Wednesday, April 3, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Comfortghan

When you are a grown-up, you still want your mommy and daddy, even long after they are no longer with you. You can surround yourself with friends and family, but nothing takes the place of those who brought you into this world. 

Granted, not everyone is as close to their parents as I was. I am one of the lucky ones. That makes it even harder forme at times.

I recently joined a group that creates comfortghans for those in need. I cannot crochet, but was the point person for their first project. They created afghans for the families of the firefighters that were gunned down here on Christmas Eve. Others were being delivered to the families that lost their homes in the melee. Since then, they have been feverishly working on more and more afghans to send to families all around the country. I started thinking more and more about it, and how comforting those afghans really can be.

This is an afghan, folded up, that my mother's mother made at least 40 years ago. My parents always kept it, plus two other ones, in the cabinet part of an end table that she bought when she met my dad. (She was a customer at his family's furniture store.) This was one of the ones that was considered extra special, because of the intricacy of the flowers. Somehow, I ended up with it. 

I have two cats and a dog and don't trust any of them. So, I usually keep this afghan folded and put away. One night, right around what would have been my father's 70th birthday, I started to feel sad and missed them a lot. I was also really, really cold. All of my blankets and the space heaters weren't doing their job. So, I went to the cabinet and pulled out this afghan. I immediately fell asleep, as I felt the two of them with me that night. It was like I was a little kid again, wrapped up in it with them.

Do you have any afghans or something special from your loved one that gives you comfort?    

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

#AtoZChallenge Bye-bye

One of the worst things about visiting a loved one with Alzheimer's is definitely having to say goodbye. I always feel like I am dealing with a little kid. 

"Now wave bye-bye to the nice lady and let her leave!"

Ugh. She never wants me to leave. She isn't sure who I am, but she knows that I am someone important. Sometimes there is that glimmer of recognition and she wants to go on a mommy-daughter outing, like in the good old days.

This is me getting ready to say goodbye to her the last time I visited, which was unfortunately back in August 2012.

Before I left, I knew I wanted a new picture of me with my mother. Just in case. That isn't the mother I know and love, of course, but that is who she is now. That doesn't sound right when I say it, but I think you know what I mean.

Anyway, it took a lot of failed attempts to get this one picture. First, I had to ask permission to get a hug and to have my picture taken with me. Then the poor kid who was trying to take the picture seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Finally, she grabbed me before this shot and said, "You're the best sister ever!"


At least that demonstrated a bit of recognition, right?

And then I was trying to leave. My friend was waiting for me out in the waiting area. We still needed to visit my father's grave and then stop at the museum on our way out of town. He had to be back to work in the morning. 

So, I said goodbye. She said, "Let me get my purse and then we can go."

Here we go again. During one of my visits the previous year after my father had passed away, I had to sneak out of the back of the dining room to get away from her. I always think of my students' parents as they run out the door, with me holding their crying child. One of the nurses always has to distract Mom so that I can slip out. I hope she doesn't get too upset, but am sure she probably quickly forgets about it.

So, a nurse escorted her back down the hallway to her room. I made a mad dash out the door, found my friend, and collapsed into a puddle of tears.

I hope to get back this summer. Who knows how the bye-bye will go at that point?       

Monday, April 1, 2013

#AtoZChallenge: Accepting Alzheimer's

I feel like somewhat of a slacker. I don't post to this blog as often as I should. The A to Z Challenge helps to lubricate the wheels of thought every year, though. In fact, this blog was originally born because of the A to Z Challenge. Back in 2011, I had a long talk with my father, as we were dealing with my mother's rapid decline into the abyss of Alzheimer's. We decided that this would be a joint effort. We would share our stories of triumph and heartache as we traveled along this journey with Mom. Our goal was to reach out to others in similar situations, to stand together in solidarity, to laugh and cry together.

Alas, my father fell ill just before my spring break from teaching that year. I was going to come home and get him all set up to post whenever he wanted to do so. Ironically, he had fallen and hit his head while getting my mother situated in a nursing home because she had run away in the middle of the night. He ignored all of the symptoms of a concussion that turned into a brain bleed and eventually took him from us. He never had a chance to see much happen with this blog. I still find it difficult to do much with it without him.

All of that being said, I have to say that this year, I finally feel like I have accepted Mom's Alzheimer's. There isn't much else I can do about it. She has slipped away to a place that I will never know, nor understand. I can no longer talk to her on the phone. I tried that at Christmas. She didn't understand how to use the phone at first, let alone try to talk on it. She had no idea who I even was. All I can do is call regularly to check in on her, which I know I don't do nearly as often as I should.

I did mange to visit her last year. I hate having her be 400 miles away. It is much more difficult for me to travel there now. And she has no idea who I am. Somewhere, deep in the back of her mind, I am a familiar face that she cannot place. She feels comfortable with me. She always wants to try to leave with me. It's heartwrenching to witness. But it is what it is. I can't change it. I can't fix it. I can grieve for what we have both lost. I can be a shoulder for others.

Thanks for listening.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Alzheimer's Plot: 'The Christmas Clock' by Kat Martin

I was going through my blogs one day to check out old book reviews. I came across one from 2009 called 'The Christmas Clock.' The book has a subplot of early onset Alzheimer's in one of the characters. I remember reading it back then, feeling drawn to the story, because of my own mother. This was well before she went downhill so fast. I enjoyed it, as some of you may. I am reposting my review here, for those who may be interested.

The Christmas Clock is the latest book by bestselling author Kat Martin. It's the story of a young boy named Teddy Winters, who at the age of eight lives with his grandmother, Lottie Sparks. Unbeknownst to him and many others in their small Michigan town, Lottie is suffering from a very rapidly progressing form of Alzheimer's disease. She is seeking to find him a permanent home before she becomes too disabled. At the same time, Teddy is trying to earn money to by his beloved grandmother a mantel clock that reminds her of her childhood.

Teddy goes to work doing odd jobs around the mechanic shop owned by Joe Dixon. Joe has been trying to rebuild his life after doing time for accidentally killing a man in a bar fight many years ago. His rage had been sparked by the love of his life, Sylvia Winters, suddenly taking off, claiming she had never loved him, which he felt in his heart of hearts wasn't true.

Sylvia has recently returned to town, carefully guarding the secret that had caused her to flee all of those years ago. She is also looking to start over, but is finding it difficult, as she keeps running into Joe, and realizes that her feelings haven't changed.

At the same time, Sylvia is becoming close friends with Doris Culver, her landlord. Doris and her husband Floyd have been married forever, but lost the spark years ago. They dance around wanting to revive the relationship, but neither will be the first to admit it or to make the first move.

All of these people are interconnected, and every choice that they make somehow affects all of the others. Though highly predictable, as most romance novels are, each of these choices eventually leads to a Christmas miracle of sorts for everyone involved. A few lessons in life and love can also be gleaned from these pages if you pause for a second to reflect.

It's an extremely easy read, designed to allow you to relax for a couple of hours during this hectic holiday season. It's not written to change the world, but to entertain. Those with families touched by Alzheimer's will feel a sort of kinship with the characters dealing with it, even though Lottie's descent into the depths of dementia feel a little too fast for reality.

Purchase in paperback.

Purchase for Kindle

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reflecting on Mom From A to Z

Like usual, I am behind on doing my posts. Reflections on the A to Z Challenge were supposed to be completed by last night. Even if I weren't behind as it is, it feels more appropriate to post this on Mother's Day.

I just hung up with my mother. She has no concept of it being Mother's Day, let alone the fact that she is a mother. I do not exist in her world anymore. They put her on the phone and she could hardly complete a sentence, let alone a thought. There were lots of "Um, uhhh, I forget the word" and lots of trailing off. I was able to translate some of it and fill in the blanks. I know what she would have said had it been even a year ago. She just can't do it anymore.

The nurse said that she is doing well, though, as far as her health is concerned - as much as she can, anyway. She has had no problems with breathing nor any other signs of the blood clot since she got out of the hospital. So, the long goodbye and slow neurological degeneration continues.

Last year, I started this blog in honor of the A to Z Challenge. Dad and I were going to work on it together, but life had other plans. I did do several posts in honor of my mother and our journey. This year, I managed to complete it in time for the end of the challenge. It felt good to try to think about the good times with my mom. I enjoyed honoring her memory. I did the same for my dad over on Montessori Writer's Thoughts. I have shed a few tears through the process, but it was cathartic. I will probably do something again next year.

Here are the links from this year's challenge. Following this list are last year's posts, as well.

A is for Acceptance
B is for Bookkeeping
C is for Christmas
D is for Daughter
E is for Easter
F is for Farmer
G is for Gardening
H is for Happiness

I is for Independence
J is for Juggling
K is for Kids
L is for Love
M is for Mommy
N is for Norma
O is for Organist
P is for Prayer
Q is for Quadrille
R is for Reading
S is for Symmetry
T is for Typing
U is for Underwear
V is for Violets
W is for Words
X is for Xendochial
Y is for Young
Z is for Zzzzzzz

Here are the posts I managed to do last year.

A is for Anger and Acceptance
B is for Brain, Babies and Boyfriends
B is for Bras
C is for Caregivers
C is for Crying
D is for Daddy
E is for Escape
F is for Football
G is for Grandma
H is for Happiness
Ignorance is Bliss
J is for Judgment
K is for Kicking and Screaming
L is for Lying
M is for Mother's Day
N is for Normal
O is for Opinions

Monday, May 7, 2012

My mother's voice

The other night I took some Benadryl before bed. My allergies have been acting up like crazy and I just wanted to SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. I was definitely deep in sleep when all of a sudden, I heard my mother's voice in my ear and could feel her breath tickling my ear.

I sat straight up in bed, despite the Benadryl fog. Of course there was no one there. She is in a home 400 miles away. But it really seemed like she had been.

I cannot remember anymore what she said to me. I wish I could. It was something profound and necessary for me to hear. Or, perhaps I just needed to hear it for that moment.

I miss her wisdom and talking to her.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Had a Dream....

Last night, I had a throbbing headache. (Thanks for passing those on, Mom!) I went to bed early and took one Benadryl. (I still have it this morning. *sigh*) So, I slept pretty hard for about 7 hours or so, before waking up from a really bizarre dream.

In my dream, I was taking some of my students to a large field so that we could look at the stars and use my Google Sky Map app for real. We have used it in real life, but it isn't as much fun when you can't see the stars to match. I am all excited, trying to point out to the kids how you can see the actual constellations and planets in the sky, but they quickly lost interest. (They are ages 3-6.)

So, somehow the dream shifts and we are in some kind of seminar about keeping yourself safe, as well as child development. I am there with a couple of my colleagues, some old friends from back in the high school and college days, and a couple of students. Somehow, I am back on campus in the town where my parents retired, also where I went to school. I am feeling guilty because I have traveled all this way for the seminar, but have not gone to see my mom. My BFF keeps reminding me that it probably isn't the right time to squeeze in a side trip, how upset my mother gets when I do visit, and how hard it could potentially be on me. So, I acquiesce to simply taking the BFF and one other person on a quick tour of campus before we all pile in the cars to head back to NY.

We get to the new building that houses the pool. (My university is in a massive rebuilding phase right now.) I want to take them in there, even though it looks crowded, because this pool is supposed to be amazing. When we go in, I notice that my mom's nursing home is there on some kind of a field trip, and she is sitting in an armchair in the corner!

I go running over to her and introduce myself. "Hi, Mom. I'm Andrea." She snaps at me, "I know who you are," but by her conversation, I know she has no idea. I go ahead and introduce her to my BFF, even though they met a couple of times a few years ago. BFF is wiping tears away, because she has heard about the degeneration, but can't believe it.

The conversation with Mom continues in circles as it usually does. A nurse comes over to take Mom away for her medication, and I realize she is wearing a neck brace. It had been covered up by a blanket. I ask what had happened, because I am usually the one notified when something happens to her. The nurse says she isn't sure, but that it seemed to be more of a panacea than anything actually medically necessary. I wonder briefly if she is reliving 16 years ago when she had back surgery and then remember that she is much farther behind than that anymore.

I feel sad, yet relieved, as she is wheeled away. The three of us turn to head back to the cars. And then I wake up, 10 minutes before the alarm is set to go off.