Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
May 28, 1914 - April 25, 2003
If Virginia Maher were alive today, she would be celebrating her 94th Birthday. Born in 1914, she died in April 2003 just short of her 89th Birthday. I remember her last birthday party; over Memorial Day Weekend 2002. We celebrated at our home and were fortunate to have quite a gathering of the clan; Kathy, Maureen, and Denny and four of Virginia's grandchildren (Chris, Laura, Lisa, and Carolyn). I remember the brilliant fuchsia rhododendron in our back yard in full bloom much as it is today in this photograph, glistening in the mid-day light of late spring. The weather that day was gorgeous and we have several photographs of the family posing in front of this beauty. We couldn't know that this would be her last birthday party but nonetheless we celebrated as if deep down we knew.
It's hard to believe that Virginia has been gone for five years; in some ways it seems longer and in others, shorter. Several weeks after she died, on Mother's Day 2003, we planted a small lilac bush in our front yard in her honor. The fragrant pale purple blossoms always erupt at this time of year; another visual reminder of the passing years and another opportunity to remember the wonderful person who is missing from our lives.
Virginia was ever patient and loving with our children; despite all of Chris and Laura's antics, she never once implied they were ill behaved, "spoiled", or out of control although many times they were just that! She was a thoughtful house guest in our home and a terrific hostess when we spent time with she and E.J. in Sequim. She could cook an incredible meal complete with salad, main course, sides, bread, and dessert; and always insisted we take home half of the leftovers. She loved to reminisce and I recall fondly the time we spent several hours going through her old photo albums. Blessed with a great memory for detail, she always had a story to tell about this person or that location. She was also blessed with the keenest sense of hearing that I've ever witnessed in an older person; a pin could drop and she'd hear it. We never got away with anything if it involved the spoken word!
As a mother-in-law, Virginia navigated this role with amazing grace. She was kind, generous, and loving to me from the very first moments. I was welcomed into the "house of Maher" with eager acceptance, respect, and admiration. Never once did she criticize my choices but was always there as a sounding board for support in times of need. She could empathize with almost any complaint of mine but could then turn around and point out some way to look at it in a brighter light. As her health declined and her memory began to fade, she still valued her family above all else. She had her priorities clearly defined and never wavered.
I miss Virginia and think of her often. We shared many celebrations through the years, all involving great food. When May 28th rolls around each year, our tradition is to eat out at one of her favorite local restaurants in Shoreline. Spiro's Pizza and Pasta restaurant was a place she and Denny enjoyed on countless occasions over the last years of her life. And so today, Denny, Laura, and I will partake of great pizza at Spiro's and remember. Here's to you, Virginia!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I get it; I've always gotten it. But I haven't allowed myself to really admit the truth. What they don't need is me running around buying "essentials" like beer, chocolate drinks, candy, fingernail files, and Clorox wet wipes. What they don't need is me transporting them to doctor's appointments, foot care appointments, dental appointments, hair appointments and the like. Granted, all these goods and services are critical but they fall under the umbrella of care giving and someone else could perform these tasks. But, it costs money to reassign these functions to others; lots of money. Trying to be careful of costs, these mindless tasks become my relationship to them; I focus on a to-do list that is rote, repetitious, and woefully lacking in creativity yet hugely time consuming and depleting.
What they do need is a daughter. They need a daughter who will really visit when she comes in the room, who is present for them, who shares her life and listens to theirs; who eats meals with them in the dining room and takes them on outings. We need to be on the road; eating out occasionally, going to the mall to check out the sales, drinking coffee at Tullys or Krispy Kreme, eating ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, visiting Arapahoe; the options are endless. They are bored beyond belief and who can blame them when they stay couped up in small spaces for days on end without a break. They lack a view of the real world out there, replete with its beauty, raw energy, and the obvious but oft forgotten realization that there are people of all ages out and about doing their thing every day of every week, every hour of the day. A daughter does these things. But this daughter can only muster the energy for the goods and services that make the cake. The icing never happens.
We had a good talk about these things today; they get it and I get it. No solutions discovered, just an honest rendering of how it is. I can't feel bad about this state of affairs; it just is. But when I see them just sitting there and know that I could be creative with my time instead of in dead zone, wandering up and down the aisles of Fred Meyer, I wonder about my priorities. I have no answers right now.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
As dementia worsens, a pattern of increasing confusion and agitation occurring late in the afternoon and into the evening hours develops. At first insidious and unpredictable, this so called sundowning phenomenon becomes the norm for many elderly persons as the affliction of aging brain takes over.
This last week has been rough for Mom. Around 5 PM, she starts in with a restless and inconsolable anxiety that usually persists until she falls asleep after 8 PM when the overnight caregiver arrives. These few hours are long for Dad; he is alone with her, tries to comfort and assuage but loses patience sometimes. This heart breaking pattern symbolizes all that she has lost and is a harbinger of more difficult times to come. I ache inside for the person she was and wish there were something we could do that would make a difference.
My instinct is to jump into the car when she calls me in a panic. It was easier when the trip was 4 miles one way; harder when it is now 13 miles one way. The other night I raced up to see her, to fulfill her request that I literally "hold her hand". I walked into the room to find her fast asleep. The 35 minute drive through traffic is long and lots can happen in that period of time with caregivers coming and going, medications kicking in, and Dad trying to smooth things over. Sleep eventually comes and the other night was an example of sheer exhaustion winning out over the terrors of her mind.
I know Mom needs to be in a setting where personalized care, comfort, and reassurance are ever present and staff have the special skills to navigate through these rough hours without being pulled in all directions. The next step of this journey is to explore new options, a grueling process of upheaval for all involved but especially for Mom and Dad. My biggest regret in this arena is that I did not know "back then" what I know now. My fear is that I still don't know it all and that whatever move we make on their behalf still won't be quite right. Why can't we get these most loved and cherished elders the tender loving care they so desperately need and deserve after so many years of faithful service to their family?
Friday, May 23, 2008
On the one hand is my 90 year old mother. On the other hand is my 20 year old daughter. 70 years separate the two and I stand between them. Both are in need of my energies as though I am the one and only who can provide what they need. Thank God for dedicated caregivers for Mom and for a second parent (thank you Denny) for my youngest. Were it not for help, I'd be in the asylum today.
At this moment, things are calming below the wave. Mom had a good night's rest after finally getting the proper night time pills. A SNAFU with medications led to a disastrous day yesterday with mounting anxieties which forced two round trips up north to Crista, burning gasoline. When I arrived the second time at 8:15 PM, she had fallen into a deep and peaceful sleep (finally) and caregiver Kari had ministered to both Mom and Dad's needs with gentleness and compassion. They both love her and so do I. Kari and I sat on the couch and whispered stories and updates about "the situation" for 45 minutes. I value her observations. As the daughter I may think I'm getting accurate updates from the sources themselves but I don't see the bigger picture. Obviously. Mom and Dad are not where they need to be right now.
I'm grateful that MM and John are taking the lead on the "next step" for Mom and Dad's care. I am overwhelmed with the day to day slogging through and unable to imagine anything but what we already have in place. There is no fuel left in me for creative thought on this issue. I need help; have asked and have received.
On the opposite pole, my energetic youngest, although advancing by leaps and bounds into the world of adulthood, still benefits from and snags my hands-on attention from time to time; like NOW. No details to be revealed but at 3 AM I got my weary bones out of my bed and lay next to the bed of my dearest daughter. I have forgotten what it feels likes to lie on the floor on a yoga mat; thank God for clonazepam as I did fall asleep, finally.
What's hard is steering the course between the many and varied needs of those I love. Granted, I'm a sucker for the "hold my hand" requests but I challenge those faced with the same or similar scenarios to behave differently. If you can, you are definitely riding the wave better than I. Today dawns a new day. And tonight I begin "on-call" duties for the three day weekend ahead. I dare not ponder what adventures in doctoring will be tossed my way; one never ever knows.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Maybe I'll call this the "care giving" addiction. In one way or another, I've been doing this to excess for decades, definitely since my first born entered the world. Before that I was me, myself and I for the most part. But, this care giving issue extends way beyond raising children, an acknowledged critical, selfless, and necessary role. Beyond children the addiction of care giving is like being "on call" for the world. For me, at 53 it is bigger than it was at 33 largely because the roles and the rules and the situations have changed. At the time in my life when I would like to be scaling back on my professional roles, work is tugging at me with phenomenal force. At the time in my life when I would like to be discovering other talents and interests, there are always things I place ahead of a committed exploration. Blogging may be the one (small) exception. At the time in my life where my children need rely on me less, my actions tend to strengthen their need of me. I own this; I get this.
As for care giving in my fifties, the roles are varied but none of them seems to nourish or give back enough (so sayest my trusted therapist). The operative word is enough; in my world the yin and yang is out of balance, the scorecard skewed, the emotional depletion titer sky high and on and on. As I lamented over my need for more and more medication to battle the insomnia that plagues my every night, worrying that I'm fueling an addiction to soporifics, my trusted advised, "I'd be far more concerned about your addiction to care giving." Kaboom, light bulb moment, revelation. I've never heard it said quite like this.
When epiphanies occur, the universe coughs up illustrative examples, or shall we say opportunities, to shine more light on the matter. Within hours of my acknowledgment of said addiction, there were three situations that popped into my life; chances to say YES (and slog through with disgruntled acquiescence) or to say NO (and live with guilt down to the core). Difficult choices these. I see that in my current state of mind, both choices are "no win" situations. There seems to be no way out. Trapped with the feeling that whatever choice I make, I won't have contentment, ease, or peace of mind. Sucks. What I must work on is eliminating the guilt. Guilt, or more specifically the need/desire to avoid the feeling of guilt, is the powerful fuel that gets me out of bed in the morning (my post on 5/2/08: The Truth of it Is explains). Making my way through the day without feeling guilt allows me to keep my eye on that prize: the horizontal position, back in bed, done with my work for the day. I have to ask, if it weren't for the G word, would anything ever get done in my life or would I just stay in bed? Reasonable question.
People have been talking about this issue forever. The number of self help books on the G word and similar topics is phenomenal. Remember the book from 1975 entitled, When I say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel Smith, Ph.D.? That avoiding the feelings of guilt can be such a powerful motivator and bitter pill to be reckoned with is worth acknowledging. In my case, avoiding the G word and all that it encompasses is the secondary gain I get from care giving. We never do things with addictive predictability that don't have some degree of kickback even if the reward is self destructive.
Enough said for one day. As for what I will do with the three requests for my time and energy that arrived to challenge my predictable patterns, I don't yet know. I'm still thinking and that 's not necessarily a good sign.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
He's such a cat, this one....
It's hard to believe that Boo has been part of this household for almost a year now. He fits in well and we love him.
Formerly the cat in residence at the McGrady home, Denny points out that the last time we saw Kelan McGrady he was quick to say that he still had a cat named Boo who just happens to "live at Kitty's house". Cute.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I was at the pool swimming laps and towards the end of the hour, the two (teen aged) lifeguards cranked up the volume on this tune. I spotted them out of the corner of my eye dancing poolside to this most cool music from exactly 30 years ago. Some hits just never lose their groove and this one is no exception. There weren't many people left in the pool but those that were (sans one totally committed and serious woman oblivious to the music) just had to move to the beat (and I don't mean swim). One guy, probably my age, started dancing in the pool and mouthing the words. A younger woman sitting in the adjacent shallow hot tub swayed from side to side mouthing the words. As for me, I couldn't resist and got totally silly with my swim, couldn't control my feet and blamed it all on the "boogie".
Ahhhh, the power of music.
Friday, May 16, 2008
This short video is very powerful. I know that the not so subtle advice could be applied to my life right now. Now. Yet, I focus on the past and how much I could have done differently, how my attitude toward those long days was all wrong and how sad I am that they are over. Forever.
For those out there who still have a chance, embrace these days.
As for me, maybe I'll wake up to the fact that I can still embrace these days (the now days). Why is it so difficult? If I don't heed my own good advice, in ten years I'll be saying "if only I had...."
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I always wondered why Mom always bemoaned the name "Dean". She complained that Dad could never hear her when she called for him, that it was impossible to get vocal power behind his name. Now I get it. It's a closed loop: "Dean". Two vowels enclosed by two D sounds. No wonder. She often defaults to the sounds "Whooo-hoo" said over and over again to get his attention and he has learned this means the same as "Dean", especially when he is in another room.
It's true....yelling Laura carries more weight than yelling Chris. But, when yelling Denny, even the "Y" sound is worthless because he can't hear anymore. He claims I'm mumbling but I know better. It's either that or the incessant drone of Fox News that drowns out even vowels yelled full force. Dig. I can't resist.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Lately I have little interest in "fixing myself up", although I still try to pay attention to my hair to keep the Don King look to a minimum if possible. As I breezed through the downstairs bathroom today and peered into the wall cabinet, I was stuck by just how minimalistic I've become. Compared to all these products in use on a variable basis by my dearest daughter, I've "matured" into a list of 3 must haves and the rest is just fooling myself. Perhaps the 3 that I've picked are just fooling myself as well but I cling to them nonetheless. I wouldn't want to go out with the following items applied but the rest can take a hike; at least for now as I enjoy this bare bones existence.
I need hair gel (strong), a lipstick and an eyebrow pencil. I don't even own a hairbrush, just a toothbrush.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Compared to last year when we had a full on celebration at Arapahoe with a meal and the gathered clan in attendance, this Mother's Day was tame. I'm glad we were more laid back about this artificially elevated Sunday in May; this one felt easy and spontaneous. No plans; just a slow unfolding.
These times are special. I get it.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
This time I was smarter and dragged Denny along with me; he is a master at fitting odd sized items into odder sized spaces and looks upon the experience as a challenge instead of a disaster. Despite my requests that she "be prepared" to leave this time around; there still was nothing done when we arrived (photos above show her room when we walked in the door Thursday night) although her excuse was that she had no bags, boxes, or suitcases available to start the process. Plus she was stressed out with having to take 5 finals. Hmmmm.
We did a bit of work on the room Thursday night but most of the madness we saved for Friday. I inquired about whose stuff belonged to who (she has a roommate and one might assume that items in common areas like the sink might have belonged to Alisa). Not. "No, Mom, all those headbands on the towel rack are mine." By Friday late morning, we had four suitcases packed to outrageous weight, half a dozen large plastic containers holding clothing/shoes (stored under her bed which when lifted up on cinder block stilts provides a wealth of space for enormous quantities of stuff), a dozen or so large plastic Hefty garbage bags with miscellany, a microwave, upright fan, 6 foot floor lamp, and a fish tank. Yes, a fish tank with two tropical fish named "Whiskers" and "Spotty", heavy as lead and which Laura had to tend all the way home sloshing about between her feet on the floor board of the car. Plus, she had 80 dollars of "flex money" to spend or lose so she stocked up on Luna and Cliff bars, nuts, beef jerky, chips and bottles of iced tea, sports drinks, and soda; all of which had to be hauled as well. Thank goodness for a friend named Chris who helped Denny and Laura with the heavy hauling from dorm room to car. I spent my time preparing stuff to be dragged off to keep them busy.
Did you know that Laura has a jumbo sized plastic storage bin with nothing but shoes inside? I wonder how many pairs that represents. No comment.
After all the packing and moving came the cleaning; the room had to pass inspection so we used a can of wet wipes on surfaces that hadn't been dusted in 9 months and a vacuum on the floor, sucking up all manner of hair pins, hair ties, confetti, and crispy bits of dried leaves from bouquets of roses accumulated through the year. The stuff on the floor leaves behind as much history of living as the stuff we hauled home. Needless to say, inspection went fine and we were on our way for the drive home by 2 PM. Laura and Denny traveled in one car (with the fish) and I whisked along I-90 with just my thoughts and my own choice in music, plus a Cliff bar and sports drink. No stops and we pulled in just before 7 PM.
Now all this stuff sits in the basement, partially unpacked. There's no place to put it all right now and it will take time for her to go through everything. Hopefully she will weed out a significant percentage of this stuff for the Goodwill truck. But, deep down, I know that we will find nooks and crannies to store all this stuff. Somewhere.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Spike, the bulldog, is the mascot for Gonzaga University. The graduating class of 2007 gifted this bronze statue of Spike to their alma mater and he sits outside the McCarthy Athletic Center. We got a closer look at Spike this visit to GU; he's quite the beast. From the one toothed half growl to the broken leash dangling from his thick neck, to the mighty toes he's pure power. The guys who were admiring Spike as we walked up told us to watch out for the "dog turds" and we thought they were just kidding around. Check out these first four photos; do you see any dog turds?
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Difficult to appreciate from this photograph, buds are sprouting slowly but compared to the same tree photographed in January, the progress is more obvious. That I'm paying attention to this is not new. But that I write about what I see and document with photographs is new. The process is richly rewarding although I yearn to discover where this is leading me.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I hope you enjoy these photographs of the cyclical change of this "kidney tree" as Winter unfolds into Spring. I will be sure to follow the magic this autumn as bare branches of vascular skeleton reveal themselves once again. I take comfort in changes with pattern and predictability. Here, natural rhythms provide a comforting embrace unlike the nerve jangling, "irregularly irregular" states of (human) living.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Here's how we keep track of the cat around here......
Is he out? Or, is he in?
These photos are copied off the computer onto 8.5 x 11 paper, taped back to back and hung by a rubber band on our dry erase board in the kitchen. We flip the "sign" around whenever he goes in or out. The cat makes us laugh and this little routine does too. Maybe we have too much time on our hands. But, I'd say it's our way of extracting a bit of humor and joy from our days. It's easier than yelling upstairs "is the cat in or out?" And who doesn't like to flip over a card on a message board?
P.S. On my way to work today, I realized that another reason why we do this is because it is clean (no rough edges, vagaries, shades of grey, or controversy). The cat is either IN or he is OUT. The task is simple and easy to do well, unlike so much else in life right now where there are no right answers and only more and more questions. That's also the reason why I like to empty my paper recycling into the narrow mouthed bin at work, sheet by sheet. It's a job I do well every time and once it is done, it is done.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Seattle, a stark contrast to the constant rain that fell from a grey sky all of Saturday. We enjoyed highs in the 60's, dry, sunny weather permeated by that young green of deciduous trees. Only a few lone trees wait to sprout out with leaves; bareness is the exception these days. Blooming trees and shrubs are everywhere.
Yesterday was special because Mom and I attended a luncheon in honor of Rosemary, a dear friend who turned 90 years old this week. Her two daughters threw a great party for her with family, old friends, and new friends (like Mom who met her at Merrill Gardens last year) at a local restaurant on lower Queen Anne. No gifts; only a donation to a local food bank if we were so inspired. Rosemary is an amazing woman whose down-to-earth style, humor, and personality attract attention immediately. Her kindness towards Mom and Dad was obvious as she took them under her wing at MG, ate lunch with them on countless occasions and enjoyed afternoon tea and cookies on many an afternoon. She also escorted Mom down to the corner QFC supermarket last August to buy me my birthday cake. That was a feat and one that Rosemary reminded me of at the event; the cake was quite heavy and the journey longer than they anticipated, especially with Mom's walker and a slight uphill climb on the return.
I'm grateful to have had this special outing with Mom yesterday; for the ride to and from the restaurant with the brilliant blue sky accenting the lushness of an early spring day and for the occasion itself. Our elders are precious and we are honored to celebrate their birthdays. Acknowledging all of their wisdom and witnessing all that have accomplished and all they continue to offer the world is nothing less than astounding. Mom, Dad, Rosemary and all the other nonagenarians stand on a pedestal in my mind. What an accomplishment! We younger ones have only to look into their eyes to recognize the mystery of life imprinted in their faces.
I enjoyed looking at Rosemary's photographs that chronicled her life from the time she was a young girl through to her 90th Birthday. Congratulations!
Saturday, May 3, 2008
I've also learned some great, practical advice from Jeremy Neal at his blog site, Lead Inspectors on how to become a better blogger.
Am I having fun with all of this? Absolutely. Where will it go? I know not.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Have I created enough of a wave to get some interest going? Fearful that I will disappoint with the meagerness of my truth, I'll just throw it out there anyway.
Every new day of my life, I wake and roll out of bed, seeking first the cup of coffee that will jump start the journey. Every step I take between that first moment out of bed and the moment when I surrender again to the sheets is (hopefully) accomplished with intention and purpose. But, and this is the big but[t], the fuel that moves those feet in forward motion, the energy that carries me from location to location, the catalyst for the voice that communicates endlessly by spoken and written word derives from the realization that I'm moving closer to the prize, that precious moment when I will land up in that bed again, horizontal, quiet, and finished if only for the briefest of times. It's all about getting back to the prize.
There, I said it. My truth. I once heard someone very close to me tell 30 years ago that she lived a similar truth; maybe she still does. If she reads this, maybe she can comment on whether this "truth" changes over time or is a permanent fixture. It's not that it embarrasses me; on the contrary. The work I do between foot on floor in motion and foot turning into bed at night is done with great passion on some days, reluctant acceptance on some days, and only on a few days polluted by down-in-the-dirt resentment. But, IT gets done and for that I'm grateful.
Right now, as I write this post, I'm making a wish list and a to do list for the day that lies ahead. But what propels me forward is the deep knowing that the reward will come when I'm horizontal again. Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now and A New Earth) would say that I'm missing out on the only moment we ever have which is "now". Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I'm still thinking of the bed and just can't help it.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
"It's your decision. It would be hard to stand up and conduct. That takes a lot of energy. Would you use your three wheeler? It's only the end of April; you have a lot of time to think about it."
Dreams. What happens if and when we lose them?