Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Walking the Minefield

As I've mentioned in previous entries, my Mom has Parkinson's Disease.

This mysterious unnamed thing that was taking over her body was finally diagnosed a few years ago. The disease then became vaguely manageable, in that we (Mom, my sisters and I) had an idea what to expect as far as its progression, the medications Mom could take to ease her symptoms, etc. Truth be told, Mom is handling the slow deterioration of her body with much more dignity and calm than any of us girls.

However, despite our efforts in trying to out-think and out-manuever the illness, a minefield lies before us. This minefield is littered with situations that could explode-- such as emptying bank accounts, the possibility of a nasty fall, the spectre of moving Mom to a nursing facility. None of these situations are sure things, but the possibility of these things are there, buried under the dust of this minefield, waiting for one of us to step off of the trigger.

One mine we could not and did not plan for is the ferocious Stupid People Mine (SPM).

The SPM isn't easily detected. In fact, sometimes we're not aware when one has exploded. The only way we know a SPM has been detonated is afterward we will feel annoyance, betrayal and utter confusion. Other residual effects of the SPM include a sudden rise in body temperature, an elevated heart rate and roiling intestinal trauma.

Here are a few ways SPMs have recently hit their target (i.e., Mom and us):

- SPs will stare at the afflicted person (in this case Mom). Apparently they've never seen a little old lady in a wheelchair before.

- SPs will avoid talking to Mom directly. Rather, they will speak to the person accompanying Mom (me, my sisters). Examples: a restaurant during dinner. The waiter comes over with a pepper mill. Waiter looks at me and asks, "Does she want fresh ground pepper on her salad?" During a recent bridal shower, the hostess asked me, "Does she (Mom) want cake?" My standard answer to these idiotic questions is, "I have no clue. She's sitting right there-- why don't you ask her?"

- Due to pride, embarrassment or other murky reasons, SPs will refrain from asking Mom to repeat herself, as her speech is slurred and she is difficult to understand. Rather, SPs will pretend they heard everything Mom had to say, then give her a nod or say a bland "oh really?" and look away. Particularly amusing is when Mom has asked them a question. Example: Mom asked a person, "So how's everything going at the condo?" The person smiled faintly, nodded sagely, then looked away, unaware of what Mom just asked, but tried to cover it all up by nodding. This is when I piped up: "Mom just asked you how it's going at the condo." "Oh!" said the SP brightly, "Just great." Mom looked over at me, her eyes saying, "Boy, is she a dolt."

- SPs will decide for Mom whether she should attend parties, weddings, and other social functions to which Mom has already been invited. Recently, a woman I know disinvited Mom from her daughter's wedding. This woman felt that Mom's attendance at this blessed event would detract from the attention that should be directed at the bride and groom. This hurt my mother deeply, and I'm still astonished that this woman felt it was the right thing to do.

I am surprised that many people I know-- and liked-- are stupid. Mom's illness has been a real eye-opener in many unexpected ways.

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