Papa’s Log, Goomadate 133.5 (the number of days since my mother-in-law moved in with us.)
Last week my wife’s mother ripped the towel bar off the small bathroom wall. She’s terrified of being lifted out of her chair so she can sit on the toilet, and of being lifted off the toilet to get back in her chair, and being put in bed, and taken out of bed. I figure it’s because of the fall she had in her house. However, she was alone then, with no one to help until about three hours later when my wife went to find out why she wasn’t answering her phone. But her daughter is a professional in such matters. She knows all the grips needed for handling the very old. Still, Gooma doesn’t trust any movement beyond her head tilting when she nods off to sleep while watching TV. So in the bathroom she used the bar, and did so from day one. Then suddenly it came off in her hand. Nothing changed, of course; her second born had her in the long-practiced Eldengrip, what I call the almost jujitsu-like holds known by all who are familiar with combating the ancients. (I recently finished watching Stargate SG-1 and am now binging Stargate Atlantis, so I’m hyped up on sci-fi ideas of terminology.) Gooma was never going to fall. She will never fall in this house.
I don’t pick her up, and won’t if I can help it. I recently broke a yardstick when I was taking it and some other tools back to the garage from my office. It slipped from my hands just enough for the end to catch the side of the base of a heavy picnic table (I again have a lot crap in my garage) and it cracked against my thigh before I could stop my momentum. I don’t think it left a bruise; I’m not going to check. But it was a shock to me at how easily it snapped. So I won’t lift Gooma or touch her at all. Sure, the yardstick was thin, but so is she. If I attempted to lift her anywhere, I’d break her in three pieces, and three more trying to get her back. Still, I will try to come to the rescue if the need ever arises.
So I went out the next morning to Lowe’s and bought a grab bar. I screwed it into the studs, positioned it upright instead of sideways, and Gooma loves it. And so does my wife. Her mother now has something she can grip that helps her up and down, and that comforts her. I’ll give her a few days of practice before I reattached the ceramic holder for towels.
(If it existed – and I insist someone invent it – I would rather buy and affix a large dispenser of disposable paper bath towels. Wouldn’t that be great? No more washing them! Just pull out a towel, dry off, and toss it or recycle it. I’m sure my wife would prefer them to be compostable.)
But Gooma doesn’t only grab at the towel holder, or the new bar. She is resistant to every instance of motion. She claws at my wife’s cloths and hair and skin, especially the more easily gripped flabs of flesh hanging under her upper arms. After Gooma moved in, I at first thought the screams of pain I heard were coming from her; but no, that was my wife. And the olden one refuses to use the wheelchair footrests, but likes to push the toes of her shoes against the floor in front of her, because she fears her daughter’s speed of one inch an hour is too fast. She also grasps the sides of the doorframe when my wife pushes her into the bathroom and out.
It’s a real wrestling match between Gooma and my wife. Since I don’t have a solution to that daily dilemma, I can at least, for my own mental health, imagine what fun I might make of the situation. I would love for Gooma to gain back enough muscle to exercise, in which case I’d have her practice the stances of a sumo: “Put your right hand on your right knee, and your left hand on your left knee. Now, lift your right leg and stomp, then lift your left leg and stomp, and keep doing that until I tell you to touch your right knuckles to the floor and then run at me.” I wouldn’t tell her what she was doing; she doesn’t need to know. But I’d definitely record it.
Well, that’s my fantastical therapeutic compromise to this emotional heartache. Fortunately, my own mother is still active at 1024 months. She doesn’t live here, but if she ever does and needs the same kind of care, I won’t wrestle with her. I’ll refer her to her daughter-in-law.