Parental Journal 82 from Planet Elderly – Christmas Visit 2016 – Toilet Paper Caper, Frozen Food, New Shoes and Growing Concerns.

Monday, December 26, 2016 – afternoon

Toilet Paper Caper

Two days before I left for this trip, neighbor Kevin called and asked if I was sitting down.

Turns out Mom’s sewage pipes were clogged and water was overflowing from the main floor toilet down to the basement area below.  Not just plain water.  Yellow and brown water, if you get my drift.  Turns out Mom had been using paper towels instead of toilet paper.  She denies this, of course.  Kevin arranged for repairs with ABC Plumbing.

When I arrived, Kevin reminded us not to use any water.  If we needed to go to the bathroom, go over to his place.

Since Mom and I are both senior citizens, there is no such thing as getting through the whole night without having to pee.  It’s just a given…at least once a night and usually more often.  Although we had our last bathroom trip the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 20, we didn’t want to have to go over to Kevin’s in the middle of the night.  Mom got out her old bucket and we were set for the night.

If either of us had to pee, we would pee into the bucket and then toss it out the patio door where there was a blanket of old snow.  Overall, the plan worked well except that Mom kept moving the bucket to a different place after using it and I had to play find-the-bucket.  At three a.m. we were both in the living room searching for the bucket telling each other how great it would be “tomorrow when we have running water.”

By morning the snow on the back patio looked as if some large dogs had been busy all night.  But, hey, this is what happens when one has to camp indoors.

The work crew showed up much later Wednesday than expected.  Apparently they were busy with lots of jobs.  When they asked how things went overnight and we told them our pee bucket story, they assured us that we could have used the toilet.  Not according to Kevin who claimed we would end up with a cesspool at the bottom of the hole created just outside Mom’s front door. Oh, well.  We can attest to the fact that there is no pee or poo at the bottom of the hole.

sewer-line-repair-dec-22-2016    The hole

sewage-line-repair-dec-22-2016-abc-plumbing   The crew

Water service was resumed on the 21st, so we were happy.  Completing the project, however, took a few more days what with a permit, an inspection, and then filling the hole correctly.  Mom’s front stoop won’t be reconstructed until spring.  Meanwhile, there are some boards rigged up so we can use that to go in and out of her townhouse.

From the time I arrived and for the next few days Mom conscientiously reminded me that “when we go to the bathroom, we can only use a little toilet paper.”

“Ok, Mom,” I said, “and we can’t use any paper towels either.”

“I never did!  I know I never did.”

End of discussion.

During the time we couldn’t use water, we enjoyed eating out a bit.  Nice crepes at the Hillside Restaurant in Grayslake IL.  We also enjoyed their pot roast over noodles another time.  It seems to be a popular place for retirees and locals.  Nothing gourmet, but a decent selection for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

New Phone

Because Mom repeatedly either forgets to put the phone in the charger or puts the TV remote in the phone charger, I got her a new corded phone.  She didn’t like this idea.  “You shouldn’t spend your money on me.  Who knows if I’ll be here tomorrow?”  I explained that it’s a problem for me when I call and can’t get through.  With a corded phone, she will hang up as she should, she won’t lose the handset, and the TV remote won’t fit.  Turns out she likes it.



Stocking Up on Homemade Frozen Food

One of my goals for this trip is to cook enough so that we have leftovers to freeze for Mom.  So far I’ve frozen some homemade blueberry pancakes, crock pot potato soup, and turkey breast with sweet potatoes and stuffing.  Tomorrow I’ll make a double batch of beef stew.  We’ll have it for our main meal and I’ll freeze portions of the rest.



New Shoes

One of Mom’s mantras has been that she “needs some new shoes.”  She has several pairs, but gravitates only to a couple that are falling apart.  Any time I’ve mentioned going shopping for shoes she has told me she prefers to shop by herself so she can make her own decision.

During the time I’ve been gone she has had a chance to experience living life without her routine of visiting dad every day.  It’s been lonely and boring.  She has felt cooped up and more so now that winter is setting in.

The weather Christmas Eve day was mild so I said, “Let’s go over to the Sears store at Gurnee Mills.  Maybe they have some shoes on sale.”  She put her coat on and was ready to go.

We did have some luck finding shoes–two pairs, in fact, and she picked them out herself.  I just stayed in the background and if she found something she liked I checked to see if it was available in her size.


It was amazing to see how many people were out shopping on Christmas Eve, but then that’s a great day to find deals…and we did.

Christmas Dinner

We enjoyed a delicious dinner with Mom’s friend Toni, Toni’s daughter, Renee, and Renee’s three sons.  Oh, and Bella, an older, sweet labradoodle. There were some Polish specialties and everything was quite yummy.  It’s a good thing it was an early dinner.  We were stuffed for the rest of the day.

bella-122516-at-renee-home-toni-daughter   Bella


toni-and-bella-122516  Toni and Bella

Since we received an invite to join Toni and her family for Christmas dinner, I cooked our planned turkey breast dinner today.

Returning to Missouri Wednesday…with Growing Concerns

 Things are relatively stable here and I will return to Missouri Wednesday.  The weather forecasts for this area and for Missouri indicate that the weather should be fine for travel.

Kevin will be on board, continuing as neighbor/assistant to help Mom if she needs it.

I do leave with some growing concerns.  Mom is managing, but I can also see that she is failing a bit.

First, Mom is less steady on her feet and this raises concerns about possible falls.  I see that she takes a while to steady herself when she changes from sitting to standing.  When walking, she often reaches out to hold things…a chair, the side of a table, a wall.  Her gait is bit shuffling and her feet point outward a bit.  When she attempts to sit down in one of the living room chairs, she sort of plops down.

Second, her organizational skills are scrambling a bit.  The cabinets in her small kitchen have always been well organized.  Over the past year, things have changed.  Sometimes there are canned goods in the area once reserved only for pots and pans.  Soup/salad bowls sit on top of smaller dessert bowls.  The flatware tray is disorganized with spoons mixed with forks and knives difficult to locate.  Things easily go missing because she changes locations without realizing it.

Third, food issues are starting.  I’ve seen some evidence of rotting food in the past…extremely old carrots maybe.  During this trip, there was an open package of four raw hamburgers.  Two were left in the package.  The package was not securely wrapped and the “use by date” had expired.  I waited a couple days and then put them into the trash.  So far she hasn’t noticed.  I can suggest that if she buys packages of burgers that she wrap and freeze them individually, but she will probably forget.  Concern:  food poisoning. I’ll alert Kevin.

I emptied and rinsed two opened jars of spaghetti sauce.  They have been there for months and I finally purged them.  So far she hasn’t noticed.

This morning she made herself some oatmeal.  She got a phone call while making the oatmeal, so I took over the cooking while she took the call.  Of note:  she did not have near enough water in the pan and the oatmeal was sticking to the pan.  I added more water and rescued her breakfast.  Concern:  potential fire hazard.  I’ll alert Kevin.

I know that Kevin sometimes brings food items over to share with Mom, but if left to herself, her food repertoire is limited to canned soup, salami sandwiches, Red Baron  frozen pizza, chocolate ice cream, eggs, bananas, oatmeal and toast.  Sometimes she will make chili or sloppy joes, but not as much.  Her motivation or desire to cook is diminishing.  That said, she has a hearty appetite and loves to eat if given food by others.  Left to herself, she may become fixated on some task and forget to eat…or if asked, she may not remember if she had any lunch.

Meanwhile… she does her own laundry, takes her baths, washes and sets her hair, continues to vacuum and does her dishes. She still hates to dust…so she doesn’t do it much.  Sometimes she talks about moving, but her thoughts always come back to how much she likes where she lives.  She is comfortable here and she feels safe here.  She is also lonely and does not have much socialization other than with neighbor Kevin and his wife, Sue.  Two cold months are coming up, so outings will be infrequent…maybe an occasional trip to the bank or grocery store with Kevin.

A couple days ago she said she should probably move down to Missouri “because it isn’t fair for you to have to travel back and forth so far like this all the time.”  That thought lasted less than a minute.  “But this is a nice place and I feel close to Dad here.”  No problem.  I get it.

We’ll just continue as we have been.  We can do so because she’s fairly okay living independently—thanks to neighbor/assistant, Kevin.  Without him, I would have to convince her to hire folks to check in and she would not like having strangers in her house.

I’ll plan to be in Missouri for the cold winter months of January and February…and then venture back up to Mom’s in March.  This is always a tentative plan…things could change if Mom has some kind of health emergency. I’ll keep in close contact with her, and Kevin and I will continue with our phone consultations.

It’s been a good visit.  She has been calm, is eating and sleeping well, and we’ve laughed a lot.  Tomorrow the plan is let the crock pot make a terrific beef stew while we go out and see a movie.

About jjmummert

This blog was originally titled "Drifting Toward Planet Elderly," and it shared a journey I had with my elderly parents as they both finished their lives battling the complexities of dementia. After both passed on, I changed the title to "Living on Planet Elderly." I am a retiree who is reluctantly adjusting to the reality that she is now elderly. In July of 2021, I relocated to Middleton WI after living in Columbia MO for over 40 years. I decided that I want to experience a new and vibrant location in a cooler climate with lakes...a bucket list item of mine. I have a first cousin who lives in Madison. We have nice childhood memories, and I thought it would be wonderful to spend some time together as elders. It was. AND March 2023, I returned to Columbia. I had a wonderful time experiencing the Madison area of Wisconsin, spending time with my cousin, and making some wonderful friends. No regrets.
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2 Responses to Parental Journal 82 from Planet Elderly – Christmas Visit 2016 – Toilet Paper Caper, Frozen Food, New Shoes and Growing Concerns.

  1. Tammy says:

    Love your journal/blog! I’ve been there! Let me know if you ever want to cry-laugh or just use a working commode!


    Tammy Gillespie
    Tina’s friend


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