October 16, 2014–grumpy

There was a “family meeting” scheduled at 2:30 p.m. today that went on forever.

Several staff members spoke about what they do. A couple were intelligible. The director asked for a consensus about several things they apparently have done in the past. Fewer than half the hands were raised in favor, but she saw them as affirmation and declared the activities will be continued.

Even my question about the Halloween carnival–which wasn’t held last year– were met with vague. inadequate responses that clarified nothing.

I discovered that her Camomile tea has been gone for a while. Also that her much loved bracelet i made for her was broken, pieces in her drawer.

No one thought to tell me.

She wasn’t properly dressed again.

I had the dogs with me in their doggy pram, because “dogs aren’t allowed in the dining room.”

Even though at least one other dog was hand held in its owner’s lap. No one objected. At least not out loud.

I had put Mother’s hearing aide in her ear. “Wow,” she said. She could actually hear the musical group that was singing.

Family members were asked to sit forward for the meeting. When i returned to her with punch and cookies, she had removed the hearing aid, saying “They said I should take it out before bed.”

Another reason why she can’t wear it. I know I put it in properly.

I told her it was 4:45 p.m, and supper would be served soon. Did she want to sit in the lobby so the dogs could be in her lap?

“Oh no! They cause too much trouble and get in the way. I need to get ready for bed.”

“But–they love you, and you love them. And it is the middle of the afternoon.”

She was adamant.

I wheeled her into the lobby, which was crowded with family members, then went back to get the dogs.

As soon as I placed them in her lap, she was happy. “Your father is a policeman now,” she told me.

What? Oh–her stepfather, Reuben Parker, had been made a policeman, before he was later forced to turn over his weapon for family violence. (See earlier posts.)

She accused the dogs of clawing and ruining her bracelet, the one I had made for her a couple of years ago. I assured her the dogs hadn’t been responsible, but took them and her to her room to look for it

Sure enough a few of the pieces were in her top drawer. No one had thought to tell me.

I will report a lot of this at the care planning meeting next Tuesday.

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October 13, 2014–Halloween humor

I hadn’t seen her for two weeks–a deep chest cough that wouldn’t (hasn’t quite) gone away made me afraid I’d infect her.  I did talk with her on the phone a couple of times, but doubt if she remembers.

She was wearing a nice hooded Quiet Oaks sweatshirt.  Don’t know where she got it, but I didn’t argue this one.  We sat out on the back patio, and though it was about 75 degrees, there was enough of a breeze I zipped it up and pulled the hood over her head to keep her warm.

Working on her toenails didn’t take very long.  The staff is being faithful about using the medication for nail fungus, and they are healing nicely.

I told her about upcoming events, especially what I know of the Halloween party they are planning in a couple weeks.

“Do you want to dress up?  What should we be–clowns?”

“Why can’t I just go as myself.  That oughtta scare ‘em!”

Whee!  Her sense of humor is intact!

I had to explain to her again that I’m not Phyllis, but Tina. Daughter.  Oh.  Yes of course, but daughter is just a word, not a relationship anymore.

She asked if I knew “how Mom is doing.”  I said I didn’t have a clue.  She feels guilty for not calling her.  I told her not to worry, her mom knows she loves her.  I thought she was going to get emotional, but it passed.

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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?


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,


© 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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