As Much Tongue As Possible

I don’t know a ton about Solstice celebrations, but I’m getting ready to cobble something together for tonight’s supper. Tex, Owen, Seth back from college, my mom, my dad and I will sit down with beeswax candles burning, bits of holly from our front yard bushes strewn about, and pretty white carnations in small vases here and there on the table. I’ve got in mind a reading about impermanence, transition, the more things change…

Tex and I are once again project managers of a move for my parents, this time from their rented house down the block to an assisted living unit. The facility is less than two years old and all the folks we’ve dealt with over there have been very kind and very helpful.

We’d been told not to wait until it was an emergency, and it isn’t an emergency, not quite, but my incredibly stoic mother is stressed more than I’ve ever seen her. It turns out my dad is getting more and more “grouchy”, as she put it, by which she means he’s refusing to do anything, won’t shower, and swears and is abusive to her when she tries to awaken him in the morning. Add to this mishegas about their cat (too boring to go into, but the cat is psycho and needs constant care), and she’s about ready to topple.

A friend of ours told us about an assisted living facility in town – her mother is there – and a unit just came up, not a moment too soon.

Last year at this time, we went as a family to a play at the high school, and my folks came to the Christmas Eve service I sing in. This year, not a chance. Not only is my father unable to track anything for that long, he’s got to be close to the bathroom or there might be calamity. Like watching a kitten grow, it’s been hard to notice how much more debilitated he’s become, but it is time, it is past time, to get them more support.

This morning, Tex took my mother over to the facility to look at the unit. It’s not perfect, and it’s quite small, but once they get in there, they’re first in line for other units that come up. And once in there, my mother can get up, go downstairs for a cup of tea and to read the paper, and someone else – a professional someone else – can deal with rousing my dad, helping him shower, getting him his breakfast. “Every single member of the staff has been trained on dementia,” the staff member who was showing them the unit told them. “There’s nothing we haven’t seen, and nothing we can’t handle.” Tex said my poor, wrought up mother’s whole body sagged with relief, and tears came to her eyes. The woman I have never seen cry except for at the bedside of her just-deceased father!

Tex said she told the staff member that my father had been a scholar of 17th century philosophy, had honed his mind his entire career, and that neither of them could have imagined that he would lose that mind, and that both of them were completely without recourse. “We will help you,” the kind staff member repeated, and Tex and I were both crying when she told me about it.

“You start to empathize a little too much,” a sweet gay man in Ptown told Tex when the two of them got to talking about elderly parents this fall (in the way you can get to talking with queer strangers in Ptown). “You start to imagine your body is going down, your mind is going – and that might happen, you will get old, but not yet, honey. Not yet!”

This morning, when Tex and my mom got back to their house, Tex and I were in the basement, assessing the books and file cabinets, figuring out what to move. Suddenly, Tex pulled me into a fierce hug and whispered, “We’ll get through this, baby, and it will help if we have as much tongue as possible!” Since then, we’ve been kissing in corners all day, in-between tears, in-between serious conversation.

My father slept until noon, then came out of the bedroom wearing the orange toque we gave him for his birthday, drew himself up, and asked, “Are we moving?”

I can’t imagine what the world is like for him now – a strange planet. He asked me at the library the other day if I was checking out books (I was returning them in the bin) and he couldn’t seem to remember what cds were, but he is being so brave. We’ve learned that he might not be able to remember details, but that he retains the emotions around things, so we are telling him that we love him, that this is to give his overwhelmed wife some relief, that it will be all right.

Next week, the two of them will be living in a new place, having to learn new routines, but safer and more cared for.

Tonight we’ll light candles and read together and share a meal, as we’ve done so many times since we had to move my folks here a year and a half ago.

Calling back the light. Celebrating the green. Loving each other.

Published in: on December 20, 2015 at 4:25 PM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So sweet. Just shared with my husbutch and got a lotta tongue!

  2. The only way to go! Thanks very much for stopping by!

  3. “…that it will be all right.” Oh, gosh—I’m so, so sorry. It will be all right (and before then, it will be not so all right, then better again, then…). I can hear D. saying the exact same thing (more or less) as Tex in a similar situation! You are multiply blessed, even amid the wrenching pain.


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