March 1, 2012: She’s Sixes and Sevens and Nines

            As I’ve mentioned, my 87-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s disease. I’m her primary caregiver, and most days, caring for her is a breeze. But this morning I arrived at my childhood home to discover that Mom was having one of her occasional Canasta meltdowns.

            About once a month or so, Mrs. Pela awakens early to announce that she’s got to get hold of the members of her Canasta Club to tell them she’s sick and can’t make that day’s meeting. Now, while it’s true that Mom was a member of this monthly card klatch for nearly 40 years, she quit them about five years ago, when her mind started to go. For all I know, the club has disbanded. Or died off. But don’t try to tell that to my mother, who is never entirely sure what year it is.

            Usually, I’m able to distract her from one of these not-infrequent freak-outs in just a few minutes. But today she wasn’t letting go of it.

            “I have to call them and tell them I can’t make it. I’m sick. But I don’t know any of their names or how to get hold of them.”

            “Mom, I called all the card club ladies and told them you’re sick. Don’t worry about it.”

            “What did they say?”

            “They’re very sorry to hear you’re ill, and get well soon.”

            “Are they mad at me?”

            “No. They’re not mad. No one is mad.”

            “How did you know how to call them?”

            “I know everything, Mom.”

            “What if you didn’t call all of them and some of them come over here?”

            “None of them are coming. I called them all.”

            “What did they say?”

            And so on. After a while, I put a dish towel on my head and attempted a Betty Grable impersonation, which usually works. But not today. She was a dog with a bone, all fucking morning.

            Finally, I asked her to write herself a note about what I’d told her, so that she wouldn’t forget that all was well in Canasta Land. Her note was a real heartbreaker:


Thing I Hate Today: The shortcomings of medical science.


4 Responses

  1. I was a caregiver for my Mom. She just passed a few weeks ago. She also had dementia and I would also file under “no real help from family”.Your blog is so frigging funny and sees the humor in a not really funny situation.Yet, that ‘s what will get you through it, as it did me. Wow,I LOVE facebook! I must go thank Kimberli for sharing you with me!! And, thankyou for making me smile!

  2. You mask compassion and pain with a biting humor that I love, and that is one of the reasons you are one of my favorite people! Mazel tov (I grew up in NJ) on your blog.
    Teacher in LA

  3. I never realized your Mom & mine were the same age. Rather old for our peers… I am so blessed that mine is still healthy. In fact she helps care for HER friends… I am sorry you and your sweet mother have to deal with such an awful disease. You are a great son to care for her the way you do, and you seem to be handling it all with such love and grace. God may just bless you for that!
    Love you dear,

  4. I love this Robrt. It is sooooooooooooooo accurate and true. Wish I was there to join in on the Canasta discussion. I would have even gone off on a dialog about what she would have worn or cooked for snacks and the theme. I am a queen of distraction and chat chat about nothing. I am sure you are too. The mind is truly intriguing. Love ya Karen Weiss

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