February 21, 2015–another scare

I got a call from QO yesterday at lunchtime.  She hadn’t wanted to eat and seemed suddenly unresponsive and unmoving.  The head nurse suggested a mini-stroke, and “what did I want to do about it?”


I asked her to put the phone to Mother’s ear and tried about three different times to talk with her with no success.  The nurse said she “wiped her mouth and scratched her nose,” which were “purposeful movements.”  So I suggested they get her clean and dry and put her down for a nap and I’d check back in a couple of hours.

I spent the time packing a few things, making sure the cat would be okay for a couple of days, gathered food and bedding for the dogs, and expected to be spending the night.

Called back.  She was fine, hungry, thirsty, talking with the staff.  Talked with them again in the evening, same thing, except she had wanted seconds at supper!

When I visited her today, she was tired but glad for the company, especially her faithful William.  I am “Phyllis” most of the time now, which is fine.  She really doesn’t know–or care–who is talking to her.  She just likes the attention.


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February 19, 2014–poem

I found this on Facebook.  Don’t know the author, but love the expression.  The best of her IS gone.


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February 16, 2015–who’s your mama?

She’s been a bit more alert during our conversations the last couple of weeks.  No change in mental acuity, but she has tried hard to focus and follow.

Saturday, about half way through our visit, I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

“You’re Rube Parker’s daughter (Phyllis).”

“No, I’m your daughter, Tina.”


“Why did you change mothers?”

Ba-da-boom!  Sometimes her one-liners are deliberate.  This one just popped out and cracked me up!

I have not liked the way the “beautician” at QO has been cutting her hair, and this last time was particularly bad.  I think I will wait until next month and ask her if I can come in to the little salon there and show her how I want it done.  I used to cut her hair when she lived with me, though I’m very slow.  I’m not sure she can sit long enough for me to do it anymore.

I’ve also put in a request for leg supports for her wheel chair.  I’m wondering if one reason she is sliding down so much is just so her feet will touch the floor.  I’m sorry it did not occur to me before how uncomfortable it must be to have ones feet just dangling all the time.

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February 1, 2015–new language?!

She’s been subdued the last couple weeks, ever since she got home from the hospital (which she doesn’t remember).  Both dogs jumped in her lap when I arrived.  As I wheeled her down the hall to her room she continued what she had been doing, saying in a steady, mostly even rhythm,

“Dup, dup, dup, dup, dup-dup-dup, dup, dup, dup.”

I asked her if she was singing to herself, but she didn’t seem to be aware she had been doing it.

I put her hearing aid in for her and made light conversation.

“Dup, dup, dup…”

Finally I said, “I guess I don’t understand ‘Dup.’  Are you trying to tell me something, or do you just like the sound?”

“I guess it’s my new language,” she laughed.

LIke the face scratching a year or more ago, and the weeks of singing the chorus of “Bicycle Built for Two,” and “When the Role is Called Up Yonder,” this seems to be her latest repetitive fixation.  At least she could joke about it.

I tried to jog her memory on various subjects.  Being Super Bowl Sunday, I asked if her school had had a football team.

“Yes.”  “Were they any good?”  “I don’t think so.”

That led to her remembering (with my memory jogs) that she had played trumpet in the band, and the band had played at football games.  Oh, and at commencement, and they gave concerts.  I told her I had played in the band in school, too, and enjoyed it.  She asked if I still played and I said no.  Did she still play?  That got a laugh.  No, not since she was in school.

Dup, dup-dup, dup, dup….

She likes it when I have her go through an exercise routine, so we did that.  By then it was time to get her to the dining room for supper.  I kissed her good-bye and told her I love her, and would see her soon.

As I was gathering the dogs and heading to the door, all of a sudden she became talkative.

“I always like to see you.  Come anytime, except when I’m sleeping.  I can’t talk to you when I’m sleeping…”

I punched in the code and closed the door behind me.

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January 19, 2015–emergency, then okay

Last week when I visited she was more alert and talkative than she’d been in some time.  We were having a cold snap, so I asked her how her family had kept warm at home.  She was getting gas furnaces and wood stoves mixed up, but I did learn two new things.  One was that they would pile snow up against the front doors of the brick house on Sheldon road and around as many windows as they could to keep the cold air from leaking in.

She also said that when nights were really cold, her mother would put a lantern in the laundry room off the kitchen, put down old towels and blankets, and let their dogs sleep there.

Saturday morning I got a call from the nursing home at 4 a.m.  She was bleeding from the rectum, “cantaloupe sized” was the way they described it.  What did I want to do?

Geesh!  I’m not a doctor!  Had they called the doctor in charge at QO?  Yes, and he told them to call me.  Big help.

But bleeding has to be stopped, so I told them to call a medical transport and I’d meet them at the emergency room.

It was 7 a.m. before we both got there.  She wasn’t uncomfortable, just sleepy, disoriented, and very very grumpy.  She kept asking how the babies were.  Hadn’t she and some other woman just had babies?  I told her I was her first and she chided me.  “But you’re not a baby.”

Nope, good call, Mother!

X-rays showed nothing abnormal, her vital signs were all very close to normal, but they decided to admit her for observation.

By then it was 1 p.m., so I went home, grabbed something to eat, and took a nap.  Went back to help her eat her supper and was blown away by the kindness and consideration of her nurse Jenni and the CNA, Janay.  Janay wanted to watch how I helped her eat so she could do it, then told me to go home and get some sleep.  I guess my fatigue was obvious.

That evening they did an ultra sound of her very enlarged abdomen.  It looks like she’s swallowed a volleyball, just sitting there on her front for the last year.  So it’s nothing new, and the ultra sound came back normal.

The bleeding stopped sometime Saturday afternoon.  Last night (Sunday) Jenni told me she would be discharged today.  “We’ll miss her,” she said.  “She’s kept us in stitches.  I asked her this morning how her stomach felt, and she said ‘It hasn’t told me yet.’ ”


She’s done this every time she’s been hospitalized!  Once she’s feeling better, she wise cracks with the staff and they seem to love it.  It’s wonderful that she’s kept her sense of humor, something I didn’t see much of until she moved in with me in 2005.

As I write this (Monday afternoon) she is being transported back to QO.  No one knows where the bleeding came from, or why it stopped.  Nor do they know why her abdomen is so distended.

I keep telling her she’s too ornery, that God’s not quite ready for her yet.


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January 11, 2015–catching up

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted an update, so I’ll try to play catch up.

I was listening to NPR driving over to see her on Thanksgiving and they had a story about how middle class families used to use celery as a palate cleanser before refrigeration was readily available. The wealthy would serve sherbet between courses, which they had the means to keep frozen.

I always wondered about the “celery dishes” Mother gave me. Why would anyone have a special dish for celery? Now I know! So I asked her about it. They didn’t grow it themselves (too difficult), but served celery on special occasions. It was her job to scrub it, which she seemed to enjoy. (continued below)


That led to her telling me about other ways she helped her mother in the kitchen. They didn’t rinse their dishing after washing. (I first saw this in German homes and was quite surprised). Esther dried the soapy dishes and put them away.

Since Thanksgiving she has been more and more passive during my weekly visits. Whoever shopped for her for their Christmas party bought her three pairs of snuggly pajamas that were five sizes too small! I gave them to the staff and told them to give them to someone who could wear them. She also received a fluffy bathrobe which I will shorten about 10 inches.

I bought her a pair of nice suede backless fur-lined slippers. She needs backless because of the Hagland’s deformity on her heels, and the fur to help her always-cold feet. What I didn’t account for is the need for them to be washable. Incontinence does nasty things to quality clothing. Oh well. The staff is doing the best they can.

Last week was the first time she honestly did not know me throughout the entire visit. I discussed it gently with her several times (she usually identifies me as Phyllis, at least for a while.) It registered with her that I am not Phyllis, but the best she could come up with is “You’re related to me somehow through my mother’s family.”)

She does not remember having a family of her own.

I also noticed she is slumping more and more in her wheelchair, so much so that her head nearly touches the back. Getting her to “scoot her butt back so the dogs have room to get in her lap) takes a great deal of effort, but she can still do it.

I will call the head nurse tomorrow to find out the doctor’s evaluation of a discharge she’s been having for the last two weeks from her right nipple . Cellulitis is a possibility, since she had that horrible bout in her left arm 10 months ago. If it’s anything else, we’ll have to see.

This is complicated by the fact that although I have followed the instructions given to me when I first applied for Medicaid on her behalf, they have denied the renewal of her benefits. Tomorrow I will go camp out at the local DFCS office to find out what to do. (It is absolutely impossible to reach any office by phone. Either the “mailbox is full” or the phone simply continues to ring for an hour or two.)

She may have to use her remaining resources as a private pay patient at her nursing home, but the question is how to cover any medical expenses. Coupled with four major house problems I’m dealing with simultaneously, this is not exactly a restful time.

(note on Jan. 12, 2015:  Everything looks almost normal now.  The doctor thinks it is/was cellulitis, not something more serious.  Thankful for any favors!)


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November 10, 2014–25 dogs!

What a gorgeous day!  I got there right after lunch, hung some new long sleeved tee shirts in her closet, and zipped up her sweat shirt so we could go outside.  The dogs were especially happy to ride with her, not the least (I suspect) because there were crumbs still lurking in inconspicuous places!

She started slow, but revved up mentally as our time went on.  “Where are we now?  Where are we going? How long have I been here.  Who takes care of me”


“How many dogs do I have here?”  She was feeling around, seemingly aware only of a pile of fluff in her lap.

“Let’s see.  Two heads, two tails, eight legs.  How many is that?”

“Twenty-five!”  Yeah, I was never good at math, either!  We had a good laugh.

I wheeled her around in the sunshine for a while.  Even though she can’t see, she complained about needing her sunglasses.  That surprised me, but I retrieved them from the car and she seemed happy.

We sat on the front porch and I decided to ask her about a locket she had given me.  It is child sized–only a 12 inch chain, and I don’t remember ever wearing it.  Nor did I give it to my daughter to wear, though I can’t remember why.  Maybe I had misplaced it, or maybe I’m not remembering when I got it.  She brought some family jewelry in 2005 when she moved in with me and it’s possible it was part of all that.

My daughter-in-law tells me my youngest granddaughter asked for a locket for Christmas, and it seems a shame to have this one just sitting around, never being enjoyed.

So I asked.  “Do you remember a little gold locket you used to have, one with a raised design on the front?  Was it yours, or was it your mother’s?”

She remembered it immediately.  (I’m sorry I hadn’t thought to bring it with me.)  She remembered the design, but not exactly what it was.  Was it her mother’s?  “I’ll have to ask her,” she said.

She really focused on this discussion.  Who did I want to give it to?  How was she related?  Who were her parents?  Would they be sure she took good care of it?

I told her I felt certain that her parents would only allow her to wear it for special occasions, not to school or out to play.  This conversation was repeated several times. Her daddy is your grandson, Tom.  He’s going to have a birthday soon.

Shift in topic:  “Will you buy a card for him and let me pay you back?”  I told her I already had a card, but would write any message she wanted on it.  She tried to focus on that, but the pull of the locket was too strong.  The best she could come up with was something like, “Happy birthday, Tom.  I hope you have lots of fun things to do.”

“Uh, Mother, he’s going to be 46.”  She looked at me with astonishment.  “I thought he was a teenager!”

“But it’s his daughter that wants a locket!”  Again, we went over this several times, then she offered:  “That’s four generations.”

Amazing!  “Yes, she is your great-granddaughter.”

“It’s not often you have four generations.”  I told her about a picture we took of everyone a couple of years ago.  “You need to make a copy and send it to them.”  I assured her they would have a copy.

“Four generations.  That’s a lot.  You don’t see that very often.”  Though she wasn’t sure who Tom was, and didn’t remember Layla at all, the thought that she had a great granddaughter seemed very important to her.  I tried to tell her she had three other great grandchildren, but by this time she was tired and unable to handle additional information.

25 dogs!

25 dogs!


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