70: Armchair Shopper

70: Armchair Shopper

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

Armchair Shopper

A bargain is something you can’t use at a price you can’t resist.

~Franklin P. Jones

In the beginning, we didn’t realize what was happening. We weren’t sure if Grandma Doris was just forgetful, or if it was deeper than that. She’d forget to eat lunch or she’d eat it twice. She’d forget to check her mail for a week or two at a time. She’d forget that she had already fed her dog, Feisty, and feed him again (several times a day).

But the last straw was when she put a cake in the oven, engaged the safety latch and then forgot how to open it. That cake baked until it turned black and smoked filled her apartment and the fire department was called. My parents decided she should move in with them.

Dad took Grandma Doris’s driver’s license away, so she had to depend on us to get around. Oh boy, did she love to shop! She could peruse every aisle of every store for hours. She would inevitably come home with something that she just couldn’t live without.

Whenever I made a trip to my dad’s, I always asked Grandma if she wanted a ride to go shopping, which she usually did. Over time, as her Alzheimer’s progressed, her excitement for shopping lessened. Sad, I thought. She must be losing her spunk. Over dinner one weekend, I told my parents I was concerned that Grandma no longer seemed to want to go shopping. It seemed like she wasn’t herself anymore. To the contrary, they explained. Grandma was doing great. In fact, she was shopping more than ever.

Grandma, they told me, had discovered the home shopping channel. Everything she could ever want, she could find in the comfort of her own room, while lounging on her navy blue tweed recliner. I sat with her one day and observed her as she watched the shopping channel. She was captivated by the hosts. She held onto every word they said about colors, materials, sizes, shapes, quality, customer reviews, and testimonials. Sure enough, if she liked an item, she’d pick up the phone and order it right then and there. She had no idea what she needed it for, or what she’d do with it, but that didn’t matter. She never put her credit card away — she just kept it out, next to the phone, just in case.

The next time I came to visit, my parents gave me an update and told me all was well. She was still watching the shopping channel but was ordering items less frequently. It seemed harmless, so they didn’t stop her, especially because it made her happy and gave her a sense of freedom.

The next morning, the deliveryman came to the door with a rather large box. My parents joked with the man, (who they knew rather well by now) and wondered what Grandma had ordered that was so large and heavy. He said there were six more just like this box in the truck. He loaded the rest of them on his handcart and wheeled them up to the door. We thanked him and away he went.

Dad called up to Grandma and told her that her latest shipment was here. My dad opened one as we all stood around with great anticipation. Grandma had no memory of what she had ordered. Packing tape, Styrofoam and a few plastic bags later, Dad pulled a word processor out of the box. It was one of those original word processors from the 1980s — half computer, half typewriter — the latest technology at the time. And there were six more just like it.

Not only did Grandma not know what to do with a word processor, with her arthritic hands, she couldn’t type if she wanted to. The four of us stood in the entryway with seven heavy boxes stacked up around us. All we could do was laugh.

After a gentle discussion with Grandma, who still had no recollection of ordering those seven word processors, Dad decided she could no longer have unlimited unsupervised access to her credit card. She could watch the shopping channel, but she would need to ask Dad before she ordered anything.

The shopping channel took all seven word processors back without any problem. The usual deliveryman came to pick them up, and after that, they didn’t see as much of him, because Grandma’s shopping sprees were curtailed.

Grandma is gone now. The end of her life was hard and sad. But my parents and I try to focus on the funny things. It makes it a little less painful. And to this day, we still chuckle when we think of the word processors.

~Crescent LoMonaco

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