9 Months . . .

9 months since my Mom died and life is moving on.  She is still one of my first thoughts in the morning and last in the evening.  I wake at night and if I let my mind go there, I am done with sleeping.  Yesterday I had one of those brain blips when I reached for my phone to call her – wanted to share something with her and forgot just for a moment.  Thankfully it has been a long time since that happened.

The hospice social worker called to check up on us on Friday.  My biggest issue to report was my difficulty/reluctance to clean out my Mom’s house.  That is just about the hardest thing for me to do.  I can always come up with an excuse to put it off.  Go clean out Mom’s house or sit and stare mindlessly at the tv – the tv will win.  Grocery shopping or cleaning, cleaning my house or cleaning out her house – her house never wins.  I probably would pick cleaning out her house over root canal surgery at the dentist but that would be just about the only thing.

I did not want to start the process of cleaning out her house.  While my husband and I were staying there, we thought about starting the process but just couldn’t bring ourselves to start because she was still alive.  I wish I had started now.  Most of my craft supplies and things I took to her house have been moved out.  My husband cleaned out the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator of perishable stuff.   We have  been “shopping” in her freezer and cabinets when we needed something.  All the unused medicines and tubes of whatever have been discarded by my husband.  Her personal stuff is waiting on me.  It seems like too big of a job to even get started but it needs to be done.

I never expected to feel this way about losing her.  I loved my Dad, my Aunt, my Grandparents and all the other people who have died but with my Mother it has been different.  I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that the biggest connection with my past is gone.  So many questions that will go unanswered.

Another problem I have and I totally blame this on my brother-in-law for putting the thought in my head is that when you lose your parents, you are next in line to go.  This from a man who has both parents plus 2 sisters and 2 brothers ahead of him in line.  I am glad that my husband comes from a large and obviously healthy family and I love every one of them, but I look ahead of me and think that the line is not too long.  Combine this with the fact that I am fast approaching one of those milestone birthdays and it does a number to you.

Miss you Momma!

 

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Going Forward

On March 23, 2012, I wrote the following post but it was never published: 

The 3 month anniversary of my Mom’s  death has passed.  Before she died I tried to imagine my life without her and I failed miserably.  I did not realize how much I was getting accomplished while staying with her.  My days were full of taking care of her.  Sewing was my escape.  My husband and I were walking up to 4 miles everyday.   But I still felt like my life was on hold. Continue reading

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Cuddling and story time

I was taking care of my granddaughter the other day and in an attempt to get a few minutes of rest, I resorted to the cuddling trick.  You know that trick, cuddle them up in a chair and get them to stop moving just for a little bit.  We have a big old brown recliner that is the best cuddling chair in our house and first we settled down to read a book. Then to prolong the peaceful moment, I started to tell her stories about her early years.  She loves to hear stories and at 7 years old there is a lot of material to draw from.

Momma and the little one

This day I told her some stories about her great-grandmother.  My Mom was 88 when Cordelia was born.  She adored her from the first moment she saw her.  My Mother was still in good shape at this time and loved to help me with Cordelia.   Cordelia was my real “job” for almost the first 5 years of her life and my Mother was always more than happy to drive out to my house to help.  She would sometimes just stay with her for me to run errands or watch her while I was trying to get some yard work done. 

I started off by showing Cordelia with my arms how little she was when she was a wee baby.  I explained what a pack n play was and told her that she took her naps in one.  That when she was a real little baby, she actually laid in a bassinet that fit across the top of the pack n play.  Then I told her how “Momma” (her great-grandmother) would sit in the den in the same recliner that we were sitting in now and listen for the baby monitor.  That Momma would be just waiting to hear Cordelia wake up.  I know that she would go in and check on her many times before she woke up, she didn’t trust that monitor.  When Cordelia would start to cry (insert baby crying sounds) my Mom would hurry in and get her.  First would come the diaper change and then she would carry her back into the den.  A quick bottle and then I’m sure it would be back into the recliner/rocking chair for some cuddling time of her own.   Helping me with Cordelia was something my Mother loved to do, it made her feel so useful.  She was needed and helped me out so much.  I am so glad that she had the chance to be so much of a part of Cordelia’s life and that I have those memories. 

Cordelia will only remember the last years of Momma’s life when she was sick and confused but I want to make sure she gets to know her Great-Grandmother before the illness took her away. I have lots of memories to share with her.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my Mother’s illness and death, that I forget how she lived.  I focus too much on the last two difficult years and not on the 92 good years she had. 

The cuddling chair with my first granddog, Lucy enjoying a rest way back in 05.

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Alabama and Memories

My daughter and I are in Alabama visiting my sister and her family this weekend.

My Mother is no longer with us but memories of her are everywhere. As I was packing to go, I remembered that my Mom would have been packed up and ready a week ahead of time. She would never have waited till the last-minute like I did.

At a rest area in Georgia, I remembered her taking her little 2 year old great-granddaughter into a stall to go potty. I know her parents had told me she was afraid of automatic flushing toilets but I had forgotten. My Mom closed the door to the stall and I heard the biggest scream ever from my grand-daughter. Looking back it was funny, I’m struggling to pull my pants up to go save her from whatever had frightened her so badly. My Mom is trying to comfort her. My husband heard the screams from outside the bathroom and was trying to decide if he needed to come to the rescue. Just one of those things that happen while traveling with family, now a funny memory.

When my sister would come to visit our Mother, Momma would go home with her for a visit. Momma loved to go home with her for a visit and I loved a week not to have to worry about my Mom-worked out for all of us. Then when the time came for her to return home, my sister and I would meet either in Macon or at an exit on I-20 to have the Momma pass-off. That way neither one of us had to drive the entire way. We would have lunch together, I would load Momma into the car and we would head home. Good times.

I am in the room she used at my sister’s house. When I round the corner, I almost expect to see her in bed reading one of her romance novels. So funny, a lady in her 80’s reading romance novels but she did love her books.

She was there when I handed my brother-in-law his morning pill. He asked how many and held his hand out for his pill. I just about cried. She would ask the same thing. In her case though she was just as likely to question why was she taking this pill or tell you she was only going to take one (you had to choose which pill to get her to take first because that might be the only one you could get her to take).

The last time she came to Montgomery was for the weekend of June 5, 2010 for her great-granddaughter’s wedding. The trip exhausted her and she was confused at times. The wedding was beautiful and she enjoyed being with family. She was as bull-headed as ever-we told her not to try to come down the stairs by herself, but she did anyway. I still remember walking around the corner to see her making her way slowly down the staircase.

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We tried to get her to stay for a few extra days but she said she would the next time. I think I knew then that there would not be a next time.

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Denial

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  But the experience with my Mother made me realize that you can also go through these stages when your life changes dramatically.  My Mother’s care was taking more and more of my time and on May 31, 2011 – I had to move in with her.  It was not an easy transition for either one of us.  

In earlier posts (and probably future ones) I have discussed my inability to see my Mother’s illness as it was, not as I wanted it to be.  I could always find an excuse for her behavior – she was tired, sleepy, she couldn’t hear me, she wasn’t paying attention, she was having a bad day – I could come up with an excuse for anything.  It was hard to accept that this strong, independent lady that I had known all my life was failing. 

I didn’t really look around the house too closely because if I had, I would have noticed that the dishes really were not being washed very well and the bathroom was less than clean. Things, big things like an electric blanket would vanish. She didn’t do anything with it or with all the other things that are missing. Lucky she never set the house on fire because a burnt smell would greet you and a very dirty pot would be in the sink. She was napping and forgot she put it on the stove. Felt like I was dealing with a two-year old because when something really strange happened and I asked her what happened, she would respond “not me,  I didn’t do it.

She would tell me that she could take care of herself. Yeh right, she couldn’t even tell the difference between night and day, all sense of time vanished.  She had trouble sleeping because she was going to bed so early in the evening.  The next morning I would call and she would complain that she woke up way before daylight and couldn’t get back to sleep.  By this point the only meal that she was preparing for herself was breakfast – coffee and a danish.  Most days, I was bringing her food for lunch or dinner.  I would ask her if she was hungry and she would say that she had already had lunch/dinner.  I would go check on her and look around the kitchen to see if she had prepared anything to eat and very seldom was there any remnants of any food preparation.  That should have been a big red flag because my Mom loved to eat. 

I am not proud of the way I handled her during this period.  I refused to let myself believe that she could be this confused and sick.  At times, I got really annoyed with her and felt that if she would just concentrate, she could do better.  In my defense, she could still have really good days and seem like her old self – that made it easier for me to not acknowledge her condition.  If I had let myself see how bad things really were, I would have had to deal with them. 

This quote from The Five Stages of Grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler is so true: 

“There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”

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Six Months

This is the 6 month anniversary of my Mother’s death.  The chaplin and our hospice social worker called to check on us. We are fine and adjusting.  I still have caught myself getting ready to call her, old habits are hard to break.  I miss her. The feelings of sadness hit me at the strangest times.

I remember her reaction when she lost her sister. I heard her say I’m so sorry twice and that was all.  I know she missed her terribly but she never really talked about it.  She dealt with it and kept on moving forward. She was one tough lady- I am nothing like her. I whine. She kept things to herself, I write about what I am feeling. I am nothing like my Mom.
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Old fashioned petunias were one of my Mom’s favorite flowers.

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Text Messages

One of the sources I plan to use in this blog are my text messages to my husband and family. They provide a real time look back at what was going on in my Mother’s life and the struggles we had to deal with. When I first started to text, I never thought that I would look back on the text messages and use them in this way. My husband was at the time spending the first months of his retirement at our other house about 60 miles away and the text conversations with him helped me feel less alone.

This is one of the first texts that I sent to my husband. He was in Michigan for his Dad’s 90 birthday. We were proud owners of new smart phones and were learning to text. He sent a text to let me know his plane had landed in Detroit. I replied: “Great C, Momma, and I are at Lizards’s Thicket” 11/5/2010 @ 6:51 pm. What a good memory, having dinner with my Mother and granddaughter at one of our favorite local restaurants. I would never have remembered this without the text message.

The following is a typical message between my husband and myself:

Fri, Apr 29,2011,9:12 am

Me: Momma is firmly planted in la la land this morning. I am having a feeling of deja whatever-just wish I could remember the ending.

Tom: What is going on.

Me: We are eating now. I told her we would go out for breakfast last night before the beauty shop. She needed about 30 minutes to get ready. So I called her and when I got there she was not dressed. She got ready and I gave her money for Jane. She has now asked me at least 5 times what the money is for.

Tom: Is she competent enough to be left alone?

I don’t have my response to his question, but I do know that I dropped her off at the beauty shop and took off to enjoy 1 1/2 to 2 hours of relief from Momma duty. She enjoyed going to the beauty shop and I considered it to be day care for Momma. On one occasion, my husband actually offered the beautician $20 to keep her another hour or so but she thought he was kidding. Sadly, we were not kidding. Jane should have taken us up on that deal, she only charged $10 to do her hair so she would have made some extra money that day.

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