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.