Thursday, June 2, 2011

G'ma and Me

She's sucking on her dentures. 

I'm breaking one of my cardinal rules of blogging by typing that sentence.  I try very hard to protect the personal space of those about whom I write.  But my relationship with G'ma is part and parcel of The Burrow, and as she changes so do those inter-connections.  I've been sharing these stories with my friends and family, and you fit nicely into one or the other of those categories, I've decided.  Besides, it helps to share and I need some help.

In any event, my concerns are irrelevant. If you came to visit us you would notice it soon enough.  If you loved me you wouldn't say anything, unless you were so grossed out that you couldn't stay in the same room.  I get that.  I'm not crazy about it, either.  You might raise an eyebrow or look from me to she, but really, what would you say?  

I've always been orally fixated.  I sucked my thumb til I was 12.  It took a spring vacation where I had to share a room with my older and much admired cousin to cure me of the habit; I could not allow myself to be humiliated in front of her so I stopped.  Cold turkey.  

I replaced the thumb with a straw; for a while I was found chewing and cogitating whenever I wasn't eating.  I find myself doing it still.  Big Cuter is always mouthing something,too.  A paperclip, a bottle cap, the ring around a bottle cap (they do no damage when swallowed.... trust us on this one....), Red Vines licorice - it doesn't matter as long as it's there.

My point is, perhaps it's a genetic trait.  

I noticed her floating teeth sometime after I got shot.  To say that I was startled would be an understatement of the first order.  My mother went out of her way to be unobtrusive, to stay under the radar, to be certain not to offend.  I don't remember hearing her burp or hiccup.  Passing gas was an embarrassing laugh, and it didn't happen that often.  Dadooooo called her "a blue nose" and accused her of having no sense of humor when it came to those things.  He wasn't far from the truth.  Sucking on her dentures is not something my mother does.


I think back to the OT G'ma worked with for a while.  Holding me as I cried and mourned the loss of the woman I'd known as my Mommy she offered me this perspective:
Yes, that mom is gone.  That is sad.  But take some time to get to know this new woman.  I think you'll really like her.
How right she was, and how helpful that advice has turned out to be.  It's gotten me over the need to involve her in the world going on around her.  Activities in her pod-castle look like this:
G'ma: What are you carrying there? 
Activities Director:  Balls and other fun stuff for exercise.  Want to join us?
G'ma: (snorting) Why?  That sounds like work.
They laughed and G'ma returned to her couch and her remote control tv component device.  

I don't judge her for the fact that The 700 Club is on when I stop by in the afternoon.  I don't tell her that she's not really interested in evangelical Christianity.  I don't change the channel. I nod as she tells me that "these people are very interesting, although I don't get why Jesus is so involved in the conversation."   

I revel in the fact that she's following it enough to be intrigued.  Conversations which are emotionally laden seem to make an impression on her brain.  She remembers that I got shot "in the ass" and that I was protecting a child and that the child died.  She remembers that SIR and Little Cuter "aren't married yet" and that she lives in Tucson and that I live down the road from her pod-castle.  She doesn't want to garden or tend to a houseplant or watch me tend to mine, she's not doing crewel work or reading a fat novel.  I'm okay with all of that now.

If this is the next stage, though, I'm in deep trouble.  

I made two promises to the woman who raised me: that I would always treat her with respect for her wishes and that I would be sure that she lived with dignity.  That is a conversation I am glad we had; it's governed my behavior since she came to live near me.  It's her life and she lives it according to her own rules and that's just fine.  She tries to stay out of my way and I to stay out of hers.  Our intersections are filled with joy, the bills are paid automatically by the bank every month, and every once in a while we go to Facebook or Picasa and look at archival pictues and smile.  

The boys really wanted her to look at the camera, didn't they?
And now she's sucking on her dentures while we marvel at the fact that two of our favorite young women once fit inside that home made garden cart.  

I've already made sure she is well-supplied with adhesive cream.  She has no interest in having any help in the bathroom, not for showering or dressing or toileting so I can only imagine the conversation if someone were to offer to help her put in her teeth.  I'm actually laughing out loud thinking about it.  And I imagine her children and grandchildren are giggling at work right now as they read this and paint the mental picture of this most private of women dismissing the very notion that she would need help with this most basic, most personal of tasks.

What am I to do?  When I ask if the dentures and the bridge fit well, she looks surprised as she denies any discomfort.  It's obviously a new thought so I believe her.  She remembers her recurring pains, even if she doesn't remember their origins.  Yes, the dentist is the first step.  I hate the fact that I don't trust my mother's judgment, but I don't trust my mother's judgment.  

I am tempted to put a post-it on her bathroom mirror.  She likes notes, memos on the calendar, reminders on her bedroom door.  Making sense of the world around her is a full time job these days; explanations help her stay focused.  Maybe You Have Fixodent - Use It!
in bold, day-glo lettering will do the trick.

For now, I'm reduced to scrunching my face up and smiling through my glare as I whine 
Please put your teeth in. It's gross.
Some things never change, I guess.  Daughters will always find something in their mothers' behavior which pushes the Oh, Mommy, please stop it button.  But what do I do when I know she'd agree with me.  Or who she was would agree with me.  Or something.  

Like I said, I need help. 


  1. Hmmm, I'm at a loss of what to say. It's a catch-22. I mean if you say something, is she going to be offended or do you just let it go and just be grossed out? LOL. Gosh, this is a hard one...

    Need to sit and think about it through out the day. So thank you for the lovely thought of dentures to occupy my thoughts as I work away here at the office. LMAO.

    Megan xxx

  2. My dilemma exactly, Megan. So sorry you have clacking teeth rolling around my mother's mouth to amuse you today :(

  3. I like the idea of involving a dentist. Then you do not have to be the bad guy. Perhaps you could speak with the dentist ahead of time and ask him to have an explanation ready to give your mother about why it is not a good idea to have her dentures loose in her mouth. My own mother respected authority figures like doctors and dentists and would "mind" them when she would not listen to me. xoxoxo

  4. Sounds like the dentist is the right approach. He might've seen things like this before and have some ideas.

    Having, years ago now, had two elderly mothers in my life, having seen how so often people change into someone else as they age, I can understand your problem here. The reason to try to do something about this is because it might be impacting her interaction with other people in the facility. She may not care, but I'd do what I could if it was me-- recognizing I might not be able to do anything.

    When they get old and their personality changes, it's hard. They aren't our children but they don't have the judgment they once had. There are things they do, worse than that, like a toddler would, that aren't okay with others in their community. It is just plain hard on the family even if the elder doesn't really know it's happening.

    When I saw the personality change in our mothers, I wondered and still do if it'll happen to me as I don't know why it happens when it's not something like Alzheimer. I just know it does but not to everyone.

  5. My so-fastidious father began to burp aloud and say, "BURP!" Then, he began to proposition the staff. Then he kicked the therapy dog.

    The nurse would tell me of these new behaviors and I'd apologize for him, but that wasn't necessary; she knew and I learned that this sort of behavioral decompensation is part of the deal.

    I don't remember agreeing to the deal, but nobody asked me.

    (Please forgive me. My own behavioral decompensation is showing, which proves it happens to the best of us.) This really sucks.

  6. AB, hope you aren't offended by my comment. I say it with love and respect and I was trying to be funny.

    I know this is hard on you and you were genuinely asking. I hope my trying to make you laugh didn't upset you.

    I am still sitting here thinking about it, but I wasn't actually grossed out in the least. I have three young children; so not much grosses me out. ;)

  7. Nah, Megan, I was really sorry you had the image :) Truly. I gag just writing about it. (Nuance is lost in this kind of conversation.... I don't know how my 30something friends conduct relationships via text???)

    Little kids are gross, too, I totally agree. Sniffling was one of my favorite developmental skills!

    We are going to the dentist tomorrow at 12:30.

  8. I'm glad you are going to the dentist - I hope that he/she can help the situation without making you the bad guy!

  9. It's so damn hard when you have to just give them a kiss and say, "It is all okay" when you really just want your Mommy of yesteryear,, ...moment to give you a hug because you have to deal with this person who is an isn't someone you know. I miss my Mama. I'm happy I can remember her. I'm glad we came to be close again, even if it wasn't when I really, really needed her in my life. I'm glad I can cry, and "yes" your post made me tear up, but it is okay because sometimes love hurts.

  10. Well, Pardon the PuN, but that just SuCks! :s

    In all sincerity though, watching your parents age can be difficult. I'm only 34 and had my folks down for a visit not too long ago. I hadn't seen my dad in awhile (he's now 79) and I was SHOCKED to see how much of him had changed in less than a years time! I wondered how to gently suggest Depends without hurting his feelings or feeling totally disrespectful, so I can identify with your predicament here.

    I just had to remember, he's doing the best he can with where he's at, so just laugh & LoVe...whaddyado!?

    As a longtime "lurker" I can't tell you how much I enjoy your're downright HiLaRiOuS and have such a beautiful & engaging writing style that I cant wait to see what the next day will bring. LoVe iT!

    THaNk YoU...<3

  11. Another lurker here...
    I love reading about your mom. I think I'd like spending time with her.
    I agree with Laura (up there). The dentist probably has a better chance of getting gma's attention than you.
    I always called ahead to the doctor/dentist when taking my dad to let them know I needed some time with them for a short discussion. They were pretty good about coming up with an excuse to get me out of the exam room so we could talk without my dad hearing the conversation.
    It's not easy to watch a parent go downhill...

  12. AB, I was thinking even more about this on the drive home. LOL. Sorry, your blog entry today just was food for fodder for me today. At least it's your mom's dentures. I cannot tell my 78 year-old MIL to stop passing gas every time we are around her. It's like she's oblivious that she's gassing the rest of us.

    Maybe it's at a certain age when people just don't care anymore what anyone else thinks?

    My dad is always saying to me, "Getting old isn't for sissies". ;)


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