TCG has been sick lately. Or, sicker. Not only is his COPD slowly smothering him and any resemblance he once bore to a normally functional adult, he now has a cold or something else to further compromise his pulmonary function, and my life. His breathing problems are compounded by a (probably quite reasonable given the circumstances) manifold increase in what we like to call panic attacks. In such episodes, his normally audible labored breathing - that normally sounds like an owl mourning the loss of her fledglings to a Chupacabra – increases in volume and pace and sounds more like a foghorn being used by a very nearby ship of fools in panic and disorder.
He used to do the grocery shopping. Now I have to go too, and follow him around in the motorized shopping cart taking things from shelves as he points to them. He used to bathe on his own. Now, I have to be there too so he doesn’t panic in the process of getting out of the tub, which has happened. He used to take the car for routine maintenance and it’s overdue. I’m with him and his audible breathing every breath of every day, except when he’s napping or panting for help, and more drugs. Plus, when we drive somewhere he insists on driving, albeit somewhat inattentatively, and I get to sit and watch the blinking “maintenance reqd” light nag me from the dashboard while pumping an invisible brake when he stops too short.
But about those drugs. He is on three tranquilizers: Zoloft that he routinely takes twice a day, loreazapan which was once occasional and is now routine about twice a day not counting visits to DOB, and recently alprazolam which is supposed to be a stronger dose and faster acting. He also drinks a bottle of wine most every evening, beginning increasingly earlier most every afternoon. With the cold, he’s been popping Sudafed morning and bedtime for a week too. So, his once comparatively clear thinking and speaking processes are also compromised. And don’t get me started about minimal levels of situational awareness and personal hygiene.
To add to this fun, he was so sick that I had to go visit DOB alone the other day, which is a chore listed on my bucket list just below amputation of a limb with a chainsaw.
Backstory: DOB was unable to use her regular cellphone, so TCG bought a “senior friendly” phone for her (because apparently the marketplace niche for a phone simple enough to be operated by someone with the cognitive powers of a shiny spoon remains sadly, unfilled). So, you have to stop in to visit her a couple of times a week to turn her phone back on, or replace the battery, or clear the screen from menu mode or ringtone settings to standby. The phone also has a “panic button” on the back that sends ominous text messages about twice a week to each family member saying she’s having an emergency and please call. To remove any suspense, she never answers such calls, having no recollection of even pressing the panic button, and there is never an emergency.
UCC: Let’s get you outside in some fresh air with the phone so we can see how to fix it.
DOB: The people who work here love this phone. When they see it on my tray table, they ask me, what’s this and when I tell them it’s a phone they are amazed
WISIMH: As, apparently, are you.
UCC: Ok, do you know which button to press to answer a call? Show me.
DOB: When the phone rings I sometimes can’t remember which button to press. Is it this green one with an icon of a person with a phone to their ear? (And no, she didn’t say icon. She pointed mutely.)
UCC: Yes! Very good! And when you press the button to answer the phone, then what do you do?
DOB: (taking phone and holding it six inches in front of her mouth) Hello?
UCC: This phone doesn’t have a speaker phone, so you hold it to your ear like an old fashioned phone. Like this (moving her arms very much like a department store dummy).
DOB: (Putting phone to her ear, listening intently, then moving it to her mouth) Hello?
UCC: Yeah, no. Let me show you…. See, you hold it to your ear like this. That way you can hear. Don’t move it to talk because then you can’t hear. The person on the phone can hear you when you keep the phone to your ear. Don’t move it to ta—
DOB: (To me) You know, the nurses always love my phone when they see it sitting on my tray table. They don’t believe it’s a phone. (To phone) Hello? Hello? (To me) There’s nobody there.
WISIMH: Good job! The first thing you’ve gotten right today.
UCC: Ok, now that we know how to answer a call, I’m going to take out my cellphone – here, see? – and I’m going to call you. So your phone will ring and you answer it like I showed you.
DOB? (Hearing phone ring, puts it in front of her mouth without pressing the icon of the person answering the phone) Excuse me, I have to get this call. Hello?
UCC: No. Press the green button… Now put the phone to your ear…
UCC: (on phone and sitting next to DOB) Hello! See, that worked ok, didn’t it?
DOB: (to phone) Hello? I’m talking to UCC. How are you, dear?
UCC: It’s me mother, I’m on the phone and right here. See?
DOB: (to phone) I can’t talk now, UCC is visiting. Can you call me later?
UCC: No mother, it’s not – it’s me both here beside you and on the phone. I’m calling you on this phone that I’m holding to my own ear. See? See?
DOB: I’m hearing your voice twice dear. I’m with UCC right now. We’re here (gesturing) so I can’t talk right now…
WISIMH: Does anybody have a chainsaw?
The next day, I insisted TCH visit his mother to fix her phone which she hadn’t been answering. I had to push him in a wheelchair because he was so sick. Except when I was pushing her in her wheelchair. Out to the patio. So we could check her phone and show her how to use it.
The people who work with her notice her phone when they see it on her tray table and they love it. Nobody can believe it's a cellphone.
Seriously, does anybody have a chainsaw?