Paying It Forward

Just when I think this blog is over, something comes up that I feel I ought to include just in case.

Yesterday, I drove to the nursing home where Mom died and donated her shower chair, walker, and the wheelchair we bought to take her on walks on the Airline Trail. A lot of the patients who come to that facility don’t have insurance, and these items might be something they could use.

I was okay dragging it all up from the basement. I was okay putting it into the car. (That wheelchair was a bitch to get in and out.) I was okay unloading it at the nursing home, piling the chair and walker into the seat of the wheelchair and rolling everything up to the entrance. I was okay opening the front door.

But when I stepped inside, the walls came crashing down. She was everywhere. Not in a bad way, understand, but in a too-soon sort of way. I can’t really explain it except to say that I knew I’d be better off not to loiter, to drop things off and scoot. So I went to the PT Department, not even sparing a glance for the double doors which lead to the unit where my mother lived and died, and left them there. I stopped in briefly to visit with the Social Worker who’d been so helpful for all those months, but I couldn’t stay. Could, in fact, barely talk.

But I’m glad I went. Those things will help someone who comes next, maybe even someone who is suffering from the same debilitating disease as Mom. It seems like a good way to honor her memory.

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Riding the Wave

Hello, everyone. I thought I’d touch base,say hi, see how you’re all doing.

Yesterday was the three-month anniversary of Mom’s death. Grief is like the ocean, rising and falling, and the one grieving is like the beach, taking what comes. Massive rollers or easy ripples, it ends up being all the same.

Mostly, I’m doing okay. Last week was bad, for no reason I can discern. She was everywhere, in everything I did, everything I looked at. So many memories, some of painful, others indescribably sweet. Both kinds sweep the legs right out from under me.

Last month, I attended an Alzheimer’s support group meeting, just to let them know that Mom had passed, to talk about grief and all that comes with it. Another member had also lost her mother, so we commiserated. She is in a very difficult place, much worse than mine, and I wish her peace and healing. She said she wouldn’t be back, that it’s too soon. And, in truth, she may need a different sort of group now. I thought I might keep attending, both to process what’s occurred and to offer any helpful insight I might, but it’s too soon for me, too. I need a break. Part of my brain says I’m being selfish, but I’ve sense enough to tell that stupid inner voice to shut the hell up. I’ve earned some “me” time. Besides, there’s a new group member who is really caustic, very brittle, having an extremely difficult time dealing with her mother’s illness. She’s so raw that it’s almost physically painful for the rest of us to be in the room with her. I feel for her, but she needs more help than I can offer. I hope she gets it.

I’ve discovered–and this’ll undoubtedly sound strange–that I’m grateful for my grief. There was a time in my life when I thought I’d never mourn my mother at all. We went through a difficult period and I really believed that I wouldn’t care, that I would in fact feel relief when she passed. I cannot express how grateful I am that we found each other again, spoke of our hurts, made our apologies, and received forgiveness in return. The measure of peace I feel from that experience is not to be believed. I regained my love for my mother and that’s something I can hold to my heart for the rest of my days.

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Mom Has The Last Word

Bit of backstory – yesterday was my mom’s funeral. Afterward, we gathered at the home of my niece Michelle.  This morning, I rec’d this message from Nichole, who is married to my nephew Josh (Michelle’s brother). They have a not-quite-4-year-old named Ellery:

“Last night Ellery and I were sitting on the couch coloring and she looks at me and says, “Mom, I am going to draw great gramma another picture. I saw her at Aunt Chel’s today. Why did you tell me she went to Heaven?”

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And Just Like That …

… she’s gone.

Ginny Limbacher 1923-2015

Ginny Limbacher

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So It Begins

As of yesterday, Mom has begun her “transition” to death. Please keep her in your prayers.

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Too Tired To Come Up With A Title

Got talking with the other members of my support group. The general consensus is that caretaking is lonely business. Despite assurances from family, they often aren’t available. Some of their excuses are legitimate, but sometimes it’s obviously bullshit. Too often it feels to the caretaker like “I have better things to do.” Some hear “I don’t want to see him/her like this; I want to remember them as they were.” A personal favorite is “He/She doesn’t remember me anymore, so what’s the point?” <snort> This isn’t about YOU, dip-shit. It’s about THEM. And YOU ought to remember who THEY are because, honestly, there’s no telling what an Alzheimer’s patient knows inside the privacy of their head. They may very well know you, but not be able to say your name because their brain won’t let the right sounds come out on command.

My mother astonishes the staff at the nursing home with surprising regularity. Just at the moment when they believe that all memories are gone, she’ll rally and deliver. The other day they were bringing her out of lunch, three-quarters asleep in her chair, and someone said, “Ginny, Cory is here.” Without opening her eyes, my mother responded clearly, “The dog?” (This is the Hospice dog/owner team who visits her weekly.) No reason why her ravaged brain would deliver that up, but it did.

The past few visits have been particularly painful. What little conversation she’s been capable of  has been gibberish that clearly makes sense to her, but means nothing to me. She spends most of the time with her eyes closed and complains of being tired all the time. She has not known me for some while and, in fact, was quite astonished when I told her she was my mother. “You’re joking!” she said.

And yet.

Today, she was wide awake when I arrived. She still did not seem to know me and appeared disinclined for much of a visit. I took her into the lounge anyway, just for a few minutes. We talked a bit, I got her a pillow so she could rest her head back and sleep if she chose. Our little bits of conversation were mostly nonsensical. I wept.

When it came time to leave, I pushed her wheelchair back out near the nurses station. As I bent down to give her a kiss, she said, “I’m going home tonight.” Does she know how much I pray that is so? I replied, “Well, when you get there, tell everyone I said hello.” She said she would. I turned to leave and had taken two steps when she very clearly said, “I love you very much.” Needless to say, I turned right back around and gave her a long, long hug.  “I love you, too, Mom.”

I love you, too.

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Being a caretaker is a little like being one of those moving targets  in a sideshow arcade. You’re in motion, you keep dancing, you think “If I can just keep all these plates in the air, everything will be fine,” and then some cosmic marksman comes along and — POW!

It doesn’t take much, particularly if you’re having one of those “off” days, where your bio-rhythms seem out of kilter and EVERY LITTLE FUCKING THING THAT COULD POSSIBLY IRRITATE YOU has occurred.

My day started with cat puke. Not a big deal as a stand-alone thing, but it was only the beginning.  And nothing major, really. Just one thing after another.  And then I went to see Mom.

She was sitting with a bunch of residents listening to a guy play accordion. In fairness, he was an excellent musician, but it isn’t easy trying to carry on a conversation with a woman who’s a) deaf and not wearing her hearing aids, b) has Alzheimer’s, and c) is sitting in a room with a really loud accordionist.

It’s actually pretty funny, writing it out like that. What wasn’t funny, what gave me an emotional bruise, was when I put my hand around my mother’s upper arm, index finger to thumb and could almost reach.

She is now less than 80 lbs. They assume that it’s the occasional water she takes in that is keeping her alive, because it certainly isn’t the amount of food. She’s hardly eating at all. And yet here she is. I’ve asked if she’s scared. No. I don’t think there’s work left to do; we went over that months ago. It just isn’t her time. It’s not that impatient for her to go — hardly — but it’s difficult to see her like this. So reduced.

Which isn’t anything I haven’t ranted on about before.


While I’m venting, let me tell you about my trip to the PT.

I’m having issues with an ankle, so my doctor–the wonderful Susan Buchek–wrote me a script for physical therapy. I chose the facility closest to her office. Guy seemed okay. A little rough around the edges, but I cut him some slack because he’s going through what is apparently a nasty divorce. (Something I did NOT need to hear and SHOULDN’T have – what happened to professional boundaries?)

Second visit, I’m sitting on the bench waiting for him and he says, “I need your sneaker off.” I said, “I was waiting to see what you wanted to do.” He says, “Oh, you do whatever I say?” and BEFORE I CAN SAY WORD, he adds, “Take off your pants.” He had to have seen by my face how shocked I was. He quickly said, “You know I’m kidding, right?”

Yeah, right. I know you’re kidding, asshole. But I worked as a massage therapist and I’ve been trained and I believe in those boundaries. I found him unprofessional and offensive. By the time I got home, I’d found my tongue. I called the office, but they’d already closed for the day, so I left a message that I won’t be back. I’ll find someone else.

Really, I didn’t need that, too.

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