Evening with my Former MIL

I arrived at my former mother-in-law’s, Jane’s, late this afternoon, after meandering here via a complete and relaxed stroll through the same garden I took my NY family to in June, a stop for lunch in a tiny historic town, complete with a quilt shop and some early Christmas shopping, and another quilt shop stop in the town Jane lives in, making for a day of self-care

I found Jane, at almost 94, in a different place, cognitively, than the last time we visited. She’s contended with age related memory loss for some time now, yet has always employed her solid compensatory skills. This afternoon and evening’s observations are uncomfortably familiar. Jane asked:

  • What time were we going to dinner, three times after making the reservation.
  • “They haven’t taken my (credit) card yet, have they? After signing the card receipt.
  • If I’d like some bread seconds after chatting (again) about why I can’t have gluten. 
  • What I’d like for breakfast, four times.
  • How long I was staying, and what time I needed to leave. I’m not sure if these were the same question. How long I’m staying sounded more like, ‘How many days.’ Either way, I’d given her the details in email 36 hours before my arrival.
Jane also:
  • Called the cat by three diffferent names, one correct, one out of left field, and then spent the rest of the evening referring to the cat by the former cat’s name. The cat doesn’t mind. 
  • Mentioned my nurse girl was supposed to have visited in the last month, but never showed up. Jane has been telling me this every time we’ve talked since around March.
  • Said her step-son and his wife visited recently, and what a lovely time they had, to help Jane place her late husband’s ashes at the cemetery. About two years ago Jane told me she had cemetery staff take care of this for her because she couldn’t handle the family politics surrounding her decision that only the step-sons attend internment, without wives.
  • This same step-son’s wife, in the past, has been someone Jane DID NOT CARE FOR, to the point, as Jane’s executor, I have verbal instructions that this wife is not allowed in the house when the time comes to go through the physical aspects of the estate. 
  • The above distain has been shifted to a different step-son’s wife on another coast.
  • This other step-son, on another coast, was both in the Army and Air Force. This may be true.
  • Growled about how a prescription was still in flux, seconds after receiving voice mail from the pharmacy that it was ready to pick up.
Jane exhibited about 15% of her usual bossy, and opinionated (I say this with love, affection and patience) side. She didn’t walk me through her amazingly organized files, nor quiz me about them as she has done every time I’ve been here in the last five years. This could happen tomorrow. She kindly offered me her entertainment furniture piece. I had to tell her we tried to give ours away, but it came back, and now I store fabric in it, and so don’t need another. She told me she feels unsteady on her feet a lot of the time as we left the restaurant. I offered her my elbow, which a few steps later she took. She drove better on our way to dinner than on the way back. Driving in the dark is not in her comfort zone. While I felt safe enough, I no longer consider her steady enough to pilot my grandson (not that she would, but it’s a litmus). She is still a FAR better driver than my own mother was five years ago.

With hindsight gained regarding my own mom, knowing that Jane uses a cane to check her mail, only takes one medication (at almost 94!!!), drives during daylight hours twice a week, doesn’t use unchecked hydrocarbons, or wood to heat her home, and has neighbors fairly close, for the moment I am able to suspend stressing out over my observations. Of course, I don’t know anything about her finanaces. But the fridge looks tidy, meaning she’s not buying groceries for the sake of buying them. One should not extrapolate that to things like charity giving run amok, but running amok has never been Jane’s style.

Now that Susie/Sarah/Hannah has given up breaking into my room, it’s time to turn in.

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