My mother has always been my very bestest friend. I was the first child, but not the first pregnancy. So when I was born, I was joyfully and wonderfully welcomed. I was followed a short eleven months later by my sister. So the woman who wanted children intensely and fervently, suddenly had two small children within a year’s time.
Growing up, she was the best mother. She was generous, loving, protective, and sometimes pushy. She wanted the best for my sister and me. She wanted us to have the things that she did not have growing up.
My mother was the fourth child in a brood of thirteen. She was the eldest daughter. As the eldest daughter a lot of her mother’s burden fell on her shoulders too. She took her role seriously and devoutly. Thinking back to when I was a child, one of the biggest disputes that would arise between my parents was her sense of duty to her mother, father, and siblings.
She has always been there for not only my sister and me, but also for her siblings. When she retired, she served not only her family, but her friends at church. When someone was ill, she was there. When it was serious enough for the hospital she was there. When someone needed an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, she was there. She shared in their sorrows and rejoiced with them in their triumphs. If someone needed a loan, she disregard her own needs and freely give what she sometimes didn’t have to give.
My mother has always been a giver. In the last few years my mother has become the receiver. My sister, my nieces, my nephews, and even my great nephew and I have become the givers. It continues to be an educational and rewarding experience.
But it’s an every changing experience. My mother has dementia. She is happy to be with us. She enjoys our company. She loves being with her grandchildren, She adores her great grandson, Henry. But her connection with us has changed. She is no longer the dominant force in our life. She is not the one we go to for advice and comfort.
My sister is her main caregiver. She works a full time job. So far she has been able to coordinate between her and her children to make sure that our mother is not left alone. My sister and I have tried to divide up the responsibility between us. My sister and I have become our mother to each other. Now my sister seeks me out for advice and comfort and I seek her out for the same.
Our hope is that our mother travels this path with grace and dignity and without fear. But what my sister and I have become is my mother’s protector and advocate. Where my mother use to be the mother bear ready to spring and protect her cubs, now my sister and I have taken on that role for her.
Occasionally drama and bickering find their way into my mother’s presence. Fortunately, this doesn’t come from her immediate family. The ones who have been there for her the last few years. What we’ve decided as a family is that we will no longer allow that to happen. She is our number one priority and that includes her happiness, safety, and peace of mind. My mother no longer does well on the phone. She does great face to face. But I think on the phone she loses track of who she is talking to.
Mom has always been busy. So we try to keep her busy. She likes to go. Whether it’s shopping, eating out, or checking out the thrift stores. She still likes being out in the world.
She would love to hear from you. While a phone call may no longer be the best way to connect with her, she loves to visit. So call my sister or me and set up a time. I know she would love to open her door and see your face. Send her cards and pictures of your family and yourself.
Have my sister and I made mistakes? Certainly. But the one thing that we do acknowledge is that dementia doesn’t get better. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We only know that when Mom wakes up with a smile on her face, everything is going to be okay for today.
What we have found in navigating this life changing illness is that people suddenly disappeared from her life. At first this made me angry. Just knowing how she has always been there for others. But fortunately her world revolves around whoever she is spending time with that day. So she is happy. And that’s what matters most.
Today I’m spending the day with mom. We spent some time at the Texas Department of Public Safety getting her a state issued identification card and she surrendered her drivers license. She quit driving years ago so that was really no big deal.
Then we decided to go shopping. She says to me “I need makeup.” So I text my sister and say “Mom says she needs makeup.” I ask because she sometimes forgets what she might have bought yesterday. My sister texts me back and says “She does! LOL.”
So off to shop with a purpose we go. Two people who use to be great shopping partners, but who now don’t do malls. First stop Ridgmar Mall. We didn’t even bother to get out of the car. It looks run down and slightly abandoned. We just made a big circle in my car around the mall and decided to head to Hulen Mall. On the way to Hulen Mall I remember the new Shops at Clearfork development. So once we get to Hulen Mall and park at Dillards I tell my Mom that we will definitely have to check out the new place before we head home.
We browse through Dillards and then head out into the mall. Just me and the women who taught me all I needed to know about skincare. The woman who took me to the Estee Lauder counters and the Clinque counters. As we head out into the mall, I know that she has already forgotten about the makeup. But I have not.
So we head to Macy’s Estee Lauder counter. We are browsing the different types of makeup when a young lady shows up to helps us. As she is asking my mother the usual questions about what she expects from a makeup I suddenly ask myself “What in the world am I doing?”
Arbonne! I have been an independent consultant for about a month. I have been spreading the word to friends and family. I have sent samples. I have handed out samples. I have shipped multiple samples. I am almost out of samples. I need to reorder samples!
Fortunately the sales rep color matched my mom and in a very surprising move, she offered a sample to take home and try before she buys. Just to be sure that the color matches and she’s happy with it in every way. REALLY!! I guess she was just really too busy to try and sell us product. My mother was excited and really ready to buy. But I have to say “Thank you!!” I said “Yes! Let’s take the sample and try it.”
On the way to the Shops at Clearfork I told my mother about Arbonne and told her we could her everything she needed and she would love it. I know she will. So I can’t really blame the young girl at the cosmetic counter. I also had overlooked my mother as someone who would appreciate the quality of the Arbonne skincare and makeup.
Then we went on to the Shops at Clearfork. Right now the only store there is Neiman Marcus. But it is going to be a very lovely retail development when it’s done. As we walked into Neimans I thought, “This is what a department store is suppose to be like. I bet if we had stopped at the Estee Lauder counter in Neimans we would have left with a bag of makeup.
If you are currently going to the department stores to buy you skincare, makeup, bath products, or even the healthfood store to buy nutritional supplements, I would like for you to at least check out what Arbonne has to offer. It truly is a great line of products. To visit my website click here.
If you’d like to see some other roads I’ve been down concerning skin care just click here
Yes, this year is nearly over. But I woke up this morning, looked at the old woman in the mirror and whispered “Happy birthday lady.” Somehow I have managed to make it to the age of 55. It seems like just yesterday I was 17. Apparently a lot of life happened between 17 and 55. I see it in the mirror, in the lines on my face. I feel it in my attitude. My personality is sort of like a roller coaster.
I wish I was more even tempered, but sadly I am not. I wish I could keep my opinion to myself, but sadly I can not. I wish I liked people in general, but sadly I do not. Even though I don’t like people in general, I find that I am a people pleaser. I guess I just don’t like confrontation. I’m sensitive to a change in tone when someone speaks to me.
But that’s not why I’m here today. I’m here today with the obligatory list of things I’ve learned in the last 55 years. I’ve reflected on these basic tenets and tweaked them into sort of list of New Year’s Resolutions. But mainly, things I need to remember or things I need to strive to be more aware of on my next trip around the sun.
Be kind and thoughtful, but don’t be a doormat.
Don’t be a gossip. If it isn’t kind or encouraging, zip your lip!
Don’t put someone on the top of your list, when you aren’t even on theirs
Return negativity with positivity
When #4 doesn’t work, remove the cause of the negativity permanently.
Rest your mind and body as needed. Your aren’t 20!
Don’t be idle. Time is short and valuable. I’m 55, I have far less time than I thought
Early to bed and early to rise is a good motto to live by
Don’t be silent! Speak for others when they can’t speak for themselves
I’m too old to be in a clique. I can only be myself.
I may need to come back to this list from time to time in the next year. After looking back over the list, some of them seem contradictory. Cutting someone out of your circle may not seem “kind”. But time is too short to allow others to bring you down.
I use to be nice. I use to be sweet. I use to make excuses for people. I use to see only the positive. Then after a little life experience, I took off my rose colored glasses, looked at the world, and became a bitch.
I think most of my real, truly life changing conversion happened after I turned 50. Maybe that’s just part of growing old. Your tolerance for unadulterated bullshit drops to a level where you just aren’t going to stand it any more.
I use to make excuses for others – now I let them speak for themselves.
I use to ignore the ugly, and play up the pretty – now I let ugly just be ugly.
I use to reach out to help without being asked – now I worry only about myself and my family. I have to live with my choices, so does everyone else.
I use to be the peacemaker – now I will bring the war right into your living room and take no prisoners and call no truce.
Once you realize you’ve been betrayed, it’s easy to wipe entire groups out of your life without a second thought. It’s really quite liberating not to feel the need to explain yourself. Just simply sit and be quiet and wait for the disorderly, loud mouthed crowd to pass you by and move on to their next dispute.
Keeping quiet is the hard part. I guess we all want understanding. That’s why we feel the need for discussion, endless discussion with everyone shouting about their “feelings”. I’ve finally reached the age where I don’t really care about anyone’s feelings and will try to keep mine to myself as well.
Occasionally I feel that nice, sweet, girl trying to rise up out of me and make excuses for someone. But I punch her in the face and the bitch wins again.
I’m a nice, mind my own business, kind of bitch.
We had a weekend visitor a few weeks ago. My mother. I’m grateful to still have my mother, but I really miss my Mom. My mother seemed happy the weekend she was here. She was chatty and engaging. She was comfortable doing with us whatever we did. She sat on the front porch in the morning and chatted with Doug. We visited her sister. We looked at old pictures as I scanned them into the computer. She didn’t recognize me or my sister in a picture taken when we were about 14 or 15 in the mid 70’s with my cousin, Jamie.
“Who is this?” She asked, her eyebrows bunched together as she looked at it. “They look familiar.” Finally I said, “That’s me, Trisha, and Jamie.” She looked at it again and said “Oh yes.” But I could tell by the look in her eye, that it was just a picture of three teenage girls to her. That makes me sad.
The visitor a few weeks ago, seemed like a distant relative. It’s a weird, disjointed, feeling. Like having someone you don’t really know, spending time with you. She’s still mother, but my Mom is gone.
My Mom was always a take charge type of person. If someone was sick, she was there. It didn’t matter if it was her own child or someone elses, her brother, her sister, her mother, her father, a friend, or an in-law, She was there to do whatever needed to be done. A cool cloth on your forehead, a moist swab for your mouth, brushing your hair, tidying you up, making you feel human even as some prepared to meet death.
If I needed Mom or if anyone else needed Mom, she dropped what she was doing and she came. She was truly there for you. Heart, Mind, and Soul.
I miss my friend, my Mom. She was my very first friend. She was my truest friend and champion. When I made a meringue pie and the meringue fell, I threw up my hands and screamed “I GIVE UP!” She walked to the refrigerator and handed me the eggs and said “Start over! No daughter of mine gives up so easily.” When I was wallowing in self pity one Sunday afternoon over a break up, she laughed at me. She was tired of it and felt it had gone on long enough. She finally said, “I can’t believe you’re going to let that little toad of a man upset you.”
It sneaks up on you and catches you unaware. When Mom became forgetful, I told myself that it was just a part of getting older. But then you wake up and realize that it’s something more. It’s this epidemic, called Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is a thief. It’s taken my Mom a little at a time until she has become just a shadow of the person that she was.
She’s a tiny little woman who is happy just being wherever she is. As long as she’s is content and happy, I can’t really ask for anything else. But I cry. I sob. I wallow in my sadness for a bit. Then I pick myself up, wipe away my tears, and put one foot in front of another. My circle of friends and family are filled with people doing the same. I am not alone, but I am.
My life is filled with commuting, working, cleaning, and an abundance of other chores. The free time that I do have seems to slip through my fingers like sand in an hour glass. I’m always going to do that one thing “tomorrow”. I’ll start organizing my house tomorrow. I’ll start exercising tomorrow. I’ll start eating better tomorrow. I’ll spend more time with my mother next month. We’ll visit with Lila next month. I’ll spend time with cousins and aunts and uncles this Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter. We’ll take all those trips when we retire.
It seems all my life I’ve been waiting on tomorrow. My fear is that when tomorrow comes I’ll be doing another load of laundry and planning another tomorrow that doesn’t come. I have a 15 month old great nephew and a 7 week old grand daughter that I fear will not know me. Doug has family that I love and enjoy spending time with. But they live across the country and we plan on spending time with them “some day”. My mother has Alzheimer’s and my days with her are slipping away.
I am married to a man that I love. He is a wonderful, loving, provider. Our goal is early retirement. But he is a homebody and loves being here. I can hear the sound of the four wheeler taking him somewhere right now. We have 50 acres and he loves doing his thing here. I love working along side him here. But sometimes this distance and this place feels like a millstone around my neck.
There are times I feel isolated and disconnected from those that matter to me. The sadness and discouragement spills over me and pulls me down. Today is one of those days.
Time to gather the tax receipts for the farm and organize them for the tax lady. Maybe after I get that done we can make plans to do something fun next weekend.
My family, like lots of other families, began learning about Alzheimer’s this past year. My mother is most fortunate to have a tight knit family that surrounds her. She has had her ups and downs this year. But the downs have been few, but they can be intense. My sweet sister is in a position to live with my mom and she has dealt with most of these downs on her own. She and I and all of my nieces and nephews work well together.
This Christmas week started off with a call from Chase bank on Tuesday about my mother’s checking account. Apparently someone tried to use her debit card information to make a purchase either over the phone or on the internet. It was declined and the bank deactivated her debit card. That upset her.
She took some money out of her checking account last weekend. When she woke up Christmas Eve morning she couldn’t find the money. She became very upset because she thought she didn’t have any Christmas gifts for us. My sister took her to the tree and showed her the presents from my mom to all of us.
This unsettled her, she realized (again) that she has Alzheimer’s and that she will not get better. My sister had to work Christmas Eve and suggested that I call her later in the day to check on her. Right now my mother is still in a position that she is fine on her own for short periods of time.
When I called her later in the day she sounded a little befuddled and down. As we talked her mood seemed to change. She was still concerned about the money that she had misplaced. I told her not to worry about it, that it would show up. Then I changed the subject to us all getting together the next day. This lifted her spirits. Nothing pleases her more than being surrounded by her family. Especially her great grandson, Henry.
When we arrived at her house Christmas day she was in good spirits. As her gifts were handed out she watched to see what was in the boxes as they were opened. But she said nothing. She was sitting next to me as I was handed her gift. I looked at her and asked “What did you get me?” She laughed and shrugged her shoulders. I said “It will be a surprise for both of us!” and she laughed.
She watched with interest as I opened the gift. She genuinely didn’t know what was in the box. When I opened it, there was a case for my crochet hooks, a Jo-Ann’s gift card, and a jar of buttons. When she saw the jar of buttons, she shouted happily, “I bought those!!”
She remembered buying the buttons with my sister at the antique store. I know she received help in selecting my gifts. But my mother’s love and thoughtfulness still make me cry.
After working at this independent senior adult community for a few months, I have discovered some things and decided to make myself a list so that I don’t forget.
When I get very old:
1. I shall wear my phone around my neck on a lanyard.
2. I shall not brush my hair unless I feel like being fashionable
3. I shall proudly wear my glasses with a great big fingerprint on the lens
4. I shall arrive 2 hours early for all scheduled events
5. If food is served at an event I shall arrive 3 hours early
6. I shall call my list of loved ones each day and tell them “I love you”
7. I shall not drive over 20 MPH unless I’m approaching a stop sign. Then it’s pedal to the metal and a screeching, smoking stop
8. I shall buy a harness for my cat and walk her down the street
9. I shall wear bright red lipstick
10. I shall call everyone I meet sweetheart, darling, or sugar.
11. I shall go to the bank and chat with my young friends
12. I shall take long long afternoon naps
13. I shall show up unannounced on friends and relatives doorsteps
14. I shall look forward to doctor’s appointments as social events
15. I shall visit the burial spots of those I love and sit and think about the memories we made.
16. I shall be happy and not complain
17. I shall have very long conversation with children I meet
18. I shall not listen to others complain
19. I shall not care who knows my age
20. I shall only wear comfortable shoes
21. I shall buy lottery tickets and throw coins into wishing wells
22. I shall read and learn new things
23. I shall teach those who want to know the things that I have learned
24. I shall laugh at myself and the mistakes that I make
25. I shall stand at the end of the path and look back with fondness on the memories I’ve made.
I remember my Dad saying “It’s hell getting old.” When I really stop and think about that statement, I find it a little weird. Why? Because I lost my Dad when he was 62. I’m less than ten years away from being 62. Sometimes I stop and look at myself in the mirror and marvel at the fact that I have become old.
My dad was fun and the life of the party. Any room that he walked into, everyone was glad to see him. He loved his family, his friends, and his history. He was compassionate, loving, and kind. I know I was fortunate to have him as long as I did.
He missed out on seeing his grandchildren grown into wonderful adults. He missed out on the traveling he and my mom were always going to do when they retired. He would have liked this place that Doug and I bought. I miss his advice on what to plant. He grew up on a farm, broke horses in, worked on a ranch, and owned his own nursery. He would be a wealth of information.
My mother was only 56 when she lost her husband. It was hard on her at first. She was still working, so she had that to fill her days. When my Dad passed away, I had a peculiar sense of responsibility for her. It wasn’t only the nursery that she was left with. Doug and I helped her keep those plants alive and then liquidate them. I felt responsible for her loneliness. If I hadn’t had the responsibility of my own household and husband, I would have been compelled to be with her constantly.
She found her way as a widow. She visited her grandchildren, her siblings, her friends. She retired when she was 62. She was very tired of working. At the age I am now, I am a lot like my mother was then. At work she did not take crap from anyone. She had one man that she worked with in her cubicle tell her “I’m going to put my fist through your face.” She stood up and asked him very firmly, “You’re going to do what?” Again he told her he was going to put his fist in her face. She continued to ask him and he continued to tell her, gradually getting louder and louder until security escorted him out of the building.
When she decided to retire, she did not want her co-workers giving her a party. She just wanted to be gone. She said that she would spend her time taking care of and doing for others. That she did. Active in her church, she visited shut ins, the hospitalized, the sick. She took others to doctors appointments, dialysis, chemo treatments. She sat with a new mother who had hurt her back for weeks. She cleaned and looked after the mission house that her church had. She helped fix meals for funerals. She sat with an Alzheimer’s patient once a week, so that the woman’s husband (her full time caregiver) could have a break. She took a woman to the nursing home once a week to visit the woman’s husband. She has always done for others. She was always there for me, her family, her friends, and complete strangers. My mother was a go getter. She would jump in to help who ever needed her, regardless of the cost to her.
So it was with a heavy, but knowing heart that we learned that she has Alzheimer’s. Our family started seeing the signs a couple of years ago. At first we told ourselves that it was just a normal part of aging. The forgetfulness, the confusion. She told me several times over the last couple of years that she needed to get her “brain checked out” or that she needed some medicine for her brain. I would tell her, “It’s okay. I forget stuff too. Don’t worry about it.”
When she was officially diagnosed by a neurologist, we were not surprised. But we were devastated. I wallowed in my sadness for a couple of hours. Then I picked myself up and pulled my inner Betty up. My inner Betty is the part of my mother in me. It allows me to see the rainbow after the rain. It allows me to be optimistic. That part of her that has been instilled in me grants me the ability to put my sadness to the back of the line and look around and ask myself, “What can I do?”
My family has lot to learn about Alzheimer’s. We are just starting out on the journey. It is not a path of our choosing, But we will walk it together.
Normally I have lunch with my mother on Tuesdays. Not every Tuesday. But maybe two or three Tuesdays a month. I started taking care of her bills last year. They seemed to be getting away from her. So she and I decided that I would take over that duty. It’s just one less thing that she has to worry about. On a recent Tuesday, I ran into Fuzzy’s and got us a couple of tacos and some queso. No two people love queso as much as my mom and I. You should see her eyes light up when queso comes out of a sack! But this isn’t about queso, this is about cell phones.
One of the things that I take care of for her is her cell phone. She occasionally has trouble with it. She has lost it on ocassion. I have ordered her another one, knowing that she would find the lost one once the new one was ordered. She has occasionally let the battery completely run down on it. When this happens she plugs it in and waits for it to charge. After several hours she checks it and finds that she still cannot use it. She will call me on the phone and tell me “I need a new cell phone. This one is broke.” What has happened is the phone has turned itself off and she doesn’t know how to turn it back on. So one of us will go over there, push the green button and Voila! It’s fixed! This has happened at least twice in the last year. She has also said that she needs her air conditioning in her van fixed, only for us to find that the snowflake (A/C) button isn’t pushed in.
So after we ate, I was sitting at her desk going thru her mail, when all of a sudden she jumped up and said “I’ve got something I need you to do!!” and ran off into the other room. She very much reminded me of my grandmother, her own mother, when she did this. I don’t know if it was her tone of voice, her hand movements, or what. But guess what she came back with? A new cell phone still in the AT&T box.
I asked her, “Where did you get this?” She said she didn’t remember as she handed me the box. I opened the box to find a Samsung Galaxy Rugby. In the box was a receipt from Radio Shack for the purchase of a phone for $19.99. Now there were a lot of questions I should have asked at that particular moment. They did not come to mind until I went back to work and my brain started to wrap itself around some of the things that were said and happened during that little lunch period. She said, “I want to be able to take pictures.”
So I asked her “Is this a phone that you have to add minutes to?” She shrugged her shoulders. I asked her where her other cell phone was. The one that she uses all the time. The one that I pay the bill for each month. She went into the other room and returned with three more cell phones. Her regular black flip cell phone, a red flip cell phone she lost last year, and a Kyocera flip phone that I had never seen before in my life. She opens up the Kyocera phone as my head begins to spin and says to me “This one doesn’t have any of my phone numbers in it. I just use it when I want to call long distance.”
This is where I should have asked “Why don’t you use this phone?” as I picked up the black cell phone. But I didn’t. I took the Kyocera phone and turned it on and saw that it had the “Virgin Mobile Prepay” logo on it. So I sat that aside and said “We won’t worry about this one right now. It’s one of those you have to add minutes to.” Then I turned my attention to the Samsung phone. At this point, I guess part of my brain shut down. For some reason I assumed this was also a “Pay as you go” phone.
I took the sim card out of her cell phone that we pay for every month and put it in the Samsung phone. I tested it and it worked with that cell phone. Then I put everything back the way it was because it was time for me to leave and go back to work. As I put everything back I tell her “Your sim card works in this Samsung.” I’ll come over next week and swtich it over for you. We’ll have to make sure you know how to use it.
I leave her house with a slight sensation of vertigo. But I’m finally able to push those questions that are nagging at me aside. After being back at my desk for a couple of hours I suddenly realize I didn’t ask the question I should have asked. I wondered why a Samsung Rugby would be sold as a “pay as you go” phone for only $19.99. That was the price on the receipt that she showed me. But mainly I did not ask “Did you sign any paperwork?”
So I pick up the phone and call her and ask this question. She says “Yes, I signed some paperwork. I should have shown it to you, but I forgot.” So I ask her to go get the paperwork and call me back. She calls me back and I ask her “On that paperwork is there anywhere on there that it says anything about a monthly fee?”
She says “It say’s the monthly rate is $59.95.” I ask her “Why would you sign a contract for a phone at $59.95 per month, when you’re only paying $28.95 now?” We have a conversation where I confuse the hell out of her and she sends my head spinning all over again. So I ask her “When did you get this phone?” She says she thinks she got it Monday, because she was having trouble with her cell phone.
Knowing that time is of the essence and that she probably has at least 14 days, I call my niece and ask her if she will take this phone back and get the contract cancelled or pay a fee or whatever needs to be done.
My niece goes to my mother’s and finds that the receipt that I saw was for the Kyocera prepaid phone and the AT&T Samsung phone was purchased at Walmart. My niece takes my mother to Walmart and spends at the very minimum, a hour getting this taken care of.
Now I know my mother wants a new phone. She also wants a phone that she can take pictures with. I looked at the Consumer Cellular site and they have the exact same Samsung that she got from AT&T. So I’ve ordered that phone for her. When I told her I was going to order the phone, she told me “Oh let’s not bother with a new phone.” But I know she said this because she feels that she put us all out.
I’ve scolded her. I’m pretty sure my niece scolded her. But she has always been the type of person that leaps before she looks. She has always been a very independent woman. It doesn’t have to do with aging. Maybe the four cell phones do. But not the wanting a new phone. So even though she told me not to, I ordered her phone and I think she will be happy with it.
It has taken me over a week to write this little story. I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of relating exactly what happened over the course of a couple of days last week. Mainly because each time I started writing and recalling the sequence of events, my head would start to spin just a bit. It’s spinning just a bit right this very minute.