I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
I was sitting at Cost Cutters waiting for a haircut this morning.
For my birthday, my husband and children got me an iPod Touch, something I never asked for, and something I’m still trying to figure out how to use. Pride is such a funny thing. I was pleased as punch with my $25 mp3 player and looked down my nose at all those with fancier contraptions because mine did everything I wanted for a fraction of the price of theirs. What did I need a touch screen for?
At the hair salon I figured it out. I could use this device to play a mind-numbing game called Temple Run. It quickly passed the time while I waited my turn. I leap and jump and slide and collect coins with the best of them now.
Anyway, I was sitting at the Cost Cutters, waiting my turn, playing Temple Run, when the conversation next to me caught me attention.
“I would never do that,” said the 30-something mother who was holding a little boy on her lap while talking to her mother. “I mean, I would much rather have Grandma live me than see her go into a nursing home.”
Her mother nodded in agreement. “I’m sure it’s not an easy decision but your cousins don’t feel like they can take care of Aunt Carol any more.”
“Still, I would never do that,” the younger averred.
Temple Run requires a certain level of focus in order to keep your little person from tripping on tree roots and the like. I kept looking up at the speakers, only to look down to see my runner crashed into a wall or falling into an abyss.
Ten years ago that could have been me saying those words. I would never put my mother in a nursing home. I would have her live me before I would let that happen.
It was only two or three years ago that I did have my mother live with us for a few days at a time to give my father a break. A person with dementia requires the same vigilance as toddler, however, and that’s something one has to experience to appreciate.
Once my mother was staying at my sister’s house and my sister came home to find her freezer emptied and all her food busily thawing on the counter.
Once my father was travelling in Greece with my mother in the early days of her diagnosis and he woke up because he heard the hotel room door slam shut; my mother had gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and wandered out of the room.
Once we were all vacationing in Myrtle Beach when Finley found my mother trying to get into the wrong condo and couldn’t convince her that she needed to go across the way.
When my mother stayed with us — and it was less than a week each time –I was exhausted afterwards, even though Grace and Hannah were the greatest helpers in the world. They watched and kept her safe so that I could cook dinner or do laundry or walk the dog.
Putting a loved one into a nursing home can be a loving thing. Unless you’ve attempted to care for an elderly dementia patient, you don’t know how draining and next to impossible it can be. Especially if you have your own children to care for at the same time.
My Temple Run guy tripped on yet another root and I looked up at the young mother. Her little boy sat on her lap and she stroked his hair. I know she meant well by what she said, but I don’t think she could imagine having to choose between her potty-training three year old on the toilet and an elderly mother with dementia headed out the door to who knows where. Which would she choose if she had both these people in her care?
Those split second decisions can happen. It’s like on Temple Run when I have to choose whether to jump or slide. Most of the time I make the right choice, but, inevitably, I make one bad choice and my little person falls into the swamp. In Temple Run I can just hit play again. In life, it’s not so easy.
“I would never do that.” I could still hear her saying those words.
Just like I would never get an iPod, but now I wonder what I ever did for entertainment at the hair salon without it.