Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grieving My Mother While She's Still Here

I have spent many years wanting to write about my journey with my mother's Alzheimer's disease, but afraid to make it public. This has been, first and foremost, my mother's journey, and I never wanted to say anything that might betray her privacy. How do I write about my hurts and frustrations, knowing she could still read it? How could I share with my friends my pain, knowing that many of my friends were her friends as well? What if she didn't want people to know the details? How could I be the one to tell when she is the one effected most?

Yesterday Mom moved out of the home she built with my dad almost 40 years ago and into a memory care unit where she will live out her remaining days. She will never read these public words because she can no longer recognize letters, and she cannot understand many words or comprehend thoughts. She hasn't known my name for a long time. She doesn't know that I am her daughter, she does not know how many children I have or where I live. She knows my face and she knows she loves me, and at this stage, that is enough.

Mom still doesn't know that she moved. We were instructed not to tell her, and she may never actually realize that she has left her home. I have watched this slow decline in mental ability over the past 14 years, and I am still amazed that she no longer knows the home she has lived in for so long.

I have decided to start writing again. Honestly, I have been writing this whole time, but leaving heartache and tears in the drafts folder, anxiously hitting "save" after pouring my pain into words and hoping I don't accidentally hit "publish" instead.

This is my mother's journey, but it affects us all.

I was out with some friends today, pushing myself to stay busy so that the grief doesn't overwhelm. My friends, being caring souls, asked some questions that made my cry. "Would you say this is like a death? Are you grieving this like she died?"

Honestly, it is in a way. These last 14 years have been a slow, painful grieving of her life as pieces of who she is gradually ebb away. I went through a period of grieving about four years ago, and I described it as grieving her passing. I know that sounds morbid and horrible to someone who has never experienced a disease like this, but my mother is gone. The woman who raised me, the one with the quick wit and sharp intellect, who still holds the family record for skipping rocks across water (eleven skips, if you need to know) is gone. And we have grieved each piece as it goes, some immediately and some as we realize it months later.

I read something on social media a while back that said, "there was a time that your parents held you on their hip, set you down, and never picked you back up again." None if us really know when that was, it's a occasion that goes unmarked and unnoticed till years later when you are left with a memory of time past and a curiosity as to when it ended. When was the last time she called me by name? When was the last time I talked with her on the phone? When was the last time she spoke a full sentence that made sense?

Monday night we had a family dinner, and I brought along my sister-in-law (and incredibly gifted photographer) to capture this last dinner. It was the last time we all gathered at our family home, the only family home my brother and I have known. I teared up as I realized all these lasts were happening and I was fully aware. The last time I hugged my mother goodbye in the front foyer. The last time we walked in the backyard, watching the kids climb the fruit trees. The last time I saw her sitting in her familiar chair in the family room, which has been her spot for as long as I can remember. The last time she waved goodbye from the driveway.


The dinner was wonderful. I had prayed for a long time that she would be in a good frame of mind, and she was incredibly joyful and cheery. She knew she loved us, and she showed us her love with bright smiles and cheerful words that didn't make any verbal sense but spoke clearly with her tone and the light in her eyes.

It was a perfect last.

I have spent a good deal of time in the last couple of days crying. I am mourning the loss of my mother. The woman she was is gone, but her body was still a familiar presence in her home and now we are mourning that part of her life as well. They say that Alzheimer's is called "the long goodbye", and I could not agree more. It really is a long, long process of slowly losing someone you love, and I would not wish it on anyone.

I love you, mom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

We All Have Different Fantasies

For many years, I was a self-proclaimed Football Widow.

My husband has been a die-hard football fan since childhood. He was a Seahawks season-ticket holder for ten years or so, and even asked my dad for my hand in marriage at a Seahawks game. His family gave up the season tickets when the Hawks moved into their new stadium and prices went up accordingly, but he has been a Hawks fan for life.

My darling husband was, at one point, in four Fantasy Football leagues. If you are not familiar with Fantasy Football, it's an online game where you and some of your football-loving friends pick your own teams of real NFL players to make up an imaginary team, and play your imaginary team against other imaginary teams throughout the season, hoping that your best players don't get busted for illegal drugs, or deflating footballs, or child abuse. It's like Dungeons and Dragons where everything can end badly at any time and it's not in your control.  OK, I've never actually played Dungeons and Dragons, so I have no idea what the game consists of, so that example might not make any sense at all.

I mocked my husband relentlessly for this hypothetical game that he played with not one but four groups of friends who all had their own various fictional teams. This means my husband had four imaginary teams himself, each consisting of different players, and he would somehow remember not only who was on each team, but who was out for injuries and who was out for steroid use and so on. My brain is muddled by thoughts of which of the kids need new shoes and who was given the red marker last in order to know who to blame for the red marks on the carpet, so all this extra info was completely lost on me. Hubby would want to watch many of the week's football games as possible in order to see how his players were doing, since how they did in real life effected their scores in the imaginary-pretend-fantasy world. It was frustrating and stupid and annoying and I just wanted to have a life and not be tied to football scores each week. Was that too much to ask?

My brother took pity on me and invited me to join his fantasy football league of people who didn't know much about football and just played for funsies. I was a little unsure, as my football knowledge was limited to whatever slipped through my thoughts as I tuned out whatever my husband was telling me. "I have to remember to go get bread tomorrow, and how much grocery money do I have left this month? Oh, I don't think I've said anything in a while, better nod in agreement, 'Mmmmhmmm.' How many pairs of jeans do the kids each have stocked up for fall? 'Oh, totally.' Wait, what did I just agree with? Dang, better pay attention and see if I can figure out what he is saying. Oh, that Roethlesberger guy is still a total douche-canoe. I didn't miss anything new. Where IS that smell coming from?"

However, I was tempted by the promise that I could attend the draft without children in tow, and there would be smoked chicken and brisket. I can be swayed easily by smoked brisket and time with adult conversation and not wiping butts. I mean, I don't wipe anyone's butt but my own nowadays, but this was a few years ago.

I wasn't expecting it, but I found my tribe.

I showed up to the first draft and was informed that the "GB Packers" stood for Great Britain, and the "Cle Browns" were from Cle Elum. There were no bonus points for knowledge. We all just had fun, no one cared if you made a stupid mistake, and it was awesome. Oh, and the food was fantastic.

I snacked on brisket and chose my players based on uniform colors and how awesome their hair was, and I won the Super Bowl my first year. I was hooked. Then, the Seahawks started playing well, and football became a lot more interesting.

Now, I have been a Hawks fan forever, I just haven't always been a football fan. My first crush as a kid was none other than the amazingly beautiful Steve Largent, and I had the poster on my wall to prove it. I really didn't understand the game, though, and I think that makes it challenging to enjoy a sport when you have no idea what is going on half the time.

You know, like life. And why adulting is so hard.

Anywhoo.  Here I am, a few years down the road, and I'm already planning my fantasy draft at the end of August.  However, my planning is limited to pinning goal-post decorations on Pinterest and calculating if the tootsie-pop foul flags would actually cause injury if we threw them at each other when someone takes the player you wanted next. Who is playing this sport this year? I have no idea. OOH! Taco dip shaped like a football field? I'm IN!

Basically, the tables have turned. My darling husband is now completely annoyed by ME each and every football season.

Hubby: "Who is your backup running back?"
Me: "Huh? I don't remember. He has brown wavy hair and looks scary."
Hubby: "..."
me: *blinks innocently*
Hubby: "I just. I got nothing."

Hubby: "Do you have any Cardinals going this week?'
Me: "I dunno, why?"
Hubby: "Because they are playing tonight."
Me: "What? Why are they playing? It's not even the weekend!"
Me: "Oh, today is Thursday? Whoops. Who is the running back? Wait, I won't remember names anyway, what does his hair look like?"
Hubby: "I hope you lose."

Hubby: "Did you start Julio Jones?"
Me: "No, I decided to start that other guy instead. I had a good feeling about, what's his name? Lemme look... OH! Larry Fitzgerald."
Hubby: "WHAT? He hasn't scored a touchdown in four weeks!!"
Me: "Yeah, but his hair looks fantastic."
Hubby: "You don't get to have good feelings when you have no idea what you are doing!! Oh my gosh, you are insane!"
--Later that week--
Hubby: "So you lost this week?"
Me: "No, I won. Fitzgerald scored two touchdowns and that other guy didn't get anything. I told you I had a good feeling!"
Hubby: "... I hate you."

Really, he loves me. And he just might be filled with a teensy bit of jealousy that I keep winning. I'm sure that's it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Catching Up Like Old Friends Where Only One Person Talks The Whole Time

It's time to start writing again.

I actually do write often, but most of what I write stays in the drafts folder and never gets published. Stuff about dealing with my mom as her Alzheimer's progresses isn't for the public eye, at least not yet.  Most of my funny stuff ends up on facebook. So here I am, nothing to put on my blog, and needing to breathe life into this poor, neglected dot on the internet.

Basically, I'm broke and I need to bring in some money. Really, I want a job where I can drink wine while working and those jobs are apparently very limited. I don't have the skills to be a wine tester (unless some company needs a tester for cheap wine or boxed wine or some other low-brow vintage) (think of it, "I think this wine has a slightly winey taste with a hint of, what is that? Ah, grapes.") and apparently my particular skill set does not mix with a nice (or cheap) glass of Moscato while maintaining a high level of quality work.  This blog has never really been considered a "high level of quality work" with all its poop stories and me being peed on in public places, so we're good.

Here we are. Let me catch you up, since I've been neglecting our relationship. This summer, my darling husband and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage. A great majority of that has been wedded bliss, but not all. Thankfully, our relationship has hovered more in the realm of "there's no one else I'd rather annoy for the rest of my life than you," and less in the category of "Honey, does this rag smell like chloroform?" I'm taking that as a win.

The kids' pictures on the sidebar are terribly out of date. I am the mother of a 12 year old, twin nine year olds, and a seven year old. This fall we will enter the realm of homeschooling all four children. We have homeschooled for the last two years, but never all of them at once. This is why I need wine while working. I had been so looking forward to the day the youngest went to kindergarten and I could have time to myself, but the year the youngest went to kinder I started homeschooling two others so I have never had that break I so desperately wanted. Well, that's not entirely true. The kids went to VBS last summer and I had a week where they were gone for 30 hours and let me tell you, I got more done that week than I have in the year since. VBS is coming again in 18 days. I am planning everything that week. Maybe I will come up with a new blog design.  I will accomplish it all. I will pray no one pukes.

Our family has expanded to include three cats and a dog, which are mildly entertaining but more in the annoying way where people want to show you eight hours of home video of their baby trying to crawl and it just isn't nearly as fun for everyone else. We have two kittens, and they are hysterical. Google "funny kitten videos" and what is there is pretty much what they do, with their little kitten paws in the air in surprise and all their kitten chasing and pouncing. Like the kid thing, they are so much cuter because they are ours, but they are pretty much just kittens to everyone else. I'll attach a five hour video of them sleeping. Watch it all. It's good.

Speaking of videos, did you know there were videos on youtube for you to play for your cats to watch? I had no idea, but then I stumbled across one one day and the kittens were riveted. I wasn't sure if that much screen time was good for their growing brains, but then I allowed it because I've had four kids so now I no longer care.

So, what's new with you guys? Is anyone still there?