A Grandma Day
About once a week during my unemployment, I wake up and am given direction from my father. Father will say, “What are your plans today?” I’m never sure if I should make it sound like I’m super busy so he thinks I’m a productive member of his household, or if I should say, “Not much, need help with something?” Occasionally I actually have a full day, but others not so much. Today when he asked me it was at 6:30 am. I only got up because I needed to use the bathroom, and I wanted to see our new puppy. In my early morning grogginess, Father asked what I was up to today, and I said, “Sleep. Write down your instructions for me.” He said, “Oh, I’ll see you later.” And I went back to bed with the calm assurance that I had something to do that day, no matter how vague.
Two hours later I was awake, jumped into my workout gear, and went to the living room to round up the dogs and Mother for our morning walk. She wasn’t quite ready yet, as she was being instructed on something from YouTube, so I waited, and Father came in. He was back from the gym, and he finally told me what he needed me to do today: Take Grandma to get her blood drawn. And of course, we would go out to lunch.
Grandma had the home health aids to The Manor to draw her blood, but they couldn’t get enough. Later Grandma told me it was because two days prior she lost 6 pounds of diarrhea, and the medication the good doctor gave her dried her up in a snap, so she was unable to give much blood. There is a lot of TMI in my life right now.
As the story goes, no one is quite sure which Pathology place the order for her blood work was sent to. We think it was Central Coast Pathology, although previously Grandma used some other pathology place with a similar name. I decided to call. Not only did I find out where her order was, but I found out that a phlebotomist will come to the car and draw her blood! Amazing! Getting Grandma in and out of the car is like, the worst thing ever. Ever. My only other concern was that we were looking at a high of 90 degrees today, and Grandma probably wouldn’t want to be waiting in the car. I’d cross that bridge later.
I had a little conundrum. Do I go get Grandma right now, or wait till after the rest of my workout? I called The Manor when we got back from our walk. I wanted them to give Grandma a heads up and get her lipstick on, but no one answered. I decided to finish my workout. I had 25 more minutes of weights and abs I wanted to do. We’ll just have to get the blood work done in the heat of the day.
After my workout and shower I got in the car around 11:05, called The Manor again, Rita answered, told her to tell Grandma I was coming, and hit the road. I made it in 20 minutes.
I got out of my car and heard an old man talking on the back patio. I knew that was Grandma. After this last illness, she now talks like an old man. I went into the house, said hey to Rita, said hey to some of the other old ladies who live there, and breezed through to the back patio. It was a lovely morning, and Grandma was having her speech therapy out of doors, in view of the pony and deer.
She looks at me and says, “Why didn’t you call me and tell me it was Palm Sunday?!” (Uhh.. because I’ve never called you to tell you it’s Palm Sunday, you haven’t set foot in a Catholic church for 15 years, and I don’t celebrate Palm Sunday the same way you used to.)
“Well, Grandma, I’m sorry no one reminded you of Palm Sunday. You know this Sunday is Easter right? And you are coming over for dinner.”
“Yes, ham. Mashed potatoes, green salad, and rolls, too.”
“Good,” she grunts.
Ha, Grandma. My earliest Easter ham memory with her was 1998, when I was in eighth grade, and she and Grandpa took me on a cruise over spring break (it was my high school graduation gift, four years early) and Grandma was sad about something. I asked Grandpa what it was all about, and he said, “Your Grandmother is upset because this is the first Easter that she hasn’t had ham.”
That was when the light started to shine in my mind about Grandma. And today I made the connection that meat is important to Cohen women.
Anyway, we are having ham for Easter 2015.
Grandma took her new buggy (walker) down the hall to the toilet. I went in her room to get her purse, which is heavier than I think it should be, and rather cumbersome, especially for a vessel that only contains Kleenex, an inhaler, a wallet with insurance cards and ID in it, and her sunglasses. It’s silver.
From the bathroom Grandma hollers that I need to grab her pink sweater.
“Sure, but Grandma, it’s going to be around 90 degrees today.”
“Yes, but I was almost chilled on the patio this morning. The sweater is for after I get my blood drawn.”
Okay. As long as we have a reason.
Carrying her purse and sweater, we start the slow walk out to my car. Grandma is slooooow. She was (basically) hospitalized for about a month, and she lost a lot of strength, stamina, and some of her words. She is doing better now that she lives at The Manor, but she still has a long way to go.
Today is my second day picking Grandma up from The Manor. Previously, when she was in her senior citizen apartment complex, she could get in the car pretty well and all I had to do was buckle her up. But now I’m basically hugging her to get her in and out of the car. Our first attempt didn’t go too well. She didn’t get enough of her butt on the seat. That means I put my hands under her bum, count to three, and lift her up while she tries to lift herself up.
“Okay Grandma, one, two, three!”
My lift is powerful (I’ve been working out) and suddenly Grandma’s head hit the doorframe. She falls backward onto the seat.
“Grandma, are you okay?! I’m so sorry!!”
“You knocked the piss out of me!!”
I stare at her. This could be quite literal. I remove my hands.
As far as I know, the piss was just figurative, as she did not request to change her pants.
Two more maneuvers later and I had her buckled into the car. Then it was time to tackle that new buggy. The old buggy had a wire basket under the seat that I could easily pull out, throw in my trunk, and then collapse the buggy and put it in my trunk. This new buggy had a fabric textile type thing. It had five straps and snaps that had to be undone before I could pull it out. And for some reason there was a strap that ran underneath all the precious things grandma had stored in there, which must be removed in order to remove the basket in order to collapse the buggy. A few minutes later I had it all figured out, the buggy in my trunk, and the basket containing Kleenex, a word search, a pencil, a magazine that looked boring, and a newspaper were safely in my back seat.
This whole time I had Grandma’s door open. She kept hollering at me to close it, and I refused, as I knew she would holler at me for being too hot as she waited in the closed car. I prefer a cool hollering Grandma over a hot hollering one.
Our trip to the pathologist went easily. I ran in, checked her in, and two minutes later a phlebotomist, Brandy, came out and said to Grandma, “Hey! It’s the nurse herself!” Brandy used to work at the senior citizen apartment complex Grandma used to live at. (And Grandma used to be a nurse.) They caught up and reminisced of old times while Brandy got the blood she needed out of Grandma’s hand. I didn’t watch. Apparently the anti-diarrhea medicine was no longer affecting the blood draw. Thank goodness. The weather was perfect for her out-of-doors-blood-draw and she didn’t complain at all.
Then it was Grandma’s favorite time: lunch time. I took her to Cider Creek in Paso. I knew they had a parking lot she would be able to get around in (I didn’t have the handicap placard) and I knew she would like the food and the bakery section.
Grandma turns to me and says, “Do you think they have a toilet?”
“I think so. That will be the first thing we look for when we get there.”
I pull into a parking spot not up against a curb, and not next to a car that is parked too close, and I manage to get her walker out just fine, get Grandma out, and all of our purses, and we start our slow trek across the parking lot. It’s hot. It gets hotter by the minute as we very slowly cross the parking lot. Two steps. Stop. One step. Stop. “There are people eating outside. I don’t want to eat outside.” Three steps. Stop. No steps. “I don’t want to eat outside. It must be full inside.” No steps. One step. Four steps. I’m starting to sweat. Some kind man opened the door for us, and we made it into the cool building. I tell Grandma I’m going to go look for a bathroom. Three seconds later I was back at her side. She had lifted up the seat of her buggy and was trying to put her sunglasses into the basket below, except there was no basket. She kept trying, and finally I put my hand out and touched her sunglasses. She looks up at me.
“Didn’t there used to be a basket down here?”
“Yes, it’s in the car. I had to remove it in order to put your buggy in my trunk.” (Did she not see all of that hullabaloo?) “I’ll put your sunglasses in their case inside your purse.”
This whole time people are walking around us, trying to figure out if we are in line or not. I know we are in your way. I know you are trying to be a good human and figure out if we are in front of you in line. I know we are having a loud conversation about sunglasses and baskets and you are kindly trying to interrupt to determine your place in line. After my years of Grandma experiences, I finally don’t care that we are making a scene. And if Grandma feels offended that you went ahead of us in line, she will tell you about it.
I remind Grandma she wants to go to the toilet. In order to do so, you must pass the bakery section. Grandma lingers. She loves baked goods. Five minutes later we are finally at the toilet, door cracked, me standing guard, Grandma taking care of business. I go in to flush and assist with hand washing.
We go up to the counter. I order a BLT and Grandma orders a meatloaf sandwich. On cracked wheat sourdough bread, with marinara sauce and provolone cheese. Meatloaf and sauce. Just her style. We talk at length about it with the girl behind the counter.
There was a slight disturbance in the Grandma atmosphere when she realizes the table she wanted was taken by another old lady, but quickly mellowed out when I showed her to an identical table nearby.
As we are walking slowly in the direction of our table, a man makes a beeline for the table next to ours, which was a high table with stools instead of chairs. He was acting like he had to get there before us so he could claim it as his own. Um? Excuse me sir? Take a chill pill. Do you really think my 89 year-old grandmother is a threat to your table with stools? How on earth could any of us possibly get her up onto those stools, and who is keeping her up there? She’s basically a large toddler. She’ll topple right off. And require an ambulance.
We made it to our table, and I scurried around gathering all the things Grandma might possibly want: 100 napkins, knife and fork, salt and pepper, water.
Our food comes. The sweet girl who took our order also delivered it. She gave me my BLT and looks down at Grandma’s sandwich. “Uh oh,” she says, “You wanted the meatloaf, right? And this is a Rueben. I’m so sorry! I’ll be right back.”
She returns and apologizes again, asking us if there is anything we wanted from the bakery in the meantime. Yes, a cinnamon roll, please. Yes, with frosting. To go. Thank you.
Grandma couldn’t hear a thing about all this, so I fill her in as to the presence of the cinnamon roll and the lack of her sandwich. She encourages me to eat my sandwich while it’s hot (She has a thing about eating food while it’s hot) and so I do. I reach the halfway point, and Grandma is still patiently waiting. We talk about all sorts of things, and Grandma says, “You know, I’ve decided to stop complaining.”
I’m shocked. I never thought I would hear such a thing. I commended her on this undertaking, and she said, “It’s really very hard.” We both laughed.
Soon the owner or manager or someone comes over to us and says, “Hi, is this Daphne?” Well, yes it is! “Do you remember me, from when we had the old location? And years ago you used to get your hair done next door, and then come over to the bakery and get a little something?” She and Grandma had a lovely time catching up.
How is it that at both places we went to today, my Grandmother knew someone at each place? Or rather, they knew her. She’s so popular.
Soon her sandwich came, it was amazing, and Grandma says, “Yes, I remember her. I love peach pie. But her bottom crusts were always soggy. I told her that she would never make it with soggy bottom crusts. She might as well close up shop if she doesn’t fix it.”
Grandma looked around at the large location, filled with happy, satisfied customers. “I guess she fixed the pies.”
Finally we were ready to go, and we took one more turn around the bakery. “I want two of your oatmeal raisin cookies,” Grandma says. “Are they soft or crispy?”
“They are very soft,” was the enthusiastic reply.
“Oh, you better make is three then.” Grandma lifts her hand off of her buggy, points one finger, and traces it along the bakery window; she doesn’t want to miss a thing. She gets to the scones. The lady behind the counter tells her what kinds they have. I’m about to repeat all the flavors as Grandma usually can’t hear, but miraculously, when it comes to baked goods, she can hear just fine. She chose apricot. I select a peach turnover. I had peach on the brain.
We reach the register and we are given three bags of baked goods, and I had three to-go boxes on the seat of Grandma’s buggy. Then Grandma announces she better get to the toilet. I can’t hold all this while Grandma toilets. Plus I’ve go two purses I’m in charge of. I swoop up all our food and run out to the car as Grandma heads to the bathroom. I meet her back at the restrooms, just in time to stand guard at the partially opened door.
She comes back out and we are walking behind other diners. Occasionally I stop and wait for Grandma to catch up, which makes all the diners nearby nervous. Why is this woman standing right behind us, they think.
Grandma slowly passes the bakery windows. She goes up to the registers. She notices there is a single slice of peach pie, in a clear plastic to-go box on the counter. She lifts it up. She lifts it higher than her head and takes a peek at the bottom crust. She makes no comment.
Somehow she gets into the car without too much difficulty, and as I go toward the parking lot exit, I glance up the hill and see new developments. I knew in my heart Grandma was going to ask for a drive by. My heart was right. “Let’s go up there and look,” says Grandma. So we went. And got a little lost. We eventually found our way.
Once back at The Manor it was hard to get Grandma out of the car. She was really tired. We tried a few times and then took a break. During the break I put her basket back on her buggy. Pull, snap. Pull, snap. Pull, snap. Five times. As soon as we got into the house, she went right to the toilet. “That’s not a surprise!” Grandma said after she announced where she was heading.
She doesn’t close the door. I’m pretty sure she was pooping. From her throne she started giving me orders. Things to find, things to bring, things to change. She needs a larger calendar. And a box of pencils. Sharpened. And pens. Bics. She doesn’t know ball point or gel, so I better bring all different kinds. And one of her sweaters must be at my house. She wants it back.
Sorry I stole your sweater, Grandma.
As I was tucking her in for her nap, post poop, she says to me, “I had fun today.”
Me too, Grandma. It was a good four hours.