Happy Birthday

My Mom’s birthday is tomorrow and she will be 87. When I think about that fact, I am amazed that she has made it this far.

She has lived a long and wonderful life. I reminded her yesterday that her birthday was this Friday. She asked how old she was going to be and I reminded her she would be 87. “That can’t be”. Yes, Mom. “Boy I’m old”. Me, laughing.

When my dad died almost six years ago, I wan’t sure she would make it. It was very difficult for her on many levels. He was the alpha male, the dominant one in the relationship, very old school. They had been married four days shy of sixty years. Almost like an eternity. She was a very good wife and they made it through some very dark times. It is rare she doesn’t ask about him in some context. “Boy, I miss Russ”. I know in some aspects, he is watching over her and I hope he is happy with the way she is being taken care of. I miss his wisdom greatly. There are days I wonder if I have made the right choices with her care. I wish heaven had a once a year call were you could just check in, she how things are going. A miss you call. A tell me if I am doing the right things call.

I know time with her is limited, I think of that when she is not having such a good day. I try remember her past birthdays and her not wanting any gifts, but just to be together and to be with her family. Family is very important in times likes this. I am the same age today as my Mom was when she adopted me. 43. I also remember how important birthdays were to Mom and how she celebrated ours with joy. We were a gift to her. One that she and my Dad wanted for a very long time. She really has it turned around. She is our gift and has touched and blessed many lives.

I asked what she wanted for her birthday. She’d like to see me and bring Chinese. I think I can handle that.

Happy Birthday Mom…I love you.

Matilda

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Have you met my dog?” This happens every day that I visit.

Our conversation is on repeat. I think it is funny she calls it Matilda. That was the name she called me when I was younger when I knew I was in trouble. “You better clean that room, Matilda”, or “Listen, Matilda”. That was more than a flashback for me.

I’d like to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Matilda. This dog came basically out of nowhere and ended up on Mom’s bed one afternoon. I brought it to the nursing station and told them it was most likely another residents. They looked at the tag and another womans name was written on it. She had passed away last month. They said if Mom wanted to keep her, she could.

I brought her back to Mom’s room and she seemed angry I took her in the first place. This is Mom’s dog. It is hairy and I had to bring some Febreze to eliminate some odor. I’m not sure where its been but I’m stuck sharing Matilda with Mom.

She’s never been a huge dog lover. My Dad and Ross had hunting  dogs so she didn’t get a choice really. Our one dog that she was close to, was named Rusty. Maybe a little similar to Matilda.

On the positive side, its brought her such joy. She takes it everywhere. Its traveled quite a bit in the last few months. We brought it to Ruby Tuesdays, the doctor’s office (were the doctor let her hold it during her chest x-ray), the eye doctor, Easter brunch and on a car ride were she kept showing the dog to people stopped by us. I’m sure they thought we were nuts. She would hold him so he’d be looking out the window. All the residents know it is Mom’s and ask to pet it. Some days, I’m not sure if she knows it’s fake. She talks to it a lot. Now I find myself talking to it. Great.

On the flip side, she pays it more attention then me and I have to keep track of it when we go out. Which I am now ok with. I have to be, it has brought her smile back, that has been lost. With her disease, her smile has disappeared. On occasion, my girls will get a smile out of her but it is rare. I miss that smile. Matilda has brought it back, and for that I am thankful.

Really, both of us can share her. Thank you Matilda.

The Drive

One question I get asked on occasion is, “When should my parents stop driving?” That is such a loaded question and its one that is hard to answer unless I know a little more information. I think the last thing that the elderly have left, regarding their independence is their ability to drive.

That is the way with Mom. If I look back on her memory loss, I think my greatest guilt is allowing her to drive when I most likely should have stopped her sooner. When I say guilt, I will also add in my stupidity. I hate reporting patients that I feel should not drive any more. I know I have to do it, but it is no fun. They look at you and say, “Who are you to say that I can’t drive any more?” Even though, they have no clue what they had for lunch, missed medications three days in a row, and think you are their Mother.

I remember years ago, I took care of an attorney, in his eighty’s dying of lung cancer. For months, he asked me if he could drive and I kept putting him off. Finally, we set up a drive test at Courage Center and I knew he would fail, so we would be done with him asking. Fast forward a week, I get a call from him, he passed. I could tell he was over the moon. He even used his oxygen tank in the car. And you know what? He never drove again. He just wanted to show me he could do it. I know that he died shortly after that. I still smile when I think of him and his drive, pun intended.

I know that Mom was driving short distances in her small town and she had made a few trips to see me, using the slower route, Highway 55. She would always call me when she left and I would look for after a few hours.

On one particular visit, she called from her home and let me know she was on her way. I reminded her to call me in the office when she arrived at my house. I was at work and wasn’t necessarily looking at the time. I must have gotten busy and plain forgot. The office phone rang and it was for me. The Crystal Police. And they were none too happy. Mom had gotten turned around from my house in Plymouth and stopped at the Target in Crystal. She told a woman there that she was looking for me, and the woman called the police. All my Mom kept doing was showing them my business card and all I could feel was the guilt of now knowing she couldn’t drive any more and the tone, contempt, and anger of the police officer. As they should of. I drove to the Target, had her follow me to the office and then I took her home. She kept stating how sorry she was for getting turned around. I told her it was ok and we sat down and talked about the van. I told her it was safer for my brother to take the van, since he didn’t have a vehicle. She seemed accepting of this. I think she knew. I’m glad it went well, because it doesn’t always go that easy. Every time I go past that Target, I think of the police and that officer stating, “She shouldn’t be driving” all the while looking at my name tag.

My advice to you, if you are in doubt of your loved one driving, have them take a driving test. If not for you, for them and the accident they could cause. Memory loss, reflexes and just overall attention span is such an important tool with driving and needs to be assessed. Talk to your loved ones doctor. Normally they are great at explaining why they need to take the test.

The other day, Mom asked if she would ever be able to drive again. The loving daughter part of me wanted to just take her in our cul-de-sac and let her drive around slowly. I did come to my senses, but the thought was there. In the past years, since she hasn’t driven, she has become the best passenger. That is what I remind her of when we are on our trips.
If you are dealing with this…good luck.

The Coins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For as long as I can remember, my Dad collected coins. They were kept in an old pink glass jar and we were told not to play with them. They were an instant magnet for me, just because my Dad said that. I would go in my room, shut the door and put them in order by the date. I loved those old coins.

Fast forward thirty years, I have long forgotten about those coins until I got a call from the secretary of Mom’s church in my home town of Starbuck. Lois stated that she might have something of Mom’s. I was confused and immediately worried, wondering what my Mom had left at church.

She stated that Mom’s friend Ardis had watched my Mom put something in the church offering plate and she wasn’t quite sure what it was, so Ardis called Lois to alert her. Lois checked in the offering and there, plain as day was my Dad’s old Morgan coins. She said when I came up to see Mom next, she would save them for me. I’m sure Mom forgot about the coins, needed some “offering” and grabbed them. Long forgotten the importance and value of them. I am sure the church would have been thrilled to receive them.

Such is the life of a small town. Old coins. Faith. Trust. And a wonderful helper named Lois. Lois again would save my Mom regarding a lost purse, but that is another story.

The Lemon Bar Queen

Welcome to my very first post. As I write this, I think of all the ways that this blog will be helpful for me and for you. I hope whatever I write, you will think of it as a love letter somewhat written for my Mom and the experiences we have gone through.

I will always be honest, respectful as I can be and hope to answer any questions you may have. This has been a six year journey and I am grateful for your support.

Jodi