Thursday, January 10, 2013
Watt is the What?
"I just pushed the circuit breaker switch back to the "on" position," I said. "Now I'm going to turn on each lamp and light switch that are on that circuit and see if the breaker trips again." My mom stood in the kitchen in her pink flannel snowman pajamas nodding. I started with the living room lamp in the corner, then proceeded to the next lamp, then the light switches that turned on the hall lights, the outside lights, and the light at the top of the stairs. The house was blazing with light and everything stayed on. "Success," I told her. "Look, it's all good." We had a brief discussion then about why the breaker blew in the first place. I couldn't explain that. Maybe the breaker is wearing out, was the best I could muster.
"I'll bet it's the furnace," my mom said. "The heat came on and blew everything out."
"Nope," I said. "Couldn't be the furnace, because the heat has been working. That's on a different circuit." She nodded. "Well," I said, "I'm going to go run my errands."
"So, what time is the electrician coming?" my mom asked.
"He's not," I said. "It's fixed."
"We don't want the furnace to go out," she said. I explained about the furnace being on a different circuit again and went on my merry way.
I'm never quite sure what is happening when my mom and I fail to communicate. Is it the hearing aids?
Dementia or maybe a negative result from the Namenda? True, she's 88 and grew up as one of the "rural poor" which in her case meant kerosene lanterns in a log cabin for part of her upbringing, but I'm pretty sure she used to know her way around a fuse box--at least well enough to stand behind my dad with a flashlight while he changed a fuse.
Maybe part of what gets in our way is her definition of gender roles. More than once, she's said that I should wait until the man who loves me appears for the weekend to perform this or that task. A couple of times she's said that it's too bad that I don't have a man to do things for me--so maybe she didn't believe that I could get the lights back on. Maybe she's afraid that due to my "tinkering" we'll be plunged into cold and darkness or electrocuted while using the toaster. I can't say, but communication is a complicated business even when our hearing and our brains are functioning well.
I had a mini freakout inside my head the other night in the emergency room when the doctor asked her how long she'd been having the pains in her abdomen. "Weeks!" she cried. "Months!" The doctor looked at me and frowned. I saw my self being photographed in profile, then from the front with a number under by chin. Oh, good, I thought, now I can add elder abuse to my rap sheet. I explained to the doctor that while my mom often complains of stomach cramping in the morning, she's consulted with more than one doctor about that, but the recent acute pains were something new. I guess I'll be allowed to walk the streets for now. But if I call you in the middle of the night, listen carefully. If I say I'm in prison, you might need to take me literally. Then again, I might just be talking about how I feel.
photo credit: expertintegratedsystemsblog.com