July 15, 2005
Grandma couldn’t walk anymore. She had extreme pain in her legs and it took me ten minutes to get her out of her chair and into the bathroom. We made it just in time. Then I had to get her into bed and I enlisted Dad’s help because I didn’t want to yank her around by myself. Dad said he’d take her to the doctor first thing in the morning, and in the meantime I prayed that she wouldn’t rise in the middle of the night to go the bathroom (as always).
Sure enough, at around 1 AM something told me to check on Grandma. I peered around the door and saw her ss ustanding next to her bed trying to hobble towards the bathroom. I went in to help her but she had already gone to the bathroom – into a towel. She handed it to me and it was sopping wet. Fucking ew. I flung it into the tub and boiled my hands in the sink after I sat her down on the bed.
She was in so much pain that she couldn’t even bend her legs. Grandma thought she should go to the hospital. I concurred so I went to wake Dad. He had installed a baby monitor in her room, but he often turned his off because the noise kept him awake. (Cousin Bill and I got into trouble one night when we were sitting in the den telling jokes. Not only was Bill’s laughter echoing up the stairs but it was coming over Grandma’s baby monitor as well. The noise woke Dad and he came down to growl at us that he was listening to Bill in stereo and that some people in the house were trying to sleep.)
So I went to wake Dad (thankfully wearing pants this time). Unfortunately there was the small problem of how to get Grandma to the car. We could carry her, but she was only wearing a nightgown and I was afraid my hand would slip and go somewhere that would mentally scar me for the rest of my life. I finally came up with the idea of using Dad’s office chair, and we wheeled Grandma out of the house with that. When we got to the end of the ramp we both let go at the same time, each thinking the other was still holding on. Good thing we’d secured her with Dad’s belt first, otherwise we would have launched her onto the hood of his car. And yes, we had a ramp. Dad had just finished building it, in fact.
Then I had another brilliant idea. Dad and I recently found out that Uncle Chuck had wrested power of attorney for himself and was the designated health care proxy. Neither of us thought that boded well for Grandma, because Chuck was trying to convince her to go into the nursing home with Grandpa. It was already bad enough that Grandpa was stuck in there, because those are horrible places to be and we didn’t want Grandma in there too. So I dashed back inside and quickly typed up a health care proxy form on my computer. I tried to make it sound as official as possible, using my imagination and my rudimentary knowledge of legal shit. If it worked, it would supersede the existing proxy and put my Dad in charge.
When I got into the car I showed Dad what I did. He shook my hand and slapped me on the back. We explained my form to Grandma and asked if she wanted Dad in charge. She had the presence of mind to understand and say yes and the three of us signed it. Luckily Bill came home just then, which was perfect because I had left a spot for two witness signatures. I figured the whole thing was probably good for nothing but it would be good to have just in case. Amazingly, the hospital actually recognized it. Who knew.
Grandma was really disoriented when she was there, though. She was a little confused when Dad moved her into our house, but the move from the house to the hospital really threw for a loop. When we visited her she was rambling all kinds of nonsense and I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it. I was surprised when they released her a week later. I thought for sure her next stop was the nursing home. And the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Maybe a pinched nerve. Maybe this. Maybe that. In any case, a nurse’s aide and a physical therapist started visiting us. And now that Dad took the rugs out the Ka-KLUNK ka-KLUNK of Grandma’s walker reverberated through the house and jarred me awake anytime I managed a precious few minutes of sleep.
I couldn’t sleep anymore. I was up every night, peeking into her room every 10 or 15 minutes making sure she was all right. Even though we put a portable commode next to her bed, I still worried about her falling. I kept telling her to call out if she ever needed help, but she was very timid. One morning I did my regular check-in at around 1:30 and saw her struggling to get out of bed. She called out “help me,” but she did it so quietly that I wouldn’t have heard her otherwise had I not chosen to poke my head around the door at that very moment.
So I helped her go to the toilet and get back into bed, which took a good bit of time. Then came the always fun part of cleaning out the bucket. The first time I ever did there was piss and shit in it, but ever since it’s only been piss. And I can tell from her urine alone that she’s not drinking enough. Normally it’s supposed to be clear or lemon colored. Hers was almost orange and she produced it in such pissant amounts.
And holy shit. The woman was like a goddamn vampire. She hardly ever slept at night. A couple of years earlier Dad and I crashed at their old apartment overnight when we were working a job in the area. That was the worst night of my life. It was painful enough visiting their apartment, but to stay there overnight? Pure hell. Suffocating heat, no circulation and – for me – nowhere to sleep. It was a dinky two-room apartment and I stupidly assumed Dad had brought an extra cot or something. But when he pulled out the pull-out couch and I asked where I was sleeping, he replied, “With me.”
“I’m not sleeping in the same bed with you!” I protested, my voice rising hysterically.
“What’s the problem? We’re both men,” he said.
“That is the problem!”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“I’m not sharing a bed with you,” I said defiantly. “I’ll just sleep on the floor.”
“Suit yourself,” Dad said, shaking his head.
And I did. I curled up on the utility carpeting that covered the concrete floor. It was extremely uncomfortable. The only benefit the floor offered was that it was only 89 degrees down there as opposed to 91. I had a blanket over me, but it was so hot I ditched that after two minutes, along with my shirt and pants. Soon I was lying there in my boxers. I finally managed to drift off to a tortured sleep until I was woken up by Dad’s snores and gargling. Bleeding Christ.
Grandma shuffled out of the bedroom an hour later and saw me on the floor in my shorts. “Oh my, he must be cold,” I heard her say. She shuffled away and I heard a loud bang as the closet door swung open and hit the wall. A few minutes later she came back and dropped a heavy woolen blanket on top of me. UGH FUCK GET THAT SHIT OFF OF ME! I kicked it away. “Grandma, it’s hot…” I moaned at her but she didn’t hear me and shuffled away again.
I managed a few more minutes of sleep and then she reappeared a half hour later. This time she dropped another blanket on me. Holy shit. Grandma, I don’t need blankets. It’s July and I’m melting into the floor. Not to be outdone, she came back an hour later with a third blanket. I had finally covered myself with a bedsheet but she saw my feet were exposed. Then she went into the kitchen and started rearranging shit in the cabinets. Then she started washing the dishes from dinner. And then she turned the radio on. And since Grandma was fucking deaf the radio was blasting. Unbelievably, Dad slept through most of this, even though the kitchen nook was ten feet away. It was 3AM by that point and I had slept a grand total of 20 minutes. Add in more horse noises from Dad, Grandpa yelling about something in the bedroom, and more blankets from Grandma – I was murderous by the time morning rolled around.
Now Grandma was with us and pulling the same antics. One night I put her to bed and found her trying to get up three hours later. I started to help her towards the commode, but all she wanted to do was sit in her chair in the living room since she couldn’t sleep. Sigh. So I helped her out into the living room and sat her in the chair. And even though it was pitch-black outside she thought it was moring and asked if Dad had gone to work yet. I had to tell her three times that it was 2AM before it finally registered.
After I got her settled in her chair, I came up with another one of my brilliant ideas. I went into the kitchen and stirred up a Benadryl cocktail. Two spoons of the stuff (cherry flavored) and the rest was water. By some miracle she actually drank the whole thing. I prayed silently that it wouldn’t waste any time in working its magic. Then she wanted to get up and fix her hair because it was in her face. I just combed it for her and put some bobby pins in it. Then she wanted to sew buttons on her clothes. Oh, I didn’t have time for this bullshit. I managed to convince her that would be better left until the morning when there was more light
I finally got her back into bed, and soon as her head hit the pillow she said, “Oh, it feels good to lie down suddenly.” Dam right. Naptime, bitch. I prayed I hadn’t given her a lethal dose, but after being sleepless for so long I was ready to do anything for a good night’s sleep. And it worked. She was out cold and I finally caught several hours of blissful slumber. However Grandma pissed all over herself in her sleep – my comeuppance for daring to challenge the gods of the elderly. So that was my chore for the morning.
I also awoke to the sounds of Kathleen discovering Bill in her old bedroom upstairs. She was bringing more of her stuff over to our house, because when she wasn’t living with us she treated the place like her personal storage unit. I had a feeling she’d be moving back in for a third time before long. And not only was she shocked to discover Bill in her old room but he was sleeping on the floor to boot. He started his tenure with a bed, but he was a bad boy and Dad took it away from him.
That was only the beginning of Bill’s problems.