Good morning, y’all. I keep raving about the recorder, but for my situation it as much a technological advancement as Tupperware was for the housewife. I sit, walk around, lay on the sofa and just remember the events and tell them to the recorder. I just turn that recording loose here on the interwebs and there you have it. It’s magic, and I have my thoughtful wife, Mulva, to thank for it.
When we left our story, I am in Asheville to help facilitate moving Mom to an assisted living center at Mountain View. I have visited Mom and updated her condition, visited Mountain View and visited my Aunt Edna. My brain throbs as if it will explode. All of the input from my Aunt and Mom are stretching my limits. In spite of the pain, I am able to negotiate the path to Mom’s condo past the many ABC stores standing in my way. The run-in with my sister is a non stressor in one sense. You know that wherever you encounter Charlotte it’s going to be screwed up, time and place are the surprise. The encounter at Mountain View is worthy of relating to Jackson, in fact, it may be the first thing I tell him, but we knew Charlotte was going to try to shape the events to her liking. Like I said, the when and where were the unknowns.
I pull into the space at the condo and find that Jackson is already there. We hug, give each other the laugh that survivors share that eliminates the need to cry, and go inside out of the cold. The condo is still and quiet, which is refreshing. We fix a pot of coffee and I update Jackson with my visits. Jackson is particularly interested in my encounter with Charlotte and asks what possible interest she could have in inserting herself in the situation. My thoughts are that Charlotte wants to present herself as being in charge like she did when Daddy died.
When Daddy was dying he spent the last month or so in a hospice type situation here at Number Two. Charlotte moved in and promptly sent out a call to all living relatives via email for donations to Charlotte in her mission work at TackyToo. Charlotte’s emails would entreat even the most distant cousin for money to help provide Daddy with good home cooked meals. She would even give the menus and report on Daddy’s appetite when soliciting for funds. I don’t have any idea how many relatives contributed, if any, I was disgusted by the whole process. Daddy was gone within a month, and I can’t say whether Charlotte’s ministrations hastened or halted his final release. I can say that Charlotte took everything that wasn’t nailed down when she left. Daddy’s Cadillac with personalized plates moved to Asheville with Charlotte, title not included.
Charlotte had gotten herself named as executor to Daddy’s will in his final days. Jackson and I had declined, it was too much baggage for us. Charlotte took the title executor to mean “interpreter of the will”, not, “enforce what the will actually says”. I was ok with her thievery, until she starting trying to sell TackyToo. Fortunately, there is this thing called “title search” and my name popped up. At that point, Jackson and I demanded a full accounting of what Charlotte had done. The lawyer was able to stop the bleeding, and I wound up with TackyToo.
I relate this little bit of history so as to say, we know Charlotte. Unlike the frog that gives the snake a ride on his back across the pond, we know the nature of a snake is to always be a snake. We won’t be bit by this one again.
I take out a piece of paper that I had found in Mom’s stuff that was headed, “Antiquities”. I tell Jackson that this is a list of stuff that Mom thinks is important. The list also points out the relative she has earmarked to inherit the item. Charlotte and Edna are not on the list, neither are I, or Jackson. Being excluded from this list is cool with me, I truly do not appreciate Mom’s taste in art or furniture. The “Moses Coming Down the Mountain” in multi color wood that Mom secured in Israel has zero value to me. But, because it means something to Mom, I think we should plan on moving it to Mountain View. Moving the “Antiquities” to Mountain View also coincides with my view of the situation after talking to Edna. My thoughts now are that anything moved to Mountain View won’t magically disappear while Mom is there. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, Mom used to say.
Jackson and I move around the condo identifying the items to take and discuss how best to pack them. We have enough space at the new spot to actually place some additional furniture besides the bedroom suit, and we decide to take Mom’s massive leather barcalounger. Mom has spent so much time sleeping in this barcalounger that it would be hard to find anything else that would make her feel more at home. We decide that it would be best to move the dressers and chest of drawers loaded, that way we can avoid handling any of Mom’s personal stuff. If Mom has any additional requests she can get Charlotte or Edna to bring them to her. Satisfied that we have a good master plan that protects the things that Mom holds the closest to her heart, we load up in Jackson’s F150 and head over to The Facility.
On the way, chunks of my “afternoon with Edna” keep popping in my mind, and one item jumps to the forefront. Edna had related that sometimes “Mountain folk just take to their beds and die, when it was their time”. I believe this philosophy was related to me in response to my question about why had Edna and Charlotte just not called the EMT’s and let them do their job when Mom refused Edna and Charlotte’s help. Edna’s, “Mountain folk”, excuse was met with derision and I queried that if Mom had been holding a gun to her head would they have called the police? Edna had ignored the question and responded that Mom’s religious views didn’t allow her to commit suicide. My response had been, “so you were ok with allowing her to commit suicide in a long painful death covered in her own filth, because it’s what “Mountain folk” do?” Edna did not have a response. I relate this exchange to Jackson as we arrive at The Facility. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.
We get out of the car and head in to the sign in desk. I look to see if Mom’s crazy friend Ann Wallace is on the sign in sheet and I’m relieved to find her name missing from the list. I do find a curious name, Charlotte Morris. Now Charlotte appears to have appropriated Mom’s current last name to mask herself in an air of legitimacy. I walk to the director’s office to check with her. I find they are ready for the move. I’m thinking that playing security for Mom has added an extra burden for them that they don’t normally encounter. I ask the director if she had seen my sister and she said no, but that I should check in with the nurse’s station.
Jackson and I head to the nurse’s station where we find that a woman that identified herself as Charlotte Morris, power of attorney for Hannah Morris, had been by earlier seeking Mom’s psych evaluation. Fortunately, we live in the age of computers. The nurses were able to quickly look at Mom’s records and not find anyone named Charlotte that was supposed to get access to Mom’s chart. I asked the nurse if Charlotte had visited with my Mom and they replied that she had not. So, right after I left visiting Mom, Charlotte arrives demanding to see Mom’s chart. Being denied, she heads to Mountain View rather than staying and visiting with Mom. To my knowledge she has still not visited Mom since her hospitalization.
Jackson and I find Mom sitting in her chair in her room attempting to read a book. I say attempting because I’m not at all sure she was doing anything other than giving the appearance of a normal activity. She is all smiles when she sees the both of us. We have to arrange things a bit to get everyone sitting and facing one another. Mom gets the bed, Jackson gets the chair, and I get the seat that folds out from Mom’s walker. It will be a short stay, and the seat is not the most uncomfortable element of the visit. Pleasantries are exchanged all around and Mom is like the cat that swallowed the canary. Jackson’s query to Mom regarding her physical condition is met with the news that Mom’s height is just perfect for her weight. When asked to explain, Mom related how they came in every day and took her vitals and wrote them all down in the chart. When they took her vitals today she was 5 feet 6 inches tall, which was the perfect height for her weight of 157 pounds. Jackson was unable to argue with that logic and turned his attention to Mom’s fuschia blanket.
“I see you’ve still got your pink blanket,” Jackson commented.
“Yes, Edna gave it to me, it’s real nice”, Mom responded. We waited for the loop to continue like it had at the hospital, but it didn’t.
“How’s your tooth?”, Jackson asked.
“It’s better now, but I guess I still need to go to the dentist”, Mom replies, “I guess Mountain View will have a dentist”.
I jump in, “No, actually they will use all of your doctors and dentists.” “I’ve already put everything on file for them”, “You’ll get to ride in their limo to your appointments and some one will wait for you and carry you back home”. “The only change will be your pharmacy, which they’ll use one closer to Mountain View”.
Mom reflects for a moment and says, “But South Asheville Pharmacy has all of my prescriptions.”
“You’ll be getting all new prescriptions from the Doctor at Mountain View and whatever your personal doctor wants to add to it”, I say, “that way they can be sure of what your taking and don’t misdiagnosis something because of an unknown chemical.”
There probably won’t be a better spot for opening the conversation about the events of Mom’s near death experience, so I plunge right in. “Mom, I need to fill in some of the blanks I have about when you got sick and how we all wound up here”.
Mom tries to divert,”why son, don’t you know how you got here, you’re in worse shape than I am”.
I give her her laugh and continue on, “when we talked on Saturday morning before you got sick, you didn’t complain that anything else was going on”. “When did you start feeling so bad?”, I ask.
Mom thinks for a second and replies,”That afternoon I got this terrible headache over my ear, and I thought I was having a stroke”.”I called Charlotte to see if she would come spend the night with me but her phone was off the hook”.”You know how she is, if you’re dying on the Sabbath don’t call”. While I don’t doubt Charlotte and Edna deserved a day off, I’m curious why no one could respond to the messages left on their phones until the next day.
“So no one came to check on you until Sunday?”, I ask.
“Yes, after church they came over and Edna tried to get me to eat some soup”, “Charlotte kept trying to give me this home remedy, blackberry extract, and I finally had to tell her to get that damn stuff out of my face”. “Charlotte kept picking at me and I finally just told her what Aunt Ida told her daughter-in-law”.
Oh Jesus, I think, the Aunt Ida story. It is one of the great Momisms that bear repeating. It seems that Aunt Ida was supposed to have been a full blooded Cherokee who lived with her son and his wife on a little plot of land near where the Hiwassee Dam is now constructed. As everyone knows, it is impossible to have two women in control of the same house and there was constant turmoil. One day the daughter-in-law says loud enough to be heard, “I can’t wait until you die”, and Aunt Ida responds with,”I’ll eat the goose that eats the grass on your grave and clean the knife and fork”.
I guess Aunt Ida cleared the air with that one, as apparently Mom did with Charlotte. Charlotte had not been around Mom since. I know that Mom has said many hateful things to Charlotte before, and vice versa, I’m just curious as to why this dust up was so “final”, if you will.
I push ahead, “Mom, do you know what blackberry extract does?”, I ask, and then answer for her, “it’s a diuretic”. “Can you think of why someone would want to give a diuretic to someone suffering from a severe bladder infection?” “I mean, everyone knew you had another bladder infection, right?”
“Well, I’m not sure what anybody knew and when they knew it”, she responds and starts to cloud up, “I was so happy that I had both my boys here with me at the same time and you’re using the visit to give me the third degree”.
“I’m not trying to upset you Mom, I’m just trying to figure out why everybody is acting the way they’re acting”, I continue, “Did you know Charlotte was here today trying to get access to your chart?”
“Charlotte was here today?”, Mom says,”she didn’t come see me.”
“I don’t think she wanted to see you Mom, I think she just wanted to see your chart so she could send out one of her email blasts to all of the kinfolk about how sick you are and how much they will need to contribute to Charlotte to keeping you going”, I forge ahead, “she used the name Charlotte Morris today and also with the home owners association to try to act as your power of attorney”.
“But she’s not my power of attorney, you are, backed up by Jackson”, Mom looks thoroughly confused, “why would she do that?”
“I don’t know Mom, all of her actions are crazy, even for her, and I’m afraid that Edna is so scared of her she doesn’t dare oppose her”. Mom is now fiddling with her fuschia blanket and I can see that I’ve overloaded the circuits. I change the subject by handing Mom her list of “Antiquities” and start the conversation about was this still a good list, etc. Mom complained that she couldn’t focus and I take the list back and go down it with her. Mom feels compelled to tell a story about every item and the decision making involved with matching the right heir to the item. We finally make it through the list and I assure Mom that Jackson and I are doing our best to protect Mom’s assets.
Mom asserts again that we can sell the condo and anything in it if we need to and I assure her again that we won’t need to. I relate again that she has not received a hospital bill from either Memorial Mission or The Facility, “thank you President Obama”, and that when the empty apartment is rented we will have money left over.
Mom seems relieved and then heads the cart off the path with, “You know, there was a time when folks would go to live with a relative for their final days”. Well, Jackson and I have been waiting for this shoe to drop since she went in to the hospital and Jackson is quick to respond.
“You know that’s just not possible Mom”, he says, “you need specialized medical attention that we can’t provide”, “we’re getting old ourselves and we both live out in the country away from the services you need, it just wouldn’t work out”.
I chime in with,”Mom, years ago you were farsighted enough to plan for the day when you might need care but your children might be unable to care for you, that day is here”, I continue,”I’m just really proud of how well you’ve planned for your future and how much easier it has made it for me”.
Mom breathes a sigh and says, “I guess you’re right, years ago Mountain View was my first choice”, she says, “I guess I should have bought my condo there, oh well.”
Our business concluded with the arrival of the supper tray. Hugs all around and we tell Mom we’ll see her tomorrow after the move. Jackson and I head to what we hope will be a good meal at a fish place we’ve heard about. Turns out, it is just what the doctor ordered. We stop at the Walmart on the way to the condo and buy some sports drinks and other non-perishables. A few minutes of TV preceded our calls home to our better halves. A short time later, and the brothers Lite are off to sleepy town. What a day.