Journey

motherduck

The day before yesterday, I drove up to NJ from VA to take our mom to the nursing home where she will be staying from now on. She has been living with our oldest sister for part of the time since our dad died a year and a half ago. He was her primary caregiver.

We sisters were all discussing, this weekend, how it feels as though the older generation (of which both our parents were the only remaining sibling, with two sisters-in-law left on my dad’s side) is already gone and how that platform has already fully collapsed onto ours…making our generation the oldest guys standing. It’s a surreal feeling in that we are now the top of the heap. And yet, our mother is still here…sort of. The curtain has been drawn on her life, somewhat. She is still here to talk to, hug and see, sort of. But, yet, she’s gone in so many ways, too.

When I went to pick her up on Saturday she didn’t know who I was. She kept asking me things like, “Are you going to meet your mother?” and “Where do I know you from?” which can be approached either with a sense of humor or some patience with some tears sprinkled in…or both.

I have to say, when she first looked at me with the ‘Are you kidding around with me?’ look on her face when I told her I was her daughter, it felt as though a thoroughbred had kicked me in the chest. Upon relating this to my middle sister she responded wisely, “Yeah, it’s different when she forgets someone else. When it’s you…ugh.” True that.

When we got to the nursing home, I unpacked the chicken sandwiches and drinks I had picked up at Wendy’s drive thru on the way over (a nod to Dad) and positioned her in a wheelchair outside so we could enjoy the breezes and fresh air. There was a man sitting outside with his stepdaughter and they were giving me pointers on the wheelchair’s operation and where and how to lock the wheels, etc. We chatted a bit about the weather and politics and I realized that 7 months earlier Mother would have loved to chat about the ‘folks in Washington’ with this like-minded individual. Yet, today, she didn’t even know I was one of her chicks. Dear Irony, You stink. Love, Me.

As I was leaving the building with tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt compelled to report to the nurses and aides that I couldn’t say goodbye. I told her I was going to the restroom and just…left. It felt like I was abandoning her and yet I knew that this was the best thing for her. She had already been in a daughter’s home with an aide or two (at times) and was too much too handle. But, it still feels cruel.

It makes me wonder why God allows this, but I really think that she is an instrument in his plan to teach the rest of us lessons on patience, acceptance, love, grieving, loss and appreciation for what is. Because you know what? It is what it is. And as my daughter’s 7-year-old friend says, “You get what you get.”

I called Mother today and she knew who I was, asked to speak to my daughter by name and even waxed eloquent (one of her favorite phrases) about how wonderful the ladies in the place were being to her. It’s the little gifts we need to savor and tuck away. Thank you, Mother, for all the countless lessons you’ve taught us and continue to. I love you. We all do.

Light bulb moment

lightbulb

I turned on a light switch in our laundry room this morning and poof a light bulb went off, er, on, actually. I remembered nearly a year ago moving in to this house and being positively twitchy about the fact that a) the light switch for the laundry room is in the laundry room (not as bizarre as that sounds since the switch is behind the door in this teeny tiny room and the door has to be somewhat closed to get to the switch) and b) the room is windowless and therefore dark much of the time and gets more so as you close the door to find the switch located over the utility sink and under a shelf – baaaaad idea, and c) the switch is the middle of three switches. The other two are for the garage and the kitchen over the table. Yes, technically, the laundry is “in the middle” of those two other rooms, but c’mon people. When you move into a home that hasn’t been cleaned properly, smells musty and is not what the doctor ordered (but has since been rectified) you can get peeved about the “little things”.

My brain then shifted gears and did the analogous thing it usually does and I realized that with time, many things seem to lose their all-fired importance or hurt or the sharp edges they used to have when we were “in the moment”. I immediately thought how the hurt I felt immediately after my Dad died has softened some. It’s not ever-present any longer and I have tender, happy memory-filled moments now, too.

Then this tricky brain of mine did the jump to the reactions I have to my mom’s dementia. I used to get frustrated and irritated and impatient. That doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as it did in the beginning. And watching her progression is watching a softening as well…at least to this point. She’ll allow me to provide her the word she’s desperately searching for. Early on that was a personal affront.

Another thing that came to mind was our secondary infertility. It used to consume me. I would be checking dates and reading articles and be hyper-focused on it. Now, I’m only reminded when I read about another’s struggle or when our dear daughter asks for a sibling. I keep telling her to pray and heck, hit Santa up, we’re still open to the miracle, but so far our numbers are steady.

It was a great reminder to me that God’s in charge and if I wait long enough the pains will ebb.

Photo by Chance Agrella from freerangestock.com

Up vs. Down

So, I was getting a Mother’s Day gifted pedicure yesterday afternoon and overheard another patron tell the woman assisting her that in the 2nd trimester it would be all “downhill from here” and assuring her that the nausea she had been experiencing in this first pregnancy should soon abate.

It got me to thinking as my random, fact file-filled head tends to do, why then did the Jeffersons aspire to “move on up” to the East side? And why are we all nauseatingly taking it to “the next level”? Which is good? Up or down? Should I try to be like a flag or zipper and be up or should I aim to be like an important note and be “taken down”?

And while we’re at it, why are golf scores good when their low, but bowlers revel in high scores? And SATs, ACTs and MCATs all want to be up, but interest rates want to be down and folks who are down are called blue, but when skies are blue it is a good thing? My head is spinning just trying to figure it all out.

If you have any answers let me know. I’ll be over here reading palms, tea leaves and rings on trees.

up down cartoon

 

 

Granny’s Recipes – Part 1

(Left this in drafts for quite some time, but thought it ought to be published. Enjoy!)

zuider zee dessert

My older sister called me today looking for one of our paternal grandmother’s recipes. It made me think I should stick them up here that we all can find them in perpetuity!

Zuider Zee Pie

1 package Holland Rusk (crushed) or graham cracker crust mix

2 TBS butter

2 TBS sugar

1 cup sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 quart milk

4 egg yolks

4 egg whites

1 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup cornstarch

2 tsp  vanilla

  1. Melt butter in pan.  Add sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Prepare graham cracker crust according to directions on package.  Line 9″ pie pan with crust mix.  Reserve a little mix for top of pie.
  3. Warm most of the milk to hasten cooking in the top of a double boiler.  Mix in 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks.  Mix well.
  4. Cook over low heat and stir well to avoid sticking.  Cook until thickened.  About 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  5. Add 1 tsp vanilla and pour this custard into pie crust.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Beat egg whites until thick.  Add 1 TBS sugar, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp vanilla.  Spoon this over custard.
  8. Sprinkle top of pie with reserved graham cracker crust.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes … it will brown a little.
  10. Turn off oven and open oven door to let pie cool while in the oven.  This prevents shrinkage of the meringue.
  11. Cool more in refrigerator, then serve.

I am thinking I need to try this recipe!  Sounds like the perfect topping to a holiday meal!  :)

There’s something in the air

Beauty

 

I’m not sure what is behind it, but things seem a bit heavy lately or maybe it’s fragility I’m feeling.  Don’t get me wrong. Our nuclear family is doing well. We are all healthy and happy and strong. Truly nothing to complain about here, folks.

I’m not sure if it’s just the fact that there is so much access to information and others around the world at any given moment or if there really is an uptick in these sorts of things.

Recently I’d been following the journey of military spouse Jenna Hinman and her journey along with her active duty husband and their preemie twins in dealing with cancer. Jenna has been “rescued from cancer” to quote Jill Kelly, Jim Kelly’s courageous wife.

Then there’s Ben Sauer’s story. Ben was 5-years-old and a twin when he passed away three months to the day from the doctors telling them he had 2-3 weeks left. That was good news. So is the fact that Ben, too, has been “rescued from cancer”.

It just seems that more people are going through horrific amounts of strife and suffering. These are young people having to deal with monumental issues. Where are the happy endings? Why are so many people having marital difficulties? Why?

Our priest said recently that a young man was asked what he wanted out of life and he replied, “To be holy.” That was in 1930. The same question posed by the aforementioned priest yielded this answer, “I want an iPad Air.” Now we could chalk that up to immaturity, but an adult posed with the same question responded, “A Ferarri. I mean have you heard the engine on one of those things?”

We are broken in more ways than one, people. We need to embrace the goodness in life and draw strength from these challenges like my classmate (a year ahead) from Providence and his family are doing in their battle with cancer. They are leaning into God and squeezing every drop of joy they can from the multitudes being delivered by visits, email, phone calls and mail. I admire these folks who exhibit such extraordinary grace under pressure. I guess the point is, when life seems to be “too much” I, too, need to learn from others’ example and seek out the joy, harvest the laughter and make new memories. Thanks for letting me share.

Darned dementia

The alz.org website defines dementia as “a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.”

“Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.”

There are websites out there to help the caregivers and/or those who love the person with dementia. There is, however, nothing like the real deal of actually loving and interacting with a person with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.

Denial of the loss (slow as it may be) of the person you once knew, often the person who took care of YOU is very powerful…role reversal at its finest.  Anger and frustration at their feet of clay are not uncommon.  Even gallows humor finds its way in as a coping mechanism…or maybe that’s just if you’re Irish, like me.  A gift I’ve found in having the “gift of dementia” in our lives is that I now realize that she has the ability to really only live “in the moment” which is what we’re all striving for on some level or other.  And, yet there’s a bit of irony in that she’s not completely aware of it.

There are a myriad of things that you’ll notice when interacting with someone with dementia. One of the more puzzling ones to me is the loss of a sense of time. The book  The 36 Hour Day explains it well. The internal clock on your loved one has begun to malfunction. So, he can see that the clock reads 3:15, but can no longer process what exactly 3:15 means. It’s interesting because God has given me a similar learning scenario with our daughter. For the longest time she didn’t understand which meal was to come next (even if we’d had lunch an hour before, she was still anticipating that the next meal was lunch). Funny how God draws these actual parallels for us, isn’t it?

The book suggests using a timer or some sort of device to let the person know that you will return and a timer to help them process the time until you return. Like anything in science it is not exact and so some solutions will work and some won’t depending on the individual.

I also found some items that are recommended for people with dementia. The phones with the picture buttons look great! I’m ordering some of the puzzles for our favorite patient to try!

For the caregiver, there are several great free tools on this site.  Always remember to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others on with theirs!

What have your experiences been like? What worked and what didn’t?

Alzheimer’s PrayerMemories

Running and other things

IMG_2400I was reading an article in Runner’s World about the folks who don’t like races. The one woman in the story was described as saying, “Never again!” after her first (and only) half-marathon. It wasn’t her thing. She said, running with others in mind and worrying about times and all those technical things just changed running for her.

I learn through analogies and so my mind immediately drew a parallel to fertility. Or rather, infertility.  Most people plan to have a baby that do the necessary things <ahem>, this is a family-friendly blog, people.  Never do they anticipate blood work, doctor’s appointments, surgeries, medicines or a myriad of other surprises.

People think of infertility and they think of some picture in their head of a couple never able to have a child. That picture is completely accurate. There is also something called secondary infertility which I never knew about until I was diagnosed with it. In essence it is having had a “viable pregnancy” (one that resulted in a healthy baby or more) and then not being able to do so again. And like so many medical diagnoses it is a bit of a catchall. It could be caused by many different things or may never be able to be categorized.

The results look mostly the same. People who have more love to give, but lack the conduit they wish for fall into this category. There are also folks whom I admire greatly. These are the people who douse their pets (or fur babies) with tons of love, there are those who embrace additional passions that might not otherwise have time for, and there are those who graciously accept God’s will for them (not unlike the families with 7, 8, 10 and 19 children do).

And, really, isn’t that why we’re here to humbly and graciously accept God’s love and his many gifts to us (even if they didn’t come in the packaging we expected)?