My mother is half Anishinaape and half Scottish. We children are therefore one-quarter Anishinaape and one-quarter Irish and one-half Scottish, if you divided up the blood parts in us.
Mom’s first language is Ojibwe. Her mom spoke only Ojibwe and her father spoke only English but they managed to learn enough of each other’s languages to get along. We children were not taught both languages. My dad thought it would be too confusing, so we were raised in English. Mom did teach us some Ojibwe and I have always wanted to learn more. But I am too lazy and it is not easy, so I just continue on as I am with what I know.
I recently bought a little phrase book that is so cute. (I had purchased one before for my brother when we both became Status Indians under Bill C-3 a few years ago.) When I’m with my mom I always ask her how to say things. She can still remember her language perfectly. I hope that the dementia does not take that from her.
Yesterday, I took my little book over to her house with me and we spent time together laughing at me trying to read the phrases to her. It’s difficult to pronounce words correctly; you could end up saying something totally different. It was fun; I’ll do it again.
Kathy nindizhinikaaz. My name is Kathy.
It has been ten years since I last saw you on this earth. Ten years. Ten minutes. It’s all too long and I still miss you. I guess that will never stop until I see you again. Some things have changed. I have managed to go on living this new existence. Your brothers are all doing good and that makes me so happy. You now have Grampa with you over there and that makes me feel better. Grampa’s death healed me a lot because even though I would have liked him to stay longer, his leaving was a more natural one. The way it is supposed to be. Yours was not natural but I can’t change that. I can try to let go of some fears and worry and pray for a natural life for your brothers. Yes, I miss you Ryan, and I will forever.
There was a time
when you were here
and we were a happy family
I know it’s true
ten years it’s been
and the ache is still there
only dulled by the clouds
it’s hidden behind
photos of you, smiling, so cute
hair sticking up every which way
and I know you were real
there was a time
when you were here
twenty-0ne years of life
we shared and more
I knew you before you were born
a lock of your hair
I can still touch, so sweet
and I know there was a time
when you were here
Mom phoned me the other night just as I was making supper at my house. “I can’t turn the TV on,” she said.
“Press the red button at the top of the remote and point it at the TV,” I said.
“I’m doing that but it doesn’t work.”
“Ok, I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
This happens periodically and has over the past few years. Dad always had control of the remote and changed channels. Since he passed she has learned to press the red button to turn it on. Strangely she does not change channels anymore which is awesome because she would really screw things up when she used to try to do that. I can put the TV on a channel that I know she will enjoy and leave it there. This time when I went over to see what was happening with the TV, I discovered she was using the remote for the DVD player. The TV remote was in the bedroom where she left it when she went for a nap.
A simple fix. Put the DVD remote away where it won’t be used. It would be great to have a remote from my house that I could use to turn on her TV and change channels for her. Maybe there is such a TV that can be programmed for people. That would be cool.
At one time she told me that she was trying to phone me but all she kept doing was changing the channel on the TV. She was using the remote to phone me. She is now good with the phone too. My number is the only number that she remembers and uses. Sometimes she uses it a lot.
But I always try to be respectful, because I know it’s not easy for her to have memory loss. Yet, I have a giggle to myself.
I was looking at a picture of an event that happened five years ago. My mom was at that event and I had to hold her hand to get out of the room because there were a lot of people there. That reminded me that she has been living with dementia for a long time. It started at least ten years ago. That is a long time of her life that she has struggled with memory loss, frustrations and fears. I have come to really appreciate all that my father did for her to make her life easier and enjoyable. It was at a cost to him but one he felt was worth it. She was able to stay in her home and continue on in her marriage and he was able to do this too, until he passed away.
She is quite physically fit for her 84 years. She needs a cane now, which she hates and never uses because she can’t remember to use it. Having memory loss prevents her from participating in social events because she feels anxious if people talk to her. She is afraid she will say the wrong thing. Depression and fears prevent her from going outside and getting exercise. But she enjoys going for a car ride now and then and seeing people she recognizes.
She is still in her own home living alone and somehow doing it. How long can this go on? That’s up to the Creator. As she tells me, “when it’s my time to die, I’m going to die no matter what you do.” And really, I believe she’s right. So it is for all of us.
It’s been one year since Dad passed away. It has flown by because I have been kept busy with mom.
Hard to believe Dad. I hope you are happy with the way that things are going. Your bills are being paid on time, mostly. The lawn is being mowed and the driveway shoveled. Auntie Ethel phones mom regularly to chat. She’ll be 91 this summer. I would love to go and see her. Cousin Olie phones her as well and stays at the house with her when he is in town for church services. Her friends Sopena and Bernice still visit her too.
Mom is still in the house waiting for a room to come available at the Lodge. She is doing alright. She misses you and it’s hard for her because she can’t remember that you passed on to the spirit world. She still waits for you to come home. But she is okay and will be okay because she is loved. Like you were.
Auntie Mary recently passed on too. I hope you get to spend time with her and Uncle Tommy. I hope you get to spend time with Shirley and with Ryan. I hope you get to spend time with your parents.
I miss seeing you drive by, slowly, very slowly. I miss your phone calls asking me to look up something for you on the internet. I even miss worrying about you when you don’t return home from the bush and I have to go looking for you.
It’s not the same without you. Take Ryan fishing! We’re okay.
Last night I dreamed that Ryan was in the hospital. He had been gone a long time and was found. I went to the hospital and he was in a children’s room in a large bed and I could see him through a large window with other children in the room as well. Ryan was about 12 years old.
He was looking towards the window and then he saw me and got out of the bed and came out of that room with all of the other children. There were other parents there waiting to get their children too. When he came out of the room he looked like his 21-year-old self, with a goatee. We hugged each other tightly and he said, “I will never take life for granted again. I will appreciate each day.”
I could feel him. I could feel his should blades. It was so good. I was so happy.
Hug your children. If you can’t physically hug them, then hug them in your heart.