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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.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

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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Blogger *(¯`·¸*Chris*¸·´¯)* said...

Holy Toledo....what a day! All you could do is try and that is what you did. Belive it or not, your mother raised a fine daughter to try to smooth out such awful wrinkles on Christmas day. My hat's off to you. I don't think I would have kept my cool as well as you did.

12/28/2007 1:56 AM  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

I'm sorry things went so sour. You did your best. That's all we can do sometimes. ((hugs))

12/28/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger nancy said...

oh joanne, my heart breaks for you. you tried what you thought was best and now you will respond differently in the future.

you have been a good and faithful daughter, remember that. hopefully your mom will forget this trying time soon. many (((hugs)))) to you!

12/28/2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger cornbread hell said...

i don't know your family. so i'm gonna be blunt and naive all in one. why can't ray just come over once a week for breakfast or lunch or whatever?

sorry, i know it's none of my business, but gosh. it just sounds so...wrong.

one thing i think i do understand, though; you and two are good people doing the right things. i admire you both.

12/28/2007 9:32 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks Chris. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Betsy, I did do my best. I'm the one who even initiated the visit because I think it's wrong for him to ignore his mother. What more can I say...he just doesn't get it. You and all the others know what this disease does. When our loved ones get exhausted it's cruel to keep pushing them to continue on. He just doesn't understand or chooses not to accept that it is the disease and not me.

Nancy, Thank you. I will be responding differently in the future. I'll not let anyone or anything interfere with the care I've given Mom and I'm certainly never going to allow her to be hurt by clueless people in the process.

Once a week never fit into Ray's convenience. The first year I took care of Mom, I was home 24/7 with her. He could have visited any day, any time. Especially since he works out of his home just a mile away. He saw her once a month. I even called his wife to talk with her to encourage him to visit Mom more often. Her answer was, "I can't make him do what he doesn't want to do." She's obviously forgotten that call from three years ago. The second year of caring, I began taking Mom to Day Care once a week. After nine months, I increased it to three days. It's only the last six months she's been going to day care five days and he still only visited with her once every 4-6 weeks on a Saturday or Sunday. Golf on Saturday is more important and they refused to move their dinner hour earlier so she could still be home before she became exhausted. So she refused to go. She made excuses to him not to go to his house for dinner because she wasn't comfortable there and she quit going. (That, in his mind, was my fault.) There really is no reason why he can't visit, I've never stopped him...he just doesn't fit her into his schedule. It has to be his way or no way, with no concern about how Mom feels. And yes, that's just wrong.

Thank you for your kind comment. It's good to know that others who have dealt with and still are dealing with this awful disease understand the complications that set in when our loved ones deteriorate. No matter how much information I've given him and his wife, and my other brother about her illnesses, they just don't get it. And they choose to believe I'm the cause of all her changes.

12/28/2007 11:04 PM  
Blogger cornbread hell said...

as i slowly begin to understand what you're having to deal with, i think i'd have been tempted to give your brother a box of exploding golf balls for christmas.

or maybe a box of golf balls with "MOM" painted on them.

12/29/2007 7:23 PM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

ROFL, Rick. You really make me chuckle.

"or maybe a box of golf balls with "MOM" painted on them."

I really like this idea. Put Mom where the balls should be. Oops, excuse the pun. :D

12/29/2007 7:37 PM