Saturday, March 28, 2009


We spend hours sorting through the books, papers and stuff filling Mom's house. Dad died in 1995, yet his books, electronic gadgets, and clothing are still there. She could not let him go. We are unearthing a time capsule of two lives. Each item holds meaning to Mom. She jotted notes to herself on scraps of paper and receipts. We are finding snatches of her days, who she met and talked to. There are letters from family and friends. Photos of young Mom and Dad before the years had etched their faces.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Many Hats?

How many hats can one person wear? Wife, mother, daughter, caregiver, accountant, travel agent, housekeeper,laundress, nurse, etc. etc. I am constantly going – literally morning, noon, and night. No time for a workout. Sleep? That’s something I seem to get in snatches.

On March 5, I flew home with my mother. I took her straight to the airport from the nursing home. Why? I feared that if she returned to her old environment she would refuse to come with me. Mom agreed with the plan. We had one plane change in Denver. I must say, Frontier Airlines does a great job when it comes to assisting disabled passengers, especially at Denver International Airport.

My work is constant, there’s always something to do. Call Medicare. Call Mom’s doctor. Answer the phone. Mom needs toothpaste. Run to the grocery store and then to Mom’s place. Work. I find myself falling asleep on the computer keyboard at work and at home. No room for sleep.

So who am I? Am I the myriad roles I take? Am I the jobs I do? It’s all a blur. No time to reflect. Even now, I am writing this as I wait in Detroit airport for my flight that will eventually take me back to San Diego and then Chula Vista. Shoshannah, Fox, Barry, and Wolfgang are all meeting there to clean and pack Mom’s stuff. Wow is there a lot of stuff!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


She started crying when she read a card from one of her work friends. I immediately went to her side and hugged her.

"I'll be okay," she said through her tears.

It's hard on her. I worry about that and I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. Intellectually I know it's right. I've had to take off from work and fly out here three times within six months. Her home isn't safe. She cannot depend upon her friends. Still when I see how hard this is on her, I wish things could be different.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Apple Pie

Saturday, up again at dawn on . Too much to do! Too little time!

I wanted to a birthday card in the mail for my soon to be 15-year-old son. Mom needed a warm coat. So I drove to Veteran’s Thrift where I found two possibilities, a heavy tan wool coat with a button missing and a fax fur, white with black spots. I sent cell phone pixs of the coats to my daughter. We chose the fax fur one.

From Veteran’s Thrift I drove to the shoe store to return the double wide shoes I’d bought for Mom. They didn’t fit. The less expensive single wide athletic trainers that I bought at Sears fit. Go figure. The shoe keeper tried to sell me another size.

Now to my going away party for Mom. I had suggested it. At first, she'd said no. When one of the nurses said it was a good idea, she said yes. So she picked the date and invited her friends. I bought chocolate & yellow cupcakes, butter cookies with sprinkles, 7ups, plates, napkins and cups. Mom had asked me to bring apple pie. One of her new male friends, Henry, wanted apple pie. Late Friday night, as I stood in the bakery pondering apple pie versus cookies I decided that apple pie would be too messy. So I did not buy apple pie.

I wanted flowers for the party. Wendy's, a local floral shop was around the corner from the shoe store. Still unchanged all these years, Wendy’s had done the flowers for my wedding. While I waited for the florist to put together the arrangement I pondered my choice of not buying apple pie.

She’ll be disappointed, my inner voice said. I’ll explain. She’ll understand, I told myself.

Reo Vista provided formal dining room, coffee and ice at my request. I set up the room, arranging the flowers on a table with the food on a couple of Mom’s pretty serving plates.

What a dummy! I forgot to bring a music CD. We were stuck listening to the radio which was set on some disco station.

I found Mom in the dining room. Dressed up in her lavender and white floral PJs, Mom’s eyes sparkled. Her braids were coiled on top of her head, as she'd done most of her life. Clearly she was taking more interest in her appearance. I pushed her in her wheel chair to the formal dining

She surveyed my work with a critical eye.

“Do you think there’s enough food?” She said.

“Yes, there’s plenty.”

“Where’s the apple pie?”

I explained my reasoning. “People aren’t coming for the food. They are coming to see you,” I added. “Besides, you don’t know if Henry is coming.”

Frowning, she stared at the table.

She is disappointed.

“I could go buy an apple pie.” I said, hoping she would say, please don’t bother. The nearest places I might find an apple pie were miles away. I’d have to loose my parking place and drive through busy traffic.

“Henry said he wanted some apple pie.” She said, still staring at the table. Suddenly, she brightened. “Maybe the kitchen has one! Let’s find someone from the kitchen, ask them.”

I was reminded of that painting by Picasso, “Silent Scream”!

How typical I thought. Here I knocked myself out, trying to make something nice for her. Even the party was my idea, although Mom’s choice of dates and times was hers. She focused on the one thing that I had not brought.

She started working the wheels of the chair, inching her way to back to the big dining room. I felt compelled to help.

In the big dining room, she spotted a woman feeding a resident.

“Joan! Joan!” Mom waved her arms as I wheeled her toward the woman. “Joan, we need an apple pie.”

Joan paused spoon in mid air.

“What for?”

“For my going away party.” Mom said.

“We have cup cakes and cookies,” I said.

“Yes, but we need apple pie.”

“When do you need it?” Joan asked.

Mom looked at me.

“In about an hour.” I said.

Joan shook her head and began spooning food into the woman’s open mouth.

“You don’t need apple pie,” She said. “People aren’t coming to have apple pie. They’re coming to see you.”

In the end, Henry did not come.

Task Oriented

On Friday, I woke at 6 am, showered, and tried to reach one of the nurse managers at work. Three phone calls later all I’d gotten was voice mail. I left messages. After I packed all the stuff I needed to give Mom’s CPA, my appointment with the lady was at 11, I ate breakfast at Starbucks. I could get on the Internet there. My indulgence was to check my email.

Working from dawn to into the night, much longer than my 12-hour shifts in the PICU. I woke when the pearlescent sky peeked through Mom’s dusty curtains. Dust, clutter, and grime… so much to do and only me to do it. My mind raced with all the tasks ahead – Mom’s taxes, finding her shoes, and packing, finding the important stuff amongst all the dross. Before I felt the enormity of my tasks bearing down on me, I moved on, tapped the feelings down

“One step at a time.” I heard that before, a platitude.

When you’re working as hard as I am… when there’s not enough hours to get what needs doing done… then the day goes fast. Lately, I am so task oriented it sickens me. On second thought, I’m not completely lost. I paused to enjoy…

Reading an encouraging text message from a friend.

Mom’s smile when she saw me coming through the door.

The clear crescent moon shining so close to Venus that the two could almost touch.

I called Barry to ask him if he could see it.

“No, it’s snowing.”

“Snowing!” Ah, it’s still winter back there.