Sometimes Babu says something that makes me angry. It’s not anger at her, it’s anger with myself. It’s anger when I should have been there to help her and I wasn’t.
This morning Babu wakes up, goes to the bathroom, comes out with a cheerful “dzien dobry!” and I get breakfast started as usual. Then she begins to tell me a story.
“I had a very vivid…something…last night.” She shakes her head and is quiet for a while. I think I know what this is about, a dream, even when she then says, “Wait, it wasn’t a dream. I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I had to wash it off.”
I feel a niggling in my brain so I ask her. “What happened?”
“It was in the bed,” she replies.
She is really struggling for an answer. This is when I start to worry. Did she have an accident and spend an hour huffing and puffing cleaning up the mess and she didn’t wake me up to help and I didn’t wake up on my own? This is more concerning then it sounds. Babu has had countless episodes which sometimes result in an ER visit because of her extreme anxiety around having these mistakes.
So I ask her:
“Did you go to the bathroom in your bed?”
“What was in your bed?”
“It, it was in the bed.”
She really can’t find the words for it.
I’m giving her processing time but she really can’t find the words.
“Bugs?” I ask.
“Did we ever have…” she begins to ask, “Something that was overgrown or over cast?”
At this point I am totally lost.
“Plants?” I ask. “Did you think there were plants growing in your bed?”
She reluctantly came to an agreement. She explained that it was something nicer, more like flowers.
“Well that doesn’t sound real, right Babu? There isn’t anything growing in the house. That was definitely a dream.”
“Well, no, I had to get up and go to the bathroom.”
“Yea, sometimes I have dreams that really stay with me but it wasn’t real. There are no plants growing in the house.”
“It was wrapped around me,” she said, “It hurt me.”
I sit with her for a while more using humor to try to shake her out of it and asking her why she didn’t wake me up, I could have helped her be not scared. But the fact is she didn’t, she almost never does, and because I didn’t wake up she spent part of the night alone and afraid and out of touch with reality. My husband, when he sleeps on the same floor as her, wakes to every noise she makes. I rarely do. I’m so wracked with guilt.
I’m also telling her there are no plants growing in the house and I’m at the kitchen table that is covered in flowers. Flowers she knows are from our own yard.
So now if I put flowers on the table I will scare my grandmother?
Just as I’m starting to really doubt everything she looks down at her breakfast and delightedly states:
“There’s so much food!” and begins to dig in.
Sometimes I really steer away from writing posts like these. Being 99 in undignified. I’m not looking to share her dirt or to expose my own mess ups as a caretaker but when I do share things like this, it is for two reasons.
- Exorcising my demons. I get that phrase from Tori Amos. She always used that phrase to talk about her song writing. Every writer and every artist can relate. It’s been said before but I write it down to get it out.
- I write it to connect with people reading this who are caretakers also, in what ever form that takes. I hope you get the lesson that some days aren’t pretty and you learn as you go. Learn, stay diligent, be patient. And be kind to yourself! Also, those bad moment can turn on a dime into delightful days. Let them.