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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, December 28, 2013

On photographing the perfect sunset

It's the first time I have gone to see Lynn while drunk. That was today, but first I have to talk about my visit three or four days before- on the day of the snow storm~ so maybe Sunday? And how the rest of the afternoon and evening were just blown. Mike was on shift and I crawled in and out of bed, just to be sad, or stare. 
You see, earlier I had the opportunity to feed my mother lukewarm, then cold, ravioli. She was the only one in the feeding room who was eating solids. She doesn't drool, and her countenance is pretty  pleasant. There are lot of really ornery old dudes with neurological issues who get pretty combative. So she's basically a feeding room superstar. 
And that might be something.  
After it was determined she would likely not eat anything more--she refused the cold and soggy zucchini-I was making small talk with the staff- and ended up blowing bubbles for the young woman with CP since she enjoyed it more than Lynn. 
The snow was blowing outside and it appeared to be getting worse (it was the only legitimate storm in a month) so I told Lynn, back in the multipurpose room, in front of the drink dispensary, that I had to go. 
She gave me what appeared to be an almost conscious sad face. I swear. I said first, "Oh you're giving me a sad face" and I overheard the nurse assistant (with whom I'd been chatting and who is very emotionally attached to my mother) say "I cant watch this," and in hushed tones to another nurse, 'I can't imagine how that would be." 
I hugged my mom and said, "I miss you." She can't hug back, but it doesn't matter. She's still there. And I then sobbed, "I miss you," for about five minutes. Then I took a deep breath, kissed her on the cheek, said "I love you" and left.

December 26, 2013

So, yeah, anyway today when Chris and I set off, I suggested we get alcohol for our coffees.
But which kind of sweet liqueur goes best in a post-Christmas Thursday morning/pre-mourning cocktail?  I wanted something creamy and coffee-ish for my Starbucks drip; my brother was trying to stay true to his non-dairy diet and was pushing for something whiskey-ish. But, really, when you're a brother-sister combo off to visit a lady who used to be your mom but kind of isn't anymore for the one time a year you get to see her together..is it the time to be health-conscious?
Ultimately, we chose Jim Beam Maple.
Chris drank on the way out of town; I did my coffee slamming before going in. Mom was nodding off in her sky blue sweatpants and sweatshirt when we entered the big room. There was a white rose on the front of the sweatshirt, and she was clean. Once we rolled her wheelchair into the TV/plant room, we each set out to rubbing lotion on one of her dried, flaky legs.  Chris was holding her hand, talking at her, and showing her individual and perhaps baseball team photos which he'd just scanned onto his iPhone from a pile of her old photos.

She likes the toddler toy in her hands. it gives her something to do and it's not very challenging.
Was there a  glimmer of recognition? We thought so, or probably not, but we pretended there was.  She sort of smiled one time, gave one laugh and a few looks. But mostly she was just staring around blankly.. I was slightly drunk, honestly, and we were there precisely long enough for two episodes of "The Middle" to be playing in the background. The Heck family was fighting because they were camping, and they had also camped for their honeymoon.
When we were sure it was time to go, we rolled her back into the big room. Chris thought she'd like it over by the window because she'd been looking out the window when we'd been sitting with her. Plus outside there looked to be a magnificent sunset beginning. I was talking about the nurses aide's favorite regional yodeler; listening, rather. Chris and mom had a moment together by the window. I thought I took a photo, but I guess I just watched them.  Chris hugged her as she stared out and didn't hug back. I knew  because the back of his neck was red and his head was far down toward her lap that he was crying but I was stoic, because I  had already cried hard a few days ago and was still a little drunk. But I can tell you that thinking of it now, remembering the tears falling from my baby brother's gorgeous blue eyes on to my mother's borrowed blue sweatshirt that although he is just a few years from  40, we are ageless when we are together and I'm sorry I moved out at age 19 and that I was ever away from him when I could have been with him. I feel old pain and new heartbreak welling up and I must remember to be a grown up and complete this blog entry because it is just a process. We are just slightly wounded imperfectly perfect happy sad kids growing old together with a lady who used to be our mom staring blankly out at the pinkish sky.
As I reached the front door, I acknowledged the 1970's-era framed Jesus painting. 
"Thanks! For nothin'!" 
But I was saying it to break the sad and I really was thankful, actually, even in the moment, that we got to be there together; a rare sharing of the simultaneous pain and tiny satisfaction that is the ongoing drawn-out grief of being with Lynn.
And really, Jesus or whoever was responsible for the sunset: we celebrated it. All the sadness we were feeling was channeled into the relentless pursuit of the best sunset photograph possible on an iPhone.










See? Chris is in the background photographing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Looking for Humor in an All-Purpose Room

(This was written earlier this Fall. October maybe?)    

          I can find humor in just about every situation. In fact, if I can't find humor in a situation, then I am hormonally imbalanced and you should run away quickly. When my twin premature daughters were in baby intensive care (NICU-Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), I had a uterus infection, and recall laughing my ass off with another woman who also had suffered a uterine infection after her 25-week old babies had been born. There's a five percent chance of developing this infection and we both had it. "Of course we did!!" We guffawed..they were deep, hysterical cackles borne from the macabre thrill of finding relatedness in a most horrifying situation. We had to quell our tittering with the social worker at the front desk as other shell-shocked new parents lumbered by us in ill-fitting hospital scrubs to go visit their own sick babies.
          In 1983 or so, my little brother and I were crying at the wake of our great-grandmother inside a senior center/all-purpose community hall in Arlee, Montana. Not because we were sad. (She was like 96, and we had no real relationship with her before she developed Alzheimer's. Incidentally, another hilarious moment: Great-Grams grabbing pieces of chicken off my little brother's plate instead of her own. His incredulous, horrified seven-year-old face? Priceless) But there was so much taxidermy on the walls of the senior center and this whitetail deer, in particular, was insanely posed: His face and neck wrenched nearly all the way to his ass. And Chris was riffing about "This damn horse fly just won't get off my..oh, almost got it.."
          I don't even know but everyone within earshot was trying not to get busted laughing...you get the picture. 
          Nary an uncomfortable Christmas morning at my grandmother's house could be survived without making fun of the ridiculously cheap gifts we were receiving; especially the re-gifts. Woo. Good stuff. My point?
          I can't laugh about my mom's Alzheimer's disease, and the visits to the Medicaid-only skilled nursing care center where she "lives." It's just not. Funny. At. All. A few years ago when there was some "Lynn-ness" left in my mom- some glimmer of recognition or a partial smile or a change in her expression..then I could assume she was there and it felt like a courtesy to dig deep and cause laughter for her and for me..mocking the shabby decor, or the other patients passed out in their chairs, or the two mangy cats who'd made their home there. There could have been humor in the irony of her contemplating institutional breaded baby cow cutlets on her plate after ten years of being a rabid anti-veal activist. Bringing that one up really backfired, however. I wrote about it previously...me crying into the sugar packets alongside the food line trying to explain to the lunch helper why it was important to find a vegetarian replacement.
          Her childhood friend Connie and I tried yesterday. We really did. There was a Bingo game happening as we sat in the all-purpose room and I tried to get crumbs off her black sweats. Again: Where are her clothes? I followed along half-heartedly. My mom played with three Bingo cards. There was a guy in a McMurphy hat, and it was a day that there was just no connection, so we left. And we went to an overpriced lunch at he one cafe and decided there is no humor anymore. Which is a damn shame for a person who uses humor as a survival skill.

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973

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