Updated: Jan 20, 2021
Today is my parents’ 52nd wedding anniversary, and when we went to see mom, she was kissing another guy. Sometimes I think the Alzheimer’s is just a front so that she can do and say whatever the hell she wants. I started thinking that back when she stopped cooking for my father and demanded he take her to dinner more often. I mean, I can relate. The 3-year-old and I went to buy double chocolate cake with raspberry filling and butter cream frosting. Our plan was to visit oma and opa at 3:30. He was upset the rest of the day because he wanted to eat that cake NOW. Finally it was time. We pick his brother up from school where he is in the third grade and head to the dementia house that has become my mother’s home. I gathered everything into a basket: cross-stitch tablecloth made by her mother, vase with flowers, fiesta ware cake plates in spring colors, lemonade, cups and forks. I laid everything out on the table, covering the old stains with strategic placement of accessories, and every one sat. Papa has brought the dog, Nokey. One of the residents, who tags along during most of our visits, stands uncomfortably close with an odd smile on his face. I check that his fly is closed and place myself between him and my children. I offer him cake, which he accepts, and begins to tell us, in a “head-of-the-household” kind of way, how happy he is that we could all make it, and how long it’s been since he’s last seen us. It’s been three days to be exact, when he hunkered in on our visit, accepting Easter bunny egg chocolates while telling us how he was going to escape. He then suggested that we sing since we had enough for a quartet. He knew Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, so we all sang. Papa begins feeding mom her cake because she’s not touching it. She only wants to talk. He holds the food up to her mouth, she talks, and it bounces off of her lips to her blouse and onto the floor. This annoys him greatly. He is worried about her shirt being stained. Now he is worried about the family heirloom tablecloth. I tell him not to worry and pull Wyatt’s plate over the mound of cake he has just ground into his side of the table. Mom spills her lemonade. Wyatt spills his lemonade. They now have equal amounts of cake and drink on themselves. Clara comes by, pushing her wheeled walker. At the last visit I thought she was quite pleasant and very lucid. She completes full sentences and answers questions appropriately. She asks me, 17 times, the names of my children. She asks Wyatt if he wants a ride on her walker. He screams and flings himself around my neck in terror. I am grateful he is a mama’s boy. Of course I am, or he wouldn’t be. Elijah is looking restless, so I send him on a “big boy’ errand. He is to bring the flowers to oma's room. He comes back triumphant. I quiz him and am satisfied that he’s brought them to the right room. He is giggling. He sits down and whispers nonsense into my ear. I ask him to repeat it. “I locked….heeheehee…the room,” he says, unable to believe how hilarious he is. He sees my shocked face and blurts, “It was an accident!!” he insists, without ever breaking a smile. I relegate him to the table with oma and opa and search for somebody to unlock it.
I come back to find Papa wiping lemonade from the floor. I cannot find a trashcan, so I leave the few paper towels wadded in the sink. It’s kind of rude, but so are quite a few of the people who work there. Sometimes we can’t find anyone to let us out of the locked and coded doors for up to five minutes. We walk around looking for them, but they hide behind office doors. Now I understand why on day one papa came to visit and found mom lying on the floor in her room. I plunk back down into my chair after all the excitement and Wyatt begins saying, “Poopie…mama…POOOPIE.” I think he’s just being silly because he already pooped. Elijah joins him, “MOM,” urgently, “Nokey is pooping.” Then I smell it. It is a large, dark and acrid smell that floats up to my nostrils like an old wool blanket. I jump from my chair to see behind me the largest pile of wet poop possible, in the middle of the hall. Of course it’s on the carpet. “Pa! Nokey just SHIT!” I whisper loudly to him as he is returning from the kitchen. He runs back for more paper towels and hands me…one. One thin, brown, ten-inch paper towel. There isn’t time. The director has been milling around, and I don’t want her to see. I scoop up the soft, warm mound with the efficiency of a mother, and realize that I can’t really leave this in the sink. I sprint down the hall to my mother’s room, calling to Wyatt who is still anxious because he wants to take a walk. “Come walk with mommy!” I shout to him over my shoulder. I am grateful that the door is now unlocked. It slams closed behind me, so Wyatt is wandering lost in the hall victim to the little old ladies who find him adorable. I plop the mess into the toilet, carefully avoiding the urine collector and flush. The toilet clogs.
At some point, it’s just time to bail. I rush out of the room, scooping up Wyatt as a lady, already holding a life-size baby doll, is tottering toward him with clawed arms outreached. We make it to the dining area just in time to receive from papa yet another single paper towel, moistened, to scrub the remaining excrement from the carpet. “Don’t worry pa,” I assure him. “I’m thinking it’s not the first time this carpet has been shat on.” By the time the director glides by again, not even a suspicious odor lingers in the air. She makes light conversation and I tell her that my parents blamed me for their grey hair, and now I can blame them for mine. She assures me I have no grey hair. “We’ve got to get out of here,” papa says, and I wholeheartedly agree. We deliver mom to a living room where she busies herself collecting imaginary pieces of lint from the furniture and we set off the alarm on our way out of the door.