All in stride

The door was shut but Agnes waited in the hallway, her hands folded in her lap as she faced the long hallway.

“Good morning,” I said, bending down and squeezing her shoulder. I was on my way to visit someone else in the nursing home but I always made time for Agnes.

SeasonsI remembered the day when she was able to navigate using a walker. Then as her feet and legs began to fail her, she switched to a motorized wheelchair. Now her memory loss had made the motorized controls too confusing. So she made her way with a simple black wheelchair.

Her round face broke into a wide smile. “Good morning to you as well.”

Back in the day when Agnes could still walk, she and the hobbits had one thing in common: height. Well, the lack of it. Now Agnes sat in a short wheelchair so that her legs didn’t dangle like a toddler.

“Are you getting your hair done today?” I had glanced at the sign on the door and knew the hairdresser was due any minute.

“I’m just waiting,” she said. The smile got bigger, if that were possible. “I like to watch legs.”

“Legs?” And then I bent again to her view.

“You see bow legged people. Knock kneed people. Long steps. People in sandals and people in boots.”

Standing had deprived me of a unique view. “I never thought about that.”

Agnes nodded. “I don’t mind waiting. This is kind of interesting.”

“Enjoy,” I said, patting her on the shoulder again.

But when I walked on, I did double-check to see if she was watching my stride, too.

Digging into the archive box

I knew things were going to get a little sticky when I uncovered an ink refill for a printer that I don’t remember owning.

I had cracked open my archive box to search for a CD (I’ve already dated this story, huh? My latest computer doesn’t even have a CD drive).

Story_squareBut archive box sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  Downright organized.

Mine is a plastic box with lid that contains CDs from programs I’ve installed. What a great idea, I thought when I got it. All my programs were safely stored in one place and protected from dust and stuff.

I don’t know why the ink refill was in the box. The printer must not have lasted long enough to even earn a refill.

Opening that box was like a trip down memory lane but without the warm fuzzy emotions. Unless confusion is considered warm and fuzzy.

Diving in was kind of like an archeological dig.

I uncovered a  CD with a big black question mark scrawled on the label. What in the world? Who labels their CD with a question mark?

Me, obviously.

Although nobody accuses me of being well-organized (well, someone did once but that was before they saw my desk), I took some pride in my box as a shred of planning. Every program CD went into that box after installation.

I am proud to say that there were no 5 ½ inch floppies in there.  Using my system, that’s a miracle.

I found programs that won’t run on anything newer than Windows 98 and I’m on an Apple platform now.  I found programs for pre-schoolers. (Our youngest is 19.)  I found a CD from our classical music days.

I’d like to blame this on the kids but they never open the box.  They just run the programs and don’t mess with the details.

Wonder where they learned that?

I’m sure there’s a major life lesson in all this. But those lessons tend to roll off me like tumbleweeds crossing the prairie.

So here’s what I learned: I’m cleaning out the box.

That leaves more room for archiving.

Sweet scents

Grandma would watch the toddlers and our husbands wanted to watch the cars at the race track. So my sister and I decided on one of those free-spirit moments we’re good at.

In our little town, that meant a trip to Walmart.

Story_squareAs we wandered past the fragrance aisle, Sis decided we ought to try out some new scents.

Sample bottles littered the shelves but the fragrance doesn’t smell the same on the spray tip as it does on one’s skin. So we began, spraying a scent on a wrist. Then trying a different fragrance on the other wrist.

When there are over 30 bottles available to try, you run out of body places after awhile.

We had scent on the inside of each arm, with new spots of fragrance from wrist to shoulder. We spritzed the tip of each finger and thought about trying ankles and knees.

Even for us, that was too weird.

So, not finding a scent that really wowed us, we moved on.

Far from the fragrance aisle, I picked up a scent that I liked.

“Smell this one.” I thrust my forearm under her nose and she took a deep draw.

“I do, too,” she said. “I guess it took time to blossom. Let’s go get it.”

We headed back.

Sample bottles of fragrance do not smell the same in the bottle as on the skin.

We sniffed spray tips and spritzed fragrances in the air. But sample bottles of fragrance don’t smell the same in the bottle as on the skin. We couldn’t find our special scent.

We left the fragrance aisle smelling like the flower truck had collided with a fruit stand.

Smart women would have kept a chart of fragrance and location on the arm so it would have been simple to connect the sample fragrance with the label.

I called us free spirits. I never said we were smart.

Making memories

My mother lived with us for a couple of months after her stroke before complications forced her into nursing home care.

But during that time with us, I was responsible for transferring her in and out of bed, to the toilet, and into the car.

And I took good notes. Here are a few little adventures we had:

SeasonsDuring our evening routine, as I helped her put on pajamas and get ready for bed, I jigged when she jogged and bumped her cheekbone.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she said, “that’ll just knock off that double chin.”

One night, at 1 a.m., on my third trip into her room to help her get to the toilet, she peered into my eyes.

“You look tired,” she said. Always a mom.

It was after midnight when I answered her call.

“I need you to put me into bed,” she said.

“Mom, you are in bed.”

“Oh, I am?” She looked down at her body.

“Do you want to go to the bathroom anyways,” I asked.

“No,” she said. “That was all I needed.”

One afternoon I helped her transfer from her wheelchair into a recliner in the living room. We’d done this a number of times but something slipped this time. She landed in the recliner and I landed on top of her.

“Well,” she said, patting my shoulder like I was a child sitting on her lap. “We didn’t do so well that time.”

One afternoon she took my hand with concern in her eyes. “I’m worried that I can’t afford all this.”

I smiled at her. “Dad did pretty well planning for you. I think you’ll be OK financially until you reach 110.”

“And then what?” she said.

Caretaking involves many skills but one of them is making memories.