By the time we arrived at Piedmont Place, Elizabeth and Michael had already called to wish Pop a happy Father’s Day; she from Maryland, he from Germany. Elizabeth’s hand-made card was on prominent display atop the chest of drawers. Lisa brought a creation of her own and it soon occupied a place of honor next to my baby sister’s.
Pop isn’t one to spend time chatting on the phone, but he did remark that his conversation with Michael had been longer than usual. He gave Michael credit for allowing that. Methinks someone has it backwards.
It’s been a few days since my last post, so I’ll try to catch you up on things. Mom is still doing well. The hospital released Pop last Monday. He has seemed markedly improved since then; a bit more pep in his step, and his cognitive engagement is as good as it was six months ago.
At 5:45pm, Mom walked in and reported that the dining room was empty of residents and staff. On impulse, I said, “Well then, let’s get dinner at Tex & Shirley’s Family Restaurant,” their favorite pancake place. To our astonishment, Pop said, “I’m game,” and off we went for a nice dinner.
By all appearances, things are going well. Mom seems to be doing okay; Pop does, too. Their current living arrangement has lasted eight months now, and they’ve both been behaving; remarkable given their tempestuous 59-year history.
An opportunity presented itself a few days ago. A room near both of theirs has become available. It has its own sink and private bathroom. It’s large enough for two beds, two large armchairs and assorted furniture. It’s close to the nursing station and the nurses Mom & Pop are fond of. The room is naturally brighter than either of their current rooms, and the folks will keep their current places in the same dining room. It seems the perfect situation has arrived: M&P get to live together again.
The room’s imperfections include a window view not quite as nice as their current room views. More significantly, this room doesn’t have a private shower, so they’ll have to use the nearby community facilities. Mom’s already used to that. For Pop, it’ll be an easy downward adjustment; one he’s willing to make. They both like the new place, though, and have actively participated in decisions about furniture placement, etc., that differed from my own. (If they’re going to be assertive about anything, to heck with my lousy interior decorating ideas!)
For Mom, the pluses are the privacy of her own bathroom and residency with her husband who she currently views as a God-given “project.” For Pop, the plus is simply that a husband and wife should be together. It’s what everyone expects. There have been sweet but momentary displays of affection over the last eight months and, as I’ve said, they’ve been behaving.
Moving into the new room seems to be the perfect intersection of opportunity and reward. So, why am I not happy?
Along with Pop’s re-found clarity comes some of his old behaviors. We’ve seen it several times in just the past week. Mom wants to listen to CD’s in the new room, a request easily accommodated. Pop snaps, “We don’t have room for that. We don’t need it.” It’s just like the Pop of yore; putting the screws to something just so Mom doesn’t get something she wants. A couple of days ago, Mom wanted to take two old friends to lunch, something she rarely does these days. Pop said “No,” she can’t buy lunch. It’s not a financially motivated decision; he just wants to subjugate her. Today, he criticized the “unladylike” way she gets into her armchair. He fails to acknowledge any of the several medical and physical reasons for it.
This is the relationship dynamic I have known all my life. They feed each others’ demons. We’re about to put these people back into a situation that could revive the less pleasant aspects of their relationship; something we siblings moved far away from to avoid being witnesses.
When Pop is compliant, as he has been for the past few months, he’s easy to get along with. When Mom is purposeful, as she has been for the past few months, she’s hard to dislike. Maybe I’ve had it easy. Maybe I’m just complaining or worrying unnecessarily.
But I find myself thinking as I was last October 10 and October 11…that it’s time to reestablish the rules; that love, kindness and equality are the order of the day under God’s rules of marriage and Piedmont Place’s rules of residency.