The Caramels

I know that it has been awhile since I’ve last been here with a story.  Though today something has been pushing me to write.  Maybe it is the holiday. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Maybe its just a story that I need to share.

Yesterday I received an email from a daughter of a client that we had taken care of for many years. We actually took care of both her mother and father until they moved into assisted living and then memory care. Thus we stopped caring for them. She was wondering if I would stop by and see him. His wife passed away a few months ago and I told his daughter I would drop off caramels for him. For three years I have made an extra batch for him. And brought him gin a time or two. Like a good nurse.

It is no secret in our office that I adore George.

When I could not visit them for some reason and another nurse needed to do the visit, I would always remind them no matter how much they loved George, I would continue to be his nurse. No matter how much they begged. You can’t have favorites.

Until you meet George.

When I first met George years ago, we found out that he had worked for Cenex and his route included Starbuck, my hometown. We have no doubt that at some point, he met my dad over the years. His name for me was “Starbuck Girl”. I still love that.

Over the years, George has lost his sight and his hearing. He is blind and deaf. This does not stop him from being productive, trading stocks, writing emails or being able to tell you are in the room. He knows me by smell, which I am not sure is good or bad.

Today I stopped by to see him and he is back in his apartment in assisted living. He had briefly moved when his wife was in memory care. He was a devoted husband.

When I arrived, the first thing he said was, “You look beautiful!” It is our running joke since he is obviously blind. It still makes me laugh when he tells me this.

We had a quick lunch together, catching up on our families and I made him some hot chocolate while he ate his caramels.

When I came back, he took my hand and told me how much he missed his wife. He had spent 2/3 of his life with her and this was the first Christmas without her. Just his tone, his love for her softly spoken. He missed her and stated grief has been hard.

I told him that Christmas was just as hard for me. Both my parents are gone and I haven’t felt like celebrating for awhile. Their absence felt. Just like his wife.

We agreed that he should put up his tree, hide his caramels from the staff and that I would come again soon. He has missed our talks. I have just missed his kindness. So similar to my dad’s. They are ironically the same age, though my dad is gone.

Grief is a bugger at the holidays. I know that many of you feel it. Many of you have lost loved ones and friends this past year. Its a hard time. I know…

When I left, he asked when I would come again. I told him that I would bake him a treat in January and he requested cookies. He also thanked me for taking care of him and his wife.

That got me.

I hope you all have a George in your life. Kindness, love and devotion.

Happy Holidays to all of you! Thank you for still reading my stories. Thank you also for reading The Lemon Bar Queen. Your messages about the book have been emotional and unbelievably touching. Your love is felt.

❤️🎄

Jodi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beagle and I

I know that this spot has been technically saved for my mom but in this case, I think you will understand why I am writing. I also know that it has been awhile since I have been put thoughts to words on this forum.

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That sweet smile, always present. 

Our sweet beagle died on Monday of a short bout with congested heart failure. Barley had been diagnosed two weeks ago and the vet figured it would be six to twelve months before it took him but it went so much faster than we thought.

Barley was a rescue dog from Kentucky that we adopted five years ago through Second Hand Hounds in Minneapolis. We finally convinced my husband that it was time that our family get a dog and for some responsibility for our girls. I also thought it was a great idea for a dog to visit my mom. We always had hunting dogs growing up on our farm and one of the first dogs I can remember was a beagle named Happy. Rumor is I fed him way too many of my mom’s homemade doughnuts and he left the farm that day, never to come back. I think getting Barley was a way of saying I’m sorry about Happy and I will take good care of Barley.

I’m not sure of Barley’s life in Kentucky. I do know that he looked rough when we were finally approved to adopt him.  We also found out a few years ago that he is full of buckshot, which we are hoping wasn’t on purpose. We met him at his adoptive home and he rushed at us with tail wagging and slobbery kisses. I was smitten. I had to call and beg Steve that we would be a perfect fit. And I do mean beg. He has always said that Barley is “my” dog, especially when he would get into some trouble. And he might have gotten into a fair amount of mischief in his five years.

We are only going to mention briefly the sudden weight gain after a few months by girls who continually left out their food. He’s had it all. Girl Scout Thin Mints, Hot Cheetos (thanks Sophia), Frosted Flakes, waffles, blueberry muffins, chicken, Emme’s retainer and candy wrappers licked clean. His favorite spot was Sophia’s garbage can and shelf attached to her bed. We are also pretty sure he could move a chair and get to our stove. There is nothing he disliked except a healthy raw carrot. We tried numerous diets, only to be foiled by the girls leaving out food. As soon as Sophia would leave for the day, his first move was her room. Most of the time, he was lucky. And happy, no pun intended.

We are also only briefly going to mention his escaping the yard. Especially when we were gone for the day, accidentally being left out. The last Barley adventure landed him in the Plymouth police car. He was thrilled with the treats in the squad, the police were not as thrilled with his escape. No collar on, but he was chipped. Fortunately my neighborhood knows his cute mug and I was alerted he was on the run. Everyone knows Barley in the neighborhood.

He was such a good boy.

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Last May, I had some unexpected minor surgery to remove a mass that was benign. One ovary and both Fallopian tubes were removed. But what replaced my  body parts were a sudden onset of anxiety, self loathing, deep sadness and overall lack of my self-worth. It was awful. Drowning. Tired. Angry. Sad.

There were times I wanted to be sucked into the ground. Disappear.

I have never felt this way in my entire life. I saw my primary doctor, talked to my GYN doctor, went to a healer, started to see a wonderful therapist, shared with my close friends and even went to a vortex healer. I hated this feeling of despair.

It’s hard being a nurse and helping families, having an irritable teenager, church on Wednesdays, school events, family issues, sporting practices and games and overall managing a household. I felt overwhelmed.

There was talk of hormones, delayed grief, post traumatic from the emergency surgery and the term perimemopause.

One morning, I broke down at work. I could not stop crying. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could not control my sadness. I went home and crawled into bed and heard the thump of Barley jumping on the bed and him crawling in besides me. He settled in close to my head, one paw on my heart and just licked my face. He didn’t sleep but just stared at me like…how can I help you? What can I do?

And so there is Barley and I.

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Barley thought we might have run too far that night.

Over the last few months, he has been close to my side. Almost too close at times. Waiting to be petted, kissed or even better…a treat.

We have started to relax by the fireplace at night. He, in his bed, made up by the girls. Me, close by, normally reading. Sometimes he just stares at me and other times comes over to lick my face or lay on top of me. Right on top of me. Normally with a paw right on my heart.

I think he knows about the feelings I’ve been having. And in his dog way, becoming the best therapist a girl could ask for. No amount of medicine is similar to this.

When I knew he was going to die, I could not stop sobbing. Ask my neighbors Glenn and Mary. They graciously came over and got Emme to school, stayed with me while Barley took his last breath and Glenn helped me get Barley in the car.

I think Barley  knew he was dying because right before he died, he looked in our bedroom mirror for the longest time. Just staring at himself, while sitting side-saddle. I hope he knew how much we loved him and how much he helped me the last few months. Always a lick, smile or stare. My sweet boy. Better than any pill.

He passed away on the rug, right by the door. Peacefully and with me touching him, just like we’ve both done to one another.

When I arrived at the vets, they told me to go in the boarding door. I wanted to make sure it was open so I left Barley for a minute and walked in. There, staring back at me, was the cutest beagle puppy. No other dogs around and he was just sitting staring at me. I’m not sure if that was a sign from Barley, a younger version of himself staring back at me but still….

Man, we loved that dog. He will be missed.

Jodi

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Year ❤️

The third year…1,095 days to be honest.

I really debated all week if I was going to write about it. Like last year, I don’t want people to think that I think about her all the time and I still consciously try not to talk about her. But she continues to dwell in my heart.

This is the time of year that is hard for me. It is her birthday, anniversary of her death and Mother’s Day all within a few weeks. Its hard not to think about her and miss her.

Summing up the third year has been a mix of emotions…

Like we have done the last few years, my brother and I gave away Dairy Queen Blizzards last week on what would have been her 92nd birthday. The first 100 people would get her favorite treat in honor of my mom, though they have discontinued the Snicker’s Blizzard which was her favorite. We even had a donation bucket and including on-line donations, raised over $500 for the Alzheimer’s Association. As I have mentioned before, she loved her hometown Dairy Queen. A place she knew when she would get turned around walking. It was centrally located to her walking and when her confusion took over, she knew where she was. Thank you to Carrie and staff for helping plan the event.

I have finished the manuscript of our memoir. It has been a labor or love. And I do mean labor. At times, I am very proud of it. There were many parts that were tricky to write about. I don’t want to embarrass her or write about something she would not want me to describe. I’ve added, taken out, changed things and tried to honor our time spent for those long eight years after my dad died. At times, I am terrified that people will be upset about decisions I made or that I have exploited her in some way. She knew that I started to write about her when we entered memory care and she felt she was a terrible topic. I beg to disagree. If I have helped one person understand the loss of a mother or anyone to this horrible disease, it will be worth the hundreds and hundreds of hours I have spent describing our journey. It will now go to the copy editor and book designer. I’m excited about the whole process. Many of you know of my love of books and the whole thought of putting this whole thing together is mind-boggling for me. I am hoping for a November release in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

Grief continues but has lessened.

Next Thursday, I am having minor surgery. I was in the ER a few weeks ago and I have a mass on my left ovary which is large. A lab also came up high for ovarian cancer but the doctor is very optimistic, as am I. They will be taking the mass, ovary, and two Fallopian tubes which I obviously have no use for any more. When I was in last week for my pre-op, we discussed my mom a little. I don’t have a health history due to my adoption and he was intrigued of why my mom could not have children. He confirmed that if the same thing happened maybe twenty-five years ago, she would have been able to have children. I love that he spent the time with me discussing her history. Those are the moments I wish she was here. Not only to hold me hand but to tell me everything will be ok and to have faith. She had enough faith to go around.

I continue to miss her voice.

Parenting is hard and 90% of the time I feel a failure. Truth. On a particularly bad day with my teenager, she stated I have been angry since my mom died. “You have lost your smile!” I don’t feel she is completely accurate but at times, I have lost my smile. I think when you take care of loved one for that long, go through the highs and lows of a devastating disease, and then they are gone, its hard to get that smile back. The worry. The insecurity. The loss. The grief.  The sadness. No one to share certain things with.

I continue to miss just being her daughter.

I miss her calling my name or calling me on the phone.

I miss being able to ask her a cooking question.

I miss her hugs.

I miss the time that we spent reading together or watching the birds.

I miss her stating, “Let go and let God”.

High up, above the clouds, I  hope that she is happy with my dad, drinking coffee, reading, working on her tan in a big beautiful garden and humming a song. I hope she is looking down and me and she would remind me to smile. I hope that she is also happy with the story I have told about a mother, a daughter and the love that kept them together.

Happy Mother’s Day next week to all of you with your own mama’s. And to all of you who have lost your own Mom’s over the past year, remember to find your smile.

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 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 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 Doctor’s Visit

When I decided to write about Mom and our adventures, it was never my intention to be doom and gloom all of the time. The blog is just a glimmer of our life and the times we share. Good times or not so good times, we are a team and I learn many things along the way. Some days, I laugh until I hurt.

Wednesday was her check up with my doctor, whom I adore. She has not met Dr. W before and I was excited for her to meet her and for her to get her flu shot. It was also a day for us to get out and have some fun. As I was thinking about how her day went, I thought of some things that would maybe help you if you take your loved one in for a doctor appointment. Memory loss or not, I think they apply to any aging senior. Not in any particular order…

1. Always know where the bathrooms are located. If you are confused as to why, you will soon find out.

2. If you loved one makes a comment about a man her same age being a “skeleton”, its ok to move over a chair or two. You also might want to tell them to use a quieter voice when they announce this.

3. When checking your loved ones height, anticipate that they will argue over the shrinkage. “I’m not 4’10, I’m 5’4.” Maybe just let them know they are still 5’4. (I knew she seemed shorter to me!)

4. The same applies to the weight. Mom has gained a few pounds and disagreed with our assessment that she has gained. I want her to gain, but she is still in the mindset that “up a few pounds” is a tragedy.

5. Never let her sit on the high examining table, even if she wants to. That almost gave me a heart attack getting her down.

6. The nurse is never trying to kill you when taking your blood or checking your blood pressure. Even though you state it, I am a nurse and I know they really aren’t trying.

7. When the doctor asks you what you did for a living and you look at me blankly and grab my hand, you may need someone to also hold onto your hand, as well. Sigh.

8. Her labs came back yesterday and her blood was 100% coffee. Its a new lab value for Swedes.

9. It is always cold in the doctor’s office. Bring a sweater, jacket or try and turn up the heat on your own. Kidding!

10. When the doctor asks your loved one that is must be nice to be taken care of by your daughter and her response is “Which daughter?” knowing you are the only daughter. Do.Not.Let.It.Bring.You.Down.

Overall, it was a sweet day and Mom checked out fine. Can’t wait for the next appointment.

Jodi

 

The Granddaughter

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Yesterday, I got to capture the sweetest moment with my Mom and Sophia, my soon to be ten year old. If it has been a day that I haven’t visited her, I try to make it a habit of calling her before she goes to bed. It is a way that I connect with her and it usually gives me a laugh before bedtime. Her explanations of her day vary from suggestions of me taking her for lunch, bringing her more Snicker’s or she has no idea what she has done today. It is a short conversation, but I enjoy it.

Sophia came in from outside and asked me if she could call Grandma tonight. I said ok, but to let her know who you are right away so she doesn’t hang up. She dialed the phone and went in her bedroom. I could hear her from the kitchen:

“Hi Grandma, it’s Sophia. How are you?” Sophia proceeds to tell her about school, homework, biking to a friends house and her hockey practice. She asked what she had for dinner, is she in her jammies and did she watch Wheel of Fortune.  Just her tone in how she spoke to Mom, made my heart ache. I wish I could have heard the other end of the conversation and wondering how my Mom answered her. It is, by far, the longest my Mom has stayed on the phone. It might have been Sophia’s gentle way, her not getting frustrated with her and just agreeing with my Mom. When their conversation was over, Sophia handed me the phone, like it was no big deal. The first thing my Mom said to me was “I really enjoyed that”. A few minutes later, I tracked Sophia down and told her how that made Grandma feel. Her response, “It was nothing”. But it was really something…

When I found out I was pregnant with Sophia, my parents were one step beyond thrilled. I think they might have been more excited than we were. My parents were 77 at the time and had waited so long to be grandparents. The minute I told them, I know my Mom started to make quilts. I could supply a small nation with the amount of blankets/quilts she made for this baby. They waited patiently for nine months. I loved the attention and my mom just thought of ways to love this baby.

When my water broke at 12 midnight, we waited until the morning to tell them we were on our way to the hospital. They packed a bag and left Starbuck to drive two hours to Plymouth. I am sure my Dad sped the whole way. Little did we all realize that Sophia had other ideas and she wasn’t born until the following day at 3 AM. My Mom and Dad stayed the whole time at the hospital and waited for their first grandchild to be born. When Steve finally came out to the waiting room, he said, “Oh boy, she’s finally here”. Of course my Dad heard boy first and was thrilled. I love that Steve had to tell him again, “It’s a GIRL!” And so our love affair began with her.

If you look in my Mom’s journals starting in 2003, it is mainly about Sophia. I love how she wrote about her, planned trips to come see her and just her genuine love for her. She was mighty spoiled, I will admit. They had a special kind of relationship and I was so glad that they had that for almost five years, until Emme came along and there were two to love. And as you can imagine, Emme was just as loved. Both of the girls middle names are named after Mom.

Sophia has spent ten years with Mom and has watched her memory fade. She is patient with her, even when she forgot about her last winter, when I know that it hurt her feelings. I explained to Sophia, that she was not able to see her as much due to hockey and school. I think she went a few months without seeing her. I reminded her that she would always be in Grandma’s heart and that even if she couldn’t get her name right, they had a close connection that would never go away. That seemed to help her understand such a crazy disease, that even I don’t understand.

I reminded Sophia of all the trips we have taken with Grandma. For years, after my Dad died, Sophia, Mom and I traveled to some fun places. We spent time in Hayward, Bayfield, Madeline Island, Galena, IL, Door County, WI and last year we took a southern trip/adventure to Wabasha, Red Wing and Winona. The last trip was harder, so we have traveled on the Mississippi River and we have gone for many car rides. I am sad that our trips are over, we just need to make different memories.

To say I am proud of Sophia is an understatement. She has spent ten years with Mom and has gone through just as many high and lows. I hope that she remembers all of this and keeps her heart open and can understand that all of us are not perfect. To her, it’s no big deal, but to us, we know it is so much more.

Sophia and I are walking again this year for The Alzheimer’s Memory Walk. This is our seventh year walking and last year our team raised $4,000.00 for research and respite care. If you would like to donate, please send me an email and I can send you a link. Even the smallest contribution makes a difference.

 

The Visitor

Years ago, when I was CNA, I worked in the Alzheimer Unit for four years. It was a place that I loved and I learned about life and nursing. You had to become good at bribes, distraction, negotiation, break downs, agitation, sadness and grief. Every day was different and you learned how to use all of those pretty quickly. The unit also taught me about love, family, hope and just the effort families would go through visiting their loved ones. I remember one woman who would come and visit her husband every single day, without fail. Even with his end stage dementia, she could still bring a smile to his face.

My favorite residents were the ones that did not have any family come and visit them. Even though it has been almost twenty years ago, I can still picture them and their names. Ethel, who always had perfect hair and a slight drool,  would ask me if I had seen her mother today. John, who had a stroke and would only allow me to get him dressed and would never seem to hit me, like the other staff. If I didn’t have him on my schedule, I would trade him for someone else.  He couldn’t communicate, but every time he would see me,  he would start to cry. I adored him and no one could understand. There was Helene, who was very aggressive and hit me in the head so hard one day,  I saw my very first stars. We became friends after that and when she was having a very bad day, we would talk about her family and she would slowly start to calm down.

I miss those days of 1:1 care. I believe those four years were the best thing that could have happened to me and made me want to continue my education with nursing.  It has helped me understand this disease and prepared me for my journey with Mom.

When you have a loved one that  is battling some kind of disease, whether it be AD, Parkinson’s, Cancer, Stroke…the list can go on. I know that it can be hard to visit them. The unknown is a very powerful thing. Your friend or loved one may look different, act strangely, move in a way you are not used to or may forget who you are. You need to prepare yourself for that.

My brother has not visited my Mom for a while. I am not going to fault him for that. I know that when you get a diagnosis of a disease, fear sometimes can overtake you. It can be very difficult to watch your loved one change. I think that this has been very hard for him. I reminded him not long ago, that she is still in there. She still looks the same, but may not remember your name. She is still our beautiful, funny, coffee loving mother.

He came to see her last Saturday, a beautiful perfect day. He and his friend Heather arrived and I prepped Mom by stating his name, in case she forgot. He was very nervous. I showed him around, introduced him to the staff and her dog, Matilda. We also spent some time outside and Mom really enjoyed it.

I haven’t asked him to do much with her care, though any help is greatly appreciated. The hard part of me being a nurse is that he just lets me make the hard choices with her. His unspoken job is to call her, one expense I will keep so they can communicate on his terms.

At times, this is difficult for me. For twenty plus years, I watch families and friends not visit for whatever reason they have. I have heard all of the excuses and at times, I want to shout at them to just visit. Even if you stay for five minutes, one hour or spend the day with them, you will never know how it will touch them. For that amount of time, you have shown them that you care. Even if they don’t know who you are, I believe that they feel your love and attention. For that moment in time for them, you are in their world, you are present for them and you make them feel worthy. And that is really what it’s all about.

 

 

 

The Love Story

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Recently, I was going through Mom’s stuff and trying to decide what to keep and what to toss. It has been a difficult task for me due to the amount of items and not knowing the real significance of some of them.

While looking through her journals and boxes, I found this picture in a very old book, along with some other special pictures. It is my very first picture and on the back, in my Mom’s handwriting, it states, “Taken January 14th, 1970, the day we adopted Jodi”. If you look close, you will find there is a smirk on my face and you will note that I was pretty well fed at Lutheran Social Services. It is a picture that has long been forgotten, but very important to Mom. It marks the day that both Mom and Dad welcomed me into their family. My brother Ross, is almost three in this picture. He, of course, came first.

Both  my parents were young (20) when they got married and it was just after WW II. Life was very good for them and they enjoyed traveling and had many adventures together. For twenty plus years, they tried to have children. When my Mom was young, she had some minor surgery and they think that is the reason my Mom could not conceive. It is such a different world now, and I can only imagine if she were young now, she would be able to get pregnant. I can only imagine their sadness of not being able to get pregnant as all of their friends were now having children. They choose Plan B.

We were both adopted through LSS, with Ross getting help also from one of my Dad’s friends. In the process, they had highs and lows. Back in the day, you could not have any drug/alcohol problems and you really needed to be “perfect”. My dad struggled with alcohol and LSS denied them at first. My Dad had also set up a saving account for the future Baby Lundell and a social worker at LSS felt my Dad was “materialistic” and denied them once again. If you know my Dad, you can only imagine, how this went over. It was difficult for them but in 1967, they finally got a baby boy and as the story goes, Ross picked out a brown eyed girl, two and a half years later. It is a fact that he has wanted to give me back ever since.

After I was adopted, we moved from Plymouth to a wonderful small town, surrounded by farm land and a beautiful lake. It was a wonderful place to raise children and we grew up knowing we were always loved. As in any family, there were ups and downs. I can only imagine at 43, with two small children, it was tough at times for them. But as communities go, Starbuck was ideal.

Fast forward years now gone by, I look at this picture and I am so thankful for the person who decided to make the difficult choice of giving up a baby and letting someone else give her a better life. How unselfish of her to decide that she or her family, were unable to raise me and love me enough to give me away to parents that really, really wanted children. That is the ultimate love story.

 As she walks in this fog of Alzheimer’s Disease, I know how much we were wanted and loved, the same feeling I am sure she felt that day in January. When we were driving to Starbuck a few years ago, I asked if she was sad that she never got to experience birth. Her response was that she never had to go through any labor pain and that LSS just handed her a clean, happy baby. She reminded me I caused her other pain, which I laughed.

Life is all about choices. I am thankful for the woman in Minneapolis who gave my parents much happiness. Now you can also see why it is so easy to love Mom.