleep. She had taken her pill at 1:15, but it was 3:00 before she settled down to sleep.
Her morning routine is somewhat expanded from my usual minimal efforts. There's the wash your face, eat your breakfast, brush your teeth part. Then there's the pick out the new pink jogging suit, with the right shoes, with the jacket, and a purse that coordinates. Her make up is only foundation and a powder puff, and the perfect tone of lipstick to fit the bill. She's a natural beauty. That's a phrase I remember her throwing at me when went through the phase of wearing too much make up. It all comes back around.
Along with the breakfast, go about 10 pills. When you think about it, to get food and medication down your esophagus properly, it takes that many pills take a long time to get swallowed. Of course, it's always best to have some food with meds, so they won't be so inclined to upset one's stomach.
Bathing is a whole other problem. Because of her back problem, Mom won't get in a bathtub. She has a shower stall that works fine for her, with a hand shower spray, and she can even take in a stool to sit on if she feels weak. I just don't understand how she can give up the pleasure of bubble baths for life. She moves slowly and carefully, knowing that a broken hip was the beginning of the end for many of our dearly departed.
Her ever-silvering salt and pepper hair just requires a morning brush, with a brush. Once a week, she goes to the beauty parlor to get her hair washed, rolled, and usually dried under the dryer. I think she goes for the gossip, because her hairdresser's mother stayed with mom as a caretaker for awhile. She keeps up with others' goings on. She keeps a permanent in her hair, and short waves fall easily in place. Sometimes she pulls it back, and she wears a hair style that's usually seen on "I Love Lucy." It looks good on her.
There's also a morning newspaper to be brought in, so the neighbors know she's okay. They found one of her neighbors that way. When the lady's newspaper was still outside by afternoon, a neighbor was able to make phone calls to get in the house. Dorothy had had a stroke, and there was some bleeding involved. Mom was one of those who went in to find her, and was shook up over the experience. She and Dorothy were about the same age and both lived alone. Dorothy regained consciousness in the hospital just long enough to say goodbye to her daughter the next afternoon. It set us both thinking about when her time comes.
By the time I "palmed" my new haircut, she was sitting at the kitchen table eating her cereal and banana and pills. No time for toast today. I passed on the offer of a banana, but did grab a Coke. By the time I played hopscotch putting the cars in the single driveway in the right order to be able to leave in her car, she had her breakfast down and digesting.
I pulled on jeans and a proper tee shirt, and donned my clogs while she dressed. We met in the den. I had keys in hand and my purse over my shoulder.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked, looking me over as if I were not. "I'm not used to your new hair cut yet." She responded to my look of dissatisfaction
I looked at myself in the mirror, and pronounced myself as good as Iím going to get this morning. Since she said that, I felt very not together all morning. She didn't mean it that way, I just took it that way. We have misunderstandings like that.
She looked so awake and put together. I couldn't believe she'd gone through a reduced morning routine in 25 minutes. With her silver hair, she looks pretty in pink. As she ages, I can see the sweetness in her personality that made my father fall in love with her.
With her purse, her keys, and her file folder containing medical papers dealing with her present back and abdominal pain, dressed in her new pink jogging suit, she exited the house to the garage, and slipped into the passenger seat. I followed her track, letting the puppy out of the house into the back yard, and closing and locking doors along the way. She inserted the key, I started the engine, she raised the garage door with the remote, and we were on the way to the doctor's office at 8:55. Amazingly, she wasn't frazzled. I wasn't awake enough to be frazzled.
She didn't take her walker or cane, because these days she says it slows her down. She's walking much more firmly than she was for awhile. She has good days and bad days. The doctor's appointment was with her orthopedic surgeon. He inflated her discs with a neuroplasty a few years ago, and he's treating her for osteoporosis still. Now she has a pain in her side and back that won't go away. She's in terrible pain, moaning and groaning in movement. It even hurts her to lay down.
She got three shots that had her feeling better in thirty minutes. Tomorrow she has an appointment with radiology. You have to be somewhat healthy to keep up with the appointments. We both keep each other's appointments on our personal calendars. It's nice to always have somebody there. Sometimes I hold her hand, and sometime she holds mine.
I dropped Mom off in the underground parking garage elevator, and told her I'd meet her in the doctor's office on the sixth floor. As quickly as the morning was moving, I hadn't had a chance to smoke a cigarette.
Mom hates that I smoke. Iíve tried to quit. I eventually will, and Mom's come to accept that telling me to quit isn't going to make it happen. She gets melodramatic about the odor of cigarettes overpowering her, and stepping outside to get fresh air. I smoke outside when I'm at her house, in the heat of summer and the breezy chill of winter. If she's coming to visit me, I can't smoke inside my house. I'm no more annoyed about being put out than all of the other smokers in the United States.
I smoked my cigarette near the car that morning, because smoking outside any building in the Baylor Health facility. People at Baylor may not sneer in evil knowing laughter at the fact that we're cutting our life spans by seven minutes for every cigarette. I feel particularly knowingly self-destructive smoking around Baylor Hospital.
After lurking in the still empty parking lot for seven minutes, I walked to the elevator area and opened the heavy glass door that provides entry into Wadley and Barnett Towers.
The elevator, filled to capacity on the first floor, and was half empty when it stopped on the sixth floor to let me and two other people off. One was a vampire, carrying her box of wares. You can usually tell the workers from the patients in the building.
Mom was sitting, pretty in her pink jogging suit, in a very crowded waiting room. Actually, she was slumped over a clipboard, filling in update information on her condition. I sat in the chair next to her, and read over her shoulder. When she got to the section with a key provided to mark different kinds of pain on the front and back of a human outline, she looked up at me..
"What kind of pain is it?" I asked when she hesitated on the form.
"I guess it's sharp," she said, sounding none too sure.
"Is the pain in your side like a cramp, like I had from endometriosis for all those years?" Mom never had menstrual cramps, but I had enough pain for both of us. It led to my total hysterectomy, and Mom being without grandchildren. All those times when she said, "wait till you have children of your own," didn't come to pass so I got what I dished out. She will never have the satisfaction of watching me receive the rebellion I dished out. I grieve for both of us.
"Mark the parts that have cramping pain with this symbol." She marked through the lines and filled in the abdominal area on the left and the middle back with a "v" symbol. "If you have sharp pain, mark it like this, and dull pain is this symbol."
"But I don't know what to mark. I just hurt." Facing health problems as a senior become very frustrating. There's paperwork, insurance, scheduling, procedures, blood tests, and all sorts of annoyances, if not downright displeasure.
Eventually, the lady in blue scrubs called us in to the exam room. Mom got up slowly, handed over the clipboard, and ambled through the door, and down the hall to the appointed room. We waited again, and the docotor's assistant come ine the room. I planned to be quiet and let Mother explain what was wrong with her.
"What's the problem?" asked the blonde smiling middle aged assistant. "You look a little pale today?
"You want to tell her?" my mother asked me.
"Mom, you know what's hurting you better than I do. You should tell her. She's having pain in her leg like when she very first came to Dr. Chapman." I couldn't help but get her started off.
"Yes it's a terrible pain, like a 7," she added when I nudged her in the ribs.
"What were you doing when this happened? Beth asked. She was always full of smiles and a cheerful attitude.
"She was working in the yard. Tell her what you did when you were supervising." I was trying to set her up so she'd just start talking. She had a bad habit of clamming up when she needed to speak.
"Well, the boys where doing the yard. They didn't rim around the sprinkler heads, then I asked them to pull up the green carpet in the flower bed." I could tell she intended to go the long way around the story.
"And how long were you outside in the heat?" I asked, hoping to speed things along.
"It was just a couple of hours. Then I came inside and took a nap."
"And she woke up the next day hurting."
"There was a time I could go out in the yard and pull a few weeds," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "I woke up the next morning, and I couldn't get out of bed. I finally got to my cane, and I've had to use it ever since. My leg wants to give way on me. I'm likely to fall without the cane."
"Maybe you should be using your walker if you're that unstable. In the meantime, let's take some x-rays, and let the doctor get his two cents in. We'll come get you for an x-ray in a few minutes." Lizabeth left the room smiling. Her attitude could make a person feel better.
"I knew they'd want to take x-rays. Well, it feels so bad, something will show up. I didn't do that much, really." I don't know if she was trying to convince me or herself.
The x-ray technician in the office esorted Mom away for about ten minutes. She retunred hurting worse.
"He told me to get up on the table, and I had to get in the most uncomfortable postions." She was in pain, but she'd be feeling better before we left. She'd get a short of something.
When Dr. Chapman enters a room, he fills the exam room. He's got to be about 6'6' and he's a wide fellow too, but jolly, like Santa Claus.
"I hear you're not doing so well. Tell me about it." The doctor got the whole story from the beginning. He leaned on the exam table, listening intently, but with a gleam in his eye. Before their conversation finished, he had her laughing. He seemed to save his best jokes for Mom.
She did indeed receive steroid shots, and a short of torodol to the tush, which would have her felling better in fifteen minutes. She seemed to be walking steadier when we left the office.
On the drive home, she did indeed begin to feel better. She began talking about the yard work, about what was left to be done.
"Oh, no, I'd never think of asking you to pull weeds. You'll end up injuring your back!"
"Mom, if you thought about yourself as much as you think about me, you'd have fewer health problems."
She agreed, but I expected her to follow the doctors suggestions until she felt better, but that's my Mom. She looked so pretty and feminine in her pink jogging outfit that day.