Monday, March 29, 2010

The Tattle Tale

I've been trying to impress upon Isaac the need to use a napkin instead of the front of his shirt to wipe his hands when eating. I realized he only got half the message the other night when we had this conversation:

Isaac: Mama, I've got to tell you something. Mitchell wipes his hands on his pants when he's eating potato chips.
Me (in mock horror): NO! That's terrible!
Isaac: Not me, though. I just lick 'em.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Little Moment of Grace

I wrote about breaking down in tears in the first post while I was cleaning out my parents' refrigerator, but I didn't tell you the whole story. During that moment of despair, I felt utterly overwhelmed by the future before me. It looked as though the remainder of my "youthful" years would be spent in taking care of other people, and well, that's probably true. I imagined that when I'm finally released from my care taking duties, I'll be so worn out that I'll have a stroke or heart attack and die young or at least be debilitated. The thought was so heart-breaking that I just had to have a good cry. I began to pray during this little break down, and that's when God clearly said to me, "But my daughter, it's in this place of brokenness that you'll see me. Your life of abundance is just beginning. Just wait and see what I will do." No, I didn't hear an audible voice (I never do), but I know God is speaking to me when the thought I get is one that I'm not capable of having independently. I'm too selfish and shortsighted for that thought to have come from my own mind. And the peace of God that passes all understanding took over from there.

My Mom is a Zombie, but She Doesn't Want to Eat Me

My mom is like a zombie in many ways: She has very little facial expression now, but just stares straight ahead. Sometimes when people are talking with her, she won't even look at them. She's hunched forward and walks very slowly and stiffly. She can answer questions very briefly but doesn't initiate conversation very much at all. For being a zombie, though, she is still very sweet. She doesn't want to eat me and, in fact, shows no violent tendancies whatsoever. She just watches TV all the time. I don't mean to make light of her condition, but "zombie" is the most accurate picture I can provide. And without some humor, I will lose my mind.

My "real" mom isn't this person at all. My real mom should be planning elaborate parties with delicious food and even costumes. My real mom should be traveling to Europe, dragging my dad with her. She should be canoeing on a lake and hiking in the woods. My real mom should be taking an art class. She should be planning a family Easter dinner and egg hunt for my younger son Isaac. If her house is messy, it should be just because she's been too busy to clean it. My real mom should be preparing her garden to grow a plethora of strawberries, tomatoes, and zuchini. She should be taking her grandchildren to plays and concerts. This is the woman I grew up with. This is who she was until some vague time in late 2008. That seems to be when things started to change. Now I don't even know her anymore. Sometimes she'll look at me and smile, or she'll laugh at something funny Isaac says or does. Then I'll see my real mom for a moment, and I'll think to myself, "Ah, there she is!"

"They Are so Lucky to Have You"

I have heard this a few times this past week from people who are impressed that I'm caring for my parents during their health crises. It always kind of surprises and saddens me. Every aging person should have someone who cares enough about their welfare to help them, but so many have no one. I don't necessarily feel like I "owe" it to my parents because that makes it sound like I'm a reluctant helper. It's more like a great opportunity that I have to return the love and care they gave me as I was growing up. So really, my desire to help them speaks mostly to how great they were as parents when I was young. You see, I was so lucky to have them. What was so great about them? I'll just list some highlights:

1. They both had high expectations for me and raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted to with my life.
2. They spent time with me--reading to me, playing with me, taking me places, watching my "performances."
3. They loved me even when I was unlovable.
4. They taught me not to harbor prejudices or see people as stereotypes.
5. They raised me to be (mostly) independent. (I still haven't changed my own oil or tires or mowed the lawn).

My sister is very different from me but equally loved. She helps as much as she can but has less "flexibility" in her work and family than I do. They are lucky to have her, too. So am I. My goal is to give my boys the same kinds of love my parents gave us, even though they are very different from each other, too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dad is Home, but I'm Not

My dad came home from the hospital Monday (today is Wednesday). I've spent the night at their house since then and will continue through Sunday night. Isaac is staying with me since he doesn't have school this week and this way, Alan doesn't have to worry about getting him up and dressed and over to me in the mornings. Isaac and I have been sharing a double bed. He grinds his teeth in his sleep, over and over. His dentist told me she could tell he was a teeth grinder, but I had no idea it was this bad! No wonder his baby teeth are worn down to nubs. He gets two more pulled tomorrow for a total of 8 in the past month! One for each year of age. Poor little guy. But now his permanents can come in. Maybe when that pressure is off his gums he'll quit grinding.

I got to come home for a few hours this evening while my sister stays with our parents. Mitchell came home from Santa Fe today and arrived to our house just a few minutes ago (it's 7:30 at night now). He has to leave for choir tour at about 7:00 tomorrow morning. I need to wash a few loads of clothes and help get him packed for tour before going back to my parents' house tonight. In the morning, my aunt will come stay with my parents so that I can take Mitchell to meet the tour bus. A friend from my parents' church will come a little later in the morning so that I can take Isaac to the dentist.

Dad's really not that bad off now. The home health nurse came today and said he's doing great. It's just that if Mom needs help, he can't do much for her right now. We just never know from day to day how bad she'll be. Sometimes she falls down and has trouble getting back up. She forgets her words. She has trouble talking on the phone. Today she said she needed something new, but all she could do was indicate with her hands what she was looking for. She finally described it as "A thing to wipe down the aisles." What she meant was a squeegie to wipe down the shower walls.

We do have a bit of hope. Just the tiniest sliver that we're trying not to let get too big in case we're later disappointed. My sister knows someone with normal pressure hydrocephalus, and the symptoms sound much like Mom's. This particular condition is treated by putting a shunt into the brain to drain off the excess fluid into the abdomen where it can be absorbed. If found early enough (that might be our downfall), she could return to normal. It's too good to be true. I so desperately want to hear that this is the answer! I want my mom back!!! I called her doctor and made an appointment for next week to look into this.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mom Is Acting Weird

I first noticed Mom acting "weird" over a year ago. She would forget why she'd just called me, she needed security to help her find her car in a parking lot, she stopped having the family over for weekly dinners, and Christmas 2007 she told me that when she went to the store, she'd forget what she came for. She also told me her thoughts kept swirling around in her head, and she couldn't get them to stop. She told her doctor she was having some memory problems, but he chalked it up to simple aging. She was 63. In June 2009, she forgot my birthday. The next day was my cousin's son's graduation party. She brought my birthday card to that event but forgot the graduation card. My birthday card was blank.

Later in the month, we spent a weekend together in the coastal mountains. She drove. It was terrifying. She tailgated at high speeds and didn't seem aware of the cars around her. She drove so fast that she fishtailed around curves along a cliffside on a gravel road. We shared a room in a lodge. She snored all night long. I didn't sleep for 2 nights. I talked with my dad, and he was concerned about her driving as well. We got her in to see a sleep specialist who diagnosed severe sleep apnea. She's been sleeping with a C-PAP machine ever since, but we've seen no change in her mental or physical state. If anything, she's worse. She may have sleep apnea, but it's not the cause of her symptoms like we'd hoped. We told her she can't drive anymore last July. We thought it would be temporary, but it's not. She used to pick up my kids from school for me. She can't do that anymore.

How Did It Get This Bad?

Why am I sitting at the computer when I am exhausted and should be in bed? My 76-year-old dad is spending his sixth night in the hospital following a valve replacement and quadruple bypass. My 66-year-old mom is getting ready to go to bed in my youngest son's room since she can't be left alone. My youngest son (just turned 8) is downstairs playing Wii with his dad, but in a half hour, he'll be taking his bath and then going to bed in his big brother's room. My oldest son (17) is in Santa Fe with his dad and stepmom. Today I took my mom home to my house where my husband and youngest son could keep an eye on her while I went grocery shopping in anticipation of my dad getting out of the hospital. It took a long time to look at the fat and sodium content on every label. I then took it to their empty house and opened their fridge. No room for anything! I started moving things around and grabbed a bag of tortillas. They were so hard that they would have shattered had I thrown them against the wall. Hmmm....better look further. Yep, there's a margarine container in the back on which my mom had carefully written "Sauteed Mushrooms September 2009." It's now March 2010. I open it. The smell of the rotten, now-liquified mushrooms makes me gag. Two garbage bags later, I'm done cleaning out the fridge. Some dairy items expired 3 years ago. How did it get this bad? I just cried.