Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blog 41: Will You Sing Happy Birthday To Me?

It was my birthday on Saturday and when I awoke, the first thing I wanted to do was call my mom.  Big surprise, huh?  I noticed I had missed phone calls and text messages from family and friends, which all put a smile on my face, but I needed to start my day off with my mom's voice.  I remembered last year on my birthday, when I called my mom, and she immediately started yelling at me about taking her money.  I told her I didn't take her money and I started to cry.  I was so emotional that day because of everything our family has been dealing with because of her illness.  I am her first born, and I consider it a special day for her too, for both of us.  She started crying and said she was so sorry and that she knows I didn't take her money.  She kept saying, "Don't cry, Lizzie, don't cry."  I couldn't stop and I told Mom I was sorry.  I felt so horrible for making her cry.  I told her I just miss her so much.  She said she misses me too.  It was like the tears I shed brought her back to herself again as a loving, nurturing mom.  That phone conversation ended well, but the fear of her yelling at me on this birthday almost made me not want to call.  But, I needed to.  I needed affirmation that she was having a good day, so I could have a good day.

When I first called, one of the staff, Debbie, gave Mom the phone and just walked away. Mom didn't say anything.   I waited for her to answer but she didn't.  I called back.  I told the front desk lady to please tell Debbie that she needs to make sure my mom takes the phone and engages before she leaves her.  I had to tell the front desk lady because when Debbie answers, she immediately hands over the phone before I get a chance to say anything to her.  I could feel emotions welling up.  I wanted so badly to talk to my mom.  Anyway, the second time around Mom stayed on the phone.  Thanks Debbie.  I told her it's my birthday and of course I knew she wouldn't remember that.  I asked her if she would sing Happy Birthday to me.  She said she will later.  I said, "Will you sing it with me now, Mom?  Please?"  Then I started singing and she sang with me.  She sang the whole song and I was so happy to hear her do that because I am well aware that this may be the last birthday she will be able to.

We started talking about other things.  Actually, I let my mom talk if she has things to say.  Usually she talks about someone from the past, that is no longer here.  She says she just saw so and so, or she talks about certain things they do.  Her brother is gone, but she said she saw him the other day.  She said my sister smokes, but she hasn't in years.  My mom asked me if I was married to Josh.  I said no, we aren't married.  She seemed surprised and said, "You're not?"  I don't have the heart to tell her we don't see each other anymore.  She asks about him once in awhile, says she wants to dance with him again.  He was good to her.  I told mom I will be there in a couple of days with my daughter and granddaughter.  She asked if Josh was coming and I said I don't know.  Of course he isn't, but I didn't want to tell her that.  Mom seems so excited to see her great granddaughter.  That makes me smile.  She asked me what day we'll be there.  I said on Wednesday, and she said what day is it today?  See, she's slick! She may get the days all mixed up and not have any concept of time, but right at that second she does.  She can still tell the time on the clock, too.  I usually just tell Mom I'll be there soon because if I tell her in a week, two weeks, or a month, she says that's too long.  Soon is the best word to use.

I asked Mom what she wants me to bring her for a present and she seemed confused by that.  For a split second I was thinking maybe she was wondering why I asked her what she wanted when it's my birthday, because then she said, "What do you want?"  She said, "I can make you a wedding dress if you want me to!"  She's still thinking about Josh...great.  I said that would be very nice, and I remarked on the beautiful dresses she made.  She said she doesn't have her sewing machine though.  It made me feel good to think that my mom wants to do something special for me.  She's still in there, and she comes out every now and then.  I'm glad we had a good conversation that day on my birthday.  It was so wonderful to start my day off like that.

The conversation ended when I lost Mom to the music when she turned her dancing dolls on.  I knew she'd be gone then and wouldn't come back to the phone.  This happens a lot now.  I waited for awhile and called out to her a few times, then reluctantly hung up the phone, as she disappeared to the tune of Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, baran...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blog 40: Wanting to Make Peace

I sent my sister Renee a text the other night.  I was in the middle of my nightly prayer, asking God to please be with my family and help us to get through this difficult journey, when I stopped praying and picked up my cell phone and wrote the text message to Renee.  I just can't stand the distance between us, and all the hurt.  It takes more energy to hold on to the anger than to just let it go.  This is what my text said...

I want to let you know that I am ready to move forward and put the pain behind me.  It doesn't mean things still don't hurt, but I'm making my best effort to get past it.  Everyone of us is fighting a hard battle, no one is spared.  This isn't for mom because she doesn't know.  It's for my kids and wanting to set a good example for them that I can be a good sister, just as I am a good mom, daughter and nana...and for the benefit of hopefully having all of my sisters back.  Sorry it's the middle of the night but I have to say it now before I lose my nerve.  It's always the middle of the night that I am at my most vulnerable, scared, and lonely time.  Please accept my apologies for all that I have said and done to you that was mean and hurtful.  I never stopped loving you.

She wrote me back the next day and thanked me and said she appreciated everything I said.  She said she would get back to me after she's had time to process everything.

I wrote her back and said to take all the time you need.  I did.  We've been through a lot.

I don't know what will come of this but at least I feel better in knowing that I took the first step.  Now it's up to her.  Really, it's up to all of us.  I know she is going to want to address some things from the past that got us where we are but I am going to suggest that we not talk about that for awhile, so we can concentrate of moving forward and being loving and caring sisters again.  Then when we are in a better place maybe we can talk about the all the bad stuff and try to come to terms and make peace with it all.

The next day I called the nursing home to talk to my mom and she was not doing very well.  She was so upset and near tears.  She said she had a bruise on her left breast and she needs to go to the hospital.  I could definitely sense her fear.  She asked me if I ever had that before.  I told her I get bruises all the time.  I wanted to ease her mind but there wasn't anything I could say.  Mom couldn't tell me how she got the bruise.  I told mom I will be there soon and she said she was not in the mood.  Before we hung up I told her I love her and she said she loves me too.  Then she said to come over whenever I can get there.

I called back and asked to speak to one of the care managers and one of the girls that I like there took the call.  I told her what my mom said and she said she didn't know anything about it since she was gone for two days.  She said she will check into it and I can call her back in ten minutes.  When I called back, Ansel, the manager answered the call and he immediately went off on me.  He told me that I have been told before that they cannot discuss any medical issues with me regarding my mom, that I would have to speak to Renee because she knows everything before my mom even tells me about it.  I told him that I was just concerned because she was so worried and scared. I told him I don't need to know anything medical, I'm just aware that her mood has been very agitated lately, and.......he cut me off.  He was very rude to me.  He hasn't been that way to me before, at least not this bad.  He's explained things to me in a gentle way regarding issues I've been concerned about, but this time he was very curt with me on the phone.  I don't know if he was having a bad day or what his deal was but I did not appreciate his tone of voice with me and his lack of professionalism as the director of that department.    He told me my mom is there because she needs to be and they are taking good care of her.  That is his personal opinion, and now I really have my doubts.  If he was that rude to me, how is he treating the residents, my mom in particular, when they are being difficult to handle?  He seemed to enjoy the fact that I am left in the dark and that he knows more about my mom now than I do.  His higher than thou attitude rubbed me the wrong way.  I only wish I had recorded the conversation.  I'd post it right here.

I guess when Renee and I can open the lines of communication, in a healthy and constructive way, I might be able to convince her to let me in on some things that are going on with my mom that I have no idea about.  I am her daughter, too.  Then I'm hoping she will let Ansel know that I can inquire about my mom whenever I want.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blog 39: Talking On The Phone Can Be Challenging

When I called for my mom at the nursing home, one of the staff went to Mom's room and told her, "Your daughter is on the phone, Bonne."  Mom got confused when she tried to give her the phone, as she sometimes does.  I could hear Mom close to the phone so I said, "Hi Mom, this is Lizzie!"  Then she said, "Hi", and I had her attention.  It's almost like a baby when you try to give it a bottle and the baby fusses and squirms and pulls away from the bottle because it doesn't know it's right there. That's kind of what it's like.  Mom takes the phone but she doesn't know what it's for and why she has it in her hands, but as soon as she hears her daughter's voice, she knows what she's supposed to do.  It's like she's hungry for attention, and when she hears a familiar voice, she responds.

I also know that I need to tell my mom I love her right away because I just don't know when she is going to leave the conversation for lack of remembering she was talking on the phone.  She will either set the phone down and walk out of the room, or take it with her, but not realize she still has the phone in her hands and her daughter is waiting on the other side, calling out her name.  I think she may even fall asleep sometimes.  At least if I get a chance to tell my mom that I love her and I miss her, and she says it back to me, then I can smile and feel that our conversation was good, no matter what happens after that.

During this conversation Mom said the usual things.  When are you coming here, is (?) coming with you, I want to get out of here, and so on.  I reminded her that my daughter and four year old granddaughter are coming with me to see her.  Mom sounds like a loving Nana when she hears about her great grandchildren.  That is one thing that is evident.  She still shows her nurturing side when it comes to small children.  I can't wait to see my granddaughter sit on my mom's lap because I know it is going to make my mom beam, when not much else does these days.

Mom said someone put something on her shelf and she said she was going to turn it on.  I could hear IT making noises, rather loudly, but I couldn't make out what IT was saying and I didn't know what IT was.  When the sounds stopped, Mom was not there.  I called out for her and she said, "Lizzie, where are you?  I can't hear you."  I told her I am still on the phone and for her to put the phone by her ear.  After a few attempts to get her to do so, she finally did, and we were back in business.  After a couple of minutes she turned on another toy she had that plays a tune.  It's a monkey and he sings a song.  Before that was finished playing she turned on her music box that I got her and played the song in it's entirety.  I heard every last note of You Light Up My Life as it slowed down and came to an end.  Afterwards Mom was gone.  Either she fell asleep or she walked out of the room.  I patiently waited for her to come back to me, and occasionally called out for her.  It was silent in her room until I heard her door open, and then the line went dead.   This is the way our phone conversations go sometimes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blog 38: I Miss Mom's Loving Instructions

I recently returned from a trip to Alaska.  Usually before I go on vacation my mom would give me loving instructions to be safe, take lots of pictures, have lots of fun, and to call her when I get there so she knows I made it there safely.  Of course I don't get those motherly instructions anymore, she is not capable because she doesn't understand.

When I told her I was going to Alaska, she said she wants to go there.  Then she forgot within minutes.  I knew that, but I still wanted to tell her I was going, just for the slim possibility that she might tell me to be careful, or something like that.  It made me sad.  I wished she could have gone on this trip.  Even though my mom was never really a traveler, she would have really enjoyed all the mountains.  She loves mountains and she loved to paint them.  I was feeling sad that my mom's world is never going to be outside of a nursing home.

I thought of buying her a souvenir, like I used to do.  But where would she put it?  She doesn't have much space in her little room.  Besides, she would forget about who gave it to her and why it was there anyway.

The night I left Anchorage I was thinking about a lot of the troubles in my family, and my life, in general.  This was one of those times, like many times, that I was thinking of Mom. The plane was taxying down the runway and I sensed a strong wind outside as the wing bounced up and down a little.  There was a brief second where it took my breath away, and I started feeling emotional that my Mom didn't give me a 'have a safe flight and call me when you return' message.  I was really feeling sorry for myself that nobody did.  I attributed my emotional feelings partially to being so fatigued from the busy travel week, from the ending of a vacation of a lifetime, and the let down of going home and facing the reality of my life (with the situation of my mom and my sisters, mainly), and facing an all-night flight, where I was sure I wasn't going to be able to sleep.  Which I didn't, by the way.

When I returned home I went straight to bed, and when I awoke I had a voice message from my sister to call her.  She told me about her visit with Mom a couple of days ago. She said she had a nice time with her, but she also told me something she said she struggled about telling me, but she knew I'd be there shortly and I would see it myself.  My mom had apparently scratched out my face in a couple of pictures hanging on her wall, and ripped one picture in half.  Annie wasn't sure Mom had actually done it because she told Annie she didn't know who did.  But Annie's daughter was there earlier in the week and she said my mom told her she did it because I took her accordion and won't give it back.  Annie said she kept telling her that too.  Annie reassured her that I did not have her accordion.  Renee has it, and up until this past week, Mom knew that.

Mom has been talking about that accordion, as many Alzheimer's patients do about things they get fixated on.  But she always knew Renee had it and kept saying Renee needs to give it back.  Now, she thinks I have it.  I wonder who planted that seed?  Maybe nobody did, maybe it's just her illness causing the confusion.  I wish Renee would just put it in her room so it brings Mom some comfort.  It's obviously a big deal to her, and it's a small matter to just place it on her shelf so she can look at it.

My feelings were hurt, but that's nothing new.  I usually bounce back though and don't let it get me down for too long.  I have a life to live and that's what my mom would tell me if she could.  She would tell me to be happy. So that is what I'm trying to do.  This is a long, hard road, and it's not easy, but I'm trying to be strong.