Parental Journal 39 from Planet Elderly: Melting Plastic in the Oven and Stashed Cash

Monday, January 25, 2015 – 7 p.m.

I’m pretty sure I stopped the house from burning down, or at the least prevented toxic plastic fumes from overtaking the kitchen.

Mom made sloppy joes and had put some frozen fries in the oven.  I was making salads and thought I saw her take a small plastic container of vegetables over to the microwave.  Nope.  She had put the container on the cookie sheet where the frozen fries were baking at 400 degrees F.

I don’t even know how I discovered it.  For some reason I opened the upper oven door and instead of saying, “Holy Shit!  What the fuck are you doing, Mom?” … I calmly said, “Oh…no, Sweetie.  We don’t put plastic in the oven.”

I calmly removed the plastic container, transferred the fries to a tin foil pie pan that’s probably been used for the past 25 years to warm things up, and went back to making the salads.

During dinner we were both rather quiet.  We didn’t discuss the incident.  When doing dishes (by hand, of course) Mom washed the plastic container and put it in the drainer for me to dry.  “I don’t think you want to keep this anymore,” I said.  “It no longer has a bottom.”

“Oh, yeah,” she replied.

So that was today’s highlight.  Yesterday it rained money.  Well, not exactly.

I was busy working on some insurance papers for my folks and Mom could not find the checkbook.  A.G.A.I.N.   In the process of looking for her checkbook, she took out envelopes of bills….20’s…10’s…100’s.

I was speechless.  What’s with the I-don’t-have-any-money phone calls I coached her through for the past 10 months?  Where did all this money come from???

Who knows?  Just chuck it up to children-of-the-depression syndrome and move on.

So we did.  We counted…recounted…put it into piles…and talked about what to do with it.  Today we safely deposited 90% of it into proper bank accounts and kept a bit aside for cash on hand.  Mom will sleep better.  Said she’s been worried having that much cash around.

Visits with Dad these past two days have been nice.  He’s been alert and quite talkative, commenting on this and that.  He would even joke a bit…clever devil that he can be at times.Dad Jan 25 2016

Dad doesn’t maintain a sustained conversation of any kind.  He just makes comments now and then or sometimes respond to questions like “How are you?”  or “Did you have a good breakfast?”

Just for fun, I wrote down some of his comments from yesterday:

“I’m doing great.  I’m watching all the girls.”  Then he chuckled.

When Mom showed him a donut she brought for him and said he could have it after he had lunch, he said, “Okay, I’ll force it down.”   (He has always loved donuts.)

“So take your time and have a good donut,” he said laughing.

“You’ll know I got loaded.”

“Your hands are still warm,” he told Mom.  “Well, I’m still alive,” she said.  “You bring me alive.”

“A load of corn.  (Mom looked at me with questioning look.  I just shrugged my shoulders.  Maybe Dad was a farmer in another life.)
“Mom likes cantaloupe,” I told Dad.  “Yeah,” he replied, “Canada is a nice place.  You’d enjoy it.  You’ll get up there again.”    Yup.  Hope to do so someday.

At one point I asked Dad how old he was.  He wasn’t sure, so I asked what year he was born.  “1822,” he said.    “Oh…I think it was 1922, Dad.”   “Can that be right?” he asked.    “93,” I announced.   “Me?” he asked…then laughed.  “Well I got my money’s worth!”

Then he turned to Mom and asked, “How’d you get the day off?”   She looked a little confused and then just patted his hand.  They hold hands most of the time they sit together.  It’s sweet.

It was fun to laugh together and see Dad smiling so much.

When it comes to Mom, she’s been fairly calm these first two days of this visit.

Of note:

She had trouble using the microwave to heat frozen vegetables.  She kept setting it for 5 seconds over and over and never did figure it out or ask for help.  “I’ll have to find the manual and learn how to do this.”  She’s had that microwave for over 20 years.

She had difficulty dialing numbers on the phone.

Still mistakes the phone and the TV remote sometimes.

Can’t use the TV remote very well.

Has difficulty remembering what day of the week it is.

Is having more problems being steady when walking…also a bit more sciatica pain.

Has recovered quite well from a bad cold.

Often she is not able to remember what she or Dad had for lunch.

Does not always take her meds.  “If I feel fine, why bother?”

On Monday Mom had a dental appointment scheduled for noon.  She wanted to call to make sure it was scheduled.  When she called she was told she is not on the schedule.  She gave me the phone and I explained who I was and that Mom had the appointment written on her calendar.  I was told, “She called Friday and canceled it.  She said her husband is sick and that she would reschedule.”  We rescheduled for Friday.

When I arrived, Mom had the thermostat on 76.  I’m accustomed to 65.  I snuck it down to 75 and so far she hasn’t said anything.  I sleep with the window open.

Special Surprise

Mom has a friend, Dorothy, who is in the independent living area of Victory Lakes.  They don’t see each other often, but visit on the phone.  Dorothy walked over to the dining area where Mom was sitting with Dad.  She took the basement tunnel path that connects various buildings. She figured Mom would be there…and Mom was thrilled to see her.

After lunch we sat together in the reception area and visited.  Dorothy lives with chronic pain due to a spine issue.  She also has arthritis and had hip surgery.  Last year knew she would have to change her living situation.  She moved from a large home to a one bedroom apartment and teared up when she spoke about the adjustment.  “This is it, “she said, “and I just have to accept it.  I can no longer stand up for long periods of time to cook and clean.  You just have to make the best of it.”

Hmmmm…as each of us ages and faces obstacles…as each of us loses the ability to do things we once enjoyed doing…as each of us looks at our mortality squarely in the mirror…will we make the best of it?

About jjmummert

Just another voice in the wilderness from someone who's lived on this planet for over 60 years and faces permanent residency on Planet Elderly. Update: As of March 2, 2017, I turned 70. I'm now an official resident of Planet Elderly. Dad passed away September 22, 2016. I view the Parental Journal entries as part therapy, part family history, sort of a case study of what our family experiences with one parent in a memory care unit, another living independently with short-term memory loss, and me, the only child daughter who lives 400 miles away. It's quite an adventure. Recommended readings for others who have loved ones who live with some form of dementia: The 36-Hour Day, The Myth of Alzheimer's - What You Aren't Being Told About Today's Most Dreaded Diagnosis, Alzheimer's Early Stages.
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