I care for a priceless lady who is pleasantly demented. Her mobility has decreased significantly. She marvels that she wants to get up and move but her knees just sit there and do nothing. She stares at and then smacks them and says, “Come on knees!” The way she does that, I keep expecting them to kick up and take off like a donkey rudely awakened.
At 2 a.m. last night, she was up for the 3rd time needing to use the bathroom. She has a night light so I don’t turn the light on. It takes me less than a minute to get to her when she pushes the foghorn of a buzzer. No sooner do I walk in than she says, “What are you doing here?”
My foggy eyes still shut, I smile and say, “You buzzed me.”
“Oh yeah. Well, you came too quick.” She responds.
I breathe deeply as the last concept of whatever dream I was immersed in slips away. “What can I do for you, my dear?”
“I gotta go bad. Let’s do it real quick and we can all go back to sleep.” I chuckle, knowing it’ll be at least an hour till I can go back to sleep.
I raise the head of her bed and tell her to swing her beautiful legs over. She sits there a minute, scratches her head and says there must be bugs in there. Sometimes it’s “Do you hear that choir singing? Must be at the church.” Or, “We really need to stop opening the windows. Those blasted raccoons marched right through here in a row and now they have cereal all over the living room floor. This is ridiculous!” There’s no end to what’s going on at any given time.
It’s a wonder, and a shame, what we take for granted. It used to be she could move and talk at the same time. Any more, that overloads the system. Desperate as she is “to go”, she also normally has something she really needs to tell me, which puts her in a bind. Last night her son had called her to chat.
“That kid amazes me,” she pats her gorgeous white hair. “He said he just got his first job out of college and he’s so excited.” In reality he’s in his fifties and has been working forever. “They just love him. I really need to go.”
“Swing those beautiful legs over,” I say.
“These ugly legs? They haven’t been beautiful forever.” She finds a wart on them and inspects it.
“Bring them right here.” I stand where I need them to be.
“Right there?” She clarifies.
“Right here,” I clarify.
It takes her a long minute to get there. It takes several steps and much coaching to get her feet where they need to be so she can stand. She moves to the spot by the transfer pole where she’ll stand. She’s breathing audibly now and I ask her to stand whenever she’s ready.
“Okay,” She says, revving to go. “Let’s go.” She is her own best cheerleader. She rocks back and forth, rearing like a champion stallion. Nothing happens. She sighs, exasperated. I’m ready to help her but her knees need to join us, otherwise she’s dead weight.
“What’s this on the floor?” She asks suddenly and reaches down.
“Where?” I ask.
“There are bags down here,” she asserts.
I guess the light is coming on, after all. I turn it on, dimmed.
“Oh,” she says, “they were there a minute ago.” She finds and leisurely fondles another wart.
“Stand when you’re ready.”
“Where are we going?” She asks innocently.
“Right here to pee.” I point to the bedside commode.
“Well, that’s a great idea, coz I gotta go. I don’t know what I’d do without you to tell me these things!”
I’m a regular genius. I snicker.
“Come on knees.” Smack. “Look at ’em. They just sit there.”
“They’re coming,” I reassure her. “You be ready when they are. Keep your hands on the pole.” My hands are on her and her body will give me the feedback I need to know when to hoist her. It just takes the knees a minute. A long minute.
“So this Burt Reynolds is just a regular hunk and he thinks my son is the best thing since lined paper. He told him, “you tell your mother she did a good job raising you, kid!” and I said, well I agree with him but every mother thinks they did a pretty good job.”
“Okay, come up to standing mama,” I say urgently. Her knees have given me a green light, but it’s a narrow window.
“And he is so good looking but I tell my son, “I’m a married woman. I don’t want any shenanigans. So don’t you keep telling him how great I am. God, I gotta go.”
We’re half standing now, grunting and groaning. Suddenly, she forgets which way we’re going and swiftly heads towards the head of the bed and plops down. I could scream.
I breath deeply. I can do this.
“Do I lie down now?” she asks.
“Do you need to pee?”
“You know, I do! How did you know?”
“Mama, put your hands on the pole and stand when your ready. I’ll help you.”
“Oh I don’t need help. I’ll just stand and sit on the pot. I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself.” She puts her gorgeous hands on my face. “I just love you. I’ll never forget you. And if there’s ever anything I can do for you, why, you just let me know.”
“Thank you mama.” I kiss her forehead and fondly rest my head on hers for a minute. “Stand when you’re ready.”
That’s how it goes at 2 in the morning, when you gotta go, but the knees won’t move, and this is where it gets real good because Burt Reynolds, God love him, the way he cocks his head when he smiles that big smile of his, well he told my son…, “knees move!” Smack!
We’re partway up again when she plops right back own and says, “Honey, can you check if there’s a snake in that pot, coz if there is, you’ll be chasing me clear to Kentucky. You think I’m fast now, I’m like a fart in a frying pan when I see a snake!”
Public domain photo retrieved from Criterion.com