Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another fine mess

“Wot about it den Maddy?”
“What about what Nonna?”
“Dis ting?”
“Which thing?”
“Dah tiger?”
“What tiger?”
“Dah tiger in dah garden.” I can’t help myself as I dash to the window.
“There’s no tiger in the garden.”
“No what?”
“Not our garden.”
“Which garden?”
“Dah one over dere, on dah other side of the fence.” I pull a face, despite myself. If she thinks I’m stupid enough to go and look over the fence she’s got another thing coming.
“Don’t look like dat! It’s dah truth.”
“A tiger…….in the garden over the fence…..”
“No…….not a real tiger.”
“A imaginary tiger?”
“No….a toy tiger. Did you throw it over the fence?”
“I can assure you that I have not thrown a tiger, real or toy over my own fence into my neighbour’s garden.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes! Quite. Quite sure!”
“You don believe me do you?”
“I’ll come and look later, I have to get this pie in the oven or we’ll all starve.”
“Shall I go and get it den?”
“Get what?”
“Dah tiger.”
“Because you said you were going to mend it for her.”
“I know, but I haven’t had time to mend it. It’s still upstairs……waiting.”
“No it’s not. It’s over dah fence in the garden.”
“It can’t be.”
“It must be…….dere can’t be two tigers can dere?” I blink. She has a point. It’s highly unlikely that there would be two four foot plush tigers in a five mile radius of this house. “I wonder who threw it over the fence?”
“Don’t worry. I get it for you…….you cook…..I fetch.” I follow her unsteady steps with my eyes. I almost expect her to climb over the fence, but thankfully she sets off to walk around the block to the other side. I decide to interrogate the boys on their return. The tiger has already been waiting over 18 months in it’s decapitated form, I shall not permit any further indignities upon the poor benighted tiger.

As I mash the potatoes Nonna plants the filthy beast on the counter, just as the owner of the tiger appears, “Mom, why didya buy another broken tiger, can’t ya just fix the old one?”
“What do you mean?” I pary, peeler poised. Nonna beams at her grand-daughter, “I got it back for you,” and noted her puzzled face. She looks at me, at Nonna, at the tiger, “it’s not my tiger. My tiger’s still upstairs, with his head.”
“Wot she say?”
“She says it’s not hers.” We women look at one another dumbfounded.
“Go get it for me,” Nonna demands. She returns in seconds, the tiger under one arm his head under the other, “see!”
“Well dere’s a funny ting. Two tigers……two heads.” She dumps her tiger next to the imposter and leaves with a sigh of someone surrounded by fools. Nonna pats the tigers deep in thought. Her hands run over the matted fur as her finger’s search out the labels on the same side seam, “ah! Not from India, nor Siberia, ……. Dat explains it den.”
“Explains what?”
“Why both their heads came off, in da same way.”
“It used to be Taiwan of course.”
“Are the Taiwanese renowned for tigers?”
“I don’t know.”
“Same manufacturer Maddy. Probably from the same factory, perhaps by dah same person. Made in China? Get me a needle and thread please.”
“Don’t you think…….we ought to put it back…….you case someone’s lost it?”
“Finders keepers!”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Wedding March

From a few weeks ago.

“Yes Nonna?”
“Did you know?”
“Know what?”
“Der is a man in dah garden?”
“Yes, that’s Mr. B.”
“Mr. B?”
“Yes, her boyfriend.”
“Oh. Is he black?”
“Az ee always been black?”
“Um…….as far as I know.”
“Oh. Dat’s good den. I like iz Italian name."
" too."
"Wot about dah other one?”
“Which other one?”
“The other boyfriend?”
“Which one?”
“The shorter one?”
“She blew him off.”
“Blew? Oh right, yes. What about dah other one then?”
“The skinny one?”
“No he’s just a friend.”
“She’s not marry dat one den?”
“No. He’s gay.”
“Oh! Dat’s good den.”
“So den Maddy……..ow come she az so many admirers?”
“She has a beautiful mind, amongst her many other "assets.”
“So eez dah one den?”
“So it would appear.”
“So ow you feel about dat den?”
“Old….....…very old.”
“You’ll be a lot older soon.”
“When soon?”
“When she az babies.”
“Oh I don’t think that’s on the cards any time soon.”
“Do you know?”
“Know what?”
“When we first met……..dat is wot you said to me!”

I’m sure everyone will be glad to know that Mr. B is now in residence and has been duly added to Nonna’s attendance register.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Shared experience

I listen to a fascinating snippet from the BBC Best of Today on my i-pod as I prepare dinner for the masses. It is so reassuring to learn that millions of people have similar experiences of care giving to relatives with dementia and share similar frustrations. I relate to people who stand on the fringe to watch dirty plates dried with hand towels, people who put dirty plates back with the clean and so many other tiny details. I learn that other people have also learned to do the same things, to let the person with dementia do their own thing, the way they need to do it, and then when they’re finished, afterwards to step in and correct.

I suspect that this is easier for me than for some other people because of my experiences with my own children and because Nonna is not my own mother, father or partner. I am one step removed from that tie that colours perspective.

Nonna is curious about everything, which I consider to be a positive asset. That said, her short term memory is not what it used to be, which in turn means that most things remain new and therefore still noteworthy, of interest. My constant dilemma is whether to give the same answers to the same questions, or whether to answer as if it were the first time?

So often it is difficult to judge what is for the best. Every once in a while Nonna wishes to be helpful. It is difficult to be helpful in someone else’s household, even when it has become your own. I refrain from my first instinct, “it’s o.k. I’ll do it myself.” Instead I adopt a different tactic. I rearrange the kitchen shelves so that someone who is much shorter than me, has easier access. I refresh all the labels on all the doors and drawers that used to help my children.

Whilst Nonna visits the doctor accompanied by her son, I spend a few moments contemplating how to overcome some of our communication difficulties. I am more accustomed to the company of people who think differently. All I need to do is think a bit more differently, probably in a different direction.

Nonna has a whole stream of questions that need to be answered at regular intervals throughout the day. Every so often she adds a new one to her string. A longer piece of string is in many ways commendable, because it means that there are more things that she needs to keep tabs on, such as the new dog. This is infinitely preferable to the question that preceded it, just a few weeks ago:- “Did you know there is a dog in the garden?” Yes, Thatcher has entered her lexicon, which is a thoroughly good thing. It is so much better to hear “where is Thatcher?” fifty times a day, because a strange, unknown dog in the garden is a cause for concern, if not alarm.

Now that I know what to expect, it is far easier to respond to the list of queries in a calm manner. My performance faulters somewhat when we have a houseful, but during the school hours, I am usually able to keep on track.

Our home is full of trip wires for the unwary. The new fridge is an added nuisance. For ten years we have had a fridge that opens out to the left, when it wasn’t frozen shut or broken. The new one opens to the right. It’s an adjustment that flummoxes her every day. It annoys her every day because she knows that she makes the same mistake every day, many, many times. I avert my gaze as she swears under her breath. I ignore it because as yet I have no answer and I sympathise with a body that doesn’t obey.

I learn to be more observant, notice the signs. A bad and sleepless night reveals itself in the overflowing coffee grounds, the dirty plates of the night eater, the snacks of diabetes.

Other hic-cups can be addressed. The new calendar is at just the right height, not for the children, nor for the adults, stuck in a prominent position which is also free from onlookers. I check off the passing days with a thick black marker. She can check out the calendar as she passes, a quick glance without pause, in the passage way, between her bedroom and the kitchen, her regular route. The milk carton is kept half full. Half full because a gallon is too heavy for independence.

The fruit is still a foil. Although we live in the fruit basket of America, the abundance lives in the fridge because it is also warm. The label marks the drawer but as yet, it is still off radar. Nonna is used to easy access fruit, on the table, prominent. Her lament is pitiful, “yes……I do miss fruit,” which prompts me to adjust.

I dig out the three tier contraption, a buried mishap to small children, fill it with fruit and plonk it in the middle of the dining room table. A beacon in an open plan house, the roundabout to all traffic.

I’m in two minds about this change. The sight and smell of the bananas is abhorrent to my son. It evokes his gag reflex, before they’re even opened. It’s all a question of balance and I’m not sure how tot get it right? With seven for dinner around the crowded table, the fruit tier is relegated to the floor where it is open season for Thatcher who is more than partial to apples and not averse to some stealthy theft. I seem to fix one thing and snap another at every turn.

I think these things as Nonna returns from the doctor with a clean bill of health and a bag of nectarines that she bought whilst waiting for her prescription to be filled. Her son is a picture of stress and angst after only an hour and a half of one on one, first hand experience in a public forum. I wonder how many times he lost her, but I don’t like to ask. “There!” she announces with a triumph, “fruit! At last!” as she drops the bag on the table, approximately six inches from the overflowing, three tiered fruit bowl. As she leaves to change into something more comfortable, we exchange glances. His expression of despair and exasperation is strangely reassuring. I’d like to prompt him to greet his children but ‘overload’ is plastered to his furrowed brow. We prop each other up in the kitchen in the semblance of a silent hug. A few seconds later, Nonna appears in the kitchen with a face of fury waving something with violent incandescence, “look! Look at dat!”
“What is it?”
“Peach! Peach! Stone!”
“Oh dear.”
“Gawd dat dog is a thief!”
So often the truth hurts. Frequently the truth is a painless pleasant pin prick that marks a moment forever.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cross words

During dinner Nonna entertains the children with fascinating facts about their father’s boyhood. How initially, he only spoke Italian. How, permanently, he was a bad and lazy student. How, for some unknown reason, he loathed reading. How, despite all odds she succeeded in her mission to make him graduate. Her message captivates the children's attention. They gaze at their father as they try to join the dots.

Later, I clean up in the kitchen in the evening when all the children are asleep. Nonna and her useless son sit opposite each other at the dining room table. He stares at his computer screen. She examines her crossword puzzle.
“So Maddy!”
“Wot about dis one den? Third president of the United States of America?”
“Er…..not Lincoln, not Washington…’s…..on the tip of my tongue….”
“Thomas Jefferson,” he mutters.
“Eh? Wot he say?”
“He said Thomas Jefferson,” I yell from 20 paces distance.
“Let me see……yes…….dat fits.”

Silence falls again, apart from the clatter of tidy and keystrokes on the computer. I nip into the dining room and squeeze his shoulder, “I thought you were going to play scrabble with your mother?”
“Hmm……in a minute.” I glance at the graphs on the screen. Fat chance. Nonna’s pencil begins to tap, a pre-cusor to speech.
“So Maddy!”
“Wot about dis one den? Classless or classic?”
“Thinkpad!” he spurts without a pause.
“Don’t ask me, I’m none the wiser.” We both look towards him, non responsive. Nonna throws up her arms in a gesture of despair, I shrug in return.

“So Maddy!”
“Wot about dis one den? A novel without a hero?”
“Er……Makepeace Thackeray………what is it again?”
“Vanity fair,” speaks the man with eyes elsewhere.
“He’s right you know,” I nod.
“I know he’s right,” she nods back. We both stare at him, the illiterate one. The heat of our collective stare force him to look up, “what?” A nervous sneaky rabbit expression. I dash to catch a glimpse of the google search screen, “you cheat!”
“He’s cheating! He’s finding the answers on the computer.” She leans back in her chair and clasps the arms with a grin. She pats both arm rests as the words percolate, “I knew dat…..I just wondered ow long it would take you to catch on too?”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Inadvertent cruelty

I find Nonna at the dining room table where she enjoys her routine breakfast of flakes, prunes and walnuts. I plop seven empty laundry hampers on the counter. On second glance I detect a spot of ‘down in the mouth,’ so I park myself next to her to investigate.
“Cold today!” I bellow, because British people always talk about the weather as a neutral introduction.
“Wot is cold?”
“The weather!”
She shrugs her shoulder, dismissive, as 66 degrees is nothing by comparison to the usual English climate. She munches steadily, with an air of resignation before I notice, dry cereal.
“Are you not having milk either?”
“Milk? No milk………on your cereal.”
“No. No milk.”
“Have you given it up?”
“Given up having milk on your cereal?”
“No……..I be good today.”
“Good? Is it something to do with the diabetes?”
“No. It is gone.”
“Gone where? What’s gone?”
“Dah milk.”
“Are you sure? I thought there were gallons?” I nip over to the fridge which is full of milk. “Ah…..only fat free." I see the empty carton on the counter, marked for her as it saves confusion, and saves me from yet another question. "You should give it a try, it’s not too bad, better than dry cereal,” I yell across the kitchen.
“I can ave de other ones den?”
“Of course! Why not?”
“Well……you write on dah one for me……..I thought…….”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Twinkle, twinkle, little Star

Alzheimer’s can be a wicked thing. Meanwhile we take the good and the bad, and stave off the ugly. Amid the morass, little sparks keep shining through, but we never know from one day to the next where we truly are.

Not so long back we celebrated Christmas day as a family, together. Nonna displayed genuine surprise when she unwrapped her nightgown, double checked the gift label and then beamed. She was equally as surprised by the sexy, black lace shower cap. She pulled it on to check the size and then yanked it down over her chin, the red rosebud mid nose. I could already spot the chink of mischief that she is always only too willing to share.

But it wasn’t until later, after she disappeared into her room, that we had cause to exchange meaningful glances over tight button downed lips, because the British is still steadfast, despite an American veneer.

“Ta dah!” she announced as she flounced into the kitchen. I stood mid-baste over a steaming turkey carcass. Her son blanched but remained silent.
“Wot do you tink den?” she twinkled as she curtsied, spreading the nightgown out to the sides.
“Mum?” he bleated. Still she smiled as she managed an unsteady pirouette, “I am all dressed for luncheon……in my gown.” Her son fumbled for words as I hastily shoved the bird back into the oven, to mop my brow and regain ground. “Well…….at least it fits you…….I wasn’t quite sure what size…..” I trailed off and caught him dumbfounded out of the corner of my eye.
“Wot den?” she said as she placed both feet carefully together with an accompanying bob of expectation. “Look at im! Gawd wot a face,” she chuckled, “I am pull your leg, you silly goose.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Is this what you do all day?

At 9:00 when the children have been taken to school, I tackle the carpet, post puppy accident. It’s a noisy machine but I’m quite content moving backwards and forwards, still in my dressing gown, unwashed and not dressed. As I clean, I debate whether to hide in the garage or hide in the garden. She yells at me over the din, whilst Nonna reads the subtitles on the BBC world news, “hey Mum!”
I still startle, as much from the bomb blasts from the telly, “yes dear?”
“Have you walked Thatcher yet?” I try not to glare, but open my arms to draw attention to my d├ęshabillez.
“Ah…….did you give Thatcher his tranquilizers yet?"
"I'll do it in a minute."
"Did you know Thatcher’s on the sofa in the other room?” Although I am renowned for my eyes in the back of my head, I have get to advance to x-ray vision. "I just thought you'd want to know. Shall I take him off for you?" Before I am able to answer, Nonna pipes up, “wot is dat ting den?” I look from telly to Nonna and back again, mining for clues. Her arm shakes towards the machine.
“Oh it’s a carpet cleaner.”
“Ooo dats nice. Wot you do?”
“Clean the carpet.”
“Why you clean it when it is already clean den?”
“Dog accident.”
“Does it clean udder tings?”
“Just carpets.”
“Ooo dats a shame.”
I pause as I think. It’s tempting to ask but I’m not sure that I really want to know. “Why is it a shame?”
“Well……coz if it cleaned udder tings den it could clean the dog vomit on the sofa…….next door.”

I shall be hiding in the garage out of the rain, with stolen tranquilizers, just in case anyone needs me, I'll be under the car.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Pass the parcel

I pause with my knitting in one hand and a cup of tea in the other as I chat with my daughter on the sofa. We discuss meaningful adult issues, quietly, whilst all the children are asleep. Thirty minutes in, close to the pivotal moment of decision making, we hear the garage door open as Nonna and her son return home from their pottery class, flushed with success and failure.

“Look at dis!” she flourishes a broken bisqued bowl before thrusting it into my body. I drop the knitting to the open space on the sofa to the left and the cup of tea to my daughter on the right so as to save the already broken bowl that’s dropped into my hands.
“Ooo that’s a shame.”
“E broke it, butter fingers!”
“Hmm yes that’s really beyond hope I’m afraid.”
“It snapped like a biscuit.”
“Yes they’re very fragile at the bisque stage.”
“Wot about dis one den?” she murmurs as she scoops up the cat. After many years of tender training, this is a cat who has learned that inertia is the best defense. He lies in any position, a saggy bag. She shuffles forward, I can see it coming but I’m powerless as I hold the bowl. The cat is repositioned, upside down, one handed, this way and that, a pliant bean bag of purring fur. Her delight is joyful and child like, “look at dat!” Closer and closer. A feline without a gyroscope. As she extends her arms and the cat towards me I pass the bowl to my daughter, but not fast enough as she lays the cat in the open space to the side, with his claws, plop, onto the knitting, “ooo ee likes dat doesn’t ee! Good night den.”

Now that’s just the kind of thing that drives me completely potty, if not crackers or ever so slightly crumbly. Clearly she's made a full "recovery."

ROLF Award

"Jessica" explains the rules as follows:-

"To award someone a ROFL Award:

1. Pick a post from the current month that made you laugh.
[Please only choose original material written or developed by a blogger - i.e., not a YouTube video, cartoon, or joke circling the Net.]

2. E-mail me a link to the post that you are nominating AND a link to your blog by the deadline.
[I will send you the award button so you can share it with the blogger you've nominated.]

3. I will send you the award button code a day or so before the awards are to be posted.

4. Send the person you are awarding the award button code and let them know when the ROFL Awards will be posted for the month.

5. On the first Friday of the month, write a post on your blog about the post you nominated.
[Please link back to this blog (Oh, The Joys) and to Tania at Chicky Chicky Baby so that people can see the full list of award winning funny posts.]

6. Read all the funny posts for the month and enjoy!

Feel free to e-mail me with questions.

I look forward to laughing with you!"

Not sure about the 'first Friday' versus the deadline, but here is my offering in any case:-

"Jocelyn" from "O Might Crisis" or more specifically this post called "Four Days Out." A bitter sweet tale that a few of us, hopefully lots of us, can relate to, both boys and girls.

Cheers Dears