My Grandma, Verla (we called her this), was a character. She spent the first 60 years of her life in Indiana where she met and married my Grandpa. She was a country girl who worked hard. She had a variety of jobs the last of which was on the line at the Delco Remy plant assembling starters for heavy equipment. After they retired, they moved to a trailer park in Leesburg, FL where they lived for about 20 years until my Grandpa, who had dementia, got to be too much to handle. They both moved to Michigan to be close to my parents and when my Grandpa went to the nursing home, Verla moved in with my parents.
As compared to my other grandparents, I spent quite a bit of time with Verla. Not only was she around a lot but she was a party waiting to happen. We played hundreds of hours of card games. We ate out and went to movies. (We could only stay out so long though because she would not use a public toilet!) She once told me that she didn't want to live to be ninety because that was "just too old." I argued that if she felt good and still had her "wits about her" ninety wouldn't be so bad but she was adamant "no ninety for me". She died of a stroke at 89 years old while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. (She drove herself there.) She remains one of my favorite people...ever.
Verla was a simple but wise woman who had a unique way of expressing herself. During a card game she would frequently say, "Poo Dee, Doo Dee" emphasis on the Dees. This meant it was not a bad but a complicated hand. One that would require some "contemplating". If the game required picking up new cards or passing cards to a partner she would often say "well, that makes the cheese more binding". I had to ask my mother what this meant and upon explanation it was burnt indelibly into my mind! Especially the "binding" part! When Richard Nixon got caught in the Watergate scandal, Verla who was not at all political said, "Guess now he will have to stew in his own juice". She had so many of these that I wish I would have documented them. I fear that I have lost so much wisdom by forgetting her words.
Verla was the caregiver for my Grandpa. In his confused state he believed that every time Verla left the house she was meeting another man. After he got into several accidents, he clearly could not drive anymore. He was not willing to accept this so Verla decided to park the car around the corner at a friend's place and tell Grandpa it was in the shop. If she had to go out she just walked to the friend's house and got the car. If he went out in the car with her, it was out of the shop (for the day). He was okay with this for years. Poo Dee, Doo Dee!
After they moved to Michigan and had their own place next door to my parents, Grandpa didn't ask to drive anymore but he would try to step out of the car while she was driving. Once when I was sitting in the back seat, Verla was driving and Grandpa was in front of me in the passenger seat, he decided to open the door and try to get out. I reached up from the back and grabbed him by the shoulders holding him inside long enough for Verla to pull over. I had to walk to a farm house and ask to use the phone to call my parents for help. Obviously, this made the "cheese more binding." Added another concern to the mix and ultimately ended in the decision to choose a nursing home.
Verla wasn't one to "stew in her own juice" which in this case I interpret to mean sit inside a bad situation rather then move forward in a positive manner. She had friends and interests and even though she saw Grandpa every day she had a life of her own playing cards and visiting around. After my Grandpa died she decided to spend the winters in Florida and the summers with my parents. I had moved to Florida by then and she was able to spend time with my kids when they were little. We would go to potlucks with her at the trailer park and she would show off her great-grands to her many friends.
I never saw Verla cry. To her every day was a new day, ours to make the most of. I am not much like her but I wish I was. So... join me in saying "Poo Dee, Doo Dee" (just saying it out loud will make you feel better) when things aren't too bad but complicated. Remember that every once in a while the "cheese will get (a bit) more binding" but there is almost always a cure for that. And, if we can at all avoid it, let's not "stew in our own juice".
P.S. A good way to avoid stewing in your own juice is to register to attend the Caregiver Forum, October 10-12. See information below.