Monday, May 13, 2013

Blog 69: Feelings of Guilt | Talking on the Phone

Sometimes I like to make personalized cards for the special people in my life.  Here's a simple card I made for my mom on Mother's Day.  On the front is a picture of one of my paintings... 

It’s been three years since my move to Arizona.  So much has happened during that time, with Mom’s illness and the family struggles since then.  I’ve often beat myself up with feelings of guilt for even leaving Iowa in the first place.  What could I have done differently?  Would I have been able to keep Mom in her home longer?  Would I have been able to save our sisterhood?  I guess I’ll never know the answers to those questions. 

I do believe that I could have done a better job than what my sister has done in communicating with all my sisters and letting them know what’s going on with Mom.  I would not have isolated anyone.

I also believe that if I were in charge, Renee and I would be in huge conflict, just as we are now, but for different reasons.  So I think I just answered one of my questions. 

My mom chose me to take care of things, and I feel I let her down.  Way before she had Alzheimer’s she told me she never wanted Renee in charge of anything.  She told me that the day she had her Will prepared.  Her words keep resonating in my mind.   When am I going to be able to stop torturing myself for this?

Everyone tries to make me feel better.  My kids, two of my sisters, my friends, my mom’s sister, my mom’s friends and other family members, all tell me that it’s not my fault.  I didn’t create the problems that Renee created.  I didn’t know what Renee was going to do.  I couldn’t predict the future, and I believed Renee when she said she was going to do the best job for Mom, and that she was going to make sure we were all well-informed of every decision she makes. 

I don’t mean to be picking on Renee.  I’m sorry to keep bringing it up.  I know in her mind she thinks she’s doing an excellent job.  I sometimes wonder though if she is also beating herself up for the decisions she’s made.  I wonder.  I know she loves Mom just as we all do.  It’s just that we are so different in our beliefs.  I do know that Mom would be furious with her for some of the things she’s done, and on the same note, she’d probably be furious with me for letting it happen. 

All of that is in the past and the only reason why I am bringing it up now is that I have often wondered what I could have done differently.  Was there something I could have done to save our family and to grant some of those wishes Mom had?    

Kathy and I talked about some of these things on the phone the other day.  She’s so easy to talk to, and so is Annie.  Thank God I have them to talk to.  I asked Kathy if she ever calls Mom.  She lives a distance away from her and only travels to see her about once a month.  She said, “Oh no, Mom can’t talk on the phone anymore”.   I don’t even need to say where she heard that from but it’s the same person who told me that.  The thing about Kathy and Lynda is that they hear that and they automatically believe it to be true without even questioning it.  That’s where I am different.  I will try anyway, and when I do that it appears that I am challenging ‘authority’, meaning, ‘Renee’.

If I believed what Renee said, I wouldn’t have known that I can talk to mom on the phone.  If I tell Renee that I want to try to talk to mom, she gets mad at me.  That’s the problem we have with each other. 

It’s sad that Kathy believes that Mom can’t talk on the phone anymore because she is missing out on hearing Mom’s voice and having those sweet, touching moments with her.   Mom is missing out on hearing her daughter's voice, too. It’s her choice though if she doesn’t call and monthly visits are enough for her. 

I live too far away from my mom and I couldn’t bear to not have any contact with her between visits.  I can only get back to Illinois about every three months.  Just hearing her voice is all I need to feel comforted.  She used to only hold the phone to her ear for about 5 minutes before she would set it down, but for some reason the past few months she has been keeping that phone to her ear for 30, 40 and 50 minutes at a time!  I truly believe that she needs that comfort, that connection with me, with anybody who is on the other end of the line.   Otherwise she just sits in her chair, day after day, with hardly no visitors.   Loneliness is a feeling even Alzheimer's patients can feel.  

Mom’s two caregivers quit and now there is a new caregiver.  She gives Mom the phone and then leaves the room, so I have to do my best to keep her engaged and on the phone.  Somehow I’ve figured out how to do that.  She is better on the phone when no one else is in the room anyway.  Her phone skills are definitely not what they used to be, as her attention span, vocabulary, and communication skills have declined considerably.

Every time I talk to Mom I sing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to her.  She used to sing it with me but not anymore.  The other day I sang it to her and I heard her crying.  I said Mom don’t cry, I want you to be happy, and she said she didn’t know what was wrong.  I hate that when she says that.  My mom knows there’s something wrong with her.  I think she has things she wants to say but she can’t get the words out.  It literally breaks my heart.

Once in awhile Mom says something that shows me that she is still that caring Mom she always was.  She asked me the other day how I was feeling.  I thought that was sweet.  I usually bring up things that I feel that she will remember, that are embedded in her mind.  She’s forgotten so much.  She did choke up when I mentioned her great grandson’s name.  She does remember that boy, and the feelings showed. 

I’ll be going to see my mom soon and I already know she doesn’t know my name.  She says my name sometimes but she doesn’t know that’s whom she’s talking to.  I believe she feels a familiarity with me and she feels comforted by my voice.  Kathy said that Mom doesn’t seem to know who she is anymore when she goes to see her.   Times are going to get harder. 

I know that deep inside my mom she will never forget us.  She has emotions inside of her that she can’t express but I can see those feelings of tenderness in her eyes.  We are a part of each other and never to be separated.  She senses that and is comforted. Mom will always love us until the day she closes her eyes and takes her last breath.  I believe that, even if she looks at me like I’m a stranger, she will know me deep in her heart.  I am comforted in that.  She will take with her all the love and wonderful memories of her daughters and her grandchildren, whom she loved with all of her heart and soul, and they will follow her in death.  We will have all of that love and those memories in our hearts too, so we will never be parted.   

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”


  1. Wow mom... Just wow. That last part is so true. I believe Nana still finds comfort in a familiar voice. I know it must hurt so much to know that she my not remember your name again. I can't imagine. I love you so much mom.

  2. It can be so hard when we realize that our loved one doesn't know who we are anymore - or knows they know us but don't know how. I think my dad still feels our connection, but I'll never know for sure. I found your blog through 'with and without her' and have really enjoyed your posts - I have trouble with my sibling, as well. I'll be back, and hope you stop by my site! Take care! Joy from 3 Years and 13 Dumpsters.