Reach Out and Touch

My mother-in-law phoned this morning. For many people, this might be an ordinary event. More often than not for me, phone calls from her send a tremor of worry through me.

With one of her granddaughters, 2010

Because of her various life challenges, using the phone has become a complex operation; her dementia makes communication problematic, plus her hearing has diminished so she can’t always hear information clearly through the receiver. When I receive a call from her, my first thought is she needs emergency care or she’s fretting about an imagined crisis. (Prior experience has borne this out.) Continue reading “Reach Out and Touch”

List Mania

It’s a challenge to get away from college football today … and for the rest of the weekend. Plenty of people are reluctant to leave the couch while games run non-stop until late tonight. (I’m not one of those, but I’ve come to accept my Beloved and our grandson are going to stay glued to their seats, smack-dab in front of the television.)

AlaOhioTurning away from college football mania, I’ve been scanning the vast resources of the worldwide web. I had already noticed in my email the number of lists that abound in 2015. There are lists of (1) things to do, (2) things not to do, (3) places to go (4) places not to go … and there are multiple other lists focused on retrospection (1) what we got right in 2014, (2) what we got wrong in 2014, (3) what we need to do to get it right in 2015, etc. Continue reading “List Mania”

Mother Love

An email from my sister this evening informed me my mom’s in the hospital tonight.TIA-image

Sometime during the 1970s, Mom had a stroke. I use the word sometime because when it happened, she didn’t seek medical help … not immediately and not ever. It was only during a routine physical in 1984 that the doctor asked:  “When did you have a stroke? There’s nothing in your medical history about it.

Following that physical, Mom and I talked and she told me she remembered a time when she had experienced numbness in her face and on one side of her body and she slurred her words a bit. Still, she didn’t think it was significant enough to consult a doctor or take a trip to the emergency room. Apparently, her symptoms went unnoticed by everyone else in the family.

Since I was out of the home at that point and living far away, I’m not sure whether our family members (living under the same roof) were just oblivious or whether the stroke was truly so mild, my mom convinced everyone around her that everything was fine. (Here’s a related post about that.) At the time of the stroke, I think she still had two children in high school and was occupied with the business of overseeing their lives as well as being a devoted wife to my dad. She was needed on multiple levels and as is her wont, she did what she always has:  she soldiered on. Continue reading “Mother Love”

Grace For Infirmity

The ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease are taking a toll on my 91-year-old mother-in-law. My Beloved’s daily visits to the assisted living facility where she resides have become ever more perplexing as the communication barrier widens. Still the loving son, his perseverance in ministering to her needs – even when it seems impossible to penetrate the fog – causes me to admire him all the more.foto_google_alzheimer

I’ve been fortunate that my mother (at 88) doesn’t have the added challenge of dementia; macular degeneration has its own way of challenging a person. One time, Mom had failed to hydrate properly and suffered serious hallucinations (an odd phenomenon considering her blindness), but that situation has been avoidable as long as she’s drinking plenty of water. Continue reading “Grace For Infirmity”

Lessons In Dying

Alzheimers-300x127My husband and I are in that stage of life when the care of our aging widowed mothers becomes a more pressing concern. Hubby’s mom lives nearby and he tries to visit with her daily. She’s 91 years of age and was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year ago. I mentioned her in a post last fall.

Almost every day when he comes home from visiting with her (he usually drives over to her assisted living facility after his workday ends), he provides a brief report of their conversation. She rarely remembers his name now, though she remembers he’s her son. When he offers hints about his name, sometimes she’s close, but the memory has difficulty filling in all the details.

She also remembers she’s a mother of other sons, but their names don’t come easily either. The other day, she told my husband there were people coming to “do drugs” outside her door and they would also be in her apartment for the same purpose. (I wondered if she might be hallucinating. She has before.) Eventually, she managed to say “carpets” and the story made more sense. The carpets were scheduled to be shampooed.

Then there’s my mom. Anticipating her 88th birthday this year, my mother doesn’t suffer with Alzheimer’s; her challenge is macular degeneration. (I’ve mentioned her in numerous posts on this blog. Remember Bobbie Pringle?)

A couple weeks ago, I had an early morning scare with her. It was before eight a.m. when my phone rang. I saw on the caller id that it was my mom’s number, so I answered saying, “What are you doing up at this hour?” (Truth be told, she’s generally up long before I am.)

telephoneNo answer came from the other end. I kept the line open thinking maybe she’d set the phone down for some reason. After talking loudly into the speaker for several minutes with no response, I hung up and dialed her number only to get a busy signal.

That’s when I started worrying. What if she’d dialed me and before she could speak she’d suffered a heart attack or something? The thought of her lying on the floor unable to speak into her phone while attempting a call for help disturbed me immensely!

Unfortunately, I live six hours away from her! Eventually, I called my sister (who lives within a half hour of Mom). My sister drove over, determined everything was fine and texted me the news. Of course, I felt like an idiot, having bothered my sister, but know I would have felt much worse if something adverse had happened to her and nobody had checked to make sure she was okay.

[I know we’re not the only ones in the world concerned with aging parents. I know there are numerous people handling situations much worse than what my husband and I encounter with our mothers … and I would never minimize those really difficult situations of others.]

When we had a previous scare with my mom, I wrote this sonnet. It speaks (generally) to the bond of parent and child and the reversal of those roles as a parent ages. The nature of Alzheimer’s certainly qualifies it as a juggernaut. Aging is that by itself and the daily possibility of death is like an unwelcome companion lurking in a dark corner of the room.

Macular degeneration is no less a juggernaut, just a different kind of aging challenge. The ever-present risk from a fall … or trusting one’s sense of touch when taking medication (is this the correct pill!) … or setting a flammable object on a hot burner … when a person’s virtually blind, small things suddenly take on complexity.

Touchstone, learning to die, mother, daughter, elderly mother, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Touchstone

My mom has aged remarkably well, keeping her inner vision and verve for life bubbling over even as her eyesight has diminished. I think she still has much to teach me in her final years (many more years, God willing) … including how to continue aging well and eventually how to die without regret.

I hope I’ll remain a conscientious and devoted learner.