Monday, April 30, 2012

I still want to barf

Today was the day, I sold my Mother's house.  The knot in my stomach is huge. This house was never MY house. I never lived there.  I have a feeling like I've done something terribly wrong, and yes, I can never un-sell it. Mom has no idea what I did today.

A new couple is moving in.  It is now their turn to sit on the porch and watch the humming birds fighting over the bee-balm plants. They will watch the fawns being birthed in the field. They will pick the blueberries in July and the strawberries in June. They will get their car stuck on the icy driveway next January. Will they ever love this old blue house as much as my Mother did?

I signed my name a hundred times today. It was all a blur. I came out of the meeting without the keys and with a check.  I guess that's all I can ask for.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

reality tv

When I visit, I usually help Mom read her mail. We read and re-read her cards and letters that she gets. Sometimes the new mail on her table are the letters from last summer. But it's all new news to Mom. She won't let me throw away a single scrap of paper, not even the ripped and wrinkled envelopes.

Last week Mom got a nice letter from a dear friend, Liz. Someone she's known since they were both young mothers together in the church community.  Liz also included a beautiful family photograph. It was of she and her husband, their children and their spouses, and all the grandchildren.  Her family, like so many of our families, is spread across the whole country. It must have been wonderful to have them all together.  Mom recognized Liz and husband (which was great) but she could not recognize any of their kids. Well, of course these "kids" are now in their 40's and 50's, not the 8-10 years old she thinks they should be.

My mother's tv/dvd player is no longer hooked up to receive tv signals. That's fine with me, because she was becoming agitated and upset by what she saw on the daily news programs. Mom can still play her dvd documentaries and movies, and sometimes she still remembers how to do that.

Last week, one evening, she watched the movie Jumanji, the dvd box was still beside her tv.  An exciting fantasy adventure movie, filmed in one of our favorite cities, Keene. So the setting of the movie is VERY normal New England scenery.  The house is a very normal New England Victorian home. The streets and buildings are very much like what Mom might see any day in town. But what happens in the movie is VERY much not normal.  Lions are in the kitchen, rivers run down the staircase, jungle vines grow through the living room windows, and giant spiders attack the actors in the attic. In the movie, the little brother, turns into a half boy - half monkey.

Mom grabs my arm and pulls me close, she wants to whisper a secret to me, her eyes are checking frantically for others who may be listening.  There is no one else in her room, but she wants to be secretive.  She points to the photo of Liz's family.  "One of Liz's children is an animal."
"Oh?!"  I say, not knowing how to respond.
"See... they have a monkey in their family."  She says it like she thinks poor Liz has been tricked, and doesn't know what's going on. She's pointing at the picture.
"Nooooooo, Mom, that's one of Liz's grandchildren..." with short dark hair, just like the little brother in the movie.

Yikes!!! Mayday! Mayday! Divert! Divert!
I think that dvd is going away.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


My mother was once a VERY social person, a do-er, a go-er, a joiner.  She was always part of all the groups. Now she is not. 

She has been in assisted living for fifteen months.  She has not learned anyone's name, she doesn't even seem to want to.  She has not tried to make friends. She has not reached out to her neighbors for their companionship. She has not tried to connect with the staff. She is alone.

When I call her neighbors and staff by their names, she asks me "How do you know their names?"
"You just read their name tags" I want to snap back at her, but I don't.

There is a wall between her and everyone else.  There is a wall between her chaotic mind that contains only her and her cat, and the rest of us. She will never cross that wall and join us. She is alone, and lonely, on her side of the wall. 

Dammmmmm dementia I hate you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

escape plans

While Mom and I were working on some jigsaw puzzles I was listening in on the conversation of two of Mom's neighbors...

Tina and Barbara were rocking side by side and looking out the wall of glass doors into the courtyard. Beyond the courtyard is a fence. They were planning something. 

They were talking about pushing the lawn furniture up to the fence and jumping over.

"They took the lawn furniture away because they are worried." 
(Aside: the lawn furniture is still in its winter location.)
They both agreed they didn't know whether to go left or right on the road, because they really didn't know where they were.
"I think we're in (state)."  
"I know we're at Stuvwxyz."
"But I don't know where that is." 
Tina points to a card attached to her walker, "It says here it's in (town)." 
"Yes, but I don't know where (town) is." 
"I think it's in (state)." 
"Are you sure?"
"We could push the furniture up to the fence and jump over."
"Where would we go?"
"I don't know where I am."
"You're at Stuvwxyz."
"How did I get here?" 
"Our families dropped us off."
"I've got a car at home."
"I hope someone is feeding my cat at home."
"Are you 96?"
"No, are you?"
"We should jump over the fence."
"How would we get to Pennsylvania?"
"I've got a car at home."

"Where are we?"
"I think we're in (state)."

This conversation went around and around for about twenty minutes.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

cried wolf

The boy who cried wolf or The Mom Who Cried Bra.

The musical talent that comes to Stuvwxyz is amazing. Another pianist came to play for the afternoon sing-a-long. She played, by ear, all the show tunes, patriotic songs, camp songs, and folk songs that the residents requested. It was fun.

After the sing-a-long had ended Mom leans into me and whispers "I need a new bra. This one's not right."
"Yes, Mom, your bras are pretty old and worn out."
"No, this one's not mine, they gave it to me to wear."
She proceeds to flip up her jersey and show me a beige padded bra.
"You're right Mom, that bra's not yours." I'm laughing. "You've got somebody's bra on." And it's way too small.

We go to her room to change into her own underwear. I can't find any of her bras.  They are all missing. I help the aide check the laundry room. Another aide tells me that Mom's been complaining about her beige bra. "Well, yes, it's not hers." I'm laughing.  Mom's always been a person who only wears white cotton underwear. This beige nylon padded thing is SO not her style.

After a few quick circumference measurements and a hug goodbye, I leave Mom to her dinner and drive two towns over to pick up an assortment of new white cotton bras.

When I return she is already done with dinner, has put on her pj's, and is getting ready to watch a dvd. She has put two dvd disks into the slot on the top of her tv. 

Mom is very cooperative about trying on the new bras.  From her motions and movements, I think the aides must be helping her get dressed in the mornings, more than I thought they did. I'm pretty sure she got into her pj's by herself, as today's clothes are scattered on the floor. 

We find two that fit well, I pull out my trusty laundry marker and write her name in them. Doesn't everyone carry a laundry marker with them?

So this is the story of The Mom Who Cried Bra.  She has been telling me, and I'm sure she tells her aides too, that the clothes in the closets are not hers: all she owns is a pair of blue jeans. But today she tells them that this bra is not hers and no one believes her.

You've gotta laugh or you're gonna cry.

Good thing she doesn't wear a hearing aid or dentures!