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3 kittens

What colorful everything.

Posted on 2014.09.20 at 17:42
What season is it in Texas? Hot and drab. Brown and dead. I do find the dead brown sort of pretty, in an "all the leaves are dead" winter's way, except for it being so fucking hot. But I'm not in Texas - I'm in Wisconsin, visiting Grandma. This is ornery Grandma, who remained super ornery until her early 90s. Now she is 96-going-on-97, and really the fight has left her. She's basically only loving and forgetful at this point.  She wears an ankle bracelet, and the Alzheimer's wing of her retirement home has airlocks with codes and alarms at all points of entry, to keep the adults safe.

In Wisconsin, the season is Vibrant and Alive and beautiful. My aunt and uncle took me to the Madison Farmer's Market this morning, and it was a mess of unnaturally large vegetables in unseemly bright colors. Also tons of people.  I tried chokeberries and seaberries - neither are that good.

September 20, 2014 (1)

From there I went to meet Grandma for lunch.

So: the farmer's market was extremely over-stimulating: too many noisy people, throngs of them, tart apples, rhubarb, fingerling potatoes, odd colors like purple cauliflowers and rainbow tomatoes. Samples of squeaky cheese (hey you, Wisconsin), bold revolutionary coffee, and so on. Very big. I indulged a kind of country mouse mentality where I oohed and aahed over the abundant luxuries. (It really is a giant farmer's market.)

Then I walked to Grandma's retirement home, and the lunchroom was equally-and-oppositely under-stimulating. Very quiet (which is nice when people are hard of hearing). Large, wide aisles. Also sensible. Muted colors and bland mushy food - just plain bad taste, but not egregiously so. Grandma is now in Level Three care, so this whole wing is populated by people who are in varying stages of Alzheimer's and need significant care throughout their day.  The adults were slow-moving and confused, and I tried to imagine living here and how it might seem okay in a certain light.

Now we are back in Grandma's room, watching Ken Burn's documentary on the Roosevelts, and Grandma has dozed off.

September 20, 2014 (2)

Is Grandma still ornery and curious?

Like the evil little bunny personality she cultivated her whole life, is she still that? Vestigially so. Last night at dinner, and then again today at lunch, she asked how birds reproduce. So we went over bird sex - corkscrew penises, cloacas, I can't really put the pieces together but I know those vocabulary words - and fertilization of an egg that is then laid. She asked "But how do they know which is the male and which is the female?" and we talked about sexual dimorphism, roosters and chickens, peacocks and peahens, and so on. That is the curious side, not the ornery side.

She asked what we are naming the new baby, and I told her, and she pointed out that the name rhymes with Nosy, and she doesn't like mocking. That is the ornery side of Grandma. I replied that every name can be mocked, and she disagreed. "Not Erik," she said, which was my (sainted) grandfather's name. "You can't mock 'Erik'."  A younger Heebie would have taken this as a challenge, but modern Heebie merely agreed that Erik is a nice name. A minute or two later, Grandma said, "Jim. You can't mock the name Jim. Erik and Jim are both nice names." I agreed. She continued, "Well, work on it. I'm sure you can come up with something better." I laughed.

She keeps bags of chocolate all over her room, although I don't think she can find them terribly easily. Still, bags of chocolate strewn seems like a rather pleasant way to spend age 96. I'm uncomfortably full; bags of chocolate isn't a great fit for Pregnant Heebie in her 30s.

September 20, 2014 (3)

Tonight we are all going to the symphony orchestra.

We apparently have amazing seats that are ostensibly "obstructed view", but are actually really cool box seats, muppet style. I am worried about being excruciatingly bored. I find it hard to drift mentally when there is music or speech going. Live music shows feel like someone is saying "Now you must have your thoughts sabotaged, but you also can't chat or explore. Sit still and be sabotaged."

I'm boiling hot at the moment. What's up, retirement home.

September 20, 2014 (4)

My other uncle - not the one here in Wisconsin - is on a course of steroids.

The steroids are in the context of a larger ongoing fight against cancer. The steroids are affecting his personality - a calm, loving, steadfast type now has problems with impulse control and anger, and bouts of disorientation. It's all distressing.  But this bit is funny: he got it in his head that Grandma needed a robotic baby seal. They sell them in Japan, apparently. People there who can't have pets buy them. They are furry, and have some artificial intelligence learning capacity. They don't swim, but they interact. They cost $6000.

The uncle asked the family who would like to split the cost of such a thing, and everyone declined, and so fed up, he just up and purchased it, which itself was not an easy task.  Along the way, the family convinced him to give it to the retirement home, and not just Grandma.

So now the Alzheimer's wing here has a very expensive robotic baby seal. It is a huge hit with the staff and patients. The patients dote on it, and the staff like having it in their arsenal of activities. Grandma herself is lukewarm on it - "I played with it once, and once is enough," she said. She explained to me that if you touch its whiskers, it talks to you, and if you place it in a shadow, it goes to sleep.

September 20, 2014 (5)

On the plane here, an iphone gave a whistly-chirp, of the kind you've heard a million times. A woman near me asked her partner, "What was that? I heard that sound the other day, and another time before that!" He hadn't heard it, and they had a perplexed, charmingly innocent conversation about what it could be.

Ugh I'm so hot and uncomfortable.

Did you know I had a minor car crash last week? I hit our baby-sitter's car. Just drove right out our driveway and into it. That was a major doltish move of mine. I had to confess, and call the insurance company and file a claim, but at least it was very convenient to just put him on the phone directly with Allstate.

September 20, 2014 (6)

Will you still read me?

I wonder what it might be like if I'm blogging when I'm 96 years old. All three of my grandparents who have died basically of old age, all became very docile and agreeable and relaxed in their final years. I know other people find senility to be very stressful and anxious and unpleasant - there was an agitated woman near the door of the dining room. She lurked in the doorway for a while, explaining periodically she was supposed to meet someone there. Finally someone came over and escorted her to a table, reassuring her that she was in the right place. Clearly not everyone finds it relaxing to become senile.

But if I were 96, I'd have seventy years of blogging under my belt. My grandfather could play bridge long after he became senile, because it was such a rehearsed routine. Perhaps I will have so internalized the process of blogging by then that I can blog senile.

Will I find it a relief that someone brings me my medicine, and I could offload such tasks? Would I comment on such things? Would I be able to write coherently about the encroaching mental fogginess? I like to think that I'll still be blogging, even if it's depressingly Flowers For Algernon-esque.

September 20, 2014 (7)

I laid down and took a nap on the rug,

When I woke up, Grandma was topless. It sounds undignified, but it was not particularly. She was just hot, as was I. We turned on a fan, and she put her camisole back on. She no longer wears a bra, so I do mean absolutely topless.

On the one hand, Younger Grandma would be embarrassed caught topless. It's clearly a sign of her mental decline. But on the other hand, who cares. She's hot, she's 96 years old, why on earth not go topless.

Because she's not doing it as an activist, Heebie. She'd doing it in confusion.
Younger Grandma would be upset.

But Younger Grandma had to deal with Young Heebie, and Young Heebie had to deal with Younger Grandma. Middle-Aged Heebie is happy to deal with this Grandma instead. And I'm glad that Grandma was not distressed.

September 20, 2014 (9)

What colorful tomatoes. What colorful everthing.

September 20, 2014 (8)


lolliejean at 2014-09-21 05:57 (UTC) (Link)
I so love your writings. I'll likely be dead long before you're old and senile since I'm older and have a crap health history both personally and familially (is that a word? Auto correct says no) but if not I'll still enjoy reading.

I had 3 aunts on my mom's side, her Dad's sisters. One died relatively young. The other two went into their late 80s or early 90s. One (the one who had married and had children) was angry angry angry in her dementia. The other (never married, wild child career woman and my favorite from childhood on) got up every morning, got dressed and greeted her caretaker with a big smile and "What are we going to DO today?"

Edited at 2014-09-21 05:58 am (UTC)
heebie_geebie at 2014-09-28 04:07 (UTC) (Link)
Well, thank you. Getting complimented on my writing is just about the highest compliment you could pay me, so for real.

Growing angry in dementia seems like the absolute worst. What an awful way to spend your confusion.
parodie at 2014-09-21 08:49 (UTC) (Link)
Love the pictures. Fall in the right places is such a gorgeous season. Here's it's not as spectacular, and the available foods are almost-right but not quite. It's weird to adjust.

The shift in your grandma & your relationship with her is really neat. Do you miss ornery grandma?
heebie_geebie at 2014-09-28 04:10 (UTC) (Link)
In some ways I do miss ornery Grandma. I miss the sheer bizarreness of the arguments and tirades and monologues. On the other hand, she was genuinely unpleasant a lot of times - dominating social situations and subjecting people to eternal repetitive monologues, mostly. She's so docile now. I have the desire for occasional time travel, but I don't overall feel much grief, because her life has been so completely lived to the hilt.
Kelly Jennings
Kelly Jennings at 2014-09-21 17:03 (UTC) (Link)

Love, Love, Love

...all of this post.

I don't know which was my favorite, topless Granny, the Robotic Seal, or the pictures.

Probably the Robotic Seal. It was just great. I love the picture I have of the people in the retirement community petting the Robotic Seal as it talks to them. What does it say?

But Topless Granny is a close second. Good for her!
heebie_geebie at 2014-09-28 04:11 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Love, Love, Love

Thanks you, for real. I do actually value compliments about my writing more seriously than possibly anything else, so your comment is no small thing to me.

I think the Robotic Seal must be Paro the Therapeutic Seal. He is rather cute.
Kelly Jennings
Kelly Jennings at 2014-09-28 16:46 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Love, Love, Love

Paro the Therapeutic Seal is so great. Thanks for the link!
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