Yesterday when I got in my car, the warning light came on. It
said, "maintenance needed...low tire pressure, oil change due, windshield
wiper fluid empty." I thought of the irony of this. I thought how I felt 5 days ago my mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I
wanted to scream “maintenance needed" at the top of my lungs. Maintenance needed for myself as I felt I was sinking, falling into a place which I did not want to go.
Six days ago I delivered my
mother’s prescriptions which were recently prescribed by her doctor. I was concerned for her and
thought delivering these medications would provide an excuse for dropping in.
On that morning I found my mother confused, disoriented, fully disrobed and
unable to stand or walk as she sat on her bench in her bedroom. I asked my
mother how she felt and she responded “I think something is wrong.”
I called 911 as per her doctor's recommendation. I'll never forget that feeling of panic as I took my mother's blood pressure The reading was so high I feared she might have a stroke. When the EMS arrived Mom couldn’t stand up or walk. She was agitated and said she didn't want to go to the emergency room. She been there only 2 weeks ago.
What ensued was 10 hours in the emergency room, admission to the hospital, and the diagnosis
of vascular dementia. Skilled nursing was recommended for Mom upon discharge which was in 3 days. Scurrying to find a skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation and
visits to assisted living or memory care post skilled nursing facility.
Visiting my disoriented mother in the hospital, dealing with financial concerns, and long seated strained family dynamics. All the while trying to
balance life with my family as things were falling apart. I felt deep sadness and anger
at the disease that has enveloped Mom. I felt fear. The fear of what has happened to Mom. The fear of what might be.
Updates to concerned family and
friends, fitful nights of sleep and tears in those wee hours of the morning. Attempting to keep a sense of normalcy for my adult son who lives with me as he is attending
college. I tried to act strong and capable while feeling feeling a deep sadness. I felt disbelief, guilt and anger. Why is this happening to Mom? Why so soon; why so severe? This wasn't how it was supposed to be.
Constant reassurances to Mom when I visited her in the hospital. Taking care of her cat, Tess, while
disregarding my own because I arrived home late each night due to the many tasks which arose. Feeling exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually. In a word, depleted.
I had the strangest
feeling two days ago when I visited my mother. She was in the hospital and
was recently diagnosed with vascular dementia. She was receiving speech therapy
and I sat in the corner of the room, just observing. I watched my mother interact
with the speech therapist. She tried so hard to find the right words when the therapist asked a question. It became clear that she was unable to retrieve the majority of past or present life events. She would then become frustrated and
agitated. At one point she could not recall my father’s name. A
man she was married to for 45 years. A man who was the love of her life. My mother said that she wanted to stop working
with the therapist. It was clear that she was aware of the deficits in her
As I sat in that corner
of the hospital room observing my mother, I had the strangest feeling. I
recognized the woman who was lying in the hospital bed.This was the woman who had raised me. The woman I always adored, the woman who, without fail, was always there for me. She had the same beautiful wavy red hair and the kindest eyes I had ever seen. Despite this I had an
overwhelming feeling that this, in fact, was not my mother. I knew
intellectually that of course the answer to this question was “yes." Emotionally, however, I felt frightened that this woman laying in this hospital bed may eventually not know or recognize me as her daughter. She
will, in essence, not have the constructs which make up one's past. Those essential moments which color the history of a person's life.
That was the question I
was trying to answer as I sat in the corner of that hospital room on that day. If my mother could not remember her past or present, would this woman still be that person who I called mother?
We’ve all had that moment when we forget that word in
mid-sentence or we forget where we placed an item (our keys, our
phone). In that fleeting moment we have
that fear which hits us as with an exclamation point: “Am I losing my memory?” It’s
concerning at least and frightening at best. If we are past 30 years old and are honest with
ourselves, we all have had this moment. We see a close relative, maybe our Aunt Gert or Uncle Henry, exhibiting signs of memory loss. We see a commercial touting the new drug which will slow the progression of Alzheimer's. This is when we say
“Please, please God, don’t let this be me”. We push down that fear and panic. We relegate it to a hidden compartment inside of ourselves each time these feelings arise.
I’ve recently been dealing with a parent who is suffering
from memory loss. She has been diagnosed with vascular dementia. My brother and I are trying to be
there for my mother, emotionally and physically.
We listen and nod at pauses in her speech as she searches for that lost word. We want and need her to see that she is okay. The memory loss is wearing her down, mentally, spiritually and physically. We stop by her apartment to check on her; to make her a meal; to take out her trash. We assure her that we’ll always be there as we stuff down our concerns. These concerns come to us
late at night as we lie in bed hoping for a few hours of sleep so that so that we may escape our present day reality. Throughout the day we do those things which need to be done. We put on a brave face even though, internally, our emotions move from deep sadness to anger to frustration. We tell
ourselves that we are doing what needs to be done, yet continue to worry that it may not be
enough. There is no pill, no amount of alcohol which can dull the pain or remove us from this new reality.
The most difficult, heart wrenching thing about it is to
hear your parent acknowledge the fact that he or she is aware that they are losing
their memory. They say they know friends and family are worried. Truth be told they
are concerned as well.
Today was Easter Sunday. We gathered at Mom's as we do every Easter. We tried to make things normal and light hearted. We tried to avoid looks of
concern as our mother would pause as she was talking or relaying a story.
After the meal, after the clean-up and time spent with Mom, we said our “I love you’s.” We said our goodbyes. A few hours after returning home I felt
compelled to return to my mother’s apartment.
She said that she was happy to see me.
I wondered if she realized that I had been with her just two hours
before. I wanted to let her know that I
was there for her, to listen or to just spend time.
My mother said today that she realizes her memory is
failing. She said that she did not want to be a burden to her family. Isn’t that the thing we all fear most? Losing
our memory or becoming physically and/or psychologically dependent on our
I remember when my grandfather (my mother’s father) began
suffering from memory loss. He had undergone a thorough work up at a hospital renowned
for diagnosing memory impairments in Omaha, Nebraska. The tests were
inconclusive yet the doctors said that they suspected Alzheimer’s dementia. Back then there were no medications to slow or
prevent further memory loss like there are today. My grandfather voiced his concerns regarding his memory loss as he struggled against the fading away of his memory.
The first signs of his deteriorating memory involved difficulties in doing his activities of daily living. Then there was
the driving. He would get lost when navigating through Bedford, Iowa. This was a small Iowa town
in which he had grown up and had lived for 70 years.
I remember the phone call from my grandfather late one night
after my grandmother placed him in a nursing home. My grandfather said that he
knew he was becoming forgetful. He said he feared he was losing his mind. My grandfather
was from hardy stock. He was a tall, strong man whose ancestors hailed from the
Netherlands. He was an Iowa
farmer who was also an intellectual. He was a person who, although always present,
lived a life of the mind. Typically, he
would rise at 5 in the morning to read the Des Moines Register or the New York
Times before he would begin his chores. Would he have been born at a different time in different circumstances I
am sure he would have become an attorney. He loved the law and the significance it played in our lives.
Tomorrow my brother and I are taking my mother to a
geriatric specialist. We are hoping that
he will provide us answers to my mother’s failing health and memory
loss. We want to give our mother hope that things can get better. We hope that for her sake (and ours) we will get those answers. We pray fervently that she is not a victim of the big
We’ve all been there. In that relationship that just doesn’t fit. It is analogous to that furniture which
so appealed to us in the showroom and which we ended up purchasing. When we get it home we fervently attempt to
make the furniture fit. We move it around the room, we upend it, we juggle it
and even hang it from the ceiling. However,
despite all of our efforts it just doesn't fit.
Red is now in for those in touch with modern day
fashion trends. The ironic thing is that a good red lipstick has and always
will be in. It's a classic and classics are eternal. I first wore a red lipstick back in my early 20’s. I didn’t wear
it every day as I was, and am, a minimalist when it comes to all things
(including makeup). Back in the days when I chose to wear a red lipstick, I wore
Max Factor Paris Red. It was the perfect shade of red for me--red with a blue
undertone. It was affordable for a girl on a limited budget. It gave the
illusion of a confidence that belied a girl of 21. I wore Paris Red on those days and nights when I needed to feel powerful; at those times when I wanted to make a statement. Much to my chagrin Max Factor discontinued this shade a few years ago. Now
in middle age I can better afford the alternative red lipstick as a substitution
for Paris Red. I now wear Coco Chanel Rogue Coco Gabrielle on those times when I need a boost of confidence. Despite that, I still miss
the hue, the impact, of Max Factor Paris Red.
There are exactly 726 pages in
Julia Child’s How to Master French
Cooking, Volume One. I have read
them all, page by page, much like I read a gripping, riveting novel. I have
studied, highlighted and jotted notes in the margins.
One night I unexpectedly landed
upon the boeuf bourguignon recipe. In brackets, it says “[Beef Stew in Red Wine
with Bacon, Mushrooms and Onions]. Julia Child goes on to introduce the dish: “…Carefully
done and perfectly flavored, it is certainly one of the most delicious beef
dishes concocted by man, and can well be the main course for a buffet dinner.”
The recipe for Julia Child's bouef borguignon appeared on pages
are 21 ingredients and 25 steps to follow, meticulously, to recreate this dish.
Preparing the boeuf bourguignon recipe is an arduous and all encompassing
process: it involves cutting, simmering, sautéing, slicing, sprinkling,
tossing, cooking, pouring, skimming, mixing, and serving (not necessarily in
As with the
most enjoyable things in life, the anticipation of that object or experience
takes an excruciatingly long time. When the actual experience appears, it is
fleeting and passes in the blink of an eye.
Such was the
case with Julia
Child’s bouef borguignon.
It took 4 ½ hours to prepare—4 ½ minutes
for my family to devour.
My father gave me a small
yellow book, Poems by Robert Frost, when I was 8 years old. The book was tiny and fit in the palm of my
hand. My father read these poems to me
each night for 20 nights until the book was completed. He told me to always keep it nearby as there
were many life lessons in this tiny book. My father was right. I still carry it with me today.
My son got back from a date tonight with a girl he just met. He said her name is Jasmine. I asked him how it
went & this is what he said " She is quite tall, quite intelligent, quite beautiful.”
He asked me why I was looking at him & not saying a
thing. I said that at the right time he
needed to tell her this. He asked me how I knew this. I said " Believe it or not at one time, I was that girl:"