Sunday, December 26, 2010

"A Blue and White Christmas"

It's Christmas Day and the weather forecast calls for snow. Since several of my siblings, nephews and nieces live out of town, it's looking as if a Christmas celebration will have to wait. I'm a little hesitant to tell mother the news, but brave the waters and knock on her door. As a rule, mother can't remember hardly anything from five minutes prior, but since I have been talking up Christmas day and all the family coming, and writing it down own her memory tablet, she will no doubt be aware of the big day.

As she opens the door, I can see she is expecting a day filled with family and food. "Mother" I begin, "It's looking like we're going to have to cancel our Christmas gathering today, due to the weather." "Cancel Christmas, huh?" she says. "Well, I guess it's going to be a blue, blue, blue Christmas then." Reciting the lyrics to an old Elvis song "Blue Christmas." I remember that song very well from many years ago. If mother heard a special song on the radio that she really liked, we would soon have it in our collection of records. "Blue Christmas" was no exception. "Well, it won't be a "blue" one, just a white one and some snow for your entertainment," I assured her. "We will reschedule our Christmas and you'll never know the difference." I told her. "Who's ever heard of 'rescheduling Christmas?" she snapped. In a previous blog, I ended by saying that I didn't think Jesus would mind if we weren't able to celebrate His birth on Christmas Day, but mother might not be so understanding. My words seem to be ringing true. Not wanting to continue this conversation with her, I go about preparing enough food for her for several days, just in case the weather is unrelenting and I'm not able to get down here. A stash of mother's pills lie unbeknownst to her upon top of the fridge, so I can make a call and she can reach up and get a bag and take them herself.

It's about 7:30 pm and the weather has fulfilled her promises. Approximately four inches are lying on the grass and my phone rings. I have made several calls to mother throughout the day, checking on her needs and everything was looking good, until this call. "Jean" she says, either my power is off or the light bulb is out." I quickly instruct her to turn on other lights in the house to see if the electricity is indeed off. She returns, and gives me the news that none of the light switches are working. We live some 3 miles from mother, so our power is on a different line. I instruct her to get in the bed early and cover up, knowing that the roads are too bad for us to get to her. "Let's hang up and I'm going to call and report your power." I tell her. She promises me that she will go directly to bed and cover up, adding that she has a little girl from up the road there with her spending the night. Startled, by what she has just said and thinking that it must be her dog Annie that she's referring to, I say "mother, you mean Annie is there with you!" She says, "No, it's the little girl from up the road." I then ask a really dumb question, which gets some stares from some of my family members which are listening to my side of the phone conversation, "Does she have skin on her?" Now why, would I ask this question? So many times, mother declares that her dog Annie is so many different entities and one would think that I would be use to it by now, but no matter how hard I try, I just can't bring myself to cozy up with dementia.

We hang up and I call the electric company. A real live person has answered on the first ring and I am able to tell her my predicament with mother and she assures me that she will contact the necessary workers and the power will be reinstated soon. A few minutes transpire and I am very antsy just thinking about my poor mother at her house, alone with no heat but that which comes from a dog lying next to her, which she thinks is a small child and a blanket. So I began calling her, seeing each time that I do, she must climb out of bed and find her way through a darkened hall using a small flashlight just in order to talk to me on the phone. With my husband's advice as to not to do that again, I call the electric company lady once again and ask if they are fixing mother's power. She tells me the good news that they are working on it and my worries are relieved.

The next morning, I awake to see a winter wonderland of beautiful snow. I reach for the phone to call mother to make sure she's still alive and not frozen. "Hello" she says. Did your power finally come back on?" I ask. "Well, I guess, did it go off?" she says. I change the subject and tell her that my husband and I will be down as soon as we can get there. Luckily, the roads aren't as bad as anticipated, and we are able to drive down with a load of logs in the back of our old brown truck, nicknamed "Brownie" which has been a close friend to us through out the years and continues to get our back road driving chores taken care of.

When we get there, the garage door slowly opens. There standing wearing a red turtleneck, which represents Christmas, I suppose, is mother. "Come into the house where it's warm" she invites. "Well, I'm sure glad they got the power back on in a hurry last night so you didn't freeze to death." I say. With mother looking clueless, she tells me that the little girls from up the road have just left and that they kept her good and warm all night.

I have pondered mother's "little girl" or "little girls" story for just about all day now. I know in my right thinking that there indeed was "no" little girl or girls, only a dog, but how comforting it is to think, what if, what if...God sent a little child to be with mother on a cold and snowy night, just like He sent His Son Jesus to us, some 2000 years ago, one cold and starry night.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Christmas and Groundhog Day"

It will soon be Christmas, so I have been dropping hints to mother about the upcoming event, which will be held at her house in a few days, just like it is every year. She asks the usual questions as to what can she prepare, etc. I assure her that we are all bringing plenty of goodies for everyone with lots of left overs which she will be able to eat the following week. "But what about the children's presents?" she asks. Weeks earlier, I had taken mother to the bank to withdraw enough money for her great-grandchildren's Christmas gifts. I try reminding her, but after several attempts, I move on to other issues.

It's the day before Christmas Eve and the phone rings. "Jean, what in the world do you and the children mean by transplanting me here at this house?" "Mother, that is your house," I tell her. Going through the usual routine of having her take a quick walk through the house, pointing items out to her that will surely make her remember, doesn't seem to work this time. I tell her goodbye and go outside to where my husband is and let him know of mother's state of mind. As soon as I walk back into the house, I hear the phone ring again. It's mother and she begins with the same question,"Why did you and the others bring me to this house." My husband and I hurry on down to her house, thinking that we need to somehow satisfy her that she's "home." As we enter the house, I'm anticipating seeing a mother who is distraught over being in someone else's home, instead, she is smiling and telling us to come in and stay awhile. I say 'Mother, do you remember calling me and saying that you are in another house? "No" she says, "I reckon this is my house isn't it?" Just like she had never called me at all or had any feelings of "not being home." We stay for awhile and say our goodbyes, seeing that all is well.

After returning back home, I still feel a little uneasy about mother, so I decide to call after a lapse of thirty minutes. "Mother, are you alright now" I ask. "Well, I guess I am, I'm getting ready for bed," she answers. Just wondering, I ask if she remembers my husband and I visiting with her only less than an hour ago. "You mean you were down here?" she asks. I go on to tell her that I was just checking and to go on to bed. I hang up and within a few minutes the phone rings again and it's mother. She wants to know if I had intended to come down for a visit and if I was, she'd just stay up a little longer, never the wiser that I had just came from there.

Today is Christmas Eve. Doing my usual baking and last minute Christmas usuals, the phone rings. "Jean, why have you and the others brought me to this house?" she says. "Tomorrow is Christmas isn't it?" she asks. The only reason she remembers this is because I have written it down on her pad so she can read it as she walks by the kitchen counter. "Yes mother, tomorrow is Christmas." "Well, how will the children find me in this new house?" she wonders. I begin to tell her all the same things which I have done many days prior. If any of you remember the old movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, you can begin to understand a little bit about the life of Dementia. Many days are replayed over and over again, just as if the record has a scratch on it and the needle automatically goes back to the beginning of the song and right when you think it's going to play through this time, it starts over again.

Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, Christmas Day. Some of mother's children live out of town and may not be able to come. If not, we will have to cancel our gathering and celebrate on another day. It's Jesus' birthday and I know He will understand. I just hope mother will.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"A Brother's Homecoming"

Today, I make my way to mother's house with a heavy heart. I will come as a messenger of bad news, instead of a helper. This isn't the first time this year that I have brought the news to mother of a loved one who has gone to be with the Lord. Back in July, my oldest sister Doris, lost her fight with lung cancer and it fell on me to deliver the news that mother's oldest child had died. I can't imagine ever hearing those words about one of my children. That day in mother's kitchen, I reluctantly called dementia, my friend. Had mother been about her normal self, the grief would have been unbearable.

As I step through the door, she can already sense my uneasiness. For as long as I can remember, mother has always been able to look in my eyes and know that something is wrong. "What' s the matter" she asks. "Nothings wrong," I say. Not wanting to tell her so soon that her brother Arnold, the last of her eight siblings, had passed, I fib a little until I'm sure she's awake enough to grasp the pain which will soon come.

Mother always had a special bond with Uncle Arnold for as long as I can remember. After the passing of her husband Yates several years ago, mother began to lean on him for good advice about anything from doctors to cars. The family knew that Uncle Arnold was in failing health, but had avoided telling mother as long as possible.

Several weeks ago, I had asked mother to talk to me about him when mother had drug out a picture of her and some of her siblings the day of her sister Louise's funeral. (Mother is to the far left and Arnold the far right) Mother told me that Uncle Arnold was very handsome in his younger years, more so than any of her other brothers. She told me of his heroism in World War II, and how proud he made her father, John. I only found out the extent of his bravery by reading his obituary this week where it listed his Bronze Medal and Purple Heart.

I glance over at the kitchen table and see mother taking sips of water as she swallows her last morning pill. I decide to walk over and have a seat at the end of the table as I do every morning, prior to my saying goodbye and heading to work. "Mother" I begin, "I have a little bit of bad news for you this morning..."

It's been four days now since Uncle Arnold's death which came only five days prior to his 91st birthday. The family has chosen to hold his going home celebration (funeral) on his birthday. Mother seems to be adjusting to the loss now. Every morning since I had given her the news, she would greet me at the door with a silly look on her face and say she had dreamed that Arnold had died. Unfortunately, I would have to tell her that it wasn't a dream but instead, reality. The grieving process would repeat itself, over and over again each morning, forcing mother to experience his loss each day. I truly believe that Dementia is an illness straight from the gates of Hell, grasping its victims, torturing them and the ones they love.

Tomorrow, a brother, father, grandfather, Uncle, war hero and friend will be buried in the Williams Cemetery which lies just adjacent to where he was born, raised and lived for some 91 years. Rest in peace Uncle Arnold.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Wanna Go Home

Here lately, mother has been telling me that she wants to go home. She has met me at the door twice this week with her pocketbook, asking me if I was taking her home. She has gone through a cycle of this before, but usually will get over it by the next day.

I must admit, I have always been a home body myself. Growing up, nothing was more important to me than getting home, changing into my gown and sitting on the couch, watching Lost in Space and Bonanza while nursing a bowl of chocolate ice cream with potato chips crumbled up on top. Several trips away to Girl Scout or 4-H Camp ended up with a "I wanna go home" from me, leaving mother and daddy no choice but to drive miles to get me or else send me back with a total stranger. Back in that day, no one thought anything wrong with this reasoning.

I have just called to check on mother for the afternoon. She sounds so like herself that I'm feeling as if she has gotten over this homesickness of hers. Just before we say goodbye, she asks me if she can talk to me for a minute longer. I naturally say "what is it?" "Well she says, I just don't know how much longer I'm going to be staying in this house" she says. I try to convince her again, that this is her house and she has lived here for the past 18 years. She won't hear of it and tells me that when we hang up, she's going to go look in the closets and see if she has any clothes there.

I'm not sure exactly which "home" it is that mother is wanting to go to. Is it the home where she grew up, situated just below White Oak mountain? The place where she grew up with her mother and father and eight siblings; two from her father's second marriage. Mother had a well rounded and happy childhood there as she has told many stories to me about she and her brother Ralph and all the farm work that she was made to do, but had given her a good work ethic.

One story I fondly remember, was the time that her Dad had told her brother Ralph to go and get their mule from the pasture. Well, because Ralph was older than mother, he felt he could boss her around, so, instead of him going after the mule, he sent mother to do the chore. As mother tells, this certain mule was a little on the mean side and unlike her, had no bosses. Just like Ralph told her to do, she headed on down to the field to get the mule. As she climbed over the fence rails, she noticed it heading her way. Afraid that she would get trampled, she hurriedly climbed back over the fence. Just as she did, the mule jumped over with her, then she jumped back and the mule jumped back with her, again and again. I have laughed at this story so many times, just to imagine my mother as a little girl of no means, being in a predicament of this magnitude.

Or possibly, the home mother truly longs for, is the place she called home for some forty years as a wife and mother. A woman who loved, laughed and nurtured her children and husband in a house built on a piece of land that her daddy John had given them. Only to leave it after daddy died, remarried and built the home with her late husband Yates which she now lives in some 15 miles away.

One can't help but wonder about another home of mother's, Heaven. If there's anybody who I know for sure will be leaving here and going to heaven, it's my mother. We all have in our minds and hearts, beautiful thoughts of our loved ones, especially our mothers. I can honestly say that I was raised by a mother who actually cared about who her children would turn out to be someday. She has always had an unselfish love and compassion for her fellow person. Something that not many of us can say about ourselves.

Today I feel sad about her wanting to go home but not knowing where. I can only pray that she can find some peace in the house she now lives until the Lord calls her home for good.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Mr. Williams, Two Fat Ladies and a Mini Skirt"

As I enter mother's house, my eyes are drawn to the telephone which sits on the kitchen counter. It's a corded phone and I can see that the receiver is off. I haven't called this morning, so I am not aware of this calamity. I quickly ask her what in the world is the phone doing off the hook. "Oh, I guess I must have left it off when I was calling Lewis" she says. Lewis is the brother of mother's late husband Yates. For any and everybody that attended Polk Central High School back in the day, they will remember him as their US History teacher.

Not only was "Mr. Williams" my history teacher, and my mother's second husband's brother, but we are all distantly related through my daddy's people. His father, Hamilton and my great grandfather "Bryse" better known as "Uncle Bryse" were brothers. This made for embarrassing comments in his class, which he gladly blurted out from time to time. My Grandmother Myrtle, was known to be called "Catbird" in her younger years. I had no idea why or how she acquired this embarrasing name, and had no intentions of asking him, but, as if grandmother's given name "Myrtle" wasn't embarrasing enough, when your teacher calls you "Catbird" in front of all your friends, it tends to make a teenager blush.

It was a well known fact that Lewis Williams was one of, if not THE hardest teacher at Polk Central High. If you wanted to make passing grades in his class, it was practically a "given" that you would have to do the dirty word, "cheat." Looking back, I have to thank my lucky stars for the fad of the day, "mini skirts."

My girlfriends and I concocted a plan that would secure us each, a spot in our graduation exercises. We came up with a scheme to wear mini skirts on the day of Mr. Williams' tests. Now everyone knew that Mr. Williams was infamous for giving only multiple choice tests, so my friends and I would meet outside his door on the day of the dreaded test and hand down the answers, which would be written on a tiny piece of paper, just the right size to fit under a mini skirt. Quickly heading to our desks, we would place the little slip of paper bearing the prospective answers, between our legs just barely peeping out from under our skirt, glancing down from time to time with Mr. Williams not being the wiser. However dishonest this plan was, we looked at it as being a means of survival, right up unto the day that one of my bestfriends "Pam" got busted. I don't know how in the world I made it out of that class with a "D," but all of us were indebted to my friend Pam from then on out for being the sacrificial lamb and not spilling the beans on us.

"Why were you calling Lewis?" I asked. "Well, let me tell you" mother began to whisper. "Yesterday, I was sitting in there on the couch when these two "fat ladies" just busted in the door, headed down my hallway and jumped in my bed and went to sleep." She continuted on saying, "I just assumed that they were some of Yates' people and that Lewis had probaly sent them up here to get some rest from their trip." I couldn't help but giggle, and asked her how they got here. She told me that they had driven up in a little black car and apparently had been on a long trip because they were so tired that they didn't even speak to her when they came in. Mother was amazed at the bravity of these "fat ladies" who had just came in and made themselves at home by jumping in her bed without asking permission.

I had many questions as to what happened when the ladies woke up and where did they go, but decided to leave it be, knowing that from experience, it was in reality, her dog Annie who had come in the house and made her way down the hall and into mothers bed.

The next time I see Mr. Williams, I will have to tell him this story. Maybe he'll give me an "A" for it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"My Beautiful Mommy"

It's a Saturday morning and I'm arriving at mother's a little later than usual. I am putting my Christmas tree up today and need to run to Walmart to buy some extra decorations. Thinking that I will have a few moments to myself, possibly stopping to grab a quick breakfast and just enjoy my alone time, I will tell mother that I can't stay long.

Mother has been complaining of her knee bothering her for the past several days and is taking her time getting to the door. I can hear her faint voice calling out "I'm coming, slow, but sure." As she opens the door, I hear her thanking the dog Annie for being patient till she could make it up to let her out. As far as mother's physical condition, her knee is the worst ailment she has, other than a little high blood pressure.

One look in her eyes and I can see that she has had a long night. Placing her pills in her hand and a red plastic cup full of water, I tell her to take her medicine. She answers with the same questions, "just what in the world are these pills for?" "Who told me to take these pills," and so on. As she sits at the kitchen table, she give me a quick look and asks if I had heard about the people looking for her last night. Naturally I knew that there had been no such event going on, so I tell her she had been dreaming. "Did you not hear them talking about it on the scanner?" she asks. "No mother, nobody was talking about you on the scanner and nobody was looking for you last night!" "O yes they were, I was lost all night long" she says. Wanting to get out of this conversation, so I can leave and get to my little stow away to Wally World, I move on over to the bar when I catch a glimpse of two old photographs. One is of mother and three of her remaining siblings, taken on the day of her sister Louise's funeral, back in the late 60's. I inquire as to where the pictures came from, since I had not seen this particular photograph in years. "You know that place we rent up in the valley sometimes" she says, "well I was rummaging through some things and found those there." Knowing that mother had not been anywhere last night and confident that she had never rented a place up in the valley, I wanted no part of this conversation, knowing that my time was passing by and my shopping was not getting done while I was listening to this nonsense.

Thanksgiving Day was two days ago and all the family had come for dinner and a visit, I knew that my sister Sue who usually gives mother her Saturday shower, would not be coming back today. I suddenly feel guilty about my simple needs and begin to plead with mother to come and take a shower. After twenty minutes or so of begging and pleading, she finally agrees to get up and comply with my wishes, grumbling all the way back to her bath. She undresses for her shower as I lean over the tub to turn the water on. I suddenly heard giggles coming from behind. Asking what she was doing, I somehow knew what the answer would be. "If you just knew what I was thinking, you bent over there and all, I doubt you'd be so quick to ask." I told her that I could just imagine what she was thinking and she assured me that my thoughts were right, "She'd like to give me a good kick in the butt while I had it turned up there" she said. Not being detered by her childish remarks, I assist her into the shower and allow her to do the honors.

It's not too long before she's through, so I carefully escort her out and to her bedroom. Sitting on the bed, I take a good look at my mother and her aged body. Pity comes over me as a small voice reminds me that this person who sits before me is the same person who had once bathed and dressed me as a child, giving of herself so unselfishly and even though she had been all but accommodating to me this morning, I feel the need to remind her of how beautiful she is and has been in years gone by and call her "my beautiful mommy." I can see that she flourishes at the sound of my words. I wonder why I can't and don't give her this small homage more often.

Suddenly, I no longer feel pleasure in my shopping trip for tree decorations. Somehow, it doesn't seem important anymore. As I close mother's door behind me, I thank God for His gentle reminder of the things in my life that are really important.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Memory Lane

Today is hair day for mother. I scurry to get my afternoon errands ran and head on down to her house, arriving an hour early so we can run to the local bank before it's time to drop her off at Linda's for her hair appointment. Thinking that I have allowed just enough time, I suddenly find us pulling out of the bank with a few minutes short an hour on our hands. For some reason, I have had a longing to take mother on a trip down memory lane for some time now, so I quickly turn the car in the direction of Lynn, NC.

It isn't long before we arrive at the entrance of Skyuka road where I lived, some 30 years ago. Located just at the entrance is the old building where as a child, I had slipped away without permission on my pony Dolly, to buy candy and sodas one hot summer's day, only to reap the consequences from mother as I returned.

As we travel on up the road, I see the house of old church friends of mother and daddy's. I ask if she remembers who lived there, "Not really" she snaps. "Russell and Betty" I say, "Russell and Betty who?" she says. Years ago, the Gibson family attended Pacolet Baptist Church. Mother and daddy soon became friends with the Constances; Russell, Betty and teenage daughter, Patsy. Russell worked at a bank in Tryon, NC and compared to a young mechanic like my dad, had considerable means. Every Sunday night, my sister Sue and I, two other friends whose dad was a banker as well, would jump into Patsy's mustang convertible and head up to "the Willows" for a cheeseburger. On this particular night, my mom had warned us that daddy was a little short an insurance payment and not to be asking for money to finance our usual trip. Not knowing this information, our banker's daughters begin to beg my dad when the answer "no" was given. Daddy, being the proud man he was, reached deep into his wallet and pulled out a folded twenty dollar bill and handed it over. Eyes meeting my mothers, I knew that there would be a price to pay worth far more than twenty dollars, when we got home.

Driving by, I glance at the driveway which leads to the fancy houses where my sister and I peddled our bikes, selling girl scout cookies many years ago. Continuing on, mother sees through the woods; the house of my childhood friend "Shem." Now this wasn't her real name. It's unclear as to how "Sue Cannon" came about this childhood name, but to this very day, her name is "Shem" to the Gibson girls.

Around the curve is a bridge which holds painful memories for me. My bicycle brakes had given way, some half a mile up the road and I had taken a frightening trip all the way down. Sister Sue running close behind ending on a rocky place in the creek beneath the bridge. Luckily, a bruise to my forearm muscle was the only casualty. A high bank still stands on the side of the road where I had climbed up, thinking I was a big girl, only to refuse to come down until sister Sue ran home for mother's trusty arms to rescue me. It isn't long before we arrive at the old Gibson home place. The house doesn't look the same as my memory holds. The first thing I notice is the absence of the mailbox. Mother comments that a new shed has been built behind the house and seems very uninterested in seeing the place which housed her precious family for many years.

Heading on out, we pass the family cemetery where my dad, sister and mother's family have been laid to rest. I ask her if she'd like to stop, but she seems annoyed, commenting only on the beautiful red leaves of a nearby tree. Next is the old swimming hole, "the cathole" where snakes and muddy creek bottom held no danger for mother's children. I remember pulling my first tooth sitting on the side of the road in our old '54 blue ford while everybody enjoyed a Sunday afternoon splash at "the cathole." Just up the road is "Mountain Shadows." As a little girl, mother and I would shake walnuts from a tree and crack them on huge rocks which stood in the field.

It's not long before we near the end of Skyuka road, only to see the house of my good friend Joan; the one who stole my homecoming crown one October night back in '71. Finally we pass the house of my first teacher crush. Biology might have been difficult for many, but for me, it was the highlight of my day.

Our journey down Skyuka road has come to an end. Mother is disturbed at our long trip and more than ready to keep her hair appointment. I'm not sure who it was that needed this trip the most, me or mother. As I drive on to Linda's, I think ahead in time and wonder which of my children will do the honors of driving me down "memory lane" one day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Dementia, the Trickster"

It's a beautiful morning and I am on my way to mother's house to do my usual chores. My oldest Granddaughter Savannah has spent the night with me and rides in the passenger seat, texting her friends and oblivious to her surroundings.

I have called mother so she will be sure to open the door for me when I arrive. I'm on a tight schedule this morning since I'll be dropping Savannah off at school before going to work.

Mother answers the phone, and I can tell right off that it might not be a good morning. In a childlike voice, I hear my mother questioning her presence in a stranger's house. If you read my blogs often, you will remember that mother has a tendency on certain days, to think she is living in someone else's house. Well, today is no different.

"Where in the world am I at Jean?" She asks. "Mother you're at your house, just hang up and come to the side kitchen door and I'll be there soon." "Where's the kitchen at?" she adds. I tell her to walk down the hall and the kitchen is on the right and walk to the coffee pot and I'll be standing at the door directly to her right. She hangs the phone up and I pull up to the house. Banging on the side door, I see no life or light. I begin to call and call. Finally, a light comes on and appearing before me is my mother, carrying a bundle of bed clothing. She opens the door and I naturally ask "what in the world are you doing with that?" "Well, it's the only thing I see in this house that belongs to me!" she answers.

The two belongings that mother has chosen to flee with is interesting to me. Rolled up into a huge ball is an old flowery bedspread which used to adorn hers and my dad's bed at our old home place and an Indian throw, which she lays in the floor for her dog Annie to sleep on.

I can't help but chuckle as I try to convince her that this is her house. She will not budge. Hurling her usual comments at me, I call for her to come into the living room. She obliges me and walks over to the fireplace.

Sitting on the mantel is a whole line of family pictures. I point to each one and tell her who they are. This is a trick which has worked for me in the past when mother won't believe she's in her own house. I begin with my daughter Hannah, then my nephews daughter Andee, telling her short stories about each one as to convince her that she belongs here. Up next is several wedding pictures of my nephew Brandon and his wife Amanda. Sometime last year, mother began saying that she wasn't aware that Brandon had married. Brandon's mother and my sister-in-law Dianne, had brought some pictures up, which were placed on the mantel for mother to see that Brandon indeed had married, when she started in saying that she wasn't aware of it, even though she had attended the wedding alongside the rest of us, and had special honors bestowed upon her as the grandmother of the groom.

The last picture I point out, is a picture of mother and her late husband Yates. She reaches up with a puzzled look on her face and asks "Are the people who live in this house related to Yates?" I naturally ask "why?" "Well, they have a picture of us on their mantle." Seeing that I am getting nowhere fast, I look at my watch and see that I'm late and have not done any of my morning deeds. I plead and plead with mother to understand that this is her house and that she has lived here for the past 18 years. Unrelenting, I tell her that I have to go. I feel uneasy about leaving her in this state, but promise to call as soon as I get to work.

As I arrive, I am anxious to get in the door and give her a call. While dialing her number, I wonder what the verdict will be; will this be her house or not? "Hello" she says. "Well, do you believe that this is your house now mother?" I ask. "Yes, Jeaner" she teases, I've been looking at the furniture in here and I think I remember having a loveseat and couch the same color as these." Even though she isn't completely convinced, I know that it will only take a while before she shakes off this foolish notion of being in someone else's house.

Later in the day, another call is made to mother, and the same question is asked. She tells me that she can't understand why she would think that this is not her home. I have no answers which will satisfy her. There are some days when you have to tell her the truth; "dementia was playing a trick on you." Today, was one of them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What's in a Recipe?

It's a Sunday afternoon and I have just got back from an out of town baby shower with my sister Sue and her daughter, Shelly. Since I'm facing a very busy upcoming week, I decide to stop by the grocery store and do mother's weekly grocery chore. My sister and niece head on to mother's before traveling back to Asheville, North Carolina.

As I arrive at mother's house with groceries in tow, my niece Shelly quickly comes to my rescue and begins putting the grocery items in their prospective place.

Mother has a drawer that is reserved purposely for her coffee and Hershey bars. I suddenly hear Shelly shriek and make my way over to see just what it is that has produced this reaction. Peering into the drawer, I can see disgusting little bugs which have made their home in mother's candy crumbs and coffee filters. As we investigate further, there are a lot of old papers jammed in the back of this drawer. Shelly begins to pull long lost memorabilia out, one by one. An old drivers license of mother's husband Yates was the first to appear. Next was a Carrot Cake recipe, tattered yet still legible. As I have mentioned in earlier posts. Mother was infamous for her wonderful heart and hand made cakes. This Carrot Cake recipe was a treasure in itself and was a family favorite.

I recall a tale of my nephew Lewie's birthday. He had requested a Carrot Cake to be made by his mother, which was my oldest sister, Doris. Next to my mother, Doris was the best cook of all us girls. If she didn't know how to make something, she'd find out from mother and would usually produce a pretty good replica. On this special occasion, Doris had asked mother for her Carrot Cake recipe so she could present her oldest son a beautiful, three layer, cake adorned with mother's Cream Cheese melt in your mouth, frosting. The day had finally arrived and mother had planned a dinner on Saturday for her grandson, Lewie's birthday. All his favorite foods had been prepared except for the birthday cake and Doris was to bring it with her. We all awaited her arrival, anxious to see how the cake had turned out. As she made her way up mother's sidewalk, we could see nothing of a beautiful Carrot Cake, only a plastic bag, dangling from her hand. "Here it is" she said, as she laid the bag on the counter top. With inquiring eyes, we began to move closer to get a good peek at just what it was that she had brought. One look at her Carrot Cake atrocity, and gasps turned to laughter. Doris began to tell the story of how her cake had crumbled into a million pieces, right along with her hopes of baking the perfect cake for her oldest son's birthday.

As Shelly continued to empty the drawer, there appeared before me, one last item. I blinked my eyes and could not believe what I was seeing. For years, my sisters and I had searched for mother's Lemon Pound Cake recipe. I had tried making many variations of this cake but none seemed to come close to mother's. I could just see that recipe in my mind, written on the cardboard backing which came out of a pack of pantyhose, packaged back in the day. I couldn't wait to grab that recipe and claim it to be mine! Remembering that my sister Sue sat on the front porch in innocence, not knowing what I planned to swipe, I rethought the situation and decided to see if she'd like a copy. With a yes to my question, I quickly wrote it out and hurried home to stow away my prize.

Today, I have made mother's Lemon Pound Cake for the first time. With a few minor deviations,it was completed. It wasn't perfect, but with practice, I think I will be able to recreate this family treat for years to come.

So many things have been stolen from my mother and family since Dementia came on the scene, but today, something so small and seemingly unimportant as a Lemon Pound Cake recipe, has given us a little back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Seeing, Is Not Believing!"

Running errands with mother, I am noticing that her car is experiencing a short delay in starting up. My husband is super busy, so I decide to leave my brother-in-law Bill a message to check mother's car out while he and my sister Sue are visiting on Saturday. Forgetting about the problem, I continue driving mother's car over the following weeks, still noticing the stall in starting but thinking that it must not be something major.

My brother Jay comes for a visit and decides to take mother out to eat at a local diner. Upon leaving, the evil monster finally shows it's head. The car will not start. My brother gets out and fidgets with some things under the hood and is successful in getting it to start.

After several attempts to diagnose the problem, the battery is tested and found to be the culprit. It's Saturday and my husband and I have come to take mother's car to a nearby auto store and have them install a new battery. Mother greets us at the door and we inform her that we will be taking her car over to get a new battery. She offers payment 5 or 6 times, but we convince her that she can pay us later.

We make it to the auto store and get the battery installed. I have wondered to myself several times that I probably should give mother a quick call to remind her that we have taken her car, just in case she goes out to her garage and sees it missing.

We run some other errands in town before returning, but we haven't been gone that long. Since we have mother's car, her garage opener is at hand and my husband opens the garage door. We can see mother coming out of the kitchen door with a grin on her face. As I exit the car, I tell her that everything has been taken care of and the car runs good now. She seems to know what I mean, but acts a little peculiar. She invites us in and comments that she has several sandwiches she can feed us if we're hungry. I tell her no thanks, that I made those sandwiches for her to eat. That response seems to settle her, so we say our goodbyes and leave. On the way home, I comment to my husband that I don't believe that mother recognized us.

It just so happened that our church was having a "Poor man's supper" later in the day and being that mother really likes country style food, I go up and get her a plate with all the fixings. As I pull up to her house, I see the garage door opening slowly. She has a bewildered look on her face and says to me, "Where in the world did those girls put my car keys?" I ask her, "what girls?" She replies that "they must have been some of mine, cause one of them looked like me." I began to put the puzzle pieces together and realize that she was talking about when my husband and I had brought her car home earlier in the day from getting the battery. For some reason, mother could not see us as Bob and Jean, her daughter and son-in-law, but instead, she had seen two young girls driving her car.

I have experienced many instances like this before with mother, where she sees one thing and thinks it's something else. I am fairly confident it won't be the last!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shoo Flu!

Fall has arrived, accompanied with cooler temps, lady bugs, leaves to rake and most importantly, flu shots. One would think that by the time a person has reached their 80's, that a flu shot wouldn't be a big deal, but to my mother, it's major!

I have dropped subtle hints that it's getting time for this ominous task, but mother hasn't paid much attention to my words. Today, I have arranged for my oldest daughter Blythe, to come and take care of this deed for mother.

Blythe is mother's fifth oldest grandchild. When she was born, we just happened to be living in Mississippi and out of the clutches of grandparents. Long drives back to North Carolina were soon made and I must say it sure felt good to have family helping out with my first born, giving me needed rest.

I remember one evening we had come home for a summer visit. Blythe was just 6 months old. Being she was my first child, of course, every word, creep, tooth and step was well documented. We had gone out to eat and on the way home, mother decided that it was time for Blythe to began crawling. I was thinking to myself that it was a little too early for such an undertaking but, Mema had other plans. As we all sat down in our comfy chairs, mother took Blythe down into the floor and began crawling on all fours, showing her how is was done. It wasn't long before Blythe began mimicking her Mema!

Even though living far away separated all of us from each other's presence, it didn't stop mother from building a close relationship with my children. Letters, cards, packages would arrive monthly and and many times, weekly, sometimes bearing objects as small as a pack of crayons, or as large as a new Easter dress. Whatever the occasion, mother made sure that she would not be forgotten.

Blythe is a woman now with four children of her own. She still holds her Mema very close, but with all the duties that go with four children and a husband, it's very hard to spend as much time with her as she'd like.

As I arrive this morning to bring mother her medications, I prepare her for a busy day. Knowing that I have roped Blythe into taking mother for her flu shot, I tell her that it won't be long until it's time for a "flu shot." Things get pretty quiet as mother looks up with a tight lip. "I'm not getting a durn flu shot!" she snaps. "And you can forget it!" We began back and forth and by the time I leave, the air is thick with tension! She has warned me of a butt kicking that I'd never forget, plus many other descriptive remarks which would be better to leave unwritten for now. This time last year, I would become very unglued at all of this, but I must say, I am becoming a bit more adjusted. For one reason, I won't be the unlucky bird taking her today.

I have given Blythe instructions to stop by my workplace in town where mother will be getting her shot, to pick up some necessary medical information. As I busy myself with duties of the day, I hear the door open and someone call my name. Blythe appears at my desk and tells me that I'd better hurry and come out there that mema is pitching a fit and she says she's not getting "NO FLU SHOT!" I rush outside to the car and see a tight fisted mother sitting in the passenger side. I lean into the car and tell her that she has to get her shot because I have already made an appointment at the drugstore with the pharmacist and if she doesn't go, they'll bill her double for breaking an appointment. Knowing that God will have to forgive me for telling such a fib, I stand firm and convince her that she will have to go. Mother rallies in the fact that when someone is with her other than me, she can readily hurl insults at me. As Blythe starts up her car, mother is shaking her fist and threatening bodily harm to my lower extremities.

Later in the day, I receive a phone call from Blythe, telling me that the mission had been accomplished. In years past, I had always taken mother to this certain pharmacist. Mother, much like the actress Betty White, is quickly smitten with handsome younger men. I had a feeling that as soon as mother got out there and spotted the administrator of this shot, she'd forget all about her anger and fear. She told that when asking Mema if her arm was bothering her, mother would say "no, why?" Blythe would remind her that she had just had her flu shot, only for mother to say, "well, that man was so goodlooking, I must not have felt it!"

Even though all of the signs are about us saying that it's Fall of the year, in mother's heart, it had turned to "Spring Fancy."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


It's getting late and the weather forecast is looking threatening. A cold front is coming in and thunderstorms are imminent. For some reason, I have been caught off guard. I usually keep up with the weather when I think a storm is coming, but due to busyness of the day, I have no knowledge of any such weather. For a lot of people, this news would just be a small annoyance, but for my mother and me, it's a huge event.

As I sit in the comfort of my home, I can see the lightening flashing in a distance and the rumbling of thunder, which mother would call "God moving His furniture around." Knowing that mother will be frightened, I tell my husband that I need to call and let her know that we are thinking about her. Mother goes to bed rather early each night and it is already some 45 minutes past that time. My husband advices me not to call in case she's asleep and I might wake her. I do as he says, but worry about her being afraid.

The next day, my sister Sue who lives in another town, emails me at work, telling me that she had seen on the news where we were to have bad weather that night, so she had called to check on mother. Mother had told her that she was in the bed and had told the children to lie down on a piece of carpet and they would be safe from the storm.

Growing up with a mother who is utterly terrified of thunderstorms, can bring a variety of inhibitions for the children which may linger with them for a lifetime, myself in particular. I can remember the approaching of many a thunderstorm and all the frightening routines that mother would instruct us to perform, just to keep her children safe.

The first thing we were told to do, was to turn the television off and unplug any and everything that used power. Next, we would draw the drapes. I suppose this was so we wouldn't be able to see the lightening flashing so vividly. Lastly we were to go lie down on the bed, couch or once I even remember crawling under the bed. All this without being able to say one word! Mother somehow felt that if we talked during the storm, it would be irreverent! And of course, we could never talk on the telephone during a storm. Now there was one place that mother felt safe, and that was in a car. The reasoning in this was pretty clever, you see, a car is supported with four rubber tires, thus safeguarding those who chose to brave the weather and ride around in it. I remember several times mother talking my daddy into taking us for a ride when it stormed. I'm not one to blame my parents for any weird things that I might have acquired during the rearing days, but I must say that this is one monkey on the back, I would rather she had kept for herself.

On any given fourth of July, you will find me sitting in a car, watching the fireworks from a distance while everyone else is standing with family and friend enjoying the display. Thunderstorms for me are debilitating. They govern my life in the summertime. I choose where I will go and what I will do only by what the weather forecasts. If there's a parade that I'll be attending, I find out ahead of time if there will be those silly cars which backfire from time to time or if the veterans might be shooting their guns occasionally. I remember a trip to New York City several years ago and the privilege to see the Phantom of the Opera. Not knowing that there would be firecrackers thrown on stage, I was forced to sit with my ears stopped up during the whole performance while onlookers sat around me with a funny look on their face. I could go on and on about the many fears of loud noises which I carry around with me daily, due to my primitive days at home with my mother.

I suppose that each of us have come away from our childhood with some things we would rather have left behind. I could never have wished for a better mother than the one I have in spite of my noise phobia. It's like the old saying..."My mother wasn't perfect, but she was close."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Red Polka-dotted Shoes!

It's hardly mid-October and I'm already looking forward to the month of November's arrival. This is when daylight savings time will end. As I close my door, I am reminded by the darkness of the morning, that I need to call mother and wake her now so that she will be able to open her door for me. Today, like the rest of the week, mother is sleeping in due to the late arrival of daylight. Each morning this week has brought a new batch of confusion as I entered mother's house. Anything from where am I, to I must be at my other house, to who brought me here, have been some of the comments that awaited me.

This morning she is telling me that if I come to this house, she won't be there, that she is at another house.It doesn't occur to her that I have called her at this house and she has answered.

When I arrive, she opens the door. I can see her hair which was permed just a week ago, flattened on the side and creases on her face from sleep. Her eyes are peering at me in a telling way. "Jean, I woke up in this house and I'm afraid somebody's going to find me here." Not wanting to get into a discussion of foolishness, I change the subject as I look down and see that she has forgotten to put her shoes on. It's not a good idea for mother to go around in her sock feet, due to a danger of slipping and falling on her linoleum kitchen floor. "Lets go back here and find you some shoes mother," I say. As we enter her bedroom, I can see that mother is very fidgety. I pick up a pair of shoes that mother wears most frequent, she looks at them and says she has never seen them before, I tell her that she wears them just about every day, but she won't hear of it. Picking up another pair, she tells me that we need to get out of there before we wake up the people who these shoes belong to!

For some reason, mother has some sort of a fascination with people and their shoes. It's a well known fact in our family that mother will ask most everyone when they come if they're wearing new shoes. My brother-in-law is the recipient of this question from mother most often. Without failing, when he comes, whether he's wearing new shoes or a pair that he's had for years, mother will ask this question.

Many years ago, I recall one Easter season when mother was in search of a very special pair of shoes. As she had always done, mother had carefully selected her Easter outfit including a white linen suit with a red polka-dotted long sleeve blouse complimented with a tie just at the edge of her neckline. The only thing missing was a matching pair of shoes. For some reason, mother got it in her head that she needed a pair of "red polka-dotted shoes to complete her outfit.

It just so happened that there was a new outlet mall called "Waccamaw" which had opened down in Spartanburg, SC, where mother and I had a habit of frequenting when we decided to go shopping. Off we went, in search of these rare shoes. I'm not sure what the word "waccamaw" means, but we always referred to it as "walk a mile" because by the time you got out of there, if felt like you had walked a mile!

After several hours of shopping, we had come to the realty that these shoes were not to be found. Looking at my watch, I told mother that we needed to get back. With Easter being the next day, mother was not so sure that we needed to leave. "Let's sit down here on this bench for a little while and rest," she said. Now I have shared with you in several post, what a God fearing, woman of faith my mother was. Suddenly, she began to pray and ask God to help her find those eluding red polka-dotted shoes. I must admit, even though I prided myself as being someone who believed in the power of prayer, I had thoughts that mother had dropped a lose screw or so while we were walking around so long. Just as she finished, she jumped up and said "lets look in this one last store and if we don't find them, I'll just get a plain red pair. As I entered the store, I couldn't help but grin, knowing that this search was almost coming to an end. Mother headed straight back to the high heels. As I rounded the corner of the aisle, I could hear her saying, "Thank you Lord!" Looking at mother sitting on the seat trying on a pair of red polka-dotted high heels, sporting a stylish bow on top was more than I could believe. I learned several things that day, but the most important lesson was that no matter what your need is; great or small, God is always there to help you.

My mother has several pairs of shoes which she wears today, but none of them are heels. I can only imagine the smile on God's face as my mother walked through the doors of Silver Creek Baptist Church wearing her red polka-dotted shoes that Easter morning!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Not So Pretty in Pink!

It's the first of October, and my husband and I have a weekend planned out of town. This is an annual trip for us each year and I must say, I look forward to it more than ever these days.

On our way out, I stop by mother's house to fix her food and give out medications for the day, and to secretly hide a couple of baggies containing the next two days pills. I will call my sister later and tell her where they are so when she comes, she can give them to her.

The week prior to my trip has been really busy, but I have taken out time to try on some clothes which I had bought last year after losing a few pounds. Just as I thought, the clothes are still wearable, but are a little snug from all the donuts I have eaten this summer.

While busying around in the kitchen, mother has a front row seat as she sits at the kitchen table, while her youngest daughter parades around fixing the day's amenities. "Jean" she says, "I don't know how in the world you keep those pounds on that you've gained with all the running around you do." With my feelings already on my sleeve, hoping that no one will notice the extra pounds I've acquired, mother quickly confirms my fears; last year's clothes are just a little too tight. It was interesting to me that even with mother's dementia, she could find a way to let me know that I needed to drop a few.

I don't know what it is about a mother and a daughter and their clothes, but ever since I can remember, it has been important to me what my mother thought of what I was wearing.

As my husband and I head on out to our long weekend getaway, I began to think about what mother had said and I'm suddenly taken back to the days of high school and my sewing projects.

It was my Sophomore year and I was really getting into sewing; even though I can't sew a lick today. My Home Ec teacher had informed the class that we would be making a dress which would count as one of our grades. Excited that I would finally be trying out my new found sewing skills, I couldn't wait to rush home and tell mother the news. As the weekend approached, mother had planned for she and I to take a trip to a nearby cloth outlet. As we walked around the store, I was having a hard time finding the cloth that would jump right out at me and say, "I am your new dress!" Suddenly mother goes over to a table with baby pink material sprawled out on it. I can see the look on her face that this material has called out her name and I was not feeling it. "Jean, come here, I think I've found just the right cloth you need." Now, if you were to ask my friends today, they'd probably tell you that I'm not very shy, but back in that day, I was willing to do anything, as long as I didn't have to have confrontation, and especially when it came to disobeying my mother! We purchased the cloth and headed back home. With feelings of "pink puke" in my mind, I never once let mother know that I hated the material she had chosen for my new dress.

It was Monday and we were to bring our cloth along with our sewing notions to school and show it to our teacher. It wasn't long until my "V" neck pukey pink dress was completed. I couldn't wait until it was graded and I was able to take it home and dispose of it. As I entered the house, I remember mother anxiously awaiting the sight of my beautiful pink dress. The first question she asked was the one that I had secretly feared, "when are you going to wear it?" Trying to avoid answering, she began to insist that I wear it the next day. Not wanting to hurt mother's feelings, I agreed to wear it. Getting up really early, I put my not so "pretty in pink" dress on, and covered it with a rain coat, while slipping another outfit into my gym bag. Arriving at school, I hurried into the girls bathroom and changed into my other clothes. I had basketball practice after school, so mother never became the wiser to my little scheme.

I must say that I really have felt guilty over the years by deceiving my mother and not wearing that pink elephant for all the world to see. But today, I feel a little vindicated as I remember the remarks that mother had made to me this morning concerning my "new found" pounds.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Here We Go!

It's earlier than usual to be headed to mother's house, but this morning, I will be taking my granddaughter to school. I look out the window and see that the sun has not yet made it over the mountain. Knowing that mother is probably still sleeping, I reach for the phone and dial her number. "Hello, " I hear her say. "Mother, I'm going to come a little early this morning, so go ahead and get up, I'll be there in about five minutes" I tell her. "Well, I'm sure glad you called, I need to get home before somebody around here wakes up and finds me here!" I let out a deep breath and tell her to just be at the side door to let me in. On my way down, I dread to think what awaits me.

Driving up to the garage, I can see the side door slowly opening, only to reveal mother standing there wearing her green shirt, holding a Krispy Kreme Crueller's donut bag; bearing two donuts, a plate of dog food and her pocketbook. A little startled at this site, I grab my cell phone to take a picture so I can show my siblings and husband, my surprise. Sometimes, only a picture can tell the story in its entirety. She gladly comes inside the garage and poses for me without a word said. Some of you may find this a little on the strange side, but I assure you, if you've experienced some of the things we have, you would understand.

Mother looks over at her car which is parked in her garage and wants to know whose it is. I answer her with another question, "whose car do you think it is mother?" She says it looks like one she had but she wasn't sure. Her mind is well focused on just how she has ended up at this "Lake House" and when am I going to take her home.

I go in and turn the kitchen light on and began making her coffee. "What are you doing Jean," she says. "Fixing your coffee, go sit down and I'll bring you some water and your pills." Nothing doing, mother begins looking around and is amazed at the furnishings in her house which look hauntingly familiar. "Well, that looks like Annie's treats over there and that picture looks like one of mine." I can't help but chuckle and tell her that everything in here is hers. She begins quizzing me on who had brought her to this place and when will I be taking her home. Over and over again, I explain to her that this is her home and that she hasn't been anywhere.

I pour her coffee and grab a couple of donuts for her usual breakfast. Finally she asks me what in the world made her think that this wasn't her home. I calmly tell her that she was probably dreaming. This explanation usually triggers a firestorm of not so flattering remarks aimed directly at me, but this morning, she seems to accept the solution that I've offered up to explain her predicament.

I complete all of my usual morning tasks, take a quick look at my watch and give out my usual goodbyes. As I leave her house, I hurry to my car so I can text my siblings, informing them of the morning's event. All of a sudden I hear someone shout out my name. Shocked that mother could make it out to my car that fast, and aware that she nurses a bum knee and usually walks slow and decrepit, I jump, almost dropping my cell phone as I look up and see her standing there. "What in the world am I going to do about my dog?" she frantically asks. "What do you mean" I say. "Well, I left her over at that other house, how's she going to get home?" Just as I began to answer, Annie comes running up to her, begging for a morning hug. My only words were, "see you later, mother" and off I drove.

Calling to check on mother some hours later, I find that she is completely oblivious to anything which had transpired in the wee early morning hours. My sister has a favorite saying everytime something crazy happens..."Here we go!" So, this morning, my thoughts were exactly that, "Here We Go!"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fries With That?

It's morning time at mother's and my routine is usual these days. Since mother hasn't met me at the garage door, I move to the kitchen side door and look in. I can only see a dark kitchen with the coffee pot sitting idle, waiting for mother to come and make use of it. Knocking and calling, I finally hear her coming. I can hear her words as she approaches the door. "Well, I don't know what you are or who's let you in here, but I'm going to put you out." With a big knowing grin, I say "howdy" and call for Annie to come on out. Mother wants to know whose dog that is and how did she get in. For the past week or so, mother has been accusing me and my husband of sneaking down to her house during the night and putting dogs with bushy tails in her bed.

Mother has always been a very clean, personable lady, never allowing her pets to enter the house but for only a short visit. Now, for her to think that she is allowing a dog to sleep in her room at night, is beyond anything that her mind can fathom.

I began to make her coffee and do the usual things as mother sits down at the table, only to begin telling of her latest adventure. Today was a Sunday, so this meant that my sister Sue and husband Bill had been there the day before and brought mother lunch. Mother enjoys salads and sandwiches from a place called Zaxby's, in Hendersonville, NC. This stop is convenient since it's right on the way for Sue and Bill while traveling to mother's house each Saturday. Here recently, it seems that mother has been favoring a chicken salad sandwich with fries.

As she continues with her tale, she has a slight giggle about herself, this tells me that I need to pay close attention. She asks me if there's been a certain holiday like Halloween or a Fall Festival lately. By the mere mention of Halloween, I began to fear what will come next; goblins and monsters are some of the thoughts I imagine. I tell her that it will soon be fall but there hasn't been a festival or anything and Halloween won't be for another month or so. She tells me that there had been a festival in her front yard last night with hundreds of people gathering on her front porch and into her livingroom. I naturally inform her that she has been dreaming and that there hasn't been anyone at her house since Sue and Bill were here the day before. Aggravated at what I was saying, mother snapped back at me and told me to go outside and look in the yard at all the french fries lying in the yard. I did as she asked and made my way outside. There in the front yard, just as she said, laid about 20 french fries. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure this mystery out.

On more than one occasion, when mother didn't want the food that me or others have prepared for her, she will gladly toss it out into the front yard for her dog Annie. I try to explain to her that she was the culprit who had tossed the fries. Of course this didn't sit well with her and she began expressing her displeasure with me. As I feel her becoming very upset, I began pretending curious as to where the french fries actually came from. Mother felt believed and continued to tell more of her escapade. She told how she had started to get into bed when she pulled back the covers and found that one of her visitors had placed a little boy who was wearing blue jeans or overalls into her bed and he had a tail. Interested as to what kind of tail this little boy adorned, I asked, was it bushy or like Annie's. My asking her this, causes me to question my own sanity as I have become accustomed to the stories of mother finding dogs, humans and the like in her bed at night, bearing bushy tails.

Many times when mother shares with me the events of the night, I feel worried and become frustrated trying to convince her that she was only dreaming. Today is no different. Mother assures me that she will never tell me anything else and will tell another family member who will be more inclined to believe her next time.

I must say, of all the hallucinations that mother has shared with me, I have laughed the most when visualizing her bed full of bushy tailed dogs and little boys at night. I truly believe that if mother was about herself, and knew of this demented tale, she would have the biggest laugh.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Clock

In a hurry to get to work, I grab mother's medicine baggy filled with seven pills and head down to her house. I jump out of the car and notice that the baggy is open with one pill remaining, an "Aleve." By this time mother has opened the garage door and is wondering what has happened. By far, this isn't the first time I've managed to somehow lose mother's medicine somewhere between my house and hers. Once I had thrown it in the garbage trailer with a trashbag I had tossed out that morning. Another time, I returned home to find the dog actually "ate it" recovering the bag with teeth marks and no pills. I began looking hurriedly over the driveway, searching for six important medications. With unfruitful results, I assured her that I would bring another supply later in the day.

The pills aren't the only thing that she and I have been in search of. My mother is the owner of a beautiful grandfather clock made of cherry wood, which stands proud and tall in the living room. This clock has been a member of the Gibson and Williams family for some 40 years now. As a teenager living at my old homeplace, I would lie in bed at night, worrying about something needless or thinking about a day gone wrong, when mother's clock would chime throughout the house, telling me I'd better get to sleep before morning came. Today, the old grandfather clock is in need of repair.

My brother Jay is basically the only family member who has ever tried to fidget with the old clock only to do a possible winding or so. He has come for a visit and sees that one of the chimes has fallen off. This being a chore larger than he can accomplish, he calls my Uncle Lawrence, a man who has gained a reputation as someone who tinkers with clocks and the like, to see if he might know what to do. Uncle Lawrence is my deceased daddy's baby brother. I see him about once a year. Last year, I was walking through a thrift store and happened to see the back of someone's head that looked like my dad. I began to walk over to where he was and just as I reached him, he turned around. I was startled to see just how much he looked like my dad. I remember crying all the way home that day, thinking about how much I missed daddy.

Uncle Lawrence tells my brother that he'll be glad to come over and take a look at the clock. Upon examination, he decides to carry the clock back to his house for a closer diagnosis of the problem. As the two are carrying it out of mother's house, it slips, doing minor damage and spilling some innards out. Prior to this episode, Jay had noticed something lying in the floor, he picked it up and saw that it was the number "8" which had fallen off the clock. He stuck it up on a ledge inside the clock, thinking that one day it would need to be repaired. As Uncle Lawrence reaches his house and begins to take inventory on the clock mishap, he notices that the number "8" is missing. He calls my brother telling him about the loss. Jay informs Lawrence that the number "8" had been inside the clock and must have fallen out when they had their little accident. The next call is made to me so that I can be on the look out for this eluding number. Of all the things that I have searched for in my life, I must say that this is the funniest and most unusual item.

I have also put mother on alert by writing it down in huge blue letters on her writing tablet, "KEEP ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THE NUMBER EIGHT!" I mention to her that Jay and Lawrence had lost the number while moving the clock. She tells me that she must have been gone when they did it because she hadn't seen Lawrence in years. I assured her that he was there the day before and for some reason, she takes my word for it.

So far, the number has not been found. The old clock is the subject of the day now for mother, only because it is written on her tablet. When I become tired of hearing it, I'll remove the note and she will forget all about it. Dementia does have it's upside from time to time. Or so I think.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Smell a Rat!

As I enter mother's house, I smell an odor that probably most of us have smelled at least once in our life...a rat! I have been smelling this unpleasantry for the past several days. I have searched high and low for this menace, but no luck! I also have questioned others who have visited mother in the past several days if they have experienced the same odor as I, but to no avail, I have not been able to hear a yes. I can't believe that anyone who has a nose, couldn't come up with at least a "maybe!" I even brought my husband Bob in for a sniff and he as well didn't think it to be anything serious. Not even mother can smell this creature and I can assure you that she doesn't take kindly to my complaining about this foul odor in her house. Quickly, I run to the bathroom to grab a can of Renuzit and spray anything and everything I can before heading out to work.

Today is grocery day, so after finishing my day up with work and afternoon chores, I run to the grocery store and buy the needed items for mother to make it through another week. Entering the kitchen, I can still smell a faint odor of rat and Renuzit, but think that the odor can be manageable now. I comment to mother that the smell isn't as bad as before and she remarks to me that "You should know, since I know everything that goes on down there." It doesn't take me long to see that mother is in a bad mood. I ask if she isn't feeling well. That was not a wise question to say the least! Mother gives me a look and says "If you had to live in this place for a day, you wouldn't feel so good either. Who in the world would want to live in a Hell hole like this!" As always, my reply is "well you know you can go live in a retirement home if you don't like it here." As I put mother's groceries away, she sits at the kitchen table, dishing it out to me, and I don't mean "food!"

I remember how proud mother was of her beautiful home some 17 years ago as she and her new husband Yates had built their dream home. Every detail of every square inch of this house was orchestrated by mother and Yates.

After the passing of my dad, mother struck up a friendship with Yates at the local nursing home while visiting my grandmother and while he was visiting his mom. One thing led to another and mother and Yates fell in love. Mother wasn't the only one smitten, the entire family fell in love with this kind, gentle man who had a quick, shy smile for everyone, a gentle touch for mother's children and a soft lap and silly song for all of her grandchildren.

Wedding plans were soon made, but first, house plans were laid. Yates and mother chose a plot of land located nearby his old home place. Everyone agreed that it was just the perfect spot for these two newlyweds to build their home and live out the rest of their lives. Their home was built with much love and care. This house has played host to many wonderful family gatherings throughout the years as well as serving as a place of mourning for the sweetheart of the house, Yates, and my oldest sister Doris.

Driving home, I feel frustrated as I think about the rat that nobody can smell but me, and how dementia has stolen mother's love for her beautiful home.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Hairdresser

For as long as I can remember, mother has always had a weekly standing hair appointment. For many years now, she has traveled down to the nearby town each week to a place called "Linda's Hairtaker." Some of Linda's workers have come and gone, but the owner, Linda, has always remained. I can't say enough about Linda and the young lady who fixes mother's hair nowadays, Kim. They are very caring, loving and personable people, and especially when it comes to my mother.

It was "hair day" and I had come to pick mother up. Arriving a little more than thirty minutes early, in case I got into a fix or something unusual happened that I might need to take care of while there. I had left mother a note telling her what time I would get there and exactly what she needed to do before I came. As she opened the side garage door, I could see that she had followed my instructions and changed from her raggedy, old, baby blue tennis shoes to her black "going out" walking shoes. I said, "well mother, you did change your shoes!" A usual "Uh huh" and a grin was all she gave me.

Since there was plenty of time to kill, she and I headed for the living room. I could see that mother had something on her mind. "You know, I'm not going to call the law or anything, but I'd like to, It just burns me up, all these people coming down here seining my creeks at night for fishing minnows! And the thing that makes me so mad is that they don't even ask permission." Well, mother does have a creek which runs down through her pasture, but it is not in a place for her to see anyone who might be seining for minnows, especially during the night. Through the years, mother has had one more time with people, lights and animals she has envisioned to be in her creek at night. I don't feel like debating this subject with her so she seems pleased and we move on to another complaint.

I have written several times about the "old lady" who mother claims to live up above her in a house with dog cages circling her home. To hear mother tell it, this woman has stolen every female dog she has leaving her with the one dog which she calls "Annie," but has taken all the other dogs which she just so happened to name "Annie" as well. This conversation is becoming tiring to me so I glance at my watch and say, "mother, we have some time, so let's drive up the road and you show me where this lady lives." Well, to say the least, she didn't like that. She told me that the last time she went up there, the old lady's husband came out and he acted like he didn't much care for her being there. I said well, you can just point to me where the house is and we won't get out. Of course, mother was unable to show me where this house was and became agitated at me at the very thought my of not believing her.

By this time now, we need to be traveling on down the road to Linda's. As we drive up I tell mother that I will run get her a plate of food while she's inside and assure her that I will return in plenty of time to pick her up. As a rule, we would go out to eat after her hair appointment but there had to be a change in mother's appointment time which puts us getting home much later so I decided to try this arrangement for a while. As I take mother in, Linda stands fixing one other lady's hair. "Hello Margie!" Linda says. Mother takes a double look at Linda and says, "Well, who are you? I say, "it's Linda mother!" "You're name's not Linda!" I say "why yes it is mother!" In disbelief, mother says, "now what is your name really." Linda said, "well, just for today, I'm Linda."

I turn and leave, giving Linda a look and telling mother to sit down and wait until she finishes with her other customer and to please stay put and not go anywhere!"

I recall one day when I had dropped mother off and came back to pick her up. Mother's dementia had just begun and none of us were as protective of her as we are now. As I drove up to the top of the hill, Linda's assistant, Kim, was right on mother's heels as she had left her sitting on the bench outside to wait for me and mother had decided to meet me out at the end of the parking lot. Another time, my niece Shelly, had come down on her summer break from teaching to help out with mother. She had taken her for her hair appointment and when mother finished up with her hair, Shelly decided to get her eyebrows waxed. As she sat in the chair, she whispered to Kim that she sure hoped "Mema" didn't go anywhere. Kim told Shelly that if she started out the door, Linda would yell." This tickled Shelly as she thought about the system these two had worked out in order to keep "Mema" safe.

I appreciate Linda and Kim for the love, kindness and patience that they have shown mother through the years. Every time we leave there, I wonder if it will be the last hair appointment that mother will have.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Monday!

As I enter mother's kitchen, I cannot see a look on her face that warns me of calamity, until I walk over to her tablet which is used by me and other family members for the sole purpose of writing down information and instructions for her day. I can see that mother has marked out what I had written the day before, which was for Sunday. That in itself was different, as she usually leaves it alone until I come the next morning to write down the new day's information.

As I reach to turn the page on the tablet, I ask her why she had marked through yesterday's information. She replied that she was fed up with me trying to tell her what to do as if she was a child, like she wasn't old enough to know what day it was. Honestly, I could understand her line of thinking and tried to explain to her that it was just a means to help her remember what she would be doing that day since I wouldn't be there to tell her. I often wondered as I was writing each day, how I would feel if someone had to do this for me. Telling me exactly what to eat, where it was, and what I would be doing and where I would be going that day and just who might be coming to my house. One of mother's many favorite comments to me is "I don't know what in the world I did before I had you to tell me what to do!"

With displeasure of me and my writing tablet aside, she says to me, "Come sit down and I'll tell you why I knew it wasn't Sunday today." I did as she asked and sat down at the kitchen table with her. "This morning when I woke up" she told, "I heard Annie barking, and all of a sudden, I could hear a group of men making noise, who apparently were on their way to work and had took a shortcut down by my house. They were right outside my bedroom window. I don't believe they were looking in, just passing through." She continued on to say that "when I came in here and saw that tablet reading that 'Today is Sunday.' I knew it had to be "Monday," because those men were headed to work and most people don't work on Sunday."

There have been other times when mother has thought that people were outside her bedroom window. We have heard stories of someone kicking the basement door or banging on the door with something in their hand, in an attempt to enter. She also has seen pick up trucks, men and women standing outside in a group, smoking and talking as if they had met there for a gathering or something.

This morning wasn't the worse morning mother has was just a "Monday" morning.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mother's Folly and My Dolly!

Today is a Saturday, and as usual, I am in a hurry when arriving at mothers. First of all, I know that my sister Sue will be coming today and I will be relieved of most of the daily duties that I usually do for mother. It's somewhat later than most mornings due to the fact that I don't have to work today and I have slept in.

The first thing I notice is that Annie, mother's dog, is not outside. If you've been reading my posts, you'll remember that mother puts Annie, or some creature which Annie happens to be masquerading as, in every night so she doesn't have to hear her barking and wonder what or who she's barking at as well as taking the chance of waking up the "old woman" that mother declares lives just up on the bank and is a dog thief."

I began to knock on the side door and see through the window that all the lights are off and the kitchen is quiet and still. I began to call, "M-o-t-h-e-r!" Finally, she hollers, "who is it?" I say, "It's me, Jean!" "C-o-m-i-n-g" she calls back. Opening the door, Annie is at her side. The first thing she says to me is "Well, what in the world are you doing down here this time of the night?" I said "Mother, it's not night time, its morning!" Turning the light on, she squints her eyes to see the time on the microwave, seeing that it's 7:40. She turns and says, "see there, it's something to eight, I think you're the one that's confused!" I try changing the subject by telling her that her daughter Sue, and husband Bill will be coming today and she had better take her pills and get herself organized. Nothing doing! Mother keeps asking me, "why are they coming at night?" I tell her over and over again that it's Saturday morning. She eventually succumbs to the notion of it being morning and tells me that "if I'm lying to her that she's going to take the biggest hickory she can find and give me a whipping!"

I can remember another time as a child when I heard these same words. It was summertime and when you're 10 years old, you think that you can get away with most anything. My sister Sue and I had begged and begged mother and daddy for a pony. After many months of good behavior and agonizing pleads, they finally agreed to buy us one. Her name was "Dolly." Dolly was Palameno colored. We never had a saddle, so all of our riding days were "bareback."

It was unusually hot and my sister and I were craving some candy and soda. Being that we lived pretty far out in the country, there were no stores around. Well, mother worked at a small sock mill, just about 2 miles down the road and located just near the closest store to our house. I had heard her tell my daddy many times how cramped up she felt after being inside all day working so I knew that there was no way she could find out if I decided to go through with this adventure. Mother had warned us many times of the consequences if we ventured out on our "Dolly" while she was at work, let alone ride her 2 miles!

With a candy bar and a Nehi drink on my mind, off Dolly and I went. Unfortunately and unknowing to me, a co-worker of mothers had driven down to this same little store to get a snack for lunch and had seen a little girl and a pony tied outside the store that looked much like "Margie's girl, Jean." When arriving back home, I was greeted with a message saying that mother had called from work asking if I had ridden my pony down to the store. She had given instructions that when she got home, "I was going to get a whipping with the biggest hickory she could find!"

As I leave mother's house, I keep telling her that it is indeed morning time. I remind her that I am a grown-up woman now, and that I wouldn't lie to her about the time of day!

I received many whippings from mother as a child, but I assure you, I deserved every one of them!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Old Man and His Daughter

Mother was always faithful when it came to Church attendance. You could always find her at Sunday School and preaching services on any given Sunday. I've mentioned before that she was a Sunday School Teacher, Deacon's wife and choir member most of her adult life.

We had some newcomers to come join at our church one Sunday and for some reason mother took a liken to them and they to her. The woman, Joan, was somewhere in the age range of her forties while her husband Kenneth, was some eight years older. This couple sat directly in front of mother most Sundays. They started talking and began a close friendship.

Several years ago, mother had some major surgery done. At this time, dementia had not yet reared it's ugly head. This statement alone would cause some discussion in our family. As we entered the waiting area in the hospital, there sat the Jolley's, Kenneth and Joan. Always there to comfort, visit or call,they were a permanent presence in mother's life from then on out. Kenneth enjoyed turkey hunting when the season came around and mother's farm was well furnished with these "Thanksgiving birds." Mother gave Kenneth permission to hunt on her property, which was a compliment in itself, as mother has a very strong attachment to all of her animal friends. Her exact orders were, "You can only kill one!"

Time went on and mother's dementia took over most of her life so she had to stop attending church. This did not deter Kenneth. He would call and check on mother every week and to this day, still does.

One day, Kenneth was off from work, so he and Joan decided they would come for a visit. Later that evening, I called to check on mother and asked if anyone had come to visit. She replied, "Yes, an old man and his daughter that live down near the edge of the pasture." I said, "mother, there's not anybody like that living near you." We argued back and forth for awhile, so I asked her to describe them. She told me that he was just an "old man," and his daughter was with him but she didn't think she was married. She said she didn't know their names and she sure didn't think much of that old man coming to see her and bringing his daughter. While quizzing her, she gave up one piece of information that sounded familiar. Kenneth, has always teased me about being older than him. Whether that's the truth, I don't know. But, mother told me that the "old man" said to be sure and tell his "big sister" hey. Well, this is what Kenneth had always referred to me as, so now I knew who the mystery visitors were. It didn't take me long to dial up the Jolleys and inform Kenneth that mother thought he was an old man who had come to court her and had brought his unmarried daughter along.

Another instance concerning an "old man and his daughter happened about a year ago. It was a very cold night and mother was trying to get her dog Annie into the house for the night. As she opened the back door and began calling Annie, a little girl stuck her head around the corner of the house and said "just what dog are you looking for?" Mother told us that the little girl's daddy was an old man and stood up on the bank watching. She was upset because she said "it was none of their business which dog she was looking for." She couldn't get over the fact that neighbors would come down there in the middle of the night and it as cold as it was, nosing in her business!

It's very interesting to me, the characters that mother comes up with in her hallucinations. I have to say though, out of all of them, the "old man and his daughter" have tickled me the most as now I can be the one to tease Kenneth about who's the oldest! I truly thank God for people like the Jolley's who have remained close and faithful friends to mother in spite of it all!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dog Thief!

As I knocked on mother's door, I could see that the kitchen light was off, coffee unmade and the kitchen chair standing propped against the doorknob. Annie was outside running around as usual, but not a peep from mother. Calling, and knocking, I could hear no reply. Just as I decided to head around to the front door to ring the doorbell, I heard a faint, "coming," from somewhere inside.

Last September, I recall the morning I came down to give mother her pills and something very similar with a different ending happened. I had knocked and knocked, called and called, but never an answer. I had made my way around to ring the doorbell but still no answer. I knew very well where the key to the front door was, but I could not bring myself to enter, fearing just what I might find. I hurried back to the car, got my cell phone and called mother's nephew Kenneth who lives just up the road to come assist me. When he arrived, he entered in and called to mother, still, no answer. I was helpless as I stood on the front porch and prayed. At last I could hear Kenneth talking to "Aunt Margie." I made my way back to her bedroom and found a near unresponsive mother lying on the bed, still in her nightgown. The EMS was summoned and she was taken to the hospital. It was found that she had a really bad urinary tract infection which landed her in the hospital for several days.

Today, I wait for her to open the door. I can see her hair and clothes are very unruly and think that she is going to have an interesting story to tell. "What were you doing?" I asked. "That 'old woman' was after my dogs again last night and I had to stay up most of the night making sure she didn't steal my last one." "She was turning her light on and off, telling me that she was up there and waiting to get my dogs." Trying to reassure her that she only has "one" dog and there was no "old woman" living near her, she became agitated to the point that I knew I just needed to listen and go along with her.

For some months now, mother thinks that there is an old woman who lives just up in the woods near her house who has been stealing her dogs, until she is just down to one. Mother says she has cages all around her house and her prized one is up there now, which as she tells it, has red and green on the back of it's neck. I like to refer to this one as the "Christmas dog." The whole family has sat tirelessly as mother tells of this old woman taking her dogs. She has asked time after time if she should call the police on her and I just reply that if she did the old woman might retaliate and poison one of her "imaginary" dogs or God forbid, cows! This seems to satisfy her and so far, she has not made a call to our local law enforcement concerning this "dog thief."

Mother spies her dog Annie frolicking on the back deck and says, "That Annie is having one more time out there!" No more than she has said this, she is asking me "whose dog is that?" I tell her it's Annie and she says "does she have mud on her?" I take a look out the kitchen window to see if Annie has possibly been rolling in the mud, but as I thought, she was as clean as a whistle, sitting there digging a flea. I said mother, Annie is brown and black and you can just see mostly brown since she's scratching. Still, mother will not believe that this is her dog Annie.

Knowing that eventually mother will forget all about last night's folly, and soon come to realize that the dog hanging around her house is indeed Annie, I head on off to work. I think to myself about how comfortable I am becoming with mother's actions. This realization in itself is very unsettling to me.

Friday, August 20, 2010


In a rush to get out the door, I grabbed a baggy and dropped mother's medication in it for the day. Just as I walk passed the telephone, it rings and mother is on the other end. I have to say, this is the first time mother has actually called me this early in the morning. It's usually sometime during the day or late at night.

"What are you doing?" she asks. "Getting ready to come down to your house, why?" I answer. "Well, I want to know who in the world has dropped me off at this house!" she replies angrily. This whole picture is getting clearer and this isn't the first time this event has happened, so I sorta knew where all this was going.

This time, mother had not been to the "Lake House," as in previous posts, but she had been "sleepwalking" and someone had found her on the road, picked her up and brought her back to this house, so she thinks.

Once I had received a phone call from her, asking me "how in the world did she get up to this 'hole' in Saluda?" Another time, she had supposedly been walking on the road and someone came along and took her to a house where a little old lady lived. Mother had been invited in to spend the night with this woman who she had never laid eyes on before, then when morning came, someone had brought her back home. In reality, mother had not been anywhere but asleep.

Another trait of Dementia is a "deceiver." I have tried to discuss this with mother and assure her that she has not actually been "sleepwalking" but "dreaming." As usual, she will not be convinced and only agitated at the thought that I think she's crazy.

Many of mother's dementia events have to do with her or someone being lost. She has always had a heart for helping those who were lost; spiritually or physically.

I recall an occasion when I still lived at home. Mother was busy cooking a meal for a Saturday family gathering when a knock came to our door. It was a lady who was looking for a pretty well to do housing development approximately some 10 miles from where we lived. I was familiar with this elite place, only because my sister and I sold Girl Scout cookies there years before this. Mother had asked the lady all the information she needed to know in order to look the people up in the book, give them a call and have them give her instructions to their house so she could direct this poor lost lady. Even though mother was overwhelmed with the chore of baking, she gladly obliged this lost soul. I could hear mother telling her that she would stay on the phone with the person at the intended destination till she arrived, so she would know that she had made it safely. Mother must have stood there on the phone for ten minutes talking to someone she had never met. I suddenly saw a smile flash over mother's face as she could hear in the background of the phone, the two women greeting each other, reassuring mother that she had given the right instructions. The woman came back to the phone and hung up without one kind word of "thank you" or "what a good neighbor you have been." Not that mother wanted that, but I could see in her eyes, the hurt of being dismissed without a mere word of appreciation.

As I arrive at mother's house, she is waiting for me, standing in front of her garage, anxiously awaiting an explanation for her trip.

Not long ago, she had greeted me in front of the garage carrying her pocketbook. She had been sitting on the front porch since sometime early in the morning, thinking that she had been dropped off at someone else's house, and nothing she could see looked familiar. I had to take her inside and tell her stories of people and things that had happened in her house so that she would believe it was really her home.

This morning, I was able to convince her that she had not sleepwalked anywhere, but that she had been a victim of an overactive dream. She remarked that "she sure was glad that it was a dream, cause she didn't know what she would have fed all those people who were in her house when she got back home."

As I head off to work, I think about the good person that mother used to be.