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Turtle Sundae Tactics with Camp Counselor Jodi

“That does not look like it has four bottles of wine in it,” Katie asserts as I grab a large box of wine off the shelf at Jewel.

“What are you talking about? Look,” I say pointing to the neon green bottles at the bottom right corner. “It’ll be fine… At least for tonight,” we laugh in unison.

Take one former E Hart girl and another good ‘ole Girl Scout; sprinkle in Joe Arndt’s easy-going personality, and Rosie’s Alzheimer’s and yes, wine–it is a necessity. Proper planning prevents poor performance, isn’t that what they say?

“Hellllooooo!” We sing as we make our way inside 1202 S Patton.

Wolf Blitzer’s voice screams across the family room. Dad’s in the kitchen yelling at himself about not being prepared or packed. It reminds me of a classroom where the teacher raises her voice to match the loud chorus of her classroom–one quickly learns how that tactic doesn’t work. But, oh how it continues! I quickly dial back the volume on the remote from 72 to 27. Wolf’s more of a murmur now, while Dad’s Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph is on repeat. Gotta love it.

The clipboard with Matt’s email list of things to be packed has gone missing–or not. Just buried under the usual mountain o’ mail. I run upstairs to inspect his packing progress-or lack thereof-and find a 1978 brown, hard shell Samsonite laying on the bed. Great choice, Dad. Our order of business tonight? Packing and pills. Joy oh joy!

Mom's pills

It’s perfect that Dad has some hoarder tendencies or we’d be without the small army of empty pill bottles that line the counter. At the kitchen table, Katie grabs a black Sharpie out of Joe’s Marquette cup; a city skyline of office supplies, with varying sized towers of pens, highlighters, and rulers. Dad, wearing a pair of Mom’s old glasses, is bent over Rosie’s patient discharge med list from almost a year ago. He lifts one bottle, tilts it to one side to read it, and puts in back down. Then, runs his finger down the extensive medicine list. This continues until he is sure that he has an accurate menu of her morning meds that need to be crushed tonight. He shuffles around the bottles like the shell game on the Price is Right, but only to confuse and frustrate himself!

“I do this everyday. Jesus, Joe,” Dad scratches his head as Katie and I oversee Dad making sense of the non-sense that is managing medications. He drops Quetiapine, Aricept, and Lamictal into the pill crusher. Twist. Twist. Turn to the right. Dump. I assemble the caps as Katie writes Thursday on the first cap. The assembly line of med prep continues till we get to Wednesday.  

Dad will be gone for seven days.

Lee, who helps Dad out with Mom when we’re not here offered recently, “With Alzheimer’s every day is different. You never know what you’re going to get.”

So, it makes sense that Thursday was pretty quiet. I hid her crushed pills in Costco ice cream. We watched Sound of Music three times. Mom tapped her knee as she sang along. I put lotion on Mom’s legs. She ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I laid with her till she fell asleep. Katie and I drank wine on the back porch. And I cried off and on because this is so hard.

Yesterday, though, different story.

“I not gonna do this anymore. I don’t want to play these games,” Mom asserts defiantely to the air.

Olivia and Penn are playing with blocks in the living room. I follow Mom out the door.

“I am leaving. I am getting out of here,” Mom moves at a snail’s pace off the front porch.

We are standing in the driveway. Me, naked under my fabulous sea foam green zipped robe. Think 1950’s, grandma-esque. Yes, fabulous. I am sweating.  And yea, there are neighbors out. Joy!

I can tell Mom isn’t really sure how to navigate between the two cars. She stops at the top of the driveway. Then, continues walking so I follow her. She makes it across the street just passed the first house. Stops. And turns around.

“My dad said he’s coming for me. But I don’t know where he is. I want to go home.”

“I know, Mom. Dad will be coming home soon for you. First, though. Do you want to get some ice cream? A turtle sundae from Culver’s?” Please, Jesus.

“Ice cream? I don’t want any ice cream. I want to go home!”

“Mom, this is your home. You bought it in 1975. Remember? Let’s go inside. Come on, I’ll help you,” almost begging.

I try to take Mom’s hand. She quickly pulls it away.

“What are you talking about? This is not my house! I don’t like you very much right now. You can’t tell me what to do!”

I look over at Olivia who is holding Penn on the grass, “I swear I haven’t seen her this bad in a long time.”

Olivia nods in agreement.

“Mom, how bout we go for a ride until your dad comes?” Oh, what will work, I am trying!

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not going anywhere with you,” she looks at me like I’m crazy. “I hate it here. I hate you. I am not going inside there. And you can’t make me, ” she states dryly.

You don’t really hate me, Mom. I say to myself. You love me, but you’re scared and you miss Dad. God, Mom. I wish I could help you. 

“Mom, you LOVE turtle sundaes from Culver’s. Dad and you always go there. Let’s just take a quick trip. I’ll drive, Ok?”

“My dad loves me and I love him too. He is taking me home.”

I am determined to redirect you, Mom.  

On the 7th try.

I get Mom into the car.

Two Turtle Sundaes on Mom’s lap. One for now, one for tomorrow.

This morning, we watch Sound of Music for the 5th time. It’s early. The golfers are just starting to make their way off the green.  I watch Mom. She leans forward, her right hand grabs her knee as she turns to look at the men walking with their golf bags.

She whispers to herself:

I thought that was Joe. I love Joe. He’s such a nice man. 

I know. Mom. He loves you too. And he’ll be home—Soon.

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