It is still up and down, but the ups are more often than the downs. It is a different part of her journey and mine as well. She still asks me why she is there and when she will be getting out. I tell her the truth now because that seems to pacify her. I tell her that her memory is not good, that she has a disease called alzheimers and the doctor feels she needs to be in the Lodge.
Last Saturday, while I accompanied her to lunch, my husband hung some pictures up on the wall in her room. They are still there. The pictures that we put on the dresser have all been taken down and put away. The clock that was on the dresser was taken down and put away. We will slowly hang more of the pictures, that were hanging in her living room, on her walls.
She is socializing more with the other residents and sits in the lounge. I’ve taken her out for lunch and my cousin has taken her for an outing as well. I’m hoping to take her to church on Sunday. She receives phone calls because her phone is now connected in her room.
I see other family members visiting their loved ones and there is support there between us. We are all going through similar experiences; that helps. When she was at home, at times it felt like there was just her and I locked in a strange dream. I now see a lot of caring people and it is good.
It was small; a cafe, a diner called The Silver Grill
there were no tables
two aisles with booths
divided by a half-wall and plastic plants
the jukebox sparkled by the front entrance
the ladies room was down stairs
those stairs were old and sloping
unsure if the building was going to fall over
when you went down those stairs
the food was the best
we stopped there often on our way home from school
on a cold winter’s day for a plate of fries,
a coke and a song or two in the jukebox
the fire that took it away, took away another place from my youth
but the beautiful memories are still here!
This is the house that I grew up in. It is small by today’s standards, just two bedrooms and then one was added in the basement. This house was build by father in 1960, I believe. he was never one for renos or updates. It looks the same today as it did when I was a kid. My father was frugal to say the least. And yes, I take after him in some ways!
We actually didn’t have water and sewer until I was about 12 years old. Before that, mom had to collect snow in the winter and rain water in the summer to use for washing and baths She would also walk to a town well down the street to get water before my dad dug a well in our yard. I think he had to dig three wells in order to get one that had water. He was obviously not a diviner either.
We had an outhouse by the street at one end of our driveway. Apparently the honey truck came by weekly to empty the outhouses back then but I don’t remember that part. My dad then built a duplex outhouse in the back yard corner that we shared with our neighbour! How weird is that??
I think the happiest moment of my childhood was getting indoor plumbing. That didn’t happen easily either. My dad hated to spend any money so he did finally hook us up to town water but we didn’t have hot water until at some point my older sister’s husband, who worked for hydro hooked us up with a hot water tank. My brother installed a hand held shower gizmo and voila! We could shower! I’ll tell you more about that later.
So many memories in this house: happy, sad, angry and fearful; a life lived. As I spoke to a friend today, we both realized all of the ghosts from the house that are now finding rest in my heart. Dad was able to live in the house until that moment he got sick and the ambuland took him to the hospital. Shirley spent her last month at the house until her cancer forced her to go into the hospital where she later passed. Ryan sat on gramma and grampa’s sofa every day after work until a few days before his death. And of course so many babies were raised in this house!
Mom has moved from the house to a place where she will be safe, cared for and ok. Dad can rest, my sister Shirley can rest, my son Ryan can rest. I can rest.
It has been a challenging week! I was told it would be, obviously. Mom does not want to be there and wants to go home. We feel Horrible! I wish she could go home. I wish she could live in her own home. I wish she didn’t have dementia.
Her days are up and down and she is slowly adjusting. She finds it hard to sit and eat with strangers and that will get easier in time as people seem more familiar. Because Red Lake is a small community our Lodge has one floor with residents of all different levels of capabilities and health issues. I think that if we lived in a city, she would be on a floor with other residents of similar health levels. But being in a small town has it’s benefits. The staff are great and a lot of them know the residents because they are from the same community.
She says, “What am I doing here? I’m not crazy like these people!”
We have to sneak in mom’s belongings to her room when she is in the dining room so that she doesn’t notice that we are “moving her”. She gets upset if she sees us bringing her things there. She doesn’t want any of her pictures displayed and puts them away. Slowly, we will hang a picture up here and there. Everything just appears. This weekend, we are going to try to rearrange her furniture and see if that makes her feel more comfortable, but again, we have to move furniture when she is in the dining room. There are times when she refuses to eat so we have to wait for the right moments.
She has had visits from friends which she loves and she is always happy to see people. She is angry with me. I am the one who “lied and put her in there”. Sometimes I have to leave her because she is getting so upset with me when I am there.
So week one was difficult and we’re into week two with much of the same. But at least she is eating, bathing and most importantly, she is safe.
It is here. And now that it is here, it is terrifying. I have been waiting for this moment but at the same time dreading it. Mom will be moving into the Lodge next week. It has been a year and a half since dad passed away. She has been alone in the house, somehow managing for that time. Her being in the house has also kept dad alive for me. It was almost like time stood still for awhile.
I have written a lot about the things we have gone through, sad and funny times. I will always remember the times I had with mom when she was in the house. It will be different now for me as well. What will I do with the extra time I will have? I’m not sure yet. I guess I will try to give myself time to adjust to the new experiences we will have.
I will continue to visit mom regularly of course and take her for rides and walks. It will just be different.
She opens the curtain and looks out her bedroom window . From where I stand in the kitchen I watch her. What is she thinking? The snow outside tells her that it’s winter. The sun tells her it’s day time. She can recognize the yard and surrounding area so she knows that she is in her own home.
She is wondering, Where is everyone? Where’s Ian? It’s been more than a year and she is still looking for dad. She is stuck in that time warp.
Another Christmas has come and gone. I continue to go through the motions and pretend that everything is normal. I find the little tree that is stored downstairs, the one that Ryan bought his grandparents more than ten years ago. I bring it upstairs and plug it in. The lights still work but no longer flash the bright colours it once did. I bring her the Christmas cards that friends and family still send to her in the mail and she reads each one. I help her to sign some cards for family. This could be the last year, I think to myself. This year, she does not know how to spell MOM. She still remembers her Ojibwe syllabics.
I cook a dinner and pick her up and bring her to our house so that she can enjoy a meal with family. She doesn’t know why she is there but she enjoys the company. I watch her as she opens her gifts. I continue to pretend that everything is normal.
This is our normal.
Christmas is hard if you are going through a trial in your life or have lost someone you love.
As Christmas comes closer and this will be the second without dad it makes me look back and look ahead at my life with mom. I’ve somehow learned to go on in this world without my oldest son. I’ve been busy with my three surviving sons but now they are adults and pretty much on their own. William has finished school and is living on Vancouver Island with his girlfriend. We are close. Andy is also on Vancouver Island and going to school. Ben is here working in town living in his own place.
I continue to go to mom’s every day to make sure she eats, that her house is clean and she is clean. It was an amazing day for me today when she had a shower. It has been a long time. I had given up on that battle, but today just thought I would start the shower and tell her it was for her. She went willingly!
She has changed quite a bit, lately. Her memory has worsened. She is forgetting people. Family members. But at the same time she remembers certain people from a certain time in the past. She seems to be more confused and it took her awhile to unlock her door when I went over there yesterday because she couldn’t figure it out.
I have decided that we will have Christmas dinner at her house this year and am inviting family for a pot luck.
I don’t know what Christmas will look like next year.