Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Dementia: A Transformer"

Well I must has been more than a few months since I've posted.  Mother's 86th birthday has come and gone.  Dementia still insists on transforming our precious matriarch into someone who can hardly recognize her family and friends.  It is a rarity to hear her call my name now.  Her words have become mostly "jibberish" but still has some choice, distinguishable words thrown in; displaying that "Mema" humor we all have known and loved.  Even the words to her favorite hymns are becoming aloof.  The last of her beautiful white teeth, have now broken off or fallen out, leaving only stubs to chew on.  I glance at her hair, fingers, nose, eyes...every bodypart, a reminder of our past life together as mother and daughter.  Many times, people will ask how mother is doing.  I answer, "As well as to be expected, just doesn't know us anymore."  Their reply back is usually "Well, at least you still have her!"  I've heard that conversation at different times and situations in my life before, just not about my own mother. Now, I actually know what it means.  It has to be a selfish need though, granting it is one of love.  Even if she doesn't have a clue as to where she is, or who she's with, we are still able to go visit her and can see, touch and feel our mother's body.  I still want this.  I do know that possibly, a time will come, when I won't.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Together Again!"

It's a rainy day and I've been meaning to post for some time now.  Weeks ago, word came to me that one of mother's special cousins, Nellie Bennett, had come to reside at the same home where mother is.  With mixed emotions on the news; not wanting Nell to have to give up her freedom of living at home, yet a little joy, knowing that she will be near mother, I call my sister Sue to tell her the news, knowing she would be going for a visit in a day or so and could check in on Nell.   I knew that with mother's current state of mind, she would probably never recognize Nell as the little girl she played with, years and years ago at the Lake House (Lake Adger) where her father, who was Mother's Uncle Burt,  caretaker and game warden of the Lake back in the 1930's.  If any of you have read my blog for sometime, you may recall a post on August 8, 2010, entitled "The Lake House."   If so inclined, you can look it up and read.  My sister Sue had never met Nell, but was aware of who she was.  While visiting mother, she noticed a gentleman there, calling a new resident by the name of  "Nell." She preceded to go over and introduce herself and asked if she was Nell Bennett, mother's cousin.  With a huge grin, Nell, explained that she had seen mother in the dining room on more than one occasion and felt sure it was her but was reluctant to say anything.  The Nursing Home has been doing some renovating recently, and our family had been told that mother would soon be moved to a new hall, so that her current room could be turned into a "private room."  Nell inquired as to where mother's room was and my sister told her the situation and that she would soon be moved to another hall.  With a surprise comment, Nell stated that she lives on that hall, and that  her room will be right next door to mother.  It was only a few more days and I was up visiting.  Excited to see Nell, who I had known for many years, while working at the local Baptist Association Office, and seeing she and sister Jeanette on many visits there. Many times, they would come by, asking about mission work and what did we have for them that they could be a part of.  Even in their 80's, still excited about serving the Lord and their community.  Being sisters, I  began referring to them as "Mary and Martha" which is recorded in the book of  Luke.  Making my way into Nell's room, rolling mother in front of me, I see a very familiar face of a woman who had been a playmate to my mother in their childhood days; a woman of strong integrity, strength and servanthood to the Lord; yet now, someone who was in a confined place, but was still filling a need to others.  Even though mother doesn't seem to have a clue as to who Nell is, it brings me comfort just to know that they are here in this building at this place and time in their lives once again.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Each Day, a Memory"

My youngest daughter and I have come to visit mother at the nursing home.  I find her in a usual place and quickly roll her up the hall, headed for my favorite landing spot; the front "yellow" room.  I ask her as I push, "What have you been doing, mother"?.  The answer is mostly the same, "O, been working in the field, helping daddy hoe".  As we reach the front room, my daughter greets her, with a "hey Mema"!  Mother gives her a look as if she thinks she looks familiar, but avoids speaking to her until  I've told her who she is.  As I sit beside her, my eyes pay close attention to the body parts of a woman I have idolized all my life.  She has lost a front tooth now, and I am truly sorrowed by that, knowing if she was aware, it would humiliate her.  I take a once over at her silver hair, and think about the many days I spent, coloring it before she came to the home.  My eyes finally reach her beautiful hands.  A friend of mine had mentioned how important his mother's hands were to him, telling her life story. I  began to think about the many times, I had watched these same hands, brush my hair, wipe my dirty face, hand me lunch money, tie my shoe and hundreds of other instances, as she cared for me as a child.  Driving back home, I mention to my daughter that one day, she will be sitting in a similar chair as I sat today, remembering a day like today, as we spend time together.  I pray that I can be a glimpse of the mother to my children that mine has been to me and her grandchildren. When it's all said and done, what is it that brings us joy in life?  The money, nice homes, beautiful cars, far away vacations...things?  For me, the answer is simple.  Enjoy every waking moment with those you love. Taking nothing or no one for granted.  Try to make each day a "memory."  Realizing that we will all travel this road again, but in a different way.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Hush Sweet Baby"

Having a day off from radiation as well as some cancelled commitments, I decide to head up the mountain for a short visit with mother. I usually can find her fairly easy as she seems to be as a rule, in the opposite end of the home that I choose to enter. Today, I have walked the entire nursing home halls, and "no mother." I step over to the nurses desk and ask if she's seen her. A young man to whom I am not familiar with, leans over to me and says that he had seen mother, hanging out in the rehab room just moments prior. I head on back down the hall, knowing that the rehab department was not far from where I had entered the home. As I peek inside, I get a glimpse of mother. She has in her hand, a green plant watering vessel, attempting to drink from it. One of the assistants, sees her and says, Ms. Margie, if you're thirsty, we'll get you some water!" She wheels my mother out to the water cart and pours her a glass of fresh water. Mother drinks and seems to be well pleased. I too, tell mother that if she gets thirsty, to tell someone. Mother begins to wave her arms and speak in her "Northern voice" as she did many times when I was growing up..."O yes, O yes, we will stop and get us plenty of food and drink, let's get in the car now!" as if these remarks were something that she had pulled out of an old audio canister, labeled 1965. Mother still has good and bad days as far as her dementia goes, but my siblings and I are seeing progression in her dementia. She is hardly able to complete sentences nowadays, for instance, she might say, well, that sure is a kisk or pich, instead of "a sight", or just say things that have no meaning for what the situation is. Other changes we've noticed is that she seems to not be able to see well at times, then other times, she can see as usual. I push mother on up the hall with her arms waving and her voice shrieking high in her "Northern accent" mocking my words about food and drink. Sitting in the upper room, she sneaks a grin at me and raises her shirt up. I fuss at her for this action, reach over and pull it down and tell her not to do that again. She then begins to pat her chest as if she's consoling a small child, saying, "hush sweet baby, my sweet babies." I recall an incident months ago, where my husband was driving her back from an emergency room visit. Mother had road up front with him and periodically would glance to the backseat, and console her daughter, Sue, as if she was riding in the back seat, by saying "be quiet little Sue," when in reality, my husband and mother were the only two in the car. I look at mother's frail face, seeing more wrinkles than I could ever remember. Her beauty still shines through it all, with a whisper of her beautiful smile, thick gorgeous hair and those green eyes which I would have given anything to have inherited. I comment to her that I'm going to roll her down to her room and brush her hair and put her some lipstick on. This is a sure way to see a sparkle in her eyes, as she has always enjoyed "being beautiful." As I pull the brush through her silver short hair, I am still honored to call her "mother".

Friday, December 27, 2013

"Who Am I"?

I must say, it's good to be back blogging about something other than myself. As most of you may know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late May of this year and have been fighting my own battle of survival. Presently, I am in radiation. The 16th treatment out of 35 has already been offered up this morning and I am looking forward to what lies ahead for me in the coming months. I am a Christian and have faith in a God that can conquer breast cancer, dementia or anything else He chooses, the grave just happens to be a specialty of His! Due to my situation, I haven't been unable to visit mother at the home as much as I would like. Recently though, I have been trying to get back on schedule as much as my physical body allows. Today, my daughter Hannah and I went up for a visit. As I meandered down the hall, in search of a tiny little silver haired "mother" I could feel the excitement mounting over my eyes meeting her eyes and hearing the words, "There's my Jean!" The reality of it all, was that I would find a mother who had no idea of the person in the black cap, walking her way, who had been her daughter for some 60 years now. As I grab hold of her wheelchair and turn her around, she questions as to who I am. Several weeks prior, I had stopped in for a quick visit and discovered mother talking with another resident. As I interrupted their conversation, I could clearly see that mother had no clue as to who I was. I said, "mother, do you know who I am"? She replied..."are you 'I am'? The lady who had been talking to her informed her that "I am" was not a name and that she should know better. We have finally arrived in the front sitting room of the home, which has always been a favorite of mine ever since mother came to reside here. I am anxious to "park" her chair and began a conversation. My first question is always..."Do you know my name"? I'm not sure of the need here, but it is an ever present one that I can't seem to eliminate from this nightmare of dementia. I suppose it is a well known fact that each of us as children, whether young or old, yearn to be loved and known intimately by our mother. She looks at me with bewilderment and says, "Did you know that I've quit school"? A little surprised at the change of subject, my daughter and I break out into laughter and play along with her. It has always bothered mother that she never finished high school, when the twelfth grade was being offered the year she quit and got married. She continues on with, "And do you know that daddy and my stepmother, didn't say a word one"! With plenty of laughter to fill the room, I can plainly see that mother will never realize today, who I am and that I have brought her youngest granddaughter Hannah for a visit. There are many things that one must come to terms with when a loved one is in a state of dementia. The probability that they will eventually forget who their children and grandchildren are, is a given. Today, I realize that the time has come sooner than I wanted it to.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"The Good Times"

I suppose some of you who have faithfully followed this blog, and the shenanigans I experience with my mother, have been wondering why I haven't written in a while. For several months now, I have been dealing with a "monster" of my own, not dementia, but breast cancer. I have had no desire to write about the terrors of dementia, while I am living my own terror. I know to some, this may sound selfish of me, but thinking back to the years passed that I have given all that I had to give of myself to my wonderful mother, for now, it has to be about "me." My mother is as happy as she can possibly be now, spending her days in the home, rolling up and down the halls, supplying everyone she sees with a good laugh. I have been in chemotherapy for several months now, and only visit mother when someone can be with me to go in and bring her outside for a visit, for fear of getting sick. To say I miss her, is putting it mildly. Reading some of my blogs about the "times" she and I experienced has brought me to tears. I will never forget the days I shared with her, nor will I ever regret them. As I have written many times, this woman was my hero, my confidant, my best friend. I will always cherish our memories together. I would just like to encourage each of you who has a loved one with dementia. Please, don't tell yourself that there's no use in visiting them because they won't remember. I have learned that the visits aren't so much for them, but for us. Try to remember the good times that you've shared and know that they aren't responsible for their words or actions. If all goes well with my treatments, I should be back to spending time with mother as before. I will try to continue writing and sharing if you want to check in around the first of the year. God bless each of you who give of your time and energy, but most of all, "yourself" as a caregiver.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


With only two weeks away from Mother's Day...I know that I will find myself unusually busy and sit down to type a few words that would give my mother justice for the occasion. My youngest daughter will be graduating next week with a Master's in English. Many sacrifices have been made in order to afford her the needed tuition and then some. My mind goes back to all the financial sacrifices my mother and daddy must have made for me and my siblings as we were growing up. Not wanting to go to the store and buy a ton of groceries this morning, I take inventory of items I have to prepare an OK lunch for my husband and I. I see that I can easily make some egg salad sandwiches with chips on the side. As I stand peeling the eggs, I think about all the egg salad and grilled cheese sandwiches my mother made for all of us through the years and wondered if it was because of the convenience or the need. I remembered back to all the groceries, clothing, gas money, gifts that she made sure my family and others had plenty of. I recall a day when she fist married my stepfather Yates. They had come to pick me up at my house for a trip up to my sister's who lived in another town. I had just received my bank statement in the mail and was attempting to balance my account. Our son had just entered college and things were a little tight around the household. Frustrated at an error I had found in my statement and leaving me with a little less than I had originally thought, I jumped into the car feeling anxious. As most mothers do, she took one look at my face and asked "what's wrong?" I told her the details and before I could finish she said, "Wait a minute!" Don't you know that I have plenty, and if you have a need all you have to do is ask?" So many times, she has been there for me. Even though she is alive; she breathes, sees, talks, laughs, and moves, the part that once was my mother is becoming further and further away and I miss her; I long for her. I will never forget my mother for the giant of a person she was and attempted to raise each of her children to be. The following poem was given out in my church by a dear sweet lady, years ago. I've kept it in my Bible and would love to share:... "Your Mother"... Your mother is always with you... She's the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street;...she's the smell of bleach in your fresh laundered socks;... She's the cool hand on your brow when you're not well... Your mother lives inside your laughter, and she's crystallized in every teardrop... She's the place you came from,... your first home;... And she's the map you follow with every step you take... She's your first heartbreak... and nothing on earth can separate you...Not time...Not space...Not death!