Throwback Thursday…Big Hair and Bright Pink Lipstick

Waiting, in a daze.

She hears a song.

Wistful about times gone by.

a moody eyelinered man sings about love, and love lost on a mix tape now discarded.

Music beams her back.

Permed hair, lots of hairspray.

Bright pink lipstick.

A skirt that swirls just a bit, tanned legs

Dancing, feeling weightless, no pain.

Her eyes are closed, feeling happy and tranquil.

Lost in memories of friends and good times.

Then, “ma’am, MA’AM, its your turn”.

Nothing like being called ma’am

to jolt one back to harsh reality.

Not much to say about this one, except that I confess to having big hair at one time.  In summer the bright pink lipstick usually went with a tan, in the days when I didn’t worry about aging or skin cancer.

Throwback Thursday…..Written on Your Face

I knew your mother, so I met you.

Your mother, when I met her, was plummeting into the depths of a neurological affliction. An affliction slowly taking away the essence of who she is, her ability to talk and her ability to express herself.

Because of your mother I met your dad.  Your dad, a devoted figure at your mother’s side. Everyday trying to do the right thing. sometimes, struggling to hold back a tear or two or three.  Sometimes leaving the room if your mother’s mood changes because of her disease and she says something hurtful.

You, when I met you, almost always polite, smiling and gracious in  difficult situation. Do you get this from your parents, I wonder.  I can tell, though when you are having a harder time, your mouth hardens and your skin color pales.

Your mother, day by day, fading.  Still though, her face bears a royal countenance, a sort of beauty to be immortalized forever in a statue.  Sometimes a smile breaks the stillness of her face, a beautiful smile, a smile to be treasured.  A smile to connect her with husband, her children, her grandchildren.  A smile not to be forgotten.

Your dad, a representative of both parts of the married couple.  Stories to be told. Connections to be had.  I, who pride myself on being professional, steely and detached, soften as I get to know your dad.

You.  I see much of your dad in you.  Always trying to do the right thing.  What did you get from your mom, it is harder to know, apart from your clear blue eyes and shape of your cheekbones.  Oh and you have your mom’s smile as well.

Your mom.  Fading.  Withdrawing. Hungry only for the smallest amounts of food.

Your dad.  More tears, sometimes hidden.  Trying to get your mom to eat bites of most anything.  Mashed potatoes, sherbet, foods that take little effort to swallow.

You.  Are you aging or just simply weary?  You’ve grown a beard which partly masks your beautiful smile.  As you stand next to me, talking about your mom, I look up at you, your teeth almost seem like aging tusks emerging from your beard. No matter the physical price this journey seems to take,  still though you are devoted.

Your mom, slipping away from the world.

Your dad’s tremendous loss and sorrow.

You, your devotion.  Though not your intention, a lesson about family for your children.

The chapter of this book has closed.  Tears I did shed for the life of this lovely woman. Memories will be saved of her, and her wonderful family.

I wrote this post in early 2017, after the death of one of my patients.  When you are in nursing school, they don’t really prepare you that you are taking care of family members as well as your patients.  The family members I wrote about here were incredibly gracious in such a difficult situation.   It was an honor and privilege to know them.

Some family members aren’t so gracious.  My work family closed a chapter this year with a daughter of one of our patients who was always a challenge.  Wild accusations, swearing , insults and even slapping one of the workers who was caring for her mom was part of our time with this particular woman.  Thank goodness she was the exception and not the rule.

 

Taking Mom to the Store

I head down the interstate to see my mom.  Today I am taking her to the doctor.  After that we’ll have lunch and then go grocery shopping.

The doctor is very patient with her.  At times I wish he would take control of the conversation.  Hearing her odd tales in front of another person is somehow more painful then hearing them when it is just the two of us.

Dementia is a strange thing.  Things that would have been forbidden once upon a time, my mom now does.  She has some grapes in the cart.  She starts eating them one by one as we stroll through the store.  She would never had allowed us as kids to eat the grapes unwashed, before we had actually paid for them.  During another trip, she has a bag of pastries in the cart.  She starts eating them before we get to the register.  She remembers to tell the cashier how many pastries there were originally so she can pay for everything.  She would have never done things like this years ago.  I don’t try to redirect her because I don’t see it will be effective.

I encourage mom to load up on the groceries.  I want to set up grocery delivery for her, but she gives strange nonsensical reasons why this won’t work.  When winter comes, though, we’ll need to have this conversation again.  Mom has helpers come into her house a few times a week.  She explains to me a bizarre reason why they can’t take her to the grocery store.

At the end of the grocery store trip she is exhausted.  We need to sit a bit before we get in the car.  I gather that she hasn’t had adequate fluid intake on this day in an effort to decrease her urinary incontinence.  She doesn’t seem to follow me when I tell her that dehydration will make her feel dizzy and weak.

When we get home, she has to rest in a chair for a while.  I give her some water to drink, make sure she is feeling better and then get back on the road.

My mom was fit for many years and then something happened.  Arthritis?  Fear?  Pain? If I lived locally I would try to take her out every day to get more exercise so a trip to the grocery store wouldn’t be so exhausting.

The day is exhausting for me, not physically, but emotionally.  Being a spectator to the cruelty of dementia is hard.

 

The Circle of Life

14549882916_0032a05d95My son has his driver’s license now.  I wasn’t quite ready for this, but his dad and I certainly appreciate being released from some of the chauffeuring about town.  On the other hand I used to have some good conversations with the kid in the car.

As our kids become more independent, my husband and I are watching our parents become more frail.   I watch my mom struggle with with both cognitive and physical issues.  How long will my mom live in her frail state, a decade?  Mom’s struggle to stay independent means she’ll see suggestions to make her like easier as people trying to boss her around.  I’m a nurse.  Spending time on the other side though, as a family member, through ER visits, hospitalizations and doctor’s appointments is eye opening.  Many wonderful caregivers, some not so wonderful.  Some definite concerns during the ER visits, the most basic of nursing care needs to be addressed along with the more complex tasks.

My husband is watching his dad become more frail.  I sit on the sidelines and watch the difficult family dynamics.  Dynamics that are perhaps changed by the presence of my father in law’s second wife, who he married very late in life. His children have less of a voice as his wife claims to know what is best for him.

I frequently visit the website of my “hometown” newspaper.  This week I saw that a former classmate had died.  She was a woman.  As far as I can tell, it has been the guys I grew up with who died early.  I was surprised to see her name.  We weren’t close, but I still wondered what happened to her, what caused her to die relatively early.  I also a former coworker in the obituaries, see her name was another surprise.

The circle of life comes with much joy, but also sadness.  I’m not ready for the s.adness

Burden

In my internet travels I came across a couple women sharing just how incredibly burdensome it was to take care of their husbands with depression.

I just know what I read but something seemed off about their words.  They painted their husbands as a standalone source of dysfunction in the house.  But if you poked a little bit further you could see there were other problems.  One of the women was a recovered alcoholic.  Both put too much of the family’s dirty laundry out there.

I’ve been down that journey with my parents and even my sister in my younger years.  This was before my sister started drinking and was still the oh so perfect child.  But as I deduced later I just represented one portion of our family’s dysfunction which manifested itself in depression in my early twenties. During that period I was the one who needed to fix herself, not anyone else.  My family didn’t like me fixed though because I began to speak up and assert myself more often.

I wondered if I am burdensome to my family.  I try to be the best parent I can be, but I’ve had failures. This month was terrible workwise, but I generally miss very few days of work.  I shower, do the laundry, make home cooked meals try to attend to all that is needed of a wife and mother.  I cracked wide open this month, but then went back to trudging through everyday life, with the new challenge of attempting to help my aging mother.

I have no doubt that having a depressed spouse can be challenging.  Describing your depressed spouse as a burden helps no one though

Throwback Thursday…Big Hair and Bright Pink Lipstick

Waiting, in a daze.

She hears a song.

Wistful about times gone by.

a moody eyelinered man sings about love, and love lost on a mix tape now discarded.

Music beams her back.

Permed hair, lots of hairspray.

Bright pink lipstick.

A skirt that swirls just a bit, tanned legs

Dancing, feeling weightless, no pain.

Her eyes are closed, feeling happy and tranquil.

Lost in memories of friends and good times.

Then, “ma’am, MA’AM, its your turn”.

Nothing like being called ma’am

to jolt one back to harsh reality.

Not much to say about this one, except that I confess to having big hair at one time.  In summer the bright pink lipstick usually went with a tan, in the days when I didn’t worry about aging or skin cancer.

Never Ending Dysfunction

My sister has been staying at my mom’s house for a visit.  These visits are tremendously stressful for her because she will harbor the ideas of guilt of what she should be doing for her mom, but her ideas of what she could be doing rarely turn into action because she becomes quickly overwhelmed.  My sister and my mom can’t get along but they have this relationship where they can’t leave each other alone and I often play odd man out.

I went to visit, a bit of a drive from where I live.  I thought we would have some lunch and that would be it.  As soon as I get there, I can see my mother is struggling to keep up with being able to live alone.  I don’t know that she takes her meds appropriately.  Any suggestions of what could be done to make her life easier are instantly shot down.

At this point my mother is angry that we have confronted some of the issues that she struggles with.  She takes her anger out on my sister who has been drinking during her stay with my mom.  Now I more than anyone understand the anger and frustration with my sister’s drinking.   The things my mom says though are unspeakably cruel.  She calls her a slut multiple times, she says she wants nothing to do with her and that she(my sister) is not her daughter any more.

At this time my sister’s normal reaction is to bolt.  She usually ends up in a bar somewhere.  This time she tells me she can’t take her life anymore, she is depressed and wants to get help.

So we go to the emergency room and work our way through the system to see what can be done.  Her blood alcohol level is sky high.  The staff asks her lots of questions and her answers sometimes vary.  A physician asks her about the quantity she drinks each day.  On this occasion she says her drink of choice is wine(she drinks anything).  Once she tells him she drinks two glasses of wine.  Another time she tells him she drinks a box of wine a day.  “A box?” he says, puzzled, but then moves on.  I’m not sure the physician knew boxed wine was an actual thing.

My sister is directed to a treatment center eventually where she currently withdrawing from alcohol.  I hope it works.  Earlier in the week she had attended an AA meeting where she met a man who gave her more alcohol and tried to assault her.

I’m not sure what the answers are.  I pray that this time she can gain peace and sobriety.

Summer Snippets…Time Travel, Role Reversal

Sitting in my mother’s living room, in the house I mostly grew up in, I feel like I am travelling back in time.

The living room especially hasn’t changed very much since I was a kid.  Some new furniture mixed in with the old.  The paintings on the wall are the same.  Newer curtains that look just like the old.  Other parts of the house evoke a similar feeling.  As I sit in a chair in her living room it is easy to let my mind drift by to the days of being a teen.  I get the same feeling in the dining room, memories of dozens of holiday meals and who sat where at the table and what sort of dishes were used.  At times it is a comforting feeling. Other times I look around at things that could be spruced up or fixed, if only mom would let us.

One day, mom sat in a chair and I fixed her hair for her.  I was glad to do it, but perhaps not ready for the role reversal.  I’m sure many more role reversals are yet to come.

Summer Snippets…Odd Woman Out

My mother is aging and she needs more help.  She is trying to bounce back after a hospital stay.  In our own way we are each trying to help her.  It is scary to travel on the interstate to see your mom so much you barely remember your trip, you are so busy thinking of all of the family drama.

My sister wants to make this a contest.  She has done so much, according to her.  She perhaps has done a little more than me, but I want to scream YOU ARE GETTING PAID by mom to help out.  I don’t expect to get paid, but I sure don’t appreciate your martyr complex when you keep leaving that detail out.

Sister says she has been spending hours upon hours cleaning.  I’m not sure where those hours were spent as the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, stove all have a coat of scum on them.  Perhaps a coat of scum that my mother just does not see anymore or doesn’t have the energy to care about. Maybe my sister doesn’t clean her own kitchen…who knows.  So while she has a temper tantrum, I clean the kitchen. My sister has trashed the part of the house she is staying in. Hopefully when my sister picks all her crap up from the floor, my mother won’t notice that a room that had stayed pristine over the years now has a stained carpet.  WTF.

There is a weird dance between my sister and I.  She has been lashing out at everyone and anyone because she feels left out.  She is mad that her life choices have put her in a place where she is in a financial mess, so god forbid anyone have more opportunities than she does.  Yet she seems to forget that between the three of us, my mom, my sister and I, it is I who have been left out.  Whether my sister and mom are getting along or not, they have always been in constant contact….not so for me.

I’d like to think my sister is staying sober.  Even if she is sober, it seems like her brain has changed over the years in a way I no longer understand.  She is paranoid about hurts others have inflicted on her, but seems to have almost no memory of her behaviors.

You would think after decades on earth together, we would have this family thing figured out.