Monday, May 13, 2019

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My!  Well, I guess I could say, Guilt and Selfish yet Gratitude! Oh My!  Yup.....yesterday was Mother's Day.  Pictures of mothers and their children were all over Facebook and Instagram, just a finger tip away from me.  Texts were going out all over the world with Happy Mother's Day words.  There were daughters thanking their moms.  There were moms thanking their children.  There were moms missing their own moms. There were children missing their moms.

And what was I doing?  Selfishly drinking an expensive brand of coffee, eating fruit salad I purchased already cut up, scrambled eggs my husband made for me, and leftover cinnamon buns (from Easter). Knowing we had to be an hour away at my niece's house for my nephew's birthday, I did the laundry, prepped lunch for the week, did my routine chores and fell asleep in my chair around 9:30 pm on Saturday night.  I never got up until close to 9:00 am yesterday.  I had a choice, rush to visit my mom around 11:00 when I knew she would be awake or wait until a day when I could go after school and see her (since today I had a school site visit and medical appt).  I chose to wait until Wednesday. know what happened!  I start to feel guilty for NOT feeling guilty!  I guess is it a never win situation.  I know I easily could have squeezed it in.  After all, this was only the second time I can remember in ages that I was not entertaining everyone at my house for Mother's Day.  I always do it.  I went from entertaining my mom, to entertaining my family and my own daughter, and I loved every second of it.  I still will when I do it again....however, this one day, this one Mother's Day...I was exhausted.  So, I practiced what everyone says to do...take care of me first this time.  I am sure there are naysayers out there.  However, it does not mean I do not love my mom.  It does not mean I do not feel so blessed that she is still alive and I am able to visit her.  It just means that I was in need of a large amount of rest.

I have plenty of other things to feel guilty about regarding my mom.  For example, before I had to whisk her away to the nursing home (a blog post for another day), I had only had one of her cataracts fixed. She was so confused and so upset by the whole procedure to fix the one we had done that I just couldn't bring myself to do the other one. I also didn't pay to get the procedure where she wouldn't need reading glasses.  I made the decision that if she didn't need the glasses, that she had had her whole life, she would be very confused and always searching for them.  I feel bad about that every time I attempt to get her to focus on something I want to show her.  She doesn't wear them anymore, nor does she even know that she is suppose to be wearing them.  My mom's in her own world, as world where she doesn't have glasses even though she needs them still.

Once settled in the nursing home, she had a growth start near her nose.  I made the decision after talking with other health care people experienced with Alzheimer's patients and I did not choose to have it removed.  Every time I see her now, I feel so guilty about it since it has grown.  It is too late to do anything now.  She never would understand, just as she never would have understood a few years ago either.  I never wanted to wish her more confusion and pain.  I make all of these decisions myself, with the help from health care providers.  I do the best I can.  I try to make sure my mom feels no pain, no more confusion than necessary, and no sadness.

I pray she isn't confused that yesterday was Mother's Day and I did not visit her.  I prayed for her and thought about her all day long. I watched my grandchildren play with their cousins at the party.  I talked to both of my sons on the phone.  I saw my own daughter at my niece's house.  All the while, I was wishing that my mom was there with us. 

Sometimes though, we all just have to give ourselves a little break.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mothers, Daughters, and Mother's Day!

In two days it will be Mother's Day 2019.  As I sit here on the Friday Eve before Mother's Day weekend and watch out the window as the rain drizzles in my front yard, I am transported back to the earliest Mother's Days I can remember with my mom.  Somewhere around the time I was maybe 8 or 9, my parents joined a local fish and game club.  They quickly made friends with many people and began to search for a building lot to build a camp on the pond where the clubhouse was located.  Entertainment in those days involved dinners and dances at the club, as well as, friends with already built camps, inviting families over for cook outs and fun weekend times.  On Mother's Day all of the men would be in charge of cooking for their wives. I can remember one time when dads all gave their wives a red rose.  It was always chilly and drizzling.  My mom was so happy on those days.  I can still see the smile on her face.  Eventually we built our own camp on the pond and spent weekends and summers with the friends that my parents had made. 

By the time I turned 15, my parents were looking at selling the camp and building their dream home.  They found a building lot and built a large gambrel with a two car garage.  They sold the tiny house we lived in with no cellar and no attic, as well as, the camp, and we moved into their dream home a few miles from the pond.  At the age of 16, I took over Mother's Day for my mom.  I tried to make the holiday special for her because I knew she deserved it.  She was my mom after all!  However, I could barely cook but I tried to make her breakfast in bed each Mother's Day. She would cook our dinner then I would clean up the dishes. 

When it came to the gifts, I never quite seemed to pick out the right gifts for my mom.  I really feel she was always disappointed but maybe she wasn't. The year I got married, at the age of 20, I started to cook for her. Meals weren't the best and I am not sure the gifts were that great, but I tried.  I remember trying to pick out jewelry and sometimes clothes.  I mostly remember gift certificates and sometimes flowers. 
Mom on Mother's Day around 1998??
As my children grew up, I still had everyone over for Mother's Day.  I made dinner for my mom, as well as, my whole family.  Being together has always been a real gift for me and cooking for everyone has always been a pleasure. My mom would always buy me a Mother's Day card and include a check for me to get something special. While I no longer get a card from my mom and I now have even stopped giving my mom a card, I have tried to continue that tradition by giving my own daughter a gift on Mother's Day too. (Shhhhhh......  Her card and gift is waiting here for Sunday when I get to see her.)

The last Mother's Day that my mom spent with us before she had to go to the nursing home, I remember clearly.  I had everyone over.  My son picked her up and brought her to our house because she could not longer drive.  I bought her a new Debbie Macomber book.  She had loved to read but I suspected she only now would look at the cover of the books.  My mom opened her book and was really excited.  Then she put the book down and about 5 minutes later saw it on the table.  My mom picked it up and asked me if it was a new book. Then she asked me if she could borrow it when I was finished reading it.  I remember telling her that it was her book, that I had given it to her.  She picked it up, hugged it to her chest, and said oh I love Debbie Macomber.  Then my mom put it back down on the table.  You can guess what happened about five more times.  After about 5 minutes, she would pick it up and be so excited at seeing the new book.  I would tell her it was hers. She would hug it and put it down.  I finally moved the book and put it in another room.  My mom never saw it or asked about it after that. 

I would love to say that she took it home and read it, then passed it to me, as we often shared new books.  However, by the end of that day, I realized sending it home with her would only continue a cycle.  I kept the book and read it.  I placed it on my own bookshelf and then a year ago, I gave it away. 

If you are blessed to have your mom still, if you are blessed to have daughters or daughter in laws with children, wish them a Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Don't Blink

Time itself can be a strange thing. Our lives are spent tracking the time around us in many different ways.  When we are young we cannot wait for time to pass so we can grow older.  When we are finally old enough to begin doing 'adult' things, we feel time will last forever.  However, in a blink of an eye, we age significantly and wish time could slow down, perhaps even stop for a while, or just last.

Arriving at my Bridal Shower
When I was younger, I couldn't wait to grow up, get married, and raise a family of my own. I was as traditional as could be! I met David when I was in high school when I was 15 and he was 18. We have been together since.  My mom and dad were very happy when I told them that we were getting married.  Even though I was only 20 and still in college, they stood behind us in our decision. This June we will celebrate our 38th Wedding Anniversary, weathering many storms along the way.

Unfortunately, I guess I blinked at some point because before I knew it, on Saturday, April 27, 2019, I witnessed my oldest son, Dave, and his fiance, Adrienne, arriving at her bridal shower. It was a beautiful shower and we all had a wonderful time celebrating Adrienne. The day was filled with wedding talk and happiness.  I couldn't have been a prouder mother-of-the groom that day.

Adrienne and Dave 4/27/2019
However, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the speed of time. It seemed that back in 1981, we had all the time in the world.  My mom was a huge part of my shower and had helped me with everything. As I was watching Adrienne open the many gifts from family and friends, I just couldn't help but feel a twinge of sadness that my own mom couldn't be there to share in the moment with her first grandson.

It is hard for someone who hasn't gone through Alzheimer's to understand the weight of loss that a person feels when time continues to march on, milestones still occur, and new memories are created.  There is a difference between my dad and my mother-in-law not being here to share the day because they both passed away too soon.  Although I mourn the loss of them both deeply, it just isn't the same because my mom is alive and trapped in a time warp of her own.  Physically, she is still here.  If she understood even a little bit, I could have taken her to the shower.  However, she doesn't have any idea of time passing on around her. It is even very rare now for anyone to even inquire about her as if she has already passed on.  Initially, I was very bitter about this, but over the past 6 years, I learned to accept that everyone handles things in a different way.  Not that I don't have my moments when I get a bit angry about it, but I am finally at peace with the idea that to many, my mom has passed on......not away, but on.....

Ironically, the last family event she attended was her only granddaughter's Bridal Shower in May of 2011.  One of her wonderful caregivers, that helped me out a lot, brought her to the shower so she could physically share in the day while I could be fully present for my daughter.  I know my mom had no understanding about why she was there. However, she was physically there.  She never made it to the wedding celebration, because I had to move her to the nursing home June 5, 2011, making that shower her last family celebration.

Time.....time marches on and is responsible for so many things in our lives.  Time heals all wounds, or so 'they' say.  Give things time and they will work out.  What I know now about time is that we don't know how much we have so we need to live our lives like we don't have time to wait until tomorrow. We need to enjoy today in anyway we can, from the big things like wedding showers, to the small things like a cup of tea! I tried to share some pictures of the shower with my mom today. Today she wasn't very focused on paying attention, but I know she was listening. When I left my mom, I hugged her like I always do.  I told her I loved her and that I would be back as soon as I could. I will try to show her some more time..........

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Please Share!

Me (left) and my mom on my wedding day 6/6/1981
For those of you who are not seeing my blog on Facebook, please share my blog with people you know!  Please pass it on to anyone you think might be interested in reading it.  My hope is to help others in my same position.  It is through saving my own memories, I can at least feel that I am preserving my mom's memory.  Never would I think on that day in June my mom would not be here to witness the most amazing things in my life or my children's lives. 
Me and my mom last year at nursing home 2018

It is sad to go take this trip alone and the more I can inform people about this horrible disease and how it takes its toll on a family, the better I feel because it means I did something positive! 

Thank you to everyone!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Traditions of Easter

Any one who has had the pleasure of knowing my mom before Alzheimer's knows that holidays and entertaining were very important to her. When she was nine, her mom died.  She became pseudo mom to her two little brothers who were six and three at the time.  She often told me stories of trying to be the homemaker of the household.  She even had to learn how to do laundry, one time getting her arm almost caught in the roller of the old wringer washer.  My mom told me about having little food because my grandfather would go out and drink away his paycheck, leaving little for three small children.  Luckily, her grandfather helped out and took care of the kids as best he could. Sometime during her 12th year, she went to live with her Aunt Ann and was able to be just a regular teenage girl.  My mom told me once that it was her Aunt Ann that taught her everything!  Not only did she teacher 'everything' but she took her to church and that is where my mom developed her love of holidays!
My first Easter!  1962 Uncle brought me a bunny!
As the years went by, my mom helped me color eggs, she made me Easter baskets, and hid Easter eggs.  She and I would go to Easter Sunday Mass and then she would put the finishing touches on dinner.  We always had the same foods every Easter.  Ham, potato salad, macaroni salad, fresh kielbasa, marshmallow salad, pickled eggs, and cut up carrots, celery, and green onions.  I have no memory of desserts until my own children came along when I would provide a dessert for dinner.
My 2nd Easter! 1963 All ready for church!
My mom made every holiday special! There would be traditional foods and new clothes!  She and I attended church for many years together.  I can remember times when she would use bobby pins and pin tissues to my head because I didn't have hat to wear in church.

Mom made anyone who came to her house for Easter a special Easter basket. For many years she would invite my in-laws or my niece and nephews.  She would have special wrapped presents for everyone. As we all got older, I started to ask her not to give the kids as much chocolate. She started giving David a fruit basket and then she discovered Rice Krispie treats!  Knowing she just had to make sure we had a bunny in our baskets, she bought Bunny Chocolate molds and used them to make Rice Krispie bunnies, even wrapping them in special plastic wrap with ribbons and bows!

David, Jess (2), and Dave(5)
She only stopped hosting Easter when it became too difficult due to the fact she was exhibiting dementia symptoms and just couldn’t accomplish the necessary tasks any longer.  I started offering to bring more cooked dishes, even offering to make the mashed potatoes for her. Her response to me the second to the last year she made our dinner was that I didn't know how to make mashed potatoes and that they were always too runny!  At the time, I really was hurt and had a hard time with her comment.  Two years later she had no idea she had ever said it because she told me I made the best mashed potatoes.  In hindsight, we know why she said those things and now it doesn't hurt my feelings, it just makes me sad.

Unfortunately, one Easter we went to her house for our designated dinner time, only to find her just getting dressed with no dinner ready. She was just starting to cook and we ended almost two hours for dinner to be ready. This was definitely a sign that something was wrong because my mom had always been the ultimate entertainer and a very thoughtful planner for family holidays. That summer, I convinced her to start coming to my house for holidays.

My mom entered the nursing home in June of 2013.  Since then I have tried to include my mom's traditional food on our table.  However, very few people eat any of them, so I have started eliminating more and more of the dishes each year.  Sadly, two years ago I lost the bunny molds somewhere in my house.  It has taken me the two years to 'get over' the lost bunny molds. This year I bought items to cook my mom's traditional foods, but I didn’t make any.  I figured I was the only one who would eat them anyway, so I took the easy way out. I didn't need to eat a whole bowl of marshmallow salad or a whole ring of kielbasa. I did make my grand children and nephews Easter baskets and probably always will until they are grown!  I had David hide 39 eggs and everyone had fun helping the little ones look for them.

It was a great day, except for the waves of moments when I missed my mom and felt guilty for not visiting her on Easter.  Just at the right moment though, my father in law made my day.  As soon as I brought out the Rice Krispie squares, his eyes opened wide!  He announced that they were tradition!  He always remembered my mother making them!  He didn't say "bunnies"!  I guess if I don't find the bunny molds, Easter can still happen as long as we have Rice Krispie squares!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Lifetime in a Box

I saw a post on Facebook a few weeks ago that said one day your children will want to see you in their old pictures, so make sure to be in them and not just be be the one taking them.  It made sense but I didn’t really think too much about it until yesterday.  School vacations are a great chance to clean some messy areas in my house.  The places where things get tossed to make the actual living spaces look better, because there isn’t enough time to keep everything perfect and work. So, in that messy back room, as I was looking for the Easter Basket prizes, I stumbled upon another big box of old pictures from my mom’s house. Try as I might, there were not many pictures of my mom.  So, I guess the post on Facebook was true because I want pictures of my mom. However, she was always taking them. I want pictures to remember her the way she was before Alzheimer’s.  I want pictures of the two of us. I want pictures of "Ma" with her grandchildren. Each picture of her brings back the memories of my mom as she used to be. There were hundreds of pictures but there weren't many of my mom. However, I did find one of her and her yellow bowl!

My mom in her kitchen making something great!

This picture was taken in our tiny kitchen, in our tiny house, in Baldwinville. I’m not sure what she’s making in that yellow bowl but I am sure whatever it was it was delicious! The picture was taken sometime in the early 70’s. The curtains are her own creation and in the colors she used on everything....her favorites. Oranges and browns were her choices for many projects she sewed. The house was tiny. It had a small eat in kitchen, a living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. There was no cellar and no attic. It did have an attached garage and a laundry room off the garage. No matter how small it was, it was a really great house because she put so much of herself into decorating it and she was always cooking something!!  It was through this picture I actually remembered the fact she sewed me a bedspread and a canopy cover for my big bed.  It made me remember the chocolate covered cherries she made before Thanksgiving and stored in the hall closet (lack of space in a tiny house) so they could then be ready for gift giving at Christmas. One picture can conjure up a million memories.  Memories that she now can't express and has forgotten.
Yesterday, I cleaned my cabinets, rearranging my dishes so I could put her bowls in a place where I could use them daily. Today I will make a cake for my youngest son's 30th birthday and I will use her bowls to mix the cake.  My mom can't be here for his birthday but I can at least put a little bit of her into the cake when I use her bowls.

Today I will take pictures of our family supper, as I always do, but I will be sure to ask someone to take a picture of me with the birthday boy! I hear there is a thing called 'selfies" now, so maybe they are valuable for something!  Get out and take pictures of you today!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Out to Lunch

Yesterday marked a tradition for me that started quite a few years ago, the exact date however I cannot remember.  My two very best friends from Grad School and I celebrated our April birthdays at O'Connor's Restaurant in West Boylston Ma. We meet a few times a year to share our latest teaching stories, family stories, uplift each other through tough family times and celebrate the joys of great family events.

On my way home, it was pouring so I turned off the radio to concentrate on the drive.  My mind, however, would not turn off and it got me to thinking about my mom.  I started to realize that 'going out to lunch' was very much a part of my mom's life.  My earliest memories of my mom were of the two of us always together going shopping for the weekly groceries.  Then, the big treat came after the shopping.  My mom took me to lunch at the first fast food type restaurant I can think of that appeared in the Gardner, MA area.   I remember my mom would get me a hamburger, fries, and a soda.  She would get a double burger, fries, and a soda.  (I thought that it was so cool that she got that second burger on her hamburger!)  This was a huge deal for our family and the biggest treat for me.  I am not sure if it was because we never ate out due to money being tight or if my mom just cooked for us at home, but it was something I looked forward to every Friday when I wasn't in school.

As I grew up and my mom started to enlarge her circle of friends, lunch out was replaced with her Artex painting group on Tuesdays, or her ceramics classes on Mondays. This eventually led up to her lunches out on Fridays with her close friends......of course without me as I was now older and I suppose not quite as cute as I was before!  Ha....Time marched on and the days of afternoon activities and lunches were replaced with work responsibilities and my mom's lunches seemed to dwindle.  With the exception of going to lunch on Wednesdays after bowling, my mom pretty much stayed home when she wasn't working.  That was until her grandchildren came along and we would all head to Friendly's routinely on school vacations for lunch and ice cream.

I am sure her lunches out were her way to connect with other mothers/women/wives etc just like I find I look forward to my lunches out with my grad school friends or once in a while my 'oldest/dearest' friends.  Even this year at school for the first time, I am finding that sharing lunch time with my teammates has been a great break in the day to help us all with a difficult cohort of students.
There must be something special in these 'lunches' that takes place because they seem to me to be more than just eating food.
Nancy Schofield and Mom

Looking through pictures I have found a picture of my mom with one of her best friends.  My mom always said they all put their drinks in front of her to be funny because my mom rarely drank alcohol. Sadly her best friend Nancy passed away from Cancer years ago and now my mom is in the nursing home.  When I look at this picture, I am reminded that my mom once went out to lunch just like I do. She would mark it on her calendar like I do now.

To sum it all up, I guess I am continuing to do the same things that my mom did.  I had never thought of it before but I suppose I am a lot more like my mom than I ever admitted.  Connecting with good friends or family (I like to take my own grandchildren to Friendly's from time to time) all are part of enjoying a very wonderful gift we have all been given.  Get out and see your friends.  Talk, laugh, cry, while eating good food and drinking good drinks.  Life goes on.  Friends move away or sadly pass away.  People get older.  People get sick.  Enjoy each day while you can and don't pass on a lunch out with friends!!!