Remembering Mom, Our Struggles, Our Blessings and Dementia on the First Mother’s Day After

Eleanor_Sarter_Lynn_4  Mom-babyme

It’s been 8 months since Mom passed from her dreaded diseases and the first Mother’s Day since, is upon me. At this time, I can’t help but reflect on our relationship over the years, both with dementia and before dementia and Alzheimer’s worked it’s evil magic.

My mother, Eleanor Van Meter, had always wanted a career, going as far back as her childhood. Some kids dream of being married with kids and others yearn to be in the business world, in the big city, as in the case of my mother. As a matter of fact, we had that very discussion after she came to live with me. She admitted that motherhood and having children wasn’t on her list of things to do and that working and career had been her big dream in life. But, as fate would have it, “oppsey”…I came along, much to her surprise. I’m sure my arrival put quite a damper on her plans in the business world but she stepped up and made the best of it, dealing with it in the best way she was able at the time, with the help of her parents, my grandparents. I think that even with all the adversities and bumps in the road throughout the years, I turned out okay. That means to me, that she did good!

Photos: above: (1) Mom and Me, on vacation, (2) Mom and Me at a few months old. Below: (3) Mom and Me at Greenwood Lake, (4) Mom with her grandchild Shad

Eleanor_lynnI remember that conversation as if it were yesterday, although in reality it was about 4 years ago. She was already in the throws of dementia but it wasn’t at the crippling stage at that point, so thankfully, our conversations were both informative and memorable. Even though nobody would especially choose to hear that kind of news, I wasn’t surprised, nor was I resentful. I guess, I kind of sensed it as I was growing up. Looking back at childhood, there wasn’t a time that I can remember that Mom wasn’t working in NYC at some big company, leaving in the early morning and arriving back home at night. I was alone a lot, coming and going pretty much whenever the spirit moved me. Everybody, including my mother, was entitled to live out their dream and although life wasn’t easy back then for either of us, she adequately provided for me. We were far from well off financially and there were times that I walked around with holes in my white keds and looking like a ragamuffin compared to my friends, but hey, that was the style back then…bobby sox and keds with holes in the toes! It’s ok…I was never hungry and always had a roof over my head. Also, a lot of time was spent at my grandparent’s house and I loved being there too so it was all good. They didn’t work and I felt very comfortable with the dynamic and normalcy of that household, which I’m sure, is part of the reason that I am as normal as I am today.

As a kid, I recall meeting Mom every night at a designated spot after she got off the train from work and we would go to eat dinner out together. We would go to Jahn’s, get Chinese take out, sit at the Hamburger Express and watch the train deliver our burgers or just get a pizza. We didn’t eat home much, which probably accounts for my lack of expertise in the kitchen and my disinterest of home entertaining! I could choose to look at this in one of two ways….one, we were so different than my friends who had home cooked meals every night, boo-hoo….or two, none of my friends got to eat out every night, so I’m pretty lucky! I chose the latter way to think of it! Actually today, I almost never get to eat out anymore, so it’s looking pretty appealing to me!

shad_momI have memories of Mom trying to wake me up in the morning to go to school…probably around the grade school days. She’d come in my room full of energy and determination, singing “You’ve got to get up, You’ve got to get up, You’ve got to get up in the morning”.  It sounded like an army style thing with a bugle, something that she might have picked up during her growing up years…but I can remember her singing like it were yesterday. After the song, she would bring in a cup of tea, sometimes different types of tea such as Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Oolong or English Breakfast tea. She is the one who introduced me to tea and the different varieties that I still love to this day.

I also remember the day I turned into a girl from a tomboy, as we stood in front of the mirror in my bedroom trying to figure out how to make my hair into the perfect Flip with a headband, just like Patty Duke’s hair. The headband style loomed large in my transformation as I recall. Even though we were not like most mothers and daughters, she tried to do good things for me as best she could as I was growing up. It wasn’t easy either since I was quite a handful being a hyperactive child with very rebellious tendencies.

As adults, our relationship was mainly by phone since she had moved to California back in the 70’s. In California, she married the love of her life Dwight Van Meter, and I was living life hippie style on Long Island…Age of Aquarius! We sure did go through a lot of stages through the years. But we had great conversations, mostly on Sunday nights just as her and her own mother once had in adulthood. We talked about everything, the happenings of the day and week, the dogs and their antics, about her job and books that she might have read. Later, we talked about writing and illustrating a children’s book together, which never came to fruition, although, I’ve considered following through with writing it in her memory. There were a lot of little things that were left unsaid due to her disease that I now wish I had said, but even though, I feel that we did come to terms together with our relationship…and she came to terms finally, with her OCD disorder that crippled most of her life.

No, life wasn’t perfect…she wasn’t a perfect or typical mother and I wasn’t a perfect or typical kid, we were just human. BUT…she was my mother and I was her kid and we both did the best we could in an imperfect world with the cards that we were dealt. I don’t have a lot of early memories, but I will remember her by the ones that I do have. Our time together this time around didn’t come with huge, monumental happenings and events, we were simple people coming from simple beginnings living a very simple life. Hopefully, through the years, little memories of the past will come back to me and I will consider them a visit from my mother.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom, wherever you are!

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New Year’s Day, Thinking of Mom, Saying Goodbye to 2014 and Dementia

Eleanor_lynn   Mom_blue

Here we are, New Year’s Day 2015, a new year for all, bearing new possibilities with every day. A fresh start with new hopes and dreams set forth into the months to come…New Year’s resolutions. I have to say, that I am more than happy to say goodbye to 2014 than any other year that I can remember, not that I wouldn’t want to go back a year when Mom’s struggles weren’t so serious. Maybe, I could have been more aware of what was to come and been more present…the shouldda’s, couldda’s, wouldda’s. But we can’t do that, we can only hold on to the good memories, knowing that we did the best we could under the circumstances, which is what I choose to do where my Mother is concerned. I was lucky to have had her in my life for the 6 years that she lived with me here, even with the struggles, which never would have happened if she hadn’t been sick with Dementia and needed my help.

Photos Above: (1) Eleanor Sarter (Mom) and Lynn, sporting a similar haircut to Mom in her childhood years, sitting on the stone wall in Greenwood Lake, 1957, (2) A blurred, blue, photo of Mom sitting on her Mother’s back stairs looking very young and carefree in her flowy dress. Wonder what she was thinking about?
Photos  Below: (3) Eleanor Sarter (Mom) with Lynn on bench in Greenwood Lake at her Aunt’s house, (4) Newspaper clipping from years ago that Her Mother found meaningful. It was about your thoughts, somewhat similar to my last post of “A Man Thinketh”. Keeping that train of thought alive. Words to live by!

Eleanor_Lynn3     g-g-be_careful

This dreaded disease of dementia shouldn’t define your loved one. It’s not who they were and not what they should be remembered by….it was their bad fortune to have been afflicted with it, but it didn’t define their life. I might say the same about the other diseases that Mom picked up along the way such as Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia…or any disease for that matter. No disease should define someone…we all are who we are and have accomplished great things in our life time, making wonderful memories, none of which include disease. Bask in the memories, the good stuff that they left behind! It’s all we have now.

Today, on this first day of 2015, I am reflecting the past year…and also thinking about how I can put my projects into action. Projects that have been in my mind for a few years now, but never really having time to start. You’d think that with Mom gone, I’d have more free time, but for some reason, I almost feel like I have less time…but do I really? When I look at some of the things that need to be done weekly, I can see a lot of my personal time is spent on busy work, which is exactly what everyone else I speak to says. Of course being gone from the house 12 hours a day to be at work doesn’t help my cause. That’s crazy nuts! I know that someday that will change, because we can’t work forever, but I sure would like to get my projects into action before that happens. Perseverance…little by little….step by step…inch by inch…it’s all cumulative! Just Do It!

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Oh What a Night…Sleeping Problems and Dementia


Wedding Day, 1949


Young and Feeling Pretty in Greenwood Lake

Dementia is a nasty and dehumanizing disease. Taking care of Mom can be challenging at times. I know at some point I will laugh about this, hopefully big belly laughs and good memories, but I am not there yet. It was a rough night last night. Matter of fact, lately, every night is rough because Mom has her days and nights mixed up. She naps a lot during the day and is asleep by the time I get home from work. Not just napping, but sound asleep, as if she is exhausted. I wake her up and she opts to skip dinner, although I must give her the nightly meds. She isn’t hungry for dinner but she sure would appreciate something sweet to wash down those nasty meds. I comply because she must have her meds with something in her stomach, so rather than argue with her and have regrets later, I just give her something sweet.

She will then go right back to sleep and at 3:00 am, I hear shuffling around the house. I get up and let her know that it is the middle of the night and that she must go back to bed. Of course, she couldn’t care less and just goes about her business. My mother is a child again…I’ve come to learn that children are for the young! There is a very good reason why young people have babies…they can do it. Grandparents send the little ones home…because they can’t handle it. When you are getting up at 5am to get ready for work, this is not a good thing. Makes for a cranky daughter and a crankier employee.

Not exactly sure how to handle this situation although I’ve been given advise that she is at the point of possibly taking sedatives at night to help her sleep until she is back to being awake during the days and sleeping during the nights. Now I understand why the doctor always asks “Is she sleeping during the night?”

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