Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Today is my day to go to Mom's, to do all the errands. Go to the grocery store, bank, post office, transfer station.
I can't do it. I just got out of the car and came back into the house.
It hurts to face her, to have to deal with the dementia, it hurts deep inside. So here I am, procrastinating, ugh, have another cup of coffee, and will my pulse to slow down and stop crying.

Friday, September 25, 2009

ice storm

Last winter, December 2008, we were hit with a huge ice storm. Power was out for weeks. Mom did not cope with this winter storm in New England, she did not successfully deal with the power outage, the long dark days, and keeping her wood stove going.
She flunked bigtime!

This was how we finally realized that her dementia had fooled all of us.

"Oh, I have plenty of food, I have water for drinking, I have water to flush the toilets, I have plenty of wood for the wood stove, I have candles, I have a flashlight... "
Every time I called to check on her, she would say the same thing, she was telling me all the things I needed to hear to believe that she was taking care of herself and coping with winter storm and power outage.
And of course I believed her, why wouldn't I? She's used a wood stove as a complimentary heat system for over 20 years. As my Scout leader, she took our troop on winter backpacking adventures.  She is a smart resourceful woman.

Friends and neighbors would call to check on her during the storm. She would repeat the same mantra: I have food, I have water, I have wood. Maybe the questions we should have been asking were, “what did you eat for lunch”, “is there a fire in the wood stove”?

My landline phone wires had been ripped off my house, my cell phone was dead. I asked Mom to call my cell phone and leave messages, I would call her when I could recharge. The messages I got from her were very odd. “I can’t hear you, talk louder.” It was as if she couldn’t use an answering machine. “Your never answer your home phone, talk to me, what, speak louder.”

The truth was that she was not coping. Plenty of food only counts if you cook and eat. She did not have any water for drinking, washing, or flushing. A flashlight is only good if it has working batteries, and you can find it. Candles are only useful if you light them. A wood stove only keeps you warm if you bring wood into the house and feed the stove.

She did not think to melt ice for water. She could not keep a fire going in the wood stove. She did not understand/remember that she could still use her gas range to cook food, melt ice, or make coffee. She was not eating or drinking.

Her usual daily routine was shattered, and she could not cope.

The days were dark from 3:30 in the afternoon to 8:30 in the morning. When I finally could get to her, three days into the storm, she was lost in the cold and dark, sleeping in a straight back chair in front of a cold wood stove.

Her neighbor had checked in on her the day before with bottled water, snacks, and lit her wood stove. But she had let it go out. She doesn't like granola bars. She used the water for the cats.

Without electricity, my house has running water but no heat, her house had heat but no water. I decided to pitch camp at Mom’s house. I grouped the sofas around the wood stove. I boiled ice and made her wash. I started cooking the food that was defrosting in the freezer and put other food into coolers, with ice from outside. Ice, we HAD ice!

We went to the local shelter to fill up water jugs. Bless all the people who helped at the local shelter! The town had called all the elders in town, to check on them, they got the same response from Mom: "I have wood, I have water, I’m fine."

I found the box of 500 votive candles. “It’s only 3:00 why are you putting out the candles?” It will be dark in ½ hr, we don’t have to sit in the dark.

I found her polarfleece pajamas, her wool socks and hat. I got the down comforters from the other bedroom. I closed off doors to unnecessary rooms.

Friends and neighbors would call to check on her, she could continue the mantra: " I have wood, I’m fine." Through all those days of the ice storm, she never, never asked how they were coping with the storm. She never called any of her friends to find out if they needed any help. She didn’t ask how my family was dealing with the storm. This behavior was unlike my Mother, it also told me that something was not right.


My mother and I went out to lunch on Wednesday, eating at an outdoor venue. While we were there we saw a man walking his little granddaughter around, keeping her occupied while the rest of their group ate lunch. It was a sweet picture, her holding tightly to his one large finger. He so tall, she so small. Her leading him around to see things: a tree, the flowers, the shiny motorcycle...

Just to fill you in, dear readers, my Mother's own mother died years before I was born.

I commented to my Mom that I could only remember one of my grandparents. She gave me a confused stare. I said that I could not remember by grandfathers, as they had died when I was very young. I only remember my one grandmother.
She asked blankly "who?"
My grandmother, my father's mother.

She asked blankly "who?"
My father's mother.

"Are you talking about me?"
No, MY grandmother.

"Who are you talking about?"
Your mother-in-law.

She still could not make the connection. Then she started to get angry. "Stop playing games with me." I was surprised that she couldn't recall this person from the past. Was it that she couldn't make the connection: me to Dad to his mother, or what? She can recite all the members of her college sorority, but she can't tell me who drove her to church last Sunday.
"L__" I said.
"Oh, her." Mom groaned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


We all have them, rechargeable battery operated devices: screwdriver, drill, phone, dustbuster, grass clippers, stick-broom, boom-box... and each comes with a charger. An outlet plug on one end next to the heavy transformer cube then a cord and finally some strange device-specific plug on the other end.

I wanted to remount the hooks for my Mother's bird feeders, and I was looking for the cordless drill.
The bears had ripped the feeders down. I'm guessing it was the bears, what else could rip off two hooks, each held on by four 2" screws and bend all the screws into L shapes.

I had another long and hard argument with my Mother about feeding the birds beyond the winter. I know she loves to feed the birds, I do too. She has a wonderful variety of birds that visit her in the winter. However!! She has seen the bears wander through her yard. She has a friend who had bears inside her mudroom looking for birdseed.

A couple of years ago, she had two of her 6' wrought iron feeder hangers folded in half by the bears. Why do you want to invite the bears onto the porch? It is now spring, the birds can fend for themselves! Your little screen door is not going to keep any bear out of your mudroom. And you certainly don't want to come home and surprise a bear who got into your mudroom first!

So what has all this to do with cordless adapters? I wanted to use the cordless drill. I found the drill but it needed to be charged. I couldn't find the adapter. Is it in the drawer under the lamp? Is it under the sink? In the garage? In the gardening tool bag? I finally found it, it was with ALL the other adapters and chargers. Each one was in a zip-top plastic bag and they were all together in the dresser in the extra bedroom.

All of them, a dozen black chargers, that go to some appliance or tool, somewhere.