Family Steps Up Wednesday, Sep 5 2018 

A year ago this month my father fell and broke vertebra in his back.  The actual damage was fixed, but his overall functionally has not been regained.  The rollercoaster ride  the family has been on since then has taxed us all.  Dad, because he cannot accept his change in situation, Mom, because she cannot function at home by herself, and us, their adult children, because we are trying to take up the slack.

DAD:  His back is fixed, but he didn’t do well in rehab.  Physically, there is not a reason he cannot walk, but mentally he is so afraid of falling, most of the time he will not try, even with assistance.   He is showing signs of ‘sundowners’, which is less cognitive ability as the day wears on.   He wants to go home, but doesn’t try to handle any of his personal needs on his own.   Tends to be angry during visits.

MOM:  Can no longer follow through with regular tasks such as medication, consistent meals and personal hygiene.  But doesn’t think she needs help of any kind.  All conversations are circular.

BROTHERS:  Have committed to helping both Mom and Dad and have been instrumental in me keeping my sanity.   Taking Mom to see Dad.  Making sure she has regular meals. Agreeing she needs a helper and allowing one.

The world changed last September for all our families.  I hope we can continue to withstand the stress of both our parents becoming unable to care for themselves.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Discount Childhood Baggage-Pack Carefully Thursday, Feb 1 2018 

Back in the days when the Hubs and I were assisting his Mother, I discounted the impact of having spent one’s childhood with the person you are assisting being your ‘authority figure’. While everyone has different types of childhoods, rarely does a child come through their childhood without some emotional baggage that carries over into their playing adult. The Hubs didn’t have much childhood baggage with his Mother (another story with his father, for another time), so we didn’t bump up against many historical emotional issues between him and his Mother while caring for her.   Since she was not my Mother, I carried even less emotional baggage into the situation, as my relationship issues with her started after I was an adult. (Let’s not pretend that all humans have perfect relationships with their parents or mother in law, shall we?) Don’t misunderstand, there was plenty of emotion, but it wasn’t tied to the four year old that resides within us.   You know that child. It’s the flare of anger or other emotion you feel at a basic level when triggered and your adult responses just aren’t available to that inner child.

My relationship with my Mom growing up was rockier than the Hubs with his Mother. While Mom had the best intentions of not allowing her upbringing to impact how she raised me and my brothers, it crept in. I was an only child for 5 years, so I got the brunt of the learning curve.   Before her illness was firmly in place, Mom often referred to me as her practice child and the joke was she improved her parenting skills with my younger brothers. The result of this situation, as my youngest brother and I have discussed, is that I was raised with a different set of the same parents than my brothers were.   And this created for me some emotional baggage that I carry around with me. Like a little emotional suitcase.

This suitcase is not in the forefront of my life and many of the things that I unpacked and allowed myself to react to as a younger person no longer have impact. I was able to let them go.   At times, I even thought I had lost the suitcase. I was wrong. I am finding out, as my Mom progresses down the dementia path and Dad becomes more physically and mentally disabled, that remnants of that childhood suitcase, now pretty tattered, remain deep within me. I feel its weight these days, as I am opening it more often than I should when dealing with my parents. Funny how that happens.

My parents are in their 80’s, live in their home and are basically home bound. It takes a creative balance and effort to keep their household running, their appointments kept, and their medications on schedule. Although I am the primary handler, and the first on the call list, I’ve started enlisting the help of my brothers and the Hubs. I cannot physically do all that is needed to assist my parents. I work a full time job, and live the farthest away from my parents. I’ve also discovered, that emotionally, I cannot always deal with them, as their actions or needs open my suitcase.   The Hubs has stated I am showing increased signs stress which probably adds new levels of packing in my emotional suitcase.

I wonder what baggage my kids carry around, and if they will unpack it when I need help in my old age. I wonder if I will ever be able to discard the suitcase I am shifting back and forth in my grip as I walk this path. I wonder why, when I created this suitcase, I didn’t put rollers on it, so it would be effortlessly dragged behind me or shoved aside.

I wonder what tomorrow holds.

I Did Not Win the Mega Millions Lottery Wednesday, Dec 18 2013 

You heard it here first. Or maybe second because they announced where the winners live and I do not live in San Jose California or Atlanta Georgia and you knew I’m in Texas. I tried to win. Really. Well, what I mean is I bought a ticket or two, so that the dream could live for a day or two. And I did dream, mostly while driving on my long work compute, what it would be like to have that much money, or ‘enough’ money. I know money doesn’t solve problems but it would solve my lack of money problems. Money also doesn’t buy happiness. We’ve all heard that one. I’d like to give it a whirl myself, before making any snap decisions on its ability to make me happy. I bought my tickets early Saturday, just after the Friday night drawing that yielded no winner. I did not wait until the last minute. I had four days of hope that I could beat the odds and win. It was not to be.

In the meantime, my life continued as of nothing was pending. My grandson turned 6 and I survived his birthday party with all the other 5/6 year olds. Some Christmas items I ordered arrived. My hubs crunched the fender and removed the side mirror of his car by close encounter with a construction barrel in a construction zone, therefore damaging his pride more than the car. (Everything around this town seems to be under construction.) I talked my mom (over the phone) through changing the battery in her smoke detector. I am still working on getting the Christmas tree decorated. I work in little bursts and have the living room in complete disarray. Winning the lottery would not have changed any of this real life activity. Would today have been different? Yes. I think so. But how different, I will never know. I am like everyone else (except two people) in America today. Deep sigh. Life goes on. And even without winning the lottery, life is good.

Goodbye Daisy Monday, Nov 18 2013 

Over the years my hubs and I have loved many animals.  Most were rescue animals, strays and such that came into our lives when we were not necessarily looking for another pet.  Regardless of how they came to be with us, once we saw them, it was all over and we were theirs.  At the peak of the animal invasion, which was several years ago, we had five dogs and seven cats. Chaos runs toward normal.

Recently we lost a member of our family, a blue healer named Daisy.  She was a sweet natured, slightly overweight beauty that could growl like the meanest dog on earth if you came into the back yard without permission.  She was 13 years old and had been with us, after being rescued from the pound, for 10 years.  She could shake and sit on command and most of the time would take the treat from your fingers without a nip.  She loved to dig and boss the other dogs around. She is survived by Jasper, a shepherd mix roadside find, dumped as a puppy, now 5 and Sadie, a blind blond cocker spaniel, with ears that drag the ground and her water bowl, who is 8.

Daisy joined our family to be a buddy for Trudy ‘the Trude’, a beagle with many, many issues, who passed last year at age 13 after being with us for 10 years. Trudy was a rescue dog from the pound that was scheduled to be put down because of her anger management issues. She was a biter. We took a big chance on her and worked hard through most of her many issues over the years.  A smarter dog I’ve never encountered.  She could push open latched gates, open drawers, ring bells on door handles to let you know she needed to go out, sit, beg, roll over, lie down and various other actions on command, (sometimes all in a row without asking if she wanted something, which was pretty comical) and had mastered the treat on the nose trick. She was big with attitude and her face was very expressive. She never learned to trust in some areas, being pretty sure no matter what that every meal was her last.  And she snored, badly.

Daisy, Trudy and Jasper were the ‘big’ dogs at the height of the five dog household. There were also two ‘small’ dogs.  Zelda was a thick bodied white Chihuahua mix that was part of our family for 18 years, and was 19 when she passed. We were answering a newspaper ad for free puppies for a Chihuahua /cocker spaniel mix, when it turned out the mother of the puppies had been abandoned and the rescuer was just trying to find good homes for all of them.  Mommy Zelda, then named Popcorn, took a shine to us, and she was ours from minute one.  She was a piece of work, feisty, noisy and lovable.  No one had ever told her she was a small dog, and it didn’t seem like a good idea to bring it up. She knew when she’d done something wrong and had perfected the ‘woe is me’ look.   Last but certainly not least was Abby, a Chihuahua/terrier mix obtained through a rescue group to be Zelda’s playmate.  She was a thin legged brown haired joy (hair didn’t grown on her legs due to fire ant bites and her tail had been broken into a permanent ‘J’), that skipped so often with her hind legs (either one) people would think she was three legged.  Even into her advanced years (she lived to be 18), she raced around so fast she was a light brown blur as she whizzed by you with a toy in her mouth.  Sometimes she would drag her legs behind her all over the house, pulling herself along with her front legs, then jump up and race away to run circles around Zelda.  On walks, they shared a leash.  Chihuahua bobsled style.

The misfits we’ve loved and lost are in our pet cemetery and now Daisy has joined them.  Jasper is searching for her with Sadie trailing behind.  I know in time they will be ok and stop looking for her.  But we will miss her, just as we miss the rest of our furry family.

Wake Up Call Sunday, Aug 21 2011 

We made the drive to visit with my brother in law and his family and discuss how we could assist with all the things that need to happen as part of his financial needs and physical needs.  It was not a fun trip, and my stress level, even after returning home late last night remains at DEFCON 5.

If you smoke, stop.  If you have a loved one or friend that smokes, ask them (nicely) to stop.  Time to repair the damage is needed.  For my brother in law, there is no time.

Some families pull together in crisis, some do not.  Some try but are not successful.  The jury is out on how this family will be able to handle the downward pressure being applied to it. The baggage of the past interferes with the present, and adults frozen in immaturity by real or imagined slights react to pressure in unpredictable, unproductive and inappropriate ways.  In the midst of this chaos, a man tries to come to grips with the fact that his life will soon be over.  His regrets are plain to see and play out in the dysfunction that surrounds him.  It is heartbreaking.

What If It Was You That Got The Bad News….? Friday, Aug 5 2011 

It is like a bad made for TV movie. And yet it is real life.

We got a call early last week that my brother in law was in the hospital. He went to the emergency room due to a long bout with severe pain. We happened to be in East Texas for a funeral, the uncle of my husband and his brother, when the call came in. So instead of being 4 hours away, we were a little over an hour away driving time from him. Instead of heading directly home after the funeral service, we drove up check on him. Mike had already told us he was not up to attending the uncle’s service but we didn’t know (nor did he) that his situation was hospital bound. So many relatives had been at the service and passing through the area on their way home, that Mike was flooded with visitors all that afternoon. A true revolving door of visitors. It made the afternoon rough for those of us that already had received the news.

The tests being conducted had returned shocking results. Cancer. Lung and liver at the least, maybe esophageal. Inoperable. Just too may lesions in too many places. Aggressive. Has already spread to multiple organs. Needs more tests to determine where it started (Lung to liver? Liver to lung? Esophagus to lung to liver?) but regardless treatment would just prolong life a brief time, not cure the cancer. Pain management is the answer for the immediate and long term need.

As Mike’s two children, three of his siblings and some miscellaneous in-laws tried to absorb the news, emotions ran high. Everyone had an opinion on the course of action to take next. Very few in the group gathered near the same page of discussion. Even what to tell Mike was not agreed upon, as it turns out, he was not in the loop regarding the severity of the situation and his two grown children could not agree on a course of action. The hodgepodge group in the lobby of the hospital must have made a site to passersby. I doubt hospital staff was phased. They probably see it all the time. Dysfunction at its best. (Mike’s grown children are just a few years younger than my husband and I, and their relationship with the father has been on again off again for years.)

We are waiting on more testing results and trying to be optimistic. In the meantime, guess what? Our lives have not changed. We go about our lives just the same as we did the week before this news came to us. Meanwhile, four hours away, Mike is grappling with life and death decisions and getting the paperwork of his life, his ‘affairs’ in order. It is all so unfair.

There have been several occasions lately that have reminded me that I do not control when I leave this life. My husband and I happen to live just off a small state highway with a very high recent death toll on it and all the accidents have occurred within a quarter mile of our subdivision entrance. I met a friend’s friend at a party on a Saturday night. And she died the following Wednesday due to injuries from an auto accident. My husband’s uncle fell and hit his head in the bathroom and never recovered. Life is fragile in so many ways.

Holidays Over Too Soon Monday, Jan 10 2011 

Yes, I said it.  The holiday season just raced by and I wasn’t ready for it to leave.  I am still not.  It is not about the gifts or the shopping.  It is the lights and special treats.  We finally took down the outside lights this weekend, but that is just because the weather is suppose to really turn bad this week. Until they came down, they were lit each night.  I liked pulling up in front of the house each nigh after work (in the dark, BTW) and seeing the lights on. The inside decorations are still up, and we are still enjoying to sparkle of the tree. When the grandson comes over the first thing he does is ‘click’ to turn them on, if they happen not to be on.  The season is just too short.  I promise to have the tree down by Valentine’s day. 🙂

Giving a Little Thursday, Dec 16 2010 

Cookies.  Sounds simple.  When the lady from the retirement home (that’s the politically correct name for it these days right?) called and asked if we’d be willing to bake cookies again for the holiday party, we said yes.  Last year, we baked cookies for the Christmas party they have each year.  This year we did Thanksgiving  and now again Christmas.  Chocolate chip and peanut butter, regular and sugarless. Non-sugar?  What’s the correct term?  Anyway, spent last night baking endless cookies, dozens and dozens and we are not done yet.  Did you know that you can buy sugar-free brown sugar?  Well you can.  It’s costly,  just as the sugar-free sugar is more costly, but we do not need to make as many sugar free (that’s the term!) cookies as regular.  We have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Hope we still feel like making some for the holidays after all this baking.  But it feels good to help someone else out.  Give back a little.

Santa and the 3 year old Tuesday, Dec 14 2010 

HA! What a difference a year makes!  When Santa arrived at the park, I figured we would need to work up sitting on his lap.  After all the excitement of the arrival and Santa calling out Little Man’s name as he went by (pretty awesome!), I scooped Little Man up and asked him if he wanted to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas and he said yes. So we made our way to the pavilion and I set Little Man back on his feet so he could see the other kids and Santa.  I was ready for the coaching session.  But it was all for naught. He was more than ready and I actually had to hold him back from racing into the pictures being taken of the child on Santa’s lap at that moment.  But Little Man made his turn next and he climbed on up, smiled and enjoyed the pictures and attention.  When Santa asked him what he wanted he clearly said ‘park’ and hopped down.  Stinker.

Feeling Guilty Tuesday, Dec 14 2010 

A very good friend of mine lost his father last week.  It was not unexpected, as his father had been suffering from ongoing, worsening complications of  a stroke.  His decline was at least two years in the making. But regardless, it doesn’t necessarily make his passing any easier, and certainly not when the public goodbye is a spectacle for the ‘current’ wife, that fails to recognize his father had a life before her.  Including two grown children. Such a shame. I feel for my friend and his family.

And I feel guilty, as I am struggling with my parents.  The death of my friend’s father brings home how lucky I am that both of my parents are still here. They are showing signs of failing physical and mental health, but still here.  I am happy they are still around.  I say that up front.  I am, however, struggling with their increasing needs of me and what I see coming in the future.  I’ve been down this path before.  I know the signs and I know where the path leads.  I kid myself that I am in denial, but I am.  Each time I talk with Mom, and she is confused, has forgotten something or some other issue arises, I feel sick to my stomach, and may even have a small panic attack.  Her ‘forgetfulness’ is so much like my MIL, which if you’ve read any of my postings, you know about.  And I ask myself how can I do this again?  And somewhat selfishly, why do I have to do this again?    I feel guilty for even thinking it. But I do.  Think it.

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