Monday, March 30, 2015

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Being lonesome, lonely and making lists

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 91 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 get so lonely," mom told me when I called Tuesday afternoon. "You don't know what it's like until you go down that road."

She was referring to her life, now at age 91. Every day is filled with so little to do, to occupy herself. It is more like every day is empty. She is down to one friend that she sees once in a while. Mom can't get interested in TV anymore. She doesn't crochet and her eyesight isn't so good for reading these days.

Mom never lived a day alone, by herself until dad died. I imagine it is hard for her, without someone or a lot of someones always around her. Being alone is something that never crossed her mind before now.

"I am getting despondent. I don't see anybody, don't have friends for visiting. Seems like all I can see from my window is snow."

Warmer weather isn't far off, but mom can no longer remember what day it is, let alone season, so she's still lamenting over not getting to spend the winter down South in a warmer setting. She says she feels hurt, betrayed and abandoned. Her words, not mine. She says she almost regrets getting to Florida and South Carolina last winter with my brother and sister. because it hurts more to know what she's missing. She quickly takes that back by saying she is grateful for being able to forgo snow and cold, even just for one season. She says it isn't easy anymore for her to live through winter here.

"Next fall I am going to take my money and go south somewhere. I won't even tell anyone, where I am. Just me and my dog. We'll enjoy ourselves and not have to be by ourselves where it is cold and ice and snow."

She goes on to describe her activities during this time of the year. From her window, she looks down on a snow-covered athletic field. Highlights include watching the Dumpster truck come and go, emptying the dumpster contents. Then she watches the cars of residents, workers and visitors come and go, driving in and out of the parking lot. She watches as she sits in her rocker chair. Daily visits include the person who brings her Meals on Wheels boxed lunch and my brother Dennis who checks on her nearly every day, lately.  She takes her dog for brief pottie walks, but doesn't get to sit outside because of the weather. Mom wanders down to the community room in her complex and watches others play games or work on puzzles. She doesn't interact much anymore as she feels like the others have circles of friends that don't include her. She says she no one ever calls her, but I know she at least hears from me, Liz and Jim regularly.

She's angry with her family. Thinks no one cares about her. She is talks about the love and care she gave to her mother. How she rode the mail truck from Weston Mills to Bolivar, sitting among the stacks of mail, to visit her parents, after she married and moved away. She expects the same loyalty from her kids. It is an old story.

On the other hand, she asked for my help on something. "You are going to think I'm crazy," she said."How many children do I have?" Six, I told her. "I am making this list and I only have four. who did I forget?" she read the list to me and I filled in the rest. Then she found another list she'd written that was complete, so she was relieved. She went on to list her grandchildren list and I helped her out with additional names.

"You should make the lists, print them and send them to me," I said. "then you would probably ask me, what are these lists for?"

"Oh no, you write on each one my children list and my grandchildren list, so I will know."

Assigning work for me.

I did my usual to try cheering up mom. I told her it is the last week in March and April Fool's Day is coming. Used to be one of her favorite days when we were little.because she got up nice and early and could think up a good April Fool's joke by the time she woke us for school.

Mom got a good laugh when I reminded her how she would trick us every year. If it was snowing out she's say, "Come on get up, the sun is shining and it is a beautiful Spring day." We'd jump out of bed, run to the window, just in time to hear mom say, "April Fools, I fooled you." If it was a nice Spring day out, she would tell us it was snowing and maybe we should check the radio to see if school had been closed. By the time we were older and wiser, we still couldn't figure out if she was tricking us or not.

I told her about the time Maia, Stephanie and I fooled my husband, Kevin. We were meeting up with him at a restaurant for dinner. Don't remember the circumstances, but we arrived in separate cars. When we were on the street by the restaurant, I spotted his car parked a few spaces from where we parked. So, we plotted to fool Kevin. I had a set of keys to his car, so I drove it away and parked it on the next street over. When we came out of the restaurant together, the girls were busting, trying not to laugh. Kevin started for his car, then stopped and I could see a bit of panic setting in on his face. The girls were whispering, don't tell him -- but I couldn't let it go further. He looked like he was about to start screaming for a cop.

Mom laughed and laughed. She thought that was the best April fooling she'd ever heard. Over the years, it's brought plenty of laughs from everyone, except Kevin.

Mom wants to write an article or a book about having dementia. We are going to work on it, one of these days. I think some of our conversations are a good lead-in to the project.

Mom thinks the paper would be interested in printing it. She remembered I wrote for newspapers, so I guess she thinks I have an in.

By now, we've talked for an hour and mom is searching through her fridge for something to eat. I send her off to eat and think up new lists, until the next time we talk.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mom's birthday second part

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 91 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.

According to mom her birthday was a whirlwind of activity. She went out to dinner and had guests and calls. The problem is by 8 p.m. she couldn't remember a thing. I called, as promised, so she could tell me all about her day. But, when she answered, she was in a panic.

"I feel so awful. I am embarrassed because I know I was busy all day, but I can't remember any of it," she said. Her voice trembled and she sounded as though she was in tears. "This growing old and not being able to remember what went on all day along. It's horrible. I wish it wasn't happening."

Too much was happening. She was confused, dazed and overwhelmed by all of the activities. Now, with a cold bothering her and being so tired, she laid on her bed wondering what took place.

She told me she went out to dinner, maybe at Sprague's Maple Farms Restaurant. Wasn't clear who took her out to lunch. Yes, my brother Dennis and his wife came to visit, but couldn't remember calls or visits from anyone else.

My daughter Stephanie called her in the late afternoon  and me afterward. Mom told her she didn't think she spoke to me earlier. Stephanie did find out that Dennis and Vicki were there when she called and that my sister's son Josh and his girlfriend were there earlier.

After talking to Vicki today (Sunday) I am able to confirm Josh took mom out to eat at Sprague's. Josh and his girlfriend brought a cake. Vicki and Dennis brought a cupcake cake and mom was probably suffering a sugar high, by the time we spoke in the evening.

She did calm down after I promised to call Vicki for more on the day's activities. She was a lot more scattered in thoughts than she was Saturday morning. We ended up talking for an hour. I reminded her about our visit earlier and how she wanted to write an article on getting old and what it is like to have dementia.She didn't actually remember the conversation, but thought it sounded like a good idea. She started in with the points she'd like to cover. She wants to educate youngsters who think most older people are plain crazy. It is important, she says, that children know the elderly weren't always how they are when they grow old.  By now she is hoarse and her voice is crackling from what is more likely allergies than a cold. I told her we'd take some time later next week to go over what she wanted in her article and I would put it together for her to read. Then she said she wants to write another one on how important it is to have a pet.

 I kept telling her I was going to hang up so she could go to bed. "I am in bed," she responded. "I am lying here, with my dog, talking to you. Oh, where's my dog? There she is on the other side of my feet. She keeps looking at me." I finally explained that I was hanging up so that I could get to bed. Mom was ready to talk all night.

So, that was the end of our second call. Now let's switch back to Saturday morning.  I asked mom if she remembered the time of day when she was born. Very dumb question that made her laugh. We agreed it was funny and dumb.

"People didn't pay much attention to things like that in the old days. Not like everyone does today. I do remember I liked visiting my grandma (Cartwright) on my birthday. She would give me fifty cents or a dollar. That was a lot of money in those days.  That was her second husband. We thought he was strange. He would wet himself." Mom paused, realizing her childhood ideas about the elderly were no different than those of kids today. But she didn't mention making the connection.

Instead she said people take care of the elderly nowadays. I guess she means their illnesses, and diseases are acknowledged and addressed rather than simply accepted, but I am not sure where she was going on the issue.

She ended that part of the conversation with, "I am so thankful for grandkids."

She talked about getting Meals on Wheels and how she also relies on frozen foods instead of doing a lot of cooking. We agreed she'd certainly done her time making meals while raising us kids. I asked her what was her favorite thing to make.

"Well, everyone liked my baked beans, Every time there was a bake sale at the church or school, I was expected to make a big batch of beans. They would dish them up and sell them by the pound or something."

Mom says she loves living in the small town of Portville. "It is such a beautiful town. We have a nice school. Everyone helps each other and everyone seems to get along. I don't like Olean (larger town nearby). There are neighborhoods that are so run down and no one cares or tries to help those people. The rest don't care."

Mom remembers my dad's mom as a real saint. "She would scare me when she'd race around in that old car of hers. She'd get (dad's sister) Ella's big old hats and take them apart to make a new hat for herself and then wear it to church. I can see them, these big flowers and feathers.

"She was a creative person. You kids would be fussing and she'd say bring them here and then she'd start drawing or telling stories."

Grandma was sent to bed by the country doctor after having a heart attack and stayed bedridden for the rest of her life, except for jaunts around the house when no one was home or everyone was asleep. Her bedroom was one of the large downstairs living rooms and that is where our first TV was located. So that was where everyone congregated.

I brought up the time when my grandpa fell asleep watching the Wednesday night fights, something he regularly did. When she would try to turn off the TV he would wake up and insist he'd been watching. He was irascible. He would fall asleep throw his head back and snore with his mouth wide open.

So, one night when it was just the two of them by the TV, she took a doughnut, soaked it in water, rolled it into a ball and made a 3-pointer. She tossed it and the mass went straight into grandpa's mouth and down his throat. That woke him up.

"Hey, I remember that," mom squealed. "He was spitting and sputtering. He didn't know what to say. He wasn't a very nice person, always fighting with someone. But, I remember that time."

Okay, so now I owe mom another call, but I think I will wait until Monday because I am just about out of words. It's been a busy birthday weekend for all of us.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mom's birthday, part one

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 91 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.

Despite suffering with a cold, mom was upbeat and in a talking mood, when I called her at lunchtime to wish her a happy birthday. She thought someone may have called her and she did get cards, but didn't have anything special planned for her 91st birthday. I asked her to make a list of the people who called her today and she replied that it would be an empty list. Hey, put my name, Antsy Nancy, first on that list, I teased.

I explained that I wanted to make her a treat, but couldn't decide what to make. Instead, I took a quart of strawberries to our neighbor, Horst, this morning. He is a great neighbor, always has a smile and kind words. He is diabetic like mom. I presented the berries to him explaining that it is my mom's birthday. I couldn't think of a healthy treat to send her and today is too late. So, I decided to give him a gift. Horst appreciated the gesture and asked me to pass his birthday wishes on to mom.

She laughed and loved that idea. Her goal today is to get some phone calls and cards. The gift of conversation is the best.

She did go out for dinner with Velma and Morey. They went for a fish fry at the Hibernia restaurant, mom's favorite place. Then they finished the evening off  at Red's and Trudy's Diner for coffee and pie. I am so glad they went out together. Mom has been feeling low over something that happened between her and Velma. They've been best friends for a long time. They were spending a lot of evenings together for years. Velma drives and has a car, so mom relies on Velma for most of her social life. For the past several months,mom says she hasn't seen Velma as often and there weren't as many dinners invites.

Going out with Velma last night was a huge boost  to mom's morale. It was just like old times and I could sense her happiness. She still talked about how disappointed she is about not getting asked to spend the winter where it is warmer, but not with so much fervor and repeated herself about it less often. It was more of an aside. She had better things to talk about, like dinner last night.

I was surprised how well she was doing today. She wants to write an article, describing what it feels like to have dementia. She wants to help others, especially children and younger people understand what is happening in someone's mind. Discuss the confusion. We talked it over and I told her I would write it for her. I told her I will call some afternoon, when she's feeling better and work on it. Then I will write and send her the piece for her to read. She LOVED that idea. Today anyways.

We had a wonderful visit. Actually, too much to write about now. I will be calling her tonight about that phone list of birthday wishes and get an update on the day's activities. Then I will be back with a bunch more from mom.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mom turns 91

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 91 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 is getting older and the Universe keeps changing.

When I talked to mom on Thursday, she asked the usual question, "What month is it?' 

"March," I replied. "Tomorrow is the first day of Spring." She chimed in, "Ooh, tomorrow is my birthday."

No, tomorrow is March 20th, I told her. Saturday is March 21st and it will be your birthday. 

"Well, why did they change the day? It's always been on my birthday, ever since I was born. Everyone knew that if it was the first day of Spring, it was my birthday."

I started to explain science in layman's terms, by talking about how time is changing. That smarter people than us knew all along that something in the sky, somewhere in outer space, somehow has altered the amount of time there is in our seasons. Winter is getting shorter and summer is longer. So, for the last 20 years or so, the calendar setters change the date of when it happens, every year and some years it will happen on mom's birthday.

Well, I told her most of this and she wasn't really paying attention. It was fine for the first 75 or so years of her life, why not leave these things alone.

Despite that bit of news, mom was in a pretty good mood. There was still snow everywhere. The athletic field outside her window was still white. There were still snowbanks along the streets, mounds of plowed snow that are just starting to melt. Trees are bare and summer is still  months away. The sap is running, maple syrup season has begun. 

Mom said she was just doing some thinking, when I called. She was remembering old times, visiting me when I lived in Massachusetts. She was in a remembering mood.

"Use to be families did things together. We did a lot together, as a family. Now everyone expects the school or the church to come up with things to do. We went on picnics, went fishing,  Maybe it wasn't much, but we did stuff together." 

My memories regarding this subject are somewhat different, but this is how she sees the past. 

Somehow, she wound the conversation around to how she misses her kids. If she had her way, she 
would travel. She would, "float around," from child to child, staying and visiting for a while and then move on to the next in line. After all, she has six of them and a couple months here and there, should work fine. Yikes.

"Oh, I am missing my family and how it was when they were growing up. I get lonesome and 
I have a pity party for myself. Then I get these ideas."

It was time to get her back to the remembering mood.

First, I wanted to get up to date and I asked her about her cuts and bumps from the fall she took, last month. "It is healing up. My hand looks better. The cut over my eye healed, but now I have a bump there, that hurts when I touch it. 

"I don't remember how it happened. I was helping this lady or something. I thought I was doing a good deed, but every body else didn't think so."

"Speaking of cuts over your eye," I said, "what about the time Dick hit me in the head with the baseball bat?" she chuckled, then waited to hear more. 

My brother Dick was in the side yard hitting a baseball. I was four and he was nine. I was the sucker sister who ran to retrieve the ball after he hit it several feet. I stood in front of him and he told me to get behind him or I would get hit by the ball. Being the good sister, I ran around and stood -- directly behind him. He didn't realize how close. He threw the ball in the air and swung the bat over his shoulder to take a swing. When he did this the bat smacked me across the forehead. There was blood and mom getting so upset. Dad worked on the railroad, this was the middle of the week and he was out of town. It was in the evening. 

Mom called the family doctor, whose office was at his home. She managed to get me there. He had to sew up the gash which meant three stitches in my eyebrow. Dr. Cash enlisted mom to help him. One look at him sewing my head and mom was white as ghost.

I remember hearing her softly say, "I am going to faint." Then his big voice boomed, "Put your head between your knees, Hazel." 

She did, or at least tried to do that. I was never sure if he was trying to give her something to do or amuse me. Seeing her in such a funny position got my attention.

When I finished retelling that story mom laughed and said she did remember it. However, then she said, "We had some good times." My response was, getting hit in the head with a baseball bat and having to get stitches wasn't a good time for me. "That's right, but we did have some other good times."

I told mom that granddaughter Taryn is in Paris this week on a tour arranged by her French teacher. she's in middle school. "I always wanted to go there," mom said. 

She went on to talk about my dad and the war. She said he did quite a lot of traveling while he was there, after the war ended. He was stationed in France and Germany and made some friends. He went to Italy and other parts of Europe.She wasn't sure if he was in Paris. I told her he was and spent most of his time in France. He got to choose my name, Nancy after Nancy, France Yes, there is a Nancy, France. He said it was pretty city.

For years mom wrote back and forth with people dad made friends but finally lost contact. "I don't know what I did with those letters. Probably threw them out, but I wish I had kept them."

I asked her how she felt while he was gone and fighting a war. "I worried all of the time. So many bad things happened in the war. A lot of young men were lost and left grieving families. It was the happiest day when he came home."

Mom said she was going to coffee hour downstairs in the community room, in a bit. "There is something going on tonight. I don't remember what, but I have my coffee cup sitting here with a spoon in it and some money. So, it must be a get together. They have them ever so often. Someone brings cakes or cookies -- stuff I shouldn't eat, but just a little won't hurt. Probably starts at six. 

We'd talked for an hour and it was going on 5:30. "I will let you go so you can get ready," I said.

"I'm ready. I will go early, so I don't miss anything." 

"I will call you Saturday, on your birthday. Don't forget to enjoy the first day Spring.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding luck in the clover patch

Boy, does this article from Modern Farmer make me happy. They say clover, the three-leaf kind that occasionally produces the lucky four-leaf  piece, is making a comeback after being declared a weed more than a half century ago. Turns out clover is way too beneficial to be considered a weed.  I've always favored the tiny clover flowers for their fairy-telling potential and the wonderful smell clover adds to the lawn. Clover doesn't turn brown (I don't think) or get raggedy looking. Instead the small bright green leaves and tiny round white or red flower balls keep a low profile and tries to fit in among the fescues.

Let me tell one little Antsy Nancy Sez story, before you go off to read more about clover.

When I was a youngster nine or 10 years old, I took piano lessons from Mrs. Ryder, at her home. During the warmer months, if a student arrived early for their lesson or they need to wait until the lesson before them was done, Mrs. Ryder would send them out to her backyard. Their mission was to find a four leaf clover.

The Ryders had a beautiful backyard, so green and plush. They lived in town, so thier lawn wasn't as large as the lawns on our farm, but always perfectly kept. I liked arriving early enough to hunt for four-leaf clovers and they were prevalent. While crawling along the ground, I imagined little people, leprechauns, scurrying about in the darkness, on this very spot of green, searching out the perfect four-leaf specimen.

Another student told me it was Mrs. Ryder's trick. They said the lawn was planted with a special clover mix that produced many four-leaf ones. She knew we would find one, eventually.

I never found out and still don't know if such a seed mix existed. Many times in my life, I've thought about her lawn and how I would love to plant a lawn filled with four leaf clovers. Not just for my own amusement, but for everyone to enjoy.

Mrs. Ryder was a very creative and intelligent woman. I think she loved inspiring youngsters  to think creatively. She retired from teaching piano a couple of years after I started taking lessons from her. My brother suggested she retired because of me. I learned so much from her in just a short time.

I took lessons from another teacher for a few more years and felt like I never learned any more about how to play. She was a no nonsense kind of person. I certainly never enjoyed taking lessons as much and the new teacher didn't have great backyard to explore.

A neighbor drove me and her son to our lessons each week and we had to sit and listen to each other play. He was very good and ended up teaching music in school. On our way home from lessons, he would echo my brother's sentiments about my piano playing.

By the way, Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day and may you find a four-leaf clover.

Read about clover here.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

This old house

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 haven't talked to mom since my last post, but decided to update with words about the family farmhouse in upstate New York. It is an ongoing and sad subject that mom brings up every time I call her. She keeps getting it in her head that the house has collapsed, She says a neighbor told her there was nothing left, just a pile of dust. As you will see in the following photos, it needs work, but is still standing along with one of the 100-year-old maple trees.

Luckily there are neighbors on an adjacent farm that keep watch for trespassers and my brother Dennis checks on the property on a regular basis. The farm's driveway is the end of the street. I remember going past two houses, then a swamp on both sides of the road, two more homes then across the railroad tracks and I was home. The farm isn't visible until you go over the knoll and cross the tracks.

A little refresher: After dad died, mom was living in this very large house, by herself and her dogs, until it became too much for her and she was moved into the apartment where she now lives. After WWII she and dad took the farm over from his parents. His parents held a mortgage, but only paid on the interest, so mom and dad actually bought the place and gave his folks a life lease.

The farm turned out to be a life-long improvement project for mom and dad. When they married, there wasn't any running water, no electricity or heat and of course no bathroom. I am not clear when the electric was installed or plumbing for water. But, I remember clearly the day the big Sears truck pulled up and unloaded a bathroom. Turned out mom was tired of waiting for a bathroom, so she went shopping and bought the pieces -- tub, sink and toilet. It was a surprise for dad, but he got the message and we soon had indoor plumbing. I was no more than 3 years old.

All of mom's favorite memories are of her home where she grew up and the farm where she raised a family. She and dad spent their lives making the farmhouse their dream home. It wasn't easy. They weren't poor nor were they rich. Just hard working folks.

So, here are some photos, pictures and a drawing of our farmhouse. Too bad, I don't have any old photos to include and if anyone out there has photos to share, please do so.

Our dear friend Chuck Meyers passed three gems along and I am posting a picture I drew from memories of the house and what it looked like to me when I was a youngster.

First is a house portrait painted by artist Marilyn Reynolds in 1987. A lot had been done to the house, including closing in the two-story porches. I think this was done when the house was just as mom wanted. As you look at the picture, the tree on the left is a maple tree that is the last of four still standing and I believe it is over 100 years old. Right next to the left front of the house was a beautiful lilac bush, but is was gone by the time this picture was drawn. On the right is a butternut tree. For some reason we never ate the butternuts. We dried them for something.

Painting by Watercolor Artist Marilyn Reynolds

Second is a photo taken last spring by Chuck. I think the house was empty for two year when this photo was taken. Looking shabby. The butternut tree is just a stump. In front of the stump where the daffodils are growing was a long-lived blueberry bush. I don't think many pies were made from those berries. The birds and we children snacked daily on them, straight from the bush.

Still standing.
Third photo is taken by Chuck Meyers on Friday, March 13, 2015. He went along to the farm to check on things with Dennis and his wife, Vicki. Still lots of snow and some deterioration. That maple is amazing. We always had a rope swing tied to the front branch and a tire swing on the other side. Dad had to use a ladder to hang the swing. He would wrap tar paper around the limb to protect is from the friction of the rope. You could go really high on that swing.

The snow covers the weeds.
Fourth is my memory drawing, done two weeks ago. I haven't seen the house in 30 years or any pictures to jar my memory. I know, I got the dormers all wrong and have too many windows, but this is what the house looked like to me when I was a youngster. I loved it best in the summer, mom's favorite time of the year. Everywhere was lush with color and the air was fragrant, other than the usual farm smells. In the back were pastures and fields of hay. Further behind was the woods, an amazing, wonderful place for wandering and discovering.

This drawing is of the house long before the front porches were enclosed. We sat on summer evenings on the downstairs porch to watch the rain and lightning. One summer was perfect according to dad. It was sunny and hot all day and by evening the rain watered the crops and brought cooler air in time for sleeping. The upstairs porch was a sleeping porch. Sometimes some of use would sleep out there to catch a cool breeze and we didn't have to worry about bugs, because they didn't seem to fly that high in the air.

Besides, the blueberry bush, there was an apple orchard and some grapevines as pictured along the right side of the house. The grapes never made jelly, because like the berries, children and birds ate the fruit as soon as it was ripe.We had gardens and so much fresh food. But the little eating areas in the yard were special.

My drawing of the farmhouse when I loved it best.
I didn't understand why mom was always making changes to the house. It seemed like she couldn't stop.  I liked it the way it was. But, now I get it. She put so much of her life into this house, her home. It is hard to let it be.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mom has new clock

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.

"You should see this clock," mom says during our phone conversation,Tuesday evening. "I don't know who gave it to me. It has great big numbers and some other stuff on it." She'd just asked me what time it was and as I checked, she answered herself, it was 8:51. Right I agreed and then she started talking about the clock. I told her she'd told me a couple of weeks ago that my sister Liz gave it to her. I knew that it also displayed the day and date, but asked her what the other "stuff" was.

"Aah, I don't know, I can't read it," She says. Does it tell you the day and date? "Yes, that is what it says. I couldn't make it out."

This part of our conversation occurred 50 minutes or so after we began talking. When she was feeling happier.

It was a different conversation, at first. She had been knocking on doors before I called. Looking for company, in her senior-adult complex. But, she says no one invited her inside. No one needed her company and she was lonely.

"They all have their own friends. They stay in (their apartments) and watch TV. When I first moved here there was always something going on, downstairs (in the community room). There was always someone to talk to and something to do. Now, I am a lot older than the rest of them and they don't want anything to do with me."

Bear in mind, she's lived in this apartment for a couple of years, not 20, so the age difference shouldn't  have changed that much. Also, it is tedious talking to mom. She is wrapped up in her own miserable circumstances. She will go on nonstop about her woes. Her dementia makes it worse. It is like listening to a broken record. I imagine her neighbors would rather watch TV than listen to the same complaints.

We've talked a couple of times since my last post, about her. For a while, it was tough to get her on a different subject. I needed to check with my brother Dennis and his wife Vicki on a few things she'd told me, to get the complete story.

She did have a bad fall a few weeks ago. At first she'd said she fell, but then talked about when she fell a couple of years ago. I am still not sure what happened, but she ended up with a black eye, a gash on her forehead and cut her hand up. This is what Dennis told me. Her glasses had to be replaced and her hearing aid was damaged.

She nearly fell again a few days ago, so Dennis has been making daily trips to her place to walk her dog and take her to get her hair done, because the slightly warmer weather has turned streets and sidewalks into sheets of ice.

Dennis has done a stellar job of taking care of mom. He is patient with her and faithful. He was glad for the new clock. Mom never remembers what day it is, or month. The time escapes her, too. The only problem is, she tinkers with it. He says every time he goes there, she's changed the time. He tells her to leave it as is, but she forgets to do that.

I did manage to cheer her up, during our recent visit. I brought up the time when I was sitting in the kitchen with a family friend, Chuck. Mom was at the sink doing something and started laughing over something we'd said. Neither of us thought we'd said anything funny. I asked mom what she was laughing about, but when she tried to tell us, she would  burst out laughing again. This went on for several minutes, until she had us uncontrollably laughing along with her -- even though we had no idea why or what was so funny.

Eventually, we were quieting down to giggles, when Dennis walked in and asked what was so funny. Well, that started the whole laugh session all over again. More stomach muscles were still aching the next day.

I told mom we never did find out what she thought was so funny, but that really didn't matter. This happened when I was in my 30's and mom in her 50's. She and I had our ups and downs. This is a memory, I will never forget.

Mom loved my telling her this story. I don't think she remembers that time, but she was laughing pretty hard, on the phone.

"See, you are good for me. You always remember something that reminds me we had a good life. We had good times. I am so grateful for your calls."

And when the new clock read 9:00, we said goodnight.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, sweetheart."

A good remedy for procrastinating

Here is my blog post on Antsy Artist Redux, for today. I opted to put off doing tax paperwork to work on another project, I thought would be more fun. Read on ....

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