Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Ship of Fools Hits a Submerged Reef

I was roasting tomatoes to can. TCG left to smoke a cigarette to get lunch. I was in the process of grinding up the lovely sticky mess, which has to be done in batches in the food mill. (Note: this stage in the process also involves a glass of red wine: I self medicate during happy hour) The house phone rang. I almost didn’t get it. But, I did. It was about 4 PM on a lovely September Sunday afternoon.
UCC:   Yellow.
TCG:    Will you please go check on DOB? J just called me in the car. She has been trying to call DOB all day but she doesn’t answer her phone.
UCC:    Hold….
WISIMH:    O my god the stench in here is overwhelming. The white wale is indeed beached, rolling on her side on the kitchen floor. The beginning of a lovely Sunday September evening.
UCC     (As I return to the kitchen phone, iTunes playlist, apparently having evolved the iPod shuffle option into some interactive Artificial Intelligence, is playing Ship of Fools. Ahhh, Jerry.)
                       Oh yes. She’s down by the kitchen sink. Seems to be ok but pretty incoherent. I’ll get back to her. Assume you’re heading home. Bye.
DOB:   I don’t know what happened, I was trying to get up to go to the… but I didn’t make it.
UCC:   Not too important about the fall. Pretty obvious about the not making it. What happened after that? Where did you fall? When? How long have you been down?
WISIMH:   (During the following game of 20-questions, in which we negotiated some version of what actually might have happened, I had plenty of time to go to my happy place inside my head, from where the following musings took place.)
                     And why did you crawl across the room, leaving your freaking cell phone by your bed where you first fell, not to mention why is your walker halfway between you and the bed? And see those pressurized air horns strategically placed on the floor by your bed and your dresser? You had to crawl past two of them to get over here to the sink where you decided to spend the day. The emergency air horns were placed around the floor so you could summon us if you stupidly didn’t use your walker, and stupidly fell, and stupidly couldn’t reach one of the 3 house phones, your cell phone and couldn’t, it goes without saying, pick your own fat ass up. Or why didn’t you use the air horns to summon us several hours ago, like if you were a teenage boy at a high school football game, or a new Associate of Arts in Risk Management at your community college graduation ceremony.
UCC:     (Slurring her words like a sloppy drunk or an incontinent old woman with a blood sugar it later turned out was 210, and by the way, that’s after not eating or drinking all day, which means it was probably much higher when she fell) 
                     I don’t know what happened. I was over by the, over there by the, and I was going to g…
                     (insert what, if you understood it to be a thoughtful pause, you couldn’t be more wrong)
                     And the next thing I knew… I didn’t make it.  That was after I started to make my breakfast. I don’t know…
WISIMH:     I can smell the didn’t make it part from two rooms away, even over the lovely garlic and roasting tomato smell. So, you’ve been here for almost 8 hours. Incontinent. How charming.
UCC:    So, let’s get your diaper off, and I’ll put this towel under your butt. Help me lift now…
DOB:    (Heaving while she lifts her butt)
                     I need to go to the bathroom but I didn’t make it. I don’t know what happened. I must have fallen.
UCC:    (Cringing)
                     Not important now. Here’s your cell phone. Answer it and talk to J who is calling again.
DOB:    (Making less than no sense talking to J, wandering around in the endless loop that unravels when a giant dose of low blood sugar is added to dementia, and incontinence is involved)
                     …my pajamas are in the… by the…. I don’t know what happened…
UCC:   (Taking the cell and talking to J)
                     She’s ok, but let me get her upright and cleaned up and we’ll call you back.
                     (Calling TCG)
                     What’s your ETA?
TCG:     (In that oh-so-refreshing way he has of ignoring and interrupting me)
                     Just to let you know, I’ve taken Abuterol and a couple of Tums.
Later, TCG arrives, huffs and puffs into DOB’s room. She’s been on her ass, leaning her back against the kitchen sink, with pillows and a stool to support one arm. Note: if not propped, DOB tends to list sideways from sitting to slumping.
The list eventually turns into a collapse exactly, if you’ve ever seen one, of a what geologists call a long-run-out avalanche in which huge boulders behave as if they were drops of water in a stream. This is quite likely what happened when she made her fateful run for head.
DOB:    I was trying to go to the bathroom blah blah
TCG:     huff, puff, whooo, whoo, blah blah
UCC:      (Handing DOB some juice, and TCG his soda, which he left in the computer room when he stopped to rest on his way in from the car to DOB’s room)
                     You’ve got to drink this. You’ve been on the floor since you were starting to make your breakfast of peanut butter on bread and you’ve had nothing to eat or drink all day. You’re dehydrated and your blood sugar is probably too low. I’ve got to get back to the kitchen (remember, I was canning roasted tomatoes). You guys just sit there and settle down and I’ll be back in a few minutes.
TCG:   (Later, Returning to our kitchen, leaving DOB propped up on the floor.) 
                     She has to go to the bathroom and I wanted to give her some privacy.
UCC:    Did you get her onto the potty chair?
TCG:     No, I gave her the bowl from the potty chair. She’s still on the floor…
WISIMH:    Did you consider the physics of how she’s going to get her pee etc. from between her legs into the plastic bowl? Did you consider that she’ can’t lift her ass off the floor? Oh yeah, and that’s she’s completely incoherent?
TCG:     … I wanted to give her some privacy.
UCC:     (bringing a bowl of soapy water, a wash cloth and towel and cleaning up the necessary places on DOB)
                     Ok. You sit where you are. I’m going to lift the potty chair over you to the other side. Then, I’m going to put the bowl back into the chair. Then I’m going to get TCG and we’re going to get you onto the chair.
DOB:    (We tried several times to explain what we were going to do, we really did. But she’s not only incomprehensible, she’s not receiving any better than she’s broadcasting. And who can blame her? That would be UCC. Finally, watching TCG and UCC mime how we’re going to bend her knees, put her feet flat on the ground, each take an arm and haul her onto the chair) 
                     That would be a good idea. I was going to the bathroom when I fell. I don’t know what happened.
WISIMN:    No Shit? But wait, do you know what happened?
DOB:    (After she’s sitting on the potty chair, having been hauled in several stages to that point, managing to lift her filthy dress and get a towel over the most disgusting parts)
                     I don’t know what happened…
UCC:     Here’s the thing. I have tomato paste to can. First I have to sterilize my hands. The jars are sterilized and I’ve got to fill them and get them into the canner. I’ve got pasta cooking, and sauce, and garlic bread. It so happened I was making a killer dinner as well as canning. I’ll return and get that done. Drink your juice.
DOB:     (After I’ve managed to push her (thank god) wheeled potty chair next to her bed, removed her filthy clothing and put on a nightgown (on her, not me), soaked up the worst of the nasty stuff on the rug at the foot of her bed (remember, she was trying to get to the… and didn’t make it when she fell, and it’s been marinating in the shag carpeting all day) cleaned up the dried blood where she smacked her forehead in the course of falling)  
                     I’ve moved the handle hanging from the chain over your bed. Grab that, and try to stand up. I’ll aim your butt at the bed, and we’ll get you in. I’ve put a towel over the sheets.
WISIMH:     Actually, mostly a wordless scream, and then the lyrics to ship of fools.
Later, after DOB has been given a Vicodin and tucked into bed, sitting in the living room, drinking my second martini, eating delicious if cold pasta, and watching the 1958 movie Long Hot Summer on TCM, and explaining plot changes and characters to TCG who couldn’t follow a trickle of water downstream with a mission plan and a trained guide.
TCG:     I don’t do so well under stress.
UCC:     No shit.
WISIMH:    Your judgment is almost as impaired as hers, and your inability to move the empty potty chair indicates more than a weak pulmonary condition. BTW, excellent cold pasta, eh? Not to mention the idea of giving DOB a vicodin so she won’t wander around at night.
TCG:     Can you get me a pudding cup from the fridge?
UCC:     So you want a pudding cup, do you? You know, we can’t always get what we want. I wanted a pony.
TCG:     And I wanted a walk-in humidor.
UCC:     (getting pudding cup for TCG and vicodin for self)
                     It sucks to be us, but at least we can self-medicate. Here’s your pudding cup, love.
TCG:   Wanna do it?
UCC:   I’d really prefer not to. (paraphrased)

1 comment:

Martha in Michigan said...

Been losing sleep since reading this with PT flashbacks. At least I deeply loved the recipient of such services and truly did not mind providing them. The worst part was his humiliation and helplessness. But to have to do these things for someone you don't even like, while her offspring not only abdicates but bids for attention of his own, is unspeakable. I'm sure our brothers were similarly uncomfortable providing such intimate services for our mother, but they did what had to be done. Am I being cruelly judgmental to opine that real grown-ups cope?