Tuesday, November 9, 2010
There are things you discover when you putter around an old person's house with them each day. In the case of my mother I discover that, although she apparently has a inbred aversion to taking any prescription medication at all, instead taking horse-size vitamins impossible for me to sort into a pill container, she still somehow has saved every medication she's ever come across.
I open her medicine cabinet the night of her accident looking for Tylenol since one of the things I found out right away is that when you're eighty-five and eighty-years-old and involved in an accident, it might just be impossible to have someone really listen to you who's not related to you. Not the police officers and not the emergency room staff. No one. They'll take a look at your Medicare card, they'll make sure you're not dying, and then you'll be set on your way, even if you can't remember any one of your seven daughters' phone numbers. So neither of them had gotten a prescription at the emergency room.
In her medicine cabinet, however, were pill bottles dating back at least twenty-five years. There was one with my old name on it, from my ex-marriage, and I got divorced in 1989. It was like a pharmacy museum in there: old time pill bottles, typed up labels before computers were used, various treacherous caps that my mom would never be able to open now.
Then I spent some time with Stepfather. I found him outside a few days after the accident hanging up my mother's laundry on the clothes line with the radio blasting. Because we have a bantering relationship I said, "You guys must be very popular with the neighbors, what with the blasting radio and the makeshift clothesline," just a series of strings he had strung all over the patio from chair to chair. He laughed and explained the problem he was having with my mother overfilling her laundry basket and cracking the handles. He'd devised a fix, however, and took me to the garage to show me it. He'd glued the handles back together on both ends with some epoxy and was holding them in place with vise grips. Like twenty vise grips. I said, "Or you could buy a new laundry basket at the dollar store for a dollar, right?" Again, he laughed.
There have been a lot of frustrations over the last two weeks, a lot of doing something and then doing it again and again because of various problems in the process. But there are also several images that will always stay with me. There's the image of my stepfather sitting down silently next to my mother, in pain on the couch, and holding her hand. The image of them getting out of the car together when I took them to physical therapy, again walking hand in hand. And one I'd like to forget: that of my mother, whose Alzheimer's has worsened because of this, sitting beside me on the couch, but being nowhere near.
What strange things have you discovered in your parents' homes? Any strange collectibles, like prescription bottles? Witnessed any touching moments? Any heartbreaking ones?