Finding Time in the Midst of Chaos

Mom and meWell it has been quite a while since I’ve had a post. I thought it is time to sit down and try to write. It is not an easy task in my life.

Since my last entry, I have returned to work and as you know, the home front continues to become more of a challenge. All through the experience I keep reminding myself that I am not working my plan for my life, as much as I am submitting to my heavenly Father’s plans and purpose for me. Once I acknowledged this; my life seemed to make sense for the very first time. When things don’t go my way, I accept that it is my Father rearranging things. When things fall into place, miraculously, there is just no way I can take credit.

I just flew with someone who told me, “no you need to pat yourself on the back!” Really? Why? I don’t want to pat myself on the back. (First of all, because it is physically impossible) and secondly, I don’t feel I have done anything so great. I know that I handle my life because God gives me the strength to handle these challenges. But I cannot say that I have always been happy about the responsibilities He’s given me. And sometimes, I’ve downright lost it! I’ve had temper tantrums and been filled with self-pity. “Why me? Why not someone else?” I’ve had all of those angry questions. But in the end, He keeps me grounded. He reminds me that I can handle it. He reminds me that His son had those very same feelings.

When I went to Israel many years ago, I saw the huge stone where Jesus had wept and prayed so fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane. Everyone was placing their hands on this stone as if they could feel His anguish. This is what makes me remember that even He asked the Father, “to take this cup of suffering from me.” In the end our Lord knew that it was not His plan He was working, but His Father’s plan. This picture of Christ’s grief is a stark reminder that He did indeed, “Suffer  all things which are common to man.” He knows my fears and my sadness. He knows my joy when I see that this suffering, is worth the end result. “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:12)

Wow! If He could do that for me, I certainly can’t complain about my circumstances. He has chosen these things for me, “to perfect my faith.” Who cares about me more than He does?

I had to keep this in the forefront of my mind when I received a recall notice to work. I had been on a furlough for almost 3 years. Granted, the furlough was another blessing from the Lord. I had just begun to see my mom slipping more and more each day, when along came this offer to take the furlough. This couldn’t have been at a more opportune time. However, I didn’t really know that at the time.

I was really sitting on the fence with that offer, as I was a little fearful of losing an income. “How am I going to make it with no money coming in?” I asked the Lord. I wasn’t sure if this was something I should do. Then He placed people in my path, that I can only describe as messengers on behalf of Him. They encouraged me to take this offer and one person, asked if he could call and speak to me. This was a few nights before the deadline for our decision. He completely encouraged me to do this as he knew my circumstances. He knew that my mother is not going to get better, but she would decline.

I decided to take the offer because of all of ‘the encouragers.’ What a great time I’ve had with my mom, my brother and my children! I took her on a road trip to Wisconsin along with my son and my brother. Though she did not know anyone, I felt rewarded in the fact that her friends and family had the chance to see her. I also didn’t feel the guilt I had before. She has been obsessed with moving back to Wisconsin. In some way I felt I was holding her hostage. This trip was a revelation to me as well. I could see that the Wisconsin she remembers only exists in her mind. She can visit anytime she chooses. My son exclaimed, “We could have driven around the block and told her she was in Wisconsin!” lol Yes, I suppose that’s true, but besides seeing Palm trees everywhere, it wouldn’t have been as effective. As I said, I felt this trip was more for my benefit and those who could see her.

The past 3 years gave me a chance to be completely involved in my son’s life, when he needed me most. I didn’t know so many things were happening until I was present every day. There were people that would have wished I would just return to work, but that was not going to happen! The Lord wanted to expose so many things to me. He knows that I am a staunch advocate for people who cannot speak for themselves, and this is the very reason I have the care of my mother and brother  and a young son.

However, had I not had some of the experiences in my own life, I would not have been as discerning. Now some of my suffering began to make sense to me. I have the ability to see things that the average person may not. I also have the strength to speak up, where most people will not. I find that my anger at such injustice overpowers any fears I may have. If I was not equipped with this righteous anger, I wouldn’t have the ability to take a stand.

Each year that the furlough was almost up; I would ask the Lord what He wanted me to do. Two times, I would receive another offer to take a year off. But this last year it has been different. This time we would receive an offer of an ‘early-out.’ Buyout offer plus benefits. Wow! This must be the answer, I thought! This was a big offer too! As I pondered this offer, I was ready to jump. Thinking that this would help me tremendously; I now heard the Lord speaking to me. “Hold on, don’t be impulsive.” As I weighed out the pros and cons of the offer, I asked the Lord to do what He has always done. To show me His will in this. To speak to me. He did and it was a surprising answer. He spoke to my spirit and He also sent people to me to give me answers. And just like always, the best plan is the most difficult!

As I began to see that this looked good on the surface, but it wasn’t really what the Lord had planned, I now wondered at how He was going to make my return to work possible. I am now mature enough in my faith that I know He will provide; but I still wanted to know how!

Now, I was most concerned with care for my mother. I can’t leave her and 24 hour nursing care is way too expensive. This would hardly make my return to work reasonable.

One day as I was praying and asking God for the answer to this dilemma, a person came to my mind. It was a woman who used to care for another elderly woman in a group my brother was a part of. My brother had a bowling group and this woman had a daughter with Down’s Syndrome. Her daughter was an excellent bowler. I had become friends with her and some of the other older ladies in the group. We used to sit and play cards together as the people bowled. You may remember an earlier post about this, “Kings in the Corner.” These women taught me many things. The woman that took care of her was a sweet, little Jamaican lady. She was so cute.

Marilyn eventually passed away, so the caregiver took care of her daughter. It was only a few years later that the daughter also died. She had a heart problem. I still have a picture of her smiling face on my bulletin board. She was full of joy and the sweetest girl. I remember at her funeral, the sister, coming up to me and saying, “You know Carrie, you and me are the same!” She was referring to the fact that she had taken care of her mother, and her sister after her mother’s passing. The caregiver lived with her and helped her take care of both of them.

As I thought of this, I thought, “I should call her and ask about Marlene! (the caregiver) She was excited when I called her. I told her that I had been called back to work and needed someone for my mom. I asked about Marlene. She said, “Wow! I can’t believeyou’re calling right now! She was caring for a woman and she just passed away about 2 weeks ago. She’s looking for someone else to care for right now.” I was so thrilled. I also knew that the was the Lord’s hand in all of this. He constantly reassures me that if He has called me to do something, then He will also provide!

It was only a few weeks later that I was back in training for 6 days. I had complete security knowing that this woman is experienced with people like my mom and she has compassion. She also knows my brother and is very experienced with special needs too. She told me that if she ever has a problem with her schedule, “her sister is her backup.” What a great thing! God not only provides our needs; He goes above and beyond what we need!

My son has proven to be a responsible and caring person from this experience as well. The other day, I messed up my own schedule and thought that I had given the information to Marlene and I did not. So of course, she wasn’t at the house. At first I thought that my printer didn’t print the trip, or she was reading the schedule wrong. I called her in a panic and she was already on her way out of town. She said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get someone to cover for me.” She did and this woman was her cousin. She was so wonderful and had also been living in the north for years taking care of an elderly woman. In the meantime, my son was able to ‘hold down the fort,’ until she arrived. He was asking me where the chucks were for my mom’s bed and I thought, “Is he really changing the bed linens?” This was just unfathomable, as he doesn’t do this in his own room! He had given my mom breakfast and helped my brother get up for school. I thought, this kind of responsibility is good for him and he will never regret the things he did for his grandma.

So now I’m thanking the Lord for all He has done and is doing to grow us. In the midst of the chaos of my life. I see His hand reaching through and holding me as I walk through all the storms. I’m grateful for the people that He sends to me to encourage me and give me wisdom for decisions. He removes those who have tried to bring me harm and continues to reveal His plans for me as I roll everything over to His ultimate will.

I think that my first layover was when it hit me; hey I don’t think I’ve had time to relax like this in years! Now I can understand the benefits to this decision. I felt refreshed for the first time in a very long time. I’m so appreciative of this time I’ve had with my family but also my ‘alone time,’ now. I also want to thank you people who have been a part of this journey with me. I am touched that those of you (and some complete strangers) have helped me through the most difficult times. I know who you are; and I know who has sent you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

The Stranger Who Came to Stay





Well, today it happened. It came without any indication. The woman who has sat in the same place on my couch, for 2 years and 3 months, told me, “I’m not your mom!” As she laughed at me like I was crazy.

I fumbled for answers to this. Wait a minute, I thought I had the solution to jog her memory. I pointed at my brother, (her first-born son) and said, “he’s your son.” She answered, “He’s not my son!”

She looked incredulous as I asked her about her other son and daughter. “They’re not my kids!” Well, I was shocked as I tried to reason with her. She told me my other brother was just some guy that helped her move into her apartment in Milwaukee.

A little while later I pointed out the massive hurricane, headed for New York. “I’ve been to New York,” She said. “I know, I took you,” I responded. “You didn’t take me!” Again, with a look amusement, she stated, “My daughter, Carrie took me.” “Mom, that’s me!” I said, unwilling to believe this was actually happening. “You’re not Carrie!,” she said.

I couldn’t tell you how odd this was to me. A combination of bewilderment, mixed with pain. As if I was holding her by a rope, across a raging river, and she was losing her grasp. “Mom!” “Stop calling me that!” she says, “I’m not your mom!”

I know, I think, if I can just remind her of my brother she lost when I was so young. I bring up his name. “That’s Kim’s son!” “Yes, mom, but she named him after your son, my brother.” “What? That’s just crazy!” At this point she tells me that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I go into the next room. There are the pictures we had just been looking at the other day. All her pictures which I had brought down from her room. I had hoped we could put them into albums and she would enjoy looking at all the memories. There is the photo album, I had put together after our trip to New York. I had taken her to see the Rockettes Christmas Show. I took my daughter as well. Here is where I will be able to help her ‘snap out of it.

I bring the album in and show her the pictures. With each picture she tells me that wasn’t my daughter and it isn’t our trip. I didn’t know what my motivation was anymore. “Am I trying to help her remember? Or am I trying to make myself forget…that she is slipping away from me.

I had taken her to her neurologist about two months ago. She had a complete personality change. Light-hearted and easy-going. Laughing constantly. She was a different person. “What happened to her?” I asked him. “Well, she’s declining, but it’s normal. At least at this point, you should be able to get her involved in a senior center with day care. She won’t fight you now.”

As sure as the sun comes up, I signed her up for two days a week, and the other personality showed up. Sharp as could be, and fighting me as she always had before. “I’m not going back to that place!” She said. “That’s a nut house!” “Oh, this is great,”I thought. Just when I thought I ‘d get a little break.

I knew something had happened, because ever since she arrived at my home, she had checked off the days on her calendar. And then she stopped. As I shared this with her doctor he said, “Is it a Mayan calendar?” I cracked up, in spite of the loss I felt.

But this is the sign that something had happened. And her doctor never shared the true diagnosis until I had him fill out the paperwork for the senior center. With a listing of Dementia, and Alzheimer’s, I was in total shock. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know something was wrong. But he had told me she had TIA’s, which he explained were mini-strokes.

“Okay,” I thought, I can live with that. As if just hearing the word mini, made everything better. No need to worry. But there is no minimizing this. As I’ve watched her slowly lose ground and I give her round the clock care, I’m at a loss for how to deal with this woman, who is now stubborn and unwilling to take part in her life. Physically hitting me and calling me names, when I’ve tried taking her to, the retreat.

Each time I mention, just getting away for a few hours, and telling her she will have some friends, so she can talk about me. That’s just not enough of a bribe for her.

Today, as I listened to her talking about her daughter, ‘Carrie,’ I had the oddest feeling. I felt as if I was prying to ask her about this daughter. I could almost see a sense of pride in her, when she talked about her. I felt as if this was, “the fly on the wall.” eavesdropping on her conversation with someone else, as she bragged about me. For the first time in my life, I felt as if she was proud of me.

Perhaps this was the Lord’s way of showing me the affection which I never received from her. To show the side of my mother which left when I was a child. There was no time for this then. Too much tragedy and I had to grow up quickly. The roles were reversed.

But now I can hear, that she really does appreciate me. Even though we are becoming strangers. And I have found some humor in it, at times. When we were going through the pictures, at one point she had said, she didn’t know me. As I struggled to convince her that I was her daughter, she stubbornly refused to accept this nonsense. I finally said, “Well, then who am I?” To which she replied, “I don’t know who you are!” And I said, “Well, then I’m going to ask you what you’re doing here, living in a stranger’s house?”

She still manages to laugh at my son. And when he came in later, I mentioned something about him being her grandson. “Oh if you say so.” she said. Unwilling to hurt the boys feelings. She just decided to let us believe this.

She told me she could get ready for bed herself. So I let her. But when I went to check on her, I asked her, “Are you okay mom?” “Yes,” she said. And I did what I always do. I bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. I said, “Goodnight mom.” “Goodnight,” She said. With the sweetest smile, and then she said, “See you in the morning.”

I guess in her mind, I may be a stranger. But a familiar stranger. And in some way, it’s security to her. She’s allowing me to call her, ‘mom,’ because she is staying here. I hope her daughter, Carrie doesn’t mind.

The End of the Beginning

Yesterday I was praying about a decision to send my mother back to her home of Wisconsin.

She tells me over and over again, that she’s homesick. But something which she said to the visiting nurse, pained me. I had never heard her say this before. When the nurse asked her a question, she came out with her usual, “Well, I’m not from here. I’m from Wisconsin. I love Wisconsin. That’s where I want to die. She quickly corrected herself, when she said, “Well, I want to live there too.”

But like a jury at a trial, it was already out. I heard it, and it was like a stab in my heart. Of course, I know it is an inevitable end to our journey, however, with her, it is never spoken. Until now.

As I walked out the door with the nurse, she said, “Do you think she’ll really go back?” “I began to tear up. “Well, it’s what she wants, but I can’t see her being able to care for herself. Believe me,” I said, “if I was a wealthy woman, I would put her in a little place of her own, with someone to care for her. Just so she could go back.” As I looked at the nurse, I could see she had tears in her eyes too. She had lost her mother years before, so I think we shared a common understanding of this sorrow. Watching the decline of her own mother sounds difficult. She had a nurse coming in as well.

She argued with me yesterday that she could do all the things I do for her. There is no need of me to help her in any way. I asked her if she felt she could stand on a stool to clean windows, clean the pool carry loads of laundry up and down the stairs, and make the meals. “Well, I wouldn’t have a pool!” She said, as if I was completely daft. I thought that was so hilarious. But I said,”Mom, I wouldn’t want you trying to cook and do laundry. It’s not safe. But she insisted that she needed no help. “I need to do what I can do,” she said. “Yes, I know this is true. But the issue is, that she really can’t do a lot.”

And this hurts me more than she understands. I was reminded of this today. I knew that I was going to have to make suggestions about personal issues with her.I wanted to be very delicate with her. I don’t want to embarrass her about anything, because she is so stubborn.

I went up to get her laundry and bed linens. When I had come downstairs, I decided to do her laundry, and thought, this may be a good time to have a talk. As I tried to be as sensitive as I could possibly be, I suggested some items, when I went out to the store. I couldn’t believe that she agreed so willingly. She almost seemed to be relieved.

But I left the house with mixed feelings about the whole discussion. I had hugged her and told her how much I loved her. She hugged me back and told me she loved me too. I said, “I never want to make you feel uncomfortable or embarrass you, mom. I just want to help you.” She had seemed more like a little girl than ever before.

I guess I wasn’t prepared for her to be so accepting of this change. Every little bit of independence she loses, she fights. So, I was surprised at this. And I felt pain. I wondered at why I found myself crying, as I headed to the store. I realized that this was exactly how emotional I was when I weened my children. After breast-feeding, I knew it was time to switch them to supplement bottles. And when they so quickly responded to a bottle, I was totally unprepared at their willingness to replace me with plastic.I had secretly hoped that they wouldn’t want that ‘false sense of security.’ I was so attached, that this seemed too easy for them to just, ‘let go.’ I realized that the failure of my mother to fight me, represented the same. It wasn’t  her letting go that was so hard, but me.

So today, I feel different about trying to relocate her. A friend pointed out that, my mother is just remembering life as it was 10 or 20 years ago. If she went back it would be miserable for her.He is so right. She talks about all of her friends, back in Wisconsin, but she really doesn’t have anyone.

She has three sister’s. One passed away last year. The other one lives in Arkansas. The other two, live in northern Wisconsin. But one of them has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize anyone.And her youngest sister, lives with her husband. And even she sold her house, to move into smaller accommodations.

I get angry with my family sometimes. I ask the Lord, “Why must I have a ringside seat, to this whole process, with my mother’s most difficult stage of her life.” But then He reminds me of all of the other events I had experienced, with her. I have the most compassion, when it comes to this, and I see that it was not by coincidence, that she’s ended up in my home.

The Lord knew that I was the one appointed for this time. I see this clearly. But it hurts on a daily basis. I felt to keep her with me is denying her last wishes, in her life. Yet, in my more pragmatic moments, I know that it’s quality of life which counts. And there is no quality at all,  if she was live, all alone in a little apartment. If I can’t get her to leave the house now, at least she has my children, my brother, me, and some people coming and going.

A friend told me, I should get an apartment for seniors. Take her on a little plane ride. Come back here, and place her in the apartment right down the street. Tell her she’s in Wisconsin and spray some frost on the windows. She’ll be happy as a clam. I said, “Yea, maybe she won’t notice if the front door opens and there are palm trees out front.”

The thought of that made me laugh. Then I remembered a song I used to hear on Christian radio, years ago. I just can’t remember who did it. If some knows, please tell me the title.

A man was bedridden, in a nursing home. He had no visitors, but one man who would come. He would ask him to describe what he saw out the window. The man would tell him all about the little children playing tag. Jumping rope and kids games. The people strolling by and the beautiful trees and flowers. Birds singing and the wonderful sunsets.

One day he came to visit and the room was empty. His friend had passed away. He walked over to the window to open the drapes. There in front of the window was a red brick wall.

At the end of the song, a new person was in the room, and the man sat beside the person describing the same beauty as before.

That song, always left me emotional. I see the power of the mind and the need to hold on to all that is good and alive. This is what I see my mother doing. I want to help her with those memories. I know the Serenity Prayer, and I was told that this would be good in this situation with my mother. “God help me accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.”

I remember the beginning, with my mom and I’m with her now, in the sunset of her life. I will remind her of the children playing, the birds and beautiful trees and flowers. Because on the other side of, that brick wall, those things really do exist. Because the end of the beginning, is really the true beginning!

I’m just asking for your prayers, for the wisdom and strength I need, for this time in her life and mine.

I Surrender

I have been watching my mom and it seems that she is slowing down. Is this my imagination? Living with her each day, has presented challenges. Then I wonder, is it similar to my son’s growth? It’s such a constant, that it’s difficult to notice. But then suddenly, he seems to be taller.

My mom, hasn’t been the easiest person to live with. She is very opinionated, and can be mean. I’ve taken the brunt of this, for most of my life. And she’s as stubborn as a person can be. She refuses the help she needs and then when I see her struggle and try to lend a hand, she’s say’s “well, if you want to help, I’ll let you.”

It’s difficult to remember that she’s been this way all of her life. She’s very insecure and I realize this is the reason for her attitude. She’s never wrong. Yet, she doesn’t mind telling someone else that they are wrong.

Yesterday she had watched a commercial and I heard her make a sound of pure disgust, at the use of the word, “Caramel.” “What’s wrong mom?” I asked. “That’s not how you say, “Caramel!” She said. Well, mom, you can pronounce it with a long ‘A’ or short, ‘A.’ “Either way is acceptable.” I tell her. Already knowing that she is not going to believe me. “Oh come on. That’s wrong!” She tells me. “Mom, it’s in the dictionary. Just like the word, ‘often.’ Some people pronounce the ‘t,’ and some pronounce it with a silent, ‘t.’ And like ‘Aunt, which is really pronounced, awnt, but some people have pronounced it, ‘ant,’ like the ant on the ground. I only pronounced it that way, because this is how you referred to your aunt’s and mine.” Now I can see she’s just irritated. “Well, even if it’s in the dictionary, it’s only been placed there recently!”

Oh, this is how she get’s around everything. So I decide it’s time to drop it. “Ok,” I said. “But it’s nothing for you to get upset about.” “I’m not upset!” She says, because she wants to keep the argument going.

I wonder at this. I believe she was dismissed as a child, and it has a lot to do with her own self-image.This is why she is so judgmental, and opinionated. When I think about this, I feel sad.

I ask her if she would like to go out to the store with me. It is my way of getting her to move her bones. Although, after getting into the crazy holiday shopper’s, I become rather nervous.She is eager to come along, because, as she states, “I need to buy Christmas gifts.” I know she loves to buy little gifts for everyone, so I think this is a fun trip for her.

She refuses any help, besides the use of my arm. And as we walk, I feel her grip, loosen and tighten. At times, I clamp her little hand, into my arm, as tight as I can. I am worried that some rude person is just going to plow her down, or her grip is going to slip. I can feel how small she is, and how much slower she is walking. After a short time she proclaims, “Are we almost done? I would like to buy your gift with you. Cause I’m not going out again.” I tell her,”Mom, you don’t need to get me a gift.” “Of course I don’t!” She says, “That’s why it’s called ‘a gift!” As if I’ve just said the stupidest thing ever. I see that she can only handle very short trips now.

I think back to my placement in, The Children’s Home, when I was a child. After her breakdown, we were placed in this home. I believed I would never be reunited with my mother. I would cry at the separation from all of my siblings and my mother. I had already lost my father in the divorce.

A woman nurse, would rock me in a chair and comfort me, with words, of reassurance, “Don’t worry. You’ll see your mother again.” She would say.

Now, I am beginning to experience that same sadness. I’m facing her exit and watching her slowly going through that door. I feel as if my arm can hold her little hand’s to prevent it from happening. I am angry that I have to watch, as a spectator. I would rather she lived all by herself and just fade away. But then I know that I would be too worried to allow this.

I bought her a new calendar. She’s been checking off the day’s since she came to my home. It breaks my heart. Marking off time, like this reminds me of people in prison or hospitals. My brother did this, when he was in the hospital. I still remember the calendar, facing his bed, with the little black x’s, through each day. Until the last two days. Time stood still. He believed he was going to move down to live by me. I had a place for him and my mother, and then he went to his eternal home.

I was trying to imagine why my mother seemed to hate living in Florida so much. And I think that one reason, is my brother’s death. Before this, she loved Florida, and planned to move here. But after his death, she came down to spend some time with me, and she hated being here. I’ve always thought that it was, “empty nest,’ syndrome. And now that she has two son’s, buried in Wisconsin, she has a longing to return.

But now, I am starting to see her appetite decreasing. As I urge her to eat, she tells me she isn’t hungry. I have resorted to giving her supplement drinks. Along with a little food here and there. She’s losing ground. I can’t stand to see this, happening.

The constant reminder’s, that she will be moving back to Milwaukee, are not as frequent. It seems, just a few weeks ago, she went to my daughter, and asked her, if she could fly her back.” “I didn’t know what to tell her.” My daughter said. “Doesn’t she realize once we’ve landed, that she doesn’t have a place to live?” “No.” I said. “She isn’t thinking about that.” My daughter told me, “mom, when you are gone, she tells me that she wishes you would stay gone.” She said, “Your mom, is annoying.” I laughed. “Don’t let it bother you. She needs me more than she’s willing to admit.”

Sure enough. I flew home from my trip the other day. I didn’t get home until 2pm. As I walked into the house, I noticed my daughter’s car, but it was silent inside. I went into the family room, and there was my mom, sleeping on the couch. “Mom, is everything ok?” I asked. She got up in a fog. “Oh, I’m fine.” I realized that the tv, was not turned on. And I know she can’t understand how to use the remote, even though, I’ve shown her, it’s only one button to turn it on and off. It is understood, that this tv, must be on channel 6, for her, when I leave, so she can watch her ‘story.’ Apparently someone, didn’t turn it on for her. Neither, did my daughter make her coffee.

I went upstairs to reprimand my daughter. “Look, all you had to do was make sure the tv was on for her and make her coffee. If you worked late and you’re tired, just get up to take care of this and go back to bed.” Well, I guess, this would be one reason, that my mom was happy I was home, regardless of how annoying I am.

I’m trying to learn to ‘let go.’ My son told me that I need to trust him more. He’s right. It’s difficult, but I’ve been working on it. I realized that my daughter needs a good firm push out of the nest.

But the most difficult time I’m having now, is accepting what is happening with my mother. I am asking the Lord to give me strength for that time. I know that He takes care of everything, but my heart is breaking.

I took a survey the other day. It asked questions about abandonment, and trauma’s. I had to answer that I’ve experienced everything on that list. But it hasn’t gotten easier. I’m trusting the Lord with my heart, and I realize that this is the greatest faith, I can have. It’s a fearful thing to place my heart in His hands. I know He understands the wounds which have caused this. And I know He is helping me to take a step in faith.

Still, when I’m alone, I find myself grieving. It’s all the sadness from my past and my present, enveloping me. And then, I feel Him. Holding me and speaking words of love. Just as that nurse did, so many years ago. He reminds me that He will protect me, just as He always has. And He will do this for my loved ones, as well.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in Him.”

Losing My Independence

Watching time ebb away

As I watch my mother, aging, right before my eyes, I am struck by the different emotions, I live with on a daily basis.

Since I moved her into my home, a little over a year ago, I’ve battled. I battled my own anger, guilt for being angry, and sadness.

She’s one of those stubborn, old people. Yes, we’ve all had experience with them, and some are related. I watch her, as she loses ground, and she fights me in the process. There are times, I try to escape, what I am witnessing, but I can’t. I know, what is inevitable.

She rails against me, with every doctor’s visit, new diagnosis, medicine, vitamin, change, she must make. In order to keep the vehicle going. She has an addiction to chocolate, which I must monitor. I’ve told her that I’m her Warden. At this she laughs. If she buys it, she’ll eat it all. When she gets sick from it, she tells me, “I don’t like that.” As if it’s really the chocolate which made her sick. I remind her, “Mom, it’s not the candy or the chips. It’s the fact that you’re compulsive when you eat, and you don’t stop yourself. No matter what it is, you’ll get sick, if you don’t ration it.” She sarcastically answers, “Yes, doctor.”

She picks her skin raw. I watch her, as she picks on her face. It annoys me. She was just diagnoses with skin cancer, which she has to have removed this month. I tell her, “Mom stop that picking!” She tells me, “I’ll do what I want. It’s my face!” “Ok,” I say. “Abuse your body all you want. Eat chocolate until your sick, and pick your skin right off!”

Then I feel the guilt. I wonder why I don’t just walk away, before I get angry. I realize that I’m upset that she can’t do things for herself. I know at times, I feel resentment. This mixed with love, gives me a feeling of sadness. I feel it as I wake up in the morning.

Already responsible for so many in my life. I realized I have been a caregiver, all of my life. It’s not a role, that has been given to me, since my mother became older. She had given me this role, as a child. I didn’t know anything different.

Then I married a man, who acted as if I was his caregiver. At one of our group therapy sessions, his counselor asked him, “Why do you allow your wife to do everything for you?” His answer; “Because she’s so good at it.” This is when I felt anger. Isn’t part of a marriage to make your spouse feel secure in the marriage? But then, I believe, that I attracted this to me. I still remember him telling me that “he felt he loved me, even though he didn’t know me. But when he saw me with my younger brother, and the compassion which I had, he really fell in love.” Now I can understand, that this must have been a need inside of him, which drew him to me. The need for a mother. A care-giver. Thus, the role was defined, from the start of the relationship.

I suddenly come to the realization that it “losing our independence,” isn’t isolated to an aging parent. I don’t feel as if I’ve ever had mine. Always being responsible for another. The load of care has been on my shoulders since I was a young girl. I’m amazed at how all of the trauma in my childhood forced me to take on the care of my household.

Just yesterday, as I was painting my walls, my mother looked on. “Is that fun?” She asked. “Well, it becomes tedious, I told her. “Do you want to help?” “Oh no! I can’t do that!” She said. “Wait a minute, mom. Have you ever painted, before?” It dawned on me, that although my mother bought a home, when we were kids. I never saw her make any improvements. “No.” She said. “Your brother did.” “Well, so did I,” I said. “I painted my bedroom.” Then I remembered. We had done different things in the house, but she was the spectator. She never did anything. Yes, my mother never seemed involved in anything. So why would I expect her to want to do anything now? It doesn’t stop me from trying though.

I’m older and wiser now. I balance the need to give care, where/when needed. I remember a psychologist who had spoken about this with our children. “Let them do what they are capable of doing.”I apply this principle with my own mother. She has become a child.

The other day, my daughter heard us and commented. “I was laughing when you confronted grandma about eating all that chocolate. She sounded like a little kid.” “Well,” I said, “she is like a kid. She doesn’t eat a meal, when she gorges herself with junk, and then she lies about it, when I see it.”

I know, I get upset to handle all of this, and some days, I feel like throwing in the towel. Especially as she prattles on and on, about moving to her own place. I think it’s abusive to allow someone like her to live alone. And sometimes, I think, she really doesn’t realize that I have to help her with everything. If she was to be alone, she wouldn’t survive. And then, I’m tempted to allow her to try, just so she can accept what is happening. But that is replaced with a deep compassion, for her circumstances.

Last night, I had a dream. I remember it vividly. I believe this is the Lord’s way of giving me an even deeper experience, and understanding of my mother.

I had my daughter with me, and I was struggling in my body, to do simple things. Walking, talking. We were in a pool, and I was watching her and friends, throwing a ball. A man handed it to me, and I tried to throw it. My hand went limp, as I tried, in vain, to throw and watched the ball drop in front of me. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. I used to be good at throwing a ball. It must be in the wrong hand, since I’m left-handed. I switched arms. I was getting irritated with the man, although it wasn’t his fault. “Give it to me again!” I yelled. I was determined to throw it. I tried with my left hand, and again, it fell flat.

I saw my daughter and her friends look at me, with eyes of sympathy. I just couldn’t grasp, that I had lost this skill. It is the simplest thing in the world. My body just wouldn’t cooperate with what my brain was telling it to do.

As I woke, I pondered this dream. I felt the Lord gently speaking to me. “This is what your mother deals with, each day. Her anger, is not at you, but at her lack of independence.” I was filled with a deep compassion and a new feeling of empathy came over me. “Yes, Lord, I understand now, how difficult this is for her.”

It must be very similar to someone who has had a stroke, or forced to live in a wheelchair. A loss of things, which they had known, all their lives. It is a process, akin to grieving the loss of a loved one. To know we had something, and lose it. And then have to rely on others for their help. I’m not so sure, that I won’t be like her one day. Although I think, I may be a little kinder. Constantly talking about my plans. No matter how silly, they may sound. This is the way we are to live. The Lord tells us that, “For lack vision, my people perish.” He didn’t tell us that this is age-specific.

So, I don’t try to rob my mother of her vision. This is the only thing which she has left. Although, each day, when she starts to talk about this, I tell her, “Mom, this is the day which the Lord has made. We are to rejoice and be glad in it. ” “Now how can you be glad in this day, when you are concerned about the future. Let’s enjoy each day, as we live it.” This seems to help her change the topic….at least for a few minutes.”

When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be….

A doctor, or perhaps in the cast of Wizard of Oz.

Well, yesterday was a visit to the doctor’s office. You remember him from last week. My mother, was convinced that He, was definitely not smart enough to be a doctor. What with all those silly questions, he was asking her. And now, his walk with her into the hallway, has turned into, “he was running down the hall with me!” Of course, if you’re walking at anything close to a normal pace, it is running, with her. Her whole world has slowed down. She keeps telling me, “things were better when I was a kid.” She’s intimidated by all the technology, and although, I influenced her to buy and Ipad, she’s overwhelmed with it.

I  thought if I show her how to turn it on and off, and some very simple things. I had the hopes that she would be ecstatic with this, little gadget. She had a huge desktop computer,which she enjoyed. The few things she did on it, were enough to keep her happy.

The other day, I finally saw her, playing around with all the pictures on the Ipad. Smiling, she proclaimed, “I love looking at these.” More proud that she had accomplished the miracle, of turning it on, sliding the unlock, and actually accessing the pictures. She now is practicing the ‘swiping,’ motion with her finger. I think this is what she enjoys the most.

I told her, “Mom, you know, you can watch movies on that, read books, and even make phone calls.” “Oh, that’s way too much!” She responds. I don’t want to do all that. I think it was better when we just had a regular phone. And I’d rather just read a book.” Forget about me explaining that it’s better, because she can “download,” all of this. Just the word, “download,” is scary to her. I mean, just think about it. To a woman my mom’s age, the word, down, and the word, ‘load,’ denotes something, extremely negative. Let alone, the combination!

I still remember when I started on my own desktop, years ago. The first time I received an error message on my computer, something to the effect, “That you’ve performed an illegal activity, and is going to be aborted, I thought the Feds, were standing at my door! I thought I’d inadvertently hacked into the governments, classified documents or something. So, the intimidation my mother feels, is probably compounded.

Today, we had another appointment for her physical. “Doctors, doctors!” She replies. “Why don’t you go?” I laugh, as I tell her” I do go. We have to maintain your vehicle.”

As we waited in the office this morning, she stared pointing out things on her body, once again. “Look at my fingers!” she says. “What’s wrong with your fingers, mom?” “What?! You can’t see it?” She asks, incredulously. She seems irritated, that I cannot easily notice, what isn’t there. I’m used to this, so I play the game. “What am I supposed to see?” I ask. “Well, they’re darker, on the tips!” Then she moves to the little blood vessels, which are beginning to show on the backs of her hands. “Look at this!” As she begins rubbing them. I said, “Mom, those are just broken blood vessels. You can see them because your skin is so fair.” Not satisfied with this, she begins to talk about her teeth again. “These hurt.” As she refers to dental implants, which have already been checked by the dentist. He found absolutely nothing wrong, and even commented on what a good job, the dentists, had done. She says, “these have to be checked every two years!” I tell her again, “Mom, we just had them checked about 4 months ago.” “Yes, but they need to be checked in Wisconsin!” Oh, here comes her not-so-hidden, agenda. She’s trying to engage me about her intentions of moving back to Wisconsin. I’m not biting.

The doors swings opened to this very small office, and in comes a little parade. First, it was a much older woman. She was in a motorized chair, and she was missing a leg. Just as I was beginning to feel so bad, a string of profanities, came from her mouth. She had a hearing aid in her ear, and short hair. I was positive it was a woman. And her health care aide, seemed to know, she was, as she called her Joanne. Then the other door swings open and almost hits her. “I’m sorry!” I heard the nurse say. And then almost immediately, she said, “Maybe you can move him, over a little.” Oops. “Some more profanity, from the woman. Yet, she seemed to almost have Tourette’s. So, I don’t really think she was angry about the confusion.

Now, another, motorized chair right behind her. The woman, very confidently, drove into the office. No one needed to help her, and my mother watched. I wondered if she understood, how much easier her life would be, if she would drive in one of those.

The last one in, was a woman, about, 4 feet tall. She had a walker, and she was very alert. She sat in a chair next to me, and and she also had a health care assistant, with her. I knew it wasn’t her family member,because of their conversation.

Now, my mother is waiting, and getting very impatient. Finally we were called. “I don’t like doctors,” she reminds me, once again.  Then she wants the nurse to know how impatient she was. “I was waiting for you to call!” She says. “Hmm, I said to the nurse, “That’s what I said to the last guy I was interested in.” With that look of female understanding, she starts cracking up. As she took her in to test her vitals, she told her, “I’m going to give you an EKG. This test will be for your heart. “Oh, I said, yesterday, we found out that she does have a brain, and today, we’re going to find out if she has a heart! I tell her, “the one thing she doesn’t have is courage, so I know she still has a chance for a part in the Wizard of Oz!”

The nurse asks her about allergies. “Yes, I have only one. I’m allergic to doctors!” She says. “Oh, I think we all have that allergy,” the nurse responds. Now, she finishes. Now the nurse said, “If the doctor decides to draw blood, you may go to an outside clinic or have it drawn here. They usually charge, $20.00. “Hey!” My mom says. “If they want my blood, then they should pay me!” The nurse began to laugh at this too. “You know, you’re right.” She says.  Oh, you don’t have to encourage my mom. “That’s what I’m saying. If my someone wants my blood bad enough, they should pay me. I mean, I need my blood!”

Now she’s ready to hop off the bench, and I say, “Hold it right there! The doctor has to see you.” What? I thought we were finished!” She says. The nurse looks at her, and says, “Oh,  your daughter is right. You still have to see the doctor.”

So, we wait some more. You know the game. But for some reason, my mom, thinks this whole thing is ridiculous. This gives her an opportunity to find more things wrong. Which I don’t understand, because she doesn’t want to see the doctor. At one point, when she grabs her knee, I said, “Listen, you saw people coming by you with no limbs, and making no sense whatsoever. Now, you’re going to tell me you have something wrong, cause your fingertips, are dark?” At this we both started laughing. She is now laughing uncontrollably, as she continued; Well, what is going on with this doctor? Why did I have to get up to sit and wait for him? He should get up earlier, if he wants me to come in!” “What?! I said. “You think that getting up at 10am is the crack of dawn! How are you going to get up earlier?” At this I told her, “The other day, you thought the doctor was dumb, and this one is lazy!” “Yea, she said. I could be a doctor!”

We were both laughing, as the doctor came in. And he did look young enough to be my own son. She liked him, though and this was the main thing. He was very personable, and winked when my mom, made her statements, about the move to Wisconsin. When he asked her, if anyone took care of her cooking and cleaning, she said, “Well, of course, my daughter cooks! But that’s until I get back to Wisconsin!’ Yes, he was young. But I’m guessing with all the patients, he sees, like her, he knows the game. He tells me that he will be speaking to her neurologist, after she explained that he took her on a run, down the hall. I saw that look of amusement in his face, as it was clear, my mother, couldn’t run anywhere.

He asked me, “Are you in the practice?” “Oh no,” I said. “Oh, you look familiar to me.” He said. I’m thinking of my mom’s conversation, before he entered the room. Perhaps I should be practicing. I thought. I sure would be saving time and money. Then I just told him, “I have one of those familiar faces.”But I was thinking, I’ve gotten around to more doctors in my own life. And between my mother, and myself, we are probably on posters somewhere, for potential referrals  or some other sales calls. “I joke with my doctor, that we should get a family discount. My family alone, is total job security, for any doctor.

After we left, I told my mother, it should now be obvious, that she could be a  doctor too. As she had already decided, one wasn’t too bright, and the other was sleeping too late, to get the job done. I had shared the joke with my mother, about the person who died and arrived in heaven to a host of being’s which he supposed was, God. Upon meeting a man in a white physician’s coat, St Peter replied, that “No this isn’t a doctor. That”s God. He only thinks he’s a doctor.” Oh, she agreed with that completely!

Just Put It In Your Purse…And Keep On Walking

Oh how I love my mom. She’s done such wacky things in her life. I love all the crazy stories, from her. She is obsessed with moving back to Wisconsin. Even though, she is totally incapable of caring for herself. I try to appease her, by being part of the fantasy.  She will be ‘stuck,’ on something for days, weeks, even months. 

david performs exorcism on mom

For example; “Since when did McDonald’s begin serving chicken?” She asks. “They should have stuck with hamburgers.” As if McDonald’s is losing market share, since they started this ‘new product.’ I used to say, “mom, they have served chicken for years.” But that’s a losing battle.

The other day, she brought up the story about her taking a bag of garbage to work, one day, instead of her lunch. “Oh, I remember that.” I said. It seems I was just thinking about this recently. But I remember laughing about this for years. She took a small brown bag, off of the windowsill. She thought it was the lunch, she had prepared. But she found, when lunch time arrived, she had grabbed a bag full of cigarette butts, and trash.

She came out of the family room and into the kitchen to tell me, “You know that happened before I was married. So you couldn’t have remembered this.” “Mom, that happened when we lived in Parklawn,” I said.  “I was about  10 years 0ld.”

Now, she was really annoyed. “Well, it must have happened to me twice. I remember, and I was still living at home.”

“”Ok, here I am again,” I’m thinking. “There’s no way, I’m going to argue about something so foolish. And especially, since, she is feeling self-conscious about, her forgetfulness. I will snap, and then instantly realize, “hey, this will be me, one day.” It must be difficult to know you’re not able to do the things you once were able to do. And you can’t remember the things you could remember.

Some people handle it with more grace, than others. I have grasped the understanding, that to my mother, I’m the enemy. I’m the reminder, of her life, slowing down. When she needs me, she won’t tell me. She makes comments, which suggest, her need. When I comply, she will say, “If you want to, you can help.” But she isn’t the kind to say thank you. I don’t ever think I’ve heard my mother say, “I’m sorry,” for anything.

So I may have learned to adapt, by making a joke out of everything. I remembered another story, and said, “Hey mom. Don’t you remember when you told us you were walking down the street, in downtown Milwaukee, and your slip fell down?” “Oh yea!” She said. “That was funny. I just stepped out of my slip. Put it in my purse, and kept on walking, like nothing happened.”

I love that story, because, it pretty much sums up my mother. No crisis, too big, nothing too embarrassing. She’s done it, and seen it, all. She just, “puts it in her purse, and keeps walking.” She’s more amazing, than she realizes. And this is the reason, she has all of my respect.

Even now, when it isn’t her slip, but her own memory,which is slipping, I keep my respect level, higher, than my impatience. I can’t bring pain to her. I think that the ‘life lessons, which she has taught me, have kept me from drowning in my own fears, or grief.

I took her to the neurologist, last week. I knew she required some tests. A casual-dressed, doctor ,walked into the room. Full of experience, with aging mom’s and dad’s. He knew the repetitive behaviors. The obsession with certain subjects. and he took  it all with humor. “How long have you lived with your daughter ?” He asked. “I DON’T LIVE WITH HER! I’m from Wisconsin!” “Ok,” he said. “How long have you been co-habitating with her?” I smirked at his remark, as she answered, “For about a year.” “Oh, you have been co-habitating with her for a year.”

He moved on; “Do you know what state you’re in?” “Of course, Florida.” She answered. “What city?” Now she was stuck. She said, “Florida.” “That’s a state, what city?” He asked again. She was getting flustered. “Ok, what county?” “Florida.” She answered again. “That’s a state, what county?” “I have no idea,” she said. I do believe,it’s the first time I’ve ever heard her acknowledge that either.

Now, he holds up his pen. “What’s this?”he asks. “A pen!” She seems clearly annoyed at this point. Then he started to ask her some math problems. With quite a bit of hesitation, she seemed to come up with a good deal of answers, and proudly proclaimed, “I told you, I worked at a bank!” He said, “I’m going to write something on a paper, and I want to you to read it. “Well, she says, “if you write like most doctor’s, no one will be able to read it!”

He continued to ask  more questions, and then he told her, “Now, I’m going to take a walk with you.” She became very fearful, as she stated, “my socks will get dirty!” “Well, that’s what washing machines are for,” He said. All the while, I’m thinking, I’m the one who does the laundry, anyway.

I realized that she had blamed her lack of mobility on her shoes. After buying a few more pairs, she now claims that it is her knee, which is sore. From a fall she had taken months ago. Never mind that I’ve taken her on walks, around the block, since this time. She uses a walker, go around the block, but refuses to use it in the house.

When she last complained about the knees, she claimed, if I got something, like Icy Hot, and placed this on her knee’s, she could walk. I hate the smell of these products, but my son assured me, “as soon as you put it on, grandma will say.” “Oh, this feels good.” “Then she’ll start screaming, a few minutes later.” “Take this off of me!!!” I laughed, as it’s probably true. But then again, I will be compromising her last straw. I don’t know how long she’ll stick to her story.

So now, the doctor is holding her arm, as he very slowly, walks her into the hall. I cannot see her, but I can hear her. I’m guessing he didn’t get too far, considering, the very small, measured steps, she takes.

Then I hear her, and I start laughing. He tells her, “Now, I’m going to push you.” “What?” She says. “Yes, I’m going to push you, and I want you to hold your balance.” I hear her say, “I’m going to push you again. Hold onto my arm.” Then he pushes her again, and I hear him say, “I told you to keep your balance!” She yells back, “I would! But you keep pushing me!” At this point, I was cracking up. What a scene this must have been.

Later, as he shared some of his findings, I nodded, at the advice, he had given me. And that  we need more tests.

When we were driving home, I said, “Hey mom, what did you think of those tests?” “Oh, they were silly!” She said. “Of course, I knew the math. And what about when he held up his pen?” I said, “Yea, you should have said, “Hey, how is it you managed to become a neurologist, when you don’t know, basic math, and don’t even know what a pen is?”

We were laughing so hard as I said, “If you think that was funny. You should have been on my end. When I was sitting in the room and you went into the hall!” “Oh, did you hear that?” She asked. “Yea, it seemed like he took you out of the room so I wouldn’t see him pushing you around! And those questions, really did make you want to ask, “Are you smarter than a neurologist?”

I told her I had a test similar,when I had a PTSD, test. They asked me so many questions, about states, capitals, presidents, etc. I knew all the answers, but I was perplexed by the questioning. I was telling some friends, and I said, “Hey, I’m not delusional” As they laughed, they said, “I don’t think I could have answered, half of those questions!”

I told my mom, as she laughed, “who knows, maybe they are recruiting for a game show!”

So, as I continue in my quest to help her, I just keep reminding myself of the sage wisdom, she had given me so many years, before; “Just put it in your purse and keep on walking!”

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