Sunday, April 17


Mom and I are watching the final of the Monte Carlo tennis tournament this Sunday afternoon...well, I am sort-of watching while I read caregiving blogs and write my own. It was a hard night last night. Mom was up numerous times, getting dressed, looking for dishes for lunch, finding the whole idea (when I attempted to explain it-I still try to reason with Mom too much even tho' I know it is pointless) of sleeping when it is dark outside rather amusing and implausible. Ah me...

The worse part was when I just couldn't reassure her and she stopped using words and "chattered"her teeth at me. Mom has been doing this more often and it is undermining the atmosphere of normalcy that we strive for. But I am aware that part of the heaviness that accompanies such changes is my fear that life with Mom will become less peaceful, less bright, less polite. And I am aware that my wanting of everyday life to stay close to what we are accustomed to is probably folly. And I am aware that as Mom can't help any of this, it is up to me to keep learning how to handle it all. Last night and today, that has meant a combination of anguished moments looking at the moon before bed, felt prayers for Mom and me and every other struggling person on this planet, escape into books and movies, dark chocolate, tears just enough below the surface that Mom won't see them, filling my eyes with the brightness of the dogwood blossoms through the living room window.

I am not getting outside enough these lovely Spring days. The temperatures in the seventies seem to always be accompanied by a delightful-to-me but unwelcome-to-Mom cool breeze. Getting her outside and set-up comfortably doesn't usually seem worth the effort for the short time she will be happy there. But I need to make the effort anyway, for my own well-being. I have felt too stuck lately, choosing to hang out in front of the tv with Mom because it is easier than anything else. What I need are hours pulling weeds and planting  seedlings and just laying upon the flowery earth.

We are in a phase, I suppose, a phase that will pass and then circle around again. Just now, we are very aware of all that this commitment calls for from us. My husband I cling to each other sometimes in the kitchen when something  unnerving has happened with Mom. We wonder how we will go on without the cheerful, funny presence of our youngest son who will be graduating in a few months. We wonder about so many things. And we feel so many things. And we keep going on. Finding other perspectives always helps, Mom's naptime is coming, and I just returned from a few fresh and sunny moments outside letting the goats back into their paddock and listening to the hens gentle murmurs. 

I will keep trying to reassure Mom whenever I am able, and myself, as well. It will be alright, not all
of the time, but enough.

*Just finishing up here after a spell of weeding amongst the rosemary and lavender, and a quick lunch of homemade guacamole and tortilla chips (and getting Mom back to sleep during her nap)...I know I have to shift...that the childish faces and sounds she is making show me how lost and helpless she feels...that I will have to enter more whole-heartedly than I have been able to into responding to her as a mother would to her child. I have been resisting the stuffed animals and the soothing and helping her more. Why? I think I have worried that these things would hurry her along the path she is on, that they will deplete me when I feel like I have been "storing" up energy and strength for even harder days ahead...and because it just feels odd and hard to me. Just this afternoon I caught Mom's eye during the tennis match...she was animated for a moment and for an even briefer moment I saw the old Mom, beautiful Lo Padgett, my loving mother and rather amazing woman. Then she was gone and I saw the frail, confused mom who needs me so much. I will step up my game, I will try to be more what Mom needs me to be right now and make sure not to lose myself in the meanwhile.

Friday, April 1

getting on with it

It is interesting how long it can take to accept, get used to and just get on with things. For me, anyway, it can take a long, long time. Lately, tho', it has been easier just to get on with it-whatever "it" may be. And this in spite of the constant distraction and problem-solving of the build for my mom's new rooms (nearly there...will share soon!). Bath day is a good example...I don't know why I tended to dread it until very recently. In the early days with Mom, it was nerve-wracking working around the broken wrist, her wobbliness in the shower, the challenge of helping her to stand up after a bath. Now, we are old pros at it...showers only, accomplished as quickly as possible before she tires, all the shampooing and washing rituals firmly in place.

I have learned to respect Mom's shyness about the whole process, and the fact that she can't remember that we have done this week in, week out for more than a year. So I repeat the same instructions and assurances as we go through each step...most steps of which she can still do herself, which is something I don't ever take for granted. The one part of "bath day" that I do completely is the flossing of her teeth. But we have that down to a quick and not-bad-at-all process with flossing sticks and yummy natural mouthwash.

And throughout the process are moments when Mom breaks into little songs that she make up about some phrase I have spoken-"step over carefully" or "sit down on the toilet". It is sweet. She always expresses her appreciation of how good the lotion feels when I massage it into legs and arms and back. 
Tho' it is a strain for her to hear me while her hearing aids are out during the whole bath-time, I jolly her along with jokes and reminiscence...reminding her, for instance, when I encouraged her to try to throw the crumpled tissue in the trash-basket (it hit the rim!), that she was called "Dead-eye" in high school for her basketball talents. 

A few weeks ago as I was sitting on the rug at her feet, rubbing lotion onto her legs, Mom said "I used to do this for my mother." I stopped in surprise...Mom hasn't remembered anything about caring for her mother (which she did for the last ten or so years of my grandmother's life) for many years. I asked her what she did for her mother. She replied "helped her to bathe". I found this very moving. And it is these little "rewards" of memory, insight, humor and connection that help me to keep on with a little more ease and energy than I might otherwise have.


*These photos were taken a few weeks ago when I took my mom on a walk to our old orchard to see the asian pear tree in bloom. She didn't enjoy it as I had hoped she would...the air was too cold, the earth too rough for her, but she perked up when she saw this "fellow" in the tree. We laughed at his forlorn face, and for once, I wasn't spooked by what she "sees" in the trees and fields. For once, I could see it, too.*