Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Fear of Senility

It has been another day of perfect weather.  I have invented a series of small chores to keep me outside, coming into the house only long enough to prepare simple meals and to put up yet another batch of pickles.

The early bunching onions were ready to harvest, so I dug those and spread them along the row to cure in the sun. I trailed J. as he fed Pebbles her grain and put on her fly hood. I watered transplants and noted a few perennials which would be improved with pruning.

After breakfast I gathered my red-handled snippers, a plastic bucket for picking beans and headed toward the lower garden.   I made it as far as the edge of the carport and encountered the rural route mailman pulling in with a package for "Miss Sharon."

I unpacked the box which contained paperwork finished by our Wyoming book keeper.  Heading back toward the garden I was distracted by the growl of the chainsaw in the front yard and ambled around in time to see J. lopping the bottom ground-sweeping limbs from the magnolia tree.
I watched as the branches with their glossy leaves shuddered to the ground.  There was a newly opened blossom on one branch and I rushed in with my snippers to rescue it.
With a circle of cats watching admiringly, I chose a green Fiesta bowl and settled the magnolia as a table decoration, before trotting back outside to see where J. might be wielding his saw.  By dint of vigorous gestures I indicated that he should trim  a shrub which had grown lopsidedly far above my reach.
In the midst of tumbling branches, a furry form shot around the corner of the house and dived into the shade of the hydrangeas. 
Charlie the Cat Who is Not Meant to Be Out.

Once outside, Charlie, an omnipresent pest in the house, becomes untouchable.  When one approaches him, puts out a tentative hand, coaxes, Charlie skitters off.
J. clearly on a mission, exchanged the chainsaw for the gas-powered weed whacker and and began to methodically zap weeds and lush undergrowth along the sides of the house and behind the shrubs.
"Charlie," I shrieked above the whine of the whacker;  "You'll cut him up!  He's in the shrubbery!"
"No, he's not," bellowed J. "He's down peering in the sliding door, looking at the other cats who are looking out at him!"
Of course when I got there, Charlie wasn't.

His whacking finished, J. went to fetch tractor and wagon to haul off the debris.  I circled the house, calling Charlie and caught a glimpse of him lumbering through the box hedge , around the north side of the house and back into the hydrangeas. Parting the branches I spied him flattened on the ground.
"Good Charlie," I crooned, trying to reach him without falling flat.
Charlie ran.
After another turn around the perimeter of the house, another dive into the shrubbery, I got ahold of Charlie's tail and hauled him up, dumped him uncerimoniously through the kitchen door.

From the vantage point behind the hydrangeas I noticed that there were some blooms untouched by recent rains, fresh and pretty.
I decided to cut some for the house.  They would be striking, I thought, in one of my vintage McCoy vases and I knew just which carton in the garage was labeled, "Fragile. Antique Crocks and McCoy Vases."
The vases were not in the labeled carton.

A glass pitcher was in the box and I hauled it out to use as a container for the flowers, rinsed it at the kitchen sink and returned confidently to the carport for my snippers.
I retraced my steps to the garden looking for the snippers.
I looked in the kitchen, looked on the bathroom vanity, on my desk. I looked in each place twice, pondered a bit, peered at any surface in the garage where I might have laid aside the snippers while I clambered about to search for the McCoy vase.
In a mindset approaching mild panic I wondered if I had dropped my snippers into the mailman's car when he handed out my package.
In exasperation, I got the kitchen scissors and cut my bouquet of hydrangeas.  I arranged them to my satisfaction, sternly informed Jemima that  No, they were not meant for her to eat. Tweeking a bloom into better position I raised my eyes to the buffet cupboards and spied the McCoy vases on an upper shelf---where I had placed them a month ago while unpacking china.

At about that moment J. entered the kitchen, ready for an iced drink.
"I've misplaced my snippers," I said, by way of conversation. "I've just wasted 45 minutes trying to find them."
"Snippers?" said J. vaguely, sipping iced tea.  "The red-handled ones?  They're on that stack of boxes in the carport, just to the right of the door."
"They are not in the carport," I replied with some ire.
"Yes, they are" [firmly] "I just put them there."
 "Well, yes, they've been in my back pocket.  I thought I might need them.  If you wanted them, why didn't you ask?"
I considered, briefly, dousing him with iced tea.
Charlie bustled ingratiatingly between us.
"Oh," said J. "I see Charlie's back.  Did he come in on his own?"
"Charlie," I replied with forced patience, "Charlie was in the hydrangeas, was probably there when you were whacking at them."
Hearing his name, Charlie mewed, rubbing his head against J.'s boot.
"How did he get out," I mused.
"I expect he shot out when I was adjusting the latch on the front door," said J. with mild unconcern.
"It doesn't matter, he's back.  He's not very bright, you know."
I looked at J. glared at Charlie, considered retreiving my snippers and resuming my garden chores.

With great dignity I announced, "I'm taking a book and a glass of iced tea and I'm going to sit outside."
I think about senility, old age. I consider the stealthy approach of dementia.
I try to calm myself with the soothing thought that moving leaves us muddled about our belongings.  Too many interuptions distract us from what we mean to be doing.
The breeze under the trees is cool and flower-scented. The tea is icy and refreshing. A cardinal sings, unseen in the branches above my head.
Surely, for these few moments, all is well.


  1. I don't think it's approaching senility - I suspect that a mixture of the heat and the chase after Charlie caused a momentary distraction. Sitting in the shade with iced tea and a book was the perfect remedy. :)

  2. Oh MM, you made me smile with this one. Escaping cats, mild panic, disbelieving searches for misplaced tools - or usually keys in my case - and incredulous disagreements are commonplace here as well.

    Fear of Senility? Oh Yes....

    Room for another on the porch with you???

    Now where did I leave my keys?

    kind regards....Al

  3. Cats .... they can cause such worry.... so glad you got him back into the safty of the house ....I find others around me do not seem to worry as much as me when an indoor gets out ...or an out door misses a meal.
    I do understand your fear of dementia ... my Nan suffered although it was called senility back then ... but forgetfulness of where you put things or an answer to a question where the answer is promptly forgotten, apparently is a busy mind chucking out things that are really not impotant to you at that time.I am experiencing a different forgetfulness that I do find a little worrying ...I for get peoples names but worse ...I forget the names of things and adjectives and have to describe in several words what I'm thinking of ....later they seem to pop back but not when I need them. Fingers crossed that its normalish ...or just caused by stress.
    Take care ...enjoy life ..and your wonderful garden.xx

  4. Gosh - I could do with sitting down sipping a cold drink and reading my book right now. Too many jobs to do though, having been away for those 3 days has put me Very Behind!

  5. i sometimes think that I spend the better part of my day looking for things I've misplaced! In desperation I have discovered that the only way to find things that seem impossible to find is to buy a new one and then of course the old one then turns up.

  6. If ever one of my cats got out unexpected , my strategy was to grab an old towel, neatly folded so the cat would not be suspicious, then I would go outside and sit nonchalantly and quietlyly, until his curiousity overcame him and he had to come and see what I was doing. When he got near enough-- woosh! with the towel over him and I'd got him. This method does require a certain amount of patience though but it has more dignity than chasing a cat through the bushes! :)

  7. I have these worries all the time! I think it's a combination of too much crowding for your attention and the general upheaval of settling into a new home. Hope you enjoyed your iced tea :)

  8. My cats have absolutely no knowledge of cars so I have to guard them carefully... when they do get out (as very infrequently happens) it is brief but high panic. It takes 2 of us at least to corner the little, uh, darling back in. As to the senility, I had menengitis several years back and have real memory problems now....HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN I'M SENILE? Oh well, life will bring what it may. Another glass of iced tea please!

  9. I recently attended a course on dementia, as part of my work with elderly. We all confessed later that we sat there thinking "Oh I do that" and "That sounds like me".
    Don't worry Von, lets hope (you and me both) all that is a long way off yet! :D

  10. Not senility MM...Just a very busy mind doing some "multi-tasking", on a hot day!

    We too have Cats That Must Stay Inside. In our case it is during the spring and summer months because we have so many swallows nests and fledgeling birds around. Each cat does escape once in a while, and with each of them the tactics for recapturing them are different. They are all allowed out for an hour or so after dark, but by then they are only too keen to come in again for supper!