How It Works:
::: The Interior Geography Lesson ::: I have moved her into my room. The room used to be half full of baseball memorabilia, and half full of jazz research mayhem. Now we go thirds: one-third baseball; one-third jazz; and one-third Lucille. As I sit writing this she rocks steadily behind me in her wooden rocking chair, watching John Wayne as McClintock swaggering all over a helpless superstation. She asks if I'm going to "write about this one," raises herself from the seat, and lets go a quiet little fart. That's where we are then.
An Owners' Manual for the 1907 Model LUCILLE Compact
::: Logistics ::: It's small here. Everything is small. But then, so is she. She is essentially confined to her third of a ten-by-thirteen room. She used to range widely into the adjoining u-shaped hallway and the bathroom it leads to, but two weeks of pure constipated hell during which the bathroom was in constant use as a staging area for impending who-knew-what put an end to that. The wife and I have need for this room now and then ourselves, so we bought her a bedside commode. Now she is more confined than before, but she still exercises the option of walker-ing herself into the hallway, either just making the trip for the sheer joy of it, or else to stop off and say hello to Sandy, whose "mess-room" along with our bedroom, are also off the u-shaped hallway. Her final option off this hallway would be to hurl herself bodily down the stairs.
::: We Acquire Many New Skills ::: I had the naive notion early on that the most difficult aspect of all this would be the physical, but I was so very wrong. It turns out that the physical is a breeze, because as you discover each new activity and its proper facilitation, you realize that you are merely doing for someone else what you unflinchingly have been doing for yourself all along, and the lines between the two of you blur more and more with each encounter. It's as if, on New Year's day, after living the previous nine months in an oblivious haze, we suddenly gave birth to...
::: A Hundred-Pound Baby ::: That's what we have here... "Feed me. Waaaah. I want my jammies. Waaaah. I want attention. Waaaah. I am miserable and for this you shall pay. Waaaah." Oh, and we also have unconditional love.
::: Phantom Pains-in-the- ::: ass, feet, thighs, ass, head, digits, ass, shoulder usually the right, chest which yes usually sets us on edge, but mostly, yes, mostly in the ass.
::: 21st Century Shopping Lists ::: Tomatoes. Fleet enema two-packs. Ensure Nutritional Supplement. Russell Stover Creams. Tomatoes. Lots of toilet paper. Industrial toenail shears. Lots of Kleenex. Tomatoes. Prepared Italian olives. Disposable latex gloves. Mineral oil. Tomatoes. Stylish oversized sunglasses. Eggplants. Lipton tea. Tomatoes. Powdered-sugar donuts. White bread. Vermicelli, please. Tomatoes.
::: What We Eat ::: "What is it you eat?" "Can anyone cook around here?" We're vegetarians, and we do the whole-foods thing, which can be troublesome for someone who has no idea what the words 'dif-fer-ent' and 'per-spec-tives' mean. We unflinchingly buy her the required body parts. It's not religion, it's just one of those choices you get to make, or not, when you learn certain things and make certain connections. We do not eat meat. She just can't get over this.
::: Clean Your Plate ::: This is one of our routines. "Young lady, you clean your plate or you're grounded!" or "You're not leaving this house until you finish every bite of that oatmeal!" Like that.
::: Vinegar ::: If we allow it, she will drink it by the glass. Is there a possible medical explanation for this? Anyone?
::: Why, What Useless Teeth You Have Grandma ::: Brushing someone else's teeth while those teeth sit quietly in your hand. Now that's something to do. She somehow came into old age with uppers only, so she's not really chewing, but rather shoving everything up there with her tongue and hoping it somehow comes apart. "And your lowers?" I asked. "They wanted another $135.00," she replied. "But would it not behoove you to actually be able to chew?" She shrugs her shoulders, looks past me at...
::: The Vast Wasteland ::: I have not spent much time the last several years a'front the telly. "McGyver" is cute. "Touched By An Angel" is not. TV is really only good for two things: broadcasting baseball; and keeping us constantly in mind of how closely our lives have come to resemble embarrassing games of trivial pursuit. I dig silence. There is none on TV. "Believe everything I say no matter how ridiculous watch closely no matter how fatuous be sure to fall for everything the lights the buzzers the lame music the shallow manipulative talk-shows and the real-TV that makes you forget that what's on TV is totally unreal stay as boxed in as possible don't do anything meaningful just shut up and listen to this word from our sponsors..."
::: Macho, Macho Men... She Wants to See Some Macho Men ::: Here's another thing to put on the growing list of "Mysteries of the Universe." She recently let us know that her primary interest is in John Wayne and Arnold Schwarzenneger movies. How the hell did this happen?
::: Little Beasts ::: We have cats. Little Bit—an eight-year-old female, short-haired tiger with lovely markings, aloof, crazy-cool, a touch touched, my theory being that her now-and-then spells, whence her eyes glaze over and she looks as if she is in a state of shock, are the result of a three-story fall onto a set of concrete stairs when she was a kitten. Little Bit generally keeps to herself and visits Grom only occasionally. Wooly Bear—a one-year-old male, long-haired tiger with lovely broad markings, full of love, plain crazy, a complete naif who regularly rolls off of tables, beds, and couches, who is utterly uninhibited and regularly wakes me up by lying down across my head to sleep. Wooly Bear generally wanders in whenever the hell he feels like it and plops on her bed and knocks all her things off her table and goes nuts following the glimmer off her watch and does a rather good job of keeping her entertained.
::: Little Me ::: This is a nickname she'd given to herself some years ago. "Little Toughy" is another.|
I find these written on the backs of photos of her (photos like the one
to the right that do indeed fit the tags) and she often refers to herself this way in her journals, even using it as a title when so moved.
She was independent, strong-willed, energetic, spunky, and alive.
She drove like a cabbie until very recently, January of '98, and yes,
this dependent invalid bit is tiring and frustrating to her, and it often overwhelms her, and when it does she pulls a morph into...
::: Little Bitch ::: In this version of her persona (and offered as a metaphor that she can easily hold onto) Satan actually exists and he has her by her sagging earlobes and is flying her violently around the room, a sawed-off little bag of vicious bile spraying hot piss and vinegar, intent on causing as much humiliation and pain as possible for anyone within shriking (sic) distance. All of her anguish and troubles, both internal and external, are imposed upon her by a world in need of drastic reshaping by her acidic texts, which, if refined, annotated, and properly edited, might serve as the perfect guidebook for martyrs everywhere. Awwwww... It's not really that bad. Except for: Sometimes it is! And when it is, I do my best to hang onto my sense of humor, and when I can't, I tend to get depressed, or frustrated, or beaten down, and a few times I've gone off and said something like "Look! Banging your tray will NOT make the food cook faster, okay? The eggplant is seven minutes away, the pasta just went in, the sauce is cooking, and if you want me to stop it all and serve you cold everything I will!!! I'm sick of your complaining, gawDAMMitt!! I've altered my life COMPLETELY for you and all you can manage is this kind of nasty BULLshit???"... Doing my own version of the martyr thing. We're working on this.
::: Done Fighting ::: A few weeks ago she and I had one of our little moments. I had been trying to do my best job, you know, like I am capable of anything and I can pull anyone out of any hole no matter how deep: by sheer force of will; by my persistence; by my finding those magic words that anyone can comprehend and that no one can ignore. We'd had this spiral going where every day fewer pills were being accepted and the food kept getting worse and worse and she was in awful spirits and it was not possible for us to be more inept and ridiculous in our efforts to care for her. Incompetence was our game. And while collecting myself for another session of calmly reasoned and completely useless talk with Grom about how this thing was supposed to work—(We help. You accept it.)—I suddenly realized that it was possible I had been missing something. So I asked her: "Do you want me to stop fighting for you?" And she looked at me as if the previous few weeks had suddenly been swept away and she smiled at me and said "Yes." Now this was following over two weeks of daily strokes and horrible bowel troubles and nausea and misery that we thought were all signs of a slow slide downward towards a quickly approaching end, but that question changed everything, and out of nowhere we launched into this half-hour lucid conversation that dealt succinctly as hell with the actual situation. She is 92. What does it matter if her blood sugar is high today? Maybe it's more important that she not take those pills if that's what makes her happy. Yes she was more than ready to go, to be done with it all. No, she didn't want me to call an ambulance for the strokes. Just stay close. Her heart is a room in tatters, and she is tired, and it has all been enough, and our realizing this and easing off and throwing all of the rules aside has made the recent weeks a comparable joy. We no longer push her. Her disposition improves by the day. The strokes have mostly stopped for the time being, and she is less confused, and she is smiling, and talking, and eating like a little piglet. Stable at around one-hundred pounds. Four-foot-ten, maybe. Little Her. So here we are, a hundred days along, and the ups and downs are as unpredictable as ever. What happens next? Is she well? Is she dying? I don't know, I need more data, I just don't know.
::: The Wife ::: What a gal. Sandra is the nonpareil gamer. She never hesitated. She was with me absolutely, from the very beginning of this wild episodic ride. I am one fortunate man, and I love her madly, and I don't mind saying so.
::: Deep Talking ::: There have been numerous sessions. Going way inside with the serious questions, the ideas tossed from one to the other, the aspects examined and revealed, the challenges met and the troubles parlayed into broader understanding, foreheads together, eyes crossed, asking each other if we're sure we're okay. Yes, we keep replying. Yes, we're doing just fine. We're surprising us. We're empowered. We're arms full of wisdom, we're unreservedly capable, we're alright.
::: Very Quiet Sex ::: Allow the rapt clutch. Disallow the animal howl. Allow the subtle tremble. Disallow the violent gasp. Allow the stifled breath. Disallow the massive convulsion. Allow the clasped stillness. Disallow the moving of furniture. Allow the laughter, because it will lack context anyway so how the hell could she suspect... and now I'm imagining reading this to her and making it so that every time she hears us laughing in the other room she'll think we're doing it. But gosh, I'd hate to have to withhold anything.
::: Scatological Humours ::: The jokes are with us always. The medicine show. I hope there aren't any sad and joyless people out there who aren't getting the jokes.
::: Po & Prose While You Wait / Reading This To Her ::: Yes, I have actually been reading these things to her. "Grom Who", "The Wonderful World of Strokes", all of it. I try to repeat them, because I want her to "get" the poetry of it, the way I'm breaking it down and trying to move it from my head to all of yours, and she seems to truly appreciate and love that it comes out of me this way. I have to tell you: The first time I was reading the "Seizures" piece to her had been a particularly bad day for her, and I just asked if she wanted to hear something new, and I tried to make sure that it wouldn't upset her by explaining that it dealt with a bout she'd had mere days before. She said "Let's try it and see..." and so I read it to her, the way I would read it to you right now if you were here, and we had another one of our moments. I went through the thing, and it was very close, so recent and still in me, and as I reached the last section I began to cry a bit, and when I hit "I thought that I would be afraid" I almost sobbed but pushed my way through the feeling to that last repeating line and as I began saying it I sensed her turning to look and I turned to her as she turned to me and our skulls came to rest softly against each other and my god she was saying the line in chorus with me "the voices like reeds like voices like reeds..." as I blew it out, right there with me, loving the line and glad to hear it again (!!!) and saying it with me, and whatever composure I had left was gone, lost, blown out with the words and the reliving of it, and I couldn't believe she had done that.
Subtitle format stolen from Steven Joerg of AUMFidelity.
Next: March-November and beyond...