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A Week with Grandma
By Sherry Churchill
(Page 2 of 3)

By 6:30 am, grandma was up. My written instructions said I was to feed her, get her coffee with Karo syrup in it and sugar. I combed her hair and struggled with her robe and slippers. Being a childless woman, I wasn’t very good at dressing others. After the messy breakfast, we made a bathroom trip. Her diaper needed changing, as I hadn’t thought to take her the night before and she hadn’t indicated anything to make me think of it. I almost reeled from the odor of it, and had trouble prying apart her legs to make the change. I kept apologizing to her for the embarrassment of it, and my clumsiness, while she merely laughed. This was my very own Grandma and it wasn’t proper for me to see her undressed - that part was hard for me to handle. Soon, however, I didn’t even notice and my clumsiness improved. I didn’t forget the bathroom anymore and we only had one other accident that week.

Aunt Sally mentioned that Grandma was long overdue for a bowel movement, and so I was to give her Citrucel. Well, Grandma didn’t like Citrucel and anything I put it in was cruelly rejected. Nevertheless, Grandma had a bowel movement on Tuesday - I was very happy and noticed that, for a caregiver, a bowel movement can be the highlight of the day! I developed a new appreciation for my Aunt Sally. Especially when I was faced with cleaning up Grandma after the big event. It was mentally and physically exhausting to just get through each day with grandma and her pacing. She took a couple spills, a bad one where I was fortunate to catch her in time, and another minor fall onto her bottom. Lifting her back up was another story. As each day wore on, my arms and wrists hurt more and more. I was popping Tylenol for the pain to my newfound muscles! Up and down, up and down, Grandma’s exercise was walking from room to room and sitting down and getting back up. That is, until my cousin and I took Grandma to the Mall. I was thrilled to be getting out, but didn’t realize that wheelchairs don’t always fit in between the racks of clothing. I could never step away long to look at something for fear Grandma would attempt to climb out of the wheelchair. My cousin had her own hands full with two toddlers and, of course, her unborn child who was, at this time, hyperactive in the womb. We made quite a picture: A pregnant blond lady with two wild Indians, and a harried, clumsy middle-aged brunette with grandma in a wheelchair. Lunch was strange. Aunt Sally said Grandma eats hamburgers, so I bought her one. Grandma ate the whole thing, much to my surprise. However, about four, that’s four hours later grandma announced, “Have to spit”. I put a paper towel under her mouth and she politely spit up what looked like the whole burger. This was not “processed” hamburger, mind you, this appeared to be an un-swallowed version. I couldn’t fathom anyone but a chipmunk storing an entire hamburger in their cheeks for four hours.

Grandma was ruling my life. She set the pace, the timing and the rules. My once-per-day calls to my office back home were always dotted with, “No, grandma, sit here grandma, what do you need, grandma?”. I had no personal time whatsoever. I had to try to time my showers precisely 15 minutes after her 10 am nap began - sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. There were moments I wanted to run screaming from the house. I could never complete a one hour newscast or a talk show, or a telephone call. I couldn’t be careless to leave a door open or something sitting out on a table. I only dared to run to the corner store while grandma slept, fearing she would wake and fall. Thoughts of my aunt suffering this for the last 10 years were sobering, indeed, a shame unto us all. By the end of the week, Grandma was on her worst behavior. She discovered what room I disappeared into (you know, to sleep, dress, etc.) and she began entering that room every time I was in there (it didn’t have a lock). I first put up chairs as a barricade - she moved the chairs. Then I had to put a 19” TV in front of it to keep her from coming in. Later, she decided she was going in there anyway, whether I was in there or not, even with the door shut. I could tell when she was deciding to go in there when she was standing in the kitchen - she eyed the door from across the room, about 25 feet away. I would say, “No, grandma” and she would take off 90 miles an hour for that door. So fast, I couldn’t catch her until she was already in the room. This was no feeble 98-year-old lady! She was greased lightning when she wanted to be! Well, anyway, to make matters worse, the last time I stopped her from getting into the room, she turned around and her false teeth were hanging out - she looked like a walking skeleton! I said, “Eeek! Grandma, put your teeth back in!” She just walked around, with those things hanging out.

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