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

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Location: United States

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hit Me Like A Brick

Today I decided to get off my lazy butt and start cleaning MY house. I’ve not taken very good care of it since I moved in with Mom. Being so tired all the time, I don’t give my house the attention or the thorough cleaning I used to. I manage to swipe a feather duster around the corners of every room and all the shelves and knick-knacks every few weeks and mop the floor once a week, but it’s not the same.

I gave both bathrooms a thorough cleaning—the down-on-my-hands-and-knees-type cleaning like I used to. I scrubbed the walls and took the shower curtain down and cleaned it. The bathrooms looked so nice when I finished that I decided to move into the bedroom and start working on it. I opened every drawer of the dressers and neatly rearranged all the clothes, cleaned the dressers with Murphy’s Oil soap, and gave them a good waxing. I put clean sheets on the bed, ran the sweeper, and started the laundry.

Then, I decided to tackle the bedroom closet. When I moved to Mom’s most of my clothes moved with me, but the floor of my closet was piled with clothes I’ve been hauling back and forth. It was time to get them out of the piles and hang them or put them in drawers. It took me 30 minutes to pull all the clothes out and set them on the bed to go through and decide where I was going to put what. There were things in that closet I knew I’d never wear so I put those items in a box to take to Good Will.

I sat on the floor of my bedroom looking at the room, clean and fresh, and felt strange looking at a bed and cleaning a room I haven’t slept in for three years. That strange feeling turned to sadness as I glanced at all the wall hangings that had once been so neatly dusted and cared for. I turned my attention back to the closet as not to cry and arranged the half dozen pair of shoes on the shelf and pulled out another pile of things I had no idea what they were because I hadn’t been in the closet for so long.

Still in the bag, was an Indian blanket Two and I purchased at his reservation in North Carolina when we were there four years ago. Beneath that was a pillow heat/massager that would have come in handy the past few years had I remembered I had it.

Then, below that was what hit me like a brick! It was a treasure I’ll never forget nor one I’ll ever get rid of. My bed caddy! What’s a bed caddy and what’s so great about it you ask? A bed caddy is what you keep your book, eyeglasses, TV remote, and other essentials close at hand. It tucks easily under a mattress and hangs on the side of the bed. This bed caddy is special. I made it from a pair of my dad’s carpenter jeans.

After Dad died, I made one for Mom, both my sister-in-laws, and me. I’d taken it off my bed just before I moved to Mom’s since I wouldn’t be using it. When I pulled it out from the closet, all those strange feelings I’d had while glancing at the room boiled up inside and spilled from my eyes. I sat, on the floor of my bedroom, hugging my dad’s jeans and cried. The book I was reading when I left to live with Mom was still in the pocket with a bookmark Mom made me still holding the place. The pockets also still held my body lotion, reading light, extra pair of outdated glasses, and that darn TV remote Two Feather hasn’t been able to find for three years. I thought finding the TV remote would bring me to my senses when I chuckled, but the tears continued to flow. I held Dad’s jeans against my chest and ran down the hall to Two’s workroom, tears still streaming down my face.

“What’s wrong? What’s that?” he asked. Between sobs I managed the words, “My dad’s jeans.” The shocked look on Two’s face didn’t help stop the tears and neither did the bear hug he gave me when he realized what I was holding. I buried my face in his chest and sobbed, long and hard, whispering, “I miss you. I miss my dad. I miss my mom. I miss cleaning. I miss everything!”

I wiped the tears from my face, walked back to the bedroom, placed the TV remote on top of the TV, and put the bed caddy back in the closet. Two came in and asked why I didn’t put the caddy back on the bed and I told him I wasn’t putting it back until I could use it again.

He laughed and said, “In that case, you didn’t have to change the sheets on the bed. I haven’t slept in it since you left. I sleep on the couch.”

It was then that I realized how difficult our separation has been for him. In these three years I had no idea that Two didn’t sleep in our bed. All this time I thought he was sleeping comfortable and instead he’s been stretched out on a tiny couch in our living room. He’s always called it the “Joanne couch” because it’s only four foot long.

It’s strange how much our life has changed during this care giving journey and how little things like a bed caddy made from my dad’s carpenter pants can send me to tears. Dad died of Alzheimer’s and will be gone 10 years on the first full day of spring. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things to deal with. We caregivers tell each other it gets better, and it does eventually, but there are always those unexpected little things that take our breath away and reduce us to tears. Today, for me, it was my bed caddy and Dad’s jeans. Even after 10 years. Love you, Dad. I miss you.

Mom has been sleeping better with this low dose of Seroquel. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night she only got up twice to use the bathroom each night. YAY!! I slept pretty well on Friday night, but Saturday night I woke up five times. I think my body and mind had been so used to reacting these past three years that it doesn’t know what to do when it’s not called to duty—so it did what it was used to—woke up. It didn’t take me long to get back to sleep once I realized that there was no need to run to Mom. Sunday morning I did feel the effects of not sleeping sound, though. I felt like I was dragging.

It was a dreary day and Mom was having a difficult time deciding what she wanted to do so I decided to pack her up in the car and go visit my Uncle Joe. I normally visit him twice a month, but with everything that’s been going on lately, I hadn’t been to see him since Christmas. I called him in between, but that’s not the same as a personal visit.

He seems to be doing well at the nursing home. He still says the food is lousy but the nurses are good to him. We visited for a few hours and when Mom used the bathroom Joe said he’d follow us to the elevator when she came out. He looked tired and I guess he had had enough visit for one day.

When Mom and I got home, she wanted to eat and go to bed. I tried to keep her up until 5:30 but she was dozing off at the kitchen table after dinner. By the time I got her dressed for bed she was exhausted and fell right to sleep.

Monday was a nothing day. I did absolutely nothing. Guess I’m entitled to that once in a while. :D

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Blogger WritingAllNight said...

You're a strong woman, Joanne. I admire you quite a bit and this post really made me think of things . . . sometimes it hurts to think of the life before caregiving.

I wish I could say it gets better, but for everyone it is different. I think I will say I hope it gets better for you and soon.-SFJ

2/19/2008 9:47 PM  
Blogger rilera said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Huge hugs to you Joanne.

2/19/2008 10:28 PM  
Blogger ~Betsy said...

Oh my, Joanne. This job is so difficult and it makes me sad to realize how much pain you feel. I have no words of wisdom, only ((hugs)) and my respect for a job well done.

2/21/2008 8:54 AM  
Blogger cornbread hell said...

come april it will have been 10 years since since my dad died. i very cry ove rit these days, but this post had me going again.

i wore a jacket of my dad's all these years. i had it on the night of my wreck and found they'd cut it off of me along with the rest of my clothes. i was sad, but didn't cry. right now i'm sad i didn't retrieve the pieces.

thanks for the well spoken words and feelings, joanne.

2/21/2008 10:10 AM  
Blogger nancy said...

what a powerful post joanne, thanks for sharing. i must say it brought tears to my eyes at many times. you have done a wonderful job! but i have to ask, could i get you to come clean out my bedroom closet! LOL

2/21/2008 11:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Thanks for visiting, SFJ. Sometimes it's hard to remember what life before caregiving was. ;)

Robyn, Hope all is well with you and your mom.

Betsy, You did a wonderful job with your mom as well. Sometimes, I think we all think too much. Wouldn't it be nice to have a switch to turn off our brains to these type of sad distractions.

Rick, I'm sorry my post got you going again. I, too, have one of my dad's sweater jackets that I wear occassionaly. Sorry yours was destroyed after your accident. ((HUGS))

Nancy, LOL about cleaning your closet. Think I'll take a raincheck. :D

2/22/2008 2:41 PM  
Blogger ~♥Chris♥~ said...

I can't imagine how hard it is to live like you are. Just know I am sending hugs your way.

2/26/2008 10:58 PM