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.