Monday, November 29, 2010


We had a nice Thanksgiving at Mom and Dad's house. Although I was sad that she wasn't there, we did enjoy being together and preparing the meal. And eating the meal. And cleaning up after the meal. And eating Joanie's pie. Everyone helped. Dad was glad we were there. Chris' daughter Athena provided the entertainment. Mom fell asleep early; by 5:00 visiting her was done. It was great to  have Margaret, Stan, Dune, Joan, Steve, Chris and Athena there to share the day with Dad.

Kirsten and I saw her yesterday for lunch. She did a pretty decent job of feeding herself tomato soup with crackers, plus a bit of Greek pasta salad.  Sometimes she needs a little prompting; she forgets what she's doing.

She had trouble tracking well today. I realized the other day that the stories we know are the ones we're going to get.  I asked her about Oe (her great-aunt), who lived with us until her death when I was almost 5. Mom lived with her grandmother, her step-grandfather and Oe when she was young. I knew that Rodney (grandfather) had been a prospector but I had thought it was a hobby. She said he was a miner. It was probably at  the copper mine around Salt Lake.  Oe  had lost her legs in an accident. Mom said she was a pedestrian and was struck. She did remember those things, but I was hoping for something new. I guess the lesson is ask while you have the chance. We have some of those things down but not enough.

Mom was an only child until her teens when Grandma Dee married Charles Rhodes (Rhoads?) and Bev came into her life. They enjoyed running around together. I'm glad she had that; she really did have a sad childhood. The years with Oe and grandma and grandpa were good, but the years when Dee and Jack pulled her back to live with them after abandoning her at her grandma's doorstep were very sad. She said that she was taken from what she knew as her home

She and I are alike in that we didn't really learn to be happy until we got older and got over a lot of life's troubles. Neither one of us get to go back and change anything, either. If I'm lucky, my family will try to understand as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday Visit

Mom was in her recliner this morning, magazine on her lap. She doesn’t track what she’s reading, but she still can make out the words on the page. Awhile back, she had a beautiful book from Birds and Blooms on her lap (from Joanie). It’s good to have something like that, large illustrations and few words. She said aloud the caption, “red tailed hawk”. It’s interesting, the skills that stick and the ones that are left behind.

The lunchtime visits are usually the easiest; evening brings on some anxiety and weariness. Susan or Becky gives her something for the anxiety when she has trouble.

Kirsten is so good; my youngest spent a few years doing CNA work. She also did a lot of nursing prerequisites, and is really tuned in to the needs of her grandma. It’s better for her to visit by herself, though, because if we’re together she turns to me.

I need to bring her a coffee next time; I’ll share a mocha with her. She still enjoys her java.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Summer is long over;  we are moving into Thanksgiving now. The last few months have brought big changes in our family. My mom is 86 and suffering from a variety of illnesses. The most life-threatening is a fatty liposarcoma in her abdomen. It has recurred after 5 years, the first time growing to 10 pounds and taking a kidney and part of her colon with it on removal. No one knows how long it will be before it interferes with her ability to digest food or does other damage. She never recovered her strength after the first surgery. She has gotten progressively weaker over the last few years, using a cane, then a walker, and finally in August lost the ability to even do that.

The culprit that may have hastened that is the same one that causes her to say, "Happy birthday!" when I walk in on an ordinary Thursday after work to help her with her dinner. Her dementia had been slowly getting worse, but something happened and her grip on what you and I call reality loosened all at once.  Maybe in some strange way it's a gift. She doesn't remember now that she has a tumor and as far as we know it will be the end of her.

My poor dad has it the worst. He is doing amazingly well, trying to figure out how to live in their house without her. He is learning that no matter how upset she might get with him, she won't remember in ten minutes.

Hospice took her off their services last month. It's not because she's getting better; she is getting worse slowly.  Her caregivers are wonderful and help keep her comfortable and well cared for. Her world is one hospital bed and a recliner chair because she can't sit up in a wheelchair anymore. The other sweet ladies at the foster home ask about her.

What keeps this from being absolute hell is the fact that she has medication to keep her relatively pain-free, she is a happy person, and we have a lot of support from friends and family. Also, she says some really funny things.  Last time I saw her, we greeted each other and I asked her how she was. She said she was fine. "I'm training for a new job". Ok, I'm game, so I asked her what it was. She said, "Data entry".  She had been a social worker from her 40s on. Go figure.

The really great thing is that she still remembers us.