Sights and Sounds

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

That Was Then, This Is Now

My mother defied the doctors with a vengeance!  Once again she decided that the doctors were wrong.  She was going to get out of the hospital, and go back to her own home.  Words can not explain the joy of my sister and I when we realized that our mother at 83 had beat the odds again.  Not only was she going back to her own home, but she would be home for Christmas!

I started planning for her return.  She was now going to be on oxygen, and a walker.  She was no longer going to be able to cook, clean, or do laundry.  I went into her home in a way I guess new parents do.  What needs to be moved or removed to keep her safe in her home.  But I was not bringing home a little baby.  I was bringing a senior into the home she had run.  A home she no longer had the full capability to run alone.  I started preparing for the Christmas dinner she had planned.

You know when you are busy in the thick of things there's no time to think.  You just get things done.  It wasn't until they started delivering the oxygen machine, the walker, and the other things she would need.  It wasn't until then that I realized, "My mother is now my responsibility".  That one small piece of reality smacked me in the face.  Talk about walking in reality, I had NEVER had to take care of someone else, and now the well being of my mother was solely in the hands of my sister and I.  We brought her home on December 23, 2009, and our journey began........

There are hundreds of thousands of us whose life and lifestyle are changed in ways similar to ours.  The change is life altering for the caretakers, but even more so for the seniors.  As my mother says, "I used to be the parent, but now I'm the child".  She means it in a good way, proud of how we are taking care of her.  We are happy to be able to give back to her the love and nurturing she gave us.

With that said, this life is not easy, but it doesn't have to be problematic.  Taking care of a senior is a heavy responsibility, but you don't have to do it with a heavy heart.  Yes, there are times when I want to scream,or yell, or have a day off.  I now know how it feels to be interrupted, and my name seemingly being called over and over and over again, to do things that are to me less important, but not to her.  You can get depressed, you can feel isolated, you can feel like it's all a burden, but it's NOT.  It's an OPPORTUNITY!!!

Our opportunity is to play the game of "Senior Survivor".  The rules are:
1. Keep your senior HAPPY!!!, it goes a long way towards your own happiness.
2.  Keep your senior as HEALTHY as possible, both physically and mentally.
3. Keep your senior in their own HOME if at all possible.
4. Keep making MONEY, so you won't go broke.
5. Keep a LIFE of your own.
6. Keep 2 steps ahead of the game (your senior) at all times ( or as much as possible).

The object of the game is of course to WIN.  What's my definition of winning???  I haven't figured that out yet.  I'll let you know.


 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Remember the Day the World Changed

I remember the day the world changed.  I can remember it like it was yesterday, but it seems like it's a lifetime ago.  I remember the exact moment when life went from "then" to "now". 

It was December 2009, the 15th, between noon and 1pm.   For the first time since childhood I decided to to make my mother a Christmas present.  I had been honing my skills as a jewelry designer, and I wanted to give her something that she would know I had put a lot of time, thought, and effort into.  I wanted it to be something just for her that no one else had.  After all, she was 83 and I had begun to see that my mother wasn't as young as she used to be, you know how it just hits you one day.  I was halfway through a "Dutch Spiral" bracelet, trying to decide how I wanted to make her earrings when Momma rang my cell phone.

"Hey", I said, I was always used to her calling me during the commercials of "All My Children", because she surely wasn't going to make a call while it was on.  She just said "I feel a little pain in my chest".  My first thought was that it was a report on a case of indigestion, since she ate a lot of what she wanted, and only some of what she really should have, but she still cooked every day, and she was the undisputed Queen of her kitchen.  Everyone knew that, and she could really cook.  But something was a little different, not urgent, nothing to put my finger on, just enough to ask "Do you want to go to the doctor?".  When she answered "yes", I knew it was something big, it must be painful, and she must be scared.  When she'd developed a brain aneurysm 20 years earlier she only agreed to go to the hospital because I wouldn't go out and buy more aspirin.  She'd taken a whole bottle in one night, and she was really mad at me for making her choose between a hospital or pain.  This time she didn't even hesitate, and I didn't live close.  I dropped everything and headed to her house. 

In the meantime, and for good measure she had also called my sister who is a math teacher, and a really good one I might add.  My sister called for an ambulance and headed out of the school building.  (Remind me to tell you about the hospital mixup some other time, I don't want to digress too far). 

It turned out she was having a heart attack.  My mother, a heart attack, it's still hard to believe.  She had made her breakfast that morning, had already started planning her Christmas dinner, and now the doctor was telling me not to expect her to come out of the hospital.  Hooked up to tubes, monitors beeping, in a medically induced deep sleep, I told her, "It's all up to you now".