Sunday, March 1, 2009

Trust me when I say the movie version would be better

As the saying goes, getting old ain't for sissies. This past weekend, my mother-in-law was moved from her apartment in a retirement complex to assisted living within the same complex.

It would be safe to say she didn't want to go.

About a month ago, we had all agreed to move her after many nights of her calling in the middle of the night wanting someone to come pick her up from the hotel. She never remembered how she got there. And she was amazed they had EXACTLY the same furniture as she did. Personally, my favorite conversations were the ones when she said she was in synagogue and how are you doing. Weirdly, the synagogue also had EXACTLY the same furniture as she did.

The plans were in order when my brother-in-law called off the whole thing. He backed out because she told him to fucking take her off his to-do list and leave her the heck alone because if you want to see crazy, move her there and she was going to show us crazy. And we had to agree with him. It sounded like a conversation of a capable, well-adjusted woman.

That is, until she fell. And didn't remember what to do. It scared us and we knew we had to do something.

So the move got put back on the schedule. I drove two hours to her apartment only to find her still in bed. Passive aggressive was the thought rolling through my mind. My brother-in-law met me in the parking lot to announce he couldn't get her to budge.

Ok. I knew I needed to pull some tricks out of the hat. Maybe something from my stint as a middle school teacher of kids with behavior disorders would help. Only I knew I couldn't call a principal or her parents for backup. I had to find carrot to dangle.

Me: "Mom, let's get up. We are going to have a girl's day. Just you and me."

Mom: "Is this necessary?"

Me: "Well, yeah. We need to get up and moving."

Mom: "I'm so tired. I just wanted to sleep in today."

The conversation continued like this for about 10 more minutes. Until I was willing to hang up the halo for good and get really mean reached the point of desperation.

Me: "If you don't get up, I'm going to go get one of the moving men to scoop you up and put you in your wheelchair. You wouldn't want to go hang out in the social hall in your panties now would you?"

This got her attention. Within 20 minutes, I had her pottied, dressed and in her wheelchair.

As we headed out, I offered to fix her breakfast. She quickly told me she was mad and she was not eating. Even when I offered her some bread and cake, she refused to eat.

Great. A hunger strike. There are already issues with her fitting into her skin. For a woman whose primary sustenance is cake and bread, she is skinny, skinny, skinny.

We first settled into the social hall. I tried to get her to talk about her past. About her children (especially Mr. Strong as a wee lad). About her marriage. Just about her life. But she kept expressing how angry she was at everyone. When I asked her if it was hard when she moved her mother into a nursing home, she said no because her mother was talking crazy and she needed the help. Ummmm. Ok.

In one corner of the social hall, there were women doing some sit down exercises. I tried to get Mom to join in. She was still seething about having to get out of bed for the move and not willing to give up the pity party. That was about the time she noticed the haggard looking woman in the red jacket.

Mom (kind of whispering but really not which lets me know that the decibel level of whispers is probably genetically passed on since I previously thought Mr. Strong learned to whisper in a heavy metal concert): "That lady over there is so mean."

Me: "Shhh. I think she and everyone else heard you."

Mom: "I don't care. She is mean."

Normally, I am a risk taker but considering Mom's agitated state, I decided to move her. Especially since the lady in the red jacket was now glaring at Mom. Plus, if she wanted to scrap, she had several clear advantages over Mom. Advantages like walking and being able to raise both arms up over her head.

We moved over to a table of older, non-exercising ladies. They all seemed to know Mom and expressed their concern over not seeing her for months and months. When she pouted and told them she was being moved into assisted living, they all looked at me and nodded while telling her that it was a great place to live. One of the ladies offered Mom a cookie and she refused as she was still too mad to eat (But don't you love the idea of sitting in the social hall watching the exercisers while nibbling on cookies!). As the conversation progressed, one of the ladies talked about how much she loved the sub sandwiches from the grocery store down the street. Mom agreed. When I offered to go get her one, she happily said yes. Deal! The hunger strike was over in less than two hours.

After several hours of conversing (we had several conversations over and over) and hanging out, Mom's room was ready. We spent some time getting her settled in when she finally admitted it wasn't so bad.

All the remaining things from her apartment are now housed in our garage. And that made me kind of sad. The random pieces of furniture and the relics are sad reminders of the life this family once lived.

And I am a bit sad I couldn't get some great tales for her children, grandchildren and beyond.

But we did get this fantastic bird. It was Mom's grandmother's show piece (I think that makes it a bazillion years old). Isn't it wicked!?


Michel said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through that. You have my sympathies. That is difficult, but it sounds like you made the right decision. (ps I make it my business to eat cookies while watching pilates videos, much, much more entertaining).

Or, at least you did have my sympathies until I got to the picture of that bird! That is not right.

ShallowGal said...

Honey I feel you. Panini generation I call us, pressed super thin between our parents and our kids.

xoxo, SG

Smart Mouth Broad said...

This is a rough road. It's a good thing you can keep your sense of humor about it. It WILL get you through.

Deb said...

The bird wil go nicely with your stuffed duck! I had a similiar experience two years ago when my MIL had to be moved from the hospital to Hospice - sad, heartbreaking experince but somehow it was I, her least favorite person in the Universe, who got the job of moving her in. Hope you never lose your sense of humor!

By the way - there is a small, very small, surprise for you over at my place. :)

Gaston Studio said...

Having never had to go thru anything like that, I can't really relate but I can fee; sad right along with you.
The bird is really wicked!

only a movie said...

Oh, I can picture all of it, having helped with a few elder moves. It is sad to see all that stuff left over from a household... You are a very good daughter-in-law.
And the bird is awesome. Yet Creepy.
Hope your are not getting snow...

Deb said...

weirdly, this is one of your best posts. the craziness mixed with the affection mixed with the sadness mixed with the humor.

i hope mr. hubs gave you your props.

Threeboys1mommy said...

If by wicked you mean scares the shit out of me, then yes.

My MIL was more than willing to move into assisted living, she's all about doing as little as possible in the winter of her life.

Shangrila said...

I agree with Deb-beautifully written. It brought me right back to visiting my Nana in the nursing home, and how hard it was to coax her to eat and talk. You did a wonderful job caring for your MIL!

P.S. That bird is freaking scary!

nikkicrumpet said...

I know how hard this was for my own mother and her grandmother fought tooth and nail to be left alone in her home. After hurting herself on numerous occasions they finally brought her to Arizona to live with them. It was a DISASTER. Eventually they put her in assisted living and I'm pretty sure she never forgave them. My mother promised that she would never put her kids through that. I sure hope her mind stays clear enough to stick to that promise. It must be heartbreaking to have your mom so mad even when you know you're doing the right thing. And the bird....ummmm....okay

HeatherPride said...

Will you please come do this with my crotchety old Grandma?? We are having some major issues with this as well. Good job getting Mom over the hump! I might have to email you for advice soon!

WA said...

Is it wrong to say I enjoyed reading this? I know it was a tough situation, but I really loved the way you wrote about it. And the bird is fantastic.

Deb said...

I'm with Wendy. You wrote this beautifully, and the bird is a bad ass.

I hope that things settle down.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Well, I am WAY late in offering a comment on this as I just read it today. I certainly can feel what you went through which is similar to the experience with my own mother. My brother lived in the same town in GA as my mother but was unable to deal with moving her, in our case, from home to assisted living. The mean daughter came from TX to do the deed.
Fortunately, it worked well until Alzheimer set in and we had to remove her phone. She stayed put until 2 months before her death on New Year's Eve 2003. Sad...