staycation

staycation

all the kids

all the kids

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Sheer Amount of Nuts

So you know back when the world was regular and the kids and I would go to the beach, we'd always stop after to get junk to eat like at McDonald's. And I'd get a sundae and I'd always ask for extra nuts because the whole point of the sundae is the sheer amount of nuts you can add to it.

My need for extra nuts has definitely been heard. Today I got up early to try and ride before my mom got up so as not to disturb anything and when we were leaving in the dark at 6:30 the one horse that was left behind in the barn started screaming like he was Brazil and just lost the World Cup and I thought wow I hope he doesn't keep that up because my mom's window is like, right there. Horse adjacent.

So I forget all about it because when you ride the horses have the magical power of erasure and when I got back and inside, dirty and covered in hay at only 7:30, there's Barry with my mom crying in the bathroom just out of the shower and apparently I had missed a shitshow like literally. And I'm thinking wow is there no good time anymore?

We've already done the craptastic blog so I don't think I need to say anything about why my mom needed to shower off poop at 7:30 a.m. except imagine just more, and runnier, and I wasn't there, so also, let's thinly layer on regret. 

But the problem with the day was the whole rest of the day my mom was in a cheerful mood, while I was feeding her and then teaching my class and she wandered around loudly answering all the questions I was asking the kids in my online class, and then after class, I was sitting outside reading and she was there too and I started actually listening to her and how she might make a little sense for a few minutes and then her brain just flows right into I don't know

extra nuts

I thought OH MY GOD. I have done it. I HAVE THE EXTRA NUTS.

Not the yummy kind mixed with hot fudge and ice cream. This is the real kind. Like the worst kind, involving this icon from your life. She fed you and rocked you and encircled you and you felt safe. And now she is still HERE folks, but      (seriously, eyebrows vexed)     you reel in that fishing line and there's not even a hook, it's just like empty floating plastic string.

I think because I'm the daughter I was thinking stubbornly SHUT UP, SHE'S FINE. She's FAKING. Look, she's totally ok. Today I was looking at her and thinking man this is... this is something there is no way I can understand. Like. At ALL. This brain disease, and it's undertow, and that little blonde person who is what's left of my mom. What is happening.

I started thinking about how when things are this epic they just become, as I sat there, watching the light on the trees and the dogs, comedy. 

Everything's connected. Those nuts you ordered? They're coming back for you. They think it's funny. That mom you loved? I forget her voice and I just listen to her heart and hold her hand and remember all the times she held my hand when she thought I was a fucking idiot.

There is nothing to do in times like this. So I made Cream of Wheat since it was getting cold out, and I sat with my extra nuts and basked in the late afternoon light and I stopped trying to make sense of it all. Better to just eat something warm and watch someone's face, with all the nuts you need.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Turds Out

So at 5 a.m. I heard my mom's toilet flush and I had turned off the water to the toilet because lately at 3 a.m. she's flushing the toilet like a hundred times and I didn't feel like having to walk out there and cut that shit out. Turns out (or turds out) that the flushing and cold barefoot walk at 3 a.m. is way better than the cold barefoot walk at 5:30 a.m. when I hear her still moving around now but not flushing and go out there.

She apparently had decided that toilet water is supposed to stay perfect and that you shouldn't let poop fall into the toilet, so she was catching all her poop and wrapping it in tissue and putting it in the trash.

Discovery #1: turns out the manager of my brain draws the line at a pile of a mom's poop in the hand at 5 a.m. I erupted MOM!!! (Staring half sleeping) NO!! What the -- (staring half horrified) we don't touch poop!

She stood there frozen, holding her chocolate friend.

It reminded me of my other husband Will who when he was 4 would take his poops out of the toilet and put them in the sink to roll them around for fun. His mom told him "WILL! We do not play with our grunties!" 

I tried to control myself and explain the situation with the non-touching of poop and my mom listened and was genuinely confounded that we don't touch toilet water or that all we do is sit on the toilet. Here she was being this shit hero. (that sounds like a japanese band) She said REALLY. Nobody told me that.

She had me there. Nobody did tell her that.

I encouraged the dropping of the friend into the water and washed her hands with like a Silkwood shower strength and then removed the trash can from her bathroom to try and encourage the waste materials to end up in the watery world under her ass by default, and I turned the water back on to the toilet because that sure as hell didn't work and now we'll see what happens tonight when 3a.m. rolls around.

I told my friend Kurt what happened while he was in a hospital in Arizona worriedly waiting to find out why he's peeing a weird color. Later he texted me "I just tried shitting in my hand, she may be on to something."

Then later that same day (that would still be today), I called our mechanic, Paul, who we've known for 20 years, because his wife took care of her Alzheimer's mother and got paid as a caregiver to do the job, so I wanted to find out how to do that. He gives me her number and I start awkwardly talking to his wife and then she goes on FOR A COVID HOUR first talking about dementia politely and then talking allllll about things I should not know about my mechanic. Including as a bonus addendum her own personal feelings on Armenian genocide, black people moving into the neighborhood, and apparently her feelings on hispanics not having any work ethic. When you hear about your mechanic riding his bike up a mountain and yelling out to ask God why his wife and mother can't get along - I don't know, I just want my car fixed. He's supposed to know everything.  And ever since Covid he's convinced he's dying, is needy and scared, has had every kind of test there is and now he just follows his wife around wondering if she's leaving him but most importantly how are my brakes

I have to say I did not stop her from talking and in fact kept saying and then what happened until I started to feel a little dirty. She didn't seem to mind, she was raising the flag of her feelings and even though I have met her once, in a parking lot, 15 years ago when she was in a much nicer car than mine, I DON'T KNOW HER. And now I'm worried about my mechanic's racing heart rate and his 7 months of anxiety.

Which really by the end of the day, made the shit in the hand the BETTER part of my morning. I mean, the world's gone crazy. What's a little fun with your grunties, one time in your life.


Monday, October 5, 2020

Misplaced Mothering

 Yesterday was so good and then today. .Why

Yesterday we went to the thrift store and my mom was so happy, we picked out a bunch of junky stuff that she loved the color or feel of and that small adventure cheered her life, and when we left we passed two meth heads sitting down by a shopping cart, all skinny and leathery gross, and my mom (holding my hand) looked at them and felt somber and said Some people are broken.

Earlier she had been mad at me for making her get in the tub (every 4 days, is that so much?) and she said "I'M IN MY 80's. I'm almost 90" and I said Mom you're 77. She said "Well that's near the end." It was kinda funny.

But then today. I had to teach. Then two staff meetings, at which I am superfluous but paid to attend. So she doesn't understand why I am saying MOM I'M WORKING. THIS IS MY CLASS. And I point at the little box on my lap with weird people talking on it and I'm sure she thinks I'm fucking NUTS. Who looks crazier, let's play that game and man it is a close match.

So she descended into this dark Dementia Dan world while I worked and then she swept the yard and I worked and then when I came out after all of it she was never quite the same, sort of lost and tired and more lost, so I fed her dinner and if you don't stay with her she gives everything to the dog. I went outside to do one thing and I came back to get her to take her to her room for bed and she had filled the dog's bowl with pretzels and apple pieces and I tried not to get mad (that was MY apple) I tried to slow down and say you know we already fed her and can you see this is dog food over here and we're trying not to use people food for the dog. Emma ate the pretzels out of the dog dish and I ate the apples and later we thought well it's not actually a bad snack for a dog. She's only mothering. Misplaced mothering. 

That's a good quality.

I would find it sweet I just get so mad because it is a job and by 7 I'm ready to be done.

Tomorrow will be better. I put my Bernie shirt on to go to bed. Bernie knows the right things to say. Bernie would say good job. He would say that's your motha. You're doing the right thing. 


Sunday, October 4, 2020

 


                                Dottering


                                     by


                            Juliet Johnson

                              Aug 26 2020



EXT. POOL - DAY 


Jules and her mother Bonnie are by the pool.


JULES 

I can't look at her


BONNIE 

Why


JULES 

She's not really here.


BONNIE 

I'm here, look I'm wearing this dress I always wear.


JULES 

You're a ghost. I could put my whole hand through you.


BONNIE 

(laughs)

Okay try it


JULES 

I mean when Will had that brain injury it was the same thing only better because he was young and there was a chance he could heal up and get better and you


BONNIE 

Me


JULES 

This is the last act the last act is you going out like this only worse and worse and then just not


BONNIE 

Hm


JULES 

Anymore


Quiet


BONNIE 

you don't like my dress?


JULES 

I like your dress. I mean you used to dress less... old ladyish. But the flowers are pretty. You used to wear like skin tight jeans with no underwear. I don't know how you did that jeans are so uncomfortable WITH underwear, and loose. They're so heavy.


Bonnie laughs


BONNIE 

I was a hottie


JULES 

You thought so for sure


BONNIE 

I had to have my time


JULES 

Yeah I had your time too. And then I had the aftermath of your time whcih took me time to dig myself out from with the help of a therapist and like a shovel. And now look I'm still having your time. Only this time it's a twofer. Two people one brain. Wait it was always that.


BONNIE 

You don't have to know everything


JULES 

Yes I do


BONNIE 

It doesn't help to know everything


JULES 

It does though


BONNIE 

It's sometimes better to know less


JULES 

When is it better


BONNIE 

Feel instead


JULES 

I feel plenty. I feel like strangling you. 

BONNIE 

(laughs)

Well spend alot of time with anybody and I dare you not to feel that way


JULES 

True


BONNIE 

About anybody


JULES 

Maybe not Charlize Theron.


BONNIE 

Well


JULES 

I mean she is so beautiful


BONNIE 

But can she type


JULES 

She is a map I would like to stick some flags on


BONNIE 

Alot of people


JULES 

Have I'm sure.Still. Maybe I'd like to be her. AND be with her.


BONNIE 

You didn't get that from me


JULES 

I certainly got that from you.


BONNIE 

No


JULES 

You were the biggest whore


BONNIE 

Not really


JULES 

Next time do your whoring before you have me. So I can just be a teenager. And get all the attention.


BONNIE 

We had alot of time together. 


JULES 

We did, mom.


BONNIE 

I wasn't perfect but we had alot of time. We knew each other, we three with your stupid brother.


JULES 

He is stupid


BONNIE 

We were close.


JULES 

We were everything.


BONNIE 

And the dogs.


JULES 

Always the dogs too.


BONNIE 

Not many people have even that. Have a pretty frank conversation about things. Some people don't even have that once with their kids growing up. 


JULES 

Frank is a good dog name.


BONNIE 

We had an open house, open beds, open floor plan, furniture shoved all to the corners of the room


JULES 

So you could dance


BONNIE 

Better that way


JULES 

Music and dancing

BONNIE 

I lasted as long as I could. The way you liked me


JULES 

I wish you hadn't left


BONNIE 

I know.


JULES 

I wish you hadn't spent the last ten years with an idiot alcoholic


BONNIE 

My mom dying really hurt. I wanted to be back in her house. I thought maybe I could get her back if I left her stuff all the way she left it.


JULES 

All your stuff was still in the shed. We had to get it all out.


BONNIE 

I'm sorry about my brain.


JULES 

I'm really sorry about your brain.


BONNIE 

It just doesn't work the same. I don't know the names of things.


JULES 

I'm good at knowing what you're thinking.


BONNIE 

Feeling.


JULES 

I feel what you're feeling.


BONNIE 

You always have. It's what daughters do.


JULES 

I was the only one.

BONNIE 

I told you how happy I was to have a girl. You're my girl. I wanted to have a girl so badly. You came. I never thought I'd have a girl,  I told you that every chance I could. I told you at the hospital I was laughing because I could buy you dresses and then crying because none of the handmedowns from your brother would be right. I told you how much I loved you and wanted you. Alll the time


JULES 

You did


BONNIE 

I can't tell you now, that's why I told you so much then. In case I couldn't get the words out later. I can't get the words out of my pen to write it even


JULES 

I wish I kept more of your writing where you write all over the page how much you love me


BONNIE 

You know I love you right


JULES 

I don't mom


BONNIE 

I love you even if I can't say it or say it the way you want me to say it. You have to fill in the words for me Jules. Can you


JULES 

I don't want to mom


BONNIE 

Can you please help me remember me please


JULES 

(crying)

BONNIE 

No one is going to remember me like you remember me my baby girl. You're the only girl.


JULES 

I don't want all this pain


BONNIE 

I'm so sorry


JULES 

I don't want the pain I only sign on for the good stuff like the pizza and the bank account


BONNIE 

You got me, I am still here. My shape is here and my love is here and my body is here and my hair is here and my feet are here and my heart is here and my essence is here you have to look at me like a candle that is here still here


JULES 

I didn't know it was ever going to stop, like gramma stopped, I just thought it would be different with us, I thought you'd always be there annoying me with your chatter and your heaps of love and your ability to make me feel important


BONNIE 

I am still trying to do that. I'm just sort of


JULES 

Invisible


BONNIE 

I'm changing


JULES 

Like the butterfly


BONNIE 

I can't be here for ever


JULES 

But you brought me here

BONNIE 

I didn't mean to leave you my baby. You know I would never leave any baby that I loved. I loved you guys so much. You're all that mattered, all I did that mattered.


JULES 

I know. I did that with my kids, what you did. I just loved them like I loved nothing else like I could never love anything else. I loved them with all of my heart, with more than that. I didn't miss a minute


BONNIE 

I didn't miss a minute either. We had alot of time, more than most.


JULES 

I kept trying to heal you.


BONNIE 

Lyme disease, dementia. 

(laughs)

You can't heal everything. You can't heal anything, really, you can just laugh and try to love well.


JULES 

I wish I was better, could love better while also being a good daughter. I am in so much pain. It is snaking up me like a spine.


BONNIE 

Feel my hand on your back. I always had my hand on you somehow, I always was touching you. 


JULES 

That's why I think I am knowing that the time is ending, even if it is years like this, the time of you knowing me is ending. I wanted you to know me and be proud of me always


BONNIE 

I am your spirit, and your love. I am your body and your heart. My body is just failing me in its own way and trying to keep me from knowing it. It's trying to be merciful. Try and help me be good to you and to me and to the kids. Will you


JULES 

(crying)

I hate this


BONNIE 

Will you


JULES 

I am a terrible daughter


BONNIE 

Don't stop asking me to go swimming. I will go when I can


JULES 

I want you always, mom.


BONNIE 

Don't stop making me dinner and holding my hand when we walk. Don't stop handing me carrots to feed the horses and don't stop loving me when my eyes look like there's no part of me left in there. I just can't control the look in there. I am not all in control I am sorry


JULES 

I know


BONNIE 

You know me Jules


JULES 

I do


BONNIE 

You're my only daughter


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Slotted Spoon

 My mom's disappearing.

We spend the mornings teaching kindergarten. Online Kovid Kindergarten. I feed her breakfast and then we sit in the kitchen with my computer and she watches while I fake "teach" helping the real teacher I'm assisting. I don't feel too bad because all the kindergartners have their moms there with them too. I have to angle her out of the camera, but she's right there, and if you can see a tiny section of my arm moving, it's because I'm rubbing her back while she sits there with me.

On the days I'm teaching we move outside for the second few hours so she can move around and because who wants to sit in the kitchen all that time. I sit in front of the computer doing the math lesson which is kind of fun, it's all about being curious and less about actual math thank god. It's about noticing and wondering. My mom sweeps up leaves usually during this time, and sometimes sits down with nothing to do. 

When school is over I make us lunch. If I don't pay attention to her like today, I decided to write instead, I had to write this Lewis and Clark ridiculous thing that has been in my head and if I'm not giving her focus she just gets less and less lucid. She needs interaction, but all of us are working on school or something. So she just sits there like a flower that is fading in the sun. Then by night at least tonight anyway, she is barely there, she's confused and bent over and this is my mom, what happened to her. She is fading away. Maybe it's because I was busy, without prompting and attention, or maybe it was just the way of the dementia day today.

When I put her to bed I get mad at myself for needing to write sometimes or do things that I need to do to stay alive, or connected to my own kids, or exercised. It feels weird to still be trying, to be trying to keep my feet under me and my head working out problems, and my heart feeling things and laughing. There's this person I'm caring for who is doing all the opposite things, maybe I have to see that it's her time to be doing the floating away things, I guess I just feel like it's not fair that you want to keep your mom. Not fair that you feel like you're trying to scoop her back with a slotted spoon and she's sliding through the holes, escaping she will not be caught, she is beyond my ability to keep.

It's not fair because we aren't conditioned to lose our moms, we are determined to keep, nurture, secure, provide shelter for, hold on to. 

She isn't following any of the rules. It is a beautiful thing, if it wasn't mine, my mom. It's okay to watch things that don't matter to you your whole life, solid structural things, lift off and blow away in stages. It's only hard because it's her, and she asked me to be there, so she could feel safe to go.

Of course I have to be there.

It is a wicked thing, loving people. Vital people.

In my best moments I am able to just give the love, the back scratches, the humor, the soft pink shoes, the reminders, the I know where your bag is you don't have to worry support. I can give freely because I can see she needs it and I have it to give. In my worst moments is when I feel all of it for what it is. My mom is slowly leaving, having her brain eaten but her mannerisms are all here like she's tricking me.

She will hold my hand and she will laugh and she loves the horses. She accepts all hugs and she needs me. 

I am just missing her and missing it all.

I have to get better at the watching it go, like dandelion cotton in the wind. I have to remember I'm getting the time to be with her, and she's showing me what she has left, and what it looks like to be her, and where she's going and how she's going. Stay curious and full of wonder, say the kindergartners, if you can hold your heart together for the whole show, says the Julie.

Friday, August 7, 2020

My Little Flowers

Don't take your demented mom on a trip to Santa Barbara.

I pretty much don't have to say any more than that. But that would be unlike me so maybe more specifically, don't take IN your demented mom, to your house and your life, if you ever want to spend any coherent time with your children again.

We had to go to SB to look at an apartment for Emma who is heading to College in a Pandemic, and last time we left mom for over 4 hours she was chasing her babysitter around with a broom, scarring her for life and obviously not getting any sweeping done.

So what we did then was sit on a razor's edge of mood for the hour and a half there, while there, and then hour and a half back. And layer in please the incredible ability of nonstop talk that my mom could always do, just now with this new superpower of notmakinganysense and extra topping, paranoia. I'm pretty sure my mom might murder me if she thought I took her 14 quarters that she keeps counting. Good news is she can't figure out knives and really the ONLY thing that receives her constant unflagging attention is fallen leaves. 

She will not leave a leaf on the ground. She could be on FIRE, hobbling from a burning house, and she would stop to pick up that leaf.

I like to think that she is in transition from earth to spirit, that she's somewhere in that place we straightforward serious thinking people don't have time for, aren't in need of yet, that's why it's so annoying, what is she talking about, why has her body eaten her brain, is she describing with her chatter the steps to the place she is going, is it mossy with slippery grass, the ladder twisted with flowers, I hope she will fall into a soft bubble and float up the rest of the way, her feet draped out like she does in the pool

I miss my mom, the way she used to be, and who I got to be when she was here

I told my daughters, both of them still here, out in this outside land that I barely get to visit right now, in the Land of Function, I told them it is still important that the bigger one is going to college, and that it is a huge thing for any family, the preparation of feathers for the first big launch out of the nest, and here our whole experience has taken on this horror movie soundtrack but have to STOP, we can't let it get in the way of these moments, the big love of all our babies, these we have raised for this very moment happily

So we're trying to keep our eyes on that very bright floating planet, that Emma, the Jupiter right there  that we can see in the night sky right now, tiny next to the huge moon, but steady just the same.

I am following my mom around scooping up the loose brain that is getting all over everything and trying to tuck it back in like the goop in those farting putty jars, endlessly just stuffing it back in like the brain waitress. But I'm still here for them. My little flowers I love so much. My eyes are on that star.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Colors May Fade

My thoughts on dementia today. First of all, you learn that language doesn't leave you, you might not get the words anymore but the feel of the words never goes away. She opened a fortune cookie and could read all the words except "priority" which is kinda funny but then took a bite of the cookie and said uhhh. Taste like candy. ...Like happy.  Candy does taste like happy. 

Then later I got her a new bathing suit (new to you on ebay anyway) because I can't put her in underwear and bra with all the swimming, forget it, so this is close enough and hers are all worn out, the ones she left here like 10 years ago that are still in the drawer of course, so she loved it, a pretty blue and then started reading the label.

JANTZEN
a girl is flying on there. (there's a drawing of a girl diving)
over C C C C (which were waves drawn on but did look like Cs, so A+ bro)
and then L (large)
(these are the translations, duh)

Then she is reading very slowly

do not bleach
do not (spells) I -R -O -N
do not.... may F-A-D
(may fade, I say)

She looks at me pretty seriously and says so far it doesn't sound very nice.
She looks down at it, resigned. Thinking pretty realistically: Why don't you turn it in and get something you really like, there's alot of things against it.

(this was the BEST moment of my day)

Then she reads the whole label again. And gets to
Colors may FADE. (she says again)

She sighs. I say, as we're sitting outside in the gorgeous sunshine, with dogs and pool and eating chicken salad and this conversation is fairly entertaining, so I say all colors fade after awhile you don't have to worry about it.

She thinks. That's true. Well you might as well throw it away. It'll be fine maybe for the first time.
She looks at the deep royal blue color, with serious misgivings. Finally resolves, It's pretty right now though.

Then she read it TWO MORE TIMES. After which I wanted to hit her with a bookshelf. Then I went swimming to do laps and she read the glossary for Gilgamesh (which emma left out) and fell asleep. But I was happy she was reading so I read her a poem when she woke up which she liked and immediately handed me some dog hair wrapped in a leaf. She's an amazing cleaner.

For the rest of us needing more input on what will be on your Dementia warning label, here's what's coming at you: You will not like huge dog bones on the floor. The ones that look like elephant knuckles. You will find those so disturbing and complain about those SO MUCH and hide them so I keep finding them under cushions and pool towels and stuffed behind the table. And the most serious note - all flies are your mortal enemy. It's like flies wiped out her village. She's General Patton with flies.

On a good note, apparently you can always remember bad Chinese food. She kept talking about the Panda we ate yesterday and said that was the worst thing I ever had in my life.

I'm pretty sure there should be a Dementia ride at Disneyland, and there should definitely be a Dementia candy. Think of the fun packaging. The ride will just be an endless line and there's no prize at the end.

The good part about being the daughter to the dementia is that you still ignore and mistreat your mother the same way you did when she was regular. Like I knew it was too late to give her a bath but she was in a bad mood and I wanted to irritate her so I said let's go wash up. So I forced her to get into the bath which I knew she would do (95% sure) and then later apologized for doing it at night when she's better in the morning. But still I got the bath done. I felt like wrestling and winning a battle and I got that one but in general she wins all the battles and I'm just her medical waitress with inside keys to her inner thoughts kingdom from years of scurrying down those tunnels. So sometimes I use those keys for my own personal gain.

On the third reading of the bathing suit, after do not iron, she did find that funny. Duh she said. Looking at me with humor like It's a bathing suit, man.

So. Colors don't all fade. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

baby book

It's hard to leave your mom when she tells you at night that you're her favorite person.

But when she starts counting her quarters I just have to go out and buy a flyswatter for two hours. While Bess watches her.

She cries when I get back. Then at night she says she's sorry. She doesn't mean it. She says she doesn't know why, she's stupid. I tell her yes, she is stupid. But that it's my turn to be stupid tomorrow.

I like her at night and in the morning. It's the whole middle part.

Tonight I was putting some of her stuff into her newly finished place. I found the box with the baby books and was reading things she and dad wrote about me when I was 2 and 3 and 4, when they were just starting out and they seemed so relaxed, sweet, loving and funny, in the writings. It made all of this mess, the getting the mom mess, the bringing her back mess, the caring for her every minute mess, the brain not functioning mess -- it made me remember who she is, and look for the little glimmers I still see of her every night.  Like tonight putting her to bed, she moved over in the bed and said wanna get in? 

The pictures and the books made me remember who she is and alllll the time we've spent and everything we've gone through. And when I was bringing stuff in and she was still up she saw me carrying an old chair she's had forever that was in her shed and she hasn't seen it for at least 15 years, she said "that's my CHAIR!!" I put some of her pictures up so tomorrow she's going to be freaking out happy. I know life isn't about the stuff but life is kind of about the stuff. A blanket with a certain pattern, the shape of a chair's back, a pretty colory lamp, a rug she's had for a million years - these bring huge comfort. I feel bad I couldn't bring more of her stuff but there is much familiar, and more unpacking to do in the next few days and I am liking the person I am, the new pretty place she can be and the help I am bringing to her. Because she wrote about me at 2 and 3 and 4 and said 

juliet loves to read. she will stop anything if you will read to her. 
julie loves horses. julie swims every day and lives in the water.

Knowing and reading that your parents loved you, that far back, and knew you when you didn't even know yourself, and finding the baby book 50 years later, and nothing has changed. 

That's comfort. I'm grateful to still have my parents, loving me the way they do, still.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pandamomium

My mom did not come home. My mom is never coming home in fact.

I didn't realize it until we were in the car with Nathan and his friend Patrick my fake son. We took her for a spin in her own her fast car and even though she knows it's her car, she is rambling about stuff. The boys think it's funny. It is funny maybe if it's not your mom. I take it all so seriously it's like we're watching two different movies, the kids and I. Mine's more tragical. As Anne with an e would say. Because I have to see her like this all day and they only have to be in the car for a few minutes.

Why did they send the shell of my mom and get rid of the meaty part. Her meaty part wasn't even that meaty, she was more for decoration, with some dancing and sexfiendishness and suffering, intense suffering since I was 9 years old. Maybe since she was 9 years old. We did play alot of comedy records. Steve Martin. Monty Python. Sam Kinison. Smothers Brothers. Alot of funk music. Prince. Who Let the Dogs Out. The unfortunate Billy Jean album. Diana Krall at least. Movie musicals.

Why did I get this dish served up to me right now.  Momdemic.

She was a nurse in a dementia ward in Crofton Maryland for so many years. She zoomed there in her fast car in her white nurse's uniform that she ironed every day with her white nylons. She was small and spastically happy, she worked hard. Those people needed me, she said the other night. They had no one.

We would visit her at work and we were used to guys walking down the hall with no pants on. Hallways that smelled like pee. No natural light. One nurse, two aides and 30 patients. No one wants to work in the convalescent centers. Everyone wants to work with babies. Babies without pants are cuter. Baby pee is cuter.

So she worked and then she had Lyme disease and lived with us and then got better and then left and now she's back or what's left of her is back and I'm sitting here with here everyday thinking what happened.

All that is left is she likes to pick up sticks. She's obsessed with things that have fallen on the floor. She was always clean but now she would never wash her hair if I didn't do it. She would never change her clothes. She would only eat apples.

She is back to becoming an animal. Returning to the earth when I see it from a more beautiful spot but tonight I can only see that I got ripped off and she, she definitely got ripped off. If she could see what she is like right now she would be horrified. She would be disconsolate.

Instead, I am.

I was the closest thing to being her that she ever was. Heaped on me at a young age, her distresses, her heartbreaks, her loss. We became one. A giant mother.

I went on to giant mother my own kids with that superpower and my kids have come out pretty damn amazingly even the last one who has gone tiktok lesbian because her phone tells her who she is. Technology and boredom have taken the real person away right now.  Instead of stopping it I sit with my mom who hates flies and sings nonsense songs and doesn't remember how much she loved me.

She told me so much, so many times over and over all these years how happy she was that she got to have me. Now she doesn't know that I'm her daughter or have any memory of the importance of all those years and all those moments, including my birth. This magical thing that started me. That cheerleader is gone.

This is my sadness.

I feed her and I clothe her and I exercise her and I am patient and I scratch her head and give her happiness. Today sitting outside at the table she cries with joy when she finds her bag of quarters because she thought she lost it. She's sitting right next to me and crying and thanking god for the bag of quarters.

This hurts.

I don't know what to do except be wildly inconsistent because I am not a trained objective nurse, this is my mother and she has forgotten me.

It scares me to see how much you can forget. You can be wiped dry. There can only be some froth left, and a sore body. What was it for, then. All those years she loved us kids, if she can't remember them.

This is so incredibly sad. It is just like alcoholism. I am left holding the bag, standing with my mom in the bathroom while she is numb and I am feeling it all. Eventually I stopped trying to solve her problems and just watched her go to rehab. This time, I don't know.  Today I am standing to the side and seeing that I can love her greatly and it is nice to do that. Or I can stand to the side and while she might be slightly sadder not to have me she is not devastated. She is just sick with the kind of sick they don't send the doctor out for. There is zero mental help here.

I guess I wanted her to have everything to the end. I have no power here. Bonnie no Powers.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Momumental

When your mom stops knowing your name exactly, you love her because of her sounds and shapes, every single one of which you know. It's scary to love someone as they are fading away. She isn't fading away physically although that is lurking. She's blowing mentally with the breeze.

She notices the colors of things.
She is extremely grateful at 5 in the morning when you show her the way back to bed.
She loves her little dog.
She is running on fumes even though I am pushing her up the mountain.
A daughter cannot stand a mom who can't stand, and will not stand for it. Until I saw how tired she was the next day after forcing her to go to the beach. There were no old people at the beach, I noticed as we were leaving, as we walked her brokenly across the sand, and my little baby son who is now 19 and 6 feet tall finally picked her up like a fireman and set her gently on the pavement. She did the beach because I wanted her to do it. But. She sees it from through a mist. Her eyes spray a mist and she feels her way through.

It's mentally tiring to see new things and not know where your shoes are. It's not fair to not know where you're living. All her stuff is in a little bag.
We're building her a little place she can have all her stuff and not lose anything. She can have a refrigerator and get all the apples she wants.
I don't mind the wave of sorrow that happens when she coughs and says I can't do things like I used to. She can't even cough like she used to. It frustrates her. She was so busy always.

She sweeps all around the pool. In the morning she sings.

I make fun of her when she is being annoying but I always did that. I don't know what I'm doing, I'm clearly unqualified to care for someone at the end of life, how can this be near the end, at only 77. If there was a me next to me, the me that I trust who sees me through most things and cleans up the messes of the other me, that me can stand up and help her out of the pool. That me is the one doing everything while the other me sees only the world as a bunch of spilled paint and I'm wiping the colors all together with my flat bare palm. That me sees love and pain.

All the emotion and all the people helping and all the dogs and the kids who used to count on me to feed them and my other life from before all of it is spilled everywhere and there are so many tears here. Not for me, mostly for child me who wants mom to be like she was, annoying as she was, loving as she was, not shelled and unsalted like this spent pistachio.

Luckily no one is in charge not even me. So I can cry and all of us can cry and we'll still build the house and we'll not have a whole world of conversations but we'll see the blue flowers I planted from the pool and she'll float and point out the blue and say did you see those

they're wonderful.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

We're the Hamburger

How to write about the last few weeks without being dramatic.



Hmmm.



Well let's see, we had to go get my mom from Maryland because my brother was arrested for manhandling her and my Uncle Wayne was keeping her at his house because um well it looks like she's a wandering ghost who can't be left alone anymore. When did this happen? I saw her in October, which is like three years ago in Covid years, and I guess in that short span of time she had stop being able to dial a phone and my drunk brother was not telling us how rapidly she was declining, and I did get one phone call in April, in the middle of deadly virus, where she said "could you come soon?"



So my uncle has her and is saying "could you come get her" and then Emma is graduating in the worst year for graduations ever so I said "could you keep her" til I could graduate Emma and not miss that. Then we had to drive across the country to pick up my mom because of virus and because my mom had hidden her wallet from my drunk brother so she had no i.d. to fly her.



So there were 9 days that I needed to cross the country and no one to watch my mom since my uncle is 80 and didn't feel like following a dementia patient around for weeks on end since she liked taking his heart medicine or actually ANY medicine that was left on the counters and she liked putting paper towels on the stove. So I called my big brother up north to see if he could help, go fly and watch her until I could get there. Our family on my side doesn't do anything like this, we don't HELP really, there's no superhero situation or really any kind of situation with my brothers. Like I said, the one was playing mean drunk nurse in MD and the other is a bipolar pot smoker stage manager. But my friend Linette said make brothers do things. If they can help, make them help.



My older brother has this habit of talking like he's blowing up a balloon with how great he is. He doesn't believe it, and we don't believe it either, but that balloon is getting larger and larger anyway as we talk. It's exhausting. In the middle of our talk I realize I am talking to a crazy person with a good heart but right now I need a warm body at my mom's and he wants the job. Unfortunately he looks just like my little brother, all pale and wispy blonde but that makes an interesting effect on a demented mother who got attacked by that brother it turns out and we'll reveal later.



So we have no money. So we rent a big van and take out a middle row of seats and make a cushion bed in there and this is our cross country castle. I have to find an army to take care of farm here at home while we're gone. A family army of friends, who have never taken care of a pool and chickens bunnies horses dogs and my horse boarder helicopter pilot says he'll help with horses and then B's oldest son Bruce who just failed at his PhD attempt says he wants to pile in the van and go (and isn't this the plot for Little Miss Sunshine? Like exactly?) and we pack too many games and we go.



Then it is countryside. And Utah. And countryside. And Yellowstone. And countryside. And Cody Wyoming Dairy Queen. And sunsets. And farmland. And Minnesota. And Deadwood. And Mount Rushmore. And talking in the car. Laying in the car. Not one game is played. All we do is look out the window and count the rivers. See the Badlands. South Dakota. At one motel pool Emma meets another teenager and we say we love South Dakota and what is it like to live here. He says South Dakota is ass.



We cross the Mississippi and Bruce swims out into it. We pull into Chicago which is too much input after farmland and Bruce swims into Lake Michigan. We ride bikes for 15 whole minutes along the lake. We have dinner in a park and play frisbee happily with cousins we never see. We see where Barry grew up. We drive to Pittsburgh. There is a BLM protest one block from our hotel. We chant for trans black lives. We are now in Forest Gump. We see where my dad went to college, in the drizzling rain that feels like fairies are crying soft shyness on our shoulders. I pee by the car on streets my dad ambled down at 19, feeling important, feeling his whole life ahead of him. We see him there, young.



I cry alot in Pittsburgh  because I see the end of my life coming, I know I'm taking on the life of my mom, and I know the weight of that commitment. I don't wear commitment well, I can do it, but it chafes. I am a wild horse.



We eat Amish pretzels in Maryland. I eat Amish Market everything because their simple clothes bring me peace. Also, their hot sweet potatoes and green beans. There's an Amish guy with hooks for hands. He can pick up change with his hooks. I feel wide eyed like a nine year old Tom Sawyer when I look at his hook hands, so close to a hot pretzel. If you have hook hands, you can do anything and how does he not tear his shirt. He must have tons of towels with like holes all shredded through them at home.



We spend time with Mom. My friend comes and we have one day to attack her house and pack it and there is sweating and arguing and finally silent depressing packing and then rainstorm and there is so much memory and so much left behind, furniture that doesn't fit you can't cram 77 years of a life into one truck sized packing crate. There's no crate for all the caring.



We leave feeling unsatisfied and wrecked and there's so much crying in the loft at my uncle's because that's all that's left, is the mom who doesn't know anything is going on and us behind the scenes, washed up the shore of destroyed, working aching angry tired sick and still going. There are kayaks on the water and fishing and every day we do that because my youngest daughter says you cast out your problems and if you reel in a fish, your problems are gone. If there's no fish, you cast them out again. I love this girl, watching the pain, and making it lyrical, and physical.



Sunset water soothes. Also the friends. The friends, and family, near and far, that keep telling me like I'm still worth something, telling me I matter. That they love me. I can't hear anything, but they still build this bridge out of words and they keep me on the bridge, made of clouds. I can't do this, not even Dairy Queen is holding me up, and they say just hold onto us. We are here.

Their words are my eyes. 

I am emptied out like a vacant medicine cabinet.



The day comes and we pack mom into the van and tell her we're going to California and she explodes. Our last leg of the road trip home lasts 10 minutes of fury and we have to turn around. All the kids are crying. We meet my uncle in a parking lot at an Acme, where all disasters take place, and he tries to talk her into going. She is not going.



So truth didn't work, and we move smoothly onto lies. Gentle ones that will get her there safely. We pack her dog in the van and send the boys on the trip home. We tell her we have to find her dog. She is fretting. We are still getting to know each other and now there's this pain. 



My brother will fly her home and my daughters and I fly home a day before her. These are anxiety pancakes, these days. The dog missing. The mom mental. The trip home.



My friend drives three hours to get us and take us to her house and then we realize her house is an hour from the airport we fly out of. I can't stay at her house. I have to uber at 9 pm to Washington. I cry for the entire hour to Boogie Fever on the radio with my daughters in masks holding my hands in the dark.



The hotel has 18 floors and we are all in weird family shock. The only thing that feels normal is the shower. It is antiseptic there, and we are outside of our bodies anyway. We sleep there for 6 hours and then catch our flight back.



The next day Mom comes in at 9 pm after wrestling through 12 hours of traveling and horrible anxiety for both her and my brother flying her. She gets her dog back. She is stretched beyond her limits, and the next few days with my brother and fam and me in LA, we try and pad gently around her, and pad her up with love and the life she will hopefully accept. I also am scared like she's on fire and I'm made of paper. What if I can't do this. What if I have no choice. 



I get to ride and being on a horse makes me feel normal. The horses look at me with slow blinks, and the feet thudding the ground like nothing in the world has ever changed since the beginning of (wo)man. There is security in that plodding. I don't believe in security anymore, but I am looking sideways at it. In some tiny breath, in the corner of my body, there's that silent thing raising it's tiny one finger. Hope.



It's been four days now. Each day takes many minutes all of which we all feel, like skinny sharp individually wrapped toothpicks. Waiting for things/mood to again dwindle down to terrible. There is some terrible. Some faces of hers that are twisted, some anger, all of it is warped though, not directed, just upset with no bag to put it in. She is hanging on to, carries everywhere, her little embroidered bags with quarters and dimes and pennies in them, and she has to have those with her, and her dog. That's all she has to help her know she's okay. At 77. That's all she brought. B always tells this story where he took acid and there was a hamburger on his nightstand and when he was freaking out he kept staring at that hamburger and if it was still there he knew he was still real, and alive. That hamburger brought him through.



Today my (turns out to be) good brother left back to Oregon and I was scared to do this alone. What saved me and has saved me for 3 days is the pool. Put a mom in water and she sings. She floats and sings, and moves her legs and arms and this is better than any medicine. The water unties all the knots in her mind and her body follows. It's Frankenstein's music. We put good food into her and talk gently and slowly my life is melting back around ourselves. Maybe there is room for her. We hope she will allow us in.



Tonight the pool had tired her out and put her in bed at 730 and sang some Danny Kaye "Lullaby in Ragtime" and she murmured happy sleepily, and her dog who looks like a fat footstool with legs was next to her. I went outside on the loudest night of the year, July 4th, and before the loudness started, I got to see the light on the tippy toppest of trees, that golden light that surrounds the end of the day like silent orchestra music and is a million dollars, raining down on me. Reward. 



My brother said getting my mom here, we did a B+ job and I said next time let's shoot for C, C-.



Pool water and twilight, the most basic elements. All free, if you just feel it, and wrapping my mom up and giving her back to me, inch by inch. This day, at least.