When Mom sees kids, she wants to go talk to them. The thing that I love is that she tells me that she often tells me that she is going to go say hi to her friend.
There is such a beauty in the idea that any child is her friend. Race, gender, exact age is unimportant. Any small person is a friend of Mom’s. Her day is brighter for seeing them. We usually spend some time waving if not having a conversation.
And no actual conversation is required. Mom connects with her friends. At the grocery store, on the street, at the farmer’s market in the rain, at the beach. Happily most parents can see her delight and genuine friendliness with their children. The woman has simply got to have the chance to say hello to her friends. And her other friend. And the one over there too!
Am I on Life Plan C at this point, or D or perhaps P? I am not sure how many times I have revised my hopes and expectations in caring for Mom.
But the other night was a hard conversation. Sis and I agreed that it is time to put Mom in a home. The only good reason to keep her out at this point is to wait longer until facing what will be a huge monthly bill from now until the end of her life. But given how quickly she has gone downhill, that may not end up mattering. We can pay for a facility for the foreseeable future.
But, Mom increasingly is overwhelmed by life at home, a household full of things to be moved around and hidden away. I worry about her getting into things she should leave alone. And we simply cannot watch her all the time. She gets up in the night or early morning and wanders the house.
And, it is time to start carving out a bit more of a life for me. I have thrilling fantasies of going to the gym after work, being able to leave for work without worrying if the caregiver is here yet, and perhaps having a friend over for dinner without interruption. Wild, right?
Suddenly it has been two and a half years in which my life has been dominated by caregiving. Where did that time go? I am mystified by all I used to do and how little seems to fit into my life now after the meds are dosed, we spend a little time together and Mom is fed and put to bed.
So it is time for a new plan, where she gets a higher level of care and I reclaim a corner of my own life. Plan Q, here we come!
So I wrote up my rather absurd efforts to find my moved by Mom keys the other day. Finally last night, I had to admit defeat and call a locksmith to make me a new key to my car. The other missing keys are more easily dealt with but my spare car key had gone missing some time before so I was stuck.
Two hours and 220 dollars later, I was functional again.
So this morning, I went in to Mom’s room to find her sitting on her bed with all the sheets and blankets stripped off. In typical fashion, there were several piles of books, magazines, papers and odds and ends covering the bed.
I looked more closely. And saw my spare car key.
Guess I can skip today’s planned trip to the hardware store to make a spare!
So, I was literally standing outside my door today, already late to a work meeting, when I realized that I had no keys to lock the front door. Or of course drive my car into work.
I ran back into the house looking for them in the couple of the obvious places I sometimes put my keys other than my purse. Nope. And nope. I dug through my purse again. No keys. So, I started looking around. Twenty minutes later, having gone through my laundry basket (did I leave them in a pocket?), pulled every cushion off the couch, and combed through the obvious locations in Mom’s room, I still had no keys.
At that point, I was truly late to my meeting. I ran for the bus and made the second half. No worries, I thought, I will find the keys tonight.
Well, tonight has come and gone, and I am now clearer on just how many parts of my house need cleaning. I have checked in every nook and cranny — in every drawer in Mom’s room, the kitchen cabinets, into any container that appears larger enough to hold keys including Mom’s winter boots and the purse she has not carried in more than a year. I have discovered my bag of travel toiletries, which I did not realize was missing and my work security pass card, which I did know was missing and was pleased to find. What I have not discovered is my keys.
And to think that Mom was once the most organized person I knew.
Mom has always loved the ocean. She and my father used to live in a house with a beautiful ocean view and one of the many sad things about moving out to be with me took that aspect of life away from her.
But, she and I both love the water and seek it out. We have access to a harbor that we used to walk around often. She always loved that but in our current house it is a bit further away and getting Mom out a bit more challeningat this stage.
Last year, for Mother’s Day, we drove out to the ocean for a day. It was a good day, one that I think I will always remember– until of course, I don’t. We ate a picnic of cold pasta salad out of old ice cream containers, sitting on beach towels. Mom wanted to kick her shoes off and get her feet wet in the ocean. She was delighted by just a few minutes with cold wet toes. For weeks after, she brought up the beach trip and talked about going again. It brought her joy.
In a fit of deciding that it was officially the end of winter for us, I took Mom this past weekend to the ocean. I could not help but contrast this trip to that day last year. She was overwhelmed at walking out onto the sand in her shoes. There was no sitting on the beach or walking in the water. Mom is drawn into her self so much more at this point.
I was delighted though when we first walked out on the boardwalk and Mom turned to me and said, I live here you know. She recognized the ocean as her place. And in spite of a more limited experience, it still was a good day.
Mom brought up her husband, my dad today. She rarely talks about him these days. I asked her how often she thinks about him. Her answer — all the time.
Dad died about two and a half years ago now. For most of the first year after his death, we had to talk repeatedly about the fact that he had died. It was horribly painful conversation for both of us as I had to walk her through the whole experience to trigger the memories. And for her, it was learning anew in each conversation that he had died and having to face that pain. It was quite simply awful.
I did eventually learn which pieces of the story helped her piece together the memories. And at some point she came to know and accept that her husband of forty plus years was gone.
After that, we talked about him rarely. Sometimes we look at family photos and talk about him. But it is rarely because Mom initiates it. So it was a surprise when she brought him up herself.
These days, Mom’s grasp on reality is tenuous at best. She barely remembers things that happened moments ago, and much of the past is a blur also. Yet, she still remembers her husband and misses him — all the time. It is fascinating to realize how deeply we hold certain feelings and connections.
I work just a block from a set of senior apartments. Because of this, I see elderly people heading in and out of the complex, catching the bus, walking their dogs, sitting in the front lobby as I zoom by.
The other day was one of those days. I was walking from work and passed a rather elderly woman, using a walker. She must have been in her eighties, and honestly she looked tired and a bit crouched over as she carefully made her way up the street.
I passed her hurredly on my way to an appointment. Yet, the sight of her filled me with joy.
I felt joyful for this woman, that she was still living well into older age. Joyful for her family and friends who have not yet suffered the loss of her from their lives. Joyful for the fact that she was still walking, feeling the sunshine outdoors, and doing so independently.
I don’t know if this woman feels joy at all that she has. While I felt a temptation to run up and say all of this to her, I of course kept these thoughts to myself. All she saw was a smile from me. But I hope knows all of this. I hope she feels her own joy.