Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sailors and San Diego

One of the strangest things about dementia is that while Grandma can't remember 30 seconds ago, she can clearly recall World War II. "San Diego" seems to be the trigger that launches her onto this story. So, with Southern California floods making headlines she has been talking a lot about her time at the naval base.

The other day at dinner she mentioned living in San Diego for six months while my grandpa served in the Navy. She worked on the base as a switchboard operator in the hospital.

In her words, "I was lucky to get the job, but I had worked at the telephone company back home. The switchboards used to be on the top floor, but they had to be moved to the basement to protect them. Can you imagine that? In the basement! It was a nice building and we were stuck in the basement! You had to watch out for the rats! They had a bar under the table to put your feet on. So the rats wouldn't get you! And when you got off the tram the sailors would whistle when you walked by. I used to laugh. You know how those damn sailors are. Oh, you would have liked it on the base."

Grandma's Book Club

I've been thinking of starting a semi-regular feature here on the blog, Grandma's Book Club. Grandma is always telling me, "I gotta lotta books. You need anything to read?"

She does have a lot of books and she's always liked to read. When I was in college Grandma recommended an old thriller about a talking dolphin that also served as a spy for the U.S. government and helped to uncover Soviet nuclear secrets. So since then, I've been a little wary of her book picks.

I also wonder how her reading habits are today. My guess is that she reads the same pages/chapters/books over and over. OR, that she is reading random parts of several books and is somehow splicing the plots together into some unique hybrid story.

Tonight Grandma is reading "The Guest List" by Fern Michaels. The plot sounds like a standard romantic comedy with the supernatural addition of ghostly advice from the heroine's deceased mother. But this is what has really captured Grandma's attention. She comes out of her room into the kitchen laughing all the way. By the time she gets to me, she is doubled over! "Listen to this!" She begins to read a short passage, but this is what really has set her off:

"I climbed that damn spiky fence of yours. I'm lucky to still have my balls!"

She's still doubled over laughing and can barely speak. "Balls! I haven't heard that in years! I always knew men talked like that, but I haven't heard anyone say that in years. HA! Balls! That is hot stuff!"

According to the back cover, the gentleman lucky to have his balls is "sexy, love 'em and leave 'em Cajun playboy, Paul Brouillette."

So there is your first book recommendation from Grandma, a Cajun romance with liberal use of the word balls. Happy reading, everyone!

Holiday Lights

Sometimes I try to imagine how it must be in Grandma's mind. When she is not confused, I think it could be a pretty zen-like state. Her memory is so bad that she lives almost totally in the present. Everything is fresh and new to her.

For example, today I took her out to McDonald's courtesy of Middle Bro's gift card to her. She was super excited to get it in the mail, so much so that she carried it around the house all evening. I had to keep tabs on her to make sure it didn't end up lost in one of her mysterious hiding spots. Anyway, on our way to Mickey D's, she saw the Christmas lights by the local churches. "Oooh, look at the lights! How nice! Oh, look at the colors on that one. Isn't that lovely."

On the way home, barely 45 minutes later, she had the exact same reaction of wonder.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Never Heard of It! Volume 5

Grandma's mind is continually blown by the modern world, but lately her claims of "Never heard of it!" are getting a little harder to believe.

A recent sampling:

After seeing the word "brainiac" in a headline, "Brainiac? Never heard of it! I never saw such a word."

Upon seeing me drinking a Fuze drink, "Fuzz? Never heard of it!"

Watching me make a tofu stir-fry, "What is that cheese? Tofu? Never heard of it!"

Trying a slice of mushroom pizza, "I like mushrooms, but on pizza? Never heard of it!" Really? How has she never seen a vegetable on a pizza?

On sour cream and onion potato chips, "Sour cream and onion? Never heard of it!" This one is especially strange because 1. I've seen her eat them before and 2. Dad and Aunt Dee report that these were always a favorite snack of hers. It's tough to tell if she's really never heard of all these exotic things or if the dementia is erasing more from her memory. Sigh....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Harrison Ford

Lately Grandma has been isolating herself. She doesn't really go out or call anyone. So, I've decided to send Christmas cards in an effort to make her more social and keep her connected. I hung up some decorations and put on the Christmas Music Choice channel to get her in a festive spirit. It was working! She likes all the decorations and was even singing along to some of the songs. For a little while. Then she goes, with quite a bit of urgency, "This is nice, but my favorite actor is on."

"Who's that, Grandma?"
She is already grabbing for the remote. "Harrison Ford, oh, I like him."

Nothing says holiday spirit like "The Fugitive."


Following "The Fugitive" is "Air Force One." Of course Grandma is watching this, too!

"Two Harrison Ford movies in a row? Aren't you lucky, Grandma!"

"Oh yeah, I always liked him."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Tis the Season!

I bought a wreath for our door, to which Grandma said, "Isn't that lovely." I told her that we'd decorate for Christmas over the weekend and she said, "I have to find all my ornaments and decorations. I used to have a lot of nice ones from my mother. Aunt Dee took them."

"When did she take them, Grandma?"

"You know, over the years."

Lifelong criminal, that Aunt Dee.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fat Chance

Even before her 18 pound weight loss, Grandma might have been a little size-ist. But now she's gotten a lot more vocal about it. She spots an ad for The Biggest Loser and starts laughing and pointing! "Look at the fatsos! Ha! I never saw such a thing!"

I start laughing at her reaction.

"What's so funny?"

"Did you just call them fatsos, Grandma?"

"No, I said fat tubs. Did you see them? You should've seen them! Fat tubs! Oh, I never saw such a thing!"

A Typical Exchange

"Are they taking out the garbage tomorrow or are they only picking up once a week?"

"It's Tuesday. They pick up today and Friday."

"I thought they were changing it to once a week."


"Are they picking up tomorrow?"

"It's Tuesday, they already picked up the garbage."

"Then why am I reading Monday's paper? Where's Tuesday's?"

"I don't know. I saw the papers this morning when I left."

"Maybe Aunt Dee took it....."

We also went over garbage pick-up days four times yesterday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Recipe Swipe

I made a batch of turkey tacos on Monday. This is a bit too spicy (ethnic) for Grandma's palate, so I've had the leftovers all for myself. This means that every time I've heated them up we've had some variation of this conversation:

"What are you making?"
"Turkey tacos."
"What's a taco? Never heard of it!"

My favorite might have been tonight's, "I wouldn't know anything about tacos."

Then she spotted the apple pie my mom sent down. "Oh, what a nice pie. My mother used to make wonderful pies."
"What kind of pies?"
"Apple or lemon meringue, I'd help peel the apples or stir the lemon pudding on the stove. Or she'd make strudels or cakes. I used to have a lot of good recipes from her."
"What happened to them, Grandma?"
"Yeah, I wonder what happened to them....They must have just walked out of here."

What happened next was kind of funny. Naturally, Grandma's first instinct is to blame Aunt Dee for the missing recipes. With her track record of thievery, who wouldn't? But, Grandma seems to remember that Aunt Dee doesn't cook. So now she tries to reconcile these two facts in her brain. She works through it by mumbling to herself, "She don't cook, why would she take them? Oooooh, I think she said her husband cooks. I bet she took them for him! I'm gonna ask him how he likes my recipes. Ha!"

Case closed!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Treats

I bought some doughnuts for Grandma on Monday night. There were eight in the box and she has already eaten six of them! They were on sale this week, so I may need to stock up for her. It seems they will do in a pinch when she is on the hunt for "a nice piece of cake."

I also bought some eggnog because I like to mix it into my gingerbread tea. (Sidebar, try that combo. It is a seriously delicious holiday treat!). So I bought the eggnog on Monday, but didn't have any until Wednesday night. I go to the fridge and the quart is already half gone! This is the real, full fat eggnog, it is really too rich to be drinking by the glass. Grandma must have been chugging away at it, maybe dipping her six doughnuts into it!

Hopefully these new additions to the kitchen will help Grandma put on some weight. She lost 18 pounds, you know.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ab Fab

People Magazine just announced Ryan Reynolds as this year's Sexiest Man Alive. It's been on the news a lot and so have his famous abs.

I think Grandma has a new crush!

She was watching the local news which cut to a shirtless pic of Ryan. I hear her whisper to herself, "Oh my gosh!" They cut back to the hosts, then back to Ryan and his abs. Same reaction. "Oh my gosh!"

But really, can you blame her?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A New Tactic

Lately I've been feeling a little guilty for getting impatient with Grandma. Today I came up with a new strategy that, if nothing else, amuses me and keeps me in better spirits.

My dad and I are in the living room when Grandma stomps out of the bathroom. She's at the beginning of one of her usual rants, "When I get more energy I'm gonna go out and buy a new bath mat. I used to have a real nice one and..."

And this is one my brilliant idea hits. I interrupt her. "What happened to your bath mat, Grandma?"

I've cut her off mid-rant, so she is a little disoriented. "What? I didn't hear you."

Out of the corner of my eye I can see my dad cracking up. I try to maintain my composure. I say it again, extra sweetly and innocently, "I said, 'What happened to your bath mat, Grandma?'"

"My darling daughter took it!" Dad and I are in complete hysterics! "She comes in! She sees something she wants, she takes it! I don't mind if she borrows it, but bring it back!"

Grandma sees us laughing. I'm sure she has know idea why we are, but she starts laughing too. My dad asks her, "What else has Dee been taking?"

"Oh, I can't even remember all the things..."

Funny you should mention that Grandma, I just might have a record of stolen items....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Where Are Your Slippers?"

As we saw in Grandma's Greatest Hits, Grandma does not approve of bare feet, even in the comfort of your own home. She is always wearing slippers. Slippers were always a good go-to Christmas gift for her, so she should have at least a dozen pairs around the house. Lately though, she has been wearing these raggedy plastic Chinatown slippers. They're falling apart and don't even seem to fit Grandma, especially when she has socks on. I don't know where she found these. If I didn't know better, I would suspect she pulled them from someone's trash off the curb. Clearly Aunt Dee must have taken all of her higher quality slippers!

Grandma is in luck though! A friend of mine has had some slipper mishaps of her own. The company keeps sending her the wrong size, but said she could keep the extra pairs. Knowing how much Grandma loves slippers, she very generously offered a pair to Grandma. These things look like the Cadillac of slippers! Grandma is going to freak when she gets these little booties! Once we have the new slippers, I'll be throwing away the ratty Chinatown ones. I'll just say Aunt Dee took them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Say Cheese!

Here's a fun new trend in the house. I've been finding half-opened slices of American cheese that Grandma is leaving around. One was by the stove. Maybe she thought about adding it to whatever she was making? That almost makes sense. But, the second piece of cheese, this one defies all logic. The second abandoned slice was in the paper tray of my printer. What the what? How? Why? What?

I'll keep you posted if this continues....

**More stolen items**
Rock salt (Grandma is thinking ahead for winter)

Grandma's Greatest Hits

Sometimes living with Grandma feels like I am stuck in Groundhog Day. It's the same thing over and over again. I try to be patient, but really how many times can you answer a question about the bus schedules? It's boring the first time, imagine how it is the 22nd time. You start off engaged, but your answers get more terse with each repetition. My best friend suggested recording answers so I could just playback a tape. To give you a clearer idea of life with Grandma, here are some of her favorite topics of conversation:

*Seeing Alice's son*
At least once a week Grandma brings up how she ran into her friend's son, my dad's childhood friend, just the other day. In reality, she saw him sometime back in March. I feel like we should tell him that Grandma has such positive and lasting feelings for him.

*Bus schedules and bus fare*
"You have the schedule? What do they charge now? $2.25! It used to be a nickel, but that was when we had the trolleys."

*Train schedules and train fare*
"How much does it cost to go to the city? $6! I used to get a monthly commutation for that! Oh, but I haven't been down there in a while."

*Is Aunt Dee away?*
We all know how wily Aunt Dee is, so you can't really blame Grandma for having trouble keeping tabs on her. What's really sad about this is that Grandma will ask where Aunt Dee is days or even hours after Aunt Dee has taken her out to eat. Of course that could also be because Grandma has a habit of guzzling rather than sipping her glass of wine....

*Tofu? Never heard of it! What's that made of? Soybeans?*
"Never heard of it" is the response a lot of my food gets, even the things that I regularly make and Grandma regularly eats.

*Where'd you get such a big frying pan? I never saw such a thing. It would make a good weapon.*
Every. Single. Time.

*Do Middle Bro and Little Bro live together?*
I'm not sure where she came up with this one. My brothers have never lived together as adults.

*Where are your slippers?*
Grandma is really, really against bare feet.

*I could use a nice piece of cake*
This usually launches Grandma on a discussion of all the bakeries that used to be in the neighborhood.

*How am I supposed to know?*
Grandma frequently pulls out the plug that controls our cable and internet, then complains that the TV doesn't work. This is even though I've repeatedly taped signs over the plug explaining what it does and why it cannot be unplugged. This also applies to when she puts metal in the microwave. Grandma will pull down the signs and say, "You don't need to tell me!"

*They're only picking up garbage once a week now?*
This was something the city threatened, but didn't go through with. Unfortunately, the proposed plan really resonated with Grandma.

*Look at how she hangs clothes! I'd tell her off, but she don't speak English.*
On our poor, hapless tenants and their shameful laundry efforts.

*Why is this light on? You should see my bill!*
Um, because it is dark out? Sometimes I call Grandma "Con Edison" when she's really worked up about the lights.

*I don't need a babysitter! I told her not to come back!*
This is Grandma's standard line about her health aide. I think she's just mad because her aide comes at 9 and Grandma prefers sleeping until 9:30 or 10.

*I'm too weak. I lost 18 pounds, you know.*
One of Grandma's sisters was recently in the hospital, so we had Grandma send a get well card. Not to be outdone, Grandma was sure to mention her weight loss in the card.

and of course, was there any doubt? Grandma's number one repeated phrase is....


**Recent Thefts**
Kitchen Timers
Dish Towels

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Ellen DeGeneres No!

Grandma is not pleased with Ellen's outfit today. "She looks like hell! She's on TV like that? In dungarees? With her shirt untucked? It's awful!"

**Recent Thefts**
paper towels

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cabinet of Wonders

After seven months, Grandma still seems pretty confused about the fact that I live with her. If I've been in my room for awhile she'll say, "Oh, I forgot you were here." When I was away over the summer she asked my dad where I was living. And when she finds my possessions in the kitchen, she always asks, "Is this yours?" and either leaves them out or hides them in random locations (a la the frying pan that went missing). She doesn't know where the items came from or if they're hers and doesn't want to put them away until that's been clarified. But remember, Grandma has no short term memory, so even when I tell her the stuff is mine, she doesn't process that.

So, I've been on a mission to clear out some shelf/cabinet space for my things. Grandma is a pack rat, so this has been quite an undertaking. When I first moved in, my dad and I set to work on the pantry. We threw out all the old items. Things started around 2007, farther back on the shelves we started seeing 2005 and 2004, 2002, 2001. Noodle and sauce mixes from 1999, 1994. Unopened salad dressings, and what we thought was the champion, baking soda from 1989. But, tucked in a corner of the pantry we found the gem pictured here. Kitchen Bouquet! Circa 1974! This prompted immediate texts to my brothers. Middle Bro asked, "What did it taste like?"
My reply, "Food poisoning? A hallucination? I ain't tasting that!" I did smell it, however. It was kind of stewy and had totally congealed. Interestingly, the ingredients had no chemicals and seemed pretty wholesome.

Today's project was the cabinets by the kitchen sink. These held vitamins and medicine. With her condition, Grandma is very much an "outta sight, outta mind" kind of girl. So, these were almost as old as the stuff in the pantry. All told, I had 25 bottles to recycle, plus a pretty substantial assortment of sample pills. The record for this cabinet was 1990, although I had one antique-y looking bottle with no dates. Check it out, and also note the 1970s style contact paper.

This was a pretty tedious job, but now I have two extra shelves to myself and a safe home for my travel mugs.

**Today's Stolen Items**
Dish towels

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat!

Grandma loves her sweets, but she loves novelty sweets even more! She frequently prowls the kitchen looking for "a nice piece of cake," so I picked up this spooky little one for her.

Grandma used to always buy holiday-themed frosted sugar cookies when my brothers and I were little, so I'm not sure why decorated treats are so surprising to her. She exclaimed, much like she did over the clown cupcake, "Isn't that cute! I never saw such a thing!" and gobbled it up for breakfast.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Never Feed After Midnight

Grandma has been refusing to go to the hair salon lately. Aunt Dee and my great-aunt have been trying for a few weeks to have her go, but she is pretty adamant. "I'm too tired! I don't have the energy! I lost 18 pounds, you know."

We try to tell her that she just has to sit there while they wash and set her hair and she could take a nap if she really had to, but Grandma is not having it. "What? It's not like I have a date or anything." Consequently, her hair is looking like a hot mess.

The other day she woke up to swat good-bye to Little Bro. Her hair was sticking out on the sides and straight up on top in a hugely impressive mohawk. So help me, all I could think of was this little Gremlin.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Little Bro and the Mystery of the Stolen Towels (and Bath Mat)

My youngest brother is visiting for the week. He's stopped by Grandma's and we're going out to dinner later. I had him surprise Grandma at the door. We could tell she was extra excited by all the swats that accompanied her hug. Little Bro has been living across the country and hasn't seen Grandma in over a year and a half. He does not know how pervasive Aunt Dee's criminal empire of thieves is!

I want to show him some pictures we just got of Grandma's sister and my grandpa in their World War II uniforms. When they are not immediately found, "Aunt Dee took them!" I remind Grandma that Aunt Dee is away and that I showed them to Dad the other day. "He took them!" Little Bro tries to tell Grandma she can't blame Aunt Dee for everything. Oh, Little Bro. You have so much to learn about how Grandma operates.

Little Bro wants to take a shower. Grandma, who still attempts to be a good hostess, starts looking for a towel for him. "I used to have a lot of towels, big towels, hand towels. Aunt Dee must have taken them. She took the bath mat, too! I'll hit her over the head with it!"

Little Bro is doubled over laughing! This is three thefts in less than 10 minutes!

"Next time I go to Macy's I'm gonna buy 6 towels and send Aunt Dee the bill!"

"When are you going to Macy's, Grandma?" Remember, she barely leaves the house.

"When I get the ambition and energy! And Aunt Dee can pay the bill!"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall Fling

Grandma has been in a frisky mood lately! While policing the house for unattended lights she spots that I have left my bedroom light on.

She shuffles over to me in the kitchen, very slyly, "Is your boyfriend waiting in the bedroom?"

"Huh, what boyfriend?"

"Then why is the light on?! Turn off the lights! You should see my electric bill!"


Today she made another comment about a boyfriend. "What boyfriend? Do you know someone for me?"

"No, I gotta find one for myself!"

Grandma enjoys mysteries, crossword puzzles, recycling, cheeseburgers, pizza, and repeating herself. If you know any eligible nonagenarians, send them her way!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

One of the first jokes we learn is some variation of "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?" According to Wikipedia, this was printed in The Knickerbocker magazine as early as 1847 and was most likely in common use by the 1890s. Rubber chickens are a typical gag prop and "The Chicken Dance" often serves as background music for silliness. For whatever reason, chickens seem to have a special place in comedy. I don't get the humor, but Grandma totally does!

A couple of weeks ago, Grandma was watching the news and cracking up. "Look at this! Oh, I never!"

The story was about the growing trend of people keeping their own chickens and using the eggs. Grandma is finding this totally hilarious.

"Chickens! As pets! In the backyard! Ha!"

Every squawk and cluck makes her laugh even more. I'm not sure why this is funny, but I try to keep the hilarity going. I tell her that one of her nieces and her family keep four chickens in their garage.

"In the garage? Ha! You don't say!"

"Yeah, they have a little coop that connects to the garage. I helped them collect the eggs when I went to visit."

"Get out of town!"

She's still laughing as if this is the funniest thing ever! As if these chickens have suddenly started performing like Gonzo's beloved show-chicken, Camila. I don't get it. At all.

And then she becomes nostalgic, "Oh, sure. It's good to have your own eggs. My mother used to keep chickens."

"When you were little or when she was little?"

"When I was a kid, we had one backyard, and then you went up a set of stairs to another yard and she kept the chickens there. Oh yeah, that was funny. Chickens, ha!"

Today's Thefts
*The newspaper containing the obituary of Grandma's friend

All of these are recurring thefts and any tips are appreciated.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This Just In...

Grandma had the TV on and was watching some pre or post football game wrap-up.

"You like football, Grandma?"

"I'm not watching football. This is the evening news."

Of course it is. The merits of Michael Vick and the new and improved St. Louis Rams will always make up the bulk of a national news broadcast. Sigh...

A New Low

Aunt Dee's latest theft might be a record low in terms of both the worthlessness and randomness of the item. So what did she take this time?

A box of Saltines. Unsalted Saltines, as Grandma is quick to clarify.

"I always have a big box of unsalted Saltines." [Note: Not in the six months that I've been here.] "I don't know where it went. Aunt Dee must have taken them. She can get her own!"

Yeah, get your own unsalted Saltines, Aunt Dee!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Comedy Central

I'm dusting one of Grandma's fake plants. It's about five feet tall and at least 25 years old. Who knows the last time it's been dusted. It seems to have a never-ending amount of leaves and they all have a solid layer of dust that I'm trying to vanquish.

I'm pretty over this stupid plant and say to Grandma, "You need to take a hose to this thing!"

She replies, "Yeah, I keep forgetting to water it."

Uh oh. This is really bad. Does Grandma really think this plastic monstrosity and dust factory is a living plant? Is that a vision problem or a dementia problem? I look over at Grandma, in her usual spot on the couch. She has a mischievous grin and is practically convulsing trying to keep a straight face! I start laughing, then she starts laughing.

"Dad, did you hear this comedian? Tell him your joke, Grandma."

Grandma is cracking herself up. She can't even repeat her punchline.

"Tell him what you said. It was funny."

Somehow this encouragement gets me a swat for being fresh, which only makes her laugh more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Drink Up

I'm sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a Fuze Peach Mango, when Grandma walks in.

"Fuze? Never heard of it! Is that a drink?"

"It's juice, but would probably taste good with rum in it."

"Ooooh! Too bad I don't have any rum. We used to have a lot of stuff. Scotch, rum, whiskey, wine. Yeah, Grandpa liked to have a drink every now and then."

"What about you, Grandma? What was your drink?"

She starts giggling. "Oh, I was a cheap date! I'd have one drink and sip it all night. There used to be a tavern across the street. Grandpa would help out there after he retired. They had a trio play on Saturday nights and they would have lots of nice parties, especially New Years Eve. Yeah, that was nice."

Soon Grandma is giving me a rundown of all the bars that used to be in the neighborhood and the families that owned them. One of the traits of Grandma's dementia is that she starts repeating herself and her stories circle around themselves. Within three minutes she is back to the part about Grandpa working at the tavern and one of the owner's sons being a police officer. She'll repeat both facts again before dinner is ready. Still, it is worth it to hear her giggles.


Keep Aunt Dee away from your tub! She has stolen our bathmat again!

All together now, "She sees something she wants and she just takes it! She's got money, she's got a car, she can get her own bathmat!"

Grandma added a new twist to her diatribe, "I gotta go pick up a new one. I can't wait for Aunt Dee to bring it back. Who knows when that'll be."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Battle Line

The upstairs tenants are at it again with their pathetic attempts at laundry!

Grandma is pissed! "I gotta tell them. In this neighborhood, we don't do the wash on Sundays!"
"It's Monday, Grandma."
"It is? Oh."

She calls me over to the window to scoff with her, "Look at how she hangs clothes! I only hang on the bottom line. She uses the top and the bottom."
"So? Everyone has a different style of hanging."
"But, it's my line, and it's old. If it breaks I'll boot her in the ass!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Music Man

I returned from a weekend away to a blaring TV. This is pretty normal, Grandma's hearing is not so good, possibly because she is always blasting the TV. Usually she is half-heartedly watching Maury or Law & Order and I can sneak the volume down whenever she leaves the room. But Sunday's programming was different. She had stumbled onto a PBS special featuring nine-year-old pianist Ethan Bortnick and his "musical time machine." Grandma was totally engaged with this little guy, watching about six inches from the TV. "Look at this! He's only nine years old. Oh, he's good!"

I'd never heard of this kid, but apparently he's been on The Tonight Show and the morning shows several times. His website features a video of him interviewing Quincy Jones. He described Gloria Gaynor as a close friend, and before she began "I Will Survive" she announced in a husky voice that Ethan plays the best arpeggio of anyone she's ever worked with.

Grandma is not normally a musical person. She never hums or whistles. She ignores when I put music channels on the television. All that I could tell you about her musical taste is that she likes "The Blue Danube." And yet, this little prodigy has totally captivated her. As PBS showed clips from the performance she was actually singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" softly to herself. Of course the show was punctuated with requests for money. If you donated $150 they were offering two tickets to an upcoming Ethan Bortnick performance. Grandma's response was, "$150? Yo! Cheap tickets, huh?" But beneath the shock over the price, I detected a note of wistfulness, like she really wanted to go and see the young pianist in person, and maybe even sing along.

Frying Pan Found!

The frying pan that vanished while I was away, presumably stolen by Aunt Dee, has been found! I'd looked in Grandma's usual hiding spots of the basement and the hallway closet, but no dice. The pan turned out to be in a semi-reasonable location for a kitchen item - in a cabinet under boxes of wax paper and foil. Hooray!

Of course Grandma had forgotten the frying pan ever existed, so she did not share in my joy at its return. She was back to her original commentary of, "I never saw such a big pan! Where did you get such a thing?"

Maybe Aunt Dee is turning away from her life of crime and mending her ways. Maybe more stolen items like the bath mat will start turning up!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Thief in Town!

Yesterday Grandma lost her glasses, so obviously, the first thing she did was complain that Aunt Dee stole them. Like most stolen goods, the glasses are not anything anyone would want. They're huge, thick things, probably from the '70s. I told Grandma Aunt Dee hadn't been over and clearly didn't take her glasses. Grandma remained suspicious.

She wondered if she'd left them at her friend's house, but then decided that her friend would have called. I wondered if she actually went to her friend's house since I haven't seen her go farther than the front porch in weeks.

So we are looking all over the house for the glasses. In her search Grandma finds a pair of my dad's reading glasses.
"Whose are these?"
"They're Dad's. He left them here."
"Why would he leave them here?" Something clicks in her brain. "He took my glasses and left this sh-t!"

Now Grandma is pissed!!! Both of her kids are dirty thieves! For once, Aunt Dee is innocent, so Grandma decides to call her because she's "frickin' mad!" While she's railing about my dad and him taking her huge '70s women's glasses for himself, I look in Grandma's room for the glasses. And there they are, mixed up in her bedspread.

When Grandma's items are found, she doesn't backtrack at all or apologize for any of her wild accusations. I hold up her glasses and she simply says, "Oh, there they are" and hangs up the phone.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Patience Is a Virtue...

But impatience is another symptom of dementia!

Witness what Grandma did to a box of tissues when she couldn't find the tab to open them.

When I questioned her on this attack she said, "Well how am I supposed to know?"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs

One of the symptoms of dementia is increased aggression or irritability. Grandma has always been feisty, so with the dementia she has irritability by the truckload! No one causes her more rage than the tenants upstairs. These poor people can do nothing right in Grandma's book.

For starters, they had the audacity and poor taste to name
their daughter Anna. For most people this name is not a problem, but for Grandma it is a huge affront and she keeps threatening to "set them straight" about it.

If it is loud upstairs, "It's 9:00 and they got their kid running around! And he drops his shoes on the floor! They need to get rugs! I'm gonna tell them and hit them over the head." If it is quiet upstairs, you think Grandma would be happy and relish in it. Oh no. She still has something to say. "I think they're not home. You think they'd tell me when they go away!"

The garbage is another sore spot. Grandma has a weird system where she has a large garbage can with a bag, but does not use it. She uses a small shopping bag on the back door OR a small shopping bag within the large bag that she transfers to the bag on the door. What? For some reason, Grandma obsesses over the amount of garbage the tenants put out. I'm not sure why this is an issue, the city collects it twice a week. She has decided that the tenants both work at a supermarket (dubious information at best) and that they sneak garbage home!
"Grandma, why would they bring home garbage?"
"Because! The supermarket has to pay for pick up and it's free here."
I don't know where she came up with this theory or see any logic behind it. The supermarket is a large chain. I'm sure they can handle their sanitation fees. Plus, the "extra" garbage the tenants put on the curb is typically about two bags. How much garbage could they really be smuggling home? And why would they do that anyway?

Perhaps predictably, the tenants incite the most wrath when they use the clothesline You know that Grandma is very particular about how clothes are hung. She has a system and expects everyone to adhere to it. The tenants' hanging skills are so bad that it's almost delightful. Half the time they don't even use clothespins, they just fold the clothes over the line! Which brings us to today's raging in the yard:
"I only do the wash on Mondays. They've got the whole week to do laundry!"
"It's Thursday, Grandma."
"Look at this! You can't hang like that! It'll never dry. You can't put things on the top and bottom line. They're gonna wear out my line! It's old!"
"Dad just bought you a new line."
"Well, I don't mind if they use my line, but they need to stop abusing it! I can't even say anything to her. She don't speak English."

And for that language barrier, thank God!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sweet Talk

Grandma has been driving me a little crazy lately. In addition to all the normal absurdities and repetitions, some of her new activities include putting foil in the microwave and taking apart the stove. Do you know what happens when you put foil in the microwave? It goes up in flames!!! But, thanks to Grandma's tinkering with the stove I now know how to put a gas burner back in place. That's gotta be a useful skill, right?

Luckily for Grandma, she can be very cute. Spend any amount of time with Grandma and you will know that she's lost a lot of weight, 18 pounds to be exact. She tells everyone she sees, every day. Relatives, neighbors, doctors, hairdressers, waiters. She started telling our handyman, "I lost a lot of weight, you know."
And he could finish her sentence! "18 pounds, right?"

We're trying to get Grandma to eat more and her sweet tooth is often the easiest way to do it. I brought home some cupcakes the other day and they were a hit. One was red velvet. At first it got a big fat "Never heard of it!" but Grandma's curiosity and sweet tooth overpowered that uncertainty. She quickly changed her tune to, "Oh, that's good." The second cupcake was a simple yellow cake with buttercream frosting, but it had the bonus of a little clown face made of sugar. Grandma could not handle it! She kept chuckling, "I never saw something so cute! Where'd you get it?" She did this three times in a row, so clearly it was very exciting.

The cupcakes are gone, so I brought home a tin of chocolate truffles. Grandma found them on the table after her nap. "What are these?"
"Oh, I bought them for you. They're chocolates."
"For me?"
"You like chocolate, right?"
"I love candy!"

Grandma usually expresses all emotion in swats and pats. Some are affectionate, some are because you're being fresh, some are because you just happen to be within swatting range. So what she did next was very unexpected. She gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, "Well thank you. I really appreciate it."

Wax on, wax off

Grandma is cracking herself up! Today she was reading an article about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. Her article included a list of other businesses in the area and this is where it gets fun.

She reads aloud, "And 17 separate salons where girls can get their lady parts groomed."

"Ha! I didn't even know there was such a thing! This is hot stuff!"

Let's all hope she forgets this article before her next visit to the hair salon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Never Heard of It! volume 4

The other day I made a very healthy and delicious dinner of basil flavored couscous, zucchini, tomatoes, and mozzarella. As usual, Grandma is very suspicious of any activity in the kitchen. She's watching me chop things and heat up the couscous.

"What are you making?"

I figured saying "couscous" would be a total lost cause, clearly something that would fall swiftly into the category of "Never Heard of It!" So, I thought I'd fudge things a bit and put it in terms she'd understand, like when I called risotto Rice-a-Roni. I decided couscous, in Grandma-friendly terms, should be called pasta salad.

"Pasta salad? Never heard of it!"

What? How has she never heard of pasta salad? It's a staple of picnics! There are a million varieties! How can something like pasta salad get such a resounding "Never heard of it!"?

As usual, this scene repeats itself five minutes later.

"Pasta salad? Never heard of it!"

This time around I am feeling a little sassy, and frankly, impatient. "You never heard of pasta salad? You need to get out more!"

This gets me some swats and a "Oooh! You're fresh!"

Grandma turned out to be quite a fan of this mysterious "pasta salad" though. She went back for seconds and then ate the rest of the leftovers in the pan.

On to a more serious topic...

Recent Thefts:
oven mitts
my frying pan

These are pretty interesting things for Aunt Dee to steal because she doesn't cook! Ever! What's extra frustrating though, when I asked Grandma what happened to my frying pan, the extra large one that she always, always comments on, she said, "A large frying pan? Well I never saw one. Aunt Dee must have taken it."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Never Heard of It! volume 3

Yesterday I was getting ready to go out.

"Where you going?"
"Out to dinner with some friends."
"That's nice. What are you gonna have?"
"Japanese food, sushi."
"Never heard of it! What's that like?"
"You probably won't like it. It's rice..."
"And raw fish."

Seriously folks, this is maybe the loudest I've ever heard Grandma! She physically recoiled at the mention of raw fish and jumped about three feet away. Then she proceeded to walk back and forth through the kitchen as if she had to get away from this horrible image of raw, stinking fish.

"Oh, golly! Raw fish?!?! That is not for me!!! Ugh!"

On top of me grossing her out with tales of sushi, poor Grandma has had to deal with more thefts. She kept moving the hammock stand, which means that the pieces dislodge and the whole thing falls apart. So, I moved the pieces into the basement so they wouldn't get rusty while I was traveling. Today Grandma says very gravely, "I have that nice hammock to use, but Aunt Dee stole the stand!"

This is one of the saddest parts of dementia. There's often times where Grandma's logic and reason are just gone, but she's still got plenty of righteous anger to let out. Why would Aunt Dee steal the hammock stand, but not the hammock? She doesn't even have a backyard! These things don't occur to Grandma. For some reason her mind has locked on to the idea that my aunt steals things and that's how it is. So give us back our hammock stand!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jersey Shore!

Today was Grandma's first introduction to the lovable Guidos and Guidettes of Jersey Shore. The front page of the Daily News had a headline of "Snooki Gets Busted." Grandma's response? "Who the hell is Snooki?" I explain that she's on a TV show about the Jersey Shore. "Oh, I used to go to the shore every summer."
"I know you did. You used to take us."
"I liked that. If I had a car, we'd go down to the beach. Wouldn't that be nice?"

Grandma flips to the article to see what kind of trouble Snooki has gotten herself into. Much like she does while watching Maury, Grandma is chuckling at the trash-tastic spectacle. She reads the most interesting parts of the article out loud for my benefit. "She was wearing a t-shirt that said slut. S-L-U-T. Can you imagine?" and "'Disheveled in a garish miniskirt that was tighter than sausage casing.' Ha!"

According to the article, Snooki had been drinking from Thursday night until she passed out on Friday afternoon. Grandma's verdict? "What a jerk! Someone should have hit her over the head!"

Fist pumps to Grandma!

She was clearly entertained by Snooki, so I'm wondering if I should add Jersey Shore to our TV viewing schedule? I'm not sure if she'd be deeply offended or like it as much as she likes Maury!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home?

I've been traveling for about three weeks and am heading home tonight. I tried to call Grandma a few times, but most of my calls woke her up or disturbed her visit with the minister and his wife. She seemed pretty irritated, so I figured I'd just see her when I got back.

A quick check in with my dad revealed that since I've been gone:
Grandma has forgotten that I live there!

And, more importantly:
Aunt Dee continues to be stealing the bath mat!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Name Game

As we have seen, Grandma is not shy about sharing her opinions. One of the things she is most passionate about is names.

The tenants upstairs (Polish immigrants) have a two year old daughter. They named her Anna and Grandma has been railing about it since the poor girl was born. "What a horrible name! How can they call her that? I'm going to say something to them." My aunt and I try to remind her that it's not her baby so she really has no say in the matter. Besides that, what's wrong with the name Anna anyway? "I used to walk the kids to school and there was a girl named Anna. The boys used to tease her. Anna Banana they'd call her and she would cry and cry!"

This story is a little time capsule in a lot of ways. One, it dates from the 1950s when my dad and Aunt Dee would have been in grade school, yet Grandma remembers it distinctly and tells it at least once a week. Two, I have a cousin named Anna. (This is on the other side of the family. There's no way Grandma would have let one of her kin be named Anna without a fight). We've always called her "Anna Banana" as a term of endearment. It's a cute name and a cute nickname. Three, if "Anna Banana" were such a horrible taunt, I wonder how Grandma would respond to the things I hear at school these days. I imagine a lot of kids would be getting smacks from Grandma!

It doesn't stop with Anna though. Reading about the top 10 names of 2009, Grandma had this to say about Jacob, the number one name for boys 11 years running, "I don't think that's such a hot name." Isabella tops the girls' list, "I don't care for that. Isabelle, maybe, but not Isabella." At number two is Emma. "That's a stupid name. My sister was Emma, but she changed it to Emily." She's equally baffled and disgusted by other names in the top ten like Jayden ("Never heard of it!"), Madison ("For a girl?"), Sophia ("I never liked that"), and Mia ("What kind of a name is that?").

If she has trouble with such common fare as Emma, Jacob, Anna, and Isabella, maybe you can already imagine Grandma's reaction to a photo of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale with their boys, Kingston and Zuma. "Kingston and Zuma? Z-U-M-A. Where do they come up with these names? What a bunch of jerks!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Define Irony

Irony: an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

Examples, after coming home from a long weekend in DC things were all topsy turvy in Grandma's house! There was a huge wet spot on the rug outside the kitchen. "Grandma, what happened here?"

"Well...." she begins with a smile, "the hose for the washing machine was not attached to the sink all the way and it fell off! It was quite a mess!"

Excuse me? The queen of all things laundry had a laundry mishap? And this must have been a pretty huge adventure since the stain on the carpet is a good 12 feet from the sink!

I went back to my room. Since we're in the middle of a heatwave the first thing I do is turn on my super fan. Except, it's gone. It's not in the kitchen. It's not in the living room. It's in Grandma's room. She stole it! She sees something she wants and she just takes it!

If laundry and stealing, two hallmarks of Grandma's existence, can get all flipped around in the five days I was away, I'm a little afraid to what I'll come back to after my upcoming 3 week vacation!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Trash TV

Grandma spends a lot of time watching TV. Her favorites are Law & Order and NCIS. She also enjoys Matlock. When she found out that we get TV Land and she could watch Bonanza reruns for two hours straight? Major joy!

But, Grandma has a secret weakness for trashy talk shows. She's always had a penchant for this kind of thing. When she used to take my brothers and I down to the shore, she'd gawk over the National Enquirer headlines as if they were irrefutable facts. Several afternoons I've come home to find her watching Tyra.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised over this staple of our mornings: Maury. I think her home health care aide might have introduced Grandma to Maury, but she loves it! It's a non-stop parade of screaming, crying, and paternity tests (followed by celebratory dances or sobbing breakdowns). Grandma sits there chuckling at the over-the-top antics and offers these words of wisdom to all Maury show guests, "They need to keep their pants zipped!"

Wile E. Coyotes

Recently our suburban county has had some coyote sightings and even attacks. This is definitely out of the ordinary, but Grandma is OBSESSED with it! After the first attack, she read the story in the paper to me. Three times! Grandma reads two newspapers every day. But, she also holds on to the paper for an extra day or two. We know she has trouble with what day it is, so these extra newspapers create a little confusion. She reads them over and over again. So the coyote story? It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Another favorite? This beauty from today's Daily News "Killer Raccoons in Central Park!"

Be careful out there, folks, the animals are going wild! At least you have the heads up from Grandma.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Fur Trade

A new twist in Aunt Dee's thieving ways...Naturally, Grandma accused her of stealing a lot of things today and threatened to hit her over the head next time she sees her. (She'll do it, too!)

Today's Stolen Items:
*beach chairs
*pill box
*everything in the basement

However, today Grandma must be feeling generous because she claims some things she found must have been brought over by Aunt Dee. I don't think I've ever seen this before! She never acknowledges all that my aunt does for her. Maybe we are turning a page in this crime-ridden saga.

So while Aunt Dee did make off with a pretty good haul today, she "left" three fur coats that Grandma claims never to have seen before! One of them appears to be bobcat or cheetah, which could be kind of fun this winter. Is fur still wrong to wear even if it is vintage?

**Some disclaimers**
I stole the pill box. Unfortunately, Grandma has been very confused about the date lately and her pills were all out of order. She takes nearly a dozen per day and it's a lot to keep track of. Days were half-finished or not touched at all or she would have the wrong day open. So, I've been putting her pills together every morning and just putting that out for her. But, I'll let Aunt Dee take the fall for the missing pill box.

Grandma insists that the basement is empty, when in fact it is full of stuff. I tried to tell her, "The basement is full of stuff" but she wasn't having it. "I was just in there! It's empty! Aunt Dee must have taken everything."

One of the fur coats (raccoon, I believe) is definitely Grandma's and she's probably had it since the 1950s.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

My father recently completed coursework to become a counselor for alcoholism and substance abuse. Tonight we went to his graduation ceremony with Aunt Dee and her husband, my Great-Aunt Ellie, and of course, Grandma.

Like most graduations, there were several speakers before the actual presentation of the graduates. Grandma was pretty confused today and didn't know why we were out or what we were doing, despite our repeated explanations. She had been lured out of the house with promises of dinner and she was NOT having all of these delays. By the second speaker Grandma started to mumble "I'm getting hungry! I don't eat this late!" "This late" being not even 7:00pm. I fished a cereal bar out of my bag and was able to appease her for a little bit (and also felt like the mother of a cranky toddler).

The speakers continued to file up to the podium. "Another one? When do we eat?"

The class representative moved to the mike and offered heartfelt advice based on his experience working with alcoholics and their families. "Is he still talking? Shut up, already!"

We tried to shush her and keep her patient. "I don't know what's taking so long!"

Finally, the graduates were called to the front of the room to receive their certificates.

Dinner is getting close. We're in the homestretch. It should be about five more minutes where Grandma needs to be kept calm. And then. As the graduates are being individually presented, the graduates who are now trained to treat alcoholism, in a hospital dedicated to fighting addictions, in a room full of people who have personal connections to alcoholism or are recovering alcoholics themselves, Grandma lets out this little bomb: "I could use a drink! That would pep me up!"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Number One Fan

It's getting a little hot in the house. You know why? Come on, one guess.

Because Aunt Dee stole our floor fan!

You can probably recite the rest of this conversation by now...

"I used to have a floor fan. I wonder what happened to it. Aunt Dee must have taken it. She sees something she wants and she takes it. I don't know why she can't buy her own!"

Luckily, my dad had bought us a new power fan to replace the "stolen" one. It's a good thing we have this one, 'cause we all know how heated Grandma gets over stolen goods.

UPDATE! Aunt Dee also stole the air conditioner.

Never Heard of It! volume 2

More culinary adventures for Grandma! I was making my favorite snack - crackers with pesto and mozzarella - when Grandma walked into the kitchen.

"What're you making?"
"Cheese and crackers with pesto."
"What's that? Never heard of it!"
"It's a spread of basil and garlic."

She ponders this new exotic item in our kitchen. Two seconds later...

"What're you making?"
"Cheese and crackers with pesto. You want one?"
"What the hell is pesto? I never heard of it!"
"It's a spread of basil and garlic."
"Well, how should I know that? I'm not Italian. Maybe if I was Italian I'd know."

The verdict? "That's nice."

I also bought some cashews. "I don't think I ever had a cashew...they're ok." Sometimes it feels a little bit like that old Saturday Night Live skit, "The Delicious Dish" where the NPR ladies present really bland and normal foods as the theme for the episode. On our next show...rice.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

FIFA Fever!

I put on the end of the Germany v. Australia match and Grandma is LOVING it. She seems to be completely amused and amazed by soccer. "They use their heads! One of them is wearing red slippers! Red slippers, can you imagine?"

I see many more games in our future!


The heat is on and Grandma and I are ready for summer. As we get the backyard set, looking forward to a lazy season of grilling and lounging in the hammock, a dark cloud passes over our preparations. Aunt Dee has been at it again!

Summer Things Aunt Dee Has Stolen:

Beach chairs

When will Aunt Dee ever learn? She needs to buy her own ketchup!

*The appearance of my hammock prompted Grandma to say, "I used to have a hammock. Aunt Dee took it." We have no evidence that Grandma ever had a hammock, and if she did how long ago that was. The same applies to the grill and the beach chairs. The ketchup was found in the refrigerator door, where it always is.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dirty Laundry

As you might expect, after 90 years of life, Grandma is pretty set in her ways. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her feelings towards laundry. She is very specific about everything laundry-related and is fiercely protective of her clothesline. (Of course, who can really blame her? Aunt Dee has been known to steal the clothespins and the runner that pulls the top and bottom line together).

Some examples:

I set the washer to cold water to save energy and because, you know, most of my clothes recommend washing them at that temperature. According to Grandma, "You need to use hot water or you won't kill the germs!"

I also fill the washer. Uh uh. Grandma is not having it. "You can't do that! You'll break my machine!" I'm not sure why she distrusts the machine and its manufacturers so much. Wouldn't it be designed to work at capacity? She never fills it more than 2/3, which makes it very difficult to actually get all of your laundry done. Also, you can't just put your clothes in the machine. They have to be artfully arranged to create the perfect balance. Again, we don't want to break the machine.

While Grandma is napping, I am hanging my clothes on the line. She wakes up and charges into the yard, "You can't do laundry on a Sunday! The neighbors will talk!" I try to persuade her that really no one cares about our laundry or the day we do it, but she is adamant. She won't have me shaming us with my illicit laundry habit. Sometimes I am tempted to use the dementia to my advantage, "What do you mean, Grandma? Today's only Saturday...."

Which brings us to the task of hanging clothes. Apparently this is a delicate skill that has been lost in our careless time of dryers. Just as you can't drop your clothes into the machine, you can't just pull them out. They have to be sorted by weight and type. When the clothes are ready to be put on the line, again they have to go in some kind of category. I'm not sure what that is though, because Grandma constantly changes her mind about whether light or heavy items go on first. A good rule of thumb, whatever way I'm hanging them? It's wrong!

This also applies to the clothespins themselves. They seem simple, right? Open the pin, put the edge of the clothing up to the line, close the pin, the end. Right? Ha! Fools! "Who taught you how to hang clothes? That's not how you do it!" Grandma snatches the pins and the garment from me and proceeds to re-hang it. I'm still trying to figure out how her technique is different from mine, but she always looks upon her pinning with a self-satisfied nod.

Belly Up to the Bar

In her more lucid moments Grandma gets a little embarrassed about forgetting things. I try to lighten the mood by saying, "Have you been drinking again?"

She always laughs and responds, "You're right! I should take up drinking! Then I'd have an excuse."

I think I may have unwittingly planted a seed in her brain because now she seems to be craving booze. We polished off the blackberry brandy awhile ago, so now along with her usual wistful requests for "a nice piece of cake with a lot of icing" she's been starting to talk about cocktails she wants. "Oooh, I'd like a rum and Coke or a rye and ginger. I always liked daiquiris, but you can't drink too many of those."

Sometimes she comments on how tired she is, so I accuse her of being out late and partying with her friend Alice down the block. "Oh no, Alice doesn't drink. I'd always have a highball or a cocktail when I went out, but Alice doesn't drink."

Maybe Grandma and I will host our own party. The menu will include all her favorite things: pizza, McDonald's, strawberry shortcake, and daiquiris. We'll see if we invite Alice.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Grand Theft Auto

As you know, Grandma is always accusing Aunt Dee of stealing worthless crap. She works herself into a venomous state until I locate the clothespins or whatever has been "stolen." However, Aunt Dee has one item that my grandma could actually make a legitimate claim of thievery on, and yet Grandma doesn't even realize it. Aunt Dee has her car. Irony, huh?

A couple of years ago, when her dementia started to become more pronounced, Grandma called a cousin of ours in a fury. "My car has been stolen! Somebody stole my car!" Our cousin lives close by, so he came to help Grandma and pick her up. He found that the car had not been stolen, Grandma had forgotten where she parked. After this incident my dad and Aunt Dee decided it just wasn't safe for Grandma to be on the road. She would surely keep reporting the car "stolen" or worse, end up driving somewhere and not remembering where she was or how to get home. Rather than tempt fate, my aunt took the car and Grandma's been without wheels ever since.

Grandma sorely misses the independence and frequently starts sentences with "If I had my car still..." or "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a car..." She always brings up the notice she got from the DMV to retake her driving test. She's recently decided that I have a car and can drive us around. I hate to point out to her that I don't have a car either.

Maybe the saddest twist in the story is that when Aunt Dee takes us out, she uses Grandma's car. You'd think Grandma would live for this. She's got Aunt Dee red-headed, blatantly using a stolen item! But she doesn't. She doesn't recognize it any more. Instead she just walks to the car and says, "Oh, where are we going? I don't get out as much as I used to. I miss having a car."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

IHOP (International House of Pilfery)

Aunt Dee is at it again!

Today she stole:
measuring cups
cooking oil
maple syrup

Are you noticing a theme? The connection between the stolen goods is that I made pancakes for dinner and needed those things. The cups and syrup were recovered, but the oil is still a hot item pending further investigation.

Something funny about Grandma is that when she is first given a plate she will say, "Oh! This is too much! I can't eat all this!" She'll try to offer some to you. You must resist! If the food is in front of her, she will eat it. A case in point would be our Easter dinner. We went out to eat with my dad. Grandma ate pretty decent helpings of the appetizers and her pasta. She claimed to be full, but that Grandma, oh, does she have a fierce sweet tooth. As the waiter came by with a tray of pastries her little face lit up. She grabbed the largest one, a flaky cream-filled treat. As usual, she kept saying how it was too much and she couldn't finish. She kept offering it to me. Luckily, I was able to hold her at bay. Sure enough, she finished the whole thing by herself. So to recap, don't let Grandma try to pawn her food off on you. She will eat it, all of it. And probably go back for seconds, just like she did with the pancakes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Never Heard of It!

When it comes to food, Grandma is very much a meat and potatoes kind of girl. Her background is Eastern European and Italian food is about as "ethnic" as she eats. She recently lost a lot of weight (18 pounds, another favorite topic of hers). We think it was due to her forgetting to eat or just not wanting to cook. To combat that, her freezer is pretty stocked with microwave TV dinners. Now, I'm not the most adventurous foodie, but some of my additions to the kitchen are blowing her nonagenarian mind!

Here are some highlights of our recent culinary conversations:

While I cook with a large pan, "I never saw such a huge frying pan! Geez, is that big enough? Why is it so big? That'd be good for hitting someone if they tried to break in."

Upon seeing my organic tomato soup, "What, Campbell's isn't good enough for you?"

When I point out a local Chinese place that delivers, "I never cared for Chinese food."

As I eat baby carrots and hummus, "What's that?"
"Hummus, it's like a dip. It's made of chickpeas, like those cans I have."
"Never heard of it."

While I seasoned a tomato sauce, "You're putting rosemary in spaghetti sauce? Never heard of it. My mother never did that."
I replied, "Your mother wasn't Italian." Naturally, this got me swatted at for being fresh.

After I made a pasta dish with tuna, olive oil, and lemon, "Pasta without spaghetti sauce? Never heard of it."

I can't wait to see what will happen if I bring home sushi! I suspect it will go something like, "Raw fish? Wasabi? You eat it with chopsticks? Never heard of it!"

Things Aunt Dee Stole Today:
feather duster

But I took a nap in the afternoon, so I might have missed some thefts. She is stealthy, that Aunt Dee!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recent Thefts

Aunt Dee has been on a thievin' rampage lately! Items my grandma has accused her of stealing in the past few days include:

teddy bear
drying rack
pasta strainer
pill box
two-piece bathing suit

When will she ever stop?

Cute Giggle

In her high school yearbook (1937), Grandma is remembered as a lovable girl with a cute giggle. 70 plus years later she still has it and I've made it one of my goals to make her laugh whenever I can. Nowadays her giggle is almost silent, but if she's really amused she'll toss back her head and nearly shake with laughter. If she's in a feisty mood (usually), she might swat at me and call me "fresh" through her giggles.

One evening she came into my room to say good night.

I said, "You're going to bed? It's not even 9 o'clock!"

"Oh, well I like to read before bed. I gotta lotta books, you know."

"Yeah, you have piles in there. You have a lot of reading to do!"

"Aunt Dee gives me her books sometimes."

I see my chance. Grandma has set me up perfectly to make a joke about one of her favorite topics. With a fair amount of mischievous glee, I reply, "She better! She has to make up for all the things she steals." I try hard to keep a straight face. Grandma just about loses it. She is cracking up and can barely speak through her giggles.

"Oooooh! You're terrible! You're terrible!" She swats at me and keeps giggling as she shuffles off to bed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day

My grandma is full of cool surprises. For example, I recently learned that she knows (or knew) how to operate a meat slicer! Her father owned a store, so this was one of the skills she learned when she was growing up. She mentioned, rather proudly, that she would always be in charge of slicing at church dinners because none of the other women knew how to.

When I think about environmental problems, like people who don't recycle, I often stereotype them as cranky old people who don't know any better or are just too stubborn to change. But here is another happy surprise from Grandma, she is a fierce recycler! Maybe you already guessed that because of her possessiveness about the recycling calendar, but she is very intense about her eco-responsibilities.

I think a lot of this stems from growing up during the Great Depression. She was born in 1920, so her formative years were dominated by the Depression. She hates waste of any kind. I'm a pretty eco-conscious person, but Grandma puts me to shame! She still uses a clothesline rather than a dryer. She's always scolding me for leaving lights on (even if I'm going right back into the room!) or leaving the faucet dripping. In my defense, I think she is the one who leaves the faucet on, but then she forgets and blames me.

When I moved in and was putting my cleaning products under the sink, I found at least 8 empty glass jars because, "Glass jars are handy. You never know when you'll need one." My dad and I recently cleaned out the pantry. We found a shockingly old bottle (This story deserves its own post. Stay tuned!). The bottle was so old, that I deemed it too gross to even attempt cleaning for recycling. Sorry environment, this one is being sacrificed to the landfill. Grandma saw the glass bottle in the garbage and was not having it. "You can't throw this away! It needs to go in the recycling!" She then spent the better part of a day soaking the jar and scraping out the congealed nastiness so this one little jar could be recycled.

So on this Earth Day, let's all take a lesson from Grandma and do our part.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pass the Brandy!

My grandma has a bottle of blackberry brandy in the fridge. She often thinks it's wine and offers it at dinner (or really any time she sees it). The other night we actually drank some. This blackberry brandy is 70 proof. It tastes sort of like super sweet cough syrup with a nice little burn that tickles down your throat. It's strong, people!

Grandma poured herself a pretty sizable swig and then said, "Oh, I don't normally drink so much. I don't think I can finish this..."

I said, "I'll drink some with you."

She took another cup out of the cabinet and put it on the table. I'm thinking she'd pour from her glass, but she went straight back to the bottle for my glass.

As we ate dinner, she kept commenting on how much she'd poured and how it was more than her usual.

While I got started on the dishes, she brought her glass over. Empty. She had polished off that whole sucker!

"Whoa, Grandma! You finished that whole thing?"

"Yeah. Woooo, I can feel it."

"Go sit down, I'll finish the dishes."

"You're right. I better sit down before I fall down! I don't usually drink this much, you know."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Things Aunt Dee Steals

As I mentioned, my grandma is constantly moving things and not remembering where they are. Then, when she can't find something, she accuses my aunt of stealing it. Usually with the following statement, "She sees something she wants and she takes it! She has a car. She has money. I don't know why she can't buy her own!" This happens every day, multiple times per day.

My aunt is one of the most generous people I know. The problem with this scenario, other than the obvious insult to my aunt, is that all of the things she "steals" are completely worthless!

Things Aunt Dee Steals:

Recycling calendar
Bath mat
Bobbie pins

I try to reason with my grandma. I remind her that the recycling calendar is hanging on the refrigerator. Logic. That works, right? She goes to inspect the calendar on the fridge and says, "Oh. But, I had a better one. Aunt Dee stole it."

Is Dementia Contagious?

I recently moved in with my 90-year-old grandmother. She's cute and feisty in her old age. She's in good spirits and is in pretty good health physically. But, she has dementia. It mostly effects her short term memory. As in she has none. Most of our conversations are held at least five times. She has a habit of moving things around and then forgetting where they are. Days of the week are getting a little tricky for her.

I'm not trying to make light of my grandma's condition. It's really sad and a lot of stress on our family. But, a lot of these situations are so absurd that we just have to laugh about them. All of the repetition and constantly moving items is making me a little crazy and leaves me wondering, Is Dementia Contagious?