Not bad, really, not bad at all


You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you find yourself crouching in a bathroom stall, wiping dog poop off of your shoe with cheap paper towels.

Yep, folks, it’s been quite the day. As the husband snores on the couch and the evening news promos start, I feel the need to chronicle this particular day for posterity. Indulge me with this brief recap.

These days, my mom has a litany of doctor’s appointments, and we have two on the calendar this week. Today was her three-month neurology checkup, so I took half a day off work to get mom to and fro. After getting her up, bathed, dressed, morning meds administered, and bribed with breakfast, I had mom ready to leave. I had allowed us 45 minutes to get mom into The Whale — our handicapped lift van the size of a small semi — and across town to the doctor’s office. I have learned — mostly the hard way — to leave enough time for the unexpected; This morning, I gravely miscalculated.

Mom’s caregiver was helping her brush her teeth while I went out to get the van ready and to lower the wheelchair lift. I knew immediately something was amiss. Our 12-year-old blind Beagle, Pixie, was MIA — nowhere to be found. She usually greets everyone at the door, her keen, hound sense of smell compensating for her waddling body and failing eyesight. I called and called, but no dog. I went back inside and asked the caregiver to please come and see if she could help find Pixie.

We wheeled mom outside and the three of us bellowed “Pixie” in three-part harmony. I soon heard faint barking from behind our house, beyond the neighbor’s yard, somewhere in the neighborhood that backs up to ours. I called again. Pixie answered in her unmistakable Beagle bay.

I asked the caregiver to stay with mom as I dashed out the door, hopped in the car parked in the front drive and drove to the cul-de-sac behind us. Like a good political block walker or a savvy cookie-pedaling Girl Scout, I went door to door, knocking and calling, hoping Pixie would answer and let me find her. Last time Pixie decided to take a little walk on the wild side, I found her ambling the neighborhood streets. These days, with her failing sight, finding her quickly seemed lifesaving.

I walked and called; Called and walked. Before long, the wind carried beagle barks my way, and I strained to figure out where they were coming from. A few doors down, a woman in a white bathrobe stood at the end of her driveway, smoking, talking on her cell phone. I rushed to her, explained about my missing mutt, asking if the neighbor whose yard backs up to ours was home. She told me no one was there, but to go ahead and look in their yard. I live in Texas, where gun owners and guns are commonplace, so was a little nervous about plunging into someone’s back yard unannounced. I watch the news. I know the drill. I wasn’t dressed to be on the noon-day update.

Instead, I peeped through the fence, and saw Pixie, strutting around the neighbor’s yard like she’d already moved in. I call to her, try the latch, open the gate, and Pixie trots right to me, wagging her tail. I slip on her leash, lead the adventurous hound back to the car, thank the neighbor, and hurry home, thinking that if I can just get Pixie into her crate, the mom in The Whale, we can be on our way and maybe — just maybe — make it to the appointment on time.

I pull into the drive, stash the dog, and wheel the mom to The Whale. The caregiver and I get my mom tethered in, buckled up. I am racing the clock, trying to figure out if I can turn a 30-minute drive into a 20-minute dash. I then make my second major miscalculation of the day.

Let’s just say that The Whale is a little tricky to maneuver, especially when adrenaline is spiking, nerves are frazzled,  a doctor’s appointment looms. I miscalculated when backing up, so somehow got The Whale stuck, wedged between the side of the house and our electronic gate. I had, literally, an inch to spare before I either ripped off The Whale’s side view mirrors, blasted a chunk out of the brick on the side of the house, or completely knocked the solar panel off of the gate. The caregiver tried to offer hand motions, guiding me in like an airplane marshaller, but the more she motioned, the worse it got. The van was wedged, we were late, and I was manic, in a panic.

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, I stumbled into our busy street, halting traffic — whose drivers mistake our neighborhood route for the European autobahn — and rushed across to our neighbor for help. My neighbor answered the door as his dog snarled and barked behind him. Windswept, disheveled, frantic and sputtering, I told the neighbor I needed help, pointing to the lodged van across the street, stashed sideways in the driveway.

“Uh, yes, I guess you do,” our Good Samaritan Neighbor says nonchalantly as he ushers his dog back inside and eases out to the front porch.

Together, Good Samaritan Neighbor and I dodge oncoming traffic. At The Whale, Good Samaritan Neighbor wedges himself into the driver’s seat. I take over marshalling duties, the caregiver looks on, my mom in her wheelchair in the back of the van, watching the show. Time is ticking, the van is rocking; but — inch by slow inch — Good Samaritan Neighbor undoes what I have done.

He climbs out of The Whale to get a better look at the minuscule space between the van and the solar panel and to make sure he can finally clear the fence. This is when Good Samaritan Neighbor makes his worst miscalculation of the day.

He takes a step back, realizing his mistake. Let me just say, that scooping poop is snoring hubby’s job, and perhaps he has been a little lax in his duties of late. Good Samaritan Neighbor is now doing a crazy dance step across the yard, looking like a bull before a full-on stampede. The stomp steps do little to free him from the tarry mess.

I come around the side of the van to help somehow, and wind up following in his footsteps — literally speaking. I, too, now find myself mired in mess. I feel like one of those ancient Woolly Mammoths caught up in the tar pits.

Good Samaritan Neighbor and I continue our macabre dance and manage to extricate ourselves — mostly — from our folly. Good Samaritan Neighbor hops back in the van, guns the engine and has The Whale pointed toward the street in minutes. He waves off my apologies, scrambles across the street, slams his front door shut behind him.

I climb back into the van, sneer at the mocking clock, and decide that we’ve already made it this far, we can’t turn back now. I grit my teeth like a character actor in a Clint Eastwood western, throw a serious look at the caregiver, adjust the rear-view mirror and catch a glimpse of my little mama. Perched in her chair, she smiles back at me, winks, and away we go.

I manage to miss the mailbox as I gun The Whale out of the drive. We manage to hit every traffic light just right on the across-town trip. We manage to roll up to the hospital entrance with exactly three minutes to spare. In record time, the caregiver and I get my mama out of The Whale and into the clinic.  I rush the elevator, hold the doors and push buttons, sending mama and the caregiver on to the fifth floor to check in. I head for the hall bathroom and grab handfuls of paper towels and foamy pink soap.

If I am lucky, Eau de Pixie will not waft through the doctor’s waiting room. I square my shoulders, hold my head high and stride in to join my mama. She and the caregiver are huddled in the corner, pilfering through stacks of aging, waiting room magazines.

Tonight, the whole day seems a little surreal, like a scratchy,  home movie gone awry. I wonder what kind of thank you gift you send to Good Samaritan Neighbor to make up for being his Crazy, Across-the-Street, There-goes-the-Neighborhood neighbor? I wonder if my mom, in her Alzheimer’s haze, remembers the days’ events at all as the 10 o’clock news flickers in her room?  I wonder if I we can find the hole where Pixie the Escape Beagle finds her freedom? I wonder if I can handle getting The Whale out of the driveway again without breaking out in a cold sweat?

Yep, today was, one of those, folks. And, honestly, I wouldn’t have missed it. Today reminds me that with all of the imperfections and all of our miscalculations, things usually end up going better than we expected — are never quite as bad as our vivid imaginations make them out to be. In all of its frenzied glory, today wasn’t really so bad, after all. Pixie is back home, snoozing in her dog bed. My mom got to her doctor’s appointment, safely, and on time. The Whale is docked in the drive. the fence still standing, and we’re all here to face another day.

Not, bad, really, not bad at all. In the words of the incomparable Scarlett, “Fiddle de dee, tomorrow is another day.” Another day, another chance to get it right.

Not bad, really, not bad at all.


About barriepagehill

A former print and broadcast reporter, I am blogging to document my experience as primary caregiver to my mom, who suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. I find writing cathartic and find it helps me order some of the chaos of my cluttered life. My writing is reflective of my experiences with my mom and matters I find important as I navigate the New Normal of living with a family member tormented by this devastating disease. As my mom's condition worsens, I am grateful for the many blessings in my life. I hope my writing chronicles some of our experiences and documents this bittersweet journey.
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8 Responses to Not bad, really, not bad at all

  1. Penny James says:



  2. A joy to read your blog posts. They make me laugh and sometimes cry, as I know all too well about a mom with Alzheimer’s.

    • Thanks so much for reading – and for your support. So many people are affected by Alzheimer’s and unfortunately, more families will be impacted as we baby boomers age. Sometime we need to compare notes! Thanks for taking the time to comment, too.

  3. RSB says:

    Great post – what is life if we don’t see the comical in the drama! I’m sure all of us who read this will remember it as a source of support when we’re inevitably having ‘a day’!

  4. Michael Wiggins says:

    Oh, the flash backs I had with this piece…And the ‘frosting’ on the cake was THAT attachment to your shoe. Now that you were behind schedule, you were going to have to “step on it”…oooooops, but you already did !!!!
    Haaaaaaa !!!
    This posting I enjoy the most.
    Thanks again for sharing, Barrie.

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