Recent Letters from Mom

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There are several people who are close to me, who I greatly admire,

that are caregivers to one or both of their parents. I have mentioned

my Mom moving from her (and Dad’s) Lake Erie cottage over a year

and a half ago. Mom had many choices of senior apartment centers.

These facilities have good safety practices in place, provide a more

interactive, “better” environment than living by herself.

She happened to (luckily) like the place that was almost directly across

the road from where my brothers and my sister in law live. The move

was definitely met with a deep sigh of relief when we had her there,

especially during the winter months! No worries about Mom falling on

unshoveled sidewalks nor icy steps out of her house!

I may have mentioned, more than once,  that we have corresponded

through the “snail mail” system since I went away to overnight camp,

college and moved away from home. I have been wanting to share

some of my mother’s noticeable changes and some of her wacky

character traits that have stayed the same. I enjoy her being a “wild

and crazy” 83 year old woman who is not just my Mom, but a dear

friend, too! She encouraged me always to be myself and to have a

spunky nature. She, on the other hand, has gone more towards being

full of “piss and vinegar!”

Mom’s letters have become erratic in their appearance and content.

I notice this especially since she uses a lot of dabs of white out along

with numerous misspellings and tangled words. Here is an example of

her attempting to spell the word, “survivor,” where you can tell, poor

thing, that she is sounding it out: “servyver.” I had to use the context

of the sentence to decipher it: “I am a servyver.”

Another sounding out and combining word sentence is describing her

favorite food from the dining room lately as “a huge sandsuage with

lettuce, tomato and onion.”  She later mentions by ordering this from

the (senior apartment center) dining room, it ensures she gets a lot of

beef! I can tell it is a combination of sandwich and sausage.  I wish to

point out that one sad part of her mind going just a bit is that she used

to do the crossword puzzles, up until the month she moved into her

apt. and had her minor heart attack. We could tell she was starting to

misplace things and she had bounced checks even before the medical

situation came along. All of this, is a little disheartening, remembering

her role as a teacher of English, Literature and Spanish. It is more

noticeable to me, not my brothers, who are no longer the recipients of

her letters.

She asked me after I left on my last visit in mid-September, in one of

her letters, “Did you take my key? I cannot find my checks nor my credit

card.”

My brothers and I have been trying to get her to establish a routine

with her keys, one is on a wrist band- the key to her apt. door. And the

other is on a lanyard, necklace around her neck- the outer door key.

I am sure because I have read some of your experiences on your blogs,

my older friends, that include this part of aging. This is both frustrating

and somewhat fascinating to see the parts that are held onto so tightly,

such as the distant past memories.

The threads that get most tangled up and show a complete loss of

understanding of basic functions are the saddest ones. I have to bite

my tongue when she repeats watering a plant within five or ten minutes

of the last time she did it. She wonders, aloud, why her plants seem to

“die more here” (meaning the center) than they did at home. I also,

have to not say a word, when for some inexplicable reason, she turns

the apt. key to the left, right, then left again to unlock it. Then, when she

is leaving, turns it to the right, left and then right again to lock it. This

new ritual is totally weird, to me!

She wrote in her letter last week, “They gave me another door key for

the one that got ‘lost.’ I just hope it doesn’t take off on me again!”

I guess I wish her “old” self were still able to write like she did because

I so enjoyed and treasured her letters! I did keep many which had

memories recounted, stories shared and her thoughts for many

years on all kinds of subjects! We even would carry on “debates” on

issues and also, would describe parts of shows to see if the other

managed to stay up ( and not fall asleep in the middle of them!) She

is much more of a “night owl” and thus, can sometimes ‘fill in the

blanks’ on our favorite shows. I have to remember the best blessing,

though, which several of my friends whose mothers have passed on,

that having her, no matter what shape her mind is in, that is the treat

and the pleasure. I also, know this is just the “tip of the iceberg” due

to her possible declining over time, both in mind and body…

On to the lighter, more funny side of Mom! She likes to daily order for

her dessert, chocolate ice cream and cookies “to go” which she saves

for guests and if we would like, we can take about 30 home with us

each month! My sister in law and brother sometimes take a few back

home across the street.  But the bulk of the cookies are all bagged up

and in the refrigerator for me!

Well, Mom was “dismayed” recently, written in her letter, that “They

are now cracking down on us residents and not allowing us to order

a dessert to eat and one to take back to our room.”

“I always told them,” she goes on (being a little sneaky and conniving)

to explain, “I need two cookies for my bedtime snack!”

Another totally funny (at least to me) direction she writes about is my

male friends and my different  dating experiences.

Here is how Mom addressed the recent turn of events with “new”

Mark. Also, the way it is going with my guy friends, Bill and Gary,

probably. She may also be referring to the Lenny fiasco! You never

know with my Mom! She keeps me guessing!

“Sorry about the beau dissapoinments. No fair! They took a lot of

your time. Guys just think of themselves!” (Yes, she misspelled the

word, “disappointments.”)

Another part of her letter to me,

“Don’t worry so much about being alone! I am fine being in my being

in aloneness. You will find things to occupy yourself. The dog makes

me feel useful, I sometimes sew and recently I take notes on the

lessons that are on the Catholic chanel, History chanel and some

science shows and I don’t know that chanel! I like watching the Hy-Sy

chanel, too.” (She missed “channel” and “Sy-Fy” which, even I,

occasionally write “Sci-Fy” instead.)

This next episode of her life, her trip to the grocery store on the bus,

may be amusing in its entirety.

“I filled my cart up with chocolate candies and dog chewies. I had to

get these since Nicki needs to use the few teeth she still has left in

her mouth. I bag up the candies for the servers in the dining room.

The kids like the candy and I like that they help me get my cookies and

a banana.  Then, at the check-pit: no credit card accepted except one

I don’t have—–So, I just left the stuff at the check-out. Said I was sorry.

What I wanted was unable to my taking home, what a waste of 2 hours!

I tried to think of the bus ride and the seerch for the items as some

form of an exercise.” (I think you will get the gist of what she was trying

to say without my pointing out spelling and syntax errors.)

Before Mom signed off on this letter about her grocery trip, she wrote

a thought someone else had suggested about the men in my life:

“Give the guys a foot to rump. (at least in imajunation!) And be aware

that is it their loss, not yours. You are speshul and happy weather to

you!

Love, Mom

Hugs! NIcki sends xxxxs!”

If you are taking care of a parent, other relative, are a home nursing or

hospice staff worker, you are very special indeed! I admire your strength

and courage to face this daily. I hope you will feel free to write some

helpful suggestions on how to stay in a positive frame of mind. I also,

wonder, how to help her with the keys and the credit card, checks and

money. We want to give her a little and yet, if we give more, it can be

lost, misplaced or stolen.

P. S. In the nursing home, where I was the Activities Director, we would

go to the office with the elderly clients, they would “sign out” their cash

and we (my activity assistant and I) would put the money in an envelope

to hold for them. Once at the store, we would help some of them choose

their purchases, then when checking out, we would pass the envelopes

to each person.

This worked well, but took a lot of supervision, time and energy. We

usually took 10-12 people in our wheelchair accessible bus. It amazes me,

when I think back upon those times. Maybe partly due to the fact I was

(10-14 years) younger at the time. But mostly due to the fact that we were

not related to any of them, it went so much more smoothly!!

Additional facts about Caregivers provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance:

44 million Americans provide unpaid care for an adult family member or

friend.

2/3rds of caregivers are women.

Average age of caregiver: 48 years old.

Average number of hours given during a week to caregiving: 21.9 hours.

70% of caregivers have to cut back on their profession or work, reducing to allow

more time to give care to their family member or friends.

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About reocochran

I am experiencing crazy and hapless adventures in dating that may interest people over fifty. I am now approaching 62 later this year and enjoy taking photographs, incorporating stories or poetry on my blog. I have many old posts which are informative and written like essays. I have several love stories collected from family and friends. Even strangers spill their stories, since I am a grown version of the girl next door. I have been trying to live a healthy lifestyle with better food selections and active hiking and walking. I have written four children's books and illustrated them. They are not published but a battered women's shelter used one about neglect and abuse for their children's program and a 4H group used my "Kissing a Bunny is like saying a Prayer" as a coloring book. Please comment or respond so I may get a chance to know you. Sincerely, Robin

28 responses »

  1. I love when you write about your mom. It’s hard to watch someone you love begin to decline in those subtle ways…yet her spunk and joy is still evident in her letters to you. What a wonderful way to stay in touch and share life’s experiences with each other.

    • Thank you for saying this, Tracy. I am blessed by her! I hope that it doesn’t make others sad to know I have one parent alive still. I know my two best friends (one in Lancaster, Ohio and one in Delaware, Ohio, along with my daughter in law), have lost their mothers. I am aware it could seem a little bit “braggy” or something… So glad that you can see her spunk and joy in my retelling and sharing her recent letters!

  2. You have such a wonderful relationship with your mom. That’s so great! Were you both always like this or have both of you gotten closer as you’ve got older? I know that’s what has happened for me and my mom. I don’t think we’re as close as you are with yours (still working on that!) but definitely better than when I was in my 20s.

    My mom and stepfather are also about to move (finally!) from NYC to Connecticut to a more townhouse style place in the same city as my brother and his family. This would also reduce my driving time to them by one hour, which is good. My stepfather has fallen at least twice this year. very badly, and of course, winter is coming, hence the move. You never really think of your parents as “aging” do you? But I guess I’m entering this new stage of life now.

    Great post, as usual!

    • It is so hard to face the aging, Belle! I think my Mom always seemed daring and invincible! I am sorry about your stepfather’s falls and that does take a toll on their health. I have always been the only girl, part of why I am close to my Mom. I also had a Mom who was very open, hence there were the lessons to us and the neighbor kids (with permission granted) about everything including what the numbers “69” meant! (I wrote a post about that, too!) My Dad was a “rocket scientist” and thought of us as his “specimens” and was so involved and caring. I don’t write about him as much since he passed away in 2001. But, definitely like my Mom, a Hoot and Holler kind of guy!

  3. Your mother must have been a real pistol! I can sense your love for one another in your story, and I envy you your close relationship with your mother (and hers with you). I worked in an assisted living home for awhile before I retired, and it was our task to make the last period of their lives as comfortable as possible. I particularly felt bad for the people who never got a visit from family or friends. In that sense, your mother is most fortunate to have you and your sister’s family nearby. It is heartwarming that you are doing all you can to cherish her during her later years. – Mike

    • Thank you, Mike! I did not know that you did this very challenging work. I think it is so caring of you to have done this; making elderly people’s last days comfortable and you are a kind man to give them soothing words and comfort, too. I am definitely blessed, I think her teaching high school led her to be so outgoing, sometimes, when I was younger, I would get embarassed, now I am the one embarassing my two girls. Somehow, my son is totally amused by my being like my Mom!

      • Many women would not take it as a compliment to be told, “You remind me of your mother.” In your case I think it is high praise indeed! 🙂 – Mike

  4. Your mom has such a great outlook. How wonderful that you have corresponded with her all these years. I love that she connives to get treats for her kids. That is so sweet. It is hard to deal with the memory loss that occurs, and the daily reminders that the skills are fading. My husband’s grandfather does not remember the previous years I made his cabbage rolls, and so each year I go to make them, he worries they will not be good or I will not finish them in time. Then each year he is grateful, but forgets. It’s sad for me.

    • It is sad, about your husband’s grandfather forgetting, but you still make the special meal of cabbage rolls. He then is happy when he tastes them, like he had not known you were able to cook them so well! I think it is also a nice story, since you do it anyway for him! Memories of the distant past may be more easily conjured up, of his childhood, teens and married life. Does he remember his grandson, your husband and any of the fun things they did together?

      • He does remember things pretty well. He remembers everyone, even me. 🙂 He just doesn’t remember to have faith in my cabbage rolls. 🙂

      • I guess that is the important part, remembering his loved ones! I have read of a few people and know one of my friends’ mothers who doesn’t recognize her. It is sad… but how you cook is important and I think he should trust it to be deliciious! I love cabbage rolls!

      • Oh, wish I could try them! Sending leftovers is out of the question? Smile! I am going to the movies and dinner with Gary, the male friend, sports writer for the Columbus Dispatch. He is just a nice guy and a friend. I tell him this, it is a little different from Bill, who has figured out we are just friends and makes it “work.”

      • Sushi sounds delicious! I did not catch where the conference was? I am leaving the library so don’t worry, will check back on Sat. for your destination! So happy that it is going to be a family trip! Whenever my Dad went to the Ancient Astronauts Society meetings in Chicago, we would tour museums and hang out with Mom! Some fun also while Mom would go to teaching conferences, Dad was in charge and we would tour Philadelphia, Washington D.C. or other cities.

      • Oh, I love Massachusetts! Well, this should be a lovely time of year to be traveling there! Hope it stays dry and you get lots of photographs, thanks to those coooperative family members! Smiles and a hug for your special messages!

  5. With so many people living longer these days I guess it is just a sign of the times, as we age so do our responsiveness, it is good that your mom still writes, not many younger peeps do that with having computers and laptops, note pads and other technology. I wonder how many of us would struggle in the spelling without spell check and the like.

    I know your mom is forgetful, as are many of our octogenarians but at least she is safe in her new surroundings and that is really nice. The fact that she enjoys her environment is even better, as a lot of homes for the elderly fall way short of what anyone would call home. Have a lovely Thursday Robin and have some fun too, I always do 🙂 😉

    Andro xxxx

    • Thank you for writing quite a few nice comments on my recent posts! I appreciate your thoughtfulness and lovely words, too! I am very thankful to have Mom around, get concerned and I am sure that I should not worry too much!
      She is a night owl and they have her on “surveillance” when she leaves the back door of the facility to walk the dog after midnight, they have asked her to walk to the front door. She will be timed and if she dilly dallies, they send the young security man after her! I laugh because she and my Dad, once retired really did stay up late!
      When I go there Oct. 25 through Nov. 2nd, (her b’day is Nov. 1st: All Saints Day, you bet she mentioned that numerous times over the years!! Smile!) I will have to stay up sometimes until 2 a.m.! Fun times, hope you have a wonderful weekend, Andro!

      • I am also a night owl and would easily stay up longer, indeed way past 2am as this is my daily routine 🙂 Your mom sounds very nice my sweet friend 🙂

        Andro xxxx

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