10/04/2005: "Appointment Cards/Aging with Grace?"
“It is the stress of dealing with people I don’t know, “ my mom explains. She groans. Tomorrow a visiting nurse stops by to see how she might integrate in with my mom’s needs. Then a new physical therapist makes her first home visit. Next, we drive to the office of the orthopedic surgeon who repaired her second hip fracture. “We’re really not seeing the doctor,” my mom says. A nurse practioner calls from the surgeon’s office to tell my mom to hold off on one of her meds. “Mabel,” a voice says on the other end of the phone, both questioning and instructing. “Anabel,” I correct. I think protectively and insecurely to myself “if the meds are going to be changed and you don’t know the patient, could the caller perhaps get the name right?’
I write on a lap tap next to a pile of appointment cards stored neatly in my mother’s blotter.
This morning, a little before 9 a.m. still wearing what I slept in, I wondered about the stress of the people she does know, as well as the new ones, as three people tromped in to do the annual cleaning of her apartment in this retirement community. We called and tried to postpone since my mom just got back home after surgery and a month of rehabilitation in what is called the “living center” here. “No,” I’m told by a warm woman with a cleaning cloth in her hand, a smile, and a cart of supplies behind her, “this only happens once a year and can’t be rescheduled.” Two men follow her in with a vacuum cleaner in hand and begin to take out the screens in the windows and move furniture around. I stayed up late the night before writing and woke up to my mom calling out a little before 6 a.m. with news of a dream that didn’t make sense to her. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me either, but we both knew the painkillers were doing more than just softening the hurt.
The other residents are warm, like the woman who comes each Tuesday to do a little cleaning. “I moved in the day after the carpet was put down, “ a white haired woman in a neat khaki outfit proudly tells me, as she checks her mail and walks back to her motorized chair. “Your mom and I were some of the first people here.” Another woman, waiting for her turn outside the nurse’s office, laughs about saving her husband's walker and pulling it out from behind the couch when she needed it. “My spine is disintegrating,” she tells me, almost with a chuckle. I’m tired, worried about leaving my mom soon and at times exhausted by seeing her pain and frustration. I cringe at times waiting for some kind of critique or negative remark to come out of my her mouth as it has so often in the past. In the meanwhile, my mom isn’t being negative and these women both cheer her on, offer support, tell her not to fall again and look me over like a sample of what is strong in her.