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, 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."

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