Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Minimalist Mother’s Day

The Alz center hosts a Mother’s Day event every year: punch, cookies and sandwiches in the main dining room close to the lobby. Parties at the Alz center have become more complicated as Mom’s disease has advanced. Even though her mood is mostly good and she has been stable in many ways for years now, she doesn’t always respond well to crowds and noise. This year, I had to call to confirm the time of the party because I had lost my invitation. It was 2 to 4 p.m. Patrick was going to come with me this year. We decided to skip the beginning, when it would be most crowded, and attend as things were winding down.

Well, when we arrived at around 3:30, things weren’t just winding down, but had been cleaned up and put away already. “Better late than never,” the receptionist said in greeting us. I like her a lot, and I’m pretty sure she meant that as a funny, throw-away line. But I found it hurtful. She knew I had called ahead because she was the one who had answered the phone. Our late arrival was deliberate. We weren’t blowing Mom off. I don’t have much of a visitation track record these days, I guess, but I don’t want to be judged about it. Only I am permitted to give myself a hard time about that, as far as I am concerned.

Mom on the lobby couch, not really acknowledging that she has visitors. I like the shirt she's wearing - I bought it for her last spring when aides asked me to get her more clothes.

Mom on the lobby couch, not really acknowledging that she has visitors. I like the shirt she’s wearing – I bought it for her last spring when aides asked me to get her more clothes.

Mom was lying on a couch in the lobby with three plastic leis around her neck – a sign of the celebration we had missed. Someone in passing told me that a staff member had been sure to get Mom some snacks during the party. That was fine – though I would have been able to do that had the party lasted as long as advertised (I am obviously feeling some leftover hostility about this). In past years the staff members have handed out flowers or small gifts for family members who visited for the party. I guess leis were the give-away this time. We stood over Mom and talked to her for a little while, and then decided to get her up for a walk. Mom was agreeable to this. I swung her legs around to the floor and Patrick heaved her up, holding onto her hands. We walked toward the program area, Mom in the middle, holding hands with both of us.

We wandered around in circles as a threesome. Mom chattered away, and we offered affirmative responses when that seemed appropriate. I sensed she might be a little tired so we guided her to a couch – though another resident was approaching the couch at the same time, so we made a detour. We took her toward another wing and eased her onto the couch there. She immediately hoisted her feet up, lay down and curled an arm so she could rest her head on it. This was a signal, as far as we were concerned, that she was done with the visit. No ill will or unpleasantness – just time to lie down and close her eyes. We kissed her goodbye and left, only about 20 minutes after we had arrived. It was sufficient Mother’s Day celebrating for Mom, and that’s what matters most.

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The love of a mother-in-law

I see people asking for prayers on Facebook with some frequency, for themselves or for a family member or friend who is in distress. And people respond. I see it all the time. It’s not something I do – I don’t actually pray, nor do I ask for prayers. If people offer up good thoughts and prayers to me – for example, many people sent good wishes when our dog Spencer was facing amputation surgery – I appreciate that. Very much. I convey my positive thoughts when I think it’s appropriate and I truly wish that something about the positive energy I’m trying to create might at least offer comfort.

What am I getting at? Well, given that I am not religious and don’t pray, one might think I have something against prayer. Just the opposite is true. I respect people whose lives are guided by faith, and I consider it an enormous compliment, a loving act, when someone offers to pray for someone else.

Patrick and his mom and I went on a vacation in mid-April, to our usual spot – Bald Head Island, N.C. It is a quiet setting and offered the respite I really needed – more from the rigors of everyday life than from anything specifically having to do with Mom. One thing I have known for many years is that my mother-in-law says the rosary every single day. If I recall correctly, she chose to do this when her husband was in grave condition after heart surgery 20 years ago. He survived at that time, and in thanks to God, she has since performed this daily prayerful task. (He passed away a little over a year ago. His troubled heart held out for a long time.)

Having an early Mother's Day dinner with Mom K last Friday.

Having an early Mother’s Day dinner with Mom K last Friday.

We were driving along in a golf cart on the island, and Patrick asked his mom about the rosary. I was sitting in the back, enjoying the inland forest and the just-right temperature, not fully hearing what they were saying. And Patrick said, “You should tell Emily that.” It turns out that Mom K says daily prayers for a number of family members and friends, some living and some gone. Turning around to face me, she said, “One of those people is your mother.” My mother-in-law prays for my mom every day.

This struck me and I got a little choked up in the back seat. It’s not surprising, really, but it’s just something I never considered. Mom K is asking God to look after my mom – it is such a loving act for her to do that. I am lucky to have her in my life.