Saturday, April 30, 2011


Mom has seemed tired for the rest of the week. She was too tired to join us for Karis' birthday dinner Wednesday night. She has dutifully called each morning and she seems happy to see me when I drop by. She even let Ev and me haul her to HEB for some grocery shopping. And her friends picked her up for the Fellowship Dinner at church last night. Nothing remarkable, really, just a slow week for Mom.

So why am I so sad?

It really caught me by surprise yesterday. I was at the optometrist for a regular eye exam, but also because my left eye has been fuzzy. (My brother had a detached retina recently and has put the fear in me! My eye is fine, just a build-up of white blood cells for some reason.) When the doctor came in, she was flipping through my chart and said, "I see you have some heart problems and cancer in your family history. Any changes there?"

I just froze. I know it was a standard issue question, but I couldn't bring myself to say, "My dad, who had a history of heart problems, died in August. My aunt, who had a history of cancer, died from a brain tumor in October. And my mom, who has a history of cancer, is dying from colon cancer."

So I told her there were no changes. Everything's fine. I'm pretty sure my eye health is not dependent on those disclosures and I'm pretty sure I could not have spoken those sentences without dissolving into a puddle right there in that weird optomotry chair. Everything's fine.

Last night, as Ev was reading a couple of chapters from The Magician's Elephant to me, she noticed I was teary. I told her I was okay, just sad, mostly about Grandma. She patted my hand and kept reading. Sweet girl.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ya Just Never Know

This afternoon, Ev and I stopped by to visit Mom. We noticed Mom's long driveway and sidewalk looked especially neat. I asked Mom if she had blown her drive and walk and she said yes! She said she had a "burst of energy" and "wanted to get ready for the rain." Then she laughed and asked, "Is that crazy?"

Crazy good! I love that she can get out and work in the yard. It makes her happy. She was so proud. Then she walked us around to show us the three closets she had emptied so Perry can clean and paint tomorrow. That was some burst of energy. She did seem really tired while we were there, but who wouldn't be after all that? What a woman.

It does remind me of Dad though. Remember how he would seem so frail and weak and then the next day do three laps around the driveway? Hmm. I'll have to make a list of ways Mom is reminding me of Dad. These things sort of fly around in my head until I write them down.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Yesterday afternoon, Karis picked up Mom to join us at Dave's parents for Easter dinner. We really wanted to be together, but nobody was up for a big to-do, so Dave's mom hosted and we brought the food: sandwiches. I'm not kidding! The deli counter lady told me Saturday that I was her best customer all day. I replied that probably most people weren't having sandwiches for Easter dinner. I thought it was great; everybody was happy, and nobody was worn out from preparations.

The insight came when we were all seated around the table to pray. Afterward, someone offered to fix Mom's plate. She avowed that she would fix her own plate, then added:

That's the problem with old age. People treat you like a baby!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

We had a wonderful Easter Sunday. It was my turn to help lead worship. My friend Noelle suggested to our worship pastor that it might mean a lot to my mom to hear me sing some special music. Noelle and I sang this song. Such a thoughtful idea and she was right.

As we sang about Jesus' resurrection yesterday morning, I was struck with how many of the songs speak about not just rejoicing now, but about the joy we will have when we meet Him face to face.

When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours Jesus You are mine
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive
He's alive


When with the ransomed in glory
his face I at last shall see,
'twill be my joy through the ages
to sing of his love for me.


No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

And that made me think that Mom is singing these songs with us now, but soon she will be celebrating with Jesus. Incredible!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Side Effect

A side effect of Mom no longer driving is emerging.

A really nice side effect.

Mom is reaching out to more people around her. For Bible Study Fellowship on Wednesday, Mom called a longtime acquaintance from the neighborhood. The sweet lady was delighted to take Mom and as Mom marveled, "She even brought me home!" For our Good Friday service tonight, Mom called her neighbor from across the street who is retired and looking for service opportunities. I offered Karis to chauffer Mom on Sundays, but she had already worked something out with friends.

Of course, people are delighted to help Mom. She has this special charm that draws people to her, even as she tries to send them away. I think it will be good for Mom to have more social contact and I know spending time with her is a bonus for anyone who gets the chance.

BTW, I'm taking Karis over today to pick up Mom's car. Mom has long talked about Karis having her car after she (Mom) dies, but she wants Karis to take the car now. Mom said, "If I leave the car in the garage, you know what will happen." I asked, "What will happen?" Mom replied, "I'll be tempted to drive it!" Now she is happy it can be a birthday gift for Karis. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Naughty, Naughty Mother!

This morning, I did not get a call from my mom. (Remember, she had agreed to check in with me each morning in order to stave off a caregiving invasion?) Nate and I headed over to the house as soon as I was finished with my only student of the day. We arrived around 9:30 a.m. and found the garage door open and water sprinkler running. Mom came to the door quickly after we bing-bonged and seemed reasonably happy to see us.

Gwen: Mom, you didn't call.

Mom: I knew you were coming over today, so I thought, Why call?

Gwen: Um, because you said you would?

Mom: (punches Nate in shoulder) Defend me!

Nate: I'm staying out of this.

We visited for a bit and then Nate and I left for a homeschool co-op activity. We arrived back at Mom's with Meg in tow around 1:30 p.m. Nate mowed, Meg moved wood chips, I wiped down college yearbooks (much to Mom's consternation..."I don't know why you want to keep those old things!") and started working on organizing/decluttering Mom's desk. Mom had a nap and then seemed to have more energy. In the morning, she had seemed weak and tired, even asking Nate to move her water sprinkler for her. After her nap, she said, "I'll move it. I know where I want it to go." We left to pick up Ev from school.

Gwen: So, you will call me when you get up in the morning?

Mom: Oh, I should do that.

Gwen: Here's the deal. If you don't call, we will get in the car and come right over.

Mom: Okay! I'll call!

Naughty, naughty mother! She reminds me of Karis as a toddler. Her independence was so very important that I would say, "Karis, if you don't walk right next to me, you will have to hold my hand." And so the little toot would walk right next to me! The ultimate threat: If you don't do what you are supposed to, you will have to have close contact with me. The stuff of nightmares for the compulsively autonomous.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confessor's Remorse

Today Mom called me with a serious case of confessor's remorse. She had taken her last drive through town and was second guessing the idea of giving up driving. She was wishing she had never mentioned growing weaker to anyone, because then she could still drive. Happily, she talked with the hospice nurse, who reassured her that giving up driving was the best thing for her. Now Mom wants to know when Karis can come get the car.

Mom was also very unhappy with the idea of my brother Loren driving down to visit her next week. Loren had a little bout of detached retina recently and cannot fly for two months. Mom is concerned about his safety driving so soon after eye surgery. On the other hand, she was also unhappy about my brother Bill driving down to visit her. She wants to be alone. I posited that the boys might need to come for their own sakes, not just for hers; my brothers need to see their mama. Mom thought she might call and try to talk reason with them. *sigh*

And Mom has an alternate plan. She feels it would be good for her to fly to visit Loren for a couple of weeks; fly to visit Ruth and work in her garden; and fly to see Cathy's (Bill's wife) goats. She does not want me to travel with her. I asked her about walking through the airport and how that coincided with the doctor telling her not to walk alone through the neighborhood. She said she would take her walker. I asked how she would pull her suitcase. She said, "With my hand."

Oh my gosh. There is so much fundamentally wrong with this plan. I'm praying Mom will continue to realize how weak and tired she is simply with the activities of daily living, not to mention jetting across the country. And of course, I'm the travel agent; so when it comes right down to it, I hold the cards. I'm just not looking forward to being the boss again.

Monday, April 18, 2011


My sister Gayle has been staying with Mom for the past week. Once again, Mom has put Gayle to work decluttering, sorting, and cleaning out. And once again, Gayle has done a masterful job. Mom feels good about having things in order. She has completely turned the corner from just wanting to be in her house, to wanting her house to be ready for us.

Today, Gayle was there with Mom when the hospice doctor came to visit. She said the doctor told Mom she should give up driving because her reflexes are slower. He recommended she stop taking her blood thinner. He also said she should not go on walks alone anymore. He said walking uses up energy and she should conserve her energy for things she enjoys doing.

This news was so upsetting to me! In fact, I seem to be the one who is most upset about it. Gayle said Mom seems okay with everything and views it as part of the process. She knows she is growing weaker. She did want to go for one last drive tomorrow morning on her usual path to the bank and the grocery store. I'm crying again as I think about Mom taking her last drive through town. In my family of origin, we just love to drive. It is a big deal for Mom to let that independence go.

Gayle said Mom is actually relieved about the walks. She realizes the wisdom in conserving her strength. Mom said, "I'm like a hybrid car; I recharge while I'm sitting still." Especially funny because Gayle and her husband Mark are total Prius freaks! Dave stopped by this evening to visit with Mom and learned that she had initiated much of the conversation with the doctor, asking about driving and walking.

I know I am leaving lots of gaps in the past week's happenings. I've been spending all the time I can with Gayle over at Mom's, plus a garage sale, plus trying to maintain some normalcy with my family, plus life. I will post things as they come to mind. Also, I should note that the paragraphs about the doctor visit and Mom's reactions are heavily plagarized from Gayle's texts. I don't think I've processed this new information enough to be able to compose my own rational thoughts.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Very Grandma Birthday Gift

Today my boy turned 14. He wanted to celebrate with a trip to the zoo, which we all enjoyed. Lots of happy family memories at that place. We came back home to have birthday dinner (Barefoot Contessa grilled lemon chicken) and cake (lemon poppy seed). Nate opened cards and gifts. And one was from Grandma! It came in the mail this morning. He opened the envelope to find a small piece of notebook paper covered with Mom's distinctive printing. I asked Nate if I could post his birthday letter on my blog. Here it is in its entirety, as printed on the original.

Nate Happy Birthday!

Now the Job list!

Water 3 trees Creek Side

water 3 trees back yard
Japanese maple

Keep triming Waxleaf ligustrum
this is the shrub by the patio that
you used to hang upside down on
the limb near the house

Keep triming Nandina -- the shrub
with the beautiful red berry cluster

Keep triming Yopon --the big
thicket shrub -- a native

This is a good beginning!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh Good Grief!

Today was my last day in Ladies' Bible Study. Next week is the last lesson and a luncheon, but I'll be proctoring SATs at school. Today was the first day, ever, that Mom has chosen to sit by me. She arrived late and I guess her seating choices were limited! However it happened, it was nice to sit by my mama.

After we discussed our week's lesson (which I barely started *sigh*), we watched the lecture dvd as usual. At the end of the lecture, the speaker launched into a personal story of "the dangers of discontentment". (All well and good.) She described a friend who, like her, was a pastor's wife and had three children. They lived in the same town when their children were young, and kept in touch when our speaker moved away.

One day she went back to surprise her friend at church and found her very changed. Emaciated, unhappy, isolated. She kept trying to make contact until the friend wouldn't even take her calls anymore. Finally this friend left her family for another woman, then was killed in a freak accident. The speaker blamed this downward slide on choosing not to be content. (Maybe a tad simplistic, but okay.)

And then the speaker said something to the effect that it all started when her friend wore herself out taking care of her dying mother. There of course were other issues, but you know what Mom honed in on. After the dvd ended, Mom turned to me and said, "That makes me thankful that the doctor from the Woodlands told me I would go fast." Gah! I said, "Mom, it is not your responsibility to die fast; it is my responsibility to trust God!" Now, on top of everything else that goes through a person's mind as they look death in the face, Mom has to worry about me leaving my family for another woman because of her.

Good grief. (And I liked that study a lot until today.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Goodbye Books

My mom is a big bibliophile. She explains it this way: You know how some women buy jewelry? I buy books. For some time now, since Dad passed away, Mom has been sorting through her books. She has created a stash of books that she wants to pass on to her kids and grandkids. These include lovely hardcover sets like the Little House books; political books; antique books; and anything by Schaeffer, Lewis, or MacDonald. She also has a little treasure trove of children's books that she intends to send to her great-grandchildren.

A few weeks ago, the girls and I boxed up the books Mom did not want to keep. Today, following Gayle's suggestion, Mom had our church librarian come out to look through the boxes. Marlene stayed for a couple of hours, going over each box, and pulling books that can be used in the church library. Tomorrow, Marlene's husband Gale will come to pick up the leftovers to go to a local used bookshop.

I was concerned that Mom would feel sad to see her old "friends" taken away, but she is thrilled! She even called me this morning to tell me how excited she was. And she was still bubbling about it this afternoon when Ev and I stopped by after school. I think it inspired Ev...she came home and started cleaning out her desk. :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wholly Guacamole

When we returned from the Garden Party Saturday, Mom wanted Ev and me to come inside to see the freshly painted hallway. She also had been wanting to give me some food leftover from my sister's visit. Mom bagged up some tostitos, olives, and sour cream, but she couldn't find the guacamole. She looked high and low, moving things around in the fridge and muttering. I wondered if she had transferred it to the freezer, but no. Mom was flummoxed, and wondered aloud if someone had come in and stolen her guacamole.

I must admit that I laughed out loud at that point, and texted my sister to see if she knew anything about The Case of the Missing Guacamole. Ruth texted right back to say that Mom had urged her to take the guacamole home with she had. Mom was relieved to know the answer, but she didn't remember giving it to Ruth at all.

At the Garden Party, I didn't introduce Mom to the lady sitting next to her, because I knew they had met previously. On the way home, Mom asked me who she was. Also at the party, another lady was telling how her children years ago had learned to like eggplant, because they would tend Mom and Dad's plot at the Senior Citizens' Community Garden when they were out of town. Mom said wonderingly, "It's like you're telling me something totally new!" She had no recollection.

Which makes me long do we let Mom live alone? All of those lapses are harmless, but how long will that last? And how will I know? Will Mom know? Or will we have to say, that's it, no more living alone. As Dad deteriorated mentally, he had Mom to redirect him and keep him somewhat straight. Mom doesn't have anyone looking out for her and helping her along.

What if?

At least I know where and why.

Garden Party!

This past Saturday, our church's women's ministry held a Garden Party. It was at the home of a friend of mine, out in the country. The party was from 12-3 and included lunch, a lecture by a Master Gardener, and a tour of the grounds. Mom had been looking forward to the Garden Party ever since it had been announced. The speaker is one of her favorites and she was looking forward to seeing my friend's place. But I got a call from Mom Saturday morning. She said she once again had "the trots" and could not go anywhere. I knew she was very disappointed, and told her to call me back if she had a miracle.

And she called me back! Mom used some of the medicine that hospice provided and wanted to give the party a try. I'm so glad she did. The drive out was beautiful, with the roadsides covered in bluebonnets, indian paintbrush, and pink evening primrose. Mom loved the remote location of the house. We enjoyed the girl food, complete with quiche, gazpacho, rolls with herbed butter, and cheesecake. The Master Gardener was very good and I think even Mom may have learned something new.

Then we walked around and saw the chickens, gardens, fruit trees, and compost. Mom immediately recognized the leghorn chickens (which she called "leggerns") and my friend concurred with Mom on their unpleasant dispositions. They are however the best layers. Mom loved hearing the sounds of the friendly rhode island reds and barred plymouth rocks. It reminded her of her childhood. And I loved that Mom let me walk next to her over the uneven terrain and hold her hand.

Picture cleverly taken by Evangeline Schneider :)