Published in The Rains County Leader on February 20, 2018:
Newer readers may not be aware that several years ago I wrote a memoir about Alzheimer’s caregiving. It was structured around a seven-week, sixteen state motor home trip we took with my parents, both of who suffered from some kind of dementia. In one of the early chapters, I shared the difficulties of getting ready for the trip. Following is a paragraph about getting Mom and Dad’s clothes ready to go:
Packing was an exercise in organizational skills, diplomacy, and patience. Yesterday, I went through their clothes and helped them choose shorts, jeans, shirts, underwear, and anything else they might need for the trip. We laid everything out on the guest bed, ready to be loaded into the closet and drawers assigned to them on the coach. Since then, I have explained repeatedly that their clothes have been chosen, no suitcases are necessary, and that Mom probably won’t need fifty pairs of panty hose—most of which have runs. I did okay with the organizational part, but I’m not sure about the diplomacy and patience I employed.
To avoid making the book a simple travelogue, I used a lot of flashbacks to add some depth to the family relationships and to give some of the history that led up to my time of caregiving. The packing story reminded me of a luggage incident with my son, and I included it in the rough draft. My editor agreed that it was a cute story, but for various reasons, it ended up on the cutting room floor anyway. Not one to discard or waste a cute story, I’m sharing it with you today:
Mom isn’t the only one in the family with odd packing skills. My son, Christian, went to college forty miles north of my home in Carrollton, Texas. He often showed up on Friday evening to spend the weekend and hang out with his hometown friends. We had a laundry deal. He was welcome to bring his, but he was responsible for doing it. One Friday he came in with a loaded laundry basket, deposited it on the floor by the piano, and headed for the shower. In a few minutes, he emerged from the steam with a towel wrapped around his waist, knelt on the floor, and dug through the basket. As he emerged with a pair of underwear, I smiled that I-know-what-you’re-up-to-buddy smile that moms perfect over the years.
“Recycling?” I said.
“No,” he said. “When I got ready to pack for the weekend, I realized I never put away last week’s clean clothes. The basket had everything I needed for a couple of days, so I threw my toiletries on top, and I was packed.”
Who needs Samsonite!
People often ask me how I come up with ideas for my columns. This one came to me last week while we were staying with Spike. Again, for newer readers, Spike is a Grand Pyrenees mix who invites us to come play with him when his people go out of town. In the past, he has provided so much writing material that the first thing his folks ask when they return home is whether he made the paper while they were gone. Unfortunately for me, he has become so well behaved that he didn’t provide anything for a column this time, so one day while I was folding laundry, I was mentally trolling for a topic.
One of the things I enjoy about staying with Spike is the laundry room. Instead of the tiny
space I have at home, where the washer and dryer just barely fit between the walls and I have a twelve-inch pathway to walk between the work boots and the litter box, the laundry room there is huge. In addition to state-of-the-art appliances, there is a long counter for folding, a hanging rack for drying delicates, and a treadmill for hanging clothes when they come out of the dryer. Maybe that’s why my hamper was full when it came time to begin our house/dog sitting gig – a sub-conscious desire to wash our clothes in luxury.
Whatever the reason, when I was deciding what clothes to take, I looked at the overflowing hamper and thought, That should be plenty to last us for a week or two. I stuffed the dirty clothes into a couple of pillow cases and threw them into the car, It wasn’t until later, while I was folding laundry, that I thought of Christian’s story and realized that I had just repeated it. It’s funny how those things run in the family, isn’t it?