Home is where …

1 07 2016

Home is…where? Home is where your heart is. Home is where you wanna be when you’re not there. Home is where you sleep. Home is where when the wind slams a door shut and it locks…you laugh outloud and know right where to reach for the crochet hook to poke through the hole to unlock the door. 

I’m in the space the Mrs. has called “home” for just about 50 years. Twenty of those years I probably thought of it that way too. The last pair of years, her home has been wherever she could have me in her line of sight – we were here or there – but certainly joined at the hip. 

Last month we came to what I thought was the most “sacred” space with all her familiar stuff in just the right places (unlittered with my stuff) in order to go to a doctor’s appointment and another to get her hair cut and permed. On the first evening back when it was time for bed she said ,”Maybe we should get back home?”  I suddenly realized that that door of her memory had slammed shut behind her. We WERE in her home. 

Little did I know that the next morning’s events would fast forward my well-thought out plan to find her a more adequate care set-up before winter.  A few days in the hospital, lots of tests and zero definitive answers took her to a new place to lay her head. She’s got a full ride scholarship for a 20 day stay at a rehab facility – or in other words- 20 days for me to get a lot of ducks into a lot of rows. 

For some reason this morning I back tracked through years of blog posts to see where I was 8 years ago today. I think I’m in very familiar territory but I’m not sure yet. No one but God has a handle on when someone is home at long last. 

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Resting

15 02 2012

Does our society have watchers – those who sit and wait? Do we know how to sit Shivah when that moment comes?

Do we know how to be still? Be silent?

Not ask questions. Not look at our watches. Not fidget. Not fret.

Why am I wired to sit in these quiet spaces in the waiting room of life? Not the room where feet are held to the ceiling, a wail heralding the start of the race. What is she called – the opposite of a midwife? She who can so easily walk out of a days events to sit and watch the chest slowly rise and fall?

The last foot falls in the hall-not the pitter-patter but the stilted shuffling of feet too tired to leave the ground save that final jump. Life boils down -simmers down-simples down-quiets down. No feet to the ceiling. Just a soul searching for an open window to make its final flight.

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“H” is for homophone

25 04 2010

Homophone – words that sound like one another but have different meanings, like flour and flower or mamama and Mom and MoMo and Nana.

I am in an odd vortex these days, trying to multi-task and float between three very different worlds at any given moment.  I will gladly screech to a halt to watch Donny Diva’s daily challenge of learning new skills and discovering the things that he can do.

Then there are those times like a few weeks ago, when the Mrs. wanted to attend the joyous occasion of one of her widowed niece’s finding new love in an old college friend.  The weekend was long.  It started with an extended appointment at the hair dresser’s for a perm and manicure.  The following day, I fetched her so that she could sneak in a quick visit with Donny Diva before spending the night here.  Before 8 a.m. the following morning, we were on our way across the state.  Brunch before the ceremony, the ceremony followed by a cake reception, all topped off by a family dinner at a restaurant another half hour’s drive away, kept us moving through the day.  By 6 p.m., all the fun was over and we were headed back to her place – another three hours away.  Once I got her gladly settled back in her own space, I drove another 2 1/2 hours home to my own bed arriving in time to do nothing more than to fall headlong into its pillowy goodness.  The next day she gladly took my advice and didn’t go to church.  She was pretty much all tuckered out the rest of the week!

I could have easily told her it was all too far away and too far-fetched to attend the wedding.  I could also tell Donny Diva that he’s not up to sitting on his own yet and playing with blocks…he might fall over, he might hit himself in the eye while trying to co-ordinate both hands to clap two blocks together.   It might tire him out.

I had never spent any time thinking about how tricky this space is…trying to be a parent, grandparent, and parent to the grandparent all at once but here I am.  It is a season after all.  Just as quickly as Donny Diva moves on to the next exciting adventure (like crawling!) the Mrs. might not be up to any car rides for some reason.

So for now, “H” is for helping…helping them both find their way and face the challenges that their lives bring them each new day.

And “H” is also for heading out of Dodge.  I need a Best Boy and Mimi fix.  The other day Shop Girl said, “Mom, now I get it.  I get the bond between mother and son.” There was no way of her ever really understanding the things I couldn’t put into words until she started to experience them herself.  I am looking forward to the best “H” I know that will be all the Mother’s Day gift I could want…a Best Boy bear-hug.





The Social Butterfly

12 03 2010

Shop Girl and I took the “twins” on an outing the other day.  Well, they aren’t exactly twins – they are 992 months apart – but there are some remarkable similarities.  I kept getting wide-eyed looks from Shop Girl that made me laugh…looks that spoke volumes without even having to see her mouth form silent screams and “OMG!”s.

The brick path outlining the five-story tropical garden isn’t long but taking time to see all the gorgeous butterflies that were flitting around our heads was worth enduring the suffocating humidity and 80º microclimate.  Managing that space with a stroller and a senior was the real trip.  Reminders to “Watch where you’re going!” and what NOT to touch rang out as if Donny Diva was a two-year-old even though those comments weren’t directed to him.

One of my biggest struggles is dealing with the Mrs. outside of her normal environment.  If it is me, visiting her on her turf and just the two of us – that I can do.  Take her out of that, reacting to other people, in “normal” conversation, managing unfamiliar territory either geographically or emotionally, and I’m stretched.

I remember feeling this way with Best Boy and Shop Girl even though there are 18 months that separate them. In our own space, the normal routines of them playing together, sometimes fighting but generally being pleasant – I really liked them.  There were situations and certain friends where the chemistry between all the components sent the delicate balance into chaos.  They could be asked questions and I couldn’t control how they’d answer.  I didn’t know how they’d react – what they’d say that would embarrass me.  Over-stimulation of easily taxed brains had consequences long after the actual events were over.  I’d breathe a deep sigh of relief to be back in the surroundings that I could control.

That’s how I felt on my return trip after dropping the Mrs. off at her home last Monday afternoon.  A bridal shower and fortnightly Sunday clan gathering was WAY too much stimulation – too many conversations, too many food choices, too much fun…it was time for a nap.

Social gatherings in her company feel like mine fields to me.  I had to find another punch cup for a niece at the Saturday night soirée because the Mrs. was drinking from the cup on her snack tray AND the one my niece had placed beside her own chair on the floor.  We’d laugh if Donny Diva was doing that but it takes a bizarre twist with the older twin.  When asked to give a word of advice to the soon-to-be-bride, she started a tale that went back to when her mother died when she was only 14…then WWII was thrown in there somewhere and her brothers off to war- till I let it twist and turn just a bit more – and chimed in to get her back on track.  Some 36 hours later when we got out of the car at the butterfly exhibit, I noticed she was still wearing the Mardi Gras beads we’d used for a shower game…they were white and looked like pearls to her.

So what I am really dealing with here is both ends of childhood.  The first part is amusing, cute and entertaining.  The other end makes me feel embarrassed and I don’t like that.  I don’t want to be talking down to her – nagging her – always challenging her.  So as a parent of my very late in life child, I’m having to reach back to my own experience and remember that there is still a fragile ego inside of her.  I need to be as tender and patient with her as I am with Donny Diva.  I have to remember that this caregiving gig isn’t about my comfort – it’s about continuing to give her a quality life experience.

With the exception of regular church gatherings and doctor’s appointments, weddings and funerals are about the only other things that become red-letter days on her calendar any more.  So I will do my best till it is no longer practical or safe to be her driver/chaperone.  I feel a little like Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy but the prejudice I battle is neither racial nor religious.  It is the prejudice I carry inside – the one that used to apply to kidlettes that we wanted seen NOT heard and the “inconvenience” of aging and all the unknowns in that future.

Just like that yearly exhibit that is here one day and seemingly gone the next…I need to keep the perspective that Spring only comes once a year.  I don’t know how many more weddings, funerals, births or birthdays are left on her calendar and the least I can do for her is to make it feel like there are lots of candy dishes to sample right up until the very end.





after alice

7 02 2010

“What a curious feeling!” said Alice. “I must be shutting up like a telescope!”

And so it was indeed: she was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; “for it might end, you know,” said Alice to herself; “in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?” And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle looks like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember ever having seen such a thing.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I expected to be able to write last week with staying in one place and all but I couldn’t.  I brought the Mrs. here while the Dr. was getting his passport stamped again and thought that simplifying my duties under one roof with caregiving the beasties and the Bubbe-Mrs. that my brain would function.

It was more like Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole – falling slowly enough to be aware of everything around me but unable to grab hold.

The week was relatively quiet with hours of Fox news, word search puzzles with the glorious switch over to the Dog Whisperer when I couldn’t take the talking heads one more minute.  There was a simple routine to our days and I kept quiet so as not to make her think that I had better things to do and making her feel that she was just in the way.  Obviously there are always a million things to do but if I’ve learned anything from Cesar it has everything to do with the energy one projects to the beasts they are trying to tame – calm, assertive leadership to achieve balance.

Before we knew it – the time had come to take her back home and it was right.  She was ready to be in her own space – doing things that make her feel productive.  Things that I would never dream of doing if I were bored – like washing and drying a china cabinet full of Candlewick.

Meanwhile another kind of tumble resulted in a broken wrist for the F-I-L which complicated his chauffeur duties for the M-I-L who was just about to embark on her second cataract surgery in 2 weeks time.  So with the Mrs. safely and soundly back in her own space, I took to helping them out with some doctor’s appointments.

This last week helping out aging parents, I am more aware than ever of the frustration inherent in the process.  It’s like we are all merrily strolling through life when suddenly we find ourselves tumbling down a rabbit hole without a clue as to what we will face at the bottom.  The Mrs. says she doesn’t know who took her “seventies”.  Suddenly she’s solidly in her eighties and can’t account for how she got here.  I watched the frustration on M-I-L’s face as the audiologist tinkered with the buttons and knobs on her hearing aids.  It’s annoying to have technology that doesn’t always cut the mustard leaving her with the inability to hear and has all but given up that there is any hope for a smooth transition to an in-between place.

So how can I age gracefully?  How do I embrace the natural aging process surrounded by a world telling me a gazillion ways and a gazillion times a day that younger is better?  I loath certain hair styles on balding men.  I vomit a little in my mouth when I see inappropriately dressed middle-aged women. The adds on my facebook page tell me that 54 year old women just like me are buying pink UGGS and am I sure I don’t want a pair? Really?  Can’t we all just act our age?  (Except that this doesn’t count for the 65 year old members of The Who rockin’ out at the SuperBowl right now.)

At the same time,  the internal wrestling match between my hopes, dreams and unmet desires and the fact that getting out of bed in the morning is accompanied by more aches and pains than when I hit the sheets, is a daily reality.

Can I drink the potion and follow Alice?  Can I change and still be the same?  Can I gracefully tweak my expectations of what I think I’m entitled to?  Can I deal with the disparity between what I expected to be mine in this season and embrace the reality of what IS? Will I just telescope down or go out like a candle?

I’m not saying I don’t do the things I can to help improve my situation – it’s called a fist full of supplements morning and night.  Then there is that exercise thing – that I’d don’t do morning or night.  It really has more to do with finding myself looking at the Mrs. and Shop Girl and remembering that I was where she is and she was where I am.  I used to be Shop Girl – now I’m the Mrs.  I just keep looking at the Mrs.,  MIL and FIL and wondering how Shop Girl and Best Boy will treat me in another few years when life is spinning and they’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole with the rest of us.

No telling how that will go but for now, I’m just going to go through that garden gate – I’ve got that little golden key.  It’s all part of the adventure.  You’ll just have to ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall…





counting candles

16 01 2010

Oh this wasn’t just any birthday celebration…no, this one was special.  There was something quite different about this one as compared to the one a year ago. My  83 year old mother got her driver’s license renewed.

Months ago the State of Indiana was kind enough to send out two separate letters reminding us of the need to renew her license.  They sent TWO (count them – TWO) letters outlining the multiple documents we needed to present so that she could get the new SecureID  – “to ensure that you can use your driver’s license to board commercial airplanes and enter certain federal buildings.” Now there’s something new for 2010.

We had to have an original certified copy of her birth certificate.  Fortunately for me, she’d gotten a copy of that back in 1984 when she got the other “SecureID” called a passport when she and Billy crossed the pond to come visit us in Spain.  In this last couple of years of practicing my new hobby of document gathering, it had been filed in a folder with a tab that said “Birth Certificates.”  Imagine my surprise when I found the REAL deal right there for me to use!

We also needed to have a social security card (NO idea where her original is of that), a W-2, tax form, an SSA-1099 form, or a pay stub showing name and Social Security number.  And to prove “residency” we needed two statements issued within 60 days from a utility company, bank, credit card company, doctor or hospital, federal or state agency showing her name and residence.

So the afternoon before her birthday with a wad of documents in hand, we made the trek to the BMV.  It was late in the day so there wasn’t much of a line – save a handful of teens with parents in tow – so we didn’t wait long before our number was called.  The clerk began asking for the docs in a certain order…the birth certificate – check…

Next she wanted the marriage license…”Excuse me, what?”  “The marriage license to prove the name change from her birth certificate to the present…” “OH DEAR GOD.  ARE YOU SERIOUS?”  The ONE STUPID DOCUMENT I HAD FAILED TO INCLUDE!!!  I should have known better by now…after all, my book, The Boomer’s Guide to Dying is about to break into the New York Times Bestseller List.  I could have bloodied my toes kicking myself for being so stupid as to not put the entire fireproof filing system in the car before we left the house.  Never, never, never again…

I get it.  It was my fault.  I needed to connect the dots for the state.  After all, she’s only had a driver’s license in this state since Heck was a pup (click here to figure out where this saying came from) and now we need to start verifying she is who she’s been pretending to be since she moved here at the age of 16 or so?  We can’t connect the government dots that this person has held a valid passport in the past – our most vetted document?  Wait – what is this for?  This makes it secure for us to get on airplanes and to get into government buildings?  Hummmm….will that really make a difference?

Anyway – then and there, I opted for the straight up license renewal.  We will give the state another $11 at a later date and be able to sleep more soundly knowing that SHE has a SecureID in her possession.

Adding to the excitement of that outing, we tacked on two doctors appointments the next day and put a bow on yet another year by getting a store bought cake topped off with twenty little polka dot candles to mark her milestone.

As she was on her way to bed after the cake and ice cream dessert we had, she poked her head into the TV room and thanked me for making it easy.  She would have been overwhelmed with 83 candles she said.  Twenty was just enough to remember it was her birthday.

I go back and forth with this stuff – personally I wouldn’t be offended at all if my kids never lit the candles on a cake and stuck it in front of my face.  But for her, at least it is a way to mark a special day in the year – a date she doesn’t have to think much about…she doesn’t hesitate a lick when you ask her when she was born – month, date, and year.  And maybe a day made a little less lonely – after all, since the day after she turned 21, she had Billy by her side up until two years ago. She reflected a bit on that too…and was glad to have had those long years with him walking beside her.

What’s it like  when suddenly you don’t really have a wedding anniversary any more?

Anyway, back to where we started…we have three more years till this new driver’s license expires.  I wonder how many more documents it will take to renew the document.  I wonder if the State of Indiana will ask itself if it is wise or safe for her to be driving.  I wonder if we’ll still be able to use those SecureID’s for anything at all.  But if she’s around – there’s no doubt that we’ll be having more chocolate cake and ice cream.  Maybe I’ll do 40 candles for dramatic effect.





white noise

11 01 2010

The Dr. sleeps with the radio on – our local NPR affiliate runs the BBC – all night long. White noise for him, by day (via a steady stream of CNN, HLN and the like) and by night, are voices commenting on world affairs.  After all, it is his bread and butter to know what is happening around the globe.  Sometimes in the darkness, I can tell what time it is without looking at the clock by counting the times I’ve heard the stories on repeat – they are on a cycle that runs three times. Those aren’t my favorite nights.  I don’t blame him for my insomnia because as many times as not, the talking heads don’t bother me at all and despite all the yakking, I sleep fairly well.

A few years ago some friends in LA introduced us to genius little white noise machines that they had in each bedroom.  Just cranking those puppies up regardless of whatever else was happening in the house (usually late night recording sessions involving a dozen or so people in and out- so LA for us artsy fartsy types) the cacophony was so masked that sleep was just an instant away.  I was officially addicted.  Once back home I got one of these by Brookstone called Tranquil Moments ® Sound Machine for Sleep that sits on my bedside table.  There are nights when both the radio and the white noise machine are going.  If I’ve been working with words during the day then I need to quiet the voices at night. No more words – no talking…just noise.

If it is too quiet I am distracted by the constant hum of the tinnitus I think I’ve inherited from Billy.  Oh, it could be meds, it could be impending deafness inherited from the Mrs. or it could be insanity…but I can hear it right now throbbing it’s way through the veins and vessels in my head like little subway trains using my ears as tunnels.  The word in Spanish is a perfect onomatopoeia for what it sounds like to me – zumbar: to hum, buzz or whirr.  (When pronounced in Castilian that “z” becomes a “th” sound.)

The subject of white noise came up when Shop Girl’s friends from Spain were visiting.  She has a nice machine in her bedroom and suggested the use of said device for the jet-lagged duo so as to drown out Donny Diva’s squawking for a midnight snack.  They just guffawed at the preposterous notion that you could actually sleep better by piping noise into your ears.  It is all around us whether we notice it or not…on planes, in the malls, in office spaces…almost everywhere.  I love the fact that to muffle certain noises all you have to do is add ALL noise to it.  That IS white noise.

There is another kind of white noise affecting my life these days – snow – drowning out voices in my head telling me what I should be doing.  It’s either been here by the foot or along the lakeshore by the multiple feet or dumping right along the southern edge of the lake, making stretches of the highways impassible or not advisable at best.  It almost seems like I’ve been on vacation with this extended time at home since Christmas.  The Mrs. has survived just fine thanks to the kindness of a good friend from church who stepped in during my absence – doing a grocery run and sorting through a week’s worth of pills.  These people have saved my skin on more than one occasion and I am very grateful.

There have been moments where adding just one more voice of worry to the chorus ringing in my head (“Is she eating enough?,” “Has she remembered to take her pills?,” “Will she try to drive somewhere in this weather?”) has begun to work like a white noise machine.  By adding more things that I can’t do anything about – it’s actually calmed me down and relaxed me in a weird sort of way.  It’s helped me to focus.  I have more energy.  It’s like getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep!

Maybe it is because I’ve turned my nervous energy toward my own basement for once and have donated about a dozen boxes of stuff and thrown away an extra eight bags of garbage in the last two weeks.  I can hardly wait till next week when I get started on a new facet of my winter project. I found a place that will take the twenty-plus boxes of books collecting dust and donates them to schools and libraries around the world.  To think that someone can actually USE all those tomes we bought instead of spending money on groceries during the Dr.’s years of graduate and post-grad work –  really makes me happy.

With each box and bag I carry out of this house – it is like white noise music to my ears.  By Spring, maybe Donny Diva and I will both be sleeping through the night.