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Posts tagged ‘Mom’

Mom’s Long Goodbye – Prologue & Chapter 1

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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.

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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

Observations from the sick bed | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on February 6, 2018:

sick_coldTo be accurate, the title should read “Observations from the sick chair” because every time I lie down, I cough so much that no one in the house, human or animal, can sleep. I’ve spent most of the last several days and nights in a recliner trying to find the perfect angle of recline that allows me to rest without hacking up a vital organ. However, regardless of the state of my health, deadlines come around on a regular basis, so in this week’s column, I’m sharing a few things I’ve observed during my illness.

  1. One of the little known symptoms of the common cold is writer’s block. I may haveBlank notepad and pencil mentioned that when a blogger or columnist experiences a lack of creative inspiration, she often resorts to a list.

(more…)

City Sister and Country Sister | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on September 5, 2017:

HR 90th BDMom was born on September 3, so she’s always on my mind during this season. Every year I post a picture of her on Facebook that was taken six years ago on her 90th birthday, her last one on earth, and then I spend most of the day thinking about her. Last Sunday, probably because I was also thinking about what to write in my column, I remembered what a city girl she was in spite of the fact that she spent her first nineteen years on various farms in west Texas. (more…)

The Button Box | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on July 4, 2017:

ButtonsMy work day as part-time secretary at Believers’ Baptist Church is flexible. As long as I get the work done, Pastor Jason doesn’t care too much what time I arrive or what time I leave. I try to be at my desk no later than 9:30 so I can accomplish a little something before David and I leave at 11:00 to go to the Senior Center, but I frequently have trouble sticking to my own timetable. There’s always one more chapter to read, a chore I left undone the night before, or some wardrobe malfunction to deal with. Last Friday morning, it was a button. (more…)

Photo Memories of Mom’s 90th Birthday | by Linda Brendle

Mom was born 94 years ago today. On her last birthday this side of Heaven we had a birthday party for her, and the following year, I shared some of the pictures with you. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately, so I thought I’d share them again. (more…)

Bible Verses for Caregivers – Peace versus Disorder | by Linda Brendle

Disorder versus peace

 

On Mom’s 90th birthday, we had a party for her at Southridge Village where she was living. Two of her three remaining sisters, Grace and Fay, were there. Grace and Mom both had Alzheimer’s, so getting a decent photo was a bit like trying to hold corks underwater. Finally, Fay moved to the middle of the group, and with characteristic good humor and calm, she took control and brought order to the chaos.

Paul said that God is a God of peace and not disorder. He was speaking of the confusing worship services that occurred in the church at Corinth when everyone wanted to preach or prophesy or speak in tongues all at the same time. However, I believe we can apply the same principle to our lives in general. When our lives are full of disorder and confusion, if we will make room of God in our midst, He will bring order to the chaos.

NOTE: If you would like to see the photo blog of Mom’s birthday party, CLICK HERE.

Blessings,

Linda

BlackFriday2

winding road Cover 25 percentA LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos

Available now in ebook format at:

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Bible Verses for Caregivers – Kind Words | by Linda Brendle

Kind Words Prov 16 24

Mom exhibited the first signs of Alzheimer’s in what I call conversational loops. She would tell the same story or ask the same question three times in five minutes. Unfortunately, I didn’t always respond with kind words. The possibility of losing her to this mind-wasting disease frightened and angered me, and sometimes, I took it out on her. One morning while she and Dad were still living on their own, I stopped by to take her to the doctor, and she was having a bad morning. I guess I was, too. I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but she looked at me with hurt in her eyes and said, “Well, you don’t have to make me feel bad about it.” I don’t have to tell you how small I felt.

Later on, when they were living with me and she was further away mentally, she would come to me in an agitated state. She would struggle with words, trying to express whatever concern she had. More often than not, she was unsuccessful, and her agitation increased. Fortunately, I had mellowed a bit, and most times I responded more kindly. Wrapping her in a big hug, I’d smile and say, “It’s okay, Mom. Why don’t you go back and watch TV with Dad. I’ll be right here, and you can come tell me when you remember what it was.” She would relax and smile, and then she’d go sit down until the next time she needed some kind words.

Blessings,

Linda

winding road Cover 25 percentA LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos

Available for $6.99 at:

B&N // Kobo // iTunes // Amazon // Smashwords // Google Play

Hodgepodge Wednesday – Mothers’ Edition | by Linda Brendle

It’s been a busy day, and I almost forgot my Hodgepodge Wednesday post. Happy Mother’s Day to all.

1. Share something you appreciate (or something you appreciated as you were growing up) about your mother.

 Mom had lots of anxieties and insecurities, but when strength was necessary, she rose to the occasion.

2.  A quote most commonly ascribed to Plato reads “Necessity is the mother of invention.” When did this last play out in your own experience? (more…)

Senior Humor – Edition 19 (Lost Cars and Brain Farts) | by Linda Brendle

seniors laughing 2 041712I don’t usually write my “Senior Humor” posts this close together, but I had a story left from last week’s post, and David forwarded me a video that I just had to share.

An elderly woman called 911 to report that someone had broken into her car. She was hysterical as she explained her situation to the dispatcher.

“They’ve stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the brake pedal and even the accelerator!”

“Stay calm,” said the dispatcher. “An officer is on the way.” (more…)

Music and Alzheimer’s: The Memories of Music Live On | by Linda Brendle

Piano keyboardMusic allows patients who are normally shut off from the world to participate in enjoyable activities and connect with loved ones. It may also sooth agitation and smooth out other behavioral issues.

 Music Has Power

I’ve read several articles recently about the connection between music and Alzheimer’s patients, and all of them agree that music has power. An article on the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America website states that “[music] can spark compelling outcomes even in the very late stages of the disease.” It goes on to explain how music allows patients who are normally shut off from the world to connect with loved ones and to participate in enjoyable activities. Music is also a valuable tool in managing agitation and other behavioral issues. (more…)

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