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Spokane, WA
This profile photo is my mom and me at the beach--she is 26 and I am about 18 months. LOVE the joy!! I am a mom of three and a teacher; being a teacher means I have to go back and cut the f-bombs. There were a few. Because Alzheimer's sucks badly. This blog, for nine years now--skipping a few while I was too cheap to buy my domain name-- helps me un-peel and process the endless layers of sad woven with weird and--impossibly--comedy.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Victory Lap along John Wayne Trail

I've had a good attitude this week. At the exact moment my brother texted me a photo of the front of his personal dressing room door from the Conan O'Brien show last Thursday afternoon, I also received a text from my mother's guardian informing me that she was going to move our mother from the rural nursing care facility where she's been nearly three years to Pine Ridge, a tastefully furnished Alzheimer's long-term care center just 15 minutes from my house, rather than 1 hour. At the really nice care facilities, within the memory care units there is always the unavoidable acrid urine/soft food smell, but it is masked by better smells: Potpourri or maybe candles? Hope? Something that makes it tolerable. Decent decor actually does a lot. But I digress.
Conveniently, I had kept the parcels (complete with foam packing peanuts) which housed my twins' birthday gifts  in my living room for the past two weeks. They were perfect for the small number of "valuables" I needed to pack for my mom's new place.
I brought a large bouquet of flowers for the staff, because they have been sweet and patient with my mom, and I know they have cared for, and grown attached to her. I also included a round danish tart pizza from Trader Joes on a plastic disposable tray that I lined with two oversized, heart-shaped doilies before plopping on the mega fruit danish. Because, like I said, I was in good spirits.
It felt fantastic to drive past all the dismal markers on highway 27 and know that I'd be driving past them for the last time.
Does the John Wayne Trail even really exist?
I listened to a book on Audible, as is my Tekoa-trip-tradition. Today it was The Fault in our Stars. Let me just say, I LOVE it. By the first five minutes, (so maybe 7 pages) it succeeds in being a funny book about a teenager with stage four cancer, which is surprisingly extraordinary. And you know what? Dying is more sad than Alzheimer's. Sick kids just trumps sick grown ups..even those who are too young to be dying, you know? So it added to my happy mood, as good writing always does. Shit, I was just in a great mood all around, getting to make a victory lap along the (alleged) John Wayne Trail one last time. You know how it feels to quit a job that you dislike? That kind. A posthumous, thanks, again, to my Depression-era psycho-about-squirreling-money grandparents who spent absolutely nothing in their living years, because my mostly sad uncles now have shiny new cars and my mother gets to move into a swanky-ass Alzheimer's unit. And the number of people who get to leave Tekoa Care Center for greener pastures is just, very low, I suspect. When do old people get unexpected windfalls? So thanks, grandparents. This does make a difference in a way that no one could have foreseen.
How freaky is it that THIS is the last road sign before the facility?
I have taken a few photos of it.. as has Chris, and I'm sure glad that my mom wasn't destined to be buried by here or that my brother or I were never hit by a car here or something because it was always a little eerie..
Having handed out (to surprised staff) the mega Danish and the flowers, I got right to work on placing within my foam packing nuts one glass paper weight egg, five glass-framed photos of my family, Creative memory scrapbooks my mom put together in the early 2000's, various loose photos, and one of my favorite framed wedding photos. Chris and I look so young, and were; we're illuminated by a magic sun ray and my mom's shiny hair is in in the left corner, as she is stepping, I believe, in sand made wet by the wave that crashed through my altar just minutes before.

My mother's 91-year-old roommate, so annoyingly coherent, is also deaf, and kept asking me questions as I attempted to make quick work out of my two-box project while listening to music. I finally just wrote down what was happening on her legal pad so I could sing along to Macklemore (She's deaf, I mentioned?) and dance, with minimal spirit, admittedly, behind the shoddy curtain that provides the two women "privacy."
And sweet Jesus, there was the doll that should have been in The Shining
"I want to play with you, Lisa. For ever, and ever, and ever."
But, you know, She didn't look as scary. She looked happy, because, you know..I was all optimistic. Still, I didn't pack her. Nor did I pack any of my mother's frumpy clothes, or try to solve the mystery of where the pre-fab closet-full of her own stylish clothes had gone. It doesn't matter. My mom is rich, for a few years. All the full-grown sized onesies her guardian can get permission to purchase with court orders are hers for the having. Yes, she wears onesies (with the pull-ups) It's too much to get into, And HIPAA precludes me from doing so.
The impatiently yelled responses to her lonely roommate notwithstanding, the packing took me only 40 minutes or so.
Then I went into the all-purpose room where a nurses aide in her twenties but with rough teeth from years of smoking was conducting "Trivia!" hour to a mostly incapacitated audience. She was asking questions which appeared to be from a book published in 1989 or so. I learned that the first recorded UFO sighting was not in Roswell, NM, but near Mount Rainier, WA. And, that Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf's Dad led the investigation into finding the Lindbergh baby. (How it went down was something like this: Her: The father of which famous American assisted on the team to help to find the Lindbergh baby?" I didn't know, but was able to help her pronounce "Schwarzkopf,"when she said "Stormin' Norman.")
A decrepit but spirited half-squinting 100-year old lady (maybe 88? who can tell, really?) I hadn't seen before was yelling"78!" Every 90 seconds, so, given she was the only active participant, I started posing questions that could have that answer.
"What year did former president Nixon start drinking in earnest?!" Pause. "78!" "Yes!"
"When did I first read The Outsiders!?" "78!" "Yes!"
The aide read: "How many boxes did it take to carry the Statue of Liberty?" and there may have been another answer but no one will ever know because now I was in cahoots with the other three staff members and we shouted, with genuine glee, "Yes!" when she answered "78!" And then little Ms. Magoo added "Boy, oh boy!" to her seemingly limited repertoire.
I gave my mom a kiss on the cheek and said, for the first time being absolutely truthful and without guilt, "I'll see you tomorrow." 
I will move my mother's things into her new room inside her new place in the morning, and greet her once she makes the move tomorrow. There is concern for a potentially "rough" transition after her new homecoming, and I hope that if it comes, it doesn't last too long.

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973

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