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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Reconnecting with Family after Mom Lost Her Battle with Dementia and Acute Leukemia

Maggi_1964 Sam_1971

Photos: (1) Maggi, April 1964, (2) Sam, December 1971 

This past weekend, I had a really nice and long overdue conversation with my first cousin, Maggi. We hadn’t spoken since she and her brother Sam and wife Charlotte had come for a quick dinner as they were passing through on their way back home to the northwest. Since Mom passed away, I’ve been feeling like I would very much like to be connected to the family that remain…all of my cousins. Maggi and her brothers are the last direct family that I know of and they are my first cousins and very much a part of my own history. We had a really nice conversation reconnecting and talking about the family and how Mom lost her battle with dementia and acute leukemia.

As a very young child, I used to spend time at their house while my mother was trying to figure out her life with the separation of my father and dealing with her OCD problem. I remember being there but they are distant memories since I was so young, but I have seen the photos from that time and had often wondered how my life would have turned out if my mother had taken them up on their offer to take me to live with them. Brothers and a sister, in a large family…in a house with a shot at a regular life…although it never happened, I can’t help but wonder, what if.

As kids, they lived up in Muncie and then moved out to Washington’s State, which was almost as far away as they could possibly be and still be in the USA, so we really didn’t get a chance to see each other over the years very much, which was sad. Occasionally, they would come as a family to our grandparent’s house and since I spent most of my free time there, I was able to see and bond with them during those visits. Our grandparent’s house wasn’t very big so us kids got to sleep on a huge quilt on the floor in the living room. I just loved the excitement and the feeling that there were other kids in the family. I am an only child, so life with a single working mother was rather difficult at times…very lonely. After we all would settle in at bedtime, my Aunt Lillian would come in to read us a story. I just loved that part of it, as nobody ever read to me as a kid, so when they came to visit, it was a very big tug at what having a large family would feel like…and I liked it. It’s probably one of the reason’s why I have this very strange love for the old show The Waltons. I still watch it to this day having seen all episodes way too many times, never tiring of them!

Mornings would start early with all of the kids in the house smelling a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast cooking every morning. All I could think of is how different my life was during those visits and I wondered, is this what whole families really do every day? They have cooked breakfasts and eat together at the table? Yes, I loved their visits and always looked forward to the next one as I know our grandparents did.

Lynn_holding_David  At_beach_Ontario_1959

Photo: (3) Mike, Lynn holding David as a baby, (4) David, Maggi, Mike and Lillian, their mother at the beach

There were 4 of them, 3 boys, Michael, David and Sam and Maggi, their only girl. I was close in age with Michael but he was a very quiet and introverted boy, keeping to himself as I remember. David, on the other hand was my buddy. We seemed to have a lot in common and had similar temperaments. Maggi and Sam were born later on as they were the youngest, so most of the time I had spent with them back then during visits was while they were still babies. It wasn’t until many many years later, as adults that we got to know each other and it was worth the wait.

Bottom line, is…the only thing that really really matters in life in the end, is the love of family and good friends.

 Whether you realize that early on or later is not important…as long as you do get it eventually before it’s your time to move on.

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Dementia Patients Will Always Gravitate to that Which They Have Been Passionate About!



Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho, it’s off to work we go…My mother has always loved and aspired to be in the work place. Growing up in her parents house, she would hope and dream about someday joining the work force, being in Manhattan, working for a company while doing what she loved. It just goes to show you how different we are, as I had always aspired to be my grandmother, a wife and home maker with absolutely no desire to work outside of the house. While I can accomplish more at home with respects to creativity and home, my mother felt more useful in the office. Maybe her desire to be in the work place had something to do with her mother being a home maker…and maybe my desire to be a home maker is because her my mother wanting to be in the work place…who knows. I guess  you can drive yourself crazy trying to analyze it when in reality, it is what it is.

So, now with mom smack in the middle of late stages of her disease, she still aspires to go to work. She has verbalized this to me in the morning while I am making my exit out the door for work. She has said “sure wish I could go to work instead of you”. I say “so do I”…And at other times while in the middle of a dementia attack, she would even try to leave the house to go looking for a job. Leaving the house became a quite a dilemma, therefore needing to get a home aide while I was at work to keep her safe.

To compensate for her great loss, she now goes through papers…any papers, old bills, newspapers, notes, letters. She lays them all out on her bed very neatly being mindful to make little organized piles covering half of her bed. Not sure what type of filing system she has but she seems to know what she is doing. One morning when Cardine, her home aide, was here during the week, she told me that my mother was worried that nobody would show up for work that day and that she would have to send Cardine home and close up for the day. She was imagining that she was running a business here at home and that because of the snow, nobody would be coming that day. I found it amazing that a person can be so into their own head, remembering so long ago and continue to try and act out what was so dear to her, while somehow making herself feel at peace. The mind is a strange thing and everyone is unique in the way they compensate.

So now, I try and leave out her boxes of papers so that she can organize and file when she has the mind to, keeping her busy, literally for hours upon hours. She has a closet filled with games, puzzles, playing cards, coloring books, but it is her papers where she feels most useful and at home. I think the word useful is the key word…back in her day, she worked at some very prestigious companies with very important positions, working closely with her boss and co-workers. She felt useful and needed, and knew that she was very good at what she did. They relied heavily on her and she took it very seriously. Hanging onto her work life is a way of hanging onto who she once was, who she still aspires to be… well, actually who she thinks she still is. She may have this terrible disease called dementia, but deep down inside, she is still the much needed and useful person she once was.

The image above shows Mom’s family…Sister Lillian, Mom, Mother, Father, Cousin Raymond and Uncle Sam. Taken up in Greenwood lake where her Aunt Adlaide lived. Who knew that young girl had such deep thoughts on where her life should go….but the good news is, that she accomplished it…she lived her dream…she was a valuable employee to the likes of the Rockefellers, ABC, Forbes Magazine, Bozell & Jacobs Advertising. She was good at her craft and she was valued and needed. What more could a person ask?

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