A Long Overdue Update

When D.’s grandmother, Sissie, fell and broke her hip back in September, we knew that she was in for a tough recovery. At ninety-six years old she’s sharp as a tack mentally, but she’s not exactly in tip-top triathlon-ready shape. Come to think of it, neither am I, really, and I’m about sixty years her junior without the excuse of a broken hip, but that’s really neither here nor there and LOOK, INTERNETS! A SHINY COIN! TO DISTRACT YOU FROM MY PHYSICAL FITNESS FAILURES!


Sissie is frail, weighing in at not even a hundred pounds, and for the last, say, twenty years her favorite afternoon work-out has consisted of eating a single Pringle and drinking half a cup of coffee while she and D.’s mother, Martha (aka “Martie”), watch re-runs of Matlock. We’ve encouraged Sis to go hog-wild and have two Pringles, but it’s futile; she has refused on the grounds that she doesn’t want to lose her girlish figure.

You just can’t stay a size four for over eighty years by scarfing down the potato chips, people.

So given her physical limitations, therapy was a huge help in terms of getting a post-surgery Sissie out of a wheelchair and onto a walker, but she tired easily. Once the hospital discharged her – having done all they could do – Sissie insisted on going back to her home of over fifty years as opposed to “one of those death houses,” as she so lovingly referred to the nursing homes that were her only other viable option.

And as a result, she and Martha have lived with round-the-clock home health nurses for almost three months.

For the last several weeks, it’s been increasingly clear that the at-home care option was going to have to come to a close. Scheduling and supervising what essentially amounts to a small nursing staff has been a huge job, way more than Martha realized it would be, and just like a mother with a newborn baby, she has been the first one awake when Sissie has needed something in the middle of the night. More often than not Martha has had to get out of bed to rouse the night nurse (“Mother’s ringing her bell! She’s ringing her bell!”), and the wear of the relentless schedule has taken a toll in every possible way. On top of all that, sadly, Sissie’s physical condition hasn’t improved very much at all.

There have been bright spots, however; Martha and Sissie both have grown particularly fond of Carol and Mary, two home health workers who have proved to be completely and utterly reliable. They have shown up for work on time, loved Sissie like a member of the family, and each of them has been more than happy to stay with Sissie so that Martha could run to the bank or the mall or the beauty parlor for an hour or two in the mornings without fear that she’d return home at lunchtime to find a nurse sound asleep and Sissie attempting to break free of her walker so she could make a hot pan of cornbread and put a turkey breast in the oven, steadily complaining that THAT NURSE-WOMAN, MARTHA, SHE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING, SO I DECIDED TO JUST FIX LUNCH MYSELF.

At one point Martha remarked that she and Mary would be absolutely perfect roommates, that they just got along so well and had the best time talking, but when Martha opened her morning paper about a month ago and saw Mary’s photograph staring at her from the front page, she became slightly concerned that rooming with Mary might actually involve setting up house in the county jail. In which case Martha would probably take a pass on the whole roommate thing no matter how cute their matching bedspreads might be.

Not to mention that Martha wouldn’t be caught dead in horizontal stripes.

Apparently Mary was charged with a crime a few years ago after she had an altercation with her estranged husband, and since the wheels of justice are oftentimes slow to turn in small Southern towns, Mary was released on bail and never contacted again. When Mary explained the situation to her almost-roomie Martie, she was insistent that she’d lived in the same place with the same phone number ever since the unfortunate (alleged, involuntary) manslaughter-ish incident occurred, but since the authorities had never gotten in touch with her about, you know, a trial, Mary just assumed that nothing was going to come of the charges, that she was perfectly free to continue her work with the elderly and, I guess, to play Thelma to Martha’s Louise.

Not that Martha has ever done anything illegal, of course, because, I mean, she would just never, although there was that one time she bought “a blouse at the Goody’s and there was this darlin’ new clerk, a young clerk, and she had the most beautiful complexion even though she really wore too much make-up for my taste, but you could tell that under her make-up her skin was just peaches and cream, well the cute young girl didn’t take the security tag off of the blouse and do you know that those sensors, those sensors at the front of the store WENT OFF LIKE A SIREN and I just stood there! Just stood there! And my friend Rubena said, “MAAAAA-THA? IS THAT YOU THAT TOOK SOMETHING?” And I was mortified! Just mortified! But the manager came and helped me and just laughed and laughed because he knows me very well since I am a regular customer, and we got everything taken care of. We did!”

Oh, it’s funny because it’s true.

Needless to say, Martha was a bit put off by Mary’s alleged criminal behavior. And while I’m sure Martha would make an absolutely fabulous companion at a trial, what with dreaming up all sorts of clever uses for scarves and wraps in terms of covering up one’s handcuffs during the daily perp walk, it’s a sight we’ll never see. As it turned out, Mary’s alleged crime came to light right about the time that Martha and the rest of the family decided that it was probably best to explore other healthcare options for Sissie. It was absolutely necessary – but understandably sad. Sissie is the heart and soul of D.’s family, and I think we all sort of expected that she’d be at her house raking leaves and sweeping the driveway until she was at least 110.

So, long story long, Sissie has moved into a nursing home. She has been quite the trooper, and she knows that while it’s not the same as being at home, it’s the very best option for right now. Martha vows that it’s the most difficult decision she’s ever made – and I don’t doubt her for one second – because “it’s just my sweet privilege to take care of my mother! I would do anything for my mother! I just can’t imagine being at the house without my mother!” But she and Sissie are both doing well. They really are. This is no small feat considering that the two of them resist change to such a degree that they have had the exact same hairstyles for the last thirty years.

I mean, if the Aqua Netted silver ice cream cone atop your head isn’t broken, then really it would be just plain foolish to try to fix it.

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  1. I mean, if the Aqua Netted silver ice cream cone atop your head isn’t broken, then really it would be just plain foolish to try to fix it.
    Oh my word! I LITERALLY spit out my diet coke!! That was funny! Off to get the windex;-)

  2. Shoot! My life is just plain boring. I gotta get out more.

  3. And you think there are better blawgs than yours out there sister? I think not :) Keep us updated and my prayers are for a fast and full recovery :) xoxo melzie

  4. I just linked to you as one of the people who can make me laugh–and well, you just did it again! What a blessed family you have and what post-worthy stuff they give you! Actually, you could post about a rock and it would be funny. I’m sure of it!

  5. My husband’s mother is in one of those “death houses.” And she’s nowhere near as old as Sissie; she’s only 63. But she has had Multiple Sclerosis for over 20 years and was using a walker up until December when she had a stroke. The stroke took out her entire left side; her right leg was already shot from the MS. Now she has the use of one arm/hand. Apparently the vision in her left eye is bad enough to keep her from getting to use an electric wheelchair as well. She’s a large woman and it takes 2 people and an electric lift to move her. Needless to say, the nursing home was the only option. The one she is in currently is not great, but it was the only thing available on short notice. She is still in the process of getting approved for Medicaid; once that happens, we will try to get her into something better. She has no finances; she spent herself into financial ruin and made no plans for the inevitable. So my husband is left trying to coordinate things with the nursing home staff and his siblings (who live near his mom) from several states away (they are in MO and we are in CA). Hopefully we will be able to get her moved soon. She is quite unhappy where she is and still hasn’t grasped the severity of her situation or that she will not be able to leave a care facility. (There. I know you are just thrilled to death to get the scoop on that.)

    It sounds like Sissie is doing wonderfully, though. I think we’d get along just fine.

  6. Somehow, in the midst of attempted manslaughter and nursing homes, you have made me laugh out loud! (especially at the shiney coin..OMG..HILARIOUS!)
    That’s good writing for you, girl!

    Keep us posted. I hope the change for everyone continues to be smooth.

  7. “Aqua netted silver ice cream cone” may be one of your best lines ever. Ever. And that’s saying something.

    I’m going to go eat a Pringle before I head to bed.

  8. Boomama…you’re a classic. That closing line is a pincher for sure.

  9. A SHINY COIN!?! Rubena?! What a hoot! You are either a much better writer than you give yourself credit for or I’m easily entertained. Believe me when I tell you that you. make. my. day =)
    Poor Martha! That had to be a tough, tough decision to make. My mom is only 18 years older than I am and, although we are hopefully years from being in Martha and Sissie’s situation, it does make me think. Martha made the right decision for both of them. I’m sure that it was wearing on Martha’s health and, even though she may feel guilty for awhile, I’m sure she feels relieved, too. I’ll be sure to pray for both of them. Those of us with kids worry about being “good moms”; being a “good daughter” is important, too.

  10. oh dear…hang on…I am almost done laughing…..

    I am so sorry that your mom had all that drama, but she seems to have handled it with great resiliency!

    And I am very glad to hear that everyone seems to be almost adjusting to the new living arrangements – although I may never recover from that last paragraph!

  11. What an incredible interesting life you have. You told it with a lot of humor and I like that.

  12. man, you can make any story sound good. when are you going to write that great southern novel?

  13. I enjoy your blog so much. I had kind of a hard day, my three yr. old burned her hand, she is ok now, but you know how stressful it is when our kids are hurting? Anyway, I logged on for a break and just laughed and laughed. I hope grandma is able to enjoy her new home and things get better soon.


  14. Central Texas has “the Goody’s” too! What a hoot! My sweet mom is in a nursing home (we have those here), and she is the life of the party. She FINALLY has people to talk to, so she doesn’t talk and talk when she sees me now (the sweetie pie). She’s really zipping around on her new walker, “with brakes!” Yay!

  15. You tell these stories so well!!!!

    I think my husband was going to have me admitted if I didn’t tell him what I was laughing so hard about!

  16. Oh my gosh, BooMama, I laughed right out loud! And now you have me talking like a Southerner (I went to Memphis this weekend and have been using “y’all” more than I have my entire life, so it’s not all your fault). You tell a great story, and I’m sure Sissie’s nursing home is awesome, with balloon volleyball and spa days (I worked at one like that when I was in high school as a receptionist).

  17. OK you-

    I’ve looked, and looked and LOOKED,

    There really was no coin, was there.


  18. Phyllis R. says:

    First things first, thank you for the Sissie/Martha update. I had wondered.

    Second, this ranks at the tippy top of “Boo Mama Classics”. And I expect to see it in the highlight reel during the Bloggy Academy Awards, when you be chosen “Best (Word) Picture.” Four stars, two thumbs up. I think your agent will be contacted by the Pringle people any day now for the endorsement deal.

  19. PUBLISH THIS !!!! PUBLISH IT ! Its perfect and a great example of you. It has everything, why old people should be at home for as long as they can, the love of older parents for their even older relatives…….its touching, its funny , its perfect. It made me laugh, it made me cry…..send this whole thing out double spaced to Southern Living RIGHT NOW !!!!

  20. BooMama, you are fantastic! Shiny coins, silver ice cream cones on heads–how much better can a word picture(or distraction) get???

    I’m the “Martha” in our family right now. My mother is 86, and lives with us. She has Parkinson’s, extreme high blood pressure, and has just developed diabetes. I tell you the “joy” never ends!!! I know that eventually I will have to make the hard decision, but we are putting it off as long as we can.

  21. I think this is your best post ever – and it’s a hard thing to choose – believe you me! “alleged manslaugter-ish incident” Too much!

  22. Oh, I love reading your family updates. It’s just like reading about my family, Sissie and all!

  23. God Bless Sissie! My husbands grandmother was the same way…sharp as a tack, but her body wasn’t keepig up with her. What a great story to be able to tell the kiddos though about Mary and Martha (the careworkers not the bible characters…although of course that is a good story too though) okay anyways moving on…I will keep Sissie in my prayers. It sounds like she will be making a lot of friends at her new home though!

  24. suzanne says:

    I agree, that this needs to be published! NO one else can take the mundane-ish details of what happens in life and make them like an I LoVE Lucy episode…no one but YOU that is. You have such a great perspective! And that Alex, well, he’s just a shiny apple not far from his tree!

  25. This is just too hilarious! I love your stories of Martha and Sissie.

    Are they going to be in your FIRST book???

  26. Every writer has their own voice. This is your voice. It’s what you do best and it’s fabulous and no one else could quite do it like you can, and if you tried to be like the ‘intelligent’ writers you mentioned a few posts back, you’d fail miserably and be unhappy and have MANY unhappy readers, as well!! I’m glad there are ‘smart blogs’ out there that you enjoy reading, but don’t ever let them sway your confidence. Those people are using THEIR voice and YOU are using YOURS and that’s how it should be. I can write, too, and I have my own voice. I, too, have smart friends who can write superbly, but I would never attempt to try and adopt their style. What a mess that would be. In fact, there was one time when friends and I were writing something and those friends decided to just write my part in my absence and told me when I returned I could just add ‘my’ touches to it and turn it into MY piece. HAH! There was no way I could merely tinker with it and have it sound like me. THEIR voices were SCREAMING in the piece…no way I could have overcome that.

    My point here (yes, I have one!! I think….) is that what you do you do very, very well. And obviously what those other bloggers do, they do very, very well. And you should all keep doing your own thing with your own voice. Oh, and I do hope Sissie adjusts well and that Martha has no guilt and also adjusts well. And that alleged manslaughter-ish thing? Pure BooMama and pure brilliance. Keep it up. :)

  27. Love. It. Love it. You are brilliant.

  28. Kate’s comment–is that our Kate?–nails it perfectly: writing about Sissie and Martha is your forte. I’m already envisioning a lovely book at Barnes and Noble all about the lives of those two.

    My only question: will you publish it as a work of BooMama, or under your own name???

  29. Another shining example of why you’re read by tens and tens of people, BooMama.

    His mama and grandmother are soooo much fun to read about. And I love Sarah’s comment – I can totally see a book by “BooMama” on the best seller list.

  30. Good night nurse, Boomama! You’re brilliant and funny and entertaining and I really can’t see a thing wrong with your physical fitness, with or without the shiny coin. So there.

  31. You just can’t make these kinds of stories up, but it takes a Boomama to tell them so well! You crack me up girl.

  32. My grandfather Chet, who is the love of my life, is in hospice care. He built his own 6000 sq ft house in 1952 and lived in it until 3 months ago. He is in a glorious care home being taken care of lovingly like the king he is. We all visit him daily, and it is such a blessing to be cared for with such dignity. Please hug Sissie for me. thanks for the brilliant post Boomama.

  33. In honor of Sissie…I’m going to eat one Pringle, and drink half a cup of Diet Vanilla Pepsi…no coffee for me…but I will drink it warm, if that will count:-)

  34. Your family is so colorful, and I just love that you share them with us.

    Just in case you were wondering, my family is working on cleaning out the 4 sheds in the backyard and having a parts place come and pick up the 4 cars that have been sharing the yard with the sheds for about the past ten years. I do love them, but I doubt I could make their lives sound as endearing as Sissie and Martha’s.

  35. PS-ONE PRINGLE? I think I might have just one can, but not one solitary Pringle.

  36. BooMama, thanks for this hilarious post. I understand exactly what Martha is feeling. My Dad had Alzheimer’s for the last ten years of this life and my Sweet Mother cared for him as long as she physically could. We put him in a nursing home where he lived the last three years of his life. It was the hardest thing we ever had to do, but we had no other choice.

    You have such a gift for making your “Internets” cry, laugh and just feel better about life. You are a joy!!

    Please give that precious Alex and Miss Sissie (when you see her) a hug from this “Internet.”

  37. You can’t make this stuff up. Highly enjoyable!!!

    I can’t say that there’s been a single time in my entire life where I’ve only had ONE pringle.

  38. Poor Sissie and Martie! What a tough time. If y’all have any questions, I’m a nursing home social worker (albeit in Texas and not in Alabama), but I’d be happy to be a resource if needed! Tell her to keep her chin up!

  39. Well, ya know. . .we just love ya. That’s that. We love you and Sissie and Martha/”Martie”/Maaaaaaaa-tha with and without our and their bells on.

  40. Oh. . .and “manslaughterish?” Well, that did me in more than the icecream cone. . .although I’d love to hear more about Rubena too.

  41. This is a LOL post — so entertaining, beginning to end! Loved the Goody’s story (classic Martie) and the aquanet statement is just TOO funny!

  42. I love the fire in Sissy and Martha. Reminds me of my Grandma when she was living. I remember her doctor asked her to unbutton her blouse so he could listen to her Congestive Heart failin’ ticker, only to have his request met with a stink-eyed stare and a quick, “He’s always gotta catch a glimpse of my breasts whether he needs to or NOT!” She was 81 when she said this.

  43. Roxanne Rissanen says:

    Thank you so much for your blogs. I try to read them everyday. I live up in Canada with my husband and two children but the rest of my family is still in the south. Your blogs give me a little taste of home each time. I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. I miss living in the south so much.

    Take care

  44. Awwww. They will get used to it before too long if Sissie doesn’t just get up and walk on out of there! My Grand-daddy kept trying to come home but he didn’t get around so easily. The people at the home have sure got their hands full now huh?