It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

When I returned in September as Mom’s plus one for her grandson Josh’s wedding, I noticed little had changed at 247 Emmett Place. I shouldn’t have been surprised after someone sent me a photo of Mom asleep in her wheelchair with her head propped up by a travel pillow jammed under her chin. Who thought that would bring me comfort? Or was that the idea?

          Grain moths, now in even greater numbers, flew in battle formation, spying the lone obstacle between them and the bounty of open food on the counters and in the cupboards; an army of ants. Dust and cobwebs once again thrived on every surface and in every corner. The bedroom once again reeked of urine. Sanitary gloves were nowhere to be found. Tee ignored the training hospice provided and instead favored her own method of hoisting Mom in and out of bed; the “Inverted Patterson Backbreaker.” Mom grimaced while holding on for dear life as Tee performed her WWE wrestling-like move. It was painful to watch, and a miracle Mom escaped injury. But being a good sport, unlike the pros on TV, she never complained. At mealtime, the Tweedles continued to park Mom facing the kitchen wall while they scurried about, whispering behind her back, and paying no attention to the fact she heard most, if not all, of what they said. “Toots A Lot” reclaimed Mom’s loveseat to share her olfactory and auditory gifts with anyone who dared to enter the living room. 

           The only welcome addition was a hospital bed and alternating pressure mattress. This enhanced Mom’s circulation and helped prevent future bedsores. Other than that, to quote Yogi Berra, “It was like déjà vu all over again.” Right back where we started.  

           So, I resumed all caregiving duties and relieved TD² of many of their responsibilities. But I feared Mom might suffer a relapse once I left. We needed a permanent change, and we needed it soon. Those thoughts lingered throughout the weekend at the Jersey Shore.

          Getting Mom out of the house for the first time since February provided her a healthy break. One I’m sure TD² enjoyed as well. The trip, however, presented its fair share of challenges. How would she handle sitting in a car for two hours, sleeping in a hotel bed, or sitting on a standard toilet? We would soon find out. I made a list and packed everything we needed for the weekend’s events; clothes, medicine, makeup, lotions, bed pads, diapers, sanitary gloves, walker, wheelchair, tea, oatmeal and her bedtime collection of stuffed animals. Check, check, and check.

          I wanted to arrive early, so we had plenty of time to get Mom ready. We zipped down the Garden State Parkway and arrived at our hotel only to discover our reservations were for a weekend in December—three months away. I guess we should have taken our time and done a little sightseeing along the way—three months’ worth. But really, who vacations at the Jersey Shore in the winter? Well, apparently, us. Luckily, the season just ended, so plenty of rooms were available. 

          This wedding also marked Mom’s coming out party, so I took special care in dolling her up—drawing on my experience growing up with three sisters. It’s incredible what her favorite pink pantsuit, a French braid, a little lipstick with bright red nail polish to match can do for a lady, and to those around her. It brought back fond memories of her weekly pampering sessions at the beauty parlor. Mom beamed as her first grandchild and brother of the groom, Abe, rolled her down the garden aisle. She partook in all activities with gusto: gorging on the incredible food, mugging in the photo booth, swaying to the live music. At one point, forgetting she hadn’t walked in eight months, Mom practically sprung from her wheelchair to join the others on the dance floor. To satisfy her and for safety sake, we kept her seated and took turns partnering. Other than the bride and groom, Mom was the belle of the ball.            

Jumping in and providing the tender loving care so lacking with the current care “takers” pleased Mom to no end. After the wedding, I asked if she wanted me to move back to make sure this level of care continued. She nodded, yes.

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Published by A Cup of Tea on the Commode, a memoir

The parent/child role reversal might not have been unique to me, but how I dealt with it was. "A Cup of Tea on the Commode" chronicles my multi-tasking adventures, filling my mother’s last years with love, laughter, and joy. Though not always successful, I came pretty damn close.

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