The drama at that time was about how Julie was not being careful enough while drinking a soda, thereby spilling it on herself and the floor. I chastised her, and Julie retorted in kind, scoffing at my concern.
The analogy my SIL acted out, interspersed with a Greek Chorus humming in the background, still makes me laugh. Good for the soul to laugh, but also tragically sad. But if one can't see the humor in life, that is sadder still.
So here is my latest Greek Tragedy, soon to be on Broadway (yeah, not likely) of Julie and me playing out yet another little drama in our interactions. We were at her residential facility yesterday afternoon when this newest scene occurred.
Short Synopsis of Play: Main Character, Julie, a middle aged adult woman, feels misunderstood and dismissed since her husband died and she has left the ancestral home she and her husband built together in South Carolina
Stage Set: The Garden Room of a local nursing home, several people in wheelchairs in a large open room with windows looking out onto a grassy area, locked in by doors opened only by ambulatory people with authority that hold special keys to the outside and unsafe world
Characters: Julie, her mother (me), nursing staff and other residents; unseen character is a scheduler on the telephone
Scene I: Julie is in her wheelchair, legs stretched out in front of her on leg rests, draped sheet in place over lower part of body. She sits at a sturdy card table, her wheelchair alongside table at an angle. I sit in a chair beside Julie, knitting bag containing lunch, water bottle, cell phone, and knitting accouterments scattered about on table. A few other patients in wheelchairs, dozing or just sitting, the room is large with no activity now scheduled
Room Atmosphere: Quiet, patients being wheeled to early lunch, or patients milling around the nearby hallway slowly making their way to the dining room. Ambient social noise in background
Dialogue Begins with Nurse, walking towards me: “Could you come to the phone to answer questions about a prior surgical procedure performed in South Caroline? The scheduler is needing some questions answered and maybe a signed consent.”
Me: “Be right there.” (putting down knitting project and rising from the chair)
Julie: scowling, acting offended, muttering quietly under her breath
Me: Walking twenty feet over to the phone and saying, “Hello, this is Nancy, so glad you are scheduling her for a consultation. You need a consent form signed to obtain hospital records from which physician? We have been through all this many times over the summer, and records are all over this town. Yes, yes, I do hold Power of Attorney for Julie. Yes, we can get this done fairly quickly.”
Scheduler on phone speaking unknown dialogue, me listening.
Me: “Let's call the (insert name of hospital) and just have them faxed over. What? You need ANOTHER consent form signed? All, right, the fax number is (insert numbers after hailing down a nearby nurse on her way to fix another patient problem and on whose phone I am speaking)...”
Julie: wheeling over to the nurses' station, looking even more aggravated, scowling
Me: trying to ignore Julie and concentrating on what the scheduler is trying to relay on the phone
STAGE RIGHT: Enter two nurses who have come over to the telephone/station where I am seated. They are looking concerned, hearing what is going on from their approaching vantage point and appalled that now both Julie and I have invaded their work area; nurses' eyebrows arched as they listen to our conversation
Greek Chorus: tuning up with indistinct chanting in background
Me: hanging up phone receiver, informing Julie of the date of the appointment, rising from the chair to return back to the Garden Room
Julie: (with raised voice) “WHY did she not ask for ME to schedule the appointment? Why did YOU talk to her? It is MY appointment!” (implying that Mother is interfering)
Me: (backpedaling, glancing at a small group of observers now gathered at the nursing station, both staff and patients. my voice raised): “Probably because there needs to be coordination of efforts concerning how to get you there, whether you need to be prone or in your chair, and because I would like to be there with you and you do not know my other calendar conflicts.” Way too much disgust in my voice and attitude at this point... implying that “here we go again” I am now behind Julie's wheelchair, trying to exit Stage Left
Julie: as I am wheeling her forwards “It is MY body and MY concern, so why wasn't I asked about it instead of YOU?!” Julie's body language is now of extreme consternation and she begins to cry; slowing the cries rise to a crescendo of wracking sobs
Greek Chorus: rising in volume, inaudible mumbling with sing-song background chanting
Me: after rising from the chair by the telephone and getting behind Julie's wheelchair , now pushing her onward and back toward the Garden Room, barely avoid a crash collision with another person in a wheelchair who has now made her way to the nursing station to catch the drama
Greek Chorus: continuing in background with small gasps, sighs of resignation, humming to the tune of “Oh, Me, Oh, My, What is Now Going to Happen?”) ....sound of drums beating slowly along with the low murmuring and humming of background noises. Chorus continues...
Me: Now back in the Garden Room, vacated by staff and patients, talking to Julie the entire time, trying to quieten her sobbing, saying “We all love you and want the best for you. It is hard to coordinate all efforts made in your best interests. I know your life has changed dramatically since the death of your husband, and the change has affected my life as well.” (Talking perhaps too loudly for emphasis)
Julie: “I just feel like I do not have control over anything anymore. When I lived in South Carolina, I made my OWN doctor appointments.” Wracking sobs given by Julie, Chorus grows louder
Me: “Yes, but that was THEN. Now you live in a place where all efforts need to be coordinated as far as transportation and yours and my life all need to work together.”
Chorus in background: “yes, indeed, yes indeed” (sung in a three note cadence, two beats up, one beat down) “YES INDEED YES INDEED” repeated three times
Me: “Are you OK, are we good now?”
Julie: sniffing, wiping nose with back of right hand, sniveling
Chorus: chanting, “Mother was Wrong, Mother was Wrong!” Chanting slowly and softly fades into background...”mother was wrong, mother was wrong”
Julie: feeling wronged, giving up the sobs to quietly playing Word Chums on iPad...
Me: slinking off after giving her a kiss, feeling miserable having made this scene occur, having felt like I have done her wrong by trying to do right by her..feeling embarrassed by all this fuss...
Chorus: fades from chanting into ambient background noise...
END OF SCENE
Post Script: Activity Director reports later that Julie was acting happy, engaged with dominoes with other residents, relishing the cheese and crackers snack within half an hour after my departure from the scene of the drama. Go figure.