February Trip to the Island – 02/08/2016

I’m just back from spending 3 days with my mom at her Island home. This and the next two posts are my notes and observations from our time together. ~ 2-10-16, 9pm
 Overall mom and I had a good day. When I arrived she was working on the daily NY crossword puzzle. Together, we managed to finish it. It helped me realize how many cultural references crosswords have. We were amazed at what we each could add to the puzzle that the other was clueless about! It was fun. After we finished Mom asked what I’d like to get up to. I said I’d like to gather any and all tax docs, back up her computer, and see what she thought about painting a wall. I was thinking about the smoke brown wall over the fireplace. Mom was thinking about the poppy red color she bought, but had yet to deploy, as an accent color in the living room. Being ecstatic that she was willing to consider painting at all, I was down with Poppy Red!
We started the project by taking the gallon of paint back to the store for a good shaking, as Mom bought the paint months ago. Two additional errands later we returned to the house and made lunch. I was itching to start, but mom was ready for tangerines after being unable to finish her soup. Eventually we got going.
When presented with preparing the area (moving furniture, chairs, plants, a sculpture, stuff on the floor), mom was flummoxed.  She had to assess each item in turn, yet allowed me to ask, “Mom, should I put this plant next to your bed?” If I asked, rather than told her, she was OK with my ‘direction’ and it moved things along without her feeling pushed. I now know why she hasn’t started painting the house. She can’t keep all the prep steps together in her mind long enough to actually get to the painting part. Watching her try to move something and get distracted by almost anything else helped me understand what an overwhelming task this is for her. She needs someone to help direct the project.
She spent a good deal of time putting newspaper down to protect the wood floor. I filled up her paint tray before going to work cutting in the edges of the wall. Mom, who taught me to paint decades ago, loaded the roller, pulled it from the tray, and left lines of red paint all over the newspaper before the roller landed on the wall. Perfect for us to step in and then walk paint all over the wood floor we were trying to protect!  She ended up with paint on her clothes, hands, unintended walls, and the bottom of the paint tray. It was kind of like handing an 8 year old a bottle of nail polish; the stuff got on the walls, and everywhere else too.
At the beginning of the project, mom went to the shed to find an additional paint brush. She returned quite distracted over being unable to find one. I suggested that the brushes might be in the upper barn, and was told she and dad never kept any painting supplies in the barn, ever. I knew for a fact the upper barn was full of paint, and said it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. She agreed. We did indeed find loads of paint in the barn, but no brushes. Later in the day, I spotted a can of brushes by the front door, and a box of brushes in the shed.
Around noon mom asked me if I thought she should take the game hen out of the fridge. Before I could reply she said twice, testily, “You know, so it’s not starting out icy cold when we cook it.” Knowing what not to say is more important than knowing what to say… As I really wasn’t able to get a much of a word in, I just nodded. She said further, “I had it out all night to defrost.”
Mom is still having trouble with her oven, and I can’t, even after reading the manual, figure out how to make it behave. So, we zipped back to town to get charcoal for the BBQ. I got the coal going, and turned around to find the oven had finally turned on. This lead mom down an amazing path of indecision: It was easier to bake the bird because she didn’t have to split it. As she placed the little chicken in the oven, she kept talking about cooking it over the coal, but then it was dark and problematic to BBQ in the dark, but maybe we could finish the bird on the BBQ if only the coal lasted… I think it was about not wanting to waste the coal, but it manifested in the goofiest way.
In the end, the bird was delicious, if not a tad overdone, as I was in no hurry to under cook a chicken that had been sitting at room temp for, probably, 16 of the prior 24 hours
Mom’s fire ritual has become somewhat elaborate. She tries to start the fire with the day’s paper castings, accompanied by twigs, pine cones, and two pieces of cedar kindling. From this, she graduates to full size pieces of firewood. She built these materials up before striking what ended up being 7-8 matches in order to get the small stuff lit. Once it was alight, she straightened up (every task is done bent at the waste rather than from the haunches or knees) and grumped that she couldn’t understand why it took so long to get the fire going. Again, I think this is about memory. It took a lot of matches, but not very much time at all. Once the fire got going in earnest, she couldn’t leave it alone. I found this distressing because it was such a repetitive and unnecessary behavior. At one point, while the fire was dancing perfectly, she stirred it into oblivion, and then pondered over and over, “I can’t imagine what happened.” I get a gold star for keeping my mouth closed. As the evening matured, I took over fire management.
·         Mom began a ‘key panic’ when we left the grocery in the afternoon, forgetting that I had driven to town. She calmed down with good humor when I reminded her.
·         I noticed a wooden spoon and a spatula with burn marks on them. Signs of dangerous forgetfulness in the kitchen.

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