Ok, I’m a slacker. Life got busy and I abandoned my blog, two whole weeks. Bad blogger! So I am off the Walmart kick, at least for now. It seems to me that, frequently, it is all my fault. This is what comes of benmg a “sandwich generation” caregiver. I have learned to accept blame without really taking it on. I used to argue about these things but it isn’t worth it as it is crystal clear that I can’t win any argument on this score. Whenever my dad and I get into an argument of any kind his brain seems to skip to a new subject whenever we are about to arrive at a dead end or he is going to be wrong. He just gets confused and starts talking about something else. Mighty convenient I say. Our most recent example. I was going through his checkbook for the eight thousandth time trying to find the error. I notice that he was still paying union dues to a number of locals. So I ask him why. Other than his “retired status” dues from the union that pays his pension, there didn’t seem much point. My dad says he pays his union dues because he still wants to work. Now he is eighty two, he is quite slight and hasn’t worked for at least five years. He doesn’t remember that he hasn’t worked for five years. He thinks he needs more money so he should work. He doens’t need more money and he can’t work, although he is pretty healthy; his work involved serious physical labor. So, he says, he can’t work because he doesn’t have a car. After his last hospitalization he stopped driving. The reason he doesn’t have a car is because I am driving his car. In his mind I have stolen his car. Never mind that the doctor says that he cannot drive again. Because he hallucinates, can’t remain focussed or concentrate on what he is doing. He hates the doctors I took him to because he believes they are in a conspiracy with me to steal his car; to say he is crazy. He claims that he failed the neuropsych tests because he was having a bad day and he “has always been bad in math”. He believes the doctor he never met before rigged the test. He still speaks of the car as his prize possession. He believes I am keeping him here because I want his car. Now, while it is nice to have no car payment, the car just isn’t all that. I have tried to explain to him that a nine year old, stick shift station wagon with a hundred and twenty three thousand miles on it just would not be sufficient to convince me to do this. But it is all my fault that he can’t work, can’t drive, can’t fly an airplane. That’s ok, I don’t mind.
So I have been a little busy, haven’t posted in a few days. And there is so much in the world to write about these days its hard to know where to start! But lately my self absorbed self has been focused on the kitchen floor; literally and figuratively.
So the first thing you have to understand is that my father’s nose runs all the time. It has for years. He has been to every specialist known to medicine and nobody can find a reason for it, much less a cure. Our primary doctor here, who he doesn’t trust and I like, says sometimes it just happens to the elderly and nobody really knows why and there isn’t much you can do for it. My dad has tried every over the counter symptom relief despite some dire contraindications, with no result. So this runny nose is not the usual sniffle that the phrase “runny nose” brings to mind. His nose runs long clear mucous strings.
Now when my dad’s nose runs he is clearly aware of it. Sometimes he has a kleenex, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he has a napkin of preferably, for him, a paper towel, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he will attempt to get one of the above choices, sometimes he won’t. It is apparent that while this condition annoys him very much, he doesn’t much care about how this condition might affect those around him.
Let’s just put aside the visual aesthetic for a moment (not that easy to do mind you). This discharge is now to be found on our cabinets, the microwave handle, the refrigerator door, etc. This is not to mention the dishes that he rinses and puts back in the cupboard, claiming they are washed clean (no soap ever touches them).
Most distressing to me is the kitchen floor. Now I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen. Not only do i cook most days, I feed cats, I put away groceries, dishes, etc. Our kitchen floor is tile and I spend a lot of barefoot time in the kitchen. Not so much anymore. I watch this drip direct from his nose to my kitchen floor. I hand him a tissue/paper towel/napkin as fast as I can but often it is not a matter of how quick I am but a matter of how little he cares. Sometimes he will take the offered paper, other times he will just get mad as if somehow asking him not to share snot is a personal affront. I can no longer bear to walk barefoot in my kitchen and the cabinets have to be wiped down daily.
In the same vein, when he fixes food, he leaves it everywhere. The counter, the cabinets, the floor. First step, all containers are left open for someone else to close. All foods are left unrefrigerated for someone else to put away. All surfaces are left dirty for someone else to clean. Now it is his caregivers’ job to follow along behind him and clean up but again… not so much. So in addition to the snot, the floor is always covered with food.
The final insult is almost funny. He has taken to “helping” to clear the table, which is great; can’t complain. But the placemats, which are covered with food, he brushes, blows or just tips up and slides the food onto the floor. The other night, the event that precipitated the need to write this blog, was the tipping of all the bread crumbs and corn kernels onto the floor. Picture picking up the placemat and turning it on end so that all the debris simply lands on the floor. So now we have snot, cooking debris and the detritus of a meal, all on the kitchen floor. Too bad we can’t just use a blowtorch.
At work, at home, I am around people who embody the worst of the new American work ethic. Where I work is fundamentally a call center. Unlike many call centers we are internal and have other departments of people who are not call reps. But our sales reps are telephone sales people. They don’t think so, however. They apparently think they are special in many ways. We implemented a new phone system that is capable of tracking the work of each rep and each area, each department. Of course everyone hates this new system becuase it is demonstrating the extent to which they spend work time time . . . not working. The reps don’t like this because . . . now they have to work. All those extra cigarette breaks, not so much. All that time on the cell phone, not so much. All the extra time spent not on the phone, not so much. It is strange to me that people come to work expecting not to work. If you are working, who cares if the phone tracks how much you work, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Idle or entitled? So after a hard day of listening to the employees complain about having to work for their paychecks, I come home. And I find my father’s caregiver in the familiar spot . . . the sofa in front of the television. When I am getting ready for work there is always a push on the first arrival to clean up whatever dishes my teenager has left in the sink from the night before. After that come long hours of nothing as my dad doesn’t get up until 10 or 11 most days. Cigarettes and television mostly I think. Then maybe a trip to the bank, my dad’s tennis lesson, the post office. Back to more cigarettes and tv. I laid out the job when I hired everyone. Told them I had expectations beyond watching my dad watch tv since there was so little to do. Then I made the occasional suggestion. Sometimes followed sometimes not. Then I made a list, put it on a little whiteboard. Mostly ignored. Its not all bad. It is more a matter of doing what the person likes and nothing else, and a matter of not doing things well. But after all, how hard is it to wipe the cabinets down? Or wash a toilet or run a damp mop over a bare floor? The highlights are the time I spend every day putting things back where they belong (how long do you have to be aorund til you know where things go?) or when it seems an imposition to request that the tv volume be lowered or that we might be able to use our sofa. But these are my expectations, not my dad’s. He is fine with all of it as long as they leave him alone, drive him where he wants to go and clean up after him; and it is ultimately his call but… who expects to be paid for a full day of tv watching? Idle or entitled?