Friday, August 31, 2012

Where to Begin...

It's been a while since I've posted.  A lot of time has passed and a lot has happened...a mixed bag.  Let it suffice to say that I was premature in thinking the other mother had gone away.  That sense of well being was short lived.  We vacillated between arguing and sullen silences right up until Allan arrived.  This is where it becomes surreal.....Mama was so pissed with me that she was syrupy sweet to Allan.  He is her new BFF......and her new BFF didn't know what was happening!!  Welcome to my world.  It was so strange and strained that after a couple of days Allan left the hotel and stayed here just to take the heat off me.  Allan must have thought he'd gotten an E-ticket for the House of Horrors!!  Anyway, he was very good, patient (a word not often associated with Allan) and caring to my mother, so peace did reign for a while.

It was good to see Allan after two years.  Believe it or not, there are no photos of his visit because he is camera shy and I look like you'll have to take my word for it.  I picked him up on a Friday around 10:30 PM in Savannah.  We sat up and talked until about 2AM, so Saturday was a late morning.  I already had a job for him as I'd bought a new kitty gym at my local, favorite thrift shop.  Once everyone was up and going, we went to pick it up and disposed of the old one, which I hated to see go as it held fond memories of the person who gave it to me.  Even so, the kitties seem pleased with the new one.


Anyway, the week went by quickly and most of our time was just spent catching up, doing what one or the other of us needed done, and having a few nice dinners out.  The low point of the week was having to put my mother's cat, Tuffy (Bitin' Bob), to sleep.  We were all basket cases and I had decided to take him to the vet myself.  At the last minute my mother was in tears asking her BFF Allan to go with me, so he's pressured into going, and now I have to look after the cat and Allan (Allan and I had already agreed that I would take Tuffy to the vet and he would bury him).  Anyway, when the time came I asked Allan to just stay in the waiting room and I would stay with Tuffy.  It was so sad.....he was so frail that he never moved after they gave him a sedative, but I stayed with him, held his head and stoked him until he was gone.  By that time, I was "gone" and so was Allan.  Everyone at the Vet's office was wonderful and understanding.  They thought my mother would want to see him one more time so they wrapped him so that she could see his face. We took him home but couldn't bury him because it was raining.  We all commiserated a while and then Allan and I went to Truffles for an early dinner.  We had a leisurely, enjoyable dinner and on the way home realized that it had stopped raining.  So, we went home and buried Tuffy, with all in attendance......followed by a group hug.  It was a difficult thing to do, but I'm so glad not to see that little kitty becoming sicker by the day.....he was so sick and my mother couldn't part with him until that time.  Anyway, you can imagine that after 30 years this may be the first time that Allan was happy to go back to Saudi!

While Allan was marveling at the goings on here, we came in one day and I had a phone message from my friend Pamela, who was in town for 6 months to help her 91 year old mother relocate.  She was calling from Phoenix......on her way back home to California!!  This is the Pamela with whom I had plans for a trip to Charleston and an Elton John concert. I called her later and she simply had it with her mother.  I'm not sure of the details, but she just couldn't deal with it any more.  So, Charleston is off.......but I told Allan that I was getting so anxious about the machanics of it all that it was almost counterproductive.  I'm also selling the EJ tickets, if I can, because it's just too much work to arrange everything and hope it goes well.  Needless to say, I'm so sorry that Pamela has gone, but I can certainly understand her situation.  I will miss her good company, thoughtful conversation, and encouragement.

Both Pamela and Allan encouraged me to "seek help" so before Allan left I had a list of phone numbers to call.  My first was the Aging and Disability Resource Center of the Lowcountry.....way out in the middle of Yamessee.  It's really a lovely location, but in the middle of nowhere.  Anyway, Karen, whom I had talked with on the phone, invited Claire, Family Caregiver Advocate, to join us.  I arrive early and am waiting to be received and thinking that we've had a couple of good days at home and I can get through this okay.  They then greet me and we go into a meeting room and within 20 seconds I'm in tears!!  Of course, I'm mortified, but they are so nice and gentle that I relax and just let it happen.  I came away from the meeting recognizing that my mother is not as mentally sharp as I like to think.....things are going on.  They recommend a program called Dementia Dialogues, which I've signed up for beginning late September.   They also suggested I talk with her doctor (which I've already done on various occasions) and ask him to make suggestions.  I came away with good ideas and options.

Then, they focused on me....asking about my health (high BP), sleep habits, anxiety, etc.  Their point was that I need to take care of myself if I'm to look after my mother.  Karen said that the first thing I would notice, with prolonged stress, was lack of concentration......and that has happened on a few occasions, but nothing I would consider serious.  And then there was this.....In an effort to spur my mother's interest, I removed some bushes in my front yard.  We are now trying to decide what to put there and I wanted to contact Ronnie at Lowes who helped us with the flower garden in the back yard.  We just showed up at Lowes day-before-yesterday and Ronnie wasn't' working.  So, we went home with the intention of calling before going back.  Today I called.  I spoke with Ronnie and she gave me her work times, lunch, etc.  So, after lunch I go to Lowes (Mama didn't feel like going).  I get there and am told Ronnie is off on Friday!  What?  I just talked to her!  Am I sure I talked with her today? (which really makes me wonder if I LOOK nuts!). Anyway, several people confirm that Ronnie is off today.  I'm driving away and decide to call the same number and find out whom I was talking to.....sure enough, Ronnie is at work, will meet me in the garden department, so I go back!  I ask someone different...No Ronnie!  I'm driving away from Lowes for the second time and realize that the number I looked up in the phone book this morning was Home Depot!!  Now I HAVE to see who this Ronnie is at Home Depot (and I tell her the whole story!)....and this Ronnie is as delightful and helpful as the Ronnie at Lowes.  I know I'm stress, scattered, spaced and several other things, but what are the chances of there being two women named Ronnie working in the garden departments at Lowes and Home Depot?!?  So, I think this major "lack of focus" is the Universe trying to tell me loud and clear to do things differently.  What a day!

I know this is long, but I can't end without commenting on the Republican Convention......can you believe them??  A sea of "white folks", reports of overt racism on the convention floor, cheers at the mention of guns, speeches unfettered by facts, overt self-promotion with no mention of the candidate......and Clint!!  In his rambling, the comment that struck me, and got a huge cheer from the faithful, was "we own this country"!  They want to "take their country back".....back from whom, the majority who voted for the President?  That kind of sums it up for me.....they feel they have more right to things than the rest of us. They are really scary and the fact that they increase their numbers by appealing to fear, religion, racism, any low denominator is despicable.  There must be good, conscientious Republicans, but if they allow that, they are colored with the same brush.  And I love how they can point to things like our credit downgrade, which was caused purely by the House Republicans.  Anyway, don't get me started.  It's like my 80+ year old idols Margaret and Helen say: "The convention is over and I for one got the message loud and clear – a bunch of white people hate President Barack Obama. But we knew that already."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Update Before Company

Just wanted to touch bases before Allan arrives for a visiit.  I haven't seen him in about two years and I think he's brave to visit after the two demoralizing weeks I've had.  He isn't staying here, at his suggestion - not wanting to add to my stress, which is probably a wise idea.  I've tried to prepare him by saying the operative word is "flexible"......and I should have warned that the pace is "slow".  It will be good to see him and catch up.

I'm happy to report that things are improving, but there was pretty much only one way they could go. The other mother has left town and now I only have to deal with my real mother!  I've spoken with a lady (Carole) who can stay with her from time to time (and during our trip to Charleston).  She came over on Monday and she and Mama got along great. She's a very personable, hardworking lady from Jamaica (wonderful accent!) and I'm pleased to have found her (through Pamela, whose mother she stays with also).  Anyway, one small step for womankind!  Keep your fingers crossed!

My spirits were boosted by a care package from Eileen and Tom....a tee shirt and purse mirror from the recent reunion in Wales.....and a cute kitty card.  It was so nice to be remembered and it couldn't have come at a better/more needed time.  The next day I received my Aramco Expat email and the first photo I saw was of Martin.  I clicked on it and enjoyed this video clip, with lots of familiar faces.

I've watched it so many times, each time recognizing more people I remember......loved it! If you Aramcons are feeling sentimental about those days, you can see a tour of Dhahran compound here.  All of that really does bring back good memories.

Those memories served as a great escape.  In addition to entertaining the other mother, I've been whirling around with everything else that needs to be done.  She has therapy twice a week, plus the cat has bitten her twice (..again after she was give antibiotics for the first bite!).  I've also applied for "Talking Books" which is a program from the Library of Congress and/or state library for the blind.  We had tried a CD player but the buttons were so small she couldn't use it even before she lost the remainder of her vision.  The application was mailed last Monday and I received a call about it on's that for service!  They are sending a player with raised buttons AND the machine will tell her which button she has pushed, etc.  They are sending her a free (to keep) audio Bible, as well as Guidepost magazine, a Sue Grafton mystery and something inspirational.  When she sends them back, she can select something else.  At some point, we will be able to download books ourselves onto memory sticks.  It's such a wonderful program, for which  my mother seems only modestly interested.  We should receive everything this week and I'm hoping it will be much more enjoyable than she expects.

I've also applied (10 pages!) for benefits due widows of veterans who served in a war.  If she were in a care facility, they would apply for us; but, since that isn't the case, I went ahead and applied.   That would make it more feasible to have someone like Carole on a regular basis.....again, keep your fingers crossed.

My greatest diversion continues to be the iPad.  I've discovered podcasts, which I love, and Cheryl recommended Flipbook, which is almost sensory overload.  It works so well and there is so much that can be done with it.  It makes waiting for appointments, etc. easy and's just amazing.  And I'm sure I've only scratched the surface.

Don't know if I've shared Margaret and Helen with you....but can't imagine that I haven't.  Anyway, Helen (from Texas) is in her 80s and is usually writing to Margaret (in Maine) about political issues, and they are my heroes!!  I want to be that crusty when I'm in my 80s, which is much closer than I like to think. Helen does most of the writing and her grandson maintains the website, which I think is sweet.....and Helen has a way with words. She lost her husband last year and was silent for a long time, but the election has brought her out again and her fans are happy to hear from her.  For those politically inclined, have a read of Two Wrongs Make A Right Wing Republican Ticket.  They're a riot....and the comments are, too.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Memories, Humor and the Other Mother.....

Since being back from NC I've been dead tired.  Last Sunday I didn't even walk.  The two days following were dark and rainy, so I had an imposed rest, which was very welcomed.  Even so, we've been on the go and it's been difficult to feel rested.

Forgot to show the invitation to the anniversary part, which I thought was very nice.

The gathering connected me with a childhood friend, who emailed a photo of our youth group.  In the last post you saw the after.  This is the before of Diana, Melba and me!  She mentioned this trip and, to be honest, I hardly remembered.  That's why I can never be accused of living in the past!

The political commentary in the last post also solicited similar responses from readers....

Well, "the other mother" has been in residence all week, so it hasn't been easy.  She's taken issue with my going out with friends, which happens no more that twice a week for a few hours.  With the exception of that time, I do all I can to be helpful to her in any way needed. I'm going to try again to get her involved with the local senior center, but at the moment she has therapy twice a week through August and that's about as much as I can handle along with everything else.  I'm also trying to get "talking books" through the state library for the blind......mostly to get equipment designed for blind and low vision people.  We got a CD player but the controls were so small that she couldn't use it, so I'm hoping their equipment will be better designed for elderly, blind, etc. 

You'll get a kick out of this.......I asked my  mother if she would feel better if I got someone to stay with her when I went out - No!
Would she be willing to go to the senior center - No!
Was there anything I could do to help her feel better - No!
I got so many "nos" to every question that I finally asked if she was a secret Republican?  To that I got a loud NO!  I have to look for humor wherever I can find it!

Anyway, this week has been very disheartening for me......I know that no matter how difficult it is for me,  it's more difficult for her and I try to keep that in mind, but it's still hard.  My friend Pamela said that I needed a break and we talked, very generally, about an overnight trip to Charleston or Savannah.  She went straight home and booked the hotel for early September.  She then emailed the info, along with a disclaimer that she really didn't want me to think she was scolding me for being attentive to my mother, but that I needed a break, too.  I know her intentions were good and I appreciate her concern, but I know one/I can only move at one's/my own pace.  I know that I have to carve out time and space for myself, but it isn't easy and it isn't eased by my mother.  But, I am planning to move ahead with the trip (two days, one night) to Charleston.  I know my mother isn't going to like it and there will be lots of drama, but if I ever want to be able to do anything, I have to go ahead and break the ice.  So, wish me luck!!

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