Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

No moping this Mother’s Day

The past several Mother’s Days sort of bummed me out. I approached the day this year with a better attitude. I visited Mom at the Alz center for a Mother’s Day tea the center hosts each year. Mr. R was with Mom today, so when I got there, the three of us just took a walk, sat for awhile, and then got up and walked again. I held one of Mom’s hands and Mr. R held the other. “I like this,” Mom said. “I really love this.” She was feeling the love, and that was good. I settled them on a couch and then got them some snacks from the dining room. Lots of people were eating in there, and I figured the action might make Mom restless. When I got back with the snacks, Mom had hoisted her legs onto Mr. R’s legs. She was at home, very comfortable. She had a few cubes of cheese and little pastries. Mr. R took a pastry, too. They both had some juice. I didn’t stay too long. When I left, I kissed Mom goodbye. I’ve collected some pictures of Mom as Mom to celebrate her life today.

Mom as a young mother, holding me. Jeff is on the left and Laura is on the right. This was in North Dakota. I was born on an Air Force base there. This must be late 1965.

Mom made me a birthday cake. I am guessing, based on where we lived, that this was in 1997, meaning I was turning 32. Mom liked to maintain these gestures - the cake is in a square baking pan with an assortment of candles. Nothing fancy, but still special and just for me.

This is a picture from our trip to Seattle to visit Jeff and Tom before they moved to the East Coast. Hmm, let's see. Summer of 2003? 2004? Jeff is at left, in the corner, then Tom, then my sister Laura, then me, then Mom. Patrick is in the front. I think this must be at the top of the Space Needle. This trip gave us all an indication that something might be wrong with Mom. She was a little off - she didn't seem able to follow our conversations. We had a lot of laughs, though.

Me and Mom today at the Alz center. I tried three times, but could not convince her to look at the camera. You can see I am wearing a corsage - the center gave all female family members corsages today in celebration of the day. "I'm not a mother," I said. "Doesn't matter," the activities director said.

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Everything is OK, really

I wrote that kind of sad post and then took a little break from the blog. An unexpected and unplanned break. I did visit Mom on a recent Sunday afternoon, and it was very nice. She was sitting in the program area in a chair, with her legs crossed. It looked as if an activity had recently ended, and Mom was in what was left of the circle that usually forms around the game that is set up in the middle of the wide open space. I pulled a chair over and sat next to her. She looked good. Her face looked a little brighter. Her hair was clean and shiny. Her clothes were clean, and she had socks on. I sat next to her. We exchanged a few phrases back and forth. She seemed to be in a good mood.

I’ve decided that since conversation doesn’t always go so well with her, I want to do something else to make her feel good when I am with her. So I gently rubbed her arm, and then started lightly rubbing her back, across her shoulders. When Mom and I lived alone when I was a teenager, I often gave her back rubs. I commend her for convincing me to do that for her. Patrick and I regularly massage each other now and get professional massages once a month. I am a big believer in the power of touch. While we were sitting there together, I noticed Mom dropped her head forward and nodded off for a few seconds. And then she opened her eyes and just sat quietly. That was all I needed to see to know that my plan was working: she was relaxed and the rubbing made her drowsy.

I had been feeling sad about the prospects of her latest decline. And I think I processed it – but didn’t know that was what I was doing at the time. One of the two well-known photojournalists killed in Libya last month, Chris Hondros, was a graduate of Ohio University, where I went to school. I was working at the university’s news services office when he was a graduate student, and he took pictures for a magazine that our office published. So I met him about 15 years ago. I did not know him. I knew who he was. He was featured in our most recent alumni magazine. Some good friends of mine who are photographers did know him well and really suffered with the loss of a colleague and friend. I couldn’t honestly say I felt a personal loss. But I got very wrapped up in his death. I read a lot of stories about him. I watched the live stream of his New York memorial service. And I cried while watching the service and simultaneously reading the live chat that other viewers were participating in. Photographers from all over the world, literally – Iran, Finland, Afghanistan, to name a few countries – were chatting and remembering Chris. And I just took some time to feel some sadness about his death even though I was not personally affected by it.

Since then, and with the most recent nice visit with Mom, I have been feeling better. This is just part of the life of the caregiver, I think. Occasional bouts of sadness that can feel consuming, but that inevitably do pass. It’s tempting to fight the feelings, but I think, for me, I have to actually feel some of those emotions if I want to prevent them from overwhelming the rest of my life. I now have a series of Mother’s Day and National Nursing Home Week events to look forward to with Mom, and then a vacation two weeks after that. I want to put the sadness behind me, be a positive presence for Mom, and then be OK with thinking about just myself for a week at the beach.