Monday, February 28, 2011

Teen Angst

Aunt Dee and I often talk about how Grandma seems to have relapsed and dealing with her is frequently like dealing with a child or a grouchy adolescent.

The other day Grandma draped herself in the doorway of my room and goes, "What time is Aunt Dee coming? 3 o'clock?"

This is the first I've heard of this plan, so I say, "What?"

"Aunt Dee comes every Saturday to take me out for pizza and to get my hair done."

It's a simple statement, but Grandma's body language is priceless here. She's rolling her eyes, shaking her head, and showing a solid amount of attitude for a 91 year old. I can tell that her inner monologue is something along the lines of, "Isn't that sooooooo lame??? Pizza's ok, I guess, but why would I want to get my hair done? I could spend the afternoon sleeping and watching Harrison Ford movies and she wants me to get my hair done? Totally, totally lame!"

This was a pretty funny display of swagger from Grandma, except for the fact that it was actually a Sunday and Aunt Dee was out of town.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I'm on vacation this week, so I get to catch up with daytime TV. I watched The Nate Berkus Show the other day and contemplated writing to Nate to get our house made over. Grandma's decor is firmly entrenched in the 1970s. We have pictures of me in her house as a baby and everything is exactly the same!

Wood paneling? Check.
Lots of mustard yellow? Check.
Oversized flower wallpaper? Check.

The kitchen

We are definitely in need of some serious redecorating. But, then I remembered Grandma doesn't do so well with change. She can't even remember where a single item like my frying pan came from. She keeps trying to get rid of her Christmas presents ("I don't know where these pants came from! They're not mine!"). A whole new set of furniture would totally through her off! I wouldn't be surprised if she thought she'd wandered into the wrong house somehow. Then she'd go out to the porch to check the number on the door. "This is my house, but I don't know whose furniture this is. I don't know where it all came from! Aunt Dee must have stolen my furniture and left this!"

I guess my dreams of redecorating will have to be put on hold.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grandma and the Grammy's

Today my friend Jon sent me an email about Arcade Fire's surprise Grammy win and the chorus of people who've responded, "Who are The Arcade Fire?" His first line was, "I think your grandma's a trendsetter!"

And clearly she is! The aftermath of the Grammy's has left a lot of people saying, "Arcade Fire? Never heard of them!" If Grandma watched the Grammy's she would certainly be in that number. I think she'd also have a comment about how she never saw such haircuts.

The article, in New York magazine, is a really thoughtful analysis of taste and communities and how the internet can build both connections and insularity. This paragraph really stood out for me.

"'Never heard of it': This has been the natural and traditional response of all sorts of ordinary American humans to all sorts of phenomena. It’s not really about knowledge or information. It’s an argument, for the most part, and a faintly aggressive one — a way of insisting that what you pay attention to really does define the world. What you’ve heard of is real, and everything else is marginal. The center holds, and you are that center. You are normal and aware, and not just some tiny atomized entity that can only hope to know one tiny corner of the universe."

I wonder if Grandma's frequent bursts of "Never heard of that!" and its sibling, "I never saw such a thing!" are an attempt to cope with her dementia. Maybe she prefers the assertive "Never heard of it!" to the vulnerability of "Oh, I must have forgotten." As the author suggests, maybe she is defining the world and putting herself in the center, even as the dementia is making her world smaller by the day. She is concerned with the garbage pick-up, if her church is being closed to widen the street, what Aunt Dee has stolen lately, and that she lost 18 pounds. Her brain has fixed on these topics and can't really process anything beyond that. If she can write off my over-the-knee boots, tofu, and "giant" frying pan with a dismissive "Never heard of it!" then I am the weird one and she does not need to acknowledge her diminishing awareness of the world at large.

It's hard to say if Grandma is really aware of her condition. She refuses to admit that she is ever wrong or less independent than she used to be. Her doctor wants her to use a cane. "I don't need it." She refused to wear the Life Alert Aunt Dee bought her, "I won't fall." Even when I've caught her losing or forgetting something she'll say, "I'm not senile, you know." I can't tell if "Never heard of it!" is a defense mechanism or simply a sign of the generational divide.

But, Arcade Fire? They're awesome.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Never Heard of It! Volume 6

Until five or six years ago, Grandma still had her car and was able to go out into the world as she pleased. However, with all the things she's never heard of, you'd think she was some kind of Rip Van Winkle abruptly tossed into the 21st century.

Here's the latest round of things she's never heard of:

Grape tomatoes - although they are quickly becoming a favorite snack for her.

Italian Wedding soup - I'm trying to widen her soup repertoire, but this can has been rejected and sits forlornly on the shelf. The only time Grandma pays any attention to it is to say, "Italian wedding soup? Never heard of it!"

Whole grain bread - I bought a loaf at the bakery full of sunflower seeds and other goodness. Grandma was suspicious because it wasn't sliced. "I usually buy sliced bread. It's got seeds? Never heard of it!" After the loaf was gone, with Grandma eating at least 2/3 of it, "We need more bread. Get white bread this time. I didn't care for that last one." What? Then why'd you eat all my bread?! Freshie.

Double wrappings of bread - When Grandma opened the new bag of bread, she found it wrapped inside as well. "A wrapping inside? Never heard of that!"

The Wicked shade of nail polish - I was sitting at the kitchen table touching up my favorite winter shade - Wicked by Essie. "What color is that?"
"Never heard of that!"
"Don't I look like an evil queen with it?" (Which is exactly why I love to wear it so much. It makes me want to drum my nails as if I'm pondering the intricate details of some nefarious plot).
"Well, it sure is dark. I never saw such a color!"

Don't think that all the bad weather has kept Aunt Dee from making her rounds of thieving!

Things Aunt Dee Steals:
Weekly Pill Box

Grandma's medications have been her focus lately. She's been messing up her doses or forgetting them all together. I find untaken pills all over the house. Even with the weekly pill organizer Grandma wouldn't take the proper amounts on the proper days. So, at Aunt Dee and my dad's suggestion, I've hidden the pills and the pill box. I leave out her day's doses in the morning before I go to work, but even this is getting confusing to Grandma. With her vitamins and supplements, she takes nearly a dozen things a day and frequently doesn't finish everything. So, then she finds the leftover pills and the new set and various combinations in between and doesn't know what she's taken or not. She insists that the problem is that Aunt Dee took her pill box, so I let Aunt Dee take the fall.