Moments with Mama…it is what it is.

I walked in at Mom’s yesterday to take her for a ride around town.  Our wonderful caregiver, Sharon, was with her, and Mama just smiled when I walked in like she knew me and had not seen me in years.  She does that every time I see her and it never gets old.  While Sharon was explaining how Mama’s day had gone, and that she’d all but fallen on the steps, Mama looked at me and and in that pleading, worried voice said, “Bobby?”.  I almost naturally said “I’m not Bobby” or “Mama, I’m Tracey” but I stopped myself.  I realized it didn’t matter.  She wanted me to be my Bobby so I said, “Yes?”.  She asked in her garbled language if she could go with me and I said “Yep!  Grab your pocketbook and let’s go to Zack’s!”.  And off we went, me, Mama and the Bald Eagle…. my heart breaking.

My brother had just been saying last week that he doesn’t believe Mama knows who Daddy is anymore, that she just knows she is safe with this person.  She’ll be in the room with Daddy and ask where he is; she’ll go looking for him or his truck while he’s sitting next to her. I now believe my brother is right (don’t tell him I said that).

But after this happened, I helped Mom out to the truck.  She’s walking so slowly now, her gait changing rapidly.  She’s leaning to the left as she walks, losing her balance.  She’s not picking up her feet hardly at all, it’s just different.  She came so close to falling twice the past few days. Thankfully someone was close enough to catch her.  And last night her face was twitching on one side badly.  We’re all concerned this could be signs a stroke has happened and we’re taking her in tomorrow.

This and the other changes are escalating so quickly at this point and there’s not a darn thing we can do about it.  I have never been so helpless or frustrated with a situation in my life… we all feel this way.  To take her to the doctor to hear yet again it is what it is…this is to be expected… there’s nothing we can do.  It steals your belief in helping her to get better, knowing no rehab, no treatment, no medication can do one darn thing.  What is there to believe in other than knowing my Lord and Savior has a place waiting for her where she will be Linda, be Mama, again. But still, to hear there’s nothing we can do…

…it’s like watching a person drown while your hands are tied behind your back.  You see it happening, you want to jump in and save them, pull them to the shore, but instead you have just sit and watch it happen.

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Moments with Mama… Inside Those Eyes

Moments with Mama….

I didn’t think my rushed nerves could take 15 minutes to watch the video below but I’m so glad I did – it’s like it was written for me and Mama, about me and Mama.  https://youtu.be/P1TCnxkvEiQ

There is an indescribable feeling sometimes when I look into Mama’s eyes, really look, up close, like she’s going through a big stack of photos in her mind trying to remember who I am, trying so hard to tell me to wait, she’ll figure it out.  It’s almost fearful watching her try so hard and wondering if she does remember but can’t find a way to tell me, wondering if she’s “inside trying to get out.”

Mama fell yesterday, something we fear and dread and watch for, but it was in the split moment I’d turned my back.  I don’t know why or how she fell but the look on her face as she looked up at me when I got to her, the look when I bent to help her up, was so lost, so afraid, so confused, and the clutch on my arms as I helped to lift her is hard to think about even now, like she didn’t want to let go, didn’t want me to let go.  Within seconds, the fall had vanished from her memory, bittersweet I guess, while it was forever etched in my racing heart.

There are many things I miss about Mama but today all I could think about was being able to call her and say, “How long do I cook so and so?” or “How do I fix so and so?” or “Is this meat in the fridge too old to eat?”  LOL, and hearing her say, “Oh no, don’t eat that!” or “Just throw in a little of this or that, it’ll be good.”   I rarely go in the kitchen and not think about those calls (okay, my family is saying you rarely go in the kitchen at all) but you know what I mean.  Mama never taught me to cook much because she was working full-time and was so tired when it was time to cook, for me to be under her feet was not an option… that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

She’s in there, I know she is, and I know the dark is closing in like a pinhole getting smaller.   I just miss Mama and wish I could shine a light in there and scoop her up and bring her out, hear her laugh one more time, hear her answer her phone one more time, but it won’t happen.  While the light gets smaller, I can only pray it is a sweet soft light that is gentle on her soul and that she’ll feel us loving her and Him holding her hand.

I just miss Mama.

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Moments with Mama… not her last birthday

Today, my Mama turns 10256500_10202135196642966_1320535855714234026_o77.  I don’t know about you but the older I get, the younger that
sounds.  It hit me this morning though, that in Mama’s world, her last birthday was around age 70…. she seems to be stuck in or around the year 2008.  For women, forgetting your last seven birthdays may not be a bad thing!  But truly, she’s stuck in that time period and still thinks of her grandchildren as the ages they were then thus explaining partially why they are strangers now as young adults.

I got it on my mind last night, what did we do for Mama’s “last” birthday… which one was it?  Was it memorable?  Did we all go over to see her, take her out to eat?  What did we get her?  Did we know it was the last one she’d remember?  Of course
we didn’t.

It brought to mind again that mindset of how do we know when it’s the last time we’ll say goodbye, the last time we’ll see someone as they drive down the driveway or kiss them as they walk out the door?   So many amazing lives lost daily, some this week that have broken my heart, and no one could have known.  One man in particular, Mr. Marvin Patterson… I can’t stop thinking about him and the effect he had on me and so many others.  When he was present, he made you smile, you couldn’t help it, you just flat out couldn’t help it.  You laughed with him and at him as he gave the umpires hell (he was yelling out all the things we chickens wanted to yell!).  You always wondered what misadventure he’d had happen to him lately, what his opinion was on something because he had one and it was always a good one.  I’m so thankful the last time I saw him, yes, I was worried about him, he looked a little more feeble than he had in years past, but he made me laugh just like he always did and he was smiling, just like he always was.  Did I know we wouldn’t see him again after that, of course not, but so glad to have that last smile to remember.  He made you want to leave people that way.

This past Sunday I returned from a trip with some of the most special people in my life whom I only get to see twice a year.  I’m so thankful for them and while we pray to be back together in January, God forbid we’re not, we left Sunday knowing we laughed, cried, hugged, made memories (ho, ho, ho), and we made it count, and for that and them, I am so thankful.

But with my friends, we know it’ll be several months between trips and we cherish that time together.  What about those we see every day?  It makes me wonder what makes us so comfortable today that we don’t treat our moments together as if they’re the last and make them the best.   If you’re like me, even today after the losses I see people have, I always think I’ll do better tomorrow… or surely nothing will happen today.  With the health of the Bald Eagle and even my Daddy’s stress, I won’t deny if I got a call saying something had happened to one of them, I’d be devastated beyond words, but surprised?  No.  What would be our last moments together?  Memorable or mundane?   I’m embarrassed to say the answer to that.

Anyway, back to Mama’s birthday.  While she has no idea today is her birthday, we’re taking her out to eat, showering her with flowers and a cake since gifts just don’t mean anything at all at this point, and I realize this is more for us than her.  She won’t remember it tonight when she goes to bed…. but we will.

A challenge…  think often if I’m making my time with others memorable or mundane and pray memorable is all there is so when I leave this planet, there’ll be a lot of people who smile or laugh or even shake their head when they think of me!  Making even the simplest moments with our families, friends, even the stranger at the grocery store, memorable or mundane…. which one is it today, it might be the last one.

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Rosanna Rosanna Danna

I got to sit with Mama early this morning and I just let her sleep as long as she’d like.  She finally got up around 8:30 and moseyed around the house not even realizing I was there. I watch her shuffle her little feet from her couch she likes to sleep on to Daddy’s room first, the usual routine, to see if he was there.  When he wasn’t, she shuffled to the kitchen window looking out into the garage to see if his truck was there.  Then she looked for a snack in a few drawers and cabinets and then shuffled right past me to the back door looking out to the driveway to see if anyone was there, probably looking for Daddy’s truck. Finally, as if she just realized she was alone, she turned around and saw me and just smiled.  She sat down in Daddy’s chair and I asked her several times if she wanted to put on her clothes or go get breakfast and she never answered me.  It was as if the fog from being asleep had to clear or couldn’t clear perhaps.  She kept staring at me occasionally smiling.  Finally, I was able to convince her to let’s put her clothes on and get ready for the day.  Off to the bathroom we go.

I got Mama dressed and as is always the custom, she then heads to the bathroom mirror to get pretty:)   Until a few weeks ago, even in the throes of the disease, we could watch her sort of brush her teeth, which she can’t do anymore – she’s tried brushing them with everything from deodorant to hand soap.  We could watch her put on her makeup – she now puts toothpaste where blush used to go.  And then she’d brush her hair.   Today, she stands there looking in the mirror not knowing what to do, waiting, and I wonder if she sees herself or is she looking at a stranger.

Anyway, we don’t do makeup anymore, that faded completely away a few weeks ago. She’d strangle me for this but I think she looks prettier without it.  But while standing at the mirror, I pulled out her hairbrush… and the tears came.  So hard to type this really.  I had a huge flashback to being in elementary school.  Mama was working full-time, which she did for my entire life until she retired.  She was always running around like a mad woman in the mornings, imagine that, and getting me ready for school in the midst.  This was quite the chore primarily because of my hair!  Does anyone else remember Rosanna Rosanna Danna played by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live?  Well, that was me, or so I felt, a head full of bushy brown hair.  And poor Mama, she would be standing there in her white slip… I can still remember that so well…. and she’d be almost panting, running behind, and trying to get that brush through my hair, pulling and tugging, trying to put little rubber bands in it to make pigtails, and me screaming and crying the entire time. This was our morning ritual.  Poor Mama.

Today, I stood and brushed Mama’s thick head of hair, that beautiful gray thick head of hair, the hair she used to keep “frosted” and I would beg her to stop.  She finally did, not by her own choice, and it’s beautiful, just like her.  And I didn’t mind brushing it one little bit; after all, how many times did she do that for me… maybe with me screaming:) but she did it because she’s my Mama.  And I’ll do it for her because she’s my Mama.

RossanneRosanna Rosanna Danna (I had the hair and the dumb look, LOL).

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One cell at a time…

I stumbled upon this song today by Jerry Lansdowne dedicated to his mother with Alzheimers.  Just had to share the lyrics because they’re exactly what we think Mama must feel or have felt back in the earlier stages…..

“I’m not me anymore”

I’m breaking
I can feel it inside
Something’s taking over my mind
Causing page after page of memories to fade
Into nothing
I’m losing more of me everyday
It’s confusing
I feel lost and betrayed
As places and things faces and names
Fade into nothing

I’m not me anymore
Not who I used to be, anymore
There’s a thief running loose in my head
A thief who won’t rest till I’m dead
Stealing my mind one cell at a time
Till I’m nothing

I hate this
I can’t run, I can’t fight
I can’t take this
I feel buried alive
I don’t know who I am
Just a shell of some man
Left with nothing

I’m not me anymore
Not who I used to be, anymore
There’s a thief running loose in my head
A thief who won’t rest till I’m dead
Stealing my mind one cell at a time
Till I’m nothing
Just nothing
Nothing

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Moments with Mama…. the Fear

So I broke down and watched Still Alice …alone…. probably not a wise decision.  As some of you know, it’s about a 51 year old woman diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer Disease, her family, her quick deterioration, her children being tested for the disease.  I sobbed the entire movie, the ugly kind of sob.  The odd thing was I was confused as to what all I was sobbing for; I was trying to figure it all out when the answer should be obvious – wasn’t it the whole “Alzheimer Disease Sucks” theme?  Yes, but it was more.

For the first time perhaps, I really started to think about Mama and the way she was, and what in the world she must have been going through when the disease first started overtaking her at 68 we believe.  Mama was never one to talk about it and I will never forget the first time we told her as a family that we were worried about her and just wanted her to go to a doctor for tests.  She got angry, which was extremely uncharacteristic for her, and stormed out of the room.  We were all shocked and confused and it was never discussed again with her.  Some time later, when she’d reached a point that we went to the doctor with her without too much resistance, her doctor told us that his notes indicated she’d first told him in 2006 that she was worried about her memory.   That was a whole two years prior to our seeing the first signs!  For two years, she’d worried about it alone.  For two years, she, like Alice, had wondered what was wrong, had to have known it was escalating, but masked it from us somehow.  What was she feeling as she’d do the things that told her she was sick, why couldn’t she tell anyone?  This woman who still had so many years to love on her family, to live her life, to travel during retirement, to just live…. it was all slipping away and she had to be so sad and so frightened.

I sobbed during the movie watching Alice’s husband.  The man with dreams, a career still, lots of life left to live, just like my Daddy… the man who never questioned his support of his wife, it was his duty, it was part of his life for the rest of his life or hers.  Alice depended on him just like Mama depends on Daddy, the similarities eerily similar. But I watched the man in the movie and cried for Daddy… while we all know that Mama would never, ever have had this happen, the reality and ugly truth is he’s given up on what was left of his life to live, the travels, the new ventures (always my Daddy), the things we seeing him now let slide that would have been motivating for him years ago, the disease took or is taking his life as well. He’s always been so in control of everything and for once, he’s met his match, something over which he has no control.

And embarrassingly, selfishly maybe, I sobbed for me, for Mitch.  I almost panicked watching some of the movie thinking about things that I do, that we do, that worry us.  As anyone knows who has a parent with the disease, you become so paranoid at everything you do involving memory, everything.  I admit to desperately fighting the fear at times, crying in my car or after I go to bed, worrying about something I’ve done that day, praying for God to not let me do this to my children, to allow me to grow old with my future grandbabies, my own babies, and yes, even with the Bald Eagle:)  I know, I know, we all lose memory as we age, but you constantly ask, “is this normal?”  I just have to pull up my bootstraps and determine not to let the fear suck out my life.

So, I say all that to say, that the movie was excellent although I can’t imagine finding out at 51… I will be 51 this week.  The movie was also heartwrenching and frighteningly realistic. Watch it at your own risk… with a box of tissues.

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Glimmers

GLIMMERS…

For Mama

​These dark​ corners in my mind keep expanding, trying so hard to consume the light.

​But even in the darkest dark, these glimmers still come and go, glimmers of light like riding through a tunnel with windows, glimmers of images, of familiarity.

I am confused why they do not stay.

So many faces that I should know… why don’t I?  I don’t understand.

People who act like they know me, who say they are my friends.  They are kind, I am kind, but do I know them?

The darkness seems to cover them in some way, fades into their faces so I can barely see them.  I am confused.

On some days, ​I see a glimmer, one that shows me the man’s face who is so familiar, the one who says he is my son. I ​am confused.

I ​know Mitch​, the man I raised, the good boy,​ but​ is this him?  I should know my own son, why don’t I?

This man comes into the light and he does look like my boy but then the glimmer fades and I don’t see him anymore. I want the glimmer back. I love my son.

​I see Tracey, sometimes I see Tracey. I know my daughter too, don’t I?
This woman who says she is my daughter, my baby girl, she changes with each glimmer, but I think I know her. I know I do sometimes.

I am confused why she does not stay, why the woman says she is her, but she’s different than the day before.   I am thankful when I see the glimmers that contain her.

My comfort lies in the one glimmer that remains constant, I cling to it, I trust it to lead me through the dark corners and pray it stays as the remaining light completely fades.

Bobby is my rock, he remains in the light.
My stronghold.
I am confused why he feels he needs to take care of me.

Am I okay? Is there something wrong they’re not telling me?
I am confused.
I cling to the glimmers and pray they never go away, they’re all I have…

please don’t let them go away.

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Taking Mama home…

Moments with Mama…. are moving back to the country.   We moved Mama into memory care about three weeks ago and yesterday, Daddy brought her back home.   Many of you have asked about her and Daddy and it means so much.  Daddy brought her back home yesterday, his heart was broken leaving her in memory care, he did not feel it was time. It was a learning experience for us all and while there were days she did so well, there were days that were almost unbearable to leave her.  I tried hard not to feel guilty, I want what is best for her and for Daddy, Mitch and I both do, but yet I won’t deny, there were days that were so hard.  But she walked back into her home yesterday as if she’d been out picking up the sticks in the yard, one of her favorite things, not as if she’d been gone three weeks.  We don’t know what this next phase will be but it’s coming whether we’re ready or not.

GLIMMERS…

For Mama

​These dark​ corners in my mind keep expanding, trying so hard to consume the light.

​But even in the darkest dark, these glimmers still come and go, glimmers of light like riding through a tunnel with windows, glimmers of images, of familiarity.

I am confused why they do not stay.

So many faces that I should know… why don’t I?  I don’t understand.

People who act like they know me, who say they are my friends.  They are kind, I am kind, but do I know them?

The darkness seems to cover them in some way, fades into their faces so I can barely see them.  I am confused.

On some days, ​I see a glimmer, one that shows me the man’s face who is so familiar, the one who says he is my son. I ​am confused.

I ​know Mitch​, the man I raised, the good boy,​ but​ is this him?  I should know my own son, why don’t I?

This man comes into the light and he does look like my boy but then the glimmer fades and I don’t see him anymore. I want the glimmer back. I love my son.

​I see Tracey, sometimes I see Tracey. I know my daughter too, don’t I?
This woman who says she is my daughter, my baby girl, she changes with each glimmer, but I think I know her. I know I do sometimes.

I am confused why she does not stay, why the woman says she is her, but she’s different than the day before.   I am thankful when I see the glimmers that contain her.

My comfort lies in the one glimmer that remains constant, I cling to it, I trust it to lead me through the dark corners and pray it stays as the remaining light completely fades.

Bobby is my rock, he remains in the light.
My stronghold.
I am confused why he feels he needs to take care of me.

Am I okay? Is there something wrong they’re not telling me?
I am confused.
I cling to the glimmers and pray they never go away, they’re all I have…

please don’t let them go away.

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A few flowers…

I shared this with a couple of friends last week but it’s been weighing heavy on my mind still.

For those of you who have been through Alzheimers or dementia with a loved one, you will understand.  For those of you haven’t, and I pray you don’t, you will come to realize one day that the person you’ve known your whole life is gone.  And unlike death, you see their physical body standing before you and usually for years, they look the same as they always did.  But eventually, it empties itself of the person you knew.

I was riding Miss Daisy the other night and we went to Lowe’s for me to pick something up.  They had these gorgeous flowers outside, which I always admire but which I never purchase because I know nothing about flowers.  That was always Mama’s thing and she (nor I) had time for her to teach me.  For a brief moment, I debated on asking Mama what I should buy to put around my front porch at the studio and at the house, both of which look like they’ve been abandoned as far as landscaping, and while I knew her answer, it was still hard to hear, “I don’t know.”  I walked her over and asked her if I should do this one or that one…. still “I don’t know.”  It was a difficult moment for me because it was another reminder of Mama being gone.

Mitch and I both would hear Mama say at some point “do you want me to put some flowers around your mailbox” or “do you want me to put some flowers around that lamp post” or something like that and we’d always say yes, not really thinking about it again as life was busy and flowers were not high on the list.  But then we’d come home from work one day and lo and behold, there they were.  It might be a small patch here or there but there they were.   It didn’t matter if they were your favorite flower or not, just the fact that the little flower fairy herself had come over there while we were gone and did that meant everything.  They were usually always pansies by the way and I do love pansies…. of course, I can’t look at a pansy now without thinking about Mama.

But we left Lowe’s and I realized Mama was gone.  My sister-in-law used to tell me when her Daddy was like this that her Daddy was already gone.  His body was still there and she loved him and would take care of him, of course, but the Daddy she knew was gone. I never really grasped that until now.  Mama that used to cook and laugh and plant flowers and play Rook and fuss about the post office and take her friends to lunch…. is no more.  That physical body is still hers and sometimes she looks at me and I see her in there for brief moments at a time when she can remember my name.  But others, the shell seems so empty and lost like she’s in there and can’t get out.  I will always love this part of her and take care of her until her last breath, or mine, but it breaks my heart to think about her the way she was and knowing how mortified she would be to see herself this way.  It simply sucks.

Her birthday is tomorrow and we’ve struggled with what to do for her… crowds send her over the edge at times, staying at home does too…  she doesn’t even know it’s her birthday. Which sometimes I wish I could forget mine:)

I miss you already Mama…  and happy birthday.

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Pajamas and the pocketbook…

So many of you have messaged me or asked me when we were out and about how Mama is doing and it touches my heart each time. I’ve not shared a post in quite a while. Quite frankly, the daily changes we’re seeing are squeezing out the ability to find the laughter. We still try and often it’s laughter through tears but it is what it is. Mama’s changing before our eyes at this point, as fast as Daddy is wearing out. Each day her words are more mixed up than the day before. Her sundowning is getting progressively worse, it shifts hours, and is unpredictable. At 9:00 the other night, after having had her pajamas on and Daddy thinking she’d gone to bed, she came back in the room fully dressed with her pocketbook, that darn pocketbook (there’s a smile), wanting to know where they were going. Physically, she’s shuffling her feet a lot more and the doctors can’t believe she’s not falling yet. Based on each of her MRIs, she should be. How do they know that stuff? But now she gets choked a lot in the middle of the night so Daddy not only sleeps with one eye open but one ear to the next room. He’s had to get up with her choking many nights but what if he doesn’t hear her? This is just some of where we are.

We still ride her almost nightly. Last night, I helped her put on pajamas thinking how my Mama would have never have let anyone do this for her. I remembered how many years I watched her help my grandmother, her Mama, do it. And I find myself thinking daily about my children having to do these things for me and it can make me terribly sad. I know they’d do it with love as I do but it’s still so frustrating to know it’s out of my control if it happens. For those of you who have been through this, do you have those same fears? Why do we worry about things we can’t control? Are you paranoid about everything you do that might indicate your memory’s not what it should be? I did something the other day that scared me to death and I still can’t think about it without tears but it happens more and more often, paranoia or not.

Anyway, as we finished putting on Mama’s pajamas, she put her hands on my shoulders, looked me right in the eyes, and I saw Mama in there for that moment, it was the strangest feeling, and she said, “I’ll never forget you.” It took my breath for a moment. She gets her words so mixed up now causing us to do a lot of interpretation and I didn’t know if it was her way of thanking me for helping her or if she knew what she was really saying. Regardless, those words were heard. I know reality is she is forgetting me some each day, all of us, but for that moment, she knew me and knew in that instant she wasn’t planning to forget me not realizing it’s out of her control.

It’s harder and harder to find moments to share but not as hard as it is to watch this horrible disease take over someone you love. We talk often about how hard it is now to remember how Mama was before this. Sometimes I lay awake trying to remember and I simply can’t.

Now to get corny which you know I can do… we’re all going to be a memory to someone someday right? What kind of memory will you be? And we’ve all heard it before but I encourage you wholeheartedly to not put things off, to not only make memories and savor them, but capture little moments every day – I don’t care how old you are reading this. There are so many ways! The sad truth is almost all memories fade and sadly, people die suddenly every day, young and old, or are struck by tragedy or disease. Think now about someone you love who is not here anymore…can you remember the details? Some day someone will be trying to remember those things about you. Yes, they’ll remember you were their parent, spouse, best friend, and that you loved them or they loved you, but will they remember…

~what your laugh sounded like;
~those crazy ideas of yours (I’m leaving my friends several volumes of those, LOL, they each get one – you know who you are)
~your quirks and habits;
~your favorite things;
~the things that made you you or them them.

You don’t have to do a whole page journal every day but why not…

~a couple of sentences on a calendar like “Johnny called today, so proud of him” or “had lunch with GG today, she always cracks me up” or “Baby Joe slept a whole six hours last night, thank God!” or even “Sue got bad news today, we cried together” – think about someone reading those little quips one day, just a quick note about something or someone every day. Moments you don’t want to forget and moments you want someone else to know you thought about.

WebJournal

~Save or send little things, like that card you’ve been meaning to send, that will make someone smile one day when they pull them out again. I treasure the cards and notes I receive and save every single one and it’s made me more aware of sending them too.

Card

~Start your own blog like this, even if it’s private. I have a diary one that’s just me and “finding my bootstraps” capturing these crazy life changes but I love to type. Do I do it daily, nope, but I’m getting better.

~Do videos, even a video diary, gosh I wish we had more videos. The ones we have of Mama are older and few but they mean everything now, to hear her voice and her laugh… there are no words. But those same videos seeing my babies in them, thinking I would remember that first Christmas or the one they got WAY too much…well, the several, but I wouldn’t trade those videos for anything and I know they will feel the same way.

I challenge you, along with myself, to do it. And I welcome you to share what YOU do here, what you’ve done, to capture someone else or to capture yourself. We’re all in this crazy life together, we’re all here for now, just from one moment to the next quite frankly, but someday, we really are going to be a memory, so let’s make it a good one and leave a few of them here for someone we love while we’re at it.

The end of corny (for now).

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I knew it was coming…

Night before last, I was driving Miss Daisy as we like to say when we’re driving Mama around.  This is the time of day we literally take turns driving her around the county to keep her happy and to give Daddy a break mentally and physically.  It’s her sundown time, her toughest, his toughest, and it keeps expanding.  Now it starts about 3 p.m. and ends around 7 or 8 p.m.  And by the way, when we’re out riding, I realize Mama would make a good “Yard of the Month” judge – she critiques everybody’s yard as we go by.  If you ever want an honest opinion on how your yard looks, just let me know and we’ll do a drive by, LOL, free of charge, or I can tell you what she’s already said!  She’s a rather tough critic so be prepared.  If I hear “boy they’ve let their yard go” one more time…  I should keep a list of those.

Anyway, Mama and I were sitting in my car waiting for someone who was meeting me and she looked right into my eyes and said, “Do I know you?” and smiled a very slight smile like she was trying to be friendly while asking the question. While Mama has forgotten Mitch’s name almost entirely, forgotten really everyone’s name but mine and Daddy’s, it was hard to hear although I knew in my heart these times were coming.  I looked at Mama directly in the eyes and it was one of those moments, so strange to think my own Mama was looking at her daughter’s face and didn’t know who she was but yet she felt safe with me obviously.  It was like her eyes were so empty but her face, her face was that of my Mama.  I asked her as lightheartedly as I could, “Oh come on, you don’t know who I am?” and bless her heart, she studied my face as if trying so hard to find me, as if she so desperately wanted to know who I was, and slowly shook her head no. I wanted to cry but didn’t want to scare her.  At the same time, I was almost oddly prepared as I knew it was coming.  I asked her if she knew her daughter’s name and she said Tracey.  I asked her if she thought I might be Tracey and she said, “I don’t know.”  Within seconds, she looked away, looked back, and said, “What are we waiting on?  We can go now.”  Mama doesn’t like to sit for long.  So off we go on our tour around Mebane and our occasional venture into Burlington, which means packing a lunch as I like to say when I have to go that far.  

One thing about it, Mama may not remember much, but she can sure tell me how to get to where I’m going… “Don’t we need to take this exit?” and “Don’t we need to turn here?” and she’s right every time.  And if you drive past that road or that exit, be ready to explain.

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Mother’s Day….

As I think about today, I am thankful, but there are so many varying emotions that go through my mind as I am sure many of you can relate to.  And memories…  thinking about how every Mother’s Day we religiously went to church and how Daddy religiously brought in a red flower for us to wear and then a white one for he and Mama once their Moms had passed.  I will never forget the significance of that.

I’m so thankful God gave me the three children He did.  I love them all more than life itself.  I wish every day I could do more for them, could be more, could take stress off of them, could solve all their problems, but the best I can do is be their Mom and be the best Mom I can be, which doesn’t always happen, but I am grateful every day for the opportunity and that they still love me no matter what.

I think about all of those sweet women I know and even those I don’t who want so desperately to be a mother and I simply cannot imagine that feeling and I want it for every single one of them. My heart and hugs go out to them and my prayers go up that one day, they will hear someone call them Mama.  it’s easy to sit here and say it’s all for a reason but that doesn’t relieve the pain I am sure. 

I think about mothers I know who have lost a child or who may be losing theirs as we speak for whatever reason and as they each come to mind, it overwhelms me.  I again cannot imagine and I pray for them to find strength to get through another day, especially this day, and to feel God’s arms wrapped around them tighter than ever.  

I think about my friends and relatives who have lost their Moms or whose Moms don’t know them anymore.  While I want to wallow in a little self-pity over our situation, I think about those who would give anything to hold their Mama’s hand one more time and I can do that today.  My husband and his brother and sister who lost their Mom last year, my sweet mother-in-law, I am sure their Mother’s Day feels so different than mine and I do miss her terribly.  She treated me like her own daughter from the day I walked in her house and I loved her so much for that.  She was so sad towards the end though and so lonely for Dad Ebert…. it was a happy day for her to see Him and to see him but a sad day when we said goodbye.  

So many going through such a wide range of emotions today.

And then I think about Mama.  I think with Cassie’s graduation this weekend, it kept my mind off today.  However, it hit me this morning when I woke up that this may be the last Mother’s Day she calls my name.  My cousin, Diane, shared this week that her Mom didn’t know her anymore and it broke my heart and I know that next year, in all reality and likelihood, that will be me.  Mama’s circle of recognition has narrowed to just me and Daddy. I don’t know why and I know it’s short-lived but I am grateful to still be in that tiny circle of recognition.  My brother… she knows she knows him somehow but she can’t look at him and know his name anymore. My brother’s a tough cookie but I know it hurts.  

I didn’t mean for this post to be a Debbie Downer because this is a joyous day, truly, and I am so, so grateful to be able to hug my Mama today. I meant for this post to be just another reminder to love our Mamas.  If you have yours, oh my goodness, love on her, do for her, spoil her today, thank her today,  We don’t know which Mother’s Day will be the last one we have for any reason and I know there are many who would give anything for just one more. I hope we all have many more but why wait “until next year” …. don’t let this Mother’s Day go by. 

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Life as we know it…

Daddy, Mama, and I were supposed to leave on a trip to Pennsylvania with Daddy’s church group today. We were to return on Wednesday.  However, when Mama made such a big turn a couple of weeks ago, we decided it was best not to take her on that long bus ride up there and back.  Thankfully, Mitch and I convinced Daddy to go ahead and go and leave Mama with me.  He really needed this trip and sadly, we know Mama won’t go on another one.  And just as sad, we don’t know how many more Daddy will be able to take either, not unless we force him to go without her which just tears him apart.

Mama’s sundown set in about 2:30 today, earlier than I’ve ever seen it, and every few seconds, it was…..

“Where is your Daddy?”

“Where is my Daddy?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me”

“I’m going to go take a nap” to which she wanders into her little den and returns saying “I’m going to go take a nap” and goes again.  

In one of her rounds, she said she didn’t think her daughter wanted her anymore.  When I asked her why, she said she didn’t know.  I asked her if she knew where her daughter was and she said no while looking into my eyes.  You learn not to take things personal. Later, I asked her if she knew me and she said, “You’re Tracey, my granddaughter.”  

In the midst of the nap routine, her brain started adding that we had to go get supper to which I would reply “Okay, in a little bit.”  I was doing the best I could to put her off until at least 4:00.  At one point, she walked out the door with her pocketbook (that darn pocketbook:) and I watched her round the corner to the garage.  She came right back panicked and saying “I can’t find my gun!”  I thankfully knew she meant pocketbook and I knew what she’d done… we found it in the car.  At this point, I caved and off we went to Mebane.   

I often record my conversations with Mama now, mostly because they’re so hard to believe, and also so I can keep her voice.  I turned on the recorder as we got in the car and before we left the garage, she asked me three times where we were going.  And then, 19 times in the first 7 minutes, this was our recording:

Mama:  Where are we going?

Me:  Where do you want to go?

Mama:  I don’t care, you make the decision.

Me.  We’re going to Wendy’s.

Mama:  That’s up to you.

19 times in 7 minutes…..  

I had to laugh because after saying Wendy’s 19 times, and getting within eyesight, she said she wasn’t hungry…. crickets.  I decided at the last second to go to Zaxby’s and as we passed Wendy’s, she said, “Aren’t we going to Wendy’s?”  I went to Zaxby’s anyway and as we drive away with our food and pass Wendy’s again, she asked “Aren’t we going to get something to eat?”  with no recollection we just had. I should have just gone to Wendy’s.  

Finally the supper talk subsided and the crying and fret has started.  Our routine so far tonight is (and I just realized it’s only 7 p.m… I am typing this as she comes back and forth in the room literally:

“Where is Daddy?”

“Where is my Daddy?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me”

“There are people talking in my head” 

“I don’t know what’s waking me up”

“Do you want me to come in here with these people?”

“Those people keep coming up the driveway but they’re not out there”

“I feel bad I’m not out there helping”

“They just left my daughter for my son outside”

“I don’t know who I’m talking to”

“I don’t feel like I know the way to let them in”

“Those people keep telling me I’m talking”

and so on…actually getting a little scary at times.  So sad to see her trapped in her mind and when I try to recall Mama the way she really was, it’s becoming harder and harder to remember.  I can only imagine my children seeing me do this and I hope they never do.

Got to go now.  We’ve been trying to break her of sweets and I just found a box of my Crystal Light packs she’s opened and tried to eat…  so sad but life as we know it at this point.

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Those Women

The last two weeks have brought drastic change in Mama, it’s almost hard to believe. 

I keep seeing that first MRI of Mama’s brain the doctor showed us back when they felt sure she had Alzheimers back in about 2009. The doctor explained the white we saw on the screen, the white matter, that was overtaking her brain slowly then. I keep hearing his comment that based on where the white matter was, he could not believe she wasn’t falling, but she had not and has not to this day.

After that appointment, we met with Hospice and Mitch and I attended a Hospice class on Alzheimers grasping for any information we could find.  We learned more about white matter and being the visual learner I am, it was so helpful to understand that as the white matter spreads over our brain, it’s short circuiting the parts it hits, like a fuse going out, sparks flying, connections breaking.  All of this causes memory loss, words to come out that don’t make sense, seeing things that aren’t there, falling, and so on.  It just depends on what part of the brain it is hitting at that time.  It also causes a person to only hear bits and pieces of what we’re saying like every fourth or fifth word.  This was so helpful to understand why Mama was not comprehending anything.  For example, we would say “Mama, go put on your pajamas and get ready for bed” and she would hear, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, your, blah, blah, blah, blah, bed”. Now more than ever, we talk to her, about her situation, we can say anything, and she just stares and smiles.  One word communications are so important.

But understanding the white matter helped me and every time Mom has done something new in this dreaded process, I’ve seen the white matter slowly oozing into another section of her brain and shorting out yet another circuit.  Right now, it’s flowing more freely.  

Since that time a few years ago, we’ve watched the disease spread somewhat slowly based on what we hear others day.  Many of you have shared with us that it lasted 15, even 20, years with their loved ones; others have said 3 or 4 years.  We don’t know how to measure it at this point but while we thought the last 18 months or so had been rather fast-changing, they’ve been nothing compared to the last two weeks.

Mama’s never been a wanderer other than she loves to walk around the yard everywhere picking up sticks or walk down the road to take the trash can EVERY doggone Tuesday evening.  How she remembers that, we don’t know, but she does without one word of reminder.  Sort like her hair appointment she remembers every week but that’s another story!  Anyway, Mama may walk but she always stays within the boundaries of the yard and of course someone is watching her at all times.  Until now, one of the things Daddy’s been able to do is work on his tractor around the yard or fields next to the house while Mama would sit on the deck and watch him and he could watch her. Daddy loves that escape for them both.  But this week, Daddy was mowing with the tractor and had turned to back up and there stood Mama just standing him.  After catching his breath from the scare, he turned off the tractor and asked her what she was doing and she said she just saw him and wanted to be with him.  Daddy’s heart sank I’m sure but he told her to go back to the deck and he’d put the tractor away which he did…. another respite for him now gone.  What if he’d not seen her.  

Mama doesn’t recognize Mitch anymore.  She thinks he is Evan or Tyler, one of Mitch’s sons, and she asks him continuously about his girlfriends and Mitch just replies (although he likes to imply he had more girlfriends than he actually had:)  She’s calling Daddy Tracey frequently now and she doesn’t know the grandchildren really at all.  This week, I was sitting in the den and Daddy and Mama came in from being gone and she whispered to Daddy, “Who’s that sitting in there?” pointing at me.  Once he told her it was me, she came straight to me, hugged me and said, “Tracey, I love you.  I sure wish I saw you more”  which she says a lot even if I’m there every day.  And now, she’ll look at me and say, “Tracey’s coming to get me” or “Tracey should have been here by now.”     

She’s getting a little quieter now too, moving slower, much more feeble suddenly.  She used to could put on her pajamas at bedtime but now she comes back having changed clothes to another oddly matched outfit for the day.    

And this week, she came in and asked Daddy if she could sit on the deck a while and talk to “those women” out there.  Daddy hesitatingly asked, “What women?” and she just said there were some women on the deck and she was going to sit out there and talk to them a while.  Daddy told her okay and he edged to the door to watch her and make sure no one had actually pulled up in the driveway or that he didn’t see the women too which is sort of sadly funny.  But they hadn’t and he didn’t:) and she was out there alone but in her mind she was with these women.  

I cried that night in the car leaving Mama and Daddy’s, trying to grasp it all, and as crazy as it sounds, I thought, “Lord, may they at least be friendly!” and then I had a peace come over me that at least in her mind, she was not alone. I tried then to think about her sitting out there with her best friend, Betty, who passed away tragically 25 years ago, and whom she’s missed terribly ever since, with Aunt Lucille, her favorite Aunt who passed away not so long ago (and to this day, she begs me to take her to see Aunt Lucille and I just tell her we’ll go tomorrow).  And I hope her Mama is out there too.  I hope women she’s loved and lost are there, even if just in her mind, and they’re having a good conversation.  At least she’ll be happy if only in her own world.

I don’t know what lies ahead but it is what it is…one day at a time.

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Slipping away….

As I asked for prayer request on Facebook this morning, I kept thinking about all those going through so much more than I am and I lift them up in prayer, even those whose struggle I don’t know.  I never, ever think my situation is worse than the next person, I know it is not. I have not lost a child, I am not terminally ill, I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and a car to drive, three wonderful children.  And I have a husband who despite his hard headedness is a good man who loves me even when I don’t deserve it, a man who doesn’t deserve some of the things he gets during the day but who sticks to what is right even when at the bottom of the popularity poll and he moves on; I admire that about him.  All in all, I am humbled.

I do ask for prayers for Mama today and for Daddy.  This week has already been an unusual week for her.  We see some bodily changes that are frightening, and quite frankly, not pleasant, signs that we don’t understand but that we knew might be coming.  Last night, Daddy brought her to Chase’s game, and she was different.  She’s not been Mama for a long time but this was simply different.  A fog if you will, a lack of what little clarity I’d been seeing, a lost look in her eyes…. it hurts me to even type this.  It was like seeing her slip away as I stared at her.  I was asking her questions and saying things to her, eye to eye, and she glared at me, slightly smiled, as if she was deaf, literally.  I looked at Daddy who was sitting next to her and said, “I’m talking to her and she’s not hearing me or registering what I’m saying” and I turned to her and said, “Are you hearing me Mama?” and she smiled and never nodded a response, simply smiled, as if she was seeing through me.  

One never knows how long these phases last but I see us entering a new one for all of us and it scares me for her, for Daddy, not knowing what will be next.  One day at a time, one day at a time.  Daddy is strong but even the strongest man can break.  As painful as it is to watch Mama, it’s equally painful to watch this changing him, wearing him down.  One day at a time, one day at a time.

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