To understand my reaction, you have to know Erin. Erin is one of the sweetest, dearest, bubbliest people in the whole world, a butterfly in a swarm of preying mantises. She also comes equipped with her own reality bubble, which is probably how she survives amid all us more predatory bugs. The Erin Zone is a strange and wonderful place from which there is no escape until she moves on. Thanks to her illness, Mom is right in there with her. Do you begin to see why the prospect of Erin, Mom and haircoloring was scarier than Freddie Kreuger, Jason and the guy from Saw all rolled into one?
Buoyed by this unexpected success, I headed back to Mom's bedroom, where I found Erin pawing through Mom's collection of random business cards.
"What are you looking for?" I asked.
"I've got to find the right numbers," Erin said.
"What right numbers?" I asked, innocently thinking she meant phone numbers or something a sane person might reasonably associate with business cards.
"You know," Mom said. I didn't. "The numbers for my hair!"
Ah. That made a lot of sense. To me, at any rate. Erin stared at me, wide-eyed with something that looked a lot like panic. She plainly had no idea what the numbers were or their relationship to the Great Haircolor Project.
Have you ever tried to tell someone a dear friend has died while simultaneously trying to explain to somebody else the numbering system of a Clairol hair color product? Yeah, you've just entered the Erin Zone.
Mom wasn't broken up by her friend's death as much as she was envious. The skunk had managed to die unexpectedly in his sleep--just like his wife seven year's previously. Mother, on the other hand, was stuck in the slow lane and it wasn't fair. To her. And she damn well intended to complain about it, too. O-kay. That's my cue to scoot.
Went to the drugstore. Got Loving Care #77 for the GHP. Went to Harris Teeter. Got Six Grapes port for me. Erin planned to do all the haircoloring herself, just like she did the mani/pedi. But the mani/pedi didn't require the thorough liquid cleansing of a major body part on a ninety-year-old lady with serious mobility issues. I had this nasty vision of having to get naked with Mom in the shower with Medium Ash Brown-colored water flying every which way. No way I was going to try that sober.
Got back to the apartment. Found Mom's hospice volunteer Heather there. That was good. More help for GHP.
The three of us got Mom fed and onto the toilet seat to color her hair. (Hey, when you're dealing with mobility issues, you multi-task.) Erin donned the gloves and started squirting dye.
The phone rang. It was Emily and Mindy, two friends who used to work at the leasing office in Mom's apartment building. They wanted to know if they could drop by. This was their second trip to Mom's since Saturday's sharp downturn. I was amazed and touched, but I couldn't help thinking I had somehow wandered into the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera.
Well, nobody asked for any hardboiled eggs, but by the time the hair color timer rang, Erin, Heather, Emily and I were each at least a glass deep into the port. We were sane enough to realize getting naked with a ninety-year-old woman in the shower was probably not the way to go. She might catch a cold. (I knew getting that port was a good idea!) But what to do instead?
The only water feature in the apartment with a spray nozzle is the kitchen sink. What if we put a couple pillows on the seat of Mom's rolling walker and backed it up to the sink--we could turn the kitchen into a kind of impromptu salon.
Of course, to do that, we had to get Mom onto the pillow-bolstered seat, which was now six inches higher than her ass. No problem. Two of us could hoist her ass, another two could lift her legs, and Heather could cheer us on.
No go. We successfully wrestled Mom into position, but her neck was still too low to tip over the sink. So we tried lifting and tilting the walker. Still no luck. We got the chair in the air, all right, and Erin probably could've managed the rinse from that position. But Mom couldn't tip her head back. Her neck simply wouldn't cooperate.
New strategy. We stood Mom up and faced her to the sink. Success! She was just tall enough to bend over the sink. I stood behind her, crowding her into the sink so she wouldn't fall. Erin turned on the water. We were confident all the logistical challenges of the GHP were safely behind us.
Mom immediately complained about the temperature...the temperature of the water that hadn't touched her yet. Then it was her ears. "Don't get water in my ears! I don't want any water in my ears!"
I took a deep breath. I chugged a little more port. "It's okay, Erin. Better let me."
It took three of us. Emily covered Mom's left ear; Erin, her right; and I got to spray water all over. By the time the GHP was over, all the guests except Erin had left, half the towels in the apartment and Mom's red flannel robe were in the wash, I had made another emergency drugstore run (this time for a new hair dryer), Erin had gone to bed, and Mom was insisting I rearrange her hair. AGAIN.
Thank goodness, the night caregiver arrived at that point. I might never have escaped.