Monday, August 29, 2011

Sibling Visit

My sister Ruth and her husband Rich came to visit Mom last week. They drove down from Arkansas all by themselves, without a single one of their six children. I think it might have been a first! Ruth and Rich arrived Wednesday evening, bringing rain with them.

Mom was typically "up" for the visit. I went by Wednesday morning and noticed her tidy (long) driveway and sidewalk. Mom didn't hear me knock (usual) or ring the bell (unusual). I let myself in and found Mom in the kitchen, sitting droopily in her chair. She was pleased with herself for blowing off the drive and walkway, but could hardly move as a result. She did not want any help to get ready for her company. She did send Karis over to McKenzies to fetch some barbecue for the fridge. It was around 9:30 a.m. when I left, and Mom was ready for a nap in Dad's chair.

Mom played the part of the amazingly healthy grandma from Wednesday night through Saturday, and Ruth and Rich happily bought it. Dave and I did try to give a more accurate picture of Mom's current state, but R and R freely admitted they preferred the rose-colored picture. I know it is hard to believe your mom is failing when she says she's not and you really would rather she live forever.

Ruth and Rich left Saturday. Mom was pleased that they wanted to take some family heirlooms and mementos with them. It was nice of them to come see Mom.

Mom said she slept really hard Saturday night. This morning (Monday), when I took Mom to run an errand, she said she didn't need to sit down while we waited in line. Then when I was filling out some paperwork, I looked around and saw Mom sitting on a nearby bench. She's tired.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Counter Measures

Yesterday morning we sent in the big guns. Dear Husband Dave went over to talk to Mom.

Loren and I joke that Dave is Mom's favorite child. And we're not really joking. Dave really does have a great manner with Mom. He truly cares for her. She listens to him. Dave's words carry a lot of weight with Mom. Plus he holds the trump card; he is Mom's pastor. Mom is from the old school where being a pastor is a lofty, revered position. Once I was talking to Mom about needing to remove pine needles from my roof.

Mom: You're not going to get up there, are you?

Gwen: No, Dave is.

Mom: Oh no! He can't do it!

Gwen: Why not? We've got insurance.

Mom: Why, he's the pastor!

So, you get the picture. The big guns. I thought for sure Dave would change Mom's mind. He talked with her about the value of relationships and the power of words. He talked with her about the lasting effect of last words. He talked with her about the insignificance of all else when compared to a person's relationship with God.

Mom agreed with him. But she made no plans to change her course of action. She is confident that her words will be well-received. She is sure she is being sensitive in her dealings. And she is certain she is right.

Me, I'm not so sure. I don't look forward to the fallout. I hate to think of the damage done to fragile relationships. And, as I reflect on a lifetime of mother-daughter interaction, I'm sorry to admit that there is more than a little relief that at least her displeasure is not aimed at me.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


For a while now, I have tried to live by the motto: What mama wants, mama gets. After all, my mom is 90. She has terminal cancer. Her husband died a year ago. Surely, if anyone has the right to do whatever they want, Mom does.

She's done some foolhardy things that turned out badly, like having her sister with alzheimers and a brain tumor come for a two week visit last year. She's done some foolhardy things that turned out great, like her cross-country road trip with my crazy brother this year. She's done some things that are very nice, but make me shake my head, like having Perry completely re-do the house. She's done some things that are kind of weird, but don't really harm anyone, like having me use my things to decorate her house.

Now, in the past week, Mom has determined to do two things that really seem out of line. They are things that could harm lifelong relationships. They are things that could leave a legacy of hurt for people that Mom loves. I really don't want to tell Mom what to do. But I really don't want her last words to these people to be words that feel like cursing and bring separation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Last night, Meg and I picked Nate and Ev up early from football practice. Dave picked up Mom and Karis from their house. We converged at Dad's place around sunset. The temperature had cooled into the 90s and a breeze was blowing across the cemetary. We faced west into a gorgeous orange glow as we gathered around Dad's marker. We each held a Freedom red rose as we recited together (sort of) Dad's favorite verse, Isaiah 26:3.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Then we each prayed and thanked God for Dad. The children's prayers were so sweet, and Mom was discernibly emotional as she thanked her Father for a godly husband. We laid our roses on Dad's marker and left just as dusk was turning into dark.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Color Story

My kitchen is red. Happy, warm, Ralph Lauren Chimayo Red. I heart red. Red is my favorite. I have a red kitchenaid. I have a red colander. I have red measuring cups. I have red plates. Did I mention that I like red? Sometimes I'll throw in an accent of a nice mustard yellow or an earthy brown, but red is the color that makes me smile.

So what's the problem?

My mom's kitchen, which will be my kitchen one day, has a mauve floor. Remember the 80's? Yup, that's the one. Dusty pink tile.

There it is. Mauve tile. Red walls. And never the twain shall meet.

I really didn't know what to do for the walls in Mom's kitchen, short of white or tan. But I wanted the kitchen to be a fun, happy place. We spend so much time in the kitchen; it essentially is the heart of our home. What to do, what to do.

Enter Shiner Ruby Redbird.

As a beverage, Ruby Redbird is sort of like a Fresca Beer. Not really my thing. But check out that label! Do you see it? Red, mustard, brown...all surrounded by a lovely border of blue. That's when inspiration struck and that's how we ended up with Sherwin Williams Cloudburst for the wall color in Mom's kitchen. It is fun and happy, doesn't fight with the pink floor, and will go great with my kitchen things.

I should probably write Shiner a thank you note.

Kitchen Heritage

My dear cousins offered me my aunt's Frankoma. And of course I said, "Yes please!" When Bill and Cathy were here visiting Mom, we unpacked the box. Cathy, Mom and I had so much fun admiring Aunt Helen's pottery. I am privileged to have them.

Perry installed these great shelves for me in Mom's kitchen. The Frankoma won't live on them (probably in the dining room hutch?), but I wanted Mom to enjoy her sister's dishes.

And then there are these darling dishes.

This was Mom's pattern when she and Dad first married. I saw this set on e-bay and my sister calmly advised me to "Buy them! Now!" I'm so glad I did. They look great with the kitchen wall color and, well, they just make me smile.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reality Check

Mom told me Friday that she is sleeping more. Two or more naps most days. She said she will work for a little bit and then get into Dad's big red chair for a short nap. She said it reminds her of how Dad was.

Mom also told me she has started having pain in her abdomen. She thinks it has started since she saw Nurse Christy on Wednesday. She notices it in the night, but doesn't know if the pain is waking her up or if she is just waking and then becomes aware of the pain.

Mom is eager to get the house finished. And she hopes she can finish reading Bonhoeffer before she passes. I reminded her that even if she doesn't get to finish the book, she can always look Dietrich up in heaven and he can tell her the rest of the story.


Three text messages from Karis on Thursday night.

8:19 Message #1: Grandma is laughing out loud at the news.

8:23 Message #2: Oh wait. It's the presidential debate.

8:29 Message #3: And clapping. She's acting like a 5 year old.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Out with the Old...

and in with the, well, old. Mom is still in high gear clean out mode. She is eager to have the remaining two bedrooms and the laundry room ready for Perry when he returns next week. (I have got to get to Sherwin Williams tomorrow!) Karis observes that Mom works for a bit, then sits and naps or reads for a bit. Mom admits the same. I know it must be a strange feeling for a woman with as much energy as Mom to have to sit for a bit all throughout the day. I've never been able to keep up with her.

Anyway, Mom was very happy to see the back of my brother's truck loaded with her earthly possessions. To fill the empty spots, we brought over some things of my aunt's from Colorado. Mom had a game table by the front door. Her dad had made it from a walnut tree in their yard. Now in its place is the kitchen table from Mom's childhood.

Mom's coffee table was an old library table from my dad's side of the family. Somewhere along the line, the legs were sawn off and voila, a coffee table. Into the truck it went, and in its place is now a table made by my uncle.

Mom was happy to see the old things go on to their new homes. And she is enjoying these "new" pieces as well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Head Em Up, Move Em Out

My brother Bill and his wife Cathy are coming to visit Mom this weekend. At Mom's request, Bill is driving his truck. Mom is really wanting to clear things out and get the house finished. She is hoping Bill will take home some family heirlooms. And if there is room, he might take some things for Gayle as well.

Mom is enjoying watching the progress on the house and giving things away. It still seems odd to me, but it's what she wants to do. Maybe in a way, she is saying goodbye to her most valuable possessions bit by bit, instead of all at once. And maybe in some way, it will make it easier for us to say goodbye to our dear Mama, instead of saving it all for the final leave-taking.

Anyway, she certainly knows her mind; so what Mama wants, we do.

Pass the Crow, Please

So, my mom was talking about someone named Anemone and I was sure she had some kind of brain blip. So sure that I talked with the doctor. So sure that I posted about it.

And then, it turns out that I'm the one with a brain blip. There is indeed a relative named Anemone. She married my mom's cousin. She is my second cousin Penny's mom. My very kind Swiss relative explained it.

Bertha (1882-1918), Anna-Barbara's oldest child got wed with Bruce Clark. They got Fred, Bertha, George, Ruth. Fred, was Alta Vista State Bank's director, collector of old cars, got married with Anemone. They had John, Alan, Liza and Penny. Alan has a body shop at McDowell Rd crossroad just after Manahattan KS.
Anemome was very good in quilting, but she had sight trouble. So you know yet Anemone. Your Mom may have some pictures. If not, I have some, not very good maybe.
Anne G.

And the whole experience reminds me of when I made the same kind of mistake with Dad a little over a year ago.

Yes, it seems crow is not a new dish to me. Care for any?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hospice Doctor Visit

Meg and I happened to be at Mom's today when the hospice doctor came by. The nurse comes weekly and the doctor is supposed to come every two months, but I think he comes more often. Mom exclaimed to him, "I don't think it has been two months!" Meg probably nailed it when she said, "You're just his favorite." Must be that Mama Mojo that draws admirers like moths to the flame.

This doctor is the man who did my kids' pedi checks when they were born. He is very actively pro-life, which in my humble opinion gives him a great perspective for working in hospice. All life is precious and to be protected. So glad he's on our team.

Mom seemed extra tired today. She told the doctor she was slowing down "to a turtle's pace". He was not surprised to hear it, but encouraged Mom to save her energy. She had told me before he arrived that she was moving much more cautiously, even using her cane in the house. The kids and I had noticed that Mom's lawn is getting really dry. I wonder if moving the sprinkler around in the heat is just more than she is up to anymore. Maybe I'll brave up and offer to water.

Mom's blood pressure keeps creeping lower, and they keep cutting her bp meds. Today the doctor explained that with Mom's atrial fibrillation, he will likely keep her on a low dose of bp meds. Evidently that can keep the ventricle from jumping on board with the atrium's fibrillations. (We had a nice lesson on the basics of a. fib.)

Mom mentioned her upcoming dentist appointment for an abscessed tooth and the doctor thought she might want to ask about just an extraction, rather than a root canal. Seeing her weariness today, I would hate to think of her lying there, enduring a long root canal. I thought it was a good suggestion, as long as she can still eat her steak!

I walked outside with the doctor as he left, and described the "anemone" episode. He supposed it was a little pooling from the atrial fibrillation that squooshed through the brain all at once. Sort of like a clot but not nearly so scary.

Really helpful; really nice manner; still makes me really sad to think of my mom failing after all.