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WritingAfterDark

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.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Errands, Lunch Out & Ticket Waived. YAY!!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Today was errand day. First, Two Feather and I went to pick up Mom’s prescriptions at the drug store, then we stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few things (for both our house and Mom’s) we couldn’t live without until Monday, and then we decided to go out for lunch. We went to Kentucky Fried Chicken. That was a real treat. Of course we had leftovers because both of us have eyes bigger than our stomachs and neither of our appetites have been very good lately. Looks like he doesn’t have to cook for himself again tonight. He gets to eat the leftovers.

Just before I left to pick up Mom at the Day Care, the Chief called me and told me he would waive the ticket. He said that there have been so many complaints about residents not moving their cars that the ticketing officers write the tickets regardless of the situation. He did say that he wished they had used a little discretion with this.

Since this is a holiday weekend, he told me to bring the ticket into the office on Tuesday and he’d take care of it.

I thanked him and told him I would see him Tuesday.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Alzheimer's--Bad Days, Bad Nights, Humor

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I finally talked to the Chief after another call to the station. I explained the situation about the street sweeper and me stopping to drop off my mom at the Day Care. He said he would check into it and call me back.

Mom had a restless day at the Day Care. The nurses told me she was nervous all day and had a few accidents. That pretty much tells me I’ll have my work cut out for me during the wee hours of the morning. When she has a bad day at Day Care, I can normally count on not getting any sleep for the night.

Tonight I didn’t get the chance to lay down and wonder how long it would be before the first shout of “Joannnnnne” would come. It came 15 minutes after she was in bed. “Joanne, I need a drink.” Thirty minutes later “Joanne, I have to go to the bathroom.” Twenty minutes later “Joanne, Did you lock the door, I don’t want anyone getting in.” Fifteen minutes later “Joanne, I can’t sleep, I’m scared.”

“I can’t sleep either, Mom, cause I’m not in bed.” I said laughing.

She got the biggest kick out of that. Alzheimer’s Disease is a horrible, horrible disease. There is nothing funny about it, but it is funny how some of us can find humor in just about anything. It’s the humor that gets us through each day.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ticket--Still Waiting

Wedenesday, August 29, 2007

I never received a call from the Chief about that ticket yesterday so I called again this morning and left another message with dispatch. Dispatch said he did forward the message and had no idea why I hadn’t received a call back.

The ticket indicates that fines must be paid within 15 days or further legal action would be taken. I figured the Chief must have had a busy day yesterday and today because by 3, I still hadn’t received a call back. I called the direct number for the police station and received the administration office. The lady there told me that she did give him the message and she would be sure to have him call me back. I guess at this point I’ll be waiting until tomorrow. Not sure when his shift ends.

Mom was exhausted again when I picked her up at Day Care. She knows nothing about the ticket and I didn’t bother telling her.

I made a nice dinner of chicken, noodles, peas and carrots and diet pudding. Mom liked it all, but ate only a few bites of each. She said she wasn’t hungry and was tired.

She's asleep now, so I plan to stretch out on the bed and catch up on my rest.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Street Sweepers and Designated Patient Drop Off Area—Parking Ticket

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I didn’t get much sleep last night between being stressed out from my brother’s ridiculous accusation and Mom getting up six times during the night with nightmares and needing help going to the bathroom.

The alarm rang at 6:00 and my feet were on the floor and ready to start the day anyway. Performed all the usual tasks of getting Mom ready and drove her to the Day Care. I turned down the street two blocks from the Day Care as I always do and saw the street sweeper sweeping the street. A police car was parked behind the sweeper and two police officers were walking and ticketing each car that hadn’t moved overnight. I sat behind the police car waiting. They police motioned me past and I stopped and waited behind the street sweeper. The driver of the street sweeper motioned me past, too.


The Day Care was two blocks away. I pulled up to the “patient drop off” sign, helped Mom out of the car, and walked her to the door five feet away. I figured since it was a “patient drop off” only and the sidewalk was marked with yellow lines for that purpose, I thought the officers would use a little discretion. The officers and street sweeper were a half block away and watched me walk her into the Day Care. They knew I wasn’t parked there overnight. By the time Mom and I were in the door and I came back out, the street sweeper by-passed my car. As I walked out and was about to get in my car, the officer pulled up behind my car, put his lights on, and said, “Hold up a minute, Maam.”

“You’re not going to give me a ticket, are you?” I asked. “This is a patient drop off,” I said, pointing to the sign.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “The street sweeper had to go around your car.”

“You watched me pull up. My mother has Alzheimer’s and I was dropping her off at this Day Care. It isn’t like I’m one of the bozo’s who live here and choose to ignore the sign every week and don’t bother moving their cars.”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said and walked away.

The head of the Day Care watched from the door. She shook her head and summoned the second officer from across the street.

“Can you help this lady?” she asked. “She wasn’t parked here overnight, she was dropping off a patient, one of my clients.”

“We can’t void these tickets. You’ll have to take it up with the Chief.”

I threw my hands up in the air, shook my head and said, “Oh well, just what I needed this morning, more inconsiderate people. Where is the compassion in this world?”

I hopped into my car and put my seatbelt on. Then, before I turned on the ignition, I leaned my head against the steering wheel and cried. After dealing with my brother’s nonsense and inconsiderateness the night before, and first thing in the morning receiving a $25 ticket from an officer who could have used a little discretion, I was at my wits end.

I drove to the police department and picked up the red phone. Dispatch answered and said they’d send someone to open the door. No one came. I waited fifteen minutes before giving up, getting in my car, and heading home.

On the drive from the police station to my house I thought everything I try to do turns to shit. I felt like giving up on everything because nothing I did mattered and no matter how hard I try, something or someone always kicks me in the teeth to knock me back a few steps. Half way home, my inherited, “get up and keep going” attitude kicked in.

With me, when something goes wrong, first I feel hurt and cry. Once the crying is over, the anger sets in. If I have time to get over the anger and I think about the situation, my determination to make things right kicks into first gear.

I didn’t walk into the living room and tell Two Feather I was home as I usually do when I arrive. Instead, I picked up the phone and dialed dispatch again, explained the situation, and asked that they tell the Chief to return my call. I was told he gets into the office around 9:00 AM and he would probably call me back later today.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Back on Mom’s Schedule—Back to Unneeded Stress

Monday, August 27, 2007

It felt great sleeping in for two days but I’m back to waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 and back to sticking with Mom’s schedule. I woke her at the usual time of 6:30, washed and dressed her, took her blood glucose test for her diabetes, had her take her pills, and guided her out the door and into the car to take her to the Day Care.

The sun was shining on my deck when I arrived and Two Feather and I sat outside and enjoyed our morning cup of coffee together. Neither of us felt like doing much so we just sat and enjoyed the sun and talked about the projects we need to do around our house and Mom’s.

My flowerbeds are overgrown with weeds and wild grapevines from the woods surrounding the house have stretched into the yard and over the fence. When fall comes and trees and bushes lose their leaves, we’ll have a major project on our hands.

I called for estimates last week to have a few trees removed from Mom’s because they are a threat to the house and telephone and electric lines. I also asked for an estimate to have the leaning trees removed from behind my garage and along the side of my house. Better to be safe than sorry.

Two Feather and I talked about how we’ve neglected our house and yard because we don’t really have the time to take care of it after we take care of Mom’s place. We’ll eventually get the work done at our house. It may take some time, but we’ll whittle away at it little by little. We will have to start working on it in the next month or so in order to make any progress before winter sets in.

Today was a beautiful day, sun shining and not too humid, and discussing our thoughts on sprucing up the place gave us something to talk and think about. The time seemed to fly and before we knew it the time had come for me to leave to pick up Mom at the Day Care.

The nurses at the Day Care told me Mom didn’t have a good day. She was moody all day and had several incontinent accidents. That was apparent to me when I walked in because Mom had on the “spare clothing” I’d given the Day Care in case of accidents.

On the ride home, Mom’s mood didn’t seem to be any better. Mom didn’t remember that she had been cleaned and changed at Day Care. I guess one of the good things about Alzheimer’s disease is that the loved one forgets they were embarrassed. Unfortunately, the feeling of embarrassment seems to stick with them in an uncertain way. It changes their mood and they can’t remember why they’re angry, but the anger lingers.

Mom didn’t make it to the bathroom once we arrived at home, so I ended up putting her in the shower again. Then, she remembered what happened during the day and became angrier.

“I hate this,” she said. “I did this all day.”

“I know, Mom. Don’t worry about it. Sometimes we have accidents. Let’s get you cleaned up and you’ll feel better.”

She cried the entire time she was in the shower.

Needless to say, after those type incidents, making dinner and trying to eat is a challenge for the caregiver. What appetite one may have had, is gone. In most cases, the loved one normally forgets the incident, sits down to a nice meal, and wonders why you’re not eating dinner, too.

Mom’s appetite isn’t what it used to be. The diabetic diet isn’t the problem, but the amount of food is. It used to be that she could eat the limited card-deck-size piece of meat, the potato or starch, and the vegetables, and ask for more. Lately, I’m lucky if I can get her to eat half of that before she tells me she’s full. Tonight she ate only a few pieces of chicken, a few bites of baked potato, a few teaspoons full of applesauce, and no vegetables.

We sat at the kitchen table and talked for a few minutes and she began to doze as we talked. We were running a bit behind her normal schedule because of the shower, so by 5:45 she was ready for bed; by 6:00 I could hear her snoring through the baby monitor. She’d had a long, hard day with all her accidents and mood swings, and the continued louder pitch of her snoring told me she was totally exhausted.

Two Feather normally comes down to visit me after Mom is asleep. She’s been aware of this since I moved in and said she feels better when he’s here. She’s even told him he should move in, too, but he respects her too much to have her embarrassed by the possibility of him seeing her walking through the house half dressed at times. He always side-steps this offer by saying, “I appreciate the offer, Mother, but I need to take care of our house, too.” She’s content with that.

We sit upstairs and quietly talk for about 30 minutes and he goes back home. This evening because Mom and I were running behind schedule, his visit was later than normal. He came down around 6:30. Just before he was getting ready to leave at 7:00 PM Mom’s phone rang.

Everyone in the family knows Mom goes to bed early and has been directed to call my cell phone if they need to call after 4:30 PM, so I figured it was a telephone solicitor.

Boy was I wrong. It was my brother. He called to ask me why there were stakes and rope at the top of the path. I told him that after the recent storm the path was blocked with trees and Two Feather put up the stakes and rope because he’d be working down there with his chainsaw. He knows his grandchildren play in his yard and he wanted to make sure no one came near there when he began to work on cutting up the fallen trees.

“That’s not why you put them up,” he said. “You put them up to make a point!”

I’m so tire of my brother and his attitude. The only time he calls “me” is to bitch about something.

“What the hell point would I be trying to make by staking and roping off a path that you haven’t used in three years?” I said. “You haven’t used that path since you told me to tell Two Feather he had to cut the grass because you were going on vacation. You haven’t been back to cut the grass or do anything around Mom’s house since. Do you realize how ridiculous and childish you sound?”

“You put them up to make a point,” he repeated.

“So you’re calling me a liar?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Two Feather has never cut wood close to someone’s yard before. I don’t appreciate being called a liar. Excuse me for the fact that Two Feather shows consideration to everyone. I don’t need to explain to you what Two Feather or I do on Mom’s property, and I’m really sick of your childish nonsense. Why don’t you grow up? By the way, what time is it?” I asked.

“Seven, why?”

“What time does Mom go to bed?”

“Five.”

“So, why are you calling her home phone at 7:00 PM? You know to call my cell phone after 4:30. And since you called only to start childish nonsense again, let me remind you that you’re not to stop by the house without calling and verifying if it’s a convenient time.”

“There was no problem when Angel was there.”

“You don’t see barging in on someone else’s visit a problem, I’m sure. But problem or not, it’s a matter of courtesy toward my mother. I either don’t answer the phone because we’re not home or I’m busy with her. Busy can mean many things: She has company, I’m giving her a shower, cleaning up her bed after an accident, cleaning her up after an accident, or her mood and agitation level is bad. The last thing she needs is you just stopping by when we’re ‘busy’ with something like that.”

After a few more insults from my brother bringing up past garbage that has nothing to do with Mom and her illness, I gave up and hung up the phone. I’m so tired of his intimidation tactics and his attitude toward me, and his lack of consideration and courtesy toward my mother.

I’ve sent him information about Alzheimer’s Disease so he could get a better picture of what is going on; to help him understand. I even marked off the stages that she’s already been through. I’d think that he’d have some clue since my dad had this disease as well and died from it nearly 10 years ago.

Sometimes caregivers can explain until they’re blue in the face, the need to keep the loved ones on a schedule, the many things that can and usually do happen during the course of a day, the need to clean and change the loved one, the moods, the agitation, etc., but some people just don’t get it!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

The End of My Respite Care Weekend

I slept in again this morning, which not only delayed but also put a halt to the idea Two Feather and I had for today. We thought about going to an open-air flea market in Kirwin Heights where we used to set up his Indian art. We haven’t been there for three years. It’s an early market, though, most vendors are set up at 6:00 AM and leave by 1:00 PM, so it was senseless for us to drive the 45 minutes knowing most of the vendors would be packing up to leave.

Two Feather and I spent the morning talking about how odd it felt to sit on our deck and enjoy our morning cups of coffee together as we did every morning before I moved in with Mom. We reminisced about the powwows and gatherings we had enjoyed and talked about what we might do with our time when the day comes that we’ll be together again.

That discussion didn’t last long because we both felt it was somewhat wrong to discuss a future when the alternative meant that Mom would no longer be here. Yes, we miss our life together, but neither of us would wish for the inevitable to come sooner in order for that future to happen. Our life together was and is precious but having Mom around is too.

We also talked about something that disturbed me on Saturday evening after I called to check to make sure things were running smoothly with Mom and Angel. My brother has been given specific instructions to call and arrange a time for his visits. He’s been told that if I don’t answer the phone we’re either not home or I’m busy with Mom. “Busy” could mean I’m giving her a shower, cleaning up a soiled bed, cleaning accidents on carpeting, or cleaning up Mom after an incontinent accident.

Lately, if I don’t answer the phone and call him back to his immediate satisfaction, he’s been showing up at the house unannounced. He’s found no one home and drives back to his house. I know this because he left a message saying that he stopped by and for us to call when we got back home. When he has shown up during one of the above mentioned busy times, I’ve called him when I’m finished and asked him not to just show up. He accusing me of “not letting” him see my mom. He tunes out what he doesn’t want to hear and exaggerates what he thinks he hears. His response has always been that he doesn’t have to listen to what I say, and his attitude is that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with no regard to anyone but himself.

The last thing Mom or I need is for him to push his weight around after dealing with one of the situations that I mentioned above. Each of those situations changes Mom’s mood and the mood that results from them is seldom easy to deal with. It takes her an hour or two to get over her anger of incontinence and her anger that she has to take a shower. Most Alzheimer’s patients despise getting in the shower. Any caregiver can tell you that performing daily hygiene is no easy task.

Saturday evening when I called Angel, she told me my brother “showed up” without receiving a call back. Needless to say, this put a damper on the only respite care I’ve had in more than a year. Mom isn’t comfortable with him visiting when I’m not around. I was a bit disappointed in the events that took place and unfortunately expressed that disappointed to my daughter. If I had paid a home health nurse to stay with Mom, that person wouldn’t have known my brother from a rock, and therefore would not be obligated to open the door. I did however understand that Angel was put between a rock and a hard place trying to enforce the simple request I’ve made to my brother, over and over again. She didn’t want to deal with him any more than I do. She’s heard about the outrageous nonsense I deal with from him, and sometimes it’s better to totally ignore people who just don’t get it.

Rather than cause a scene, in front of my mother, and her grandmother, she told him he could visit for a little while, but he’d have to leave soon because she was getting ready to make Mom’s lunch.

Not only did he not comply with my request of him not just showing up, but also he infringed on the time my daughter took out of her busy life (driving four hours from her home) to share with her grandmother. Both, in my opinion, were just more representations of the rudeness and lack of consideration my brother shows. It never ceases to amaze me why some people think they aren’t obligated to comply with the guidelines set forth by the caregiver for the comfort, health, and welfare of a loved one.

I returned to Mom’s house at 3:00 PM so Angel could drive the four hours and be home before dark. She didn’t leave until 4:00 due to the frustration I showed and the discussion we had over this matter. Even leaving an hour later would have put her at home before dark and before Katie’s bedtime at 8:00 PM.

When I didn’t receive a call from Angel by 9:00 to tell me she arrived home safely, I became concerned and called her cell phone. She called back about fifteen minutes later. I could hear the frustration in her voice. Some of it may have been from the conversation we had, but most of it was because she was still driving and hadn’t made it home yet. She’d gone through Pittsburgh, instead of taking the turnpike from Cranberry, and she hadn’t realized one of the Pittsburgh tunnels had been closed. It took her two hours to drive the long way around Pittsburgh to get back near the turnpike. She missed her daughter all weekend, and she missed getting home on time to put her in bed for the night. Her frustration turned to tears and I couldn’t help but feel horribly guilty that I’d taken her away from her daughter and husband for a weekend.

The conversation she and I had before she left wasn’t important now. We both agreed that things should be different with my brother, but regardless of how anything is approached with him, he puts up an automatic defense attitude that gets in the way of any conversation, especially when it comes to me.

Mom had a fairly decent weekend while Angel was there. No accidents. No messes to clean up. Angel got a small taste of what I deal with each and every day taking care of Mom. She also got a taste of what it’s like to miss her own normalcy too. She told me she doesn’t know how I do what I do, and I told her I do it because I love my mother. She reminded me that I should take more time like this so that I live long enough to enjoy a life after Mom. And I reminded her that sometimes it’s easier just to continue what I’m doing rather than deal with the added problems resulting from leaving Mom for a day or so.

It’s difficult not feeling guilty for wanting a day to spend with my significant other, or just a day to spend on my own. The repercussions that result from me being away add to the already difficult task of care giving. Two nights and one day without my presence set Mom back a few notches. All evening she asked if I was going to stay the night and she cried. She said, it was nice visiting with Angel, but she didn’t want me to be away from her again. She was afraid I wasn’t going to come back. She told me she wasn’t comfortable with my brother visiting when I wasn’t home. All evening, after she was in bed, she kept calling out to me to make sure I was still around and to make sure no one else was in the house. Each time she called out for me, I’d go downstairs and reassure her that I’m home and wasn’t leaving again and the only people in the house were us. Five hours, every twenty minutes or so, I’d repeat the same thing: go downstairs, tell her I’m here and staying, we’re the only people in the house, and I’d go back upstairs. She finally fell asleep, exhausted, around 10:00 PM.

Going away for a weekend is just not worth it to me if it’s going to affect Mom this way. I care more about her than I do myself and the anguish caused to her by me being gone for a few days does me no good either. We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I can place bets that tomorrow I’ll be asked if I’m staying the night again. This is just one more perfect example of how changing the schedule or routine of an Alzheimer’s patient can throw them into a more confused state.

Health care workers tell caregivers to take time like this to relax and recoup some strength. The nurses at the Day Care keep telling me I need to take time for myself. They say, “It may confuse her or make her angry, but she’ll get over it. She’ll forget.” Granted I need to keep up my own health in order to take care of Mom, and respite time allows the caregiver to relax and unwind. But whether Mom forgets within a few days that I was away or not, I just don’t know if I agree that it’s worth adding to her confusion and causing her unneeded anxiety. I’d rather her feel comfortable and secure and her know that I’ll be here until her last day on this earth. She knows she can depend on me and I can’t take that security from her, ever again.

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Adult Day Care Picnic and a Weekend of Respite Care

Friday, August 24, 2007

Today was family picnic day at the Adult Day Care facility where I take Mom to gain a little respite care. Caregivers were invited to share the day with the family member and experience a typical day for the patient. I attended last year and pretty much know what her days are like, but since I was going to be away for the weekend I thought it would be a good idea to spend the day with her on this special day.

Clients who attend the Day Care start their day with a bit of exercise (most from the chairs they’re sitting in), which includes arm and leg movements to music. After the fifteen minutes of musical exercise, they move to neatly set tables for breakfast. Freddie the musician normally comes every Wednesday to play oldies (the 30s to 60s) and the clients who feel like kicking up their heels get on the dance floor. Mom never misses a chance to dance. That was one thing she and Dad did every Friday night when I was a youngster. Last year the musician played one of my mom and dad’s favorite songs, “I’ll Be Seeing You” and naturally, being the emotional and sentimental fool I am, I had to step outside while the tears flowed down my face.

That song just tears me apart every time I hear it because Mom and Dad danced to it at the Friday night fire hall dance and fish fry every week. Dad would dance with Mom and I would wrap my arms around both their necks and be strolled around the dance floor with them as I sat on his elbow. I was small, but he was strong as a bull.

This year, I expected and prepared myself for the song. I took pictures of Mom dancing to that lovely song, but due to the privacy of other clients, I’ll not post them. Let’s just say she didn’t kick up her heals like she used to do with Dad, but seeing her shuffle her feet to one of her favorite songs (and mine) was enough to reduce me to tears again this year.

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces all day through
In that small cafe, the park across the way
The children's carousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well.

I'll be seeing you in every lovely summer's day
In everything that's light and gay
I'll always think of you that way
I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you.

The singing and dancing lasted about an hour and, as Freddie packed up, everyone placed themselves at a table for lunch. Fruit salad, hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, and macaroni salad was served. After lunch a magician came and performed, and then there was bingo and a drawing for the door prize.

The affair ended at 3:30 and we were on our way home. After spending the entire day at the Day Care with Mom, we came home and finished off her day in the usual manner: making dinner, getting ready for bed, and talking at the kitchen table until her normal bedtime. Over the past year her bedtime has become earlier and earlier as she tires out quicker from her long days. Fifteen months ago she was staying up until 7:00 PM, a year ago it shortened to 6:00 PM, and just in the last six months she’s been getting exhausted around 4:00 PM and going to bed by 5:00 PM.

Mom was exhausted when we reached home today.

I tucked Mom in bed around 5:15 PM and went upstairs to my room to wait for my daughter, Angel, to drive in from Mechanicsburg. She made the four-hour drive to stay with Mom this weekend so Two Feather and I could spend the weekend together.

Angel arrived a little after 10:00 PM. I stood on Mom’s porch with her dog so he wouldn’t bark and wake Mom, but Mom knew Angel was coming and dozed and woke every hour until she knew Angel arrived safely. (Even Alzheimer's sometimes doesn't change the way one cares or worries about the safety of others.) Once Angel was in the house Mom fell asleep and we could hear her soft even breathing from the baby monitor in my room as I explained the weekend directions to Angel.

By 11:00 PM I was sitting on my couch at my house just a stone’s throw through the woods from Mom’s house.

It felt eerie driving at night. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been out in a car after dark. It felt strange being in my own home that late at night, too. Everything felt strange, but it felt wonderful at the same time.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Great Trail Festival--Our Day of Respite Care

Two Feather and I never plan anything because when we do, nothing normally goes according to plans. We did have an idea for our day together, though. We were hoping to enjoy something we’ve missed for a few years—The Great Trail Festival. It’s a combination of a woodsy craft show, rendezvous, and time period encampment.


The last few times Two Feather and I attended the festival we dressed in time period clothing along with all those who set up their wares. This year we decided to enjoy the festival in street clothes rather than regalia and we thought about getting there early in the morning so we could spend the entire day perusing the makeshift shops.

Early didn’t come. It felt strange sleeping in my own bed. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such a relaxed, comfortable, full night’s sleep. I slept so comfortably and sound, Two Feather didn’t want to wake me, so he let me sleep until 8:00. That’s late for me since I’m normally up at 6:00 every morning. By the time I drank my second cup of coffee and pried my eyes open it was 9:00.

We left at 9:30 AM and arrived at the festival at 11:00. I stopped near the entrance and took a picture of the buffalo on the hill.

As soon as we walked through the front entrance we knew there was a huge change from the years we’d been there before. There were fewer vendors, fewer attendees—fewer everything. It took only an hour and a half to walk around the entire festival, twice. The four vendors whom we were looking forward to glancing through their wares were not set up this year. It was a bit disappointing, but we still enjoyed the atmosphere and we did spend some time with our friend Dave.

We left at 12:30 and were home by 2:00 PM. So, what to do, what to do? We suddenly have all this time on our hands without having to watch a clock to be back or end our day together by a certain time, and we were at a loss as to what to do. And because we have no life other than taking care of Mom, we really have nothing new to talk about. That’s terribly sad. Even the saddest situations Two Feather will find the good and nurture it into something better. He either will give you something to think about or he’ll leave you smiling. Normally, for me, he leaves me smiling.

We’re both movie buffs, so every time we go to Wal-Mart we buy the newest release to add to our collection and watch during the winter months when there’s not much to do. Recently we bought a few movies, and there wasn’t much else to do, so he tore off the plastic wrap on the first DVD and stuck it in the player. For the next two hours he sat in his chair and I sat on the couch and watched Hills Have Eyes 2. When that movie was over, we took a short break, went outside and walked around the yard, grabbed a cold can of Coke, and went back inside to watch the Zodiac Killer.

During both movies, we glanced at each other, smiled, and returned our attention to the show. It felt strange for both of us to be doing some of the things we so much took for granted before I moved in with Mom. Sitting across from each other in our living room hasn’t been a normal site for quite some time. Sitting across from each other and smiling at each other, enjoying each others presence, and knowing I didn’t have to get up and leave gave us both a serene feeling, yet an uncomfortable feeling. We enjoyed our time together immensely but we didn’t want to get used to it; had to keep pushing the thought in the back of our minds that it would end soon and I’d be back at Mom’s house and he’d be alone in ours.

Time together like this is wonderful. It’s sort of a renewal of our commitment to each other and renewal of our energy to fulfill my commitment to Mom.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Pictures of More Storm Damage

We dodged a bullet in the storm two weeks ago. I didn’t have a chance to post the pictures then of the trees that were blown down next to my house. Had the wind taken a slightly different direction, these 60-70 foot trees would have been on top of my house instead of laying on the hill just fifteen feet from the front entrance. Three of them were totally uprooted and the other three or four had snapped off at the tops.


Today we finally took a walk around the property to see what other storm damage had taken place. More than two dozen trees were downed by the high winds and we could see the path it took.

I’ve already posted pictures of the trees down on my driveway and on the path from my house to Mom’s house. That same path, though not used in three years, also extends and runs up the hill to my brother’s house.

At the lower end of the path there are four to six trees down. It was hard to tell how many since they are twisted and jammed together.


Two Feather will have his work cut out (excuse the pun) for him when he tackles this job. He said for safety sake, since my brother’s grandchildren play in his yard at times, he would put stakes and a rope across the top of the path to alert them that the path is not safe.

About ten feet up the steep hill we found another cluster of trees across the old trail, and another cluster above that one.

There were also tops of trees twisted and just hanging waiting to fall.

This was a mild storm compared to the devastation that other high winds and tornadoes cause in other areas. We’re thankful that there was no real damage to my house or Mom’s.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Alzheimer's -- Living Day by Day, Moment to Moment

In my last post, I showed you pictures of my daughter’s visit last weekend. Those were the good points of the visit; snap shots of family members who drive for hours to visit Mom and me once a month with hopes that she’ll remember them just a little bit longer.

With Alzheimer’s Disease you never know from one moment to the next what your loved one remembers, or what they don’t. You can only hope that each day as a caregiver you’ve made them comfortable, given them the loving support they need to live with dignity, and pray that when they wake in the morning, they remember who you are. And when the day comes that they ask, “Who are you?” you pray for the strength to hold back the tears and answer.

Even as often as my daughters Angel and Stacey visit, my mom didn’t recognize my daughter Stacey this past weekend. Mom watched her as she talked, spoke to her as if she knew her, then, she asked, “Do you have kids?” Stacey smiled, and without hesitation said, “Yes, two. My daughter, Trinity, is seven, and my son, Quenton, is two.” My heart ached for my daughter because Mom didn’t know her; my daughter’s heart ached for her grandmother’s memory loss, rather than for herself.

I’m proud of both my daughters, for understanding the disease, for taking the time out of their busy schedules and making it a point to travel four hours to visit, and for being the loving daughters and granddaughters they are.

It’s sad watching my mom’s mind fade. I see a piece of her slip away each day. I miss my mom; the vibrant happy woman who was always so excited to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren visit; the woman who talked to me, mother to daughter, for hours; the woman who gave me life and loved me unconditionally. Yes, my mom is still here, but the person she was is gone.

She moves slower and slower each day. I dress her in the morning; get her situated in her chair at the kitchen table, talk to her while I make her breakfast, and watch her expressions to tell me what kind of day she will have. If she has difficulty finding her mouth with the utensils, I know she’s having a bad day. Though she’s overweight for her size, she’s not lost weight with her diminished appetite. She struggles to get out of her chair and I come to her aid. She ain’t heavy, she’s my mother.

Mom’s always tired by 4:00 PM, but I’ve noticed in the last week that she seems more exhausted than usual. Less talkative and less aware of her surroundings. The intermittent memories are no longer coming back to her. Out of sight, out of mind.

Yesterday morning we were sitting in the living room and I noticed her frown as her eyes scanned the many pictures on her bookshelf. I didn’t need to ask if she knew the people in the photographs. The wrinkles in her forehead told me she wondered who they were. I stood up, walked to the pictures, pulled them off the shelf, and took them to her. I handed her a photo of my dad. She knew Dad. The next two photos were of her grandson, his wife, and two daughters. She had no idea who they were. The next picture was of my brother, her oldest son, and his wife. She said they looked like someone she knew, but she didn’t know who they were. The next picture was of my second brother, her son, and his wife, but she didn’t know them either. The next picture was a four-generation picture taken five years ago with her, my two daughters, my granddaughter and me. She knew herself.

I placed the pictures back on the shelf and prayed for strength in handling the next stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

When my mom didn’t recognize my daughter last weekend, I thought Mom slipped to a new stage in the disease. When she didn’t recall the visit after a reminding prompt, I knew.

We moved from the living room to the kitchen for an early lunch. She looked around as she sat and said, “Dad built those cabinets. I remember because you told me he did.” I answered, “Yes, he did. He was a wonderful carpenter.”

I turned to smile at her and saw her eyes filled with tears and her chin quiver as she struggled to speak. “Was? You mean he’s gone? Did he pass away? When?” As she sobbed, I knelt next to her chair to comfort her. I held her, wishing I could do more than apologize for not realizing she didn’t remember he was gone. “I thought he was at work,” she said, as I dried her tears. My dad passed away nine years ago. Last week she remembered that. Today, she didn’t.

My brother called and said he was coming to visit. When he walked in the door, I knew she didn’t recognize him. I asked her if she knew who he was. She said “no”.

That was yesterday. Today was not better.

I woke up Mom as I normally do every morning, placed her clothes on the bed, and walked her to the bathroom. Before we made it to the bathroom door she began to sob uncontrollably. I sat her in the kitchen chair and asked her what was wrong. Her words shocked me. “I’m dying,” she said. My mom never speaks of death and if the subject is ever brought up, she changes it. For her to say she’s dying was an utter shock to me. “Why do you say that, Mom?” I asked. Her answer was short, quick, and heartbreaking. “Because I am. I can feel it, and I’m scared.”

I did the only thing I knew to do, hug her. And I responded with the first thing that came to my mind, my dad.

“Mom, don’t be afraid. When it’s your time, you’ll be with Dad again, and that’s something to look forward to.”

“You’re right,” she said. “I never thought of it like that.”

She dried her tears and we continued with our day; getting her shower, getting her dressed, and getting her breakfast. The day continued on a similar note with her watching me in the same way she watched my daughter last week. She talked, constantly asking questions; she asked about her house, how long she’s lived there, where was my husband and why doesn’t he stay here with her and me, and she asked if I’d be okay when she died.

“I’ll be okay, Mom. Don’t worry about me.”

As the day progressed, she regressed, and by 4:00 PM she was once again exhausted. She wanted to go to bed earlier than usual, and after the rough weekend we’d had, I was inclined to agree, so we started our bedtime routine.

Every night for the past three years my mom has said the same words to me as I dress her for bed. “Thank you, honey, for staying with me and taking care of me. You’re a wonderful daughter and I love you.”

Tonight, she didn’t say those words.

Tonight, she asked, “Who are you?”

I bit my lip, held back the tears and said, “I’m your daughter.”

Her eyes brightened and she gasped, “You’re my daughter. That’s wonderful!”

“Do you know my name?” I asked.

“No, will you tell me?”

“Joanne. My name is Joanne, Mom.”

“That’s a beautiful name. Did I give it to you?”

“Yes, Mom. You did.”

I hugged Mom, kissed her, and tucked her into bed as usual.

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too. You’d better get some sleep. You’re going to need it,” she said.

“Good night. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I don’t think so. Get some sleep. You’re going to need it,” she said again.
I kissed her forehead and walked out of her room repeating, “I love you, Mom. Good night. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Since then, for the past six hours, I’ve been sitting in my room upstairs, in deep thought-- a sort of stunned, dazed frame of mind. Each day for three years I’ve never known what the next day might bring. We’ve lived day by day, moment to moment, not knowing what the next moment might be like, but I’ve cherished every moment I’ve had with her.

I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but with her strange discussions this weekend, I do know I’ll be staying close to her side, rather than listening to her breathing come through a baby monitor in my room.

For her sake, when it is her time, I pray she passes peacefully in her sleep. And when she does, I know she’ll be in a better place and she’ll be okay.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her, I won’t.

Good night, Mom. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

No Power, But Still A Wonderful Visit

My daughter, Stacey, came in Thursday evening after the storm. Two Feather had to cut the trees more and move them from the drive so she wouldn’t have a problem getting down the driveway after dark. She wasn’t aware we didn’t have power until she was in Cranberry and called my cell phone to let me know she was close to home. She and Two Feather entertained each other all evening by candlelight.

I found out how much we truly depend on electric. No electric means no stove, no lights, no water, no flushing the toilet, no anything! By the time Mom gets home from day care, she’s tired. There’s only time to eat and get her ready for bed before her eyes show signs of dozing off at the table. So I had to hurry to get things done before the sun went down. I made sandwiches and a salad and Mom and I talked at the kitchen table for a bit before she went to bed.

Then, I headed upstairs in the dark. Nothing to do, but sit and wonder when the electric would come back on. I tried reading by flashlight, but that didn’t work. My eyes are getting too bad for that. I tried lighting a half dozen candles and using a flashlight to try to get some writing done, but that didn’t work either. Do you know how hard it is to hold a flashlight, hold paper, and try to write at the same time? Believe me, it’s not easy. I finally gave up, called Two on the cell phone and told him I was going to bed. Figured I might as well catch up on some sleep. Yeah right. When you want to sleep, it escapes you. I leaned against my pillow and stared at the stars out the window, hoping for morning to come quick so I would have something to do.

Friday, Two Feather, Stacey, and I went to a large outdoor flea market. It is the market where Two used to set up and sell his Indian art. We spent the day there. Stacey was looking for a puppy. We walked from one end of the market to the other twice because she couldn’t decide between a six-week-old Jack Russell or a Puggle. Yes, I said Puggle. I’d never heard of the breed before, but I soon found out it is a mix between a Pug and a Beagle. And, oh are they cute! Stacey ended up choosing the Puggle. He’s adorable and he took to her right away. He follows her around and listens to her very well.

This is Soup. Yes, that’s his name. When she picked him up and decided he was the one she wanted, she asked Two Feather what he thought of her dog. He said, “Yep, he’s soup.” It’s a long story. An Indian story some wouldn’t want to hear. LOL Anyway, she liked the story and she named him Soup. Two, Stacey, and Soup went to my house and later sat by candlelight for the evening, because we still had no electric.

I picked Mom up at the day care at the regular time. After she was in bed, instead of trying to read or write as I did Thursday night, I decided to try sleeping again. Sleep didn’t come any easier Friday night either.

Angel, Tim, and Katelyn came in Friday night and stayed at Tim’s mom’s house. Our power came on for about an hour Friday evening; long enough for me to post the winners of the Absolute Write August Freelance Contest. Then it went out again until sometime early Saturday morning.

Everyone came to Mom’s house on Saturday. Here’s everyone in the kitchen. Mom, of course, had to turn just as I snapped the shot, Stacey is leaning against the wall, Angel is to her right, Tim is sitting in the chair, and Two Feather is standing over by the door. Yes, there is someone standing there. He just blends in with the woodwork.

Katie took her second ride on Pap Pap Two’s Mule. Daddy rode along this time.

Bammaw (that’s me) was given the pleasure of holding Katie. She was more interested in the puppy than me, but that’s okay, at least she let me hold her this time. She’s not one to sit very long. She’d rather be on her own two feet running around now that she’s walking. She’s growing so fast.


Stacey’s been living and working in Mechanicburg, PA since February, waiting for her husband, Dennis, to retire from the Army. So he stayed in Alabama in their house and applied for jobs. He applied for jobs in PA, but received a good job offer right near where they lived in Alabama. Stacey visited by herself this time because Trinity and Quenton went back to Alabama with Dennis to start school and Stacey will be moving back in September. :(

Here’s a picture of Auntie Stacey with Katie and one with Angel’s hubby, Tim.

Katie had fun picking up sticks and stones in the yard and playing with the dogs. Here she is being held by Angel over the sink washing her hands before she eats lunch.

It was a nice weekend visiting with the kids. I miss being at my home, but after they visit here at Mom’s, I miss it even more. Everyone left Mom’s at 3:30 so I could make dinner and get her ready for bed. A lot of activity for more than a few hours tires Mom out. My girls visit often enough to recognize when Mom’s looking tired and it’s time for their visit to end. They also know that my day ends and life sort of stops at 5:00 PM when Mom crawls into bed because she’s exhausted by then.

I miss being able to sit on my deck or in my house and talk with my daughters until the wee hours of the morning like we used to do when they visited. It’s difficult sitting in an upstairs bedroom, trying to find things to keep myself busy, knowing that there’s another whole world out there that I’ve forgotten how to live in because my world revolves around my mom. What is more difficult is watching Mom’s world get smaller and smaller by the day. More and more of her memory fades with each passing day. I’ll talk more about that later.
I'll end this post on a bit brighter note, though. Here's another picture of Bammaw and Katie. I think she was trying to tell me it was time to get down and run around again.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tornado Formed Above Us, Touched Down In Next County

I know, I know, I said I would be around more often to update my blog and I haven’t been here in over a week. This time I do have an excuse. A real one. We were without power for nearly three days. A frightful thunderstorm hit and dumped rain on us last Thursday morning. About 2:45 PM black clouds rolled over our house with winds about 65 miles per hour. Tornado clouds formed aboved us. As we watched the clouds swirl and roll, the trees around the house were swinging in circles, and another downpour came. The lights flickered, the TV went off, and the power was out. Within fifteen minutes the storm was over.

Here’s a picture of my driveway before the storm. We’d just trimmed the banks by the driveway the day before.


When we walked out on the deck at 3:00 PM we saw what we thought was a branch to a tree across the driveway. Two Feather joked that I was stuck there. Then he wished he hadn’t joked. It wasn’t just a branch, it was the whole tree, and as we walked closer we saw five more had been downed and scattered across the drive.


He had his work cut out for him. I had to leave at 4:00 to pick up my mom from day care.

We decided we’d better get on the Kawasaki Mule and ride down the path from my house to Mom’s to make sure there was no damage or trees on her driveway. We ended up having to walk because there were trees down all along the path he drives through the woods.

Trees on the path.



More trees on the path. Yes, there is a path there. You just can't see it because it's covered with trees.

No damage at Mom’s other than 11” deep ruts in the driveway from the rain running gutters through the gravel. When we got to the end of the driveway, we saw why our power was out. There was a huge tree across the road and on the power lines. Someone was already placing cones on the road to stop traffic. At least I knew at that point I’d have to drive around back roads to get to Mom’s driveway from the other direction.

We walked back up to my house and Two Feather went to the shed to get his chainsaw and I picked up the phone to let the day care know I’d be a little later picking up Mom. “Don’t worry,” Two said, “If nothing else, I’ll cut through enough for you to get the car through. You’ll still be on time to pick up Mother.”

He did just that. He cleaned a path between the fallen trees by 4:15 PM. I ended up being only 10 minutes later than the normal time I pick her up. All the houses on the way to the day care had electric. The day care had electric. The nurses there said it only rained there.

I guess we’re lucky the wind was blowing straight at the house because five trees blew down with the wind direction rather than the lean they had toward the house. I'll get a picture of those tomorrow. They're laying on the hill just above the side of my house.

We spent nearly three days without electric, so we ate garden salads, sandwiches, and fruit salads since I couldn't use the stove. Mom slept through most of the darkness and it was light by the time I awoke her to go to club the next day.

Two Feather and I spent all this week cutting up the trees on the driveway, clearing the path to Mom's house, and grading her driveway to free it from ruts. Everything is back to normal again, with the exception of a few people with aching muscles we forgot we had.

Oh yes, both my daughters came to visit this past weekend, too. Stacey and Two Feather entertained each other by candlelight. I'll have pictures of the visit in the next blog.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Seven Writing Questions: A Meme

Tagging Along

I wasn’t tagged with this, but when I read Bhaswati’s blog, I liked the premise so I decided to delve into my brain and jog a few memories.


1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

I hope to finish a series of children’s books based on my life growing up in the country. It wasn’t as boring as you may think. ;)

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?
The first book of Stephen King’s Drawing of the Three series. I have every one of his books and have yet to read this complete series.

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?
My dad’s Smith Corona typewriter. (I still have it.) I used it to type my very first published story. In fact that old typewriter (along with lots of carbon paper) is what I used for years before I finally broke down and bought an IBM Selectric typewriter decades later. I have to admit, computers make the job so much easier.

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?
At one time I would have answered 15. I read constantly and could finish a larger book within two days. Lately, I’m lucky if I have time to read one book a month.

5. What's your favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?
Next to my laptop, the best machine was my top-of-the-line Hewlett Packard packed with every gadget imaginable back then, along with the HP All-in-One copier/fax/scanner/printer, which also reduced and enlarged copy.

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read?
Historical fiction is really not my favorite genre. With that said, I did read Louisa May Alcott’s series and loved the time period in which they were written.

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?
Black Beauty. It was the first book I read as a child. I remember taking it to school with me and sitting on the sidewalk by the playground reading while others played on the swings and see-saw.


As for tagging, I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you so choose to play along please let me know so I can read your responses. :-)

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