Thursday, December 4, 2014

Catching up

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.

Finally had a long talk Wednesday with my brother Dennis and his wife Vicki. Mom has been in a funk for the past few weeks over problems she's having at her complex about her dog and wanting to go south for the winter, but it isn't happening. I was worried about her and also wondering what was real or imagined from things she's telling me.

Dennis lives nearest to her and has become her caretaker, as well as guardian of the farmhouse which hasn't collapsed or fallen to the ground, as mom's friends described to her. She had a pleasant and sad surprise on Thanksgiving Day.

When she told me she had Thanksgiving dinner at the farm with Dennis and Vicki, I thought she was dreaming that, but found out later it was all true. Vicki says they intended to take the meal to mom's apartment, but since mom has been in such a low mood about problems there lately, they decided to take her to the farm, let her see that while it isn't in great shape, it is still standing.

Mom was excited about the whole event. But for a while she thought Dennis had moved in and was going to live there. That tickled her. She wants so much to have Dad's birthplace restored and someone from the family living there. Then she realized that wasn't the case, that they had turned on the power for the day in order to have dinner. Her happiness turned to despair. She was relieved that what her friend told her about the house was a huge exaggeration, but she felt sadness to know it stands empty.

So that was a bright spot and sad realization for her.

She talks about dying a lot, to me and to Dennis. She says she feels unwanted and forgotten. She wishes her family would call her -- she even has a plan.

"Why don't they get together and plan to it so one person calls me one day and another, the next. They don't have to call me all of the time. Just call and talk, like you do (me). It means so much. I don't have anyone to talk to. Other people who live here have family and friends that visit and call. I have Dennis and he takes such good care of me. He makes sure I have my medicines, keeps an eye on my refrigerator and goes to the grocery store whenever I need something.

"Liz takes care of my finances and does a lot of other things for me, but she lives so far away. I wish I could go stay with her this winter, but it doesn't look like that will happen."

Same with Jim who owns the farm property and the expenses that come with it. She'd like to stay with him in Florida, but Vicki says the logistics of getting her and her dog to either home is too problematic. She is starting to realize this and it isn't sitting well.

In the meantime, she has been very upset with her neighbors in the complex as she thinks there is a conspiracy to get rid of her and her dog. There is the problem of her taking Marley into community rooms in the complex, where the dog could shed hair. She understands there are others living there who have allergies. Or kind of. Now, she says, she can no longer take Marley on the elevator and must use the back stairway to come and go with Marley. I think she was never allowed to take the dog into the community rooms.

She thinks her neighbors are out to get her, because they wanted her apartment, but timing was in her favor when Liz applied and did the paperwork for it. It is impossible to know exactly what's going on. She tells Dennis the same things she tells me and he finds it credible.

I don't know. I found it amusing the other day when she said, "They never liked my dog. Ever since I moved in. Right after I moved in, she had puppies. How would I know she was pregnant."

She doesn't go to dinner with her friends anymore -- she thinks they are angry about something she said or did. Dennis says it is because she's stubborn. Her friends have been frequenting a different restaurant on Friday evenings and mom wants to go to the place where she gets great fish fries.

Glad to talk to Dennis and clear some things up. He visits her and checks on the farm every few days. I appreciate all he does for mom. He is the youngest of six kids and she's always depended on him.

I can see she is more desperate as winter approaches. She spends a lot of time outside during warmer weather. There is more to do and see, like the youngsters playing on the sports fields just outside her window. Or the weekly concerts and events in the park across the street. She and Marley are able to sit for a whole afternoon on a bench and watch traffic. Now, it is cold. She is afraid she might fall on the slippery sidewalk or Marley's feet will freeze.

My wish is to get her through the next few months. She will be happier when Spring rolls around.
We are still having nice long conversations about twice a week and I will keep everyone up to date.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, sweetheart."
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