Twisted Sisters: Dementia Tour 2019
She may not be big in Japan, but Mom plays to packed houses throughout the Pacific Northwest!
It all started with last Thursday's weather report: "Forecast calls for statewide sunshine and temperatures in the 60s tomorrow."
"Mom, it's time to go see Ginny."
My Aunt Gin lives on the other side of the Cascade Range. At some point every fall the snow starts accumulating on the mountain pass and if we don't skeedaddle over there before the winter wonderland hits, we have to wait 'til spring to see her again. (Mostly because I'm a terrible driver. Even in the best road conditions I'm a motorized menace - add snow and ice and all bets for safe travels are off.)
So, a quick phone call to Gin to free up her Friday afternoon (and clear all items of worth from her driveway before we come roaring in) finalized the first stop on our Twisted Sisters: Dementia Tour 2019.
Like all rock stars, Mom's tour bus (i.e. mini-van) was mobbed as soon as we pulled up to the house. Turns out we weren't the only ones who had booked a gig at Gin's that week - my cousin Denice had been roped into a two-day culinary performance that resulted in 21 bricks of zucchini bread towering on top the dining table, while her husband Carl was taking a defrost-the-freezer solo in the garage (probably to make room for the 21 bricks of zucchini bread). My cousin Donny prowled the perimeter of our chosen venue like a true roadie, cracking jokes that made us laugh while managing to accomplish very little.
Mom's got one crucial rider in her booking contract: THERE MUST BE FOOD! (It's the only way we can get her to stay in one place for any length of time). As the tour promoter I quickly made Mom her favorite, a PBJ, and settled her down in front of Aunt Ginny to nosh away. Mom ate and smiled at Gin. Dropped food on the floor for Mr. Bones and smiled at Gin. Giggled a time or two at Donnie while eating and smiling at Gin. Gin was so happy to see her sister upbeat and engaged it made my heart soar, for both of them.
Of course, the good times rolled only as long as the peanut butter and jelly sandwich lasted. Once consumed, Mom was itching to go.
I managed to get another 15 minutes of visiting in before it was clear a Mom-meltdown was the next song on the set list if we didn't hit the road pronto.
No encore for this show, we threw out a hearty "Thank you... goodnight!" and took to the long and winding road.
Don't let that hint of a smile fool 'ya, Aunt Gin, she'll kill us all
in about 30-seconds if she can't get out the front door.
A few days later we headed out for our next stop on the tour: a double-booking starting with a haircut from Mom's sister Butchie, followed by an afternoon performance at my Aunt Anita's.
The haircut went a little something like this...
"I hate my life."
Yes, even with a cookie in hand, Mom was having none of it. My Aunt Butch worked fast, really fast 'cause Mom was grouchy, really grouchy at having to sit still. But in the space of 20-minutes Mom looked adorable.
Butch bemoaned it as the worst haircut she'd ever given (there were a few uneven strands here and there), but I thought it a masterpiece. Nobody else would have cut Mom's hair under those circumstances with such humor and love.
(Although, I have spent the remainder of the week sneaking up on Mom with scissors in hand and snip-snipping the stray strands - it annoys the crap out of her but is entertaining as hell for me!)
Our afternoon gig at Aunt Anita's didn't go so well.
Anita is mentally challenged (Mom was her legal guardian for much of Anita's adult life), and as such Anita holds a special place in Mom's heart with Mom thrilled to see her and love on her regardless of what kind of dementia day she's having. But this time was different. Mom paced the floor of Anita's apartment, only really looked at her once with barely a smidge of recognition, and repeated her signature phrase to me over and over, "C'mon." I noted confusion and pain on Anita's face that I couldn't soothe away.
It was one of those rare moments that my heart broke. That the tragedy of what dementia has stolen from Mom and those who love her punched me square in the face.
But Mr. Bones loves Anita, and eventually had her smiling and laughing and talking her indecipherable Anita-language to him as he snuggled on her chest and tapped out a beat of stinky dog kisses all over her face.
So, while it was the low point of the tour, the day still held moments of joy: Butchie's chuckles as she Edward Scissorhands-ed her sister, racing against dementia-time to get the haircut accomplished, Anita's giggles erupting over that silly little dog of ours, and Mom (the next day) clearly pleased with her sassy new haircut.
Diva-licious. Shine on you crazy diamond.
Our final show on the tour was Saturday, with another trip down I-5 to see Mom's sister Becky and her husband John. It's been ages since we've graced that stage so I had lots to catch up on with my aunt and uncle. Mom was in a good mood, but still wanted out every door she could find until we got her PBJ in front of her.
After fixing my ham sandwich I turned my attention elsewhere for literally seconds giving Mom all the time she needed to abscond with it, her peanut butter and jelly smeared fingers sinking into the virgin white bread of the new tidbit.
We tussled over it, but she refused to let go. I finally got it back voluntarily after her first bite - the fact that it wasn't peanut butter and jelly was the only reason I got to eat it.
We are family. A family of sandwich and hat thieves.
And speaking of sticky fingers (literally and figuratively), uh... we accidentally stole that hat Mom's wearing! I was putting different hats on her in the store to make sure they fit, which understandably got her hackles up having hats popped on and off her head repeatedly, so I left the final one on, but forgot to pay for it when we left the store. So, sorry, Bauman's Farm & Garden. We'll be back this weekend to rectify our criminal behavior.
And so we wrapped up the Twisted Sisters: Dementia Tour 2019 with some laughter, pain, petty larceny, and a few dementia outbursts, but avoided anyone dementia-storming off the stage at any of the performances, of which I was grateful because a stone cold sober dementia throw-down makes a drunken rockstar temper tantrum look like a moment of zen.