Monday, June 27, 2011

"Bobbie and Normar"

I want to start my post today by reminding you who the characters of Bobbie and Normar are in my mother's life. Mother's mother, Hannah died when she was three years old and her dad John, married a woman named Norma "Normar" Chapman. Eventually John and Normar had two children, a daughter Bobbie and a son, Don.

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

"Mother and Me"

Well the week that I have dreaded for a while now, has come and gone. Mother's first day of Senior Day Care has occurred and the sky didn't fall after all.

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

Hallelujah [3x]

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

"God Give Me Strength!"

Today is Friday and instead of my usual night out with my husband for supper, I stay home with mother and watch the RFD channel. I'm getting a little more comfortable with my homebound feelings than last week, but am torn between the love of my mother and the freedom that I once cherished. It's been a long week and enough dementia shenanigans to last a month.

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.