We finished painting three quarters of the south wall of the house on Saturday. The stains defy two coats of primer plus a coat paint that purports to be primer and top coat in one. These white paints have not met the monumental fireplace smoke damage that covers/ed my mother’s walls and ceiling. Sunday I’ll touch up areas that bled through with another top coat and keep my fingers crossed. Bottom line is the wall looks SO much better, and mom is really happy. That’s what counts.


During (primer)

We went to the high end sushi place in town for our collective birthday dinner. The meal was incredible. Mom didn’t complain about the food in any outright way! When I offered her more garlic sauteed green beans, she turned me down while asking if I liked them. That was it! She did have chopstick management trouble again and stated, “Next time we come, I’ll bring my own chopsticks!” I smiled and said, “OK.”
Saturday’s minor memory foibles mostly happened while mom and my husband went to town to buy paint (while I primed the walls), and made the obligatory grocery store stop. They went something like this:
  • She asked if it was Thursday.
  • She asked twice where my step-daughter Chloe currently is (traveling the world) and what year of school she is in. Chloe graduated college last spring.
  • She asked 4 or 5 times at the hardware store if we needed more primer. This after we decided to hold off buying more primer until observing how priming the worst walls worked. Why buy what you may not need?
  • At the grocery mom asked my husband what we should get for dinner. He, in his words and description, kinda lost his self-possession, and stared at her in disbelief. She asked him again. He replied with context, “Mom, it’s our birthday dinner.” She then remembered we were going out.  
  • Mom repeatedly expounded about her cactus’ impending blooms, saying they haven’t put forth such a display in as long as she can remember. These reliable plants have been blooming magnificently, reliably, for years. She said the same thing about her lilacs, and Rhododendron, which are all about to explode into blossom. She simply doesn’t recall last year.
  • At the restaurant mom refilled her soy sauce dish, and then within a minute did so again, almost over filling it. I am very conservative with soy sauce, and am therefore sensitive, say, to watching my husband’s liberal use of pouring 2 tablespoons at a time in his dish. Mom poured 4 tablespoons, and then 4-6 more, with some spilling, unbeknownst to her, on the table. She’d forgotten that she’s just topped off her soy sauce dish.

If I’d been without commitments, or a cranky right forearm (gardener’s tendinitis, aka tennis elbow), I’d have kept painting that house until I dropped from exhaustion or hunger. At one point I wondered to my husband how my father could have lived for so many years with the chimney malfunctioning. Then my mother’s bossy demeanor passed across my train of thought… It didn’t take me long to figure out that covering up smoke damaged walls is hugely symbolic of fixing my mother’s dysfunction. Sooty cobwebs swept away to make room for fresh paint, the sanctioned removal of everything along the walls (and selective, secret disposal of a forgotten 6 year old magazine, a post it with a neighbor’s phone # who doesn’t live there anymore, stealthy consolidation of the pine cone collection that enables hubby to spirit a milk crate to the shed… The simplification of mom’s surroundings may not fix her, but will certainly help her in that less clutter is better for, well, all of us, but certainly for those with ‘dementia distraction.’

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