Monday, January 31, 2011


Ok - in the last post I said "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."
Can I retract that statement now?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

snow day

Today we had another big snowstorm, I wasn't expecting it, at least not the amount that greeted me this morning. I felt jubilation. That feeling, just like when I was a kid and they would cancel school because of the snow, and you had a whole day with no responsibilities.

Growing up, both my parents were teachers, on snow days, we would get the phone calls, early in the morning, 5:30 at the latest, if school was cancelled. Of course Dad taught school in a different town and just because he got to stay home didn't mean we did. One very snowy winter I think Dad only taught five days the whole month of February.

So this morning (late morning!) I put on my snow-pants and boots and joyfully went out to shovel the snow. It was the nice deep fluffy kind of snow. Everything was so beautiful and white.

Let it snow. I thought. Let it snow - let it snow - let it snow.
Mom is safe. I don't have to worry about her today!

I don't have to worry that her power will go out.
I don't have to worry that she can't keep the wood stove going.
I don't have to worry that she will leave hot ashes on the wood porch.
I don't have to worry that she doesn't have water.
I don't have to worry that she won't have water to flush the toilet.
I don't have to worry that her pipes will freeze.
I don't have to worry that she will freeze.
I don't have to worry that she will use the oven to heat the house.
I don't have to worry that she will not eat or drink because the power has gone out.
I don't have to worry that she will lock herself outside, in only her nightie, while she feeds the birds.
I don't have to worry that she will slip on the icy stairs.
I don't have to worry that her aides won't make it up the driveway.
I don't have to worry that she will not get her medications today.
I don't have to worry that she won't get plowed out.
I don't have to worry that nobody can make it up her driveway.
I don't have to worry that she will get her car stuck half way down her driveway.

Let it snow - I am home today - a day with no overwhelming and exhausting worry - for Mom.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Not another book about dementia or being a good caregiver. People are always recommending books for me to read. Some are great and insightful, some are just dull listings of facts and ideas.

When I got "Creating Moments of Joy" from the library, I was surprised at it's small size. I flipped through it: large font and lots of chapters. Something I could easily get through one chapter at a time, as I snatch little bits of reading time throughout the day.

As they say - don't judge a book by it's cover. Once I started reading, I saw my mother and myself in every chapter. I cried, I laughed. I couldn't put it down.

So what, if Mom wears the same clothes everyday. Who is it going to hurt? For her it provides comfort. My thoughts jumped to my four year old son, who wore that blue dinosaur cap everyday for a whole year. It made him happy, that hat.

We hear more and more about living in the moment and seizing the day. And with dementia it is especially true. They are where they are, it might be 1952, but that's where they are now, and we have to be with them where they are, and be kind and loving and compassionate. Isn't this a message for everyone we encounter? It is about how you make someone feel. Don't you want to make someone feel better, to feel joy, even for a tiny moment?

There is no tomorrow, there is only now.

Friday, January 7, 2011

a little hope

Yesterday, after work, I ran up to visit Mom. She wasn't in her room. I found her reading the newspapers in the resident's kitchen. She was in a good mood and glad to receive more Christmas cards. (Unaware that I had brought them.)

I have mentioned before, all traffic passes by the kitchen, so we usually see lots of folks. It has nice big picture windows into the hall and out into the courtyard. B_ went by with her walker. Mom waved and smiled at B_. "That's my friend, we do puzzles together."

I was in delightful shock. The little me inside was doing a happy-dance! She had smiled, waved, and used the word "friend".
These people who were "the patients" and "old drooly people" last month, were now becoming "friends".

We left the kitchen for the late afternoon activity in another room. I followed Mom in. Before we found a chair, she stopped and spoke to the group gathered there. "I'd like you all to meet my daughter."
omg!!! THIS was my social, friendly, outgoing Mother. Here she was, introducing me to "her" group. I could feel it in her tone of voice and in her manner. She was finally feeling like a part of her new neighborhood. The little me inside was happy-dancing all over the place!

I know she still doesn't know what season it is, I know she is still wearing the same clothes over and over. (The staff said they do steal and wash them.) I know she still feels lost and lonely. But, today was a good day, a very good day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


While cleaning out Mom's house, I've been gathering up her sewing stuff. She doesn't have an actual sewing box, just a box full of notions.

Yesterday I combined Mom's sewing things with mine, putting her little brass safety pins with my pins, adding her buttons to my collection of buttons, putting the elastics with the elastics. And again putting the extra stuff in a pile to take to the recycle center for other sewers to use.

She has about twenty sewing machine bobbins, all full of thread, mostly black and white. Who knows how old this thread is or what fiber it is. So I decided to empty the bobbins. I put them all in my lap and proceed to gather up the ends and start pulling, it's like reeling silk, but it's not. My left hand covers the bobbins and guides the group of threads, my right hand draws them up and away, gathering this large tangles of threads. A huge nest of snarly thread. It's like my Mother, as she is unraveling, as she is coming undone. Then I see that the predominantly black and white now includes greens and pinks, Mom has filled her bobbins by winding new colors over the old colors. Now there are purples and reds, blues and oranges. How long have these colors been on these bobbins? I continue to unwind, the little metal bobbins tinkling together in my lap.

These bobbins go with Mom's sewing machine, it is a Singer Featherweight. The classic sewing machine of the mid twentieth century. She got it as her sixteenth birthday gift. It's the machine I learned to sew on. (Now can you guess what I got for my sixteenth birthday? A 1970's p.o.s. Singer that never worked as well as this Featherweight.)

I'm a little scared to try it, to see if it still runs. A couple years ago she said it wasn't working, and she brought her project to me to sew. (Hmm, looking back, was it the machine or was it her?) I thread the machine like we're old friends. It's all so familiar, the feel of the bobbin case as it clicks into place, the grrr of the motor as the belt catches the drive wheel. This little machine is sewing just fine. But it's dirty. It has too many years of dust, lint, and cat hair all over it. I get out the screwdrivers, rags, tweezers, cotton swabs, tiny paint brushes, the instruction book (Remember, Mom never throws anything away!) and get to work. There is a lot of lint and dust. But the worse part is the oil slick in the bottom tray. It's all gummy and smelly. Residue from way too much oiling and not enough cleaning.

What do I do with this Featherweight? What do you do with a house full of memories?

Remember the tomato pin cushion; full of sawdust, fat and squishy with green leaf on top and the strawberry attached. Mom's tomato pincushion was falling apart, sawdust leaking everywhere, the strawberry long gone. I removed all the straight pins. Then I started to feel other pins inside, you know what it's like to squeeze a pincushion, a bit dangerous. There is always that sewing needle that decides to go all the way in. So I'm squeezing the tomato and finding needles and more needles. This poor little tomato is already falling apart so I cut it open and pour out the sawdust. Inside there are sixty-three sewing needles. This hollow tomato skin filled with a starburst of shiny needles. It's like my Mom, we know the wonderful useful shiny stuff is in there, it's been pushed way down inside, and we can't get at it anymore. If we squeeze Mom, sometimes she'll provide us with bright answers, true and real thoughts. But mostly we get stabbed by her "thoughtless" words.