Sunday, December 27, 2009

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime

Mom and Dad seem to really be enjoying their visit from Ruth and her family. They all came to the Christmas Eve service and Mom and Dad even stayed a while afterwards.

The folks invited us over for Christmas dinner on Friday afternoon. Mom cooked the turkey and gravy, and made ahead pumpkin and pecan pies, white and sweet potatoes, and cranberries. I brought green beans, jello salad and dressing/stuffing. (When we were sick earlier in the week, Mom exclaimed, "But I was counting on you to bring the stuffing!") Everything was delicious (except for the jello) and we all had a wonderful time together.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Allergy Attack

I took Karis and Ev to the doctor on Saturday. They had been congested all week and their coughs were starting to sound bad. We had to go to urgent care and it was luck of the draw on physicians. The doctor diagnosed the girls with upper respiratory infections and assured us that based on their symptoms, it was allergy-related, not viral. So, off we went with antibiotics and claritin-d.

Fast forward to today, when Nate and I sat in the urgent care. Yup, those darn allergies are catching. We couldn't get an appointment with Ves, but he was working in uc this morning. He did not concur at all with the allergy theory, but Nate and I do both have upper respiratory infections. We went ahead and got prescriptions for Meg and Dave, just in case they catch the allergies too.

All that to say, we have steered clear of Mom and Dad! Mom called this morning to talk over some Christmas details. She said she and Dad were heading out today to see The Blind Side at a local theater.

Gwen: Mom, that's great! You and Dad are having a date!

Mom: Yes, he said a few minutes ago that he'd better shave since he was going out with his girlfriend.

How sweet is that?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Naughty or Nice?

Guess what we got today to put in Grandma and Grandpa's stockings!

Hee hee!

BTW, the naughty pair were in church again today. :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goal-Oriented Phone Conversation

Mom called this morning. I didn't have a student, so Nate and I were at home. It was one of those Mom calls where I could tell she had her list. I think it was something like this:

1. Tell Gwen I forgot about Karis and Meg's Christmas concert. Express regret.

2. Ask about amounts for Christmas recipes. Is five pounds of potatoes enough?

3. Invite family for Sunday dinner. Ask Gwen to bring brownies.

What a nice surprise to get a dinner invitation!

ADDENDUM: Mom called again Friday about something else. In the course of the conversation, it came out that the dinner invitation was for the Sunday after Christmas, not this Sunday. Communication is hard. If we can't get a dinner date straight, no wonder we struggle to understand each other.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sharp Dressed Man

Dad was in church with Mom today!
He looked great in his suit and tie. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tattle Report

When do we become concerned enough about Mom's isolationism to address it with her? I don't think it is good for Dad and even though Mom wants to be alone, is it really good (to this extreme) for her either?

*She has told me that she wants space. This works out to mean: Don't come over.

*She has repeatedly told Dave not to bring the Caregiver's Prayer Group (Dad's Wed. morning group) to their home. He finally quit asking last week.

*She has told one of Dad's friends each time he calls wanting to come visit, "It's not a good day." After several calls, she told him, "It is just not going to work out."


Strange Days Indeed

Mom sent my family a letter this week, explaining her approach to Thanksgiving and the rest of life. Dave and I opted not to read it to our children. I sent a copy to Gayle, since she had a hand in it. I can send copies to interested siblings, but am not quite sure about posting it on the internet.

Also this week, Mom asked if I could pick up some cookies and take them to the church for her. In typical Mom style, this was only allowable if I was going to be at HEB anyway and could just stop by. So right there on the phone, I planned a trip to the grocery store on the day she wanted me to come.

Nate was having a make-up session with his educational therapist, the girls were at school, and I didn't have a student til later in the day, so I was by myself on Thursday morning. Mom was in the shower and Dad came to the door in his fleece robe and jammies. He is so cute! I gave him the Christmas card he had clandestinely asked me to purchase for Mom and... he invited us over for Christmas dinner. And gave me a check to buy gifts for the children. While Mom was in the shower. Yikes!

Mom did emerge from the shower and it turns out Dad had told her about his plans the day before. I'm not sure if 6 extra people in addition to the 8 extra they are already having for Christmas is such a great idea for them, but I'm not going to say no!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Nate, Ev and I went over to the folks' today after school. I refilled pill boxes and Nate and Ev set up the Christmas tree, train set and nativities. Dad was wrapping some presents. We stayed for about 90 minutes. The time was pleasant, but Mom and Dad were not very interactive. Maybe the time of day? They could have been tired. Mom asked us to return next Monday so Nate and Ev can put around more decorations.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mom Sighting

Mom slipped in to church today late and alone. I went over to speak with her and hug her after the service. After I asked twice, she said Dad had taken Milk of Magnesia and had to stay home. I'm sure Mom was disappointed. I know I was hoping Dad would be back after last week.

We were to go over tomorrow to decorate for Mom, but got a text today that Karis and Meg have a home game tomorrow at 4:00. I'm not sure what we will do.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

She Vants to Be Alone

Sister Gayle called last night after she had a long conversation with Mom. She said Mom told her the reason she didn't want us to come over for Thanksgiving was...

wait for it...

she wanted to have some time alone.

So, the entire conversations with Mom, communicating our love for them and our collective desire to be with them, the reasons she presented to me, were just crap. Bottom line: Go Away.

I get it. Really. Thanks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Twisting in the Wind

Contrary to plan, I called Mom again tonight because I couldn't remember the name of a recipe she wanted me to look up on the internet. Dad answered the phone and we exchanged greetings.

Dad: "When are you bringing the children over to visit again? I miss seeing them."

Gwen: "Mom asked Nate and Ev to come over next week to decorate, so we will see you then."

Dad: "I miss seeing them. I miss seeing you too, but I especially like to see the children."

Gwen: "Thank you Dad! That is so nice to hear. We gladly come whenever we are invited. We miss seeing you too."

When Mom got on the phone and answered my recipe question, I told her what Dad said and asked her if Dad knew she had told us not to come over for Thanksgiving.

Mom: "I don't like the way it sounds when you say that."

Gwen: "How could I say it to make it sound nicer?"

Mom: "We wanted you to get out of town."

Gwen: "We wanted to spend Thanksgiving with you all. I expressed that to you during that same conversation. Each of the children wanted to spend Thanksgiving with you all. Ev had her class praying that we could spend the day with you. I told you that."

Mom: "All I can say is, you are so far ahead of me in being gracious. I appreciate your help filling the pillboxes. Can you come Monday to do that?"

Gwen: "I'd be glad to. I just don't want Dad thinking we don't want to come see him when you tell us to stay away."

What? What do I do when the caregiver says Stay Away and the caregivee says Where Have You Been?

I don't even know how to spell the sound my heart makes for this one.

POSTSCRIPT: Dave's perspective on this was much less emotional than mine. He thinks that Dad did miss the children at that moment, but that this doesn't mean he sits around pining for them and wondering why they don't come. I like that version. Easier on the heart.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Plan

I called Mom today and visited for a bit. She said, "Happy days are here again!" It was nice to hear her so positive about Dad. :) She sounded excited about Ruth and Rich and family coming for Christmas, and asked if Ev and Nate could come decorate next week.

So, my plan is to call once a week on Mondays. I know Gayle calls once a week on Saturdays, so I would think that would be acceptable to Mom. We will go over one day after school next week for Ev and Nate to decorate, since Mom requested it. We won't go over unless Mom (or Dad) asks.

I don't know why I was thinking it would be palatable to Mom and Dad to see us and talk to us more often. I guess I was figuring that this was a different stage of life and things would be different. (Guess I was wrong about that.) From an interesting book by Eleanor Cade: "Denial is when we think we can set aside old issues and build a new relationship with our parents. We tell ourselves that things will be different this time, that our parents have changed. What we're denying is our own feelings, perhaps anger or abandonment or betrayal. We're also denying the very real possibility that nothing has changed, that our parents will be just as they always were."

And honestly I thought Dad's care was more than one person could handle well. (Still think I'm right about that.) In any case, we'll go back to pretending like everything is fine.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Time Back

I heard Mom and Dad were in church this morning! I didn't see them, but I'm glad Dad was there. Church has always been so important to him. He hadn't been since his hospitalization in July and I know coming back was a big deal. He was concerned about being able to sit for so long (which seems odd to me...he sits a lot at home) and always said he thought he would go "next week". I guess next week finally came. Yea, Dad!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Slow Learner

I am, that is.

I think I am expecting too much. My idea was to share the load with Mom and have a relationship with her and Dad. They, on the other hand, want desperately to do this on their own and are happy to see us monthly when the pill boxes need refilling and the grass needs mowing.

Mom told me at the start not to come by. She said she would call if they needed me. I didn't listen then and here we are.

I think things need to be on Mom's terms. I need to honor her wishes. Maybe at last I'm learning.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Loud and Clear

Earlier this week, I thought I was hearing a Go Away and Leave Us Alone message from the folks. Today there is no doubt. Yesterday I asked Mom about getting together for Thanksgiving. She wanted to talk with Dad and asked me to call back today. This evening I called and asked again. Mom talked a lot about how well Dad was doing and what she thought they would have for Thanksgiving dinner. I listened and then asked:

Gwen: So, are you saying you do not want us to come over for Thanksgiving?

Mom: Yes, that is what I am saying. Are you comfortable with that?

Gwen: I am comfortable with the idea that you and Dad are fine on your own, but we had hoped to spend Thanksgiving with you.

Mom: We thought we would invite (insert neighbor name here). She doesn't have any family.

Ugh. My heart hurts.

I hurt as a daughter. Isn't it funny how no matter how old you get, your parents can make you feel like that little kid again? Rejection is never easy.

I hurt as a mother. The children each individually said that although going to Austin would be fun, they wanted to spend Thanksgiving with Grandma and Grandpa. Ev pointed out that this could be Grandpa's last Thanksgiving and she asked her class to pray that we could spend it with my folks. Mom knew this; I don't know if Dad did. I hate for my children to feel that sting.

I hurt for my parents. I don't understand the paths they choose. I pray for grace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To Sleep Perchance to Dream

Last night I dreamed that Dad was lost. We searched and searched for him and I finally found him rolled up in a doormat of some public building. He was still alive but very gaunt and weak. He was like a little baby, so happy to see me and to be cared for. Very weird and creepy. I'm not even going to give thought to what it might mean.

I did talk to Mom today and she didn't say anything about Dad being lost, so that's good. They have an appointment with Ves tomorrow and I think an appointment with Nish (cardio) Friday.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Next week is Thanksgiving. I don't think any of my siblings are coming in. Dave's sister in Austin has offered to host his family at her house; Dave would like to go. My folks would be welcome to join us; my folks would never go. On general principle, I would want to stay home and share Thanksgiving dinner with my folks. I can't bear to think of them spending a family holiday alone.

Here's where it turns into a dilemma. Today I called Mom to see how things were going and to visit. (I've been out of circulation because I've had dizziness, headaches, nausea and fatigue. Went to the doctor today and he said I'm dizzy. Wow.) She said they were doing fine. She wanted to talk about her niece who called to say she was moving away from her mom (my mom's older sister). The niece thinks this is a good move because she "tends to tell her mom what to do." Okay. Then Mom follows up this story by telling me that when people at our church ask her how she and Dad are doing, she tells them: "We are doing great now that the kids are gone." Okay.

Maybe it's the dizziness, but I'm getting a distinct Go Away and Leave Us Alone message here. So, when a person sends you that message, do you just go away and leave them alone? On Thanksgiving? Really?

Which I guess is a microcosm of the big question here. When someone tells you to go away and leave them alone, do you do it? Even if you think they need your help? Really?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Up Day

Mom told me today that she and Dad had lunch on the patio and stayed out for quite a while. She said yesterday Dad asked to go with her to the Coag Unit and pharmacy. That's quite a switch! I wonder if he has started his thyroid med? I'll have to ask. Maybe he will want to come to church tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Confusion--His and Mine

I called Mom yesterday evening to check and see if Dad had a little memory blip or if he had mentally checked out for the day. She didn't really know and it sounded like he had been pretty silent for the rest of the day. That's one of his strategies when he feels mentally lost; he just says nothing at all. I told Mom I had wondered if Dad knew who I was there at the end of my visit and she told me that he has been asking her our names. His children's names. He's forgetting our names.

Is this a whole new level of dementia? Some sort of marker? I remember back when he blipped out for the day in 2008, Ves said we should bring him in if he didn't know who we were. (And Mom told me later that by the end of that day, Dad thought Bill was at his house, not Loren.)

Why didn't Mom tell me this before? More denial? If we don't talk about it then it isn't happening? Is she afraid I'll try to take over? Wouldn't it help her to share the burden with someone else, even to just talk about it? Is it just not a big deal to her?

I dunno.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Flannery O'Connor

The more I thought about Mom's friend Ruth coming to stay, the more it seemed like a Flannery O'Connor short story in the making. So, I was relieved to find out today that she is not coming. Evidently, Ruth's family is a little shook up right now. I don't know what her plans are, but I'm glad they don't currently include living with my parents.

Today as I was saying goodbye to Mom and Dad after a short visit, Dad couldn't remember where I lived. He said he must have never been there. And he referred to me as "you folks", so I wonder if at that moment he even knew my name. Mom just laughed, but it made me very sad. Tired and sad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Catch Phrase

I mentioned the other day that Dad works hard at knowing the current date. He also works at having appropriate responses to questions and has developed some catch phrases. Have you heard any of these?

Q: How are you doing?
A: I'm feeling better everyday.

Q: Did you have a good dinner?
A: Oh, yes. We eat well.

Q: Are you having any trouble?
A: My main trouble is my balance.

Q: Why won't you ______________?
A: We are at the point where we really have to watch our finances.

Of course, there are always surprises too. Like when someone asked Dad why he was in the hospital and he replied, "Really it is because of my disposition and others' reaction to it." What? And here I thought it was the dangerously low blood pressure. Pretty funny!

Monday, November 9, 2009

In and Out

Nate and I went over to the folks' today after my morning with students. Nate did his schoolwork on his laptop. (Remember factor boxes and trees? Can you name and identify the four types of sentences? I am definately not smarter than a seventh grader.) Nate and I played dominoes. Grandma didn't leave, but she sort of disappeared.

Dad seemed good for the most part. Still tired and sore. He didn't sleep again last night. At one point I was visiting with him about the church game nights he and Mom attend. I asked when the next one was. He said they were on the last Friday of each month, so the next one would be New Years. Hmmm. I had wondered about his concept of current time a couple of weeks ago when he wanted me to buy his Christmas gift for Mom. He works hard to know the date, but I guess it just slips away from him sometimes.

Mom called Ves this afternoon (returning the office call from Friday) and found out that Dad does need to take thyroid meds. She said she did call him last week to ask about the blood bacteria. He told her Dad would have to be hospitalized to test for that. So that's the end of that road!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Mom has a friend named Ruth. Ruth is a grandma and just recently quit a live-in caregiving job. She needs a place to stay and Mom has offered for her to stay with them for a while. Hmmm. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

Status: Dad did not sleep last night. Neither did Mom until she moved into the sewing room.

The evaluator or whatever came today to get Dad back on track with physical therapy. Hopefully that will pick up this week.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sunny Saturday

This morning the girls and I went over to the folks' for a couple of hours. Karis mowed the front yard; Meg blew off the the back patio, sidewalk and driveway; I filled pillboxes and revised the med list; and Ev made up a bed, played Christmas songs on the piano and did her Corrie ten Boom report for Mom and Dad. Meg arrived a bit before the rest of us and sat on the couch to visit with Grandpa. Dad loved all of it! He commented to Mom, "It's nice to have so much activity around here, isn't it?" And as Ev played carols, Dad sat in his chair and hummed and sang along. I haven't heard him sing in years and years! Very sweet. I think we'll try to make that a Saturday ritual.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, Mom said they had "victory" with a bm yesterday. If you weren't wondering...sorry.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Whaddya Think

about this new font? I like it because it is cute, but not sure about readability. Thoughts?

Okay, less cute and more legible. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Worried and Tired

That's how Mom sounded today on the phone. Dad is still feeling weak. Is it from the fall? Did it cause the fall? He hasn't had a bm in over a week. That can't be good. Or comfortable. At the appointment with Ves on Monday, Mom had written down a note to ask about bacterial infection. It is one of her big fears for Dad. She didn't ask. I wish I had asked for her.

Today she said she thought maybe Ves didn't bring up the possibility of a return of the bacteria because "it would sound negative." I encouraged her to call him and tell him her concerns. Reminded her that she is the one who is with Dad all the time and knows his symptoms the best. Told her that what she has to say is an important part of Dad's care and Ves wants to know what she thinks. I hope she calls.

Mom left me a message later in the afternoon, saying she and Dad were sitting out on the driveway in the sun. Maybe the lovely weather and vitamin D will lift their spirits.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Same Old Tricks

After students today, I had about an hour before school was out, so I dropped in on Mom and Dad. They were just coming in from sitting in the sun. It was sweet to see them going along together. We visited for awhile and Mom was talking about running errands tomorrow. I asked if Rhonda would be there with Dad and that's when Mom let fly that they had let her go. Mom said she was very happy with Rhonda's work, but Dad just couldn't stand paying a "babysitter".

We went back and forth a bit about how little money it was, blah blah blah. Then the conversation went something like this:

Gwen: Are you going to carry the phone with you so when you fall and Mom is out, you can call Liz?

Dad: I could do that.

Gwen: Do you know Liz' number?

Dad: No, not by heart.

Mom: We have it written down in the book.

Gwen: So you will crawl over and look up Liz' number when you can't get up?

Dad: Well, I hadn't planned it all out like that.


I'm trying to stay out of their business. I really am. They just make it so hard!

A Passing

Today my sister Gayle is in Indiana to bury her mother-in-law. Gayle's husband Mark will be giving the memorial service, precisely according to his mother's wishes. Grandma Jane was a strong woman, cut from the same cloth as our mother. Her presence will be missed by many.

PostScript: As I thought about and prayed for Mark, Gayle and family this morning, it occurred to me that Evangeline Jane would be such a nice name for J and C's reluctant baby. (I thought it might be a little too self-serving to post or even mention to anyone.) This afternoon while at Mom and Dad's, Gayle texted to say Evangeline Jane was born! I am not making this up!

Goodbye Grandma Jane. Welcome Evangeline Jane!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks?

Will wonders never cease? I spoke with Mom on the phone tonight. I knew she was having a tooth pulled today, but could not help because Ev was getting her bottom braces at the same time. Mom had assured me yesterday that she would be fine to drive after the pull, because the anesthetic was only to be local. (Ack!) BUT! She told me tonight that she had Rhonda (the dear helper that comes 6 hours/week) come with her and drive her home. I'm so proud of my mama! :D

Denial: Our Family's Native Tongue

Could Mom be in denial about Dad's condition? Well, yeah. The Native Tongue has been spoken all these years; it would be awfully hard to learn a new language at this point. Tim Stafford, in his book As Our Years Increase, refers to the difficulty of elders in accepting happily (or in our case, accepting at all) "care they wish desperately they did not need." What a great way to put it. And I suspect that in MomWorld, if you deny it then you don't really need it.

Tim Stafford also wisely observes: They [parents and children] will usually build on the kind of relationship they have already established, good or bad. That is one reason why it is so critical to foster good communication earlier in retirement. That is so smart. So insightful. What great forethought. Okay, so here is a little conversation mom and I had a few years back while blueberry picking together.

Gwen: Hey, Mom. Dave and I were looking at a place on an acre. (Insert various details here.) And it has a great room off the side that we could use now for a school room. I think it would work well for you and Dad if you needed to come live with us.

Mom: Oh, Gwen. I'm just going to keel over.

I can see now the heart of the communication issue here. I was trying to speak English and Mom was speaking In Denial. And I think we still are.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today Dad is 88! We had planned to pop in for a birthday celebration complete with Mom's famous burgers and chocolate cake. Those plans changed with a phone call.

Mom called while I was working with a student, but my bosses know I keep my phone with me for exactly this type of call. Mom is known for her lack of alarm over things like fainting, falling husbands or being abandoned and walking down a five lane road to get home, so when she calls, we answer!

Mom called to say that Dad had fallen and didn't feel up to having company. She was not forthcoming with details, but did say that she had called the excellent home health nurse. Nurse Liz came right over, helped direct Dad into his chair and checked him over. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:

Gwen: So, did you call Ves (family doctor and friend)?

Mom: Oh, do you think I should?

Yep, that's what we have going on.

I called back after my last student and spoke with mom again. She had called the doctor and made an appointment! And she reluctantly agreed to let me come along.

On the way to the doctor, Dad filled me in on his version of the fall. It actually happened Sunday, yesterday, evening. Dad had walked to the kitchen from his red chair to throw away a banana peel without his walker. Freestyling. As he stood at the sink, he started to feel faint and slumped to the floor. He called for mom, who came quickly from the back of the house. He has a bruise on his back, but no abrasions or breaks.

The doctor visit was uneventful, nothing new, but very good for several reasons.
  1. Ves told Dad he needs to reinstate physical therapy. (Dad had "fired" his very good pt, which is a whole nother post.)
  2. Ves ordered a blood test for Dad's thyroid. Mom has refused to give Dad this medicine, so Ves wants to see if it is still needed. He stressed the importance of a functioning thyroid to Mom.
  3. Ves told Dad he needs to use his walker. Dad usually listens to Ves. We'll see.

At some point during the day, Mom commented about my suggestion to call the doctor. She said with wonder that Nurse Liz had said the same thing, to call the doctor. You know how some people have a very high pain tolerance? I think Mom has a very high alarm tolerance. Things that would have mere mortals screaming for help are a minor annoyance for Mom. Clearly, she is made of sterner stuff.

Anyway, happy birthday, Dad!