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."