After Losing My Demented Mom, Now What?

kim-kerry_cabbage-patch-dolls    K-K_santa

Funny how sometimes, when things are on our minds, we find ourselves thinking in our sleep. I mean we are sleeping, but while we lay there asleep, our brains are going over things that are on our minds, things that are bothering us. That’s how this post came about….now that Mom is gone, now what? How do the holidays or any other day work for me now? Everything takes on a different meaning since September. Before, my days were spent focused on Mom, no matter where I was, she was the priority…now I have to adjust my thinking.

Since my Mother passed from Dementia/Leukemia this past September, other thoughts are starting to come forward and have been flooding in, uninvited, especially during the holidays this year. Now that I have no elder family members left, I am looking at the road ahead and seeing where it’s all going. Not that in every family it will go this way…but everyone is different with different experiences and different ways of dealing with life. There are divorces, marriages, ex’s, in-laws and the stresses of care taking an elderly parent which contribute to how things will be, changing the rules of the traditional holiday game forever forward.

Photos Above: (1) Kim, Kerry and Jennifer on Christmas Day with handmade dolls and store bought dolls  in their Holiday outfits. (2) Kim and Kerry with Santa

Looking around on Facebook, seeing all of my friends posting their happy family gatherings in photos during the holidays, was very reminiscent of earlier times in my life, when things were better and the family was a solid unit. Every Christmas was a “New Year”, bringing with it new Xmas lists for Santa. I always had my work cut out for me, but I didn’t mind, I loved it. I loved making it all come true for all of them. With every year being different, with different requests, different expectations and different gift themes, there was a lot to prepare before the big day.

Early on we had started out with a real tree, making the house smell like a pine forest…it was wonderful…very Xmas-sy. It would get everyone into the mood for the holiday season. A 10-month old Hannibal, the Great Dane, peed on his first Christmas tree one particular year…I guess he was confused! That was a story that has been told over and over throughout the years.

Some years, I would spend the months before the holiday, sewing, from the time the kids went to school until the time they came home, to make sure everyone had a new outfit, top or craft, including the adults. My mother still had some of what I made for her when she moved in with me almost 7 years ago. Other years there were things like Cabbage Patch Dolls, which were so in demand back then. I would have to get up with the birds, literally, and go stand on lines at the toy stores to assure I would get 2 dolls in time for Christmas. Another year, I had also sewn 3 Cabbage Patch doll-like dolls for them. Along with other store bought dolls of their choice, there were 2 for my kids and 1 for their friend Jennifer Brengartner. So that year, they got 2 dolls each, one hand made and one store bought doll.

Photos Below: (3) One of the early Xmas trees (4) Kim Paul, Kerry Paul and friend Karen Kearns with Cabbage Patch Dolls on Xmas day. Kim sporting her fashionable neon!  

xmas_baldwin2   Xmas_baldwin

No…it didn’t end there, by any stretch of the imagination…there was more. When I look back, I can see that I left no stones unturned. We would get up on Christmas morning, the husband and I would get our cups of tea so that we could sit and watch the kids open their gifts, which would take about 2 or more hours. Yep…just like most parents, we went overboard…or, shall I say, I went overboard. We all know that husbands don’t do any of the preparing, at least not in our house at that time. The shopping, the wrapping, and all the preparations for the holidays were up to me, and looking back, I feel that I did a good job of it. In the years that the kids were in school our tree had so many gifts underneath that we could hardly get into the room on Christmas morning. It was wonderful to watch the excitement in the kid’s faces as they walked into the room in the very early morning. So many gifts, some asked for, some not but we all know how nice it is to have gifts under the tree, just for us to open on the big day. The anticipation and the warm feeling of the day helped to create the excitement.

After a few hours of gift opening, and while the kids were looking deeper into their gifts, I would then put together the expected Christmas breakfast, which normally would be an egg-sausage casserole, that would become a yearly tradition. That would usually hold everyone over until dinnertime, with a little snacking throughout the day, until a few other family members would arrive for holiday dinner. During the day, there would be Christmas music or holiday movies, and a lot of Xmas spirit flowing throughout the house. It was a wonderfully warm feeling…at least for me as I favorably recall. The day was usually a huge production and took a lot of work to put together, with planning and cooking dinner to make sure everything was good and festive for all. There were years and years of this routine, always with a lot of heart and soul put into it, leaving no stones unturned. It was no easy task for someone who came from so much less, but none-the-less, I did it and it became the yearly tradition until the last Christmas that we were all together in the year 2000.

Looking back, I have no regrets, absolutely none. I feel as if I did all that I could do to assure the holidays were festive and happy, with warm feelings for all in our family and circles during those years. Things happen in life that prevent us from participating, as with me, life altering events…a divorce, 5 years of college, full time job and taking on my demented Mom. As fate would have it, since the year 2000, I’ve all but fell off the radar during the holidays, but it’s okay. Sometimes it’s necessary to move forward in order to accommodate the situation. Kids grow up, get married, have families of their own…celebrate in their own way……life goes on!

Mom_Van_xmas   village-1

Photos Above: (5) Mom and Dwight Van Meter back in the 70’s at her parent’s house during the holidays, (6) A Christmas village that her father, Bruno Sarter would set up every year using little cars, houses, trucks and everyday street items that he saved since childhood. In it’s entirety, it was quite impressive.

According to numerology, as studied by my Mother throughout her whole life and taught to her by her Aunt Emily, our life is divided up into thirds which are called Pinnacle cycles, each covering 30 years. I am now into the third and last Pinnacle cycle of my life and since each person is an individual, all having different experiences, fate and karma, not to mention lessons to learn this time around, I am sure that the universe is giving me what I need at this time…and I am also confident that this too shall pass!

Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be!

new pen.color [Converted]    Basic RGB

Finding More New Relatives on the Paternal Side of My Family



Brophy_helen_edward-sr-jr  Helen_Pennea_baby-ed

Photos: (1) Helen C. Pennea, Edward Brophy Sr, Edward Brophy Jr., (2) Helen C. Pennea, Baby Edward, my grandmother and father, (3) below, Helen C. Pennea and relative. Could be uncle, cousin? They look alike.The featured photos of Helen Pennea who’s family originated from Gibraltar, Spain. Her husband Edward Brophy’s family originated from Ireland.

Last week, I told you about having started an ancestry account and mentioned that I was in anticipation of an upcoming phone call with a new found 3rd cousin, Kathleen, from my father’s side. Well, a phone call it was and it was fascinating. Two hours later, I was a lot more knowledgeable about my long lost family on my father’s side. I wonder if they have dementia in that side of the family…hmmmmm

We made a plan for me to call her at 3:00 pm my time and I found myself watching the clock all afternoon in anticipation. Well, 3pm came, I made the call and we got acquainted and seemed to have hit it off straight away. Apparently, she has been doing her family tree for about 14 years now and seemed very knowledgeable about how to navigate it and about everyone on her tree. She showed me some of the how-to-dos on the ancestry site, which I was grateful for. I had a few people listed twice which she said, could cause problems later on in my search. I will learn a lot just by looking at her tree, regarding to births and deaths. Somewhere in her journey, she found a relative and was able to make a phone call who gave her another number of a relative who knew a lot of information on the family. She gave my new cousin Kathleen information and photos, which she has posted on her tree for all to see.


We are all related to a common link, our great-great grandfather Francis Pennea, making us 3rd cousins. I believe, if I remember correctly, he was a Sandy Hook Pilot who ended up being lost at sea in the late 1800’s. It would be fascinating to find out more about that incident in history, if indeed it was even recorded in the books. I’ve been told that I can go to Staten Island where they have a place where I can find out more information and possibly find a list of Sandy Hook pilots. Might be able to find documentation on our ancestor, which would be neat info to have. I will think about going when the weather gets warm again…in the spring or summer.

At one point, she had me connect to Facebook and send a friend invite, which I did. From there we went into her friend list and she pointed out how many of us there are. She briefed me on who they are and about what they do. After our two hour conversation, she made a beautiful post on Facebook introducing me to the family and one by one I have been getting messages and friend requests. I am so happy to have found them and looking forward to getting to know them better moving forward. 

They seem like a fun bunch of people and I can hardly believe that I am related to them.

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Looking Back at Past Generations and the Possibility of Dementia

mom-dad-boat mom-greenwoodlake

Photos: (1) Eleanor and Edward Brophy, (2) Group shot with Edward Brophy, Eleanor (Mom, holding me), maternal grandparents, friends and Marion and Ray Corso, cousins.

This fall has definitely been a time of reflection for me. I can be doing any given thing during the day and a memory of my mother will come across me, leading to a whole string of past memories and thoughts. It makes me feel like she is right there with me. It’s also been a time of thinking of my father’s side of the family, who I basically know nothing about. I barely knew him actually, when I stop to think about it. I have found myself on a quest of researching the past generations in my family history to see what I can learn. Who were they, did they have dementia, diabetes, leukemia, Parkingson’s disease? Who are we as a family?

Last weekend, I started on Ancestry to start my family tree. It’s only been a week and I’ve already learned so much in having found up to 4 past generations. I learned that my paternal great grandfather came from Gibraltor, Spain. His wife was from Ireland.To go further, I will have to sign on for a world search, which of course, I am curious enough to follow through. Out of chance, one of the searches that I had done, pulled up my paternal grandmother in someone else’s family tree. It took me by surprise and I felt excited that it was a good find. Not really knowing yet how to work on this site, I chose to write a message to the owner of the tree to inquire. I was beyond happy when I found that she had replied. What I learned from her reply was that she is my 3rd cousin and lives on the other side of the US. She told me that she has met several cousins on this site who have shared family photos, stories and history. She mentioned that my paternal grandmother had a very rich history. I am in absolute anticipation right now since we will speak by phone today, and she will share with me all of that information on our family from my father’s side. Very exciting stuff.

I’m amazed at how I could have lived this long on the planet and not have known that side of the family, but knowing my father and how reclusive and private he was, I really shouldn’t feel so surprised. But after all, I’m not a stranger and I am a part of that family line genetically, even if he couldn’t deal with them in his life. I live in a town now where I have been asked numerous times if I was related to this Brophy or that Brophy who live here and I would always say no. There seems to be a lot of Brophy’s in this town. Now, I am not so sure since I very well could be related to them. Apparently, my paternal grandfather had 4 brothers and a sister. Who knew…and my father certainly didn’t share, which doesn’t seem very fair. Everybody has the right to know who they are in life through the past generations if only for self identity and health history.

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Mom’s Death Inspires A New Journey of Making a Family Tree…Who The Heck Are We Really?

wedding-2  mom-connnie

Photos are: from right to left (1) Lillian Sarter (Mom’s Mother), Eleanore Sarter, Bruno Sarter (Mom’s Father), Edward Brophy (my Father), Lillian Sarter (Mom’s Sister), Tess Heinke, Paul Heinke (Dad’s Aunt and Uncle), (2) Mom on right, Connie Heinke (Dad’s cousin) on left.

Since Mom’s death from the dreaded dementia, I’ve been thinking a lot about family, who is left and who we are as a group in this world. I mean, who ARE we as individuals, as family members and members of society that have made us who we are today. What type of people did I come from? The person from England who comes here and marries a girl and going on to have children, as in the case of Mom’s grandparents…or the man from Spain who marries a girl from Ireland and creates a family, as in the case of Dad’s grandparents…and so on and so on. Without just one of those people making those particular choices, any one of us in this family might not be here today. It’s a crazy thought, but true. One of the links missing would change history.

In the past years, I have been interested in this subject and had asked my mother lots of questions over the years, but it was mostly with her family, not my father’s. In not knowing a lot about my distant relatives, I’ve been inspired to find out who we are and where we came from genealogically and geographically. Did any of them have Diabetes, Dementia, OCD, Parkinson’s Disease or Leukemia? Did they do anything special in the world to add to society in this country or others? Who are they? Were they good people, bad people, famous people, smart or shallow people? Since I had lived most of my young life with my mother and her parents, I of course, know more about that side of the family. I seem to know a lot about her father Bruno and his family, as there is a family tree in Germany of his lineage dating way back with names and dates as I had mentioned in my last post. Her mother Lillian, my grandmother, is a different story however. I have photos of her mother and father but that was where the trail stopped. I know her father was born in England and her mother was born here. They had 2 daughters, Lillian, my grandmother and her sister Adlaide, who I knew. Anything else regarding her family is a mystery to me. I had always thought while growing up that we were a very small family when in fact, there were more than likely plenty of us.

Eleanor_lillian_adlaide  mom-dad-gg

Photos are: (3) Lillian, Aunt Adlaide, Eleanor (Mom), (4) My Grandmother, Grandfather, Uncle Sam, Dad and Mom

I really know nothing about my father’s family. I didn’t know his mother or father, my other grandparents. I know his mother had issues and his father died the year before I was born. My father lived with one of her sisters when he was growing up and as an adult he would never speak about his parents. Matter of fact, he was like a closed clam…what was he hiding? What’s in the past that kept him so silent all of those years? Very curious. After moving to Commack, many, many people asked me if I was related to this Brophy or that Brophy. Apparently, there are a lot of Brophy’s in Commack. Who’s to say that they aren’t in my family line somehow, someway? That’s what I want to know about…I went to school with a kid named Jimmy Brophy…Who knows…maybe. Stranger things have happened.

So, this weekend, I started an family tree. I’ve added a few names that I know of and will add more as I go through paperwork that I have from the past that have been recovered after my parents and grandparents passed away. These documents are a wealth of information and I am hoping that it will be very interesting in the end on what I uncover. Who knows…maybe something great, maybe not…regardless, it will be our family history either way, good or bad and I will feel connected to a lot of people, some of them might still be alive. As of this minute, I feel as if my mother is the last of the Mohicans…but I may just be surprised at what I find.

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Can Eating Sugar Add to our Chances of Developing Dementia?

Can eating sugar add to our chances of developing dementia? I found this article that might be of some interest. It states that eating a lot of sugar through our lives can indeed add to the chances that we will develop dementia later in life. If that’s the case, we all are in trouble, myself being at the top of the list. I no longer overdose on sugar as I am diabetic at all of 100 lbs. but none-the-less, sugar was a large part of my life at one time.

My mother also loved her sweets as she came from a family who had baked goods in the house at all times. Her mother, my grandmother, baked on a daily basis, making the best chocolate chips that I have ever had. Oddly enough, after she passed away, I kept one of her chocolate chip cookies and still have it to this day…I know, just crazy, but she was known for them….a memory. Both my grandmother and grandfather and anyone who came to the house would have access to cakes, cupcakes and all sorts of cookies, especially around the holidays. After dinner at night, they would often offer a bowl of ice cream along with it and of course, with a cherry on top.

I’m not sure if they knew it would be bad for us in the long term, it was just their way from their generation. It was what they did back then as the women didn’t go to work as in today’s world, they stayed home and prepared the meals, kept the house and took care of the kids. It was a simpler way of life… Where did that way of life go? I believe that if they had known what we know now about health, they wouldn’t have over indulged in sweets but would have consumed it in moderation. If you look at photos from your family back then, you will see that most people had large waistlines as they grew older. I know all of them from back then in my family photos are overweight such as the photos posted. Even so, they all seemed to have lived to a ripe old age. Did they develop diabetes…would they have even known back then? Makes you wonder…

GPA_mother  GPA_mother-car  GMA_3-gen

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Mom’s Parents, My grandparents…we miss them!

GG_20s     GG_Lil_Ele_44  GG_older


It’s been 35 years since Mom’s parents passed away…my grandparents. They were large in my life and I can see they were also large in Mom’s life as well.

Mom came from a stable family with a sister Lillian and 2 parents who were happily married for more years than I can remember. I spent most of my younger life at their house and loved every minute of it.

Mom’s father suffered with Dementia with the final stages in a wheelchair, with complete void in his eyes, In my heart, I know that’s where my mother is going as I can see the similar progression every day. There is nothing that can stop it, even with the modern technologies that her father didn’t have access to at that time. Once diagnosed, it’s inevitable, like a train staring you in the eye as it comes down the track. Nothing will stop it.

Lillian, Mom’s mother was a shy and private woman with translucent blue eyes like the skies above. When she looked at you, you knew exactly if she was angry or happy with you as she would get those frown lines on her forehead, with the smaller ice blue cornea and very small pupils, her eyes told us the temperature of the situation. She loved to bake and she did it well. She made the best cakes, cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies ever. She didn’t go out to socialize but people did come to the house occasionally to visit. Looking back, she appeared very reclusive, so I know that I come by that trait quite honestly. My grandfather Bruno was very social and the adult man in my life. He loved to be in the basement in his workshop to make toys and furniture. He loved to tinker with wood and make his ideas come to life in what he built. He loved children…They were the traditional old-fashioned parents and grandparents and were the stabilizing force in my life. I am grateful for their presence in my life.

Above are a few photos of Mom’s parents…my grandparents!

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Who Knows Where Life Will Take Us…

Lynn_3mths       Lynn_portrait


So who knows where life will take us… there are many beliefs and sometimes I have the belief of the predestined and at other times the crap shoot theory. There are the cards we are dealt and the roads we have chosen to travel, some with the possibilities of greatness and others surrounded with tragedy and heartache. How do we know which road to take…I don’t know, but I can tell you this…I am very aware the product of my life come both from my “hand dealt” in life and some very unwise choices…not so different than a lot of us. Not that all of my choices have been bad, but I have come to realize that the ability to make good choices in life can often be a product of how you grew up or should I say how you define your growing up experience.

That being said, looking back at some of these old photos makes me wonder what things could have been if different roads were taken. Pictured above, a 3 month old baby with a lifetime ahead of her, a 4 year old girl looking very promising. Happy, healthy, clean and taken care of…so what the heck happened? Was it that my mother had OCD and found it hard to be nurturing or that my father was a large child not getting too involved in anything other than his buddies? Was it because they never should have gotten married to begin with or can I look at it in the sense that everything happens for a reason, and in this case I was meant to be born? I do believe that theory now that I hear myself say it. I think that we are all meant to be here, for whatever reason, sometimes never understanding our purpose although searching for the rest of our lives. That doesn’t mean that our parents were meant to be married forever, but it just might mean that they were meant to have that brief time together so that I could be here. Maybe that was “their” purpose for that time period. I could ponder it for hours, days and years to come and never figure it out but it’s the way I have chosen to think about it.

Who knows where life will take us and what paths we will travel…my advise is to Follow the Yellow Brick Road…like the Good Witch told Dorothy,
“It’s always been right here”

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A Day Off…but not really!


Me, baking at Aunt Lillian’s House,
a Million Years Ago!


Miss Tonya

Well, here it is, the end of January and I took a planned day off. Not necessarily for fun, but because I had 2 doctor appointments. Again, not necessarily for me, one for Tonya the dog to get her yearly shots and the second for my mother’s every 3 month appointment. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a day off, my time, time at home in the house I work so hard to pay for, but at the same time, I would love for life to slow down a bit so that I could actually sit back and enjoy my own time.

There are so many things in life that I would love to do, such as working on this blog, my artwork, a winter sport of crocheting, indoor gardening, cooking, sewing, all things that I love doing. All the things that actually make me who I am, but unfortunately, poof, reality hits and there you are. Of course, I want to do all that  can for the well-being of my family members, but what has changed from 30 years ago? We took care of the family back then also, but today, something has changed to make life, one task after another with no relief in-between.

No matter, we do it for the better of the family, for the better of the household, for the better of everyone, except us. Life in this milenium has most women losing themselves, losing who they are or were or aspire to be, and wondering where the simplicity of the past has gone. There is definitely something to be said for the wonder years, for the baby boomers, the 50’s and 60’s. The 70’s were more simplistic, even with all the unrest.

The one person that saved the day was Cardine!

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