… is one of those phrases I learned in childhood. It came to me from my Mom, and likely to her from her mother and so on back through generations. Generations of women, I strongly suspect.
Yesterday I phoned my 95 year old mother and she answered on the phone in her bathroom. She cheerily told me she was in the bathtub trying to figure out how to get her hair washed, so she would look presentable for her eye appointment the next day.
Now, my mother has “helpers” who offer every day to help her shower and shampoo. She declines, then apologizes, then says, “another time.” I know it embarrasses her. I can’t fault her for that- I am sure I would, or will, feel exactly the same way.
But now she’s down to the wire- she must have a shampoo today. She tells me she practiced getting down on her knees in the tub and checked to make sure she can get back up.
My blood chills.
I should probably drive out there right now.
I take a breath, go into a ‘don’t say the first thing that you want to say’ mode, and start to talk her down from her plan. “Mom,” I say, “how about sitting on the bench in the tub and using the hand-held shower. That’s what your tub is set up for, you know.”
“I can only get a trickle of water from that thing,” she tells me. “If I try to wash my hair with that, I’ll still be rinsing it out when you get here tomorrow!”
“Mom,” I say, “I’m worried about your getting down in the tub when its wet and slippery. Please sit on the bench. “Well…” she says.
“Isn’t someone coming to help you at three or four? “ I ask her. Her weekend helpers are not regular, like Liddy and Yolanda on weekends. So I don’t know their names. “No,” I don’t have anyone until eight…”
And that’s just the medicine person, I am thinking- please don’t get confused and ask sweet Candace to help you in the shower. She would want to help but its not her job; she has only ten minutes, just to dispense night time meds.
“Are you sure,” I say. “I thought you had someone coming Sunday afternoons.” In fact, I’m not sure. Maybe the plan I set up with Care Management has fallen apart, or the weekend slots have been hard to fill and no one told me…
Again, I consider driving out there. I would miss our family Father’s Day dinner for my husband, two of our three kids and a significant other available to join us. I decide not.
“Mom,” I say calmly. “How about this. Liddy will be there tomorrow morning. She can help you, and you’ll have time to be shampoo’d before I take you to your appointment.
“Well… but there won’t be time to set it. I’m thinking how my hair looks just after a shampoo…” Ah, vanity- you know no age limit! This is another way I am sure I will be just like my mom! But then she seems to concede. “Maybe that’s what I’ll do.”
Later that evening she calls me to say, jubilantly, that after we hung up she turned around and there was- she doesn’t remember the ladies name- someone come to help her and happy to do the shampoo. “So I am clean and sparkly and shiny” she tells me triumphantly.
A tempest in a teapot. One brief moment in a long life. Of course for me a moment such as this can presage a fall that could end my mother’s life. I have witnessed how confusion sets in gradually. I find it a hard responsibility to judge how capable of independence my mother is, week by changeable week. But for right now, we’re okay.