Forgotten

Today I visited my mom once again. Truthfully, I hadn’t been to see her in a week. I had this dry cough / sore throat going on and it seemed like a reasonable excuse at the time. Up to very recently, I have worried about her endlessly and beat myself up about going to visit her or not. However, this past week I am ashamed to admit that I barely thought of her since Tuesday and I really didn’t worry about her. I felt little guilt this week as well. I hope this will continue but at the same time I feel guilty about her being in the home all alone.

I went today and she was very sad and well, drugged. Staring into space, fading out, didn’t try to have a real conversation. She just really seemed depressed.

She said “I don’t want to be myself.”

“Why?” I ask as I sit on the edge of her bed and take her hand.

“Because I am so lonely. I am by myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me or how to fix it.”

“I don’t know either mom,” I reply hopelessly. How can you tell someone it is not going to get better, only worse?

I tried to get her comfortable in her bed and encouraged her to rest. It was mid afternoon and rest time. Really, it was a selfish purpose. I wanted to see her at peace, sleeping, so I wouldn’t see the pain and sadness in her eyes. And so I could leave. After all, we had several errands to run and time was quickly passing. Really, Tracy! Is a half hour or an hour too much to ask to give her company? This summer I vow to try to visit her every day, to hold her hand, to show her pictures, to talk to her and sit quietly beside her. Maybe I will bring some peas to have her help me shell. Or some beans to snap. Something comforting that she used to do. Maybe she could grow a tomato plant in her window and eat it’s fruit.

I don’t know if my visits will bring her any joy or an end to her sorrow or if the visit helps her for the day as she likely forgets minutes after I’ve left.

But I wish this guilt would turn into something else. Something more positive. Something less selfish. Something I could eliminate and replace. What that is – I don’t know. All I know is the stained glass is quite grey today.

My Mother the Bully

The stained glass has been spun in a new direction – one that I really didn’t think I’d ever be contemplating. My mom a bully? Could it be? Is it possible? As a mom who has been a scaredy cat most of her life to a woman enjoying bullying someone else? Well, you judge, if you will.

During my visit the other day, I was caught by surprise when my mom did something totally out of character. Supper is at 5pm at the home but everyone gathers and sits at the tables in their spots at 4pm.

I am visiting at the usual time 4 – 5ish and arrive to the ladies already sitting around the table silently. I pull up a big chair beside my mom and the lady right next to me, but at the end of the table, slowly scoots her chair away. She is a little lady who kind of sinks into her wheel chair and looks very, well, old. I am slightly amused as I watch her slowly move her place mat, silverware and angle her chair away. After visiting with my mom for a while, I see movement under the table and I see my mom slowly move her foot over to this little old lady’s foot and she presses down on it. The little lady turns her head (kind of like an owl, really) and looks at mom who is sitting there with a smirk on her face. Appalled, I say “Mom! What are you doing? Why did you do that?” and mom says “She likes it.” What was I supposed to say to that? I look at the other lady and she does have this slight impish look but I say to my mom “I don’t think she liked that. Look at her face. Does she look like she likes it when you stomp on her foot?” My mom, very smug, says “Yes, she does.” I feel like I am back at work and dealing with 3 and 4 year olds. “I’m just teasing her.” Yeah, well, teasing is not fun for the one being teased. My mom is not at all repentant and I send an apologetic look to this little old lady. I spend the next few minutes watching for mom’s foot to travel under the table again and this time I would intervene. Who knew she would be her own worst enemy and become someone she always despised – a bully? Shocking.

Maybe now the one day a few weeks back when mom was saying no one wanted to be her friends (again – flashback to preschool) is more understandable. If she’s stepping on people’s feet or goodness knows what else, of course they wouldn’t want to be her friend. How do I help my mother, the bully, who can’t remember what happened 15 minutes ago?

I want to plead with the little old lady, “Use your words! Tell her no in a strong voice. Tell her how it makes you feel! Tell her how you want to be treated.” But alas, she won’t remember 10 minutes from now anyways.

Where does this bullying behaviour come from? She’s been the victim of bullies growing up, hates hearing about them and yet she is doing the same sort of thing. I consider the little old lady – she definitely would seem like a vulnerable victim. Finally power over another person from my mom’s perspective? Something still resonates in her to right the situation and be a bully because she was always a victim? It seems that it would make her more empathetic and certainly not take on the bully role.

This is just all sickening to me. Another thing that I didn’t anticipate with my mom in her senior’s home.

Another piece of jagged glass by Tracy

I found another piece of jagged glass and when I pulled it out of my heart, tears fell instead of blood. I let myself give a yell of anguish as if giving voice to the pain in this way would lessen it somehow.

I was suddenly struck this past weekend as I was planning my garden and walking around my yard that my mom wouldn’t ever see it. She has loved flowers and gardening her entire life and took great pride in having a marvelous garden to enjoy. There is something in her blood that yearns for beautiful and productive gardens. I have that yearning, too.

The call of farm life I experienced during my school years, still echoes in my heart. I yearn to watch the young lambs run and jump so full of hope and potential. I want to feed the chickens and even scrape off their roosts. Feeding calves milk in big buckets or stopping turkeys from fighting. Waking up at 2 am to go check the ewes to see if any were lambing in the middle of a dark winter night. I didn’t enjoy waking up early to weed the garden before the sun shone too hot, but even that gave satisfaction in getting a job done and seeing progress. I loved, really loved, picking peas and beans from the garden rows and then sitting in the shade snapping beans and shelling peas along side my grandma. I have even found myself stopping on the road to take a look at a young foal in the field twice this spring.

I don’t know if my strong yearning for the farm life is because it represents a time when my mother was strong, hard working and happy. She seemed to know how to do so much on the farm and with the enormous garden she always had. Is that the reason gardening has been such an emotional experience this year?

Maybe instead of missing and longing for my mom’s input, approval and appreciation, I should soak in all the positive memories I have of her gardening and count those a blessing. Maybe remembering being a teen and hearing her call for me to get up to pull weeds at 7:00 am will remind me of the irritation I felt and bolster my heart against pure sadness!

Although my garden is still very young, and nothing like hers in years past, it might have been something we could talk about, sharing gardening tips and ideas and, most of all, enjoying each other.

“Have you seen the tulips at the house this year?” she would ask with excitement in her voice.

“No, are they beautiful? I’ll have to come by and see them.” I would answer.

I miss her.  I want to enjoy the tulips together.

A Busy Mind

One thing I am quite surprised about is the number of thoughts my mother shares in a short time period. Sometimes she will sit quietly or she will eat quietly but then there are other times that she is clearly thinking constantly. Today was one of those jumbled thought-following-thought monologue that she often uses to communicate.

The thoughts go something like this: “These people are terrible here! They won’t help you and they won’t give you a ride even though you ask them. No one will be your friend. You ask them and they say “No, we won’t be your friend.” I went to visit Queenie today (passed on over 20 years ago) but I don’t know, They wanted me to go some place to buy some thing but I said ‘no, I can’t do that today.” They don’t feed you around here and when they do it might be poisoned. There’s murder going on around here! I don’t know who, but there is. They are terrible. Things have really changed around here (what – in the 1 month you’ve been here?) Ever since those little children drowned in the States the other day. (Who said ‘squirrel!!’) I said I had to go to work but no one would take me. I never get to choose what to eat.” I said, “It must be nice to have someone cook for you so you don’t have to cook at home!” “Not for me it isn’t!!” That little bit of dialogue about cooking was one of the few turn taking parts to the conversation. She just wants to talk and she seems to resent my questions or expressions of concern. A listening ear I will be. The negativity can be a bit overwhelming, though. I left feeling more than a little sad and discouraged. She isn’t able to hear my own concerns or understand my stories. That mothering role has been lost.

If I ever wondered if the window she sees through is a simple, cloudy pane of glass I now know it can sometimes be more like a tapestry of carefully shaped and vibrant colours of a stained glass work of art. I may not understand how the pieces fit together and maybe it doesn’t even matter if they do. They are the rich memories and experiences she has lived all the years of her life and they are hers to remember. How they come bubbling through the brain that can’t make connections, I can never predict. I guess I could consider that some of the adventure of visiting my mom.

Today she is cognizant. Unfortunately.

It sounds like a horrible thing to say – “Today she is cognizant. Unfortunately.” Isn’t being cognizant what we hope for every time we visit? That she would be present or “in her right mind.” That we would have meaningful conversations with her? That she would remember my name and the names of my family members? We could all laugh together and pretend she hasn’t been put  (cast off or institutionalized, jailed, abandoned) into a care centre where she will never “go home” from.

Maybe it is better when she doesn’t know what is going on or where she is and it doesn’t matter all that much because her brain in misfiring and she is happily in another place or time.

Today she knew exactly where she was and she was desperate to go home. She thought I was there to take her home and when I said we weren’t going anywhere she sobbed. It wasn’t a little cry where a corner of a kleenex would be enough. No, this was a pass the box over and get some more kind of sob. It was so very hard to see. I held her in my arms but she wanted to know why. Why couldn’t she go home? The other people in the home said they were going home and why won’t her own family take her home?

I tried to give excuses – the doctor, her cough, her foot pain, etc. But she wasn’t going to accept that.

So, with tears running down my face I told her that this was the best care for her, that she wasn’t doing well at her home to which she responded that she can take care of herself and make a salmon sandwich.

I didn’t tell her that she didn’t know where anything was in the kitchen or even where her bedroom was. I did tell her that when she was there that she asked several times a day to go home. She said but “my family is there.”

I said that we were visiting her every day at the care centre to which she responded it wasn’t the same. She wanted her home.

I said, “Remember when dad had his heart attack?” She did. I said the doctor was concerned about his health caring for you.

She wanted to know why they couldn’t hire someone to come in the home and care for her. I said we’d need at least 2 people plus dad to care for her at home over 24 hours.

I said that she left the house in the middle of the night and that we were afraid she would get hurt. That this care home was what we thought was best for her.

She sobbed some more. I told her that this was hurting us very much, too. That I wished it could be another way.

We’d sit in silence for a short while and then she would cry some more.

I asked if it was really so terribly bad here? She said no, but it wasn’t her home.

“Why did this have to happen to me? Why would God let this happen to me?” she asked. My words of “we live in a broken and hurting world and these things just happen” didn’t bring much peace to her anguished heart.

I think that Home is in the heart. It is wherever loved ones are. When she says she wants to go home, she doesn’t really know what that looks like but her heart is searching for loved ones remembered in her heart – not her mind, but in her heart. A deep, desperate desire to be at a place where she is with loved ones passed on and present. I can’t get her to this place, I can’t take her “home” where she is longing to be and it hurts like hell.

The only one to bring peace to her jumbled thoughts and longing heart is God and I don’t think she knows Him. And where is the peace and comfort I so desperately want? Where IS God?

Sunrise Sundown

My mom has “sundowners” and will often be awake during the night wandering around the house. My long suffering dad is often woken in the night to my mom standing over him and asking if he was sick and wasn’t he going to work? He will say it is 3 am and no, he isn’t going to work because he is retired. She will sometimes have a smart retort or will argue that it isn’t really 3 am. When he suggests she go check the clock she comes back saying “How do I know it is not 3pm? What if you’re lying to me?” She has lost the ability to discern time – even when it is dark as dark can be she doesn’t know that it is night time and she should be sleeping. And she’s suspicious that people are not telling her the truth.

My mom has done many peculiar things during the night when everyone else is in bed. One night she sat at the kitchen table and hollered for someone to come and make her supper at 5 am. Then she called for my dad and when he didn’t come, she tried a few other names of people she thought were there with her – like her mom (who passed away more than 20 years ago.)

One night my dad got up and found my mom “dressed” for “work” and sitting on the couch waiting. When he asked her what she was waiting for she said “They’re coming to take me to work.” When dad asked who “they” were, she didn’t know. She was “dressed” with 2 shirts over her pj top, her pj bottoms on and two different shoes on. She waited for over an hour, getting up every once in a while to check out the door until she finally got up and went back to bed for a few hours. Interestingly, for a period of time she was convinced she was going to work in a school. She didn’t know what school or what she did there, but she was adamant she had to be there. She did work as an aide in a kindergarten classroom over 30 years ago for a couple of weeks so maybe this memory is coming into play.

We are fortunate thus far that she hasn’t done anything dangerous in the kitchen. A couple of times she has put something in the microwave but she doesn’t remember which buttons to push and then promptly forgets.  She did get into the medicine cabinet and dad found her moving bottles around. She said that someone needed to organize them. He explained to her that she could accidentally take the wrong medicine and promptly moved them to a place she couldn’t reach. Not long ago, she accidentally took 2 doses of her meds at one time. Yet another time she ended up taking dad’s pills instead. This can be a serious problem and we are fortunate that nothing bad came out of it. Dad very carefully doles out her medications for her.

Mom does not like the dark anymore. When she is up at night she turns on all of the lights she can – even the ones in the bedroom where Dad is trying to sleep. She pulls all the blinds shuts and is still fearful – of what we are not sure.

In mom’s world, the stained glass is letting in too little light and the coloured pieces of her world are too dark for comfort. In our world, we are desperately trying to maintain the colourful pieces of her personality and life, not diminished by bright light and not left to dull in darkness.