Friday, December 2, 2011
Today is mother's 83rd birthday. Lot's of discussion has been had in anticipation of this day. Thoughts of how to celebrate with someone who will only forget what was done ten minutes later, doesn't give much incentive for elaborate celebration. My husband and I have decided to take mother for some food and Christmas light viewing late in the evening.
I enter mother's bedroom singing "Happy Birthday" I have a range of songs from "The most beautiful girl in the world," "Little LuLu I love You Lu...to "Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory, Glory!" that I greet mother with each morning. Some of these will draw a smile, others seem to annoy her without end. But today is special, it's her birthday and I want her to be reminded of it.
In years past, I have entered mother's bedroom many times, but in another place. Growing up, mother's bedroom was furnished with a huge round unframed mirror. I can remember many a day, joining her in that mirror watching every movement and motion she would make, from brushing her beautiful hair, to lining her lips with garnet red lipstick, preparing herself for the day. "Do I have a hole in the back of my hair?" she would ask. Checking to make sure, she would hand me the hairbrush and either my sister or I would do the honors of putting the finishing touch on a woman who in my eyes "was the most beautiful of all!" As I have mentioned in previous posts, mother was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside as well.
Today, I gently pull mother from her lying position and encourage her to sit up straight. Her once beautiful oval face is swollen to one side where she sleeps and fluid gathers. Her beautiful hazel eyes are barely visible through the swollen eyelids that eyeshadow and mascara once adorned.
She finally rises, and slow but sure, makes it to the bathroom door. I stand behind her, and can see in the mirror which hangs on the adjacent wall, an image of a small frail woman that I barely recognize as being my mother. As I wash her face, change her clothes, give instructions for teeth brushing, I visualize myself and mother in earlier years when the roles were reversed. I reach for her hairbrush and stroke from front to back, trying my best to close the "hole" in the back of her head, just like I had done some 50 years ago. The hole won't close as easily as years before. My sister and I jokingly call it now, "the great divide" where mother spends hours a day, lying on her couch, giving permanent division.
This woman that I have loved and adored all my life, now sits before me; dementia riddled and barely a glimpse of the beautiful mother I once knew. I thank GOD in the good times and question HIM in the bad. But today I am thankful that I can say "Happy Birthday, Mother!"
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Basketball season has begun. Knowing that my mother has always catered to this sport, gives me a bit of satisfaction, thinking that this will provide me with an incentive to make her want to stay up a little later at night without begging to go to bed with the chickens. Entertaining a person with dementia for a length of time is next to impossible. For my mother, it's more than that. Along with Basketball season, came the end of daylight savings time. Keeping mother up until 8:30 each night has always been a formidable task. Now that we have moved our clocks back one hour, one practically has to stand on their head and juggle oranges in front of her to keep her from saying those four words; "I'm going to bed!" It's not that I don't want her to go to bed early, it's the knowing that if she does, there's a good chance that her sleep will run out sometime in the wee hours and you will be the recipient of it all.
It's two hours prior to mother's bed time and I have already heard those dreaded words. I start out by asking if she's hungry. Mother has always been a fan of anything chocolate or nutty. Here lately, she will not touch either. I continue down a long line of things she might be interested in. Nothing doing. As I've mentioned before, due to agitation, mother sits and rises at least 10 times within a time span of 5 minutes. She'll get up, walk over to an object and mumble some unusual words that have no rhyme or reason. Tonight, my dog Sophie, lies sleeping in the middle of the floor. Mother gets up, walks over and points. I ask her what she needs. "Well, I just thought that dog needed winding up" she says. To say the least, this brings a chuckle from me and my husband. I coach mother to go back and lie down on the couch til bedtime. She obliges me. Lying there with legs outstretched, she says her knee is killing her. Well, mother does deal with a bum right knee so I assure her that I will give her a Tylenol before bed. She continues on with her complaining, so I say, which leg is it mother, she answers "You, know, my middle one!" Of course I laugh so I say, your middle one, which one is that. She says, "well, I mean the one on the outside!"
It's only a few more minutes before bed and we are all very much thankful. Since mother's dementia, she has a way of making you feel a little bit less of a nice person with her choice words. Before dementia, my mother would have never said a harmful word to me or anyone. Mother's little living space consists of a loveseat, which she sits on, a recliner, which my husband has claimed, and a wooden rocker which you guessed it, is mine. I am sitting pushed back watching TV, when I notice mother getting up. I don't turn, but just keep notice in my peripheral vision that she is walking over to me. I decide I had better take a look, since my husband Bob is stacking "Z's" in the comfy recliner and isn't paying attention to what his mother-in-law might be doing. When I turn, mother is standing before me. She has an unusual look on her face. I ask what she's doing. With a studdard or two, she says she is going to pass..to pass..I jokingly say..."Pass what..gas?" "No" she says..."I'm going to pass you some flesh." Well, as I keep telling you, I am a huge chicken. These words surprise me. I begin thinking what flesh, mine? Just a week prior to this, I had walked into mother's room and she began saying to me that there had not been a killing on her couch. I assured her that indeed she was right about that. Mother's television plays from morning to night, and my husband and I have figured out with all the murders and atrocities that are reported on the news, she must be storing this information and verbalizing it during times of distress.
Bedtime has arrived and no one is more thankful than I am. I, for one do not like the new time change, but as I have come to understand, if we live long enough, we will see that life itself is "full of change" some good, some bad!
Sunday, October 30, 2011
As I exit mother's room, I turn off the kitchen light. A hush comes over her apartment. Everything goes still. The television is blank, the lights are out. What have I done? I grab my phone and call my husband frantically, knowing I have less than 20 minutes to drop the girls off at school and get to work. No answer. I finally reach him several hours later, assuring me that it's something minor and not to worry.
Thinking the day will only get better, I do my duties at work, stop by the grocery store and head home. Mother's previous home is on my way, so I stop by to feed her faithful friend (dog) Annie. Turning into the drive, I stop and check her mailbox. I had been doing a lot of "self talk" on my way home and had just about convinced myself that possibly GOD isn't watching out for me like I thought HE should be.
Heading on up the driveway, I pull up to the house and notice Annie sitting in front of the garage, licking her leg. Fearful that something is wrong, I cram the car into park and jump out. Leaving behind, my keys, pocketbook and cell phone, not to mention a backseat full of groceries, including ice cream and butter. I quickly do a back step, with my hand over my eyes. Knowing that my car only sports one set of keys to it's name, I fear for the worse. As I peep inside, my fears are founded. The doors are locked. Here I am, a mile off the beaten path, wearing dress pumps and nursing a right knee from weedeating days prior, did not make my heart jump for joy. What to do. There was one last hope; my car happens to be equipped with an electronic key pad, however, it has been ages since it has worked properly. Knowing that I wasn't exactly batting a 1000 today, I figured "par for the course" would be my slogan. Just as I thought, it wouldn't budge the locks. With nothing else to do, like a captain leaving his ship, I take out walking. That had to have been the longest mile I have ever endured. With thoughts of hitchhiking if the neighbors were gone, I knocked on the door, luckily, they were there. What a Good Samaritan Ms. Brenda was for taking me home.
Entering the house, I see that my daughter still had mother out on an errand. This gave me a moment to call my husband and give him some more bad news of his wife's calamities, again. "Triple A" was called, and daughter Blythe arrived home with mother. Knowing that it should be time for her to use the facilities. I instruct mother to the bathroom and say goodbye to Blythe. I glance to the right and see my 83 year old mother getting ready to sit down about a foot short of the commode. Screaming out "MOTHER!" I sprint to rescue her, tossing both of us out into the shower below. Knowing that mother could be hurt, I jump up, rush to see if Blythe had pulled away yet and with my first luck of the day, see her just getting into her car. We hurry back in, and pull mother to safety. With no more than a bruise, she is fine.
The day finally comes to an end, with butter and ice cream a mere mushy mess. I remember the doubts I had earlier of GOD's faithful presence. My prayer has always been and will always be through this crazy "up and down" journey with my mother, is that I can serve HIM while serving her.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Time and time again, I have told you in my posts that I am a chicken of major proportions when it comes to scary things. Lately, I have screamed with high intensity more than I can ever remember in my life and my 83 year old mother is the culprit.
I am having trouble figuring out, just how can someone who creeps at a snails pace, make it into my body space within 5 seconds of my turning around without a rope being tied to my body and carrying her behind me.
I had just put mother down for a nap on her couch, when I decided I would hurry to the kitchen and prepare our supper. I had just made it in, bent down to grab a pan and felt the presence of someone. Knowing it couldn't possibly be mother, I slowly turned and low and behold there she stood with a "can I help you do something?" Dropping the pan to the floor, I let out a blood curdling scream that would wake anything, living or dead.
It was getting late in the evening and I decided to rush outside and do some needed weedeating. Since I would be just outside the window in mother's room, I told her to stay on the couch and watch me as I did the dreaded deed. As I made my way toward her window, I cast my eyes through the panes with hands to the glass. There before me were two big mother eyes, staring right back at me. Screaming so loud that everybody in the neighborhood could hear I nearly fell over backwards.
Entering mother's apartment early in the morning has taken on a new meaning lately. I jumped out of bed, ran down the stairs, gathered her pills in my kitchen and opened her door. Heading on in to open the blinds and do my usual routine before tapping gently on my sleeping mother's door, I paid no attention to my mother sitting quietly on her couch. As I raised my hand to knock, a voice called my name, "Jean, I'm here!" I turned to my right and there she sat with that all knowing grin. Once again, a blood curdling scream came out of my mouth with a jolt of adrenalin that would last me the rest of the day.
As I write this post, I have to say, it makes me smile to think that the one person who has chased away countless ghosts and goblins from a little girls nightmares, is the one thing that now makes her scream.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
I am able to see mother's dementia in a different light now, not to say, I don't still have my moments, because I do.
Recently, my youngest daughter made a statement to me which I already knew but couldn't fully grasp, "Mother, Mema is a child again." On many occasions, this statement has played true. I recall the morning I had given her pills to her, leaving her to take them with a cup of water, while I busied around. Entering the room, I can see that her water cup was missing. Many mornings I had experienced this event; the missing water, just where had mother thrown it. The answer to this question could be, in the gas log fireplace, down an old churn which held dried flowers or out on the deck. All of these have occurred. This morning I ask, "mother, where did you put your water?" "O, I threw it out to the chickens" she replies. As I open the door to the deck, I glance to my right and see water splattered all over her bedroom. Apparently mother had been the owner of chickens in her pass life and an urge to feed them played out this morning.
It's a long awaited weekend away for my husband and I and mother will be staying with my sister Sue. We are taking her to their house which is an hour away. Mother seems perfectly content. After a quick nap, I notice that she seems unusually confused. "Where are we going Bobby?" she asks. We tell her over and over but nothing seems to answer her question. We arrive and enter the house, mother sits like a little child whom her parents have taken her to camp for a week and will soon be leaving. "Where are the people that live here at?" she inquires. "Will they care if I eat their food?" We answer her questions and try to assure her that she is at her daughter's house. Pointing out pictures of her grandchildren who we reminded her, grew up in this house. While we are away, my sister and husband tell of many inquiries from mother about Daddy and Normer, mother's stepmother, who had brought her there, in reality; my husband and I. Upon our return, mother seems fine. Heading back home, she asked if Daddy had us to come pick her up.
The role of mother and daughter has become reversed and it is not an easy task. This in itself is a mind bender. Giving your mother a set bedtime at night and enforcing it with her sassing you, arguments over time to take a bath, "eat your food," "put your shoes own before going outside," "remember to brush your teeth," "Wash your hands." I could go on and on.
In my darkest times I have asked the Lord, "Why have you handed me this cup?" "Mother and I had such a beautiful mother daughter relationship through the years, why didn't You just let her grow old and die and then I would be able to cherish the memories that we had made with fondest thoughts." Every time, my answer is the same; it is in HIS will. "Thank you God, for allowing me to have my mother, even as a child."
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Each morning before work, I head up mother's driveway only to see "Annie" frolicking through the yard on her way to greet me. Previous plans were made to bring Annie up to my house in a small fenced in back yard, allowing her to come in and visit with mother as often as possible. Reality sat in and as much as I wish it could have came to fruition, it just wasn't feasible. With mother in a small confined area and a dog of Annie's stature and energy, would soon make a fall for mother. Not to mention, the confined space Annie would have to endure, opposed to the spacious farm to which she was accustomed. I feed and water Annie and head on to work.
It's becoming time now for mother's house to be put on the market. Attempts have been made to clean out and dispose of the most personal items which mother and her late husband Yates held so dear. It seems uncomfortably eerie, sorting through and tossing out. As time goes by, it becomes unbearable for me to remove anything from the house. On one occasion, my husband and I had gone down in late evening, to try to sort through some items in the basement. I'm not sure what came over me, but I suddenly burst into tears and ran up the stairs ordering my husband Bob to take me home. Every item tells it's own story; from the curtains to the rugs, remembering the pride and joy that each of these "things" had meant to my mother when first purchased, breaks my heart. Who am I to dispose of these personal treasures as if they were yesterday's garbage.
Today, my family and I have finally completed the transition. New flooring, a fresh coat of paint inside and out and thorough cleaning has made mother's house suitable for a new family to move in.
I often ask mother what she remembers about her past home of some 20 years. Receiving a reply of "well you know, I lived over there in that house with your daddy on Skyuka road." I have mentioned in previous blogs that there are times when dementia can be your friend. This is one of them.
Glancing around at precious items in my own house. I'm aware that the day will come when my three children will be in the same shoes that I wear today, disposing of my belongings which I have held so dear in days gone by. Somehow, just knowing this to be true, makes it a little easier to say goodbye.
Friday, August 5, 2011
It's been a really good day, as my two youngest grandchildren had come to spend the afternoon with me and mother. I was really amazed at how nice and well behaved she was in dealing with them for on many occasions, mother has been less than pleasant to say the least, when any of my grandchildren would come to visit. Since dementia, she seems to have no patience with children or teenagers, contradicting her very fiber as she has always been a loving, and devoted grandmother throughout the years.
It's getting time for me to take the children home. My husband Bob has called and informed me that he is only five minutes away from his return from work, so I decide to leave mother safely in her apartment and head on out. When I return, I see that it's not long from being time to give mother's evening medications. I run upstairs to leave my purse and hurry back down. At the bottom of the stairs awaits an irate mother. "What in the world am I doing here?" she questions. "I need to get home, I have folks waiting on me!" she continues. "Mother, just have a seat in your blue chair over there while I get your medicine and we'll talk." I tell her. As I make my way into the kitchen, I hear her call to me, "Do I need to call Jean and tell her to come get me?" she says. I pause for a minute and say, "Mother, I AM Jean." "Well, I know you are, but I'm talking about the "other Jean" that lives with me and Bryson.
I have written in previous blogs about mother thinking that she has someone in her life that looks like and bears the same name as her late husbands, Bryson and Yates, but they're not really them she says, just looks like them. Lately, she has mistaken me for her late Stepmother, Normar and various caregivers who have come to stay with her for awhile, but for her to say that there's "another Jean" somewhere, has really grabbed my attention.
I walk into the livingroom to see her sitting there in the blue chair with a lined brow, as if she is trying fervently to figure the whole thing out. I assure her again that I'm the only Jean there is, but add on that if she ever sees the other one again, to let me know and I'll come and change places with her. Mother gives up a little grin at that one and seems to come out of her rage. I have oftened wondered just why mother's mind has made up duplicates of the people in her life. Is it because she longs for them, but "better" ones. Possibly she thought I wasn't satisfying her need at that moment, remembering the person I used to be, the little girl that followed her around all day, idolizing her every move. Would "that Jean" come and rescue her from this dreaded place?
I think we all strive our whole life through, to become a better person. How unfair it is to those suffering from dementia who never have a chance to fulfill that quest.
Years ago, I was asked to sing at a funeral for a beautiful lady in our community who had met with a tragic death. I was taken by a poem that was printed in her memorial which she had penned and have kept it all these years. Many times when I felt that I was being a little less than what I should have been, I would take it out and read it, just to remind me that we are all human and yearn to be a little bit better.
A Better Me
The me I wish I could be
Would never harm a soul,
Could never speak in angry tones,
Or have a selfish goal,
And no more wrong of harmful deeds
I'd ever want to do,
If this perfect ideal me
Could be a picture true.
The me I wish I could become
Will never really be,
But simply wanting such a thing
Will make a better me.---Dianne Jackson
Friday, July 22, 2011
I have informed my brother and sister that when I cry UNCLE...I will mean it... One day I must admit, I actually texted my sister Sue, the letters UNC, signalling to her that I was half minded to give up, but got to thinking that she would think I was talking about my youngest daughter who had just left for college at UNC-Wilmington, and didn't send it.
If anyone out there who reads this blog is considering caring for a loved one with dementia in their home,I must tell you, that it is a monumental task. In all honesty, it is much more than one or even two people can handle 24/7. No matter the stamina, willpower, determination that one may have, nothing can prepare you for what lies ahead. I could be less than honest and tell you that it will be worth it all, but quiet frankly, I'm not sure.
My day begins at 6:00 a.m., when I crawl out of bed,shower,dress. There is never a day when I can roll back over and say, wake me in an hour. Not even on the weekend. I head on down the stairs grimacing as I sneak to the bottom step, hoping not to see my mother peering at me through the glass doors which separate my house into her apartment. Several mornings, I have awakened to knocks on those doors, scaring the life out of me and others.
I head into the kitchen and gather her medicine for the morning. Opening the doors, I smile when I see that she's still in her bedroom, giving me a moment to open the blinds, adjust the air conditioner and take a deep breath. I quietly knock on her door as I call "You awake?" "Just a little bit" she'll say. "Hoppy jump" I say. Knowing that mother can barely roll over and get out of bed, I encourage her to perform this awesome task each morning so that she can stay independent as long as possible. Not that helping her would be beneath me, I just want her to continue doing certain things as long as possible. She finally is able to put her feet on the floor and stands to waddle across the room to the bathroom. She cloth bathes herself with necessary instructions each morning, finishing up with my dressing her, step by step. I instruct her as to where to sit as I go for her morning meds, which lay on her small kitchen table. With water in hand, I place her most important pill on the tip of her tongue, "the happy pill" or Haloperidol. Making sure mother takes this pill has become more and more important to me and others as her dementia progresses. The remainder of her meds are placed on the sofa beside her and she will take them one by one. I hurry to the kitchen to make her coffee and collect a small do-nut, knowing very well that she will only take two sips and one or two bites of the do-nut, and out they'll go to the cat.
Preparing her lunch is simple, but thinking of something that she will actually eat is another thing. I quickly make her lunch for the day and place it in the refrigerator.
Giving her the daily instructions, I leave her as my daughter takes over until I return from work.
Mother's dog Annie remains on her farm, so I stop by feed and water her for the day. It is now only 7:45 am.
My part-time job has become my salvation as being there is the easiest part of my day. Heading back home, I am tired and long for a few free moments to call my own. As I drive up to my house, I take a deep breath and wonder what lies ahead as I enter mother's room. My daughter leaves and mother and I are at home alone until my husband arrives from work, around 5:30 p.m. I have found myself glued to mother's room, watching television, making small talk or just keeping her company, all the while my house and dirty laundry of my own lies stagnant, as they yearn for me to do my duty.
After hours of dementia episodes, questions that have no answers, words with no rhyme or reason, bed time arrives at 8:45 pm. The routine begins with my bossy instructions and end with a goodnight and "I love you, mother."
My husband and I head upstairs to grab a few words in privacy about events of the day, retiring to bed, only to awake the next morning to do it all over again.
My writing this blog today, feels a little uncomfortable. My intentions are not for you to feel sorry for me,but to share my daily ups and downs with mother. Which is the reason I decided to share with you in this blog from day one if you are a child, spouse, friend or caregiver of someone who suffers from dementia. I just want you to know that you are not alone as well as telling you that if your efforts are for any reason other than a committed love to your loved one, you are not going to survive. It is not a part-time or full-time job, but an ALL-time job.
A friend of mine repeats this saying to me from time to time. "Mother took care of all seven of her children, and all seven of her children can't take care of mother." I'm beginning to believe it.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
It has been a very hot and humid summer and the grass seems to be growing relentlessly. I have grabbed my weedeater as soon as my husband Bob got in from work so that mother would have some company while I do this dastardly deed. Even though it is a little late, I head on out.
As I climb the bank at the road, I notice Bob leaving. I suddenly remember that tonight is his Rescue Squad meeting. Not wanting to leave mother alone, I hurriedly finish up and notice that my watch says 7:15 pm. Being in such a hurry to rush out and begin my summer chore, I had forgotten to give mother her evening medications, putting her behind approximately two hours or more.
As I open the kitchen door, I see her sitting in the livingroom with a Windstream phonebook in hand. I call to her and let her know that I'll be bringing her p.m. medications to her as soon as I get them prepared. Walking over to her, I can see that she has no concern about her medications being late. She continues to thumb through the pages of the phonebook. "What are you looking for mother?" I ask. "Well, I was wanting to call your daddy and see why he hasn't been to see me since I moved here" she answered. "I'm trying to find our telephone number, do you remember it?" she asks. How heartbreaking it is to see your mother looking through a phonebook for a telephone number that has been long removed as well as the person for whose name she searches, "Bryson Gibson."
It's been some 20 years now since daddy left us for a much better place, "Heaven."
Many times, my siblings and I had felt our daddy a little slighted, since she had fell madly in love with her second husband Yates. Watching our Dad take the back seat in mother's affections even though we all loved Yates, felt a little strange.
I've been noticing lately that mother hasn't made reference to her second husband Yates or anything pertaining to their life together of nearly 19 years.
All that's on mother's mind tonight is "where is Bryson?" Going down the list of Gibsons in the phonebook, mother comes across my Uncle Lawrence, daddy's baby brother's name. She acts as if she's found an Easter egg as she exclaims, "Here's Lawrence's number, we can call him and see if he knows where Bryson is." I finally feel the need to remind her that daddy has passed, thinking that this will end her fantasy. "He didn't die did he?" she inquires. "Yes mother, he's been gone for about 20 years now. "Are you sure? I just can't believe he's dead. Let's look and see if Aunt Ruth's number is in here, is she still alive? "Yes mother, but I'm telling you that Daddy isn't with us anymore." Just as soon as it leaves my lips, she comes up with another idea of how we can find out where daddy is.
As the night wears on, it's soon mother's bedtime, and I must say, I'm ready for it. Worn out from explaining to her over and over again that daddy is no longer with us and just how it all came about, I am exhausted. I have promised her if she goes to bed now, that we will go visit his gravesite and have lunch out tomorrow. This seems to appease her and she gladly crawls into bed.
I have fondly given mother a nickname, "Snuffy" which is short for "Mr. Snufflelupagus" a character off Sesame Street, which reminds me of her as she climbs into bed each night at the pace of a snail.
It seems that mother isn't the only one as slow as a snail around the Edwards' household today. It will be a long time before I'm slow to give mother her evening meds again.
Monday, June 27, 2011
It's getting pretty late, and my husband and I are watching television with mother in her livingroom in her small apartment which is conveniently located through a set of double doors just off my livingroom. I'm yawning and so is mother, signaling to me that it's bedtime for both of us. I ask mother if she's ready for bed and she says "yes." My husband Bob who has always been called "Bobby" as long as I can remember to friends and family alike is sitting back in the recliner just to the back right of mother who lies on the loveseat. "Do you want to sleep with me, I have a nice double bed just right in there" mother inquires. "No mother" I reply, I have a bed upstairs I sleep in with Bobby." "Bobbie!" she exclaims, what in the world are you going to sleep with Bobbie for?" "Mother! Bobby is my husband silly." "Bobbie who?" she asks. "Bobby Edwards of course." "Oh, I thought you were talking about my sister Bobbie." Bobbie, mother's youngest sister who died with breast cancer at an early age of 62 has been gone for some fifteen years now, but mother's dementia won't allow her to retain her passing.
Monday has arrived and I'm wanting to cook something that mother really enjoys eating as well as something that will last a couple of days so I won't have to cook every day. Chicken 'n dumplings have been a specialty of mine for a while now and mother seems to agree. I've announced to her that I will be going by the grocery store when I get off work today to purchase the ingredients and will hurry home to make them in time for supper.
Making my way through the diningroom, I catch a glimpse of mother sitting reared back in my once favorite sitting chair by the piano in my livingroom. "Howdy!" I call to her. "How was your day?" I ask. "O, pretty fair" she answers back. "How was yours?" ""Bout the same, I guess." I follow. I step on into my kitchen, which blocks the view from mother as I unpack my groceries and proceed to make my dumplings. "Do you drive or does somebody bring you home?" comes a weird question from the livingroom. "I drive of course!" "O, well I thought somebody carried you back and forth," she snaps. A little inquisitive, but figure it's par for the course, I continue my cooking.
After some forty-five minutes later, and many strange remarks to me from mother, I declare that my dumplings have been made. Walking into the livingroom, I see that she has stepped into her apartment for some reason or other and is waddling back through the double doors. Mother looks at me and says, "Normar, I could have helped you in there if you'd just let me!" she says. "Normar!" I shout. "Mother, I'm not Normar!" "Well where is she?" Mother hurriedly goes into the kitchen calling for Normar. I assure her that Normar is no longer among the living and that I was the one who was slaving in the kitchen. She cannot believe that Normar is not here. "Well, I was just talking to her, and she answered me," she says. "Mother that was me, I tell her. "No it wasn't, I know you, I was talking to Normar and she was telling me that she had been to that place in Columbus working all day." "That was me!" I try to convince. I call for her to come into her place. "Jean, what in the world is wrong with me" she asks. "Well, you just got a little confused mother, I tell her." With a blank look on her face, she sits looking into the distance as if she is reliving her conversation with her long departed step-mother, pausing to remind me of things she had asked and "Normar" had answered as she prepared the dumplings just hours before.
Once again, dementia has played a cruel trick on me and mother. That night while readying myself for bed, I take a close look at myself in the mirror and wonder why mother thought me to be her stepmother Normar. Was it my hair which I had just cut the day before. I hold many memories of spending the night at "Normar's house, watching as she slept with her arm propping her head up, off the pillow, so as not a hair would touch, keeping every strand in place. Or was it because Normer liked to cook chicken 'n dumplings for her family? Knowing that I would never have an answer in this lifetime, I jump into bed and have a quiet chuckle to myself as I fall asleep, head on pillow and not a strand in place.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The sight of my 83 year old mother, standing in front of the Senior Day Care, practically trembling with fear that she would be left with strange people for hours on end brought back uncomfortable memories of my own.
It was 1960, and mother has informed me that I would be starting first grade the next day. Being the baby of the family, as well as a huge mama's girl, created a mixture of anxiety and fears not yet known to a small frail six year old. Mother took a job outside the home the year prior to my starting school. She is in a hurry to get to work and has no time to take her youngest daughter to the first day of school. My Aunt Bobbie, mother's youngest sister, has agreed to do the dreaded deed. Mother hurriedly drops me off at Aunt Bobbie's and I am told to behave and go with her or else.
I remember well, the tears and tight fist clinching of the kitchen chair as I was warned to let go and get in the car or the sheriff would come and hunt down my mother and put her in jail due to neglecting to take her children to school. I quickly complied and off to Stearns Elementary I was hauled. Entering the room, I could see children with their mothers, hand in hand, as they began their first day of school. My Aunt Bobbie had a job of her own at the County Courthouse, so she said her goodbyes as I was left alone to spend a day of eternity with a pit of strangers. As I spied around the room, I could see one lady who seemed to notice me, Mrs. Cleo Geer. How ironic that this woman would one day serve as my eight grade basketball coach. I started to walk closer to this woman who was almost as beautiful as my mother, and I decided to really get noticed. Flopping down in her lap, my 50 lb body went limp as I pretended to faint. Mrs. Geer promptly snatched me up and ran for fresh air. Some 50 years have gone by, and I still fill those all familiar butterflies when I find myself meeting new people.
As we wait for the door to open, I chant to my mother "my poor little mommy it will be alright, don't worry." We are greeted at the door and mother seems to be all accepting. I remind her that I will return at 1:00 pm and head off to work. As I return, I can see that mother is putting on one of her acts. No one is the smarter to her, but me. We say our goodbyes and as we leave the room, mother whispers that she will NOT be going back.
It's Thursday and time for the second day of Senior Day Care. Mother can't remember anything that's happened two minutes prior, but she can remember that she does not want to go back to Day Care. I am unable to get her to agree to go, so I quickly dial my sister Sue's number. I can see mother's expressions as she argues with her on the phone. I never asked what my sister said to her, but she told me that she had reminded mother that I had been good to her and that she should do as I asked. I would have imagined that she had mentioned some things that included assisted living or nursing home for a turn around in mother that was shown. "Well, I guess I'll go, but I sure don't want to!" she smarts. Off we go for our second day. Mother seemed to enjoy this day a little more, even though she whispered the same remark to me as we were leaving that afternoon, "I'll NOT be coming back!"
This past month has brought many tears to both me and my mother. But with the Lord's help, I will survive this awesome task that lies ahead. Some days are good, some are not.
My mother and I were watching a Television Evangelist last Sunday morning as he played the piano and sang "The Love of God." To my dismay, mother began to sing along with him, knowing every word by heart. Knowing most things about my mother, I couldn't believe that she knew this song. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, I work in a Baptist Association office. Just today, my Director of Missions entered the work room and announced that he had gotten in the mail, a free CD with sample songs for the Christmas season and asked if I would like to listen. I agreed and the CD began to play. "The Love of God" came on. How could it be that this song was playing when I had only heard it one other time in many years days before when my mother sang along with the TV Evangelist. Only one thing made sense to me, God was speaking. He said, "Jean, be patient and kind to this dear woman that I've entrusted in your care. She's been mine for many years now and I love her as I love you. All day long, I have thought of this incident. How small I felt as I sat there listening.
A new song has come into my heart now, as I go about the daily task of caring for mother.
"The Love Of God"
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fil
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song
Friday, June 10, 2011
It all started last Sunday when we decided to take mother to a restaurant after church. What in the world were we thinking. My husband made the unfortunate decision to take us all out to eat in a town that included traveling on the interstate. If you ever decide to drive a dementia person on a trip, make sure they're in the back seat, or blind folded. My mother rarely has a bad word to say when it comes to my husband Bob, but this time, she spared no one. As we stand in line, I can see my mother visibly shaking. "What in the world is wrong with you mother?" I ask. "I'm mad at Bobby!" she snaps. "What for?" "I can't believe he brought us up here!" I look the other way as we are escorted to our table. As we are seated, spurts of "I wished I'd stayed home" to "this is the last time I'm coming here" are overheard by whispering onlookers. The same person that catnapped in church that day, retorted back at her "well, no one will ever bring you back mother, if you don't hush." As the waitress takes our order, Mother becomes more and more outraged,forcing me to make her food choices. We wait an unusual long time for our food and mother is irate. With remarks about the tea to the decore of the room, she was not a happy camper. The food finally arrives as mother taunts the waitress "well, it's about time!"
A visit to the doctor this week indicates that mother has low hemoglobin and needs a colonoscopy to rule some things out. She has agreed to the doctor and myself that she will comply. Appointment dates are made, only to get her home and statements of "You can forget that!" are rolling off her lips. I'm not sure about you, but forcing someone with dementia or no dementia, to drink a gallon of yuck is not on my priority list. I will need much prayer to pull this one off.
Mother spends much of her days, watching the squirrels, doves and crows, eating acorns and shelled corn which my husband has carefully placed around the firepit just so his mother-in-law can have a first hand view of all the wildlife at her new surroundings. Mother rarely mentions the live nature, only to complain about the ugly old wooden bear that stands six feet high outside her window. "Why in the world would anybody want something like that near their house is beyond me" she complains.
Next week will bring a change. I have decided to take mother to the new Senior Day Care Center in the town where I work, just for a trial visit. I fear that mother will have many choice words for me and those folks before the day is over.
Only God knows how much I love my mother. Only He can remind me of this love as I care for her. I pray for much needed strength and patience as I make my way down the stairs each morning.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
It's been seventeen days now since mother's arrival. I must say, adjustments have been made and I am feeling a little more settled but still a little addled. I have asked my sister Sue to come after church services for her weekly visit so I can continue the tradition of dining out with family on Sunday afternoon.
Mother is a little hesitant to go to church, but with words of encouragement and her "happy pill", I can maneuver her in most things. It seems that dementia isn't the only trickster in the house.
I've decided to take mother for preaching only until I see how she fairs in public. It's been about three years now since she has attended church services. With questions as to where I attend church and just how long it takes to get there, we head off to Silver Creek Baptist Church. Mother is a very independent lady, who frowns at wheelchairs, canes and walkers. I gently lead her up to the ramp and tell her to be careful going up. "Well,what are you putting me on this thing and you high tailing it up the steps for?" she barks. Mr. Duke greets mother with a "Hi darling!" and mother's tone changes. Walking into the church, I see that she is in her element. Well wishers, old friends alike, gather to mother's pew. Everyone is glad to see this lady who has taught Sunday School, sang in choir, a deacon's wife to name a few.
As we stand to sing, I whisper to mother that she can remain seated, since she has a hard time getting up and down. With a "what did you say?" beating me to my feet, I chuckle quietly. Mother's beautiful alto voice is still audible, singing every note as loud as she can. As the message is delivered, I notice that mother is nodding. With a slight elbow, I give her a nudge. She opens her eyes and shakes her fist at me with a tight lip; a look that I've seen in my childhood days when my sister and I would be misbehaving.
The Lord's Supper is being served today and the juice tray is passed. Empty holes where cups of juice should sit are visible but mother cannot see them since she won't wear her glasses. She sticks her finger in the hole thinking a cup is there. With several unsuccessful attempts to snare a cup, I quickly grab one and pass it to her. It's time to go and the pastor announces for us to sing a song and go out. I whisper to mother that we can slip out now to get a start on the crowd, knowing that it will take me a while to get her to the car. In her stern voice, she says "No, we're supposed to sing a song, didn't you hear what he said!" She begins to sing "Blest Be the Tie" in unison, rather loudly with that smug look on her face that only she can give when she has out smarted her "bossy" daughter.
All in all, it has been a good day. We arrive back home and my sister and husband relieve us for the afternoon. I just know that God had a big smile on his face today when mother came to church.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
So much anticipation of mother's arrival had kept me awake many nights. Never having to sleep away from home at mother's house again, jumping up at 4:30 am to the call of the alarm clock was something that would not be missed.
Visions of my sister and I taking mother on a long awaited beach trip when all was settled in lay hidden in the back of my mind. Many times had the Gibson family, traveled to "Crescent Beach" which was located just north of Myrtle Beach, SC. A quaint little motel called "By the Sea" equipped with cabanas for those wanting to beach watch, housed our family of 6 on many summer days. My sister had informed me that the motel was far from what I had remembered and would not be inviting to stay at any longer. I also believe that Crescent beach itself is long gone from the landscape as well, becoming "North Myrtle Beach." Nevertheless, I still dreamed of taking mother back to the beach just one last time, watching her sit in those breezy cabanas. Even though she probably wouldn't even remember being there five minutes after we had left.
Thoughts of sticking my head into mother's room to just say "hi," inviting her to go for a ride to the grocery store or to a child or grandchild's event were just some of the things I envisioned us doing. Not to mention cooking and baking for her, lots of yummy things to eat, just like she had done for me so many times in the past.
As my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Swain might have said..."Jean, wake up and quit dreaming!" Popping my head into mother's place was indeed just a dream. With every waking hour, the creak of my french doors has startled the best of us, morning, noon and night. Thinking that you have done all you can for her and she's situated safely and contented on her old comfy love seat with snacks in hand, I rush off upstairs to do some long needed ironing. Asking my daughter a question from my bedroom, a voice comes from downstairs with a quick answer to my question. I lay down my ironing and rush down to see if it indeed was my mother who could hardly get about yet, had made it into my livingroom in that amount of time. This scenario has played out for most of the four days that she's been here. For some reason, mother's dementia won't let her understand that she lives in one space and we live in another. Her flat houses a small kitchen, living area, bedroom and bathroom, yet she insists on coming in and using our facilities.
Another dream that has come to a sudden halt, is all the cooking I wanted to do for her. Spending most of my day baking on Saturday, chicken casserole, slaw, green beans, cornbread, strawberry salad and sweet tea, some of mother's past delicacies, are pushed aside for a craving of a blt or hotdog.
My youngest daughter has been accepted to a teaching fellowship at UNC Wilmington. A trip to "the beach" is suddenly a dream come true. I will finally get my chance to take mother on that long awaited trip next week. While going for a Sunday ride around our community with my husband Bob as our chauffeur, we begin to tell mother of our plans to go check out our daughter's new graduate school located near the beach and that she would be traveling with us. "Well, have fun!" she says. "I've had enough of the beach to last me a lifetime!" were some of her laments. Dream bubble number 23 burst!
My husband and mother sit down in her "granny flat" watching old reruns of "Hee Haw" while I steel away to do some blogging. I'm not sure what kind of dream it is I'm having but I must say, I'm ready to wake up!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Since my last post, I have hardly had the time or effort to record anything which has transpired. Some, I'll write about, and some I choose not to.
A new doctor, a stay in the hospital,new medications and a week away from mother's move to my house, seems to be bringing dementia more and more to the front burner in my life. I find myself with a tiny buzz inside my brain and stomach most of the day. If you've ever used one of those personal face fans and remember the tiny motor sound that it makes as you fan, you can know that this is what it feels like. Tears, panic attacks, chicken little episodes are all just a thought away. Another word for this is "stress."
I have learned lots more about dementia in these past weeks. Some helpful, some worrisome. While talking to some dementia specialist and just those who are going through the same issues as I am, I have found some answers to questions that I thought had none.
I was able to speak with a nurse who cares for dementia patients and is well informed. She told me that even a change of my voice, the way I walked into the room or turned my head, could all cause my mother to go into an "episode." But one of the most helpful answers I have come across, to a question I have had for a long time now is "where is the home that mother longs for?" A friend told me that she had discovered the answer in a dementia training. "Home" is really not a place, but a "state of mind." The feeling of being insecure, unsafe, possibly unloved, causes this "wanting to go home." I have gone back to the most recent episodes of mother's wanting to go home, and agree that it has been when she had reason to feel insecure.
A friend who works with dementia patients in a nursing home environment, sent me a packet of wonderful information as well. Included was lots of very helpful tips on how to caregive. My husband said that I didn't have to read the material, that all I had to do was the "opposite" of what I had been doing and it would be what the info said. As I began to read, one thing stood out to me. Never give dementia patients more than two choices, because it will confuse them. I would imagine that during the time of one of mother's rantings and ravings, when I gave her two choices; either to go to a nursing home or to jail, didn't count. So many things I have said or done that was merely a human reaction and not neccessarily the right one, can cause feelings of guilt. I have been told that these feelings and reactions are only human and a part of it all through trial and error.
I have come to realize being a mother myself, there are many parallels to a dementia patient and a young child. While on a trip back from mother's new doctor in a different town, we encountered a thunderstorm that seemed to follow us all the way home. Mother was already in the back seat due to her fear of my "driving skills." As the rain battered down and cloud to ground lightening flashed everywhere, mother became unconsolable. I began to sing the song "My Lord is Near Me all the Time," and reminded her of words she had said to me many times through out my life. "If God can't take care of us now, when can He?" I must admit, it felt a little unnerving to hear myself in the role of her parent. As we pulled into the garage, I ran around the car to help her exit. "Just get the little boys out first," she ordered. Just as a little child would do, with her mind, she had created imaginary friends during her time of distress.
Mother's "granny flat" is almost completed. We should be having our final inspection within days. I know that I have enough love for my mother to care for her on a daily basis, I just hope I have enough strength!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Mother's second husband Yates, was well described as a simple gentleman who loved all children and would always have a silly song for them. He would sit quietly with a grin, but hidden intelligence was not far away. My husband Bob might very well have some of the same qualities as Yates had, quiet, a grin or two and all knowing about most things, although I would never let him know I thought this. Since he never reads my blogs, my secret is safe.
One evening, I had come to mother's ahead of my husband Bob. Mother seemed antsy as to when he would be coming and just where he was as she sat on the corner of her couch peering out the window for the first sign of headlights. As we sat together, mother began to talk about her "Hersband." She started with a couple of words such as "well, you know I have a man that's been staying here, don't you?" You can imagine my response to this information. "What do you mean?" I said. "Well, you know, we're not married or anything, he just lives here sometimes. "Ah, mother, you don't have a husband" I said, "you must be thinking about Yates and he passed away, years ago!" "No I'm not" she replied. This is a man that comes here and stays with me and he tends to the cows some, but he sorta looks like Yates." "Are you talking about Donald, mother?" I asked. Donald was Yates and mother's longtime friend and cattle partner. "No Jean, do you not think I have better sense to know who Donald is!" she snapped.
The night went on, and Bob finally came in. Feeling a little more tired than usual, I decided to go to bed early. Mother felt the same, so she followed my cue, leaving Bob to watch TV and cat nap. I had just closed my eyes, when I felt someone's presence at the door. I sat up in bed and saw mother's silhouette from the night light in the hall. I quickly inquired as to what she wanted. "I have two quick questions to ask you," she said. "Alright, but hurry up." "Well, I was just thinking, if I had a husband that was in there in the livingroom, would you know it?" she sheepishly asked. "Yes, mother and that's my husband Bobby in there, you know that!" "Are you sure? she asked. "Yes I'm sure, now what's the second question, so we can go to sleep?" "Well, I was just wondering whose house this is." That last question was one that I had heard hundreds of time and wasn't surprised, but I must say, the first one threw me a little. Mother went on back to bed and we both seemed to get a good nights rest.
A couple of nights later, the same scenario had happened with my mother and I going to bed before my husband Bob. Mother had developed a bad cough and administering cough medicine to a dementia patient is not a good idea, as it could alter their state of mind even more drastically. I suddenly remembered the many times that I had awakened as a child, coughing my head off when mother would appear with a spoon full of honey or jelly. I crept into the kitchen and looking through the refrigerator, spied a jar of peach jelly. I grabbed a spoon and headed on down the hall. "Mother, I whispered at her door, I'm coming in to give you some jelly for your cough." "Alright, come on in," she said. I opened the door and walked over to her bed. She sat up and looked at me standing there with my spoon and jar of jelly. A strange look came over her face as she leaned her head over and looked into the dark of her vanity room behind me, saying, "Jean, there's somebody back there that's trying to talk to you." I turned to see just who she might be seeing, with first thoughts of her newly found "Hersband!" Seeing nothing but her vanity, I high tailed it out of there and jumped in bed pulling the covers over my head like a little child.
As the days went on, mother began telling anybody and everybody about her "Hersband." Comments of, "should I ask him if it's alright" or "do you think he'll mind if I do." Were ever presence on mother's lips.
My husband and I had been called out of town on an unexpected family emergency. While traveling back, my car began to run hot. The next day was a Monday, and car repair was on the front burner for me. A car repair shop is within walking distance of my work, so I was able to leave my car there and pick it up the next day after the repairs had been done. Mother has a fairly new car which just sits in her garage, so I knew it would be a good choice for me to use. As I left her house, I informed her that I would be driving her car, but would return this afternoon. "O, that's fine, just make sure it has plenty of gas, do you need some money to fill it up?" "No mother, the tank is full," I said. "Well, just keep it as long as you need to." she invited. Feeling relieved that I had a second car to drive while mine was being repaired, I began to have a strange feeling that mother would go out and see her car gone and call the police. As I arrived at work, I made a call to remind her that I had taken her car and would return it later on in the day. As I returned, mother met me at the door and all up in arms. She had been pacing the floor with pocketbook on arm, anxiously awaiting for her "Hersband" to return with her car.
Weeks have gone by now and mother is still talking about "the man that stays here some." I just grin to myself as I look at my innocent husband sitting over in the recliner at mothers, knowing that she thinks of him as her "Hersband."
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Webster defines the word "home" as "one's place of residency." To my mother and others, home is much more than that. I'm sure that each of us could come up with our own definition of "home." Since mother's dementia, I have given more thought to, written more about and spoken more of the word "home" than ever before in my life. I dare say that for most of us, our home can and will be the place that defines the very person that lives inside each of us. It is where we were "built."
A friend of mine tells the story of an elderly man, who while confined to the local nursing home, would walk up and down the halls continuously chanting the words, "My name is Wilburn Clayton, and I want to go home." Authors have penned the word, songwriters sing about it, films have been made about it, children beg to go there and now I have learned that most of us yearn to return there; "home."
Here lately, we have been dealing with mother believing that she is in another town or state, living behind old store buildings, begging for someone to come and take her home. Through all of this, I have learned something new about Dementia. It is very important to keep the patient; or victim as I sometimes call it, as calm and pleasant as possible, with a daily routine that is familiar to them. Just one change in their surroundings or a switch in their usual day can trigger an episode of pure mayhem! I have come to realize that these "episodes" mostly happen when they become agitated, due to a change in routine. It is really strange to witness your own mother, sitting before you, in the same room, seeing a different place. Her surroundings are a total fabrication of the mind, as if she had designed a stage in a play and is living there. I have often asked mother, as to just which "house" it is that she is wanting to go home to, but rarely get the same answer.
I'm sure it's fair to say that all of us have lived in a special house that had a hand in shaping who we are today. It might not have been the most beautiful or most expensive house, just the one that we became "one" with. For me, it was the old house I grew up in, situated on Skyuka road in Columbus, NC. This is the house that "built me."
This past Christmas, my husband and I attended a Rescue Squad Banquet where we were seated with a man and his wife and their teenage son. The lady's elderly parents had bought my old home place back when mother married her late husband Yates. We began to talk about the old house and how it may become vacant in the near future due to failing health of the proprietors. I was enthralled in talking about this house to the point that my husband had to nudge me several times during the conversation. Imposing annoying questions on almost perfect strangers concerning certain little quirks about my old home didn't sit very well with him.
I directed my inquisitions at the son, who I thought might have paid closer attention to the small details of his grandparents house. I began on the line of "is it still there?" My first question was directed towards the old rose bush growing just to the left of the driveway. My sister Sue and I would hurry down there every Easter morning just to see who could find the biggest and prettiest red rose to pin onto our Easter dress, informing everyone that our mother, was living. This was important as a little girl, since my mother was everything to me.
Next, my thoughts meandered to the front porch. There to the right as you walk up the steps was an unusual marking, made with stucco. It was fourth grade, and my teacher, Mrs. Coleena Smith was coming for a visit. Up to this time, my house's exterior was ugly cinder block. The word coming from mother and daddy was that our house would soon be "stuccoed" with a new method that would actually look like "real brick!" I hoped and prayed that it would be completed in time for Mrs. Smith's visit, so she wouldn't think that I was just a poor little girl living in a cinder block house. Finally, the day had come for my teacher's annual visit in the home. The workers had completed stuccoing my house the day before and I was so excited. As a child, I sure couldn't tell that it wasn't real brick and I felt sure Mrs. Smith wouldn't either. As I took a tour of the worker's job, I noticed a strange marking, unlike the brick pattern, on one of the steps that resembled an "Indian symbol." I cried, knowing that this unusual marking would alert Mrs. Smith to the fact that our house had been covered in "stucco," instead of real brick.
Now, I enter the house. "Are the counters in the kitchen still orange?" I ask. The mother interrupts, to comment that she could never understand why anybody would put "orange" counter tops in a kitchen. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind that. I might mention that my mother also drove an "orange Volkswagen beetle" in those days as well. To the left as you enter the hallway was my mother and daddy's room. This room became a beacon to me growing up. Cracking the door and gently calling my mother's name on a sick day or a return from the prom, letting them know that I needed to share. The small bathroom housed an attic door, where I envisioned monsters peeking out at me when I was a child. On down was my brother Jay's room. Many a night, my brother would work hard to come up with schemes to scare the living daylights out of me and my sister Sue. One night in particular, he had tied a string to the clothes basket which sat directly outside our bedroom door. When lights had been turned out, brother Jay began to pull the string to his bedroom, giving the appearance of the basket moving all by itself. For two little girls, a "ghost"was in the house! At last my questions end with my bedroom. A room that had meant the world to me. Of course I had to ask about a certain hole in the sheetrock located in the rear of the clothes closet. The young man smiled as I told him the story of the love notes which had been stashed in that old hole as I was growing up.
Ever since that evening, I have had a fever to go back to that old house just one more time. It seems that mother isn't the only one who longs to to go home.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Yates had lived on a farm all his life, so when they wed, the cows and farm were already in place. Through the years, mother began to think of her cows as "family," naming the calves at birth and nursing those whose mother was unfortunate enough to not survive the birthing process.
Another cow that was special to mother and Yates, was a heifer named "Babysitter." Yates gave her this because she had been on the farm so long and had cared for so many little stray calves who had become motherless for some reason or other. Mother had asked Yates many times before his death as to what would be done with "Babysitter" when she got really old. His instructions were that she was to remain with the farm until she died.
With "Babysitter" remaining on the farm, the decision was made to sell the rest of the cattle except for two other heifers which would keep "Babysitter" company. With no bulls in sight, these three would live the rest of their days in mother's pastures.
What a sad decision it was to sell the cows, but all the while knowing that it was the right decision. Becoming a middle aged child, has brought along with it, many responsibilities that I have not been prepared for. The awesome task of caring for aged parents is one of the things I had never really given much thought about. I suppose I just thought they would live until it was time to die and then go on to Heaven. Not once did I think about me and others filling the role as a "caregiver." Dementia or no Dementia, it is a trying time in life which no doubt is inevitable for all of us. One thing for certain, we all have parents and will soon have to make decisions for them that we had rather not make.
It's been several months now since this grim deed has taken place. Mother has not once mentioned where her cows have gone. Once again, Dementia has come to the rescue.
Monday, March 14, 2011
It's Friday, and I have gotten the word that my sister Sue is coming to spend the night with mother. An added bonus is that her daughter Shelly and son Noah will be coming on Saturday to stay the night as well. This will give my husband and I some much needed rest from caring for mother. No matter how much I love her, the idea of a little free time away feels really good.
My husband and I have decided to go out for supper for the evening, before heading off to our newly found favorite shopping stores; Lowe's and Home Depot. Spending Saturdays working on plumbing and electrical for mother's new addition, comes with several costs; financially as well as physical. Upon returning home, I notice we have several calls. Pressing the "play" button, I hear my mother's voice. She begins by saying, "Sue, Sue and Bill are coming to spend the night with me. If you want to come and visit for a while, come on down. " Second call: "Sue, thought you would want to know that Sue is coming to spend the night with me, but if you still want to come, you can." Third call: "Sue called and she and Bill are coming to spend the night...wait a minute, I guess you are Sue, well I don't know then...this Dementia is really working on me Jean" finally she calls my name, only because she has said that phrase many, many times.
Sue arrives and mother is excited that she has come. The weekend goes by fast, and it's Sunday already. It feels really strange being away from mother for even two days. My sister and niece have kept me informed via text messages along the way, but not to see mother or talk to her, seems really weird. The only thing I can liken it to, is being away from your child. You're so glad for the time away, but it feels as if a part of you is missing.
A friend of mine gave me the following poem. Reading it, I was humbled and reminded of the many things that my mother has done for me, and now I've been handed the baton:
When you forget your own address
and find yourself on strange streets, we'll sell your car,
and I'll drive you to all the places you need to go,
like you did for me when I was a child.
When you forget how to dress
and end up with three sweaters, two sets of panty hose, and a slip on over your dress,
I'll help you to look proper when you go out,
like you did for me when I was a child.
When the words on the menu don't match the pictures in your mind,
and you keep ordering things you won't eat,
then I'll order the food that I know you'll enjoy,
like you did for me when I was a child.
When finding your way at church is frightening,
I'll take you to your class and pick you up and let you sit with me in big church.
If the sermon seems long and you get sleepy,
I'll let you put your head on my shoulder,
like you did for me when I was a child.
When hot and cold faucets confuse you,
I'll put you in a tub of warm water and give you a bath,
like you did for me when I was a child.
When you forget who people are
and can't tell your family from total strangers,
I'll be your memory and tell you their names
like you did for me when I was a child.
When they're having a party for all the residents,
and you want to go but don't know what to wear,
I'll make you a costume that everyone will envy
like you did for me when I was a child.
When you forget who I am,
not just my name or my birthday, but that you ever had children,
then there isn't much I can do but go somewhere and cry,
like I sometimes did when I was a child.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
It's that time of the year again, spring flowers, rain showers, daylight savings time and income taxes. It's only 7 o'clock, but mother has already called my house asking when and who will be coming to her house to spend the night. I have reminded her at least 6 times this evening that my husband and I would be down, just as soon as he finished up with our income taxes. It doesn't matter how many times you tell a dementia person something, they will only remember what you are telling them at that very moment and mother is no exception.
My husband Bob is becoming a little agitated at the fact that I am pacing the floor at the mere thought of what mother can be doing down at her house as night falls. With my imagination booming, I decide to drive ahead and be with mother until Bob finishes up and can join us. Some people may ask, "why don't you just stay with your mother and let Bob stay home?" In earlier blogs, I have told of my cowardly personality. I, like my mother, become very antsy when night comes and I'm alone. Especially after all the hallucinations mother has experienced in the past several years, there is no way in this world that I would spend the night at her house alone.
I have called ahead of time to tell mother that I am arriving. As I enter her living room, I notice that she only has a lamp on. My husband has a habit of reading at night and requires the overhead. But, since he's not here yet, mother seems quite comfortable using the one lamp. I quickly turn the television on and sit down on the couch while mother and dog Annie sit on the love seat. Feeling that my eyes need a little bit more light, I jump up and flip the overhead light on. "What in the world are you doing?" she calls out, everybody out there's going to see us sitting in here," she continues. Who's everybody? I ask. "Well, that old woman and those men that walk by from time to time," she answers. Mother begins to tell me that the reason she doesn't sit in her living room at night is because of "others" being able to see her. Only since Bob and I have been staying with her at night, has she dared to stay in her living room.
When mother and her late husband Yates built this house, my sisters and I had a hand in doing some decorating. My sister Sue had the honor of buying window toppers which hung directly over the picture window, allowing for little coverage. Since mother had Yates at the time, she never felt threatened by someone peeping in. Later, when Yates passed, mother decided she needed to cover the window. My sisters and I decided that vertical blinds would be the perfect solution for mother's huge picture window. It wasn't long before we decided differently. Night after night as mother tried to draw the blinds shut, they began to fall. Mother would rant and rave asking anyone who would to help place the blinds back in their perspective slots. I remember once, mother had asked the Termite man to lend a hand. Eventually, she gave in and decided to abandon her living room at hint of night fall and head for her bedroom where no one could peep in.
Growing up at the old home place, a picture window hung in mother's living room as well. Mother enjoyed shopping for curtains and sheers which hung so beautifully, covering every inch of her window. My dad always had a grumble or two for mother's decorating abilities as he could never understand just why someone would pay hundreds of dollars for a picture window and then cover it up with a pile of curtains. I recall a time in my life when I favored daddy's sentiments.
It was around the year 1965. My sister Sue and I had been noticing a white Volkswagon van passing by the house each day pretty close to 4 o'clock. There just happened to be two boys in there, sporting "Beatle" haircuts. Inquiring around the neighborhood, we learned that these handsome young men, were the sons of a prominent doctor and had moved in just about a mile up the road from us. Being as these two were of some considerable wealth, their education carried them all the way to a private school in Spartanburg, South Carolina, hindering us from meeting them at our local public school. We quickly found out that their names were John and Jody Paul. Daydreams and a quick look at them out mother's picture window as they passed by our house each day, was as close as we would ever get to them. One day in particular, my sister and I had got caught off guard. It was our daily duty to have mother's curtains drawn and sheers pulled back and neatly tucked under her oil lamp which sat on the stereo just in front of the picture window, so we could spy our new found crushes. Sounds of the Paul brother's VW van began to make its way up our road. "Sue!" I called, "come here, we're going to miss them!" Running into the living room, Sue quickly drew the drapes as I flung back mother's sheers, unveiling the window and knocking mother's old oil lamp to the floor, breaking it into a million pieces.
Mother's first picture window provided many fond memories of her family: a husband returning home from work each day, children as they played in the yard, a son, arriving home from war, her daughter's first dates, visits from grandchildren. But, through this picture window, mother has gathered only nightmares: so called mountain climbers repelling off cliffs late at night, animals that looked like lions with white fluffy tails, dogs decorated in Christmas colors, strangers peering back at her late into the night, party goers who frequent the old dilapidated home place of her deceased husband, night lights dancing up and down her creek banks, signaling to others of their whereabouts. Dementia has turned mother's beautiful picture window into a window of horrors.
Tonight, as I peer into the darkness of the window, all I can see is the reflection of a middle aged woman, longing to be at home with her husband and family.
Friday, March 4, 2011
It's really late and my husband and I are both yawning as we lean back in mother's livingroom watching television. Before we began staying with mother at night, it was next to impossible to get her to watch TV. Time and time again, my siblings and I had all but jumped up and down, begging and pleading for her to watch, something! Knowing that having the stimulation of people's voices as well as just knowing someone was in sight other than a dog or cow, would prove to be beneficial to mother, so we thought.
I have began to notice that mother is becoming more and more attached to some of the TV shows that Bob and I choose to watch each night. "I need to go to bed, but I want to see who they pick," mother accidentally blurts out. It's American Idol night, and my husband has done me the honors of installing a small antenna on the roof and one in the window, just so I can watch my favorite program. "Well, just wait a few more minutes" I tell her. "Where in the world is my dog?" she inquires. "She's outside as usual mother," I say. Without failure, mother's dog Annie will go to the door somewhere close to bedtime each night and beg to go out. Aware that it will take an Act of Congress to get her back in, my husband obliges her anyway, leaning back from his comfy chair and opens the door for her without getting up.
We sit and listen as Annie chases any and everything from a rabbit to a deer outside mother's front door. If you dare open the door and beckon her to come in, she'll take off running as if you've shot a gun! For several nights now, I have had the good fortune of getting her in the house only by "whistling." It's a well known fact, that most Gibsons are good "whistlers." My dad was one of the best whistlers I have ever known. For many years, passerbyers in our small town could enjoy his many tunes as he whistled while he worked on his customer's vehicle.
I sit quietly as mother and my husband both give out threatening warnings to mother's friend Annie. Nothing doing, she will not come in. Thinking that I will soon show my clout by displaying a few whistles, I jerk my neck around as I hear someone whistling so loud that I am in disbelief. Knowing that my husband Bob has many attributes, but whistling not one of them, I say, "mother, was that you?" "Why yes, you 'Doorbell,' who did you think it was?" she smarts. The name she has chosen to call me is not enough , but the fact that my 82 year old mother has just whislted like a tea pot, is the biggest surprise of all!
Annie comes in and as the routine goes, she and mother began their nightly walk down the hall to mother's bedroom as I hear mother say, "Come on "Annie Marie let's go to bed!" My husband and I spontaneously look at each other with my jaw dropping as we hear her words. For as long as I can remember, I have called my granddaughter "Gracie" who is five years old, "Gracie Marie." I have never been able to figure out just why I have given her this nickname. Only this past week, Gracie had come to spend the day at my house when she had informed me that since she was a big girl now, she no longer wanted me to call her "Marie." Saddened at the fact that she is growing up now and that my given nickname for her no longer warms her heart, I pretend to cry. I ask again, "Gracie, can't I please call you Marie, that's Nana's special name for you." "Seeing that she has made me sad, Gracie relents and agrees to allow me to call her the name that I thought was so special.
Tonight, I have learned two things about my mother; one, she can whistle like a bird and two, she is the creator of my beloved granddaughter Gracie's nickname "Marie." For me, I have learned only one thing, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
Friday, February 25, 2011
Here lately, mother has become more erratic than usual. Being her primary caregiver, nerves begin to wear thin and the thought of trying to coax her into going to get another shot, just does not sit well with me, seeing how I am dealing with other issues in my life which have gotten me a little rattled.
Approximately one week after construction began on mother's addition at my house, my husband and I returned home from spending the night with mother around 4:45 am, only to find the entire downstairs covered in two inches of water. Apparently, a small pipe had slipped off causing havoc in the Edwards household and life. With only a few months away from bringing mother to live in her new home and knowing that it will be a battle like none other, I've been contemplating the route that must be taken. Not to mention the doctor visit which awaits us. While listening to friends tell stories of their Dementia ridden loved ones, and how the doctor had prescribed a "happy pill" for them when they were not cooperative, became ever present on my mind. After much thought, I decided to call mother's primary doctor to see if he might prescribe mother something to make her a little bit "happier." Now, mother has no problem with going to her general doctor, Dr. Kim. The Orthopedic doctor and the dentist are the only two doctors that will cause mother to shake the foundations in rebellion. I guess you might say, the two doctors who carry long needles. All I have to say to her is that he will stop giving her blood pressure medicine if she doesn't keep up with her visits and she could have a stroke, then she'll agree to go. I know this sounds a little cruel, threatening horrendous calamities on your own mother, but believe you me, one day with her and you will be able to look beyond any negative thoughts you might have about this situation.
The doctor's office has assured me that Dr. Kim will not prescribe any medications unless mother comes in for a visit first. Knowing that I have made her an appointment with her "knee doctor" for next week, I agree to bring her in. All goes pretty well with this visit and mother is prescribed a low dosage of "Haloperidol." I get the prescription filled and carry it home with me as if I have found a new friend. This medicine will only be given to mother on occasions when most needed.
I have roped my oldest daughter Blythe into taking mother for her knee appointment. The few days leading up to this event has not been good. Mother has called me every name in the book. Phoned me at home repeatedly as well as work, threatening to call the Sheriff and his deputies if we try to make her go.
In mother's medication this morning, I have slipped "the happy pill." Knowing that I had only began feeling the affects around lunch time, I wait.
In order to reach the doctor's office on time, my daughter needs to leave with mother no later than 1:30 pm to arrive for her appointment at 2:00 pm. I receive several phone calls from Blythe, telling me that mother will not agree to go. I have chosen to be shopping in a nearby city, trying to stay away but accessible by phone. As I am coming out of Target, my phone rings, Blythe tells me that she has someone who wants to talk to me. I say in a loud voice that everybody in the parking lot can hear, "Is she not going?!?" Mother's voice comes on the phone and says, "No mam SHE'S NOT!" suddenly without control, the words from my mouth began to flow. I choose not to tell you the things I said, but I will hint that one of them involved my foot! The phone goes dead and I am done. Approximately 3 to 4 minutes pass and the phone rings again, it's my daughter. Mother has changed her mind and she has decided to go to the doctor. I can hear mother in the background shouting that she will tell that doctor to kiss her butt! To use a better word.
Days have passed since mother's appointment. There's no need for the so called "happy pill" again until her move. All I know is that I'm not sure what this pill has accomplished, other than giving me a good nap and mother a shot in the knee!
Saturday, February 12, 2011
It's not long before the phone rings and my two granddaughters have agreed to spend three days snowed in with mother. I quickly head to the grocery store and stock up on any and every needed item, from ice cream to facial cream before they change their minds. With teenagers, it doesn't take long until my bill has ran up higher than I had intended. Groceries and granddaughters are delivered to my mother's house the evening before the storm is to come in. Mother seems elated at the prospect of her two new found young house mates.
Mother remarks at how pretty the girls are and asks their names. As you enter into her guest bedrooms, you can see shelves of pictures, hosting my granddaughter's with various family members in their earlier years. Spending time at Mema's house from time to time was a given as Savannah and McKenna grew up. Today they have come as a helper to their Mema, instead of a great granddaughter.
The snowstorm finally comes to an end and the whole ordeal is behind us all. Mother and the girls enjoyed their days together with few reports of demented events and actually how mistaken we all are about my mother's condition. As days and weeks pass, Savannah and McKenna agree to spend the night with mother from time to time.
It's a Monday evening and McKenna alone has agreed to stay the night. I have called mother to tell her that my husband and I will soon be down to stay, unbeknownst that my granddaughter McKenna will be staying instead. The phone rings and it's my daughter informing me that she will be taking McKenna to mother's in a short while. Since my husband and I get our share of staying each night, we are tickled for McKenna to stay in our stead. I quickly call mother to tell her the news, thinking that she will be pleased to have her great grand spend the night once more instead of us. What a mistake! Mother begins to question McKenna's ability to call for reinforcement just in case some disaster might befall them. I assure her that she is quite capable of taking care of things, being that she is 16 years old.
The phone soon rings back and it's mother, telling me not to tell that young girl to come down there. I once again assure her that things will be fine with McKenna there.
It's morning time, and I phone ahead of my arrival as usual to bring mother's meds and pick McKenna up for school. "Hello" mother answers. "Come open the door for me" I say. "Well, Jean, there's somebody in my house" she whispers. "Mother, that is McKenna, come open the door for me."
As I enter the house, I can see a perplexed look on McKenna's face. Mother sits at the kitchen table whispering and pointing at McKenna's back as if she has not a clue as to who she is.
It's time to head off to work and drop McKenna off at school. Our ride there has been a little curious as McKenna has asked who "Irene" is. She tells me that Mema has stepped into her room this morning inquiring if she is "Irene's daughter."
As the day goes on, I have called as usual to check in. Mother begins informing me that Irene's children have come and spent the night with her and that they need not return. I have known some Irene's in my lifetime, but for the life of me, cannot figure out who mother is talking about.
My sister Sue, who lives out of town has called and mother gives up a little bit more information. We now find out that her cousin's children have been there and their last name is "Thompson." Trying to tell a person with dementia that they are mistaken is useless, so we just all get a big kick out of the fact that someone named "Irene Thompson's children have been to spend the night with our mother.
Til this day, mother still thinks my granddaughters are the Thompson girls and refuses to have them come back for a stay. One thing is for sure, Savannah and McKenna will have a tale to tell their grandchildren one day about their Mema!