Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is Anything in Life Really Free?

My Mom loves junk mail. She could literally sit with a good offer and read it over and over again for an entire day. In fact, as I write this she is enthusiastically reading me an offer for a magazine subscription which includes a free garden issue. And... if we reply by November 10th, a free tote bag!
She reads the offer better than the announcer on any game show. Very convincing.
Her two favorite phrases to really play up when she comes across them, "that's right... you could win (fill in the blank depending on the offer)" and "call one, eight hundred (add numbers depending on the offer.)" She very deliberately enunciates each digit to ensure we don't mis-dial. They could literally hire her at a voice over agency.

She's on page two now, they've upped the ante -- if you send the preview card today you not only receive the garden issue and tote bag, but one "best ever issue" and four free special issues. "Well, can I get my tote bag today?" she just asked emphatically. I think she's finally figured out I hold the purse strings. I told her she needed to prove to me it's not a scam. Mistake! She just started reading the entire four page mailing piece. Again. From the top! She pauses after each section to say "what do you think of that?" Her way of luring me in. She's super impressed each time she notices that letter has her name on it. That for sure adds credibility. She just came across the tote bag offer for the 400th time and experienced the same joyful surprise as she did round one. "Wow! Are we getting all that?!" Followed by "I've never had a tote bag like that." Again, showmanship, purely trying to win me over.

During a recent business trip, our caregiver called and said my Mom wouldn't let up on trying to book a free lasik eye exam. Yep, I said, last week it was a storm door consultation (we live in a condo), and the week before that teeth whitening. Sneak the material away from her as soon as you can before the irritation becomes unbearable, I advised.

Sometimes I use the enthusiasm and enclosed response card as an opportunity to get her to work on her writing skills. I have her fill in the name and address section. Her hand does not cooperate with her brain very often, so I have to find several response cards from any kind of offer before we start to fill one in. She gets really worried or distraught if she makes a mistake, concerned it may jeopardize the offer. By having extras on hand we can keep trying to get it right.
Other times, she'll express concern over what day it is so she doesn't miss the deadline. On those occasions I grab a calendar and have her figure out how many days until the offer ends.
They're all great activities and help keep her mind sharp. She's cutting out the response card right now. I might actually let her send this one in. We'll enjoy the magazine and she is really over the top with that cheap little tote.

I can't help but think that allowing this indulgence flies in the face of the bits of wisdom she used to impart on me when I was young and wanted something for nothing -- which I think went ever so cleverly, "you can't get something for nothing." In this case, she keeps missing the part that says -- "all with your paid subscription." And the advertisers don't make it at all that clear exactly how much that is. She'd also put us off by telling us that whatever we wanted was "probably junk." Sometimes it's okay to break the rules and risk getting taken. My Mom also used to caution often that "there are no free rides in life." While I'm old enough now to know that's definitely true, I guarantee you that the ride from filling out the postpaid card to dropping it off at the mail box will be pretty fun! What more can you ask from life?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Snippets from Tonight...

My Mom's been having a lot of difficulty remembering words for objects lately, so we've started playing a little game called "what's that."
I point in rapid fire to things and she calls out "cup", "plate", "fork", "hat", "flowers"...
It's not her fault that she doesn't have the opportunity to use much vocabulary these days. I figure it's my job to help her retain key words for as long as possible.

I'm careful to approach the activity when she's in a playful mood and it won't hurt her feelings for being demeaning. Tonight during dinner I learned I also have to watch out for her creating her own vocabulary from the Land of Oz to compensate for her shortcomings.
She confidently told me tonight that the lamp was a "switzer" and her brand new reclining chair a "booglie." When I asked if she was sure the thing you sit on is called a booglie, she said, "c'mon, everyone knows that." I suggested that maybe it was a "chair", then she acted like I was a simpleton and said she would call it a "recliner." She pulled the tougher word out of thin air.
Same with "glasses" when under fire she called them "spectacles."

On a second note, Skinny Winnie ate a great dinner tonight, or so I thought. We had lasagna. Did I mention the dogs and cat love having my Mom live here? When I'm not looking, she evidently provides them with a bountiful buffet. (see attached photo, "Bug Kitty Busted". I thought only Garfield liked lasagna...)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

To Share ... or Not .

We were going to pay a quick visit to my sister and her daughters the other day. I stopped at a gas station on the way and ran in to buy two cheap packs of some type of fruity tooty gum for my Mom to give her granddaughters as a gift.
I sometimes think the girls are a little distant around my aging Mom and I'm not beyond bribery to try and bridge that gap.
I hopped back in the car with the two bright pink and yellow packages and handed them to my Mom, explaining that she could give them as a gift to the girls.
"That's exactly what I wanted," she said with a pout. Somehow she had transformed from 87 to 2 during my three minutes in the store.
"This is fruity gum, Mom. You don't even chew gum," I said.
"Yes I do." She now grew a little huffy. I couldn't hold back a laugh. She was pouting like a toddler and even trying to shed a few tears. My laughing really set her off.
"What? This is exactly what I wanted..." She was already holding the packs, but she scooped them in closer and pulled them possessively to her chest. There was NO way she was handing them off to anyone.
The hilarious interaction went on for a good few minutes. Her logic too silly to recall accurately. To end the stand off, I offered to buy her a pack of gum on the way home, which she mistook as right that minute.
"Well..." she uttered just one word in absolute defiance, now sounding more like a sassy teenager.
I pulled out, letting her, for the moment, think she could keep the gum she already had. It's one of those times Alzheimer's plays in your favor. By the time I hit the main road, all would likely be forgotten. My Mom is usually generous to a fault. When we were young everything went to her daughters first. That very night at dinner she offered me a bite of her main course and dessert. Fairly disgusting, but more in line with her normally generous heart than the present moment where a mutiny was about to erupt over bubble gum.

12-year-old Meghan ran out to the drive to greet us. I pried one pack free from her fingers and said "look what your Grandma got you!" Meghan grabbed the gum and gave my Mom a thank you hug. (See, these little dollar investments can really payoff!) Grandma was so thrilled with the smile and hug that she barely noticed the switcheroo when the gum transferred from her hand to Meghan's. She also still had the remaining pack to clutch.
As we entered the house, I saw my Mom tighten her grip on the gift. I warned 8-year-old Emily that Grandma may have a little difficulty handing over the surprise. My sister said the girls could share one pack and Mom could keep the other, but I insisted she needed to learn, or re-learn how to share.
"What, so she can remember it for a few minutes?" my sister asked. Nicely, not snotty. She's a mom herself and one of many that caution me constantly to pick my battles. (I also won't give in and let her wear white socks with black shoes. Not even in the house. Someday, from heaven, she'll thank me for that.)
To me, sharing was a war worth waging, but I proceeded with tact. Turning the gift giving into a game would surely work.
"Mom, didn't you get Emily something really special today??? I bet she's dying to see it."
My Mom's face lit up. She loves being the center of attention these days. This gave her a stage to unveil the surprise. She pulled her hand up from the table, hiding the packet under her palm and said to Emily, "Do you wonder what I have here?" She bought into the game one-thousand percent. "Do you think this surprise might be for you?" My Mom's face grew more and more animated and Emily giggled her head off in anticipation. We were all having a riot over the gum hand off. Until... the lead in to the silly surprise, the suspense, took so long to build that my Mom forgot who the recipient was. When she finally revealed the brightly colored pack of gum she proclaimed, "look what I got!"
We all burst into a whole new round of hysterics, including my Mom who loves a good time. "No Mom, that was supposed to be for Emily."
Emily now laughed as if she was being tickled to death. Meghan howled from the sidelines. Their Grandma was being super silly and they loved it. Ultimately, my Mom returned to being the amazing woman we all know and love as she finally, generously handed over the simple little gift to her granddaughter with pride. "Here, this is for you."
Emily grinned back at her Grandma with an ear to ear smile and reciprocated with a big hug.

I probably should be a little ashamed at admitting openly that I spent a dollar to generate a couple of genuine hugs. But when your heart is in the right place, it always works out. Not giving in to the toddler tantrum and coaching my Mom to overcome the dementia induced personality change, led to an amazing surprise of its own. The laughter we shared that day created a true bonding moment, a memory that will likely last a lifetime.

Sitting in the kitchen sharing a huge laugh with Grandma ... that's priceless.