The Impermanence of Sticks

There are many references to elderly people becoming like babies/toddlers as their minds and bodies begin to fail. After having taken care of babies this past year, in addition to my mother, I have seen many similarities (which I will write about in another post). One particular parallel is the impermanence of things. I remember when my child was a baby and just when I got the schedule down or knew what to expect with her, it all changed. I recently had to hold back a laugh when the nurse at the new place for my mom wanted to find out what her baseline was. Baseline – in an ever-progressing disease, for a person who lost her husband after 52 years, who was in her third place after her house in just over a year, from a caregiver who has only been in that role for the same amount of time – ha!

So, because of impermanence, we never should have been worried about the sticks (or the books or the refrigerator). There is a bit of obsessive-compulsive behavior with my mom. She is also very much a nature person. She used to call herself The Lorax – she spoke for the trees. She always comments on trees when we are driving around. She and my dad lived among the trees in retirement. So, I guess we should not have been that surprised when she began “bringing the outside in” as she called her interior design scheme. She loved baskets and wooden bowls and put these to use in housing her collection of mulch, bark, twigs, pine cones, flowers, and rocks. When this wasn’t enough, she began adding branches to the corners of her rooms. She diligently cleaned every single piece of nature before placing it, leaving a trail in her shower and sink.

The only true harm in all of this was really just to my sister and me as we walked alongside her with her large array of long sticks on our walks in the park. We both did suffer many a sharp poke! However, we also worried. How far will this go? How much more can she fit? Is she hurting her back as she gets down to pick them up? Are we going to start being charged for all of the landscaping she is removing? We began sneaking out the baskets, dumping them and bringing her “new” baskets. We told her to leave the sticks in a particular place on our walks saying we would collect them at the end (but never did). However, when we moved her to a smaller place where she could only fit a couple of baskets, she has yet to even mention them. She does still take interest in nature. She looks at the mulch as we walk along the paths of the new place and asks deep questions like, “Do you look at them as individuals or as a group?” or “I wonder how they communicate with each other?”.

It is the same story for the books and the fridge. Going from thousands of books to maybe 100 was also a process wrought with anxiety and obsessiveness on her part and worry for us. We sold/donated most of her books and gave her money to buy new ones because she loved going to the book store. Of course, the money she got from selling hundreds of books would only have bought a few, so we supplemented. But then, I thought, when will this end? She was buying 10-15 books every time we went to the store. Now, my sister and I are reading to her because we are not sure she can/will on her own anymore (even though she still carries several in her purse at all times). She has not asked about the book store at all. The calls about needing more food for her refrigerator were daily or more. Was it too confusing for her at the grocery store? Were things going bad in her fridge? Was she going to be sick from mixing foods in a weird way (chicken in milk)? Was she going to be sick from eating a carton of ice cream in a day? Now, no fridge and no mention of shopping. Impermanence – it is becoming our mantra to combat our worry, but it also means she is losing the good things along the way as well.

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