Three years and coping

It seems a little surreal and hard to believe that today marks three years since mom’s been gone; seems just like yesterday and an eternity at the same time. I received sweet texts this morning from my daughter-in-law and friend, and phone calls from my daughters. I’ll visit mom later today and go to minyan tonight even though I went last week for her yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day of death in the Jewish calendar.

I went back into my email correspondence with Ted, trying to find something. I often referred to Ted as “T.” in my writing, and came across L’s exquisite eulogy that so embodied the essence of mom.

During the heavy grieving period we all cope differently. For me, it was wearing mom’s clothes and using her nail polish on my toes so when I looked down at my feet it was like looking at hers. And today, I’m wearing one of her sweaters and a pair of sandals that I bought with her.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of mom or tell her how much I love her. As Ted so poignantly and elegantly told me as only he could, “nothing dies that is remembered.”

In that case, mom is very much alive in me … and always will be.


Stumbling and Recovery

Something very strange happened to me last month. Or maybe it’s not so strange. For all the positive steps moving forward in grieving the loss of a loved one, you can stumble. And that happened to me last month.

I still get the shakes when I see the word “Alzheimer’s” in a heading or within text. Still, I read a review of “Still Alice” in The New York Times last month. But it was the readers’ comments that hit me hard.

As I read some of them, I started crying. They brought me back to my care-giving experiences. Not only did I share many of the readers’ experiences but it caused me, again, to question my care: Did I do everything I could? I knew mom had dementia but did my denial of Alzheimer’s hamper my care-giving? Should I have quit my job to be with her all the time? I still see her big smile and eyes light up when I would stop by for breakfast on my way to work. Could I or should I have done things differently? My friends and brother will give an emphatic “No!”

I think care-givers always have these doubts, especially after losing their loved one. But these comments hit such a nerve in me and set a trigger off so much so that I contacted my local Alzheimer’s Association to look into a support group. And as I’m on the phone with the rep, I just started bawling. My emotions were just so raw – something not experienced for a long time as I was doing so well.

Well, after calling the group’s facilitator and finding out she was no longer there, I guess I got over “it” because I chose not to follow through and lost interest. I’m still thinking of contacting them to find a group. In the grieving process one thing I have found, at least for me, is the need to talk. I’m sure it’s the same for most.

PS I have not yet seen the film … but I will.

PSS Gratefully and thankfully my daugher is fine. Her brain lesion is gone, and one month after her second MRI in December, she went on to run the Houston Marathon and a PR – 4:20:07!

Stop the world – I want to get off!

The title of this 1961 play, later adapted for film in 1966, is pretty much how I’ve felt lately. Again.

Like the circus backdrop of this production, I feel like I’m running around in a 3-ring circus – between work, mom, my bucket list, holiday anticipation, etc., etc., etc.

When does it end?

Mom got discharged from the hospital yesterday and back in rehab where she got a celebrity welcome. It was sweet and the nurses and aides swooped in to give mom a hug. She’s not thrilled with having to share a room and is on a wait list for a private.She still has a bit of congestion and having breathing treatments four times a day. I’m hoping she won’t have to stay there for more than two weeks.

Seniors are not dead!

Over the weekend, after mom’s day of beauty at the hair salon, I mentioned that we went to the mall in search of a new lip color since Estee Lauder discontinued her Hot Chili lipstick.

While the young woman who assisted us was very nice and very helpful, and did find a near match but in a glossy/shine finish, she said something that really bothered me and taken aback by.  I know she didn’t mean anything by it and it was innocently intended but it’s been festering in me for days.

She said, “It’s great that you’re still interested in make-up.”

Hello? Why wouldn’t she be? Does age dictate whether you should have an interest in your appearance? C’mon!

I might be a bit more sensitive not only because it was my mother but because I spend spent a lot of time now around seniors, particularly while my mom is in the last days of her rehab.

There are a number of people recuperating from worse things than my mom. And their appearance may not be their best, but they are people. Heck, my mom hasn’t always looked her best in rehab, but they are all living and breathing human beings with feelings. We aren’t always able to choose our own destiny.

Anyway, not sure if we’re going to keep the lip gloss. Mom is trying to salvage the last bit of her beloved Hot Chili.

When I found out earlier year that Estee was discontinuing it and it was no longer available in our local stores, I immediately sought action on the internet. Estee has a great department for discontinued items appropriately called, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” where they will scour sources for you. I already used this service and got three new lipsticks. I now need more.

For the hardcore, of which I can sometimes be but not this time, two sites on eBay are offering it as a “Buy Now” for a crazy $31 and $47.89! I’m also watching two bids, which are at a more reasonable $10.31 and $17.75; the bidding ends tomorrow at which time I will try to go in for the kill.

As a past eBay bidder, I’ve learned there’s an art to online bidding.

The good daughter

Lately I’ve been told by friends and family, “You’re such a good daughter.”

I appreciate their kind words. They see what I’m going through and what I’m doing. But, I’ve always been a good daughter.

I was the good daughter that never really gave my parents any issues to worry about. Well, maybe except for one. They didn’t like, particularly my mother, a boyfriend of mine, and I understood why, but that didn’t change my feelings about him. Still, that was the only hiccup in our relationship.

Yes, I’m a good daughter. But I don’t know any friends and hopefully any family member who wouldn’t do the same given these similar circumstances.

I flaked, continued…

Yes, I did flake this morning but by afternoon things were better.

After speaking to mom after lunch I now understand why she was upset and confused this morning — she didn’t know about the meeting or understand why she was there. And that is because I never mentioned it to her because I forgot myself.

She was better when I explained it was just a progress report and it was for my benefit to hear how she’s progressing and to give me the opportunity to ask questions.

Tonight was even better. She was definitely more upbeat than last night. I brought Charlie up to see her and she spoke with T. on the phone. They appeared to have a pretty fluid conversation and said their “I love you’s.”

Mom was trying to tell me something about this afternoon but got frustrated trying to get the words out. I got the gist of it but it’s a struggle and it tires her out. I just tell her to take her time. The words will come. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

How I long to go back just four or five years ago and beyond, so I can have mom the way she was before dementia kicked in. But really, aside from the memory and speech issues, mom is still the same. She’s still the same sweet person she’s always been.

I am so grateful for the continued support of my friends, some of whom have had their own losses this year, for their caring and for their words of encouragement.

In the end, this is what it’s all about — family and friends.

Rough start ends on high note

What started off as a somewhat harrowing morning yesterday ended on a positive note.

When I got to the facility I saw C., her speech therapist, outside and started tearing up to her. I do that pretty well these days.

After we got mom in her wheelchair, I fixed her hair and suggested she put some make-up on. She transformed herself and looked and felt like her old self. Her speech was more fluid and she looked alive. I went downstairs to her apartment to get her some earrings to wear as well. She even spoke to T., on the phone.

C., her speech therapist, came up to visit for a bit, which brightened mom’s day. Her eyes sparkled at the sight of her.

Mom did comment that she ate breakfast with a nice group of three ladies, which made me happy. By the time I was satisfied enough with things it was lunchtime so I took mom into the dining room and helped her with her menu selection. Following lunch she had physical therapy.

Once back in the office I had a long talk about what happened this a.m., and that although I know already that I have the flexibility to leave when something unexpected comes up, I just wanted to speak to my boss about it. Having been a caregiver herself, she knows what I’m going through. She was very understanding and didn’t want me to put any unnecessary pressure on myself, which of course I’m doing to an extent. There’s no question I have to be available for my mother but I also have responsibilities at work and to my client. Luckily, my work environment is fairly easy-going and I have built-in flexibility, which I appreciate.

The day ended on a high note. It was Casino Night for the AL and rehab residents outside the facility. There was a dinner buffet, gambling tables, slot machines, a live band, and staff in Vegas-style costumes. When I got there, mom was already seated at a table eating away enjoying herself.

In her own apartment, mom commented how comfortable and homey it is. It warms my heart to know how she feels moving to AL albeit so brief, but she will hopefully be back sooner than later.