JewBu Quest: From Abuse to Happiness

JewBu: a Jew who practices forms of Buddhist meditation & spirituality. This blog documents my quest to 1) heal from sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse, 2) come to terms with losing Mom and Grandma to Alzheimers, 3) find balance, explore the spiritual, stay present. Bascially, I've experienced some pretty crappy shit in my life and want to find a way to move past it and find happiness.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Continuing Family Saga, Continuing Exhuastion

My dad noticed another odd thing in my Grandma's trust: money that was set aside for my cousin (who has serious kidney problems and will need a transplant) has my aunt's name added to it. So, she can use her son's money for her own medical expenses. I'm appauled that she would do this. My friend who manages my grandmother's estate claims that it was done for tax purposes. She wants to meet with me next week to explain some thing, kind of hinting that there's things that might have been done wrong by both my dad and my aunt. I don't even want to think about it, although I did say to her that in the end, I think I do want to understand what really happened here.

My visit with Mom last night was nice, and it is clear that she REALLY likes having me around. It makes me feel a little guilty/bad about going back to school on the 8th. Hopefully, my sister will be around a lot for her and that will be enough. But, Mom and I clearly do have a special bond.

I can't seem to get rid of this flu. I think in part because I'm trying to jump back into things and see friends, visit Mom, and catch up on work. I probably need another day just resting. I wake up every morning though with increasing stress.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Panic, Stress, and a Nice Visit With Mom

Yesterday, I was having a bit of a panic attack not just as I wrote yesterday's post, but for the first half of the day at least. I feel like I was in this crisis mode and then got knocked down (flu), and now I'm supposed to get up and start running again in all directions. I feel this sense of panic - of being behind in my work, behind schedule on my thesis, of leaving Kansas City soon and not knowing when I'm coming back, of having to return to everything I dropped at home, of the reality of what's happening to my mother.

I'm still not 100% yet over the flu. But, I went to visit Mom anyway since its been so long. She was walking around a hallway, which annoyed me a bit because there were two care managers sitting with two residents in front of the television, so one easily could have done something with her or at least walked with her. But, Mom was really happy to see me. I brought all these Hanukah presents for her from me, Dad, and her sister. These clip earrings that I got for her, even though she can't put them on without help, when she looks at herself in the mirror she smiles at herself with pride. I also noticed that the ALF had given her a framed picture of me and her that was taken at a party they held a few nights before they opened.

Mom and I listened to the new Debbie Friedman CD that I got for her, did a puzzle, and had some hot tea. I was sneezing and coughing a lot and didn't want to push it, so afterwards, I tried to leave her watching tv. She wasn't having it though, even when I got the movie "Annie." Her eyes started to tear up. When I asked her what was wrong, she said: "I would feel better if you stayed with me." So I stayed to tuck her into bed.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Shock and Exhaustion: Moving Mom and the Flu

I'm just getting over a REALLY bad case of the flu, so I haven't even turned on my computer in about a week. I'm sorry for disappearing suddenly and without notice. Let me catch you up:

Moving Mom
Last Monday was moving day for Mom. I woke up early to get to Mom before Dad and his friend arrived to pack her up. I took her to get her hair done at the place where she used to take herself when she could. Then we got manis and pedis and went out to lunch at one of her favorite places. Dad was supposed to call me when he finished, and I kept trying to push to keep Mom occupied until he did. At lunch though, we had a pretty bad experience in the bathroom. Mom said that she needed to go, so I escorted her to the restroom and went in the handicap stall with her. I put down a seat cover. Mom proceeded to sit down kinda sideways on the paper. When she got up, I noticed that she had been peeing on the seat and not in the whole, plus she was still peeing a little bit when she got up. It was like she couldn't tell. It was a bit of a mess, and after this, I decided that it was too much to keep going around.

As we drove to the new facility, I told Mom that we had decided that this one would be better because of the location closer to my sister and the Jewish community. Mom said okay and seemed completely okay with it. I got her settled upstairs watching a Barbara Streisand DVD and found a care manager to look after her and finished getting the room ready with my Dad (after he returned from lunch and his nap).

She was very calm about everything. She noted where things were slightly different than at the old place, and this was clearly a bit disorienting to her. We took her out to dinner, and then came back and had tea together. Then my Dad went home, and I stayed with Mom until it was time to tuck her into bed. The two caremanagers working came with to watch how to do it, in part because Mom was the only resident on the entire floor that night. All in all, the move went pretty well for Mom. The staff there are great, and that's made a big difference for her.

The Flu
That night, I already felt myself getting sick. I had hoped to just sleep it off, but that was just wishful thinking. Over the course of the next couple of days, I developed a fever of 100-102, and my sinuses were so congested that I could not at all breathe through my noise. I then started feeling my throat swell a bit as I breathed through my neck, and so went to the doctor. My dad, who doesn't believe in doctors, was nice enough to take me. He did a test for the flu and gave me a bunch of prescriptions. Dad took me to pick them up and made me chicken soup and just doted on me. It felt good to be taken care of, but somewhat wierd that it was my dad since we have such a troubled relationship at times. I was feeling so bad that I couldn't tell if my headache was a migraine or a sinus headache.

Meeting at the Bank
Yesterday was the first day that I was feeling a lot better, although I'm still congested a bit. Dad and I had this appointment to meet with the lawyer and the bank about Grandma's estate. I was thinking not to go, but Dad pushed me to go. It was pretty awkward and strangely vague about how certain things were going to happen. Most things don't involve me anyway, and I honestly just didn't want to do anything to make the meeting go longer. After the meeting, Dad went on several rants about my aunt. As I thought about it, the complications in the estate seem to be Papa's many, but unsuccessful attempts to keep the family from fighting about money. My father completely blames my aunt, but he has such anger that I feel like he's a part of the dance. Maybe my aunt forced him in, but I know that I certainly don't want to be a part of this dance.

Physically Healing, Feeling Shock
I've had this time away from doing anything or even thinking about much, and as I start to feel better physically, I realize how much I have this emotional wound. I think that I've been in shock since I got the call about Grandma, and I haven't been able to move past it. I feel shock that Grandma died, how she died, about my family. Time is flying. I am scheduled to leave on Jan. 8, but have been talking about leaving earlier since I came early. I'm behind with work and with my thesis. I have all of these friends that want to see me, and I haven't even seen my mother in a week. On top of it, my sister left with her kids and her husband for Florida to stay at my grandmother's condo there. They're on vacation for 10 days, and I may not even see them again before I leave, and I'm jealous that they're off having fun with their friends, and I'm left to work and take care of Mom. I'm feeling stressed and a bit lost and sad. Still, I am grateful that Mom has done so well in the adjustment.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Anger, Frustration, and Dad

I've been running around all day getting ready for Mom's move tomorrow. Dad finally asked his friend, as I suggested, to help out since my sister bailed on us. The really frustrating thing about this is that my sister has wanted Mom to go to this new place before even me. We decided to push the idea on Dad by offering to take care of the move, to do all of the work ourselves. And my sister consistently makes a big deal about being left out of things, saying that she wants to help out with Mom and criticizing the way that Dad and the woman that I hired did things. So, now here we are getting what we want, and she's thrown this all onto us. In fact, Dad and I didn't make a lot of plans about how to pull off the move, waiting for my sister to be ready.

Dad clearly feels overwhelmed at having been stuck with having to do all the moving by himself (with the help of his friend). Tonight, he got really angry and was practically yelling at me about how he can't handle any more details and he doesn't want to bother with taking over new things to Mom's new place. I just walked out because I didn't appreciate that tone. I mean, jeez, as if I don't have enough on my plate having to last minute keep Mom occupied somewhere out of both facilities for an unspecified amount of time probably lasting the entire morning. AND Dad had the nerve to compare it to the first move when he claimed we had time to do the move slowly. See here for what really happened.

Tomorrow, he insists that he's leaving for Mom's at 9am, which means that I have to have her out of there by 9:15, which means that I have to leave the house at 8:30am, which means that despite that I haven't been sleeping well since I heard Grandma was dying, I'll have to wake up early tomorrow.

On top of that, Mom's facility is being especially neglectful, and when I arrived, Mom didn't have a pad on (for incontinence) and her underware was dirty. There was no activity at all tonight, and when I put on a movie and 6 residents other than Mom came by to watch, no staff even acknowledged any of us. I had to go ask someone for help to bring them something to drink after residents complained of being thirsty. I made Mom tea on my own, but the microwave was disgusting, with food splattered all over it.

I'm so frustrated that my father treats me the way that he does, especially with the way that the rest of my family treats me AND especially since I finally got him to acknowledge that he loved my grandmother (despite their later disagreements which he blames my aunt for, long story). I am frustrated at not having any space that is my own here. If he treats me like this tomorrow, I should just pack my things and go to a hotel.

Then on top of it, my sister had the nerve to call me up tonight to kvetch about all that she has to do taking care of my brother-in-law when I'm running around trying to catch up her slack for tomorrow. I'm exhausted. And what I really need is some space to grieve my grandmother and the way that my aunt has treated us AND to find out what really happened, if my aunt changed things in my grandmother's estate since grandma got Alzheimer's. I'm also in desperate need to connect to real friends. With one old friend (lawyer) working for my aunt secretly on my grandmother's estate and another not only completely blowing me off but having the nerve to give me a hard time when I told her that I miss her, I really need reassurance that there are some people in the world that I can trust - who won't lie to me, who will be there for me and who will grant me the blessing to do the same, and who won't use me or abuse me.

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Sister Bails Out Yet Again

Well my sister had agreed to give me a night off last night and put Mom to bed. I had to call to push her, but she finally showed up at Mom's at 7:45pm (I normally show up earlier even when things are good at the facility). But, she was kvetching about it the whole time trying to get me to step in and go over. But, I held my ground and enjoyed the time to get myself together. I even made some Hanukah cookies to bring to a friend's party tonight that I'll stop by at on the way to Mom's.

We were supposed to have our family Hanukah party tomorrow at my sister's, but she called this morning to say that her husband is sick so we can't do it anymore. Also, they're not going to help us move tomorrow. My sister was also supposed to be responsible for getting a picture frame fixed that she had broken and that has a picture of her daughter BUT it seems she hasn't done this either. Bascially whatever has been on her plate, can't be counted on happening. Her daughter had been begging for my Dad to make hamburgers, so I arranged it for yesterday afternoon at my sister's house, and my sister showed up even to that 45 minutes late.

Now, I'm stuck taking my Mom to dinner with her sister tonight. And, I'm going to have to take Mom out on my own while Dad moves Mom's stuff tomorrow with one of his friends. Augh!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Can You Help Solve the Mystery of My Friend's Death?

I had mentioned in an earlier post that a friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly about 8 months ago. I just received a link to a website that his family put together to try to figure out just what happened. Especially if you live in the San Francisco area, please check it out.


Friday, December 15, 2006

PTSD Covering Grief

Dealing with my aunt, being hypervigilant about Mom in order to get her through the mourning activities, and the experience with my family altogether is triggering my PTSD. There's no one that I can trust or count on here - not even necessarily my close friends. I feel my heart pounding all the time; I can't concentrate; I cry when I'm in the car alone; I can't enjoy anything, not even playing with my niece.

I have no where to grieve. I'm running around between Mom's place and bringing her all over town. I don't understand what's happening with my family, not sure who to trust, who to believe. All I know is that everyone is fighting and lying, and I just want the hell out of here but I'm stuck for 3 more weeks, and Mom needs me.

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Grandma's Eulogy

The last time that I saw Grandma, which was a few hours before she died, I told her this:

I know that you’re dying, and I’m going to miss you very much, but you don’t have to worry. –See my grandmother was very much a worrier, especially about her family, so I thought this part was important. – I told her: You’ve done so much for us over the years that we’re going to be okay. And you will live on inside of us.

And I don’t just mean this in that none of us will forget Grandma’s voice calling out “Loouuu.” That last night with Grandma, my sister, my neice and I sang to her the song Papa always sang to us: “I love you oh so much.” I ended with Papa's traditional "Oh Cockeyed Jennie" hoping that Grandma would sit up and say "Loouu not in front of the children Loouu."

I see Grandma in my niece. She inherited the sparkle, the glow in Grandma’s eyes, her warm, joyful smile, her laugh, and her beauty. Like Grandma, my niece loves organizing parties, especially for her family. They both like to take care of every detail and will get very angry with me if I don’t help them clean up the house and make something special to eat. Most obviously, I see Grandma in my neice because she looks just like her mother, who looks just like her mother, who looks just like her mother.

I see Grandma in my sister in the way that she cares for her children. One of my Mom’s favorite memories of her mother is when they went on a road trip to
California to go to Disneyland and visit Mom's, who lived next to John Wayne at the time. I think of this story when Julie tells me about taking her kids to Disneyworld and my neice tells me how much fun they have on their road trips. And, Jewish guilt Jewish guilt, my sister should consider reenacting the trip to honor Grandma by taking her kids to California to visit Disneyland and their Aunt.

I see Grandma Dora in my mom. Growing up, my mom would often explain that we do such as such this way because this is the way that her mother did things. Like Grandma adored and tried to emulate her mother Bubbe, my mom followed in the footsteps of her mother by putting everything she had into taking care of others, especially her family, but also volunteering all over the community. See Grandma volunteered at the synagogue, at Menorah Hospital, and even showed me a picture of herself in a newspaper from what must have been around the 1950s; she was wearing what looked like a nurses uniform, and Grandma explained that she liked to go to the hospital to volunteer with the children. When, my mom had children, Grandma was there for extended periods of time to help out however she could. She even flew with me by herself from Houston to Kansas City when I was barely a year old so that my parents could drive their cars and the dog. I see Grandma Dora in the unconditional, abundant love that I feel from my mother. I asked Mom about her favorite thing about her mother. She responded: “that she was always there for me.” I would say the same about Grandma and my mom.

My most vivid memories of Grandma, outside of my childhood memories of Grandma cooking in the kitchen, are of the time that I moved into Grandma’s to take care of her shortly after she was diagnosed. We had a great time playing Rummy Q, going shopping (especially grocery shopping because it reminds us of Papa), and splitting dinner when we’d go out to eat. Like Grandma, I’m opinionated about everything, I have a tendency to be a worrier, I volunteer, I am firmly rooted in my Jewish heritage and culture, and I now never go anywhere without a sweater and kleenex. I strive to have her dignity, elegance, and sophistication.

Grandma’s house symbolizes for me a place of ultimate safety and comfort. There were always cookies and candy, family, and friends of the family. There was often the tastiest and most comforting steak soup or chicken noodle soup. And while some of the comfort of that house was the big half naked man in front of the television offering half a piece of trident in exchange for an “I love you Papa,” much of the comfort of that house came from all of the hard work that Grandma did to make it a home for everyone in the family.

More than anything in the world, Grandma loved her family – her parents, her brothers and sisters, their children, Papa, her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. Grandma tried to teach us to be there for each other, and I think that one of the greatest ways that we can honor her is to do the same. I want to thank Mom's cousin for becoming my new role model in this regard. She’s spent so much time helping out, visiting Grandma, and keeping me and other family informed of the situation. She’s also done so much for my Mom. She was with Grandma when she died. When I see mom's cousin doing so much to take care of us, I see Grandma inside of her.

We’re here today because Grandma touched us all. She will live inside of us – in our memories, in our personalities, as an inspiration, as a guiding force, and in the love that she felt for us that will never die.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Do I Sound Like an Idiot to You?

I'm having a hard time knowing just who my friends are. My aunt tonight finally pulled out Grandma's jewlery - or part of it - she claimed it was all of it, but I'm not an idiot. My aunt has things separated out for each of us - which is good, she seemed to follow a partial list of Grandma's. I got a necklace with some saphires; it made me remember having a conversation with my grandma about what she should leave me and telling her that it should be something with a saphire because it was Grandma's favorite stone and is my birthstone. My sister got a ring that my grandmother wore all the time. My mom got a bunch of stuff; although clearly all stuff that my aunt won't ware.

Here's the thing - and granted it took me a little while to figure out - my grandmother had tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewlery. Papa always bought her expensive jewlery ($1000 sets according to my dad), and I know she had a lot. My aunt showed us things that she never wore and things that my grandmother wore day to day. I think in trying to fool my sister and me. But, her diamonds and jewels were missing; I figured this out when showing my Dad what my Mom inherited.

I'm going to try to be just happy that I didn't have to ask my aunt about getting something from the jewlery. My sister and I had decided earlier today that if my aunt hadn't mentioned the jewerly, that we would ask her to give us one thing to remember Grandma for each of us. So, we got that without having to ask for it; I think that's a blessing.

The hard thing is that it is so clear that my aunt is treating us like idiots. She admitted that the estate will only be claiming one or two pieces of the jewlery (because it'll be obvious if nothing is declared and there needs to be an apprasal for jewerly claimed in the estate so that taxes can be paid). The harder thing is that now I know that my good friend is working as the trust administrator and is a part of screwing us over. I don't just mean about the jewerly, but my father claims that he thinks my aunt changed what was orginally set up and we'll likely inherit MUCH less than our half and what was set up before Grandma developed Alzheimer's after Papa died.

I'm trying to so hard not to care about any of this, but the HARDEST thing is the disrespect showed to my mother by her sister and her sister's friends and sons. My brother in law said that my aunt complained that my mom was making noise (reading aloud prayers that were supposed to be said silently). Everyone's been so cold with my mom. I'm just grateful that all of this is over with. I've been enjoying spending a lot of time with Mom. A staff member at her facility actually bothered enough to share with me that Mom seems better since I arrived and have been taking her out so much.

Mom has told me several times over that last few days: "You're a good daughter." She even told her cousin that "I try to do things for other people. My daughter Debra takes after me in this regard." I've been getting Mom dressed up daily before taking her out, and she always smiles at herself in the mirror, really enjoying looking good. I feel really good about everything that I've done for her this week. AND even though my aunt and her sons are angry about my eulogy for Grandma, many people have commented on how nice it was. I'll post it later after taking the names out.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pain, Heartache, and Moms Positive Outlook

[Blogger keeps going to find function whenever I try to use the apostrophie above.]

It has been a rough couple of days. My aunt's sons have been really cold to both me and my mom. I've barely spoken with my aunt, but I don't feel a lot of warmth coming from her either. I think that Mom might be picking up on all of this, but I can't tell.

I have been spending 8-12 hour days with her since I got in town, and I'm just exhausted - especially since the only activities I see going on now at her ALF are Christmas themed, mostly carols, and so we often are banished to her room. The staff doesn't help at all with anything, and I've had to stop them multiple times from making big mistakes with her (like I noticed that she's having diahrea and fought with Dad to get her off her stool softner, and then they were still giving it to her AFTER he called in to say stop).

Yesterday, I woke up at 6am, just feeling really concerned that I would be the only one speaking at Grandma's funeral (other than the Rabbi), especially when I've based my talk around my Mom and my niece. I had heard that my cousin would speak on behalf of their side of the family, but he told my sister that he's not even that upset about losing Grandma, so he can't be bothered.

I went over to Mom's around 9am and spent an hour getting her dressed. Mom was happy to be looking so nice. I then drove her to my aunt's house (aka Grandma's house) to get the limo to take us to the funeral home. My aunt and her sons were busy getting ready, but I felt like they all kinda ignored me and Mom, but I didn't think much about it.

There were two limos - one for my aunt and her sons and the other for Mom, me, my sister, and her husband. On the way there, my sister told me that she and my mom's cousin would both also be speaking which made me feel a little better, but still nervous that no one from my aunt's side would say anything. Mom was very quiet the whole ride, and I took the opportunity to look over what I had prepared to say.

I was feeling a little shock when we arrived at the funeral home and parked just behind the hurse. I just kept staring at it and thinking that my grandmother's body was in there. We walked into a room with some furniture, which turns out is a "private room" next to where they do the funeral. There's a tv to watch what's happening and some open blinds next to the speaker. People came around to share their condolences, butI felt wierd that I couldn't even see who was there, and I had no idea what was going on. We eventually took seats on a couch just behind the speaker.

The Rabbi said some nice things about Grandma, and I appreciated that he included my comments about Grandma's work as a legal secretary before she got married and running a grocery store afterwards. I also felt good when he said that Grandma waited for ME.

After the ceremony, I came out with Mom to try to thank my one friend who came - the wife of my close friend from high school who live here - but she had left and instead we spoke to some of my parents' friends. My dad's close friend asked me where Dad was and was shocked when I told him that Dad wasn't coming to anything. But, we were quickly ushered back into the private room in order to do "kria" where Mom, her sister, and their aunt all ripped this ribbon that they'll wear all week to symbolize their grieving.

I took Mom to the bathroom and her pad was dirty, so I had to get my cousin to get my purse to get a clean pad- she had just gone an hour before so I hadn't thought about grabbing it. As soon as we finished, we had to hop back in the limo to go to the cemetary. The ride was very long - it felt like 20 minutes or more. My sister and I invited my grandmother's sister and her two daughters (one which I often refer to as Mom's cousin). So, that made the ride go pretty smoothly because Mom really adores them.

Everything really sunk in though when we hit the cemetary. We had to sit in the limo until the pall bearers brought my grandmother from the hearse to the grave. Then we all came and sat down (on top of my grandfather's grave). We watched as they put the casket into the ground. Mom turned to her aunt and said "she was always there for me." When I would ask her about her mom the last couple of days, that's what she would say. It was then that I knew that Mom understood what was happening. And that I finally felt what was happening. Jews are very morbid like this. We watched the casket go into the ground and then we all shovel dirt on top of it. I helped Mom do it, and then went back and did it for myself. I don't know how much over the last few days Mom has just been confused, and how much her saying over and over "its nice that we can be together" to family and friends is just her positive outlook about things.

As we left, I gave Mom a stone to put on her father's grave and did the same. She looked at it and moaned: "My father." Once I got her to the pavement, my sister took her, and I went back to have a moment with my other relatives: my great aunt and uncle, my father's parents. When we got back into the limo, my sister noted that the graves all have dead flowers next to them. Then my sister told me that my cousin came up to her after the funeral and said "Why didn't she talk about my Mom?" but apparently in a much more obnoxious way. He didn't get that I was talking about how I see Grandma in my mom, my niece, and myself BUT thought I was talking about taking care of Grandma. So he and his brothers and my aunt are all pissed off at me. I just felt heartbroken and angry; I JUST helped bury Grandma, and they're being critical of me.

We drove back to my aunt's house. My aunt, her sons, Mom, my sister and I all sat at the dining room table and ate. It was very awkward and the boys talked to each other but not to us. My aunt spoke a bit to my Mom. But, basically, I felt like it was me and my sister taking care of her. The house filled up with people, and after an hour and a half, I took Mom over to my sister's to rest. As we left, my aunt suggested that we return in two hours for dinner. I knew we had to be there in 3 and a half hours for shiva.

At my sister's house, it actually felt like we were a family more than any other time in recent history. I called my dad who came over to visit with my mom...although he spent more time talking with my brother in law and sister. We ended up ordering pizza over to my sister's place because we were all too exhausted to go back to my aunt's so soon.

When we returned for shiva, my aunt's place was packed. I was completely exhausted, as was Mom. My friend from the funeral showed up, and I was kinda shocked when my aunt went up to talk to her before she got over to say hi to me. My friend is an lawyer in the trust department at the bank where my grandmother's accounts are, and only at that moment did it become clear that she handles Grandma's accounts. I completely understand that she hadn't said anything to me, but it was very wierd feeling because both my dad and I have spoken to them about issues between him and my aunt, and Dad was even interested in getting her involved at one point because she's our friend, but decided we didn't want to put her in an awkward spot.

The service started with the Rabbi saying something like "At the funeral, we spoke about [Grandma], now we are going to talk a bit about [my aunt]." Then, my aunt's friend got up and spoke about how much my aunt did for Grandma and how much Grandma loved my aunt. I didn't think about it at the time, but how bad must this have made my mom feel to not at all be recognized for all of the things that she's done for Grandma over the years and to have it pointed out so publically that Mom help out like she used to.

When I called my sister later - twice before getting to actually talk to her - she told me that she's busy getting ready to have my aunt and cousins over. I gather that Mom and I aren't invited. I'm so frustrated with her since both she and her husband made the biggest deal about how we have to spend 24/7 with Mom, and they haven't spent any time with her when I wasn't there. I feel like I'm being left totally and completely with responsibility for Mom. And, I feel completely unwelcome at my aunt's place. BUT we have to go back tonight, tomorrow night, and Thursday night for Shiva. And then its Hanukah. And then we're moving Mom. And my sister's going out of town. I just feel really overwhelmed.

I'm going to take the day off and try to catch up a bit on work and email and laundry and whatever. I don't even know what the plan is for dinner tonight: are we expected to be at my aunt's or are we on our own? Dad said that he'll take us out to dinner if we want, and I told him that I don't even know at this point what to do. I don't know if Mom is picking up on the bad energy with her sister and her sons OR if she likes being over there. I asked Dad to try to talk to Mom this morning when he goes over to visit with her, to find out what she wants. Who knows though if she'll even remember yesterday.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Question for Caretakers: How to Talk to Someone With Alzheimer's About Death

We told Mom this morning that her mother died. She was upset for about a minute, and then it was like she forgot altogether. She changed the subject and then was seemingly happy. We tried again, but the same thing happened. I'm not sure what my mother understood.

Has anyone else had to talk to someone with Alzheimer's about death? I'm not sure how often to bring it up and how much to just let it go. I mean maybe its okay if she doesn't understand that her mother died. I'm a bit worried what's going to happen at the funeral; I don't want it to be a shock to her then that her mother is gone. Any thoughts?

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Grandma Passed Early This Morning

I got in to Kansas City last night around 4:30pm. Dad picked me up and took me to dinner. I took a couple asprin because I could feel a migraine coming on, but I didn't want to bring out the big guns (aka real medication for the migraine that I should take immediately at onset) because I wanted to be able to drive to see Grandma later. On the way back to his house, we stopped by Mom's. She was SO happy to see me. She was in the bathroom when we got there - for God knows how long, probably putting soap on her face. There wasn't anything going on - one of the two tvs featured an infomerical on Proactiv (product for acne).

I made Mom tea (finding the herbal tea bags I got for her still locked away in her room and unused). Then, I put on one of her Barbara Streisand DVDs and brought her friend Shelly over to watch with her. I also turned on the VCR on the other TV, so that the residents sitting near there could actually watch something interesting to them.

Then, we went back to Dad's. I got my luggage to my room and called my sister. She said that she was briefly taking my niece over to Grandma's so that my niece could say goodbye. I wanted to be there for that, and also needed sis' help getting into Grandma's room that late at night. So I ran over to Grandma's.

Grandma was lying in bed with oxygen in her nose and her mouth wide open. You could hear her struggling to breathe. She looked like hell but her hair was somewhat done and she had lipstick on, which I was happy about because I know that'd be important to her. My sister was there already with her husband and two kids, and our cousin and this couple that used to take care of Grandma were there was well. My niece kept looking at Grandma and saying "I love you I love you I love you." She, my sister, and I sang Grandma this song "I love you" that her husband, my papa, used to sing to us.

My sister and I left around 9:30pm. The cousin was going to stay the night with Grandma. We planned to take my Mom today to say goodbye to Grandma. When I arrived, the nurse said that Grandma was responding by breathing heavier and had an increased heart rate. She said that perhaps Grandma had been waiting for me. We guessed that more likely, she's waiting for her daugters. I had told Grandma that it was okay that she died because we all love her and she'll live on inside of us.

Anyway, I am losing my timeline here. I got to Dad's, unpacked, and took Restoril (like Xanax, which I've been taking every night since the murder last year and used to take when couldn't sleep because of the rape), a muscle relaxer, and eventually when I still felt the pain of the migraine Imitrex (but double the dose I normally take because there was an error in the prescription, and I didn't want to bother cutting it in half). I knew that I had a big day ahead of me today, so I wanted to make sure that I didn't wake up with a migraine. But, I was completely knocked out.

My sister called me at 3:15 to tell me to go over to Grandma's because things were worsening. I didn't move when she called my cell but eventually half asleep answered the home phone when she called. I tried to explain that I was medicated and needed to sleep, but she called again around 6am to tell me that Grandma had died. She told me to get up and come over and be with the body, but I explained that I couldn't drive and wanted to sleep. Plus, I don't WANT to see the body, that's way too creepy for me.

My dad woke me up around 7:45am to tell me that my sister called him to see if I was up. We spoke briefly and then she went to get my niece ready for school. When she called later, my dad answered as well. My sis said that she wants to go today to tell Mom. Dad said that he wants to wait because the funeral won't be until Monday at earliest, so better to tell her Saturday or Sunday. I tried to stay out of it but said that I agree that maybe we shouldn't tell her until family starts to come into town. Finally, we agreed to tell her tomorrow, although my sister is clearly unhappy about this.

I'm going to go workout and have a shower, then my sister and her hubby and son are coming over for lunch. Then my sis and I are going to Mom's to take her out shopping. I bet you that she tries to convince me to tell Mom this afternoon. I have to be strong because I REALLY think Mom'll just want to be alone with my dad a bit after she hears. Of course, the plan is after that to not leave her alone much.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Grandma Will Pass In the Coming Hours

I got a phone message from my sister, could tell that she was crying. I phoned her back sitting in the waiting room for my neurology appointment. She told me that Grandma is having much difficulty breathing and the people from Hospice say that she'll pass sometime within the next 24 hours. My sister says that it is getting increasingly worse and that it could be any time now.

I will be traveling back to Kansas City tomorrow morning. I may not be online for awhile - so I'm going to change the way that you can leave comments so that I don't have to approve them.

I think its a blessing that Grandma won't have to suffer anymore, but it is very sad that's she's dying, and I am afraid of what the experience of the next week will be like for Mom.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Why I Love *A*: A Clarification

So, if you've read this site before, you've probably picked up on the fact that I use it to blow off steam and write things to get them off my chest, so that some things that are said don't give you the full picture of what's going on.

A couple of friends have noted that *A* is a total jerk, and to some degree I feel this - which is why I express it in these pages - but he can be very wonderful to me, so I feel that I should just note it.

I got an invitation to go to an Alzheimer's Association event watching the movie "The Notebook." I would rather not go alone and started thinking about who locally I could get to come with me. So, of course, I thought about *A*. Now, I should note that he has pretty bad back problems and NEVER goes to the movies because its too uncomfortable to sit for that long. But, when I im-ed him about going, he said he'd come with me, even though he might have a 3 day weekend and otherwise want to go out of town.

*A* has a way of making me feel better about things - sometimes I find that just his presence kinda calms me; also, he's extremely silly and makes me laugh.

Okay, enough of all of this, I'm starting to get teary eyed.

Update on my grandmother: my sister called me today and told me that Grandma has been taken off of all her meds because she wasn't eating and they were making her sleep all the time. But, now she's awake, but uncomfortable and in pain. I can't believe that they won't just let her die comfortably, choosing instead to extend her life as much as possible, even when it means causing her pain. My grandmother can't eat solid foods, speak, or move around much by herself including walking. She had made it clear to all of us that she wouldn't want to live like this, and she has a living will.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Whose Reading?

I told several friends about this blog when I started it, and I honestly don't remember who I gave the address to and who I didn't. There are sometimes where friends will reference the blog to me in conversation, which is completely fine. I just would like to know when you're reading my blog - not just friends....

I'm not asking for detailed comments necessarily, but I'd appreciate it if when you look at the blog, if you could make a quick comment to the post you're reading. OR, if you'd rather not do that for whatever reason, I invite you to sign my guest book.

I'm feeling a bit wierd about having all of my life posted online and just want to touch base to find out who is reading it and what the response is to what I'm saying.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mom's ALF is Inept

I called Dad while walking on the beach with my dog. He told me that he had been over to Mom's to take her out to dinner, like he does every Saturday. When he arrived at 4:30pm, Mom was in her room (staff are supposed to keep the door locked until bedtime) in her pajamas sleeping in her bed.

Dad got her up and dressed, which was supposedly not an easy task because since she was sleeping, she was very disoriented. He struggled so much that he decided that it wouldn't work to take her out to dinner and that he'd come back the next day to try again. It is especially sad, he noted, since due to bad weather, he wasn't able to take her then either.

Dad said that he called the director of the facility after not having any luck finding the staff supervisor at the facility. The director told Dad that this only happens 8/9 times, so Dad shouldn't complain. I mean, let's be honest, if Dad hadn't arrived, Mom would have missed dinner and been left to sleep until the middle of the night, when there's no staff. I've seen lots of cases of people missing dinner in the past, and there's no food around if they're hungry later, with the exception of perhaps a peanut butter sandwich on white bread or a grilled cheese (with American processed cheese food) IF there's still any around.

It is the weekend, so my sister is supposed to go put her to bed instead of the woman that I hired. I tried to call my sister, but she didn't answer her cell or at home.

I called Mom, and the person working at the front desk couldn't get any staff from Mom's floor to answer the phone. She was nice enough (a rarity) to go up there herself and find my Mom. She asked what Mom's room number is, and I explained that Mom shouldn't be in her room. Mom had a hard time talking on the phone she was so disoriented. She told me that she was looking at a card, and I didn't recognize the names she said. I think that she has someone else's mail, which is not uncommon for the staff to just leave it out somewhere instead of making sure it gets to residents' rooms. Clearly, there was nothing going on - I couldn't hear anything. I REALLY hope that Mom wasn't put again in her room. I asked the front desk person to put on one of Mom's videos. Mom could barely repeat "Streisand" when I suggested it. Augh, I'm so mad. At least, Dad said that he'll speak with the director's boss after we move Mom out.

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Determination of Steel

Well, I managed not to call *A* last night, which was VERY difficult. He called me this morning and invited me to brunch, and I played the whole thing off very non-chaulantly I think. He showed up with a beard, which is how he looked in high school and when we dated in college, so it was especially hard for me. I have a thing for guys with facial hair anyway, but it looks especially good on *A* - although apparently I'm his only friend that thinks so.

Anyway, he even lingered afterwards at my place, and it kept running through my head to apologize to him and wanting to kiss him and snuggle, BUT I managed to keep my cool and even pushed him to go a little before he seemed ready.

My cousins are blowing me off tonight, but I got a very nice invitation to eat dinner at my neighbors' place. I'm going to try to get a lot of work done before then. I also am going to run and exchange those bra straps - I emailed the owner who invited me to do so after I told her that they didn't work. This is the beauty in living in a smallish town I think.

Tomorrow, I have book club and then study group. I can't believe that I only have a week until I come to Kansas City.

Oh, I spoke with my sister today. She told me that when she called Mom last night, Mom didn't seem to know who she was but she kept referring to me. My sister said that Mom seems to think that she only has one daughter - me. It made me feel good that she's remembering me but I feel bad for my sister. I especially feel bad for Mom that since the weather there has been so bad, she hasn't had the visitors she normally gets. Hopefully it will clear up for her soon.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Possibility to See *Z* - College Reunion

I just got an invitation for my college reunion. I imediately thought about how it'd be an opportunity for me to see *Z*. See, he has a job this year teaching at my alma matter. If you don't remember the story of me and *Z*, read about our amazing night together, a draft of the email that I obsessed over sending him, his blow-off reply, or the poem that I wrote about our night. Do I dare go to the reunion? I could drive up there in 15 hours from Kansas City....or fly out or something. I don't know. Part of me thinks that its a really bad idea and part of me thinks that it's worth a shot. Of course, I'm a horrible liar, but I could try to pretend to have just come for the reunion. They hold it during graduation time, so he'd have to still be on campus.

Dad said that when he called later, the staff claimed that they hadn't seen Mom fall. Mom was talking a bit of gibberish to Dad, so he thinks that she didn't really fall. I don't believe that, but I'm glad that she's okay.

All of a sudden its Friday night and I have no plans. I need to just focus and get some work done, but I'm feeling lonely. I am looking forward to being in KC and seeing good friends. I did have lunch with my friend Carly, who had the nerve to just up front tell me that she's going to some happy hour that I was also invited to - but made it clear that she wouldn't go with me. She's been like this since I got back to town - it is the third time I've seen her in the months that I've been here (even though we used to hang out all the time), and she's consistently telling me about plans with other friends, making it clear that I'm not invited.

On the upside, I finally joined the local shul. Tonight another member came by and dropped off a welcome bag with an enormous challah, a mezzuzah with a scroll, candles, a bottle of grape juice, and a small book about the Jewish community. The woman was very friendly, although she said that she's also single and there's no chance of dating someone Jewish here or even really meeting anyone interesting my age. "There are some divorced women, but you don't want to spend time with them." The Rabbi met with me a couple of days ago, and we spoke about me coming to services during the week so that I can encourage more of a community for this so that maybe I'll have someone to say Kaddish with when Mom dies.

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