Good morning, y’all. I couldn’t sleep last night so I got up early to get some more of this off my mind. You know how it is when your mind is just racing but you’re not coming up with anything constructive? It ‘s kind of like roller skating on Vaseline.
To resume my story, it is New Year’s Day 2015 and I am stuck in a little corner of Hell called Asheville, N.C. I am looking for supper in a town that has clearly closed for the day as evidenced by all of the dark store fronts. I finally spot a Chinese joint named, “Pu Pu Hot Pot”. Well, “any port in a storm” as Daddy used to say. It wasn’t bad, as far as “Pu Pu” goes, and I headed back to Mom’s condo to try to plot my next moves. I needed to be extra effective in the time left to me. I called Mulva and Jackson and discussed Mom’s complete loss of cognition. I told them of Mom’s new official diagnosis. Jackson reminds me that I have Mom’s Power of Attorney and that I need to gather up all of her paperwork so I can begin paying her bills for her. Mulva reminds me that I need to clean out the refrigerator and shelves and get rid of anything that might spoil.
Turns out Mom hoards garbage sacks, as well as toilet paper, and I find enough to do the job. I’ve never seen so many cans of Hormel Smoked Baked Beans, some of them eight years old. I fill the trunk and all of the seats of Mom’s van with expired or spoiled food. I haven’t even hit the medicine cabinet yet. I can barely enter Mom’s bathroom and maintain focus. The “cleaning up” that Charlotte and Edna were so hot to take care of apparently didn’t include the toilet and surrounding floors and walls.
I focus on the medicine cabinet and under the sink. My efforts come up with things going back to 1957. The bottle of Castor Oil I find might have been the same one Mom threatened me and Jackson with when we were kids. Well, I make executive decisions about what was necessary should Mom come back home, and throw the rest in a bag and shove it into the van. It’s a short drive to the dumpster and I accomplish the dual goals of keeping Mom’s battery from dying and keeping the neighbors from calling the police over a “funny smell”.
Next I start on Mom’s paper work. Mom had a very interesting filing system. She would devote a dresser drawer to a year. Anything in a year would go in a drawer, not by payee, not by date, not even by tax implications, if it was 2010, it went in this drawer. I decided to bag it the same way. I figured I had plenty of time to sort it out properly when I got back to Nunsuch. Each drawer had about two dozen self addressed envelopes to the Shepherd’s Chapel in Arkansas. God only knows how much Mom had contributed to these guys over the years, but it was sure that the Shepherds wanted to make it easy for Mom to send more. I debated offering to sell the envelopes back to them for a “postage only” deal, and then threw them away. Screw ’em.
I moved to Mom’s kitchen table where she kept her current stuff and started trying to parse through the most relevant and time sensitive items. Charlotte’s incessant texts were now being split between the garbage key and Mom’s condo association dues being due. I could, “give Louise, Mom’s neighbor, a check, she’s on the condo board”, as Charlotte entreated. Or I could, “set the whole damn thing on fire if you don’t quit bugging me”, I thought, but I am trying to be “the adult in the room”.
I continue sorting through the flotsam and jetsam that an 88 year old considers important. While sorting, I find three steno pads filled with Mom’s writing that catch my eye. Upon further inspection, I find that the pages are filled with exact conversations that Mom and I have had in our weekly Saturday phone calls. I could not have been more stunned if you’d smacked me in the forehead with a ball peen hammer. On these steno pads were scripts that Mom had written out to be able to handle her end of the conversation. Mom wanted to be able to come up with topical items to interject when it was her turn to talk. I am overwhelmed. I call Jackson back with the news. My brother commiserates with me about the fact that “Elvis had left building” a lot further back than we thought.
Just like giving her Doctors the right answers to their standard “senile tests”, Mom had devised a method to make Jackson and I think that she was still “with it”. Mom’s red on yellow “Do Not Resuscitate” order glared at me from the refrigerator door and I marveled at her tenacity to “die like Aunt Sudy”. Aunt Sudy had died at age 91 while reaching for the refrigerator door, as the legend is told. “Dropped dead just like that, not a bye your leave or a peep came out of her”.
Reflection is the enemy of efficiency, so I just scooped everything up and throw it in the trunk of the Trans Am. I find one other item of interest on Mom’s kitchen table, an envelope with Ann Wallace’s name on it. In my role of almost ordained Power of Attorney, I open the envelope. Turns out it is a promissory note from Ann to Mom that is due on the first of February. The plot thickens. I spend the rest of the evening Googling addresses and maps of places I know I need to go before leaving town. I find a number for a 24 hour hot line for senior services and take a chance. I bend the ear of some poor social worker whose seniority did not allow her to be off on New Year’s Day. God bless her, she is very helpful, very patient, and gets me mentally prepared for the potential of applying for guardianship of Mom. I Google attorneys whose specialty is Elder Law and find a promising firm. I keep the attorney’s number in reserve. I don’t have a clue as to how this is going to play out tomorrow.
Rather than getting a guaranteed “bad night’s sleep” on the guest bed, I opt for the loveseat/sofa in the living room. Seinfeld is on and “George’s boys can swim”. Tomorrow is another day.