5 second rule, alz, amylodosis, cardiac amylodosis, caring for parents, courage, dad, daughter caregivers, death, death and dying, family, fear, grief, loss, mom, truth, Uncategorized

The “F” Word

The pictures that Dad taped to our outdated fridge have started to curl and bend. Circles of scotch tape have become more prominent than the pictures they are supporting. Pulling a couple off the fridge to do some triage I consider tossing one in the garbage. I love the picture, but I have zero patience for the woman staring back at me.

I shake my head remembering.

Me in my green t-shirt and a little black eyelet tank I’d gotten from this trendy, now shuttered store on Damen Avenue and Dad in a red striped Pokegama golf shirt he’d bought on one of his latest golf trips smiling for the camera.

A crowded room of friends in a bar whose name I can’t recall, drinking Miller Lite and toasting a move to North Carolina.

Hindsight being 20/20, I’d have suggested that my former self get a new pair of glasses and a lobotomy prior to leaving Chicago with a man she met a year prior. What a fool I say. Negative self-talk for the moment be damned!

Sure, I knew him. But do you ever really know someone?

People only reveal what they want to sweetheart, I’d have told my former self.

Some are lovely, lovely people. Others are complete pricks. I plucked a prick right off the rack. Tried him on, but didn’t read the label. And we moved to North Carolina where my life unraveled.

What complicates matters further, is that at 30, I thought and thought and agonized about being just past 30 and unmarried. The thoughts turned into a college-ruled notebook of fears: Fear of being alone, fear of being single forever, fear of not having babies, fear of never having my parents meet those babies, fear of never having dinner parties with the other marrieds-you get the idea. And on and on and on.

The faith I carried like the most curated protest sign in my 20’s had been blown to bits by the looming fear in my 30’s.

I’ve been thinking A LOT about fear recently. How fear became a houseguest and overstayed its welcome. Fear took a seat, ate a meal, did the dishes, came back for seconds, and took a long damn nap.

Fear is a motherf**er.

It was impossible, literally impossible for me to listen to my intuition because I made the decision to not be single. Checking my rear view mirror, love had zero to do with it. 

It was the “F” word. Fear.

Fear of my future. Fear of being the last of my single friends. Fear of no one ever loving me. And on and on.

I got a list, ya’ll.

Pushing the mute button for an extended period of time on instincts can do a number on the head and heart. My intuition, the knowing--an unbiased, unemotional assessment of the present, was outmatched by fear.  And when that happens– it sucks.

Reminds me of an episode of Seinfeld titled “The Opposite,” in it George decides that every decision he has ever made in his life has been wrong.  Jerry says, “If every instinct you’ve ever had is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” Therein George goes about his day doing the opposite of what he’d normally do and has better than average day.

Haven’t we all been there? So confused by outcomes of actions taken that we begin to question even the smallest decision.

Just pull a George Costanza.

Tried that a time or two!

But life can be like that. It’s like acting out of fear versus love messes with the equilibrium of the universe that surrounds you or something.

Acting out of fear is easy–especially if you’ve confused fear with intuition and your intuition has ear muffs on. Courage, man, it can be hard to conjure.

So what would I start by telling my 30-something self in this picture?

Well, I’d tell her this: Her life didn’t start unraveling in North Carolina like I said earlier. Nope. The analyzing, agonizing, and the thinking and overthinking created enough self-doubt and worry that I said YES to fear which propelled me into a series of bad decisions–well before North Carolina.

Dad likely knew it’d be a shit show when he met the man and I floated the idea and he tried to tell me, but did I listen? And Mom? She would’ve said, “What on earth are you doing? Haven’t I taught you to love yourself enough? Walk. Away.”

Yet, the list of fears that were once just thoughts prevented me from acting on the thing I needed the most: Courage. Because I was so in my head I wasn’t listening to my heart. My instincts had ear muff on, remember?

There’s a quote I’ve read and reread recently in Mel Robbin’s book, The 5 Second Rule that almost knocked me outta my chair when I read it. In the book, Mel writes, “When you act with courage, your brain is not involved. Your heart speaks first and you listen.”

Two of the most profound life-changing decisions I’ve ever made in my life I made in less than 5 seconds. It’s true. I hadn’t realized it till reading Mel’s book.

Life changing decision #1:

I moved to New Orleans in 2011 with a packed car, a $28,000 pay cut, and zero friends.

Life changing decision #2:

I moved back to Chicago 7 years later to care for my dying dad. Left my career, my life in New Orleans, and had no real plan aside from taking care of my Dad.

Here’s the thing about those two decisions: I never hesitated.  There are a million reasons why I shouldn’t have moved to New Orleans: Hadn’t taught in years. Had a great pension and job in Chicago. I was too old to have to make new friends. Did I mention I took a $28k pay cut? So, yea the list was L-O-N-G.

But the thought bubbles full of question marks and exclamation points–they never came.

I just acted. I went with it.  There weren’t lists of worries and self-doubt like before North Carolina. My heart was propelling me to go. And I listened. And you know what? I fell in love with New Orleans. And I made wonderful friends. And had a respectable career. And drank a sh*t ton of purple drinks.

Then, when I got the call during a teacher meeting that my Dad had been immediately admitted to the hospital at a doctor’s appointment, I remember turning to a colleague saying: I need to go home. Now.

No hesitation.

So I did. And it was hard. And beautiful. And then hard again. And here’s the thing: I have these teeny tiny moments with my Dad that makes the paycheck and job title just not that significant. 

Middle finger and ear muffs to the “F” word.

I choose courage.

I hope you will too. I really do.








AARP, alz, alzheimer's, caring for parents, death, dementia, family, memoir, mom, truth

Roaming Rosie Strikes Again


The amyloid plaque tangles have created two dueling personas inside Mom’s brain. On the left, our beloved Rosie Posie; on the right a scared, but forever fiesty woman who often accuses her children and others of commiting heinous acts against her.

What a fucking shit show. That, my dear, is what I was thinking when I got a frantic call from Li last week.  On one of Mom’s escapades, she paid ZERO mind to the barbed wire fence that is supposed to keep trespassers like herself out of Arlington Lakes Golf Course. Instead, she opted to enter the course through a breach in the fence and onto the golf course she roamed amidst golf carts, golf balls, and um, well a myriad of foursomes on the tee.


Li: Jodi. OHMYGOD. You have to come. Your mom, she’s on the golf course. Jesus. She’s by the water.

Me: What? Fuck. Where are you?

Li: I don’t know. She went walking. Wouldn’t stop. I think we are by Harvard/White Oak? I don’t know. We are in the trees.

Me: Fuck. Jesus. Ok. I’m coming.

Mind you, when I took this call I was sitting in a teeny tiny cube @ The Arlington Heights Senior Center with this nice woman from Catholic Charities. I had just turned in my FMLA paperwork and wanted to find out about applying to be Dad’s full-time caregiver, but I digress.  One story at a time.

I thank the nice woman and she assures me there is no explanation necessary. After all, I was basically sitting on her lap in her cube. She heard the entire exchange. She hands me a piece of paper with phone numbers that I will never use for a stupid idea that doesn’t even matter and gives me a look like Good-God-What-are-you-doing?-and-damn- I -feel -sorry- for-you.

Nobody got time for a pity party. Now a shit show, though…..Plenty O’ Time for that.

Remember, I’m just doing the doing. Today, the doing requires me to persuade Mom to come home with me.

Joooddddiiiii! We are here! Joooodddiiii!! 

I inadvertently drive right by them. Making a 3-point turn in the middle of White Oak, I pull up and there is Mom. She reminds me of one of those little people statues you place on top a wedding cake, except without the gleaming smile, clean, glossy hair, and pretty dress. Mom’s face a mix of fear and confusion, the concrete stoop her pedestal.  The barbed wire fence her cage.

Oh, Hi, Mom.

I make sure she can hear the smile as I speak to her.


Her greeting communicates she is OVER IT. Zero fucks she cares to give me or anyone else in that moment. She says hello because even with her memory gone, she is always polite.

I want to go HOME!

Now, there are three problems with that request:

  1. Mom is pulling and banging on a barbed wire fence which will not make an exit easy
  2. That fence has a lock on it that she tussles
  3. She is surrounded by trees with no clear path out

Mom, you are going to cut your hands. The fence is sharp. PLEASE Mom. You gotta stop grabbing it. I want to take you home, but you can’t get out this way.

I don’t care if I cut my hands. I wanna go HOMMMEEEE!

Li is busy negotiating with Mom to follow her through the bushes, but Mom is not having it.

I am not going with you! You are a bad woman! You keep hitting me! 

The allegations of abuse continue. I literally have no idea how I will get her home.

I am starting to get scared. Mom is strong and pulling at the fence with such force, I am not sure how she’s not cut her hands yet.

For the first time since the inception of this disease, I consider calling the police on my own mother. I don’t see a way out.

She beats me to the punch!

I‘m gonna call the police on you!

Mom, well that’s funny. I was thinking the same thing. I don’t want to have to call the police, but you have to calm down. Li is trying to help you.

I stand opposite of Mom with the barbed wire between us.

Don’t tell me what to do. I don’t have to calm down. You are so mean to me. I hate you!

With this disease, every day, every moment is different. Some days are better. Some days are a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Today, I’m realizing that I’ve made the situation worse. She is escalating because I am trying to reason with the version of herself that makes such a hearts, stars, rainbows ending highly unlikely.

Li and I agree that I get into the golf course and attempt to lead Mom out. So,  I drive to the opening in the fence and walk the 18th tee before getting to Mom and Li. I imagine golfers are like, WTF? But, whatever.

The fun and games continue.

Look, there’s your daughter, Jodi. She’s come to get you, Rose.

Hey, Mom. Let’s go home, ok?

In this moment, I try to imagine what my Mom sees and feels. From her perspective, atop the concrete stoop, there is a mess of bushes, sticks, trees, with no discernable way out. She is in unfamiliar territory with people she doesn’t recognize. And I am asking her to take a leap of faith and trust me.

I pull her. She fights back.

I stop. We are quiet. Mom’s panting. She is beginning to get tired. Being afraid takes energy.

Just then, I channel Dad and am reminded of what he would say to her when she is struggling.

You’re doing good, Mom.

You’re doing real good, Mom.

You’re ok.

That’s right. You’re alright.

She hesitantly takes my hand and I lead her out of the trees.



AARP, alz, alzheimer's, amyldosis, caring for parents, dementia, family, grief, memoir, mom, Uncategorized

Don’t come for me unless I send for you

Minefields of red, rough patches traverse Mom’s forehead. Planted by the mixture of forced heat from the family room vent and the winter air, they  are a hazard Rosie remedies daily. She shoves her four fingers into her mouth and gives them a good, solid licking.

I am struck  at how this movement is so similar to how she’d help us put on our winter mittens as kids. The crisscrossed, colored yarn hanging from each sleeve became small circles she’d shove our 4 fingers in. Then, quickly, she’d usher us out to make a snow fort so she could get some peace. Today, I’m guessing her 4-fingered approach provides her with less comfort than an empty house did years ago. So, I intervene attempting a more conventional approach.

Mom, you want some lotion for your face? See that bottle right next to you?

She looks at me like I’m nuts.

In the quietest, most constant voice I can muster–I see you rubbing your face. It must hurt, Mom. I do the same circling motion on my face I’ve seen her do. See, mine is dry too, but this lotion helps.  I model for her, putting a small amount of Lubriderm in my hand and up to my face.

Noooo, I already did that. She deadpans me. I don’t need to do it again. No, you’re not going to tell me what to do. I don’t want to do that.


I turn away from her. Exasperated, I talk to the couch cushions that face me.

Well, then continue to basically lick your face, Mom. Pretty much feels like leather I am guessing.

Or shit–your face must feel like SHIT. I say that to myself in my head.  Fuck.

I am tired. Attempting to not get held captive by grief.

Crying in the car or shower is my typical mode of operation when my eyeballs cooperate. For a crier, I am not a slobbering mess. At all.  Instead, I have a refrain from Sia that I secretly belt out in my head:

I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard


To be a rubber band, it’s about the business of doing: wrestling compression socks onto Dad’s crusted, old-man feet, weigning him as his doctor instruced, handing the pills, the water, the glasses, doing the cooking. Helping Mom brush her teeth, crushing her pills, cajoling her back into the house. Just trying to get shit done.

I just do the doing.

I don’t have time for being.

Being sad. Being afraid. Being lonely.

Being anybody, but Joe and Rosie’s daughter. God, I never even realized this until I am typing these words.

With all this doing, my heart has been taking some tugging. Unlike the video with Shia and Sia, our cage isn’t some merry-go-round of failed relationships. It’s the damn Am-y-loid that’s holding us hostage over @ 1202 S. Patton.  Now, I’m no doctor, but isn’t it somewhat sad, almost twisted that BLOOP! This protein has penetrated Rosie’s brain and Joe’s heart?  As one of my sister’s said the other night, “We said goodbye to Mom long ago, but now dad’s sick? It’s too much.”

So, yea we gotta a bunch of elastic heart’s over here.

Thing is– Just. Not. Dad’s.

At some point or another each one of us kids has told our father about his heart.

Dad, stop getting so upset over stupid stuff or you’re going to have a heart attack. If that happens, we are REALLY screwed.

Oh, how the universe heard us.

I’m fucking useless.  Useless, I tell you. You’ve got two invalids in this house, Jodi. Two goddamn invalids.  

To which I politely respond, Dad, will you please stop saying that? All this negative self-talk. Jesus, if anyone wonders where I get it from.

This gloom and grief is bullshit. This watching our father catch his breath as if he’s just rounded the 18th hole is well, fucking maddening. Rosie with her decaying mind and Joe in a body that won’t cooperate; some days the heart is tugged too tightly.

But that grief, she better not come for me.

While doing the doing, I was sorting through mail and bills the other day and found two cards addressed to me.

sympathy card

At first, I read the words, without really reading. I just didn’t have time to be sad. To be missing my work family. To be grateful for thoughtful colleagues and friends.

But then, damnit. She came for me. That bitch, grief.

I sat there in the kitchen crying silently. My head down, cursing myself for being sad. For being lonely. For feeling inadequate. Like I can’t do enough. Like I can’t be enough. For them.

Fuck, what am I doing?

Then, I look up as Mom is rounding the bend into the kitchen.

She stops. And in the crispest Rosie voice she hands me my heart back.

I just want to say I’m glad you’re here because you’re one of my most favorite friends.

I smile.


I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard


AARP, alz, alzheimer's, mom, truth, Uncategorized

This Your 77th Year

moms-bday-cardMom wears Dad’s caramel colored fleece inside the house now.  Often I catch her looking down at the black zipper, mumbling something to it, and then up and down it goes a couple times.

“No, I can’t do it. It’s Mary Ann’s.” Or, “I’ll just roll the sleeves up a little like this,” she’ll say cuffing the each end of her jacket so the other two shirts she is wearing are exposed; one white, another brown. Oh, how she adores the color brown!

This brown fleece seems like no big deal, right? I mean it is winter in Chicago. With the thermostat at 70 degrees, it can be chilly. What makes her ensemble complicated is what happens when we try to go outside.

“C’mon, honey we are going to go for a ride. Let me help you put on this nice purple coat,” Dad says holding the coat at the collar, the two arms shrugging in mid-air.

“That’s not mine. I already have this one,” Mom points to her chest.

“Rose, you have to put this on because it’s cold outside. This is the coat that you love, honey,” Dad continues to hold out the coat as he circles Mom.

“I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to play these games with you,” Mom is more defiant now.

Dad lays the purple coat on top of the couch and walks into the kitchen.

Two minutes later, he’s back to try again. Likely, she will have forgotten that she doesn’t want to put on the purple coat. Groundhog Day. All day. Everyday. Fun and games.

“C’mon Rose, let’s put on your coat. We are going for a ride,” Dad tries again. The power of perseverance!

“Oh, I’d love to get out of this house. Ok, I can do this. I know how to do it,” Mom coaches herself through the process. Yep, her left arm finds the arm hole just fine. The right one takes a bit more time as she bends her arm in search of the hole. Dad shakes the coat a tad to help her put it on. Mom’s chin meets her chest, as she stares down at the bottom of her jacket before each hand dotted with age spots, pushes each side of the coat together.

Toe to toe now, Dad’s salt and pepper crown just inches away from Rosie’s bowed and greasy head. He starts the zipper for Mom.

“I know how to do this,” she reminds him.

“Well, I know you do. I am just helping you, honey,” Dad says with a smile.

I’m outside now, walking in front, ready to open the car door for Mom. Ready to coax her inside.

It’s days before Christmas and we are running to Thuringer Meats to order a sirloin tip roast and a ham. Inside the store, Mom walks right over to a package of cookies whose acquaintance she’d like to make.  Dad redirects her. I get busy placing the order so we can make a quick getaway.

Alzheimer’s makes small tasks a bitch and half, as Dad would say.

The wind is biting as I watch Mom shuffle her feet to the car.

“Come this way, Mom. Let me help you into the car,” I say.

The three of us settle in. Then, I change my mind.

“Dad, you know what? I think I am going to go back and buy you some fish for dinner. We can try it tonight. Just wait in the car with Mom.”

Purchase made. I open the car door and before I can close the door, Mom speaks to me.


“Ohhhh, hi Jodi,” Mom sings with all the life and twang reminiscent of her old phone message days.

“Hi, Mom,” I say super perplexed.

I am stunned.

“Dad, Did you just tell Mom my name when I was inside?”

I mean–I have to accuse him of playing the name game as he sometimes does. Which, if I am being honest, typically turns into a sad trip down I-don’t-know-lane.

“Nope. I didn’t tell her. I swear.”

For that split second, I was transported back in time. To a time where Mom was my Mom. Where she knew who I was. Maybe who she was. Who we were to each other. Now that might be a leap, but in my heart and mind, I have to believe.

It’s ironic how insignificant a name might seem until it is never repeated by those who love you. 

And then poof! The light and life are gone in an instant. Mom’s back to mumbling about how the kids are tripping her, calling her fatso.

It’s like the phone’s been disconnected, but I am still holding the receiver.

As we make our way back to 1202 S. Patton..I am thinking. How can I get that feeling back? So I go searching in the basement. I don’t know what I am exactly looking for, but finding old pieces of Mom makes me feel better. I pick through a couple shoe boxes where I stumble upon an envelope.envelope-for-mom

Why did I write to Mom in New Hampshire? I think as I take the card from the envelope. I stand there in the basement play room and read. I read the card a couple times. I am taken by the last line of the card. I bolt upstairs. I find dad at the kitchen table, cursing his pile of paper; while searching for his glasses.

I hand the card to Dad.

“Just read it,” I say.

An excerpt from her 60th birthday reads:

I cherish your friendship, I wonder at your selflessness and am moved by your commitment to our family. Thank you for being a wonderful example of a mother. I look forward to the years to come. I only hope I can show you the care and nurturing that you have shown me. 
I love you,

Dad closes the card.

“Well, you are sure doing that now, kid. Caring for her now. Jesus. It’s unbelievable,” he shakes his head.

“Fuck, it’s like I knew even then. It’s such bullshit, you know?”

“You better keep this card, Jod. To remember,” Dad hands the card back to me.

We often joke about how Mom might think she’s at a restaurant, a variety of her children, the waitresses and waiters giving her milk, a cookie, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as she sits unexpectedly on the couch.

Then, though I think about how the simple act of serving our mother allows each of us to feel some sort of connection and closeness that has long since passed. In small acts, we are repaying the unconditional love and care she gave all of us for so many years.

On this, you’re 77th year, Rosie Sebastian Arndt know you have so many who continue to love and care for you. Love you, Mom.





AARP, alz, memoir, mom, truth, Uncategorized

Listen up, Girl!

mom-and-i-with-goggles-thanksgivingI grab my winter coat off the kitchen chair, stuffing my left arm in first, but my arm gets caught in the lining that has torn. I always forget this coat is a hot mess. I pull out my arm only to try it all again. Same result. I am the one-armed woman. How can I not figure this out? Fuck. Simple tasks are lost on me! Finally. I grab dad’s keys, say the obligatory, “Dad, I’ll be back in a couple hours, ok?” And back out of the driveway.

Puffs of exhaust from cars along Arlington Heights Road punctuate the winter air. Pairs of red brake lights parade on down the Kennedy from before Nagle on through my West Loop exit. I occupy myself with creating a chorus of curse words strung together in the most Jodiest of ways. What-the… You-piece-of.. Are-you-fucking-kidding?  Oh, you best believe I cursed myself too. That is something I do quite well–the cursing of self. Now, an amateur at the art that is Chicago traffic, my ability to remain composed while enduring a barrage of brake lights has waned.

Inching off the exit at Jackson, my nerves–shot. My hands look like two fist fulls of lower case “C’s”  from clenching the steering wheel so hard. Without even directing my eyes towards the heavens, I spy a spot on Washington. Can I fit? I square up parallel to the Audi, but in the rearview mirror, I notice this gaping hole I failed to see previously. How did I miss such a monstrosity? Something is telling me to leave it alone, not to try it. This is NOT a good idea says the voice in my head. BUT I could try it? Blocking a lane of traffic now, I can see the man behind me is losing it, so I circle the block in hopes of a better option.

I will find a parking spot. I will find a parking spot. Please God, let me find a parking spot.

Shocker, I don’t. But that one spot. It’s still there. A bit challenging, but..

For some reason, at this section of the street, the black asphalt is almost gleaming. Here, there aren’t rings and webs of salt that form to make little pictures like other spots on Washington.  Plus, at the height of rush hour, there are no cars lining up to give me the finger as I decide what to do.

Something is off. Not right. Odd.

But I need to get on with it. I think.

Yea, but wait. That hole is too much for you to maneuver.

What do you know? You’re just my head and heart. Shut it. 

Fuck. You need to listen to me. The hole. It’s much too big. You won’t make it out. 

I turn the wheel. Put the car in reverse. My hands are sweating. My left tire does a quarter turn. Ever so slowly I begin to back up.

Into the hole, I fall. I am in slow motion now. Watching myself through the glare in the window. I am perpendicular to the hole now. Free falling. There is no scream. There are no tears. I pass concrete slabs, rows of steel beams before I sit underneath Washington Street staring out my cracked windshield.

I reach for the glovebox. I’ll need my insurance, I think. Where’s my phone? I need to call 911. Maybe I’m hurt?

Why didn’t you listen? 

Here we go again. 

Seriously, why? I was trying to help you.

I. Don’t. Know.

Then, the tears come and my clock alarm sounds.

I bolt awake. My face is hot and wet. It’s still dark outside. I look across the upstairs hallway and see the bottom of Rosie’s gym shoes ontop the bed.

“It’s so cold. I don’t want to go downstairs,” she says to Dad.

“Ok, honey lay back in bed. Here you go,” Dad turns her around and covers her with the comforter.

I wait till Dad goes downstairs before I walk over to her.

“Do you mind if I lay with you a bit?” I ask.

“Sure, you can lay with me. That’s ok,” she crosses her arms and stares at the ceiling.

I close my eyes, but can’t stop thinking about the hole in my dream. How many mistakes I’ve made by not listening to myself? Swallowing my intuition. Ear muffs to the the messages of the universe? As I’ve gotten older, those mistakes have become more costly–in all ways imaginable.

Recently, the decision to NOT listen to myself has really fucked me over. While I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, I ain’t no dummy either, but then I am? Shit.

Laying with Mom this morning, I was thinking.. God, Mom please allow some of your old school wisdom permeate my soul. Somehow, someway help me be the best version of myself. A woman we’d both be proud of because right now, I need me some Rosie.



AARP, alz, memoir, mom, Uncategorized

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.