Monday, May 18, 2015

The Last Mother's Day

When I went with my grandfather and my parents to visit my grandmother in rehab on May 3rd, I brought a drawing pad for him and some watercolor crayons.  He used to always draw with me and was a wonderful artist.  He sat at the edge of her bed and I sat in a chair next to him.

I asked him to draw something and he just looked at me confused.

"I don't know what to draw," he said.
"How about... a dog?" I asked.

He took the pad and stared at it for a while, the crayon in his hand.

"I can't," he said. "You were always the artist."

What? He had to be kidding.  My grandfather used to be able to draw and make anything and everything.  I remembered one time, he carved a beautiful Chinese New Year lion out of a bar of soap for a school project where I was supposed to carve something.  Now he couldn't even draw a dog?

He handed the pad and crayon back to me shaking his head.  I sighed and just started sketching some orchids that were in the room.  I thought maybe I could inspire him to help me.  I also drew a random cube. The whole time, he watched me intently.

"Here, why don't you help me?" I asked, handing him another crayon and the pad again, now that it was no longer blank.

He gingerly outlined the cube, and motioned to try and draw some stems or leaves coming from the flowers, but the crayon didn't touch the paper.  He handed the pad back to me again.

"I can't..."

I flipped to a clean page and started to draw my grandmother lying in her bed. She stuck her tongue out over and over, making silly noises like a child because I was looking at her and she knew I was trying to draw her. I drew a basic outline  of her in the bed and left her face and details empty just to give my grandfather a starting point, and handed over the pad again.

He carefully began to make some light scratches on the paper to make her nose.

"I'm ruining it," he said. "You do it. I'm ruining it."

"No, you're not! Besides, it's not for anything, just for fun," I said as he handed the pad back again.

Her nose was large and not proportionate, but I just wanted my grandfather to be able to do something again.  They wouldn't let him have any of his tools that he liked to tinker with at Golden Age so I was hoping that this was something he could do with his time.

Eventually my mom came over and offered to draw my grandmother.  My mom has always been an artist as well.  She did a much better job.

I realized I should probably get my grandfather something that required less thinking and concentration.

Recently, I'd discovered that there are adult coloring books. No, not that kind of coloring book although there are those too.  There are more intricate, less cartoony coloring books for grown-ups so I opted to get one of those for my grandfather.

The following weekend, on Mother's Day, after brunch with my parents, we all went with my grandfather to Pacifica Rehab again to visit my grandmother.

This time I had my coloring book and I asked my grandfather to help me color one of the pages.  He agreed and even seemed focused on the task.  I think he may have even enjoyed it.  My grandmother watched us.

"Ba hasn't colored with you since you were little," she said with a smile.

When we were almost finished, there were a few empty spaces left.

"Put some in there," he said, pointing at them. I colored them in.

I like to think that he felt accomplished.  I asked him to write his name, and I signed too, although my signature looks more like a scribble than anything.

Eventually it was time to go and my grandmother was led back to her room in her wheelchair.  I didn't say goodbye to her because I didn't think she'd remember anyway.  She enjoyed seeing us and Joss because she loves babies, but she wasn't really always cognizant of what was going on and she'd forget what just happened a moment later.

It seemed like she was improving.

And then, three days later, she passed away.

Even though it's ridiculous, I just sort of thought subconsciously that my grandparents would live forever.  I knew that my grandmother was declining, and that they are both really old, but the thought that they might actually pass away soon was not a thought that I entertained in my mind.

My father called me the Wednesday morning after Mother's Day and told me that Pacifica Rehab had just called him.

"Grandma passed away in her sleep this morning."

I began sobbing immediately.  She was getting better. She was supposed to be released in a couple days to be with her husband again at Golden Age. She wasn't supposed to just stop breathing.  And I didn't say goodbye to her.  My mother kindly keeps reminding me that she knew I loved her and I always told her I loved her.  I still feel rotten.

The rest of the day was a blur of things I wasn't sure if I wanted to remember or not.  I told my dad I'd tell my grandfather.  I wanted to hold his hand and make sure I was there for him.  It was the worst thing I've ever had to tell anyone in my entire life, but somehow I knew I had to be the one to tell him.  I didn't want my dad to have to do it and I wanted it to come from me.

My grandfather began crying immediately in the car on our way to Pacifica Rehab and I held him as he sobbed.  He said he didn't want to see her, that he wanted to remember her the way she was.  We said we understood and didn't make him.

Afram and my dad and I went to see my grandmother. We met Uncle Ed (my grandmother's brother) and his step son Don at Pacifica Rehab. Uncle Ed, Don, and my dad went to see her first while I waited in the car with my grandfather.  Then my dad went up with Afram and me.

I was glad my grandfather didn't have to see her like that.

"She doesn't look like herself," my dad warned me.  She didn't.  I saw her and I cried and cried on my husband's shoulder and I'll leave it at that.

And now we plan the funeral and my grandfather seems weaker and more frail than I've ever seen him.

I spent today with my grandfather and Joss. My grandfather has been weak and has some kind of cold or flu, so my parents took him to the doctor this morning, Afterward, he dozed on the couch at my parents' house while watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with me, and talked in his sleep.

"Where's Gary?"

"I'm going to the circus."

"What time is it?"

He speaks very clearly, but his voice is raspy either from being sick, not sleeping, or crying all the time... probably a combination.

I told my mom I'm not ready for him to go, but that I know that it's common for elderly widows and widowers to die shortly after their spouse after being with them for so many years.

"I just want some more time to spend with him and talk to him," I cried.

She told me she thought he'd be okay, but we all don't know.

I don't have a good end to this entry.  I'm dreading Saturday when we will have the memorial service for my grandmother.  I never thought there would be a memorial service for my grandmother.  She and my grandfather were supposed to live forever.

"You have to live forever, Grandma," I used to joke with her.  "You have to take care of MY babies too!"

"I have to take care of YOUR babies TOO?!" she'd always laugh incredulously.

I miss my grandma.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

For China Relief!

I haven't really written much about my grandparents lately.  Life just gets away from me with a baby.  A lot has happened since I wrote here regularly.

There is a lot of video footage to go through from several years ago from the dinners with my grandparents where I asked them to tell me stories.

My grandparents' great grandchild was born on New Year's Eve 2013.  At least my grandmother doesn't have to ask me if it's twins anymore.

This past December, my grandmother fell and fractured her pelvis. My grandfather couldn't help her up and she ended up in the hospital, and then rehab again.

Then my grandfather developed severe edema from his horrible diet and he could no longer walk while my grandmother was in the hospital, and he too ended up in the hospital.  My parents decided this was "the event." They had to go to a care facility.

When my grandfather got out of the hospital, he didn't go home. He went to Golden Age, which is an elder care home a few blocks away from my house.  And he had to be there without his wife on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  We brought him to visit her both days, but he was so lonely and so sad and I felt like we were monsters.

In the meantime, my parents, my godparents, and I began the heart-wrenching and often equally disgusting task of cleaning out their house.  60 years of stuff is a lot of stuff.  My grandparents wouldn't qualify for "Hoarders," but probably a close second.  I took some pictures and journaled about it... maybe I'll write about the experience more in depth some day.  Maybe it's just another thing that sits in my sieve of a mind that I think will one day be an essay, but it's just leaking out silently while I try to keep my job and my baby fed and clean.

In any case, the whole reason for this post, was that during the whole clean out, I early-inherited whatever I wanted to take.  I ended up taking a number of things, but I think one of my favorite things was this hollow glass brick that my great uncle Kaye had engraved with "FOR CHINA RELIEF!" for my grandfather.  My grandfather used it as a piggy bank of sorts and he'd put money in it to send back to his family in China every month.  I liked that story.

I've turned my grandfather's piggy bank into a little succulent garden and I put it in my room.

I look at it and I think of my grandfather and how much he cared about his family and how hard he worked to provide for his family in America as well as his family in China.  I miss when we were both young and could play together, when he'd remember things, and knew what was going on all the time.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Visiting at the new home

Went to visit my grandparents today with Joss. They really enjoyed him and Grandma even seemed a little more lucid than normal. "Stacey!" She said right away and recognized me. She and Ba took turns making faces at Joss and making him laugh.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Not Even Fifteen Cents

She pushes the noodles of her Vietnamese mixed bun bowl around. "Look, there's nothing here!" She has already given most of the meat and imperial rolls from her meal to my grandfather and my dad.  All that's left are the noodles.

My dad asks me about work and we chat a little bit.

"This wouldn't even cost fifteen cents," she says angrily, pushing the noodles around in the bowl some more. "Look at this!"

My grandfather joins in.  "Everything is just warm, not even hot."

"I'm never coming back here. Ever!" She pushes the noodles around continually, demanding that we look at it.

My father just smiles at her. "You're going to forget in three minutes anyway."

She doesn't hear him.

"I don't even think it will be three whole minutes," I reply to my dad.

"Not even fifteen cents!" she mutters again.

"Wednesday is better because then I have time to forget what it's like.  When it's Tuesday, it's too close and it's like BANG two days later, and I don't even have time to forget," my dad says, referring to the sad state of my grandparents.

"Oh, you mean from Sunday dinner," I say.  I haven't been to Sunday dinner in a few weeks.

"Yeah," he says.  He's still smiling and calm, and I'm glad.

"Look at this!" she mutters again, mixing the bowl of noodles.

"Are you and mom going to be like this?" I ask my dad.

He looks a little bit concerned.  I answer for him.  "I don't think you will be. They've always been kind of picky like this. You and Mom aren't like that."

"Well," he says. "We have our weird little food things."

"Like what?" I ask.

"Mom doesn't like anything creamy," he replies.

"Yeah, but that's because creamy things make her sick," I defend her.

"And I don't like hard boiled eggs in anything," he laughs.

"Or Brussels sprouts," I smile.

"I just don't want to eat them if there's other stuff there.  I'll eat it if there's nothing else," he says.

"I wouldn't even pay fifteen cents for this.  Look!" she complains venomously, overturning the noodles in the bowl. "Look at this!"

I finally take her bowl away and put the rest of my five spice chicken in front of her so she'll stop with the noodles.

"I don't want to eat it, it's all fat!" she says, her face the same one of anger and disgust.

"No it's not," I argue, pulling huge chunks of meat off. They're cooked so that parts are chewy and crunchy, just like she likes it, with lots of flavor.

"You eat it then!" she seethes.  She continues to pick at the skin with a grimace on her face and throws the piece of chicken on my other plate with the leftover bean sprouts.

"God, you're crabby today!" I say finally hitting my breaking point.  She doesn't hear me.

My grandfather just smiles back at me, knowingly.  He deals with this every day, and I pity him.  I suppose it is a gift that he is starting to forget so much too.  However, this gift is now paid with the price of his doctor telling them they should move into assisted living.  Said they probably should have done it a couple years ago.  This is what my dad tells me when I ask him what he did today and he tells me about how he took them to the doctor.  Sunday's dinner gave him some sort of food poisoning and he ended up falling in the bathroom and hurting his arm when he was vomiting.  My dad said it looked pretty bad.

He also tells me that he had to pick up my dog, Ruby, too and that she jumped in the back with them when she was supposed to sit in the front seat and they screamed.  She reacted by jumping up and standing on the center console.  Finally my dad was able to coax her into the front seat, where he intended for her to sit originally.  It sounded pretty amusing.

Dinner is soon over and my grandfather pays the bill because it's "Stacey's Day" where he treats me to dinner.  Of course, he leaves too little tip, and when he and my grandmother turn towards the door, my father sneaks behind me and leaves more money on the table.  I give them hugs and thank them.

"I hope your arm feels better soon," I tell my grandfather.

"Oh, it's nothing," he smiles at me, holding my grandmother up as they hobble to my father's car.

I look back at them as I go to my own car, filled with hope that next week won't be quite so upsetting.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Ketchup Catches Up With You

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 Dementia Dinner

"You know, I'm the only one using this ketchup. Don't you guys need any?" my grandfather said, dipping a piece of pork loin in the little Pyrex dish filled with the familiar tangy red sauce.

Ketchup in the upper left

"No, the rest of us don't need any ketchup," my mother replied.

"Maybe this is why they always look at me weird at restaurants when I ask for it and then they don't have any," my grandfather sighed, his brows furrowed.

"Well, I put it out for the sausage that I made earlier," my mother explained, referring to the appetizer she put out on the table to keep my grandparents occupied while she finished cooking. "And then you guys ate it all."

My mother held her hands out to show about a foot in length. "I made this much sausage and they ate all of it," she said to Afram and me.

My grandparents' eyes got large and then they laughed.

My grandfather continued dipping other pieces of dinner in the ketchup dish - potatoes, pork, chicken.  "Maybe I'm the weird one and that's why places never have ketchup when I ask."

"Some places have ketchup.  Hamburger places always do," I offered.

He repeated this over and over that night, suddenly coming to the realization that he's the one that has been unreasonable this whole time, not these crazy restaurants.

I was shocked, never expecting either of my grandparents to ever become slightly more self-aware, versus continuing to become the opposite over time.

We tried to make him feel better.

Of course, my grandmother kept wanting to go home as usual, but I finally figured out the connection.

"What are you going to do at home?" my mother asked.  "Why don't you want to spend time with us?"

"Are we going home home tonight?" she asked. She never remembers that they're only a 15 minute drive from my parents' house.  She always thinks we're all on vacation somewhere and need to drive back a long distance if we are going "home home" versus "hotel home."

"No, we have to go pick up our luggage," my grandfather teased her, as he's done every time since she asked him once. Sometimes he tells her they have to catch a train. My grandfather loves to visit with us.

"He just needs a break from her," my mother often tells me when they're not listening.

She punched him in the arm and laughed. He jumped, smiling.  So all this time, she just worries they'll get home late since we're obviously in Reno or something.

"We have to have dessert first, then you can go home," my mother said.

After my mom served her angel-food cake, we let them go.

"Thanks for everything, everyone! Have a safe trip home!" my grandmother announced, shuffling out the door with my grandfather.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


"Don't worry so much; they haven't bathed in this long.  What's the worst thing if they don't?" Afram asked me on our way home from the gym yesterday when I was telling him about how I couldn't stop thinking about trying to get my grandparents to bathe while I was on the treadmill.

"I don't know... I guess you're right," I sighed.

"I'm not trying to argue with you, I'm just trying to get you to think logically about it."

"Yeah, I agree.  They're fine not bathing..."

"Baby steps.  If they don't agree to bathe, you can at least do some laundry like you said," he replied, patting my leg.

I felt better.  If it really upset my grandmother, it probably would be fine if at least I could just trick them into some clean clothes.

*                *                *                *                *

I talked my plans over with my mom before I called my grandparents, since they probably weren't awake yet  this morning around 9:30a.

"Well, if anyone could get them to do it, it would be you," she said.  I told her that I was going to try and trick her into thinking that she was the one who requested I help. I was still skeptical.

I called my grandparents around 10:30 and chitchatted with my grandmother about nothing in particular and told her I was coming to visit to get her into a good mood.  When she offered for me to talk to my grandfather, I tried to let him in on what my intentions were.

Big mistake.

"I'm going to try and help you get Gramma to let you wash her hair so I can cut it. Don't talk to her about it, I just wanted to tell you," I said, stupidly.

"She always yells at me! She won't let me! She hates when I try and wash her hair! And then I make an appointment to have her see Alice so she can cut her hair! But, she won't let me!" he complained.

I heard her yelling from the background.

"And then afterward, she always messes it all up! It looks so nice and she sticks her hands in there and musses everything!" he continued in concert with my grandmother's refusal to have her hair done.

I sighed. "Stop talking about it. I only told you so that you'd know.  Forget it for now, don't talk about it anymore. I'll be over later."

"Okay," he said. "We're not going anywhere. We'll be here all day."

I watched a brief youtube video on how to give a child a haircut.  It was a small red-headed child, probably about four-years-old, who was remarkably well-behaved. He sucked happily on a lollipop in the kitchen as the hairdresser, who I imagine was his mother, explained how to measure, cut, and layer his hair into the camera.  She even accidentally sprayed his face with water and he only smiled, wiping his eyes.

"That kid is so cute," I said to Afram.  "I hope our kid is like that.  I'm scared our kid is going to be a monster."

"God! What is wrong with you?! Our kid is not going to be a monster! Our kid is going to be awesome!" he replied, for the billionth time ever since we started talking about having kids.

I smiled sheepishly at him, as I always do, hoping that he would be right.

After a massive nosebleed (maybe it was stress-induced, who knows), I headed over to their house around noon with our dog, Ruby, for a distraction.

My grandfather was in the kitchen cooking lunch, which surprised me, since I didn't really believe he cooked anymore.  I figured I'd try and get her to accept a haircut first, after lunch, and then maybe coerce that into a bath.

I could tell my grandmother was already in a bad mood.  She was looking things over at the table, getting angry at everything.

"Don't try to have one of these!" she shouted at my grandfather and me from the living room.  She rustled a newspaper in front of us reading the headline.

"Expensive ceremony on yacht irks grads!" she yelled.  "The politicians are always trying to get your money.  So don't have an expensive ceremony!"

I looked at her quizzically, but just agreed.

Deciding to try and just stay out of the way until after lunch, I told my grandfather I needed to do a load of laundry and brought in the fleece zip-up from my car so I could trick them into letting me do theirs.

"Ba, I need to wash this. Can I use your washer?" I asked.

"Sure!" he happily complied, excited to be able to help me.

"But, it's just one thing. Can I grab some of your laundry so that we can do a full load?"

"Um... no, don't bother with that," he said, already preoccupied with showing me how their side-loading washer worked.

"No, you can't just wash one thing.  Here, let me go grab some stuff."

I knew I had limited time.  I grabbed most of the towels out of their bathroom and some dirtier things from my grandmother's pile of clothes in her room and rushed back out to the garage to my grandfather.  I shoved everything into the washer and he helped me put the soap in and start it up.

"I'm going to get rid of some of Gramma's clothes," I told him in confidence.  "There's too many and lots are stained and too big, and this way it will make it easier for you guys to put stuff away."

"Okay," he nodded, looking relieved.  "That sounds good, just don't tell her because she'll want everything."

"Yeah, I know," I agreed.

"So, have you bathed recently?" I asked, trying to not sound too accusing.

"Yes, I bathe all the time," he said, not sounding offended in the least. "I just wait until she goes to bed and then I do it."

I really wanted to believe him.  The bathtub didn't look as dusty and even looked wet when I saw it.  I decided to leave it at that.

"She's not the same anymore," he said, looking at me sadly, referring to her constant outbursts of anger. "She's not the same girl from a long time ago."

"I know," I replied, putting my hand on his shoulder.

"I can't do anything about it, she's just not the same anymore. I just deal with it."

Out in the patio, I found a big Bed, Bath & Beyond bag and started filling it with all the clothes from the huge pile and from in the first set of shelves that were either too big, too revealing, or too stained and old.  My grandmother walked in on me.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

At first I tried to be honest, but she wasn't having that.

"No, I want all these! If it's still here, it means I can still wash it," she said adamantly.

"Um, okay," I told her.  "I'm just putting them in this bag so that I can wash it, okay?"

"No! You don't have to, I wash my own clothes. I don't want you to help me.  I don't need help. I do my own laundry," she replied.

"Oh, well, my washer is broken," I lied. "I brought a few clothes over, but I need to do a full load. Is that okay? You're helping me."

"Well," she said. "Okay, then."

She left the room, continuing her now constant groaning with each breath, that she's recently started doing unconsciously.

Shortly afterward, I heard her screaming at my grandfather again.

"What is this?" she demanded, handing my grandfather a jury summons.

"Ed [my grandmother's brother] will take care of it for me!" he answered, immediately on the defensive.

"Ed?!" she asked, condescendingly.  "You can't have Ed do things for you! You have to do things yourself. Otherwise you'll never learn!"

"No, Donald [Ed's son] is going to do it for me. He just has to go online and then I don't have to go."

I ran out.  "Don't worry about it," I said, trying to diffuse things. "Once you get to a certain age, you don't have to go anymore. It's not a big deal."

My grandfather continued to repeat the bit about being able to go online and how simple it was, and my grandmother returned to her seat at the table, grumbling about how you shouldn't let people do things for you.

"Ooh, what's this?" she said excitedly, picking up an envelope holding her tax refund.  "Three hundred and twenty-one dollars?! I'm rich!"

She laughed and stuck the envelope in her jacket pocket.  I knew I'd have to find that later and take it home to make sure it got deposited in their account.

I continued going through her clothes and prepared a pile for the next load of laundry and for the donation bag.  I also refolded and put away a bunch of clothes that didn't seem dirty, but were in piles in the shelves.

My grandfather never appeared to finish preparing the lunch he was working on, but I don't really know what he was doing while I was doing laundry.

I heard my grandmother yelling again.

"Turn the light off!" she screamed at my grandfather in the garage as he was looking at the washing machine. "You don't pay the bills, I do! And the electricity bills are very high!"

He stuttered in response, agreeing to turn the light off, just trying to calm her down.

"I pay for everything around here! You don't pay. You don't know. Always wasting electricity," she finished, caustically.

When I came out, her rant was over.  I just patted my grandfather on the shoulder again and told him not to worry.  He just shook his head, smiling his tired smile at me.

When I was done going through as many clothes as I thought I could, I went out to try and convince my grandmother to let me cut and wash her hair, and maybe give her a bath.

She was going through some photos that I had printed for my grandfather several months ago.

"What is this?" she grumbled. "Why are there so many lousy pictures of this?"

She showed me the pictures my grandfather took of workmen while they were replacing piping under their house.

"Ba took those," I said. I explained that he just thought it was interesting.

She grumbled some more, disapprovingly, getting angry again and again as she shuffled through the pictures over and over, never remembering that she'd already looked through them once, twice, three times...

I took the photos away and replaced them with a photo album.

"Here, tell me who is in these photos," I said, trying to get her into a better mood.  It was the photo album my Auntie Kathy and her family had made for my grandfather's 70th birthday party back in 1986.

She smiled, looking at the old photos of herself and my grandfather and his siblings, telling me who was who.  When she was about halfway through, I interrupted.

"Gramma? I was wondering if you'd let me cut your hair." I knew there was no way she'd let us take her to see the hairdresser anymore.  They always spray hairspray on her, and fuss for too long, and she hates it.  The fact that she remembers her feelings on seeing the hairdresser is a testament to how much she hates it.

"What?!" she said looking at me, horrified.

"I um..." I stuttered. "I've been wanting to learn how to cut hair.  So I was hoping that you'd let me practice on you.  Would that be okay?"

The horrified look dissipated slightly.

"Well... not too short, okay?" she replied, not wanting to disappoint her granddaughter who was only asking for a favor.

"Of course, not too short.  So, we can have Ba wash your hair first, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed, without too much fighting.

"Do you think maybe we could just give you a bath instead?"

The horrified look returned.

"A bath?! No!" she shouted.  "It's too cold!"

She grabbed my hands so I could feel that they were cold.

This conversation happened two more times almost exactly this way, the last time minus the bath request, until my grandfather found his barber's kit and smock.  Then we had to find the safety pins after the smock was around her with no velcro, buttons or other abilities to attach it.  Everything happened painfully slowly as we searched their hoarder's paradise for one thing after another.  Thankfully the smock was already on her, so it would be difficult for her to forget what we were already in the process of doing.

We finally found safety pins and she happily obliged us by taking off all her jewelry.  I turned on the water to make sure it was the right temperature to her liking. My grandfather clumsily washed her hair in the sink, demanding that she bend down lower, while she screamed louder and louder as water dripped over her face.

Within a minute, we were done, her hair being as thin as it is.  My grandfather tried to dry her head, his hot dog fingers not rubbing gently enough, and she shrilly protested, telling him she could dry her own hair.

We got her into the kitchen and I picked out the scissors and comb I had seen in the video and proceeded to cut her hair all the same length, as well as I could.  She interrupted periodically to shriek comically.

"Did I scare you?" she'd ask, trying to trick me into thinking that I did something wrong.

I smiled at her, glad to see she was at least having some fun.  My grandfather asked over and over again if I wanted to dry her hair first.  The woman in the video said to cut the hair wet, so I just refused over and over again. I finished relatively quickly, and my grandfather brought out some curlers.  We put them in her hair together, and then used the blow drier to set the curls.  She was surprisingly non-combative about the whole process.

There were still a few strands that I missed that were too long, but all in all, I thought it looked much better than before.

Happy Grandma

I hoped my parents would be happy, since I think it upsets them the most that she refuses to cut her hair and wash it.  I think it's more that it's a reminder that she doesn't have the mental capacity for self-awareness.  I don't think she minds that her hair looks long and scraggly.

I waited for the second load to finish drying and folded all of it. Ruby was bored, and it was time to go.  I reminded them that I would be picking them up for my father's birthday dinner tomorrow, I gave them hugs, thanked them for letting me use their washer and dryer, and practice my hair cutting skills and I left.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I was looking over my blog and realizing I haven't written since August of last year.  My grandparents really don't say much anymore, and there seems to only be a few stories left that they can remember.

I woke up around midnight last night and couldn't fall back to sleep for a couple of hours. It would be easy to blame the fact that we took a red-eye back from our Kauai honeymoon yesterday morning, came back and napped for a few hours until around noon, but it was my mind that was keeping me awake. We arrived back on a Tuesday, and my mom hosted our weekly Dementia Dinner, which is now my tongue-in-cheek name for dinners with my grandparents.

My mother was kind enough to cook Chinese dishes for us, and my grandparents were half an hour late.

I called them at 3p to tell them that dinner was at 5p - my mom was trying to be considerate of us since we were exhausted from our trip. She called them again at 4:55p and they hadn't left the house yet and still had to go buy a box of See's candy, which they always insist on bringing to these dinners when my parents cook and they can't pay.  They finally arrived at 5:30p to my mother saying, "See, aren't you glad we told them to come earlier?"

During dinner, my mother commented on my grandmother's hair.

It has been getting long and scraggly because, according to my grandfather, she refuses to let him wash it prior to a trip to the salon to have it cut.  "They can't wash it for her because she's too short. They even prop her up on books and stuff, but she's still not tall enough.  And every time I mention washing her hair, she screams at me and won't let me!" he always says.

"I do?!" my grandmother will say, shocked.

My grandfather will then continue to say the same things about her refusal, my grandmother having no idea what he's talking about.

Lately, I've begun to notice that they smell, and whenever we go to their house, their bathtub is bone dry and dusty from disuse.

My mother and my grandfather will then begin commenting about my grandmother's behavior and how she's much healthier than other women her age that we know or knew, which she will either ignore, or angrily pretend to not care about.

Yesterday was the latter.

"I don't care," she spat. "Do you think I care what they say about me? I don't give a shit. I'll just get up and leave. I don't care.  Not one bit."

"Do you even know what they're saying about you?" I asked her.  "They're not saying bad things."

"I don't care!" she seethed. "They can talk all they want. It doesn't bother me one bit!"

"I can see that," I said. "You really seem like you don't care at all."

"I don't. I'm going to leave right now. That's how much I don't care. I'm going to get in the car and drive away," she raged.  She then began pulling stuff out of her fanny pack, looking for her keys.

We watched her for a minute.

"What was I looking for?" she asked, looking at us.

"Your keys. So you could drive away," my mother reminded her.  I don't know why my mother eggs her on like this.  That's not true.  I know why.  She's frustrated and it's hard to be understanding and take care of someone all the time who doesn't appreciate it and only repays her in venom.  My grandmother will never remember, and it sort of feels less horrible if you can make a game of it.  My husband always feels guilty though, and never wants to make her feel bad.

She forgot again momentarily.

"You know, I tried to leave her a note to take a bath once a week, and she found it and called me and really ripped me a new one.  She really screamed at me!" my mother complained.  "So, never again. I just left it at that."

I told my grandfather and mother that I'd just go over to their house to try and get my grandmother (and hopefully my grandfather too) to bathe.

"Gramma, can I come over on Saturday for a bath?" I asked.

"Sure," she said, brightening. "You can come over any day.  What time?"

"I'll call you later in the week and we'll take a bath, okay?" I said.

"Sure," she said, not hearing me.

I wondered if I'd actually have to take a bath too, just to show that it was something we were all doing, something that I wanted all of us to do, one at a time of course.

As they were getting ready to leave, my mother pulled me aside and said, "You're a better person than I am.  I could never do that."

"Well, I'm going to let Ba do it.  I'm not going to actually bathe her."

I hugged my grandparents and tried not to breathe too deeply.

After they left, I tried to explain to my mom why I think my grandparents listen to me and think I can do no wrong, other than the fact that I'm their granddaughter.

"I think they just don't respond well to... to..." I stuttered.

"Nagging?" my mother asked.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Well, I don't know any other way to do it," she said with an air of finality. "I've tried, I've really tried."  And I know she has.

My mother, always a manager, was never really gentle with anyone other than me when it came to getting things done, and that wasn't even all the time.  When something needed to be accomplished, there were no kid gloves. It was tough love and then tender love once you did what she wanted or what was best. Never the other way around.

I've tried to explain to her that she should try and be more understanding, but she gets frustrated too easily.  I understand her side too.  She feels like she has to do everything, and she only ever gets derision from my grandparents and my grandfather only fails more and more frequently.  It's the opposite of every task or project she's ever undertaken. The more and more work she puts in, the worse the results become.

We talked briefly about what we should do about my grandparents, knowing they'd be unwilling to go into a home when they can no longer keep up with taking care of themselves at even this borderline unacceptable level.

"What about a caretaker?  Is that more expensive than a home?" I asked.

"No," my mother said. "It's actually cheaper."

"I bet they wouldn't accept that either though," I sighed.

"Maybe if it's the only other option to being in a home."

"I don't know if it's the medication," my dad said sadly (referring to the pills he's been taking for his recent knee surgery that have been giving him some bouts of anxiety and depression), "but I don't think I could bear to watch them be put in a home.  I just couldn't do it."

So, I lie awake last night, wondering how I'm going to trick my grandparents into bathing, and knowing that it will only be an uphill battle, and one of many. This will only be one bath, assuming I succeed. It will be even harder next time, if there actually is a next time, unless I'm too heartless to try again after whatever happens this weekend.