Scratch ‘N Sniff

The catalog arrived in the mail.  It was a busy Saturday, and so it was not until after the last of the light had fallen away to the west that I sat down and opened it.

TW was puttering in the garage.  Twinks was busy at her part-time college-girl job.  And so I sat in a warm circle of lamp light, with my kittty companions nearby, and began to turn the pages.


It was from a candle company, peddling their wares.  Spring is in the air, and so are the latest scents and shapes of candles and holders and assorted candle-adjacent items in their glossy catalog.   Several places in the catalog were prominently marked as “Rub and Smell”, typically on the picture of the candle in question. 

I happily made my way through the book, rubbing and smelling here and there.  And then, I came upon the page with the lilacs.

   The human mind never fails to amaze, does it Gentle Reader?  The fact that we can store so many memories, and store them in ways that are associated not just with visual cues, or auditory cues, but also with the sense of taste and smell and touch, and even movement is fascinating.   

Absentmindedly, I scratched and sniffed, and found myself instantly transported back to a place in my childhood, when my world was simple, my worries were very few, and anything was possible.

There were lilacs that were banked on the fence that bordered the east side of my grandparent’s lawn.  My grandmother had planted them when my mother went off to college, and by the time I was a child, they were almost run wild; the very scent of a sweet spring morning to me is that of the sun, drying the dew from the lilacs.  It would creep up by the kitchen door, and wait for breakfast to be done, and then, when all that was left of the morning was the smell of Ivory Dish Soap and clean, freshly washed linens, it would meander in through the screens.  By late afternoon the house would overshadow the lilacs; their scent almost faded away, and it was as if they waited then, for the evening dew to cover them in soft, sparkly blankets, and for the sun to kiss them awake again the next morning.

The memories were so sharp, and so clear.  Tears came to my eyes, and I struggled to blink them away, sure that if I only could, I would see my grandparents standing on the porch, smiling at me.  I waited for the squeak-creak-bang of the old screen door to try and open my eyes.  I drew in another breath, and felt the gentle spring sun as I sat on the back steps, and waited for our dear old Spaniel, Pat, to amble up and push his wet nose into my hand.  I listened for parents voices, younger, stronger, happier…

But when the tears finally blinked away, there was was only me, and a silly paper catalog, with it’s scratch n’ sniff circles.  I tore out the page with the lilac “Rub and Smell” circle; I dare not buy the candle, lest I spend the rest of my days in a weepy puddle, but I can’t bear to just throw it away.  What a silly, sentimental fool I can be at times!

I know it’s been a long time.  And there is much to tell – as there always is after a great absence.  I’ll be back again soon, I promise.

Until then, I’m trying to avoid the lilacs…

IFFY, at best…

A lot of folks have been very kind to me so far this Holiday Season.

They know that it’s my first Christmas without Mom, that we are all a bit sad. Twinks and I both have a marked propensity these days to burst into tears at the most random moments. A long-forgotten ornament at the bottom of the box… A favorite Christmas Carol… Mom’s handwriting on the recipe card for the cookies we make every year…

To be honest, it doesn’t take much these days.

So, the other day, when someone asked how I was doing, I told them the truth: Iffy, at best.

I cry, I laugh, and I try to remember that this is her first Christmas with Daddy in 21 years. I try, also, to be grateful for all of our blessings. We live in a lovely, snug and cozy house. The pantry is full, as is the fridge and freezer. We have three nice cars, less debt than the average American family, we are (mostly) healthy, and our amazing daughter will graduate from high school in just a few months. We are so very lucky, in so many, many ways.

And so we put up the tree, and decorated the house. Life *does* go on, after all, and I knew that if we let these traditions lapse, we might never get them back. So, out comes the old poinsettia-print tablecloth that has graced our family’s holiday meals since 1968. There is the wreath on the door that Twinks decorated, and in the front hallway hangs the Advent calendar, counting the days until Christmas.

All of the presents have been ordered, and nearly every day, FedEx and UPS ring the bell. There are a few things here and there that I still need to take care of, but most of the shopping has been done.

And in an interesting turn of events, we will still be four at Christmas Dinner.

Twinks has a new Boyfriend. We like him, Dear Reader. He’s whip-smart, with a dry, wry sense of humor. He is a hard worker, and goes to college full-time. TW & I both like him – he fits well into our family, and he also seems to adore our shiny little Twinkle.


Good grief, Charlie Brown. That little snapshot up there is just cuteness all over the place. Its my new favorite picture.

Boyfriend is now a frequent visitor, and welcomed guest at our home. I’m really happy that Twinks has someone special to share this Holiday Season with.

Edited for this update:  The BoyFiend (as Sully re-named him) is long gone.  Too bad for him.  He broke Twinks heart, but she survived, and she will find someone even better, even nicer, even more loving.  Ha! So there!

She deserves a guy who puts her as his first priority, a guy who loves her for exactly who she is, and a guy who understands why she will always march to the slower beat, of a very different drummer.

Things can be IFFY in other ways.

Our good and precious friend, Suldog (and his lovely wife) enjoy (as do we) the Holiday Cakes of Fruity Goodness. Our personal favorite cakes come from a lil’ ol’ place down in Corsicana, Texas. Although most folks call ’em “fruitcakes”, those kids at Collin Street Bakery call *their* creations a “Pecan Cake”, because it has so many yummy pecans right there on top.

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Anyway, because Sully is also a Fan of the Cakes of Fruity Goodness, we decided that we needed to share this with him:

Yep. The Official Seal of the great and glorious IFFY. Behold it’s awesome beauty and power.

I’m proud to be a lifetime member. You can be too! Our rules are remarkably relaxed; all you have to do is *taste* a fruited cake once a year, and proudly display the Official Seal, as pictured above.

And, should you decide to engage in Advanced Studies during your Fellowship in IFFY, you may indeed be promoted to the rank and title of:

STIFFY (which is, of course, an acronym for Seriously Thoughtful International Fellow & Fruitcake Yahoo. Geez. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee, and have a little fruitcake. It’s Christmas, after all, and you can be IFFY with me!

Merry Christmas, my friends. I hope you that wherever you are, you find some fruitcake, a warm & cozy chair, and a Christmas Angel to watch over you.

Travel safely.

Thanksgiving (still) Comes First!

This is (largely) a repeat of the last two year’s TCF post.

But here it is, because I believe this topic is just that important.
May your Thanksgiving be full of love, laughter, good food, and good company!

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Most of you who come here also read my dear friend Sully.

Which means you are already familiar with the topic of Today’s Post.

The One Where Thanksgiving Comes First.

Sully wrote:

“If you believe, as I do, that Thanksgiving should play out before Christmas; that Christmas carols should not be heard on the radio before at least Thanksgiving evening; that advertisers who dare to encroach upon Thanksgiving with their hideous advertisements should be told in no uncertain terms that you will not shop at their establishments; that malls who put Santa Claus on display before Veterans Day should be made ashamed of themselves; then please consider doing what I’m going to ask of you.

Should you be as incensed as I am concerning Christmas schlock, please post a “Thanksgiving Comes First” entry on your blog. Write from the heart. Everybody who visits your blog will know how you feel. Perhaps they’ll also write about it, and so will their friends, and so on. I hope that, if enough of us do this, we might make some small impact.

Please title your post “Thanksgiving Comes First“. If we all do that, it will make a bigger impact. If you wish to reference this post, or other posts with a similar title, please do so. It isn’t mandatory. I’m not looking to drive people to my blog; I’m just trying to make a difference concerning something that truly rankles me.”

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The premise is – as with all brilliant ideas – wonderfully and delightfully simple. Thanksgiving comes first. Before Christmas. Before December. Before Santa, elves, and reindeer, packages, presents and holiday gear.

Thanksgiving comes first.

When I was a child, one of the things I looked forward to most was December 1st, when – as if by magic – all of the stores were suddenly bursting with Christmas goodies. Overnight the stores were transformed, and they went from being regular old department stores to Winter Wonderlands, decorated with shiny tinsel, and piles of white, fluffy soapflakes that doubled for snow. Christmas music would fill the air – even on the sidewalks, you could hear Steve & Edye singing “The Christmas Waltz”, and Julie Andrews warbling “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”. There was new merchandise, too; exotic gift items that were only seen during the Holiday Season. It was all so exciting and glamorous to my little self.

But before all of that – before we donned our gay apparel to brave the stores, and buy our tree – before that?

Thanksgiving comes first.

Thanksgiving is more than just the unofficial start of the Holiday Season. Thanksgiving is, in and of itself, an important holiday event. But increasingly we are rushing through (and even past) Thanksgiving in the run up to Christmas. Not only are we losing the meaning, and the traditions of Thanksgiving in the rush to Christmas, but we have cheapened and diluted everything about Christmas as well.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Many years ago, I was a retail manager. Later, I was a retail buyer – a purchasing agent for a small, local chain of three stores. I understand, perhaps better than most, the mechanics by which merchandise will arrive in the stores at the appropriate time for the season.

Which is why I am uniquely qualified to tell you something:

The reason – the one and only reason that Christmas-related merchandise shows up in your local shopping venues in October (and increasingly September) is simply that “retail experts” have found that we (the buying public) buy more Christmas stuff the longer it is displayed. They create a false sense of urgency – putting out the merchandise early so that shoppers will believe they must buy NOW or risk never having that Christmas Widget (at a special “pre-season” sale price, of course). And, as stores have learned how to tighten inventory levels so that there is less and less chance of the big after-Christmas clearance sales that the American consumer has come to know and look forward to… shoppers feel even more pressure, believing that if they don’t buy it when they see it… they will have lost the chance forever.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Originally, there was another reason for taking early delivery of seasonal merchandise. Some distributors used to offer heavy discounts to retailers willing to take early delivery (and thereby make early payment for) seasonal merchandise. This meant that a a retailer might well accept delivery as early as October for goods that would not be displayed until December. Until the rise of discount merchandisers (like Wal-Mart), most stores would simply hold those things until the APPROPRIATE time, and then display them. Once discount merchandisers began to put out whatever was in the warehouse – because “you can’t sell it, if they can’t see it” – then the inevitable creep of Christmas backwards into autumn began – and continues to this day.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Regardless of how, or why, we are a nation on the verge of losing something very precious. I don’t want to see Christmas trees next to Halloween pumpkins at the store. I don’t want to shop for Labor Day picnic supplies, and see paper plates and napkins embossed with Christmas designs. I want Christmas in December. And before that, I want Thanksgiving in November – with Pilgrims and pumpkins and turkeys, oh my. I want each season in it’s turn, and along with it, all of the traditions and meaning attendant to that season.

Thanksgiving comes first.

Read Sully’s post – and read the posts of his other faithful friends, too. Think about it, and then I encourage you to spread the word as well. The wonderful, amazing, remarkable thing about America is that if enough of us stand up and say that Thanksgiving comes first, something might actually happen.

Sully’s previous posts:

2007: Thanksgiving Comes First2008: Thanksgiving Comes First
2008: A Gentle Reminder
2009: Thanksgiving Comes First
2010: TCF – The Last Roundup
2011: Thanksgiving Comes First – The Final Roundup

The One That You Don’t Have To Read…

…But I have to write.


I have to write it, because I have to get it out of me. I need to put this information, this “stuff”, these memories out there – somewhere, anywhere, outside of me – so that it isn’t inside of me all of the time.

But you don’t have to read it.
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It started in mid-April, around the time of Mom’s birthday. We could see her failing, and while I tried to steel myself against the inevitable, of course it happened anyway.

During April, while she was at the Geri-Psych unit, we got the “reprieve” that I had heard about from our Doctor. He had told us that for reasons that no one really understands, there is often a period of extreme lucidity not long before these people – these stroke victims, Dementia patients, Alzheimer’s patients – pass away.

I asked him how I would know, given her condition. He smiled gently, and looking over the tops of his glasses said “You’ll know. It will be obvious. If and when it happens, treasure every moment of it.”

We did. I did. We had a brief, amazing window of about 72 hours, and during that time, I was able to hold her hand, and talk with her, and know that she *knew* me. She said my name – recognized my face. I told her how very much I loved her, and how I was doing my very best to care for her. She replied “I know, I know you are. It’s OK, honey. I promise.”

She got to see Twinks in her Prom dress, (the nurses let us sneak her in after visiting hours that night) looking so achingly beautiful.
We laughed about old times, and enjoyed her favorite snack of Diet Coke and Cheez-it Crackers together.
She was able to enjoy and read the first picture book I had recently published.
We brought her birthday cake, and she blew out the candles – and ate three pieces!
I told her that I wanted her to get well, so she could come home again.
She told me not to cry for her.
And then, as suddenly as she was “present”, she was “gone” again. The blankness came back over her eyes, and we couldn’t reach her.

The last three weeks of her life were spent in an Alzheimer’s/Dementia unit at a local “Senior Living Center”. It was a very beautiful place, with huge sunny windows, crown moldings everywhere, and a kitchen that would (literally) fix whatever the resident wished at any hour of the day or night.The entire staff was amazing. Her apartment was cozy, and cheerful, and the nurses station was just across the Common Area from her door.

Outside her door was a “Memory Box” that we filled with things that were important to her. I made the little quilt from scraps of her favorite fabrics that she used when she was quilting.
I tried, several times to show her the box; I pointed out her favorite music, her little glass bluebird, and the little quilt I made for her. It seemed as though she never really could “see” it, though.

As those three weeks passed, I knew she was getting ready to go. She quit eating, and although I could sometimes tempt her to take a bite of this or that, she simply was no longer interested in food.
The week before she died, I took her to get her hair cut at the Senior Living Center’s Salon. The stylist did a great job, and Mom seemed to be pleased with her reflection in the mirror.

Five days before she died, she began to cry out whenever we tried to move her; Hospice brought in a special air mattress to keep her comfortable. Our Hospice nurses were so amazing with her – they made sure we had everything possible for Mom all the way through the end.
Three days before she died, I had already “moved in” with Mom, and was sleeping on a cot in her apartment, next to her bed. The Senior Living Center staff brought in a real twin-sized bed, and then moved the cot into the other room for Twinks or TW to rest on. They also brought in a comfortable upholstered chair for us, so that everyone had a place to sit.

We spent the last three days holding hands, and talking.




Well, I did most of the talking.
She was busy dying.
We did our best to love her away. Twinks and TW were heroic, making sure that everything outside that room was taken care of, so that I could focus on Mom. That last night, I sent them home, to sleep in their own beds. The private nurse that was staying with Mom and I every night agreed with me that they should go home. They would only be 10 minutes away, at the most, and if I needed them, or Mom started to slip away, I could call them, and they could be there in 10 minutes. 10 minutes.
As I had been for the last two days, I sat next to Mom, and held her hand. I kissed her, and told her that I loved her, and that I was going to be there with her. The nurse and I talked softly while Mom seemed to be sleeping. The TV was on Mom’s favorite channel – Nickelodean – and the laugh track from the old sitcom’s that run all night helped keep the room from feeling too dark and somber. The lamps were lit, but placed so that no bright light shone directly into Mom’s eyes, and I had opened the window to let the cool, fresh, rain-washed night air in to the room.
Around 3 AM, I called the Charge Nurse in, because Mom’s breathing was slowing. Her feet and hands were mottled, and I knew, from when my Dad died, that we were getting close to the end. She agreed, but Mom’s heartbeat was still strong and regular, and her lungs were clear. We decided to let Twinks and TW sleep on.
Not long after 4 AM, the Charge Nurse came in again. We closed the window, because a thunderstorm was moving through, and it was starting to rain again. Mom’s vital signs were the same, but the mottling was moving up her arms and legs. We debated calling Hospice and Twinks and TW, but again, her heartbeat remained strong, and her lungs weren’t filling, so we agreed to let everyone else sleep. I joked with the Charge Nurse that she just didn’t want a full house, with everyone coming in and disturbing her peace and quiet. She laughed, and promised to come back in an hour.
Right at 5 AM, I looked at Mom, and saw the mottling sweep up her neck and over her face in an instant. When the Charge Nurse came, she checked Mom over, and asked me to step out into the common area. She told me that I needed to go ahead and call everyone *now*, and she told me that she would get us an Aide to be there, in case the Private Duty nurse or I needed any help.
I called Hospice first, as instructed. I told the answering service who I was, who my Mom was, and that I needed her Nurse ASAP because Mom was actively dying. The answering service placed me on hold, and I went back into Mom’s room, to sit with her. I picked up her hand, now so cool and pale, and I pressed it to my cheek. I listened to the music on hold, and told her that I loved her, but I knew she needed to go on, and that it was OK.
The Nurse came on the line, and told me that she had just talked to the Charge Nurse, was on the way, and asked if I was OK. I told her I was as good as could be expected, and that the Private Duty Nurse was there as well. I asked her to hurry.
I hung up, and sat for a moment with Mom. She was going so quickly now, there was no mistaking that. I told her that I would always love her, and that when she saw Daddy to tell her how much I love him and miss him. I told her to take care of my two babies, my tiniest angels, that we lost before Twinks was born. I kissed the palm of her hand, and I told her that I would never, ever forget how much she loved me.
I called home, to TW & Twinks. TW answered, and I said “You need to come, NOW”. He replied “We’re on the way” and the line went dead. I knew it would take him a few minutes to throw on clothes, and rouse Twinks.
Mom’s breathing slowed even more. There were long pauses between breaths, and I would hold my own breath, waiting for her to gently take another sip of air. The Private Duty Nurse stood next to me, her hands steady on my shoulders. I laid my head next to Mom’s on the pillow, I stroked her hair, and kissed her, and whispered in her ear: “It’s OK to go. I promise I will be OK. TW and Twinks will be here soon, and they will take care of me. Daddy’s waiting for you. If you need to go on, it’s OK.”
And she did.
Mom died at 5:25 AM that morning. TW and Twinks walked through the doors 3 minutes later, just 12 minutes after I had called, to find me crumpled on my knees in the Common Area, crying.
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The Hospice Nurse arrived shortly after they did. She went to Mom, and by this time it was 6 AM shift change. Our favorite Aides had arrived also, and everyone gathered around us. They asked if they could bathe Mom one last time, and dress her in her prettiest nightgown. I told them how much I would appreciate that. The Hospice Nurse came out of Mom’s apartment, and led us off to another room. I sat down, and realized that I was shaking, and couldn’t stop. People came and went, questions were whispered behind me. I remember someone handing me a bottle of cold water and some Tylenol.
I remember the Nurse calling the Funeral Home.
Finally, one of the girls came and hugged me, and told me that they had Mom all cleaned up. Twinks didn’t want to see her, and I told her she didn’t have to. The Hospice Nurse stayed with her while TW and I went back to the little apartment.
She looked so beautiful and sweet; her hair was freshly washed, and she looked like she had just fallen asleep. There was no more pain on her face. I could hardly bear to look at her, but I knew I had to. TW and I both were crying as we gathered up some of my things to take home. Just as we were getting ready to leave, another one of the Hospice Nurses showed up, and quietly pulled TW aside to tell him that the funeral home was on it’s way. Knowing that, we decided to leave, and we went home. I couldn’t bear the thought of even seeing the car they were sending.
At home, I felt like a stranger. I was beyond exhausted, but couldn’t sleep. I needed to eat something, but I couldn’t choke down the food. I took my cell phone into the bathroom, and closed the door. I called Mom’s Hospice Nurse, and asked her: “Did it really happen?” The answer, of course, was yes.
I finally lay down on our bed, and it seemed that no sooner had I drifted off to a fitful sleep that the phone rang. It was the funeral home, and could we come this afternoon to talk about Mom’s “arrangements”? We could, and we did. The same funeral home had taken care of Daddy when he passed away, and so it somehow was easier – they knew us, we knew them, and the decisions were made easily. I had, weeks before, picked out her outfit, knowing that this day was almost here, and so I took that along with us. The same vault that we used with Daddy, and a beautiful pecan casket lined with warm white velvet. The same Church, and we needed to have Mom’s information engraved on the headstone that was already there with Daddy. Yes, a tent at the graveside service. Obituary in the local paper only, and the online tribute was fine. We were encouraged to bring the contents of her “Memory Box” and put it into a similar (freestanding) box. It would be displayed next to her casket for the viewing and at the funeral.
I asked the funeral director if she was here, and was she OK. He gently assured me that she was there, and they would take the best care of her. He asked me if I had a photo of her from when she was still healthy, and smiling. I told him I would email him one of my favorite pictures of her when we got home.
We went home, and after I emailed the photo to the funeral home,I tried to make the phone calls. I finally had to delegate some of them to other people; I could hardly breathe or speak when I had to say the words.
TW urged me to try and sleep again. I couldn’t though, I knew I had to go back over to the little apartment, and see for myself that she was gone. I needed to know that she wasn’t there, and I needed to begin – even if it was just to carry in the empty boxes and suitcases – the process of emptying that space.
I also needed to get the items from the “Memory Box” for the funeral home.
We waited until we knew that “bedtime” was over, and all of the residents would be asleep in their apartments. We moved quietly through the halls, and then found that Mom’s apartment door was locked! One of the Aides quickly unlocked it for us, and suddenly we were surrounded by staff, hugging and crying, and telling us how sorry they were, how sweet she was, how much they would miss us – and how they would help any way they could. When we stepped into the room, we noticed that the bed that Hospice had provided was already gone, along with all of the medial equipment. I was so relieved; I didn’t think that I could deal with seeing the bed, the oxygen concentrator, and all of the equipment just then.
Twinks began packing the remainder of my things, and I began to pack up the groceries & supplies in the tiny kitchen. As we went, there were things we knew we would not bring home with us – all of the bedding from the bed was left behind, as were the last pair of shoes that she wore. We left an opened package of adult diapers and wipes; shampoo and toothpaste. She didn’t need them anymore.
Everything else, we packed, or made ready to go. Finally, it was time for me to open the “Memory Box” outside the door. I asked one of the Aides if she could open it for me. She got the key, and when the glass door swung open, there in the light, so very clearly was my Mom’s handprint on the glass.
Right over the little quilt I had made for her.
She knew.
She saw it, and at some point, when I didn’t see her, she saw it, and left her handprint there, so that I would know.
She knew.

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The visitation at the funeral home, and the funeral itself went well. Mom looked so peaceful, and beautiful; they did a wonderful job of making her look like herself again. It was hard for all of us, to walk in and see her like that, but it was also healing in it’s own way.
The pecan casket we picked out had a “memory drawer” that can be used to send along mementos. There are exactly three things in there: Her eyeglasses, her glasses case, and a note from me. The note says this:
“Dear Mama –
I found my courage.
It was right where you left it for me.
I love you always.
Your Thim”
We had an Episcopal funeral, with the Pall over the casket, and Mom’s favorite hymns and readings. I spoke briefly, and then it was over. The graveside service was lovely; the sky was crystal blue, and the wind was light and sweet, the day not as hot as it should have been, given the time of the year. We played her favorite jazz tune “Mountain Dance” by Dave Grusin, and then we released sky-blue balloons, sending them to her full of our love and hugs and kisses.
And then it was all over.
And now I have to go on. Have tried to go on. Will go on.
Because I did indeed find my courage, and my strength again. Thanks, Mom.
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Thank you – all of you who have stopped by here in the last five months, to check on me.
You didn’t have to read this. I had to write it, because, as I said way up there, at the top… I had to get it out of me.
Thank you for sticking with me all the way through.


Bittersweet times, indeed

Once again we are sitting in a clinic waiting room.

There have been many, many such waits in the last 17 years… Many, many times we have sat here with other families, chatting away the idle minutes while we listen for the children’s names to be called.

We are at Outreach today. The annual Hospital City “roadshow” where the doctors, nurses and technicians from Hospital City set up camp in a local teaching hospital. Today, we will drive no further than The Greater Metro for Twinks annual springtime appointment.

This is, as much of the last 90 days have been, another bittersweet moment. Someday soon I will summon the strength to document everything here, but for now, this brief missive from the field will have to suffice.

In January – in fact, the day after my last post – my Mom had a large stroke, this one so serious that at one point we believed she had less than two weeks left. We spent a long, terrible night in the ER, only to make our way home through one of the worst blizzards in recent history, with Mom in an ambulance behind us. The EMT’s helped us shovel out the front walk so we could get Mom back in the house. I was never so cold and tired at once in my life.

We tried – as hard as we could – to care for Mom at home, but it soon became apparent that we needed more help and equipment than could be brought in to our home. So, Hospice helped us transfer her from home to a local nursing facility, where she was until a week ago. During this time, she slowly regained the ability to first sit, then stand, and finally walk again. But she wasn’t as before. She was clearly still suffering side effects from the stroke, the inability to feed herself being one of them.

She also became increasingly anxious and agitated. Nothing worked; no combination of drugs, no amount of time that I would spend with her could quell the rising tide of her anxiety.

Things escalated when a resident punched her, and then later the same day, another resident tried to throw a glass of ice water at an Aide that she was mad at… and most of it landed on Mom.

It was all just too much in one day. She became so upset that there was no calming her. She was moving non-stop, seemingly searching for who-knows-what. Always pedaling around the NH, ceaselessly going up and down the halls, day and night.

And so, last week I made a phone call that I had prayed never to make… I called the local Geri-psych unit to inquire about admitting Mom for treatment.

Today is also Mom’s birthday. She is largely unaware now; whether she is at home, the nursing facility, or the Geri-psych unit, she seems to not notice. Her beautiful blue eyes are devoid of emotion. She does not know us, or realize that we have a connection to her.

But for right now, this moment is bittersweet because it likely the last such outreach Twinks will ever attend. There will probably be one more final trip to Hospital City, to say “goodbye” and “graduate” from the Shriners Hospital System.

And then this part of our lives will be done.

I have to go… The nurse has called Twinks name. It’s time to begin this last visit, this final chapter.

Bittersweet times, indeed.

In those small dark hours of the morning…

…is when I go a little crazy.

I am tired all the time now – Mom can no longer be left alone.  At all.  Ever.

The exhaustion is grinding.  It eats at my sanity, it erodes my body.

TW & Twinks are showing the effects, too.  We are all snapping at one another; we are all perpetually waiting for our turn to sleep.

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For the last two weeks, we have had what TW euphemistically calls “hired guns” every night; these are trained healthcare workers who sit with Mom every night, Monday through Friday.  They are lovely ladies; sweet, caring, professional.  But they are also here only overnight – at $22/hour, we really can’t afford them, but we can no longer afford NOT to have them.  Twinks has school… TW has work… and I have to get a little bit of rest, even if I have to *pay* for it.

Most nights, it crosses my mind at least once that I am *paying* someone $22/hour for the privilege of sleeping in my own home.  I lie in the dark, doing the mental math. 

The numbers are frightening.

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The weekends have been mine.  Saturday and Sunday nights, I am up all night – sitting next to Mom’s bed, making sure that she is OK.   The job is relatively simple; make sure that she doesn’t try to get up out of bed unassisted.  Help her in the bathroom.  Keep her safe, and comfortable.  Let her know that she isn’t alone; that someone is there with her in those small, dark hours of the morning…

Make sure that she isn’t scared.

Because I am scared enough for both of us.