Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blog 9: What Do We Do Now?

So now we find out our mom has Alzheimer’s.  It was June of 2009.  This was just devastating to me and my four sisters.  I have to say that when we first got the diagnosis, some of us questioned if it was really true.  As I said in my last post, Mom ended up in the hospital with virtually no blood pressure, because it was determined she overdosed on her medication.  She was taking blood pressure medicine, heart medicine, and pain medication.  Mom was getting confused on her medication but she would not let us help her with it.  We had suspected she may be taking it, then forgetting she took it, and then take it again.  And that is exactly what she was doing, until she almost killed herself.  We wanted to believe that if we could monitor her medication, then she wouldn’t be having all the memory problems she was having.  Maybe that’s all it was, we were hoping. 

We knew that if our mom had Alzheimer’s, we were heading down a long, challenging, and very, very sad road.  We knew that because our Dad passed away just four years prior of DLB…dementia with Lewy Bodies.  My sisters and I were scared to death, to say the least.  How could we loose both of our parents to a dementia type illness?  It’s not fair!!!  Dad was only 72 years old.  When he was diagnosed, we had never heard of that disease before.  We found that even some of the nurses didn’t know what it was.  It is a different kind of dementia that progresses more quickly.  I would say that our Dad passed away just two years after his diagnosis.  He was living at his home up until the last couple of months of his life.  It was so awful seeing his body and mind succumb to that horrific disease.  And when Dad passed, all of his kids were at his bedside, except Renee, who lived in another state.  Even my mom was there, along with my Dad’s wife.  I am very grateful that we were with him as he went on to heaven. 

Dad and us girls became very close as the years went on.  We built some wonderful memories, and I am so grateful for that.  He was always pretty tough on us when we were kids, but he mellowed a lot over the years.  And when he became ill, I absorbed all that I could and learned as much as I could about Dad before his memory would be taken from him.  I bet every time we got together he would cry.  I know he loved us very much, and we loved him very much.  I miss him terribly.

Soon after Mom’s diagnosis, and after the doctor told us Mom shouldn’t be alone any longer, my sisters and I got together and had a family meeting at Lynda’s house.  The hospital agreed to keep Mom a couple of days longer until we had a plan in order.  We all sat down, and I could sense the fear and sadness in my sisters’ eyes.  I was feeling it, too.  How could we survive without our mom?  She was our rock, our glue that held the family together.  We loved her more than life itself.  What do we do now?  That meeting went pretty good, I guess, even though we had some differences of opinions about how to proceed forward.  We all expressed ourselves with much emotion.  We sort of had a plan to put into action.  This meeting, even though it was our first, was also to be our last family meeting.  Because little by little, we all literally fell apart.  One by one, piece by piece, our sisterhood was shattered. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blog 8: It Wasn't Mother's Day, It Was Something Else

It wasn’t Mother’s Day, in fact it had already been a month later when I was at work and got a phone call from Mom asking me what time I was coming over.  I asked her why, and she happily said everyone is coming over and bringing some food.  She sounded excited.  I talked to my sister Lynda and she said mom called her, too.  Mom apparently thought it was Mother’s Day, because we soon discovered she was listening to some old voice messages from Mother’s Day on her phone, where my sister Kathy and niece had left her messages, telling her when they were coming and what they were bringing to eat.  Mom was clearly confused.  We all showed up at her house and brought food with us, and my other sister Lynda even bought her a gift.  We just played along with it because we were happy to be together with Mom.  She had been kind of distant lately.

The next day Lynda and I spoke on the phone about the previous evening.  We were so worried and thought that maybe Mom had a stroke, a mini stroke or something.  We did not know what to do but knew we needed to get help for Mom.  So, we decided to go to her house and talk to her about going to the hospital to get checked out.  Believe me, we knew she would refuse and be so mad at us, but we were not prepared for what she did.  As soon as we told her we were concerned and wanted her to get checked out by the doctor, she started yelling at us.  She said there was no way she was going to the hospital and we better just leave.  It tore us up to tell her that yesterday was not Mother’s Day.  She was so mad that she was shaking as she yelled at us to leave her alone and don’t come back.  We didn’t know what to do and still question ourselves on how we handled it. 

I called 911 because we thought that was the only way Mom would be taken to the hospital.  An ambulance arrived, with the sound to alert the neighborhood.  Mom let us know how unhappy that made her that the neighbors saw the ambulance at her house.   Mom refused to go to the hospital.  I didn’t know a person could refuse, when to us, there clearly was a problem with our beloved Mom.  The paramedics called the police because we thought maybe Mom would listen to the police and go to the hospital.  Let me tell you, that was embarrassing. Mom told them we have a problem and we should be sent to the hospital.  I told one of the officers what happened the night before, and what her behavior has been like lately, and of course, since Mom refused help, there was nothing they could do.  Mom was saying the meanest things about me and Lynda.  Things I can’t even repeat, things she never in her wildest dreams would have said if she were well.  Our mom was different.  Something was terribly wrong.  Mom didn’t go to the hospital, and she didn’t speak to Lynda or I for several days.    

Then a couple of months later something awful happened.  And let me remind you, there were some more disturbing instances where Mom was getting confused on her medication, but refusing to let us come into the house to help her sort it out.  I went shopping that day and I tried to call Mom so I could come over and visit.  She didn’t answer the phone.  I tried a couple of times and left her a message or two.  Mom would frequently not answer the phone and it always concerned us but then she would always tell us later that she was laying down or at the store when we called.  Since I couldn’t reach Mom, I ended up driving home, and as I was pulling into my driveway Kathy called and said she just spoke to Mom on the phone and she was very worried. She said Mom didn’t sound right on the phone. 

I immediately headed back that direction and arrived at Mom’s house 15 minutes later.  I knocked on the door but Mom didn’t answer.  I went to the back door, and no luck there.  I looked in the garage window and saw her car there and ran back to the front door and started pounding.  I said, “Mom, I know you’re in there, open the door!”   It seemed to take forever, but Mom did come to the door.  She opened it slowly, and she was all hunched over and had a blank stare in her eyes.  She stood there behind the locked screen door and didn’t move anymore.  I said to her to unlock the screen door and she mumbled that she couldn't.  I was panicked.  There was something so wrong with her but I didn’t know what!  She couldn’t unlock the screen and I couldn’t break it open.  I called Kathy and said for her to get over there now!  I ran to the back door and fumbled for my keys, and was shaking so bad.  I got the door open but the kitchen door was closed with the chain lock on it.  I called for Mom to come to the back door.  She slowly made her way to the kitchen but didn’t have the strength to pull the chain to the side and unlock the door.  I coaxed her, I begged her, I pleaded with her to not give up.  I tried to bust it open but couldn’t. Miraculously she was able to get the door opened. 

I held on to her and asked her what was wrong.  She could barely stand and barely speak.  Her words were slow and not making any sense.  I called 911.   Kathy and my niece arrived and the paramedics came.  About five people arrived, including the police.  Mom was sitting in her rocking chair when they arrived and when they said they were taking her to the hospital, my mom mustered up all the energy she could, to flat out tell them NO!  They asked her some questions like what year is it, what year were you born, and who is the president.  She answered all of them.  Amazing what a fighter she was when she felt threatened.  But she couldn’t tell them what day it was.  The paramedic said, just like last time, that they cannot take her if she refuses help.  I pulled him aside and I said, “If you don’t take her, she is going to die.  And you are going to have to live with that on your conscience.”  He told me to not do that to him, and I said,  "Take a look at her!  She can’t even walk or talk normally.  All she can do is tell you no, and you are going to go with that?"  He sat down next to Mom and took her blood pressure, to which he said she had none.  She had no blood pressure!  He told her, “Ma’am, we have to take you to the hospital right now.  If we don’t, you are going to die.”  Then Mom let them take her in the ambulance.  Mom did not want to die.  My niece rode with her, and my sister rode with me as we cried the whole way there.  

Praise the Lord, Mom survived, but her life was forever changed from that moment on.  It was June of 2009.  After several tests and evaluations, the doctors said it appeared our mom had Alzheimer’s.  She refused to listen to or believe those words.  We didn't want to either, but we had to.  And more words that my mom would never learn to accept, is that she can no longer live by herself.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Blog 7: We Continue To Worry

Continuing from my last post. 

Soon after, Mom was having a hard time with her medication.  I would call her and she would be frustrated because she was trying to separate her pills in the daily pill container.  She would get so mad and say, “That’s it, I’m so frustrated, I’m not doing it anymore!”  Then she would want to get off the phone. I would ask her if I can come over to help, but she would refuse help.  Mom never wanted us to help her with her medicine or anything else health related.  She would say she’s old enough to know what’s she’s doing. Mom would complain that so many of the pills looked exactly the same.  One day she finally did let my sister Kathy come over to help her and she confessed that two of the pills did look identical. 

Mom was also taking prescription pain medicine for herniated disks in her back.  I’m not sure how she got those, but it may be partially due to osteoporosis.  I don’t know.  She also suffered from neck pain due to a car accident from years ago, where a man rear ended her and gave her a whiplash.  My poor mom was to suffer from that for the rest of her life.  She should have gotten a settlement, but she didn’t sue.  That was in the days when you didn’t do those things.  So, we worried that if she was messing up with her daily medication, then what about those pain pills? 

Mom was always so private about her health.  She would never discuss health concerns with us.  Her reasons were that she didn’t want us to worry.  She was so protective of us.  I tried to tell her that we worry more when she keeps things from us, but she insisted all the time, that everything was just fine. 

In the past we had found out about some things that she tried to hide from us.  One was when she had to go to the hospital and have angioplasty and stents put in her arteries.  She had it done twice and she kept it from us the first time, but we found out about it the second time, nine years later, and showed up at the hospital while she was in surgery.  The wonderful heart surgeon came out and talked to us and explained the procedure and where the stents were placed.  We wouldn’t have known any of that had we not been there. 

Another time Mom had a severe reaction to diverticulitis and had to undergo surgery.  We were waiting for her to show up at my niece’s birthday and she never came.  All of us were so worried, that her husband Bob eventually confessed and told us where she was.  We left immediately and went to the hospital.  Everything turned out fine, but we were so very worried because we could see the pain and the look of fear in our mom’s eyes.  She was scared and that’s why she didn’t want us there. She didn’t want to scare us or have us see her be so scared.

Us girls became increasingly worried that something was wrong with Mom.  We would ask her some questions, only we would tread ever so lightly so as not to upset her.  She always said, “I’m fine!”  One day while I was at her house, she did tell me she had a doctor’s appointment coming up. I asked her if I could go with her and she said no way, she’s not a child.  She would come home from the doctor and not remember what he said, or so she said.  I felt she needed some guidance and someone to help her explain some issues she was having.  It was so frustrating that she didn’t let us help her in any way.  She had appointments with her heart doctor, too.  It made us girls feel like her doctors must think her kids don’t care and just let her go to her appointments by herself.  We have no idea what went on behind those closed doors at the doctor’s offices.

Our mom had been driving her great grandson to school every day and picking him up afterwards.  She had done that for a couple of years, and then the last year she was doing it, some of us girls started to think maybe she should not be doing this anymore.  We were concerned that she was confused on her medication, so she may get confused on the road as well.  The thing is, it was something she looked forward to everyday, it gave her purpose and meaning in her life, and now that her husband was gone, she almost needed this. It was a great bonding time with the great grandson that she spent so much time with from the moment he was born.  How could we take that away from her?

The time came where we had to take some action because of what happened next.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blog 6: The Early Signs That Something Wasn't Right

Mom forgot to make the mashed potatoes. It was Thanksgiving of 2007, at Mom’s house.  We all arrived with our covered dishes, each one appointed ahead of time what we were going to bring.  Mom always made a huge bowl of mashed potatoes and they were the best ever.  As we started putting all the food out to sit down and eat, I realized there were no potatoes.  I said, “Hey, where’s the mashed potatoes?” as my sister shot me a glance, and I took it they already had that discussion.  Mom didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all.  Normally if she forgot something she would be right on it and apologize and try to fix the situation somehow.  That day she could have cared less.  At least, that’s what it appeared to us.  We blew it off, so what if there weren’t potatoes, we had so much food. That was the first clue that something could be wrong, but we didn’t realize it until later.

That Thanksgiving seemed a bit unorganized from the start.  Something seemed out of kilter but I just figured it was because our family never really was organized when it came to big family meals and gatherings.  Also, the house was too small for our very large family.   If everyone was there, we would have about 35 people present and the house would be bursting at the seams.  There never was enough seating, and if someone got up, they lost their spot unless they could bribe a child to hold it for them.  That’s just the way it was. 

In the next year Mom seemed to hide away in her house a lot.  She would often miss going to someone’s birthday party or showing up for a holiday gathering.  She frequently wouldn’t answer the phone and she sometimes wouldn’t open the door when we came over.  If she did open the door, there were times she wouldn’t let me come in.  She would say she’s not feeling well, she’s laying down, or she’s just getting ready to leave to go to the store.  One time she said she was getting ready to go to the store and I asked her if I could go with her.  She said no.  She wouldn't let me come in, even for a minute.  I left and drove up the street to see if she was really going to leave.  She didn’t.  Those things she did would hurt my feelings.  I didn’t understand what was going on and why she would shut us out.  My sisters said the same things happened to them.  We were starting to worry that she was having depression issues. 

Just a few years prior, in June of 2005, my mom’s husband Bob had died of Alzheimer’s.  Mom cared for him up until the very end.  The strange thing is, we didn’t really notice his illness.  He mostly just sat in the same place on the couch and watched TV.  Mom rarely talked about it.  She did say that he would get up during the night and lash out and get out of bed and yell into the air.  She was frightened he might hurt her so she went upstairs to sleep.  When it got to the point that she couldn’t do it anymore, she placed him in a nursing home, where he quickly went downhill and passed away just three weeks later.  I assumed mom was still grieving, and that she was probably depressed.  She was alone again, and maybe this was a temporary state she was going through, just trying to adjust to life without her husband of 19 years.  I don’t think any of us girls realized how hard it must have been for Mom to care for her husband with Alzheimer’s.

Mom would say, "If that ever happens to me you can stick me in front of a Mac truck because I don't want to live like that."  

We would say, "Of course that isn't going to happen to you, Mom!"    

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blog 5: Our Family Is Growing

We are five, five sisters, but we all had our differences in our personalities.  I was the oldest, the strongest, the nurturer, who got her feelings hurt easily but usually was able to cover it up.  Lynda was the emotional one, who couldn’t hide her feelings, and very loving.  Kathy was the quiet one, avoided confrontation, but stubborn in her own way.  Annie was the biggest animal lover, also a nurturer, and with her being the fourth child, was used to being told what to do.  Renee was small for her age, and because of being the youngest, felt that she needed to do more to be seen and heard.  We loved each other unconditionally and accepted our differences, and never gave it much thought.

I was the first to marry, and one by one my other sisters followed suit.  What’s weird is, my mom had a mother’s ring that we had bought her for Mother’s Day, and when I got married my birthstone in her ring fell out, and when my sister Lynda got married shortly after, her birthstone fell out of Mom’s ring.  We thought that was an odd thing to happen twice and always wondered if it was some sort of sign. 

My sister Lynda had the first baby, a boy.  I had three children, a boy and two girls…my pride and joy. J  My sister Kathy had a daughter, Annie had one boy and three girls, and Renee had two girls.  The kids are all amazing extensions of us, extensions of their wonderful Nana.  Our family grew, and life was so much fun having all these little ones in it.
The age difference from the youngest to the oldest of our children is eighteen years.  Since mine, Lynda’s, and Kathy’s kids are close in age, two girls and two boys, Mom would occasionally take the four of them to spend the night at her house.   They loved going to Nana’s house where they could play with their cousins and have fun.  Mom would get involved and play with them, and take them to McDonalds and to the dollar store to pick out ‘three things’, and then they’d watch movies at night.  Other weekends my youngest daughter and Annie’s oldest daughter, who are the same age, would go to Nana’s house to spend the night together.  They got the same treatment.  It was so much fun for our kids.  My mom loved it, and I loved watching the sweet bond that developed between my mom and my kids.  It was also nice getting a little break when Mom had the kids.    

Mom was a wonderful Nana.  Besides having them over for sleepovers, she would buy her grandchildren toys, coloring books, crayons and puzzles. She would also buy clothes and buy patterns to make them cute little outfits, Halloween costumes, and stuffed animals.  She crocheted blankets for them and did patchwork quilts, too.   She did so much for our kids, just like she did for us girls. 

Mom eventually remarried about nineteen years after she and Dad divorced.  For years I would pray every night that Mom would find a man to marry.  I remembered what she told me when I was a child, that she wanted a man to love her. I felt guilty for being mean to some of the men she dated when we were kids because I didn't want anyone to take the place of my dad. Well, she finally found a great guy and they were married.  She retired from her work, and he retired shortly after, and they lived on a nice pension.  Everything was grand for a good while after that.

Our extended family would get together for everyone’s birthdays, holidays, picnics, lunches, and whatever else we came up with in between.  Our husbands would say the Carver girls will find a reason to get together if there isn’t a reason to.  For birthdays, we generally went to each other’s houses.  My sisters and I bought presents for each other and we bought presents for each other’s kids. 

Mom always got a ton of presents, and over many years, her house became more full…full of knick-knacks filling every shelf , full of clothes stuffed in the closets and dressers, full of framed family photos and wall hanging with special poems, and full of fancy dinnerware, cookie jars, and other kitchen items.  Occasionally, we pooled our money and bought her something big, like a computer and printer.

Mom loved getting on her computer.  She would do research on topics of interest, send out emails, and she even got herself a digital camera and would upload and print out pictures.

Even though we had our own families, we still spent a lot of time with Mom.  Her husband Bob, just put up with all those kids and grandkids.  He had five kids of his own, too, but they didn't come around much.  I would go to their house probably three times a week just to hang out.  My other sisters did, too.  Renee didn’t live in town but she would try to come home about two to three times a year.  We would also travel to see Renee whenever we could.  Sometimes we would meet half way, and we would stay in a hotel and have a slumber party…just Mom and us girls.  Or we’d stay in a hotel in Chicago and go shopping.  We always did stuff together.  Those were good times and I miss all of that very much. 

Please stay tuned, everything starts to change…   

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blog 4: Memories on Cassette, Growing Up and Leaving the Nest

Our dad went to Germany to work and my sister Lynda and I went to live with him for a year.  We went to an American high school.  I was a senior and graduated there and Lynda was a sophomore.  It was the most amazing experience to live and travel in Europe, and it was something my mom understood as a great opportunity, even though she worried about us being so far from home and from her.  I am so grateful we got to do that, and I was able to share that time with my dad and my sister. 

My mom mailed a video camera to me because she couldn’t afford to fly to Germany for my graduation, and this way she would be able to see it.  My friends were amazed that my mom bought me a video camera for graduation.      

While we were in Germany my mom and sisters would record themselves talking on cassette tapes and then after each of them talked on it, Mom would mail them to us.  Lynda and I would listen to the tapes and laugh and cry, and sometimes rewind and listen again.  We would set aside time to record ourselves talking on the tape and then mail it back.  We did this on several cassette tapes over the entire time we were there.  Mom recorded my sister’s chorus and band programs, and we recorded ours and mailed them back.  Lynda and I described our European adventures on those tapes and we talked about our everyday lives at school and at home.  Mom also tape recorded her and my little sisters opening the Christmas presents we mailed to them. Mom always knew how to make Christmas magical, and her recording them on Christmas made it seem like we were there.  It was almost as good as that. 

I took for granted how special those tape recorded messages were, but I cherish those tapes very much now.  I safely kept them all and got them out a couple of years ago so we could all listen to them, and relive that period of time in our lives.  It brought back many memories.  We all got tears in our eyes as we listened to each other talk.  Our voices were so pure and innocent, and we were so loving in our messages to each other.

When Lynda and I returned to the states, my sisters Kathy and Renee went to Germany for half a school year.  Kathy was in 9th grade and Renee in 6th grade.  Annie didn’t go because she was too scared to leave Mom, and even though Mom did all she could to encourage her to go, Annie refused.    

The five Carver girls eventually grew up.  Some went to college, and eventually all got married and had families of their own.  Everyone stayed in our hometown except Renee, who moved to another state after graduating college.  She was the last one to leave the nest because she was the youngest, and she was also the one who was more determined to expand her horizons.

Life was finally a little easier for Mom.  She had the house to herself and she had a whole new world opening up for her.   

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blog 3: The Younger Years

I don’t know how my mom did it, but she was nothing short of Wonder Woman.  She not only worked an average of 50 + hours per week, but she also did all of the grocery shopping, cooking, baking, shopping for our clothes, and even bought patterns and fabric to make us some pretty cool outfits.  She took the time to put together some creative Halloween costumes.  One year our elementary school won for best costumes in the Halloween parade, and I always believed it was because of the mummy costume she made for my sister Lynda and the baby outfit she made for me.   

We were all pretty small framed, so Mom often had to take in our jeans.  We liked them tight fitting, so she would make them fit like a glove. I can still see that vision of Mom sitting on the floor with a row of straight pins between her lips, and tugging at our jeans to put the straight pins in down the sides.  We would say for her to do it tighter, and she would say we wouldn't be able to move if she did it any tighter. I remember we had to stand still while she put the straight pins in, or else we’d get stuck. She would also embroider designs on some of our jeans to make them one of a kind.  In high school she made me a denim swimming suit with embroidered flowers on it.  It’s one of those many things I’ve kept over the years.    

Mom fixed up the house with some of her hard earned money.  She was always rearranging furniture, painting old pieces of furniture, making curtains, and doing whatever to make things seem new and fresh.  Our house was so homey!  And like I said in an earlier post, the house was barely 1,300 square feet, but it seemed so big when we were kids. 

At one point Mom hired a maid to come clean the house and do the laundry.  I’m sure the cost to pay for a maid was worth it so my mom could have some time to relax.  Can you imagine how much laundry five girls could generate?  We would come home from school and the house would be clean and our laundry stacked up on the stairs for us to put away.  I don't know how long we had this service, but I don't think it lasted very long. 

Out of five girls, four of us played musical instruments.  Buying band instruments, reeds, music stands and lesson books, and paying for band uniform rentals and cleaning, not to mention week long band trips across the country, all took a chunk out of Mom’s pocket book. Mom wasn’t able to attend all of our band concerts and chorus programs but she did the best she could.  My sister Lynda played the violin and then switched to clarinet. I played the flute, and Annie played the flute for a year or two, and then Renee played the flute all through school.  Because she was the youngest and pretty much the only one left in the house by the time she was in high school, mom was able to afford private lessons for her. 

We also went to various summer camps and Bible schools over the years and belonged to the girl’s youth group at church.  I was in Blue Birds and Brownies and Girl Scouts and some of my sisters were too.  There were Christmas programs at church, where Mom would make us matching dresses and do our hair all pretty.  Everyone who knew us called us the cute Carver girls.  All of the things we participated in meant we needed a ride, and Mom was usually the one to do it.  If not, we walked, and if it was too far, we got a ride from someone.  For those special programs, of course, we wanted Mom to be there to watch us. 

When we were teenagers we got our own phone line because Mom was tired of us tying up the phone.  She said she could never use it because one or the other of us was always on it.  I can still remember the phone number.  Funny how I can remember things like that.  We were strictly forbidden from using Mom's phone unless we absolutely had to.  I just realized I remember that number, too.     

I got my first camera when I was 12 years old.  Mom would never let us take her picture.  We discovered this would be the case all throughout our lives.  We have so many pictures of her with her hands over her face, and her mouth open, saying, STOP!  I have to admit that once in a great while, she would cooperate.  But you can see the look of  displeasure in some of those pictures.  I don’t know why because she was always such a pretty woman with a beautiful smile.  With blonde hair, blue eyes, 5’4” tall, and a great figure, you would never know she gave birth to five kids.  When I was a teenager some of my friends thought she was my older sister.  That always made her smile.

Mom would always instill in us family pride.  She said the Carver girls stick together.  She always said we were her pride and joy.  She wanted us to always be close and to always be there for each other.  We knew how important we were to her.  And we all let her know how important she was to us.  We thought we had the best family, the closest family, the family that will never be separated by differences.  How could we have differences that big anyway?  We were raised together.  That only happened to other families.  Our family would never be that way, or so we thought.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blog 2: The Story Continues

Mom was a wonderful mom. She loved us so much.  We were her world, and she was ours.  She made every Christmas magical.  No matter how tight money was, we had more Christmas presents under the tree than anyone I knew.  My younger sisters would wake up first and get everyone up.  We would play Christmas music and open our presents before the sun rose in the morning.  I have some tape recorded memories of some of those Christmases, with our young voices oohing and aahing over our new gifts.   I remember one Christmas someone came to our door with a bag full of presents for me and my sisters.  I never knew who they were, but I assume we were probably on the list at our church or something.  Little did they know, we already got everything we wanted from our mom!   Mom made our birthdays special, too.  We got to have birthday parties with friends spending the night, and Mom would put up with a bunch of screaming, giggly girls running through the house.  With five daughters, there were lots of birthday parties. 

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we sure had a lot of love.  Mom kissed us goodbye every morning before school, if she didn’t have to leave for work before we woke up.  There were many mornings she put a roast in the crock pot before she left for work and we would come home from school and smell that wonderful pot roast.  We learned to fix our own lunches and if there wasn’t enough food to pack, she would leave money for us to stop at the corner store to pick up some snacks to put in our lunch sacks.  We walked to school, no matter the weather.  We just learned to dress prepared.  One particular day it was so cold and rain and sleet was coming down.  A lady pulled up in a station wagon and told us to get in and she would drive us to school.  She had a couple of kids in the car and she said she knew our mom.  I politely told her no, even though my sisters were begging to get in the car. Mom always said not to go with strangers, and to me, she was a stranger because I didn't know who she was. 

Since I was older, I saw and felt some things that my other sisters didn’t recognize.  I saw that mom was struggling.  I didn’t understand what was wrong then, but of course as I got older I understood more.  She was unhappy a lot, and I believe she was depressed.  She had to go to the hospital a couple of times and our grandmother had to come stay with us.  Our grandparents, Mom’s parents, came to check on us, but they lived on a farm and had to tend to it.  I remember her telling me that she needed a man to love her.  I'm sure it was really hard for her because there weren't many men out there who would want to date a woman with five kids.  I would say, “But you have us.  You have five daughters who love you very much.  Aren’t we enough?”  She would assure me that she loved us very much and she feels so loved by us, but a man’s love is different.  "You will understand when you are older", is what she would tell me.   We had that discussion more than once, because she knew I didn't like it when she went on the few dates she had. 

Saturdays were house cleaning days when we were kids.  If Mom had to work, which she often did, I would delegate responsibilities for the housework.  I usually mowed the grass, trimmed the bushes, and did all of the yard work myself.  Somebody had to do it, and I actually did not mind, unless the darn lawnmower didn't start.  Grandpa would always come to the rescue though.  Each sister would pick a room they wanted to clean and everyone was responsible for their own bedrooms, which were shared.  Nobody wanted to clean the bathroom, but we made sure everyone got their turn.  Sometimes it would turn into a fight, but most of the time we were OK with the room we got.  Mom would come home from work and we would greet her at the door.  We couldn’t wait to see the expression on her face as soon as she came inside the house.   We were so proud of our work and we wanted Mom to pick out the room she thought was the cleanest.  She would walk around from room to room, with five girls following her, smiling at her comments of how beautiful the house looks and how we did such a great job cleaning.  Mom would often say she can’t decide which room looks the best, they all look so nice.  We kind of expected her to say that each time, but we would still hold out that she might pick our room.  

Every summer Mom took us girls to Great America in St. Louis.  We would stay in a motel in the area and go to the amusement park during the day and stay until we were dizzy and exhausted.  Then we would go back to the hotel and swim and play in the pool.  Another summer we all took a vacation to Florida.  That was a wonderful experience for all of us.  Mom packed all of our camping gear and bags of food in the trunk and whatever didn’t fit in the trunk, went on the rack above the car.  I remember, along with apples and other packable foods, Mom packed a gazillion canisters of Pringles and pull-top cans of fruit cocktail and diced peaches.  She packed so much of it, we even came home with some.  I couldn’t eat Pringles for years after that.  We stopped at all the tourist traps along the way.  Yeah, we got suckered in.  We only ended up camping the first night, because the experience was not good.  Mom couldn't figure out how to pitch the brand new tent she bought for our trip.  It was about 10:00 at night, and we were all hot and tired.  Luckily a nice camper came over and put it up for us.   The next morning we took it down and never got it out again for the rest of the trip.  None of us cared for sleeping on the hard ground and Mom didn't like the fact that the bathroom was so far away.  That's what really saved us from having to camp again!  She decided we would stay in hotels for the rest of the trip.  We were on the move this whole vacation, driving from one beach to the next, down the gulf side and over to Disneyworld, then down to Miami Beach and part of the Keys.  Then on the way back, Mom drove straight through, all night long.

I look back on my childhood and have such fond memories of how we all got along.  How Mom loved us so much and wanted what was best for us.  I know there were problems with our relationship with our Dad after the divorce, but I will talk about how that all got resolved later.  This blog is about my mom, and my sisters, and I wanted to share some background information on where we came from as a family, and leading up to where we are now.  Please stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Blog 1: The Beginning...

We were a family of five girls, with our lovely mom, who raised us after she and our dad divorced when I was eleven years old.  My sisters were nine, seven, five and two.  Our lives changed the day Dad moved out of the house.  I worried about my mom and how she was going to be able to take care of all of us by herself.  She didn’t have a job, and at my age, I knew we needed money to pay for our food and clothing and other things we would need in life. 

Mom used to tell me that we are going to be happier than we were before.  She said we will be a family of all women, who will stick together and do fun things, with no one telling us what we can and can’t do.  She tried to make it seem like a good thing, even though it was so very hard for me to accept the fact that dad was leaving us all alone.

I first learned of the divorce when we were riding home in a cab and mom told the cab driver she was getting divorced.  I was shocked because I had absolutely no idea.  I remember going into the house after hearing that awful news and I looked at Dad sitting on the couch, reading the newspaper.  He looked up at me, and I went upstairs to my room.  There was a lot of tension, but I don’t remember anything else about that day. 

Mom and Dad rarely fought in front of us.  There were a few times us girls had to sit on the porch while Mom and Dad talked.  But I didn’t think it was because they were fighting.  I didn’t find out until years later the reasons for the divorce.  Mom just always said Dad liked to bowl too much.  Mom was very protective of us and she wanted us to love our Dad, which we did.

Mom often struggled to get Dad to pay child support.  One winter day, my mom piled all of us girls in the car and we drove down to my Grandmother’s house (Dad’s mom) because Dad was there.  I was sitting in the back seat as I watched the whole thing unfold.  Mom got out of the car and Grandmother and Dad came out of the house.  They got into an argument and Mom was telling Dad she didn’t have enough money to even buy milk.  Dad and his mom were yelling at Mom and telling her to get in the car and leave.  They had their hands on her, pushing her towards the car, and Mom was bending over crying.  She had no choice but to get in the car because Dad and Grandmother kept yelling and pushing her away.  She got in the car and cried all the way home.  It was so sad, and I am brought to tears every time I recall this memory.  I am crying so hard now.  My sisters don’t remember this, but it is a memory I will never forget.

Mom eventually found work, and after a couple of years of working in various low paying jobs she finally landed a job at the hospital, doing respiratory therapy. I was so proud of her.  She seemed to really like her job and most of the people she worked with.  The problem is, she had to work double shifts many times and even a few triple shifts, just to make enough money to support our big family.  She sometimes worked the night shift and she would come home and tell us to keep our voices down so she can sleep, and then she would go to her room and shut the door.  It was hard for five girls to stay quiet for as long as we needed to for mom to get enough sleep.  She occasionally had to call out to us to be quiet!  I loved those days when mom worked a single shift during the day.  She was less tired and we got to spend more time with her. 

We lived in a modest two story home, about 1,300 square feet.  This is the home our parents bought together, only three years prior to their divorce.  Mom got to keep the house, but she had to pay the mortgage.  It seemed like such a huge house when I was little.  Our home had three bedrooms and only one bathroom.  One bathroom was no big deal because as far as I knew, everybody’s home had only one bathroom.  A few years later, as the older ones entered our teenage years, Mom put a bedroom and a half  bathroom in the basement. Even though it was nice for emergencies, nobody wanted to use that bathroom downstairs unless it was absolutely necessary.  It was in a dark corner of the basement.  Getting ready for school in the morning required using the bathroom upstairs because it had a bathtub and a big mirror.    

Mom was our rock.  She was the glue that kept our family together.  I can’t believe where our family is now.  The story continues…