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Blogs of Writer, Artist, Photographer, & Caregiver Joanne D. Kiggins

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Joanne has published more than 2,500 articles and was award recipient of the 1990 Woman of the Year for Beaver County, Pennsylvania, for her accomplishments and excellence in journalism and to the community. Her co-authored book, “Unforgettable Journey,” won fifth place in the Grand Beginnings romance contest. An excerpt from her WIP, “Unearthed,” placed her fifth in the Absolute Write Idol contest. Most recently, her essay, “Perseverance,” is published in the Stories of Strength anthology in which 100% of the profits are donated to disaster relief charities. Her most recent articles were published in ByLine Magazine, Writer's Digest, AbsoluteWrite.com, and Moondance.org. She has a monthly freelance writing column at Absolutewrite.com. Currently, she is the sole caregiver for her 85-year-old mother.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve

The last day of 2007, New Year’s Eve, was a quiet one. I took Mom to day care for their New Year’s Eve party and Two and I went to Wal-Mart to buy a few movies to add to our collection. Stacey called to wish me a Happy New Year because she was having company for New Year’s Eve and she knew I was, too.

I picked up Mom at the usual time, brought her home, made dinner, and got her ready for bed. I learned a long time ago that it’s always easier to get her ready for bed before dinner because she’s always exhausted and less lucid by the time she finishes eating.

Mom received a piece of mail and I had her open it before dinner. When she looked at the envelope, she asked, “Who’s Sheila?” I said, “Ray’s wife.” “Oh,” she said. “Why’s she sending me something?” Mom asked. “I don’t know, Mom. Open it and see what it is,” I said. Mom opened it to find a picture with a post-it note on it. She couldn’t read it and asked me to read it to her. So I did. When she looked at the picture she asked, “Who are these people?” I told her the people in the picture were her grandson, his wife and their two daughters. Mom was seated in the middle of them. She recognized herself. “When was this taken?” Mom asked. “That was taken at Ray’s house when you went up there on Christmas,” I said. “I went there for Christmas?” Mom asked. “Yes, Mom. You went there for Christmas." “I don’t remember,” she said, as she put the picture on the table. She glanced at the picture several times while eating and I could tell by the wrinkles in her forehead that she was still trying to figure out when she’d been there and trying to figure out how the people in the picture were related to her. I tried to explain that Ray’s son is her grandson and Toby’s kids were her great grandchildren, but she didn’t comprehend the relationship at all. She just said, “If you say so.” She’s not able to comprehend how this all relates to her anymore. It is so, so sad. Even sadder is that she didn’t realize Christmas was here and gone.

During dinner I could tell she’d had a busy day. The lines on her face were more prominent and her eyelids were drooping. She was exhausted and as usual wanted to go to bed shortly after dinner. She was snoring her loud nasal snore within 15 minutes of being in bed.

Two came down to spend New Year’s Eve with me and spend the night. It was one of five times he’s stayed in the three years I’ve lived with Mom. Three were on New Year’s Eves and two were because Mom asked him to stay because she was afraid and wanted a man in the house.

We watched one of the movies we bought earlier in the day. Yeah, I know, on New Year’s Eve, it’s sort of odd to watch Halloween, but it was something to watch and we enjoyed it. Angel called to wish me Happy New Year and said she and Tim were staying home for the evening and watching Shrek 2.

Two and I snacked on a meat and cheese tray his dad brought us on Chritmas. It was delicious. The movie ended at 11:00 and I turned on the news to watch it and then planned to watch the ball drop at midnight. Two fell asleep during the news and I watched the countdown for the New Year. He woke up long enough to look at the TV, wish me Happy New Year, kiss me, and went back to sleep. LOL All in all, New Year’s Eve was a nice day and evening.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008--I Wish For Strength

One of my caregiver friends, Lori, is hoping for a better year. She hopes 2008 will be “her” year; A year of renewed life without pain, fear, tears, and hope of better things in her life. I wish that for her, too.

A writer friend of mine, Keith, asked what everyone had planned for New Year’s Eve. Keith said he stays at home, alone, and reflects on the past year and his life. He listed numerous questions that he asks himself each year to complete his day of reflection and those questions—extremely well thought out and excellent for reflecting on one’s life—really struck a chord with me. Not a bad chord in the respect that there was anything wrong with the questions, but in the respect that I felt worthless, hopeless, and lost when I reflected on those questions and answered them honestly.

Some of his questions were:
“What have I done with the year? Which goals did I accomplish and which ones didn’t I and why not? What am I willing to change about myself to accomplish those things? Am I living the life I want to live? Am I enjoying what I’m doing or did I just fall into it or am I living deliberately and on purpose or am I just taking everything as it happens and coping with it all? What’s been holding me back and how can I change it? What more could I do? Have other people’s needs and urgencies enveloped me to the point that mine, and my families, come second?”

These were just a few of some fifty questions he asks himself. The remaining questions were even more thought provoking, more deeply centered, and more heart wrenching to answer.

I haven’t done anything this past year for myself and I’ve given up any goals I’ve wanted to accomplish. I’m not living for me. I’m living for my mom, and her needs and urgencies have enveloped me to the point that mine, and my families have come second.

My life, this past year and the two before that, has been centered on Mom. That’s not saying that I would change it or want to change it; it’s just saying that I have concentrated so deeply on keeping her healthy and comfortable that my life has become unhealthy and uncomfortable. There is no life besides what I do with and for Mom. My life, as I knew it, has become nonexistent.

A feeling of worthlessness struck me head-on when I realized that even though Mom is doing fine, I’ve failed. I’ve failed Two Feather, my daughters, and my grandchildren. I’ve even failed myself. I’ve not been there for them during times they needed me most. I’ve not done things I would normally do and I’ve not lived life the way I would normally live. I’ve failed everything and everyone, except Mom.

My life is and has been hanging in the darkness of a disease called Alzheimer’s and, with each day, I hang on deliberately, yet I take everything as it happens and cope with it all. I cope with the explicit purpose that Mom lives on—only to die a horrible death. I feel worthless because nothing I’m doing will change the outcome.

As I reflect on this past year, there are probably many things I could have changed that would have given me and my family more time, more joys, and more life to live with each other, but had I changed what I’d done, I would have felt selfish. Nothing in this care giving role has ever been about me and never have I done anything for myself. I suppose I could change things in the upcoming year and think of my health, my family, and myself. I suppose I could take a long look at what I’ve done and what I haven’t done and try to decide whether or not it was all worth it. I suppose I could take my life back. But would that be me?

Someday, I’ll sit with Keith’s list of questions and answer them with myself in mind and maybe I’ll find answers that make me realize I’ve done something good. Someday, I’ll make plans and set goals for myself, once again, and no doubt accomplish them. Someday, I’ll live the life I’ve dreamed of, and do the things I’ve thought of doing. Someday. Someday when Mom’s life is complete. The last three years weren’t the years to do that. And 2008 probably won’t be either.

I can’t say that I wish myself a better year next year. There is no better with Alzheimer’s. Death may be better than the pain and suffering that will ensue. But I’ll not wish for death. I know when Alzheimer’s takes Mom I’ll still feel worthless and hopelessly lost.

Have I lived my dreams or done what I’d really like to do? No, not really. I was just starting to do that before I moved in with Mom. I’ve put Mom in front of everything and everyone, including myself. Yes, I’d like to be sleeping in my own bed, living in my own house with Two Feather, spending time with my daughters and grandchildren anytime I feel like it, and submitting and writing my novels. Hell, I’d just like to be writing again. Other than this stupid blog, I don’t even write anymore. I’d like to be getting on with my life, living my life, and accomplishing all the goals I set for myself back in 2004, but my life is on hold. I’m feeling worthless and lost—waiting for a hopeless and dreadful end—giving Mom love and the comfort of her home in her remaining time on this earth.

As I sit looking at Keith’s list of questions, I feel a mixture of emotions take over and I wonder when my someday comes if I’ll still feel as worthless and hopelessly lost as I do now. Someday, I’ll have those answers, and my life. Just not right now.

Right now, and for at least the beginning of 2008, the only plan I have is to continue doing what I’m doing and do the best I can for as long as I have left in me. Worthless as that plan may sound, it’s all I know to do.

Have I done what I planned for 2007? Have I accomplished my goal? Yes, I have. Mom is still with us. I guess I can’t think of any better way to start a new year than that.

Whatever 2008 may bring, I’m sure I’ll cope with it as it comes. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Whatever comes, I wish for strength.

Happy New Year, everyone. I wish you strength, too.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Alzheimer’s—A Sad Journey Ends Tragically

Man, 75, kills ailing wife, then himself, inside hospital.

The local news aired this shocking story today.

A man and woman’s 52-year marriage ended tragically last night when Mr. Riddle, 75, shot and killed his wife, Shirley, in an intensive care unit of the UPMC Hospital in Cranberry Township, Venango County.

Shirley, 74, had Alzheimer’s disease and according to their daughter, Mr. Riddle had taken care of her at home until five days ago when she fell, injured herself, and was admitted to the hospital for surgery.

According to state police, Mr. Riddle walked into UPMC yesterday, killed his wife with a revolver and turned the gun on himself. He left a note at their home stating that he could no longer permit his wife to suffer.

The complete story is online at the The Post Gazette.

This is just so sad.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas 2007--Making Memories

Here are just a few of our Christmas 2007 memories.
Katie holding her butterfly doll from Two Feather.

Mom opening sweatshirt.

Angel with pants we bought her.

Mom with her velvet coloring pictures from Stacey.

Me with bath set from Stacey.

Mom with jogging suit from Angel, Tim and Katie.

Katie opening present from Stacey.

Still unwrapping.

Of course, it's always been known that the boxes are the best presents of all.

One of these days I'll have to learn from Terry how to make one of those slide shows so these pictures don't take up so much room. LOL

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

To Cinnamin

We’ve all been lighting candles for the past few weeks for Cinnamin’s mom. Last night between 12:30 and 1:00 AM Cin lost her Mom to Alzheimer’s.

You were an angel to your mom, Cin. You’re a wonderful daughter. Hugs for the strength and courage you showed through this journey.

Know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

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Christmas—The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

For those who want to read nothing but peace and goodwill, and want to see a pretty picture of a family at a dinner table, all showing love to each other, you may as well stop reading now. Family died with Dad.

It’s over and I’m done.
Bending over backwards to please others is over and I’m done getting screwed.

I’ve written about a few of the petty goings-on with this so-called family, but I’ve kept quiet about a lot of the lack of respect and ignorance I’ve tolerated. That ends here too!

Ray, my so-called brother, hasn’t bothered to call or visit Mom in four months. Why? He tells everyone it’s because of me. He says I’m keeping him from seeing Mom. That’s a lie. The truth is, he doesn’t have time for her if visiting isn’t at his convenience, and four months ago, after his wife screamed at me on the phone accusing me of not letting him see her, we put a fence line up on the edge of Mom’s property. He did have time to hire an attorney to send a letter to Mom and me four months ago threatening legal action, though. Threatening me for trespassing on what is really Mom’s property that he is trying to claim as his, and threatening Mom with legal action to take that property he’s trying to claim. Nice son, huh!

Because of his and his wife’s attorney letter addressed to my mom, it was against my better judgment to bend over backwards to make arrangements for this so-called son to spend time with Mom on Christmas. But I did make those arrangements and I’m sorry I bothered, because I broke Mom’s trust. I’ll never do that again! So, here was my Christmas…

The Good

Christmas morning was wonderful. Two came down from our house and we sat upstairs enjoying our morning coffee until it was time to wake up Mom. I got Mom up and got her into the shower without a problem, made her breakfast and the three of us sat and talked until Angel, Tim, and Katie came to visit and open gifts. Mom enjoyed watching Katie open her gifts. She enjoyed opening her own gifts as well. Stacey sent a box from Alabama and Mom loved the new sweatshirt, handkerchiefs, and two black velvet pictures to color. Angel, Tim, and Katie bought Mom a new jogging suit and blouse. Two Feather and I bought her a new sweatshirt, blouse, pajamas, socks, emery boards, and chap stick. Stacey called from Alabama while Angel was there so she was able to talk to everyone.

Two left around 11:00 to go back to the house and wait on his dad and step-mom to come. Angel, Tim, and Katie left around noon and headed over to Tim’s parents to open gifts with them.

Around 1:00 Two, his dad, and step-mom came down to Mom’s and ate our early dinner with us. Mom met them a few years ago when we went to Two’s Dad’s house for a visit. She recognized their faces as being familiar, but she didn’t remember the trip. They stayed until 3:00 and left to finish their day. It was a beautiful morning and afternoon.

The Bad

This is where the day turned a bit sour. Mom was sitting content and comfortable in her chair in the living room and Ray came at 3:30 to take her to his house for dinner.

“Mom, Ray wants to take you up to his house for dinner for Christmas.”
“I don’t want to go up there.”
“It’s Christmas, Mom. He wants you to go to his house for dinner and spend some time with you.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want to go up there.”

Ray heard this conversation from the dining room.

“Where is he? On the phone?”
“No, Mom. He’s here.”
“You don’t want to come up for dinner? Why not? Pat’s there. Toby and Mandy and the kids will be there,” Ray said.
“Oh, you’re here. I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
“I know it’s been too long. I missed you,” Ray said.
“Yeah, you’d never know it.” Mom was irritated.
“So, you want to come to dinner?”
“Not really.”

Stupid me, trying to keep an argument from starting said, “Oh Mom, You’ll have fun once you’re there. They haven’t seen you for a long time.”
“I know they haven’t,” she said, glaring at me.

While Ray put her coat on her she glared at me the whole time. Piercing angry eyes, pleading for me to stop the process that was taking place. I knew if I didn’t encourage her to go I would have had an argument with Ray. I should have let the argument happen rather than put my Mom in a position to go somewhere she didn’t want to go.

She walked with her walker to the door turning and looking at me with those piercing angry and pleading eyes. My heart broke as she turned with tears in her eyes asking for a kiss and hug before she left. “I’ll miss you,” she said.
“You won’t have time to miss me, Mom. You won’t be gone that long.”

Twice, before she made it off the porch she asked for a hug and kiss and held me like she didn’t want to let go. Ray slung the diaper bag over his shoulder and Mom was at the edge of the porch and the walker rolled off the steps and crashed to the sidewalk.

“Stand there, Mom,” Ray said.
“I'll hold Mom while you get the walker, Ray.” I tried to say it as nicely as I could letting him know he shouldn’t leave her standing alone.

He tossed the diaper bag into the car and grabbed Mom’s arm to walk her to the car. I picked up the walker and folded it so he could put it in his car.

“Ray, she needs to use the walker at your house and she’ll need help in the bathroom, and not by you because that’s not appropriate.”

He nodded.

Mom made it to the car with Ray holding her arm telling her, “I’ve got you.” She went to get into the car and instead of sitting in the seat she fell into the seat.

“Well, you didn’t have me very good, did you,” she said to Ray angrily.

All I could think was, good grief, he hasn’t even left the driveway yet and already her walker went flying and she fell into the seat of the car. Is she going to come back in one piece?

As Ray walked around the car I said, “I’m holding you responsible for her while she’s with you. If anything at all happens to her, you call my cell phone immediately.”

“We’ll be OK, won’t we?” he asked me. He was nervous.

“If you listen to what I’ve told you, you’ll be fine.”

Mom waived at me from the car. Her face was filled with anger, hurt, sadness—and exhaustion.

Two came down to pick me up and we went to my house. All I kept thinking was that I didn’t stand up for Mom’s wishes as I normally do. I was sending her off with a son who hadn’t bothered with her for four months. She was going to spend an evening with a family of strangers. People—her grandson, his wife and great grandchildren who live 10 minutes away and haven’t talked to her or visited her since last Christmas. People, who have no clue that Mom can sit and talk to them as if she knows them, yet wonder who they are the whole time she’s talking.

Two tried to take my mind off my Mom by turning on a movie. It was an excellent movie—Black Cloud, about an Indian boxer. It ended at 6:30 and Ray called at 7:00 to tell me he was bringing Mom home. “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” he said. I knew it would take longer. It takes that long to get Mom from the house to the car. Two and I went back down to Mom’s house and sat at the kitchen table waiting.

The Ugly

Ray pulled in at 7:30. When Mom came in the door her eyes filled with tears. Whether the tears were relief of being home or distress from being away, I wasn’t sure, but I soon found out. I could see the exhaustion on her face.

“Are you OK, Mom?” I asked. She didn’t answer. She pursed her lips to keep from crying.

“Are you OK, Mother?” Two asked as I guided her to her chair at the table.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m tired. I’m glad it’s over.”

Ray went back out to the car to get the diaper bag and gifts.

I gave Mom a hug and asked if she had a good time. She looked at the door as Ray walked in and said, “I’m not doing that again.”

He set a bag on the floor and said there were a few pieces of pie in the bag and a few lottery tickets, a gift card, and some chocolate.

“Ray, you understand and remember me saying that this was a one time thing with Mom being up this late—that I’m not changing her schedule but this one time. This is too hard on her. She’s exhausted.”
“I thought you said she could come up for dinner on Sundays.”
“I did, and that’s only if Mom wants to go and if you change your dinner time to fit her schedule.”
He wasn’t happy with that, and looked at Mom for her to disagree. Mom looked up at him and said, “Yes, I’m tired.”
“I'll call you,” Ray said as he headed for the door.

Just before he walked out the door, Two Feather said, “Hey Ray, don’t you have something to say to Joanne?”
“I already said Merry Christmas.”
“Something other than that?” Two asked.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I think a ‘thank you’ is in order.”
“Oh yeah, thanks for letting me see Mom,” Ray said as he closed the door and left.

Mom grabbed Two’s hand and said, “Thank you. I’m glad you said that.”

Ray wasn’t even off the porch before Mom said, “I’m never doing that again!” She was angry…at me.

“Why Mom? What’s wrong?”
“Don’t you ever make me go there again. I didn’t want to go.”
“Then you have to tell Ray that so I don’t get accused of keeping him from you.”
“I did say I didn’t want to go!” she yelled. “You didn’t stop him!”
“No, I didn’t stop him. I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t want an argument on Christmas. From now on, I promise you don’t have to go anywhere you don’t want to. But this was Christmas,” I said.

“If I’m around next Christmas, I’m not going and if you make me go, I’m moving out of here! If it wasn’t for that lady, Pat, I wouldn’t have had anyone to talk to.”

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

So there it is. I tried to make Christmas enjoyable for everyone and all I succeeded doing was making my mom angry with me by breaking her trust in me.

I’ve been living with Mom and taking care of her for three years for her health, safety, welfare, and dignity. Until now, I’ve held to her wishes. I went against my better judgment to give an “I” person what he wanted. There is no “I” in mother. Mother ends with “her.” It should be all about HER.

Maybe I should have called you at one, two, three, and four o’clock in the morning when Mom woke up asking nonexistent people in her bedroom, “Where’s Joanne? Why isn’t she here for dinner?”

Maybe you can explain that to her. I can’t.

From this point on, whether people understand or not, there is no changing HER schedule for anyone. For this so-called family who claim they want to ‘see’ her—you’ll have to call or visit HER in HER house on HER schedule. If you can’t do that you’re not much of a family, are you?

It’s over and I’m done.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two Feather—The Problem Solver

It’s been difficult for me to get into the holiday spirit. On-going family issues that just should not be happening and wondering how I’m going to make time for everyone to see Mom has put a damper on any good feeling I have about this holiday.

In one last effort to try to make things right, I called my brother, Ray, yesterday morning and left a message for him to call me back.

I went on with my plans and took Mom to Angel’s house around 2:00 to bake and decorate cutout cookies. Ray called me back while we were there. I asked if he was planning to visit with Mom on Christmas since he hasn’t come around or called for four months. He said he hadn’t planned on it, because of me, but he would like to see her. I asked Ray if I hadn’t called to make these arrangements if he would have bothered calling. He admitted he wouldn’t have. I told him I’d keep Mom up a little longer on Christmas Eve so he could visit after she got home from day care, and he said he’d have to check with his wife and call me back.

Mom and I were at Angel’s house for only about an hour and a half and I took her home. When we got home, I called Two Feather to let him know we were back and told him my brother called me back. Two Feather told me to call him after I got Mom in bed because he wanted to come down and talk to me about something.

When Two Feather came down, he told me that while Mom and I were at Angel’s house, he went up to talk to Ray. He asked him if he’d received my message yet and Ray told him no. Two Feather said he was there to make peace and told Ray that I had called to make arrangements to set a time for him to visit with Mom. He also told Ray that the lies about me trying to keep him from seeing Mom needed to stop. Two Feather told Ray that five years ago when he met my older brother, Bob, he asked Two Feather to take care of me, and he is taking care of me—from this point on if anyone messes with Joanne ever again, physically or mentally, they have to deal with him. He told Ray that I was doing fine taking care of Mom, but all the other family nonsense was making me sick and everything that has been going on hasn’t been about keeping him from his mother. He told Ray that calling me names had to stop. Ray told Two Feather he appreciated him coming to talk with him. Two shook his hand in the Indian way expecting my brother to hold to his word from this point on.

I’ve said before that Two Feather always finds a way to solve a problem and he’ll either leave you with a smile on your face or something to think about. It didn’t surprise me that he took it upon himself to try to make peace during a holiday he doesn’t celebrate. To Two Feather people should gift others with kindness and gratitude every day of the year, not just on one day. Everyday is Christmas.

When Ray didn’t call me back, Two and I sat and talked about other options. I called Ray this morning and told him that since it’s Christmas and I’m trying to make everyone happy, Mom could go off her normal schedule for one day so she could have Christmas dinner with him. He could pick her up at 3:30, spend a few hours with her before they had their dinner at 5:30, have dinner, and still spend some time with her after dinner.

Yes, Mom is normally getting in bed at the time they’ll be eating dinner, and she’ll be tired, but I guess it’s better to see her tired than not at all.

No matter what adversities we meet, Two Feather is always the problem solver. It’s just his way.

Peace is the best present I could receive right now and Two Feather has gifted me greatly.

Two Feather, thank you for that, and I thank the Creator for sending Two Feather down my path just prior to the time when I would need someone like this the most. I’m sure my Dad is smiling now. So, Two Feather…Wado. Gv Ge Yu I (This means, Thank you, I love you.)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Thinking Too Much and Loving All Of You

Lately I’ve been thinking far too much. Thinking can get me in trouble and opening my mouth about what I think gets me into much more trouble than just thinking. Many of my caregiver friends have lost their loved ones to Alzheimer’s and now they are grieving their loss and trying to find a new purpose in life. They are very special to me. They came into my life when I didn’t know where else to turn and became my friends and became family. They are so fragile right now; I worry about all of them.

Betsy, Lori, Nancy, Flinty, and Stef, I watch, read, and listen to all of you and my heart breaks each day for you, wondering if you’re all okay and how you’re holding up.

Flinty makes me think even more than I do already with his deep and thought-provoking posts. I like that! Stef makes me think about when I was her age and how I handled situations and I find she’s very mature for her age. Betsy, Nancy, and Lori always come around to support everyone sharing their thoughts and advice, and no matter how down they may feel, they always seem to add a touch of humor. I just want to thank all of you for being the kind, caring, considerate, and loving people you are.

Here we were, a group of caregivers, all fragile in our own little way, who came together to cheer each other on, give support, and help guide each other in the right direction, and we all found that there is no “right” direction—except move forward moment by moment. We did find each other, and what we found was a group of people who know how to care, know how to love, and know how to give of themselves when there seems to be nothing left to give.

I wish I could comfort each and every one of you personally because I’ve grown so fond of you, your words, your lives, and your strength.

Strength is something I thought I was full of, but I’m finding more strength from everyone’s caring and loving words than I find in myself. Now, I just think I’m full…of what, I don’t know. You can fill in the blank however you see fit. :)

I find strength from Rick’s posts as well. He makes me laugh when I least expect it and his comments are sometimes hilarious and sometimes touching. No matter which they are, they always seem to fit for the mood I’m in at the moment. Thank you for that, Rick. You’re a great guy and your mom is lucky to have you.

As for Gale and Dave, and those I may have missed—your loved ones are so very lucky to have you as well. Everyone’s posts are so thoughtful, caring, and loving. I guess I’m feeling a bit strange tonight because I’m thinking of all of you, all at once.

I think of Cinnamin right now, who is pacing, wondering, and worrying, and I know how hard that is for her—how hard it was for all of you. I did the same thing when my dad was near death. My heart breaks for all of you, yet my heart knows that you are going to get past this and continue to care, love, and give to those who are still close to you. Cin, my thoughts are with you and my candle is lit.

Tonight, I lit a candle for each and every one of you wonderful people. May the light that shines from those candles shed some brightness in your life and light the way to your dreams.

What I’d like to give to each and every one of you is my utmost respect. I can’t think of a better group of people who deserve it. I can only hope I’ve been there for you as you have all been there for me. Thank you for being you. I love you all!

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My Poor Little Sweetheart

With everything else that’s been going on, I failed to mention that Stacey called me early Friday evening. I swear my girls have this little test they give me now and then to see if I’m paying attention. I can always tell by the sound of their voices whether something is wrong or if they call just to talk. One of these days one of them is going to give me a heart attack. Normally when the “something is wrong” voice is on the other end of the phone and I ask them what’s wrong, the answer is either “I just wrecked my car” or “I’m at the ER.”

Well, Stacey’s response Friday evening was, “I’m at the ER.” My grandson, Quenton, fell at the day care and banged his face on the toilet in the bathroom. He had to have five stitches. My poor little sweetheart. I feel horrible for him and Stacey. I know she had calmed down before she called me because she wasn’t in tears and I didn’t have to ask, “What?! What happened?! Are you OK?!”

Stacey, I hope Quenton is feeling better by now. Give him a big hug and kiss from grandma.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Safely Home by Priests of the Sacred Heart

I normally don’t talk about or post religious things but this has me stymied. I cleaned off Mom’s dresser on Saturday and the only things left on it were her jewelry box, a few pictures of her and Dad, her handkerchiefs, and her hairbrush and comb.

This morning, the same things were on the dresser as were last night. I spent the entire day with Mom, never leaving her side. She never went to her bedroom all day and we had no visitors.

This evening, when I put her to bed, I found a card on her dresser. This card was not even part of the mess I cleaned off her dresser. It’s an old yellowed card from the Priests of the Sacred Heart Monastery that my dad used to contribute to each year.

Here is the front of the card.

The back had this poem on it. I don’t know if it was a sign or if it was just there to be shared. It touched me, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. It says so much about death, grieving, and life.

Safely Home

I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! But Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still:
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth—
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.

When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!

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Someone Took Over The Dance Floor

I didn’t get the presents wrapped as I planned after I logged off last night. Instead, I spent the evening, and most of the night, sitting in a chair by my mom’s bed calming her down. Apparently she was dreaming of this Mr. N., again. Not such sweet dreams this time, though. She was already to get dressed and go to “club” to fight the new lady who’s making moves on this guy. I guess this woman was dancing with Mr. N. in Mom’s dream and Mom wasn’t happy with how the whole dance went. “She shouldn’t be acting like that with him,” Mom said.

Mom’s totally forgotten that Mr. N. is married. She wouldn’t give him the time of day, other than friendly talk, if she didn’t have this mind-stealing disease Alzheimer’s. I told Mom it’s nice to have friends at club, but she can’t very well get angry at another woman when, in fact, Mr. N. shouldn’t be acting that way with either one of them because he’s married. That didn’t matter; according to Mom, the new woman is married, too. Mom has no concept of marriage anymore, either. Oh brother!

I finally got her calmed down when I said, “Mom, you’re 84, you’d look pretty silly fighting with another woman over a man.” I think some part of her “old self” snuck back into her head for a few seconds because she said, “yeah, I don’t want to make an ass of myself.” I’m not sure whether she thought she’d make an ass of herself because she was considering fighting, or because he is married. Either way, it was a long night. She was up every hour angry with this other woman who’s taking over the dance floor. On the brighter side of this whole night without sleep—she didn’t remember any of it in the morning.

It’s been a cold and blustery day. First it snowed, then it rained, then it snowed again. The ground is covered.

This morning when we ate breakfast, Mom mentioned how tired I looked and I simply said I didn’t sleep well. :) I didn’t mention anything of what went on during the night and I didn’t mention that there was a pot in the middle of the dining room floor catching water either. Yes, just one more thing to FIX. The house has a new roof, so I can’t imagine where the water is coming in. Must be a slow leak or loose flashing near the dormer. As soon as the temperature changed and it started snowing, the leak stopped and I was able to remove the pot before Mom got up. Guess we have a spot on the roof that will need fixed and a dining room ceiling that will need spackling and painted soon.

Mom colored in her coloring book for a good portion of the day. I sat in my chair near her in the living room trying to strike up a conversation. Even tried to get her to play with dominoes but she was having a difficult time with how that game goes. We ended up with tiles stretching from one end of the table to the other with no specific end. She won, though, because she was the first to use all her tiles. We colored together the rest of the afternoon until it was time for me to make dinner.

I watched the wind pick up snow and twirl it off the barn roof and blow it onto the ground. A chill went through me each time I looked out the window. As a writer, my imagination can sometimes make me literally feel the things I see. I’m looking forward to crawling under warm blankets tonight and hoping for a good night’s sleep. I hope that’s not in my writer’s imagination, too.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas ...at least outside!

This is Perry Como in 1958. I got a kick out of watching the video since I remember the old black and white shows. Thought you might enjoy it too. Sorry for the link, but I don't know how to post the YouTube box right on the blogger.

I have to get myself out of this slump I’m in, so the only thing I can think to do is force myself to get things done. Last night I made a list of things to do today and Sunday and I’ve nearly completed the list already.

First thing on the list was Mom’s shower. This morning when I got Mom out of bed we headed straight for the bathroom. She wasn’t very pleased that she had to take a shower and wash her hair again, but cleaning up at the sink just doesn’t do the job. She was a bit more agreeable with taking the shower when I told her she was beginning to smell. “I don’t want that,” she said. She didn’t say anything during the shower except that she was cold, and of course the heater was blasting and I was sweating. ;)

When she was clean and dry I weighed her. In September when she was in the hospital she weighed 171. On November 19 when she was at the doctor she weighed 153—a loss of 18 pounds in two months. This morning she weighed 142—down another 11 pounds. She’s lost 29 pounds since September 18—that’s approximately 10 pounds a month. As the doctor suggested, I’ve been giving her Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure, puddings, and yogurt. She’s still feeding herself, but she doesn’t eat much. He told me at the last appointment not to bother with the diabetic diet anymore because at this point I just need to try to keep giving her nourishment and he’d rather see her glucose levels a bit higher than to have them plunge to lower dangerous levels. Even with all the weight loss she looks great.

The second thing on the list was to clean off all the junk on Mom’s dresser and throw away all the old lotions, bottles of old nail polish, lipstick, and fragrances that have done nothing but collect dust on her vanity for the past three years. Once I sorted through all that and threw out what wasn’t needed I gave both the dresser and vanity a good dusting.

Next on the list was to go through her clothes closet. Since she’s lost weight, I slid all the clothes that are too big into the back corner of the closet and took all those she can now fit into and threw them in the washing machine. She now has a whole new wardrobe to wear. LOL

She’s not reading anymore, so I took all the piles of books beneath her roll-top desk in her bedroom, put them in boxes, and placed them on the sun porch with the rest of her books.

Then I sat down with her at the kitchen table and addressed Christmas cards. She signed a few and didn’t want to do it anymore, so I finished the rest.

After finishing the cards, Mom and I went into the living room and I put her small tabletop tree on the end table. I put a few ornaments on and asked her to finish it. She only put two ornaments on and was tired and had to sit down.

I’ll probably find another string of blinking lights and a bit of garland and put them on tomorrow. She still didn’t grasp the whole Christmas thing, but she liked watching me “work” as she called it. LOL She watched me put the rest of the ornaments on and she wanted to go to bed.

The last thing on my list is wrapping the presents that I bought yesterday. I’ll wrap all those after I post this and I’ll be finished. I doubt I’ll decorate much more. All my shopping is finished and I even have a turkey breast and ham in the freezer for Christmas dinner and pork for New Year’s. Figured I’d better get all the fixings for both meals because I’m not sure how the weather will be in the next couple weeks to go shopping again.

It’s snowing right now. So far we already have about an inch, maybe more. I haven’t ventured outside to check, but I suppose it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it's still not feeling much like it.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

I Hate This Disease!

Mom received more Christmas cards today. One from my brother, Bob and his wife, one from my daughter, Angel and her family, one from Ardis, and one from Gale our GLO member. Thank you, Gale, Mom thought it was nice of you to send a card to someone you don’t know. :) Mom knew Angel and Tim but couldn’t remember Katie’s name even though it was on the card, she wasn’t sure who the other cards were from, so I went through the conversation again.

I watched her go through all the cards again today and she opened the new ones. She doesn’t bother to read them; she just looks to see who they are from and puts them down. I asked her if she knew what the cards were for and she said, “no.” When I told her they were Christmas cards, she said, “oh.” She does not even understand what Christmas is at this point. I knew it was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier. That's why I wanted everyone to come for Christmas two years ago.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who have lost their loved ones and are going through a difficult time during this holiday season. I’ve lit a candle for all of you and also for those who are still caring and especially Cinnamin and her family who are so close to the end. Hugs to you all. Please know that I’m thinking of you.

Have I said I hate Alzheimer’s? I’m sure I have, at least a thousand times.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Shopping, Christmas Cards and Who’s …?

Mom received several cards yesterday. She didn’t know who they were from.

The conversation went like this:

Look Mom, here’s a card from Bill.

Who’s Bill?

He was the best man at your wedding.

Why can’t I remember that?

Here’s one from Alma.

Who’s Alma?

Ardis’ sister.

Who’s Ardis?

Boot’s mom.

Who’s Boots?

Bob’s wife.

Who’s Bob?

Bob is my brother, your son.

It’s heartbreaking to know that she’s fading away day by day. Bob just called this weekend, too. But that didn’t ring a bell either.

Today she received two more cards.

Here’s a card from Larry.

He’s a cousin, isn’t he?

Yes, Mom. He’s your cousin.

Here’s one from Kary.

Who’s Kary?

Bob’s daughter.

Who’s Bob.

We went through all the cards and the same conversation all over again. By the time she asked, “Who’s so and so” for the fourth time, she literally laughed so hard she had tears in her eyes. After we went through the cards again, we were both laughing so hard she put the cards aside. Then she said, “It’s nice of these people to send cards whoever they are.”

I pulled out a box of Christmas cards and got ready to start addressing them to those who sent to her. She said, “I’m not sending cards to people I don’t know. What are these cards for anyway?”

I set the box of cards aside. My heart just wasn’t in it.

Two has been trying, but even with all the shopping and wrapping I still can’t seem to get into the Christmas spirit. Gee, I wonder why. It’s difficult trying to celebrate a holiday when Mom seems to have lost the concept of everything. Thanksgiving came and went and she had no clue what Thanksgiving was. I don’t think Christmas is going to be much different.

On another note: The 12 days of hell weren’t all bad. My daughter, Angel, visited both weekends and we enjoyed spending time with her, Katie and Tim. Katie is growing so fast and picking up so many new words. It’s always a joy to have them visit and Mom enjoys watching Katie play with the pillows on her couch and look through magazines.

On December 7th, Two and I celebrated our fifth year together by going out for breakfast, and we spent the day shopping. Two saved his money from his last four wood sales and managed to get all his Christmas shopping done for his six kids and seven grandchildren and his parents. We also bought presents for my daughter, Stacey, her husband, Dennis and her three kids, Trinity, Quenton, and Deandre, in Alabama. We wrapped everything and sent all the presents Monday. I still have to buy for Angel, Katie and Tim and Mom and Two. I probably wouldn’t have all Stacey’s family bought for already if it wasn’t that I had to mail everything.

Trinity surprised me with a phone call last week. She sounds so grown up on the phone. She wanted to know what size shirt Two wears so she could get him something for Christmas. I thought that was so sweet.

I’ve yet to visit Stacey and the kids in Alabama and I still haven’t seen their house. It’s not a trip I can take Mom along on. Two never gets to see his kids either, unless they come here. The trip to see them is too much for Mom as well. He sacrifices so much to support me in taking care of Mom. He’s yet to see two of his grandchildren.

Oh yes, in case you lost count, between the two of us, Two and I have eight kids and 10 grandchildren and one on the way. We’re getting old! LOL I just hope that he and I are not too old to make the trip to visit everyone when this journey is over.

One more thing: I did manage to get a few books read in the wee hours of the morning when Mom was up and down. So, I’ll be posting a few more book reviews as soon as I type them up from my handwritten versions.

And...Yay! The furnace is finally fixed.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twelve Days of Hell…

And I thought it was supposed to be close to the Twelve Days of Christmas. HA!!

Sorry to have worried everyone by my lack of posts. Thank you all so much for your posts of concern here and emails sent. Really, Mom’s fine. I’m fine…just totally frustrated and exhausted, and I didn’t want to write and be accused of “whining” by cretins (not you Alz and AW pals), who think they know everything.

Where do I start? Oh yes, the furnace. The furnace is still on the fritz. We thought it was fixed, but it stopped working again, and again, and again. Poor Tom, the furnace man, has been out here going on a dozen times to get it working. I feel bad for him. It runs for a while, quits, and won’t fire back up. He changed one part and after installing it found out the new part had a factory defect as well. Got another one and the furnace worked another two days. Can’t be that new part! Found out there was sludge in the fuel and the nozzle was plugged now too. He treated the fuel oil. It ran for about four days after a treatment then quit again. We put straight kerosene into the tank to thin the sludge. It ran two days and quit. This morning, Tom replaced the fuel line from the tanks to the furnace because they were plugged. It ran five minutes and quit. Now, poor Tom is frustrated too. He’s getting another new different part right now, and we’ll see if that makes a difference. We’re both frustrated with this furnace, and of course the darn thing quits during the night when the weather is at the coldest temperatures. Ice cubes anyone?

In between the furnace issues, I called on November 23 (before any snow) to make an appointment for a local mobile tire company to come put new winter tires on the car on November 29. They didn’t show up or call because (of course we got snow on the 28th), they had a slew of emergency calls. A courtesy call would have been nice. I called them the next day and they rescheduled for Tuesday, December 4. Waited all day, no show, no call. Called around to get prices elsewhere and no one had the tire in stock. Called them back on the 5th (now we have a snowstorm), to find out when they would be out to install the tires and they told me to come into the shop and they would put them on. So, finally, by 3:30 December 5th I have winter tires on the vehicle and have 30 minutes to pick up Mom. :D

All the while in between all this, I’ve been dealing with these crazy night visits by some nasty old woman Mom keeps seeing. I guess she got tired of Mr. N., and we’re back to the old woman. Either way, I wish they’d both go visit someone else so I can get some sleep. I’ve been trying to catch a few hours sleep at home while Mom is at day care, but that’s not working out well because I’m not one who is able to sleep during the day no matter how tired I am. Have a call into her doctor to see if there’s anything he can recommend for her to take to get some sleep and get rid of these visitors. (I wouldn’t mind so much if they would do some housecleaning, errands, and work while they’re here. LOL Yes, that was my attempt of being humorous.)

Then, since it’s been doing nothing but raining in between the cold and snow, we have a muddy mess in the driveway. So we had to call in for gravel to keep from sinking in the mud. That seems to be packing in fairly well so in the next few days we’ll be calling for more to give the driveway a better base.

And then, we have to deal with those hunters Betsy mentioned. You would think that people who post their own land with no trespassing signs would not trespass on someone else’s property to shoot a deer. But…no, we have ignorant people who not only trespassed off their property onto ours, shot the deer, drug it on our property down a gully, across my neighbor’s front yard, down our driveway, and had their buddies pick them up at the bottom of our drive. Of course, I know who they are but I couldn’t do anything because they pulled all this while I was picking up Mom. When I got back I saw the truck pulling out of our driveway, I saw the bloody drag marks everywhere, but they were long gone before I could get the license number and make of the truck. I can’t stand ignorant people who think the law only applies to others or when it’s convenient for them.

On top of that, I have a friend who is going through a very rough time right now and she has me worried sick. I won’t go into detail about it, but please keep her in your thoughts.

So, I’m sitting here typing with finger-tip-less gloves, freezing my rear end off, waiting for the furnace to be fixed, worrying about my friend, hoping Mr. N., and the nasty old woman finds someone else to visit, wishing it were spring, and wondering if I’ll ever catch up on the sleep I’ve lost. Other than that, it’s the same old thing on a different day.

And…I haven’t decorated for Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!

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