Back to Joy

When I started the journey of going to Florida from Georgia every two weeks, it was January, 2012. Hospice had taken Mom as a patient and I thought I would be making the trip for two or three months at the most. I was preparing myself for her death and my loss.

Six months passed and she was still with us, but continuing to decline. I grieved each time I left my husband, contemplated lost time to play with my grandchildren and being with other family and friends. I grieved for Mom’s loss of function and pending death when I left her. I was grateful for the time I had with Mom, my sister and cousins, but the two weeks in Florida were becoming long, lonely and difficult. I had one foot in one bucket and one in another and they seemed to be moving apart. I was losing my balance.

By September, I was a mess. It took me three days when I arrived home to recover from the trip. Three days before I had to go back, I was depressed and miserable. I realized that the support of my husband, children and grandchildren, sister, cousins and friends was not enough. So, I made an appointment with Dr. B.

I met Dr. B. about 16 years ago when I was going through the transition of moving from being a mother with dependent children and managing my husband’s office to “What am I going to do for the rest of my life?” Her insight was helpful, then, as I moved out of the medical field to a job at a nature science center and into a different role with my adult children. Though I had not seen her since that time, we connected as we had done all those years ago. She has taken the pressure off of my husband who I know has grown tired of all my moaning and groaning, though he is a very good listener. I can cry and vent all I want to without feeling guilty. She has helped me come out of the dark and move into the light once again.

Thirteen months later and Mom is still with us. I am grateful. She delights in her great-grandchildren, staying awake to not miss a moment with them.  She loves when friends and family come to visit and when my sister or I take her for a daily ride. She eats very little, can’t talk, can’t hear, can’t walk, but she has a lively spark in her eyes. So, I continue to make the trip to Florida to be with her for two weeks each month.  At least, I will until June.

Another woman has brought joy to the journey, Rosie. I wrote about her in a previous blog. She lovingly cared for my aunt and uncle until they died. She wraps us all within a cloak of love that comes only from the Divine. She is clear about her mission in life and that is to care for older people who need her. She is a professional with a heart. It took me months to call her because I couldn’t let go of Mom’s care. An honest friend told me that I am not honoring Mom if I continue to wear myself out and become resentful. That pushed me down the road to call Rosie. And Rosie let me know that it was time to dry the tears and that she would work out a way to be there for Mom one week a month. “God will work out all the details.“ I believe her. Mom always brightens when she sees Rosie. Finding the right person to stand shoulder to shoulder with you on the caregiving journey blesses everyone.

Beginning in June, I will joyfully go one week each month to be with Mom. My sister will continue to stay with her for two weeks at a time. She will be loved always by everyone who cares for her. My balance has been restored. The road we are on in this life is rarely straight. It is full of unexpected crooks and turns cluttered with stuff. I like it like that. Keeps it interesting. Through all of this I have learned once again that love is what counts, joy gives us a bounce in our step, and kindness that we give will be returned to us. Thanks to all who have showered us with kindness.  It is my plan to move forward, love more, fear less and squeeze every drop of joy from this crooked road called life.

Mom Turns 90!

Aside

It has been 6 months since my last post.  Where did the time go?  Family and friends celebrated Mom’s birthday in Florida in December and my sister and I decided that Mom could no longer travel to Georgia.  Yin/yang. Glad/sad. Same/change.  Complimentary opposites. Balance.  The beginning of the transition left me feeling very unbalanced.  How was I going to participate in her care living 360 miles away?

After many sleepless nights, I decided to make the trip to Chumuckla every two weeks to stay with Mom for two weeks at a time. My sister and I partner in her care allowing her to stay in her home.  She moves in with Mom when I am not there.  Our husbands have been supportive of our efforts. I have been doing this for five months now.  Hospice came on board in January.  Kathy and Tracy give us strength as they treat Mom with care and respect.  Mom continues to enjoy daily rides, sitting outside and seeing those she loves.

I seem to be in a constant state of grieving on some level.  I grieve when I leave my husband and grandchildren in Georgia. I grieve when I leave Mom in Florida.  I adore all of my family.  I would walk on hot coals for any of them.  Sometimes, I feel like I am doing just that.  Will I be burned?  I am learning that love overcomes obstacles and many times turns them into blessings. So even when I feel the heat, I can watch beautiful sunsets over plowed fields.  I can visit with my sister, her husband, my nephews and niece, cousins and old friends.  I can watch a full moon rise to fill the sky and land with light in the darkness.  I can buy the freshest of vegetables from Salter’s Farm Market.  I can see Mom smile and hold her hand.  I can go home to Georgia to the love of my life.

Caregiving poses many challenges.  Deciding where a person should be cared for is complicated.  And, if they are in their home, who will help provide the care?  It can get very stressful having a loved one who is unable to care for themselves, whether you are involved directly in their care or not.  I am grateful to be able to share in Mom’s care with my sister.  I can’t imagine trying to do it alone.

Variety IS the Spice of Life

Mom is not eating much these days.  When we go out for lunch she eats a few bites and I finish hers and mine.  “Waste not, want not”, you know.  Consequently, I have gained enough weight to make it difficult to button and, in some cases, zip my pants.  I decided to go on the cabbage soup diet as outlined on www.cabbage-soup-diet.com rather than shop for a new wardrobe.

I gathered the ingredients: cabbage, scallions, parsley, carrots, celery, tomatoes and green peppers.  All wonderful vegetables, I knew I would enjoy.  I sauteed the onions in a little olive oil and added the rest of the coarsely chopped vegetables and 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes.ImageImageAfter having cabbage soup for three meals a day, three days, I couldn’t take the monotony any more.  I gave up.  When Mom goes home, I will cut back the calories and hopefully,  be able to wear some of my favorite pants again.  I pureed the remaining soup and froze it to use in spaghetti sauce.ImageMom likes variety, too.  We all need to spice things up in our life, whether it is trying new foods or activities.  Doing the same thing day after day leads to depression.  Caregiving can be extremely repetitive taking one down the road to pure boredom–watching the same TV programs, going down the same roads, bath time, meal time, snack time and bedtime.

We have to be creative.  For the mental health of ourselves, the caregivers, as well as the one we care for each day.  Mom enjoys being busy and doing things that feel worthwhile to her.  She unloads the silverware and sorts it into the tray.  Folding small items helps me and keeps her engaged in the activities she has done all her life.  ImageImageGreat-grandchildren and grandchildren, definitely, add spice to her day.  Family and friends are such a blessing in an older persons day.  They transport them into the present with joy overflowing.  Mom and Olivia giggled as they “made” cookies.  Olivia got excited about the sugar she was suppose to be rolling the cookies in.  Most went on her tongue, I believe.  Only those who love her ate the cookies.

ImageImageImageNew technology brings friends to life though miles apart.  Billy and Paula Kimbrough sang in Chumuckla Community Church and Victor Campbell, my cousin, filmed them, www.me3tv.org.  Mom moved and grooved to the music.  Better than anything we could ever find on TV!

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Halibut for Supper

Dave, Mom and I met Kittye and Winston at the Cracker Barrel in Opelika, Alabama this past Saturday.  Tropical Storm Lee was spitting a bit of rain on them as they drove north on Interstate 65.  We had sunshine driving south.  The Cracker Barrel allows us to make an easy restroom stop with Mom in the wheelchair and she enjoys shopping and eating there.   She grinned from ear to ear when she saw them and waved her hand in the air.  She was happy to be going home for a little while. The break refreshes all of us.

When we arrived home from Opelika, I was eager to prepare a package of halibut that I had thawing in the refrigerator.  I enjoy cooking for Dave.  He is the easiest person to please in the whole world.  I am truly grateful, because I have tried many a new recipe out on him.  My favorite comment when he is eating a meal I have prepared is, “We’ve been married 41 years and we have never had this meal before”.   It is a wonder.

Our dear friends, Maria and Luiz, who live in San Francisco, but spend summers in Alaska sent us a box filled with frozen halibut, salmon and clams that they caught this summer.  Maria says she has caught the most fish.  I have no doubt.  Dave and I can’t wait for them to take us fishing.  Maybe, next summer.  We hope to have a visit from them before then.

The halibut steak is about an inch thick and 4-5 inches wide.  I applied a generous portion of salt and pepper, cut it into four pieces and dredged it in plain flour.

I put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and of butter into the pan.  The ceramic frying pans get hot and stay hot.  I miscalculated and let the butter get a little browner than I would have liked, but it did not affect the flavor.  I enjoy how beautiful the food looks in my white pans with the red handles and bottoms.  Dave gave them to me, a set of three, small, medium and large.  I used the medium size. The fillets cooked about 3 minutes on each of the four sides.

I removed the halibut from the pan and added a clove of chopped garlic from Loganberry Farm and cooked it for about a minute.  After pouring in 1/3 cup of Kendell-Jackson Riesling, I added some capers and about a half pint of cherry tomatoes that I got out of the garden.  The tomatoes cooked until their skins popped.  I put Organic Girl Super Greens (green and red swiss chard, tat soi, arugula and spinach) onto the plate, topped them with a piece of fish and spooned the sauce, capers and tomatoes over the lovely fillets.  Pure perfection, flaky and delicious.  Thank you, Maria and Luiz.

And you know what, we have never had that supper before………

Golden Friendships

Friends stopping by to visit this past week enriched my life.  Helen came on Monday.  We laughed together.  Laughter is definitely good medicine.  My spirits are lifted by her presence in my life.  I took her on a tour of the Napkinection workshop in my basement.  It is a great space that meets my needs.  I can close the door, keep the grandchildren out of the beads and the rest of the world  out of my space when I want to retreat.

Helen and I put together this turquoise Napkinection.  It has two silver metal spacer beads between each turquoise bead.  Mom is happy to be our model.

Dave’s dad, Minter Westfall, was an entomologist, specializing in dragonflies and damselflies.  Carol, his daughter made these dragonfly napkins for us years ago.  We continue to enjoy using them.  The colors complement this Napkinection.   On Thursday, Ivy came for lunch.   She suggested that all of us wear Napkinections to show support for Mom.  I like that idea.  Next time she comes, I’ll have one for each of us.  Ivy inspires me.  She is an artist, poet, photographer, and writer.  Her book of poetry  and photographs will soon be published.  It is touching and beautifully done–The Fleeting Moment.  I can’t wait to have my copy in hand.

Isolation is a problem that caregivers have to deal with as their lives are consumed with their daily task of caring for another.  Good friends who stick by you through thick and thin are worth their weight in gold.

Blogs are another way friends can touch friends.  My friend, Kathy, writes on her blog, www. sharingshaymont.com about decorating ideas.  I love her Fourth of July hat.  She found it in her basement, painted it red, wrapped it with red, white and blue ribbon and placed it on her door.  It looked very festive for the holiday.   Her daughter has a blog about saving money, www.thepurposefulpurse.blogspot.com.  Both blogs have useful ways that caregivers and families can boost morale and savings.