Wednesday, January 4, 2012

“The Dentist”

         This morning, I find myself trying to rev up my energy. Mom has a dental appointment at 10:45. During the last few months, we’ve learned not to tell Mom in advance about doctor or dental visits because her anxiety spirals out of control. She sleeps soundly some nights, but other nights she spins all night long, finally getting up in the early morning hours. An appointment insures a sleepless night for all of us. Mom woke up this morning at 4:30. By 5:30 she’d had her medication and by 6 o’clock she asked to return to bed and the warmth of her pile of quilts. She sleeps while I write and David prepares for work, but she’ll awake up again within the next hour. After she’s eaten breakfast and dressed for the day, I’ll break the news of her appointment. She’ll insist on getting her dentures in place, shoes on her feet, and purse positioned within easy reach. She’ll want her eyebrows penciled in, blush on her cheeks, and lipstick on her lips. Since it is cooler outside, she’ll want to wear one of her hats.
         We will struggle to get her into the car. I believe that her source of anxiety now comes from the ordeal of getting from her wheelchair to the car. I know it causes me tension just thinking about it! I will situate her chair closely to the open car door where we’ll manage to maneuver her into place. I have to remind her, “Butt first, Mom. Butt first.” If I don’t she’ll try to climb into the car feet first and end up rolling onto the seat sideways. At that point, we either start laughing so hard that we can’t reposition her, or the tears start. Either way, getting into the car challenges both of us. Once I have her rump in the seat, she’s able to position her feet on her own. Then we have her grab the back of the front seat and hug herself forward enough to reposition her body. When she releases her grip, her body’s situated in just the right place. I can snap the seatbelt snugly and head of our destination. And then we have to repeat the entire process after the appointment.
         We have a hospital in our neighborhood that offers a van service for people going to doctors within the area. Mom’s neurologist gave me the information on our last visit. Fortunately, her internist and neurologist have offices in buildings covered by this service. All I have to do is schedule a pickup forty-eight hours in advance. I haven’t used this option yet, but I know that this year I will. Every time I adjust for the newest change in Mom’s ability to do something, I feel loss. With my mother, Huntington’s disease hasn’t chipped away at her abilities with huge chunks of changes. Instead, it’s a slow, steady melting process. The differences, too subtle to notice on a day-to-day basis, accumulate. I guess I fear that one day I’ll turn around and realize she’s dissolved down to just her core.  

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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