Friday, November 14, 2014

We talk, but not much is new

This post is part of a log of phone conversations between me and my mother who has dementia. We are reminiscing and catching up. Mom is 90 and moved from the family farmhouse to a sort of assisted living apartment in upstate New York. I live in Florida. We have not had much contact for several years until I started calling her every few days, in August. My goal is to reconnect with her, be someone who will listen to her and share memories. These posts include parts of our conversations I feel important to write about such as events and things she wants to discuss from her life, her family and growing old. She so enjoys our phone calls. Her memory comes and goes. It seems like she has more alert days since I started calling, but that may be my wishful thinking. I am learning a lot about her status in life and how it's changed over the years from being the strong maternal figure to an elderly person who at times feels forgotten as well as forgetful.

We've talked three times, since my last post and there isn't much to report. Mom did have an exciting afternoon on Thursday. While she was outside with her dog Marley, a taxi pulled up at her complex to drop off a fare. It was a woman mom didn't recognize, but soon had an encounter with her.

Apparently (according to mom) the woman may be a new resident, as she couldn't remember which apartment was hers, or on which floor. So, mom decided to fulfill her good deed for the day and took on the task of helping this woman get home. I don't know why mom didn't look for the staff's help. The woman did have her key, so I assume they went door to door, until they found one that would open. I spared myself the details, because mom was so proud to help someone else and if I started asking for details, mom might get too confused to enjoy telling me about her escapade. I hope it ended up with the right woman in the right apartment.

She is forever holding out hope for a reprieve from the ice, snow and cold winter ahead. She thinks my sister Liz is coming on Friday, each Friday. She prays that Liz will take her home with her to South Carolina, where her dog won't get frozen feet and the sidewalks won't be slippery. She had conflicts the last time she went south for the winter and says she is no longer welcome, but she holds out hope.

She is telling me about another incident over the dog hair. Says she is in trouble because they (residents) found a hair on a couch in a community area and blamed her and her dog. She told me the same thing a couple of weeks ago. Each time, she says it just happened yesterday. This week, I asked her how she found out, who told her about her being accused. She can't remember who told her or how she found out -- just that she hasn't had her dog on that couch. Maybe the hair was on her clothes, but she hasn't sat on the couch lately and thinks the hair was from some other woman. Besides, according to mom, the room is meant for relaxing. "If I want to lay down, I will just go lay down on my own couch."

But there is more to it. She thinks everyone around her is against her. I kept telling her to forget about it, nothing bad is going to happen to her. She worries that they all want her apartment because it is the largest and best one in the complex. She thinks they envy her in a bad way. She seems to be isolating herself from the rest, because of her own imagination.

She's also rehashing troubles she thinks have happened between her and her best friend, Velma. I personally believe she's just worn her friend out with imagined conflicts. She says they haven't been going out to eat and she really misses the Friday night Fish Fry at her favorite restaurant in east Olean.

This is how much of our conversation goes, anymore. With the exception of her harrowing adventure of helping another old soul find her apartment, which she couldn't wait to tell me about, she starts out depressed, bored and not at all happy with most of her kids. She's even said, "I should kill myself." That's just attention-getting talk, by the way. Once she gets it all out, she perks up and is grateful to have me there for venting.

Yesterday was the day of the month for the free food distribution at the church, next door. Mom says the people that run it convinced her she qualified for the food and should take advantage, noting everyone in her building is eligible. She's been reluctantly taking the box of fruit, vegetables and other staples and thinks she shouldn't because she gets Meals on Wheels each week day and has money to buy her own food. She thinks the food should be given to someone else who really needs it. In the past she would put the food box in the community room for others to take or give it to my brother Dennis when he came to with medicine refills or to go shopping for her. I told her before she should accept the food and stock her cupboard for the winter ahead. She says she can always go the the sub shop to eat.

Well, Thursday they put the sign out about the food boxes being available and she didn't go over to the church to get hers. She decided not to take it. She watched from her window, as people went in and out of the church all afternoon, picking up their food boxes. Something seemed eerie about her decision, after all, she did enjoy getting the food and sharing it with others.

Mom told me Liz had arranged through some charitable group, for someone to come and do some things for her. I have no idea what the helper is suppose to do, but mom wasn't happy with the green bananas this person got her at the grocery store. Mom told her Dennis can do her shopping, he gets better looking bananas. She says the person hasn't returned since.

Mom was happy about one thing on Thursday evening her complex had a monthly meeting that includes coffee and dessert. It was getting near the time for the meeting when we were talking, so she was eager to get off the phone, even though she enjoys our chats. We made plans, of sorts, to talk again on the weekend.

I love you, mom. I love you too, sweetheart.