Archive | October 2014

Lucky

We are so very lucky, my mom and me. The family visit was everything either of us could have hoped for. Things went smoothly with all three flights – no delays, no major airport hassles, no lost luggage. Mom did just great with all of it, even waking up ridiculously early to catch our flight out of Denver.

We had wonderful quality time with too many family members to list, including some who we hadn’t been able to see on our last couple of visits. We broke bread together. We spent hours looking through boxes of old family photos (as far back as her grandparents) and sharing memories. We played Scrabble. We paid a visit to the cemetery where several generations of family are buried; holding my arm, since the ground is too uneven to push a walker, Mom walked through the cemetery to visit all of the family headstones. We saw beautiful fall colors, and I took lots of pictures for her digital picture frame.

Here’s Mom resting at the grave of her parents.

Mom at Cemetery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a favorite of the family shots, a kiss from her grandson.

Josh and Grandma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I love you” was the refrain that echoed through this visit. I do believe that every single family member told her that they love her before they said goodbye. I think we were all (except for Mom) very conscious that this may be the last visit. I’m so glad that everyone got a chance to hug her and tell her that they love her, but I’m not dwelling on the “last visit” part. She may surprise us all! She is already, at 86, the longest-living member of her immediate family. And she’s showing no signs of being ready to quit!

Those relatives who saw her last spring all commented on how much better she seems now, and it truly is remarkable. Six months ago, she was going back to bed every chance she got, dozing the days away. Now she’s staying awake and alert all day and well into the evening, as long as she gets a nap around midday. She’s physically stronger and able to walk further without tiring, and her memory has definitely improved. Six months ago, she couldn’t keep track of where we were going for the space of a ten-minute car trip. She would ask me repeatedly where she lived or talk about visiting an apartment that doesn’t exist. As soon as something was out of sight, it was out of mind. But for the entire ten-day trip, she not only remembered that she lives in California now (and not Arizona) but was also able to answer in detail when asked about the home where she lives. Everyone cautioned me that once cognitive function is lost, it will never return – so this is an unlooked for, unexpected blessing.

Catching up on the dementia caregivers message board, I realize anew just how lucky I am that my mom’s personality is thus far mostly unchanged, despite her dementia. She’s not angry or paranoid or delusional. She’s not regressing to childlike behavior. She still knows all of us and retains the emotional connection of the relationships even if she’s lost some of the specific memories. Her essential nature is the same as it has always been – kind and loving and easygoing. For this, and for the gift of a loving family, I am truly grateful.

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Coming Together

This time tomorrow Mom and I will be on a flight bound for Denver. A cousin who lives in Colorado Springs is making an approximately 160-mile round trip drive to pick us up at the airport, take us to our hotel, and spend the evening with us. My nephew is also driving in from the Boulder area to join us for dinner. I am grateful to my cousin for the airport pick-up, as I wasn’t particularly looking forward to getting my mom and her rollator walker and our luggage (two large suitcases, one backpack, one small tote bag, one purse) on and off the airport shuttle bus. And I am very much looking forward to seeing both of them.

On Thursday we will take the shuttle back to Denver International and take another flight to Ohio, where we’ll spend the next nine days at my aunt’s house. This is the trip we had originally hoped to make in May, to be there for the annual Memorial Day family reunion, but had to cancel because Mom was still recovering from the nasty infection that landed her in the hospital in April.

The Memorial Day reunion brings family from other parts of the country. Not everyone makes it every year, but there’s a whole contingent who usually come down from Michigan and a few who make the trip from Maryland. Mom was disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see these folks, since we are making our trip “off season” as it were, but of course looking forward to seeing everyone who lives in the area. My aunt who is hosting us is having a potluck to gather all the family together, so we won’t spend the whole week running around trying to see everyone.

While I was with Mom on Sunday, packing her suitcase, I got an email from my cousin in Maryland saying that she and her husband are coming to Ohio next weekend to see us. I read the message out loud to Mom, and she beamed and clapped her hands like a delighted child. Later, at home, I learned that one of Mom’s cousins from Michigan is making the trip down as well. I haven’t shared that with Mom because I think it will be a wonderful surprise. I can’t wait to see her face when her dear cousin walks into the room.

I am so touched that the family is coming together like this. It’s a testament to their love for a sister, cousin, aunt, grandmother who has become the matriarch of the family.