September 15, 2014–foreign language

She’s been more subdued the last two times I’ve visited.  Today, when I asked her if anything special had been going on–visitors, performing groups, etc.–she said she didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Most people here speak a foreign language.”  It was all I could do to keep the giggles out of my voice.

“Well, Mother, most of them are country people, and we ARE in Georgia.”  But oh boy, I could identify.  The first year I lived in Charlottesville I often felt the same way!

I asked her to tell me a story.  Maybe about sledding down the hill?

It seems she and her step brother/cousin Bob (4 years older) used to stomp snow into the ruts on the side of Grandpa Schmidt’s barn.  This made for a wider path so they could get a running start, holding their sleds, then belly flopping onto them at the top of the hill.  Sometimes the wind would blow the snow up into their faces on the way down so they couldn’t see, and would crash into each other.  Great fun!

Phyllis and Willie (9 and 11 years older) were working, and had other things to do on their days off.  Phyllis worked at the grocery store, and Willie worked for EveryReady.  She wasn’t sure what he did, but he was observant and a quick learner, and his bosses circulated him through all the departments so he would know how to do everything that was needed.

She (Esther, after high school) worked for the George Worthington company.  She didn’t know what it did or made, but her job was to pick up the canisters from the pneumatic tubes and get them to the right person.  (Note:  I remember those from working at the Charlottesville Daily Progress in 1966–it was how the stories got from the news room to the print room.)  She did some typing and shorthand, too.

We talked about how some job skills are lost now, unneeded and outdated.  Buggy whips and coal shovels, party lines and telephone operators that say “Number, please.”

It was a pleasant afternoon.  Both dogs jumped in her lap and stayed there, even Mozart, who is usually such a wiggle worm.

I wrote the following 12 years ago in honor of my late mother-in-law.  It is apropos here.  I wonder if it will also be true for me someday?

Senility

She couldn’t foresee

how the parade would end—

Mardi Gras beads,

tossed in a drawer,

The confetti of dreams,

consigned to sweepers,

repressed longings

crunched underfoot.

Carefully she’d crafted

a lifetime of memories.

But in the end,

her mind failed.

And only we,

who knew and loved her,

remembered.

© JEC, 2002

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August 31, 2014–Jack who?

As promised, I took chunks of watermelon for her to snack on this afternoon.  What a glorious, happy, mess!  First the hand sanitizer, then paper towels tucked into her collar. She hadn’t had watermelon “since last year, at least.”

I don’t know why they have the lawn care people out there late Sunday afternoons, weed whackers and blowers going full blast, blowing dust everywhere.  We started on the front porch, but I took her around to the back patio so we could hear ourselves think.  It actually seemed cooler, being away from the building and under the large open roof.

She had lots to tell me, mostly about how nice it was to have so many people coming by to see her.  Apparently some of the women at QO have been talking with her a little more.  She stumbled mightily over Al’s first and last name (he visited her Friday), but remembered that he had been there.

“Do you know him?” (yes, for more than 40 years!)  I told her about some of the writing he has been doing and she listened intently, though I doubt if she will retain any of it.

“Have you seen the folks lately?  Your dad has been painting something.  Sort of like a sign, but it’s not really a sign.”

She just couldn’t put into words what it was, but obviously painting has been on her mind.  Then it occurred to me,

“Do you mean Reuben or Jack?”

“Let’s see, Reuben was Parker.  But who was Jack?”

“Think Mother.  Who was Jack Freeman?”

“I think he was my first husband.” (oh dear.  But I had an idea about where this might go.)

“No, you were only married once.  Do you remember Bob Habercorn?”  (an early suitor)

“Yes, but I haven’t heard from him in years.”

“Actually, his wife sent you a letter a few years ago when he died.  What do you remember about Jack?”

There was a long pause.  “Well, we used to go to the movies a lot.”

They were married 67 years.  Pleasant memories are the best.

 

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August 25, 2014–Mom would like to see you again, too

It was a lovely afternoon today, nice breeze, not too hot.  We were out back on the covered patio, enjoying the weather.  William jumped in her lap and sat there, eyes half closed, grin on his face, as she scratched him in all the right places.

“Mom came over this morning, you know.  She and Pop are around here somewhere.  Well, he’s not your father, I know, but we call him Pop.”

“Oh?  Did you have a nice visit?”

“No, she didn’t have time to talk.  They’re busy painting the hall downstairs.”

(My younger sister called our father “Pop.”  I’ve heard about Ruth and Reuben painting the hall before, but Ruth never had anything to do with her son-in-law, my father.  So she was confusing me, her husband, her mother, her stepfather, and Phyllis, her 1st cousin/half sister!)

“Too bad.  What color are they painting it?

“Light blue, I think.  I haven’t been down stairs to see it yet.  We can go, if you like.”  (She was thinking she was in her upstairs bedroom in the old brick house where she and her mother lived before her mother married Reuben.  She was about six when that happened.)

“Maybe I’ll see them when I leave.  It’s almost your supper time, so I have to go in about 20 minutes.”

“Well, I know she’d like to see you again.”  (Ruth, my grandmother, died before I was born.)

“Do you know who I am?”

“Of course!  You’re Tina, our Tina.”

And who are you?”

“I’m Tina’s mother, silly!”  She laughed at her own joke.  Mother/daughter/sister, etc. are just words anymore, but she got the factual relationship right for a moment.

I’d been there about an hour and could tell she was getting tired.  I asked her a few things about the old brick house, but she kept saying, “My memory’s not as good as it used to be.”  I assured her that’s okay, it happens to all of us.

I see her at least once a week.  Two weeks ago she seemed sleepy and out of it. Last week I met her at a doctor’s office in town.  Today she was happy, upbeat, talkative, and we didn’t even have to sing anything.  I told her I’ll see her next Sunday and bring her some watermelon.  She seemed excited about that.

 

 

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August 3, 2014–99th birthday!

It has been a very long time since I’ve posted.  Part of the problem is I have a new iPhone which has been giving me fits, and photos on my old iPhone won’t upload.  I had hoped to include more, but those at the end of this entry are the best I can do for now.

She has been stable the last few weeks.  Many of the worrisome behaviors–endless scratching of her face, trying to get up from her (unlocked) wheelchair and walk around, sobbing for her mother–are no longer issues.  She seems content in her internal world, only occasionally asking about “mom” or “the folks.”  I’m told she frequently sings to herself, or holds animated conversations, whether or not anyone is around to listen.

With this in mind, and knowing she doesn’t need or want “things,” a friend of mine and I prepared “20 Top Hits of the Early Twentieth Century” to sing for her on her birthday. The staff grouped about 20 residents around us, and we sat and did our thing. (Fortunately, most of the audience was hard of hearing!)  A few of the ladies really got into it, and the amazing thing was that Mother remembered most of the words!

I had brought doughnut holes and lemonade for everyone, and one candle for her to blow out.  I’m not sure if she can even see one candle flame in front of her, but she blew and it worked.

We took her out on the porch.  Al and Karen, who used to visit her at Whispering Pines, were with us.  She liked having the birthday cards read to her, but by the time we got to the presents I brought (clothing) she was exhausted and couldn’t get the tissue paper off.

The next week I was out there twice–once for a care planning meeting, and the second time for their party for the month’s birthday people.  The only thing of note at the meeting was her blood pressure has been creeping up over the last six months.  They hadn’t noticed, but I did, and have asked that their doctor look into this.  If he cannot (or will not) I will schedule an appointment with her cardiologist.  Her medications haven’t been changed since at least 2005.  I’m concerned, but not yet alarmed, and will follow up with this in a couple of days.

Although she had been fairly alert earlier in July, she was less so at the end of the month. She doesn’t remember the dogs’ names anymore, they are the “big one,” and the “little one.”  They haven’t forgotten her, though, especially William!

in celebration of her 99th.  I took them out to her the next day.

Altar flowers in celebration of her 99th. I took them out to her the next day.

on the porch on her birthday

on the porch on her birthday

with her buddies

with her buddies

faithful William

faithful William

2d (group) birthdayparty

2d (group) birthdayparty

Pretty slacks!  (no, they hadn't combed her hair for any of these!)

Pretty slacks! (no, they hadn’t combed her hair for any of these!)

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June 16, 2014–“and how are the folks?”

This past week I learned of the deaths of two people that were close to her.  One, Ray Salo in Olmsted Falls, was a childhood friend of my late father.  I have fond memories of him, his wife Tynne, and their boys during my own growing up years.  When Mother and I were in Olmsted in 2006, we stopped in to see them.  Tynne died some months later, but I kept in touch with Ray.  This week I was playing around on Zillow and discovered his house is on the market, part of an estate sale.

Tuesday I got a call from the family of the only friend that was truly hers here in Athens, Mildred Epps.  (as opposed to being one of my friends first)  Mildred had just died at 82. She and Mother used to go out to lunch every month or so.  One of their most frequent pass times was shopping for greeting cards.  Mother couldn’t see well, so Mildred would read card after card until they found the perfect ones for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

I went to the visitation on Mother’s behalf and told her children the story of how they met.  My parents had lived in St. Charles, MO for five years after selling their house in Olmsted.  They attended St. Charles Christian Church.  One of the church members, Marcia, worked at a local funeral home.

A couple weeks after Mother moved in with me in 2005, a funeral was held for a certain man.  His sister, Mildred, flew to St. Louis to attend.  When she signed the guest book and Marcia saw she was from Athens, GA, she exclaimed (you’d have to have known Marcia to know that “exclaimed” is the right word!), “I have a good friend who just moved to Athens!  You’d love her.  Here’s her daughter’s phone number (mine).”

The rest is history.  Even after Mother became ill, Mildred would send notes and little gifts.

I told Mother about both deaths yesterday.  She didn’t remember Mildred at all, which didn’t surprise me.  She did remember Ray and Tynne.  I thought she was relatively oriented until she asked,

“And how are the folks?  I need to write to them, but I don’t have their address.”

I assured her that her address book was safe in my drawer at home and that the next time I come I’ll bring paper and an envelope and write whatever she wants to say to her mother and grandfather.

Below is a picture of Mildred, left front, at Mother’s 95th birthday party.  RIP, sweet lady.

2010 b'day

Here is Ray playing the organ, using Tynne’s (closed) potty chair as a piano stool!  At 94, he went weekly to a local nursing home to play the piano for the “old folks.”

1. Ray at the organ 1

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June 6, 2014–from her friend, Al

It was a gorgeous day, so I trundled Esther out to get some sunshine, gave her some little yellow butterworts or maybe yarrow, whatever, and sat on a bench near her to talk. She thinks I am somebody who worked for “Wortham” or something like that. (NB:  “Worthingtons,” where several of her relatives worked)

Esther enjoyed the sun, but it got too hot after about 10 minutes so we finished our talk on the outside front porch. We were discussing why so many people won’t visit nursing homes. She bought the idea that lots live far away, or relatives have died. Others just don’t come, she said.  “They don’t come because they are afraid of death,” she explained. Sharp lady! It’s not that they can’t stand to see their relatives or friends in the nursing home as much as the whole things hits their own mortality very hard.  I have always said people don’t like funerals and they mourn–their own forthcoming deaths. They probably see themselves imprisoned in nursing homes as well.

We had a good talk today. She is looking well and repeated her philosophy of “It is what it is.” We talked about the fact as we age we find we can do less and less, having to give up many things we once enjoyed. But somewhere she has gotten a strong faith that she doesn’t control things and lets God do it.  I think I profited more from our talk than she did. But, as always, she was glad to see somebody, even if she can’t remember even the next minute who they are. I felt good about the visit. She is something dear and special.

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May 18, 2014–talent show

Last Thursday was the annual family picnic at Quiet Oaks.  The evening started with a talent show put on by the residents.  Several ladies read parts of the slightly off-color “Alphabet of Aging” (google it), and a small group put on hats and followed the Events Coordinator as she led them in chair exercises to a jazzy tune.  One gal, not in a wheelchair, really got her groove on and had us all hooting with laughter!

There were a couple of singers–uniformly bad, but “A’s” for effort.  One was Mother, who sang a duet with the social worker, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”  I tried to take a video but have not figured out the upgraded OS for my iPhone and totally botched it.  Below are two fuzzy pics–one of them singing, and the second of her basking in the applause afterwards.

During supper (which she thoroughly enjoyed), she asked “Did Mom make it here?”

“No, I haven’t seen her.”

We went outside to listen to a band made up of old codgers (my age) playing pop and country with the volume turned up so loud I lasted only a few minutes.  I don’t understand why that seems so “necessary” or how people can stand it.  We left, and I wheeled her around the grounds as it was getting toward dusk.

“Do you want to sit over here (a ways away) and listen to the music, or are you ready for bed?”  For the third or fourth time she told me she couldn’t go to bed because she had promised two different men she would sing with them for some sort of program and she couldn’t miss it.

“But you already sang, and you were wonderful!”

“I did?  Did Mom hear?”

She’s still 16 and misses her Mama.

singing with Chris

 

she was a big hit!

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