Monday, January 26, 2009

Telling stories


I am out of town all week for work. Luckily, my cell phone works and I have been able to talk to Mom twice today. This morning she seemed fine until she starting talking about my Dad. She was crying and it broke my heart.

Tomorrow would have been his 89th birthday, so Mom is having a hard time. She told me that Dad used to tell her about the day he was born every year. He was born in a snowstorm on January 27, 1920 in Orting, Washington. She wasn't sure, but she thought the midwife had probably come to the house. My Dad's birth was a happy event especially during this huge snowstorm. His father had just come back from World War I, so it was a very happy moment for Dad's parents.

As Mom related the story it dawned on me that this was a continuation of a tradition she and I have celebrated for many years on my birthday. She tells me about the day I was born. I have to say, that I hung up the phone crying...missing Dad so much. I still have Mom and she is still telling me stories...and I am grateful for every one of them.

Tomorrow I will call Mom as soon as I get done with work. She wants my brother to bring over cake and ice cream for Dad's birthday. I have no idea if he will do that for her. I hope so...because that one simple act would make her day. I wish I could be there with her tomorrow...just to make it a little easier. I will do my best on the phone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Independence Day

I started my day by calling my brother and telling him of Mom's plan to have him drive her to Northgate. He said he wouldn't do it..so I drove to work fairly sure that Mom's plan would not be implemented today. A little after 2pm I noticed a voicemail on my cell ...from Mom...she sounded like she was talking to someone about not understanding how to leave a message. I couldn't call the number back so I quickly put it all together.

She had to be at the Northgate Mall. The only thing I could do was wait for her to call back. At 4pm, the phone rang. Mom had taken the bus to Northgate, but was tired from all the walking that she had done in the mall. She needed me to come get her. I left work a few minutes early and drove in rush hour traffic to the mall. I found her sitting on a bench by Penney's dressed to the hilt in her leather and mink jacket. She was totally exhausted and a little embarassed that her plan hadn't worked out.

I slowly walked her to the car and got her settled in the passenger seat. I went back into the food court and got her a hamburger and a milkshake...knowing that she had been without food or drink for 4 hours. She happily ate and drank all the way home.

Mom admitted that she couldn't take the bus by herself anymore. She admitted the same thing last year when she pulled this same stunt. One thing she said broke my heart. She justed wanted to be independent.....I can totally understand...but it is no longer possible.

Winter White

Mom has been focused on purchasing a "winter white" coat for the last two years. On Thursday, I took her to the Northgate Mall so we could continue our search for the illusive coat. With Mom in the wheelchair we made our way from Nordstrom to Macy's, ending with Penney's. Mom was being her usual grande dame self..."show me that...what size is that...wheel me in there among the coats." I hate these shopping expeditions because she rapidly becomes a tyrant.

We didn't have much time, so I was trying to keep her focused and going from store to store. Of course, she felt that I was not showing her everything and proceeded to be pretty obnoxious...to the point of whining and yelling at me. I finally found one coat that she seemed to like...so I just bought it for her. Of course, that wasn't what she wanted....so I had to return it on the spot. At that point, I needed to get going for work and was totally fed up with her behavior, so I whisked her out of the mall, returned the wheelchair and drove her home.

On my way to work, I felt that I had already done a full day...emotionally exhausted and just fed up. Mom insisted that she was going to return to the mall on her own, so after work I drove to the downtown Macy's...found her another coat on sale and drove it back out to her. Of course, it wasn't the perfect coat...but she decided to keep it. I drove home thoroughly exhausted with the search for the perfect "Winter White" coat.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am here

We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise.....Emily Dickinson

"As we age, our parents become ours to protect and nurture as they once cared for us. As our roles reverse, as we find ourselves placed in the parental role of caretakers, many conflicting emotions may arise ranging from tenderness to anger and resentment. Despite our best intentions we may need to struggle for greater generoristy than we in fact feel. A burden seeming too great to bear can yet be born one day at a time. We have within us stores of patience and practicality, intuition and invention, all of which are called to play during difficult times. Not one of us is a saint, and yet we carry within our hearts the strength of ages. As we seek spiritual support and guidance, we find our actions tempered by humor and humilitiy. The heart expands to love those we love as they need now to be loved."

Transitions: Prayers and declarations for a changing life by Julia Cameron.

A friend who is also a caregiver sent me this. I opened the envelope and read this excerpt with a knowing heart and mind. It was like reading one of those maps in a mall...You are Here...with a big X on the spot. I am definitely here and have known all the emotions mentioned above.

Thankfully, I have been able to pull back some from my own stress and be more patient and loving with Mom recently. We have talked and laughed. I have prompted her to tell me stories of her life with Dad. We always cry at some point, but we laugh too. I leave these encounters with a little more confidence in my ability to take care of Mom in her final years. For that I am thankful.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A bad day, a good day

Sunday afternoon is my usual time to go out to Mom's and make her dinner. That went pretty well this past Sunday until after dinner. I was trying to put together a recycle receptacle out of one of those cloth shopping bags. No..that would not work...she wanted to "save" that bag...it was too nice to use for recycling. I admit, I lost my patience with her quirky ways and yelled at her. There I was on the kitchen floor on my knees yelling at an 88 year old woman over a recycling bag...completely ridiculous.

It was at this moment in time that Mom shared with me that I would be responsible for her heart attack and death because I yelled at her. I just sat there on the floor and told her that if she died from a heart attack it would be because her heart didn't function properly and she was not in good health.

After I got home I told Pamela about my latest round with Mom and she simply looked at me and said "She is an adult..she makes choices about the way she behaves." Easily said...but not so easy to deal with in reality. She is by virtue of her age an adult...but I have noticed more and more a child like quality to Mom. She will ask me what to do, waiting for my instructions...or she will just get lost in her thoughts and forget what she is talking about....like she is searching for a word or a thought that has just gotten away from her.

Last night was another "dinner at Mom's" night and it went a lot better. I told her that I have been short tempered lately because I am having a pretty tough time at work. We had a good talk and she listened to what I had to say. She wishes that she could help in some way, but doesn't know what to do to help me. There is nothing that she can do but try and listen and understand the other pressures that I am under in my life. She wishes that she was not in Seattle..but there is no way she could be in Arizona without Dad. It is a tough situation for all of us. But at least last night went well for both of us.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Damned if I do, damned if I don't



I went out to take Mom for a haircut yesterday and just lost it with her. I had been doing alright with her inside her apartment. I finished drying her laundry after I went down to the office to recharge her laundry card. We sat and had some tea while I ate a little lunch. I had been working all morning to take down the outside and inside Christmas decorations at home..so hadn't had time to eat before arriving at Mom's by 2:30p.m.

So...everything was going fine...until we were in the lobby heading for my car outside. That is when she started in on me about not wanting to get into my car because of my Obama sticker. I am just fed up with her racism...it just made me so mad that I stood there and told her to get out of the car. I was not going to take her anywhere. She got increasingly agitated and just stayed in the car. Ok, so that wasn't going to work. Next, I told her I would drop her at the salon and go get her groceries for her while she got her hair done. NO....that wouldn''t work...she had to go to the grocery store. I slammed her car door and stomped around to the other side. I sat there looking at her and then told her that she was a manipulative bitch. By this time she was pretty quiet. I am so ashamed of my temper ...but she just does stuff that drives me out of my mind. Her need to control every aspect of what I do, think, say has been a constant irritant my entire life. My brother calls her the Great Puppet Master...and we are all her puppets.

When I got her to the salon she was upset because she didn't recognize anyone...for goodness sakes...it is a Supercuts...people work there 10 minutes and leave. It is never going to be the same person. It was going to be a 45 minute wait, which was too much for her....so we ended up going to the grocery store. Mom contends that she has to go to the store because I have this bad habit of buying her things she doesn't need. Sometimes I do buy her extra things...just trying to give her a change or trying to balance out all the sugar she eats. Oh, well..damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Once we left Safeway, I drove us to Big Lots because Mom needed a calendar. I got her a 4 in 1 calendar with a date book and a big and small calendar. It was a flower theme...but she couldn't recognize the flowers as the pictures were all macro shots. Oh, well...damned if I do, damned if I don't.

I drove her home, unpacked all her groceries and made her some dinner. She walked me to the door. I could tell she was still upset with me...but I was just too exhausted to even deal with her. I kissed her goodbye, walked out the door and got into my car. Today was not a good day for me as Mom's caregiver.

Damned if I do, damned if I don't.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Mom at Christmas 2008

video

New Year's Day Breakfast


I drove out to have breakfast with Mom this morning. When I arrived, she wasn't quite dressed so I made breakfast while she got herself ready. I made us some toaster waffles, bacon, a grapefruit half for Mom, coffee and milk. She was really hungry. She had been up until 1:30am watching the New Year's celebrations around the country.

She was in a really talkative mood so I just let her talk while I finished my breakfast. She was being a tiny bit irritating because she can't hear that she is yelling at me. I finally got her to go into the living room and sit down while I washed the dishes. Once she got settled by her favorite picture of her and my Dad, I heard her start singing the words to their songs...Autumn Leaves and September Song. It was kind of sweet and kind of heartbreaking...especially when she started to cry. She made it all the way through both songs just as I was finishing the dishes.

I got her microphone and spoke directly into it while she had her headphones on. She is really having a hard time hearing these days. I also noticed while we were talking that her ankles are really swollen. We talked for awhile and since she didn't need any groceries I decided to leave around 10am. This disppointed her becasue she thought I was staying to make dinner. I am starting to think that she is getting confused around what time of day it is. I just don't know.

"Autumn Leaves"

English Lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Music by Joseph Kosma

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

"September Song"
Written by Maxwell Anderson & Kurt Weill.

Well, it’s a long, long time
From May to December
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to gray
And I haven’t got time
For the waiting game.

And the days dwindle down
To a precious few . . .
September, November . . .
And these few precious days
I spend with you.
These precious days
I spend with you.

So, here we are - 2009. It has been a year and a half almost since Dad passed away. I miss him...Mom misses him. We will just keep doing the best we can.