Mamaw’s Temporary Setback


Nine time out of ten, when Mamaw believes she’s smiling for a photo, this is the result. Technically it’s a good sign.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: each November my wife Anne and I take her grandmother to the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now on its 68th year, the Show provides a variety of vendors selling Christmas decor, Christmas gift ideas, loving handicrafts, licensed character products, off-topic home improvement services, telemarketing schemes, and more more more. For Mamaw the fairgrounds are a premier destination for her two biggest annual affairs. The Indiana Flower and Patio Show in March is her Super Bowl; the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show is her San Diego Comic Con. Longtime MCC readers were treated to photos of previous expeditions from 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

This year, we’ve run into a bit of a complication.

Earlier in October we’d heard of at least two incidents in which relatives who’d been taking Mamaw grocery shopping had to rush to her side when she felt too weak to stand and needed their physical support to finish her foraging. She’s 92 years old and weighs 83 pounds, which makes her pretty easy to support or to push around in her optional wheelchair, which is always my job at the Christmas show. Long-term hospitalization didn’t appear necessary at the time to those on the scene, judging by the fact that she was allowed to return home, medical alert bracelet snugly on her wrist and relatives not too far down the street in case of emergency.

A few days later, Mamaw spent a morning in her favorite extra-comfy living room chair, only to realize she couldn’t get up. We’re not sure of the exact physics behind her entrapment. Either the muscles in her extremities stopped working altogether, the blankets covering the chair had generated enough static cling to magnetize her pants, or the seat’s cavernous comfort zone was trying to swallow her whole. Whichever the case, she spent two hours struggling to free herself from its fuzzy embrace before she finally fell her way out of it and then called for help.

Her hospital stay segued into extended admission to a rehab center not far from her home. She’s been there the past few weeks and, as we suspected might be the case, was not released in time for this years Gift & Hobby Show. We mourn the beloved tradition derailed.

As if she didn’t have enough to deal with, last week we received news from Florida that her brother Art had passed away. Art was one of Anne’s two great-uncles who used to work security at both fairground shows and would arrange free passes for the three of us each time. He retired from that gig a few years ago and had moved to warmer climes for his time remaining. His plot is up here in Indy next to his wife, necessitating some interstate transport arrangements and funeral services postponed till Thanksgiving weekend. it goes without saying we’d all rather be shopping for Christmas decorations right about now.

Anne went to see Mamaw in the rehab center shortly after her transfer. Anne sat patiently for a full half-hour, watched her sleep through the entire visit, Facebook’d an adorable photo, and called it a day, happy just to have her still around. Today was her first chance for a follow-up visit, this time with me in tow. Frankly, I had no idea how severe her condition was. In my mind, when you weigh less than your age, that can’t be a good sign, especially when all attempts at weight gain prove futile. My idea to solve this would be to put her on a strict diet of Double Quarter Pounders with Cheese, but I’m told my idea is flawed, though I’d certainly love to see those equally unhelpful naysayers come up with a better suggestion.

Regardless, if things were capital-S Serious, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to brighten her day, or at least catch her breathing one more time. Over the past fifteen years I’ve had three relatives who passed away in their deathbed before I could arrive at their side. That’s not a statistic I care to see rising.

Saturday morning we walked into her room and found her wide awake and snacking on dark chocolate chip cookies someone had smuggled in for her. She proceeded to talk our ears off for the next 40+ minutes — about her epic chair battle, about her five-days-a-week physical therapy, about her regrets for missing the Show, about which relatives have come in to see her, about her kindly younger roommate with bone cancer who just moved in the other day, about the one nurse she doesn’t like, and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on.

Our revised prognosis: much better than I expected.

None of us has been given any indication if or when she might be freed to return to the little house her late husband built for her decades ago. After today’s encouraging chitchat we’d like to assume her surroundings are temporary and, Lord willing, she’ll bust out soon and get back to her daily chores and stories. It would be nice if she could at least attend her brother Art’s services, to say nothing of maybe making next year’s big Christmas con.

One response

  1. Pingback: Temporary: Night Hawks in the Cold – What's (in) the picture?

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