Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog 37: Oh Mom, I Need You!

There are times in a woman’s life when she just needs her mom.   More and more, I have come to realize just how much she has always been there for me and how much I have always counted on that.  It’s always been a sense of comfort knowing she was around.  I could call her at any time and she would be there with a listening ear.  Always soothing any discomfort I had, offering advice that only a mother can give, and letting me know just how much she loved me.  Just hearing her voice made me feel so good.  A mother’s love is unconditional.  It’s the kind of love that can’t even be put into words.  It’s the best love there is.

This is one of the last gifts my mom gave me.  She bought one of these for all of her daughters for Mother's Day in 2007.

Mom was there for me when I had my three children, and the pride she showed me was priceless; she raced me to the hospital when I was having a kidney stone attack, disregarding the speed limits; she tenderly rubbed Vicks VapoRub on me when I was a teenager and very sick with the flu, and I realized just how worried she was when she called my grandparents to come stay with me when she had to go to work; she mailed a video camera to me when I was living in Germany so my dad could record my high school graduation because she couldn’t afford a ticket to fly over there.  (Back in the 70’s, I’m sure that was a pretty expensive piece of equipment).  After returning to the states, my mom used my video camera to record me in a fashion show, only to realize she forgot to put the tape in the camera!  It was me offering comfort to her then, because she was so upset.

My mom put up with me when I screamed and cried at the doctor’s/dentist office when I was a kid.  I’m sure I embarrassed her many times, especially the time I ran down the hall from the nurse as she was holding a needle in her hands, ready to poke me with it.  Mom was right behind the nurse, trying to get me to stop running away because I was embarrassing myself (and her), and I was going to get the shot whether I wanted it or not.   Mom told me that my younger sister had the shot and she didn’t even cry. 

Mom was there for my band concerts, church plays, and high school minstrel shows.  I remember her coming to watch my first grade Christmas program.  She was standing there, all beautiful, with a proud mom’s love written all over her face.  We lined up on the stairs in the hallway and I was in the first row because I was so little.  That children’s program stands out in my memory because I couldn’t snap my fingers when we sang Up on the Housetop, click, click, click!  So the teacher told me to just hold my hands down by my side, instead of telling me to pretend.  Because I did that, instead of raising my hands up to click, click, click like everyone else did, it drew more attention to me and it seemed like everyone was staring at me.  I was so embarrassed, and apparently that’s why I never forgot it.  My mom tried to make me feel better by telling me everyone stared at me because I was the cutest one.  Funny how little things like that, which seemed so big at the time, can make you hold on to a memory.

I thank God that my mom is still here.  She is different now that dementia has taken over her brain, her memory is pretty sparse, and she isn’t the same as before.  She doesn’t seem to remember anything about my childhood, or even hers anymore.  She can’t be there for me like she used to.  But she is always going to be my mom no matter what. She is still here and I can still hear her voice, that voice that I love so much.  I still need her, and any way I can get her, I am grateful for.  

I was thinking the other day about what would my mom say to me, to my sisters, about what we are going through with her illness.  What advice would she give me (us)?  She's always been there for us before.  We need to figure it out on our own now.  I know we have to take what we learned from her and be there for each other, like she was for us, and like we used to be with each other.  I know that.  Oh Mom, I need you to show me how, once more.  I can't seem to do anything right when it comes to this.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blog 36: Communication, Prayers, and Forgiveness

Communication with my sisters has had its ups and downs.  We’ve all been going through a great deal of suffering about our Mom’s illness, and facing the thought of losing her someday has been almost unbearable.  That in itself has changed the course of our lives.

I spoke to Kathy the other night about our mom and we talked about how we wish us sisters could be close again.  I am the only sister who talks to Annie and I have been trying to get them all to reach out to each other.  Annie is struggling with the fact that Renee placed Mom in a home and Lynda and Kathy didn’t do anything to stop her.  I told Kathy, Lynda has been really distant with me and I don’t understand why, unless Renee has something to do with it.  About the only communication I get from Lynda is an occasional text, telling me she loves me.  I miss talking to her.  It would be so nice to have all of my sisters back.  There's just so much drama!

On the subject of Mom being in a nursing home, Kathy told me Mom needed to be placed there.  I told her I disagree.  I said that Mom went into the home only a year after her diagnosis, after we promised her we wouldn’t do that to her.  She could walk unassisted, have conversations, feed herself, go to the bathroom on her own, she knew who we were, and quite frankly, I feel that she went to the nursing home way too soon!  The only reason why Mom was placed, aside from the obvious fact that Renee took her and put her there, is because us girls couldn’t get our act together and come together as a family, as Mom’s daughters, to care for her.  We fought with each other about who and how, what and when, instead of communicating effectively. The only family meeting we had was the one meeting right after getting Mom's diagnosis.  That's it (although I tried and tried). I told Kathy we failed Mom.  We couldn’t put our differences aside and think about what was best for Mom and how we were going to do what’s best for her.  With five daughters there’s no reason why our Mom should’ve had to go into a nursing home, especially this early in the disease.   We let Mom down.  Kathy said she never thought of it that way.  She started to cry.  We both did.

Kathy and I also talked about the fact that I wanted to come back home and care for Mom as soon as I found out Renee was going to place her.  She said that Renee didn’t want a temporary solution.  I said, what would it hurt for me to come back home and care for Mom for six months?  It would give Mom some more time in her home, to be around her family, which makes Mom happy, to have Sunday dinners with the family, and to save the $6,400 a month in nursing home costs.  What would be so wrong with that?  Not to mention the fact that this might have patched up some hurt feelings with us sisters and bring us back together again as we used to be.    Kathy agreed that she wished we could have made that happen.  She never wanted Mom put in a home, but Renee obviously used her power of persuasion.   

It’s too late now.  Mom’s been in the nursing home for 14 months.  She is doing okay at times, but I believe she has declined more rapidly as a result of being there.  It’s a nice place, but most of the residents are much more advanced than she is.  Most of them just sleep and many of them can’t speak.  Mom is not able to see her family very often as most of us are at least three hours away.  To me, it’s important to have the family around.  Mom is constantly asking to see her great grandson, whom she practically raised, and to go back home, and for all of us to be together.  She doesn’t have her familiar surroundings, or her family, and that makes me sad to see her long for that.   Because she is losing her memory, I think it’s important to have those familiar around her.

Renee is the one that sees Mom the most as she has placed her in a home in the town where she lives.  Mom has shown some frustration towards Renee and we have all heard it.  I know that it is probably because Renee is the one who is called when Mom is having a difficult time with bathing, taking meds, etc.  I am sure that it must be very demanding and frustrating for Renee to have to deal with this on a daily basis, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for her because she put Mom there, without our knowledge or approval.  Renee and Mom have had personality clashes in the past and it is apparent even still.   

I am praying hard and trying to forgive Renee for what she’s done.  We used to be so close.  I have to make peace with it, but I feel that she needs to explain why she did what she did, so that I can understand why she shut us out.  She gets very defensive, and then I get defensive, and we can’t talk without getting into a heated argument.  That’s why we don’t talk anymore.  I love her and I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.  I pray about it, and some days I feel better about everything, but more often than not I feel this deep sadness that we let our Mom down.  Renee let her down, and I guess we all did in our own way, and she let us down by not listening to any of us.  She’s our mom, too.  We want what’s best for her, too.  Instead we are left to feel that we’ve lost all rights as Mom’s daughters the day she took over.   If you have been following along on my blog, you will understand why I feel this way.

I’m praying for us all because we have a much tougher road ahead of us and we need all of the prayer support we can get.  I would appreciate it if you would remember my family in your prayers.  Thank you, and God bless you.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blog 35: Sewing Some Love

I went to the store with my daughter the other day.  She was looking at fabrics to purchase for a project she was making.  I couldn’t help but think of my mom.  Going to a fabric store, for my mom, was like being in a candy shop.  My mom spent countless hours in fabric stores, looking at patterns and pretty fabrics to make her grandkids clothes when they were little.   She loved to sew, and other than painting, it was one of her favorite things to do.

I went through a sewing phase myself, a common interest I had with my mom.  But I didn’t have the passion for it like she did.  Looking at the calico prints brought back memories of the quilts I sewed for my kids, learning how to do it from my mom.  A quilt was easy, Barbie doll clothes, on the other hand, were hard.  But not for my mom.  

Next to a row of colorful, floral fabrics I spotted a cute little sundress hanging on a hook, and I was drawn to it.  I picked it up and inspected the details of the dress and felt deep emotions welling up inside.   My mom could have made that dress.  I showed my daughter and said, “This reminds me of what nana used to make for you.”   She looked at me holding the dress and she smiled in agreement.  It had a row of ruffles on the bottom, something my mom would have loved doing.  She loved little details like that.  It brought me back in time, many years ago.  I would go over to Mom’s house and she’d pull out a bag of fabrics and patterns she had just bought.   Mom would get so excited about it and couldn’t wait to start the project.  She could whip out an outfit in no time, sometimes starting in the evening, and not going to bed until it was finished.  To me, it seemed like so much work. To her, it was love.  

My mom made clothes for the grandkids but I don’t recall ever seeing anything she made for herself.  She was always thinking of someone else, serving and caring so unselfishly for her family.  I saved all of the clothes she made my kids, and I gave my daughter's dresses to her.  She has some of them hanging in her daughters’ closet for her kids to wear on special occasions.  Little did I know at the time, that my mom’s gifts to my kids would also be gifts to my grandchildren, and the way we save things, I’m sure my great grandchildren will be wearing those clothes in years to come. 

I miss my mom so much.  I wish she could be well again so she could do the things she always loved to do, and have meaning to her life again.  What is the meaning of her life now?  To sit in a nursing home and forget who, why, what and how?  I just don't get it.  She deserves better than that.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blog 34: This Is Lizzie, Mom

Mom has been in a nursing home for almost 14 months now.  The thought of ever getting to move her out of there resurfaces often, still, especially when she says certain things that tug at my heart strings, namely, that she misses her home and her family, and she doesn’t want to be there where every one is sleeping and people are dying.  I know that I cannot do what my sister won’t allow, so I try to put that thought out of my head and just concentrate on making my mom feel as happy and loved as I possibly can.  With every phone call and every visit, I give her all the love and attention she can absorb. 

I call and talk to Mom usually every other day, and sometimes we are on the phone for ten to twenty minutes, and sometimes it’s only a couple of minutes, before she is ready to get off the phone.   She always asks me if I’ll come over, and now, instead of telling her I can’t today because I don’t live there, I tell her I will come over, because she won’t remember anyway. I want to make her feel happy for the moment and it really does make her happy.  I tell her how much I miss her and she tells me she misses me, too.  I tell her I love her so much and she tells me the same thing.  It feels so good to hear my mom tell me she loves me.  Hearing those words from her make my day so much better, and I always hope that her hearing those words from me make her day so much better too.  When my mom is irritable or hangs up without saying she loves me, it seems to affect my day.  I know she hangs up sometimes because she forgets she is on the phone, or she thought she already said goodbye to me.  I also know that being irritable goes with the territory.

Sometimes when we are talking she will forget it’s me and she will say, you are Kathy, right?  And I’ll say, no, this is Lizzie, Mom.  Then she'll say, oh, that’s right.  She will also set the phone down and walk away or else hold it in her hand but forget I am on the line.  I’ll call out, Mom, Mom…Mom, are you there?  And usually she doesn't come back to me.  I’m afraid her talking on the phone is going to be a real problem down the road, and then I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I fly out to go visit my mom every two to three months.   Every time the date draws near that I am going to go see her I am filled with excitement, apprehension, and anxiety.  I just can’t wait to see her and see her reaction when she sees me.  Will she know who I am?  Will she embrace me?  Will I be able to make her happy?   I always have that fear tucked away that one day she is going to see me and not have a clue who I am. 

My mom is slowly, but surely, losing her mind.  She still remembers her daughters, all five of us, and she repeats our names from oldest to youngest.  She has sometimes referred to us as being her sisters, so I know that she is starting to forget that we are her daughters, even though she still knows our names and faces.   When I have gone to see her she will introduce me as her oldest daughter, and then she might later say something about me being a sister.  At least, for now, she knows that I am Lizzie.

When I go to visit my mom, I am there for at least a week, and I spend hours and days just trying to connect with her on her level.  It’s hard sometimes.  I want her to remember things that she remembered only months ago but now seems to have forgotten.  I bring up things from my childhood, hoping she will remember, but she doesn’t.  She is even forgetting some key things from her childhood.  That doesn’t stop me from trying to bring out some sort of memory. 

I bring her gifts, like some of my jewelry, or my daughter’s jewelry, because I know how much she likes it, and I bring her snacks, photos, etc.  On my last visit I brought 4x6 individual photographs of each of mom’s daughters and grandchildren.   She could name most of them, but not all.  The next day I put a label on each picture with the name of the person in the photograph and then I put them in the photo album I bought her a few months ago.  When I went back to see her the next day she had the album on her bed, and she opened it up and said all of the names as she looked at each picture.  She seemed to really enjoy having those pictures.  It’s almost like she knows she’s forgetting and when she looks at these pictures it makes her feel closer and reconnected to her family.  I could sense her drawing from the deepest recesses of her mind to remember some aspect of that person, and she would say something that she remembers about them. 

Mom has a music box that I bought her for her birthday a few months before she went into the nursing home.  She doesn’t remember it came from me, even though it has a picture on the lid of her and I.  She appears to really like the music box, as it is often on her bed or near it when I go to see her.  It plays the song, “You Light Up My Life.”  That song is appropriate because my mom lights up my life and everyone else’s who knows and loves her.