Thing One and Thing Two

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There are two things on my mind today. Actually, there are three things, but I bet you’re sick to bloody death of hearing about our stupid money situation, so I’m going to shut up about it already, even though inside my head it’s all I think about every single second of every single day.

Thing One: Disease and Death

I spend a lot of time thinking about my grandmother, Alzheimer’s disease, and the long road of caregiving ahead of me, followed by a particularly protracted and awful death as she loses the ability to reason, speak, walk, recognize me or care for herself in any way. But as my doctor pointed out today, she was 84 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so it’s more than likely that she’ll die from something else first. You might think this is insensitivity on my doctor’s part; on the contrary, it was the most comforting thing I could be told at this juncture. And my doctor is indeed sympathetic—her own grandmother died of Alzheimer’s, and so she knows first-hand how devastating the disease can be.

The big thing I am realizing is that caregiving is not a sprint; it is a marathon. I am in this for the long haul. The end of this journey is many years and many emotional miles away. I have to pace myself. I have to conserve my energy. This is not the time for no-holds-barred—this is the time for making sure that I can go the distance. This is the time to make sure that I have comfy shoes and that my running shorts fit and that I have water in my bottle. (I’m using a running metaphor, here, but I’m totally winging it. I have no idea what you need to have in order to go running. I’m much better at staying still.)

In practical terms: If I need help, there’s no shame in making sure I ask for it and get it. I have been doing all my grandmother’s laundry and managing all her medications so that we wouldn’t have to pay for the assisted living facility to do those things for her. I thought I could handle it, but Nanny can’t remember to take her pills every day and I was always anxious about it. Every time I’d visit her I’d check her pill box and see that she’d missed a dose or taken two days’ worth of pills at once. Twice I found pills stashed away in her silverware drawer. Then Nanny would become distressed by the evidence that she had missed her pills or taken them incorrectly—it was just another reminder for her that she’s no longer able to complete basic daily tasks, and she’d get defensive and then she’d get sad and/or cry. I’d dread going to see her for this reason, and Nanny would dread seeing me, because we’d always have The Pill Discussion. But now I don’t worry–the nursing staff dispenses her medication at mealtimes, and they even take care of filling her prescriptions. I feel like a massive load has been taken off my shoulders.

The other thing that I felt I ought to be doing for my grandmother is her laundry. She’d have to pay for laundry services otherwise—so why WOULDN’T a dutiful, loving granddaughter want to step in and help her with this? It’s no big deal—very time I visit her, I pick up her dirty clothes, take them home, and dump them in with our own laundry. I do a load every day, so a few extra pants and shirts and pairs of pajamas aren’t going to make a big difference. EXCEPT for The X Factor: the random items that Nanny leaves in her pockets. I KNOW, I KNOW I should check her pockets before putting them in the washing machine, but I’m always in a hurry so I always forget. Mostly this results in a snowy white flurry of tiny, balled-up tissue bits exploding out of the drier when I open the door. (Nanny is obsessed with tissues. She stuffs her pockets with them, and I find piles and piles of them around her apartment. She’s always afraid she’s going to run out and not have anything to blow her nose with. She also has a disgusting, disgusting habit of clearing her throat of phlegm in the loudest, hackingest, globbiest, and vilest way, and then shlorping it all into a tissue and shoving it into her pocket to use during the next Horking Session. BLEH.)

But once she left a tube of lipstick in her pocket, and we ended up with pink (or, more specifically, “Lilac Frost”) goo all over our clothes. Just so you know, you can get lipstick out with dishwashing liquid. A LOT of dishwasing liquid.

Worst of all, she left a Tootsie Roll in her pocket—there’s an old gentlemen who hands them out to the ladies in assisted living; it’s as good a pick-up line as any, I suppose: “Hey, Toots, wanna Tootsie?”—and I laundered said roll with my lovely new fuzzy red jammies, a Christmas present from Simon. I was awoken late one night by a distinct chocolately smell. I felt around until I extracted a sticky glob of something from my armpit. I threw it on the floor and went back to sleep. In the morning I saw that the sleeve of my pajamas was matted with chocolate goo, and there was a big blob of chocolate next to the bed with white tissue bits fused into it. I somehow hadn’t noticed the chocolate stuck in my armpit when I’d put on the pajamas. Anyhow, it took weeks to find a goo-removal solution; in the end, I borrowed some Goo-Gone from my friend Shandy. The stuff worked like a charm, but now my fuzzy red jammies smell like chemical solvent. That’s when I decided I didn’t want to do Nanny’s laundry any more.

Now I’m Nanny-pill-and-laundry free, and I’m not constantly exasperated with her. It means I’m a lot happier when I visit her, and I can focus more on the stuff that matters, like making sure she doesn’t mistake her shoe polish for eyebrow darkener.

Thing Two: Why the Fluck Did God Give Me Fat DNA? Could He Not Have Given Me a Propensity Toward Thinness Instead of an Ass So Big That It Begins at My Ankles and Ends at My Neck? Seriously, Would It Have Killed Him to Cut Me This ONE SMALL FREAKING BREAK? 

Self-explanatory.

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