msLaura: Modern Mama Laura Hamilton + Dan Baker = Julian Hamilton Baker & Adrian Hamilton Baker "When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her."
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November 30, 2006

Doing fine

Nanny just called me. Wow, she never calls anyone anymore.

She said that she just got her poinsettia and her birthday balloon delivered and it looks beautiful on the table. I asked her if she got her hair done today and she had to look in the mirror to see if she did, but she says it looks really nice, so she must have gone to have it done. She said sadly, "I guess I went today, I don't remember much of anything anymore, you know." Yes, I know. I know, Nanny.

She asked about the weather up here and what I was doing, and I said we were just going to lie down and take a nap. She said she might too, she was tired. But that she was doing fine, just fine. She felt good.

Then she said, "I just wanted to call you to thank you for all that you've done, and tell you that I love you so much."

"I love you so much too Nanny. I love you with all my heart."

"OK then..bye-bye."

"Bye Nanny."


I got home Tuesday night and I'm still shell-shocked. Here's what happened on my last two days in Southern CA:

Didn't sleep the night before. Kept waking up with persistent thoughts of what needed to be done on Monday. I had arrived the previous Sunday, but it took me until Tuesday night to start figuring out the situation, and then I only had Wednesday as a business day to make calls and see people, then everything was pretty much closed Thursday-Sunday for the Thanksgiving holiday. So Monday was a critical day for me, the last day to try to do anything before I left to go home on Tuesday.

Like I said, I couldn't sleep, so I got up at 5:15am and finished cleaning out the second half of my grandmother's bathroom cupboards. First I did her cosmetics. She had a whole big cupboard of old stuff that was leaking, dusty, separated, just plain bad. I collected four grocery bags full of trash, and left her the remaining good facial cleansers, makeup, perfume, etc.

It was sad, because the day before I had shopped for some Olay Total Effects moisturizer that she had on a shopping list (from when, I don't know), and when I brought it home for her, she didn't know what it was or how to use it. So I figured it might be kind of useless arranging her cosmetics for her, since she really wasn't able to put on makeup anymore or use any of it properly, but at least I could get rid of all the junk.

Next I took care of her medications. I collected them all in a special clear organizer that I bought at Target, wrote out a 4-week schedule increasing her thyroid and anti-dementia/Alzheimer's drugs up to a final permanent dose, and then divided up her first week's pills into the pillbox that I got for her. Target is really cutting edge when it comes to medication design. Their prescription bottles have won design awards, and the pillboxes that I bought there were really something too.

Finally, she had a cupboard crammed full of old ragged towels that she also kept her underwear, stocking and bras in. Total chaos. Instead of getting new bras/underwear/stockings out of the cupboard, she was washing out the same ones day after day and putting them back on. I got rid of all the ripped, stained, worn out towels, all the bras that didn't fit her, and other random crap in there, left her the two nice sets of matching bathroom towels that she had, and put her decent bras, underwear and stockings into little bins.

Julian woke up and came into the bathroom around 6:45am. He was content to play in there with me while I finished up the best I could, then he started asking for his breakfast, so I took him out to the kitchen to get him some cereal and juice.

Nanny woke up not too long after. We all had breakfast together. She seemed very agitated that morning. Not long after she finished breakfast she went into her bedroom and started putting on the same outfit she had worn the day before. I had her take it off and put on a new outfit. Then she went in the bathroom and went through all the cupboards looking for earrings to put on. I had hidden them, since she had an infection in her right ear and yet kept putting an earring through it and making it worse. Ugh.

Then she went through her newly reorganized cosmetics and started putting on moisturizer and foundation. She was doing OK, but she seemed upset. She kept saying, "I just don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm putting on. I put on some of this and some of that, but I don't know what to do next." It was odd, because she hadn't put on any makeup the whole time I had been there, but something about her reorganized cupboards got her all fired up about having makeup on and doing it correctly. She was in there for a long time. I just let her be.

In the meantime I was finishing up the funeral paperwork to fax in to the Omega Society so that would be taken care of when Bopah finally passed. Tick tock, tick tock. TIme was passing and I had a zillion things to check off my list that day. I kept thinking of more tasks and writing them in my notebook.

Social Security had stopped sending her monthly checks, I must get that figured out. I tried to call and do it over the phone, pretending to be Nanny, but then the agent asked me what my mother's maiden name was and I had to go ask Nanny. She remembered, but the delay got me busted. The agent said I obviously wasn't Mrs. Erickson, and she couldn't help me any further. I admitted that I wasn't and explained the situation. No dice. And power of attorney wasn't recognized by Social Security. What??? I would have to bring Nanny into the office in Fountain Valley to resolve things. Great. Just great.

Tick tock, tick tock.

The caregiver from the agency was supposed to come by between 8:00-10:00am that morning so that I could explain to her what needed to be done, show her where things were, and get her familiar with the situation. It was bad enough that I would only have one meeting with her, and even worse that it wouldn't be the same person every time, but a rotation of 3-4 different people. Hopefully the info would get transferred, but it didn't sound good, and the prospect of all those people coming in when Nanny couldn't even keep ONE person straight in her memory half the time...I was really stressed out. But, having no other choice, I had to go with it and hope for the next.

Nine o'clock AM came and went. By 9:45am I was frazzled. Where the hell was this woman? WHY was she not showing up? God damn it, I had one day to get this done and no time for fucking around!

At ten o'clock I was on the phone with Emergency Meals to get food delivery set up until Meals on Wheels kicked in when Nanny came in from outside accompanied by a pleasant-looking woman of about 35-40 years old. I thought the caregiver agency people were older...they were all Leisure World residents who worked as caregivers in their spare time for extra income, a prospect I was not thrilled about.

I asked her if she was Nancy and she said no. Confused, I told her I would be right with her once I got off the phone with Emergency Meals. OK, finally done. So, who was she?

She said that she was Fran, and she was Roger's caregiver. Roger's the nice eldery neighbor who has been shuttling my grandmother around and keeping an eye on her for the last few months. She sat down and told me that she had heard that I was looking for someone to care for Miss Irene.

It turns out that she had been coming over and doing things for Nanny for quite some time, at least six months. She took her to her appointments, she gave her her medicine, all kinds of things. She wasn't really working for her, so she wasn't charging her any money regularly. If she wasn't busy with Roger or another client she would look in on my grandparents to see what they were doing and what they needed. Usually my grandfather would run her off and tell her to scram, they didn't need anything. Occasionally she would take my grandmother grocery shopping or to a doctor's appointment, and my grandmother would offer to pay her, but that was about it.

We talked for a while and she was totally up on the situation. There was nothing that I told her that she didn't already know. Nanny didn't take her meds. She wore the same clothes day after day. She wasn't eating. My grandfather had continued to deteriorate physically. and my grandmother to deteriorate mentally. The situation had become more and more serious. Roger and most of the neighbors were worried sick, but there was only so much they could do. They worried about taking on too much with *so* much to be done, such big decisions to be made, and no family around.

So Fran helped my grandparents when they let her do so, and when she had time, but they weren't officially clients or anything. She had also been one of the people who helped take Nanny to the hospice for visits over the past month while Bopah had been there along with several of the neighbors.

On top of her knowing all the issues and the history, Fran was also a licensed NURSE and so was perfectly qualified to administer all the complicated meds that Nanny had to take. She knew exactly what she took, what it was for, who her doctors were, where to find them, etc. Also how to administer the eye drops that she needed twice a day to control the glaucoma that was slowly blinding her.

I'm telling you, I'm not a religious person at all, but it was like a freaking MIRACLE that this woman walked in the door when she did. I'm still completely shocked about the whole thing. Especially since the agency caregiver NEVER showed up, then called me later that afternoon with some lame excuse about haivng to go in for a mammogram and maybe we could reschedule? NO! WE CANNOT RESCHEDULE! TODAY IS IT!

Naturally, I hired Fran on the spot. She also charged HALF of what the agency was going to charge me, and unlike them, she could do everything that needed to be done. Transportation, cleaning, laying out clothing, giving meds, checking on her meals and getting those ready for her, helping her pay bills and open mail, the works. I felt like I was hiring a surrogate ME, which was really what was needed. She would come in twice a day and just take care of whatever need to be done that day.

Jesus Christ, what a relief. The only problem was weekends and holidays. Obviously she needed days off to have her own life. But then how would Nanny's meds get taken? She couldn't just go off her meds every weekend. That was my big worry. Fran said she would try to come up with a solution.

The whole conversation was taking place on the couch in the living room, then I got up to show her the box where I had collected all Nanny's medications and written out the dosage schedule. After that I showed her the newly organized bras and underwear and stockings, then we moved into the bedroom. It was still reeking of pee in there from my grandfather and his incontinence. I never got around to hiring a carpet cleaner. Very sad and upset about that...not on my Nanny's behalf, since I don't think she noticed or cared, but it was awful to have Fran there knowing that SHE must have smelled it.

While I was showing her Nanny's new clothes, Nanny came in all upset.
"What are you two doing in here?" she asked.
"Nanny, I'm just showing her your new clothes."
"Well why? Does she want to take them?"
"No, Nanny. Fran is going to be helping you out once I leave, so she needs to know where to find the things you need."
"What? I don't need any help. And I don't even know this person."

At this point Fran said in a gentle voice, "Miss Irene, don't you remember me? I work with Roger. We've gone to the grocery store together, and to your hair appointments, and to you doctor. I've known you for a while now, Miss Irene. "

Nanny looked her square in the face and said, "You've never taken me anywhere. I've never seen you before in my life. I know Roger has a girl who comes in, but I've never seen her."

It was awful, just awful. She was so upset, and so rude to Fran. So unlike Nanny, the soul of politeness! God...

Fran took it all in stride though. I explained again to Nanny that Fran would be helping her, for example, with her medications and eyedrops. Hey, how about we go show Fran the eyedrops now? I hadn't put them in yet that morning, since I had been waiting to do it with the agency caregiver around so that they would know how to do it.

Nanny was still fussing and fuming, but she went in the bathroom and let me put her eyedrops in while Fran watched. Fran already knew how to do it, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to show her anyway, so she could see how I had Nanny press on her eyes while I held her hands in place and timed her for two minutes afterwards.

As we were putting the eyedrops in, the doorbell rang and it was Craig, the counselor from SCAN (Senior Care Action Network, I think?). Ugh, bad timing. Nanny was already upset and overwhelmed and mad as a wet hen, and now here was yet another person. Worse, she would have to sign paperwork with Craig to begin housekeeping services once a week, something that wasn't going over so well with her. PLUS she had refused to let in the people from SCAN in the past. Dammit.

I said goodbye to Fran and let Craig in. He sat down at the table and immediately Nanny was up in arms. Who was this? What did HE want? What were all these papers? Julian started to fuss as well. I pulled him onto my lap and realized that his pants were wet.

"Did you spill milk on yourself, Juju?"

"No Mommy, I spilled peepee."

Craig laughed.

Great. Fantastic. I excused myself while I pulled Julian's pants off and threw them in the hamper in the bathroom. I didn't bother putting new pants on him, I just sat back down at the table and held him on my lap nakeybutt. What the hell. I kept thinking of Britney Spears' line about driving with her baby in the car on her lap. "We're country". Oh well, no time to be mortified right now.

I started explaining gently to Nanny that I was setting up help for her once a week and that's why Craig was here, just for the heavy cleaning like vacuuming and dusting high places, stuff that she couldn't do anymore. This wasn't 100% true, but it was the best way to explain it to her.

Craig started saying that they would also clean her kitchen and bathroom too. I was shooting him a pure "NO, SHUT UP!" look, but he didn't catch on.

Predictably, Nanny exploded.

"Clean my kitchen and bathroom? Well what am *I* supposed to do then? Just sit around and dirty things up? Am I that bad a housekeeper? I've kept a clean house my entire life, and now all of a sudden I need someone in here doing everything for me while I just sit on my ass like a useless lump?!"

I knew mentioning the kitchen would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. In spite of everything, she still kept her kitchen spotless and washed up the dishes perfectly and put them away the minute a meal was over. Unlike me, the non-demented one, who often just piled dishes in the sink at home and went to bed at night. To Nanny, this would be unthinkable.

She was frantic, and furious, and completely, completely upset at the prospect of someone coming in to clean her kitchen. Craig was taken aback. I tried telling him outright to just cool it, she had had an overwhelming day and was very upset and agitated.

Nanny asked, "How much will this cost me anyways?"

Craig had already explained that it would be $8.50 per visit, and each visit would last up to 4 hours, depending on what needed to be done. Then he started to go into all the details of montlhy charges and typically it worked out to $34 a month, but sometimes there were 5 weeks in a month, and blah, blah, blah..did she understand all this? He droned on pointlessly with all the bureaucratic minutiae of the setup and Nanny started to freak out with the excess information.

She went into a loop, alternating between:
"Well what am *I* supposed to do then? Just sit around and dirty things up? Am I that bad a housekeeper? I've kept a clean house my entire life, and now all of a sudden I need someone in here doing everything for me while I just sit on my ass like a useless lump?!"


"How much will this cost me anyways?"

and Craig kept answering with more and more info each time, which set her into another round of exactly the same questions.

Finally I grabbed him and hissed, "Let's just sign the papers. PLEASE don't say anything else. She's just getting upset. She's overwhelmed and she doesn't understand. JUST LET IT GO."

Nanny signed, but she was fuming and telling us she shouldn't sign and she didn't WANT so sign and we were just trying to have her put away in a home, and she should just die right then and there and all kinds of craziness.

I was ready to have my nervous breakdown immediately. I couldn't wait to get Craig out the door. For a guy who supposedly dealt with needy senior citizens all day and had a Masters in Social Work, he obviously had no clue how to talk to old people with dementia. For some reason he was just clueless about speaking simply. He kept adding in all this unnecessary level of detail when talking to Nanny. I mean, with me, fine, but with her? Didn't he realize that it was pointless? That it was just making things unnecessarily difficult?

What was crystal clear to Fran, Craig was oblivious to. Where Fran had been understanding and soothing with Nanny and let it all the crazy talk roll off her like water off a duck's back, Craig was visibly upset and starting to freak out.

After the papers were signed I shooed him out as fast as I could. "It's a bad day Craig. I'm sorry you had to go through this. She's not normally this agitated. Thanks for coming by."

I practically pushed him out the door and closed it. I went back to Nanny and showed her the day's crossword in the paper. She quieted down and started working it.

One great thing about memory loss is that no matter what happens, you'll forget about it in a matter of minutes. Well, actually some important events she filed away, like when Bopah had told her he wanted to go to the hospital. She remembered THAT and recounted it over and over. And also that my mom had told the DMV that she had dementia and her license had been taken away, when she still had four more years left on it. Why, she had just gotten that license renewed! THOSE things stuck in her mind.

But apparently nothing that morning was so memorable. She calmed right down and even became cheery. She did seem to understand that I was looking out for her, and that people DID notice what she did, what she looked like, how clean her house was, whether or not she took her medication, etc. And they had not only noticed, but found her lacking. She understood that, because all day she was very busy cleaning and picking up and putting things away, arranging her clothes, combing her hair. She also told me several times that she was so glad that I was there to help her, and what would she do without me?

So some pieces did sink in, somewhere in her brain. Not the surface details, but the deeper realization. After all the upset of the morning, and all her fighting, she was fairly accepting of things the rest of the day.

I brought up Fran every time when she asked me what she would do once I went home, and she didn't know who I was talking about, but she didn't argue about the concept nearly as much. Each time that it came up, she argued it less. She never recognized Fran's name, and she was surprised each time when I said that someone was coming in to help her out, but the idea of it upset her less and less.

It's strange what information sticks and what's lost. I don't quite get it. I guess it has to do with the parts of the brain that are damaged. Names are definitely a problem. She never knew Julian's name, not one time. She called me everything from Doris to Doreen to Debbie to Sandy to Beverly, and a million other family members besides.

One morning I was writing down all the names and numbers from random scraps of paper tacked up on the wall onto a single piece of lined paper. She picked up an address card from her niece Doreen, read it, and asked me, "Is this you?" I said no, I wasn't Doreen, I was Laura. She seemed confused by this. It was really upsetting to me as well. How could she not know who I was? I mean, she knew ME, but my name and identity was a problem. I knew it had to do with the particular part of her brain affected, but awful.

The rest of the day was a blur. The morning was so awful, I was ready to snap. And we still had to go to Social Security and straighten out the mixup there. I also had to get her house key from her to make copies of it, one ofr Fran and one for me. I got her and Julian in the car and then claimed I had to pee. She gave me her key and then forgot about it when I came back. I felt bad taking advantage of her memory loss, but oh well.

I took her and Julian through the drive-through at In-and-Out Burger for lunch. She loved her burger and kept exclaiming how delicious it was. Then off to the Social Security office, where luckily everything went smoothly.

Then it was time to go visit Bopah. Julian fell asleep in the car on the way there. I dropped her off right at the front entrance and nervously watched her go in by herself. She knew the way in to Bopah's room if we went in the front door, but not if we came in the back entrance, where parking was easier. I told her that I would be waiting inthe car while Julian slept and I'd come in and get her when he woke up.

When she was inside I called information and asked for the nearest locksmith. Amazingly, there was one only a block away. I got the key copied and then headed over to pick up her prescription refills back at Leisure World. Got that done, Julian still snoozing in his carseat while I watched him through the window.

Went back to pick her up at the hospice and woke up Julian. When we went in the room Bopah was laying there looking like he was already dead, his mouth hanging wide open. Horrible. He gasped for air and thrashed around every few minutes, but never opened his eyes. Nanny looked drained. "He's not improving," was all she said.

I felt bad for leaving her there by herself. But what else could I do? I had so much to get done. I kissed Bopah and took Nanny's hand and led her out to the car. Poor, poor thing. As I was about to get in the car, a man rushed out of the hospice and called to me. "Are you her family?" he asked.

"Yes, I am." He turned out to be the social worker there, Charles, and he was desperately trying to get hold of someone to talk to who was capable of making decisions regarding Bopah. He had my mom's old phone number, but it had been disconnected when she moved away, and he had tried talking to Nanny, but hadn't gotten anywhere. Somehow he had gotten wind of my being around on this, my last day there, and rushed out just in time to catch me. Another near-miss that day.

We talked and he said that my grandfather was NOT, in fact, receiving hospice care, but was still considered to be admitted under the skilled nursing category, which meant that they legally had to pursue treatment for him aggressively and prolong his life in any way possible. I made it very clear that this was against all of our wishes, and that we didn't want to prolong his life (if you could call it that anymore) at all, just make him as comfortable as we could, but to let him go as quickly as possible. No feeding tube, no IV, no interventions. Just keep him clean and warm and cared for, and let him go.

Charles ran inside and grabbed some paperwork for me to sign, and right then and there we switched Bopah over to hospice care. This meant a little bit less expense too, and access to a bunch of social services. All good. I was so glad that he had caught me before I left.

More errands to run. We went to the bank. I had found a mysterious check from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy when I was going through mounds of documents and papers. It was for almost $2000 and had a recent date. I had no idea why Nanny and Bopah would be getting a check for that much from the GGNPC. It's still a total mystery. Just one more of many. But I had Nanny sign the check and deposited it in her account while she waited in the car. I also filed my power of attorney with the bank while we were there. One more task crossed off the list. Whew.

I decided to skip 3 or 4 non-essential tasks. What was left that HAD to be done? Hmmm. We went to the market and I stocked her up on frozen dinners and healthy snacks to get her through until the Emergency Meals started coming in a week or two. With Fran watching over her, she might actually remember to eat.

I wasn't so worried about that anymore though. The first days after I arrived, she hardly ate a thing. But once I got settled in and started preparing meals for her three times a day, she cleaned her plate. Skin and bones, the poor starving thing. This was the grandmother who has asked me first thing when I came to visit each time, "What would you like to eat?" and now she was down to 112 pounds and barely eating enough to survive.

In the days before I left though, she ate a big hearty breakfast every morning. Eggs, fruit, two pieces of toast with peanut butter, juice, coffee, sometimes a bowl of cereal with blueberries, and the last day we had sliced smoked salmon too. HUGE breakfast every morning.

Big lunch. Mid-afternoon snack. Big dinner. Dessert. The first few days she was too full to clean her plate, but after that she finished every last bite I put on it, and I always gave her a little bit more than I thought she could eat.

As we were finishing up at the market I got a call from the hospice director. Charles hadn't wasted any time filing the paperwork and alerting people that time was running short and I was leaving town. She asked to meet with me the next day before I left, to finalize things and sign a few more papers for Bopah's care. I knew the next morning would be super-rushed, but had to squeeze this in somehow. Christ.

OK, time to go home. I made a big dinner and put together the new file cart with hanging files for all Nanny's important paperwork. I found one more drawer FULL of envelopes, over a hundred of them. Ugh. I sat on the floor while Nanny and Julian watched Animal Planet, filing and trashing, filing and trashing. I filled up three more grocery bags with old papers. Bank statements from 1987. Medical files from 1976.

Something weird happened. Nanny was sitting in the recliner and I was sitting on the floor next to her.

All of a sudden she said to me, "Don't throw away those things so fast, there might be some money hidden in there." SO BIZARRE....the very NEXT envelope that I looked in had a bank envelope in it with $400 cash in twenties inside! She had no clue what envelopes I was looking at or where I had gotten them from. She just said it, and then the cash appeared.

I was shocked, and showed her the money.
"Oh, where did that come from?"
I told her that I had just found it in her papers. She counted it a few times and then seemed unsure what to do with it. I told her to put it in her wallet. We put $60 in the main compartment, and then stuck the rest in the inside zipper as a reserve.

I finally finished filing at around 9:30. Totally exhausted. What a day. We all washed our faces, brushed our teeth, put Nanny's eyedrops in, got jammies on and went to bed.

Woke up at 1:00am, freaking out about things I hadn't finished. Goddammit. I still needed to get Roger's phone number and address written down. I needed to write Fran's number on Nanny's phone list. I needed to write directions next to the phone for Nanny: "If you do not know the person on the phone, tell them to call your granddaughter Laura Hamilton at XXX-XXX-XXXX and HANG UP."

Rush, rush, rush. Exhausted. Went back to sleep. Nonstop dreams about finishing things, Nanny decrepit, in filthy clothing, hungry, etc.

Woke up again at 6:30am, and Julian not long after. Folded up the hide-a-bed. Started packing the suitcase. Made breakfast. Forgot to clean off Nanny's desk. Not like she'll use it, but at least it might be theoretically possible if it's clean and not full of crap. So I grabbed one more big bag and started dumping junk. Two old non-working wall phones, a Microsoft email/internet appliance that I bought for Nanny that she never used (too hard for her to see the monitor text, should have checked that beforehand), a bunch of dusty crappy broken baskets with dusty fake flowers, a pile of "inspirational" Unity booklets and desk calendars from 2004 and BOTA stuff.

Oh, the BOTA stuff. My grandparents have had this mystical crap around ever since I can remember. I never paid any attention to it really, but when I was cleaning up I actually read over some of it and it's NUTS.

BOTA stands for Builders of the Adytum. Check it out: I can't even begin to explain it, it's like every bizarre cult I've ever heard of, rolled into one.

So there's that, too. Man oh man. THAT's what they were into this whole time? Weird, weird, weird.

Anyway, I ran around doing last minute cleaning and making breakfast and packing up. Nanny was agitated again, probably because she knew I was leaving. She opened the medication box and tried to take her pills. I told her that from now on Fran would be helping her with her pills and she didn't need to worry about remembering to take them on her own. Got a new outfit out for her to put on.

Finally, it was time to go. I gave her a big hug and kiss, told her that she would be taken care of by Fran and Roger and all the people who love her, and that I would still be looking out for her at home. Tried to drill the "hang up on strangers or refer them to me" routine into her head the best I could, but it didn't stick very well. Maybe she'll read the sign next to the phone, but I'm not counting on it.

Took off in the car and raced over to the hospice to sign the papers for Bopah there. I said goodbye to him, told him that I loved him, and that I had taken care of Nanny the best I could. She had a clean house and new clothes and a fridge full of food, someone to watch over her and take care fo her every day, make sure she took her pills, all that. He didn't have to worry about her. I told him that my mom loved him too and wished she could be there. He couldn't speak, but he was trying to. I could tell he was all choked up and sort of crying.

The last thing I did was to growl at him, which was a special little thing we did. He mouthed a growl back at me, but no sound came out. One last kiss on the forehead and I walked out with Julian. It hit me all of a sudden that I would never see him again, and I started to bawl, but I choked it back just in time and pulled myself together.

Now on to Great-aunt Doris' to return the car and catch SuperShuttle to the airport. Julian was exhausted and fell asleep in the car, even though it was only 11:00am. We arrived at Doris' about 45 minutes later.

She had lunch all ready, it had been warming in the oven since morning. I wasn't hungry, but I tried to eat to be polite. She did have some oatmeal raisin cookies. I ate one, but then when I was looking at the dish that they were on I saw a big worm crawl away from one cookie, and I saw that it was all webby. I wasn't *too* grossed out, because I knew it was just an Indianmeal moth and I had just dealt with those in my pantry as well, but it didn't exactly help my appetite. I just took the webby cookie and rolled it into my napkin, then threw it in the trash when I got a chance.

It was good to see Doris, but my nerves were fried, I was anxious to get going, and her two long-haired housecats were throwing me into an allergic fit.

The SuperShuttle came right on time, and Julian and I kissed Doris goodbye and climbed in. The driver was this UTTERLY smelly, unkempt Chinese guy. Every time he opened his mouth, even to say one or two words, the entire van filled with rank bad breath reek. I am not even kidding.

We stopped to pick up the second set of passengers in Pasadena. Julian was asking, "Is it a mom? Is it a dad? Is it a woman?" and the driver said, "It's a whole family." With that one sentence, he totally gassed us out of the van. Julian said, "Something is STINKY in here, Mama!" I said I knew, it was really stinky. Gross. I don't know what was the deal with that guy, but I've never smelled bad breath like that before.

Got to the airport and there was a skycap right there at the curb, with no lines and no waiting. Hallelujah. I dumped our check-in luggage, which left me with one 3 year old, one very heavy laptop bag, and one big bag of carry-on snacks.

It took us about 25 minutes to get through the airport, the security check, and down the long hallways. We had just gotten to the gate, bought some drinks and sat down for a well-deserved rest when I heard my name being paged over the intercom.


Wha??? ME? OH Jesus Fucking Christ. The Southwest ticket counter? ALL the way back through security, through the airport, with my heavy bags, dragging Julian along? You MUST be kidding me. I almost burst into tears again, but held it back and instead felt pure rage. FUCKERS! What was this, some kind of perverse endurance test for me?

Grabbed Julian and the bags and headed back to the counter. No one knew why I had been paged. Great. Finally, they pointed me to a woman down at the end of the counter. Maybe her? Oh yes, I should call Security at this number and that was all she knew. Nice.

I called Security. My bag had become locked somehow and they couldn't open it. Locked? Ugh, Julian must have spun the combination dial once I closed it up. I gave the guy the combo and luckily that was all he needed. I had visions of my super-full bag exploding in his face and then being thrown onto the plane barely re-closed. Can't think about that right now.

Back through the airport, back through security. Oh, those water bottles in my hand that I had just paid $4 each for? They would have to be trashed. FUCKERS.

Back to the gate, just in time to see a sign being put up that the flight was delayed and wouldn't leave until 4:35pm now. And just then, Julian had a meltdown and started screaming and crying because I wouldn't let him climb on top of the chair and kick the fat lady next to him.

I tried not to beat him on the spot, dragged out my laptop with some Elmo for him to watch on DVD and then I sat in the airport chair next to thim and just cried silently and had my own meltdown. I'm sure I was freaking out the people crammed in all around us, but I didn't care at that point, I just didn't care. Let them see me cry. Big fucking deal. I couldn't hold it in anymore.

I took my little Sudoku book out of my purse to pretend that I was doing a puzzle while I silently bawled my eyes out. The guy next to me stuck his cell phone in my face with a Sudoku game on it and said, "Watch out, this is how bad that addiction can get sometimes." Whatever dude. Get the hell away from me right now.

I cried for a good 20 minutes or so. Julian started to flip out again and I managed to distract him with the snack bag. Finally time to get on the plane. I got Julian a window seat and stuck my bag in the aisle seat. Unless the plane was absolutely full, I just didn't want anyone sitting next to me.

We made it through the hour flight with only a few episodes of screaming. San Jose, I have never been so glad to see you before.

When I saw Dan waiting for us at the security checkpoint I started bawling again. I cried all the way through to pick up our bags, and then sobbed and gasped when I got in the car. Oh, so glad to be home. Our house. Our things. Our cozy bed. Our sweet doggie. Julian was thrilled with all his toys and played with them like mad. I felt like I had just come home from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Julian took a bath and I took a long shower. Soooooo gooood. Ah, Northern CA water. Fresh and clean and not all salty and chlorine-ridden and nasty-tasting like Southern CA water.

I was so exhausted, I went to bed with Julian at around 9:00pm. Had a few bad dreams and woke up a few times, but overall I slept pretty well.

The next day was a full one. Julian went to preschool in the morning while I tried to catch up on my customer orders, get product packed up and ready to ship, answer emails, order inventory, etc.

I talked to Fran and everything is OK. Nanny was fine. She got a new outfit on with Fran's help, ate the rest of the spaghetti and meatballs I left for her, and Fran took her to see Bopah. Tomorrow is Nanny's 89th birthday, so Fran is taking her to get her hair done. I sent her a poinsettia and a birthday Mylar balloon.

Perri showed up at 2:00pm to take Julian to the park. I felt foisting him off on other people all day, but figured he could use a break from his crabby mother as well. I went and got my eyelashes and eyebrows tinted at Benefit, and a brow wax too. Long overdue.

Julian was super-crabby in the evening and I felt exhausted and ready to pass out. Adrian was all turned around in a sideways position in my belly that felt awful and my back hurt like hell. We put Julian to bed early but he kept waking up. I finally just went to bed with him again.

Today I still feel pretty bad. Julian went to school again this morning. He peed in his pants there and tried to run out in the parking lot when we were going to the car. I'm going to try to lie down with him for a nap, I think we both need one. I think we're both just beyond tired, which explains why he's behaving so badly and I'm still ready to snap.

Well, I'm going to try to lie down with him right now. Even if we don't sleep, laying down will feel good. And I get my back fixed at the Wonder Chiropractor tonight. Definitely looking forward to that, although everything is so loose and wobbly in my back and pelvis that I'm sure it will all slip out of place again immediately. But it will be good to get things back in order at least temporarily.

November 25, 2006

Pet peeves of the day

1) My child is totally zombied out in front of Nickelodeon because it's the only way I can think of to keep him quiet and happy in my grandmother's house, and at least he isn't breaking anything, or jumping off the couch, or on my belly. I am mentally swearing to myself that he will not watch ANY TV for weeks when we get home, and feeling like a terrible mother.

My grandmother says every five minutes or so, "Oh, look at how he just stares and stares at the TV. Isn't that something? He just loves it." Like it's an adorable marvel, instead of his young impressionable brain turning into mush.

2) The smell of the hospice. Combine one part pee, one part shitty diapers, one part cafeteria food. I can't take it for more than five minutes. When I walk in it hits me like a brick wall, I just want to turn and run screaming out the door.

3) Playgrounds with no kids on them.

4) We arrive at the playground and there are tons of kids, but they all leave within the first ten minutes after we arrive.

5) Playgrounds with a group of older kids who all know each other and don't want to play with my little boy.

6) Being crippled and hugely pregnant and trying to keep a 3-year-old safe in strange public places without a stroller or being able to carry him for more than a minute.

7) Stores like JC Penney that don't offer shopping carts when I have to buy a giant amount of stuff and am in the above circumstances of having to keep a 3-year-old safe and contained when crippled and pregnant.

8) Asking for a shopping cart at JC Penney and being told by a smiling clerk, "No, but we have shopping bags!"

9) Dirty carpet. God, I hate it. I hate wall-to-wall carpet in general. It just gets dirtier and dirtier, until eventually you have to replace it. So nasty. I hope to never ever live anywhere again that isn't all hardwood floors. You can spill on them, you can wash them clean with a mop. They rarely ever wear out or look nasty.

10) WHITE wall-to-wall carpet. Just so you can see all the dirtiness more clearly.

11) White wall-to-wall carpet in BATHROOMS. Whose brilliant idea was that?

12) Being depressed and overwhelmed, even temporarily.

13) Having to count the days until I can be somewhere else.

November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Today was by far the most depressing Thanksgiving I've ever had.

I woke up and made breakfast. Nanny cleaned her plate: eggs, toast, juice, banana, kiwi...the whole shebang. That part was good. I looked through the flyers in the morning paper over breakfast and found out that JC Penney, Macy's and Kohl's are all having huge sales on women's clothing, bras, etc. tomorrow morning until noon, so that was good too. I can get most of the stuff that I need for Nanny at big discounts. I guess I'll go to JC Penney's? It's a little bit cheaper, and it's not like I need to buy cashmere or anything fancy, just decent quality clothing. For crying out loud, she's wearing the same ratty old red acrylic sweater every day right now. At least I can get wool and cotton for her. I hope she wears it though. She's so old-fashioned about wearing hose and high heeled shoes and belts and all that crap. Yesterday it was a completely foreign idea to her that you could LAYER clothing...wear a sweater over a shirt! I don't get it. And yet she's freezing alllllll the time. I wonder if I can get her to wear socks and comfortable shoes instead of knee-high hose and pumps.

I think I'm just going to go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff while the sale is going on, then whatever she doesn't like I'll take back. I can't see fighting crowds with both Nanny and Julian and having to keep track of them both in JC Penney.

Julian started to flip out an hour or so after we woke up. He was all riled up. It's so hard on me. I don't know how people in small apartments have kids. I couldn't wait to get him out to the playground, but then I knew I couldn't stay there all day long or anything, so I tried to stretch things out a bit. I scrubbed the toilet and sink, which were filthy. For some reason the toilet tank was full of sandy grit and some sort of black substance...iron? I don't know. The um, flushing hole or whatever it's called...the place where the toilet contents exit the all discolored brown. It's some kind of mineral deposit I think, because I scrubbed it and bleached it and nothing helped. I'd have to chip it off with a chisel or something. Not going there.

Doesn't exactly help ease my mind about drinking tap water here. Ugh, it tastes awful too. I should buy bottled water, but I hate all the plastic bottles. I wish I had the extra Brita water pitcher that's sitting in my attic storage right now.

Right as we were getting ready to go I left the room for a minute and came back to a giant crash. Julian knocked over the living room table lamp and broke it. I was ready to kill him by that point. I was able to fix it with glue, but it was more than I could take. I got him in the car as fast as I could and we spent two hours at the playground. He played his brains out...luckily there were a bunch of other kids there for him to play with, so he got to chase and be chased and run and climb and everything.

My pelvis is on FIRE today though. I can only just barely walk, and each step is really painful. Unfortunately I had to keep getting up at the park...Julian was grabbing at this older boy trying to get a tennis ball that they were playing with, then he was running around the swings, where big kids were swinging really high and fast (little kids are notorious for not being able to track the path of someone swinging, wandering into the line of fire, then getting totally whacked when the swinger bashes into them). He just started getting all crazy. He fell into a big mud puddle too, and got totally dirty. I didn't care about that so much, but it was bothering him and he kept trying to clean off his muddy butt.

I put clean pants and shoes on him before we got inthe car, and we went back to Nanny's. Amazingly, he was still full of energy, but I had him help me cook dinner (he cut sausage with a butter knife) and I managed to distract him for a while with an old deck of cards.

I made turkey breast cutlets, pan-seared and then simmered in butter, salt and pepper, and chicken broth. Mashed potatoes, peas and corn, stuffing...I think that was it. I had cranberry-orange sauce, but I forgot to put it on the table. Ugh. It wasn't fancy, but it wasn't a bad Thanksgiving, considering. Except that when I served it up, I said, "Time for our Thanksgiving feast!" and Nanny said, "Oh, is it Thanksgiving today?" and then five minutes later I had to remind her again.

She was getting all fretful and obsessive and driving me nuts. I wanted to eat our dinner before going to see my grandfather, thinking we could take him some food afterwards. He wasn't responsive at all yesterday, so I figured it wouldn't matter so much. Plus my Auntie Doris called and said that the worst thing for me to do was to let her sit by his bedside for a few hours at a time by herself.

I don't know, she says she *wants* to. I give her a choice of coming with me to the playground, staying home, or spending a few hours with Bopah on her own, and so far she picks option #3 every time. Today I saw how she was much more upset by NOT spending time with him, and when I go with Julian we just can't stay that long at the hospice, so I think it's fine. I mean, it's better than dragging her off after a 15 minute visit.

Anyway, she just kept putzing around the house today, compulsively picking things up and putting them away. Julian was playing with a deck of cards and she came over and started putting them back in the box and put them away in the drawer, which naturally he was upset about. Me too, since he had finally been quietly playing on his own! I had set up his chair at the table with a pillow as a booster and put a towel over it before we ate, and she took the pillows away and put the towel in his suitcase. Between the two of them I find it nearly impossible to get anything done, I swear.

The final straw was when she closed all the curtains and made the room dark as night at 3:45pm...when it was ALREADY stuffy as hell, all windows closed tight and the heater blasting at 83F.

I said, "Nanny, it's a beautiful sunny afternoon, what are you doing? Don't you want to see the sunshine and the trees and birds and people going by? It's only 3:45pm. Let's enjoy the daylight while we have it."
"Oh," she said, "I thought it was 5:00pm already."
She's all worried about keeping the curtains closed. I don't get it.

After dinner I cleaned up the bathroom some more while she did dishes. This time I removed three brown paper grocery bags full of junk from the cupboards under the sink. Old shriveled bars of unwrapped soap, used disposable razors, bottles of after-sun lotion from back when we lived in Florida TWENTY-FIVE years ago. Random cheap knick-knacky boxes full of dusty paper clips, a foam heart from a prescription drug company, all kinds of weird icky stuff.

Plus seven unopened bottles of hydrogen peroxide. Three full cans of shaving cream. EIGHT curling irons, all the same size. I kept the H2O2, put the shaving cream out by the garbage bins for someone to take, and I'm still not sure what to do with the eight curling irons. I'll keep the best one and get rid of the other seven.

I still have to go through three more big cupboards in the bathroom. Man. But now at least the counter is cleared off, so all that's on it is her jewelry box, her glasses and her prescription medicine. I watched her get ready for bed tonight and what little she used and needed was still right there where she looked for it, so I guess I did OK. She even put her glasses into the case that I unearthed from the pile on the counter behind her makeup mirror, so that was cool.

I can't believe that I used to be a pack rat too at one point. It's so awful. I'm just grossed out by pointless junky clutter now. It makes it so hard to find anything. It's impossible to be well-organized when you have crap bursting out of every cupboard. How can you even tell what you have?

Tomorrow I have to go through the supplements as well. They are literally FALLING out of every cupboard in the kitchen. Most of them are unopened or almost full. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. I shudder to think how much money was wasted on this crap, thousands of dollars I suppose. I buy supplements too, but not nearly this many, and I do actually take them!

I am going to trash all of these and leave her with a new bottle of Trader Joe's Senior Multivitamins, some milk chocolate calcium balls, and her precription meds. That's it. She will never take them on her own, it's all my grandfather's obsession, He always was raving over some new supplement du jour that was going to return him to youth, health and virility.

We finally went to go visit my grandfather at around 6:00pm. This time he was alert and we could actually understand him fairly well. Completely different from yesterday. I don't get it. He swings from near-death to not-near-death at the drop of a hat. But he's not going to be able to come home. I still don't understand how my grandmother took care of him by herself for as long as she did.

Julian was past his bedtime so we had to go pretty quickly, plus the smell of shit and pee was pretty strong in the halls at the hospice today and it was making me sick to my stomach. Julian melted down on the way out and I had to limp along carrying his kicking, screaming 30-pound body to the car, then he continued to scream in the car all the way home, and that was the final straw for my nerves.

I grabbed his pajamas when we got home, threw him on the bed, closed the door, and burst into tears. He got all quiet and asked me what was wrong. I told him that I was very sad, that I missed Daddy and Doggie and I wanted to go home. My sweet boy came over and petted my hair, patted my back, and then he took the little wooden massager on the table and said, "Mommy like a rub?" and gave me a little backrub with it. Little sweetheart.

I gave him a big hug and a kiss and said that we were both having a hard time, but that I loved him very much and we would go home soon and see Daddy, and our house, and our friends, and Puppy, and his toys, and everything. And my god, I am banning TV for at least a month when we get home, it's on all the time here just out of desperation, plus it's at his level so he can turn it on and off at will.

After that I read him three stories and we cuddled and kissed some more and he fell asleep pretty quickly.

Sigh. I hope tomorrow is a better day. I really do.

November 22, 2006


I'm sandwiched right now, and it really, really sucks. I'm not sure how i"m going to get through the next week, except that I know that this will only last a week more, and then I can go home. That, and the knowledge that what I'm doing right now is really, really helpful, and there is nobody else to do it.

What the hell am I talking about? Here's the story.

I got a call from my Great-aunt Doris a few weeks ago telling me that my grandfather had been taken to the hospital for a massive heart attack. He's 89 and has been in poor health for many years. So it was no surprise, but also not exactly good news, because my grandmother is in decent health for 88 years old, but she has dementia and doesn't remember things from one moment to the next. It's very much like the movie Memento, except without the murder mystery.

Well, there is actually plenty of mystery at the moment, but it consists of trying to answer questions like, "Where did the deed to the house go?" and "What assets do my grandparents own?" and "Did they already make funeral arrangements previously, or does this need to be done now?" and about a million others. It's no use asking my grandmother about them, because she has no idea. I'm just going through stacks and stacks of documents mixed with piles of junk mail for various sketchy health supplements and bullshit cures that are supposed to do everything from cure cancer to toenail fungus. Every once in a while I find something important, like an unpaid credit card bill from Chase for $606, which apparently stems from a fraudulent charge back in May for $348 that has accrued a finance charges and late fees from being unpaid. My grandmother disregarded it, since she doesn't even have a Chase card in her wallet and doesn't ever remember having one.

Another mystery...what happened to that credit card? Was it stolen?

But back to the story. I was plenty worried when I heard from my Auntie Doris, but at the same time I wasn't sure if this was a temporary health crisis or not. I knew whatever it was that it was BAD, and that I probably SHOULD go down to help no matter what, but being 8 months pregnant with a 3 year old, and both of us having bad colds and barely able to breathe, I wasn't going to come down and give a bunch of sick elderly people a potentially fatal respiratory infection on top of everything else, especially not while I *myself* was too sick to take care of anyone.

So I stayed home and worried. I called my grandmother and she was very upset and confused. My grandfather was still in the hospital, but he was coming home on and off. I honestly don't know how she was taking care of him. She's frail, skin and bones, and he was almost completely bedridden. She moved him from bed to chair and back again once a day, and I don't know how she did it. Well, he is skin and bones too, but still.

Finally I got a call from Auntie Doris that he was back in the hospital and the end was near. He had developed pneumonia, which is pretty much the death sentence for bedridden elderly people. It turned out too that he hadn't had a heart attack, but congestive heart failure, so it wasn't quite as bad as a massive heart attack, but the result was basically the same. Old age was just pretty much kicking his ass for good.

Julian and I were over our horrendous colds by that point, so it was time to go. I bought a plane ticket for the next day, canceled whatever I could remember being on my schedule, hung up a "closed until November 29th" sign on my website, and ran around for the next 24 hours frantically preparing to be gone for a week and a half.

Of course I threw out my back right before we left. That sucked. It still really, really, sucks right now. And to top it all off, I slipped on some flattened boxes in the garage and messed up my pelvis even worse than it already is. Pregnancy has loosened all my tendons and ligaments and joints, especially those in my pelvis, which makes it loose and wobbly and knocks my tailbone and lower spine out of alignment (stabbing back pains), PLUS the tendon holding the two halves of my pelvis together in front is completely inflamed and sore. When I step on one leg it's like fire shooting down the front of my pelvis. Walking makes it worse, so does carrying any kind of load. And I didn't have room on the plane to bring a stroller with me, so I'm doing a lot of Julian-carrying these days, plus a lot of various other load-carrying as I clean up and move piles of junk around, do loads of laundry, buy groceries and stuff like that. There's just no getting around it.

Whatever. I'll recover once I have this baby and all my tendons and stuff firm back up. Just right now it hurts like a motherfucker. I lurch and waddle around like a peg-legged cripple and sit down every chance I get. Every step is painful. If only I could take some ibuprofen, but that's out.

Back to the story...I flew down with Julian to Burbank, got a ride to Auntie Doris' house in Arcadia (thanks to my loving husband, who set up a car service for me. I shudder to think about the hell I would have gone through trying to take Super Shuttle as I had planned), then we all drove in her vintage Cadillac Sedan deVille to Seal Beach to collect my grandmother. Auntie Doris is 83 and doesn't drive anymore, but she still has her car and generously offered it for me to use during my stay down here in Southern California. Did I mention that I totally hate it here? Well, I do. Just looking at the map before I came made my skin crawl. The endless sprawl, the dirty air, the nightmarish traffic, the total lack of green open space, the right-wing Naziesque groupthink of Orange County's TV stations and newspapers. It's like Blade Runner or something. No kidding, there was a headline in the Orange County Register this morning that said, "The bright side of global warming!" Mmmmmmkaaayyyyy. Yeah, global warming is great, didn't you know? Let's talk about the upside!

We arrived to pick up my grandmother and it was a shock. She has always been impeccably made up and coiffed, and dressed up nicely even when she didn't expect to leave the house that day. Now her hair is gray and unkempt. No makeup. She is skin and bones, clothing hanging off her. She has a large hump in her spine, like it has just collapsed over onto itself. I also saw when she got dressed that she has a big lump on her buttock, like a fleshy tumour of some sort. Memory is worse than ever. She just can't keep a thought in her head for more than a minute or two. She can't see too well, and she doesn't hear well either. It's awful, just awful.

Then we piled back in the car to go see my grandfather. He is basically in an end-of-life hospice center. Another shock. Just a pile of skin and bones with a death's head on top, gasping for air, totally blind, unable to speak more than a single understandable word at a time. Lots of mumbling that we couldn't figure out the first few days. I heard him say, "I always was lazy," the first day, trying to crack a joke, and on the second day he called out my name and my mom's name. I was trying to give him a drink of water and I heard him say "More water," when I asked him if he wanted more, but apart from that it's just noise.

Today he didn't speak at all. He has slipped into unconsciousness. I really hope the end is near. This is horrible. My grandmother is just going crazy from the strain. She knows that he's going, but then sometimes she gets upset and confused and says that everything will be better when he comes back home. I don't know whether to tell her that he's not coming back home, or just roll with it. At first I was telling her, but now I just give her a hug.

So I'm just dealing the best I can right now. I've set up power of attorney so that I can deal with my grandmother's identity theft and credit card fraud, and help get her life back in order. I'm trying to set up Meals on Wheels and weekly home care for her, all the things that my mom tried to do a few years ago, but my stubborn grandfather blocked.

I should set up a Living Trust while I'm here too, but I can't find the documents for the house (which we need) and also it costs $500-900, and it will be a pretty involved process, which I don't want to put my grandmother through right now. Just going to do the power of attorney was bad enough. They don't have very many assets, so it's not something that we need to do, it would just make things easier to manage when they do both go, but I guess it's no big deal. I think I'm just going to skip it. It's peace of mind for *me*, but doesn't make a difference to my grandmother's life right now. The important thing was to get power of attorney so that I can help her make decisions and fix the current issues. That's done. Whew.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and everything is closed, so I'm going to go through the whole house and do a major inpection and cleaning up. She keeps a tidy house still, but there is a bunch of junk mail laying around, dusty old stuffed animals and frilly ribbons from presents stuck onto things. I did three loads of laundry today. The towels in the bathroom were filthy, the washcloth that she was using was dirty and scuzzy and almost worn through. The carpet is filthy and needs cleaning. It smells like pee in the bedroom. The toilet paper roll holder has been torn off the wall. It's sad and depressing and horrifying. Tidy on the surface, but underneath it's filthy.

There are two neighbors who have been helping out, both eldery men. They are pretty sharp and are filling me in on what needs to be done. One of them came over today and asked me, "By the way, do you know how long she has been wearing that outfit there?" I had noticed that she had worn the same red sweater and black pants since I had arrived, but it had only been 2-3 days, so I figured that wasn't too bad.

"Hell, she's had it on for a few WEEKS at least! That's just not right. I didn't notice myself, but the physical therapist the hospital saw that she's had it on every time she comes to visit. She pulled me aside and told me that poor lady needs help."

He said all this in front of my grandmother, and she was mortified, which I didn't appreciate, but she forgot about it pretty quickly, so there's the upside to short-term memory loss, I guess.

I took her into her bedroom to find her another outfit to wear. Another bad surprise, she has no appropriate clothing! She apparently hasn't bought any clothing for herself in about 30 years, since she moved back here from Florida. She has a million short-sleeved shirts and silky office-type blouses, tailored pants and skirts and high-heeled pumps. Everything in the closet is too big for her, now warm enough (she's always cold), and uncomfortable to the point of being dangerous (like the high-heeled shoes she's been wearing).

I found one pair of elastic-waist pants, one short-sleeved silk sweater, and a wool turtleneck to wear over it. Exactly ONE acceptable outfit that she could change into. I did several weeks worth of laundry today and she had not a single clothing item in there, except what I took off her today. Amazing. Where are her underwear? I saw her take a clean pair out of the cupboard, and I saw her take a shower, so I guess she's washing her underwear in the sink and keeping herself clean, but the clothing! Ugh.

Well, I'm going to go over to Ross or Kohl's or something on Friday and see if I can hit some sales. Get her 4-5 new pairs of comfy pants, a bunch of long-sleeved shirts, and some sweaters. At least today she wasn't complaining about being cold, though she WAS complaining mightily about the strangeness of wearing two layers of clothing when I first changed her outfit, and her pants feeling too big. But I guess she got over it.

Thank god, because she has been keeping the heat in the house at 83 degrees with all the windows closed, and I have been on the verge of suffocating. When I got here it was 90 degrees that day, strangely hot, and she STILL had the heat on inside and windows closed, and complained of feeling cold. Doris and I were just dying, practically gasping for air. I had to tear the door open at several points, just so I could breathe. So if I can get her into some warm comfy clothing, maybe we can solve the overheated house situation.

She eats pretty well when I cook for her and put a plate in front of her. But if no one cooks for her, I don't think she eats. She barely ate a piece of toast the whole first day I was here, just drank coffee. Since then I have gotten three square meals a day into her, and she eats more and more each time. So that's good. Eggs and meat and veggies and pasta and potatoes and all kinds of things. It can only help. She even had some dessert tonight, a little ice cream and cake.

Poor thing, she just needs looking after. My grandfather has always been such a difficult person, and he refused help from anyone for so long, letting the whole burden fall on my grandmother. It's hard not to be mad at the old bastard when he's laying there dying now, but man, he wore her out. She's finally relaxing and allowing me to help her a bit now.

I keep telling her it's OK, that at 88 years old no one expects her to do it all by herself, and that her job now is just to sit back, accept what help she is given and say, "Thank you very much." She has worked like a slave her whole life, and now it's time to stop and let others do things for her. I think without my grandfather around to make her feel like it's a crime to accept help, she'll be OK. Provided that I can line up the help, that is. Ugh.

Tonight I put out a clean nightgown for her, reminded her to take her heart medicine, put in the eyedrops that stand between her and blindness, got her in bed, covered her up...and she just let me help. So that's a very good sign. I worry tremendously about what will happen once I leave though.

So the other thing that has been sucking about this week is juggling my grandmother and Julian. With her bad hearing and memory, you really need to say things to her in absolute quiet with no distractions going on. Of course, with Julian around, there is constant chatter and constant distraction and constant background noise. Either he's asking incessant questions, or singing a song loudly, or making loud noises with his truck (note to self: remove those fucking BATTERIES!) or else blasting the TV (which is down at his level, unlike our wall-mounted TV at home).

He's bored, and he doesn't have much to play with here, and I'm so stressed out. I feel bad for him. He's never watched this many hours of TV before. I keep shushing him, and he just gets louder and more defiant. I've taken him to the playground at the beach for a few hours every day, but that just takes the edge off a bit, it's not like he has a good space to run around in otherwise.

Even at the beach, my crippled pelvis makes me keep him on a short leash. He can run around all he wants within the gated playground, but the bigger kids are always jumping over the low wall to go play on the beach and under the pier and he wants to follow them. Today we went for a walk on the pier, but he kept running ahead of me, and chasing seagulls, and tripping and falling on the uneven wood of the pier.

It was a continuous nightmare for me. I just kept imagining him tripping and falling, or going to swat a seagull, and then slipping through the wooden railing into the cold water hundreds of feet below. I couldn't keep up with him, I just kept uselessly yelling at him to wait for me, and of course he didn't, and I couldn't chase him. Horrible. We got the end and I turned him around and eventually we got back the parking lot. But it sucked mightily in the meantime. Even walking on the sand is hard for me. I walked him down to the water yesterday, and was hoping that I could plunk down and he would play in the wet sand, but instead he wanted to go back to the playground.

Every day his behavior gets worse and my patience gets less. It's just really bad. I'm trying to do everything I can for him, it's just not easy. I was having a hard time with him *before* we left home and now it's just magnified. We are still connecting on a daily basis, but I'm just doing too much yelling. I can't be everywhere at once.

While I was getting my grandmother dressed today, Julian took his sand toys outside, filled them with dirt, and came back and dumped it on the carpet. I mean, I was ready to kill him. I didn't, but it was so infuriating. He has been taking off his shoes and throwing them at me, and yesterday he broke a glass vase. He's just a little kid, but it's so hard right now. I'm at the point where I'm like, "STOP MAKING THINGS HARDER FOR ME THAN THEY ALREADY ARE, GODDAMNIT!!! CAN'T YOU SEE I'M ABOUT TO FUCKING SNAP?????" But what's the point? He doesn't get it. He just knows that he's in a strange place, with a Nanny who he loves but is pretty odd and doesn't understand anything he says to her, and he doesn't have any of his toys, and Mommy is being a raging bitch. Actually, he seems to be enjoying himself most of the time, in spite of the weirdness, but I know it has to be hard for him somewhow.

This morning he was watching Barney and he kept pointing to the TV and saying to my grandmother, "Look, it's Barney!", and she would say, "Oh yes, it's a bunny," because she has no fucking clue who Barney is, or what he is...she's never seen him before. Then Julian would say, "No Nanny, it's BARNEY!" and she would repeat, "Yes, it's a bunny." Finally he said, "BAR--NEY!" just spelling it out as clearly as he could for her, but she still didn't get it of course, so I had to step in and tell her that the purple guy is a dinosaur named Barney, not a bunny.

Some things are the same though. They both need to eat small meals at regular times, and have their food cut up for them. They both need things explained to them over and over. They both like songs. Nanny DOES know the words to the "Itsy-Bitsy Spider", and she enjoys watching Sesame Street. Nice and simple.

Nanny still does dishes like a champ, although she insists on using a nasty old piece of towel instead of the sponges I bought her. I cook and she does dishes, which is fine by me, as I despise that particular chore.

Julian doesn't clean anything up, he just makes a mess. But I can hold a pretty good conversation with him, whereas it's sort of hopeless with Nanny. She asks me over and over all day long how old Julian is, what his name is, when the next baby is due, do I know if it's a boy or girl? I'm doing pretty well at answering each time like it's the first time I've been asked, but man, it's getting really, really old. We repeat the same conversational scraps all day long.

How old is he?
Almost three years old.

And what's his name?
Oh, Julian, that's right.

When is his birthday?
February 13th.
Oh, almost a valentine! Or a president!

When is the next baby due?
A new year's baby!
No, the 20th.

Do you know if it's a boy or girl?
A boy.
Oh, that will be nice, then the two boys can play together. Do you just have the two boys then?


Well, you already have a boy, I suppose the next baby will be a girl then.
Nope, we already know it's a boy.
Oh, you know already! Well, that will be nice, then the two boys can play together.

This goes on at least 12-15 times a day, usually in the above order. It's not so much tiring I guess, it's just more and more depressing every time it happens. I think it does sink in a little bit every time I repeat it. Tonight when I told her that I was expecting a boy she said, "Oh, I already asked you that. Now I remember you said it was a boy." So that was something new. Or maybe just a blip.

Oh god, the scammers. They are relentless. Hideous vultures preying on old confused people. I hope there is a hell just so they can rot in it forever. I have busted two attempts so far. Once was a call from some guy saying that my grandmother had won a Publisher's Clearinghouse contest, and he was pumping her for information. I heard her reluctantly answering his questions and asker her to give me the phone. She handed it over and I blistered that fucker's eardrums with what I thought of him. He started in on me too, at which point I hung up on him.

Then she got a letter from some scammer pretending to be from the Canadian Justice Department, investigating identity theft. They had supposedly caught three men and had a big settlement to lay on her from the confiscated funds, like $350,000 or something ridiculous (her identity theft was only for a few thousand). I'm sure the next step in the process would be to pump her for her banking information, but I put a stop to that right quick too. I called them up and told them to fuck right off with their scamming bullshit. Unbelievable. I've told her many times that if ANYONE calls her up and asks her questions about ANYTHING, just have them call me, but I don't know if she will remember. I need to put a big sign up next to the phone. That's no guarantee either, but I don't know what else to do.

Anyway, it's almost midnight and I'm exhausted. I just had to write this out so I wouldn't go crazy. Journaling is my method of coping with things. But I had better get some sleep. Julian is waking up at the crack of dawn since we've been here. No blackout curtains like we have at home. Here he gets up at sunrise and says, "Wake up Mommy, it's MORNING out there!" and points to the window. Unfortunately morning arrives at around 6:30am.

I hope my grandfather passes away tomorrow. I really, really want to be here for my grandmother when that happens, to help her get through it the best I can. So please, if anyone out there or up there is listening....take him ASAP. At this point he's laying in bed unconscious, wearing a diaper. Death is his friend now. And those of us here need to move on.

Actually, I'm going to end on a funny note, because something actually funny happened the other day. Well, it was black humor, but I'll take what I can get.

The hospice called two days ago and said that it was only a matter of hours, that my grandfather was very bad and on the verge of death (this has happened several times now). My Auntie Doris was still here, so we all rushed to the hospice to say goodbye.

Well, he had bounced back a bit, but we were all convinced that this was the end, so everyone was saying their farewells. Auntie Doris said the Lord's Prayer while holding his hand, and asked him to give her love to Bill (her husband, who died a few years back), and my grandmother said her goodbyes too. I was just silently crying and holding his hand, because it was too overwhelming, and I tend to go quiet at times like that.

Then my grandmother asked him to please come for her soon when he got to heaven, to make a place for her to join him. She was ready to go, come and get her.

Auntie Doris also said that she would be ready soon, and that he should come and get her when she was ready, she would see him in heaven.

Everyone was weeping and asking him to take them along soon, and it just got to me. I was pretty disturbed by this image of my grandfather as the Grim Reaper, coming to claim the lives of these women, because as I said, he had his good tender side but he wasn't the nicest person overall, and I certainly wouldn't want him deciding matters of who lived and who died.

All that was going through my head (which of course I blurted out loud) was, "Well DON'T come for ME anytime soon... I've got small children who need me! So if you do come back here and start taking people, leave me the hell out of it! I won't be ready to go for a GOOD long time yet. OK? Got that?"

Which was pretty funny, and even Nanny and Doris were laughing and crying and saying, "Yeah, don't come and get HER! She's way too busy to go anywhere yet!"

Apart from the Barney/bunny thing, that's been about the only funny thing that's happened so far. And it's not really that funny. But yeah, I'll take a light moment when I can get it in the midst of all the death, grief, gloom, confusion and madness.

November 11, 2006

Time For A Big Ol' Cup Of 'Shut The F*** Up'

By Bob Cesca, The Huffington Post

Now that the Democrats have taken back the Congress and 51+ percent of America finally has a voice in government again, I think it's time to seriously let fly. So at the risk of sounding contentious in this all-too-genuine era (several days) of bipartisanship, here now is a roll call of people who must officially shut the f*** up.

1) Republican trolls who wrap up their anonymous and incomprehensible criticisms of progressives with the phrase, "and that's why your party never wins," need to shut the f*** up.

2) The cowards who so easily disregard our liberties by shrugging off the president's illegal wiretapping; the cowards who shrug off the Military Commissions Act and the death of habeas corpus; and the cowards who shrug off torture with the phrases, "I'm not doing anything wrong, so I have nothing to worry about," or, "You can't [blank] if you're dead," ought to shut the f*** up.

3) Anyone who still believes that global warming is a myth? Shut the f*** up.

4) Rush Limbaugh must shut the f*** up. On second thought, strike that. The more we see Violet Beauregard flapping his arms and mocking Parkinson's patients, the better off the rest of the nation will be.

5) In Ann Coulter's latest column, he wondered when the Democrats would be fitting Senator-Elect Jon Tester with a "leotard." Speaking of tards, Mr. Coulter needs to shut the f*** up. And this order stands for anyone who claims Senator-Elect Tester is a "conservative Democrat." He could very well be the face of the New Progressive Democrat and one of the most genuine lawmakers elected Tuesday. Prediction: if he isn't already, Tester will quickly become a rock star in this party.

6) I think it was Bill Maher who mentioned this but it stands repeating here: neocons who have made multiple rosy predictions about Iraq need to shut the f*** up and are forthwith banned from making any more predictions.

7) Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and other homophobes who use the "San Francisco Liberal" label for Speaker-Elect Pelosi must... you know. We all understand that it's right-wing code language meaning "homo-values." If that's what you mean, just say it. That is, unless you're not man enough.

8) If you still believe that Karl Rove is a genius, wizard, architect or anything short of overrated, you must shut the f*** up. One popular vote loss, one win, one near loss to a disorganized opponent and one outright loss means one thing and one thing only: mediocrity. Racking up this kind of record by means of dirty tricks, race-baiting and questioning the patriotism of decorated war veterans makes Rove a mediocre hack at best.

9) Ed Gillespie, the man who's just a neck with a mouth, is officially ordered for the last time to shut the f*** up.

10) The devilish wordsmiths who think it's strategic and clever to refer to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party" need to stop it. Shut the f*** up. The official name of the party is the Democratic Party, with the "ic" at the end. Yeah, I know. Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz invented the idea of saying "Democrat Party" or "the Democrat leadership" or "the Democrat voters" in order to emphasize the "rat" syllable, leaving a rat-like subliminal hint in the minds of listeners. President Bush, in his so-called "conciliatory" press conference Wednesday, used this incorrect pronunciation several times.

"And while the ballots are still being counted in the Senate, it is clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night, and I congratulate them on their victories."

"This morning I spoke with Republican and Democrat leadership in the House and Senate."

"...we'll begin consultations with the Democrat leadership starting Thursday and Friday."

"...and now work with Democrat leaders in the Congress because they control the committees and they control the flow of bills."

"We got some tax cuts passed with Democrat votes."

11) And finally... Mr. President. Saying that you're going to work with Congress and compromise for the sake of the nation doesn't mean shoving your unconstitutional Terrorist Surveillance Act and your bellicose anti-U.N. U.N. ambassador through a lame duck session. So if you don't really intend to be bipartisan, then shut the f*** up. You pride yourself on letting people know exactly where you stand and, despite the fact that you routinely stand on dangerous principles, there's at least some cold comfort in knowing what you're up to. But it's clear that that President Bush is long gone -- replaced by a man who can't even be honest with his own base about things like the Iraq War, subsequently leaving his allies alone, confused and scrambling to assuage the anger of an increasingly hostile constituency. This last part? Keep it up, thank you.

And that's the roll call. I've spent the last several days not only breathing in the sweet aroma of real-life governmental checks and balances, but I've also been evaluating where we go from here. Clearly Speaker-Elect Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have the daunting task of working with the White House to not only push through vital pieces of legislation, but they also must do so in a way that doesn't raze their chances for further pickups in 2008. It goes without saying that any misstep in the face of this Republican Party (and its media lapdogs) could spell disaster. So they have to play nice in some ways, but you and I are best served by remaining on the attack and never hesitating to tell those who deserve it to shut the f*** up.

UPDATE: I've been told that Joe McCarthy was the first to use the "Democrat [sic] Party" misnomer. However, its use became much more pervasive when Gingrich and Luntz practically made it mandatory in the ranks of the GOP.

November 08, 2006

Now Rumsfeld?

Rumsfeld's resignation was just announced by our stuttering Chief A-Hole.

OK, I MUST be dreaming. No one pinch me though, I don't want to wake up from this.

Or maybe we ALL just woke up from the American nightmare of the past six years?

Good lord, I just caught George Bush saying, "But then again, what do I know?" Yeah George, what DO you know? SHOULDN'T you know?

And there's all this talk of the Baker/Hamilton Commission. How did I miss THAT commission? Must go find out more about them and what they do.

Oh, he just tripped over pronouncing "ideology", and is now berating the interviewer for asking a question about policy.

But you know, instead of feeling deep despair over this kind of thing, I just don't care as much now. You're going down, asshat. You and your hideous ilk.

O joyous day!

Wow. Not only have Democrats taken Congress, but most likely the Senate too.

The new Speaker of the House is not only a woman, but a Californian, even a San Franciscan!

Pombo went down, Santorum went down. DeLay went down a long time ago.

Am I dreaming? Can this really be true? Is there hope for this country after all?

November 05, 2006

Why are you liberals so bigoted against Demon-Americans?


Breakin' the law!

Let me ride that pumpkin!, originally uploaded by mslaura.

The sign right next to him said, "Please do not let children sit on pumpkins."


November 01, 2006

Undead Pregnant Congested Mama with a Chainsaw

We had a blast scaring the crap out of trick-or-treaters last night. Not that we got too many, but the ones we did get were very impressed with our efforts.

I got a few little kids who proudly announced, "I'm not scared, I was here LAST year!". So I think this needs to become an annual Halloween tradition.

Our decorations were decidedly low-tech. I had a bunch of candles burning in the front yard, one lone pumpkin (that Dan carved in about 30 seconds...note that it has three triangles and that's about it for a face), a ghost made out of a white sheet tied over a balloon, and scary sound effects playing on my laptop speakers.

The sound effects really made it though. Since everything was pretty low-key and not store-bought, I think it made it even spookier for the kids. By the time they walked up to the door and I jumped out with the chain saw (actually an electric hedge trimmer), they were crapping in their pants.

Unfortunately, Julian was scared as well. The combo if scary sound effects and seeing Mama in her undead costume and makeup just freaked him out. Last year he wasn't bothered by it at all, he helped me scare the kids by jumping out at them after my initial blast. But this year he couldn't hang at all. He watched Thomas the Train cartoons on Dan's lap in the office most of the time. In between he would come out and beg me to "wash Mommy's EYES! Take off your hair!"

I finally shut up shop at 8:30pm so that he could go to bed with the sight of Mommy all cleaned up. He was very glad to see me back to my normal, non-scary self.

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