December 15, 2010

By the Time I Got to Phoenix, She Was Rising

Two weeks ago today, The Boy and I traveled to Phoenix to see my eighty-six year old mom. We hadn't seen her in almost six years. On our last visit, she was in the beginning phase of Alzheimer's - she hadn't yet lost her independence, but she was struggling.

I talked to The Boy a lot about how his Grandma might look and act. He knew that she might not recognize him - he's not the chunky nine-year old boy he was when she last saw him.

The change in her appearance was startling to me - she looked so old, and frail. She used to get her hair done weekly, and hid the gray. She liked to look put together. Now, she just looks like a nursing home resident. And she looked a sight bit better than some of the other residents.

Since a fall where she broke her hip, she is wheelchair-bound - but she still was moving her feet when my brother Gary or I pushed her chair.

Her salty language skills still remained. She referred to one male nurse as a "jerk" when he walked past. She still knows how to curse.

Her hearing is failing, it is necessary to shout to her so she can hear. Sometimes, she responded appropriately; other times, she just smiled, her thoughts locked inside her head.

A few times, she'd nod off, mid-conversation (probably due to her meds)...but she'd wake up after a minute or so, and ask what we were talking about.

She agreed to wear her false teeth for our visit (only the upper set, her lower choppers got lost). Her glasses are history, as is the $2500 hearing aid Gary bought her (it went missing within 24 hours of purchase). He figures she didn't want it, and threw it in the trash. He said when she did wear it that day, she whispered to him that she heard people talking, like it was a big secret.

She knew who we were that first day, but not after that visit.

She was very interested in the "apples" on the tree, and wanted one. We explained repeatedly that they were grapefruits, and weren't ripe yet.

The Boy and the popular grapefruit tree

The weather was perfect. We left St. Louis in the middle of a cold wave, and arrived in Phoenix to evening temperatures in the 50s, and daytime temps in the upper 70s. I can see why people love it there - until I think about the 100+ temperatures in the summer. Dry heat, or not, that's too darned hot for me.

We also got to spend some time with Gary and his wife Nancy. And The Boy got to do some "guy stuff" with his uncle. The Boy said the best part of the visit was seeing Grandma, and beating Uncle Gary at Wii bowling.

Gary and Nancy live in Sun City West, a very big and active adult retirement community. Who knew that the AARP set played Wii?

Sun City West is its own incorporated city, complete with numerous recreational centers, golf courses, nursing homes, and crafts centers. Golf carts are a frequent mode of transportation on the roads; Gary sometimes rides his golf cart to work.

Here are the menfolk when they went miniature golfing:

Be happy I stopped shooting - the next shot would have shown The Boy picking his shorts out of his butt

Here they donned aprons and use their mad grilling skillz for a cookout:

Even Bobby Flay takes a rest, ya know.

The Boy needed to rest up so he could play with April, who is showing her personality (her ears are up):

I'm still waiting for Gary to send me some of the photos he took (including pictures of Arizona Nancy, not to be confused with my other sister-in-law, Texas Nancy), so expect another post in the future.


  1. What a scary disease. And so sad for those watching it happen. I'm glad you got to visit, though. These years are so important.

  2. She must feel like a prisoner in her own mind

  3. Thank you for sparing us the Boy picking at his butt! HAHA! ; )


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