Pages

Friday, February 17, 2017

(1) WE SISTERS MUST HAVE BEEN A QUAINT SIGHT.

 11/1/2016  I just discovered this account labeled The Janeth Journal.  I have no idea if it is exactly the same as Caregiver Chronicles or if it is a shorter or longer version.  It's almost midnight and I'm too tired to make comparisons at this point.  Maybe tomorrow, maybe not.  I've started a terrific book called The Aviators by Winston Groom, am eager to continue turning its fascinating pages.
11/2/2016  I have deleted a few duplications, hope visitors will forgive those I missed. bbm

     My younger sister and I had a sibling rivalry that extended well into our adult years, and after a particularly painful disagreement, I said, “Janeth, it’s bad for our health to get this upset. Let’s stay away from each other for a while.“
     The first few months without my sister were so peaceful, I made no effort to contact her. The months became swiftly passing years until a greeting from my niece appeared on my computer screen on January 1, 2007. Linda asked if I remembered telling her about my biggest fear on my eighty-fifth birthday. “Mom has it,” she wrote. “The dreaded Alzheimer’s.”
     Suddenly the lifetime of disagreements with my sister seemed unimportant in the face of what she and Linda were dealing with. I Googled the disease and learned that someone contracted it every seventy-one seconds. There were hundreds of thousands of cases right here in Massachusetts.
     I thought of the last-straw angry scene that alienated me from my sister. Maybe she would have no recollection of our falling-out. It would be ironic if she only remembered that she hadn’t seen me in years. If I were to call her, would she know who I was?
     I wrote a note, sealed it and put it by the door, ready for mailing. Then I stopped, reeling from memories of past misunderstandings. I could picture Janeth interpreting any attention from me after this long silence as evidence that I was gloating over her plight. She once startled me by saying she figured I was happy about the problems she was having at the time. I hoped and prayed that things would be different now, that she would accept my written message as deep-down sympathy and caring. I took the risk and sent it.
     Janeth called, and we had an hour-long conversation. She told me how much it meant to her to see the words, "Dear Sister."  We soon found that aging had insulted us in numerous similar ways. She had shrunk three and a half inches, I had shrunk four and a half.  To avoid pain she had to bend forward when she walked and so did I. We hated the veins that crawled on our hands like blue worms on crinkled parchment.
     She described other trials and worries and misfortunes, including a fall that opened up a bruise that "popped like a grape" and began bleeding in the market. When it happened, she had the most important papers of her life in a little cart she brought everywhere she went. An ambulance came so promptly while she was pressing on the injury that she was carried off, protesting wildly that she needed her important papers. By the time she was delivered to the hospital, still wailing, she was diagnosed as delusional.
     She told me the papers in her cart included Ray’s old love letters, and she knew without question why things became so quiet every evening. The nurses had started reading the letters and were so fascinated, they kept reading. Her cart was returned when she left, "but the contents were in a jumble.” 
      I wondered how much of this was accurate and how much the paranoia that Linda and my research had prepared me for.  Janeth said she was practically a recluse because she didn’t want people to see how old her face had become with the awful little curl under her nose. Ray was loyal and helpful but had troubles in his own life.
     Clearly my sister needed a lot of in-person support that my niece couldn’t supply, what with her job as a social worker, the 3-hour drive from Maine, and her daughter Tiffany’s special needs. I resolved to do as much as I could to help.

     I saw my sister for the first time in eight years when I picked her up to take her to a doctor’s appointment. I hardly recognized the little person who emerged from her building. What had become of my tall, slim, stunning sister?
     She moved towards me, pulling a folding cart stuffed with two satchels and a large black pocket-book. “We have to bring this,” she said. “It has all my important papers. If I leave them in my apartment the snoops will sneak in and read them.” Together the two of us wrestled the cart into the back of my car. We got into the front seat. It had been a long, long time between hugs.
     We sisters must have been a quaint sight walking along the hospital’s corridors, with Jan very stooped, and I, too, unable to straighten up as much as I’d like to. A pair of head-turners 40 years ago, metamorphosed by Father Time’s sorcery into squashed versions of our former selves.
     After Janeth’s appointment, we moved our conversation, which had become intensely personal in the doctor’s waiting room, to an area where we could talk more privately. “I have become ugly,” she said. “NO,” she held up her hand, “don’t say anything, I have a mirror.”
     She told me she worried a lot about her privacy, another reason she was so isolated and another reason why she took the cart with her on the rare occasions when she went out. She suspected a maintenance man invaded her apartment when she was away, ferreting out information about her past. Changing the subject, I showed her an old photograph with Jan on the left, Mother in the middle, and me on the right. We were young and blooming, Mom more than a decade younger than we were now.

     She looked, but I saw the sadness glinting in her eyes. For the first time in eight years, I very much wanted my sister in my life. I wanted to do everything I could to improve the Catch-22 existence that blocked pleasurable excursions we might have together.
     We used to have happy times, meeting for lunch or dinner, but not since our falling out. Janeth has been literally starving herself for years because of her strict avoidance of sugar, salt, and fat. On Thanksgiving, Ray took her to a buffet in a restaurant she had formerly enjoyed, “and all I could eat was an apple.”  I didn’t see how she could go on living alone, subsisting on raw vegetables and fruit.
     What would she think if we tried to persuade her to go into assisted living? How would this ever be accomplished? What would such a place be like?


(2) .IF IT ISN'T ONE THING IT'S TWO.


With some trepidation I showed my sister the brochures I had obtained from Advantage House in Hingham, an assisted living facility ten minutes from my condominium.
I wasn’t surprised when she said, “I don’t think there’s going to be anything on the menus I can eat.” 
       I confessed my answer to Kathie: “I’m afraid I said, `Then you’ll starve.'”
“Oh dear,” said Kathie, who would never say anything like that, even in jest. We had looked at a menu in the brochure a couple of weeks ago, and yes, for breakfast there were items like eggs and bacon and sausage—no-no’s for Jan—but there were also cereals and toast and fruit. As for the mid-day dinner and the evening supper, Janeth said unhappily that she supposed she’d just have to change the diet she has adhered to so carefully for decades.  I tell her the meals would be the kind that Kathie and Frank and I have been eating for years, and they haven’t damaged our health.
She says, “What about . . . “ then stops. I know what she’s thinking. She’s thinking about my lumpectomy years ago and the 30 days of radiation. I had no side effects except for irritation over the daily drive to Mass General. And I didn’t blame Peter Pan’s Peanut Butter for the inconvenience.
      Tonight I decide to prepare “Skillet Chicken Breast with Vegetables,” a recipe I found on Google. I will double the ingredients so Jan will have enough for at least two dinners. Red wine is an ingredient in the recipe; do I have any red wine? I look in the cupboard and pull out a bottle of Sauterne. It looks red. My sister will approve because red wine is good for your health, like dark chocolate. The bottle slips out of my fingers. It doesn’t break, but it spills gorily and requires a tedious cleanup.
      When I have finished using my foot to push a large square of terrycloth around the floor (it’s too painful to mop it up any other way), I see a sort of black doodle that has resisted my efforts to eradicate it. Is it something in the wine bottle like the mother in raw vinegar? I look more closely. No, the doodle is not superficial; it is a permanent scar on the white surface. I say to myself irrationally: “It’s HER fault!” Then Kathie calls. I tell her about the disaster in the kitchen but don’t tell her I blamed Janeth. I say I’ll put a Band-Aid on the scar when company comes.

     All the hours on the phone, all the forms sent to banks along with a copy of my Durable Power of Attorney, all Janeth’s fears that her savings are gone from the dozen different annuities she has, all her worries about having been robbed. . . all these concerns are beginning to be resolved. With three checks made out to Janeth Black, I call her and say we’re going to the bank.
She comes down to the car, and we set out. When we get to the bank, we sit down at the desk of a woman named Laura, who soon finds that she needs to keep repeating herself. She has trouble understanding our concerns, and we don’t understand her at all.
I announce that we are here to deposit three checks to my sister’s account. Jan supplies her social security number and date of birth. Laura looks at the screen.
“There has been activity in the account, and the balance is quite low.” Jan and I swivel our heads and exchange looks—hers panicky, mine puzzled. It turns out this was the checking account we’d reserved for Jan’s Social Security deposits.
“She has another account,” I say, and give Laura the information. Laura looks at the new information on her screen.
“A check was returned to us on April second, due to insufficient funds.” I hear the tsk-tsk in her voice.
“I know that. I forgot to deduct the check my sister gave to her lawyer.” Sheesh, it could happen to anyone.
The balance is reassuring. Laura asks Jan to endorse each of the checks and write “For deposit only.”
“Why do I do that?” Jan asks.
“If you were to drop a check in your travels, no one could cash it as long as you write those words on the back.”
On the way home I’m thinking about what a novice I am in the world of finances. Jan says out of the blue, “You’re so smart!” I tell her what I'd been thinking, and we laugh. Back at her building, she retrieves her cart from the trunk, and we hug goodbye.      
        I call Jan to find out how things went with her dentist appointment.
“The new dental assistant had an odd quirk. She kept saying, `How does that sound to you?’ It was such a broken-record question that it drove me crazy.”
When the dentist finished cleaning Jan’s teeth, she said another appointment would be needed to take x-rays. “How long does that take?” About five minutes. Jan said, “I can last that long, let’s do it now.” The assistant said, “You’ll need to open your mouth very wide. How does that sound to you?”
     Janeth calls to tell me again about Ray’s eighteen-page letter, this time supplying details.
     “He compared the way he felt about me to a movie he’d seen.”
     I listen to Ray’s account of the movie the way mothers listen to their children giving a scene-by-scene narration of a movie’s plot. Not attentively enough to be able to repeat much of anything, if asked.
Jan’s conclusion, “He is a man who has loved me and still loves me more than any man in the world ever loved me.”
“You’re lucky to have such a good, helpful friend. What do you want done with letters like that? Do you want them to go to Linda?”
Jan utters a big OH! For a moment I think my question has offended her, but no, she is in shock for a different reason. The balcony curtain that shields her from prying eyes in her eighth-floor apartment has just fallen down. She is distraught about this loss of privacy.
“You said Ray might be coming on Sunday. I’m sure he can find a way to put the curtain up again.”
“But how could such a thing happen?” I know what she is thinking. Someone could have come in while she was seeing the dentist and tampered with the support for the curtain.
“Maybe Ray jostled it when he was working on your TV.”
“That’s impossible. The TV is way across the room from my balcony.”
“Well, Ray can fix it, I’m sure.”
       Jan says, “Remember what Vaughan used to say? `If it isn’t one thing. . . .’”
      “It’s another,” I supply.
      “No,” says Jan, “If it isn’t one thing, it’s two.”
      I like Vaughan’s version better. I tell my sister I love her and we exchange the hugga-huggas that end a long phone call. This is the best way for me to be a caregiver, now that I’m trying to avoid too much walking. Thank heavens for Ray.

      Jan continues to worry about the trial visit to Advantage House.    
      “How can I bring my awful bed that hurts me when I bump into the edge?” she asks. “What would I do for furniture?”
      “The apartment comes completely furnished with towels and sheets and the works. You won’t have to bring a thing. They always have one ready for what they call respite. If a family is going to be away for a couple of weeks and can’t take care of a relative, this is the solution.”
My sister is still upset about her destroyed privacy. “My curtain has fallen down.”
“I know,” I said. I was on the phone with you when it happened. Is there a building with an eighth-floor apartment that faces yours?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if you look out that balcony window, can you see anyone with a window facing yours?”
“I never looked, Bar-ba-ra!”
“Try looking now.”
“But people can get up on the balcony like the man that assaulted me. They can get up on scaffolding when the building is being worked on.”
“That was months ago. It isn’t being worked on now, so your privacy shouldn’t be a concern. Anyway, didn’t you say Ray might be coming tomorrow?”
“Ray? There’s no way he can fix it properly. It will need new fixtures.”
“Okay, call the office on Monday and tell them about your problem.”
“They aren’t going to be able to do anything with that big chair in the way and all the other things in the way.”
“Professionals know how to work around the furniture. Just think of men who come in and put new carpeting down. Think of the sofas and wall units and tables and lamps they have to get out of the way.”
Jan finally says she’ll call the office. “I’ll just have to live with it for two days, no privacy at all for two days.”
I say, “You hate living there, don’t you!” Yes, she says, she hates it.
“We’re going to get you moved out as soon as we possibly can.”

      Jan calls to tell me Ray has worked on the curtain rod.
      “He did a pretty good job, but the curtain is a little shorter than it was before, so there’s a peek-through opening at the bottom. I gave him an atta-boy anyway.”
He took her to the supermarket after he fixed the curtain.
“We were able to find some really cheap tonic with quinine, only eighty-nine cents for a big bottle. I’ve rinsed out a Polar tonic bottle very carefully and thoroughly because there isn’t room in my refrigerator for the eighty-nine cent one. I’m going to pour tonic from the big one into the smaller one. Do you think it’s safe to leave the big bottle on the counter after I’ve opened it?”
I say it’s probably okay for a few days. She’s going to take the chance—it was only eighty-nine cents; if it goes bad she’ll throw it out.

Jan’s fears for her security continue. I visited her today, parked in front of her building and called to tell her to meet me outside. I walk over to the small park nearby. It’s a beautiful day, about sixty degrees; a man is sitting on a bench, reading the paper. There are other benches, but I’m not there to sit down and enjoy that stranger, the sun. I’m there to look up at the top floor where Janeth’s apartment is. An upward glance makes it clear that no one, even on a very long ladder, could possibly see into her living room.
When she comes through the door, I take her arm.
"I want to show you something, Jan." She comes with me to the little park. I turn her around and point to the top floor of her residence.
“Look, you don’t have to worry about anyone peeking into your window." Janeth stares upward for a moment.
“They can if they’re on my balcony,” she says, her voice rising. The man with the newspaper looks up. “Have you forgotten that I was assaulted in the middle of the night by a man on my balcony?”
“But that was back when there was scaffolding in front of the building. Now that there isn’t any way to climb onto the balcony, you’re safe.”
“He can get onto my balcony another way, there’s a place….a place….up there where those white columns are, there’s a place. . .I don’t want to talk about it!”
“You don’t have to, dear.”
As we walk back toward the building, my sister tells me again in a loud voice that a hand had seized her and wrestled her to the floor. Bystanders stare, as I try to calm her.
“That must have been awful! I remember asking you how he got out on the balcony, and you said, `He came up on the elevator, of course.’”
I didn’t say ‘of course! That was just someone’s guess. Everyone was making guesses as to how it happened.”
     I do what I should have done much, much sooner: change the subject.
     “I’ve been thinking about the patches the neurologist gave you for the pain in your shoulder. I’m wondering about the back pain you have if you try to stand up straight. Maybe putting patches on your back would relieve the pain.”
“I don’t even know how to use them,” she says helplessly. “I don’t understand the instructions. It says to leave them on for twelve hours, and sometimes I find myself taking them off at six o’clock, sometimes at eight. It’s all just too confusing!”
“When you move to Advantage House, there will be nurses to help you keep track of things like that. I do hope this will happen soon.”

Jan calls, tells me a social worker named Nell is there and is recommending an assisted-living facility in Quincy, Hancock House. I am irritated that Nell is complicating matters but try not to show it.
“Jan, you’re on the waiting list for Advantage House, and it’s only ten minutes away from me.”
Jan calls again after the social worker leaves. She says she doesn’t like having Nell know that she might be moving. “It’s my business, nobody else has to know.”
“You’re such a private person, Jan. Moving to Advantage House isn’t anything you need to keep a secret.”
“That’s what I’d like to do, keep it a secret.”
I ask how the visit with Nell went.
“We just sit here, not knowing what to say to each other. She’ll be paying her last visit next time.”
“Didn’t she try to help with anything?”
“I wanted her to call in a prescription for me, but she said she doesn’t do that. She did say that when I dispose of the vial, I should peel off the information on it. I’ve been trying to do that. It’s really hard to do.”
“Peel off the information? I never heard of such a silly thing! Why did she tell you to do that?”
“Well, I guess if someone sees the writing on the label, they can steal your identity.”
“That’s absolutely crazy! Just put the empty vial in the chute and down it will go with the rubbish from all the other residents. Wait till Kathie hears that this woman is adding to your worries with talk of identity theft! That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”
Jan’s voice is a half-shriek as she says, “I didn’t say Nell said anything about identity theft! I just figured this was why she wanted me to peel off the information!”
“Oh. Well, I don’t know why on earth she told you to do that, but I’m sure you don’t need to.”
“That’s what she says when she advises me to do something. She says I don’t have to do it.”
“Do you have a prescription that’s running out?”
“It has six or seven days left. Nell said I’d have to call Baxter’s and then call my doctor to get her approval. ”
“The pharmacist will do that for you. I’ve done that a million times, called in a prescription, and the pharmacist says it’s expired and he’ll call the doctor.”
“It’s all just too much,” says Jan.
“Give me Baxter’s number and the number on the prescription, and I’ll do it for you.” When we finally hang up, I’m exhausted, and I’m sure she is, too.
      I call Jan again at six, wanting to be sure she is okay.
     “I’m trying to take the leaves off my Romaine before it’s rotten.”
     I ask if she knows to separate the green part of the leaves from the hard, tasteless white spine.
     “Yes, the part that looks like celery I put in the toilet. I have a lot of deli stuff in the refrigerator, but I don’t know which I should use up first. There isn’t any date on the cartons.”
     "You’ll have to use the smell test." She laughs, but during the rest of the call she sounds forlorn and lost, as if she doesn’t know what to do at the moment or at any moment in the future.

      Linda is in Janeth’s apartment, helping her get a laundry done and working to pare down the paper mountain. I think at this point the mountain may be more like the Blue Hills. I have a hill of my own, forms to be filled out by her doctor and by me, in readiness for the move to Advantage House.
People who have stayed there enthuse about how good the meals are. The trouble is, good food is not a turn-on for Janeth. She is suspicious of anything that has additives and preservatives, having read an article claiming that substances like . . . .
I just looked up the latest on additives and preservatives and find my sister has good reasons for being suspicious. This will be my Mother’s Day gift to her—admitting I shouldn’t have been so sure she was mistaken about the notion of chemicals in food.
     Jan was amazed at how much Linda accomplished. “I just trusted her with the papers, and a big bag of them was taken away. And the trampoline is gone. Linda told me that trampolines were good exercise for the mentally impaired, and Tiffany had used one when she was younger. I said if it might help some child, she could take it.”
     This was my niece’s most diplomatic achievement.

     Another frantic call. “Guess what I’ve done now! I left the patches on my leg all night. They’re only supposed to be on twelve hours! How could I be so stupid?”
     “Jan, it wasn’t stupid, it’s perfectly understandable when you consider what an unusual weekend you’ve had. Our dinner with Kathie and Frank at the Marriott Saturday, dinner with Linda Sunday at the Hearth & Kettle.”
“It’s good of you to think up excuses for my craziness.”
Kathie and I exchanged a series of e-mails. She is concerned about the patch, thinks Jan should discontinue its use, will do some research. She learns that the patch Dr. Martin prescribed is Tylenol, which isn’t as strong as others.
We both know that Jan’s use of the patch is a futile exercise. It will have no effect on the infection she is convinced she got from Dr. Martin’s dirty fingernails. The scene of the alleged crime shows not even a bruise, just a few pink spots on the back of her leg.
      Linda predicted that her mom would come up with something critical, despite her hours of work. She was right. I stopped briefly at Southern Artery Apartments today, meeting Jan in the office so copies could be made of her insurance cards for her respite stay. Then we went up to #822 to see how her apartment looks with the trampoline gone.

“This is just wonderful,” I say. “It’s a big improvement.”
“But I'm worried. I’m afraid Linda has thrown out a stack of envelopes with friends’ addresses on them.” She demonstrates what the stack looked like, outlining them with her hands. “She was working so fast, I just tried to stay out of the way and trust her not to make any mistakes.”
     “The letters may still turn up. “
     “They weren’t letters, they were envelopes!" she exclaims. "How can I write to my friends if Linda threw their addresses away?”
       I suddenly remember I have something to do at home, such as calm down. I say hugga hugga and take my leave.
A couple of hours go by while I work in my study, with part of my mind wondering if I should call my sister. The phone rings. Janeth says she wants to apologize.
“You don’t have anything to apologize for, Jan.”
“Yes, I do, but those envelopes were vitally important to me. Back before Wally died we had an address book, but after that I never kept addresses in a book where anyone could see them. It was nobody’s business who my friends were. I just saved the envelopes and planned to write some letters after I retired. Now that I’m going to Advantage House, I’ll be retired and I’ll have time to catch up on what’s happening with my friends.”
“Janeth, we’ve reached an age where we don’t have very many years left.  It’s time to let go of things.  We should focus on what’s really important.”
“Old friends aren’t important?”
“Not if it means hurting Linda’s feelings by finding fault with her after she worked so hard to help you.”
Surprisingly, she listens to me and says nothing further about the envelopes.

(3) HER VOICE IS CLOSE TO HYSTERIA WHEN SHE SPEAKS.


        Janeth called with a new concern. “I think my flickering lamp table is such a dangerous fire hazard I ought to cut the plug off.”
“How about wrapping the plug with tape, in case the lamp is fixable?”
     "But suppose some nut got hold of it and peeled off the tape and plugged it in?"
     “Could you put it in the hall and have it taken away?”
     "I keep things on the attached table."
“Okay, you know better than I about what your situation is. Do whatever you think is best.”
       I call her after dinner. "I cut the cord," she says.
      "How's the baby?"
      "What?"
      "How's the baby?"
     "Are you saying b-a-b-y?"
     "Yes, you said you cut the cord, so I was wondering how the baby was."
     "Oh hah, hah, hah, now I get it. You'll have to write that down and tell Linda."
      Jan has a reservation for a trial week at Advantage House, starting Saturday, June ninth. Linda will drive down from Maine to bring her mother there, along with her medications and whatever else she needs. 
      Janeth had an electrifying tale to me tell about her lunch with Ray. He assured her she could safely leave her cart in his van. She was uneasy but reluctantly followed him into the restaurant.
      “When we came out, there stood the van with its side bashed in. We couldn’t open the door, but I could see that the cart was gone.”
“I’ll bet it wasn’t Ray’s van.”
“How did you know that?”
“Because you don’t sound upset enough.”
Yes, Ray’s car was parked next to the damaged one, the cart untouched.
She tells me she bought a big jar of honey. "I've been trying to pour some of the honey into a smaller jar. Now I have to worry about critters being attracted to the jars. I put them in the vegetable bin.”
      “You could probably store them safely in a zip-lock plastic bag.”
      “Plastic?”

“Yes, the critters won’t be interested in eating plastic.”
“But they are so tiny, the opening would look like the Grand Canyon to them. I’ve seen them, Barbara. I cut them in half.”
Cut them in half? I say okay, the honey will be fine in the vegetable bin. Why do I argue over these trivialities?
“How was Nell’s visit?”
“She didn’t do much of anything except walk up and down the hall, braying the news about Advantage House. I had to shush her.”
“Going to Advantage House for a week will be an adventure. Why should you be embarrassed about it?”
“I’m not embarrassed, I just don’t want the neighbors knowing where I’m going. It isn’t their business.” That’s my sister’s mantra and her motto.
At 12:30 the phone rings. “Hellooooo,” drawls Linda, with that big grin she has in her voice.
“Aren’t you the smart one to get here so early!” Half an hour later, we meet at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant, according to plan. Jan is overwhelmed by all the choices on the menu,
“I’ll have what my sister is having,” she finally says to the waitress. I bring up the subject of the apartments at Advantage House.
“Mom thought the one-bedroom size was much too big, so she’s getting a studio.”
“What I couldn’t understand in either apartment,” Jan says, “was the size of the refrigerator. It was no bigger than a dot. How can you keep things in something the size of a dot?”
I remind her that she’ll be getting three meals a day when she moves in. She still shakes her head over the practically invisible refrigerator. It’s intriguing that the exaggeration is in a different direction from the usual. There are thousands of letters from Ray, papers that would take thousands of years to sort through, a refrigerator no bigger than a dot. I wonder if this skewing of time and size is a typical Alzheimer's symptom or if the vastness and the smallness of things are my sister's original quirk.
The Filet of Flounder with Rice arrives. The bright green broccoli is barely steamed.
Janeth has a struggle cutting the broccoli stems into bite-sized pieces. She has a struggle chewing them.
“Forget the stems, Jan, just eat the florets.”
She eats the florets. She has a few bites of flounder. Then she picks up the lemon wedge, carefully removes the seeds and eats the lemon to the rind.
“This is the sister,” I say to Linda, “who was crazy about maple sugar. It always seemed too sweet to me, but she loved it.” I give Jan my lemon wedge.
The dessert is as gloriously huge as it looks in its photograph. Linda serves a portion for her mom, taking care not to include any chemical-filled whipped cream. She and I accept the risk, and we all make short work of the sundae.
Linda and Janeth follow me to Advantage House. Marketing Director Carla Thomson greets us and gives us a talk about the many perks that are offered to residents. When she is ready to show Linda and Jan an apartment, I leave, partly to spare my back and partly to get my leftovers into the freezer before they overcook in my car.
        Later I call Kathie’s house, where Linda stays when she drives down from Maine.

“So what did you think?” I ask my niece.
“I was very impressed with everything about it,” she says. “Even the grounds are lovely.”
“Did Carla show you a studio apartment?”
“No, Mom has changed her mind about the studio. She wants a one-bedroom like the one she’ll be staying in temporarily.”
       "That’s what I wanted her to have from the beginning. I am so glad.”

“I asked if there are ever sets of furniture left behind by relatives. Carla said yes, they often supply furniture.”
“How wonderful! Will Janeth be renting it?”
“No, she’ll buy it. It will be expensive but much easier than trying to make do with what she has. They sell the furniture that’s in the apartment for the temporary stay. Then they buy another set to take its place.”
“Do you think your mom will be as suspicious of the staff at Advantage House as she has been all these years of the maintenance guys?”
“The paranoia will move right along with her, I’m afraid. When we came back to her apartment this afternoon, she pointed to the open closet slider. She was sure it had been closed when we left. I said, `No, Mom, when I was pushing your cart, I slid the door open to make it easier to get by the stuff in the hall.'
“Then she checked the kitchen counter and thought her prescriptions weren’t the way she had left them. They were tilted.” Tilted? “Yes, t-i-l-t-e-d, tilted.”
Linda laughs the husky, exuberant laugh that is part of her charm. “Mom is always convinced that someone has been snooping whenever she’s away for a few hours.”
“Maybe things will be different at Advantage House.”
I call Jan, curious to hear her version of the afternoon. Mirable dictu, she says the whole thing is exciting. This is the first time I have heard such a positive word from her lips since I came back into her life.
“But Barbara, I’m going to do something you won’t like.” For a moment I was crest-fallen. “I don’t want to have any pictures on the wall.”
     “That’s okay,” I say, relieved that she isn’t planning to skip two meals a day. “It’s your apartment, you can do anything you want.”
   
     I collect my sister for our shopping trip. Before she came down to the car, she said on the phone that she would be bringing her cart, not just to put it in the backseat but so that she can lean on it. By the time she shows up, I have figured it out. This is what she’ll tell the management at Advantage House when she is obliged to go to the dining room for her meals. She would be too fearful to leave her valuables in her apartment. For someone afflicted with memory loss, she can be downright resourceful when she feels threatened.
    We find several petite shirts and slacks that Jan tries on, then opens the dressing room door to see what I think. What I think is God, she is so skinny and bony, she has nearly starved herself to death. She takes my hand and puts it on her leg to show me how the skin feels. It is dry and scaly like a lizard’s. That, too, must surely be caused by her strict adherence to no fat, no sodium, no sugar.
     Ray drives Janeth to her appt with Dr. Demarko. The office calls me to say she will have to be tested for tuberculosis before the doctor can fill out and fax the medical information to Advantage House.
     “You need to make an appointment for the test and another appointment for the result two days later.”
     “How can all this be accomplished in a week?” I ask. It's routine, I’m told. Her appointments are on Tuesday and Thursday at eleven. I call the Visiting Nurse Association to let them know Janeth will need a nurse to take her to these doctors. Ray's going to be away, and I can't do it.

I finally reach Carla Thomson and am telling her all this when she says, "Would you like to have your sister move in on the ninth and just stay on?"
I have never swooned in all my eighty-six years, but this was close. “Yes!”
     Carla thinks it can all work out. It won’t be the same apartment Linda and her mom looked at, but it will be a similarly furnished one-bedroom. Janeth can decide what furniture she wants to buy after she's settled. Dr. Demarko will fax the medical form on Thursday, and someone from Advantage House will go to Apt 822 to interview Janeth on Friday. I'll take her to Advantage House Saturday morning along with her cart and a few important items, such as her medications, some clothes and a toothbrush. Linda will bring more belongings, like sheets and towels, when she gets to Quincy in the afternoon.
      Jan calls to tell me she has stuffed a trash bag with a huge number of letters from Ray and letters about Mr. Basteri, the bounder who swindled her long ago. That episode would fill a book.
      “The bag is so heavy,” Jan continues, “it’s even too heavy to drag.”
     “Could you divide the stuff into two bags?” She says this would be very difficult.
     “Okay, leave it as it is, we’ll work something out.”

I return to reading John Updike’s Terrorist. I am drawn to three of his characters, find myself wishing the book were fatter, so it would last longer.
The phone rings. My sister tells me how poorly she’d slept the night before, and now she will probably be up until eleven, trying to divide the contents of one trash bag into two.
”DON’T DO THAT, JAN! We’ll manage all these things somehow. Go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.”
I bring Jan some groceries. She shows me two trash bags full of papers from boxes that had been stored under her massage table. Then she leads me into the kitchen and shows me what is stored there. Stacks of large rectangular boxes are amassed on shelves across from the counter. “Four here, four more next to them, that’s eight, one-two-three-four more, and four more at the end. Sixteen boxes full of a muddle of papers I have to look through.”
“Twenty years of your life,” I say, as overwhelmed as she is. “Linda said she would take bags of papers back to Maine and look through them for you.”
I think of how lucky I am to have Kathie and Frank’s basement for the storage of seventy years of my life. They may be better organized than Jan’s, but after I’m gone, who cares if a rubbish truck carries them away?
I'm on a high, anticipating a diminishing of all the concerns created by my sister’s illness. Is it possible that in eight more days she will be in a place where knowledgeable people will help her and care for her? I told her tonight that Linda thought she'd want to bring the filing cabinet.
“Heavens no!”
“Okay, then Linda can put the contents into a black trash bag and look them over up in Maine.”
“Oh no, there is much too much to put in a trash bag!” Okay, two trash bags. I promise Linda will be watching for anything Jan would want to save.
A final call from Jan last night. Is this Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday? Sunday, I say. And it’s July? No, dear, it’s June. It isn’t July? No, dear, it’s June third. She tells me Ray has brought her a calling card. I know nothing about calling cards. I will soon learn more.
On the way home from Cohasset’s duplicate bridge, I pull into Stop & Shop’s parking lot and call my sister.
“I’m about to get the milk you asked for. Do you need anything else?”
Her voice is close to hysteria when she speaks. She says she is almost out of time on the MCI. She didn’t realize she was running out of time. “This is terrible, what am I going to do?”
“What is an MCI?”
“The Calling Card! I’ve been using it for all my calls to you and all my other calls, and now I see that I’m almost out of time. I won’t have any way of talking to you or Linda or anyone else. I’m in a terrible predicament!”
“Jan, your phone will work, just as it always has.”
“No, you don’t understand, I’ve been using the calling card, not my phone, and I’ve used up almost all the time that’s left!” Her voice is frantic and half crying.
       I repeat that I’m sure her regular phone will work, all she has to do is try it, and she’ll see that it’s still working. “Do you need anything besides milk?” I ask again.

“Yes,” she howls. “An MCI!” I ask the same question and get the same answer. I buy the milk and stop at home first to find out if I have a call from the South Shore Visiting Nurse.  A Mr. Arnold had said he’d let me know if a nurse would be bringing Jan to her TB testing tomorrow. First, I listen to a message from secretary Beatrice. She says Janeth has to give thirty days’ notice about her move; I should talk to manager Gerry Barnes in the office.
I call Mr. Arnold. Yes, he has a nurse lined up for both days. I ask him to send the bill directly to me. Then I call Gerry Barnes and learn that we will have several weeks to get everything out of Janeth’s apartment. I e-mail this news to Kathie and say we can take our time on the moving job. Maybe The Salvation Army will be our salvation.
Gerry also tells me, when I ask, that my sister is quite right when she says the button for opening the front door is on her telephone, which I had very much doubted.  “This is the way the system was set up.”
I will please Janeth by telling her how wrong I was.
       I park in front of Southern Artery Apartments, call Jan and ask her to bring down the frozen Meal on Wheels that was not to her liking but will be to mine. Wearing a white shirt and the striped pink pants, she brings down two frozen meals, and hands them to me. She has been noticing her skinny arms, now that short-sleeves season is here. This is why she wants whole milk, “not that I expect it to make my arms look any better.”

She tells me it’s so dark in her apartment, she can hardly see the papers she’s been examining.            “You know that lamp, the one that was dangerous? I brought it downstairs.”
“Didn’t you cut the plug off?”
“Well, yes, but it was of no use at all anymore. When movers come, how will they be able to see what they’re doing?”
“They can open those vertical blinds to the balcony. That will let in a lot more light.”
Janeth looks dismayed at the idea of anyone letting light into her den. And tampering with the balcony where she believes a man had hidden and assaulted her in the middle of the night. Tampering with the barricade of shelves in front of the balcony, tampering with the blinds that she always keeps closed. She says something I don’t understand about the screen being bent and the doors not working. I know she feels as if control of her life and her surroundings is slipping away from her.
“Poor darling! It’s so mean, having this happen to my baby sister.”
      “It’s so mean, having this happen to my family,” she says, woebegone as a child.

What can I do but put my arms around her and tell her we all love her, we all hope she will be safe and happy in her new home.
“I hope so, too,” she says so softly I can barely hear the hope.
I call Jan from home and tell her there’s something I’d forgotten about.
“When I was talking to Gerry Barnes, I asked her if there was a buzzer for the front door in everyone’s apartment. She said it wasn't on the wall, it was connected to the residents’ telephones. So you were entirely right, Jan. You kept trying to explain, and I didn’t listen.”
She doesn’t rub it in. “You mean everyone else has a telephone like mine? Huh! That’s amazing! I never would have believed that.”
Then she tells me she got so hungry, she ate what was left of some baked beans that had been in the refrigerator for ages. I ask her about the seafood salad she mentioned a few days ago.
“Yes, I was so hungry I had some of that, too.”
       “And are you feeling okay?”
       “Yes, so far.”

I call her again just before eight to remind her about her Risperdal. She takes the pill while I wait. Then I remind her about the appointment she has tomorrow at eleven. “A nurse will be coming to pick you up.”
The usual despair sets in about what she will wear. She guesses the same pink slacks she’s worn so much, she’s almost worn them out.
“You have a nice cool nightie in one of those bureau drawers,” I suggest, aware that she will doubtless wear the pink perennials to bed.
"That would mean I'd have to get out of what I'm wearing and into the nightie. Then in the morning, I'd have to get out of the nightie and into the slacks. I don't have time to go through all that."
Oh, I see. That explains everything I'd wondered about. She has her reasons.

(6) SHE FORGIVES MY TRESPASSES AS I FORGIVE HERS


      
  Don't know what happened to Posts 4 and 5.  I devoutly dislike these disappearances, about which I can't do a goldurned thing except to mourn and complain.

       When I wake up this morning, I discover my sub-conscious, Jeeves Junior (Jeeves was Mother’s name for hers), has thought of a way to help my sister. I can easily drive over to Advantage House, collect the shirts that have missing buttons, and repair them at home while I’m watching Sunday Morning. When I return them, I’ll bring my favorite sneakers for Jan to try, the white ones made of a lacy-looking fabric.
      The door to Number 201 is unlocked, but the room is dark. I ask my sister why she has the draperies pulled.
      “If I feel like closing my eyes, I can’t do it if it’s too light in here.”
      Jan goes to the window and partially opens the curtains She picks up her white jacket from the arm of a chair, puts it on, and points.
      “Look at the back. See how my shirt hangs below it on the left?”
      Yes, half an inch is below the jacket for a short way, then it disappears. This is because my sister’s left shoulder is lower than her right. Mine is vice versa. Ah, the mysterious power of genes. I remind Jan about the way Ellen Degeneres wears her shirts. She says testily that she doesn’t care what Ellen Degeneres does, she wants her jacket to cover her shirt and her rear end too.
      I never liked being snapped at before she got Alzheimer’s, and I don’t like it now. The books say I’m supposed to turn the other cheek and change the subject. Instead I snap back at her, as angry as she is.” Then I pull myself together and say more quietly, “How about trying on these sneakers?
      I take off the white leather sneakers I’m wearing, so Janeth can try them. She has calmed down, too. She tests the way the shoes feel by trying to lift her heel out after they are laced. The fit is snug.
     “I guess these are all right”
      I tell Jan I have to go because I want to see the rest of the Sunday Morning show. She gives me two shirts with missing buttons. I can still feel the air pulsing with our earlier anger, but we manage to exchange strangled hugga huggas.
      Back at home, I turn on the TV, get out my sewing box and paw through my collection of buttons until I find one similar enough to put on the sleeve of the tan shirt. Who’s going to notice if it isn’t as pearly as the others? I cut the pearly one off the sleeve, replace it with the passable one, and then sew it in on the front in the spot between its mates. As I wind the thread around and around the button so it won’t be too tight for the buttonhole, I recall that it was my mother who taught me this trick. Bless her heart, she was no more domestically inclined than her younger daughter, what with her career as an opera star, but she did know a thing or two.
      I look at the pale green shirt and can’t find one button that isn’t securely attached. I get out my magnifying glass to be sure. I will bring this tool with me tomorrow and turn a light on in Jan’s apartment, so she can see for herself.
      My sister did her best to think up roadblocks as to why she couldn't go via The Ride to her neurologist tomorrow at 10:15. This is the very time when she always has to hurry to a bathroom. She won't have time to floss her teeth (I tell her to bring the floss with her). Will the doctor know what he's supposed to do? (I tell her this is a follow-up appointment, so he'll know what to do.) I tell her she will be going to other such appointments using The Ride, so it would be a good idea to get used to it. Jan says she needs to see an eye doctor, but she doesn't want to go back to the previous one because he was rude to her. My sister’s negativity sometimes strikes me as funny. This is one of those times, but I restrain my laughter.

      I call Jan at 4:30 to remind her to go down to supper. She’s had a busy day seeing the neurologist, taking The Ride, accompanied by a home health aide named Jackie.
      “But I’m still full of lunch!” she says. “I had two desserts at the late lunch!”
      "The late supper is only an hour from now. Maybe you can just skip it."
      “I don’t want to do that,” she says. The words are musical to my ears.
      Jan calls me back, this time sounding frantic. “The doctor gave me some pills I’m supposed to take! They’re LOST!” Her voice is so distorted I misunderstand.
      “They’re black?”
      “NO, I LOST them, L-O-S-T them! I can’t find them anywhere! What am I’ going to do? It’s a disaster!”. I say we don’t know yet that it’s a disaster. Maybe Jackie gave the box to Celia, the nurse.
      Janeth is not reassured. “I’ve lost the samples the doctor gave me! They were in a box!” I cannot calm her down, and I’m losing patience. I tell my sister there is absolutely nothing I can do about the problem now. Let’s see what happens and hope for the best.
      I call Jan in the morning, before she leaves for breakfast. I’ve thought of something to make her feel better. If the samples are lost, it’s not her fault, it’s the doctor’s fault for giving her more responsibility than she can handle.
      “He should know that you forget things and lose things because of your illness. It was stupid of him to hand you a box of samples.”
      “He told me I should think positive. How can I think positive when these terrible things happen? He told me I should do crossword puzzles to exercise my mind. I’ve never done a crossword puzzle in my life.”
      “It’s easy, I can help you with that.”

      “But I’m no good at coming up with definitions. I’d never be able to do that!”
      “You’re a superb writer; I’ve seen the way you fine-tune what you’ve written in your letters.”
      “But I can’t define words,” she insists. I resolve to get her a crossword puzzle book for children, so she’ll see that solving them isn’t as difficult as she thinks. She might even enjoy the pastime, the way Kathie and my ex-husband did when he and second wife Aliceann and their six cats and two dogs were living with Kathie and our son-in-law. I don’t try to tell her anything about that chapter in my life. It would take thousands of years.
      When I talk to Jan this evening, I am unable to distract her from agonizing over the lost box. I go to bed with her final words hammering my ears.
      I start today making phone calls, the first an effort to reach Nurse Celia, but her line is busy. I call The Ride, listen to all the electronic options, finally get connected with a real voice. The voice turns me over to the dispatcher. He puts me on hold while he checks the car that transported my sister on Tuesday. Sorry, he says, nothing was left behind. I call the number I have for Dr. Martin’s office and get a recording. Maybe I called a wrong number, or maybe he’s gone on vacation, as my sister told me. I look through the Martins in the South telephone book. Can’t find the one on Southern Artery. Look through Physicians and Surgeons, can’t find the doctor.
      I try Celia’s number again; maybe she knows something. Indeed she does, she has the box on her desk. “Jan came to me this morning at nine, very upset. I told her not to worry, everything was fine.”
      I call Janeth and  say, “You must feel very relieved.”
      “I must feel relieved?” she asks. “That’s all I could hear with this air conditioner going.”
      “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? I JUST TALKED TO CELIA.” There is something satisfying about shouting my message.

      Jan says maybe some of the pills were found, but the box doesn’t look the same size as the one she was given.
      “YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T DEPEND ON YOUR MEMORY. I’M SURE IT’S THE SAME BOX.” I end the conversation with, “IT’S NINE-THIRTY, AND I HAVEN’T HAD MY BREAKFAST YET. I LOVE YOU [but it’s a stretch at the moment], HUGGA HUGGA.”
From: Margo
      I had a fire drill almost every day usually because either my mom's glasses or her television’s remote control was missing. Or, ugh, she felt a sudden craving to smoke a cigarette. Her smoking was an ongoing bone of contention. My mother was forbidden to keep cigarettes in her possession because she could not be trusted not to smoke in her apartment. She was adept at sneaking contraband from the smokers lounge into her apartment but never connected that any nonsmoker could easily smell the cigarette smoke in her apartment. Or that anyone with eyeballs could see the stubbed out butts under her bed.
      A lot of Alzheimer's victims go super skinny. I am not sure why this is. Does the victim forget to eat? Or is there paranoia that food will hurt the victim's perfect physique in some way? I have decided that I don't have Alzheimer's yet. I have such a reassuring, comfy tire around my middle.
P.S. You are coping with Janeth's freak-outs brilliantly. You are so much better at all this than I was. I nearly bit my tongue off a couple of times.
To: Margo
      Jan's anxieties about food has been affecting her weight for years. I thought she surely would eschew the yummy desserts at Advantage House, but she loves to see the cart come around and often has two desserts. I can see that her rheumy eyes are looking better already. She was amazed that macaroni and cheese could be so delicious, having studiously avoided white and "gelatinous" foods until she moved to assisted living. She's even eating sandwiches!
      Jan also has the notion that she can diet away her disturbing tummy. No use telling her I have it, as do most octogenarians. She must have lost twenty pounds during the years before I took on the caregiver role. Your mention of a perfect physique fits my sister the perfectionist. A slightly raised vein is cause for alarm and a referral to a vein specialist. She wants a haircut exactly like that of Nurse Celia, but it can't be done because her hair is no longer thick enough to taper charmingly in the back. I'm glad she's begun to take an interest in how she looks but wish she'd be more accepting of things neither she nor I nor hairdresser nor Goddess can do anything about.
      I do not see myself as being a proper coper. You nearly bit your tongue off to shut yourself up. All too often I fail to do this. Somehow, though, she continues to forgive me my trespasses as I forgive hers.
From: Linda
      Sigh and sigh again. Mom puts up so many barriers to anything new. This is the same woman who pushed food dishes in my face because it was a meal I'd never had before. Where's her sense of adventure these days?
      I have an idea. Why not let a day or two go by before putting so much effort into finding resolutions for mom’s problems. See what happens. Maybe she would manage somehow; if not, THEN follow up. Are you afraid the tasks would build up rather than disappear? I don't know, it’s just a thought.
To: Linda
      It's exhausting at times, but I am fascinated by Janeth's reactions to her current life. I guess it's the journalist in me, rearing its curious head. She really isn't all that different from the mom/sister you and I knew before her paranoia turned into Alzheimer's, cruelly adding memory loss to her anxieties about everything and anything. (I blame our father and so does Kathie.)

      Even as I grieve for her, I am making mental notes to be jotted down later, with a pinch of humor if possible. I would miss her if I didn't talk to her at least once a day. 
      I'm aware that I am not immune to this terrible disease. I hope my family will view my oddities with the same mixture of love and wry amusement that Jan inspires in me. And if I see peeing on the floor in my future, I hope I'll have sense enough to make my exit before that happens.

      I actually was able to get your mom interested in doing a couple of crossword puzzles. Once she caught on, she was good at it. I must remember to get her Roget's Thesaurus and her dictionary from her old apartment.
      I drive to Hingham, hoping to get a crossword puzzle book at Buttonwood’s Children’s Book-store. It is no longer there, so I try the paper store across from the post office. I am advised to try CVS. As I’m going out the front door, I forget there’s a step and stumble headlong toward a trash bin. I regain my balance and say to a gentleman sitting on a bench, “Boy, am I lucky!” (Kathie urged me to take it easy today. She would be very unhappy if I broke a leg looking for crossword puzzles.) The clerk at CVS suggests I try the Over the Moon store for children at Lincoln Plaza. I find a book of puzzles, not too difficult and not too simple, ideal for my little sister.

      Twelve-fifteen is a good time to visit. I know she will be concluding her early lunch in the dining room, and I enjoy talking with her tablemates. Ruth and Patricia are finishing their roast beef, which they say is very tender. I can’t tell from Jan’s plate if she dove off her no-beef diet or not. Whatever she had, she is like me, a slow, methodical eater.
       The waitress announces that a new dessert is on the menu . . . vanilla ice cream cones covered with chocolate bits and chopped nuts. When the three ladies go for it, the waitress asks if I’d like to have one. I haven’t had lunch yet, but there’s no one to tell me I’ll spoil my appetite.
      The cones are frozen and wrapped in paper. The waitress shows us how to peel off the top and wind down the rest of the paper. Looking as pleased as a princess, Janeth shows us that someone has already performed this service for her. Her pleased expression changes when she finds that the chocolate is only on the top of the cone.
      “I like chocolate,” she complains. “I hoped there would be more than this.”
      To make conversation, I ask Ruth and Patricia if they know what will be on the menu for supper. The question has disagreeable repercussions. Oh yes, says Patricia, all the residents get menus in their mailboxes.
      "Except me,” says Jan. “Because I’m in a temporary apartment.”
      “She gets one, too,” Patricia says.  Jan shakes her head at me.
      “Do you want me to show you?” says Patricia. “I can show you the mailboxes.”
      I sense that Jan is getting worked up for some reason, and I say, “My sister can show me on the way up to her apartment.”
      I follow my sister and Patricia. Jan is muttering angrily to me that Patricia doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
      “SEE?” says Patricia, pointing to a wall of cubicles, one of which has the name Janeth Black above it. “There’s a mailbox for her, too, right over here.”
      I tell her that my sister’s mail comes to me, which may or may not spread oil over troubled waters.
      As soon as we’re alone in the elevator, Jan tells me this isn’t the first altercation with Patricia. I say she’s doubtless a sick woman, just humor her or ignore her. Janeth scowls and points to her new foe’s apartment as we walk by. “Patricia Paine. . . that’s a good name for her.”
      I sit down on Jan’s loveseat and show her the size eight and a half blue sneakers I brought for her to try.
      “I don’t need to try them, I can see they are too narrow. I need a wide for my swollen toes.”
      I produce the crossword puzzle book and say let’s work on one of these. For the next half hour we fill in the spaces, with Jan catching on rapidly. Her perplexed frown is gradually replaced by a look of interest.
      There’s a knock on the door. Carla is here to talk to my sister about what furniture she wants to buy for the apartment she’s moving to. The perplexed frown reappears. Jan has no idea how to make these decisions, so I make them for her. Finally Carla asks if we’re ready to hear what each item will cost.
      “Just tell us what the total is,” I say, as engrossed as my sister in our new hobby
      “Okay, it’ll take me a few minutes, so go back to your puzzle solving.” I am elated when Janeth comes up with a word I couldn’t think of for “Don’t blank me, I might do something I shouldn’t.” “Don’t tempt me,” she says.
      “Good for you, Jan!” I show her how this one word helps us fill in three more.
      Carla says she has the total. “It’s nine hundred dollars.” Jan nods, unfazed and undistracted from the puzzle.
      “Wow!” I say, “You could spend that much just on a bed.” She even gets two telephones along with the tables, chairs, lamps, and loveseat. And a bedspread even.
      “I’ll bet Paris Hilton would spend nine thousand dollars on a bedspread and not think twice about it,” I say.
      Not long after Carla leaves, Nurse Celia knocks on the door. She wants me to call Lauren, who is a geriatric care management advocate. Lauren will take the responsibility for doctor appointments and transportation. Celia tells us she has a problem with Janeth’s case because she doesn’t know what’s going on. With Lauren’s help, we will all be much better off. I promise to call her as soon as I get home.
      Jan and I complete most of the puzzle we’ve been working on. We can’t finish the upper right-hand corner because we never heard of the TV cartoon character cited in 14 across. I turn back to the beginning puzzle. It looks as if it will be much easier. It is. Jan looks over my shoulder as I fill in the words she comes up with. “That isn’t a very good K,” says my sister the perfectionist.
      “I know it. “When you do these by yourself, they’ll look much neater than mine.”
      “I’ll have to use a pencil with an eraser. . . .”

MOM'S METAMORPHOSIS (2)

So where is DOLLS DOLLS DOLLS Number (1)?  My files are doing disappearing acts without my permission.  This is distressing, but I don't know how to go about retrieving them.  Sigh.

HEY, WHO TURNED THE LIGHTS ON?

THE THREE OF US LOVE TO WRESTLE. (3)

BROTHERLY LOVE -- LOOK, ISHA, THREE GREAT GRANDSON'S FOR YOU!



HUGO LIKES ME BEST. NO WAAAY, HE LIKES ME BEST! (4)

HEY GUYS, YOU'RE SQUISHING ME!