Saturday, April 4, 2015

Which Chuck is it?

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 of 2014. 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.

First, I want to note that I've talked to mom twice since my last post, but didn't have much new to write about. She is preoccupied with her situation of living alone and feeling cooped up. She  says she's lonely, despondent, feeling neglected and basically, not happy. We both know her mood is due to the weather. Mom is a spring, summer, fall person. She got along better in the winter when she was younger, could drive and get around more. Now, after falling on the ice several weeks ago, she hardly gets out and has caught a major case of cabin fever.

She's been calling my brother Dennis and his wife, Vicki, everyday looking for company and someone to take her out to eat. If they aren't near the phone to answer she leaves a voice mail, or several begging for a return call. She gets panicky, says she needs them to come to her place for this or that. She knows he is home during the day and forgets he also works at night. They are patient with her. They call her to calm her down. They go out with her to eat. The next day it starts all over.

Vicki told me about this and mom brought it up when I called her on Friday. She even told me she forgot they had just gone out to eat. And forgetting was putting her into another panic. With dementia, there seems to be no end to the misery.

But, that's not what I want to write about, this beautiful day before Easter. We had a fun conversation about Chucks.

We were talking about past Easter baskets, candy, ham dinner, straw hats and flowers. It was a good topic to get her mind off of the current weather and onto Spring, which already happened according to the calendar, but not by Mother Nature. Mom loves white Easter lilies and red azaleas. They were everywhere during the Easter season. My dad's sister, Ella had a flower shop and those were the most popular plants to send friends and family for Easter. She always made sure our house was bedecked with lilies and azaleas for the holiday.

Straw hats and new dresses for church were all a part of Easter. Of course the new outfits were church apparel. To me, the hat was a waste since I would never wear it again.

Jelly beans, chocolate and decorated eggs filled baskets. Potatoes, carrots and ham filled our bellies.

I got a little off topic when I told mom about a recent FB conversation I had with a friend, Chuck Meyers. I said he always loved being around our house on holidays because there was so much fun going on. For a minute, she wasn't sure who I meant. She started talking about another family friend named Chuck from long ago,  "Oh, you mean Chuck Dean," mom said. No. I replied, but that name is familiar.

This Chuck was Dennis and Vicki's friend. "Oh, Chuckie," mom said. "Where is he now? I don't think I've seen him in a long time." He still lives in your area. "What is his last name again? I am writing that down and I will ask Denny where he is now. Is it Chuckie? Meyers?"

Getting that straightened out, she went back to remembering the other Chuck. I brought up a couple of times I remembered about that Chuck who was dad's good friend. They went coon hunting together. Dad had a LOT of coon hunting friends.

BTW mom said she went hunting with dad a few times and really enjoyed it. "Leslie (dad) was something when it came to hunting. He would say 'Listen. Do you hear that?' I could hear the dog running in the woods. 'She's (the dog) on the trail now.' It was too dark to see anything, but he knew exactly where the dog and the raccoon were.

"Oh, I know, it was Kinney. Chuck Kinney. His father was Reverend Kinney."

I told her one of my first memories was of me getting myself into trouble, without realizing what I had done. I related something I heard my dad say regarding Chuck and his wife were secretly living in their beauty shop that caught on fire. I was telling all of this to Chuck's father the reverend, as dad, mom, Chuck  and others sat in our living room. Dad was standing behind the reverend, furiously shaking his head and mouthing the word NO over and over. There was more to the story than I'll relate here. ... After they left, my older brother Dick warned of what I'd just done and told me to prepare for a spanking. I ran and hid in my closet for about two hours until mom coaxed me out for supper. No spanking, but I learned not to repeat stuff the adults said. And I never found out what happened between Chuck and the Reverend after they left.

Mom chuckled at this story. "Chuck was a nice guy. He was kind and a great friend. He could get himself into some real messes. I wonder if it had to do with growing as a preacher's son. Maybe it was too hard trying to be perfect."

I asked again about Chuck Dean. Mom said she'd have to do more thinking and remembering. For now, she is focusing in on Chuck Meyers and his whereabouts.

Promised to call again on Easter. "I will be in church," mom said. "Call me that night. Then we can have another nice visit. I love our talks."  Me too.

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too, dear."

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