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Sigh...Here's Hoping 2010 is Better

January 1, 2009 started off with a broken toe.
Heading towards the stove/kettle/coffee, I stepped over Oscar, and somehow interacted with the knee wall in my kitchen in a way that caused my toe to come out a loser. (I wasn't drunk or hungover either!)

In February, I hurt my right knee working out to Billy Blanks; that took about six months to feel better.

In March, I got an ear infection in my right ear and couldn't hear on that side for about a month.

In October, I caught a cold that lasted for about a month.

On December 25, I came down with swollen glands and a temp of 102.

And yesterday, December 30, my friend John died. He was one of the few people who could call me Kimmy and get away with it. We'd known each other since May 1992, and I spent many an hour at his house with his beautiful wife Laura and their two children, Vincent and Jennifer. They always welcomed me for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. John and I worked on several projects together and yes, we butted heads occasionally, but our friendship was stronger afterward.
Ironically, he had just been given the good news of being cancer free after battling Hodkin's Lymphoma for the past year. An errant blood clot traveled to his big, passionate heart and stopped it.

Good riddance 2009.


Being Introverted

Growing up, I thought something was wrong with me - why don't I enjoy going to parties or concerts? Everyone else seems to. I must be antisocial or stuck-up (that was a big label in high school.). Why was being at the beach, alone or with one really really good friend, or being alone in my room listening to music and drawing, my idea of a perfect day?

Guess what? There's nothing wrong with me. I am an introvert.

Since the world is geared towards the extroverted, those of us who are not can often feel like outsiders, alien, even defective in some way.

Generally extroverts do not - cannot - understand why on earth you would want to stay home - alone (oh the horror!) when you could be OUT THERE - with PEOPLE - ALL THE TIME! WHO WOULDN'T WANT THAT?! IT'S FUN! YOU'RE MISSING OUT ON IT! COME ON! LET'S GO MEET NEW PEOPLE AND EXPERIENCE NEW THINGS RIGHT NOW! THERE'S A PARTY/CONCERT/GET-TOGETHER SOMEWHERE RIGHT NOW AND WE NEED TO GO GET IN THE MIDDLE OF IT! (yes, sometimes it is like all caps for us "innies" when you talk; not like a bad thing, I'm just sayin')

One of the issues of saying you're an introvert is that people expect you to act like the Unibomber or live in a hermitage. They're surprised you show up in public places, let alone speak to other people. I've had people tell me I was not introverted because I opened my mouth in a social situation.

My Myers-Briggs type is INFJ. Apparently, this particular type can be mistaken for an extrovert; in fact, when among a [small] group of people I trust, I can be the life of the party. I love my friends and family. I enjoy hearing what's going on in their lives, being with them.
Then I need to go home and be alone for a long, long time. Maybe even days. Do not call me, I will not answer the phone.

That is what defines an introvert/extrovert. Do you need to be alone [introvert] to recharge or do you need to be with people [extrovert]?

Here are some questions from the book The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney (off the blog The Adventurous Writer via the blog Penelope Truck, Brazen Careerist):

I answered yes to 27 out of the 29 questions. (Oh my gosh #'s 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 17, 22 - 27!)
I've ruined [at least] one friendship because of #22. (totally my fault, should have left the day before)

Here's a hilarious article on introverts.

Holidays are especially anxiety causing for extroverts worried about their introverted friends:
"Oh no, will you be alone?!"
[nope, the cats are there]

"But you just can't spend the holidays by yourself!"
[oh really? watch me]

"Come over to our house, our entire extended family of 300 will be there, they'd ALL love to see you!"
[can't think of anything more horrifying]

"We'll stop by for a few hours, how's that? We'll bring the kids."
[oh dear god please don't]

One of my favorite Thanksgiving's in recent years was getting some fabulous turkey tetrazzini at Whole Foods and watching a Doris Day marathon on TCM.

Did I mention I was alone? Complete bliss!

If you're not an introvert - you just wouldn't understand.


Thanksgiving Thoughts

Last Thanksgiving was spent in Hillcrest Convalescent Hospital; Mom had been admitted the day before. It was the fourth day after her fall and back fracture. Seems so long ago and like yesterday at the same time.

That fall saved my sanity, maybe hers too. Without it, more than likely, she'd still be not taking her meds, still be unhappy, we'd still be at each others throats.

So I guess, a day late, I'm grateful for a fracture and for a diagnosis of dementia. How weird is that?

More Cat Crap

Saturday, November 27, 2009

Look at her. Isn't she cute?

But Lillie Langtry here has put me off female cats forever.

Don't get me wrong, she is very sweet tempered and the best behaved of the bunch. She doesn't scratch on the furniture or carpets, doesn't climb on top of the mini blinds, or get on the table. And if she does happen to slip up, one "No!" and she's down.

Totally opposite from the boys, who do not think you're seriously talking to them unless you're advancing rapidly in their direction with a squirt bottle. Your butt must completely and fully disengage from the chair - if it doesn't, they sprawl out across the table in full grooming mode.

So what's so bad about her?

Well, she has a meow like a banshee for one.
She never shuts up for two.

There you are reading, jazz on the stereo, the boys sleeping on the couch instead of the table for once; everything calm and mellow.
Suddenly, up on the back of the chair and right in your ear "MEEEEOWWWW!!" Oh sorry - did I scare you? Wait, why are you holding your chest? Hey, how come you've collapsed on the floor? Maybe you didn't hear me - let me climb right up your chest and YOWL right in your face. "MEEEE--OWWWW!"
Apparently, that's feline for "Feed me NOW!" Or "Brush me NOW!" Or perhaps "WTF?! All the squirrels have gone off the deck! Find me one NOW!"

She has a large vocabulary and enjoys employing it. One of her nicknames is Gator Girl, because, obviously, she can sound just like a baby alligator.
There's also the whinging "mmmmmmnnnnnnn" [my least favorite] meow, the "wah-wah-wah" welcome-home-come-and-get-your-headbutt meow. The sharp "meowmeow!" meaning - hey-there's-a-squirrel-on-the-deck - good job loser human! The "arm arm arm" barking meow yay-you're-getting-up-finally (and feeding me), and the "aoooow aoooow aoooow" in the middle night howling at the moon meow.

There's growling too, a nighttime activity accompanied by galloping down the hallway with a toy mouse in her mouth and a weird, eerie, muffled meow (hard to talk when your mouth is full) which can in no way be replicated with letters of the English alphabet. It has freaked me out more than once.

She is the most catlike of the three (not a bad thing per se), the most cautious, and the most picky. Nothing more fun than following a little cat around the entire house at 5:30 AM with a bowl of food - because the little coquette can't decide where she'd like to dine today.
She doesn't come when called and will not perform any tricks - there is no treat worth the indignity.
Hummpf she says, let those stupid boys do tricks for food, I'm off to my voice lessons.

Just Wait 'Til I Get to Be Your Age!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

That's what Mom said to me yesterday as I was leaving. It made me laugh pretty hard, but she didn't get it. Ah me.

She was pretty lucid yesterday (not really the right term, but for lack of a better one...) and her hair was clean! Miracle of miracles!

We went to the cafeteria; she had ham, greens, mashed potatoes, and fresh pineapple chunks. The lemon meringue pie went home with her for later. I had a piece of sweet potato pie and some unsweet tea.
One of the servers who works in the cafeteria has an annoying voice: high, loud, nasaly, plus she runs her words together. She's probably the sweetest person in the world, but yesterday she was getting on my last nerve. I couldn't understand what vegetable Mom wanted, all I could hear was green. There were greens, green peas, and green beans. You see the dilemma. It was crowded, I was feeling pressure to get a move on, and that woman kept saying "Caniheppew, caniheppew, caniheppew".

Later when I came back to the table with the tip after paying, Mom asked me when she was going to get something. I thought she meant more food, then I figured out she was talking about money. She wanted to know if I paid for lunch with my money; she only had $2 (she was right). I gave her $20 and told her not to spend it all on poker.
She said she didn't poke.
Maybe she will when she gets to be my age.


The Present

Thursday, November 19, 2009

As I waited for a friend at lunch today, I was reflecting on my friend Warren's blog entry of November 13 called "Moments" about being in the present.

I am rarely in the present, this second, this second, this second. Usually I'm in the future - what am I going to do tomorrow, what's for dinner, etc.

But my mother is now forever in the present; she doesn't remember the past and can no longer formulate the future.

Denial - Not a River in Egypt

My Aunt Winkie, cousin Angie, and Angie's husband came to visit Mom November 1 & 2.
Winkie is 15 years younger than Mom, only 5 years older than me. I confess, we are close in years only.
She called me on Nov. 4 to say they'd been to visit and I asked her how she thought Mom was doing, compared to last year when she was here. She said her memory seemed a little worse, Mom did introduce her as her daughter, but other than that she seemed fine.
Holy crap.

When I asked Mom on Nov. 7 if anyone had been to visit, she said no. Of course, when prompted - did Winkie come visit? she remembered. They went to the mall and Captain D's (my mother loves her some shrimp); Mom said they must have done that without me, I didn't do that stuff.
She thinks Aunt Florida's (Angie's mom) has been dead for years, but she just celebrated her 95th or 96th birthday.

Yea, she's just fine.

Moving on

Friday, November 13, 2009

I've called several times this morning because it's nail salon day at Walmart, but the phone's busy each time.
At first I think she's on a call, but when it's still busy after a hour and a half, I suspect something is wrong with the phone.
There's no answer when I knock; the TV's on. I check outside to see if she's having a smoke, not there.
When I enter the room she's awake, lying on her bed. She looks at me like she doesn't know me. I ask several simple questions like, was she taking a nap or had she not been up yet (she had all her clothes on). Then I just ask if she was taking a nap (no choices). Had someone called her that morning? She just looks at me - totally blank.
Not angry, just a lights-are-on-but-no-one's-home kind of a look. It's kinda weird and a little scary.
I explain that I'd gotten a busy signal for a long time; there's no dial tone on her phone. Her little Christmas tree has been plugged in and the router for the phone is unplugged (she has phone service via the cable company). Ah ha! After a few unplug/replug of the router and phone cord, she's back in business.
She seems to be coming around now and is a bit more coherent - does she want to go get her nails done - yes. Knows where her purse is, knows what coat she wants to take.

The young man who does her nails today is very sweet, joking around with her, getting a different chair so her back is supported. He gets a big tip.
I wonder if her disability is apparent to other people. I try not to be a "hoverer", but I am protective of her.

Then we go to the hair salon in Walmart because frankly, I can't stand her hair being dirty one more second. It takes a long time; there's only one person working and she's doing two color jobs at the same time.
Mom always tells the stylist she doesn't want to look like me. I think she means she doesn't want her hair as short as mine, cut over her ears. That's what I'm choosing to think she means anyway.
We eat at lunch at Andy's, a burger place in the same shopping center, because it's nearby. It's 2 PM and she probably hasn't eaten today, she has to be starving. It's a 50's style diner, old car pictures everywhere; she recognizes the T-Bird.
My dad used to have a black '55 Thunderbird - he loved that car. Then along came me and the car had to go.
Somehow we get on the topic of dogs/Mookie and she says she wishes she could see him again. I say he's found his forever home and we can't visit him anymore and wait...

I know, she says.
And then we move on.


Clever Title Blockage

Every time I think about Mom's house in FL, I'm plunged into despair. It's been on the market for 1.5 years with not even a smidgen of interest.
Do we replace the roof or not? No guarantee it will sell or even rent if we do and she's out $6000.
Lower the price, people tell me, but again that's still no guarantee it will sell, plus it's real hard to come back up in price. She needs that money. ARRGGGHHH! I'm like a hamster on a wheel. I'm sick of talking about it, sick of thinking about it.
We're going to have to crack open her last CD very very soon; property taxes are due, she lost her Homestead Exemption, so her taxes are $1500 more than they used to be.

How to Sleep with Cats

I once said, comparing Mookie (dog) to my cats, that they were well-behaved-bottom-of-the-bed sleepers. And they the summer. Winter sleeping arrangements are a bit different.

Picture this:
Queen size bed. Laying on my right side, right arm tucked under pillow, left arm stretched out in front of me. Snuggled alongside said left arm is the biggest cat, Oscar, furry cat butt in my face. He gets extra bonus points for his tail either being in my mouth or right up under my nose. From time to time, because I'm not petting him in my sleep, he will endeavor to take a piece of flesh from my left thumb, purring all the while.

Meanwhile behind me, Finn is kneading the pillow as if it were an Olympic sport and he's looking for a gold medal. Occasionally my scalp will get in his way, but no worries, he's not deterred by blood. If scalping fails to illicit a reaction, he'll climb over the top of the pillow and pat my [hopefully] closed eye. Usually his claws are contained when he does this. If that fails, he will stick his wet little nose on my mouth. Having gotten the desired response, which is apparently me bellowing swear words and swatting at him, he moves down and lays his solid brick like body behind my knees.

His co-conspirator, Lillie, is in front of my knees, now I am effectively pinned beneath the blankets so that I have to pull my legs straight up (no small feat) and outside of the covers if I want to turn over.

And that is how you sleep (or not) with cats.

Watch some funny cat related animation here : Simon's Cat


Over the Rainbow Bridge

I'd been thinking about Mookie a lot the past few days, so last night I wrote to Kay (the vet) to check in on him.

She replied that he had developed rapid onset dementia like symptoms and started having seizures, which seemed to indicate a brain tumor. Because she was not able to fully control the seizures and because of his advanced age (almost 12, just about the average life expectancy for a Boston), she had made the hard decision to put him down.
Not exactly sure when this happened, because she wanted to spare us the grief and pain and didn't tell us.

R.I.P. Mookie 1/1998 - 10/2009


Oriental Tailor

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Big day today. After lunch we're taking 5 pair of trousers to the tailor to be hemmed. Bye bye too long pants!

Driving down Fordham Blvd., we point out particularly spectacular trees to each other. (Yep, DL, the color's here now!)
Mom says " They just hold it and then yippee!" That was laugh out loud charming. Ain't it the truth?!

She gets a grilled chicken salad, which I need to cut up for her, her small motor skills are slipping. At one point she tells a piece of chicken to "get its ass out of there!" (and onto her fork). She cracks me up.
Then we're off to Oriental Tailor (yes, that is the actual name of the tailor).

'H boy. I was hoping she could do one pair and they'd figure it out from there, but no, she has to try on every pair.
She hands me back pants that she was wearing when she came in, or tries to put pants on wearing her shoes or keeps the pants on that were just pinned while trying to put on the new pair.
She didn't understand what the woman was saying (in her defense, several times neither did I ), when she told Mom to face the mirror, she'd spin all the way around. Took about 45 minutes.
She called me a little bitch (least I was little!) and an asshole - laughing all the time. I told her she was on name calling restriction. She doesn't remember five minutes later that she said anything.

The staff at Wynwood seem to like her and she them. They hug her and call her sexy and tell her she looks cute. One woman said she likes to assist other people (that's my old mom!), so much so that sometimes they have to stop her because she'll interrupt her own sleep to go help them.

Now Where Did I Put That?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still sick with the crud. Stayed home Wednesday since I had a fever and chills Tuesday night and should have stayed home Thursday as well, because the scratchy throat came back Thursday afternoon. Went to work part of the morning on Friday, then left when the chimney cleaner came.

Went to Kohl's later to get some pants for Mom, took them over for her to try on. She had moved two pair of pants - again! They were folded up under a pair of shoes on the floor.
This part of the disease is so weird. What is happening in her brain that moving stuff makes sense?

She tells me I just want everything to be perfect - this is coming from a woman who sliced each pecan for cookies into the same sized sliver. Not chopped - no, each one individually cut. (she also wanted to match or beat the number of dozen each recipe claimed to make).

I don't want things perfect, I just want her to be able to find her pants and searching for things is beyond her now.

The shampoo and body wash were in her bathroom closet, not the shower. No wonder her hair is dirty most of the time. I fear we may need to start paying for more help in the personal cleanliness area.

Another thing that's new, is her forgetting how to work her remote control. She had it on FitTV, which was weird, and the sound was off. She said someone (that sneaky "someone"!) had changed it and she couldn't get it to work. I found her favourite USA channel and turned the volume back on.


The Dog Who Thinks He's A Goat

October 10, 2009

My dear friend DebraLee is visiting from California and coming to lunch with us today. Going to experience southern food at its finest (not) at the cafeteria. (sorry we didn't get to the fried green tomato BLT at A Southern Season - next time!)
Debra is love with sweet tea though and the K&W does that just fine, she said the crab cakes were good too.

Mom has a key now and has to lock her door because someone's been coming in and eating her stuff. I'm pretty sure SHE'S been eating her food and not remembering. She moves stuff around all the time. Reminds me of Mookie when he had a new bone. He would almost frantically move it around from place to place and if he saw you watching where he put it, he'd have to move it again.

After lunch we took a ride out Dairyland Road, past Maple View Farms (ice cream, ummmmm!), to see if there was some fall color out there (there wasn't).
Since we were out that way, we stop at Woodcrest Farm where I get my chicken, eggs, the BEST hot dogs ever (more like polish sausages in size), and grass fed beef. (The chicken and eggs are Nancy's from Fern Hill Farm) Chris and Alan are very nice people.

Sandy and I took a canning class out there several summers ago with Chris, made bread and butter pickles and some tomato sauce. They raise border collies, so there are always three or four very sweet dogs around. Some of their former puppies come back every year for doggie "summer camp". They also have a bunch of foster children.

They have a few watermelon left and Mom wants one. Alan won't let us pay for them, said the quality couldn't be relied on since they were end of season. But he takes one in the house, cuts it for Mom and puts it in a plastic bag for her.

Meanwhile, Debra goes down to the barn to look at the animals and Mom follows her. When she gets down there, she gives Debra a fist bump. Cracks me up. Where the heck did she learn that?

Their Great Pyrenees dog is laying with the goats. They're used as [flock] guardian dogs. The dogs bond with whatever they're raised with and will bark very loudly and vigorously if disturbed. Nancy has two GP's who think they're chickens. Obviously he doesn't think Debra or Mom were a threat since there's not a peep out of him. I haven't seen him since February, he was about 4 months old then and already twice the size of the border collie pup who was a month older.

When we drop Mom off she gave Debra a hug and says she'd "like to have her again".
She even blows me kisses.

Waiter - There's A Spoon in My Salad

Saturday, October 17, 2009
Happy Birthday to me (yesterday) - here's a scratchy throat. I probably shouldn't even be taking her out today, but it's her one time a week to get out of there.
Her hair is dirty again. It also needs coloring, it looks like a faded peppermint stick - red and white striped. Oh god.

We have to search for her purse, because it's not in the usual place (it's partially under her bed). The room's not that big, so it doesn't take that long, but this moving around thing appears to be getting worse.

After her usual comments on my car's cleanliness (mostly not clean), we get in and I notice her pants are dirty. She says it's the only pair she has. HUH? That will need to get sorted when we get back.
I ask if we can go to Rick's Diner instead of the cafeteria because I'm feeling like breakfast, she says she was thinking about that. She loves their chicken salad (it's really good).

She gets a mound of chicken salad on a green salad, ranch on the side. The dressing is in a small bowl. She holds it over the salad, unclear how to get the dressing on the salad. This is new.

I suggest using her spoon to drizzle dressing over the salad. She does that, but then starts eating the salad with the spoon. She gets a little huffy when I suggest using a fork to eat the salad, makes a comment about me thinking she's stupid. She doesn't know what to do with the spoon now.

How does one make it seem like it's her idea and try NOT to make her feel like she's stupid? It's like being a parent again, and I wasn't very good at that the first go round.

We get back to her place and start the pant search. I find several pair folded up under some other clothes in the closet. White pair - no, no - can't wear those now!
Isn't it weird how the brain works? She still remembers no white after Labor Day, but not how to eat a salad.

We find the pant hangers, with two nice pair of slacks - they're too long she says. (she has a tendency to like her pants to come to the ankle, which is a bit too short in my book). I tell her that with a slight heel they'll be just fine. I find 4 pair of pants (not counting shorts and the white pair). There are some others, but they're too small (sizes 4/6/8) now. There's another pair she tried to hem - one leg is cut 6" shorter than the other. Wow. The former award winning seamstress.
It's all so unbelievably sad. I say this a lot don't I?

I move the pants to the front of the closet next to her coats, since there's less of them, maybe she'll be able to find them. Chances are, she'll move them back and not be able to find them again. I found her key in a drawer (last week she HAD to lock her door) and almost two full cartons of cigarettes.
Maybe she is forgetting to smoke!


It's Wal-Mart day! Whoo hoo!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I hate Wal-Mart, but we have discovered that the cheapest place to get Mom's nails done is the Wal-Mart in Hillsborough.

When I call her that morning, she asked me where I'd been, (I saw her last Friday), all motherly concern.
"Right here", I said, "Where've you been?"
"I'm here too", she said.
A small sweetly sad exchange. Ok, we're all here now.

While she's getting her nails done I do her shopping (diet Pepsi/diet Dr. Pepper, sugar free candy, low salt cashews, sugar-free jello/pudding, and those tiny white powered sugar donuts), and still have plenty of people watching time, since I didn't bring a book. People watching in Wal-Mart depresses me however. Is it because it's Wal-Mart...well no actually, people watching in malls also will cause a mental nose dive.

Which leads me to wonder - if people were people watching me, would they be depressed?

Most of us see don't ourselves as others do, (both good and bad). For instance, in my head, I'm around 30 and still weigh 130 lbs, then I'm SHOCKED when I see my reflection in a mirror or window (hey, who's that FAT OLD woman in front of me?! - oh wait...crap). Apparently this phenomena happens to people in Wal-Mart - a lot (this way too small yellow sparkly t-shirt with the pink camouflage pants and puce stilettos looks GREAT!).

Anyhoo, then we went to lunch at Ming Garden (something different for a change). On the way there she tells me how she picked out the nail polish all by herself (it was actually my pick, with her approval).
"I went back there all by myself and picked it out. It's pretty isn't it?"
It sure is Mom.


Mookie's Doing Great

Several weeks ago, we went to Kay's (the vet) house to visit Mookie. He came right up to Mom, twitching his little corkscrew tail, which made her SO happy - "He remembered me!" He also did his "take me for a walk!" dance to me (consists of picking up his front feet one at time, whipping his head around, and saying "wrue, wrue, wrue").

Mookie seemed quite content, even though it was noisy: there are ten dogs (three are hers, rest are fosters), several cats, an iguana, two macaws, numerous sleeping ferrets and about five to six rabbits. This woman (and her husband!) is a SAINT. Seriously.
He was fine with the other dogs. He had his belly band on and didn't seem to mind it at all.

That seemed to satisfy Mom, she hasn't mentioned Mookie since then. She didn't get emotional at all, going, during or after. But if she does want to, we can go any time.

Here's a link to Kay's "other" job.

A Day in the Life

Friday, September 18, 2009

This is what it's like having a meal with Mom:

Setting: K&W Cafeteria, where we have become regulars.
Time: Lunch

After several minutes of silence interspersed with comments about how much she likes it here, how good the potato salad is (just like hers), and offering me various items, (I usually just have a glass of tea.), the conversation goes like this:

Mom - "Did you get your...[insert some sort of vague gesture here]?"
Me - "My what?"
Mom - "You're not that smart anymore, are you?" Laughs.
"You know. Just wait, I'll tell you."
Plays with a chicken finger, making it walk around the plate because it has a funny shape.
Me - "My what? Car? Kitten? Elephant?"
Mom - Laughing.
"No. You know, your...just a minute. I'll think of it. Mmm, this is good [potato salad/banana-strawberry compote/chicken fingers], you can have some."
Me - more guessing of ridiculous things.
Mom - Laughing (this is good. Compared to last year at this time, when she and everyone else was so miserable.)
"No. You can't have one, because of when you were a baby."
Me - "Ohhhhhhh - a flu shot!" (I was allergic to eggs and chicken when I was younger and the flu culture (?) was incubated in eggs back in the day. Not sure if that's still true.)
Mom - "Yes!"
This has taken approximately 20 minutes.

After lunch, it's off to University mall; Rose's for Kleenex, then to Bath and Body Works, where she smells everything about 6 times because she can't remember she just smelled it. We walk down towards Dillards, but her back (or legs, depends on which time you ask) is hurting today, so we head off to Trader's Joe's for cashews, watermelon, and whatever else strikes her fancy while she's still mobile. She's worn out; it's been about 2 hours since I picked her up.


It Just Might Be Okay

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Went over to see Mom and take her to lunch at the terrible K&W Cafeteria, which she LOVES. Everything is horribly overcooked and over salted, but it's her party, so that's where we go.
She was sitting outside with a couple that she's friends with when I got there and even though I had to remove Mookie's crate, she was okay! This made me happy.

Told her Mookie was being fostered by the vet, Kay (God love her, she is a saint - the same vet that fostered and found a home for Mom's diabetic cat Mr. Brown), and she was totally good with it. No crying or anything. I do think it's a relief to her on some level. She did want to see him and we talked about it perhaps being hard to see him go off again, but left it open.

Then she said she wanted a kitten. I do not see that happening. Maybe an older cat. But there's the litter box to deal with. I'm thinking about taking Finn over there, he might be up for that sort of outing. Need to get a new harness, as I'm fairly sure he's "outgrown" the one I have. He is a little round weebil of a cat.

L. was out in the lobby being all cheery and friendly. Ignored her when she spoke to us as we were leaving. Oh, I know - so grown up of me. (That's my M.O. - shut down all contact.) When I left after dropping Mom off she asked how I was and I said I couldn't talk to her, I was still very upset.


A really, really crappy day

Friday, August 7, 2009

Daphne and I have been switching off taking every other Friday off, yesterday was mine. I take some Trader Joe's stuff, Pepsi, and cigarettes (why can't she forget that she smokes???!) over to Mom, so we aren't leaving Mookie in the room alone.

I ask if she remembers talking with L. about Mookie, she says no. So, for Pete's sake, I have to tell her again and tell her about Boston Rescue and that he's on the list. She starts crying.
She's worried Mookie won't remember her. Can he come visit? I'm not sure, depends on the person who adopts him and where they live. She doesn't want to go get something to eat because she's been crying. So I head over to the cafeteria to get her lunch to go.

On my way out, I stop by to see L. and update her on the progress.
She says, "Oh you misunderstood, I didn't want to be mean, I thought you'd realize I meant 48 hours." "He needs to leave today. He can't live here anymore." "I'm getting complaints from staff and residents." (The staff is complaining too?! That's new.)

Now how on God's green earth am I supposed to "pick-up" that she meant 48 hours when she didn't SAY that? Dammit - my mind reader's license just expired! Silly me.

Then she has the nerve to ask how I was doing, because she's "often more worried about the family than the residents." "You need to take care of yourself first." And then touches me on the shoulder. Do. Not. Touch. Me. Yesterday I was shell-shocked, now I'm PISSED.

I bring back lunch for Mom and let her eat before I have to tell her - surprise her - that Mookie has to leave now. I feel set-up. The fucking bad guy - AGAIN.

In the meantime, EBF calls. He must have asked if I was there, because Mom whispered really loud, "She's here now." It's so funny on some level.
When I asked if that was Tom (EBF's real name revealed!), she said, "Oh I don't know who the heck that was."
So, you in the habit of telling people you don't know on the phone that you love them? Interesting. "How's his wife doing?" I ask. "Okay I guess", she replies. Good grief.

Mom's told me several times that I don't like men (oh really?) and I wonder if he's told her that and she's repeating it. Or, because of her dementia, me not liking HIM equals not liking all men. She's right though, I DON'T like dickhead jerks who take advantage of/use women, one of whom is my mother.

Out of the blue ten minutes later, she tells me to mind my own business and that I can go now.
And then I have to say that Mookie has to come with me.

She thinks he's going to Boston Rescue and I'm going to let her think that for now. She goes back and forth between wanting to help carry stuff out (no) and crying. The staff knows that this is happening and are ready to pay special attention to her. I get everything (but the crate) out and get Mookie, who is just as excited as he can be because the word "go" was used. (Car ride - my favorite!) He doesn't even pay attention to her as we walk by. L. is telling Mom he can come visit - shut up! you don't know that! Pisses me off.

I sit in the car and cry for 20 minutes. I can't take him home. I don't want to. Call the vet, they're full up, but they recommend another place in CH. She says she's full, but is getting ready to make calls to confirm reservations. I tell her the sad story, it turns out she has two Bostons herself and she finds a spot for him at least until Monday. She'll make some calls to people she knows who foster dogs too. Poor Mookie. I go home and cry another hour.

I'm depressed about my family. Do they not call or respond to emails because they think I'm so strong that I don't need emotional support? Is it a compliment? Is it truly out of sight, out of mind? This is their mother too. What has happened to us?
My father is rolling over in his grave. He'd smack us all into the middle of next week if he were here.

Mookie has to go.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I get a call at work from the administrator over at Wynwood. She tells me Mookie needs to find a new home, getting complaints from residents and it's just not working out.

Do I want to come over when she has the talk with Mom? Not particularly. I've had this talk with Mom several times and am not anxious to repeat it. She already thinks I'm the bad guy. She says ok and she'll call back after they chat.

While waiting, I look up Boston Terrier Rescue on line and there's one in NC. I'm in the middle of typing the email to them when L. calls back.

She reports that Mom seemed resigned and agreed with her that Mookie was barking and it wasn't fair to the other residents, yada yada yada.
At NO POINT was any mention made of a time frame. I told her I was writing BT Rescue at that very moment and she asked me to keep her updated.
Again - there was no "the-dog-has-48-hours" or "you-have-until-Wednesday" discussion. She did say that once broached it's better to deal with it quickly. Sure, like pulling off a bandade, and I'm in agreement with that.

Rest of week spent emailing, phone tagging BT Rescue. Called the vet; sent Mookie's info to the shelter, just in case there's a softie on staff; and to Tailless Cat Rescue, because she knows people. Anyone I can think of.
The vet's on vacation until Monday, Aug. 10, but she wants to talk about it. She got Mr. Brown adopted; thinking a diabetic cat who hates other cats is much harder to adopt, so she's a miracle worker in my book.

The EBF returns

Saturday, August 1, 2009

After we get back from lunch, Mom takes Mookie out while I clean out the crate (he'd peed in there.). Her phone rings and I answer it.

EBF: "Hi."
Me: "Hi."

EBF: "What are you doing?"
Me: "Nothing."

EBF: "Nothing going on?"
Me: "Nope."

Slight pause as it dawns on him that I'm not who he thinks I am...

EBF: "Who is this?"
Me: "Kim. Who's this?" (knowing full well who it is)

Another slight pause...

EBF: "Bob."
Me: "Bob! Bob Dalum?" (Mom's friend/neighbor from CA)
EBF: "Yes"...then click of phone hanging up.

What a lying A-Hole.

Help is on the way?

Way, way back in May 2008, Daphne and I went to check out Carolina House, which is an assisted living place in Chapel Hill. Rooms were very small and it was expensive. But the marketing director, Geri I think, was wonderful and gave me a number for a non-profit group who helps get additional benefits from the VA.
I schlepped that paper around for months and finally called only to find out they help if you are in certain facilities and Mom wasn't in one of them. The woman I spoke to was very kind and gave me websites and form numbers I needed to apply for the benefits [for Mom] myself.
So I bravely entered the crazy mixed up minefield - I mean, world that is the government, downloaded the forms, get stuck on question 19: "What is your SSN?" (Who's SSN?! Mine? Dad's? Mom's?), get overwhelmed and put them away. There was a lot of stuff going on then. But I felt guilty because she could get up to $1000 a month in additional benefits. That would be a HUGE help. Kay made a few calls in Dec. when she was here, but the forms that person told her to use were different than the other forms the first person said to use. I was confused - and so continued to do nothing.
But - when she moved into Wynwood, she was eligible to use the free service provided by "A Place For Mom".
Weird name, but they are awesome. They actually fill out the paperwork for you, help you gather all the supporting documents such as marriage, death certs, discharge papers and various others. Things that prove that he/she actually was a veteran and you are a surviving spouse of said veteran.
Thankfully my parents were pretty good keepers of all that stuff - except the one form (DD-214) I really needed wasn't an original (his final discharge/retirement).
All the other DD-214's were original - except that one! That needed to be ordered, had to wait for it to arrive via the USPS.
Then everything needs to be put together and shipped off to the VA, which I did on 5/28. Still waiting to hear.
To their credit, the VA has sent two letters, one saying they received the application and another one recently saying they were still doing whatever voodoo they do and to please be patient.
Fingers crossed! Pink Light!


The New Reality

January, 2009

The doctor at Hillcrest upped her anti-depressant and added an anti-psychotic medication for the "agitation". It makes a huge difference. She's actually rather pleasant to be around now [sometimes]. Although it didn't change the filter, or lack thereof, situation.

Case in point:
We have to go back to the orthopedic doctor that Kay and I took her to last month. After an hour, we get in for our 5 minutes with the actual doctor.
Making conversation he asks Mom, "Wasn't there another daughter here with you last time?"
To which she replies, "The pretty one?"
My fairly decent self esteem is sure getting the shit kicked out of it.

She seems to be adjusting to the new place fairly well, she's actually taking all her meds - because they administer them.
But Mookie isn't. He's still peeing (dammit!) and now has taken up barking whenever she leaves the room. He never, ever used to bark. Poor old dog.

While I'm on the subject of doctor visits, how annoying is it to wait an hour for an appointment - why even call it an appointment?! That implies a time keeping device somewhere.
I've done my part, I'm on time, usually early and still we wait for an hour! And then see the doctor - not the nurse, or x-ray tech, or the pre-doctor (they do that at Duke - send in a teaser pre-doctor doctor.) for maybe five minutes. A ten minute appointment takes three freaking hours, when you add in travel time. UGH! It is so annoying and disrespectful. It's not like I don't have other things to do with my time - like WORK (to pay for my overpriced insurance). The health care system is broken.


Free at Last!

Sunday, December 21, 2009

Mom is moved in and has Mookie again! Whoo hoo!

How blissful it is to sleep with only cats again, who take up a tiny little bit of room - at the foot of the bed.
They're polite and charming bedfellows (once they get past the "we must disembowel the evil foot!" stage).
Quite unlike Mookie, who takes over the whole bed and snores and farts to boot. It's amazing just how much room a 23 lb dog can utilize.

Kay's leaving today, but Brad keeps saying she won't make it, it snowed something like a foot yesterday and they're expecting seven inches today. She keeps telling him to quit being so damn negative.
Southwest online says it's all good, they're leaving on time.
Even though she's checked in, we wait in line to double check that the plane is leaving.
Agent says it's all good.
The monitor says it's all good, on time...on time...on time...until three seconds after her luggage disappears. At which point it starts flashing delayed...delayed...delayed.
We get back in line and still the ticket agent insists it's leaving Durham on time and the delay is in Chicago, so we say goodbye at security and I head home.

I don't make it past Terminal C when I realize I have a SORE and I mean like strep throat sore - throat. It was instantaneous, like a switch flipped on - not sore - SORE. Crap.

I haven't been home five minutes when Kay calls to say her flight's been canceled until Wednesday morning. So back to RDU (only 10-15 minutes away). Thankfully they were able to pull her luggage off and get it to her.

Kay is nice to have around when you're sick. Generally I don't want to be around anyone when I'm sick, but she's just the right amount of attention. And she doesn't try to see if I have a fever like Mom would. I hate that - personal bubble invasion! She made really good grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, and kept me hydrated.

We played our Nintendo DS's and chilled. Didn't go visit Mom; she thinks Kay already left, plus I've had about all the Mom visits I can handle right now, so being sick is an excellent excuse.

Jim volunteers (okay, Daphne volunteered Jim, but whatever) to take Kay to the airport Wednesday morning at 4:30 AM for her 6:30 flight. THANK YOU!

Later that morning, I take out the garbage - then find I'm locked out.
Kay, in order to protect me from all the axe murderers in my neighbourhood, had locked the doorknob. (I only use the deadbolt on that door)
She assumed
A.) I'm smarter than I am
B.) would realize that she would lock the door.

Thankfully I had put on a housecoat and slippers just before I took the garbage out.
It could have been so much worse.

After a couple of seconds of panic and a half-hearted attempt to see the humor in the situation (which only made me cough), I remember there's a car key hidden on my car and house keys in the car.
Two laps around the car: can't find it. It's a bit brisk this Christmas Eve day and I really wasn't prepared to be outside this long, now my hands are cold and muddy. Desperate lap number three coming up.
May have to expose neighbors to my sick-smelly-greasy-haired-no-make-up-unmatched-pajama-wearing self to call someone to bring me a key if I can't find it - WAIT! there is is. Whew! Alright, there's the key collection.
Oh nooooo...none of these keys go to my house. There's one to Sandy's, Daphne's, my mom's house in FL, and the cemetery gate, also in FL. WTF.
A cunning plan is formulated: drive 1.5 miles to Sandy's, get the key she has to my house and all will be well. I pray to God I don't get pulled over.

When I take the key back over a few days later, her boyfriend Donald says "I didn't recognize you without your pajamas." It was pretty funny, but laughing makes me cough for 20 minutes and pee my pants from coughing. (that actually lasts about 4-5 weeks)

Kay makes it home with no delays Christmas Eve. I was hoping she wouldn't get sick, but she ends up with bronchitis.

Merry freaking Christmas.


Bah Humbug!

December 10, 2008

Kay is back from Oregon to help me move Mom to assisted living. We have seven days to decide on a place, go through her stuff (again!), buy new furniture, put together said new furniture, move, and get rid of the old stuff. Add to that quite a bit of rainy weather, an old dog, and visiting Mom once a day and voila! good times.

I'm not a big fan of December. I hate Christmas and all it's fake cheery BS. I will spare you the soapbox on this, but suffice it to say, I'm glad when it's over for the year. My sister on the other hand, is a huge fan of Christmas, not the religious part, but the decorating, parties, presents part. Which is honest...oh wait I said no soapbox. Sorry.
So I do my best to Christmas up the guest room with a couple of things sent to me by Susan G. (her and Jesus share the same [alleged] "birthday", so they're close :-).
Kay in turn gives me a sheep that poops jelly beans - BAA Humbug! I love it.

The doctor said decisions are difficult to negotiate for someone with vascular dementia (or any kind). So the less there are the better - exactly the opposite of what we thought was best for her. She didn't participate at Emerald Pond because it was too overwhelming, it was safer to stay in her room. They need a schedule and less choice. Think small children; sometimes two choices is one too many.

So, using that as a guide, we decide on Wynwood, the assisted living facility close to my house. She can have Mookie; it's a smaller room, but she's on the ground floor, right across from the courtyard and just down the hall from her dining room. Instead of one big overwhelming dining room, they have several small ones on each floor, with four tables for four in each. Much less intimidating. There's a small living room space on each floor as well. And even I have to confess, it's decorated really well and it smells great. Very welcoming. The sales manager is great, sweet and helpful.

The day before Mom is released from Hillcrest, we have to take her to the orthopedic doctor over at Duke to check her compression fracture. This turns out to be a HUGE time suck on our moving time. Hours out of the last day we have to put together four pieces of furniture and we still have some piddly small stuff to move over. Ben and Allison helped a lot (Ben has a pick up), but now it's just us.
After the ten minute long part of actually being with the doctor, we're making her next appointment and Mom says she's going to go sit down. She was out of sight maybe a minute; when we walk out to the waiting area (which you can see from the appointment making area) - she's not in there! Holy crap, we've lost our mother in Duke Hospital! She's using a walker for Pete's sake - how fast can she go?! (Apparently fast enough.) We dash around and recruit others to dash around for several minutes, then poof - there she is wandering out from some office - eating candy and looking very pleased with herself. Oh. my. gosh.
We take her to lunch where Mom and I get in a wrestling match over a sugar packet. Funny now. Not so much then. My ever patient sister (Saint Kay) is horrified I'm making a big deal over Mom putting sugar in her iced tea. Well okay, it was a little controlling on my part. I'm thinking of it as payback.

Then, after dropping Mom off at Hillcrest, on the way to pick up another load of things from Emerald Pond we get a phone call from Wynwood to tell us the final pricing for Mom's rent. It's even more than I expected and I can't even speak, just start crying and hand the phone to Kay. Kay and I then proceed to have a melt down, our only one actually, which is amazing considering we're both stressed beyond belief. So we have a little cool down period where I sit in the car and set up Mom's cable service and she sits in the lobby of Emerald Pond. Meanwhile, Kay's boyfriend Brad back in Oregon is dealing with a spell of gout, a very sick horse (who ends up having to be put down), and the worst snowfall in ten years.


Another Move

Friday, December 5, 2008
Mom is getting discharged from Hillcrest on December 10. Dr. Williams says it would be best for her not to go back to Emerald Pond, so I have five days (really three business days) to find an assisted living place and move Mom in. He has emailed a many paged document with all the assisted living places in Orange and Durham counties which was a huge help.

I visit one place in northern Durham that depresses me in spite of it being very clean and having a friendly staff. It's $4000 a month for what's basically a private hospital room. It's also far from my house and she can't have the dog there. I have appointments with two other facilities, both nice, but one is a bit farther away and she'll have to deal with an elevator again. Not that she can't, but in the dog walking event, it will be helpful to be on the ground floor. The pros to this place is that she can have a larger room (= keeping more stuff) and it's a bit less expensive than the other place that's in the running.

Kay volunteers to come out [again] to help me, she's coming Dec. 10. I sure am glad she is. Someone tells me we can get a medical stay of one more week before Medicare stops paying for the room - a huge reprieve.

I want to pick the best place for Mom, not what's more convenient for me, but I'm happy Kay likes the same place I like; it's close to me, her room will be on the ground floor, small dining rooms right down the hall, across the hall - a courtyard where she can take Mookie out. The cons: only one room and it's more expensive than the larger place.

The amount of money we've spent in the last six months is staggering. Moving up to NC, paying a mortgage and upkeep on a house [that will not sell] in FL, paying off all her credit cards, Tracy, her apartment here, $100 doctor visits, medical co-pays - it is overwhelming and depressing. She's about $1000 a month short. Now we need to buy different furniture because her old stuff is too big for her new place. Even more money...

Kay and I winnow down Mom's stuff one more time. We are surgical and calculating in our winnowing. If we don't recognize anyone in the photos - out it goes. Grandchildren of friends from 30 years ago - you don't go. School pictures of fifth cousins twice removed - it's the trash for you. Photos of craft projects friends have made, the birds in their yard, pictures of their roses - bye bye now. We throw away two garbage bags (the big 30 gallon ones) of photos.
Mom has DVD's and VHS tapes of the same movie - out go the VHS tapes. Out go the slippery pajamas, all the cans of pineapple that moved up here from FL (sorry Susan! All your packing out the window), the boxes of Jell-O. The bed, dresser, and night tables (all in the massive 1970's Mediterranean style) go to a friend of Ben's. Couch, lamps, bedding and other things get donated to TROSA.

We can't move in until the 16th, so Mom stays at Hillcrest one more night, which will be on her bill (more money!). We buy a day bed to serve as couch and bed, a TV stand with drawers, and a new dresser. She keeps her coffee table (has great storage), TV and knick knacks. We spend late nights putting together furniture. The TV stand is particularly disappointing, we get it put together 3/4's of the way to find there are holes not drilled and pieces missing.


Cats and Dogs

My theory: extroverts prefer dogs, because both dogs and extroverts are pack animals. (I mean that in the nicest possible way - really. Some of my best friends are extroverts.) Introverts prefer cats (we channel Greta Garbo and her "I vant to be [let] alone.").

Call me the crazy cat lady if you want, but if forced to make a choice between either dogs or cats only for the rest of my life, cats win paws down. My best friend when I was three = a Maine Coon named Fluffy. Wished on a star or blew out candles on a birthday cake = a cat.

I've tried the dog thing several times, much to the amusement of my dear friend Linda (an anomaly to my theory, being an introverted dog lover). She's always prepared to do an intervention should I get confused about my true calling.
But I've finally discovered that I only like the romance of a dog. It's rather like wanting a boyfriend/husband. It sounds good in theory, fun even - someone to go places with, hang out, be your best friend. But the reality turns out to be much more smelly, annoying, and labor intensive than you ever reckoned.

Now, because of my mother's injury and hospitalization, into the middle of my three cat household (two of which were traumatized in my aforementioned vain attempts at dog ownership), I have to insert an almost eleven year old, partially sighted, babyfied Boston Terrier.

Lillie and Oscar are horrified by this breech in their insular feline world and retreat, hissing all the way, to counter tops for the duration.

Finn is pretty sure there is fun to had with this funky new creature. Especially when he notices Mookie gets in trouble for chasing him (he is a very smart cat).

Then it's Game ON!

The Diagnosis

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mom's been in Duke since Sunday night and now they're transferring her to a convalescent hospital for physical therapy. I have to pick three choices and turn again to my geriatric source guru, Barbara D., who recommends Hillcrest as choice #1. Hillcrest it turns out, is a locally owned convalescent hospital, the administrator is the grandson of the woman who started it in the 50's. It's an older building, but charming, clean, and fairly close by.

Everyone at Hillcrest is wonderful, from the Admissions Director, Daniel, to each of the nurses. Mom gets the best roommate, Miss Shelby, who is a hoot! (FYI, in the south, instead of calling people Mrs. [insert last name here], they add Miss to your first name. I like it, it's respectful without being formal.)
Her and Mom are the same age and both are doting dog owners. She broke her leg when she fell off a stool while changing a light bulb by herself, was healing and on crutches, then broke an arm and [the same] leg during a fire drill at a hotel. Her entire family is as sweet as they can be and make sure to include Mom in just about everything. Her grandchildren make Mom cards, and her daughter makes Mom a lovely tote basket embroidered with her initial. Mookie gets to come visit any time; he snuggles in to sleep in the bed with Mom and I can go to Whole Foods across the street.

Mom has to wear a corset type brace for her back and is using a walker, more for stability than anything else. The corset they gave her in the emergency room has never worked quite right, kept riding up her torso. The one they give her in Hillcrest seems to work better.

While she's in here I ask if a psychological evaluation can be set up for Mom. We want to know if her behavior, which has become increasing erratic, is normal for her having had strokes or if it's something else.

Earlier in the month, before she fell, Tracy called me saying Mom had cut herself. Mom told Tracy she did it on purpose, then got angry when Tracy took off the band aid and told Mom to wash it to make sure it didn't get infected. Mom put a band aid back on and then followed Tracy downstairs, very agitated, out into the lobby and was yelling at her in front of everyone.
Weird, weird, weird.

She's usually really good with Tracy and does what she says, but lately she's been telling Tracy it's none of her business when Tracy tries to get her to take her [oral] medicine. When asked, Mom says she did not say she cut herself on purpose and never told Tracy that. Obviously, I'm inclined to believe Tracy's version. I mean, she's said to me, "I'm so angry I could kill someone, maybe even you." OK then now. Time for a professional.

Doctor Williams calls me on December 4 and says that Mom has vascular dementia and that she is "no longer a candidate for living alone."

Watch That First Step!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The day started out perfectly normal. A lovely crisp fall day.
I volunteered at the animal shelter (with the cats naturally) and left my phone in my purse in the trunk as usual.
When I finish around noon, there are five messages on my phone, three from Tracy (Mom's insulin overseer) and two from the Emerald Pond managers.

Seems Mom fell around 9:30 AM. The first thing that comes to mind is that she's had another stroke.

Already I feel guilty, but don't know what about or why - how is this possible?! I take the wrong exit and have to drive halfway across Durham to correct it.

Mom's has a compression fracture in her back and is in a lot of pain even after painkillers; slips in and out of sleep. She says she was getting up to go to the bathroom and slipped off the edge of the bed. She does have on satin pj's and her bedspread is also slippery. She doesn't know what time it happened.

I'm there for about six hours, then leave to walk and feed Mookie and change out of my cat hair covered volunteer clothes. Allison has already kindly driven across town to feed my cats. When I came back, because you can only use the emergency valet once in a 24 hour period, I park in the garage on Trent St. (remember this) because this is the garage I am familiar with.

More hours of sitting, waiting, x-rays, questions, pain. It's a good fun time. Around 11 PM, two doctors come in and ask loads more questions; she knows the month, but not the year. She's only had diabetes for a little while. She always looks at me when they ask a question, like I'm supposed to give her the answer.
It's looking like they're about to release her, (OMG! NO! WHAT?! She's in so much pain still - are they kidding me? There's no way they can release her!), when her oxygen levels start to go down; they don't like that at all. A couple more x-rays and they determine she has fluid in her lungs and order her a room. Thank. You. Jesus.

I leave around midnight, ask if they have an escort service to the parking garage and am told there's a tunnel to the garage and given directions to said tunnel. I find tunnel and garage, but not my car.
I know exactly where it is: ground floor, third row down, second car on the left.

Except it's not there. Not there, or there, or there. No matter what third row I go down.
(Note to self - do NOT buy a white sedan ever again.)

I am a bit panicky now, and start to cry, but then try to bully myself into stopping. Who is crying in a garage by herself at 12:30 AM? A victim, that's who. So stop already. Can't. OK, then get out of garage.

And, by the way, in case you haven't guessed, I was in the wrong garage. I parked on Trent St. (remember?), several blocks down from Duke, not in the garage conveniently located across from Duke.

I go back into Duke and ask a lovely security guard named Michael if there's a safe ride to the garage. There is (why didn't the guy over in Emergency know about this?). He calls Safe Ride and I go outside into the brisk November night air to wait. I walk up to a van that people are getting on and am waved off with a curt "I'm not Safe Rides lady."

20 minutes later, still no safe ride. One of the doctors that was in Mom's room is leaving, goes with me back to lovely Michael, who calls again. Another 15 minutes go by. The van that waved me off before comes round again - now he takes pity on me and even though he isn't supposed to, (he's for giving doctors a ride to their vehicles), he takes me to the Trent St. lot.
There's my white sedan, ground floor, third row down, second car on the left. I have a little celebratory relief cry in the car. It's now close to 1:30 AM and I still have to get Mookie and all his stuff.


This Sucks

July 2008 - November 2008

More of the same. Everyone frustrated, unhappy, guilty.

There's a wonderful service here called Doctors Making House Calls, who specialize in geriatric care. The doctors are all women, and they can do blood tests, etc. at your house. This is the only way I can get Mom to see a doctor now. It costs $100 a visit (for travel), since she isn't in an assisted living situation. Worth it.

My aunt comes for a few days in October. She gets Mom to take the bus, but not the Emerald Pond bus - the city bus!
I'm horrified - what if Mom decides she can do this by herself?! I have nightmarish visions of my tiny stroke brained mother lost somewhere in Durham at night.
On one trip, my aunt leaves her purse on the bus, (thankfully they find it and nothing is missing), and I have to drive down to the bus station near the airport to retrieve it. I self-righteously think to myself all the way down and back that this wouldn't have happened if they had taken the Emerald Pond bus! Of course Mom's on her best behavior the whole week.
With me, my mother acts like a spoiled child. She's happy her house hasn't sold. She refuses to acknowledge the dog is peeing in the house and needs to go out more. She insists on buying crappy food [Beneful] ("He likes it!") for him even though he's covered in hot spots from the corn (allergies). The vet has to write a note before she'll stop.

There's lots of crying (her), lots of yelling (me), lots of avoiding (more me), lots of guilt (me again). I feel like this is all I talk about. I honestly don't know how to help her. Or me.

I try to write a weekly synopsis for my siblings and rarely hear anything back from one of them. This. bugs. me. Tell me to f*** off, don't send another one because you can't deal with it, or even a simple one word response would be fine (suggestions - roger, thanks, okay, sucks, etc.). To hear nothing makes me feel alone.
We're all struggling to deal with this, but jiminy christmas, I am BY MYSELF down here! You don't have to spend excruciating hours in Wal-Mart with her, or get treated like shit every time you see/talk to her, or get hung up on, or listen to her cry - all you have to do is acknowledge a freakin' email.

An aside: from the above paragraph it's clear my "love language" is "Words of Affirmation." Second is "Quality Time" (33% and 30% respectively). Acts of Service 20%, Physical Touch 17%, Gifts 0%.

Anyway, things are not getting better here and it's been close to six months. If anything they are getting worse.


Post Garage Sale

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Whew! It's over. What didn't sell went into the 14 yard dumpster we rented, (that was a good idea). We filled it to over flowing and there's still stuff left. We don't have time to clean, that will have to be another time. We made over $2000, which sounds like a lot, but not for a week's worth of hot sweaty depressing work.

Russ and family are coming through NC to see Mom on their way back to WI. Mom doesn't show any emotions that her grandchildren are there.
As I'm putting away things that we brought back up for her, she comes in from walking the dog and gets really angry, starts channeling Gollum/Smeagol. Her precioussss..."Stop going through my stuff!" Etc., etc., etc. There's no convincing her that I am giving her more stuff - not taking it away. She slams out onto the balcony, crying and smoking.
Russ and Jill are shocked. I say this is what I get every day. Welcome to my world.

Before you think I'm the most awful person, (I've already confessed to irritability, selfishness and lack of patience), let me say that this is the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced, short of dealing with a two year old. At least a two year old will grow out of it. There's a learning curve here and brother, is it a steep one.

Going back and forth all the time - should I quit my job and move back down to FL with her and take care of her? (That was the one thing that would make me start crying when she was in hospital after the stroke - the thought of moving back to FL with her.) Are we doing the right thing? Is she going to get better? Is there something I'm not doing (probably)?

Sometimes she seems normal and I let my guard down, then wham! Stroke brain sucker punches me in the face. This thing does not play fair.
There's no logic to her thinking most of the time and yet I repeatedly get pulled down the rabbit hole trying to get her to be logical about taking the dog out more, or not spending money for food when she doesn't need to, or taking her medicine. That's my fault.
I try (yes I know - "Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try.") to shift my attitude but I've stripped the gears.

I know she's frustrated too and she can't express that - hence the tantrums (just like a two year old). She's Opposite Mom - everything she used to enjoy is over. Cards, socializing, bowling, all of that is done. She can't hold a conversation because she forgets words, so says "Oh never mind!" Good thing I'm fairly good at charades because that skill comes into play several times a day. The sign for ice cream bars is pretending to hold something to her mouth and smacking her lips. Twenty Questions is another game we play frequently. "She's my friend, she called me." OK...then I go down my mental list of her friends until we get to who called her. Sometimes this can take a few minutes. She can't really read very well anymore. Or rather, things take longer to process, so she'll start off okay then it disintegrates into nonsense words "Drive Hertz now tkfipdj blah blah blah."

On one level it's a little fascinating to see how the brain copes with this type of trauma. Is this the "real" her that's been lurking under the cover of years of southern passive-aggressiveness? (Read genteel manners for all you non southerners) The passive is gone, now there's only aggressive. The stroke affected that part of the brain that covers decision making, does that cover the thinking-before-you-speak filter?


I Hate Garage Sales

July 24, 2008

I don't like going to or having garage sales. There's something creepy and sad about them. They have a desperate feel, like selling blood. My ex-husband loved garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. That could be another reason why I don't.

Strangers pawing through family memories, "Will you take _ for this?" No, I will not, I will take the price that's marked on it. Why do people try to get something that's marked .25 down to .10?! Will it be worth it then? Does it satisfy the bargain hunter urge to get it for .15 less? It's a piece of crap - pay the damn quarter and be gone! Ugh. And all this "stuff" is something that at one point we just HAD to have.

The kids are really good sports about this, even though it is not very much fun for them. Shawnn takes Dakota fishing one morning and they catch a small shark - bonus points for cousin Shawnn! He takes them both shark tooth hunting too.

It's hot and humid as only Florida in late July can be. God I hate my native state in the summer.

Holy Hoarder Batman!

July 20, 2008

My brother and his family, The Boy, and myself have taken on the huge task of having a garage sale for the remainder of Mom's stuff in FL. My sister in law is a garage sale maven, and we are her minions for the next week. Mom has no idea we're doing this. They're driving down from WI, The Boy from Tallahassee and I'm coming down from NC (trip # 5 in 4 months. I swear my car could do the drive by itself). And God love her, Susan G. is game too; she is a very good long-suffering friend. She comes up with Christmas on The Back Porch - genius idea.

Frankly, I think my Mom has some hoarding issues. The tendency was kept under control being in the military and moving every three years, but after Dad retired and they bought the house, it came back like kudzu.

Most of the guest room closet is filled with yarn and fabric and when paired with what was in the garage, it comes halfway out into the living floor. There are several unfinished afghans and lots of unfinished Barbie clothes. Boxes and boxes of patterns and notions.
Russ and Jill just happened onto the Quilter's Guild meeting at Kofe Haus, and then were told about another group knitting afghans for babies or cancer patients or some such, so we were able to donate all the fabric and yarn. Nice.
Good grief the candles! Most of them are unopened. Cleaning supplies was another thing she had multiple duplicates of. How many bottles of Toilet Duck (or variations thereof) does one need for two toilets?!

My sister decided she would take the china Dad got in Japan after all, so we ship that and the glassware that went with it to OR, which cost about $1000. Everything is covered with a film of nicotine, grease and dust. Yummy! Julie, the owner of the pack and ship place was very nice and gave us a discount because we packed much of it ourselves. On one of these trips Sam went with me and called me Puma; I don't know why it was so funny to her, but we both were laughing so hard we were crying.

The Light Bright Ceramic Xmas tree war rages on between my brother and sister, because Mom sent Russ the one she told Kay she could have. Maybe they can work out joint custody. Oy. Vey.

(Does my sister look like Jodie Foster or what?!)

Actually, I think this is great. We're all getting the things we have special memories of (except see above) without the trauma of actual death. But the one thing I really want, Mom's old SLR Minolta, is no where to be found. We find the instruction booklet but no camera. I wonder what happened to it.

The Dreary Reality

July, 2008

Everything is more of the same. She is not getting better mentally, but it's only been a couple of months since the last [noticeable] stroke; perhaps I'm expecting too much too soon.
We get into an irritable confrontation just about every time we see or speak to each other. I'm resentful about being sole entertainment, transportation, schlepper of all things grocery, dog, or medical. I get hung up on at least once a phone call. She's resentful of being "in prison".
She buys groceries at Wal-Mart, when she's paying for three meals a day. She refuses to eat breakfast downstairs. She complains every day that all they have for supper is sandwiches, then buys sandwich stuff at Wal-Mart and you guessed it - has that for supper. She does not comprehend, even though it's been explained many times by many people, that she always has 3 choices for supper - and the chef told her personally (I was there) that all she had to do was ask and he would make her whatever she wanted.

She refuses to take the Emerald Pond bus anywhere. She doesn't participate in any activities. Wii bowling is awesome, (she used to be on a bowling league), but when I describe it and try to encourage her to try it, she says it "sounds stupid". She sits in her apt. smoking and watching the USA channel all freaking day.
She won't take her meds (including anti depressants) and will cry for an entire day. Those days (if she goes out), she'll wear her sunglasses even inside, a tiny female Roy Orbison.

Mookie is not getting outside enough and is peeing by the front door. She is in total denial about it. "No he doesn't.", and "You don't know him, he's not your dog.", are her two favorite responses. Or there's "Just take him then!" The smell will knock you over, I can smell it down the hallway. So now I know that her new carpet wasn't ruined totally by Mr. Brown, Mookie helped. A lot. I feel bad for the poor dog.

Why don't I feel bad for her?

She's so good at "covering" that some of her friends and family think I'm the crazy one and/or the jerk of the century. She tells people all kinds of stuff that isn't true, she's in prison (not literally), I never come see her, all the people there are horrible, etc. But when I go to pick her up sometimes, she's down there helping new residents find a dining table, laughing with Nora (yes, she's made friends).

I go back and forth between she can't help it and this is her diabolical way of driving me crazy. Often I wonder if we should get her an regular apartment. Sometimes I think we should let her go back to her house in FL and do whatever the fuck she wants to. Don't want to take your medication - fine. Have another stroke. Want to give your money to that useless piece of man crap you so sadly think loves you, well have at it sister.

She goes on and on about needing to be buried in FL. I tease her by saying it may be like Aunt Edna in "National Lampoon's Family Vacation", but she'll get there. (She does not find this the least bit humorous.) She wants to move to an independent living place in FL. When I ask who will take care of her - she can't answer.

She's pushed away all her friends and family because they didn't like EBF. They care about her and could see that he was using her. But we are all blind to his wonderfulness, "we just didn't know him."
I'm reminded of Dan T.'s grandfather's story about a jackass: One person calls you a jackass, forgetaboutit. Two people call you a jackass, look in the mirror. Three people call you a jackass - buy a saddle. Yo Mom, that dude's wearing a lot of saddles.

She gets SO angry, you cannot imagine. "I'm not happy here!" she says teeth and hands clinched, just shaking with rage. "I'm so angry I could kill someone - maybe you!" "I'm going to jump off the [2nd story] balcony." Except she couldn't leave Mookie "the love of her life" (Seriously, the love of your life is a ten year old Boston Terrier?!) Sometimes the things she says are just plain funny to me and that really pisses her off.

Many times after I leave, I sit in my car and cry.


Now What?

June, 2008

The lovely dining room at Emerald Pond.

So, Kay and Russ have both left and I am alone...with our mother. Russ has her name on a waiting list for an assisted living place in WI, but [in my heart of hearts] I don't think that she'll move up there, not willingly. And quite frankly, I don't think they really want her to either.

She can't find anything in her new place, even though Kay and I showed her where everything is several times. She doesn't bother (or can't) to look for things, doesn't occur to her to open a drawer. If it's not out in the open - one of us kids took it. She doesn't get that she can take Mookie out after 8 PM when the doors are locked, because she has a key. But in her brain 8 PM is it, so Mookie is peeing on the carpet by the front door. I can't decide if this is stroke brain or spite. She's very unhappy. Still having her two phone calls a day with EBF. Nothing makes my skin crawl quite as much as hearing my 72 year old mother tell her 55 year old married "boyfriend" that she loves him. UGH. and yuk.

She's down to insulin twice a day, 15 units in the AM and 20 units in the PM. We hire a lovely woman named Tracy to oversee the process, just to make sure it get done correctly. She's also supposed to check that Mom takes her other meds because stroke brain has turned Mom into a big fat liar. Not on purpose, but she either doesn't remember that she hasn't taken it or thinks "yes" is the answer we all want to hear. If you check she gets MAD.

After one visit to the doctor she refuses to go again, because he told her to quit smoking. Literally slams the door in my face when I come to pick her up. She hangs up on me if she doesn't like what I'm saying or is done talking. This happens most every time I call her or if she calls me. If I don't/can't drop everything I'm doing and take her to Wal-Mart to buy cigarettes RIGHT NOW, well - "CLICK"!

A conversation is difficult if not impossible, she's weepy and defensive about everything. Her sense of humor has disappeared and she's incapable of expressing any appreciation. I don't know how to be with her, it's like having a 7 year old cranky zombie for a mother. All her filters are gone, she says mean and inappropriate things.

We found some jewelry that Mom was sure her niece had stolen after house sitting. Instead of being excited or remorseful that she had falsely accused someone of stealing, she just said "Oh."

It's just so weird.
I don't like her very much.


We've Arrived!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We've hired TROSA (Triangle Residential Options For Substance Abusers), a great local company, who do moving, landscaping, painting, etc., to unload the U-Haul at Mom's new place. Great deal, but even if it wasn't, totally worth it, because we are tired. Russ and I help with that while Kay stays at my house with Mom. I run over to Target to get stuff we didn't have room for or that was too big to bring. Microwave, small outdoor table and chairs for her balcony overlooking the pond (sounds nice right?), etc. We want to have most everything in place before we get Mookie and Mom and bring them over.

Emerald Pond is close to my work and house, bonus for me. The managers, Bill and Patty are nice. It's a large one bedroom apartment, lots of storage; living room, with a tiny kitchen area with sink, cabinets, small refrigerator, but no stove because her "rent" includes three meals a day in the dining room.
Turns out even though it's large, it's not as large as the picture in my head was (there's this thing called a measuring tape...), so there's no room for her entertainment center and her microwave, but TROSA takes them as a donation. The U-Haul drop off place was right by them, so that worked out well.
Russ puts together the bed, tv stand, and gets electronics hooked up, I hang pictures. We get Mom and Kay, Kay helps Mom decide where she wants her clothes, etc.

If you're not clear on the pattern here - my sister is the nice one. She has the patience of Job, especially if you're sick or a child - our mom is both of those right now. I do not. I still think I am the worst person for Mom to live by, because I don't have patience, I'm easily irritated and I'm selfish. I'm sure all the godly people out there are saying to themselves - that's exactly why she's there, so I can work on that stuff. And I say to that - Fie!

We're Off...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

like a herd of turtles in a snowstorm.

After about 3 hours of craptasticly bad sleep (we were packing and cleaning into the wee hours), the truck is loaded, the car is packed and we're ready to go. Russ and Kay have the U-Haul and I get Mom, Mookie, and Mr. Brown (cat).

Mom and I leave first for the seven hour drive. Russ and Kay finish locking up and cramming last minute things into the truck. It's hotter than Hades today, so it's a drive thru only trip because of the animals. I don't mind, we get there sooner, but Mom is a sit down dinner kinda gal. Oh well. Here we come SC Exit 119 Sonic Drive Thru!

Mr. B. will not shut up for the first 45 minutes, meowing and meowing and meowing. Did I mention meowing? As only a Siamese can. Mom keeps talking to him, which encourages him. I confess I was pretty snappy with her about it and she got her feelers hurt, but at least she stopped and eventually Mr. B did too (thank you Jesus!). I was seriously considering leaving him by the side of the road if he didn't shut his pie hole. Mookie was great, as he always is in the car.

It was at least 100 degrees; we have to take turns going to the bathroom at rest stops so one of us is in the car with the AC running for the pets. Miserable. But we make good time.
Kay and Russ are about a couple of hours behind us. Russ goes to a hotel because he needs some "serious down time". (No comment.)
The dog and cat are boarding at the vet. It was too much to ask my [three] cats to put up with a cat (who doesn't like other cats) AND a dog AND two more people.

Oh, the back story on Mr. B: He was once my friend Daphne's cat, but he made life miserable for her other cats, because if you are not a person, a dog, or a really old, sick, male tabby cat named Yellow - he does not like you and will make your life a holy hell, so much so that you will poop under chairs out of fear.
So Mr. B., aka Mr. Brown, Brown, Brownie, Brown Boy, Tater, Ollie, Oliver, among other things, went to live with my Mom. Perfect situation: no other cats and a dog who likes cats.

But Mr. B, unbeknownst to us, had diabetes. Was peeing all over, ate all the time, drank water for 5 minutes at a time, ruined my mom's new carpet (Mookie helped him). Now he needs to be on insulin. My mother can't even do her own insulin let alone a cat's! So Mr. B needs to find a new home.


Away We Go - Part Trois

Monday, June 9, 2008

So much stuff! Even now, I cannot believe we did what we did in one day. Grace of God, seriously. A big shout out to Susan G. and her grandson Blake, Ken B., the ladies who took my mom out to lunch and sat with her while we went through her stuff, so as to lessen the trauma, we could not have done it without you!

We whittled down 20+ years of stuff into an 18' U-Haul. My brother did a freaking genius job of packing the truck; my sister was extraordinarily patient with Mom, going through each item of jewelry and clothing with her.
Blake was the best 10 year old runner ever, willing to do anything with a "Yes sir/ma'am." Susan packed boxes with a gracious spirit and as always, brought a huge helping of funny to the table. You cannot have enough funny in situations like this.
Ken B. bought Mom's car, for cash - huge help because we were wondering what we were going to do with it, and helped Russ loading some of the big stuff. Me - I just threw away things. I am really good at that.

Away We Go - Part Deux

Sunday, June 8, 2008:
How in the world do you tell your mother you're taking her from her independence, her home, her native state, her friends, her family?

We're all just sick. My stomach has felt like someone's punched me for the past three days, I can't believe how much I want to avoid doing this. I'm so happy Kay and Russ are here with me, there is NO WAY I could do this alone.
We have to tell Mom today because the U-Haul is coming tomorrow. Russ is changing the locks on all the doors today. (She thinks we're trying to lock her IN the house. Oh boy.)

I can't remember who actually told her. She tries to hit Russ, which was sadly humorous because she's 5'1" and weighs about 90 lbs.; a bantam hen trying to take on a bull. She starts crying, goes in her bedroom, slams the door, doesn't want to be with us.
Fair enough.

We go out on the back porch and eventually she comes out and asks if she can bring Mookie [the dog].
She goes back in crying.

Some time passes.

She comes back out and asks if she can bring her sewing table.
Goes in for a bit more crying.

Awhile later...
Can I wear jeans there?
Seriously. (that struck us as being so funny we couldn't stop repeating it.)

Kay says - you can wear a hoop skirt if you want.
Not so much crying now.

She's also really mad at Kay and I because we went to the 55 year old evil boyfriend's (henceforth known as EBF) church and requested he give back the key to Mom's house. Of course we were polite girls and didn't cause a scene. (No really, we were.) We waited until his [74 year old] WIFE was inside the church first. He said he didn't have it and he would drop it off later. Doesn't really matter, because we're changing the locks.

We just wanted him to know that the sweet gig he had going was O. V. E. R.
Full F***ing stop, you bastard.

So prior to us telling her she was moving to NC, EBF had broken up with her, stopping by for about three seconds to give her the key. She said we'd "...made asses of ourselves." Oh reeaallly? Good for us!

So a double whammy day for poor Mom. But honestly, it wasn't as horrible (for us) as it could have been. I was afraid she'd run away or hurt herself.

Can we start drinking now?! If any day deserves a beer (or five), it is today.

Then to sleep, perchance to dream, because tomorrow is going to be a doozy...


Skip to the present

I'll go back to the past in a bit.

The newest thing in the downward slide of my mother's dementia is that she doesn't remember how to spell her name. Seriously, how f***ed is that? This is more depressing to me than a lot of other stuff that's happened. Not being able to count money was pretty bad (she put down a $10 bill for a $26 tab and asked the cashier "Is that enough, because I don't know how much it is."), but this is worse somehow. (On the [dimly] bright side, at least she knows what her name is.) She always had beautiful penmanship and now that's shaky and weird too. I could cry right now just thinking about it.

I've had people say they would pray that I see my mother as she was. NO! NO! NO!
She is THIS WAY NOW and frankly it's torture to think of her in the past. I want that back and I can't have it. The only way to do it is to be here now. In all its uncomfortable, sad, messy nowness. Yikes.


And Away We Go!

All this is just bringing you up to speed...
Friday, June 6, 2008:
My brother is finally on board with Mom having to move. It did not feel good to get him to this place. There were tears and lots of shouting - mostly on my part. We could have done it without him, but it would have been a lot harder. After all, he is the one with a penis AND the youngest, so course he can do no wrong in a mother's eyes.
He's been at a trade show in VA, so he drives down here, picks me up and it's a road trip to FL - whoo-hoo! This is my 4th trip to FL in three months.

We met Kay at Moon River (best pizza in FL) for a planning session (and beer!). Mom doesn't have any idea we're coming and doesn't react to us showing up, in spite of not having seen Russ in several years. She doesn't ask what's going on. Her emotions are all crazy, you can't map them (guessing she can't either) to the appropriate event anymore. She laughs when she's upset, doesn't get jokes or humor anymore, cries easily and is very irritable and defensive. Her nurses say this is all part of post stroke brain and she should return to normal, but it could take months.

Kay and I spend Saturday doing fun stuff, like renting a U-Haul, gathering boxes, etc. She is ready for a break after all this time with my mom. Russ makes some kick-ass burgers on the vintage blue Weber and we have a really nice dinner, the first time since Dad died that we've all been together.
We decide not to tell Mom until the last possible minute, because we have no idea how she will react - will she try to run away again? Kill herself? We honestly don't know. We also have no idea how or if we can even pull this escapade off. There's so much to do.
And we don't even know what we don't know...