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

My Demented Mother has Turned into a 2 Year Old

mom_beach3  mom_beach2  mom_beach1

It’s summer time, I’m home recouperating from a recent surgery in the hospital which is giving me a lot of time for reflection. The photos above have always been favorites of mine, I guess because it shows Mom as a young blonde haired girl with a world of possibilities ahead of her. To look at these images, there are no signs of OCD, no signs of depression and no signs that there was a troubled life waiting for her in adulthood. My guess is, that these photos were taken at Coney Island Beach.

Since I’ve been home during work hours, I’ve noticed that Mom has really been declining. She has good days and bad days and you never know what you will get. It could be good one minute and 5 minutes later it could turn. For instance, this morning, Cardine was trying to give her medication and she would push them out of her mouth with her tongue. What is that…it’s 2 year old behavior. When we kept telling her to take the medication she stands up and tells Cardine that she will smash her face. I’m having a really hard time understanding this behavior from an otherwise very sweet woman. Cardine handles it very well as she is trained to do so. I, on the other hand have a very hard time watching my mother behave like this.

In the past 2 weeks, she’s not been eating well. She plays with her food and then eventually just pushes it away. When you try to feed her, she won’t take it. I called the doctor to ask for advice on what to do. They took 3 days to call back and I still don’t have any good answer as to what to do. I actually hung up a little annoyed after to talking to the nurse practitioner, not the doctor. Meanwhile, we’ve been giving her Ensure when she will take it, offering her meals and happy with what she does eat. Let’s see where this goes.

So, I know that dementia is a one way road…there is no cure. I know we are closer to the void and I am not sure where we go from there. My demented mother is sinking deeper into her disease as every day passes and there is nothing that I can do to stop it. Even knowing all of that, my mind still can’t help thinking about what more I can be doing to make it better. I bless Cardine’s patience everyday of the week!

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Hello, Hello, Are You There? Old Friends.


Mom and childhood friend

Although, Mom hasn’t seen Noreen for more years than I can count, I consider her one of her best friends. Noreen is someone with whom she worked with back in the good ole’ days in Manhattan. When Mom still had her head, she told me that she had actually hired Noreen back in the day and they went on to become close friends. Noreen lives in Texas with her son and to this day calls her every single weekend to touch base and chat. She calls even though she knows that sometimes Mom doesn’t remember who she is, and sometimes doesn’t make sense when she talks. She calls because she knows that being remembered and getting mental stimulation about the past is an important therapy in a dementia patient’s life. She’s not coming from an ego place where Mom must remember her or else she won’t call anymore, no, she’s coming from a place of compassion and love for her friend, no matter what the circumstances are. I’d call that pretty special.

Today, Noreen called, I picked up the phone and looked at the caller ID, and sure enough, a call from Texas. I head towards my mother’s room hoping that today she will remember how to answer the phone. I enter her room and I see her holding her teacup, bending over it saying repeatedly, “hello, hello, are you there?” I answered the phone so as not to lose Noreen’s call, we chatted for a moment, and then I put Mom on after taking the teacup from her. I literally stood there with my mouth open for a minute or two in disbelief. Even knowing and experiencing all that I do with Mom, when she does things like that, without a clue that what she was doing was totally demented, takes me off guard. She had absolutely no idea that that teacup was not the telephone. Someone in my position has to wonder how this can happen, how can it be possible?

It’s times like that when I know we are losing the battle, not the war as of yet, but the battle is definitely heading downhill. Even so,she’s having a good day, chatting in her own language, well mostly listening as Noreen is a good talker and keeps the conversation going while remembering the past times at the office. Mom is listening carefully not to miss a line and as always, very happy and grateful that someone has remembered her and would care to call her at all. It’s a hard thing for someone her age because even though she can’t retain much, when in the moment, she remembers that she has seen what little friends she’s had, die off from either disease or old age, leaving her feeling very alone and isolated from her own kind. You probably are thinking that I  say that like she is a different species from a different planet, but in a way, she is in a category of her own. In her own tribe so to speak.

With that said, I sit here writing this post, thankful for good and loyal friends, hoping that someday I will have that one good friend who won’t give up on me. Meanwhile, Mom is enjoying her Sunday afternoon listening to Pavaratti.

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