Thursday, August 20, 2009

Circling around

It is a rare occasion indeed for me to put my foot down, but sometimes I do.

A very long time ago when Nonna was a bit more with it, we enduring a very difficult period in our family life. You could call it a bit of a clash of cultures. You see for a long while, Nonna has been a diabetic, a fact that she took in her customary stride. However, when her son was also diagnosed as diabetic, a new habit occurred. Instead of checking her blood sugars within the privacy of her own room or bathroom, she and her son tested their blood together, in harmony, at the dining room table to compare notes as it were. It may sound unduly grand, however, I should point out that the dining room table is the only table in the house, central, in an open plan design.

The arrival of the testing kit was my visual cue to scurry the children away to another room. Over protective? Maybe. But at that time both the boys had a morbid fear of blood, associations with death and anything that could be remotely categorized as a dangerous weapon, which included nail clippers.

Many might view this as a perfect opportunity to up the anti on the desensitization campaign. A fair criticism but we were very, very far away from that stage of desensitization. It would have been the equivalent of marching on hot coals before you’ve mastered looking at them wearing sunglasses behind a protective barrier with your feet in a bathful of ice-cubes. Twice a day this ritual took place. Twice a day I would remove my children from view, as ever, the line of least resistance. All was well and goodish.

Good enough, until one day Nonna decided that the children should witness the ritual. Because I know her so well, I am confident that whatever her reasons might have been, and I’m sure there were many, her intentions were well meant. It was a spontaneous moment, combustible. The bedlam that ensued was catastrophic from any vantage point you could choose.

That was when I put my foot down. No more. To be fair, having witnessed the fall out first hand, Nonna was sanguine after the event. I had not been exaggerating. The fall out was grossly unfair to Nonna, as thereafter they refused point blank to go anywhere near her room which housed the instruments of torture.

Subsequently we exchanged that ritual for another. Twice a day Nonna would arrive in the kitchen together with her diary to slump against the kitchen counter, cross.
“Wot about dis ting den?”
“Ooo lets have a look. Hmm you readings are a bit high.”
“Why it is high you tink?”
“Probably the chocolate cake last night.”
“Did I ave chocolate cake?”
“Indeed you did.”
“Oh well ……forget about it den.”

Twice a day. Morning and evening.

But of course that was a very long time ago. I remember that time long ago when my son happens to saunter into the kitchen, wordless but with a trail of blood coursing from this finger, dripping down his shirt, legs and feet. He is the child that bounces of cement walls without so much as a whimper. He is expressionless as he looks around for something. A word that he can’t retrieve for the moment. I watch him circling and searching quietly in the kitchen. I know what he’s looking for and I’m ready to prompt but I wait, no interruptions. I watch until a little flinch sparks him off, off to the bathroom and the band aid. Perfect! I do not praise him because he is generally allergic to praise. He gives me a sneaky beam, because he knows, and I know that he knows. I propel him back to the bathroom so that I can clean him up, compliant. Because he did such a great job I don’t bother with coaxing him to clean up the blood trail on the floor. The 'clean up after yourself' campaign can wait.

As I clean up the blood on the floor to remove all trace elements that might spark off his little brother, a thought occurs to me as I look at my very clean floorboards, vacant. I remember that the diary ritual is absent. I recall reading in my new "bible" that quite often a change of habit in an older person may mask an underlying difficulty. An unwillingness to drive may hide an inability to drive safely. It’s something that I sort of already knew, or rather just a variation on a familiar theme.

I tip toe over to Nonna’s room where she dozes in the chair next to a pile of unread books with a Garfield comic open on her chest. Privacy versus knowledge? I dither but not for very long as her eyes open to see me and then recognize me, “ello dere. It is pill time?”
“No…….I was just wondering?”
“Your diary. Do you still keep a record of your readings?”
“No……I don’t bother wiv dat any more.” She reaches over to retrieve it from the pile, opens it and riffles the blank pages.
I wonder if an unwillingness to write masks an inability or difficulty in writing? Maybe just frustration at being unable to find any one of half a dozen pairs of reading glasses? Or pencils? Too hot? Too tired? Bad day? I double check.
“How’s the crossword going?”
“I don’t bother wiv dat old ting anymore,” she adds wearily as she pats the pile, the way she pats everything. I pull out the crossword and examine it. Two across, three down, one blank space. I beam. She beams, “only dat last one to go den.”


Kristin said...

You have a lot on your plate indeed! I admire your compassion and great patience. I would go bonkers! Stay strong!

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, reading those cues as changes - that is familiar to me also. Yet, I can think of one that seemed to reverse after a while. Our sibling-caretaker stated she thought Mom could no longer read as evidenced by behavior with a menu at a restaurant. But later, Mom was clearly reading again. Perhaps the cue is to have her eyes checked?

Another hurdle faced by sibling-caregiver was to decide when Mom was no longer competent to give herself her insulin shot. Mom insisted it was correct, but all other data indicated otherwise. Now, a nurse comes morning and evening, tests her blood glucose and administers the insulin. This has become another source of socialization for Mom. She makes friends with most people and so exemplifies the principle of treating people nice so they will be nice to her. (Some basic tenet like that.) ;) Barbara

Jazz said...

You are a saint. Seriously. I don't know how you do it.

mumkeepingsane said...

I love how you find these little gems to share with us.

"He gives me a sneaky beam, because he knows, and I know that he knows." -That's just he best, isn't it?