Monday, May 31, 2010

Lulu to the Rescue

Prior to moving to the rest home, my mother was waking and rising from bed almost every night. We were alerted to this by a reindeer bell we had fastened to her door handle. Mom would whip the door open and the bell would clatter. It always woke us. Most of the time, we’d catch her at the top of the stairs - half dressed, sometimes with her “hair” on, always confused. Her pocketbook would be filled with the strangest things; a doll from her bureau, an empty makeup case, a pair of worn socks.

One night, unbeknownst to us, Mom had removed the bell.

Lulu, one of our kitties and the youngest of four in the house (though not the smallest as you can see from her picture), jumped up on our bed one evening and sat at Dan’s feet. She began to give her short-bursted meows (more like barks) which she does only in the mornings when we’ve slept too late and she is hungry. She has never given us this call in the middle of the night because it means one thing – GET UP. Dan woke instantly and Lulu bark-bursted again, looked at him and then at the door. The house was ablaze with lights. We could hear my mother rustling downstairs. When I reached her, she was very confused and sweating. She was talking nonsense. I guided her back to her bed, removed the shirt she had put on backwards and the one sock from her foot and eased her back into bed.

We would never have known if Lulu didn't alert us and who knows what my mother would have done or where she would have gone. The idea of it sends me crazy and I hug my little Lulu and thank her with little kitty kisses.

Have you had an experience where an animal has alerted you to danger? I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sweet Blog Award

I opened my blog this morning to find that I had received the Sweet Blog Award from Julie Musil. Thank you so much Julie!

Julie is an author of fiction and nonfiction, wife, and mother to three sons. She just reached 100 followers on her blog. Check it out at:

Blog Awarding Rules:
1. Pass it to 10 Sweet people.
2. Inform them about this award.
3. Link back the one who gave this award.

I will be giving the award away soon...I already have a few very interesting blogs in mind.

Thank you again Julie! What a lovely way to start a Saturday morning!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Plan Hatched by Deidre

When Mom moved to the rest home, she had what appeared to be a very nice and companionable roommate. We’ll call her Deidre.

Deidre is ninety-one years old and one of the more astute residents at the home. She dresses in colorful and patterned skirts with matching blouses, a brooch attached close to the hollow of her throat, neat as a military sergeant and independent in ways my mother isn’t. For instance, she needs no assistance showering and she is still ‘toilet trained.’

As I look back on it, I believe these differences, along with a host of others, set Deidre to plan a permanent removal of my mother from the room. I should have known something was up when she took over one of my mother’s bureau drawers, then another, and inched my mother’s closet space down to nothing.

I heard about ‘the incident’ a day after it happened. Apparently Deidre, when she finally headed to bed around midnight, turned on all the bedroom lights, startled my mother awake and accused her of ‘moving her things.’ When my mother insisted she did not, Deidre called her a liar.

And hence, my mother was set off like a kite in a windstorm.

The nurse on duty that night heard the elevator bell ring, the doors squeak open, and out came my mother and Deidre, side by side. Mom was wigless and in her nightgown, Deidre as crisp and clean as she was that morning. When Deidre went into her diatribe of my mother’s sticky fingers, Mom had had enough. She wielded her fist in front of Deidre’s face, her eyes turned to paper-thin slits and she growled, “If you call me a liar one more time I will punch you right in the face.”

The nurse told me he had never seen Deidre so frightened, nor had he ever seen my mother so angry and so violent.

“It was scary, Lisa. Your mom is gentle and easygoing but she actually scared me too! It was completely out of character.” Hmmm, not so much.

Now, I am not one for conspiracy theories, but I do believe this was a plan hatched by Deidre. Why? Because my mother was bringing Deidre’s spirits down, dimming her mojo, filling up the room with pernicious odors.

In the end, it worked out just fine. Mom is bunking with a kinder and gentler roommate who watches over her with genuine concern and tenderness. We’ll call her Bea. She is an angel and I love her.

As for Deidre, she has a new roommate, for now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Walking Ghost of Frances

My mother refused to get out of bed when I visited yesterday after lunch. So I decided to steal another old lady and take her for a walk instead. Please note that names have been changed to protect the innocent :-)

I love this particular woman. Her name is Frances. She is from good old Irish stock with all the simple and clear cut values that come with it. I don’t think she gets many visitors, or at least she says she doesn’t. But it’s hard to tell because she has Alzheimer’s.

We walked to the park just about two hundred feet from the rest home. We sat inside a white gazebo splattered with graffiti and I tried my hardest not to stare at the very graphic images of male body parts. I considered moving so that Frances wouldn’t catch a glimpse, but it became quickly evident she wouldn’t. She was reeling against her life, her situation, her family, and it was all-consuming.

“Why can’t I come and go as I please? I’ve always been my own person, earned my own money. I don’t even know where my money is. Do my brothers and sisters even know I’m here? Why can’t I go for a simple walk alone? I’ve walked alone my entire life.”

I didn’t know what to say. She continued.

“They’ve taken my independence. My daughter has done this to me. She left me here.”

“Frances,” I said. “Your daughter loves you.”

“No she doesn’t! Look at what she did to me!”

And I realized then that Alzheimer’s comes with a script, a common plot, and children are the villains. And to some degree, it is true. Alzheimer’s leaves children with very few options and because of that, we are often typecast as the evil doers. There seems to be no way around it, and believe me, I’ve looked.

But it is not about us, the children, is it? It is about the victims of this disease.

Frances worked in the Worcester Public School System with control of a staff. “Her girls,” she called them. She supported her family without a husband. She made the decisions, propelled her family forward, cleaned up the messes and organized the outcomes. And now here she is, not able to leave a building alone without an alarm sounding off, alerting everyone to the walking ghost of Frances.

As we returned to the rest home, I promised Frances I’d be back tomorrow. She gave me a strong hug for such a wisp of a woman.

“You are a good daughter,” she said.

And I hoped in that moment, Alzheimer’s would transform me into her own child so that she could have a moment of happiness.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Have Never Been So Fickle

I have never been so uncertain or so fickle. Why am I drawn to write about what is causing me so much pain? It’s like being told in a restaurant, "watch the plate, it’s hot," only to wrap my fingers around it just to be certain. Or like knowing a piece of chocolate is going to start me on a migraine and shoving it in my mouth anyway.

But God help me, I’ve been missing writing about my life as a daughter. I’ve been missing sharing the funny anecdotes and the toe dips into the dark pond of Alzheimer’s. Am I a glutton for punishment? Do I feel I deserve the torture? We Italian Catholics do tend to believe in the sanctity of suffering.

I don’t expect you to join me again on my journey. I’ve been too unreliable, too sporadic. It’s like promising you a cold drink after a long walk only to find the sack is bone dry.

Mom’s short term memory is almost non-existent now. Though Dan or I see her everyday, I am always greeted with a surprised, “Lisa!” like I’m the prodigal daughter, the long lost son. It breaks my heart every time, but the recovery period for me is shorter.

Yet, I still cry everyday. Every single day.

My therapist said I am experiencing anticipatory grief; I am feeling now the “death” of my mother. I am experiencing the same for her sister, my Aunt Connie, whom I’ve written about. Auntie is worse and in a home as well.

I wish this disease would deal a swift blow and not this slow Chinese water torture. I am a “rip the band aid off” type of girl.

But alas, I wish for the unchangeable. And so here I am. Back again.