And All You See Is A Lamp, Right?

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S.A. Leys Photography

It’s just a thing; one of those battery operated lamps you can pick up from the grocery store for around $5.00. Turn on the switch and the light goes on (good if your electric is out or if there’s a power surge), there’s a black plastic thingy on the top if you need to hang it on something in a “one if by land” sort of way.

Earlier this week, I was at the dentist. When I found out the dentist I had been seeing in Florida had not forwarded my records and x-rays I found myself getting really pissed off and I thought “why am I so angry?” and it occurred to me that it was because of the memory I had of this lamp (which threw me off when I walked in and saw it sitting on the bureau in mom’s room last week). Like my visit to the dentist, It started with an issue around the lack of her care coordination and not reading her chart completely…

Mom had allergies to all of the ‘mycins. Her dentist had not read this in her chart and had given her a mycin that she had an adverse reaction to. Her face and arms broke out – spots every where, accompanied by an abundance of itching.

We went to her primary care doc. He couldn’t see her so in came his mid level practitioner who said “yes, this is an adverse reaction” and yes, she would give mom prednisone and also Atarax. I went to fill the prescription and when the pharmacist was filling the prescription, he gave me a sort of weird, uncertain look. I asked him “do we think this dosage of Atarax is too high for her?” to which he asked “how old is she?”. “84” I told him.

“Yeah, that’s high” he said, “why did she prescribe it for her?” I told him about her allergy and then asked “can we cut it in half?:.
“Yes” he said, and recommended this – and then suggested I keep an eye on her.

We had a power surge that night and lost our electricity. I put this lamp on her night stand so she could reach it and showed her where the switch was. She had decided on half of an Atarax which she said made her feel “woozy”. She became really confused, was still itching, and the prednisone had not kicked in. As we sat on her bed discussing how bad she felt, we decided that because she had seen this midlevel provider, whom she didn’t know, for her last three visits and not her primary care physician, we were going to only see her cardiologist from here on out.

I heard her getting up frequently throughout the night and would go and sit with her. She was more confused and stated she “really didn’t care for the Atarax” so she didn’t want any more of it and would wait for the prednisone to kick in. And again – reiterated only wanting to follow up with her cardiologist.

When I woke up the next morning, I went to turn on the coffee and found her sitting up in her bed wiping her sheet with a paper towel soaked with toilet bowl cleaner. “Mom! What are you doing?” I asked. “I had a bloody nose!” she said “so I wanted to get the blood off”. “But that’s toilet bowl cleaner!” I said. Looking at her, I saw that she suddenly looked really sad and that I needed to lose my critical tone right then and there – felt like a total idiot. “it said ‘cleaner'” she said.

My mom was a Depression baby. She tended to spend money on things she would keep and use frequently but not so much on things she didn’t need. Like high thread count sheets. – The sheets she was cleaning at the time were ones I had picked up for her. When I purchased them for her, I explained that I thought that having softer sheets would help her sleep better and keep her more comfortable. Once she started using them, she agreed.

The glitch was that these really beautiful sheets were a pretty, soft. olive color green that turned a yellowy white with each scrub of the toilet bowl cleaner. So I told her I would take them and put them through the washer while she had her coffee.

I wanted to throw them out but she wouldn’t let me. Our subsequent fun times involved making the bed together, laughing about that night and figuring how how to put the sheets on the bed so that she wouldn’t see the huge stain that had been left. (= bottom left hand corner of the bed). And then, as her memory faded a little more, I did throw them out and replaced them with the same brand, same color, higher thread count.

And when I walked into her room at their home in Florida last week, I saw the lamp sitting on her nightstand, remembered all of this and started crying. The whole memory of that night was so vivid it was like it happened yesterday. My Florida trip was not an easy one.

Here’s the thing: we learn a lot about our parents from the experiences we have, the ways they do things, the beliefs they have and the lessons we learn from them. As challenging as the last four years have been, some lessons have been really hard (as this one was – not to be so critical, not to pay so much attention to when things go wrong but to be more mindful of the times we had spending time together no matter what we were doing). There isn’t anything I would want to have changed. And I’ll definitely be keeping that lamp once the house in Florida is sold because of this memory.

And you see just a picture of a lamp right?

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