I have a great-grandson?? How’d that happen?

At 4:30 this afternoon I was sitting with mom in her room. We laughed and joked and I answered the same questions over and over for her, as usual. There wasn’t one unusual thing about our visit, but I was a little nervous. I was waiting for my niece Nia, her significant other Keith and their son Karter to come visit with mom. I was nervous because when mom last saw Nia a year ago, she didn’t remember that Nia was her granddaughter. I remember being devastated about that. I wondered how this visit would go. I wanted it to go well. Then, it hit me. No matter how the visit went, my mom was going to meet her great-grandson for the first time today. It really didn’t matter what else happened, or if she forgot our visit as soon as we left her room. 

Prior to their arrival, I showed mom lots of pics of Nia and my sister Renee, her oldest daughter. BUT she remembered very little. She did remember that Nia danced and sang when she was a little girl. I was excited for that small blessing!!!!

I told mom she’d be meeting her great-grandson for the first time. “I have a great grandson?” she asked. “YEP” I answered. “How’d that happen?” was her next question. I explained that Nia was her granddaughter and that Karter was her son. Mom’s next question was, “How are babies born again?”……. “Ummmmm” was all I could get out. I definitely wasn’t having THAT conversation with mom, so we resumed looking at old photos instead.

Just then, thankfully Nia pulled up! When they walked in, mom said “Oh, hello”. Prior to their arrival, mom said at least 10 times, “i don’t know what I’m doing!!”, which is really unsettling when you hear it for the first time…..but so much was going on once they arrived, she didn’t say it once while they were there. I was relieved. She did say a few times, “oh, a baby. He’s cute.” We’d explain that Karter was her great-grandson. I have her on tape saying “hi” to Karter over and over. THAT was the coolest repetition ever. 

We stayed about 30 minutes, chatting, laughing and taking pictures. Keith was so comfortable with mom too, and that really set the tone for the great time we had!! Our visit couldn’t have gone better, especially when you consider the fact that my mom can’t remember that the bed we sat on during our visit has been hers for the last four years. 

Image

Image

We walked mom to the dining room so that she could have her dinner. She began eating as we packed up our stuff to leave. When we got to the door, we yelled goodbye to her and told her we’d see her soon. She yelled back, “how am I going to get home?”. I assured her that she WAS home. “OK bye” she said, “I’ll keep eating my dinner then.” Yeah mom, you do that…… Love You!!! 

Why do I need new pajamas????

That was the question my mom asked at least 15 times on the way to our shopping trip!! When I was told that she needed new pj’s,  I decided to take her with me so she could help in the selection process. I called the group home when I was on the way so my mom would be ready. They put warm clothes on her, but while they weren’t looking, she went into her closet to change clothes. She was half dressed when I got there. I asked why she was changing into different clothes. She said “the person who picked this out, wanted me to wear this instead”. She smiled. I asked, “you mean YOU wanted to wear something different?” She said “I don’t think it was me, someone else picked this out.”…. “OK”, I said “you win”.  She smiled again. We headed for the door and she asked “do we really have to go out?” I shared that we were going to go shopping, something we hadn’t done in a long time. “I don’t have money” she said. I assured her that all was well because I had money, and that we’d have fun. “I don’t like going out, but OK, let’s go spend your money, and fun is good”…. Good one mom!!

When we got in the car, the repetition started. At least 20 times in ten minutes, she asked “where are we going?” and “why do I need new pajamas?” I answered her questions each and every time. I know how many times she asked because I recorded 10 minutes of our car conversation. 

There were some strikingly good moments during our conversation. She asked me if she had a job. When I said no, she asked how she paid her rent. I shared that her rent was paid by her retirement check. I was very surprised when she asked how much her retirement check was. She was excited when I gave her the amount, because she thinks it’s a lot of money. She told me that she wants to pay for all of her own stuff and she’d pay me back for the pajamas. She said if she ever came up short with her rent, to let her know and she’d get a job so she could pay her own way. Fabulous!!

When we got to the KMart, she declared that it was her new favorite store. But that only lasted until she saw the prices for the two piece pajama sets of $24.99. She asked if there was a cheaper place we could go. I assured her that $24.99 was a great price for what she was getting! She finally agreed!!

She seemed to enjoy the  bright colors of all the items in the store, but she did yell out twice “I don’t know what I’m doing”, I think because the large amount of merchandise in the store overwhelmed her at times. I would calm her anxiety by pointing to an item and asking her what she thought of it. I was so impressed with the amount of thought she put into her answers. At one point, I tried to convince her to also get a sweater by telling her it was cold outside. I held one up and said, “what do you think of this one?”. Very quickly she said “it’s cute, but I’m too old to look cute.” Really??? Lord have mercy!!! I hid the sweater in our cart and purchased it anyway.

When we got in the line she said at least 15 times, “I don’t know WHY I need new pajamas AND who’s going to pay for this??? I don’t have any money.” We definitely entertained everyone in the line. People smiled at us and one woman squeezed my hand in support. When it was our turn, my mom pointed at me and announced to the cashier, “I don’t have any money, my daughter is paying.” The cashier replied “she’s a great daughter, I wish she was mine.” With NO hesitation, my mom said “Nope, she’s mine and I don’t want to share her with you.” OK, time for us to go now, I thought…… the cashier laughed and said she understood why my mom wouldn’t want to share me.

Back at the group home, I learned something I would never have thought of. Angelina, the primary caregiver had my mom hang up the sweater and pajamas in her closet by herself. The reason for that was so my mom could hopefully connect with the items as being hers and NOT try to throw them away, which happens a lot with dementia patients. After she hung up all the items, my mom was asked to pick out her pajamas she wanted to wear that night. She actually picked out one of the pairs we had purchased, as opposed to saying her usual “that’s not mine!!”. I was amazed that this technique worked, and very pleased as well. 

Image

All in all, it was a great trip out of the house. She remembered who I was, selected her own items to purchase, had a great time with me and even demonstrated her quick wit and humor!!! I’m so glad I recorded “10 Minutes with Mom” because it was absolutely priceless!! I’ll save it, because the next time I need I lift, I can always play it back!!  Love you mom! 

 

So, The Truth is Out!!

Today, Kim and I were emailing about Kendal, and my plan to teach her the names of all the States and US Territories and the US Presidents using my coin bear collections. In the midst of that conversation, Kim asked me how my mom was this week. Hmmmm. I thought about it for a minute and realized I hadn’t been to see her this week. And YEP I know why. My cousin JoAnne visited my mom last Sunday, and Tim went twice to take her some prescriptions and chat with her. 

So it was easy to say to myself that she had enough visitors this week and I’ll go next week instead. But of course that’s only half the story …. my half-truth. The entire truth is that I didn’t go because I was afraid that my mom wouldn’t remember my name again. My mom didn’t remember JoAnne’s name or who she was last week, but did remember that her name began with the letter J. JoAnne took fruit and pound cake, so of course my mom was busy eating and not focused at all on the name of the person who brought the goodies. After not remembering Tim a few months ago, she did remember him on both of his visits this week which thrilled him of course.

So, the question is will I visit my mom this week? YES I will, but not without some trepidation. What will happen???? Who knows!!! I’m really glad Kim asked me about my mom, because I may have ignored the issue for another week saying I was too busy with work and other stuff. Fact is, I was devastated by the fact that my mom didn’t remember who I was. But now that the truth is out, I’m ready to visit again. Whatever happens I’ll follow the advice of a great friend who often tells me to allow myself to “feel what I feel”. I’m praying that works. 

The great thing is, I’m pushing hard against Dementia, planning to get as many people as possible to recognize this horrific disease during the November for National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Love you mom, see you this week!!

I Knew This Day Was Coming!!

I had a great day today. Gave a really great presentation this afternoon at work, and finished it right on time. I left work smiling and really proud of myself! I headed to the CVS after work to pick up a prescription for my mom. Everything was going so well that I waited less then 3 minutes to pay for my prescription and leave. That was a new record for me at the usually very busy pharmacy counter.

I got to my mom’s group home at 5:13 pm exactly, which of course is dinner time. Because my mom eats very slowly, she was the only resident still at the dinner table. I knew right away. My mom smiled and said “Oh Hi!!”. It stopped me in my tracks, I smiled back said “Hi!!”. She said “it’s great to see you!”. This may not seem like a lot, but my mom’s usual greeting when I arrive is “Hi Retta!!” with all the excitement she can muster. It’s so heartwarming to watch her being so thrilled to see me. So, when she didn’t give her usual greeting today, I knew….. For the first time ever, my mom didn’t remember who I was. I played it cool and sat next to her as she finished her dinner, but I wanted to burst into tears and say really loudly, “it’s me Retta!!!!”. But what good would that have done? She asked me if she could go back to her room to read. I said yes. She asked If I knew where her room was and I said I’d take her there.  As we got up, the group home’s caregiver Angelina asked my mom who I was. My mom hesitated. After a long couple of minutes, she said as if seeking confirmation, “ummmm my daughter I think?” Angelina said, “yes, that’s right, what’s her name?”  My mom replied “I can’t think of it right now, but I think it will come to me”…. We waited and waited. it didn’t come. Finally I told her my name. My mom said “I like that name. Did I give you that name?”. “YEP”, I said proudly. “Good” she said, I picked a good name”. I was too distraught to say that I was named Loretta Anne after my father Lorenzo Anthony. After a few more minutes of chatter, I left ….. I immediately wanted to call Aunt Frannie and cry,…. but wait, that’s not possible given that Frannie died almost two months ago. So I sent a text to my friend who I knew would understand!! He gave me a virtual hug and I felt strong enough to drive home. I felt drained and defeated, but my love for my mom was as strong as ever. I know this isn’t her fault.. and I know I shouldn’t be hurt because she didn’t remember me, but I was.

After dinner I kept trying to push the fact that my mom couldn’t remember me or my name out of my head. And that she guessed that I was her daughter after much hesitation. Tears came to my eyes and THEN…… the phone rang. It was Kim, and our Kendal!! I quickly heard her say, “HIIIIIIIIIIIIII” as only an almost 22 month old can say. Immediately my heart was lifted. Kendal has trouble sometimes pronouncing the letter G, as in Grammy. But today, she clearly said in “GrrrrraaaaME” along with many choruses of “Hi Pappy”, also known as Tim. We yelled back and forth, over and over “Hi Kendal!!!!!”. During our conversation she also said “Miz U”, as in “I miss you” and “Wuv U” also known as “I love you”….. On this day, I didn’t care how she pronounced any words she said. What was important at that moment was that Kendal and I were having more of a conversation than I can now have with my mom. AND that Kendal knew me and my name without even seeing my face. Thank you Kim for having Kendal call on THIS heartbreaking night to say “night night” to us!!! It made me happy, and it  made me laugh on a night that I really just wanted to cry. Love you Kendal!!! 

I knew this day was coming!! It’s just occurred to me that as my mom’s words to me become less and less, simultaneously, Kendal’s words to and with me will become, (as she would say) “more and more”. Heartbreak and Happiness, it’s all a part of life, and I’m just working on conquering it all!! 

Nighty Night!!