The Second Year

It’s hard to believe that on Saturday, my mom has been gone two years. I have been consciously trying to not talk about her as much. The next two weeks will be difficult for me. In the span of the upcoming two weeks, it was her birthday (April 26th), anniversary of her death (May 6th), and Mothers’ Day (May 14th).

I was at Target today picking up things and there is a whole section of Mothers Day cards, spanning the whole row. I don’t necessarily think of cards or gifts for me, I think naturally of them for my mom. And the books I would buy her. I honestly hope the weeks go by fast.

In memory of her birthday this year, we again celebrated the day by giving away 100 free Blizzards and cones in our home town of Starbuck. She loved her Dairy Queen and in her confusion, she still remembered that it was a special place to her. The DQ is smaller, family owned and was voted WCCO viewers Best of Minnesota. They did discontinue the Snicker’s Blizzard, her favorite, but you can’t beat this special place. Thank you to all of you who came and to Carrie and staff who helped run everything. All tips went to respite care for families that could use a break in caregiving. Both of my parents would have loved this idea and its our second year putting it on.

On my off days and weekends, I have started to formulate my writings and timeline of the events that led up, starting with my dad’s death, the assisted living and finally her move to memory care. In this blog, I write a little about the past but mainly of  the days she spent in memory care. It has been very difficult to put it all down and to include all the factors that led up to it. I have boxes and boxes of papers, files, doctor orders, bank statements, cards and receipts that my husband would love for me to get rid of. It just sits there waiting for me to go through it all again, like I don’t remember how hard it was before. Its like ripping the scab off a wound and reliving the pain again. It brings up such sadness, anger, occasional hope, frustration, joy, grief and pain. I get frustrated with my writing and feel it is hardly good enough to be put out there. I am not a writer. My boss gave me a CD to listen to on writing and I know I make a lot of errors just listening to the CD. But I still keep going. I have about 65 pages completed, pre-memory care with much of it surrounding her beautiful home town and the help she received. Hence, the free Dairy Queens.

Grief.

I have come to believe that some sort of grief lives in everyone’s heart. Sometimes the space it occupies is just a tiny speck that you can hardly see or feel. It’s there but you don’t notice it. Other times, I feel the weight of grief taking up all the residence in my heart. Just sitting there. Heavy. I know it’s there and there are days I can’t shake it. It can occur at a stoplight, at a game, when I see a Client who may look like my parents, at the grocery store or especially writing. It’s hard to have both of your parents forever gone. I can’t bounce anything off of them or call them for advice. There are days that I need my dad and days that I need my mom. I feel like I need my mom more, just to answer my parenting questions or show me one last thing.

How did she always get merengue to turn out so well?

How did she turn out to be such a good parent when I constantly feel I miss the mark?

How did she know what was best for me and what would she do differently?

Did she worry all the time like I do? Did she care what other people thought about her or worried that a group of moms that maybe didn’t like her?

How did she keep so many balls in the air and how did she keep them from falling?

What was the key to her being so organized?

How did she know how I was feeling before I even knew it?

How did she deal with mean or unkind people?

Daughter questions I can’t ask her now. I wish I knew the answer to some of these.

I think that we will always be linked by love. A strong link.

It was love that started us off by both of them choosing to adopt me. Saving me.

It was love that kept us going through my elementary and high school years. We both survived and came out of it somewhat unscathed.

It was love watching me become a nurse, marry Steve, have her favorite girls and watch her grow old.

It was love watching me from her chair or bed but not quite knowing who I was most days. The Girl.

It was love saying goodbye to me and her family on that Wednesday morning at 4 am.

I miss her but it’s not like the The First Year.

“When you are sorrowful, look in your heart and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

Kahlil Gibran

 

Jodi ❤️

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Happy Tomorrow

While I was organizing my desk in my home office, I looked on my board where I keep special notes. Many are from friends with words of encouragement, special pictures and notes that I treasure. As I was moving something I saw my dad’s special note to me, half hanging off the board.

It’s worn, stained and proof that it has moved with me over the years. When my dad would write to me, I could tell what kind of advice I would get by just opening the envelope. If he was disappointed or upset with me, he would hand write a letter in his blocked, neat as a pin hand writing. He would let me know something of great importance and made sure I knew his opinion. In all actuality, I most likely did a stupid thing and he was letting me know.

If I received a typewritten note, I knew that I was getting fatherly advice. I can picture him right now, setting at his very old typewriter with a steaming cup of coffee and a Pall Mall cigarette hanging half out of his mouth. I can see him with two fingers plunking at the keys, formulating a letter that would spell out his fatherly advice for me.

Many years after he died and we cleaned out Mom’s house, I looked for that typewriter. I knew it was in our attic but it was mistakenly thrown out. Besides his bowling trophy, that is one thing I wish I had of his. All those letters typed on that old and dusty, green antique.

Below is the letter he typed. I know what he was talking about. I was 23 years old at the time. I was not in a great relationship, working nights while I went to nursing school, tired, having car problems, worried about things I could not control and we had a screaming match on the phone one night. I was frustrated with him not understanding what I was going through.

And then came the letter in the mail. I could tell it was typewritten through the envelope, but still apprehensive opening it. Here is what it said:

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Boy, do I miss him, even with his handwritten letters. It’s wonderful advice for the New Year 2017. Lets all have some happy tomorrows.

Jodi

 

The Piano Player

It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to share a story. I know I wrote my last post in May and at that time, it had been a year since my mom’s death and now it has been another six months without her. Time moves on.

Over the last few years I have been writing about her, I have shared stories about the holidays and many of the issues we went through. For many people, it is a time for family, being around our friends, good food and parties, faith and traditions. For others, it is a hard time mixed with sadness, grief and a sense of nostalgic meaning.

I have a fairly new hospice case, a sweet gentleman with a shy grin and a constant baseball cap on. This week it is a U of M cap, slightly tilted off to the side with a smudge of dirt on the front of it.

He is happy to see me and pats me on the back. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites but in all honesty, I love coming to see him. Our banter has been the same over the past few weeks.

He: “You are here to set up my rat poison, I see.”

Me: “I see that you haven’t used your oxygen all week!”

I enter his warm kitchen and we sit down at the table. We talk a little and I start to set up his meds. I can tell he is watching me, just like my mom used to do. I can tell he is a little winded and he is telling me about riding a bike at the Y today. I warn him that he needs to keep that quiet or he will be kicked off of hospice. He gives me a mischievous grin. I grin right back.

I finish the medications and he is quiet. I know he has gone through a lot this year. It’s been hard for him and at times I know he struggles with family issues. Same issues I struggle with.

He confesses he is not excited about the holiday. I want to agree with him but I don’t. I just listen. He talks and I listen some more.

At the end of our visit he stands up and like he always does, goes to his beautiful baby grand piano. I have heard the story of the piano before.  After many years of admiring it at the home of one of his customers , he bartered a job for him and the customer let him have it. Unbeknownst to him, he got it home and it was built the same year he was born. He felt this was a sign and I agree.

He asks what I am in the mood for and I respond…holiday music. He starts to play, no sheet music and eyes shut. He plays a jazzy version of a song I can’t name but I recognize, and then he plays Silent Night. I wish I could explain how beautiful it sounded. He is now breathless from playing but still refusing the oxygen I have encouraged. I could listen to him play all day, he is that good.

We get to the door, I am running behind on my visits and need to go. I remind him I will be back the day after Christmas and he pauses. “That’s my anniversary!” I know he has been missing his wife, she has been gone for a few years. He gives me a look that I recognize and he gives me a hug. I know how hard this is for him and all of us at the holidays. Loss, grief, longing and his own mortality.

He wishes me a Merry Christmas and I yell back to him…”Wear your oxygen!” He laughs.

The Piano Man almost moved me to tears on his snowy, cold sidewalk.

I have had friends lose their mother and their father this year. Friends have also lost their brothers and their sisters. Grandparents, neighbors, Aunts, Uncles. Thinking of all you who have lost a loved one this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Jodi

 

 

 

The Very First Year

I have stopped and started this entry many, many times. It’s hard to sum up the first year without your mom and over the past few days I have thought about what to share with the people who read it. May 6th marked the first year without my mom.

I have missed her.

Sometimes I think to myself, why should I be so sad that she is gone? It’s not like she wasn’t ready to have her life end. She wasn’t my young daughter who has her whole life in front of her or someone’s brother who lost his life early to cancer. She was 89 years old with a horrific disease that plagued her ability to eat, walk, show emotions, make her own meals or even to recognize me. I’m sure she is happy to be free.

I still miss her.

The first few months after her death, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of love from people. People are incredibly kind and loving. People ask how you are and they have certainly lifted my spirit. I grieved but I would call it a healthy grieve.

The holiday was hard, she loved the holidays and it was very different not to have her around or in the last few years,  we would go to her memory care to visit her and celebrate there. People talk about losing a loved one and the finality of it all. Holidays are very tough.

I miss her voice.

Books and specialists talk about what stress and grief does to you. My grief came out in my hair. My hair literally changed after my mom died. It started to change texture and shape and it became kinky, straggly and I looked awful. I can barely stand the pictures of me. It was almost like whatever was inside of me, was coming out via my hair. I had my thyroid checked and my friend Martina, who cuts my hair, kept stating that she sees this with people who grieve. I spent a lot on hair products with no results. Awful, dull, lifeless hair. And that is how I felt.

I miss her love.

January was a very tough month for me. I felt like something had come over me and that I was a very angry person. I was anxious, yelled at my husband and girls, I yelled at people at work and I could not overcome what was wrong with me. I wasn’t even reading. I could barely stand to look at myself. Grief.

I miss every stage with her.

There are stages of grief that anyone goes through and I’m sure I’ve hit them all. You miss the days of being a little girl and having your mom show you how to ride a bike. She introduces you to the world of reading and teaches you how to you be kind to the kid on the bus you want to smack. She teaches you to stand up straight, friends are important and that neat handwriting counts.

You miss the high school and college years where she teaches you to be independent, self-sufficient and watches you become a nurse. She is so excited for you and she watches you meet a boy named Steve and you get married. You have two cute girls that are named after her.

You miss the days where your roles are now reversed and you must take care of her. You gladly pay her bills on Wednesdays and visit her midweek, after work and on weekends. You introduce the world of Alzheimer’s disease to your daughters and they love her all the same. You watch a beautiful woman ask her own daughter if she is indeed Jodi. You watch the kindest woman, slowly slip away.

You miss all the stages that you have been through with your mother.

On  Mother’s Day, my second year technically without her, I spent the day with my girls with their numerous adventures. I stayed off FB with the exception of posting a picture of my girls, enjoying ice cream at a favorite stop. I had butter pecan, my mom’s favorite. (With the exception of Snicker’s blizzard!) I hope you had a wonderful day with your own mother.

I miss her pats.

In honor of her birthday, on April 26th, we donated free Snicker Blizzards and cones at her hometown Dairy Queen. Thank you Carrie for helping me. I love the idea that we celebrated with her favorite treat. I hope she was proud of the way we celebrated it. I know we loved doing it.

I miss her when I see other client’s that remind me of her.

The hardest part of my job is to see Client’s that remind me of mom. Families ask questions and on a rare occasion, I will tell them about mom and her journey with the disease. Families also ask about the dying process and I share what may be to come. A few weekends ago, a daughter told me “thank you” for explaining the death process to her and she made the decision to come and see her Dad. It was the same way with mom.

I think about her when I see a cardinal, smell our lilacs in the back yard, make her rhubarb torte and see Emme snuggle with Blue Dog.

I miss just being her daughter.

In conclusion, I’m not sure I will write again. I may if something moves me. The very first year is over with and I’m feeling better. My hair is back to normal, my heart isn’t so angry and I feel back to what is semi normal. I’m not sure what else I can tell you about us…just that I gave my best, loved her hard and I’m so proud that she picked me and that she was my mother.

Happy Belated Mothers Day to all of you…

Jodi

 

 

 

The Journals

Over the past few months, I have had a chance to read my mom’s beloved journals. As I have been organizing her bins, I have found a few more of her old calendars and her journals that she was so dedicated to. They are a treasure.

I know that she has many more but I am sure in her numerous moves over her life, some have gone missing but I am thankful for the ones that I do have and the story they so beautifully tell.

I think I have told you this before but my mom actually wrote about how often my brother and I called her. Really. She even commented when she didn’t hear from us, and wondered what we were doing and why we hadn’t called. 20160423_140358.jpg

Many of her writings start with calendars and she documented their trips, their meetings with Lutheran Social Services and quick views of her day with both Ross and I. I love that she documents their struggle with adoption and their joy by writing in that tiny little space.

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She writes about the weather, her walks every morning, my dad’s golf outings, who she saw on her trip to the mail box, who has died in the community, the birth of both of our girls, the sadness regarding my dad’s death and even her loss after him is so clearly evident.

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She writes about her close friends, baking buns and lemon bars for funeral services and trips that we took after my dad died. She talks about her much loved Dairy Queen in my home town, her many years of cleaning houses after she retired from cooking for seniors and she writes about all the blankets that she made by hand. She is also grateful. Many of the entries are of her faith and her love for us. I love that in one of the entries, she states…”Thank you God.”

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Her journals are also a snap shot of the start of her memory loss. So achingly spelled out for me to read. She writes about her forgetting the eggs in the brownies and there is a confusing entry of her and the van. I think she got turned around somehow. She talks a lot about being tired and “getting mixed up”. I remember wanting her to have a MRI of her brain and she agreed after much coaxing. I was having a hard time with the start of her loss, half in denial, half knowing that she needed more help. 20160423_132920.jpg

As she continues to write, it is difficult for me to continue reading. It is the start of her loss in 2007 and her notes and entries start to get shorter and her handwriting starts to change. Her last green journal is filled with a quick synapse of her shortened days and she only wrote a short amount after I moved her into the assisted living. I know that she wasn’t very happy with me and she does not write about her new place but shortly stops writing. This was her last entry.

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I love that her last entry was about me being very busy around her apartment. I remember I was organizing her room and trying to make it homey. I should be glad that she didn’t write about her anger with me for moving her out of her home.

There are parts of me that wishes she would have continued writing about her memory loss, if she were able. I only write about her last three years, in the memory care unit but you never get to see her side of this disease, only from my point of view. My most treasured writing  of hers are her last. She didn’t want to forget my birthday ever so I found many slips of paper with my birthday on it. And if you remember, she had a special note for me that I thought was going to be a loving note. She stated her nails looked bad. That was the end of her writing.

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As you can imagine, her journals are very special. Something that my girls will keep and be reminded of their Grandma. They will note the entry of their birth and how she talked about them with such incredible love. I also can feel the love, writing about her own children and her gratefulness of her life. I wish you could see all of them, she dearly loved her home town and church.

Next Tuesday, my mom would have turned 90 years old. There isn’t a day I don’t think of her. In her honor/memory, our Starbuck Dairy Queen (her home town DQ only) will be giving away medium Snickers Blizzard or if you prefer, a medium dipped cone. April 26th. Enjoy from our family.

I know my mom would love the thought of people eating Dairy Queen on her birthday!

Jodi

 

 

The Healer

Last month, I bought a groupon for a massage/healer. Its the first groupon I have ever purchased and I love to get a massage, yet I wasn’t quite sure about the “healer” part of it. After a few emails back and forth with Kimberly, we set our appointment and I found out it was very close to my work. There is nothing better than a massage and I was excited to get one.

I had a morning appointment and I was a little apprehensive because I wasn’t quite sure where I was going. Her office is shared with another office (a therapist) and I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place or not. I was starting to get a little nervous for some reason, almost worrying that I was the victim of a scam.

After waiting for about ten minutes, Kimberly came out and introduced herself. Her office was warm, inviting and smelled softly of  lavender. I was nervous and did not know what to expect but she put me at ease. She asked  if I would lie on the table and I could stay fully dressed. Huh? I didn’t need to get into a robe or crawl under the sheets?

She started to gently touch my feet and they suddenly became very warm. Actually, I became really warm all over. She was doing some reflexology on my feet and it felt really good. If you have every had your feet massaged, you know the feeling. In the mean time she put something in my hands to hold, almost like a small upright weight. I’m sure she told me what they were, but I don’t remember. Almost like a tuning fork?

I’m now wondering what kind of groupon I have purchased but yet her rubbing my feet is pure heaven. Kimberly starts by saying, “When you walked in, so did a small, older woman with permed hair”. She asked if my mom had died recently and I told her she has been gone since May of last year.

“You are not your mother’s child”. I am confused. I said that I was my mother’s child and then I remembered (duh) that I am adopted. Its not something that I always carry with me or think about. She is quiet for a while and started to talk about the cosmic world and energy. “Did it take a long time for your parents to adopt you?” I answered that she tried for twenty years to have children but was not successful. She said that her being unsuccessful was meant to be and her adopting my brother and I was the cosmic universal plan. I was trying to take all of this in…trying to believe but having a very confusing conversation in my head. Do I believe this? She went on to say that it was meant to be that she brought you up and loved you in this world and that you helped her gracefully leave this world. She asked if I knew what this meant.

I did.

Now she has my attention.

All this time she is gently touching my hip bones, my ear lobes, my forehead…I feel like my body is floating. I was trying to tell Steve that I was light as a feather. No pun intended. It was like whatever she was doing, my sadness and worry was leaving. Its very hard to articulate.

She also stated that my mom likes to sit in Emme’s chair at night. Now I’m a little scared. My last story that I wrote about was Emme’s chair. For the past few months she has been having bad dreams. For a week straight, she woke up in the middle of the night scared. I’m not sure of what is causing her distress. Its been hard for her and I wasn’t going to tell Kimberly anything but I shared with her Emme’s issue with her room. She told me that your mom, Emme’s Grandma, watches out for her and that she also loves your kitchen. I told her, that would make sense, my mom was a baker/cook her whole life and loved our kitchen. Kimberly stated that I could talk to my mom and to tell her to visit during the day vs the night, if it is scaring Emme. She feels that Emme is very sensitive to things we can not see. Super. Like that doesn’t freak me out at all.

“Your mom also sends you love.” And then I can feel that warm tears are starting to flow. She told me that she has crossed over and that she has a very important job. Her job is to take care of a big, beautiful garden and that she is the “greeter” for people that have crossed over. She waits in a tunnel and greets family and friends. Wow, that is a lot to take in.

She knew that my dad has been gone for a while and that his job was to help all of the vets cross over. She also asked if our lights go on and off. Ok…that freaked me out. I’ve shared with a few of you that our sun room lights go on and off on command. This thoroughly freaks out only one person in our family. Me.

She laughed a little and said that he is a character (indeed) and that if it bothers you, he will stop. That was absolutely crazy that she knew that. I’m ok with it. If my family doesn’t mind, I guess he can continue.

We talked about other things; she picked up that I help people cross over. I laughed a little because I hoped she didn’t think that I really “cross” people over. She also laughed and said that I knew what she meant. She wanted to be sure that people didn’t attach themselves to me. Ok, I’m freaked out again.

Finally, our visit of over an hour, was over. I’d like to think of myself as very neutral thinking when it comes to healing, psychic things and the unknown. I think all nurses have seen their fair share of strange, unexplainable things. Myself included.

I think she lifted my soul a little, made me more peaceful and I kept thinking of her conversation. Sure, its easy to read about someone, maybe she read parts of my blog but some things I do not talk about. She described my mom to a tee and stated she is always around. That I still could talk to her and she would hear me. That gave me peace.

So we have talked since then. I asked her not to sit in Emme’s chair at night but to still watch out for her. I told her its ok to hang in our kitchen, I like that image. I told my dad that my girls think its funny, I will get used to his playfulness. Someday. Well, not really.

In the end, I never got a “massage” but had a bit of healing that was unexpected.  If you need her card, let me know. She was a healer.

Jodi

 

 

The Green Chair

In my seven year old’s room , there is a green chair that sits in the corner. We have had this chair for almost thirteen years. It has seen its better days, to say the least. It has been used to rock my babies to sleep and we have spent too many hours to count, reading books. It has many stains on it that will not come out. I know that when we bought it before Sophia was born, and that we probably paid way too much for it. I say “we” but honestly,  I was the one who fell in love with the chair. Both girls have used it and it stays there, not used quite as much any more.

Last night, around 10:30, Emme gently knocked on her wall. She had been sleeping for a few hours, tired from the exciting Christmas Day. I opened up her door and she was sitting up in bed. She wanted me to turn the light on and I could tell she was scared. “Mom, there was someone sitting in my chair!” I looked in the chair and the only thing that was in the chair was one doll and a few clothes.

I told her that there was nothing there and to try and go back to sleep. She wasn’t accepting my answer. “Mom, I know there was someone sitting in my chair, I could see it.” I didn’t want to get her more scared so I told her that I would keep the door open a little and I would listen if she needed me again. I could hear her moving around a little but she finally went to sleep.

The first thing she said to me when she got up this morning was, “Did you believe me when I said that someone was in my room, sitting in my chair?” I told her that she might have mistaken the clothes for something and she slowly shook her head no.

Part of me would like to think it was my Mom…or even my Dad, watching over her while she slept. My mom spent some time in that green chair, reading and rocking my girls. For many years, I have kept her embroidered quilt that she made for Sophia, just draped right over the top of the chair. On the quilt are the words…

Guardian Angel, pure and bright  Guard me while I sleep tonight.

I happened to notice it this morning when I really looked at the well worn chair. 20151226_123304.jpg

I hope it was my Mom, just coming to check on her this Christmas night. I miss her very much. Even on the very, very confused days, I still could visit and let her know how much we loved her. Christmas is different and her presence was missed this year. Another ugly milestone in the face of this long year. She has been gone for over seven months.

So whomever Emme saw in the green chair, I hope that they are looking over my girls and watching them grow. It would be nice if they came back every Christmas, just to see them and send them love.

Now, I’ll have to keep that chair…stains and all.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, wishing you a wonderful 2016!

Jodi