Taking Liberties under House Arrest

Once again things are changing so often, I don’t know what to write about here and stay inside my self-imposed 1000-word limit. So, today—or today and tomorrow—there will be multiple posts. Here is the first one.


Last time I checked there was no electronic monitor on my ankle, but there might as well be. I can only be as far away from Mama as her voice will reach—with or without the baby monitor—or if someone else is with her. We have found an additional, non-agency, caregiver who is coming some during the four days a week she has available hours, and the agency is looking for someone who can come other times after our primary paid caregiver leaves when I’m caring for the grandbabe at the other end of the life spectrum; and so I can reclaim my Wednesdays in Olympia for writing, yoga, and grocery shopping.

I have been entertaining myself by taking liberties while the cat is away—or at least not in the kitchen. I’ve been loading the dishwasher however I want, including putting plastic containers in it. I really went crazy this weekend when I was home all day with no caregivers and Mama was sleeping: I cleaned out two drawers in the kitchen. I moved the doilies from the kitchen drawer where they have languished since c. 1968 to the crafts cabinet in the basement (I’ll toss them from there another time), and discarded the roasting bags in the faded box. The only reason I can think of that there might be sand in the back of what used to be called the bread drawer and now contains boxes of hot cereal where Mama could reach them, is because the visiting grandchildren—who now range in age from 31-37—used to leave treasures in it. My mother delighted in finding rocks and fir cones after their child selves left from solo visits. Apparently she left their residue to drift to the back corners.

Get me on a roll and I can’t stop; clearly I have needed a project for too long. After I cleaned the drawers, I moved the pasta and rice from the baking center/oven end of the kitchen to the drawer with the cereal at the cooking/stove end of the kitchen. My reasoning should be clear.

Another day I tackled the cabinet over the refrigerator holding cold cereal boxes most of which no one who lives here eats (I haven’t eaten cold cereal since I outgrew Cocoa Krispies), thermoses no one uses, and plastic cutlery (including a collection of pink Baskin & Robbins spoons from my parents’ favorite indulgence during the t00-brief retirement years) and paper products thrown into the back, too inaccessible to remember to use if we ever did need them. The oversized salad bowl—which was possibly purchased for the office party luau while Neil Armstrong stepped on lunar soil and hasn’t been used since—went into the storage cabinet (for later sibling permission to discard); the Jell-o mold went into the Goodwill box (pretty sure my siblings don’t need that, but let me know). I also found the twin to the collapsible Girl Scout cup I discovered three years ago and put in my toiletry bag.

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Mama napped on, so I moved to the bathroom cabinet and drawer. I left Rebecca’s baby hairbrush and our barrettes and bobby pins (I’m not completely without nostalgic tendencies), but threw out the six petrified hotel soaps and five bottles of Best Western shampoo and conditioner, eight combs, three of the five travel toothbrushes (Mama has said grandson Joel might come and visit and forget his toothbrush; draw your own conclusions about why she thinks that), perfume and lipstick samples from Frederick and Nelson—which went out of business in 1992—and four tiny sewing kits. I put 16 loose band aides in the Band-aide box, the ones that were still in a wrapper. The dried out individual packets of Wet Ones reminded me of those passed from my mother’s purse to we three girls in the back seat of the ’57 Chevy station wagon on road trips. I can still feel their peppery lemonyness tickling my nose. No one who lives here needs feminine sanitary products; they have been donated to the third generation. The cabinet now holds incontinence panties, chucks, and baby wipes—useful for family members who are 100 years apart in age. Goodwill will be the recipient of several toiletry bags and a multi-accessory curling iron still in the box. While Mama sat on the toilet, I removed old prescriptions from her medicine collection.

I don’t know what’s coming down the pike. As Mama continues walking toward life’s end, we take it one day at a time. When it becomes clear that her kitchen days are over for good, I will take the biggest liberty of all: a new refrigerator. I could just unplug the old and constipated one—too much input, not enough output—and say it preceded Mama in death. I’ll start looking for the one I want.

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9 thoughts on “Taking Liberties under House Arrest

  1. I love this so much. I tried helping my folks get a head start on cleaning up their house this past February. So much to marvel at. For me, the most amazing things I found were in a half dozen different boxes and file cabinets. Magazines, articles, recipes … all saved for some later date. There was no tossing them. They just got neatly stacked on the decade or so of bills and bank statements and receipts and tax returns saved ” because we are supposed to “. Never made it into kitchen drawers or pantry but now I am imagining what I might find there. How liberating that you had a breakthrough moment or two to discover those treasures 😉

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    • I’ve found many treasures. This is a living museum. (All the tax returns since the year they were married.) Check out the Memory Monday tab on writing down the story. There might be more on the home page, I am bad about duplicating things under their tab after I post them. (Clunky sorta website.)

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  2. Pingback: Struggling Toward a Major Decision | Writing Down the Story

  3. I am so glad you posted. Have been thinking of you all.
    When cleaning out cupboards at parents I once found an unopened box of cereal that was 11 years past its expiration date. I momentarily wondered if there were any cereal museums that would be interested.

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  4. Oh Gretchen – I so identify with your hilarious accounting of throwing out old, mouldering stuff. As my own mother lay dying on her hospice bed in the living room, my sister and I began by heaving the blackened, dust coated candles sitting in their filthy bowl in the dining room and then we gained momentum from there as we filled up the garbage bags. Funny, you couldn’t stack a dishwasher either. I thought I was the only one who could never get it right.

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