Thelma went down a dog when Izzy left her house to go live with Alma. “It’s all right because Izzy is helping her. She takes care of my mom.” When Telly goes to Alma’s house the first thing she asks is, “You’re not going to take Izzy back, are you?”
After Alma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, she went downhill fast. On top of that she fell down and had to have surgery. After she recovered from the surgery, Telly took her to see her Alzheimer’s doctor.” I was shocked when he told us she had had Alzheimer’s for at least five years.”
Izzy is a Pom. She has a job to do and that’s to take care of Alma. “She makes her very, very happy. She watches her, sits with her, and sleeps with her. Mom shares breakfast with Izzy.” Neither of them eats dog food. Mom hasn’t forgotten she’s a person while Izzy doesn’t believe she’s a dog.
“Do you want your dog back?” her mom asked Telly.
“I’m here four times a week,” she said. “I see that spoiled brat all the time. I’m good with her taking care of you.”
At first, Telly visited her mom twice a week, bathing her on Mondays. Now she visits her four times a week and bathes her Mondays and Fridays. Izzy loves shower time. Her favorite part is when Telly lotions up Alma. That’s when Izzy licks the lotion off her legs.
After bathing Alma sits on her chair in the shower, a towel wrapped around her, and as she dries off, Telly starts to lotion up her legs, back, and arms. When she gets out of the shower and is getting into her underwear and socks is when Izzy runs up and starts licking away.
Telly asked her vet if it was OK.
“A lot of times the store-bought lotions are kid-safe,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily taste good, but you’re not going to die from it.”
“She can’t wait to get at it, although we don’t let her lick a lot,” Telly said.
“It must taste good to her,” she said.
When Thelma was growing up her mom didn’t like kids or dogs. She grew up being raised by a mother who hated her. “She never in a million years would have let any of this go on before. I don’t know if she’s forgotten all of it, all of the past, although that’s very possible. It’s like a gift from God now loving her like I’m loving on her and taking care of her the way I take care of her.”
She got a kick out of it.
“It absolutely cracks me up. When you have a parent with Alzheimer’s you’re supposed to live in their world. I like her world, most of the time. It can be fun.”
“Well, I went to Pick-n-Pay,” Alma said.
Pick-n-Pay was a Cleveland-area chain of supermarkets. There were more Pick-n-Pay’s back in the day than there were Fazio’s or Stop-n-Shop’s. But then the owner was murdered when someone tried to kidnap him. The last store closed in 1994, more than twenty years ago.
Alma doesn’t leave the house, never, no. “You went to Pick-n-Pay?” Telly asked her. One of these days she’s going to say she just came home from work. That’s how the progression of the disease goes.
A neighbor told Thelma the best way to deal with Alzheimer’s was to not argue with it. “She sees flying monkeys outside the window? OK, what are they doing? What are they wearing? Where are they flying?”
They see what they see. There’s no reasoning with it. It’s deteriorating your brain. Her peripheral vision is not there anymore. She only sees straight ahead. Telly doesn’t approach her from the side.
“It’s time to take a shower,” she’ll say
“I’ll take a shower, but I’m not going to get wet,” Alma says.
Or she’ll say, “I’ll take a shower, but I’m not taking my clothes off.”
“We can do that, but it’s going to be awful getting out of the shower with your wet clothes on.”
“Oh, yeah?” she says.
She sees Telly all the time. She sees Brad all the time. But she may have already forgotten who Thelma’s sisters are. Patty lives in Maine and never comes home. Betsy never comes over, although she came over for Christmas. Nobody knew if Alma was going to be here mentally next year, so it was kind of maybe a final Christmas. It was horrible.
Telly’s stepfather Pete asked her to stay over one weekend after Christmas. He had to go to Florida. “Sure, can’t wait,” she said. What he forgot to tell her was the code for the ADT alarm system. Although she wasn’t in her right mind to set it, Alma somehow set off the alarm. Telly slept next to Alma and at 4 o’clock in the morning the shrieking went off. Alma wasn’t in the bed. Telly’s heart went in her throat.
She found her mom standing in the hall by the back door. “Mom!” she screamed.
“Oh, my God, that’s loud, Jay.”
“What’s the code?”
“I don’t know.”
Telly wanted to freak out. “My chest hurt, and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Lucky for me I punched in the same code for their garage door and the alarm shut up.”
“I don’t know how that fool thing went off,” Alma said.
“You opened the back door!” Alma probably thought, in her shrinking head, she was letting in the dog, and right after that couldn’t remember a thing.
Alma loves having slumber parties and having Telly sleep over. One day she said, “Mom, I can’t, I have to go home and cook dinner for my husband,”
“You’re married?” She was surprised. But now she covers it, and says, “Oh, that’s Steve, he’s a good guy.” She hides what she doesn’t remember.
They were playing cards one night and Telly asked her, “You know who would have loved Izzy?”
“Nana Buescher,” she said. Nana Buescher was Fred’s mom. She died many years ago.
“I know, I send pictures of Izzy to her every week.”
“Oh, do you? And Nana loves Izzy?”
“Oh, yeah, she just loves that little girl.”
“How sweet is that, that she loves my puppy.”
Alma will sit and stare at Izzy, just stare at her, telling Thelma how precious and pretty she is, how Izzy gives her a leg up.
One big problem she has with her mom is getting her to take her medication. The medication helps, but sometimes she refuses to take it, especially if it’s the home health care worker trying to give it to her.
“I just won’t get out of bed whenever they get here,” she said.
“Why are you such a little stink?” Telly asked. “You have to have home care and you have to take your medicine.”
“I’ll kick them out,” she said.
“Mom, do you remember the doctor telling you that you have Alzheimer’s?”
“How do you feel about that?”
“That’s the hand I was dealt with,” she said, with a sickening feeling.
When the home health worker hands Alma her medication she almost always takes it. She knows the hand, just like Izzy does, that isn’t trying to bite her. She knows the hand.