Three years

I began writing this blog on Jan. 14, 2009. On Jan. 14 of this year, I noted the blogiversary in my mind and mentioned it to my husband and another blogging friend while we were out at dinner. I then wrote a post on Jan. 16 but didn’t mention that an anniversary had just gone by. Perhaps I knew then that I would take a little breather from the blog and from Mom. Until yesterday, I hadn’t visited her for almost two weeks. I can’t say why, for sure. She was perfectly pleasant when I last saw her, talking and being social and sort of funny. I can say I have been feeling a little bit sad about her. I looked back at some old posts when I realized I had hit the three-year mark, and it was a reminder of how much Mom has changed in that time.

Taking care of her was more difficult back then. Already a needy woman, she was so very needy at that time – which was one reason I felt the need to start a blog. As her bank account emptied and the move to a nursing home neared, I hoped that her disease would progress so that she would be less with it and therefore, in my mind, more able to handle the transition to a nursing home. Well, her disease did progress, but she didn’t handle the first transition well at all – and I think her state of mind wasn’t the issue. For those two weeks she lived in a traditional nursing home, she was simply in the wrong place. Once she arrived at the Alz center, she settled in immediately. And as I read some old posts from her first months at the Alz center, I was reminded of how well she was still doing at that time. She would say “Hallelujah” when I came to visit. She knew my name and my face. We could still go out to eat at a restaurant. She carried dog/cat and wore lots of jewelry. Now, she doesn’t know what jewelry is.

So, now her disease is very progressed. And I find myself regretting those wishes I had that she would lose her mind quickly for my convenience. I did truly think it would be best for her – I assumed that the sicker she was, the less aware she would be of the change in her living arrangement. And being less aware, I reasoned, might mean she’d be less afraid, or angry, or both. But I can’t deny that I hoped, too, that her tolerance of the change would mean there would be less heartache and fewer headaches for me.

Now I can look back with a clearer head and realize she put up with so much early in her illness and handled it all relatively well. I can say this after hearing lots of stories from caregivers whose loved ones had a much more difficult disease process. After she had a minor traffic accident, I took her car keys away. That was it – no more driving. Six weeks later, in the course of two days, my siblings and I moved her out of her apartment and into a much smaller assisted living apartment. With that move, she began eating meals with strangers and was subjected to regular visits from nurses, a housekeeper and other staffers. Her most common complaint was that she was living in a cave. She could still call me on the phone then, and she did, with frequency. She was fretful sometimes, and scared and confused. She made the occasional nasty remark, but she was not mean to me, or to the strangers who in short order became her friends. She would imagine that her cat was missing or call me convinced that something – something she couldn’t explain – was somehow out of order. Those days are long over. She stopped calling by the summer of 2009. What a treat it would be to pick up the phone now and have Mom greet me on the other end.

This past Friday night, I watched an old Frontline program I had taped, about the funeral home industry. There was one very sad story about a young couple burying their toddler son. And that made me cry. But there were also many images of the undertakers handling elderly bodies, washing them and dressing them and putting makeup on their faces. Those images got to me. The employees were very tender with these bodies, and I’d like to think it wasn’t just because they were on camera. I recalled preplanning Mom’s funeral and thought about how many decisions still lie ahead. And I thought about how I used to obsess about Mom’s death when I realized she had dementia, because at that time I had no idea how much living she could still do in spite of the disease. And I thought about how I am not in any hurry to see her life end now that she has become this fragile but resilient little buddy of mine. And I cried and cried.

My eyes puffy from the night before, I went to the Alz center on Saturday morning. I found Mom on a couch in the program area.

Mom at rest, not long after breakfast had been cleared away.

I pulled up a chair and looked at her. “Bonnie,” I said. “Bonnie, are you awake?” She opened her eyes and looked at me and closed them again. She straightened her legs. I touched her hands and rubbed her arm but didn’t talk anymore. She fell asleep. I could tell because she twitched a little and made funny movements with her mouth. She opened her eyes and reached up and touched my arm and then rested her arm and fell back to sleep. I thought about crying again, but I didn’t. I sat there for 20 minutes. She never woke up.

11 comments so far

  1. jennifer jayhawk on

    I cannot believe you posted this on your blog. Our family has been going through all of these same issues! Let me know if I could put your post on my blog (I could leave your Mom’s photo out). It is just so well written and spot on. I am not much of a writer.

    We recently preplanned and payed for my Mom’s funeral.

    My Mom’s issues are just taking our family down. We just never thought it would end this way.

    I had a very good friend pass away on Monday. Just a brutal week all in all. I have cried quite a few nights.

  2. Laura on

    Touching post, Emily! I just love the photo and image of you next to her!

  3. momsbrain on

    Jennifer, of course you can use this entry on your blog. No problem at all. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, and that your family is having such a tough time. Take care.

    Hi, Laura. Thanks! I should have said that I chuckled when I saw Mom like this, completely relaxed.

  4. Gemma McLuckie on

    My dad is being so brave about moving even as he becomes more and more bewildered. That is what I am afraid of — that he will be so homesick and disoriented at his new place. I’m crying now and can’t write more.

  5. momsbrain on

    Oh, Gemma, I’m sorry to remind you of what you’re going through with your dad. I will be optimistic for you and for him, that the staff will look after a newbie and do their best to make him feel at home. Still, there is no shame in crying, of course. It represents a loss to have a parent move into an institution of any kind, no matter how nice the place is. Virtual hugs until we see each other Thursday…

  6. Megan on

    Hi Emily,

    It was interesting to read this post, where you encapsulated so much time and so many transitions into one tale. I learned some things I’d never realized about your situation. So interesting to hear about all the stages your mom and you have been though- and also where you’re at now- enjoying her as she is, in no rush to change anything. Seems like a good place to land, or as good as it gets, right?

    Take care.

  7. momsbrain on

    Hi, Megan – As good as it gets applies here, I think. If Mom has to have this disease, I am so relieved that her mind can be at peace, and that she still smiles and laughs a lot.

  8. Jeff on

    Hi Emily – I chuckled too when I saw that photo of Mom. This was a lovely and insightful post. I hadn’t considered how much she put up with early on. Thank you for sharing that.

  9. momsbrain on

    Hi, Jeff – Thank you! She did endure so much – including my bad temper sometimes when I was frustrated with her before I knew what was going on. It wasn’t easy for her or for any of us, but I have a clearer idea now of how much worse it could have been.

  10. Barry Lough on

    Hi Emily!

    Just catching up with your blogs tonight. I just want to let you know that if anything my admiration for you has only increased as you’ve gone through this journey and all that you have dealt with. Strong girl! Tears bathe the soul and I feel your tears in my own eyes. The world would be a better place if everyone had a committed daughter (or loved one) like you. I miss you! xo Barry

  11. momsbrain on

    Hi, Barry! You are too kind, really. Thank you for saying such nice and supportive things to me. Sometimes I do feel sort of strong. And I don’t mind the tears, usually. They do perform a service of some sort. Miss you, too! Hope you are well!

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