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Spokane, WA
This profile photo is my mom and me at the beach--she is 26 and I am about 18 months. LOVE the joy!! I am a mom of three and a teacher; being a teacher means I have to go back and cut the f-bombs. There were a few. Because Alzheimer's sucks badly. This blog, for nine years now--skipping a few while I was too cheap to buy my domain name-- helps me un-peel and process the endless layers of sad woven with weird and--impossibly--comedy.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Unhappy birthday, Sad Jazz and and a Ghost in the Cheese Section

          I haven't written in a long time. I just can't story tell when the grief and loss is heavy. But right now I am cleaning out my hideous office and that involves emptying all these hoarders-type piles of commemorative things and Creative Memories archive-quality bags of expensive paper. Oh, and the contents of my mother's wedding albums, graduation and grade school photos, my baby books and a few beautiful photos of her pregnant with me and with her hands on my face on my wedding day and I have to move away from this room because mementos make my chest feel tight. Her cousin, my second cousin, went to visit her and said she's doing worse than my grandmother. Breathe

Here is what I wrote a few days after I went to see her on her birthday:

        "Knowing there is nothing she can wear, really~ since at our last visit she was changed into a hospital gown for bedtime (that had a shit stain and was allegedly going to be changed after we left)~ I decided to not buy my mother a birthday gift, other than a small, vibrant purple plant from Trader Joes' cheap floral department.( I got myself a bouquet, too, in advance, for the sad effort of visiting my mother) a decadent chocolate stuffed cupcake and a Mylar balloon. 
         Sighing heavily as I made my way down the hallway, past the faded 1970's era framed  Jesus, the familiar stench of stale gravy/overcooked broccoli/pee/antiseptic greeted me.
        My mom didn't though. 
        She's now wheelchair-bound and alternately excited, gleeful, or just worried-sometimes momentarily terrified- about my presence. Last time, which I couldn't write about because it sucked so bad, and I wasn't used to the new new bizarre normal) my daughters were there and she liked to see them. She smiled at them, and said the word "Lisa." Not to me or them, but still, awareness existed. When her cousin Cindy visited last month, she was reportedly excited and knew exactly who she was immediately "Hi Cindy." This time though, two weeks later, she was ~impossibly~ worse.     It was nearly 7pm and it's apparently  difficult for her to stay  awake past then. So she was tired and reclined in her shoddy wheelchair. She had her eyes closed like she was pretending to sleep, or thought she was hiding. Maybe she just wanted to be left alone. She doesn't wear shoes anymore. Just over sized socks and they're dirty. After her very sweet nurse (and the nurses aid who always hugs me and tells me she loves me) took the Mylar balloon and batted it around, she opened her eyes, but still wouldn't look at me. Glimmer or recognition? Acknowledgement? Nope. Concept of birthday? No. Anything beyond neutral presence? No. The nurse explained that her medicine hadn't changed much, except there were a few medicines she didn't need anymore. Namenda and Aricept I would guess. Since slowing the progression is no longer a possibility. 

Wasn't interested in the plant, wouldn't touch me back. So, I left. It was not a happy birthday.

I haven't visited my mom since her birthday. More than one month ago. And for that fact, I am both relentlessly guilty and feeling like people around me are judging:

"See that woman, she may look like she's got it together, but do you know her children stay up way past an appropriate bedtime...and...I heard she hasn't even visited her mother in the nursing home for more than a month!"


The people having that conversation are apparently characters from a pre-Civil War lawn party in Gone with the Wind, but anyway...

Still getting the crap from the office into the outside hallway, and finally outside into the Tahoe. (Are the piles of physical things we don't want to deal with a reflection of those things inside we don't want to deal with? You don't have to be a therapist to figure that out.) And are tiny fragments of memorabilia all over the place where I am writing? Yes.


So I'm going through this big CD case filled with jazz and blues albums. Chris and I referred to jazz and blues, especially the really upbeat stuff with lots of piano and horns as "Flippy Toes" music because of an episode of Flintstones where Fred was hanging out with musicians and one of them had a name like that, or it was it that Fred (as a bowler) was "Twinkle Toes" and we got it mixed up? I don't know, but it made my mom laugh, and not many things did, so we said it every time she played an album. Mostly she listened on headphones though so she couldn't hear us making fun of her music.( And she wanted to be left alone. A fact that I found sad as a child but now understand as an aging mother myself)

I was going to give away the Ella Fitzgerald and Les McCann, never the Miles Davis..although I'd never listen to that..Blues and jazz isn't my most favorite genre, but now I have no hope of listening to it--even live. Within minutes I feel that familiar kicked int he chest feeling. I cried at Zola one night dancing with my friends. It wasn't even jazz, just a woman with vibrato in her voice. Someone Lynn would have enjoyed. The music is a complete manifestation of my mom at her prime. She would even go ALONE to see blues or jazz. Anywhere. Even a doo-wop or a spaced out woman randomly dancing makes me melancholy (Missoula natives will understand that is because of the Top Hat..my mom's favorite hangout circa..1989-199? whenever she stopped drinking..and then a few times she dragged my European New Wave-loving ass there too.)

But I couldn't even let go of them. I was just holding onto the CD case. Hugging it. Wave of sadness. Chest tightness. Forced movement into the garage where I drop items that don't know what to do with. Her small HD TV with a missing remote is there, too. Should I try to bring in a stereo and see if her 4 second attention span will expand for a Mel Torme song? Maybe she needs her music even if she cant conceptualize what it is. I know there would be some illumination from music..that's what all the research says..but maybe that's with less comatose patients?

That was a few days ago. Tonight, I was at my grocery store and I saw a ghost of my mom's former self. 

Sorry, lady, that I took a photo of you contemplating sour cream or cheese. But with that fleece and blond/gray bob haircut, you looked just like Lynn. 2009 or 2010, in the decisive months before she used to worry the staff at Rosauers with her too-long confused wanderings.

I had to text a photo to my brother so that he could acknowledge that she looks like our mom from the back. (See at RIGHT)

Is this what will happen, like when a loved one dies? You see them in your dreams (2-3 times a week, never in her current state, always pretty and walking) I suppose I'll keep seeing Ghosts of Mommy Past, just shopping for cheese; all synapses firing. Not noticing the disheveled adult child 10 feet behind, snapping a cell phone photo and crying over corn tortillas in aisle six.

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973