Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blog 56: How Do You Pick The Last Christmas Card?

I went to the store the other day, looking for a Christmas card for my mom.  As I perused the cards on the shelf, it suddenly occurred to me that this may be the last Christmas card I buy for my mom.  That thought saddened me.  It made picking out a card much more of an emotional experience than usual.  How do you pick out the last Christmas card you buy for your mom, the one who made Christmas so magical and memorable for the family, the person you love so much ?  I started feeling guilty for having those thoughts.  Mom could be here a lot longer than what we think.  She could make a big turn around, start eating more food again, hang on to life.  She could surprise us all.  She could!  But, she may not.  Even if she is here next year, she may not know us anymore.   Already she doesn’t show any interest in cards and things like that anymore.  She used to love them.  I realized that this card I choose has more meaning for me than it will my mom. 

So, what card do I want for my mom?  I searched a couple of stores before I found the card that made my eyes well up with tears.  When that happens, I know I’ve got the right card.  Along with the beautiful Christmas poem already inscribed, I wrote my own personal message inside the card.  I poured my heart out and as I went to the mailbox to mail it, I paused.  I stopped and held the card to my heart as if hugging my mom, and as my eyes welled up with tears again, I rubbed my fingers across the card and kissed it and said 'I love you Mom' before I placed it in the mailbox.   I sent my love across the miles and hoped my mom would somehow feel it when she gets the card.  Why was this so hard?

My daughter came over the other day and we were talking about Christmas and my mom came up in our conversation, as she often does.  I showed her some things my mom, her nana, bought for me in past Christmases.  Rose told me about some of the gifts she still has that nana bought for her.  One of the gifts my mom gave me is a little music box that plays the song "Unchained Melody".  I tried to upload a short video of it here but it wouldn't upload.  I had a gulp in my throat when I played it.  My granddaughter wanted to hold it, but I gently told her that it was something that was very special and she can look at it but not play with it.  I told Rose that someday one of her girls will get this.  Another gift my mom gave me is this...   

She bought this for me in Dec. of 1994, after I had a minor surgery.  Everything my mom bought me has so much more meaning to me now.  I even saved an empty lotion bottle, which was a birthday gift from a few years ago.  

Rose asked me if I remember the last gift my mom bought for me, and I said yes, as I went to my room and took the sweater out of my closet.  As soon as I touched the sweater I started to cry.  How come I’m so emotional now?  I can’t help it.  I brought the sweater out to her and showed her.  Rose hugged me as I told her the story about Mom buying the sweater.  I said I was with nana when she picked out five sweaters, one for each of her daughters.   I will keep it forever.  Mom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s then, and she was going through a difficult transition period that you can read about in my earlier posts.  She still liked to go shopping at Dillard’s.  That particular day she wanted to go, but she had been out of sorts and agitated and tired all day.  I brought her there to make her happy and to help her because she was worried that she hadn't bought anything for her daughters yet.  The store clerk knew her there and she saw the cognitive decline with Mom.  As she rang up the purchase, she got out a chair for Mom to sit in because she could tell my mom was very worn out.   

When I put up my Christmas tree a few weeks ago, I realized the angel on top reflects in the mirror on the wall.  This mirror hung on my mom’s living room wall for 38 years.  When I look at it, it takes me back in time to when I was 18 years old and my dad gave me $40 to buy my mom a gift.  My sister Lynda and I went shopping and we picked out this mirror and two sconces.  The mirror was put out in the garage when my mom’s house was sold, and I took it out of a box and wrapped it up to protect it, and I carried it on the plane trip home with me.  It makes me smile to see the angel in the mirror, and I look at it as a sign that God has sent an angel to watch over Mom.  Maybe it’s an angel to watch over all of my family.  

I love listening to Christmas music and I do believe it is my favorite of all music ever made.  It often conjures up memories of past Christmases...those of my childhood and of my children's younger years.  Christmas was such a magical time when we were kids.  Mom made our Christmases so special, with presents piled under the Christmas tree.  We would beg her to leave the tree lights on during the night on Christmas Eve.  Mom would worry that the real tree would catch fire, but she said she'd leave the lights on for us.  I'm sure she turned them off as soon as we fell asleep and then got up early to turn them on again.  Of course, we thought she left them on all night.  She was probably up late wrapping more presents.  She would get up early in the morning and put more gifts under the tree from Santa, even when we were older and no longer believed in Santa Claus.  She’d make hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and turn on the Christmas music on the record player.  We’d sit there by the tree with the twinkling lights, scanning the boxes for our name.  The anticipation was the best part.  I can see it now.  I can feel the warmth, the excitement.  I can hear our voices.  We were young, we were happy, we were healthy, and we had each other.  We all loved each other so much.  I miss those Christmases.   I hope I have made, and am making, more wonderful Christmas memories for my children and grandchildren, as my mom did for all of us. 

Before I close on this blog post I just have to mention how deeply saddened I have been by the senseless killings of 20 children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.   No matter how bad you think your life is, someone else has it worse.  How someone can look into the face of a child and pull a trigger to kill them is beyond me.  I’ve felt a heavy heart this Christmas season because of this tragedy.  I have three grandchildren not much younger than these children.  I know our entire nation, and the world, has mourned because of this horrible event.   There is no explanation, and all we can hope and pray for is that God gives these families who have lost a loved one the strength to go on and a purpose for living.   

May peace be with you all, and may God bless you this Christmas season.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Blog 55: My First Alzheimer's Support Group Meeting

My mom was moved from the nursing rehab facility to a group home last week.  I like this idea of her being in a group home better than a nursing home.  She is still three hours away from most of the family, and I don’t like that, but I can’t do anything about it.  I just hope Mom adjusts and starts eating again.   

Renee set a rule that we are not allowed to call her or even know the location at this time.  She sent an email and said that she will send a weekly email to tell us how Mom is doing.  That’s it!  It just irritates me when she put in the email that she and her kids and her husband have been going there often to see her.   I’ve about had enough of her control issues that I could scream!  Mom has FIVE DAUGHTERS WHO LOVE HER and want to be a part of her care and her life and everything that Renee allows herself to be a part of. 

Mom still has not been eating and I got a text yesterday morning that Renee was going to take her to the ER if she didn’t eat her breakfast.  She texted later and said that she ate a little so she didn’t take her in.  We will see how it goes.  But Mom has been moved four times in the past month and that is probably a big reason why she is not eating.  I’m sure her UTI has not gone away yet and that may be another reason.  I hope it isn’t something worse…that Mom is giving up…not willingly, but I know that people stop eating in the final stages of the disease.  It makes me so sad.  Christmas is coming.  L

I went to my first Alzheimer’s support group meeting yesterday morning, and I almost didn’t go because I was so upset about my mom not eating and having to go to the hospital again.  I have been wanting to go to this support group for the past four months, but something always came up and got in the way of me attending.  It was my chance to finally go.  I decided at the last minute that I needed to do this, so I threw on some clothes, washed the tears off of my face (knowing I’d be crying again soon) and drove to the meeting. 

I was the only new member there out of about 15 people.  When the group leader asked me to share my story, I did, and, oh boy, I started crying.  I tried not to but I couldn’t help it.  I cried, and cried, and I had to cover my face in my hands and take a moment to recoup.  When I looked up I saw compassion and even tears in other people's eyes.  I knew then that I was not alone, that they really did understand because they are living this nightmare in their own personal lives. 

I released all of the emotion I had inside as I shared with them as much as I could.  Once I started talking, I could not stop.  I eventually stopped crying and I was able to fill them in from the beginning to the present time.  I felt that they were on this journey with me and I didn’t need to over explain anything.  It felt so good to let it all out and get some advice from others who have been down the road I have.  I never felt so good about sharing my story as I did at that moment.  I felt such a release and a wonderful response of love and support and understanding.  One woman came up to me afterwards and hugged me. 

I finally had affirmation that I should not feel guilty about moving away, and that my sister Renee has handled her powers of attorney in a way that it was not meant to be, which has caused the dissention in our family, and she is never going to change.  I need to keep my distance from her and be in control of me, and be there for my mom in the way I have been, and be there for my kids and grandkids, who need me.   I was reassured, as I have been told by other people I am close to, that I have done so much for my mom and I should be proud of how I’ve tried to fight for a better life for her, and for trying so hard to bring my sisters back together again. 

Two group members told me I need to play the game that two of my sisters have learned to play in order to stay in the loop and get information from Renee about my mom.   I need to keep our conversations in brief texts, no matter what Renee does.  I told them that Renee is cruel with her words and her lengthy emails are very hurtful to me.  As hard as it is to ignore them, that is what I’ve been doing.  Sometimes I write a response but then I don’t send it.  It just helps to write it, I guess. 

One lady told me she can see that I am a very well-balanced person, who has empathy and compassion and that my nurturing nature and love for my mom and my sisters shows in every word I speak.   I even defended Renee in trying to explain why she does what she does.  It was unanimous amongst the group members that I should take the powers of attorney away from Renee.  I just don’t want to keep the fight going.  I want peace, forgiveness, and love with all of my sisters. 

I can’t wait to go to another meeting.  One of the women there has been going to this support group for seven years.  That says a lot about this group.  I felt so warm and welcome as soon as I entered the doors of this church.   I am so glad I went. 

My volunteer work at the nursing home has been a wonderful thing for me.  I live so far away from my mom and I can’t see her as often as I would like, so spending time with other elderly residents has helped me cope with the longing I have for my mom. 

One of my new friends there is a 64 year old woman, still so young for a nursing home, who is wheelchair bound, and has some Parkinsons and arthritis.  I'm sure she has many other health issues.  She speaks very softly and barely moves, other than the trembling of her hands.  When I touched her hand, the shaking stopped.   I am learning about her life and she seems to enjoy sharing her stories with me, even though she doesn’t make eye contact.  She asked me if she knew me and I said no, but I want to be her friend.  She smiled and looked up at me at that moment, and I knew I was where I needed to be.  A staff member told me she has not had a visit from a family member since she arrived there four months ago.  I don’t know the full story, so I am not going to judge.  I am just thankful that she came here from another nursing home, and maybe we crossed paths with each other for a reason.  I think she is going to help me as much as I can hopefully help her.