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Family Update

Mom passed almost a month ago

Mom at her happiest – At my daughter’s wedding – October 19, 2019

I’ve been grappling with what to say about that ever since

I haven’t said a lot about Mom and our relationship before my abrupt return to her house or about the things I came to surprisingly appreciate about that, in hindsight, especially since Mom’s passing on January 25 of this year.  For the story of how life for both of us had been for the last year, you can refer to the following posts.

I have written this addition about her and me to help me close that relationship and to strengthen me to see it through to the real end.  Right now that would include disposing of the last real assets she owned, especially this house where we had lived together and which I thought I had already left behind. I am paraphrasing a lot of my recent thoughts and emotions, some that were included in the funeral service given by the Rabbi who had only known Mom for 4 years, supplemented by others who had known her better than I had for most of the last 17 years (since my dad’s death and my move to TN), and some that I wrote myself, looking back over what I knew of her life.

Family was very important, even if she was no relation other than having met even just one member of nearly any family.  She had rediscovered some local blood relatives recently and I had hoped to get more info out of her about some of those she grew up around before marriage and children.  On the other hand, I got tired of hearing the same stories over and over about some of them!  I did find out that at one time she had wanted to be a shorthand teacher and was immodestly and I thought sometimes too extremely proud of the story she told about one of her first jobs with what she still referred to as the North American Credit Union. 

Dad was the love of her life and vice versa.  She was his biggest supporter, as she tried to be for me as I was growing up, especially in nudging both of us to join in a whole range of social activities.  He took on her family, caring for them as they aged.  She did that for him too, and for a whole bunch of other people I never knew but heard about, whether I wanted to or not.  I don’t know how Mom and Dad managed to work together in the insurance business for 20+ years without killing each other, and we all knew if something bothered Mom, no matter how long ago it had happened, she would bring it up at least once later, often not even related to whatever the subject under discussion was at the time.

After their early retirement, Mom and Dad took a whole lot of trips, and it was during this period that I first lost track of them, and Mom continued to expand her social circle even after she became a widow. Sometimes, when going through Mom’s mail, I might encounter a strange sender’s name and address. She could still usually recall where she had met them and sometimes even more personal information about these people who to her were always and forever her friends.  Obviously that sentiment was very much reciprocated. One of the first signs of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, that bothered her the most for a very long time, was that she couldn’t balance her check book.  When I took over that duty, I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t always balance it either and as long as I came close that was good enough for me. 

Mom did her best to take care of everyone she loved, to whatever degree she loved them at the time, offering her advice whether requested or not.  She always thought she knew best and we all learned to try not to argue with her if we didn’t agree because she would never let it go otherwise. She also had no problem telling someone a little white lie if she was afraid of losing face or looking bad in their eyes or sometimes of hurting their feelings. Sometimes I would remind her of what she sometimes told me “Lies walk the streets” and if anyone she knew had one, “J. Edgar Brook” would often discover it. 

Dad had started calling her that, a play on the longtime and first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.  Hoover was infamous for digging into the personal lives of people under investigation. Mom did that, too, so we were lucky she didn’t know how to use the internet better. I was touched when the the rabbi told us she called Mom “The Informer”.  Her explanation for that nickname was because Mom took it upon herself to let the rabbi know if any temple members, or even just any of her mostly Jewish friends and acquaintances, needed spiritual support.  Rabbi Lewis got a special kick from Mom’s closure to these messages and conversations, where she asked the rabbi to make sure the person of interest didn’t know how the rabbi knew they were having a spiritual or personal issue for which they might appreciate her help.

Due to Covid, Mom had little to no opportunity to get much of the regular attention she had received from her friends and their families for all those years she had lived alone. In its place she had settled for what she got from a visiting nurse and especially from the physical therapist, though she didn’t like it when I started referring to him as her boyfriend. I was proud that I’d done what I could to protect both her health and mine, in the face of her hunger to maintain constant in-depth contact with her friends, some of whom were merely acquaintances in my book, and who also might show up unexpectedly on her doorstep, vaccinated or masked or not.

I had missed Mom since she stopped being herself, especially since she and I had finally, I felt, figured out a way to live with each other under her roof. I had Mom so hooked the “political news” programs I regularly watched on CNN and MSNBC that she started watching those networks even when I wasn’t in the room!  She even admitted to learning a few things from historical series we watched together on PBS occasionally.  She watched Jeopardy for me and I watched Wheel of Fortune for her.  We both watched 20/20 (though she forgot that’s what it was called) and 60 Minutes (though she forgot what day and time it came on.)  She couldn’t stand the “reality” shows I watched on Bravo and E!  I think they offended her old-fashioned sense of morality. We both missed watching live sports, too. Like many who have had or at least tried to maintain a relationship with an Alzheimer’s patient, it was hard for me to get to a level of comfort with Mom as she was after her fall. Over those last months, while Mom was physically still with us, her mind and sense of reality had been gradually fading away.  She is now with her mom (even at the end Mom still called her “Bubbie”), my dad, and various other assorted friends and relatives I had never met but she remembered, while still “mentally” preparing and planning to take care of her home and the people she loved.

Categories
divorce Family travel

OMG!! WILL 2021 NEVER END?

I started my holiday letter in 2020 the same way with this thought and went on to say “I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my life or really life in general will approach any kind of normalcy until 2022.” I guess I was right! I wish I was in a position to have even a really clear idea of “what I might do in ‘22”, but who does?

This is REALLY how my new life started in 2021

The year started as it had ended, and indeed as most of 2020 had progressed, if you could call it that. I got Mom through all her doctor’s appointments, tried to get her to eat what she should when she should vs. her normal preferences and habits, and did what I could to keep her spirits and her body up and moving.  We both knew her mind was going and, though she tried as best she could, in the end (though more accurately in early June when she took her final fall), there was little I could do to restore that or to ameliorate the decline in her physical capabilities which had never been a big priority of hers before anyway.

Meanwhile I had to keep plowing through the increasingly difficult and nit-picky details of my divorce. When the ex abruptly filed in June of 2020, he went to a pay-as-you-go type of lawyer with the expectation that I would go easily, as his previous two wives had done. He should have known better after thirty years of marriage to a woman he’d always acknowledged was smarter than him! I took me a while last year (as he pushed me) to get a lawyer (the stupid idiot didn’t expect me to). I got a smart lady lawyer who worked on a flat fee retainer and protected my interests throughout, even beyond things I’d already considered.

The lawyer-to-lawyer contact started last year when mine totally rejected the agreement his lawyer had submitted. He kept harassing me to “get it done” while at the same time continuing to bring up issues that were either nonexistent or in which his proposals were inequitable. By June I had reached the point where I refused to respond to his direct communications to me and forwarded them to my lawyer instead. He’d previously jumped on me when I’d asked Daughter #1 to help him pack my stuff to be moved out here (after I wouldn’t let him put it in the attic) but ironically, in her unwanted status as go-between, Mini-me finally got him to back off his unreasonable stance on at least one issue by telling him what I was going through with Mom and that it was not fair to expect me to have to deal with his shenanigans on top of that.

I guess I could be amazed now that I got through all that stuff that seemed to follow so quickly upon each other in probably no more than 90 days, approximately end of March through end of June. I had to persevere as Mom’s caretaker, which would be an ongoing battle as long as she still had the mental wherewithal to try to carry on being who she always was, while the ex continued to careen out of control at least as far as I was concerned. I really didn’t want him to know how bad off Mom was, and I still don’t. It’s none of his business, especially since his last visit to her home was all the way back in 2014, though he continued to say how much he loved her. That was most likely just another lie he’d been telling all of us, including himself, for many years.

I got through a challenging summer as I came to realize and accept my new (again) status. I guess I knew, deep down, that I would just have to keep stepping a little further down the land-mined road toward embracing, with as little drama as I could, that I would be starting to live again as an independent single woman in the (sub)urban metropolitan Los Angeles jungle. At the same time, I knew that Covid and other lingering responsibilities would limit my options in pursuit of more social outlets. Thank goodness that by fall, when Mom was well-settled and I had figured out how I would deal with the fact that she has lasted this long, many of the things I wanted to try were once again somewhat available.

I was free and fortunate to begin venturing out in the fall. First I took a “baby step” of a trip down south as far as Escondido. Then I took a longer trip to visit my BFF and “extended family” in Oregon. Both of her kids are getting married in the first half of 2022, so I already have two planned trips up there plus a bridal shower/bachelorette party/cleanup for the first wedding trip on the books next week.

The longest and best trip was my triumphant solo return to Michigan where I finally got to meet in person my newest grandcat, Maple. This trip was also a sort of “scouting expedition” of the area so I could see if it had any potential to become my permanent home when, someday down the road, Mom will be physically gone from this earth. In the short week before Thanksgiving that I spent there, I got to familiarize myself with the area and its amenities, on top of looking into my normal pursuits that should be available again post-Covid. Other than the cold, which all my loved ones and their loved ones tried to convince me should not be an impediment, I found a lot to like up there, besides them!

Since Omicron entered the picture, I have been doing even more reading as my “need/want to read” book list keeps growing. Like many others before me, I have lately joined the “binge-watchers club” (such a thing exists, right?) where I at last got to watch some old series that on my mentally compiled to be watched list. Last but not least, after many “false” starts, I think I may have finally begun to develop my long-desired writing habit.

This year, partially due to Covid-uncertainty and partially due to my uncertainty, I have spent most days in the house. A more or less standard day for me starts by browsing the web and email then moves to one or two of a few easy reader spots in different rooms before circling back to my laptop for a couple of hours of writing and always ends in front of a TV screen.  On my “wilder” days I may add just an infinitesimal amount of “retail therapy” which these days is almost exclusively limited to grocery stores.  Occasionally I’ll add in a stop or two at a discount or big box store. 

I also do a few “shoulds” like laundry and cleaning. The “should” that is getting harder for me to do is to go visit Mom.  The caregivers keep her clean and clipped and fed.  She can’t get out of bed so of course her body has pretty well shriveled up. I’m OK with that part but I just can’t deal with the fact that it is impossible for me to interact with her.  I had cut back my visits from twice to once per week but now, since she doesn’t know it’s me who’s there, I can’t see any reason to go any more than monthly to pay her bill and talk to her caregivers. More often wouldn’t do much good for her and would not be good for me!

Categories
Family

What happened to Mom? Where’d she go?

I may be leaving behind someday soon this standard concrete suburb close to a beach and a big city and trading it in for the smallest of the four cities in Michigan that employs a full time Historic Preservation Coordinator!

Of course, what happened to Mom and why I would think about moving to Michigan are each long stories of their very own.  Suffice to say I returned to the uneventful scene of my youth just in time to become deeply mired in the extremely eventful demise of my mother!

I’ll try to spare you all the excruciatingly painful and emotionally confusing details of what went down with Mom and how she went down, nearly to the bottom, pretty darn quickly at the almost end.  And, believe it or not, Covid had almost nothing to do with it!  And, even more incredibly, she’s still there now, six months later!

Mom had a stroke and a fall (not sure which came first) in early June. This was followed by a week-long hospital stay until they kicked her over to a Transitional Care Unit (TCU) for rehab where she was supposed to receive daily therapy. After a week there, during which no progress was anywhere near possible, I had to made the difficult decision, following the hospitalist’s earlier recommendation, to consign my mother to hospice care.  The easiest and safest way to accomplish this, given the unknowns about if or when she would or even could come home, was to move her to a facility where she could be properly cared for.  She’s been there ever since, probably continuing to go slowly downhill though no one, including her caregivers at a nearby board and are home and hospice team, can really tell for sure. Her periods of wakefulness now are less sporadic than they were at the beginning but it seems that whoever visits can count on her to consistently not seem to know where she is and most of the time to talk about people who are long dead.

Additional details and more of the story of Mom and me will most likely be the subject of later posts.  I see a lot of Facebook posts that advise us to appreciate our mothers while they’re still here.  It seems, however, they don’t consider a situation like mine – my mother is sort of still here and at the same time sort of gone.  So, besides trying (but not too hard now) to figure out why my marriage ended I could also try to figure what I want my relationship with Mom (and maybe later my ex) to look now.