Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things That Make Up A Day

Mom has had various troubles with her tv in the past few years.  The old tv set that she and Dad bought back when they lived in Virginia, then moved with them to Florida, then moved with them to Georgia, was glitchy and then finally quit working early last year.  My brother had been thinking about getting a new tv for himself, so he gave his perfectly good old one to Mom, and it worked fine.  It was much bigger than her old one, and she liked that a lot.

The only thing she didn't like about it was the remote, which was without doubt the most torturous thing I've ever seen: it was huge, with buttons to work a DVD player or a DVR or a sound system as well as the actual tv control buttons, but all the many many buttons were unbelievably tiny.  Her poor arthritic hands had the worst time with that awful remote.

So I took her a universal remote, the smallest remote with the biggest buttons I could find.  I even managed to program it by myself, and it worked great.

Until the cable company changed things.  Basic cable is included in Mom's rent, and it was just a cable from the wall to the tv, with no cable box.  Early this year they came around to install cable boxes.  They told her not to use her universal remote any more (though I think she could have, if it had been reprogrammed), and to use the cable remote.  That worked okay most of the time, but the button to turn it on is right next to the AUX button, which would screw things up if she hit it accidentally.

When something seemed to be going wrong, she'd call and I (or Greg) would try to help her through it.  Sometimes she just needed to unplug it and plug it back in, and then it was fine.  A few times the problem was that she'd hit AUX.  One time the actual tv had accentally been changed to a different channel -- it needs to stay on 3 to hook up with the cable box -- and when she put it back on 3 it was okay.  (I'm still amazed that Greg figured that one out over the phone.)

Every time she called saying something was wrong, I'd try not to freak out overmuch (being on the phone in my womb closet would come in handy) but I couldn't help picturing her all alone in her little apartment without even tv to keep her company.  She doesn't watch that much tv except in the evenings, when it's dark outside, and watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy is one part of the day she looks forward to.  But the idea of her sitting all alone in a quiet apartment at night just breaks my heart.

There are just not many things making up a day for mom, and losing even one thing is huge.  My sister takes her out to lunch every other Friday, my brother goes by once a week or so, my niece brings her two young daughters for a visit every now and then, but most days Mom is just there, in the retirement home, by herself.  She goes down to the dining room to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, and spends time at each meal socializing.  She has a newspaper deal with one lady down the hall: Mom gets the local paper, the lady gets the Atlanta paper, and they trade after they finish reading.  Another lady gets a super good crossword puzzle in her newspaper, so every day she makes a copy for Mom and a bunch of other crossword fans.  Mom will walk through the dining room with her walker and stop at several tables to chat with people; talking about things like how the Braves are doing, or who it was the ambulance came for, or whether or not anyone has seen the new resident.  On Thursday mornings she goes to the retirement home's beauty salon to get her hair fixed, and on Sunday afternoons she attends services in their chapel.

When I call her every night at 8pm she'll run down what she did that day, and sometimes she'll say I'm the only phone call she had all day.  "How was your day?"  I'll ask her.

"Just another day," she'll often answer.

When her tv finally broke completely last week, I had to freak out just a little.  She doesn't have much money, and the days of going to Kmart and buying a small cheap tv are over; now all tvs are flat screen high definition and cost hundreds.   It's so hard being so far away, and wanting to help but not being able to.  I knew my brother would take care of it, so I told myself to let it go, and not get worked up about something I can't help with at all.

Sometimes worrying and getting all stressy feels like the only thing I can do.  If I'm not doing that, I'm not doing anything.  I feel like if I lie awake at night and drive myself crazy then at least I am doing something.

My head knows that's stupid, and it's kind of a shame that my head is apparently not necessarily in control.  I did pretty good this time, though, and just kept pushing away worry-brain thoughts.  I had to have faith in my brother to take care of it, and in my mom to be okay, and faith that there would be enough money.

My brother did take care of it, he found a great deal so she didn't need to spend too much.   She ended up only going two days without a tv, and they were kind of crappy days, but she got through it and now everything is all set up and working fine.  So far she hasn't even had any problems with the remote, either.

She's been having more and more trouble hearing, even with her hearing aid, and she has the new tv set up to show closed captions, which she says takes some getting used to, but it's making things easier.

My poor sweet little Mom, I just want things to be easy for her, every day, all the time.  She deserves it.