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2/28/10

Why Me?

Sometimes I wonder why Mom's here with me. I don't think I'm the right choice at all.
My sister is very patient and affectionate. She hugs Mom and pats her hand, tells her she understands. I do not.
Again - "just like your father." Me, that is.
Not really a talker and not into PDA - unless you're my boyfriend, which my mother definitely is not.
My sister is also really good when you're sick. *

My brother has a partner and grown children to spell him. I don't.

I just got the first born short straw I suppose. Oh I know, treasures in heaven and all that, but some days I just feel bitter.


*An aside: I think you treat people the way you want to be treated when you're sick. I want to be left alone. I don't want people touching me, poking or prodding me, trying to feed me soup.
If you want some tea I'll make it, but I'm not hanging around, because I would hate it if you did that to me.
What's to like? I smell bad, look and feel awful, leave me alone for Pete's sake. Shove the food under the door and go.

Cleaning, De-Cluttering, and Other Adventures in Babysitting



Clutter and disorganization makes me anxious. Dust - not so much.

Let me 'splain.
Like my father, I'm:
introverted, cat oriented, a non-saver of both money and things, and of the clutter free persuasion.
My mother, true to the old maxim, is [was] the opposite:
extrovert, prefers dogs, a saver of both money and things, and a cleaner.

When I was living at home, when I told Mom I'd "cleaned" my room, she'd say "Oh, you mean you rearranged the furniture and threw stuff away."
Co-rrect.
The vacuum was hardly ever near my room. Dust? You mean get rid of the protective coating for my furniture? Oh hell no.
Right now there are dust bunnies the size of rottweilers under my bed and enough cat hair to make a new kitten - but unless I'm looking under there, (why would I do that?),
I don't care.
IT'S TIDY. Dammit.

My junk drawer is organized, thank you very much.
All the instruction/warranty books for my appliances are 3 hole punched and stored in a binder. (Hey, I heard that! No, they are not alphabetized, so shut up. THAT'S anal.).
But there's a layer of dust on all my furniture, the oven probably needs cleaning and I definitely need to vacuum.

All that to say, my mother and I have been at odds since my birth - because we are polar opposites in the clean vs. uncluttered war.

And so Friday, my inner Peter Walsh (I think I love him.) couldn't take it anymore and went over to Mom's to put things away.
I smuggled out 2 bags of crap...err, donations, threw away random pieces of flotsam and jetsam, including a can of pineapple chunks (which she took back out of the trash can, even though she has no way of opening it). Emptied out her dirty clothes hamper; found lots of treasures in there, none of which were dirty clothes.
Also discovered where all her shoes were hiding - in her carry on case. She's been wearing the same navy blue sling backs since December.

During all this she walked around and sighed.

She said she was cold; I suggested a long sleeved sweater and the following ensued for about 20 minutes:
Trying to put long sleeved sweater (LSS) on over the short sleeved sweater (SSS) she had on currently, not getting it over her head and walking around with just her arms in the LSS, shivering.
Trying to fold up the LSS, giving up and throwing it on the floor. Shivering.
Carrying the LSS sweater around and asking me what to do with it.
Trying again to put the LSS on over SSS.
More folding attempts.
Trying to hang up the LSS.
Finally I helped her take off the SSS and put the LSS on. She always gets mad when I do this, but seriously, what's a girl to do?!

One of the things I found in the hamper was a fabric jewelry travel case containing my dad's wedding ring and another ring. She took those out and put them back in over and over. Or she'd take them out, put the rings on the table and put the case away. Oy. Like the LSS, only with rings.

After I'd tortured her enough, we went to eat at Rick's Diner.
She shook a 1/2 teaspoon of salt in her hand and ate it. Then she was playing with the lit candle (they get kinda fancy at night) and acting like she was going to burn my lemon wedge or me.

A couple came in with their cute year old daughter, Mom said she wanted a sippy cup like hers.

Her chef salad came; she tried to eat it with a spoon (again). The utensil confusion is happening more. The other night she tried to cut her steak using two knives.

Guess that's just what happens when you take your five year old mom to dinner.

2/26/10

My New Earrings

I am wearing my new wtf earrings from Shiny Adornments right now.

Let's just say that anything that can pry the bronze earrings by Janet Harriman out of my ears have got some power to them.

They're so cute, very light; love that you can't tell what they say until you get close.

"If you can read this - you're in my personal bubble and wtf totally applies to you right now."
HA!

2/19/10

You're Just Like Your Mother!

I'm a closet hypochondriac, avoiding going to the doctor in general, but worrying about most everything secretly and obsessively.

Like the time in Hawaii, I was around five, when I ate a peanut that had been inadvertently sprayed with Raid. For days I thought I was going to die a slow torturous death by poison; cried myself to sleep every night, thinking about how sad my parents would be, but I couldn't tell them I was dying because it would break their hearts. (What, me dramatic?) After about a week, I figured a miracle had occurred.

I was sick a lot when I was a child, possibly due to the fact that both my parents smoked like chimneys, (or that poisoned peanut); pneumonia numerous times, once causing a ten day stay in the hospital; bronchitis; the "bad" measles (temp of 105.5). I missed most of second grade due to illness.

Thanks to my father being a complete sucker for anything encyclopedic, we had a set of medical encyclopedias, which I read several times from cover to cover. My mother finally banned them from my sickbed reading list; she got tired of me coming in crying, "Mom, I think I have [insert some rare one-in-triple-gajillionmillion-chance-of-having-it disease here].
Bad enough I was home from school - again - without having to hear my fears that I might be a hemophiliac (missed the part that only boys can have that).

So when one such as myself has a parent with dementia, forgetting even little things takes on a whole new dimension of scariness. I do word searches, crosswords, play Nintendo DS games until I dream about Scrabble letters, trying to keep the five brain cells that are still functioning...well, functioning. Sometimes I forget how to spell "and", or "what", or I put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the frig (that's been happening for decades though, so probably nothing to worry about). Or just yesterday I thought the car might go somewhere without me putting the key in the ignition - could not figure out why I couldn't put it in gear.
When that happens, I immediately think, "well, it's started, the downward spiral."

Back in the nineties I was involved in a woman's self defense class. One of the exercises we did was meant to help desensitize women to words or phrases that tended to make them freeze in threatening situations. We'd stand in a circle, say the word or phrase, and just saying it took some of the power away. Get to my oh-so-funny friend Cindy R. and instead of the standard "bitch", "whore", etc., she says, "You're just like your mother." We all laughed until we cried.

You know, now it's not so funny.

Wear It Like You Mean It

I just bought a pair of "WTF" earrings from Shiny Adornments.

As she says - "Because sometimes it is not a question...it's your statement." Hells yea.

Also bought her "handmade yellow lemon quartz sterling necklace - Petite Ixora", which I love.

Check her out - she's got some cute stuff.

2/18/10

Power of The Written Word

Have you ever done the exercise where you make a collage with pictures of all the things [you think] you want? I have, and surprisingly, a lot of it happened. The little house by the marsh - totally happened. Hardwood floors - same (not in the marsh house though).

I've been thinking about that lately - why does writing something down have more power than keeping it in my head?
For me, writing a list is the first step to doing them. If I'm putting off doing stuff around the house (for instance my arch nemesis, painting), I make a list. Somehow the act of writing down what needs to be done compels me to do the items on the list and mark them off. (I LOVE marking things off. Seriously, it's almost like a drug, it makes me that happy)
If I forget a grocery list at home, I can recall most of it by picturing it in my head and seeing myself writing down what I needed.

That brings me to my confession: sometimes I wish my mother would cross over. See, can't write the word (you know the one I'm thinking). My superstitious Irish DNA coupled with what I wrote above prevents me.

To be clear, this would be, not for me, but for her. Although I would have a bit less stress for sure, but most of the stress I have is connected to worrying about her having enough money.

There is an odd comfort when people die fast, (doesn't count, already happened), like my dad did. Less than 24 hours, all done. No suffering, no slow descent into the abyss.

As I looked at the once impeccably dressed woman with dirty hair wearing a hodge-podge of clothes sitting across from me at dinner last week, after she told me she liked my new nurse (purse), a crushing wave of sadness hit me. Does she have quality of life? What is that? Who defines it? Does she have it because she can still walk and talk, because she's aware she's alive?

Later, when she couldn't get her mint unwrapped, she started laughing and doing an exaggerated palsy, because she reminded herself of the people who "shake" at Wynwood. I said - those people have a disease or sometimes their meds cause that, they can't help it. Yes they can! - she said.
This is NOT my mother.

My mother - the empathic, impartial, concerned, caring person that raised me, who comforted me when I was sick, who put my crappy artwork on the mantle, who loved me when it felt like no one else did, is no longer there. Hasn't been here for awhile.

She has lost her independence, her husband, her friends, her home, her pets, the ability to hold a conversation, to remember words, the names of her grandchildren. She's all packed for a trip she's never going to take, hoping to move back into a house she's never going to live in again.

What does she have to look forward to? More forgetting, more deterioration of her body and mind. Maybe this is the worst time, the worst place - the purgatory, because she still knows she's not right anymore. She knows she's not who she was, how she was.

And there is no going back.

2/17/10

Have It Your Way

Went by to see Mom Monday night. She was holding a stack of folded underwear in her hands, but wanted to drink a Pepsi too. As is often the case now when faced with several tasks, she forgets how to do all of them. For example, she'll open the glove box or unzip her jacket when she's supposed to be putting on her seat belt.

So, I offered to put away her undergarments, knickers, so she could concentrate on diet cherry Pepsi enjoyment. (is it just me or does anyone else hate the word panties? Make a note, all you men beating down my door, this word will blow any chance of you have of getting lucky - ever)

When I opened the top drawer of her dresser (designated undies drawer of course), the only thing in it was an old empty Avon perfume jar. (and I do mean old people, she sold that stuff in the '60's and 70's) I opened the rest of the drawers - nada.

WTH.

When I asked her about it she said she didn't want to live up here anymore (in NC). Like having empty drawers will fix that.
Honestly, this is bugging me. I KNOW...I'm supposed to be letting her have her room her way (Burger King does decorating), but...arrggghhhh...I want to go all Hellen Buttigeig in there. How can this be helping her? She can't find the TV remote, wears the same clothes all the time, her clothes hamper is packed full of stuff - hey, maybe the remote is in there.

I'm calling her visiting psych nurse today, I need some help with this.

2/13/10

The Other Side

Way, way back the first of the year I talked about my father's side of the family. My mother's side is much more documented, not sure why.
Some came over from the north of England in the early 1700's to Virginia and for reason unknown, migrated to Georgia, trickled down into Florida, when it was owned by the Brits, then back to Georgia (some of them), when it became Spanish territory in 1783, and then back again.

There are even streets named after her family in J'ville - but don't get too excited - they have trailers on them. Single wide.

My mother's people have lived in Jacksonville even before it was called Cowford (there's a nice romantic name).

Both my great and great great grandfathers were loggers.

When my mother dies, she'll be buried in the family cemetery, next to my father, her mother, her grandmother and great great grandfather, several Confederate veterans, and very near the slave cemetery, that we just (finally) included in the property.

Expensive Needs

Just finished doing Mom's taxes. She spent over $43,000 on her "rent" in 2009.
That figure does not include the mortgage, taxes, insurance, upkeep on her house in Florida. Which, by the by, [please Jesus and all the holy people ever], just might actually sell this month. Not saying anything else, don't want to jinx it.
Anyway, thank goodness, that is all tax deductible, she'll get a nice refund this year.

It's Been a Long Time, Been a Long Time...

I know, I know, it's been awhile.

Remember back on New Year's Eve when Wynwood called to ask if Mom was moving and I said no?
Well guess what? She thought she was and went so far as to pack. Her bathroom was completely emptied out, as was the shelf in her closet. There were piles of clothes, towels, and linens all over the floor. Makeup and cosmetics on the coffee table and dresser. Her suitcase packed by the door. Pictures taken off the walls.

When I asked her where she was going she wouldn't answer me. She just looked at me in a way that was vaguely reminiscent of a teenager caught in a lie. (What?! Me drinking?! Absolutely no...I have to throw up now)
The wheels were turning in her head, trying to come up with something, but couldn't, so she said nothing. When I asked specific questions - Are you moving to Wisconsin? Alaska? Oregon? I got an emphatic "No!"
I thought if I got her out of her room she might open up more, so off to Bob Evans we went. Finally, after plying her with sweet tea and bad food, she reluctantly confessed that Tom was coming to get her and they were moving to Florida. Spent the rest of dinner getting told it was none of my business and to butt out.

Now there's no way of knowing whether he really said that or if she was confabulating, (yes, that is a real word. My friend Adrienne, a nurse, used it; it's an excellent word. Like perambulate.), but it was really the last straw; I had her phone number changed. Enough's enough.

The whole thing freaked me out enough that I called her doctor and the psychiatrist, who said her anti-depressant might not be working anymore since she was back to her old habit of sleeping all day and up all night, there was the hygiene thing as well (dirty hair!).

She changed it to Remeron and it seems to be working. When I came over the next week, she was listening to a CD - not watching TV (!), she had washed her hair, had the blinds up, even gone to breakfast! She still hasn't unpacked completely, but some things are moved back. I try to sneak a few things back into the closet when she isn't looking.
I know some of my annoyance with the piles are my issues with clutter (as in I don't like it), I have to keep in mind that it is HER room and let it go. It's hard for me.
I HATE wasting time looking for things. That is really the thing that keeps me organized; I would probably be a total slob if it wasn't for that, because I am really quite lazy.