April 06, 2011

A bleeping addendum

I've cooled down a little, thanks to my caregiving rant and two bowls of buttered pasta. 

As I was discussing my day with Shrinky Dink, I realized that there were moments that were actually kind of funny.  (As with OCD, crazy is only funny after the fact.)

Speaking of crazy, my overdeveloped tendency toward guilt is what keeps me from opening the flood gates upon you, dear readers.  You see, I've long been afraid to say negative things about old people because THEY MIGHT DIE AND THEN HOW WOULD I FEEL?

Prior to accepting the mantle of caregiver, I was under the illusion that all older people are nice and sweet and gentle and right all the time.  That fantasy persisted through jobs at a nursing home, a retirement community, a hospice, and as a geriatric case worker. 

What I finally learned is that people are who they are no matter their age.  Old age doesn't make a person nicer or gentler or more trustworthy.  (Did I mention the time an old guy slipped me some tongue?)  Many older people are wiser, but some are still the bullheaded, cantankerous churls they've always been.  (Not talking about a specific person here, y'all.) 

I think my belief in the superiority of old people originated from the love and nurturing I received from my grandparents.  I know I complain about my grandma now, but she was exactly what I needed growing up.  Loss and depression and illness and a little dementia have brought out some qualities that I never glimpsed as a child or teenager.  I just knew that my grandparents were my heroes.  That's why I decided to study gerontology in college.  I knew the need was there, and I felt comfortable around older people, so it was a natural choice.

Caregiving has grown me up.  No more illusions.  And I liked my illusions.

If I tell you what set me off today, you'll think it's funny.  And it is.  But it wasn't at approximately 5:30pm Central Standard Time.

Nature Boy and I picked up my grandma today and we went out to lunch.  Then we went shopping.  She wanted something more to eat, so I took her to Braum's.  They handed all 92 pounds of her a giant banana split.  And I'm not lying, y'all, she packed that sucker away.  I was impressed.  But wait!  As she pushed the remains of the behemoth away, she said, "A hamburger would have tasted better."  Sigh.  It is well known among my family and friends that my grandma complains about meals at restaurants EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.  It doesn't matter how fancy the restaurant is or how much money you spend on her meal.  It's never good enough.  I gritted my teeth a little, and she got her hamburger.  AND DIDN'T EAT IT!  Anyhoo, that's not what ticked me off.  That was just typical Meemaw.

It was a beautiful day outside.  We enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.  Food, shopping, what more could a woman want, right?  The answer, folks, is MORE.  I picked her up in response to our typical phone conversation:

Me:  Hey, Meemaw!  How are you doing?
Her:  Oh, I'm OK.  Just sitting here.  Bored.  Nothing else to do.  Everybody has their own lives, I guess.
Me (ignoring the complaint):  What did you have for lunch?  Did you play BINGO today?
Her:  Some soggy fish.  No, I didn't play BINGO.  The prizes are things like toilet paper and hand soap.  It's just a waste of time.
Me:  But you were saying that you're bored, so I thought...
Her:  Yeah, it gets really lonely here.  No one to talk to.  Just the idiot box to watch.  It's depressing, really.
Me:  Well, that's why I figured you'd go play BINGO.  You can make friends with other women there.
Her:  I just didn't feel like going.
Me (changing the subject):  Well, I've had a busy day.  I'm about to go to the grocery store...
Her:  That reminds me, I need milk and bacon and ham.
Me:  I just bought you bacon and ham two days ago.
Her:  Well, I must've ate it all.
Me (saying goodbye to my peaceful solo Walmart trek):  OK, I'll come and pick you up.

So after a nice afternoon, we went to her senior apartment and as I'm putting her groceries away (and noting that she does, in fact, still have the bacon and ham that I bought her two days ago), she started melodramatically sighing and saying things like, "I don't know if it's worth living like this." 

And I'm like, What?!  We just had a nice afternoon and all of a sudden there's suicidal ideation?

My husband says that's just Meemaw being Meemaw and I should just ignore it. 

He's such a man.

A 37-year-old man, as of today!

Happy birthday, Tree Guy!  (I heart you, even though you have no clue about girl drama!)


  1. Your grandma's antics made me smile. You are amazing to help take care of her. I know that's a huge task. I'll bet she appreciates it more than you know...probably.

    I'm thinking I may turn out just like your grandma in my old age, maybe a little meaner though.

    And, thanks for the spelling ideas!!! We tried the cornmeal yesterday and my daughter loved it. Today I'll try a big font on the computer. I'm thinking that will be a hit too. :)

  2. Gah. I hope I don't outlive my husband because as Squatch has already noted, I will be a HUGE pain to take care of... and he's probably the only one who would put up with me. I don't think anything about old age would make me BETTER or easier to live with. In any way.

    I am always impressed by your strength and dedication to your grandma. I know its really really hard sometimes, I can't even imagine, honestly, but I am always in awe of your determination and ability to be REAL about it... even when things sometimes stink.

  3. Wow! Thanks Byn. That means a lot. :)

    What I've learned from all this is that it's really important to make plans for how we want to live as older people *before* we get old! Otherwise, when a medical crisis happens or it's not safe to live alone any more, other people end up making the choices for us. And even when the choices are necessary, it creates resentment and a feeling of powerlessness in the older person.

    And that just makes a hard situation even harder.