Saturday, January 24, 2015

Winter in Florida

Here is my post for today on Antsy Artist Redux. Please enjoy and stay warm.


Nature Coast winter

D. Renee Wilson: Artwork & Play: From Gray to Scarlet; Some science and spirit behi...

Enjoy this post from a fellow artsist and Etsian:  D. Renee Wilson: Artwork & Play: From Gray to Scarlet; Some science and spirit behi...: Last week I kept seeing Cardinals everywhere. He was on the trail everyday when I ran.  He showed up in my yard. It was one of those thi...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mom loved biology

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.

Mom would rather have snow than the frigid cold. We keep reading about the heavy snowfall and blizzards in the western New York/northeastern Pennsylvania area, but mom says there hasn't been much snow and she would welcome it over the near zero cold. Of course, She has a theory about it. Mom says when it snows, it doesn't feel as cold, so it could be her imagination. She admits she doesn't really know. I started to explain it has to do with the air being too dry for snowflakes to form and really cold temperatures are associated with high pressure and dry air.

I was getting lost in my own explanation and said it is science, chemistry.

"I loved chemistry when I was in school," she said. "Or wait. No, I didn't take chemistry, it was biology. I loved biology." 

"Did you cut up a cat?" I asked. 

"No, I don't think it was cat, but we probably cut up something." mom responded. We had the best school and we had so much that the other schools didn't. Bolivar built a big new school, With all of the new facilities (at that time). I loved school. We had everything for learning."

Back to the cold weather. When I called, mom had just hung up from talking to my brother Jim, who calls her every Sunday evening. She says he must get tired of hearing her grumble about the cold. She admits she's coming to grips with the reality that she will just have to ride out this winter. She thinks it isn't fair for everyone to leave her in the cold, like that, except for Vicki and Dennis, my brother and sister-in-law.

I remind her that spring is another six weeks or so away and then comes the weather she loves most. That led to more discussion about her calendar.

"What month is this?" she asks. "January," I tell her. "Where is your calendar? Have you been marking off the days?"

"My calendar is all marked up and I don't know why I did it. Is today Sunday?" Yes. "Is it the 18th?" Yes. "Well Monday is all marked up. I wrote something on it and can't read what it says." It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "Oh, 'I wrote there won't be a meal delivered.' They don't deliver Meals on Wheels  on holidays. Well, I can go to the sub shop for a sandwich, Just hope the sidewalks aren't too slippery."

I asked her if she had some canned soup on hand. We've had this conversation a few times. She says there are leftovers and adds, this is something I have to work on (whatever that meant). I think she has stuff in her cupboard, but didn't want to go looking, right then.

By then, she moved on to a stack of pictures she was looking through. They'd been tucked away in a drawer and she brought them out and was thinking about making a photo album. Pictures I sent her months ago, that she thought were never delivered to her are mixed in with many puppy pictures taken while she was still living in the farm house.

"Oh my, this one is of three puppies and the mother, all eating out of a mixing bowl," she tells me. "Wow. One, two, three, four, five puppies. That must have been the last bunch. They are by the fire place. They are so cute. I want to put these in an album, but I don't have one. I do have two spiral note books. Maybe I can use one of them to make an album." For now, she will try to figure out how to uncurl them, so they lay flat. We decide she can lay them on a table and weight them with something heavy. She's going to work on that

"I love dogs, " mom sighs. "They are my favorite animals." I remind her of the time when I was in high school and ended up with a monkey.

Mom's response was, "Oh god."  I replied, yes, that wasn't a good experience. "How did you get it? I can't remember that part."

I explained how I baby sat for the local vet's family. Someone brought him a squirrel money in a cage and said his wife was making him get rid of it. Looked cute. I expressed interest and told them my parents would let us have any kind of pet we wanted as long as we took care of it, which was true until the monkey incident.

Mom did vividly remember that it was miserable, was stinking and messy and the only people it liked was her and Kirk, a family friend. As for mom, the feeling wasn't mutual. The monkey would ball it's food and other stuff up and throw it at it's cage bars. It couldn't be let out of the cage because it went wild and would bite anyone trying to catch it. 

"What ever happened to it?" she asked. Dad finally gave it to someone who lived in Vandalia. They lived on Route 17, which was the major road and well traveled in those days. They had some kind of animal attraction/exhibit set up alongside the road. 

I explained, when I asked where he took the monkey, dad replied, "I gave him to a traveling zoo that never goes anywhere."  I told mom, he probably just said that, but she insisted that is what he had done. That area was part of his route for his job of calling on farmers for Purina, so it made sense. Anyway, she couldn't imagine him doing anything else and the traveling zoo, seemed like a perfect solution. I just wondered why he wouldn't take us to see this place. Hope the poor monkey found a good home.

From then on the new rule was we could have any pet we wanted as long as we took care of it and both mom and dad gave their approval.

While we were talking she was sitting in a chair and tossing a tennis ball down the hallway for Marley, her dog to retrieve. "She likes this game and that is how she gets her exercise when we can't go out after dark, when it is cold. She gets her exercise and I, my arm is getting exercise, too. I got in trouble before, with the man who lived down stairs, under me. I didn't realize the bouncing ball made so much noise, until he told me. He's moved and his place is empty.

Mom did ask who I was a couple of times. She does that every time we talk. When I say I am Antsy Nancy, she now claims she made that name up for me. It was getting on and mom said she was going to have a snack and go to bed.

"You don't know how much your calls mean to me, I was grumpy and now I feel better. It is nice to talk about different things. I don't ever get any phone calls and don't get to visit very much." 

I told mom, it is something I enjoy. After all, we share many years worth of memories, many good ones. So why not dwell on the past and good times, while we can.

"I love you mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Monday, January 12, 2015

Venting, accepting and more venting

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.

These are treacherous times for mom. It is winter. It is cold, gets dark early and the sidewalks aren't always safe. Each time we speak, I hear the same complaints. The only difference is the urgency that grows as the weather worsens. The urgency to spend the next few months until spring somewhere warmer and with family. I can understand that, but she will stay put and that is something she is starting to accept. Not happily, but facing reality.

I haven't written about the last few times we talked, because a lot of the discussion centered around the same few issues. I know what she's going through with the dementia and that getting confused, bringing up the same things over and over is a common pattern. She even knows that and says so. Mom thinks that other people who know she has dementia should also understand, but that is not always the case. She thinks she should get a pass on shortcomings or mistakes, but feels like people around her get impatient and irritated. She says they either turn their backs or worse, take it out on her.

She dwells on things that bother her the most. And are pretty current. A lot of times, the more she thinks about a problem, her imagination takes over. She also knows this to be a problem, but can no longer see  the difference. I wonder if she is as verbal in person as she is with me on the phone.

So, she knows she will probably see the winter out from her apartment window. She will take short walks with her dog and try to find something to do in her complex. It isn't what she wants to be doing, but, at least last week she was accepting that.

There is always some conflict between mom and her best friend. That bothers her a lot, but again, I don't know what is real or imagined.

One thing that is kind of bothering me. Up until a couple of weeks ago, she never missed talking about dad and how much she misses him. He was a saint in her eyes. I don't expect that was always true, but close and understandable. A few days ago, while we were talking she asked who I was and we got that straightened out. Then she said, "Now, was I married to Leslie?'  I told her she was and she hasn't mentioned him since. Her world seems to be shrinking to those she talks to the most often. But then again, she might be lucid Lucy the next time I call.

This was a funny part of our conversation, yesterday. I included in my Antsy Artist blog post, because we were talking about getting ready for Valentine's Day.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day offerings at www.antsyartist.etsy.com, I have a fun story about my heart-shaped pillows. I was talking to my 90-year-old mom on the phone last night, describing my pillows to her. I told her about the small heart pocket I attach for concealing little gifts. Someone purchased one on the pillows to use in her wedding ceremony for the ring bearer to carry the wedding rings. She loved the folk art style and opted to use one of my creations rather than the traditional white lace versions.

Mom is forgetful these days and she said, “I think once, someplace there was a little boy carrying the pillow, flopping it around and throwing it in the air.”

I laughed at that and reminded her the little boy was my brother (her son) when he was 5 years old and in my older brother’s wedding. He was pretty shy and when he started down the aisle everyone was smiling and noting how cute he looked. That rattled him so he started bouncing the pillow back and forth from one hand to the other. That brought giggles and more whispers. Dennis became thoroughly embarrassed. He grabbed one of the corner tassels and spun the pillow in circles. Of course, the rings were securely attached to the pillow.

Mom loved my sharing with her a memory that had escaped her and she hopes my pillows are a part of someone else’s wonderful memories.

We had another funny discussion last week. We were talking about some relatives and some of the crazy things they'd done. One woman married a great guy, ended up cheating on him and getting caught. She had pulled a few other stunts before she finally settled down, remarried and had kids. Prefer not to get more specific.

I asked mom why some people couldn't be satisfied with what hey had and always ended up messing up a bunch of lives. Mom in her matter of fact way explained that she and some others she knew just got married too young. They never had time to experience life. She went on and on about this. I kept my chuckling to myself. To hear mom talk as though from experience and knowledge on the matter, was funny. After all, mom married when she was 17 and I doubt she did much of what she was preaching, herself.

She is hilarious with the calendar Dennis gave to keep track of events and for marking off days. "I don't know where this calendar came from and why I put big exes on the days." 

I reminded her that she was keeping too many calendars and getting mixed up, so Dennis got her a new one. He told her to use the black marker to make it simpler. A week ago Sunday, while we were talking she made one leg of the X's too long and it ran onto the following Sunday, She nearly lost a week. 

"Okay, but I have big circles around some days and I don't know why," she remarks. 

I add that she did this while we were talking a few days ago. She said she was going to circle Tuesdays. That is when she gets her hair done. 

"Well, I circled Saturday and some other days. Must be something was going on then, that I missed. I don't know where this big marker came from."

As always we stay one the line until she gets all of her griping out and she apologizes for sounding off. I stay with her until her mood lightens. She says she appreciates my calls and I know it means a lot to her. 

So for now, "I love you, mom. Goodnight"

"I love you, too, dear."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Winter rain

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 had a short visit this afternoon. The bone-chilling rain has mom in a dither as she watches from her window. Winter is creeping in and she worries she won't be able to get her dog out for a bathroom walk for the rest of the day. She's blaming family for not coming to her rescue and taking her south for the winter -- a familiar theme this time of the year. She says she is discouraged and feels forgotten.

As always, she talks about how much she appreciates my brother Dennis who lives nearby and helps out by making sure her prescription medicines are stocked as well as her pantry. But she isn't happy with the rest of the family that never comes to call, and never calls. 

Today she is suffering from the same sore throat she had two weeks ago. Says it is her sinuses draining and she will gargle with salt, but puts off going to the doctor because she hates waiting forever in  his office only to have him prescribe more medicine that will end up costing her money.

Her cleaning woman was there -- the one she likes. She vacuums, does laundry (mom thinks) and cleans the place up. Mom can never be more thankful and appreciative for what a cleaning woman does. That is because she spent many years cleaning other peoples' houses and understands that it is very hard work. The "girl" cleans other apartments in mom's complex. She has a little boy and brings him along sometimes -- but not on Saturday as her husband is home to take care of him.

Mom says the other cleaning woman from some volunteer agency who came a month or two ago didn't work out. Mom says the woman went to the Sub station to get them some food and ended up charging more that $30 on mom's card for food she kept for herself. I have NO idea if this actually happened. Mom's had other complaints about that one, but this is the first I heard of this.

She does get confused. She was telling me she has one pair of corduroy pants and those are the ones she loves to wear most when it is cold. I checked on this with sister-in-law Vicki and she confirmed mom has four pairs. I was concerned that she was wearing the same pants everyday, thank goodness, she isn't.

For a little of our remembering exercise, we talked about the house full of people mom took care of when I was growing up, including we kids, dad, dad's parents and his sister Theresa. Also talked about the time my brother Jim shot a squirrel, skinned it and nailed the hide to his bedroom wall. Wasn't long before it started stinking and developing maggots. "I was thinking the other day about some of the things he would do. He was always doing something."

We cut our conversation short, because of mom's throat. I promised to call her tomorrow, which she knows is church day because she is now crossing out each day on the calendar Dennis set up for her.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, sweetheart."

Take the 'I Like Myself' Challenge

This is a great article : Take the 'I Like Myself' Challenge

Thursday, January 1, 2015