The View From Upstairs.

In looking over my stats here, I see that someone found me by searching on “Alzheimers poop in trash can.” Well. I hope you found what you were looking for. Also, yes – that is a thing that happens when you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Poop in the trash can. Among other places.

Haven’t checked in here in a while. The last couple of months have been a frenzy of boxes, packing tape, arranging pickups for donated items, and all the other unpleasantness that comes with emptying one apartment, packing up YOUR apartment, and then moving into the apartment you emptied.

We live upstairs now. We live in the apartment formerly occupied by my mother-in-law. Where we found poop in the trash can. Among other places. Where I also found, under her bed, a salad bowl containing a pair of her underpants. A small Corningware dish containing potato chips under the kitchen sink, behind a bottle of 409. Cat food in the washing machine. Where I’d sit with her every evening at dinner, trying to get her to use a fork and/or her napkin. I’d sit there and try to make conversation with her, even though we couldn’t understand one another anymore.

And I’d scan the walls and think that eventually I was going to be living here. I couldn’t fathom when that would be, but I knew that she was sliding faster into her dementia than we could keep up with. I knew that her needs had long ago surpassed our ability to fulfill them. I was terrified and depressed and exhausted, but I couldn’t show any of this to her, because even in her addled state she remained hyper-aware of the mood of those around her. Every waking minute was about keeping her calm and out of trouble. I couldn’t imagine a time when I’d be living in this apartment, and she’d be somewhere safe. But I’d mentally redecorate the place as I sat there, trying to comprehend the dying circuitry inside her head.

And here I am. I’ve done my level best to make it as not-haunted as possible. I’ve been through every room twice with a smoking bundle of sage, smudging and purging the place of all the bad juju and bad memories. And I’m mostly comfortable. We still have a bunch of boxes to unpack, but I’m giving myself permission to be leisurely about this; I’ve spent so many weeks now in a frantic push to get up here and get our former apartment at least slightly more than “broom clean” so that our friends Adam and Felicia could get in and settled by the end of March.

I’m adjusting to the notion of our house as a happy place now. Coombsie and Adam have been friends since they were boys. Adam even lived here for a few months in high school, my mother-in-law having always been unfailingly kind to Coombsie’s friends. And Felicia is the Ethel to my Lucy; the highly organized yin to my sloppy yang. I am seeing a summer of cookouts and planting and porch-sitting, of taking Adam’s daughter to breakfast at Donut Villa on the weekends he has her. We are headed into a new chapter where this house is a place we actually want to be in, where we look forward to weekends, and I’m struggling with that. We’ve spent the past 4 years waiting for the next emergency, the next giant shoe to drop through the ceiling and land on us, so this “relaxing at home” thing is new to me.

But it’s good, I know. I’m hopeful.

I’ve also stumbled upon a small degree of Tumblr fame here. I, with the help of my more Photoshop-savvy friends, have created a strange little corner of the internet where my 8th grade picture has gone from a source of embarrassment to a glorious experiment in learning to love one’s self. I have something like 3,500 followers, garnering certainly more attention than I’ve ever gotten here, or with my writing in general. I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this, but I’m running with it. Do have a visit.

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