Sunday, April 3, 2011

About Face

It's not like she didn't warn me. She told me she couldn't bear to move again. Yet, every single day she would say, "I hate this place. I see so many injustices here all the time," and then so would begin the litany of complaints.

I didn't imagine that, right?

Today, Burke brought her down to The Charleston. She wrinkled her nose the second she walked in. "I don't like this place," she told me.

"Well," I said cheerily, "let's just look around!"

"It's not as nice as the place I'm in now."

"Well, when we are done here, I will show you your other option, and then maybe you'll appreciate how nice this place is."

The cute girl, Michelle, who showed us around yesterday came from home (she still lives with her parents) to give us a tour. I introduced my mother. "Michelle, this is my mother, Pat."

My mother said, "I don't like this place very much."

We started on the tour to see an empty studio apartment so she could see how big they were. "This room is cold."

"Well, Mom, that's just because it's unoccupied right now."

"I'll need it warmer."

Michelle showed her the adjustable thermostat on the wall. My mother squinted at it for a moment and said, "I often have trouble with those. Those are tricky."

Michelle said, "All of our CNAs can help you with that."

We went back into the hall. "There aren't any chairs or sofas to sit on."

"Well, let's go up to the library," Michelle said. We got into the elevator to the second floor and there were two inviting, green sofas near a railing that peered down onto the lobby, where there were clearly four easy chairs before the fake fire place, as well as two ladies sitting in them. We went into the library, and my mother kept muttering, "It's cold here. There's just a cold feeling here." She'd look up and say to Michelle,

"Where I am now, it's just got a homey feeling. There is no homey feeling here."

"Well, a lot of the residents are watching Conference right now."

"The place where I am is homey and has a family feeling. Everybody is like a family. And we all sit in a circle on comfortable chairs and watch movies."

"I can take you to our activities room," Michelle smiled nervously. She is too innocent to be smooth and is a little hurt by my mother's barbs, but trying gamely to be soothing anyway.

On the way, we passed by the room where a lot of the residents were watching Conference. It was a room they use for church, and everyone was dressed up. This man in the back wearing a suit kept standing up and waving us over to chairs near him. He was too young to be a resident, so probably part of the Branch Presidency (ministry). I shook my head and mouthed that we were just looking. He kept waving his arms commandingly like someone who expected to have his orders followed, so I took particular delight in coolly looking away from him and ignoring him.

But surely we would have benefited from hearing church leaders admonish all the young men of the church to marry.

My mother's mantra became, "This place doesn't have a family feel to it," and she would take the middle and ring finger of her right hand and draw a circle in the air with it, presumably indicating family. That would make sense-- Families are Forever, the circle represents eternity. Kidding.

I told Michelle, "I think she has had a hard week. She is a little nervous."

My mother and Burke walked behind us, my mother calling, "Jennifer, I've made up my mind."

We were sitting in the lobby when a resident asked for Michelle's help finding something. She took his hand and looked at him and said, "Yes, absolutely." She turned to me and said, "Would you excuse me for just a minute?" And took the resident to help him. We decided to get my mother out of there, so when Michelle came back into the lobby, we were on our way out, and I stopped and shook her hand. "Thank you so much for coming in today, Michelle. We'll be in touch."

True to my word, our next stop was the Canyon View Assisted Living place, which my mother completely dismissed as a possibility. She didn't take it seriously one bit, and maybe my body language was just screaming that I wouldn't really move her there. I liked it better today. We walked in and a group of residents were sitting in a circle watching Conference. They beamed as we came in. New faces! We asked if we could look around, and the young girl on staff showed us the available rooms. My mother walked in and out again, continuing to talk about why Sunrise is so much better than The Charleston.

To my credit, I was patient with her all day. Even when she started saying that she was just an object with no say, that I had obviously already made up my mind (on The Charleston, because she dismissed Canyon View, which makes me like it more every second), that she only wanted to stay at Sunrise.

"But Mom, you have been asking me every single day to get you out of there. You tell me how much you have deteriorated. And none of the things that I don't like about that place are solved just because you now love it."

She pouted in the passenger seat of Burke's car and I kicked some slushy snow and wished I could smoke a cigarette.

"I'm sorry, Jennifer, I'm so sorry, I'll never go it again. Will you forgive me?"

"Well, Mom, when you tell me for two months that all you want is out of that place so then I take steps to make that happen, you can't suddenly tell me that you're happy there."

"So, you've already made up your mind."

"No, we are not making any decisions today."

"Then can I stay where I am?"

"I am not making any decisions today."

"I get no say in this, then, right? You just get to decide what to do with me and I'm like a ball. Being bounced around."


After we got back to my dad's, I did sneak off to smoke. She had been there less than an hour before she and my dad began bickering. My dad told her everything I had about how much she hated Sunrise, about her falling, about the fact that once she was moved to the Alzheimers and Dementia ward, she no longer had a necklace or bracelet she could use to call attendants. She has only a pull cord by her bed. So, when she fell out in the hallway, she had no way to call anyone except her voice.

He talked about her roommate, "I'm attached to her now,"  how small her room is, "I'm used to it. In that other place, I'll just be alone and lonely in a big cold room."


It comes down to control: She wants to make the decisions. When she had to stay there, she chose to leave. When I finally saw the light and took steps, her way of seizing back control was to turn every negative thing she had every said about Sunrise into a positive.

Fortunately, I knew that arguing with her was pointless-- technially, Canyon View meets all of her requirements for warmth, coziness, small, and family-like. She will change her criteria the second I meet it. Because I forgot that the number one thing you have to remember about Pat is that she doesn't like anything (unless you are going to take it away from her, apparently).

Then, my dad finally got her to change the subject.

Be careful what you wish for.

"So, you're working on your memoirs?"


"Do you have a lot of funny stories in there?"

"Yeah, and I had a funny one about you in there." And he went on to tell Burke, in front of my mother, the story he had sworn never to tell! But she was mad.

"So,your funny stories are all at my expense."

No! Pat, it was a funny story. You know, Burke, I saw this doctor in the parking lot lighting a cigarette with a trembling hand, and I think that was him," and he laughed. Sometimes my dad laughs so hard that he leans forward and almost falls out of his chair. Then he slaps the floor, laughing.

"I bet there are a lot of funny stories about me in that book," She said primly, pursing her lips.

"And Pat, there are a lot of funny stories about me too. Like the time we borrowed the mimeograph machine to run off my dissertation. And you said you knew how to use it."

"I knew how to use a lot of equipment back then!"

"And you pulled the lever back and the whole thing got jammed. And then I dumped that stuff on the floor and tried to clean it with acetone. And it burned a hole in the floor. The next day, I got to work and they told me, 'Boy, the director wants to talk to YOU.' So I went down there and they never let me touch any of the equipment at the VA hospital again."

Then my dad went on to tell the Mr. Joseph story for Burke. I wondered how many times Burke has heard that story over the years. He has known my dad since birth.

So, my mom then kept saying she wanted to read the autobiography.

"Well, it's not finished yet. And you've never read anything else I've ever written."

"Well, I want a copy of every book. And I know that if you wrote it, it's excellent."

"How would you know that? You never read it."

"But I want to read your autobiography..."

I started to wander in and out at this point, sneaking out for a smoke, then coming in and pretending to work on a grant on my computer in the corner recliner, while actually talking to my friend Chris via instand message.

My dad's position on the whole nursing home situation is that he'd LOVE to have my mother back home BUT... And that I need to call the social worker and then go look at every nursing home in Provo.

Matt and I agreed that we would both crunch some numbers this weekend. Even with my mother in The Charleston, even with the money we would save from Sunrise, it's untenable.

I sent out a text: "After having crunched the numbers, have determined PC to be redundant. Recommend downsizing."

I got the following responses:

"Have you read Lovecraft? You can alwaze chain her tp in the attic."

"So... Alaska?" (That was from Sam who volunteered to research roundtrip plane tickets to Alaska to find an ice floe: $1500 each)

"Is this a Logan's Run kind of thing?"

"Can you outsource her job to India? or replace her w an undocumented laborer?"
I'm sure my headache is only from the four inches of show we woke to today after I wore a sleeveless dress and flipflops all day yesterday.

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