Archive | July 2014

A Great Day with Mom

Two weekends in a row, due to first car trouble and then illness, I’ve had little to no time to spend with my mom. But we made up for it yesterday! It started like a typical Sunday. I took her to church, which she particularly enjoyed after a three week absence, and then out for brunch at a new-to-us restaurant.

Mom ordered a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Putting butter on the waffle was serious and messy business, as she had to keep moving the strawberries with her fingers to get the butter evenly distributed. I kept waiting for her to dip her sleeve in the whipped cream. When she took her first bite, she made a face and said “These strawberries are sour.” After liberally dousing the waffle with syrup, she dug in and seemed to enjoy it… but after 1/4 of the waffle and 2 cups of coffee loaded with creamer, she was done. It’s no wonder she’s still losing weight. In the time it took her to eat that small amount of food, I polished off two pancakes, two scrambled  eggs and two strips of bacon.

She was tired at brunch and not very talkative. She told me she hadn’t slept well. I’d been telling her all week about the free concert in the park that my friend and I wanted to take her to on Sunday, but when I mentioned it at brunch she said she didn’t know if she would be feeling up to it. When I brought her home, I suggested that she take a nap and she readily agreed. I kissed her goodbye and told her I would call in a couple of hours. Luckily, she had a good nap and the extra sleep revived her. When I called at 3:30, she was perky and enthusiastic about going to the concert.

It was a good thing she got some rest because it ended up being a pretty big outing for her. I picked her up at 4:15, to be sure to get her out of the house before dinner time. We stopped at Panera Bread on the way to get sandwiches and iced tea for our picnic dinner, then headed for the park where my friend was already waiting with chairs set up in the shade of a big umbrella. Not long ago, just the trip to Panera might have worn Mom out, and I was a little concerned about whether she’d last through the concert, which didn’t even start until 6:00. She only picked at her half sandwich, eating the turkey and a little bit of avocado out of it and leaving the rest, so for the rest of the evening I kept offering her a few more potato chips or another bite of blueberry scone. She was fascinated by the shaved ice truck and asked me to go get her a small one.  When I came back with a cup filled with shaved ice liberally doused with strawberry syrup, she looked confused and said that wasn’t what she was expecting… but she enjoyed it anyway and finished every last drop.

She enjoyed the Jack Lantz Big Band very much, tapping her toes and waving her hands in time to the music. When that music was popular, my mom was a dance instructor at Arthur Murray. That’s how she met my dad, who came to take lessons. I grew up hearing those songs coming from the three foot tall speakers in my dad’s stereo cabinet, and I can remember coming downstairs and seeing my folks waltzing in the living room. They could still cut a rug at family weddings well into their seventies. She tried to teach me ballroom dancing when I was a teenager, but I had no patience for learning the steps. Now I wish I had let her teach me while she could.

When the band took a break, Mom said she would like to get up and stretch her legs. We set out at a snail’s pace, her walker difficult to maneuver over the uneven dirt path through the park. Mom enjoyed seeing all the people, especially the small children climbing on the playground equipment or playing catch. She smiled at everyone we passed. To my surprise, she made it all the way to the far end of the park before she had to sit down.

We were close to the restrooms, so I suggested we stop and use them after she’d rested. She didn’t think she needed to go, but agreed — and thank goodness, because she DID need to stop. Helping her in the bathroom is something I’m still getting used to, and it was especially tricky in a park facility with dirty concrete floors and insufficient toilet paper. I made a mental note to start carrying baby wipes. Honestly, I probably should just get a diaper bag. I’m sure I could find one that doesn’t LOOK like a diaper bag.

She made the return walk, all the way across the park to our chairs, without stopping once. I’ve been noticing lately that she seems more steady on her feet and her gate has improved; she doesn’t shuffle as much. I think the Sinemet (the Parkinson’s drug the neurologist prescribed) is really helping now that she’s titrated up to a therapeutic dose. She sank gratefully into her chair and propped her feet up when we got back, happy to relax and listen to the music. But when the band finished, she asked if we could go down to the stage and tell them how much we enjoyed their performance — and another walk didn’t faze her in the least. I was really impressed!

It was dusk by the time we packed up and got on our way, and Mom and I were both yawning on the drive home. “That was an adventure!” she exclaimed happily. “Thank you for taking me.”

My pleasure, Mom. Truly.


The Latest

My car broke down on Saturday afternoon as I was on my way to visit my mom. I had to call AAA and get it towed. It was too late in the day to get a rental car anywhere except at the airport, and I didn’t feel like hassling with public transportation to get out to the airport, so I just made a reservation with Enterprise for Monday morning. I knew she would be disappointed about not seeing me this weekend and about having to miss church, but it couldn’t be helped.

On Sunday a dear friend offered me a ride up to Mom’s place, and came back an hour and a half later to take me home, so that I could at least spend some time with her. I brought her belated birthday gift – a digital picture frame – and we spent most of my visit watching the slideshow and talking about the family photos. She seemed very lucid and clear, and remembered nearly everyone in the pictures, and we had a lovely visit.

We moved a chair in her bedroom so that she could sit and look out the window, and we talked for a while about the pretty flowers and trees and what a nice job the owner has done with the landscaping. Then she said something that caught me by surprise.

“When you get your car fixed, we should go over to my apartment and see what I have there.”

(Umm, what? What apartment?) “Is there something in particular you need or just want to get?”

“No, I just want to see if it’s even worth it to still be renting an apartment when I’m staying here. Maybe I should get rid of it.”

“Well, actually, all your stuff is in a storage unit, Mom. You don’t have an apartment right now.”

“Oh,” she said. “Good.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding. Then she surprised me again. “A couple of months ago, I went by there and there were some young guys there. I thought maybe the apartment had been sublet. It didn’t feel like my place at all.”

(Okaaaay… She doesn’t go anywhere unless I take her, and I’ve avoided even driving past the assisted living place where she lived for her first eight months in LA. What apartment is she even thinking about? Maybe she dreamed it?)

All I said was, “Yeah, it’s funny how once you move on, your old place doesn’t feel like home anymore.”

She nodded. “This is home now.”

I got the word on my car today. The transmission needs to be rebuilt and the clutch replaced, for a total of $2300. That’s going to take all of the money I had been saving to move into a handicap-accessible apartment building so that Mom will be able to visit me in my home. It will likely be at least a year before I can move now, and I don’t know what we’re going to do at the holidays if she’s not able to climb the seven steps into my building. But it can’t be helped. I can’t be without a car, especially not when she’s dependent on me for transportation, and I can’t afford a car payment on top of her medications and incidental expenses that I became responsible for when we moved her into the care home. I guess all I can do is pray that she’s healthy enough and strong enough to climb those stairs, with assistance, come Christmastime.

Another birthday

Mine, this time. I’m 49 today… which is old enough to know better than to drink too much at the 4th of July BBQ and wake up with a hangover. Heh. I slept all morning and almost canceled on taking Mom out for dessert after her lunch. She wouldn’t remember that it was my birthday if I didn’t remind her, so it’s not like she was counting on celebrating it with me. What finally got me into the shower and over to see her was my concern about how lethargic she was when I stopped over yesterday.

It was lunchtime, but she wasn’t at the table with the other ladies. The staff told me she’d gone back to bed at 10:00 a.m. I went to her room and woke her gently, asking if she was feeling all right. She said she was just tired. “I sleep a lot. There’s nothing else to do here. You’ll have to find me a place to go where there’s something fun to do.” Oh dear. She’d seemed so happy there. Was she going to start asking to leave?

“But you like the ladies here, don’t you?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “I don’t want to move away. I just want to go someplace, DO something.”

Relieved, I told her that I would pick her up tomorrow after lunch and we’d go get coffee and dessert to celebrate my birthday. She perked right up at that and I was able to convince her to go to the dining room for her lunch.

Today I arrived at 12:15 and found her, again, in bed. Staff said she’d eaten just a little lunch and then wanted to lie down. But she got up and put her shoes on (and yay! her regular shoes fit her feet again!) and was happy to go out with me. In the car she remarked at how good it felt to get out, to be part of the world and not just “part of that limited world in there.” Duly noted, Mom. I need to get you out more.

We went to a pie shop, where I had a big slice of apple pie and she tried the fresh peach pie and we both had coffee. I let her treat since it was my birthday. We had polished off the pie (though the pieces were gigantic) and were lingering over our coffee when she looked at me across the table and started to sing, very softly, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…”

That is a moment I will treasure long after she’s gone.