Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas redux

Mom changed her mind about coming to our house for Christmas. I just called her up and reassured her that I could make it to her place ok and that she could bring her bag with her strongbox. It has all her important papers and for some reason she has to bring it to the house every Christmas. So...I made it all normal for her and she was ready to go when I arrived around 1pm.

We drove to the cemetary first so she could see her Mother's grave. We couldn't make it all the way to the grave because the roads had not been plowed in the cemetary. I drove as close as I could, then got out and ran up the hill a little bit to where the grave is located. I had been there the day before and hiked in from the street and miraculously found the grave. I went to the cherry tree, then turned a bit to sight off the water faucet and garbage can and within about 30 seconds have uncovered the grave. So..long story short, I held up the wreath that I had purchased the day before so Mom could see it, then ran back to the car. We had to back down the road to get out of the cemetary...Mom crying the whole way. She was both upset and nervous because of the driving conditions. I got us out of there...bless my Subaru Forester, and then drove to the house. The last two blocks were the worst, but we finally arrived around 2pm.

As soon as we arrived, Pamela and I went into full court press to get Mom inside. She had to go to the bathroom right away, so I got the transport chair and we whisked into the downstairs bathroom. It became clear right away that I was dealing with an I got some of those disposable washclothes and helped Mom change into some clean underpants. She was resistant to changing at first, but I reassured her that we were the same size and that it would be fine. After we got everything back together, she sat in the transport chair, looked at me, laughed out loud and said "Merry Christmas". It was the funniest and most tender moment of the day for me. Times change, roles change....and it all works out.

Mom was hungry...and Pamela had everything ready, so we sat down right away for a lovely Christmas lunch - ham, mashed pototes, sweet potatoes with pecans, mashed turnips, green beans, little cheesecakes, and lovely petite Buche de Noel. After dinner I showed Mom all the old Christmas pictures with Santa that stretched from 1954 until the early 1960's. She enjoyed that quite a bit.

Then onto the presents...we had gone a little overboard with Mom's gifts, but she enjoyed everything...the new socks, the eye mask, the hat, the pajamas, the soft pad for her bed, the Frangos, the removable handle for her bathtub, and the handmade fabric bag. Milo sat with Mom most of the time she was opening her presents..leaning on her...which she seemed to enjoy. He is a very loving dog.

Before we left, she wanted to visit my Dad's ashes in my room. I had a white poinsettia on the top of my bookcase for Christmas. She looked at each photo and sobbed. I understand her need to do this every year. It is part of her mourning process. Her life will never be the same without my Dad.

It was getting dark by this we started back to her apartment by 4pm. She had a good meal and a good time. We made it through another Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Mom had decided that she will not come to our home for Christmas Day dinner. She says that it is just too much to ride in the car back and forth with all the snow. It is snowing again this unless we get lots of rain in the next 24 hours, it looks like Mom won't be with us.

In reality, Mom is afraid someone will get into her apartment and steal from her. She told me yesterday that someone had stolen one of the nightgowns I had given her on a previous Christmas out of the dryer in the laundry room. I told her that it possible because times are tough, but that I knew that no one was going into her apartment to steal things. I reminded her that everything of value that she owned was locked up in trunks or lockboxes. I even offered to bring her heavy lockbox over to the house on Christmas. No luck. She is not going to go for it. I finally just agreed with her and let it go.

I realize that she is never really totally attached to reality. I realize that she often misplaces things and thinks they have been stolen. I also realize that I am not willing to go around this particular bush anymore this holiday season.

It is a silent and snowy night here...May we find peace on Earth...and goodwill toward everyone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow falling

It has been snowing since sometime early this morning...before I got up at 5am. I haven't been able to get to Mom since Sunday afternoon.

She grows more agitated with each passing day. She is certain that the bank clerk shorted her $500 when she was at the bank. More likely, she is having a harder time making sense of her statements. Mark refused to take her there yesterday. I haven't been able to make the trip since the car has not been out of the driveway much.

Every time I talk to her she is upset about something new. Today it was the Russians again. We have had this conversation before. She is convinced that the Russians are controlling our weather and have dumped this big snowfall on us. Ok, there is nothing I can do to convince her othewise, so I go along with her. Finally, I have to get off the phone and start working from she is mad at me for that. I think Christmas is just a hard time for her...without Dad.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It snowed last night ...six inches underneath by this morning. I made it to Mom's this afternoon by 1:15p.m. I stopped on the way to buy her some groceries because I am just not sure if I can make it out there with the way the weather is unfolding here.

I made dinner when I got there, took out the garbage and recycling and talked with Mom about her latest plan to manage my brother's life. She has it in her head that he needs snow tires. I tried to explain that we don't have that much snow here and that he may or may not want snow tires...all to no avail. She has it set in her mind and plans to gift the snow tires to him for his birthday in February. As I was leaving after washing and drying the dishes, she told me that she needed two prescriptions I called them in feeling kind of frustrated that she hadn't mentioned this on the phone when I called her earlier in the day. We got it all squared away and I picked up the big shopping bag of gifts she had for us and drove home. The drive was a bit scary in places but I finally got home about 5p.m.

I talked with a friend at church this morning who is also a primary caregiver for her brother and his wife. I told her than Mom is a fragile person who has a iron fist in a velvet glove. Her reality is often different from mine. It often takes me time to figure out what the heck she is talking about. She has a pretty strong life force in a body that is increasingly fragile. She struggles with her body and remembering things, but still rises to the occasion. She wrapped up all the presents but told me not to put them under the tree until Christmas Eve. As I left, she showed me the top of a fir tree that is in the shape of a cross. She sits and looks at that cross day in and day out. What it means to her I have no idea..because she never discusses her religious or spiritual thoughts.

All in all, it was a good visit. That counts for a lot these days.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The walls have ears

Today was a bad day with Mom. I should have cancelled...knowing how tired I have frazzled with work, getting ready for our annual Christmas party...just trying to have some kind of life.

Mom was being bossy and difficult the whole time...ordering me around her apartment...having me spot wash areas of her rug...all the while telling me that we were going to go to the drugstore, to eat...and then to the grocery store. She insisted while I vacuumed that someone had come into her apartment and stolen one of the attachments to her vacuum. Oh, we go...that is the only thought I had in my head at that moment.

She did have her holiday decorations out...which she had insisted three days ago she was not going to do this year. One piece was something my Dad had given her which made her cry as she was telling me that it was the last Christms decoration he had purchased for her.

We made it to Rite Aid and she started being really difficult right away. Where were the Tums? Where was the wrapping paper?. Things were too expensive. She hadn't wanted me to come in with her because she said I made it harder for her to shop. The truth is she cannot shop on her own ...she can't hear the clerk telling her the amount of her bill and would wander for a long time before she found anything she needed to buy. As we headed for the car Mom told me that she had fallen again today. I asked her why she hadn't told me earlier. Her answer was that I would make her get an X-Ray. I told her I wasn't interested in forcing her to do anything.

We finally made it out of the parking lot and headed to McDonalds for lunch. While we were eating our lunch Mom confided that she was going to receive a small increase in her Social Security monthly payment. She did not want to discuss it in her apartment because she believes that the property managers have her apartment electronically monitored. This is a long standing paranoia of hers. I just told her that I thought it was great that she was getting an increase. She went into great detail about how much money she was giving my brother, his family and me for Christmas. Of course, overall Mark gets more money to cover him and his kids because of the simple fact that he has children. This seemed grossly unfair to me and I told her so. At this point, my patience was just about at the breaking point. I cleaned up the lunch stuff and got her to the car. She wanted to go all the way up to another store, but I told her we were going across the street to Safeway..end of discussion.

Once we got there we muddled through as usual..her not remembering what she needs and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what she would have for my brother to eat for lunch all week. We made it through and got to the car. As we were driving away she said she had a secret that she would tell me someday. I just lost it with her. I told her I didn't want to know her secret and that I was tired of being manipulated by her. Mark can just take care of her. that is going to happen. He considers it a big deal to take her to the bank. When I got her home she started being nasty again, so I just dumped her groceries and took off. I am just fed up with her and her behavior.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pay it forward

I had a chance last night to pay it forward with a young friend of mine...a teenager who reminds me a lot of myself. I paid it forward with her just as my Dad had paid it forward with me so many years ago when I was her age. By "pay if foward" I mean to do something right now that will help that individual both now and in the future as they go through life.

My Dad paid it forward by investing time, by talking with me, by his example in the world, in his ability to be goofy, by his willingness to share his faith, by sharing his political opinions, by attending every concert and graduation he could, by asking me how my car was running, by bailing me out more than once financially, by allowing me to see him at his most vulnerable as he approached his own death with grace and good humor. These are just of the few of ways that Dad paid it forward by investing in me in so many moments in my life.

Now it is my turn to pay it forward. Last night was one of those be honest, open, funny, sad, pragmatic, philsophical...with someone else. She may benefit from our similar experience in some small way. My reality is that I was given a wonderful roadmap from a man that I was lucky enough to call Dad. Now, I believe it is my turn to share my roadmap with others, giving full credit to the man that taught me to drive....both in a car and in life.