Have to... wake up before Mom and get her on the toilet. Damn. Didn't make it.
Have to... clean up streaks of pee on the toilet cover, toilet seat, toilet base, pooled on the bathroom floor - because I failed to wake up before Mom and get her on the toilet.
Have to... get Mom's pajamas and pull-ups off, to soothe as she fights to retain pee-soaked garments, remain calm while she curses as I wipe her legs and the bottom of her feet to remove any dried pee.
Have to... get her dressed; new pull-ups, warm pants, a sweater, socks, and shoes.
Have to... be sunny as her brow darkens with hatred, her limbs lashing out to avoid putting on pull-ups, warm pants, a sweater, socks, and shoes.
Have to... get Mom's pills in her; make her a cup of hot cocoa - not too hot - put her pills in the palm of her hand, get her to focus on the pills, put them in her mouth, immediately have the cup of hot cocoa - not too hot - placed in her now vacant palm to take a drink and swallow the four pills. One tablet goes down. Three are spit out.
Have to... coax her to open her hand and give me the rejected pills.
Have to.... get her instant oatmeal ready, add maple syrup to the already maple syrup flavor, toss in fresh blueberries and raspberries, choose three raspberries to hide the three spit out pills in, mix them in the oatmeal.
Have to... sit across the table from her, make one-sided conversation to disguise my true intent: ensuring that all the pills tucked in all the raspberries have been all the swallowed.
Have to... get her teeth brushed by miming brushing my teeth, then place the toothbrush in her right hand, lift it to her lips, move it a little on her teeth. No success today - she rejects the toothbrush, tosses it down with scorn, scowls at my efforts to wipe smeared toothpaste off her lips.
Have to... comb out her hair ever-so-gently, working out the tiniest of tangles so I don't cause her distress from the tiniest of tangles tug.
Have to... get her coat on, get her out the door, get her in her van.
Have to... take Mom to see her sister, drive up and over Mt. Hood. The mountain teems with the ever-green evergreens, studded with maples and birches that wantonly flaunt their crimson and gold of the season, shamelessly raining their promiscuity down upon us with every lusty breeze.
Have to... engage Mom, stop ignoring my testy traveling companion. I turn to point out the beauty to her, but behind her sunglasses Mom's eyes are closed. Does she sleep? Or is she just resting from the thrust of the sun's rays strobing across the windshield as it penetrates the forest shade? It does not matter, she is content, as, I suddenly realize, am I. I roll down the window and am instantly embraced by the heady scents of rich dirt, pine needles, and that lush, cool, water-laden atmosphere of my mountain.
And I'm suddenly overwhelmed...
I get to... live HERE, in this gorgeous place. Down to my bones my body rejoices as I pay silent homage to this natural beauty I've known all my life, my soul quivering with pleasure in recognition of my old friend.
I get to... work in service to my mother. To experience that hard-won rush of satisfaction when I do bring peace to one to whom peace is so often denied as dementia further plunders and ransacks her brain.
I get to... spend my days seeing family I love. No longer too tired, too stressed, working too much, living too far away, too poor to make it home to connect with extended family. Now my job requires I keep Mom and our relations engaged further enhancing my life by growing closer to those who's DNA mingles in mine.
I get to... suddenly see the day differently, the power I possess to be happy (which dementia so often crushes) spreads through my body, brain, soul. "Have to..." will resurface in a matter of hours, with its pee-soaked pull-ups, its bursts of anger from an infuriated old lady, its frustrations and failures - one piled on top of the other, on top of the other - but right now, in this moment I get to be quietly joyous, inwardly fulfilled.
I'll take it.