Being Frank with the Shot Put Queen

Our adoption agency asked the three of us to be on a panel to speak at one of their home study meetings last Friday. You could feel the anticipation and see the excitement and fear in the eyes of the parents-to-be.

We had those same feelings when we were going through our adoption process. It is always nice to try to help the ones who are just getting started on this adventure. They seem to delight in seeing and hearing Alli, an almost grown, adopted young lady who is doing well.

Our Alli has been home 2 weeks now, and her maturity is beginning to show. She seems to have shed the teenage need to argue so much, and is taking responsibility around the house without our prodding. She’s been exploring her creative side, working on projects instead of just sitting around with her laptop while she rests up from last semester.

It’s been nice to run errands with my sidekick again. We sing in the car and have some great talks and laughs.

We visited with Mom over the weekend. She was in bed, didn’t talk much and kept dozing off. It’s marijuana at work, and it’s doing its job.  Her appetite has increased and she sure does smile a lot. She seems so much more physically stronger and her spirit seems more up. It helps to see her just looking better even if her mind isn’t working.

When I went to see her last night, she was in the dining hall sitting at a table with two of her fellow residents, Essa and Frank.  I observed before I joined them. They are like little kids who don’t know each other, not talking, but watching the other.

Mom forgets that when she is using one hand, the other one still works. She will chase something in a bowl across the tray with her fork, not using the other hand to hold the bowl.

Essa noticed this and my heart was warmed when she reached over and, with both hands, held the bowl for Mom while she took a spoonful of food.

Like a child, Mom didn’t even acknowledge this gesture.

Frank, was quiet…for about three minutes.

I asked him if he was from the area.

Open the floodgates of conversation, please. OH MY.

Now I know all about Frank’s family, their jobs, their homes and how much his son makes.

As I wheeled Mom out of the dining room Frank called after me,

I didn’t know you were so tough!”

I suppose he was just being Frank.

What?

Tough?

I suddenly felt like a biker chick, or maybe a shot put thrower.

Maybe he said that because I told him that like his grandson, I too loaded trucks at UPS (back when there were only two women on our shift). I still have the biceps to show for it. Not pretty, but not shot put thrower arms either.

I chuckled to myself.

Mom smiled proudly. I don’t know if she even understood what he said or if she was glad she’d raised a tough gal.

Or maybe, Mom was enjoying the wheelchair ride down the hall. (She had no idea where her room was.)

She was in a chipper mood and we had a good time visiting even though the conversation is always the same.

I brought her a little soft, stuffed bear, and she named it Smiley. During the course of the evening, she asked me at least half a dozen times what we had named it. ☺

She will ask why she’s where she is and is surprised about the seizure, the testing, the hospital, the nasty nursing home where she spent a week, of moving to this good place.

When we go over the whole story again, she very confidently states that she has only been there for a couple of days.

Next to her bed is what looks like a child’s worksheet page from elementary school. On one side is a list of questions where she has filled in the blanks and on the other is a calendar for May. The days are marked off.This is part of her therapy.

She held it up and asked what it was.

“A calendar”

“For what month, June”?

Does she mean the month of June, or is she once again thinking I’m her sister, June?

I point out the word, May at the top. I think it’s sinking in. Then she looks at the marks and asks what day it is. I ask her to tell me.

While I change the water in her flowers and organize the clothes in her closet, she studies it and ten minutes later comes up with, “the thirtieth?”

I point out the first day not marked out, and she replies, “OH, it’s the 21st!”

I ask her to look at it again.

She gets it right. It’s the 23rd.

I flip over the paper and ask her the simple questions on the back; her name, birth date, where she is, her room number, why she is there.

She answers about half of them correctly.

She enjoys looking at the photos on my phone and this night she doesn’t seem perturbed that I ask her a million questions. She seems to enjoy our game of “guess that face”. Sadly she does not guess many correctly.

Still, she seems to know me and although some details she gets mixed up, the fact that she’s smiling makes me feel that it’s not that bad.

Some days are not so good. When Dad asked what she had for breakfast one day, she snapped, “DO NOT STARE AT ME when you ask that question!”

I made a snotty little sister joke about my brother needing to grow up and out of his teen years, and she came to his defense from a nap I might add, and shouted, “GARY IS AN ADULT!”

Yikes.

Before I left last night, I helped Mom with her bedtime routine, got her changed and into her favorite PJ’s and tucked her in. I noted that she had her new stuffed bear in her hand under the covers. I hope Smiley keeps her company during these days.

When I leave, I always take Mom’s face in my hands, look into her far away eyes and tell her that she’s the best mom in the world and that I love her. She always replies that I’m the best daughter in the world and that she loves me. Nothing left unsaid.

Back home, while she thinks I’m just puttering around the kitchen, I watch Alli working on a project. She’s so young and vibrant. Life is spread out before her like a colorful map.

Mom is nearing the end of the road, and her colorful life is spread out like a well used map behind her.

It’s so odd to be here in mid-life, but I’m embracing it. It definitely has a middle-child feel. I’m not a teen nor young adult. I’m not just beginning my family like those people at the adoption agency. Yet, I’m not old. This summer, my roles seem reversed. Many times I feel as if I’m the child around Alli and I’m the mother around Mom.

I will enjoy the youthful energy of my child and the childlike behavior of my mother as they both find their way.

Instead of my heart feeling heavy like it has for the past few weeks, right now it feels light and full of gratitude.

Have a wonderful long weekend.

XOXO,

Libby Lu

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Sundowning in Neverland with a Little Weed

I’m going to leave my bedroom window open just in case Tinkerbell and Peter stop by for me.

I really could use a trip to Neverland.

Growing up beyond just being responsible has never been on my bucket list.

Since my mother’s event last month, I have never felt so much pressure to be a big girl. There is an urge to stamp my foot and yell, “HEY! I’m the baby of the family. I’m exempt from having to help make any adult decisions.”

That’s not the way it is though. The adults in my family have had to come together to make sure Mom is cared for and that all bases are covered.

As I said in last week’s post, I’m still learning from my mother.  Recently, she has given me huge lessons in adult reality.

I have gone stoically where this normally crazy, over sensitive gal has never gone before.

Every doctor or nurse who comes into my mother’s room when I’m around is subjected to a long list of questions. I have talked with nursing homes, therapists, hospice care, insurance companies and Medicare staff. I’ve researched drugs, and Alzheimer’s and dementia sites.  I have fed my mother, changed her, cleaned her bottom side and her dentures, done her nails, rubbed lotion on her hands and told her stories.  The world of adult diapers, wheel chairs, walkers and functional status testing is very real to me now.

When I last wrote, Alli was on her way home from college. What a fine reunion it was. In route from the airport to the nursing home, I filled her in on the condition of her grandmother.

My Dad and brother had Mom sitting up in her wheelchair, her hair done and a couple of extra chairs in the room for us. Thank goodness Mom knew Alli and was glad to see her.  She looked so much better that night. It made the news easier for her granddaughter. Now that Alli has seen her this week and both times she has been having a good day, she must be wondering what all the sadness and worry is about.

Alli has had fun this first week home, catching up with friends, unpacking, visiting her old school and looking for a job. ☺ It’s great to have her back in the nest.

Today, I discovered why Mom has been so smiley and has had a few good days this week.

They began an appetite stimulant for her.

It’s medicinal marijuana! She’s a pot head!

Dronabinol (Merinol) is synthetic Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active chemical in marijuana.

Well, that explains a lot.

The woman has kept us entertained with her confusion (pre- Marinol). There’s nothing to do but enjoy it and laugh. She would do the same if she were in her right mind.

The day of her seizure she didn’t seem that much more confused in the ER, but the next day was different. She was being moved a lot having an EEG, MRI and CT scan. At the end of the day, she was very upset and wild. She began pulling the electrodes from her chest. She pulled the IV from her arm. She kept pulling and tugging at her gown, at the wires, at her catheter. It was like watching a two-year old on speed. If we tried to stop her, she became angry. By the middle of the night, they brought in a pair of mitts for her hands to keep her from harming herself or unplugging anything else. Every minute she would ask what they were.

“They are your mittens.”

“OH, its winter! Who gave them to me?”

“The doctor.”

“Whose mittens are these? Are they yours? Did you make them?”

“No, they are yours.”

“Why, is it cold outside?”

It was exhausting at night to have her fighting the mittens, the wires and tubes and asking the same questions a million times. Those nights in the hospital, she rarely slept. She was wired.

This is called Sundowning Syndrome. It’s a stage some people with dementia go through at night. It has to do with the circadian cycle and is exacerbated (always use this word with caution) by any changes to the patient’s normal day or schedule.

Mom has become ambidextrous and utensils are optional at meals. A previous bookworm, she no longer reads and she can’t follow a TV show, but she likes to watch the birds outside her window. She smiles at them. I asked if she could hear them singing and she said, “Yes. That’s what I got stuck in my throat!” When I asked, “What?” she said, “I got birdseed stuck in my throat.”

Most days she knows our family, but sometimes she gets our place in the line up confused. She thought Larry was her husband and she also said he was Top Chef. She thought he was on a cruise ship and had come in from Hawaii to see her.

She flirts with the cute male nurses.

When I told her that Dad had gone home to sleep, she got this hateful look and asked, “Who is he sleeping with, my mother?” It took a while to convince her otherwise. Her mother has been deceased for 18  years. And of all people, my Dad nor Momma Doye would never be unfaithful.

Many times she thinks I’m her sister, June and she never remembers her younger sister’s name but calls her “the spoiled one.” Once when she thought I was June I asked, “How is Libby doing?” and she shook her head in disgust and replied, “Libby is ALWAYS doing something.” I was glad she quit talking about me before it got ugly.

Mom thinks her parents and other people who have passed from this life are still alive. She’s asked several times if her parents knew she’d “gotten herself into this mess.”

If you ask her where she is, she will give you the names of other hospitals, or even churches. If you ask her why she is where she is, she thinks it’s for her sinus drainage.

There were 2 boys and 1 girl in our family.  She tells people she has either three boys or three girls. Many times she will ask how my girls are doing, and refers to Alli as “the youngest one.”

Here’s what’s interesting about this; if all of her babies had lived, she would have had 3 boys and 3 girls. So, when she thinks of me as having 2 girls, is she thinking of the baby I lost?

Mom‘s sense of time is off.  Part of the functional testing is to ask her dates and names. When the nurse came in the other night to do the usual battery of questions, I was so exhausted, had lost track of the days and when she asked Mom what the date was, I drew a blank along with her.

Mom unbuttoned her shirt and exposed her bare chest one evening. When I tried to help her button it back up, she became angry and said, “I’m trying to button my shirt. Why do you keep unbuttoning it?” This went on for a good half hour. She unbuttoned. I buttoned.

Well, the little man across the hall enjoyed that little show. (Do men ever stop looking at breasts?)

She can’t remember the names of foods. I asked her how the pork was. She said, “Its chicken. Well, its okay, but when you’re expecting squash…”

I was trying to encourage her to eat and said, “If you’ll eat, you’ll be strong like Popeye!” she replied, “Or weak, like tea!”

Sometimes when Dad is fussing at her to eat and he turns his head, she sticks her tongue out at him.

She had a bite of bread at dinner and exclaimed, “This is so good. It’s done the way they do it in the Navy!”

See, Mom is in Neverland.

Remember that old saying…Once a man, twice a child? I guess this is what that means.

Most times she doesn’t seem to understand her predicament, so my deep, one-sided conversations with her don’t sink in. She has this far away look in her eyes. Sometimes I stare into them and wonder what’s going on in her head. One night when I was doing just that, after a long stretch of silence she said, “When you are like this, think of this.”

I will Mom. I will.

But for now I have to enjoy the funny stuff. It’s the only way I can cope…unless she wants to share the Marinol.

If you can hug your parents, do so. Go hug your kids. With all loved ones, leave nothing unsaid.

Love,

Libby Lu