March 12, 2005
Dad was hammering in the kitchen when Grandma asked him, “Can they hear that on the TV?” Oh my God. Then we were having breakfast when she asked me, “Can- can they see us on the TV? Cause you know sometimes they’re looking right at you and I think they can see me.” I just gaped at her; I couldn’t help it. It took me a moment or two to respond. Poor woman… she’s really losing it.
Recently Dad took her to the doctor because she’s been having urinary trouble again. So while we’re having dinner, Grandma mentions that her feet have been bothering her for the past couple of weeks.
Dad: Did you tell the doctor that your feet were bothering you?
Gma: No, because I figured she would have asked about them.
Dad: Why would she ask about them?
Gma: I don’t know, I just figured she would have looked at them but she didn’t
Dad: Why would she look at your feet if you didn’t tell her to?
Gma: I figured she would have said ‘take off your stockings’ but she didn’t
Dad: Well, she’s not going to check your feet unless you tell her to.
Gma: I didn’t think I would have to because she’s supposed to check that. So if she didn’t say anything about it I didn’t think she could do anything about it anyway.
Dad: She’s not going to look at your feet unless you tell her to. She’s not going to check every single body part to see if something’s wrong if she doesn’t have to.
Gma: I know, but she didn’t say anything about looking at my feet so I didn’t bother…
Dad: Why should she say anything about your feet unless you tell her something’s wrong?
Gma: I don’t know. She’s not a real doctor anyway.
Dad: What do you mean she’s not a real doctor?
Gma: I don’t know, they’re always sending you to somebody else because they can’t do whatever it is that needs to be done.
And that conversation looped itself several times for about four minutes. Maybe he’ll figure out that next time he should tell the doctor beforehand what’s wrong instead of depending on the Grandma to speak up. Anyway, Grandma started fretting that she was going to miss going to church the next day. I assured her that we were ALL going to the 7 PM mass the next day. Still she worried that we would leave without her. If God himself Apparated into her bedroom and reassured her, it wouldn’t have made any difference.
So I went to bed, only to wake a couple of hours later to what sounded like her crying out in pain, or gasping as if she was trying to breathe. Oh shit, she’s having a heart attack. I almost killed myself in my haste getting out of my bed and into the hallway. As soon as I reached her door, though, I heard her calling out, “Who is it?” Son of a bitch, not again, I thought. She keeps telling us that someone is ringing the doorbell in the middle of the night. Problem is, our doorbell doesn’t work, so she’s dreaming it or something. I lingered out in the hallway, but all I heard was her going into the bathroom, so I shrugged and went back to bed.
The next morning Dad told me he awoke at 1 AM and heard somebody talking downstairs. When he went down he saw Grandma, fully-dressed and peering out the front door. It turns out that she thought my dad had knocked on her door to tell her that it was time to go to church. Yes – at 1 in the morning. It’s amazing how anyone can worry so much. And if it’s not doorbells, it’s rats. The other day she told us that she saw a rat in her room during the night… except that she said it was running on the ceiling. Unless this rat escaped from Brookhaven National Lab and has a tennis ball sized cranium, I don’t think it’s able to run on the ceiling.
Meanwhile I was doing whatever I could to make her life at the house as stress-free as possible. Unfortunately Dad was not being helpful or cooperative. It was like I was trying to put out a fire while he was pouring gasoline on it. It took weeks of back and forth arguing with him before he finally turned off the ringer on the downstairs phone. He didn’t want to because he said someone might be calling for Grandma.
“Nobody’s calling for Grandma,” I said. “It’s always for you.” And by the time Grandma got to the phone, it would always be at the exact same time that the answering machine upstairs picked up. So when she lifted the receiver all she’d hear is, “Please. Leave. A. Message.” We’d come home from work and listen to the answering machine in Dad’s office and hear a dozen messages with Grandma going, “Leave what message? Who is this? Stop calling!” and she’d either hang up on whoever it was or start arguing with the person trying to leave a message on the machine. Dad thought it was hilarious, but it left Grandma in such a state because she didn’t know what was going on half the time. We tried explaining it to her over and over again, but to no avail. Finally Dad relented and fixed the phone so it would only ring upstairs.
I was also worried that Grandma would fall down on her way to the phone. She’d already fallen going down the steps into the den where the TV was. And the one time she did fall, it was onto a pile of screws and bolts. For some reason, Dad decided to sit on the floor one day and dump some cans onto the rug to sort through. And then he just left the mess there until I cleaned it up, which was after she fell onto it. I started installing handrails around the house, and he got the idea and installed the rest.
The only reason she went down into the den was to watch TV, but there was precious little she could watch that wouldn’t upset her, and trying to navigate 300 channels was an impossible feat for her. If you hit the wrong button or didn’t type in the channel number fast enough, you were automatically sent to the DISH Network Help Channel. Then poor Grandma was stuck watching that until we got home and she’d be going on about “those darn Dish people. Dish, Dish, Dish, that’s all they talk about. It makes me sick.”
I finally went out and bought a universal remote and swathed the whole thing in tape so only the On, Off, and Volume buttons were exposed, and the rest were glued into the place underneath the tape so she couldn’t press the wrong one. Ta-da! Problem solved. I just had to make sure the TV was set to the Catholic channel before we left the house. It was the only channel safe for her to watch.
And when she was in front of the TV it was safe for me to go out and shovel the snow. We were hit with a massive snowstorm and I sneaked out the side door so she wouldn’t see me and start worrying. But no sooner did I plunge my shovel into the snow at the curb did I look up and see her looking at me through the front door. FUCK. What where the chances…? I followed my first instinct, which was to dive to the street and hide behind the snow bank and pray she didn’t see me. I waited for five minutes and when I looked the coast was clear. Phew.
I got back to my feet and started shoveling again, and two minutes later she was back at the front door, wringing her hands and watching me with a worried expression. I started piling the snow up along the curb, trying to build a wall high enough that I could work behind, but I was really tempted to just fling all the snow at the front door and cover that instead so she couldn’t watch me. No matter, because as soon as I stepped back inside she started right up: “You were out there for a long time… that’s some hard work you’re doing… were you warm enough… did you hurt yourself… are you sore… are you tired… you’d better take a rest…” etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum. It didn’t matter what I said, because I knew she’s be up all night worrying about me.
Then Grandma had something serious to worry about for a change. We got a call from the nursing home, and they told us that if we wanted to say goodbye to Grandpa we’d better hurry over because he was on his way out.