I was just texting with my husband who is in Winnipeg opening a show he directed and I co-wrote. He told me that he heard from a very mystical and hilariously wise acquaintance that July is the most tumultuous month. I must agree.
Every July seems to bring with it the big old crazies of every manner - people, circumstances, weather.
Last July 17th I was driving home from work when I noticed smoke coming through my vents. My car was on fire. I made it home and then the local volunteer fire brigade spent a couple of hours in my back yard putting out the flames, cutting the wires, and generally making a massive, heroic mess of the place, and the car, while tourists and locals offered support and took pictures. That same night a rogue tourist was seen trying to steal the same car. By the time he decided to attempt this grand theft auto the car had a melted dash, a scorched and cracked windshield, cut wires and was flooded with water and that fire fighting foam that was now ashy grey muck. Poor guy. Talk about picking the wrong mark (he eventually gave up and ended up stealing a different vehicle and after a joyride he ditched the stolen truck in the local lake). J was out of town at the time, so I had to deal with the whole fire situation, plus the kids, by myself. I called my boss at the Theatre to cancel my solo show for the next morning (the 18th) as I had been advised that the amount of smoke I had inhaled might make me hoarse.
Yesterday, July 17th, the one year anniversary of the car fire, started out so well. I had a great morning show. I was conserving energy because, as an experiment, I had decided to offer both of my solo shows to whomever from the Site wanted to attend (it can be hard for people to make it to other performers' shows as we are all so intensely engaged in our own schedules, so I decided to offer evening shows just to let anyone who might want to see them, see them).
We had a company meeting scheduled for five o'clock, so I had asked MIL earlier if she could watch the girls while I went out to the Site for about three hours for meeting and shows. Although I am not entirely comfortable with her watching the girls, she loves to do it, the girls love her, and as long as I set firm ground rules it usually goes well save for the inevitable mess I have waiting for me when I get home.
So, yesterday afternoon I reminded MIL that she was to watch the girls in two hours. About an hour later she came up the stairs in a T-shirt style night gown. She seemed to be in a cheerful mood and told me a story about the neighbour's dog chewing up a cell phone. I said I had made some pork curry, and advised her to feed it to the girls in about an hour. She agreed. About a minute later she looked at me and asked: "have they eaten dinner?" I said that we'd just talked about this. Then she told me a story about the neighbour's dog chewing up a cell phone. Hmmmm.
MIL has dementia, but at this point she has lots of really good days interspersed with some horrible rage and depression episodes. This had seemed like a good day, but now I wasn't so sure.
I asked her how she was feeling and she said: "woozy". She said she didn't think she should watch the girls. She has NEVER said this before.
I tried to call my fabulous friend who watches the girls a few times a week to see if she could pinch hit, but she wasn't available. I called a local girl and asked if she could come right over to babysit. She could. I suggested to MIL that she go downstairs and go to sleep. It has been very hot here, so I assumed she had taken too much sun.
I raced out to the Site. In the midst of the company meeting the phone rang and it was the above mentioned fab friend who very calmly told me that MIL had gone over to the store (local hang out, right next door to our place) and said she wasn't feeling right. They called 911. It was too late to cancel the shows...or was it? I could hear people rattling the theatre doors as I stood on stage and called the hospital. MIL was still in the ambulance, so I explained that she was on her way, that she was heavily medicated, that I didn't know if she's taken her proper doses for the day, etc. etc. I called back a bit later and was able to talk to MIL who was now in the waiting room. She was teary, confused, complaining of backache and stress. I somehow got through the show, but this is a show I know very well, so I basically did the performance while thinking about what to do next.
After the show I told the lovely folks who'd shown up (it was sweltering and there was a competing concert, so a modest but lovely little group) that I had to get in to the hospital. I asked my dear friend who was running the lights to let the people who had come for the second show to know that I just couldn't do it at that time.
I went to the dressing room and called the hospital. The man said that she had been discharged and was waiting for me. I explained that MIL has dementia, that it would take me the better part of two hours to get home and arrange it all and then get to town, and asked him to make sure she was not abandoned in the waiting room. I raced home, and on the way saw the ambulance attendants pulling into the ambulance station. I stopped and asked them what was happening. Of course, due to confidentiality they could only hint about it, but one of them said I'd be wise to make sure I told the hospital "my side of the story." Once again: hmmmmm.
You see...it seems that with MIL's particular kind of dementia there must one one big villain character in her personal movie. It used to be her ex, then it was her ex-tenant, and now it is very much ME. I am, in her mind, the worst person who has ever existed. For the past two years I have helped her deal with her massive financial mess. I have started the process of getting her help for her mental health. I have fielded phone call after phone call from her ex, from people who are suing her, from people who are charging her with assault, but all she can see is that I am short with her for destroying the house ("who CARES if it's messy?" she pleads, incredulously, as I beg her to just TRY to stop letting her dog poo and pee in the house, and I beg her not to disassemble any more major appliances which she cannot put back together again). And she demonizes me daily to anyone who will listen. Now, I concede that we are not one big happy, but when we bought this place we were very clear and all agreed that J and I needed our own personal space and that we would respect her privacy if she respected ours back. But as soon as she moved in she was offended if we had a dinner or watched a film without her, and would have an adolescent-like snit wherein she would play wounded and confused by the mean girl upstairs. It's been brutal. Brutal. And I also concede that I have lost my patience with her on more than one occasion, but this is usually when she has done something so amazingly bizarre to me that I just can't believe it. So I could see that she had clearly trashed me to the ambulance attendants, both of whom are friends of mine. I felt sick.
I raced home and explained to the teenage sitter that she would have to walk home (all of five minutes) as I had to deal with an emergency ("But it's SO hot!") Mrrrrr.
I called my fab friend to see if she could come over and stay with the girls while I ran into town but unbeknownst to both of us her little two year old had turned off the ringer on the phone so she didn't get the message until I'd already got the girls and MIL's dog in the car and headed off.
When I got to the hospital the staff was overly cheerful and I knew right away that they had been treated to a few hours of horror stories about me. Oh joy.
I chatted with the doctor, explained the situation, and he told me that MIL has a bladder infection and any infection will cause extremes in dementia episodes. He gave me a prescription. As it was now dark, the kids were hyper I decided I should rent us all a room for the night. One of the nurses called a nearby place to see if they took pets, and off we went to a nice hotel where I called my producer to ask permission to cancel my morning show just like last year's July 18th show (insert ominous chord).
This morning MIL and I had a very long talk about her continued need to villainize me. I accepted the places where I am culpable, and I reinforced what I have always told her: that she is a very good grandmother. She is. I think, and hope, that we made a little progress.
We had a nice day in town shopping, although it was funny to see MIL walking around in her night gown (we had no changes of clothes with us).
On our drive home we noticed an ambulance and rows of cars facing in either direction on the highway. I hoped it wasn't something to do with one of my friends. This highway is travelled by either tourists or someone we know. As we got closer we could see a tiny black bear cub lying on the road. It had clearly been hit by a car, but was still alive and in distress. People were bringing the little animal water in bottles, and a whole brigade was focused on helping. It was a lovely, heartbreaking, and completely crazy thing to see.
So it seems July really is the oddest month.
Hey July. Wtf is up with you?