22

Made My Freakin’ Day

This morning, after 45 minutes of Zumba class, I was standing underneath one of the overhead fans trying to cool down a little before I ventured back into the women’s shower area.

Most of the time they keep it pretty chilly in there but sometimes something has gone awry with the venting system and it feels like a tropical rainforest.

When that happens I swear I can hear poisonous tree frogs croaking, although it may only be the elderly lady in the next stall humming a tune from “Pat Boone’s Greatest Hits.”

As I stood under the blessed coolness of the fan, my Zumba instructor came up to me and said, “I just have to tell you.  You have the nicest legs!  I wish mine looked like yours.”

Whoa!  This from the woman that all of us older gals would trade our left nipple to look like—tall, thin, long-waisted, perfectly proportioned, and she’s had four kids.

She asked me if I would mind telling her my age, and I don’t mind, so I told her– “I’m 65.”

She’s 34.

Made my freakin’ day.

18

No Problemo

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:  Humiliation Edition

After a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes at Zumba this morning where I got down with the Kumbia Kings and their song “Boom Boom,” I went over to The Hotel to check on Mommy Dearest.

It was only about 12:30, so I figured she was still in the dining room finishing her lunch, which turned out to be cheese enchiladas, refried beans and tortillas.

Sounds good to me.

I set about seeing if her laundry basket was overflowing like it was recently, even though at that visit it’d only been a day and a half since I’d been there to see her.

Both times some things obviously didn’t need washing, and I suspect they just might have fallen off their hangers in the closet and then got stuffed into the basket.

My suspicions were ultimately confirmed when, after checking one of the antique dry sinks she uses to stash her cookies and crackers, I found a missing pajama top and a bra all wadded up and lying on her goodie hoard.

My husband read that you don’t have to worry that you have dementia until you find your missing pair of shoes in the refrigerator.

Do bras and pajama tops in the dry sink count?

Her laundry was a manageable pair of pants and a sweater that I could take home and bring back later this week, so I turned on her television and watched Turner Classic Movies.  It was the 1936 movie “Rembrandt,” starring Charles Laughton and a youngish Elsa Lanchester.

They were a married couple at that time, although they never had any children.  Various rumors circulated about the reason why they remained childless.  Laughton’s friend, Maureen O’Hara, offered some thoughts of her own on this, prompting Lanchester to say:

“She looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, or anywhere else.”

Meow.

But I digress.

After a bit, Sandra, the Hotel manager, popped into the room to help set up the nebulizer my mother has been using since she developed a mild case of pneumonia a week ago.  She has to sit there and breathe in the vapors from the machine a couple times a day.  Rhonda, the Hotel day RN, came in also to get things rolling.

Sandra had the door open and was looking down the hall toward the dining room.  She saw my mother coming and called out to her cheerfully, “You have a visitor!”

My first instinct was to say “Don’t raise her expectations!  It’s only me!  She’ll be disappointed!”

When she came through the doorway with her walker and got past Sandra so she could see who was sitting there, she stopped and said in a pleasant voice, “That’s my daughter.”

Then she looked pointedly at me and said,

“What’s your problem?”

Both Sandra and Rhonda let out surprised yelps, followed by nervous laughter.

Sandra put her arm around my mother and chided her with “Now, that’s not the way to greet your daughter!  You should say “Hi, honey, I’m glad to see you!”

I tried to laugh along with them, but I just felt embarrassment and a degree of humiliation.

These were not new feelings.

I stayed and watched the rest of the movie while she used her breathing machine.  Every once in awhile I cast a sidelong glance at her.

How does someone come by a personality like that?

You can’t blame it on dementia because she was this way long before the bra and pajama top wound up in the dry sink.

After I left with her laundry in tow, I got into my car and cranked up the volume on my Kumbia Kings CD.

Boom boom.

9

Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Nutrition Nazi Edition

Went over to see my mother at the Hotel today after my Zumba class.

I figure if I can withstand 45 minutes of strenuous (but fun) dance routines to songs like Shakira’s “Rabiosa” and Arash’s “Boro Boro,” I can withstand 45 minutes of visiting with my mother.  Fun not necessarily included.

Plus, the sound systems for Zumba and my mother’s TV share about the same decibel range for creating nerve deafness, give or take the loss of a few inner ear hair cells.

When I got there, she had just finished having her lunch in the dining room. 

The Retirement Center (aka the Hotel, as I call it) has chef prepared meals that are nutritionally balanced.  The noon meal is typically the largest one of the day, with the evening meal being lighter due to the elderly clientele’s general preference for that kind of thing.

When my mother and I go out anywhere for lunch, she always complains about the size of the portions of the meals, to which I always tell her she doesn’t have to eat it all if she doesn’t want to.  Everybody has different appetite levels and not everyone eats like a sparrow like she does.

Being the Virgo that she is (laser-like in her observations of others), she has taken to commenting to me about the eating habits of her tablemates in the Hotel’s dining room.  She observed that several of them usually left most of their vegetables untouched on their plates. 

The other day she said that none of her friends had eaten their carrots, even though she’d told them “You’ll eat your carrots and like it!” 

(Some of you may remember this is similar to what she’d told my brother at a family dinner years ago, right after he’d told her he couldn’t eat a particular Mexican dish because he was allergic to cilantro.  Pay no attention to that man swelling up with anaphylactic shock over there.)

So today she launched into a critique of the lunch; its size being too big, its general fat content being too much, and the fact that the pumpkin pie they served for dessert had a huge mound of whipped topping on it that was just too much for words, so on and so forth ad infinitum.

I started to say that she didn’t have to eat all the dishes of the main course if she wasn’t that hungry and that she could always scrape off some of the offending topping if she so desired, but I was quickly cut off when she casually remarked:

“But, I ate it.”

Ah.  I see. 

And I’m sure she liked it, too.

15

Teaching An Old Dog Some New Zumba

I’ve been attending the Zumba class at our Wellness Center now for about four or five weeks.  It’s been a lot of fun.

And although I sweat like a hog and often feel like a heifer, my love of dancing overcomes any feelings of ridiculousness.

Since we meet at 10:30 in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can safely imagine that the class is populated with women “of a certain age.”

In fact, one of the new recruits this morning was just a young’un—she was celebrating her 50th birthday by joining our party.

She lamented that she couldn’t believe she was 50 years old, but I told her shoot, that ain’t nuthin’—life is just starting to get fun.

For those unfamiliar with Zumba, it’s a form of dance exercise that usually lasts about 45 minutes and is led (in our case) by an incredibly upbeat and impossibly slim instructor.

But if you’re thinking, “yeah, but how can she relate to us,” I will tell you she is the mother of four kids, ages 9 to 2 and a half.

And she still has a pelvic floor.  (I’m guessing.)

The songs we learn routines to are, for the most part, Latin-inspired—with a lot of samba, merengue (mmm….meringue….but I digress), salsa and a few hip hop and swing pieces thrown in for good measure.

In other words, a lot of hip shaking and grinding.

One of the gals in my age bracket (older than dirt) confided in me a few weeks ago that she had a real problem getting past all the hip work.  She said:

“I think it’s my parochial school upbringing that’s getting in the way.”

Well.

Today, when we were doing our hip swings and grinds, I looked in the big mirror we dance in front of and saw that she was obviously not holding back any longer.

When the song was over I went up to her and said “Hey, girl, you were really getting down there!  It looks like you’ve overcome your parochial school upbringing after all!”

She laughed and said “Yeah, and to think of all the time I wasted in college!”

Here’s a video of a Zumba class (not mine, but the enthusiasm and varying body shapes and abilities are similar.)  Enjoy!

23

Free to a Good Home

Notes from the Eldercare Underground—The Continuing Saga

So today was grocery shopping day, once again, with my mother.  As I’ve mentioned before, she has a tendency to say “no” to any of my suggestions first and then, after some wheedling on my part, she usually warms up to my ideas. 

Well, sometimes.  Not always.  Pretty much never.

Today was no different.  We were in the frozen food section picking out some dinners and I was holding the freezer section door open with my behind while we perused the Lean Cuisine offerings. 

(At 4′ 11″ and 114 lbs. my mother definitely doesn’t need to lose weight, but she likes most of their dinners and the portions are in keeping with someone who has a birdlike appetite.)

She pointed out some things she thought she might like this time and I made a couple of suggestions that met with a wrinkled nose on her part. 

She couldn’t decide if she wanted my selections or not.  Finally I asked her if I could just put them in her cart, fer cryin’ out loud.

To this she replied “Coax me,” and I knew I was doomed so I just let the door slam shut and we moved on down the aisle. 

I wasn’t about to coax her into deciding if the lasagna with meat sauce was calling her name today or not because by that time my hiney would be on its way to a galloping case of freezer burn.

When we got home she gave me a stack of “House Beautiful” magazines to take to the thrift store the next time I went.  My mother has always been a frustrated interior decorator who now gets to live that dream vicariously through her granddaughter (my daughter) the furniture designer.

I noticed that the latest issue she had was for June.  I checked the address label that was printed directly on each magazine and saw her subscription ran out with that issue.

When I pointed this out to her she just waved her hand dismissively and said not to worry, she would still receive them.  Her reasoning (!) was since she’s taken the magazine for so many years now, they send them to her free of charge. 

(Once, years ago, she received a year’s subscription to “Architectural Digest” because she was on somebody’s list as an interior decorator, but I know that was only a one time deal.  Apparently, it stuck in her head.)

Um, okayyy….Again I pointed out that the labels definitely say “Jun11” for the expiration date.  This means she did, indeed, have a subscription she had paid for at some point and it had run out.  

We are now in September and she didn’t have any new magazines since the final issue in June.

She wouldn’t hear of it.  My mother picked up one of the magazines and triumphantly pointed to the printed address label, which was upside down on all of the magazines.

“See?  The labels are upside down.  That’s a signal to me that they don’t charge me anything for them and I get them free.” 

I tried to patiently say that, no, you aren’t going to get anymore magazines.  Why not re-subscribe since you know you’ve always enjoyed reading them? 

Again, the “coax me” thing reared its head and she insisted she didn’t need the magazines because “my house is already decorated,” which never has mattered before.  She came up with a couple more lame reasons why she didn’t need the magazine, but by that time I was too pooped from a morning at my Zumba class and two hours of grocery shopping to argue any further. 

I admitted defeat and left with my expired magazines in tow.

But when I got home I went online and subscribed to two years of “House Beautiful” for her for her upcoming 92nd birthday on the 12th.

I only hope the labels are on right-side up.