Sunday, May 27, 2007

What's in that suitcase?

My grandmother was finally admitted to an Alzheimer's care facility after wads of unopened mail were discovered squirreled away in the dishwasher and a fruitless search for a missing cutting board revealed that she had packed a suitcase for a trip to God knows where containing three pairs of my grandfather's poop-filled boxer shorts stabbed by numerous ball point pens, topped with a sprinkling of fake flowers all surrounded by rolls of paper towels.

The paper towels were for shredding. She used to knit, write long letters, bird watch with the Audubon Society guide dog-eared in her lap, and bake these delicious caramel rolls. But now she dismantles roll after roll of paper goods and dispatches the super-absorbent confetti across their apartment. It takes her days to arrange the five magazines on the coffee table to her liking. She exclaims in first time delight when my mother brings her a Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen as though they haven't been her favorite thing for most of her life.

My mom had bought her a couple pairs of those elastic waistband pants to encourage her to remove her clothes on her own more than once a week. Instead, they disappeared. Having already given up on finding the cutting board (still missing months later), and sorting through the bills that had been through several wash and rinse cycles, my mom decided to just ask her what had become of the pants.

Grandma perks right up when asked a question she knows the answer to: "Oh, them. They ran off down the street together."

Getting her into the home was, as my mother put it, "not unlike trying to get a rabid animal into a carrier." She may not recognize the man she's been married to for 55 years, she may be afraid of zippers and hairbrushes, she may think that every piece of mail with her name on it is part of a conspiracy and that her pants routinely run off down the street in pairs, but once she sets her mind to something, she sticks to it.

I hope they let her continue wearing the boxer shorts she's become so fond of over the last few years. Finally! Bodily liberation after decades of industrial strength bras and 'shape refining' briefs!

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