Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy (Chinese) New Year




Here is my post for today at antsyartist.com about my take and experiences regarding the Chinese New Year. Please note: the t-shirt in the photo is mentioned in the post as one my daughter gave me for my Chinese birth year zodiac symbol. It is always nice to celebrate two New Years' eves annually. Enjoy.

Chinese New Year and more



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mom is cleaning closets, again

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.

Last time we talked, the conversation was all about mom wanting to move into a different apartment. If only she could move to the front side of the complex where she could peer out at the street below and all of the activity, she and her dog would have more to do than be lonesome. That was then and cleaning out closets, dusting things she admits don't need dusting and house cleaning are her latest ways to fight the blues.

"I am going to clear out my closets, see what I have and what I should throw away," mom said, first thing when I called her Monday afternoon. "I want to dust off the things in my (china) cupboard. It has glass doors, so there shouldn't be any dust inside, but I want to check and make sure. Those things on the top shelf (collectibles) are going to be tough to reach. They took my step stool." I ask her who and why. "Liz (my sister) and them (no idea who)," she replies. Maybe they worry that you will fall and get hurt, I suggested. "Well, I may try to use a chair instead and fall, so that doesn't make sense." Why don't you have Dennis (my brother) get the things down, next time he comes by, so you can inspect and clean them and have him put them back? She agrees that is a good idea.

She says she is cleaning for something to do since she doesn't watch TV much anymore and spends a lot of time with nothing to do. She was an avid reader, but can only read large print books and doesn't seem to have a good source for them, right now. I listed off things I would do in my spare time, but she isn't into crafting or sewing or stuff I would do,so I wasn't much help.

I asked her if she'd done anything about her wish to move? Silence. I reminded her of our last conversation and how she wanted to exchange apartments for one on the front side of the complex. I asked if she'd talked to Liz and the complex management about it.

She blew me off, by talking again about cleaning her closets, which by the way, she did a couple of months ago.

After a few minutes, she must have remembered our conversation and explained that apartments get rented out as soon as someone moves out. That there is a waiting list and a lot of people want to move in there. She decided not to do anything, but stay put, since she has the biggest apartment in the complex, the one everyone wants and envies her for. Besides, she has a lot of heavy furniture and no one to help move it.

So, I guess she had been thinking it over. She listed about as many reasons for staying put as she had last week, for moving. I am a little surprised, because I was hoping to see her in a happier position than the one she is in now. Maybe, I was excited for her to make up her mind and move.

But then moving was something I always wanted to do, as a kid. Knowing that my dad finally worked himself into a position and profession where he had an offer to move to South America or another state, gave me itchy feet. I fantasized about our family in a different environment, making new friends. I know most kids hate being the outsider, moving to a new community. They never realized that at least to some of us, they were exotic. A new friend, maybe. With so many different experiences to tell me about. I wanted the chance to live in a different town or state and be the new kid.

However, there was no chance of that happening. Dad was born in the house we lived in. Except for WWII, he'd never lived anywhere else, but in that house. So, when he talked about an offer he had or his employer, Ralston Purina, had openings elsewhere, he quickly killed any possibilities by adding, "I was born in this house and I won't ever leave here."

And I know she would reason it out, along with him. I asked her once about it and she repeated his phrase. Though, I always felt that mom would have happily moved if he changed his mind. Wishful thinking on my part.

Even now, with dementia, her clearest recollections have to do with vacations and trips they'd taken. The places were always beautiful and interesting to her.  One of these days I will ask her if she ever wished she'd moved to one of those places. New England, down South. If she says no, I will think she is just saying that, in case dad is listening.

I am happy with my life today and for that reason, I am glad we didn't move when I was a child. But just think.

Of course, this is my interpretation because I wanted to move away. Far away. Now just one of her six children live nearby. The rest of us have settled hundreds, thousands of miles away from the area she calls home. It bothers her when she gets lonely. It irks her when it gets cold outside and she's left to battle the weather on her own. By summer, she will be busy again, just enjoying nice weather. Life is both simple and complex.

Mom went on for a half an hour, telling and retelling me the same things that annoy her. She told me she fell. At first she thought it happened recently, but after playing 20 questions, we determined she was talking about the fall she took quite a while back and not something due to the snow and ice. She told me about an unpleasant discussion she had with the complex manager. It is old news. Some days are foggier than others.

Marley, her dog started barking at someone in the parking lot. It turned out to be Dennis, so we said our goodbyes until our next phone conversation.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, dear. Have a nice week."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mom wants to move

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 has itchy feet. Her apartment is plenty large enough with a large bedroom, lots of storage space and huge dining/living room area. Her living room window overlooks sports fields behind her complex that are a hive of activity with children and families during warmer seasons. She tells me about her place every time we talk on the phone. Her dog, Marley sits on her chair and watches the activity. Marley also likes to peer down at the parking lot to see who comes and goes.

So, you would think all is well, but not quite. It is the desolate months when the sports fields are covered with snow and the view is bleak, that makes mom's feet itch. She wants to move. Of course, she's been upset about not getting the chance to head south with the birds, for winter. Those conversations started last fall and her desperation increased as the temperatures dropped. By January she was more or less resigned to the fact that she would ride out the cold, snowy, icy days of winter, this year. She would make do, until spring.

Okay, but the feet, they still want to travel. And mom has a new quest.

First of all, I must say she's put together a great case for moving. She's lonely. She seldom (she says never) gets company. Only my brother Dennis and his wife Vicki. Dennis comes by to check on her prescriptions, to do her grocery shopping and to visit.  She has a woman who cleans for her, but all other times, it is just mom and Marley. She gave up TV watching because it is always, "the same old junk." There is too much space that she doesn't need or use, she says.

The apartment that is the envy of others who live in her complex because of its size and mom's treasured abode isn't quite so perfect, anymore. You see, it feels too big. The worst part for her is where her apartment is situated, away from the street, on the backside of the building. She longs to spend her apartment-bound hours gazing down on the street, watching traffic. If she had an apartment on the street side, she would be happy to watch children passing by, going to school or the library. She would be able to watch activities in the park that's across the street. She and Marley would feel much happier and not mind the loneliness so much, if she were to switch apartments.

Too bad she is using the argument on me (don't think she's shared it with my sister Liz who would be the one to help make that happen). Even worse she didn't didn't have her argument for moving thought out in time for what would have been a logical solution. Her neighbor across the hall moved out last month. That apartment is on the street side, was vacant and is next to the exit stairs which is good for taking Marley out for walks. She laid the whole thing out to me during a call earlier this week. She even brought it up, that she lost out because a new tenant already moved into that apartment.

I told her to discuss it with Liz and with the complex management. At least get on a list for the next time a street side apartment is available. The dementia makes it rough for her. She doesn't remember her conversations and has lost confidence in doing much for herself, like talking to the manager. Actually, she thinks the manager wants to kick her out because she has a dog, so she is reluctant to approach her about anything. And it is not exactly like she has a team of family members to help her move.

I hope something is done to help fill her time with things she likes to do and can do at her age.

"I am in my 80's," mom said the other day. "Oh no, what am I 90?" Yes, I replied. You will turn 91 next month. "No, not until March, Didn't winter just start?" she said. No about winter.Next month is March and it is almost Spring, I told her. To that she groaned about having another birthday.

Much of our conversations are her telling me the same things over and over. Most of the time, I can get her interested in something else, especially talk of old times. This week was rehashing stuff that makes her upset. At least we had her hopes of moving to discuss.

"Gotta run, mom. I'll call in a few days."

" You have a nice week, sweetheart."

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Paper Chaise Lounge: One who sings with his tongue on fire

Paper Chaise Lounge: One who sings with his tongue on fire: People have been looking for -- and sometimes finding -- meaning in Bob Dylan's song lyrics for more than 50 years. The fascination wi...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow is making mom cranky

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.

"Dammit, I'm old and I have dementia," was mom's response as soon as I called her at noontime, today. "Those children of mine don't realize how hard this weather is, on me. It is cold and we have a lot of snow. I am use to spending winters down south. That is where I should be. With them. But they don't care about me." (I am one of them, but she never remembers that.)

I told her I called because I was thinking about her and the groundhog. We discussed that it didn't matter whether he saw his shadow or not, expect six more weeks of winter. "I don't like that groundhog," she says. "He should stay in the ground."

She got back to her angry mood and went on to tell me she didn't get her Meals on Wheels lunch today and didn't have any food in her apartment. All of that was amended as our conversation went on. She told me she found a can of tomato soup that she warmed up and ate, and an Oreo cookie, which shouldn't have because she is diabetic, but figured the chocolate would give her strength. She says she doesn't often eat chocolate cookies, but has them around for times like these.

I asked her twice about not getting her lunch delivered and the second time she paused, thought about it and said it was delivered - earlier. I kept questioning her about not having any food, as we've had several discussions on why she needs to stock up in case of snowstorms like they had today. She said she had two slices of bread. I finally got her to check her fridge and cupboard, where she found a loaf of bread and some other staples and canned goods. I will check with my brother Dennis and I am sure she has food.

But, she was still steaming over being left in the cold. I hear the same litany about her taking care of grandkids and now this is the thanks she gets. She recounts all of the things she did for her parents and spending years taking care of dad's parents while raising her own family.

After she married and moved 20 to 25 miles away from her mom and dad, she would pay the mail truck driver a dollar for a ride to Bolivar, to visit her parents. (She counts those trips, even though they were just visits. )

That was all before I was born. She did spend a lot of time caring for her mom who was in a nursing home, when I was a teen, before grandma died.

She did spend many years taking care of dad's parents and they were both a hand full. She never had much play time during those years and now she wants more from her children. It is very complicated.

Well, I did get her into a better mood. We talked about snow days. I reminded her of how every April Fool's Day she would wake us for school and declare it was snowing or wasn't snowing. Once we were old enough, we always knew that on that day, the weather was opposite of whatever she said, Nice try mom.

"I always tried to fool you kids, before you got me,"

I talked about the many times the Allegheny River would rise and the bridge would be closed, so the school bus couldn't get kids who lived on the other side and we would all get the day off. I liked those days better then the snowed in ones.

Mom talked about the early thaws and how we would have flooding on the farm in the spring.

"I remember one time I had to wade through the water and get baby chicks out of the chicken coop and to safety," mom recalls. "I was a little scared of chickens and I had to go into the coop in my bare feet, walk on dirt and straw and chicken crap to round the chicks up. Then I had to bring them back to the house. I didn't like that at all."

I told her maybe my brother Len got that from her because he was afraid of the chickens. I reminded her of the capons dad raised for a while. Roosters that were shot full of steroids to plump them up for market. They were mean ugly birds and they would chase Len when he went to fill their water dishes.

"Animals are pretty smart," mom responded. "They sense things, so maybe they knew he was afraid. Or maybe when he started running the chickens were just following him."

That led to talking about how much she enjoyed  are children and how some of them were honor students. (Not me, but the three in the middle) She added, all of her kids did well in school. None of them ever got held back.

I decided to test my thoughts I discussed in my last blog. I asked her what time or part of her life she enjoyed the most. She went back and forth, not sure how to respond. I asked her how she felt about being a grandmother, with little grandchildren. She really perked up and yes, that was a very happy, memorable time in her life. she talked about the usual memories with some of the little ones and what it meant to her.

"I enjoyed them so much. They are around, now and I wish they were. But you have to let go." She sighs.

Mom turned her attention back to the snow and wind just outside her window. She worries that one of the three huge pine trees not far way may fall down in the wind and crash into her apartment. I said that pine trees are pretty strong and she probably wouldn't need to worry about that happening.

"You never know," she replies. "They are bending back and forth and the wind is strong, too. The tree could crash down and then what would they think. I could fall, too. Leave me here all winter."

I tell her not to worry. I remind her to follow my sister Liz's advice about taking her dog out for potty breaks. Take her out long enough for her to go and then come back inside. No long walks around the building when the sidewalks are slippery.

"I will, but sometimes it takes her (Marley the dog) a while before she goes and then her little feet get cold. Six more weeks? Darned ground hog."

"I love you, mom."

"I love you, too, dear."





Sunday, February 1, 2015

My work in these fundraisers

Here is my post today on antsyartist.com about two fundraising events that include some of my work. I hope my upstate New York followers will take part in the Asha Sanctuary Valentine's Celebration. And if there is anyone out there in Norway, check out the postcard exhibit.

Art for a cause or two

Mom wants the good old days

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.

"I was just thinking about you," Mom says, as soon as she picks up the phone and realizes it is Antsy Nancy calling. I hesitate to ask what she was thinking. "When are you coming up to see me? I am afraid I got mixed up and told people you were coming."

"I don't have anything planned and can't make it any time, soon," I respond. She stays upbeat and suggests maybe I would make the trip later in the winter or early spring. I tell her it is something for me to think about.

It is a long trip, to me, these days. At least mentally. We keep busy and always seem to have projects and tasks that need getting done. It's pretty much the way I like to live. But, there is more to it than being too busy.

Since talking with mom over the past several months and listening to her I realize how lonely she's become after my dad, mom's closest sister and many other friends have died. And how she understands why five or her six children have moved away, but resents being left behind. Something happened between her and her best friend who drives and they no longer go out twice a week for dinner or share in other activities. So she's grounded in that respect. Mom's very grateful that my youngest brother Dennis and his wife, Vicki have stayed close to her and do so much for her. But now there are a lot of hours she spends doing nothing but hating being alone.

All of this makes me realize what little ties I have to my hometown. I have my own family and made a home elsewhere. I barely made lifelong ties with family, let alone friends. That's just me. For personal reasons, I have no interest in what goes on around my hometown.

Mom is there and I guess a visit would mean a lot to her, even though she would quickly forget I was ever there, because of the dementia. And a visit from me would hardly fix her loneliness.

It is odd the things she remembers about me. She doesn't seem to remember me as a little girl, but as the mother of two little girls who loved to spend summers on the farm with grandma. She cherishes picnics and afternoons at the pond with my brother Dick's children or watching after Liz's kids while Liz worked at the university. Those are the days she frequently recalls. Those are the days she wants back.

I think mom really wants to relive the old days. Not when we were little, but when we came back to the farm, with our children to visit grandma. She wants those summer days. Not cold winters. Warm days with lots of sunshine and children to make happy. That is what she misses. It is not so much that her children have abandoned her for another state or warmer weather. It has to do with the part of her life that meant so much to her is gone. It will never be like that again. Even great-grandchildren aren't there to fill the void. So she is lonely, for something in the past.

I know it isn't like this in other families. In my hometown, there are many generations growing up within miles of each other, sharing everyday life. We didn't turn out like that and maybe some of us will live to regret it and miss our favorite times with family.

We talked last night for about an hour and I couldn't help but think about her misery.

I pressed my ear close to the phone because I didn't want to miss a word, even the stuff about the manager at her complex that she is growing to hate, something I hear every time we talk, at least five times. When she curses her children for moving a way, I keep quiet over the fact that I am one of those kids and she is sort of right. I endure hearing her sad stories again. Many change each time and I don't know how much is from her imagination.

She got to a happier stage and we had some laughs over some memories I brought up. She laughed, but it felt like these were my memories, not hers.

When our call ended, mom was feeling pretty good and planning to go downstairs to the community room to help put together a jigsaw puzzle. Mom didn't seem as sad or blue as usual. Her opening remark about my visit should have been a tip off. If she enjoys telling her neighbors I am coming, then so be it.

I told her I would call in a few days and she wishes me a good week.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."