Thursday, December 30, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
There is a moment after a question has been asked and before the answer has been given, in which all is possible. It hangs suspended, open to assumption, hope, wish, optimism and even pessimism.
The morning before Thanksgiving, my mother looked up at me and asked, "are you my daughter"? It was a precious moment. I knew that for the first time in months she had awareness of being a mother, awareness however fleeting ...of me. My answer that morning and her subsequent response aren't as important as that moment. For that, I am grateful.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Last week upon the arrival of her new roommate, I found that the platter and teacup had been carelessly taken out of the box and placed in the magazine rack in her room. Her wedding photo and sterling card had been moved to a higher shelf and placed behind the figurines and photos of her new roommate. I'll be the first to say that neither my mother or her roommate give a damn about their memory box. My mom knew about it once but that piece of information is long gone. The memories are mine and anyone else's to view, should they gaze into the glass window on the wall. Clearly whoever changed things around and rearranged knows this. I have been at a loss since this happened to identify my feelings on this....how can someone so clearly value ones memories at the expense of someone else's?
My mother asked me my name today and when I told her I was Pamela, she asked me if I knew her daughter Pamela. When I told her it was I, she looked at me sadly as though I had lost my mind and said, "I really don't think so." I take heart that she remembers her daughter and pray that she doesn't think she has' abandoned her. Memories.....for some of us it's all we have.
I have set about arranging my mothers memory box once again. I use only one shelf of the four, and I am careful to not upset Ellie's memory items. The teacup sits front and center and brings me back to the anniversary party on a July afternoon in my grandmothers backyard. I counted her teacups today when I got home...I have 32 more ...You mess with the teacups, you mess with me.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
My mothers roommate of 3 years died last night. Her name was Stella and while I cannot say I knew her well, this is what I did know. She had a niece who visited often in the beginning and then not so much. She had beautiful long white hair which the nurses brushed and kept in a long plait down her back. Her face was hardly touched by age, though she was well into her 70's, and the lines of anguish I see so often on the faces of others with Alzheimer's was absent on hers. She was usually quiet and subdued though on a few occasions, she'd tell anyone within a 5 foot radius to "FUCK OFF". I must admit to a little smile and "you go Stella" whenever she did this. I will also admit that I felt a bit of happiness for her tonight that she gets to finally leave this life that has been dealt to her. I mean seriously, how much pureed food and ever present odor of urine can one human endure. The answer apparently...a whole lot. But I digress....
I found out she died this evening while visiting my mom. I walked into their room to find Stella's side completely bare of furniture, no pictures on the walls and no sign of clothing in the closet. When I inquired at the nurses station, I'm informed that due to HIPPA regulations and confidentiality laws, they are unable to officially tell me. Off the record I am told she has died. Really? I know its not much of a club, but to those of us with family on the inside...its our club and these losses mean something to us. Confidentiality be damned, but again...I digress.
So here's the kicker to the whole story....my mother and Stella both confined to wheelchairs, both sleep in beds at least 30 feet away from each other.....my mother is so deaf that you have to yell into her ear while standing practically on top of her and she still doesn't hear you and on top of that she hasn't uttered a single intelligent sentence in about 5 weeks....Stella and mom go to bed at 8pm last night, bed checks at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 all good....at 10:30, my mom yells out quite clearly "please someone, come here now, we need help". Stella has died.
There are more things I probably can't explain than things I can. This is one of them. Who says there is no mystery, it's everywhere you turn.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
She is a ghost of her former self. Tiny and shrunken, she appears smaller and smaller every time I see her. Her connection to this world is slipping away. I wear her ring today and will keep it for her until it is put back on for the last time.
In the year of their courtship and engagement, my parents wrote daily to one another. I have a shoebox full of letters tied in satin ribbon that follows the course of their connection to each other. 730 letters in all, some of which the contents make me blush and in reading them, I feel as though I am violating some sacred space shared only between the two of them.
After the accident, which claimed her right arm, I would see my mother grimace as the phantom pain of that lost arm would keep her up at night walking the floor. I would hear my fathers soft murmur as he tried to give comfort. In my life, my mother has never spoken of that loss. She'd shrug her shoulders and say when I would question her..."you just move forward".
Upon my fathers death, my mother faced the ensuing days with strength, humor and yankee matter of factness. It was only at night that I would hear her quietly weeping behind her closed bedroom door.
I search for connection with each visit. As she moves farther and farther away, I hold tighter to my bond with friends and family. That she is dying has become clearer this Fall. No amount of knowing this one true fact, makes the loss any more bearable. I wear her ring today, a slender gold connection to a life lived, to a father I miss so much and to the family I was born into. I move forward and know that in time, I will be able to remember her for who she used to be.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I met Celeste the first time, over 17 years ago. She was dressed in a power suit, juggling a briefcase and a tray of jello shots! Fast forward 3 years later and my soon to be husband invites her for dinner. By the time I served desert, a friendship was cemented and we were planning a girls vacation to the Vineyard. She shares a birthday with Jimmy Buffet, though sadly for him, he has missed her celebrations. She's an island girl in time with the tides and sea. She's of the opinion (somedays) that people are overrated and always has a good example to back up her claim. One can hardly argue her logic.
When hurricanes head for her tiny island village, she's the first out the door, lawn chair in hand. "Lets see what you've got" she says to mother nature. She treats all of natures exhibitions with respect and awe. She threatens to become "unhinged" occasionally but I've never seen it. Woe to the one who does I suspect. As for me, are you kidding? I'll grab a lawn chair and watch the whole thing unfold.
If you need a road trip buddy then Celeste is your girl. She puts in a little Jackson Browne or Bruce Cockburn and you are on your way. Did I mention she had a touch of narcolepsy a few years back? Not a big deal really. Of course, the winding back roads of NH proved to be a trip and a half and coming over the Goodland Bridge with her set my adrenalin to flowing.
Following the devastating oil spill in the gulf, she became a loud voice for the natural resources of ocean, wildlife and beach she loves so much. On a flight to Montana in August, she found herself sitting next to a 20 something young woman who was on her way to Idaho. "And what do you do"? Celeste asks her....I can only imagine the girls growing sense of unease as she shares that she works for Exxon. I don't even like to fly and I would have paid double to be listening in to that conversation.
No doubt about it in my mind...she's steadfast and true..she turns my sobs to belly laughs and if I ever find myself trapped in a Chilean mine, I'd want her running the rescue operation.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
o-a-sis - noun : something serving as a refuge, relief or pleasant change from that what is usual, annoying or difficult, etc.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Our relationship begins anew each time I visit with her. I search for threads of continuity from one visit to the next. I have no battle with this woman. Our unresolved issues belong to another time and place, another woman. We have traveled this journey together she and I. I have gone from being her daughter to being the nice woman who will help find her daughter. And now, unaware that she has me at all, she has returned to the company of her parents and others that I cannot see.
It began over a cup of coffee seated at the counter of our local coffee shop. I stepped away for a second and my mother asked the woman seated next to her, "Who is that nice young woman seated next to me?" It culminated in my mother leaving her home and joining the ranks of so many other elderly unable to care for themselves. Forever etched in my mind, I hold the image of her walking out the door of my childhood home for the last time. An image I cannot let go of and perhaps one I need to keep.
My mother was a teacher of third graders for her entire adult life. Even today, she is a teacher. It is not unusual to arrive on her unit, only to find her trying to maintain some order in her classroom. Her voice rises over the din of her class as she calls for quiet. She stubbornly refuses to give up on her students, even those that are clearly disruptive, and hardly aware that class is in session.
My mother spends her days with a diverse cast of characters. In the mornings when I enter her unit, I am greeted by Vern who sits patiently by the door, day after day, waiting for his wife to walk through. I do not know if she ever does. John is a handsome man with beautiful brown eyes that are always focused in another time and place. His fingers move rapidly as he deals from an imaginary deck of cards. I like to imagine that he was a dealer in Atlantic City and that other dealers envied his skill and artistry with cards. Zelda, a Holocaust survivor can be found hugging herself in silent anguish in the corner of the day room. James cries all day, while Nan, counts endlessly from one to forty-eight over and over again.
My mother is my only surviving link to my childhood and my history. I am already grieving the loss of that connection. She requires me to live in the moment as that is all we really have. We sit in silence most days and I hold her hand, something we never did before. It is a small connection but so powerful. For her it is about texture and warmth and presence. For me it is the holding of our history. This moment, this contact with her, all I have, all that matters.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Two CEO's, a physician, a model, a photographer, 4 teachers, 2 engineers, 3 accountants, 7 housewives, a postman, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and a large group of World War 2 and Korea veterans make up my mothers world now. They are all lost in the past and wage a far bigger battle than they ever did on the battlefields or in the classrooms and boardrooms. Forgetting the thought on the tip of their tongue brings tears of frustration. Feeling abandoned by all whom they love, when in fact those same loved ones visit everyday.
Alzheimers is the "thief of hearts", the robber in the night and the remorseless sociopath. It takes and takes from each victim and family it targets. When you think it can take nothing else, it finds one more thing. It robs you of your past, cheats you of your future and influences every moment. It denies the ability to say "Enough, I just want to go now". I have looked to find the hidden good in this journey with my mother. She has taught me a new level of compassion and she has taught me the value of appreciating each moment as it comes. I keep you in my heart mom.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Ahh resiliency...it's the one trait I most admire in others and until this summer, I thought I had a wealth of it myself. I time my visits with my mom to catch her at a good time, which typically means she's awake and talking. I spend 4 mornings a week with her and about an hour is all I can take. I hate to admit this but with Alzheimers, its more about you than it is your mom. The tears start for me as I drive to visit her. It's always a crap shoot as to what I will be greeted with. I loudly announce myself with a "Hello Mom"....shes completely deaf having decided a year ago to toss her hearing aids in the laundry. Her top teeth are another story entirely...god knows what she did with those! She hasn't known me for the last 5 weeks, though her pleasure at my visits bring me some consolation. This morning she tells me she went fishing when I inquire about her day. We spend some time talking about this excursion and it is clear she enjoyed herself immensely. I do not know if this is a past memory or one of her current delusions. It does not matter I find. There was a time when I was insistent that she must know me, that she must place me in the proper location of her history. Alzheimers always gets the last laugh! I tag along behind, grateful for any scraps. I cry for all that has been lost and hope for her sake that her faith of seeing her loved ones again will be realized. Ahh resiliency...my mom sure has some, has had it her whole life. In the meantime, I hang tightly to all I have.
Friday, July 23, 2010
So read on....and thanks for stopping by.