A flash back to this day in 2016 .... I'm stunned at how the interactions have changed so much.
I knock firmly on the door, shaking off the cold. Frank peers though the glass and opens the door.
Me: Hey Frank! Frank: (nodding in acknowledgment) She’s upstairs … Me: How is she? Frank: (looking down and shrugging a shoulder) Well …. Ya know …
follow Frank to the stairs, I notice the stairs need to be swept. I sigh and a wave of guilt flashes over me, I should make more of an effort to help him clean. At the top of the stairs the sun streams through the large windows shadowing Mom’s face. I take a deep breath … force my eyes to dance and smile
Me: Hi Mom! MIL: Hi?
I get a little closer and see the blank look in her face.
Frank: We’re just having breakfast, want coffee? Here sit for a bit. Me: K … Mom how you doing today? MIL: Okay ….
Mom looks at me and looks away. I know she’s trying to register who I am. Frank and I make small talk, while I occasionally glance back at Mom watching, waiting … it’ll come … I hope.
Frank: Yeah, so we’ve lost some shoes and I don’t know what’s going on with her clothes …. Me: It’s fine, I'll take care of it. I'm sure I'll find what's missing ... should I start with the closet? Frank: Yeah, we didn’t get to that last time … start there that’s good Me: Good, (rubbing Mom's arm) .... and how about a shower …. (I crinkle my nose) I think we need to do a shower
I look at Mom, I tilt my head and squint my eye … nope nothing yet …
Me: Mom? How about a shower today? I’ll wash your back, give your scalp a good scrubbin’?! (there it is …. She makes the connection and smiles at me) MIL: Yeah! That be nice! Me: It will be … we’ll go through your clothes today too … maybe find some shoes? (she shrugs and points at Frank) MIL: I don’t know … where’s my shoes? Frank: I don’t know … where’s your shoes? You take them off everywhere …
I hear the frustration in his voice, it has got to be frustrating at times. Mom shrugs and starts staking the breakfast dishes. Frank and I head to the bedroom to assess today’s project. Piles of clothes are on her dressers and side chair, five mis-matched shoes neatly lined up in front of the closet, the bed is neatly made but the room needs to be vacuumed and dusted.
Frank: Well, I’m trying … (pointing to the shoes) Here’s what I’ve found so far … and this (pointing to the piles) I’m not sure what she’s done, what's clean, what's dirty …. Me: (I put my hand on his arm) I know Frank … I’ll clean it all up
I pick up three socks and a bra to find a pile of Kleenexes balled stuffed into the mound of clothes, I sigh lightly and look at Frank the corner of his mouth is drawn in tight with disappointment, he shakes his head and turns to leave the room. I follow him towards the kitchen to find Mom holding the cat food dish, standing in the middle of the room. She is just staring at the dish.
Me: Mom? Whatya doin’ MIL: …uuummmmm… Frank: I’ll do that, Toodles foods here (he reaches for the upper cabinet)
Frank takes the bowl and Mom walks towards me, shuffling her feet hanging her head.
Me: Mom? Want to be my helper? MIL: Sure! (she smiles) What are we doin’? Me: Cleaning your closet and dressers! (I give a little fist pump into the air) Wahoo! Sound like fun? MIL: (she smiles and giggles a little) When has cleaning ever been fun? (there she is …. She’s coming back to me) ME: It’s always fun with me!
We walk to the bedroom
MIL: Oh my … I guess I did make a mess … Me: Nothing we can’t fix (I kiss her forehead)
Mom sits on the bed, I give her a pile of mis-matched socks to keep her busy as I start in the closet. As I sort clothes, shoes, miscellaneous empty shopping bags filled with Kleenex and more …. I find a clown wig, I pull the wig onto my head over my hat, and turn to check on Mom.
Me: How’s the matching going? MIL: (not looking up from the pile) not well … well, maybe these go … (she hold a light blue and light green sock together) Me: Not quite (I don't say anything about the wig I just start to approach her)… they’re close but they don’t match MIL: No? (she looks up and knits her eyebrows) Me: Nope MIL: … ummmm .. Me: (acting like nothing is different about me) yeah ma? MIL: …. Ummmmm what did you do to your …. (pointing to her head) … you don’t (her face is confused) … that’s not your …. (pointing to her head again) Me: (giggling) What don’t you like it? It’s very colorful I think it might be a good look for me … maybe I’ll wear it tonight to the Firehouse dinner. MIL: (burst out laughing) I like it!
We sit on the bed laughing, I ask her if we should see if Frank notices? She gently pushes me and laughs harder, I love that she can understand the joke.
I continue to finish the closet pulling out sheets and blankets that belong in the linen closet and find all but two shoes. Frank pokes his head in to let me know there is a load of laundry in the dryer.
Me: I’ll have more soon … but I’ll wash them no worries. (Frank doesn't flinch when he sees me wearing the clown wig)
I turn to look at Mom and make a funny face and point to my head. She starts to giggle
Me: Frank notice anything different about me? Frank: Oh, yeah that’s a good look (he chuckles) MIL: (Laughing) Yeah!
Frank shakes his head and turns to walk away, I stop him and tell him I’ll clean the bathroom before I give Mom a shower. He thanks me, looking at the floor … it’s gotta be hard for him to take the help.
I open Mom’s top dresser drawer. More mis-matched socks mixed with wrinkled shirts, underwear and various folded and crumpled paper towels and a few sanitary napkins.
Me: Oh my, I think we need another garbage bag, how about you Mom? MIL: (leaning over looking into the drawer then up at me) Maybe? Me: (I bend down and put my nose to hers) I think so … unless you have a use for crumpled, used tissues and paper towels? MIL: (crinkling her nose, smiling and shrugging) Maybe? Me: (giggling) Maybe NO!?
We rub our noses and laugh. I turn to leave the room telling Mom I’d be right back!
I return to find Mom on the bed intensely working at the back side of a sanitary napkin, as I approach the bed she peels the back off the napkin exposing the adhesive.
Me: Ma? MIL: (jumps startled) What!? Me: Sorry I didn’t mean to scare you but … what are you doing? MIL: I need to take this off so I can blow my nose, you know my nose is always … (tapping her nose) I need to blow it … Me: Oh, Mom … not with that … MIL: (looking quite annoyed) Why not?! I need to blow my nose! Me: (placing my hand on hers and handing her a Kleenex from the dresser) Mom … here’s a Kleenex … this (taking the pad from her) will stick to your face if you try to blow your nose into this! MIL: (blank stare) Oh … Me: (I lean into her face and smile) Unless of course you want a pad stuck to your nose, we’d make quite a pair you with a maxi pad on your face me with this hair!
She throws her head back laughing … crisis diverted.
We finished her dressers pulling out almost two more loads of dirty laundry. She was tired, and a little cranky so I suggested a nap while I cleaned the bathroom.
Me: Hey Ma! Ready for that shower? MIL: I guess … where am I going Me: Firehouse dinner tonight MIL: OK … Did you tell me that already? Me: (only a dozen times) Nope, I think I forgot … MIL: (she smiles, knits her eyebrows and shakes her finger at me) I think you did … I think you probably told me a lot, but you won’t admit it … Me: (putting my finger to my chest, looking innocent) Me? Do something like that … I wouldn’t do that! MIL: Yes you would, and you do … (holding her head high) Me: (I kiss her forehead) … well, I do on occasion but not today… MIL: Really? Its ok if you did ... Me: I know …
I leave after three and half hours, I kiss her forehead and tell her I love her. She smiles runs her hands through her hair tells me she feels great.
Me: See you tonight MIL: Really? Where ? Me: Firehouse dinner MIL: Oh, did you tell me that already? Me: Nope I forgot MIL: … oh good … Me: (winking) love you MIL: You know you’re my favorite …. Me: I know