On Christmas Eve I shut the dishwasher, pushed start, and black smoke billowed out. After freaking out, as well as questioning my options a bunch of times, I called 911. I didn’t want to go to bed and wake up to the smoke detectors going off. Fortunately the fireman who responded told me I’d done the right thing by calling. Better safe than sorry, right?
I waited until the first week of January to go dishwasher shopping because I read online that dishwashers go on sale then. In with the new models so out with the old. We got a good deal. It was even less than the sticker price at the store, which was a sale price to begin with.
Mom hates the new dishwasher. Hates it. Just about cries every time she has to put dishes in. (I want my old one back!) We’ve had a long-standing agreement that I cook and she does the dishes. I read somewhere that this type of arrangement was a sign of a good marriage. Obviously we’re not married, but I can see how it would work out well for any couple. Division of labor. But now mom has decided that she no longer knows how to do the dishes and so I have to takeover the job.
I have resisted this for years. Yes, I hate doing the dishes. I cop to that. But mostly, she needs things to do. The thirty minutes she spent cleaning up after dinner is now time she sits on the couch. Other than emptying two wastepaper baskets and doing her own laundry, dishes were the one contribution she made to her upkeep. It made her feel useful. It made her feel like she was needed. Now that’s gone.
She can’t dust, vacuum, clean the bathroom, wash windows, sweep and mop the floors, put the clean dishes away, cook, drive, pay her bills, manage her medications, feed the dog, or put anything away, including dropping empty bottles in the recycling bin. She sets those on the table outside the closet where the recycling bin lives. Her chores have shrunk to emptying two wastepaper baskets, her own laundry, filling the bird feeders (but only if I take them down when empty and rehang them when full), and watering plants (which sometimes kills the plants because she over-waters them).
She’s old! She shouldn’t have to do anything! I can hear the protestations now. What are you, lazy?
The fact is, the less she does the more she will decline. She has to stay active. She has to move. She has to be invested in her life. She has to get up off the couch once in a while! We don’t live exciting lives, and our days are even less exciting in the era of social distancing and staying home. Our outings are limited to meandering drives and the occasional walk (when mom can tolerate the weather). Sad to say, but chores are one of only a few options for keeping her moving.
I could have handled this whole situation better. My first mistake was telling her that I’d been resisting this inevitability for years but fine, I’ll take over the dishes. She started arguing division of labor crap and I bought into it instead of calmly explaining that doing dishes was good for her health. I’m mad at myself for not keeping my wits about me. Why do I always do that? Why can’t I think clearly in a stressful or tense situation? I’ve done this before– nearly every time!- but one time I let a “friend” argue about the title of a book rather than assert that it was the contents of the book that was important, not the title. (And why was I defending the book title anyway? It wasn’t my idea to call it that!) It put me in a grumpy mood all day. Mom got over it fairly quickly but I held onto the argument. I’m mad at myself. I’m mad at the situation. I’m mad that she’s declining so quickly and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Declining quickly I say? I wouldn’t have said that a day or two ago. In fact, I was prepared to get on here and talk about how much better she’s been cognitively. With the exception of a bit of sundowning, her memory has been better of late and she’s far less confused. Why? No one knows. Of course. But I will say anecdotally that I have limited her sugar consumption quite a lot lately, which just happens to coincide with the improvement in her memory and cognition. Coincidence? Probably. But there is a link between sugar and mental functioning and maybe I’ve been helping her by limiting her sugar intake.
Her decline lately has been physical more than mental. We’ve been doing physical therapy exercises at home and she’s had three appointments with an actual physical therapist. Her legs are sore. Her knees hurt. Her hip hurts now. I know PT is supposed to make things better but I’m ready to put her in a wheelchair and never let her try to move again. What’s the point in trying when she’s in pain all the time? But again, she’s got to keep moving or things will only get worse. We keep moving.
And maybe that’s the lesson here. Keep moving. Go to bed. Get up and do it all over again. Keep moving. Move until you can’t anymore, and lately, for her, that time seems to be sooner than later.