Visit to Dementia Patient in Room 251

My mother’s sharp-edged words hang in the air of her room in the nursing home where she has spent the last two months of her life, words I have never heard her say before, words I have to believe she didn’t mean because to believe she did might dissolve the place in my heart where my love for her resides.

I wonder what it’s like inside her mind—fear, anger, and frustration replacing the kindness she has always had for others.  I try to affirm my love, but there is no acceptance from her and I flee the room, tears coming in spite of my resolve to remain strong for her.

I see her fading from me far too quickly now with a power I can’t diminish, a panic rising in me at the inevitable progression, a loss before the final loss when one would be unbearable enough.

Tomorrow will come and her words will fade and I will hold her and tell her I love her and she will tell me again that she is sorry, that she does love me, and she will cry, and I will fight back my own tears because I have to be strong when she is weak, a role reversal of mother to child.

And while I know such things are all a part of the progression of life’s stages, still I cling to the way she used to be like she does within the chaos of her mind, and I hope for peace to come to us both before her independence and her dignity are gone forever.

Why do men do stupid things?

It has been almost a week since my husband fell off a ladder while attempting to take down a tree in our back yard and fractured his pelvis in five places.  A week of vacation always seems too short, but a week following a husband’s poor judgment can seem endless.  There is nothing more complex, more irritating, more irrational at times, and more egotistical than the brain of a man.

I would have thought that my husband’s brain aneurism a few years ago would have taught him a valuable lesson.  In the night he had what he later described as “the worst headache in the world.”  He got up, took some aspirin (a huge mistake), tried to play some computer games, gave up and went back to bed.  In the morning while still in bed, he told me about the headache.  Twenty minutes later we arrived at the emergency room where he was sent by ambulance to the nearest major medical center and kept for a week.  He was extremely lucky to be alive, and I tried to tell him then that he should never wait to do something about a major health issue.

Last Monday while I was visiting my mother at the nursing home, I got a call from my husband’s cell phone.  That seemed unusual to me since I knew he was home, but when I called him back, there was no answer.  How important could it be, I thought.  I tried again a few minutes later and he finally answered.  He was in Urgent Care because he fell off the ladder, he said, and they were going to do an x-ray just to be sure nothing was broken.  He said he was fine.  I left my mother and drove to Urgent Care.  He was not really fine.  After x-rays and CT scans were taken, we were told he had five fractures in his pelvis.  I was surprised he was not sent to the hospital.  Instead he was given a walker and told to stay off his legs for a week until he could see an orthopedic doctor.  It would take six to eight weeks to recover.

I tried hard to be sympathetic.  I really did.  Cutting down a tree was not on his agenda that day.  When I left, he was planning on mowing the lawn, fertilizing the flowers, and washing a window that seemed excessively dirty.  He began the tasks but apparently was distracted by the sight of the cherry tree leaning a little toward the deck.  It was a small tree and nearly dead, but he had been watching it for two years, thinking he should probably take it down.  He didn’t really know how to do it, but he secured the tree around some nearby trees, notched the top and put in a wedge, thinking he would top it first and then cut it down.  He kept moving the ladder to get into the best position, and the last time he moved it, it was apparently not secure.  The ladder slipped and he fell to the ground.  Most people would immediately call 911.  He didn’t.  He got up and struggled to get into the house.  He got to his chair but the pain was so bad, he decided to drive himself to Urgent Care.  He made it as far as the front yard when dizziness overcame him and he passed out on the lawn.  When he recovered, he got up, got into the car, and drove himself to Urgent Care.  At no time did he consider calling 911.

Since he can’t do anything except struggle to get to the bathroom, I am doing my work and his work the best I can.  It’s not that it’s too much for me, although I can’t do the real heavy stuff.  We have a family reunion planned on the Cape in a few weeks, and it is questionable whether we will be able to go.  I now get him settled for a few hours so I can go to the nursing home, and then I rush back to get his meals and do whatever else needs to be done.  Since he can’t climb stairs, he can’t get to the bedroom or to the upstairs bathroom to the shower, so he is living in his recliner and using the small bathroom downstairs.  He is sure he will be back to normal in a week or two.  While I wish that would happen, I doubt it very much.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the way his brain works.  It may seem weak to him to call 911, but it seems worse to have to spend six weeks sitting in a recliner unable to do simple things.  I suspect that paramedics would have immobilized him to minimize the damage to his body.  Instead he chose to walk and drive a car.  I try hard to be kind, I really do.  Sometimes in the midst of my fatigue and frustration, I may say something unkind, a sentence that just might include the word “stupid,” but then I realize how much pain he is in, so I bring him his coffee or a sandwich or a magazine.  He has been using my laptop daily since his computer is upstairs, and so I am trying to be patient and not complain about my daily emails piling up or my blog that is going unwritten.  I do have to thank him for one thing.  Whenever my writer’s block remains for days on end, I can count on him to provide me with a topic to write about.  If his fall causes us to cancel a vacation with our two granddaughters whom I see only a few times a year, I will have even more to write about.

Foxy Females

Every morning for the past week screams have pierced the pre-dawn hours in our quiet neighborhood.  We don’t have much crime here, so I immediately dismissed the thought that a woman nearby was being murdered, even though the screams were very female-like.  The first morning I heard the screams at 4 a.m., I jumped out of bed thinking some kind of animal fight was occurring in our front yard.  I put on the porch light and there under the big pine tree stood a fox screaming her little heart out.  After some research, I realized that it was a female seeking a mate.  This is apparently what the female fox does—she screams until a male fox hears her and comes running.

I wonder how unlike human nature this really is.  Maybe we females don’t actually scream (although for some of us, it’s a way to let out all our frustrations), but we do go to great lengths at times to attract the opposite sex.  The first morning the screams lasted about twenty minutes before the fox moved down the street.  The following mornings the screams shortened in duration.  This morning I did not hear her.  So now I’m wondering if she actually found a mate.  Maybe she just went elsewhere to look or maybe she just gave up.

Our street is located off another road called Foxwander.  At some point in the past, someone probably noticed screaming foxes and decided to name a street after them. When we first moved here, it was only a fleeting thought on my part that we might actually encounter a fox in our back yard while sitting on the deck or working in the garden.  At that time, we even had a cat that liked to roam at night.  We were taking a chance allowing her to be out there with the foxes.  Still she apparently never encountered one.

A few of my neighbors have mentioned fox sightings, a fox just strolling down the middle of the road.  But the screams were new to me.  Once I knew what they meant, they were not quite so frightening. She was just doing what females do–trying to get the attention of a male.  I hope she had some success.  I still wake up around 4 a.m. every morning now and listen for her.  It’s peaceful then, just before the birds start their morning songs.  I guess they too could be singing for a mate.  I’d rather think they were just happy, whether they had a mate or not.