On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Posts tagged ‘Caregiving’

I miss my Mom | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 5, 2022:

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a slightly updated chapter from my second memoir titled “Mom’s Long Goodbye:”

I miss Mom. I’ve missed her for a long time. For most of my life, I talked to her almost every day, but after Alzheimer’s invaded her mind, those talks gradually lost their meaning.

Mom was smart, but she was never an intellectual. She didn’t care much about politics or philosophy or current events. She cared about her family and the things that affected our lives directly.

She went to work outside our home when I was in third grade, and Jim and I became latchkey kids. It was a gentler time when children played outside unsupervised and walked or rode their bikes to school without fear. But Mom was cautious. We were required to stay inside when she and Dad were at work, and I was expected to call her when I arrived home from school.

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A Long and Winding Road – 99 cents through Monday, 11/15

My first memoir, A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos, is bargain priced in ebook format. Less than three days left to get your copy for 99 cents. To tweak your interest, here’s the first several pages that tell about how I survived a game of chicken between my motorcycle and a dump truck – and that was the highlight of my day!

2004

Thursday, September 9

Change

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee:
 he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

There it was—a dump truck, coming straight toward me on a road with no shoulders and no place to go. The Department of Transportation’s motorcycle safety course teaches you to look where you want to go, and the bike will follow your line of vision. That would probably have worked, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the truck. Instead, the world around me abruptly shifted into a slow motion action sequence with a one-sentence caption that crawled across my mind: You’re going to die.

Avoiding a collision should have been easy: slow a little, push a bit harder on the  right handgrip, and then swing back into my lane My adrenaline-drenched muscles were tensed for fight or flight, though, so easy wasn’t happening, and I leaned hard into the curve. With a death grip on the throttle, I revved the engine, straightening my trajectory and sending the bike straight into the path of the truck. The right footrest screeched against the asphalt and gave way under the weight of the 700-pound motorcycle. I pulled my left leg up toward my chest; rubber crunched metal as both the front and back wheels of the truck hit the bike.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know if a heavenly hand reached down and plucked me off the bike or if I tucked and rolled, bouncing up at the end like a gymnast after a tumbling run. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by bike parts: a headlight; the footboard, where my left foot had rested; and various, unidentifiable bits of chrome.

The bike was a blue 2002 Harley Heritage Softtail that I called the Blue Angel. She was beautiful, loud, and had chrome in places where most bikes don’t have places. When I rode her, I was powerful and beautiful and shiny, just like her, and I rode every chance I got. Now, she was lying on the side of the road with a trail of broken bits and pieces behind her.

In a daze, I wandered over and said to no one in particular, “I guess my riding days are over.”

My husband David was leading the ride. Out of sight around the next curve and deafened by the roar of his pipes, he was unaware of what was going on. James and Peggy, our neighbors and riding buddies, were bringing up the rear. James pulled up beside me and made sure I was still breathing before speeding away to catch up with David.

I watched him until he was out of sight, and then I sat down in the weeds to take inventory. Unlike my Angel, I was bruised and shaken, but not broken. My helmet was scraped, and the visor hung from one snap. There was a slight cut on the bridge of my nose from my glasses. My left foot hurt, so I took off my boot to check the damage. I didn’t find anything major, but my instep was swollen and turning blue, so I put my boot back on before my foot outgrew it. My elbows were skinned, and the length of my right thigh stung from road rash. A dull ache on my left hip presaged a huge bruise—but I was alive.

Peggy and the truck driver had just dragged my bike out of the path of oncoming traffic when an Arkansas Highway Patrol car arrived. The next few minutes were a blur of activity. I watched it all from the cocoon of numbness that surrounds you after a traumatic event. I answered questions when they were asked and signed my name when it was required, but mostly I thought about what had just happened.

I had been following David like always. He rides a black 2000 Harley Road King Classic. As we had been winding through the trees and hills on a beautiful two-lane road, I’d felt good, enjoying both the memory of David’s compliments about what a good rider I was becoming and the elegance of his riding style. Even after a couple of decades as a civilian, he still had his military posture, and he looked almost regal in the saddle. He had pulled ahead of me a bit, so I had given the Angel a little more gas—a little too much as it turned out. I had gone into a right-hand curve a little too hot and swung out just over the yellow line.

If I could just hit the rewind button and take that curve one more time.

Once the formalities were done and the shiny, twisted remains of the Angel had been towed away on a flatbed trailer, I climbed onto the buddy seat of the Road King. I was once again riding two-up behind David, leaning against his back with my arms around his waist the way I had the first time he took me riding when we were dating. shrunken caravan rode off in search of a place to eat dinner and lick our wounds.

Sitting on the back gives you time to think and pray. I thanked God for His mercy, amazed at what I had survived. I also asked why it had happened and if my riding days were really over. The only response I received in those moments of quiet meditation was a sense that I’d know when it was time to ride again. So far, I’m still riding two-up behind David.

Back at the condo, I took some pain reliever and soaked in a tub of hot water to ease my aches and pains. The pills and hot water worked on the physical woes, but they did nothing for the shock and horror of the images in my head, images of that truck coming toward me again and again. I joined the rest of the group in the living room and snuggled up next to David, looking for the warmth and comfort of his touch.

I was beginning to relax and unwind a bit when the cell phone rang. A flutter of anxiety made me catch my breath as it rang a second time. Only a few people had that number, so when it rang, it was usually serious. My first thought was of Mom and Dad who were over two hundred miles away.

In the fall of 2003, Dad had a mysterious neurological infection that landed him in the hospital for two weeks and in a rehab facility for three more. With her world turned upside down, Mom had an emotional breakdown, so she had stayed with us temporarily. She had delusions that Dad had died or run off with another woman, and when she saw him at the hospital, she called him “Mama.” Their snug two-bedroom house was not her secure little nest without him there, but she was afraid to be anywhere else.

Trying to meet their needs without neglecting my job or my husband did a number on my world, too. My neat, orderly little life turned into a chaotic mess. My perfect daughter, superhero alter ego took over, and I flew to the rescue.

I was the only one who could get Dad to eat, and I was afraid if I didn’t show up at the hospital three times a day, he would starve to death. I also spent hours with Mom, trying to calm her fears and cure her insecurities. This was when I experienced my first close encounter with the caregiver’s secret fear that it was my sole responsibility to see to the welfare of my parents. I thought that if I did everything right, my parents would get well and things would go back to normal. If they didn’t get well, it would be my fault.

After several months, Mom and Dad had both recovered from the trauma of his illness, but things had changed. They were back in their own home, but I still dropped by every day on my lunch hour to say hello and check on them. The yard on their little corner lot had been, at one time, well-tended and frequently admired by neighbors and passersby, but now it was unkempt, brown, and weed-choked. The hedges that had once been neatly trimmed now sprouted wild branches in every direction.

Inside was worse. The smell of unwashed bodies greeted me at the door, and the sigh of Mom and Dad sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, waited for me in the living room. The books and crossword puzzles that used to occupy their attention lay forgotten on the coffee table, along with piles of unbalanced bank statements and unpaid bills. The pantry and refrigerator that had once been stocked with fresh, nutritious food were either empty or filled with pre-packaged meals and snacks or leftovers that looked like a science experiment gone bad.

“What did you have for lunch?” I asked.

Each looked to the other for a response.

“I don’t remember.”

“You did eat, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know. I think we had a sausage biscuit around ten o’clock.”

Answers to questions about medications and doctor’s visits were equally vague. I reluctantly began to research care options, arming myself with as much information as I could. Eventually, some decisions would have to be made.

Not today, though. Today was supposed to have been a good day. We were on a motorcycle adventure with our neighbors, spending several days exploring new scenery and finding the curvy Arkansas roads that are like a Disney World thrill ride for bikers. The morning was beautiful, a perfect start to a day of forgetting about the real world for a while. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t so perfect after all.

When we stopped for a mid-morning rest, David whipped out his cell phone and called his buddy Roger, also a biker. Knowing Roger was at work, David greeted him with his usual taunt, Hey, man, where ya’ at? This morning, though, Roger had news. Delta Airlines, where David had worked for sixteen years, had announced that the DFW maintenance hangar would close and relocate to Atlanta in January. David was only fifty-six, too young to retire. He could relocate, but I wasn’t sure if I could work out a transfer with my employers. Starting a new career wasn’t appealing to either of us. Plus, what would we do about Mom and Dad? Then there was the truck, and now the phone was ringing.

The phone rang a third time, and I picked it up with a trembling hand.

“Hello?”

“Linda, this is Mary.”

Mary and I were running buddies before I met David, and we were still closer than she and her twin sister. She explained that she had received a panicked call from Mom.

 Mom had asked her to go check on Dad. He had gone to my house to pick kup the mail and feed the dogs, and he’d been gone for long enough that she was worried.

My heart was in my throat, unable to decide whether to beat wildly or stop altogether.

“Are they okay?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mary, “but you need to know what happened. When I turned onto your street I saw emergency vehicles in front of your house. The EMTs were huddled around Elmer. A passing neighbor found him lying unconscious on the sidewalk and called nine-one-one. By the time I arrived, he was awake, but he’s refusing to go to the hospital. I think you should talk to him.”

“Okay,” I agreed. My hand was shaking so badly I could hardly hold the phone while I waited for him to come on the line. “Daddy, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I don’t need an ambulance.”

“Maybe you could let Mary take you to the ER, just to be sure everything is okay. Would you do that for me?”

“Okay. I don’t see any need of it, but if it will make you feel better, I’ll do it.”

After I hung up, I sat with my head in my hands, feeling like I’d just been hit by another truck. As I fought back tears, the caregiver’s guilty mantra taunted me: I should have been there.

Mary called back a couple of hours later. “Linda, I took your dad to the ER. They didn’t find any real damage, so they sent him home. I’m going to spend the night with them and check on him periodically.”

He made it through the night with no further signs of injury. A later check with his doctor showed no major damage, either, but he has not been quite the same since. None of us have.

Available on Amazon.

Blessings,

Linda

Preface of A Long and Winding Road – Read It for Free!

A Long and Winding Road is on sale through Tuesday, August 10. You can read the Preface here for free, or you can buy the entire ebook for 99 cents at https://www.amazon.com/Long-Winding-Road-Caregivers-Chaos-ebook/dp/B00LDV3W50.

PREFACE

2004

Thursday, September 9

Change

Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee:
 he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22

There it was—a dump truck, coming straight toward me on a road with no shoulders and no place to go. The Department of Transportation’s motorcycle safety course teaches you to look where you want to go, and the bike will follow your line of vision. That would probably have worked, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the truck. Instead, the world around me abruptly shifted into a slow motion action sequence with a one-sentence caption that crawled across my mind: You’re going to die.

Avoiding a collision should have been easy: slow a little, push a bit harder on the  right handgrip, and then swing back into my lane My adrenaline-drenched muscles were tensed for fight or flight, though, so easy wasn’t happening, and I leaned hard into the curve. With a death grip on the throttle, I revved the engine, straightening my trajectory and sending the bike straight into the path of the truck. The right footrest screeched against the asphalt and gave way under the weight of the 700-pound motorcycle. I pulled my left leg up toward my chest; rubber crunched metal as both the front and back wheels of the truck hit the bike.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know if a heavenly hand reached down and plucked me off the bike or if I tucked and rolled, bouncing up at the end like a gymnast after a tumbling run. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by bike parts: a headlight; the footboard, where my left foot had rested; and various, unidentifiable bits of chrome.

The bike was a blue 2002 Harley Heritage Softtail that I called the Blue Angel. She was beautiful, loud, and had chrome in places where most bikes don’t have places. When I rode her, I was powerful and beautiful and shiny, just like her, and I rode every chance I got. Now, she was lying on the side of the road with a trail of broken bits and pieces behind her.

In a daze, I wandered over and said to no one in particular, “I guess my riding days are over.”

My husband David was leading the ride. Out of sight around the next curve and deafened by the roar of his pipes, he was unaware of what was going on. James and Peggy, our neighbors and riding buddies, were bringing up the rear. James pulled up beside me and made sure I was still breathing before speeding away to catch up with David.

I watched him until he was out of sight, and then I sat down in the weeds to take inventory. Unlike my Angel, I was bruised and shaken, but not broken. My helmet was scraped, and the visor hung from one snap. There was a slight cut on the bridge of my nose from my glasses. My left foot hurt, so I took off my boot to check the damage. I didn’t find anything major, but my instep was swollen and turning blue, so I put my boot back on before my foot outgrew it. My elbows were skinned, and the length of my right thigh stung from road rash. A dull ache on my left hip presaged a huge bruise—but I was alive.

Peggy and the truck driver had just dragged my bike out of the path of oncoming traffic when an Arkansas Highway Patrol car arrived. The next few minutes were a blur of activity. I watched it all from the cocoon of numbness that surrounds you after a traumatic event. I answered questions when they were asked and signed my name when it was required, but mostly I thought about what had just happened.

I had been following David like always. He rides a black 2000 Harley Road King Classic. As we had been winding through the trees and hills on a beautiful two-lane road, I’d felt good, enjoying both the memory of David’s compliments about what a good rider I was becoming and the elegance of his riding style. Even after a couple of decades as a civilian, he still had his military posture, and he looked almost regal in the saddle. He had pulled ahead of me a bit, so I had given the Angel a little more gas—a little too much as it turned out. I had gone into a right-hand curve a little too hot and swung out just over the yellow line.

If I could just hit the rewind button and take that curve one more time.

Once the formalities were done and the shiny, twisted remains of the Angel had been towed away on a flatbed trailer, I climbed onto the buddy seat of the Road King. I was once again riding two-up behind David, leaning against his back with my arms around his waist the way I had the first time he took me riding when we were dating. shrunken caravan rode off in search of a place to eat dinner and lick our wounds.

Sitting on the back gives you time to think and pray. I thanked God for His mercy, amazed at what I had survived. I also asked why it had happened and if my riding days were really over. The only response I received in those moments of quiet meditation was a sense that I’d know when it was time to ride again. So far, I’m still riding two-up behind David.

Back at the condo, I took some pain reliever and soaked in a tub of hot water to ease my aches and pains. The pills and hot water worked on the physical woes, but they did nothing for the shock and horror of the images in my head, images of that truck coming toward me again and again. I joined the rest of the group in the living room and snuggled up next to David, looking for the warmth and comfort of his touch.

I was beginning to relax and unwind a bit when the cell phone rang. A flutter of anxiety made me catch my breath as it rang a second time. Only a few people had that number, so when it rang, it was usually serious. My first thought was of Mom and Dad who were over two hundred miles away.

In the fall of 2003, Dad had a mysterious neurological infection that landed him in the hospital for two weeks and in a rehab facility for three more. With her world turned upside down, Mom had an emotional breakdown, so she had stayed with us temporarily. She had delusions that Dad had died or run off with another woman, and when she saw him at the hospital, she called him “Mama.” Their snug two-bedroom house was not her secure little nest without him there, but she was afraid to be anywhere else.

Trying to meet their needs without neglecting my job or my husband did a number on my world, too. My neat, orderly little life turned into a chaotic mess. My perfect daughter, superhero alter ego took over, and I flew to the rescue.

I was the only one who could get Dad to eat, and I was afraid if I didn’t show up at the hospital three times a day, he would starve to death. I also spent hours with Mom, trying to calm her fears and cure her insecurities. This was when I experienced my first close encounter with the caregiver’s secret fear that it was my sole responsibility to see to the welfare of my parents. I thought that if I did everything right, my parents would get well and things would go back to normal. If they didn’t get well, it would be my fault.

After several months, Mom and Dad had both recovered from the trauma of his illness, but things had changed. They were back in their own home, but I still dropped by every day on my lunch hour to say hello and check on them. The yard on their little corner lot had been, at one time, well-tended and frequently admired by neighbors and passersby, but now it was unkempt, brown, and weed-choked. The hedges that had once been neatly trimmed now sprouted wild branches in every direction.

Inside was worse. The smell of unwashed bodies greeted me at the door, and the sigh of Mom and Dad sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, waited for me in the living room. The books and crossword puzzles that used to occupy their attention lay forgotten on the coffee table, along with piles of unbalanced bank statements and unpaid bills. The pantry and refrigerator that had once been stocked with fresh, nutritious food were either empty or filled with pre-packaged meals and snacks or leftovers that looked like a science experiment gone bad.

“What did you have for lunch?” I asked.

Each looked to the other for a response.

“I don’t remember.”

“You did eat, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know. I think we had a sausage biscuit around ten o’clock.”

Answers to questions about medications and doctor’s visits were equally vague. I reluctantly began to research care options, arming myself with as much information as I could. Eventually, some decisions would have to be made.

Not today, though. Today was supposed to have been a good day. We were on a motorcycle adventure with our neighbors, spending several days exploring new scenery and finding the curvy Arkansas roads that are like a Disney World thrill ride for bikers. The morning was beautiful, a perfect start to a day of forgetting about the real world for a while. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t so perfect after all.

When we stopped for a mid-morning rest, David whipped out his cell phone and called his buddy Roger, also a biker. Knowing Roger was at work, David greeted him with his usual taunt, Hey, man, where ya’ at? This morning, though, Roger had news. Delta Airlines, where David had worked for sixteen years, had announced that the DFW maintenance hangar would close and relocate to Atlanta in January. David was only fifty-six, too young to retire. He could relocate, but I wasn’t sure if I could work out a transfer with my employers. Starting a new career wasn’t appealing to either of us. Plus, what would we do about Mom and Dad? Then there was the truck, and now the phone was ringing.

The phone rang a third time, and I picked it up with a trembling hand.

“Hello?”

“Linda, this is Mary.”

Mary and I were running buddies before I met David, and we were still closer than she and her twin sister. She explained that she had received a panicked call from Mom.

 Mom had asked her to go check on Dad. He had gone to my house to pick kup the mail and feed the dogs, and he’d been gone for long enough that she was worried.

My heart was in my throat, unable to decide whether to beat wildly or stop altogether.

“Are they okay?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mary, “but you need to know what happened. When I turned onto your street I saw emergency vehicles in front of your house. The EMTs were huddled around Elmer. A passing neighbor found him lying unconscious on the sidewalk and called nine-one-one. By the time I arrived, he was awake, but he’s refusing to go to the hospital. I think you should talk to him.”

“Okay,” I agreed. My hand was shaking so badly I could hardly hold the phone while I waited for him to come on the line. “Daddy, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I don’t need an ambulance.”

“Maybe you could let Mary take you to the ER, just to be sure everything is okay. Would you do that for me?”

“Okay. I don’t see any need of it, but if it will make you feel better, I’ll do it.”

After I hung up, I sat with my head in my hands, feeling like I’d just been hit by another truck. As I fought back tears, the caregiver’s guilty mantra taunted me: I should have been there.

Mary called back a couple of hours later. “Linda, I took your dad to the ER. They didn’t find any real damage, so they sent him home. I’m going to spend the night with them and check on him periodically.”

He made it through the night with no further signs of injury. A later check with his doctor showed no major damage, either, but he has not been quite the same since. None of us have.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road


Winding Road is 99cents

EBOOK SALE: 99cents through 8/10/21!

The story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend seven weeks touring the southeastern U.S. in a 40-foot motor home.

A reader says: This book was honest and real, funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. Reflections on all aspects of her life were insightful for anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a caregiver.https://www.amazon.com/Long-Winding-Road-Caregivers-Chaos-ebook/dp/B00LDV3W50

Connections | by Linda Brendle

Connections | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on May 25, 2021:

Writing is all about communication – about sharing thoughts and ideas through the written word – and about the connections that are made through that sharing. A writer often doesn’t know when those connections happen, but one of my favorite parts of writing is when a reader reaches out through a review, a comment on a blog or Facebook post, or an email to let me know about a connection.

An early connection happened when I was just beginning to be active on social media. Facebook groups had not yet popped up, at least not in the numbers that exist now, so I contributed occasional articles to several independent websites. One article was about my anger as a caregiver. I admitted lashing out in frustration and anger at my Mom when I first began caring for her only to realize later that my anger, and the underlying fear, were really about the Alzheimer’s that was taking her away from me in a way I could neither understand nor control.

Shortly after the article went live, I received a comment from a young woman whose mother had suffered a fatal heart attack many years before when she was a teenager. The older daughter had driven them all to the hospital, and the teen was confused by her sister’s apparent anger at her mother. After the mother’s death, the sisters were not completely estranged, but they never talked about the situation, and their relationship had not been the same. After reading my article, the younger woman approached her sister, and they talked. After exploring their feelings and reactions on that night that had changed their lives so many years before, healing began and their relationship was restored. Although we exchanged a few more comments, we didn’t strike up a friendship. Still, those written words established a point of connection based our similar experiences.

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Mom’s Long Goodbye – Prologue & Chapter 1

MLG Promo 2 Read the Prologue and Chapter 1 for free. If you want to read further, get the ebook for $.99 at Amazon.

PROLOGUE

You Say Goodbye, but You Don’t Go Away

Genesis 24:56 (KJV) And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

Some people have a hard time saying goodbye. There are the false-start types. When it’s time to leave, they say, “I’d better get on home now,” but they stand in the doorway, keys in hand, and talk for another fifteen minutes. Sometimes, it takes them several more attempts before they actually make it out the door.

There are also the revolving-door types. They make it out the door quickly enough, but they pop back in several times to retrieve something they forgot or to tell you one more thing. I tend toward the second type, and I have a friend who finds it amusing. On my second or third round trip back, she smiles knowingly and says, “You say goodbye, but you don’t go away.”

There’s another type of person who takes a long time to say goodbye. It’s not a loveable personality trait that makes them linger in the doorway to tell you just one more thing or a quirky forgetfulness that makes it difficult to leave. Instead, it’s tangled knots of nerves in their brain that become encrusted with plaque and steal them away from their loved ones a piece at a time. Mom was one of those people. She had Alzheimer’s, and it took her fifteen years to say goodbye.

CHAPTER 1

Fear and the Red Photo Album

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

 Mom was afraid for a long time. I found evidence of her fear in an old, red photo album, the kind with a thick cardboard cover bound with braided cord. It had a rose embossed on the front, and I sat on the floor, wondering what forgotten pictures were inside. Instead of pictures, there were articles. Page after page of neatly clipped and mounted stories about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Stories of symptoms, stories of promising theories, stories with more questions than answers, stories of Mom’s first steps into the darkness.

#

Mom was always a fearful person, especially when she was alone. Dad worked nights several times during their seventy-year marriage. She sometimes told the story of being a young bride, left alone in an isolated country house while her groom worked at the ice house every night. One evening, she was awakened from a restless sleep by a terrible noise. She later described it as sounding like someone was trying to get into the house straight through the wall of her bedroom. She had no phone and no close neighbors, so she huddled in the center of the bed, trembling with fear and wondering how long she had left to live.

The noise continued for a while, but when the walls didn’t splinter and the threat didn’t seem to increase, she screwed up her courage and crept outside to investigate. She slipped down the front steps and peeked around the corner, and there, she saw it. An old milk cow was chewing on the grass that grew up beside the pier and beam foundation that supported the house. She laughed about it after the fact, but she and I had a replay of sorts years later when I was in my early teens.

We lived in the city by then, and Dad still worked nights, this time at the post office. My older brother, Jim, was away at college, so Mom and I were on our own. I was sound asleep when I was awakened by an urgent whisper.

“Linda! Come in here. Somebody’s trying to get in the window.”

I jumped up and ran into her room. She was sitting up in bed, her back pressed against the headboard with the covers drawn up to her chin.

“There,” she said, pointing to the window beside her pillow. “Somebody was scratching on the screen.”

I sat on the side of the bed for a minute, staring at the window. The closed window shade was backlit by a full moon and gave off an eerie glow. Suddenly, a shadow passed across the window, and I scooted under the covers and into Mom’s arms. We sat that way for a few minutes, but when there was no further movement or sound, curiosity overcame fear, and I slid out of bed and tiptoed to the window. I pulled the shade away just far enough to peek out.

“I don’t see anything. I’m going to call Dad.”

Without turning on a light, I went to the phone that sat in its recessed nook in the hallway wall. All the modern houses had them. Like a blind person reading Braille, I slid my fingers over the dial, counted the holes, and dialed the number.

“Dad, I think somebody’s trying to get in. Something was scratching on the screen in your bedroom, and I saw a shadow on the shade.”

“Did you look out?”

“Yes, I peeped out and couldn’t see anyone.”

“Okay. Stay away from the window. I’m going to call the police.” “Okay.”

Within minutes, we heard a car pull up in front of the house and saw the beams of flashlights as Mesquite’s finest investigated. Then, we heard a knock on the door.

“We didn’t find anything, Ma’am, but we’ll have a patrol car drive by here frequently for the rest of the night.”

When Dad got home the next morning, he found us still huddled together under the covers. He immediately went out to investigate; he was laughing when he came back inside.

“I didn’t find any footprints or anything, but I did find some evidence. There were rat droppings on the window sill.”

We took a bit of kidding about being afraid of the dark, but Mom wasn’t just afraid of things that go bump in the night. She was afraid in the daylight, too. She was afraid of making a mistake, afraid of looking foolish in front of others, of being embarrassed, of being looked down on.

She had a beautiful voice and helped lead the singing in her tiny, country church when she was a teenager. That was before air conditioning, when church windows actually opened and congregations cooled themselves with cardboard fans provided by the local funeral home. One Sunday morning, a fly flew in an open window  and straight into Mom’s mouth as she sang. She was so embarrassed she became reluctant  to lead the singing. Not long after that, she learned that the former song leader had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Fearful that his singing might have contributed to his illness, she retired from her leadership position and rejoined the congregation.

She had other musical talents, too. She learned to play the guitar by watching her uncles when the kinfolks gathered for a songfest, and she also played the piano by ear. We had an old player piano we inherited from one relative or another. The player mechanics had been removed, Dad had refinished it, and Mom spent many happy hours playing honky-tonk tunes and old gospel favorites. When we moved from a small West Texas town into the suburbs of Dallas, though, she feared that city folks would look down on her country origins, so she did her best to cover them up. Her guitar was relegated to the back of her closet, and the piano was made available for me to practice the Old Masters favored by my piano teacher.

Mom also feared illness and physical infirmities of all kinds. She was born with yellow jaundice, as it was known in the country, and she was sickly as a child. As an adult, she endured a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, a hysterectomy, three spinal fusions, and the removal of a deformed kidney, so she saved her best nightgowns for her next trip to the hospital. She feared falling victim to any epidemic or new disease that made the rounds of the morning talk shows. In spite of her fear, or maybe because of it, she often developed the symptoms of those diseases. What she feared most, though, was Alzheimer’s. I didn’t realize how much until I found that old photo album. Mom and Dad lived with us for six years before they went into assisted living. By that time, neither of them was capable of making the decisions necessary in downsizing. I went through their personal belongings and made piles: things to pack, things to store, things to donate, things to throw away. I found trash, and I found treasures—and I found the photo album in the bottom of one of Mom’s dresser drawers. I wonder how long she lived alone with her fear before the rest of us suspected.

Blessings,

Linda

Signed Paperbacks Available | by Linda Brendle

Banner CroppedIn this day of tablets and ebooks, I believe that many readers still prefer the experience of paper and ink. Several recent events gave me the chance to confirm that belief while meeting and getting to know some of those readers better. In a ten day period, I had a book signing at a local flower and gift shop, I attended a book club meeting where the first of my two novels was discussed, and I had a table in the exhibit building at our local county fair. Writing can be a lonely pursuit until the author moves out from behind her keyboard and interacts with the lives she touches. It was so much fun to talk with people about my life and theirs, and it was especially fulfilling to hear from those who had read my words and had been touched by them. And it was encouraging to meet some who were anxious for me to sign and sell them one or more of my books so they could read what I had to say next.

The most surprising incident during that time, though, didn’t happen at any of the events I mentioned. Instead it happened on Facebook. I received a message from a friend I met many years ago in a hospital in San Antonio. She was the chaplain, and David was in ICU with a concussion after doing a front flip over his windshield when his Harley came to a sudden stop. We haven’t seen each other since then, but we have kept in touch electronically. In her message she asked me how she could go about getting signed copies of all four of my books. We exchanged addresses and details, and she should have her books any day now.

It occurred to me that there may be others like my San Antonio friend who would like print copies of one or more of my books but would like something more personal than an Amazon purchase. So, I’m making a public offer: an autographed paperback of any of my books – or all of them – for $10 each plus $2 each for postage.

Memoirs :

A Long and Winding Road by Linda BrendleA Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos: The story of the hilarity and chaos and chaos that happen when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend seven weeks traveling across the southeastern U.S. in a forty-foot motor home.

 

Cover MLGMom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort: Mom’s goodbye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine. (This is the follow up to Winding Road – the rest of the story.)

Christian Fiction:

Final_Tatia's Tattoo Cover trim sizeTatia’s Tattoo: As a successful D.C. lawyer, Tatia’s mission in life is to destroy the sex trafficking trade in small-town America. She knows where to find it. She’s been there. Filled with tragedy, crime, redemption, and love, Tatia’s Tattoo is a story that exposes the sordid underbelly of small towns and shines a light of hope on how the evil might be defeated.

Fallen Angel Final Cover FrontFallen Angel Salvage (Tatia’s Story, Book #2): Tatia and Jesse have a perfect life in Chicago. Her testimony put Eric in prison in Texas twenty years ago. How could anything go wrong? An old black van. A missing child. Tatia and Jesse race through the city streets with a band of bikers while Johnny and Jade dig through the dark web and Detectives Nelson and Martin pound on doors. Will it be enough? Or will their daughter become another statistic?

Interested? Email me at lindabrendle@yahoo.com and we’ll work out the details. Payment can be made by check or PayPal.

Blessings,

Linda

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

How a writer gets even | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 10, 2019:

Seeing myself in a bookKnowing a writer can be dangerous. You never know when you’ll see yourself in print. I learned that when my son Christian wrote his first novel at 16 years old. I recognized myself in the over-protective mother who woke her son each morning with a cheerful Good morning, sunshine. Over the years I’ve seen my politics and religion displayed to the world. I’ve cringed as my failed marriage was discussed, and I’ve cried when he thanked me in one of his first published books for showing him what it means to be a person of faith. There’s always payback though. He showed up a lot in my memoir and even more often in my blog. Maybe that’s why I started to write. As the saying goes, don’t get mad, get even.

When I began to write my first book, I worried about what people would think if I wrote about them. That’s part of being a co-dependent, always wanting everybody to be happy. My memoirs aren’t of the Mommy, Dearest type, but the people in my life aren’t perfect. When writing about real people, I never write in anger, and I write gently but truthfully, following the Apostle Paul’s admonition to speak the truth in love.

That kind of writing can be difficult when the subject is caregiving. Dad would have beenToo many socks mortified to know that I wrote about his hygiene issues, and Mom would have been embarrassed for people to know that she sometimes put four socks on one foot and two on the other. But that was part of the truth about caregiving, and I told my stories in hopes that other caregivers would be encouraged to know they’re not alone, inspired to continue living in spite of hardships, and maybe even be amused by some of the ridiculous situations that dementia causes. Based on the responses I’ve received, those hopes have been realized.

So far I’ve not had any complaints from people who have become part of any of my books. Hopefully, that means I haven’t offended anyone and not that they are quietly plotting revenge. As I’ve expanded my writing platform to include frequent blogs and a weekly newspaper column, I’ve received much more feedback from people who recognize themselves in print. Responses range from an excited I made the paper to an increased discretion in my presence. One particularly long conversation at the Senior Center about what kind of screws one of the guys was going to purchase at Hooten’s after lunch ended up as a City Girl column. For a while after that, any time someone started to say something interesting, the speaker would look at me with caution and say, “Don’t write about this.” One of the most direct confrontations I’ve had, though, came one evening several years ago.

“It’s for you,” David said as he held his cell phone out to me.

I knew who it had to be. It was our RV friend who always calls just as we’re sitting down to dinner. But why did he want to talk to me instead of to David?

“Hi,” I said. “What up?”

“Shame on you for quoting me in your blog,” he said.

“But I didn’t use your name,” I said.

“Right, but I know what I said.”

I heard a smile in his voice and laughed with him.

“I was just reading your blog and had to call you. Go enjoy your dinner, and I’ll talk to you later.”

killing characterI’ve continued to write about what I know and who I know. And to my dear RV friend, here you are once again – and no, I’m not ashamed. I’ll make you a promise. If you decide to become a writer, feel free to write about me as long as you speak the truth in love. I promise not to get mad – but I might get even. And one more word of warning – since I’ve expanded my repertoire to include fiction, I have other weapons in my arsenal. If you make me mad, I’ll write you into one of my books as the main villain, and I’ll kill you off!

 

Blessings,

Linda

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Two Memoirs about Alzheimer’s Caregiving by Linda Brendle

A Long and Winding Road by Linda Brendle         56161812_524092914662317_2745872214099230720_n

Buy A Long and Winding Road:      Ebook     Paperback

Buy Mom’s Long Goodbye:     Ebook     Paperback

A Long and Winding Road

Alzheimer’s is a family disease, and this is a love story – not a boy meets girls love story, but a family love story. It is the story of the love between a daughter and her parents and her willingness to take them into her home when they could no longer care for themselves; the story of a mother and a father who loved their daughter but no longer remembered exactly where they were or why; the story of a husband who loved his wife so much that he stood beside her as they fought to survive the ravages of the brain-wasting disease that was stealing her loved ones away a piece at a time. It’s also the story of a seven-week trip for four across sixteen U.S. states in a forty-foot motor home – a trip that involved stopped up toilets, wet jeans, laughter, and headaches that were far from the easygoing retirement the Brendles had imagined for themselves.

Linda Brendle takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and spiritual challenges that many families are facing right now. Co-dependency, mental breakdowns, and finding love after divorce are just a few of the issues weaved into this journey of caregiving.

 A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos is the story of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a 400-square-foot box on wheels.

 

   

Mom’s Long Goodbye

Mom’s good-bye began with a red photo album and ended fifteen years later in a hospital bed in the Alzheimer’s wing of Southridge Village. This is her story and mine.

My first memoir told of the chaos that happens when four people, two of whom have Alzheimer’s, spend fifty-three days in a forty-foot motor home. It also told of the years and the life experiences that brought these four people together. After finishing it, many readers asked what happened next. Mom’s Long Good-Bye is the rest of the story.

Based on blog posts written as the events happened, this memoir takes the reader through grieving a continuous loss, some of the initial changes Alzheimer’s causes, the transition from caregiving to assisted living, Dad’s death, Mom’s last year, and the grief and closure of her final good-bye.

This book is for the millions who have experienced the heartache of witnessing the physical and mental deterioration of a loved family member or a dear friend. Mom’s Long Good-Bye strips away the façade of being the perfect caregiver and gives the reader a look at the denial, the anger, and the fear that come as a loved one loses herself a piece at a time to an insidious disease. By sharing her own struggles, the author assures other caregivers that they are not alone, that perfection is not required, and that comfort is real.

 

Blessings,

Linda

Alzheimer’s was… | by Linda Brendle

Alzheimer’s was the evil plaque in Dad’s brain that changed him from a hard-working, easy-going man into a cranky, ill-tempered couch potato.

Alzheimer’s was a thief. It stole Mom away a piece at a time and left me to grieve a loss that went on for years.

Alzheimer’s was a twisted comedian that made me laugh at the ridiculous things Mom did while I cried inside because of the reason behind her antics.

Alzheimer’s was the demon in my head that made me impatient with situations that were no one’s fault and angry at an opponent I couldn’t defeat.

Alzheimer’s was the monster in the closet or under the bed that changed our lives forever once the doctor spoke its name.

But Alzheimer’s was also the loser.

In spite of his difficult final years, Dad left a legacy of peace and love that lives on in the family he left behind.

While Mom’s past disappeared along with her memories, she also forgot the social anxieties and fears that had plagued her all her life and became a real party girl.

The wardrobe mishaps and other silly incidents often led to shared laughter and hugs that made life feel almost normal if only for a moment.

As the good days became fewer, I learned to cherish them when they came.

When Mom’s vocabulary was down to only a few words, one of those words was Jesus; and even to the end, she always responded to music.

Both Mom and Dad passed from this life without a struggle and with peaceful smiles on their faces as they looked into the face of the One who cares for the least of these.

I have found solace in knowing that my task of caregiving was completed not perfectly but well, and I have found comfort in sharing our story with others who are going through the same thing.

Read more about my family’s fight with Alzheimer’s in Mom’s Long Goodbye: A Caregiver’s Tale of Alzheimer’s, Grief, and Comfort released by Anaiah Press on March 12, 2019. Ebook now available at Amazon; print format available soon.

Blessings,

Linda

MLG_Final

Buy it at Amazon

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