Monday, January 31, 2011

Telling G'ma

The pod castle sent me flowers.  That was really backwards.  I usually treat them, to cookies or donuts or candies.  After all, they are looking after my mother and you never want to underpay or under-appreciate your babysitter, do you?  But there they were, sitting in the most visible-to-my-eye spot in my hospital room, the trendiest, raffia-wrapped bouquet in the place.  They made me smile.

They also reminded me that G'ma was un-visited.  My family was at my bedside and I wasn't in the mood to share.  Amster dropped off Hershey's kisses for her at the pod castle and let the staff know that I hadn't forgotten my maternal unit, but it just wasn't the same as being there myself.  I had been dropping in at random times of the day, both because that's how my life was organized and to keep them on their toes.  If they didn't know when I was coming, G'ma would have to be tended 24/7. 

And suddenly I was gone. I had a good reason, but still, I was gone.

I wasn't worried that G'ma would miss me.  Whenever I'd apologize for missing a few days, she's smile and chastise me for saying anything at all. "Why do you tell me that?  It's not like I remember that you haven't been here.  Why upset us both?"  I do so love my mother.

But this situation was taking on a life of its own, and I wasn't in any position to get there anytime soon.  Little Cuter and SIR went straight from my bedside to the airport and back to their lives; they had no time to visit G'ma.  TBG was torn between his media duties and his aching ailing wife; his down time was spent pretending to sleep.  Big Cuter stopped by to drop off more Hershey's and check on his G'ma, but I was still too frail to travel and visit.

And there was also the issue of the wheelchair.  Or the walker.  I wasn't going to be striding down the hallway to her room.  She wouldn't recognize the sound of my footsteps clomping on the tile.  I'd present myself as another disabled body shuffling around the pod castle.  And I'd have to explain why.

It was a quandary, for sure, and one for which I had no answer.  And then, sitting on the couch with my ankle higher than my knee which was higher than my hip the phone rang.  Caler ID said it was G'ma.  She had never called me in all the time she's lived in Tucson.  Listen in on the conversation:

G'ma:  Did I just see you on tv?  I caught the tail end of a report.  What were you doing?  Why were you on tv?

A/B:  Yes, it was I.  It's kind of a scary story, though I am all right now.  I want someone to be there with you when I tell you.  Hang up and I'll call you right back.

G'ma: Hang up?  Didn't we just start talking?  Okay... you'll call me soon?

At this point I realized that I could not return her call and the fact of seeing me on tv would quickly find its way to the compost heap that contains the rest of her short term memory, that sweet smelling, every growing, warm and nurturing pile of detritus which will be used to create something wonderful in the future but which is now just heating up and getting itself together.  But I respect her and I've never shied away from the truth with her and I had to admire the fact that this was the first phone call she'd initiated in the 2+ years she's been living here.  So, I called the pod castle and asked someone to sit with her while we talked.  30 seconds later, the phone rang again.

G'ma: Suz?  Were we just talking?  Why am I calling you?

A/B:  Yes, you called me. You saw me on tv.

G'ma: That's right, you wore a pretty turquoise blouse.  I don't remember why you were on tv, though.  Did you tell me and I forgot?

A/B:  No, that's why we're talking now. Do you remember the little girl who was with us at Thanksgiving?  (I talked through the pause, since of course she didn't remember Christina.... "do you remember" is a trope I can't get past) Well, 2 weeks ago I took her to Safeway to meet our Congresswoman who was having a meet-and-greet.  We were waiting in line and some fool decided to settle his grievances with her by spraying gunfire and I got shot in the ass.

G'ma: (Laughs.  A lot.) I'm sorry, sweetheart.  I don't mean to laugh.  But that's a funny place to get shot.

That, denizens, is my mother in a nutshell.  It was obvious that I was alive to tell the story, so she spent no time obsessing about the past.  She dealt with the situation as it was presented, and she laughed.  I couldn't help it; I laughed, too.

A/B:  Well, it's funny until you try to sit down, Mom.

G'ma:  Does it hurt?  Can you get around?  How are you?

A/B: I'm home and recuperating.  I actually was shot 3 times and my hip was shattered.  In the long-time tradition of our family, they were set to give me a hip replacement, but my bones were so healthy they could repair it with glue and baling wire instead of giving me a plastic body part.

Then followed an interesting-to-our-family-alone discussion of Daddoooo's family's great teeth and bones, of my Grandpa chewing on chicken bones with his own teeth in his 80's, and of how healthy I was in general.

G'ma:  I'm sorry, honey.  I'm sure you've told me, but how did you get hurt?

A/B:  (quiet sigh and internal smile) I was at a political event and some idiot began spraying bullets.  I was shot 3 times and the little girl I was with was killed.  It was awful, but I had great medical care and I'm home and healing now.  I can't come to see you because I am not allowed to walk or drive for 10 weeks.

G'ma: Ten weeks is a long time.  Won't you miss the gym?

A/B:  Yes, I will.  But I have exercises at home and lots of company.  In fact, Big Cuter came to visit you when he was in town checking up on me last weekend.  He brought you chocolate and told me you were fine.

G'ma:  Big Cuter came?  Did I recognize him?  (We laughed.)  He brought chocolate?  I see cookies and muffins but no Kisses.....

(I told her where they were hiding and she shared the information with the pod castle worker bee who said, loud enough for me to hear, that they had all been wondering where the Kisses were...)

G'ma:  Remind me again why you are hurt... you've probably told me a dozen times already but...

A/B:  No worries.  I was at an event and someone decided to solve his problems with weaponry.  I was in the hospital for a while, got great care, and now I'm home with MTF and TBG and lots of neighbors and friends tending to me.  I probably won't get to see you for a while, because moving around is hard for me.  But Brother is coming next weekend and he'll get us together for sure.

G'ma:  Brother is coming?  I thought he didn't like to fly.

A/B:  You are right.  He doesn't.  But he said "My sister got shot three times.  I think I can get on a plane."

G'ma:  I am sure I've asked you this a dozen times already, but would you remind me how you got shot?

A/B:  Y'know what, Mommy? No.  I'm tired of telling the story.....

G'ma: (interrupting me) And I probably won't remember it anyway.  You're okay, right?  That's enough for now.

Can you see why I am going to school on being an old old person from my mother?  No guilt.  No over-wrought screaming.  No anger.  Nothing but acceptance and love and laughter.  She doesn't dwell on what she's lost.  She enjoys what she has.  She's funny and interested and not furious at what is missing.  She exists in the here and now, and makes it a better place for those in her aura.  There is much to be learned from her, and I'm soaking it in like a sponge.


  1. I have been wondering how this would go. I figured eventually you would have to tell her something. It sounds like she is not upset and the worst you will have to deal with is telling her over and over and over.... Easy for me to say, I know. :)

  2. You are blessed, aren't you? To have a mom like that and to be able to recognize and appreciate her fine qualities are gifts not enjoyed by everyone. I am glad she can live in the here and the now. I am glad you are mending toward a healthy future.

  3. Probably is better she doesn't remember. That way she doesn't have to fret and worry about you and become depressed. My dad had Alzheimers for 10 years before he passed away and Bless my Mother for keeping him at home until the last 2 months. He died 6 years ago, and my mom still does not go out like she use to before he became ill. It became a way of life for her. Go out quick, and get home quick. She is 85. Hope you are greatly improved...debbie

  4. What an amazing conversation! I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry so I think I'll laugh!

  5. G'ma is wonderful. I am learning lessons on aging gracefully every day. She hears, she laughs, she sympathizes and she forgets. She is not one to dwell on sorrows, and her memory issues help that along very well. You are right, Debbie, that our olders' lives become more constrained as their circumstances change. It's inevitable, I think.

  6. And Katiekono, PLEASE laugh.... it's what's getting us thru :)

  7. OMG, I'm sitting here at my desk at the office laughing. It's like talking to a child. The calmness and love is there. Thank you for brightening my day.

  8. I'm LAUGHING with TEARS in my eyes! I'm going to grow up to be just like your mother.

  9. The positive side of memory deal with what is said to you and then it is gone. I am grateful for the short term forgetfulness of "older" age because I fret over something and then forget it...for a while anyway.
    I know you miss your visits with her...

  10. Thank you for sharing this beautiful/tragic part of your life. I am so glad you have a wonderful mother, I am so thankful you have a postive outlook on this tragic event. I am so glad you are here to share with us.

    I want to be just like you and your mother. Bless you

  11. I am sitting in Ames, Iowa laughing through my tears. I am glad that you still have G'ma, What a wonderful story, I shall come back to read your blog often.

  12. I'm glad about everything in this post: Glad you told G'ma; glad you told her again; glad for once that she can't remember new information; glad she's your mother; glad you're her daughter; glad you got to hear yourself tell your mommy a few times in a row that you're recovering (has a long history of making things more true, whether they remember it or not); glad you wrote it and I read it.

    Love you. Kisses to G'ma!

  13. I'm happy to read this as I'd been thinking about her (and you!). I'm glad all is good and she's happy that you're okay. It was wonderful to read and made me smile. Thanks for writing about it.

  14. I can relate.
    My sister talks in jig saw puzzle sentences.
    She gets the facts but scrambles the order,
    and repeats herself. She's funny too.

    How comforting for your Mom to lose the trauma
    of what happened, and hold on to the you she
    has known and loved for so long.

  15. A/B
    You write so beautifully about dealing with your G'ma and everyday life with her. I know the feeling because my mom has had alzheimer's (My father still tells his children (4 of us) she has dementia)since the turn of the century. My mom never knew I had an organ transplant almost six years ago which was fine with me. If she had known she would have been worried out of her mind. One day she saw her son as being very frail and the next time she saw me I had color in my face again. She asked if I had gotten some sun lately and I told her yes. It was a simple exchange which I will be eternally grateful for. Then, we both laughed and she asked about her grandson A.J. I guess everyone is learning how to age gracefully from their parents.
    I am praying for your speedy recovery. God Bless you and your family.

  16. "You're okay, right? That's enough for now." Perfect.

  17. Another great G'ma story. I think you certainly softened any worries by telling her you got hit in the backside! I'm sure you knew that would elicit a big laugh and get the conversation back to the candy and goodies. I am happy that she is happy, and now you can concentrate on yourself.

    I'm sure you are looking forward to that 10th week when you can start to become mobile again. Your cheerleaders wish you continued forward progress and healing!

  18. She sounds amazing....Positive and lovely to the core.

  19. Have I told you my favorite Grandmother's got Alzheimer's story? (not g'ma like you or bubba or Grammy like my other one, this one is Grandmother with a capital G and the whole long name) Any way, we went out to a restaurant with my brother driving and my Granddad in the front seat (we'd come up from college, probably my freshman year). Grandmother and I were in the back seat and she asked as we got back in the car after the meal, what my name was, I told her I was Kathy (back then before I became not-kathy which I like much more) and that I was her granddaughter, well she thought that was very nice and we chatted about it (loudly she was also going deaf), a couple seconds of silence was then broken by "and what is your name' to which I responded exactly the same as the first time, the conversation was identical right down to the length of the pause when she then asked 'and what is your name' to which I responded exactly the same as the last time, by which time there was some giggling in the front seat (that crescendoed into ga-faws to, in the end, both of them in hysterics), I think I tried to change the subject but paused just long enough for her to as 'and what is your name' I managed at least two or three more, maybe more times to get it out, in the end she beat me, they were in tears in the front seat by this time, when she asked again 'and what is your name' I could no longer respond, I was desperately trying to be caring and polite and not to laugh and I was choking instead, at which point she patted me on the leg and said sincerely, loudly and with love, 'don't worry dear, sometimes I can't remember my name either'. I think it was Granddad's favorite night of the year.

  20. I'm so glad you are on the mend. I'm visiting from Kenju's Imagine What I'm Leaving Out blog. Your situation is unfathomable, but your report about your mom is all too familiar. I go through this with my sister who is in long term care in Las Vegas. She still has her sense of humor and obviously your mom does, too.

  21. Great story. So freaked out (needless to say) that you had a story like this forced on you. But the gods apparently knew what they were doing (having already granted the necessary senses of humor, the senses of language) when they lay the raw materials at your feet. Even if they then kicked your feet out from under you. :)

  22. I came via Kenju's Imagine and so glad I did. I am hoping you heal on the inside and in 'the ass' real soon! That conversation brought back memories of many I had with my late grandmother back in the 60s, She had dementia, but in those days we had no name for the condition.

  23. I am so glad you are on the mend and do not have to have a hip replacement. You have had enough to cope with.

    You are lucky that G'ma still remembers who you are even though she does not retain the fact that you got shot. And that is also lucky.

    You have been through a terrible and tragic ordeal and I really admire you for retaining your sense of humor and continuing to post on your blog. You obviously are a very courageous woman.

    I hope that we can meet someday as I live in Tucson also. I no longer drive or I would have participated in the aftermath of the shooting. I do think of you and wish you a speedy recovery.

  24. I have been reading from the shadows for quite some time now. Finally figured out how to use my google reader and I am catching up on blogs.
    Just wanted to say that this is one of the best posts that I have read tonight; so well-rounded, if that makes sense. You have a wonderful way of sharing your life and touching people with your words.
    Thank you for sharing so deeply


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