Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Alzheimer's Letter

Dear Night Shift,

My grandmother is the patient in room 561. She broke her hip and will be having surgery to correct it tomorrow. There are a few things that we want you to know tonight.

1) She is what she used to call when she wasn't and so it was funny, "stone deef". But now she is and it hasn't been funny for years, so be loud and in a place where she can see you when you talk. But don't expect a verbal response.

2) She is anxious. She broke her hip because she is a wanderer. Six, eight hours a day she would wander the nursing home halls. It was her new "job." Like so many of us, she is now out of work and it makes her anxious.

3) She's a picker. That bandage, that IV, that name bracelet... they all need to beware. And you need to pay attention when that IV starts beeping unlike you did when I gave birth to my children and you'd let that thing beep for 45 minutes at 3 in the morning. Ok, so that wasn't you, but it could be more serious for her, so please pay attention.

4) She's boy crazy. If you send in any man you can find every four hours or as needed, all will be well. They just need to smile at her, talk nicely, and if they had the time, hold her hand for a minute. That would be more than her husbands ever did for her, and she does have her wits about her enough to remember that.

5) Please be nice to her. We don't know this new version of her. She's a different person to us. We loved the person who used to live in that body, so we're riding it out with this new person, but we don't know her well. Sometimes it is hard for us to be around this new grandmother who doesn't talk much and doesn't make eye contact much and only remembers us sometimes. The rest of the family has no contact with her, and at this point, we understand. We don't like it, but we understand.

We've been sad for a long time now. But you, you're just meeting her. You don't look into her eyes and remember how it used to be. You don't feel fear, regret, anger, and sadness when you look at her. It doesn't disappoint you when her eyes don't light up when she sees you. So you could talk to her in a sweet voice like we try to do, and it would be a true sweet voice, not one you are just trying on, hoping it is enough.

6) Call her by her first name. She still remembers that. I was named for her. It's my first name and I don't use it except at the doctor's office, but it is one of the many parts of her that lives on in me. I hope that the name and the memories are all I carry, and not this disease.

She is a good woman. She is loved. She is completely vulnerable. Please take care of her.

Thank you.
Her granddaughter

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Photos Anyone?

One of my favorite quilts at the show. It was in a section of quilts based on punchlines.

Birthdays call for key lime pie and the soft hues of candlelight. (Note my buddy Stephen in the back pondering, "I bet she wishes for more pie.")

I don't know what to say here. I opened my door one afternoon and there was a Mucha Lucha match playing out on my front porch.

The new babies. Darwin giving me her seductive, "Let me lick your hand" stare while Chicken exercises his God given right to curl up on the bed. Or so he tells me.

This Message is Self Destructing as You Read It

A not very subtle fan has noted the lack of jots lately. He pointed this out by emailing me and telling me to write. He avoided threats. Mighty nice of him.

I wish I had an internal alarm like that.

"Warning: BEEP. You must write within the next 36 hours.
BEEP. It is time to get your eyes checked.
BEEP BEEP. That book you put down 17 days ago has slipped under the couch. BEEP BEEP, I SAY! You have not shaved the back of your calves in 3.5 weeks."

Instead I make my eye appointment when I bump into my eye doc at a bluegrass show. The book gets found when we move. The writing happens if the fan reminds me. And I discover the hair thing on the first warm day.

In my life: I had my first Facebook birthday. Turns out that you don't have to be a rock star as long as you've got Facebook on your birthday. That was really wonderful. My fave Happy Birthday came from a high school classmate who gave me the great opening by asking (tongue in cheek) how old I am. I told him that I had 24 more hours at 38 before I began the next 25 years of 39. My mom gave me a framed drawing of that eternal 39 year old, Jack Benny.

Birthday weekend I saw a favorite opera, "Tosca", my fave locals Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs, and a favorite national act, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. In no particular order - all the musicians kissed me, they played all my favorite songs, and everyone died. You figure it out.

After that wonderful weekend I woke up Monday morning feeling happy, got dressed up, was having a great hair day and then threw up while driving my daughter to school. Flu.

Let's move on to going to the annual quilt show, seeing my cousin perform delightfully in "A Trip to Bountiful" out on the Northern Neck and a big honkin' snow storm.

That's me.

Warning: BEEP. You promised your husband that you wouldn't be up half the night working on the computer.
BEEP. Tonight is the night to finish reading the article on the transformation of war into playable entertainment.
BEEP BEEP. The inspection sticker on your car expired in February.
BEEP BEEP, I SAY! If you don't get your liver test tomorrow your brilliant, mild-mannered rheumatologist is going to go howler monkey on you.