G'ma needed to see a medical practitioner. The pod castle remembered that I protested the random visits by the Physician's Assistant as she made her rounds of the residents; it's four times as expensive for my mom to be seen in her home than it is for her to be seen in the office. As long as I am around to shuttle her to and fro, there's no reason for Medicare and Empire (her public and private insurances) to foot the bigger bill.
The appointment was for 1pm, so I arrived at noon to join her for lunch. I didn't eat, because a big meal in the middle of the day puts me right to sleep. I looked longingly at her apple turnover with the whipped cream melting slowly on top, but I resisted that, too. I'm trying to fit myself into my summer clothes, and whipped cream is not on my list of approved foods. I did stick my pinky finger into a corner of the melting wonderfulness, just to reassure us all that it wasn't poisoned. She laughed as hard as my kids laughed when I checked their french fries the same way.
I love it when I'm reminded of one end of life's spectrum by the other.
It's about fifty feet from the front door to the loading zone outside the pod castle's gate; it took us nearly 10 minutes to get from the dining room table to the car seat. I am the slowest walker I know, these days, yet I feel as if I am rushing whenever I'm beside my mom. She moves one foot and reestablishes her balance. She moves the other foot and gets settled again. The distance covered by each lifting and releasing of her shoes from the ground is minimal, minuscule, barely noticeable.
I have a hard time balancing all my weight on my right leg; walking that slowly is a true challenge. I find myself next to her as we start out. As I become more tired, I speed up. It's counter-intuitive but it's true. I'm anxious to get off my injured leg and onto the safety and security of my un-perforated limb. A slow pace requires that my weight really transfer from one side to the other and that it balance there for a beat or two. Walking with my mom reinforces my belief that I have a long way to go before I am healed.
She didn't remember why she was outside, didn't know why she needed to go to the doctor's office, didn't know where she was leaving. She didn't know where she was at all. She used to keep those thoughts to herself. Recently, she's been telling me that she's lost, uncertain, has no idea where she is or why she is where ever that is. It's beginning to make her anxious.
There's a locked gate at her pod castle. Ever since one of the residents showed up at the Walgreens across the parking lot, clad in her sweats and her bunny slippers and unaccompanied by anyone who knew who she was or how she'd gotten there, the gate has been secured by a numeric code. Each and every time we approach it, G'ma reminds me that she has no idea what the code might be... and then she wonders how she'd ever get out if there were an emergency. I remind her that the staff moves more quickly than she does, and that they would be the ones to insure that the door was open by the time she arrived to go through it.
The problem is, she forgets the solution and remembers the issue. It makes me sad.
Her hair is too long and it blows in her eyes. Her vision is already cloudy as her baby blues are covered with the diseases of old age. Cataracts or glaucoma, I can't remember which. I was so stunned when Dr. Le announced the diagnosis that the facts fled my brain upon impact. It really doesn't matter; it's not being treated. G'ma's too frail to withstand even out-patient surgery and the smoky sense she has of the world doesn't impede her ability to find her food on her plate or her remote control for the tv. If she were still knitting or doing crewel work or reading or sewing I'd reconsider the decision not to treat. She's not, and so, neither am I.
I opened the car door and watched as she lowered herself, inch by inch, down into the seat. There are no convenient handles or places to rest a hand so she has to rely on her core strength.... of which she has none. Folding at her hips reminds her of the aches and pains she endured when they were replaced. No, she tells me, they don't hurt her, it's just......
She couldn't finish the sentence. She didn't have the words to describe what she'd lost. I tried not to cry.
We admired the big blue sky and the soft white clouds and the bright yellow VW Beetle that turned in front of The Schnozz. The doctor is around the corner from the pod castle, a quick drive when I remember which driveway is his. We noticed the bright red oleander flowering along the walkway and waited until the PA was ready to see us. She was examined and treated and prescribed for in a lovely thirty minutes of professional care and comfort. We left with prescriptions and discount cards and a reminder that, when the PA had visited her yesterday afternoon - just to say "Hi," because that's what you do when you know someone, right? - there were no Hershey's Kisses in the bowl on the end table.
That was a problem which required immediate remediation, according to my maternal unit. So, off we went to Walgreens, for drugs and lotions and cleansers and Kisses. The fifteen minute wait for the medications was just enough time for us to peruse the aisles and select our items. No, she had no idea which brand or smell she preferred. I was to choose, so I did. Again, I tried not to cry.
We put ourselves back in the car and drove through the parking lot to the front door of her home. "This is where I live? Without you, I'd never find it. I'd be lost before I got to the street." I reassured her, as I always reassure her, that she's not going anywhere without me, that she doesn't wander, that there is always someone around should she need help.
The problem is, she doesn't remember the comforting words. They get lost in her dementia, crowded out by the fears and the struggles and the pains. She's fading, disappearing, and watching herself go.
Her father's favorite toast was "You should live to 120 years!" I'm not sure that's as kind a wish as he intended.