Mice, Mice–Everywhere!!

…or so it seemed!

The Story of MOUSE ONE
So how do mice get into a blog on dementia?? Well, think about it. My husband was the protector throughout our entire marriage until the last handful of years, when dementia appeared and dismantled life at the Hitchcock’s house. I remember early in our marriage, when we lived elsewhere–on Thornburgh drive–and a mouse made an appearance in our kitchen. It had come up from a hole in the floor under our stove. Denny was trying to capture it, with the not-so-great help of our two little doggies. Our little fluffy Westhighland White Terrier named Poker was feisty and running around the stove barking and chasing the mouse back into place. Our bigger-than-normal Scottish Terrier named Chips–who should have been the leader on the cornering of the mouse–was scared and ran back to the bathroom. He peeked out around the corner, so all we could see of him were his panicked eyes under those Groucho Marx bushy eyebrows, his black hairy Scotty nose, and his little red tongue that kept poking out and going in–a nervous habit when Chips was scared. We normally saw that nervous tongue emerge during thunderstorms, so Poker would come near and lick Chips’ ears to comfort him. But no comfort was forthcoming this time, since Poker had to take over as attack dog.

Denny got the mouse that day in spite of Poker’s attempts, and much to my relief.

The Story of MOUSE TWO
Then there was the time when our family moved back to Kentucky for Denny to go to seminary. The kids and I and Denny were all home relaxing on a weekend evening. I told the kids they could watch a movie in the living room and sleep in their sleeping bags. So they gleefully ran to their rooms on the second floor to put on their PJs, gather their pillows, sleeping bags and “flip beds”–to be comfortable on the hardwood floor of the living room. What ever happened to flip beds?! They were awesome.

So Byron’s sleeping bag was in the bottom of his mess of a closet. And I have to digress. It strikes me funny that his closet was a mess, since he was over-zealous about having his room tidied “just so”. He remembered a book we checked out from the Laramie library when we were back in Wyoming. The book was titled, “What to Do When your Mom or Dad says… CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” by Joy Berry. I just googled it, and it is still out there for purchase! Byron LOVED that book. So my mom found it in the Rawlins, Wyoming library, scanned the whole book and mailed it to Byron! What a happy boy he was! So why was his closet a mess? I wonder. The book must not have covered closets.

Anyway, Byron gathered his sleeping bag off the messy closet floor, drug his armload to the top of the stairs, and threw it down the staircase along with his pillow and soon-to-follow flip bed. But his mess of a closet was just what an area mouse had been searching for. Mama mouse had started a nest in Byron’s sleeping bag evidently. So when Byron threw the sleeping bag down the stairs, the mouse was propelled out of the sleeping bag and projected into the front door, hitting its little head. Little Mousie was dazed and turned left into the living room. All 5 of us–that includes Denny–ran into the living room and screamed and each of us stood on top of SOMETHING while Little Mousie scrambled aimlessly back and forth over the living room floor. Denny was the first to find his wits, got down off his chair, and was able to catch the mouse. I was grateful for my husband, as were the kids grateful for their daddy’s bravery.

Protection from intruders was something we just expected of Daddy Denny, and he fulfilled all expectations. But what happens when dementia hits and Daddy Denny no longer understands what is going on? The dumb wife who has been coddled for…FORTY-TWO YEARS…has to suddenly rise up and be the strong, brave one.

Time has gotten out of hand this past year, since so much happened with Denny and our family. But I think the last mouse incident was a year before Denny’s leg break, so that would have been in 2022, and I would have been 66-67 years old, having had a mouse-catching husband for about 42 years. Well, here’s how things played out in the most recent Story of Mouses…

As noted in an earlier blog post, daughter Emma and her little baby had been staying with us for a season in the Laramie, Wyoming house. But Emma’s sister Teresa, brother Byron, and cousin realtor Jane worked with Emma to find Emma living accommodations down in Colorado Springs so they could all live nearer one another. The day I describe now to you was moving day: Friends came up to help move Emma and furniture down to the Springs. The doors to my house and to the garage were propped wide open so that everyone could carry furniture from house to UHaul. Did I mention that it was early fall, when mice like to come inside to find a nice warm place to have babies? Well, consider it mentioned. They found an open-door policy in place.

As Emma took one more walk-through checking for her belongings before leaving for her new home, she gave a slight shriek as a mouse ran out from under our TV room recliner [that was near the open garage door]. The mouse headed into a wall closet, easily fitting under the closet door. It had found entry to what must have been advertised by mice over the years to one another, for it was the place where mice always seemed to go. We might as well have had a little sign posted welcoming new boarders. It would read, “Turn left to find hole accessing internal wall accommodations.” I could have dealt with it all better if Emma was there with me, but she was leaving me alone with it! Well, Denny was with me, but wasn’t really “here” in mind. So I felt alone, or at least “in charge”, but I was not relishing this new leadership role.

I immediately found the mouse traps and remembered how Denny had set them up. I put some peanut butter on them (I heard that worked better than cheese), and nervously checked the traps the next morning. I did catch a mouse. So I thought that was all there was to it.

A Continuing Saga…
I don’t remember exactly how much time went by after that mouse catch, but it was at least under one week. The next Saturday evening, I sat down to make a card for an acquaintance at my church who was battling cancer. He was a brave soul, but I knew the battle was discouraging. I was telling him my favorite picture of God was that of a Shepherd. I loved how He took care of us sheep, picking some of us up and carrying us until we were stronger. I knew He would be carrying my friend through his cancer and would strengthen him for whatever the journey ahead might involve.

But just then I looked up from my card. I was sitting at the dining room table and looking into a hallway by the kitchen. There was a door leading to some stairs going down to the basement. The door was open, and just then a little mouse jumped up onto the landing, jauntily took a turn around the corner and headed right to the dog water bowl, as if he had done it many a time the past week. He stood up on his hind legs and put his little front paws on the rim of the dish and helped himself to a good drink, all the while looking right at me. I don’t know why I didn’t scream. It just seemed so surreal. After his drink he got back to all fours on the ground, turned his body toward the kitchen, but kept his head looking at me, and took off to get a snack in the kitchen, I guess. And another mouse came up the stairs and followed him. And to my left in the dining room, I saw something brown streak across the floor under the windows.

So there were at least three mice invading my territory. My heart was beating fast, in case you wondered. I left my project on the table, hurriedly set traps in the kitchen, picked up my dog Grover and went and locked ourselves in a bedroom where I didn’t think the mice could come. But I kept the lights on all night and slept quite fitfully, if at all. My house had been violated. I never trusted it again after that! I was in enemy territory. Denny was oblivious, down in his bedroom-to-bathroom quarantine.

Calling in the troops
For the first time ever, I contacted an exterminator. He was a great young fearless guy that I was hoping I could adopt, but he had a family of something like EIGHT kids! I didn’t think we had that much room in my house, so I reluctantly held back asking if he and his family would consider moving in. He taught me a lot as he walked around my house with me. He checked EVERYWHERE and threw in little packets where mice like to go. He said these packets were so tempting to mice, that they would go for that packet before they’d go for anything I could offer. He said it would take five days before they were gone–and the stuff would keep mice OUT for another 5 YEARS!–and added a somewhat comforting statement that most people never saw the mice after he left. He then added something else meant to be comforting, though it failed: “If you DO see a mouse, it is ‘on it’s way out’.”

I was wishing there was another service for folks like me, where I could have hired someone to come and stay the night in my house to babysit me in the case of another mouse showing up. Not sure what such a service would have been called. Maybe I need to create one for the future for other scaredy cats. I’d name it “MMM” standing for “Mind the Mice with Me”.

So I went for four days and didn’t see anything, thank goodness. On the evening of the fourth day it was Saturday night, with church the next morning. I forgot to finish that card for my friend and wanted to take it to church for him in the morning, so I sat back down at the dining room table and read through what I had already created. Just as I finished reading what was there, I glanced up and over the card… and THERE WAS THAT SAME MOUSE, coming up the stairs again and going for the dog’s water!!!! This is a true story!!! I have not embellished it ONE BIT. He was working solo this time as far as I could tell. I found some minor comfort in that thought.

Everything is now a blur, but if I remember correctly, I believe I went in and set another trap. Then I CLOSED THE DOOR to the kitchen from the dining room and went back to finish the card. It struck me that I was trying to comfort my friend about his cancer, knowing God loved him and would carry him through this experience, but didn’t want to think that maybe this same God loved ME and wanted me not to be afraid of the mice. That maybe this God of mine actually wanted to strengthen me and prepare me for the many trials I was going to face down the road. That maybe I could actually trust Him and didn’t need to be afraid of ANYTHING, especially these little mice. You know, it would have helped if they wore cute little t-shirts and sang like Cinderella’s mice. But no, I had to get the quiet, silent, naked type.

Finishing the card
So to finish my friend’s card, this time I drew a picture of what I saw. I even went the extra length and Googled “how to draw a comic mouse” and replicated it on my card, though I added in an original rendering of a dog’s water bowl. Notice I have no ability to draw “perspective” and am a lousy artist. But it made the point.

Denny, Dementia, and the Mice: A Wrap-Up
So what was Denny doing during all of this? He casually mentioned that there were two mice down in the spare bedroom next to the bathroom. I ran down and put traps in there. But no small wonder they found that area! Denny liked to pop a sack of popcorn to snack on. Each morning, he would come up and pop at least one sack of popcorn to get him through the day. I noticed when I went to check the bedroom noted, that he had stacked SO MANY sacks of popcorn on the floor against the wall–there had to have been at least nine sacks, as I remember! I couldn’t see them from the hallway, since a dresser hid the view. And in his bathroom, a sack of popcorn was on the bottom ledge of his little computer table, falling over and spilling out popcorn on to the floor. I’m surprised he didn’t have mice in THE BATHROOM too!!

This was SO unlike Denny. The kids remember him telling them to eat any snacks over the kitchen sink, or over a napkin to catch crumbs. He did not allow any eating in their rooms or elsewhere–just the kitchen/dining room area. And if he saw any dust on floor or counter, he would always wipe it up with a Kleenex… or go get the vacuum and vacuum it all himself. He was Star Vacuum-er in our house “in the day”. But all that pristine cleanliness was not part of his new dementia demeanor. He was completely oblivious to the fact that he was quite messy. And he was completely oblivious to the fact that his wife was having to take on a new role defending the house from mice infestation.

Final Words and Suggestion
To close this story down and make sense as to why I included it, I hope it encourages someone out there to check in on people taking care of a loved one with dementia. Those caretakers were not likely trained in that care. They are stumbling through one step at a time, learning the “hard way” most likely, as was I. Not only are they needing to care for the person with dementia — new skills required in that job! — but they are likely needing to pick up and do what their partner used to do… and may not have any idea how to proceed.

If I had been the one with dementia, Denny would have had to take over doing laundry, cooking, finances, cleaning, hiring people for yard and house projects, etc. He would have figured it out. And I figured things out slowly in my circumstances as well–even found myself inside painting ceilings [and tore my shoulder rotator cuff], outside on ladders trying to check out the roof, painting window frames, mowing the lawn, trimming bushes, working with plumbers to fix drains and toilets, and shoveling SNOW.

But it would have seriously lightened the load to have someone come and–I don’t know–spend the night camping out with me in the living room on watch for mice… and cracking jokes and laughing until morning came with the prospect of an early exterminator visit… Just sayin’! I can’t begin to tell you how terrified I was. The Good Humor Man was greatly needed… with real humor, not (just) ice cream!

2 thoughts on “Mice, Mice–Everywhere!!”

  1. Mice….still give me the jitters thinking about one in our “potato chip” bowl in the basement at home as we were growing up!!
    Love reading your blog, Claire!!

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