The Downward Slide

Saturday I finally made the time to put the linoleum down in the bedroom. It had probably been two weeks ago that I brought the linoleum in from the barn to soften up in the warmth of the basement. I knew from eyeballing the roll that it was short and probably wouldn’t cover the room. It wasn’t until I rolled it out in the garage that I knew exactly how short, and how much I had to deal with. With some careful cutting and re-piecing together I managed to construct an L shaped section of linoleum which would cover the space between Grandpa’s bed and mine, under the commode and to the bedroom door.

For weeks I have had the commode in the bedroom but it has been sitting in front of the cabinet/bookcase that has housed my clothes and books. This situation was far from ideal as I couldn’t get at the cabinet with the commode sitting in front of it and to get to the beds you had to squeeze past the commode. Lack of free time on my part meant this condition persisted for weeks in a halfway state where my clothes were moved out of the cabinet to be stored under the bed, but everything else remained in the way. However, as things go, if you let a unsatisfactory situation persist long enough you will make time to correct it. So on Saturday I put off doing many things to finally finish altering the bedroom.

I moved the cabinet/bookcase downstairs and then sliced up the linoleum and tapped it back together in the proper shape in the bedroom. Simply laying the linoleum loose on top of the carpet and taping the sections together looks stupid, but I remind myself that it is serviceable for the intended function–keeping accidents off the carpet and easy to clean up. Nonetheless, the stupidity galls a bit.

By Saturday evening the room was usable, but since the linoleum was only laying on top of the carpet it had a bit of a ripple which made it hard for the door to open and close. So Sunday morning I took the door down and sliced a quarter inch off the bottom with a circular saw. The room was now ready (ready as it was going to be) for whatever storms might come.

Perfect timing. I get up 2:00 AM to use the bathroom and as I’m walking to the bathroom I think gosh, I don’t remember waking up for Grandpa going to the bathroom once tonight. Either I’ve slept completely through his trips or else he hasn’t gone all night. If he hasn’t gone all night then either he has wet himself, or he’s going to have to go really bad sometime tonight.

As I’m finishing up in the bathroom I hear a sound from the bedroom that suggests Grandpa is getting out of bed. Yep, I think, He’s going to need to use the bathroom. I return to the darkened bedroom I see the shape of Grandpa standing in the middle of the rooms between our beds.

“You need to use the bathroom?” I ask. And, in that very moment, I realize (as much by sound as sight) that not only does he need to go to the bathroom but he has dropped the front of his diaper and is going to the bathroom on the floor, right now. To make matters worse I notice that he is aiming in the general direction of the dark blob which is my clothes I took off that night.

Things happen very fast. I think something like, Yaaaahhh! Don’t aim there, not my clothes! And simultaneously think, What difference does it make? You’ll only have to wash them. But somehow I still preferred to mop up the floor than have to deal with my clothes soaked with urine.

I think I uttered some strangled, “Don’t do that there.”

To which Grandpa gave a reply of something along the lines of “What do you expect me to do? I can’t hold it in.” Thankfully Grandpa shifted slightly so my clothes were no longer in the direct line of fire. By this time the spigot is all the way open and I can tell by the sound he’s really unloading on the linoleum. So I flick on the light and say calmly, “If you could get it in there,” (pointing to the commode) “it would be nice.” Then I stepped around behind him and removed my clothes from danger.

Grandpa dutifully waddled toward the commode but managed to get maybe a quarter to half a cup actually in the device, the rest making a second large and spreading puddle on the linoleum underneath the device. While he finished up voiding his bladder I made a quick trip to the kitchen to grab the roll of paper towels. I returned to the bedroom and quickly tore off several longs strips and tossed them over the larger puddles to keep them from spreading any further. Meanwhile, Grandpa dropped his (until that point still clean) diaper in the puddle he was standing in and proceeded to attempt to strip. Being barefoot myself I didn’t particularly care to join him in the puddle so I tore off two sheets of paper towel and laid them on the untouched floor beside his bed and after helping him out of his diaper encouraged him to go over to the bed and dry off his feet.

Drying off his feet I quickly got a fresh diaper back on him and tucked him back into bed. One thing I am very thankful for is that once I show up and take charge Grandpa lets me handle the disasters without trying to deal with it himself (which always ends up in greater disaster). He let me tuck him back in and appeared to promptly fall back to sleep. With the situation stabilized, cleanup was routine. I used up the better part of a roll of paper towels mopping up the mess and then disinfecting the floor. Then I went back to bed.

Unfortunately, while that was the most dramatic trouble that night, it wasn’t the end of my troubles. We had some spicey chicken for supper that night and somehow it chose that very time to start disagreeing with me and as I lay back down for some hoped for rest I started to suffer from heartburn. I tossed and turned with that for an hour and a half or two hours and then fell asleep for a short while only to wake up at five when Grandpa made a trip to the bathroom. He made it to the bathroom this time but still ended up making a mess that needed cleaning up. After I got that mess set to rights I went back to bed and slept fitfully until eight. I’m not sure how many hours sleep I got, but I felt I was shorted a good many.

But I was so very glad that I had made the time to finally put the linoleum down on Saturday. I knew the Sunday night disaster was only a matter of time in coming . . . I only just got in ahead of it. Incidentally I suspected my clothes my end up getting pissed on. It pays to think of the worst that might happen, so the thought has crossed my mind several nights as I get undressed and toss my clothes aside. It’s good to think of what you will do if the worst happens. And, in case you were curious, getting the floor peed on isn’t the worst, and getting my clothes peed on isn’t the worst. I think to myself, What will you do if you wake up to find Grandpa peeing on you and your bed? Answer? Well, first off, get out of bed as fast as possible. And don’t think it highly unlikely. Befuddled in the dark in the middle of the night Grandpa could very easily decide might bed looks like where you’re supposed to take a leak. I’m not really worried about it, but I have the very real possibility filed away in my mind so that I will hopefully be prepared to react when I wake up to the warm splash . . .

****

I didn’t start out the day feeling the greatest but Grandpa seemed even worse. I don’t know if he was simply exhausted from all the visitors we’ve been getting over the past several days, whether he was feeling a little under the weather, or if he was feeling depressed. He said he wasn’t hungry for breakfast and after drinking a few cups of coffee he quickly retreated to the couch and lay there dozing and looking fore lorn and sad. I don’t know if he remembered the disaster in the middle of the night, but I wondered if he was thinking about it and feeling very down. When Grandma finally showed her face he asked her if she might have some words of affection for him which only confirmed my suspicion he was feeling emotionally down, for whatever reason.

Finally about mid-morning I managed to convince him to eat at least something–a piece of cake with another cup of coffee. Then at noon I got him to eat some garlic bread I had made the night before (and he had really liked then) by simply putting it in front of him when I gave him another cup of coffee. Finally at 1:30 he ate a normal lunch of soup.

But the day didn’t get better. He seemed off kilter all day, inclined more than usual to use the wrong words in conversation, and to not make any sense (even to me) at all. Then, late this afternoon, Grandpa crossed another milestone. I was taking Grandma to the bank and she needed Grandpa to sign a check before she left so she could cash it. He couldn’t sign his name. We tried and tried to coax him, but he didn’t understand our words, what we wanted, or how to do it. It was truly incomprehensible to him.

Afternoons are always worse for Grandpa than mornings, so I suspect for awhile yet if you asked him to sign his name in the morning he would be able to do it. But a threshold has been crossed. Grandma said she didn’t want to invoke power of attorney for herself until Grandpa was no longer able to sign his name. Well, now its time.

As I said already, Grandpa was particularly inclined toward unintelligible conversation today, using words that had no relation to each other, or relation to the present reality. But there was an incident shortly before supper that was more odd than unintelligible. What its meaning was, I don’t know, but it was the type of incident that makes you stop any pay attention.

I was in the kitchen when Grandpa first said it, so all I caught was “Do you think . . . find my . . . soul.” This caught my attention, so I went into the living room where Grandpa was lying down on the couch. I asked him what his concern was. “I just wanted to know . . .” he trailed off. Given how he had been using all sorts of bizarre and unrelated words all day, I didn’t know if he was simply trying to ask where something was, or if he had said close to what he meant, and was asking a very serious question. I asked him if he had some concern about his soul because the first thing to do if Grandpa says something weird, (or uses and odd word) is to repeat it back to him because often if he hears it back he will at least say he had used the wrong word, even if he can’t come up with the proper one. I watched him carefully to judge how confused he might appear.

“Well, it was part serious,” Grandpa said, looking back at me.

“Are you afraid that you’re soul might be lost?” I asked. Concerns about salvation-damnation was a possibility, but I also consider the fact that Grandpa might have wandered into some metaphysical muddled of concern about his soul being somehow spatially lost . . . or something else entirely.

“No,” Grandpa said, quite emphatically. “That’s not what I said.”

“Can you explain what you meant?” I asked.

“I don’t want to try to explain it,” Grandpa said, clearly tiring.

I looked at Arlan who was sitting at his computer to see if he had heard what Grandpa had said earlier any better.

“He said, ‘Do you think Grandma will be able to find my soul'” Arlan said, supplying the missing parts of the statement, but no greater clarity. It could be anything from a statement asking if Grandma could find his socks (except using the wrong words,) or an actual question about the afterlife. Given the fact that Grandpa had looked quite serious when he looked back at me, and he had said it was “partly serious” led me to believe that whatever the broken thought he had been trying to express, it wasn’t about socks.

But we were to have no answer. Grandpa had tired of it, and had closed his eyes and was trying to sleep. So I went back to the kitchen to continue working on supper.

No more than a few minutes later I heard Grandpa speaking again, clearly and distinctly, as if he were calling to someone. I stepped back in the living room, half expecting to find him sitting up again, but he was still lying curled up on the couch as if resting. It looked as if he were asleep, but it had only been minutes since he had laid down and it seemed to short a time for him to be speaking in his sleep. Awake or asleep, he spoke again loud and clear, as if seeking a response. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite make out one word. He either said, “Are you there, Savior?” or “Are you there, Saber?” (I cannot determine which it was, thought I will admit my mind is inclined toward Savior, but I admit that is based upon interpretation of his previous comment about “soul”) He repeated the question a second time, still not moving. Then he went silent for a bit, Arlan and I staring at him perplexed and wondering. Then he spoke again, a little quieter and more at ease like someone who is responding to their answered question. I did not retain exactly what he said, but it was something like, “Was it good?” Then he went silent and said no more. A few minutes later he sat up again and acted as if nothing unusual had occurred. Neither me nor Arlan questioned him, though perhaps we should have. Or perhaps it is right that we did not.

As I have said before Grandpa will get confused about where people are, and will talk to walls, empty chairs, or junk as if a person is there. And, given that today was a bad day he was clearly doing that multiple times today. But usually when he becomes confused the non-existent (or misplaced) person is either “Ma” (Grandma) or “that guy” (an undefined somebody he thinks he sees, perhaps me or Arlan) but in this incident he was not looking at anything, and the name (whatever name it was) was not anyone that I physically know. Whether Grandpa was speaking gibberish in a momentary confused dream, or if he was simply speaking his thoughts aloud in some form, or whether he carried on an actual conversation with some being (God or otherwise) I don’t know, and perhaps it isn’t my place to know. But the incident, to say the very least, was odd.

It reminds me a bit of a different time when Grandpa spoke. It was not quite the same, but only somewhat similar. On this other occasion it was the middle of the night. It is not that unusual for Grandpa to speak in the middle of the night. He will wake up and sigh and mutter and sometimes even speak up quite cognizantly asking a question of me from the dark, if something occurs to him which he wants answered. It is usually very mundane conversation about mundane concerns but this time out of the darkness he said words which jerked me full awake. He said quite suddenly in the middle of the night “I don’t know who I am, and I don’t know where I am.” It was such a flat statement of finality that it made my heart give a little jump.

“What is it, Grandpa?” I said. “What is the matter?” But he gave no response to my queries only muttering and sighing to himself. I could only conclude that he was voicing some inward thought, or having some inward argument in his own mind that came out vocally. In any case it was a very grim thought.

****

This past Sunday I didn’t go home. Arlan had to work the last two Saturdays and so hadn’t been able to go home for two weeks and I thought he really needed to go, so I persuaded him to take my turn. Since Grandma and Grandpa get most of their family visiting on Sunday, this means for once I was there when my Uncle Nate came over in the morning, and my Uncle Kevin came over in the evening. While each of them was visiting I did something that I hope was a good idea to do.

I printed out and shared Full Circle. Since I released that particular piece on my Silverware Thief blog I wasn’t concerned about it being “too private” or some such–I had already made the decision about that a long time ago. Rather, while I thought it was important for me to write that piece and if someone else had written that I would want to read it . . . some other people would feel differently. To say the least it is sad . . . I think the essay says some things worth thinking about, but other people don’t want to think about those things.

Word has got back to me that Full Circle moved some people to tears when they read it, and it certainly made me cry to write it . . . but one doesn’t lightly give your uncle a peice of writing about his father that might make him cry. But I felt that what Full Circle said about Grandpa, and about what he was suffering, was something at least Nate and Kevin ought to have the chance to read and understand (I’m not so sure about my other aunts and uncles). So with some nervousness I gave it to both of them to read.

Nate reacted as I expected . . . which is to say whatever he thought of it he kept controlled and to himself. It obviously didn’t make him happy, but when he finished he folded the papers up with a sigh, said it was very good, and asked if he could take it home. So however it made him feel, he appreciated it and felt it was worthwhile.

Kevin . . . Kevin was the one I thought a long time about before sharing the essay. Kevin is probably the most emotionally sensitive of Grandpa’s children and he has been struggling a lot emotionally with Grandpa’s sickness. I felt Kevin would either appreciate the insight and perhaps greater empathy he would be able to feel for Grandpa on reading Full Circle, or . . . the sadness was cut so deep that reading the essay would throw him into depression and despair. So with some trepidation I handed him the essay.

Kevin read it at the dinner table. The bad thing is that I couldn’t explain what I was giving either Nate or Kevin to read. I couldn’t warn them or explain to them what it was, or what it would be like. I could only give it to them to read and they had to take it as they would. Kevin, as I guessed, was visibly moved and clearly had to struggle to control himself. Even Grandma noticed, and went on to say that it had made her so sad she could never read it again. “Yes, but we know how to handle it,” Kevin said, not sounding as if he was handling it well at all.

After awhile he seemed to master his emotions, but he didn’t ask to bring it home, and in fact returned the papers to the desk. Whether it did Kevin any good to read the essay, I don’t know. I don’t think he appreciated reading it. I hope it didn’t send him into a fit of depression.

And that is enough rambling for tonight.

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