Terrible twos redux

“There’s a carnival today. Do you want to go?”


So started my visit with J yesterday. This was after she didn’t want to change her heavy winter quilt for a new light bed cover. She didn’t want a new shower curtain instead of the industrial plastic one in her room in a continuing care retirement community. She didn’t want new pictures for the walls.  

“Let’s check it out anyway.”  J was compliant, so we made our way through her wing, across a bridge, down a skilled nursing hallway and finally out into the courtyard for the festivities.  There were many games of skill:  hit the cans with a ball; throw a basketball into a hoop; toss coins onto a plate; pick rubber duckies out of a kiddie pool. J could do them all. She ended up with 40 prize tickets and an enormous smile, and was able to choose some gifts for herself.  Then we got snow cones.  Her reflexive “no” obviously hadn’t been the right answer. 

I have been pondering why no is J’s new favorite answer.  Perhaps she wants to respond and it is the first thing that comes to her.  Maybe saying no helps her feel more in control. 

She certainly recently took charge of her dental retainer. I had brought some cleaner with me and looked for the retainer in the bathroom.  No luck. So I asked J. “I threw it out,” she said clear as day despite her usual inability to retrieve words quickly enough to communicate well verbally. “Why?” J started rubbing her hands together suggesting it took enormous effort to wash the retainer. In reality, cleaning it involved taking part of a denture tablet and putting it in a container with water and the retainer. No scrubbing required. I was skeptical of J’s ability to keep up with the retainer when she moved to the CCRC in May. I feel good she used it as many months as she did. 

Last week J also rejected using a chain for her reading glasses even though she loses them all the time. “It gets in the way,” she said. “Of what?” I thought. Exercising restraint, I didn’t say it. No matter that J always wore a glasses chain for years when she taught.  Now I buy her reading glasses in bulk at the dollar store. 

Fortunately, no is not always her only answer. Because our daughter lacks access to parking at her apartment, her convertible lives with me. I took it to visit J on Thursday and asked J if she wanted the top down. “Yes!” she said with a huge smile. And she was almost laughing out loud as her hair blew wild and we motored on to dinner. 

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