Caring for a parent, conversations, Dementia

Eating Crow

My mother is crazy. I’m sure that has been well-established in this space. She gets a story fixed in her lacey brain and, as a friend put it, “hangs on to it like a junk-yard dog with a bone” however often we put her to rights. Rebecca and I are never quite sure where her convictions come from: dreams, nothing to do but sit and think about what she wishes would be so in a perfect world, a life-long desire to write fiction, mishearing, misremembering; or a gallimaufry. And how great a word is that!

gallimaufry [gal-uh-maw-free] noun. 1. a hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley. 2. ragout or hash.

Weeks ago she told me the hospice nurse had described an electric bed pad to her. “It heats up just around the edges to warm the bed then shuts itself off,” she said. (She would never sleep on wires—fears for safety and Princess and Pea Syndrome—so this probably seemed perfect to her. She used to use an electric blanket, but that went out of favor.) I have spent a good bit of time searching online for what she described and at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and department stores. There is no such thing, only mattress pads with wires throughout and a control she would not be able to find nor use. She didn’t mention the pad again. Hoping she had forgotten, I didn’t bring it up either.

Last week there was a note from Michelle, her private caregiver.

“Your mom was not happy when I arrived and had been pushing her call button a lot to get her rice bags warmed. She said you were looking for some kind of electric blanket but because of your memory you forgot.”

It’s that heavily-bejeweled crown that slips, I mean sits, on my head. The weight affects my memory.

One of her three rice bags—the one that goes at her feet—disappeared a while back. Mystery at the Manor. She’s been using a snake shaped one the “depressed friend” featured in last week’s post made her for Christmas to go under her shoulders and that she absolutely loved for about ten minutes. “K. is so wonderful and thoughtful,” she said then. But it’s not what she wants at her feet, or anywhere. I finally made her a replacement rather than going to the orthopedist’s office where Michelle told me there were some for sale.

When I told Mama I had brought it, she said someone told her about a rice pad “about a yard square that I could put in my bed to warm it.”

“How” I asked “would you fit something a yard square in the microwave?”

I didn’t mention that her rice bags have had to have rice removed because they were too heavy for her to move from microwave to bed.

“And wouldn’t it be uncomfortable to lie on rice?”

“You don’t lie on top of it!” she said, like I had lost my mind. “It just heats the bed. Then you can put it on top of you. And it probably doesn’t have any more rice in it than my bags do.”

I nearly laughed out loud. A cup or two of rice in a yard square case of fabric is not going to heat the bed. Removing something from the bed to on top of her is nothing she could accomplish. She can’t get comfortable under a sheet and blanket, so…well, never mind.

“Who told you about it?” I asked innocently.

“Michelle did, I think.”

“She told me about some small bags,” I said. “And you told me Laurel told you about some electric bed pad,” I said. “Just so you know, I have spent hours looking for that—I didn’t forget—and I’ve found no such thing as you described.”

“Did you talk to Laurel?” she asked. “Maybe she told me about the rice pad too.” I rolled my eyes.

I checked with Michelle. Nope. She didn’t tell her about a rice pad. I haven’t asked Laurel.

She has some crazy pants ideas. And just when we think she has completely lost it, she turns out to be right. More or less. And we have to eat crow.

She told Rebecca she heard (perhaps her Alexa device told her) that Carole Lombard had invented a computer something or other. Rebecca shot me off a text, our way to cope while we sit in her overheated room listening to her crazies. A sort of “top this” kind of sister caregiver competition. Laughing emoticons followed.

A week later, over coffee, a friend told me someone had told her that Hedy Lamarr was some kind of genius, unacknowledged in her time. That she invented something to do with radar or something. That there’s a movie out about it. I started laughing, and told her about my mother’s fantastical story we figured she had dreamed.

I told Rebecca who, after she picked up her jaw from the floor, Googled it. Lamarr was co-inventor of spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology, the principles incorporated into Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. And Alexa. A movie was released in November, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.”

The feathers are sticking to the roofs of our mouths.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my mother kept insisting she had the flu (of the stomach virus variety), because other people did. She was the only person ever to have the 24-hour bug for two weeks with her common diarrhea the only “symptom”: not fever, nor vomiting, nor chills, nor loss of appetite.

Recently a post came from the Better Health While Aging blog I subscribe to by Leslie Kernisan, PhD. The post was “Why the Flu is Often Missed in Older Adults” (of the respiratory variety).

“A sick older person might have the flu, even if he or she doesn’t have a fever, a cough, a sore throat, body aches, or any of the other ‘typical’ flu symptoms. In an older person, feeling weak or confused may be the only sign of having the flu.”

She still didn’t have the flu of either variety, I don’t think; but the crows are circling. Does anyone know about the pads? I’ll get out the barbecue sauce.

Photo credit: Thank you to my friend Bonnie Rae Nygren. Meet her on her blog In Search of the Very.

4 thoughts on “Eating Crow”

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