Early Bird Gets a Dirty Look

You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard. When I talk to other people about it, they look at me like I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

There are little things Audrey Huntington does every day that drive me crazy. I’ve already talked about the plate in the sink issue. Not much progress has been made there on either side.

In the last week, another issue that has been there all along is really chapping my hide. She wakes up between seven and eight o’clock in the morning and comes into my room to wake me up. No matter what day of the week, holiday or not, she is expecting me to wake up when she calls.

It’s not a gentle call, either. She will open my bedroom door, walk to the edge of my bed, often sit down next to me and then yell in a firm voice, “Amy! Are you going to get up now?” It’s jolting.

Summer is a sacred season to me. It’s the season of memories as far as I am concerned. It’s the day-to-day joy of family and friends during childhood. Pools and sleeping in and barbeques. Fireworks, camping and vacations. It’s dashing off shoeless in the car to get ice cream at nine o’clock at night. Staying up late watching movies and sleeping late until its warm enough to get back in the pool. I like sharing these times with my kids as they build these childhood memories.

The last two summers have been burdened with job searches and anxiety that threatened to steal the life out of summer. I really hoped this summer would be more normal. With Mrs. Huntington, it’s nothing close to normal around here.

I’ve never really been a morning person to begin with. For some reason, people say I’m grumpy. I just think they are very irritating. Then I have coffee and they all get nicer.

Now every morning my mother-in-law yells at me to get out of bed early every summer morning. Do you see a problem developing? I have tried to get my head around this. If I could understand a bona fide reason for it, maybe I could cut her some slack. From what I can tell, there seems to be a couple of possible reasons for her behavior. One, she could be scared to be awake alone. Two, she could have some deep rooted bias that people who sleep past dawn are lazy and she is going to put a stop to it. Three, she is crazy and lives in a world that revolves around her which includes me serving her breakfast and sitting beside her like she likes.

If she was scared, I could get over it and just be there for her. I really have a soft spot for people who need help. If you ever wanted me to do something for you, just look like a pitiful victim and I’m your gal. I asked her if she was scared to be alone and she vehemently said no. I know she gets confused and needs daily reorienting, but fear isn’t the emotion she has in those moments. Nicky and I have determined that as the Alzheimer’s progresses, it appears that anger is her predominant emotion. She gets mad at us for not sitting next to her all day. That is a common occurrence because I have a house full of kids that need things, too. Then, she is certain that she is being mistreated or taken advantage of.

Despite her never being a morning person before, I wondered if her mind had gone back to her childhood to a time when they woke early. Maybe her parents had told her that people who sleep late are lazy. Since she moved in, she wakes up with the first light of day and, at night, heads to bed before the sun goes down. Yesterday when this happened, she sensed I was irritated. I normally try to hide it because if she thinks you are irritated, she determines she has more reason to be irritated than anyone and you must not want her there. My tone may have been sharp. Maybe I didn’t look at her or maybe I looked too long. I don’t know.

It’s hard to pretend you are loving life at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. I pretty much need to be in a car driving toward a beach vacation before that would ever make me happy. So she started in on me.

“Do I bother you?”

Carefully considering my words so as to not make my life harder, “Not usually, but I don’t like it when you wake me up early every day.”

“I do what?” She cannot remember she does this. She thinks I am making stuff up just to annoy her. “Just what do you think I do?”

“You come in my room at the first light of day and ask me if I’m going to get up.”

Her face is a mixture of disbelief and anger. I can see her mind searching for the words to throw at me but they are scurrying away from her.

“So, if I could understand why you want me to get up, maybe it wouldn’t bother me. Do you think I’m lazy if I sleep later?”

“Now, Amy! I am not like that.”

If she is saying she is not judgmental, this is a slightly false self-image she has of herself. When she comments that people on “My 600 Lb Life” should be taken out and have the *crap beat out of them for being over-weight, I think that is a good indicator of being judgy. Still though, as outspoken as she could be, I get the feeling that it surprised her that I thought this. Maybe she really doesn’t see sleeping as a moral issue.

So all we are left with in my hypothesis is that she is just crazy. Maybe this is why people don’t understand why I’m struggling with this. They know she is crazy. Again, maybe I am too close to the forest to see the trees. I keep searching for order, normalcy, sanity. My mind won’t give up on it.

When she comes in and tries to wake me, I often tell her it’s not time to get up yet and to go back to sleep. Sometimes she will for fifteen minutes or so. She can’t hear and even when she can, words don’t make sense to her and you have to repeat yourself. When I do, I raise my voice a notch for clarity. My dogs hear me and decide it must be time to go out. So while I am dealing with her, my dogs start jumping in their crate and barking crazily. Yet one more reason that makes me want to pull my hair out.

So she goes back to her room and I have to get up and let the dogs out. Then I have to wait to let them back in or they will bark crazily outside. Then I go back to bed, barely fall asleep and there she is again.

“Amy! Are you getting up?”

I thought about this routine a great deal. I get very frustrated with her, but only mildly frustrated with the dogs. In fact, I usually blame her for making the dogs wake up. The dogs, as I see it, are just acting on instinct. They hear their mommy and they have to pee. They aren’t being mean or judging me. They aren’t afraid. They just have to go out.

I’m trying to get my head around the notion that she is just acting on instinct. Maybe like a toddler who wakes and goes to find mommy, she is looking for her security. Getting mad is as useful as being mad at the dogs for needing to go out.

This morning, I had a new attitude. I still didn’t relish getting up early, but it was a neutral vibe. She was calm. I made us breakfast and she ate without any incident. I pulled out my computer and started writing and she sat next to me until she got bored and went to watch television. I’m trying to remember to smile at her.

I’m sure someone is reading this and thinking it seemed so obvious. Maybe I’m slow but I think human relationships are hard when everyone is sane. When one person is no longer sane, all bets are off. It all falls to the sane one to navigate life. Like navigating a ship in a hurricane, it’s not easy. You can’t just batten down the hatches and do nothing. You have to keep going and hope the boat doesn’t sink.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it all works out, unless I go crazy, too.

 

*Word changed to keep the blog family-friendly.

 

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