Tag Archive | Thanksgiving

Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

It was three years ago this week that I started this journey with my mom, as Facebook helpfully reminded me – calling up in its Memories section those angst-ridden first posts about her car accident, the fear of a possible stroke, the irrefutable discovery of dementia symptoms. I remember how scared I was for her, how helpless I felt being far away, how much I worried about making the right choices on her behalf. I didn’t feel up to this new level of responsibility that had been thrust on me overnight.

Two years ago, Mom was recovering after another hospitalization and I didn’t know if she’d be out of skilled nursing in time to spend Thanksgiving with me. She entered my apartment in a wheelchair, my friend having thrown out his back helping me haul her and the chair up the seven or so steps into my building, spent much of the visit sleeping and only ate a few bites of the turkey dinner. I thought I’d have to move into an accessible building if I were ever to bring her to visit me again. When I drove her back to the assisted living hotel the next day, we found the roof leaking and she had to be moved into another room – and I fretted and stressed about leaving her there alone.

How thankful I am that this year she could climb the steps on her own (with me at her side, of course, holding her steady) and had the energy to enjoy a lively Thanksgiving dinner with my friends, even after a relatively late night at the Thanksgiving Eve service at her church. She ate heartily and said many times how much she enjoyed herself, though she did retreat to the sofa with a crossword puzzle as the evening wore on. (One of the advantages of old age, I suppose, is you don’t have to pretend to be engaged in a conversation that isn’t holding your interest. You can just go do something else!)

And I am thankful for my friends, who make a point to spend time talking to her and treat her kindly and don’t laugh when she talks or sings to herself while working her puzzles.

We got off to a shaky start today because she said she didn’t need to visit the bathroom and I didn’t insist, and then she had an accident. She seems so much like her old self these days, I sometimes forget just how much help she still needs. But I got her cleaned up and dressed in fresh clothes, and  after we had pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast she insisted on helping me with the dishes. Then she took a nap on the couch while I got some work done on my computer.

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When I took her home this afternoon, it was to a place that has truly become her Home, a place I am thankful for every single day. Life is good, and we are truly blessed, both of us. So thankful.

 

 

 

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So Thankful!

After doing the grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinner, I stopped by the care home to see Mom for a few minutes. I gave back her watch, which I’ve had for over a month now because I kept forgetting to take it in to get the battery replaced, and she was very happy to have it back. Holding her hand, I noticed how long her fingernails are and that there was dirt under a couple of them. As I was leaving, I mentioned this to the head caregiver, who said she will clip and file Mom’s nails tomorrow.

After kissing Mom goodbye and telling her I’ll see her tomorrow for church, I went out the front door… and I literally skipped to my car, like a little kid.

Can I tell you how awesome it is to leave Mom’s place feeling like SKIPPING?! I nearly always left her last place feeling like crying.

Thursday she had a follow-up with the kidney specialist, and the owner of the care home brought her to the appointment. I met them at the doctor’s office, and it was so encouraging to see Mom smiling and joking with the owner and the caregiver who had accompanied them. The doctor ordered some more labs, and the caregivers volunteered to take her down the street to the lab to get it done right then, so that I could go back to work. When we said goodbye, I hugged and kissed Mom and told her I would see her Sunday. She was perfectly happy to go with the caregivers, who she always refers to as “my friends” because she can’t remember their names. She may not know their names, but they have become her family. And they are fast becoming my family as well.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful for many things. I am thankful that Mom is healthy enough and strong enough to climb the stairs into my apartment building to share the holiday with me. I am thankful she lives in a home that is truly a HOME, not an institutional setting. I am thankful for family — both the family we were born into and the family we have found, or who found us.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend one year ago was when this journey began – when Mom crashed her car and ended up in the hospital with elevated blood pressure and a possible TIA (mini stroke), and the case manager told us she could not go home to live alone. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year. One year that has encompassed two major moves, two hospital stays, a whole lot of adapting to increasing physical and mental limitations, and (for me) a whole lot of learning about, and accepting the responsibilities of, being a caretaker.

This Thanksgiving was the first one I’d spent with Mom in several years, and I was determined to have it here at my apartment so that she could have a real, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner. No restaurant meals and especially no depressing holiday spent in an assisted living facility, not while I’m around! Though she’d been discharged from skilled nursing five days before, she was still not strong and her legs were certainly too weak to climb the eight steps into my building. I borrowed a wheelchair from her facility and, with the help of two strong friends, hauled her up chair and all, step by careful step. Just getting in and out of the car was enough exertion for her that she needed a nap as soon as I got her inside.

Thursday I let her sleep late and then made us pumpkin butter pancakes and coffee for brunch. She watched the Macy’s parade while I did food prep and got the apartment ready, and she took a mid-day nap so that she’d have the energy for company. By the time my friends started arriving around 4:15, I had her dressed and sitting in her wheelchair and had even curled her hair. She did great, though she only ate about half of the salad-sized plate of food I set in front of her… and my friends were great, too, making a point to engage her in conversation and make sure she felt included while I was busy in the kitchen. Around 8:00 p.m., I think, she told me she needed to lie down and I wheeled her into the bedroom and helped her into my bed. But she got up after half an hour, wheeled herself out into the living room, and joined us for pumpkin pie. All in all, it was a good day and I felt very blessed. And very, very thankful.

All that excitement must have been a bit much for her, though. The next day she was so tired, I could hardly get her out of bed. We didn’t dare try to wheel her down the steps, so my guy friend from across the street held her arm and helped her very slowly descend the stairs. She went to bed as soon as I got her back to her temporary room at the assisted living. But she got up again at dinner time and agreed to let me take her down to the dining room in the wheelchair.

When I greeted her table mates in the dining room, I asked them all if they had a good Thanksgiving. “No,” said one of the gentlemen. “I did not have a good Thanksgiving. I didn’t have any of my family here and I had a cold sandwich in my room for dinner.” It hurt my heart to hear that and I wished we could have taken him home for dinner with us. I’ve decided to bring her three table mates little holiday presents at Christmastime, and I’m wondering if I might even be able to bring that particular gentleman a plate of leftovers from our Christmas Eve dinner. When we said goodbye that evening, Mom said to me again, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I am just so grateful that I don’t have to think of her having a cold sandwich alone in her room on a holiday. Having her with me for Thanksgiving was a lot of work, but it was so worth it.