Soup Facials and the Dementia Dilemma

“Squash is better than melon,” she informed my parents after my dad presented my grandmother (who has dementia) with his famous butternut squash soup for dinner last night.

     Sadly, they were not talking about flavor. They were discussing squash’s wrinkle reducing abilities. Apparently after the dinner had been delivered, it was immediately applied as a facial in our bathroom without my parents’ knowledge.

     When I came home, I found the remnants of this endeavor of her splattered about our shower. Her slippers were soaking wet in the bottom of the tub, her bra had been hand-washed and hung up in the shower as well, and splatters of this thick orange-brown substance had been displayed over the tiled walls like Jackson Pollock himself had custom designed the interior of our bathroom using soup instead of paint.

     Without knowledge of the earlier soup facial, I assumed that the substance on the walls was something far worse, something that should have been in the toilet, and I took to cringing and cleaning at midnight, scooping globular chunks of whatever it was away and sanitizing everything before I could take my own nightly shower.

     The next morning, upon the encouragement of my boyfriend, A, I took a mental health morning for myself (that was all I could afford before work, study group, and then laundry night), and it was completely necessary due to the inordinate amount of stress and burnout I am currently suffocating under.

     I slept in, awoke to the sound of rain, the first time in months while every local alarmist has been crying out “drought.” I was relieved, and I thought, “This is going to be a good day.”

     Some deity somewhere was laughing hysterically in that moment because none of the days in the past week have been “good days” and I certainly wasn’t going to be allowed to break that unfortunately trend today apparently, despite my uplifted hopes in the first moments after waking to the soothing sounds of the tinkling on my roof and rain gutters.

     I painted my nails, toyed with a new braid I am trying to master called the “zipper braid,” and I ate breakfast. It was during breakfast that my dad entered the kitchen and asked me, “Did your mom tell you about the soup facial?”

     “No,” I replied.

     He then proceeded to tell me the tales from last night and finished the legend with, “I’m making chili tonight, since it is perfect weather for it, so I was thinking maybe we could all do chili facials. What do you think?”

    “Wow, dad,” I replied, laughing.

      I went to work then, texting my boyfriend about how I was so relieved he suggested I take a mental morning for myself to recover from my week without studying because I had a really nice morning (especially when I discovered that the substance I cleaned up last night was soup and not some colorectal residual).

     When I arrived at work, my client opened the door and stared at me blankly. I smiled and told her how thrilled I was to see her (I was actually looking forward to work all morning).

    She scowled at me and said, “Oh, it’s you again. Look, honey….” She began. “I don’t really need your help, so you can just go away.”

     “We had planned to go grocery shopping though,” I mentioned, gently trying to work my way into the apartment. When the client isn’t as lucid as usual, this tactic generally works for bypassing the side effects of a dementia flare-up.

     “I’m fine. So, just go, because I don’t need your services anymore.”

     I was stumped. She had blocked the doorway. “Let me go make a phone call, and I’ll be right back,” I replied. I pretended my cell phone didn’t have service there so I could make the call outside away from her earshot.

     I called my office and they contacted her daughter who called her and was supposed to convince her to let me in. My office called me and told me I could go try again and she should let me in.

     “Hi,” I said, smiling, cringing as she frowned at me again.

      “So….?” She asked me flatly.

      “So, I called my office and they said your daughter was going to be in touch. Has she called?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know about the conversation that already took place.

     “I called her,” she told me. “And she said you can go and we will cancel your services. You have other clients you can go to today, right?”

    “No,” I replied. “You are my only client because I am in school right now, but I will be fine. My office can send me elsewhere later on. But I would like to help you.”

     “I don’t need help,” she replied. “You are unnecessary here, wasting your time. It was a pleasure getting to know you, and good luck in life,” she left me standing in the hall, shutting the door behind her. I walked away, calling my office.

      “She doesn’t want me to come in today,” I told them.

     “Can you try again?”

     “I have already tried twice.” I repeated my conversation with her.

     “Well, tell her you spoke with her daughter and her daughter told you to go in.”

     I called her daughter instead, when I hung up the phone with them and spoke with her directly.

     “I told my mom we’ll try again with you next week. This week she probably thinks she doesn’t need help because she saw me so much this week and I basically did your job for you. I won’t be able to make it over there next week, so she will probably be more receptive to you then.”

     We chatted after that, since her daughter and I have always enjoyed conversing, and it is good to establish a positive relationship with the family as well, and then I hung up and called my office to let them know about our conversation.

      “The daughter and I spoke and she said I should just try again next week,” I told the woman on the phone.

     “You can’t just stay another thirty minutes? Because you are on the books for another thirty minutes.”

     “I’m in the lobby,” I told her. “She won’t let me in.”

     “Okay, well, clock your time and I’ll change the books.”

     “My sheet won’t have a signature this time, so what do I do?” I asked. Usually my client signs my paper, but no way she would sign the paper today.

      “To be honest, I don’t know. I’m getting another call, so I will call you back afterwards.”

     I debated whether or not I should wait there. I decided to just go home, and good thing, because she has yet to call me back and it has been an hour.

     I walked in the front door, realizing that I needed to go change to go to my lab partner’s house to study for class.

     “Dad,” I called up the stairs where he was editing some old family footage of me at the age of six swimming in Lake Tahoe one summer.

     “I’m up here,” he replied.

     “I think I’m gonna take you up on that chili facial you mentioned earlier.”

     “One of those days, huh?”

     “One of those days.”

     “You can’t take it personal, Bec. It comes with the territory when somebody has dementia.”

     “I know,” I said, sinking down to the floor and laying there.

     Fate has it out for me.

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