Sad, depressing, dementia post

I visited my mom today, as I do nearly every Friday. And, like I usually do, I came away feeling sad.

I miss my mommy.

A few months ago, we moved her into a different board and care facility. It seemed to be serendipitous when we drove up and brought her for a site visit. The house was on Normandy so she wouldn’t be wrong (on her bad days, she reverts to believing it’s the 70s and she lives on Normandie), and there were calla lillies in the front yard (she loves callas). There was a piano in the living room (she played piano as a child) and some of the nurses used to work at the Masonic Home, so they were super nice. We got her approval and she moved in.

Mom is calmer now than she was at the old place, but she’s less alert. Her memory isn’t as good as it was at the old place either. She regularly asks me how my classes are going (I finished school 2 years ago), she asks me how my kids are (no kids for me), and she doesn’t remember a lot of her favorite things (like recipes she used to cook all the time, the words to her favorite songs, etc.).

It’s gotten to the point, now, that I dread visiting because I know that I’ll just end up really, really sad afterwards. Of course, I visit anyway because she needs that human contact with people who love her. I cry as I drive home almost every time.

What brought today’s sadness on was that I wanted to ask her advice about buying a house, and I couldn’t. I had to settle for asking about when she bought the house on Normandie, and the house I grew up in. She couldn’t remember anything. She didn’t remember looking at houses, what made her know that these houses were “the one”, her fears about the process… nothing. I tried not to let my sadness and disappointment show, but I think the other residents saw it. One lady gave me a sad smile when I looked away from mom for a minute.

I tried to finish the visit on a positive note. I don’t ever want her to feel that she has done something wrong, when she hasn’t. I talked about running, how hard DH is working, good things that are happening at work (even though I’m so upset at work right now I want to scream), the crock pot meals I’ve been cooking, the baseball tickets I have, etc. Then I told her I loved her, gave her a kiss and walked out the door. In tears.

It’s times like this – where something big is happening in my life – that I miss her most. People who haven’t had a loved one go through dementia/Alzheimers, don’t really understand. The body is there, but the mind (that thing that makes her who she is) is not. That’s what I’m mourning. That’s what I miss. That’s what makes me cry as I’m reminded every Friday when I visit.

I love you mom. I miss you, so much.

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Moving Mom

Today is moving day. It’s for my mom, not me. You see, for the past 2.5 years, my sister has been Mom’s primary caregiver. It’s taken a toll on her family emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s become too much. And now that my nephew is having so much trouble learning the things he needs to know for school, and having emotional problems… I think my sister has finally realized that the family can’t do this for much longer. I tried to explain that this would happen in 2008 when we were discussing options for Mom’s care, but either she didn’t want to hear it, or I didn’t explain it well enough.

So, we found a place for Mom. It’s a board and care home 3 miles from my house. They have lots of experience with people who have dementia and Alzheimers. The residents seem very happy. We brought my mom and my sister’s kids for a visit. They all gave their stamp of approval as well. And today Mom’s moving into her new place.

I don’t think Mom totally “gets” what’s going on. She keeps thinking that it’s like a vacation or something. You know – only temporary. I don’t want to tell her that it’s permanent, but I don’t want her to think we’re abandoning her either. I know this is better for everyone. The level of care Mom’s receiving at home isn’t what it should be. The kids need 100% of their parents’ attention. My sister and her husband need to be a married couple again. My brother needs to feel like he’s allowed to go off and have fun, find a new place to work, and move out. And me? I just need to not worry so much, and to go back to being the daughter instead of the babysitter.

It’s hard though, you know? I cried making the list of things we would need to pack for her. I didn’t cry when I was actually doing the packing, because I knew if I started then my sister would too, and then mom would get upset. Funny how you can be strong when people are watching, huh? But I’m crying again now. I feel like I’m betraying Mom, somehow, by not keeping her at home. But at the same time I feel a bit of relief that we’ve moved forward and aren’t in caregiver limbo.

I’ll be fine later. And tomorrow. And the next day. But for right now I’ll be a bit sad and maybe cry some more if only so I can be strong again later.

Dreaming of Tornadoes

I don’t know if it has anything to do with all the news coverage of the tornadoes touching down in the states east of California, but I dreamed of two tornadoes last night.  It’s not like I’ve never dreamed of them before.  It’s just that the tornadoes in this dream were very different from my other dreams.

In previous dreams I’d see a mini tornado (think tasmanian devil style) and run into the house for shelter while the tornado swirled harmlessly outside.  Or I’d be on a hill and see a funnel cloud that looked like it was about to touch down at the school near my Mom’s house, so I’d run over there and get the kids to safety (even the pregnant 8 year old who falls from the tree – don’t ask, she’s always in my tornado dreams, not sure who she’s supposed to be).  Sometimes there would be multiple mini tornadoes.  Sometimes they’d be straight up and down, sometimes shaped like a funnel.

But my dream last night was different.

I looked out the back door to my Mom’s house and saw a giant tornado heading towards us.  Seriously – huge, straight up and down, dark gray, looked almost solid.  I slammed the door shut, and told my sister, niece, nephew and mom that a tornado was headed this way and we needed to hide.  I ran to the closet in my Mom’s room and started chucking clutter out of the way.  The rest of my family was dawdling and looking at me like I was nuts.  I screamed “Get your asses in this closet!  I’m not messing around.”  When they still looked at me like I was insane, I said “Fine!  If you want to stay out there and die, you can do it.  But I’m closing this door!”

Finally the kids entered the closet and huddled close.  Then my sister.  Then my mom.  She shut the door just as the tornado hit.  We all held on a little tighter when we felt the air change and heard the tornado roar.

When the tornado passed we opened the closet door.  We could see bits of a sunny sky through the partially torn off roof.  We went outside to observe the damage and I realized that we’d been transported to San Francisco.  The house was on top of another building that held a food court.  The Ferry Building’s bell tower had been torn off and was deposited (whole) nearby.  Sky scrapers had been broken in half.

I suddenly realized that I had no idea where my husband was.  I frantically called his cell.  All I could hear was screaming on the other end.  When it stopped I said “DH, I have no idea where I am, but I’m near the Embarcadero.  Look for the broken Ferry Building tower.  Please come find me.  I’ll be downstairs.”

Just when I was going to call again DH showed up.  We hugged and kissed like they do in the movies.  Then we looked out the floor to ceiling windows and saw another funnel cloud darkening the sky.

And I woke up.

Freedom Bound

On Tuesday night one of my nieces (KC) was in a musical called Freedom Bound.  She played the part of Josephina Anton, one of the children in the Anton family.  The story follows the Anton family as they leave the old country to travel by ship to America.  The sets were designed and produced by a choir teacher from my high school days, and my elementary school art teacher.

The actors and choir vocals did really well, especially considering that they’re all in elementary school.  I must be a proud Auntie and say that KC was head and shoulders above the rest.  She didn’t simply recite her lines, she actually put feeling into them.  When she sang, the notes were clear, you could understand the words and she followed the beat.  KC did soooooo well!

Chosen Family

Today was much like any other Saturday.  I worked for awhile and then ate dinner with my family.  But, there were a few differences.

Normally, when I say we ate dinner with family I mean our immediate family… as in DH’s parents and sister, or mine.  Today, we drove across the Bay to eat with the Best Man at our wedding and his wife and kids.  In many ways they are like family to us.  Their kids call us Auntie and Uncle, and we love them a lot.

Also, I’ve been watching the video of my BFF giving birth to my new nephew.  She had a scheduled cesarean yesterday because my nephew was breach and they couldn’t turn him.  I’m not one to be in delivery rooms or crowd people right after they give birth so I’ll be bringing them dinner on Friday after they’ve had a chance to be home for a bit.

So, today was about a different kind of family.  The kind that you choose to have in your life as friends and love as family.

Fridays

It’s funny how my Fridays almost always tend to be the same.

Every other Friday I take care of my mom in the mornings.  Basically I’m there to make sure she eats breakfast, takes her medications, gets to the bathroom and makes it back to bed when she’s ready for a break.  I tend to bring my dirty laundry with me and use the washer and dryer over there, mostly because it’s free (I have a community laundry at my apartment), but also because it keeps me busy.

On opposite Fridays I’m at home.  This is my chance to clean my apartment, relax a little, and enjoy the quiet.  People don’t always realize just how noisy libraries can be, then you add in the ambient noise that comes from driving home and the constant chatter in my brain…  by the time “my” Friday rolls around I’m ready for some quiet!

Today is a “Mom Friday.”  It’s taken her a little over an hour to get out of bed, but that’s almost normal for her.  I’m a lot like her: we both like to lay in bed long after we’re supposed to be up.  She’s eating her Cheerio’s, banana and coffee, while I’m typing away over here.  The laundry is going and it’s nice and quiet.  Well, except for her questions:

“What’s that over there on the floor?”
“Where’s Caramel/Flower/Niner?” (the cat/cat/dog)
“Can I have some pretzels?”
“How’s your husband?”
“Do you have any kids?  Are you sure?”
“What’s your last name?”
“How is school going?”
“Are you almost done planning the wedding?”
“Did I take all the pills in this bowl?”
“Can you help me back to bed?”
“Can I have a kiss?  I love you.”

Those questions used to bug the heck out of me.  Always the same questions, almost always in the same order, and always when I’m in the middle of something that needs concentration.  But strangely, they don’t bother me so much any more.  Maybe that’s because I can remember back to a time when she would answer our questions, but never ask any of her own.  Maybe it’s because I know that she’s trying to show that even though she can’t be there for everything she’s still interested in knowing what’s going on.  And maybe it’s because I’ve learned that showing that I love her means not being annoyed when our conversations are always the same.

Mom and me in 2007 when I got my BA

Well, it’s time to help her back to bed and continue doing laundry.  Gotta go!

Merry (Late) Christmas

OK, I know…  boring posts about books most people will try their best to avoid reading.  That doesn’t make for a good blog, but it’s something, right?  So today I’ll add a real post wishing you all a Merry Christmas!  It’s a day late and all, but better late than never, right?

So how was it?  Was Santa good to you?  Santa is always very good to me.

DH and everyone on my side of the family had Christmas Eve off, so we ended up doing Christmas at my mom’s house that afternoon.  It took longer than I thought, but it was fun to see the kids open their presents.  We also got to spend a little bit of time with my mom.  She’s doing a bit better.  The doctor prescribed a hospital bed to make things a bit easier.  She’s finally up and walking around a bit, but it does take some convincing.  We just keep reminding her that the longer she can walk, the healthier she’ll be and the more time she can spend with the family.

We got my nephew Lego Creationary and my niece a few different artsy things – a pot holder loom, a very simple paint by numbers set and a tissue paper flowers kit.  My brother had a very gummy Christmas.  We basically went to Cost Plus and loaded our cart with one of every gummy there.  Then we went to a couple of teenager stores and did the same thing.  And to round it all out, he got some socks.  My Brother-in-law got a SF Giant’s shirt and some socks.  Mom- a couple pair of slippers.  My sister some socks and jammies.

I got lots of cool things from my family: a convertible bag called a Miche Bag with a couple of shells, a beautiful vase from Italy, hand made jewelery, a purse hanger thingie, coffee gift cards, etc.  DH got some pretty cool things as well.  He’s most excited about the rimming salts and yoda chop sticks.

Later in the afternoon we headed over to DH’s grandma’s house to visit with the cousins, aunts and uncles.  It’s always super crowded over there with all the adults and kids running around.  I can only really handle it for a couple hours before I start feeling really overwhelmed with all the noise and activity.  Again, it’s always fun to watch all the kids open their presents and then Grandma opening hers.  We went ultra practical with Grandma’s gift because she can buy pretty much anything she wants/needs.  We got her a variety pack of coffee and a gift card for Market Broiler (a restaurant she’s been wanting to go to for awhile).

Then we went home and had a couple of friends over for movies, food and drink.  I fell asleep midway through the second movie, but the boys said it was OK because it kind of sucked anyway.

Christmas morning we headed over to DH’s folks’ house for more presents.  Again, it was fun to watch everyone open their gifts and see what they got.  Our niece got so many Barbies and girlie toys.  We always get her something educational, so this year she got a robot you build and power through an electrical (crank) generator.  We’ll be setting up a time for her to come over and work on it with DH – it’s their thing, ya know?  We gave my sister-in-law the 10th anniversary edition of Mallrats signed by Kevin Smith.  It’s her favorite Kevin Smith movie so she was pretty stoked.  We gave my Mother-in-law some sugar free candies, a Diabetic Soul Food cookbook (awesome book by the way everything I’ve ever cooked from it tastes great) and a couple of other things.  We gave my Father-in-law some blank CDs, a hot sauce sampler pack and a huge bag of Hickory Farms.  I got lots of picture frames, socks, jewelery, gift cards and mixers for alcohol.  DH got a George Foreman grill, a belt, gift cards, Iron Man 2, and more.

Then we all went out for breakfast.  It was nice.  It reminded me of how much I miss spending time with those guys.

After breakfast DH and I came home to open our own presents.  He (and Santa) got me a NookColor, paper shredder, some books I wanted, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack, a pedometer, alcoholic chocolates and my laptop.  I (and Santa) got him the Microsoft Kinect, a cup with some kind of computer coding on it that he wanted, hibiscus flowers in syrup, Exosquad Season 1, and Idiocracy.

My brother invited us over for dinner so we went.  There was ham with that mustard/brown sugar glaze and pineapples on top, garlic mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and cherry-o-cream pie for dessert.  I’ll have to post that recipe some time, the pie is a family favorite.

Then we came home, played with our new toys and went to bed.  That was my Christmas.  How was yours?

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