Momming My Mom For The Last Time

The Other Day, When I took My Mom To An Appointment

Today it rained here, and I was ready to curse the heavens. You betcha I would let the rain gods know: Great! I’d scream up to the clouds. Bad weather, too, after all I’ve done to get her to the carrrrrrghh?!? But then, the rain stopped, just before we went outside. Shit, I thought. The gods mock me…

To get Mom into the car these days, I drive up a winding, paved path between the apartment buildings and up to the back door to her building. I have permission to do this; it’s usually a walking path, also used by the maintenance guy to drive equipment and stuff up to the building’s garbage/recycling room and such. Thank heavens my car has a rear-view camera with graphics that help you stay on the path! I’ve already wheeled Mom down to that back door. Now, to get her and the wheelchair into the car. It takes some muscle, sweat, and a lot of under-the-breath swearing.

I wrote those two paragraphs a couple of weeks ago. Now, she is gone. She died over a week ago, and I’m wading through the weirdest set of feelings, realizing that it’s gonna take a while to untangle, grieve, heal. In the meantime, there have been the necessary arranging of funerals, announcing the news, et cetera. I’m just too tired to type it all here. My main reason to write today resulted from me impulsively buying a book: The Grief Club, by Melody Beattie. I love and need this book.

The first M. Beattie book I read was The Language of Letting Go. I slept with that book, my arms wrapped around it, at one of the toughest times of my life. Here’s a link to that post: https://healingbookbybook.com/2021/01/27/its-ok-to-not-be-ok/.

That’s it for now. Time to do more of the post-death arrangements. I’ll be back here soon.

Thanks for reading.

Thanksgiving Song

Always things work out

Miraculously Intelligently

Perfectly

It helps when I get out of the way

It helps when I place my eye on you

It helps when I ask for help

Yield—that’s my job. Show up and yield

To what you already know is good for me

Embrace—what you’re pouring out constantly:

Love and joy and peace and so much more: Shalom

The coming together of all things. integrated. Whole. Complete.

WOW

Momming My Mom 3

9:10 pm, My Living Room

My husband is at hapkido class and my daughter’s home from work and relaxing in her room. I’m on the loveseat near the bookshelves, scrolling through FaceBook and Instagram posts. I start to nod off, when this thought startles me: I’ve gotta go to Mom’s! Damn! On the heels of that, What will I give her for dinner? Panicking, I grab my keys, run out to the car, and, Boom! A truth smacks me between the eyes. I realize that I provide groceries and meals for two households, and I don’t wan’t to do this anymore…

That day included responding to Mom’s first-thing-in-the-morning distress call. The conversation is always the same. I mean verbatim. (See Momming My Mom, the first in this series of posts.) I got dressed, took my morning pills—self care!—fed and hurriedly walked the dog, grabbed all the stuff, including a new, easy-to-read calendar and a banana for my mom, and got in the car as the phone rang again. Mom’s ring tone. Same convo as before, same reassurances that I was on my way… I rest my forehead on the steering wheel, then start the engine.

I helped Mom up that morning, talking her through her morning pain. Got her washed and dressed and medicated. She does most of it; I assist. Gave her the afore-mentioned banana, and toast, coffee and juice. Introduced her to the new calendar, on which I’d written the two upcoming events of the day: in-home PT at noon and the retina doctor at 2:45. It’s a lot, but I’m used to it, and it went pretty well. Friends and relatives have had it harder, I know. The way-tougher part is the rising flood of emotions swirling in my head.

The whole time I’m helping my dear, understanding Mom, I’m also swallowing a bitter mix of frustration, annoyance, grief, and guilt. Shame, too. The moments when I’ve told Mom the same answer to her same questions for the third time in the last 15 minutes. Every. Single. Day. The times she snaps, I’m trying!” when I’d simply reminded her to try breathing through her nose to get more oxygen in, instead of panting like a dog. (I didn’t actually say that part to her, about panting like a dog.) Then there’s the physically getting things done. I feel like an elderly, tired superhero when I finally get Mom ready, out the door, and actually in the car. She feels exhausted. She doesn’t remember what it took to get her there, so the next time it probably won’t be any easier.

The good news is that she’s getting nerve blocks in her shoulder in preparation for an ablation of that nerve. The doctor is hopeful that it will do the trick. I’m trying not to think about the effort, as described above, that it takes to get her out the door. The good news is that the added stress has pushed me to finally get back to the paperwork that will, I believe, allow me to get her more help.

Thanks for reading! —Cathy

Momming My Mom 2

I’m Cathy; my mom’s Betty. She was a nurse, a working mom, household boss, spiritual warrior. She’s still some of those things, but now she’s old, and I’m some of those things for her. It’s hard on both of us, at times, and I long for the time when I get her into a senior facility and can live my later-in-life dreams. What I write here will be the high and low and in-between experiences with/for/about my mom, and probably mostly about the unexpected growth I’ve been experiencing along the way.
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps
… 🙃🙏💛

6/23/22 Another Local Café,

Frickin’ Early Morning, B.C. (Before Coffee)
Mom’s Ringtone Sounds:
“Hi, Mom—“
MOM: “I’m. Gasp! In. Gasp! Agony. Gasp! Gasp! Gasp!”
ME: Rolling eyes, because I’m kinda over dealing with this every day: “Oh! Is it pain from your shoulder and down your arm? It is? OK, I’ll get dressed and come over.”
Land line rings; it’s the doctor’s office with the dates for my husband’s upcoming surgery.
ME: “Mom, I’ve got to catch another call; it’s the doctor. I have to take it. I’ll see you very soon!”
MOM Croaking: “OK…”

Except, I didn’t rush over. I emptied the sack of clean laundry I’d done days ago. Found a pair of clean undies in there. Put ‘em on, along with a clean bra, leggings, and comfy shirt. Picked out a necklace with a little heart-shaped charm. Smiled an ironic smile, because my heart really wasn’t in the tasks at hand. Put the necklace on, to remind me I actually have a heart. Because I really wasn’t feeling this day, and it was only 8-ish in the morning.

I’d made the mistake of thinking that if I set the alarm for a little earlier in the morning, I’d get (one of) my most longed-for desires: quiet morning time with coffee, Austin the dog snoozing close, me listening for the whispers of voices in my own head, the ones that would clue me in to the state of my own mind/heart/soul, and open me up to What Cathy Needs. Which turns out to be Help. Help is what I need. What would that help look like, I wonder… I don’t even know for sure. Direction? Action? Definitely Time Off.

I learned a while ago that having something to look forward to keeps me out of the dark hole my mind/body/spirit sinks into while I’m juggling Mom’s needs. I know this, but it took a while for me to act on it. Now I believe I’m turning it into an Art form… Still, I feel pretty guilty when I’m choosing my own needs over Mom’s. People remind of the old ya-gotta-put-the-air mask-on-yourself-first concept. Easier said than done! And I’d bet that anyone who’s done any kind of caregiving (of parents, children, friends, etc.) knows this is so: we’ve taken on a herculean job, and we’re overwhelmed and exhausted. We long for some sort of superhero to swoop in and save us.

After the superhero rescue fantasy, I thunk myself back into reality. I’ve gotta do it myself, yes with help, but I’m the Chosen One. My personal Higher Power has been telling me for a very long time that this isn’t about just helping Mom. It’s about me learning all sorts of lessons. Growing as a person. My psychic, tarot-reading cousin* says it’s karmic lesson. Blah Blah Blah

Dammit! Time now to go get Mom her pills. And to stop sulking. Pull up my big-girl pants. And fill out the Medicaid form, which will enable moving Mom to a place where she can receive care from others, and I can be mostly just her daughter.

Thank you for reading. —Cathy

*My cousin the psychic & tarot reader: http://tarotbyginger.com





Momming My Mom

I’m Cathy; my mom’s Betty. She was a nurse, a working mom, household boss, spiritual warrior. She’s still some of those things, but now she’s old, and I’m some of those things for her. It’s hard on both of us, at times, and I long for the time when I get her into a senior facility and can live my later-in-life dreams. What I write here will be the high and low and in-between experiences with/for/about my mom, and probably mostly about the unexpected growth I’ve been experiencing along the way.
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps
… 🙃🙏💛

6/14/22 Local Café
My brother recently bought my mom (and, by association, me) a new, better wheelchair, and it’s been sitting, unboxed, in my living room, next to a stack of the giant, bright blue IKEA bags I loaded with stuff from mom’s apartment to sort through and get rid of. My husband, college-going daughter and I live in a very small townhouse. We have a cute medium-size dog, Austin, whose crate, fuzzy bed and basket of toys also reside in the living room.

I’ve been stressed about the extra clutter from Mom’s stuff, and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of being the manager of two households and all the loved ones, human and canine. Today, I decided to finally get the wheelchair into our Subaru and bring it to Mom’s. I’d spent most of the morning walking the dog, cleaning up the kitchen, enjoying my small breakfast, working a word puzzle, and sipping coffee. Those things used to be the norm for my mornings; now it feels like luxury.

When I do get the chance, I’m able to eventually see what the next thing I need to do is, you know, organize my thoughts. Today, it was, “Aha! I’m gonna get that wheelchair into the car!” It felt good to actually feel like doing it. And even better to do it.

As I write this, I remember that my mom had called me while I was walking the dog. Her arthritic shoulder hurts a lot in the morning. I told her I’d come over to give meds and breakfast as soon as I got home from walking the dog. But I didn’t.

I thought I’d take 15 minutes for coffee and quiet, but then got caught up in doing just a little more of the chores in my house that I’d been neglecting. It felt so very delicious to be catching up! But, time passed. Oops! I jumped up and took the wheelchair out to the car. OK. Good! But then I got into a long conversation with a neighbor, which also felt delicious. Suddenly, my husband came looking for me. My mom had been calling and calling and calling me, but I’d left my phone in the house. I hurried in and my dear daughter was trying to comfort my mom, who was now in a world of pain. And she’d called 911.

Mom has significant short-term memory loss. She doesn’t remember why her left shoulder hurts so much in the morning, the pain radiating all the way down her arm. She doesn’t know why her body is stiff and sore in all of her limbs when she wakes up, even though she’s 89, and she (and I) deal with it every day. She doesn’t remember that in 8 days she’ll be starting treatments at the local pain management center. To her, she’s suddenly having pain that radiates down her left side. She has trouble catching her breath. This has been happening every day lately, and I go and reassure her that it’s her arthritic, aging body and that, in about 20 minutes, the medicine will take her pain away. (A side note: this happens at varying times of the morning, while she’s still covered by the pain medicine I gave her the night before.)

We’ve been to the ER several times over the past few years, once just recently, and her lungs and heart are OK. We’ve gone to all the physicals, ortho specialists, and all the usual appointments for an elderly person. She had a full nuclear bone scan a few months ago. These moments in the mornings are severe arthritis pain and some panic.

So, this morning, I asked the EMT’s the usual question. Her vitals are fine? Yes. I nodded and explained (again) what’s been happening. They left, and I tended to Mom, soothing her. “I need to see a doctor about this!” she said through her tears. <Sigh> I explained that we have this appointment with a pain management center in 8 days, and that, until then, I’ll come earlier in the morning and make sure she gets her pain meds before the nighttime ones run out.

Now, with all the morning Mom chores done, I’m sitting outside at a nearby café, sipping a large iced coffee, deciding to start a journal of my experiences with Mom. I think it’ll help me process and, maybe, see what I’m thinking and feeling in a different light. I’d so love it if it somehow helps you. Thank you for reading. —Cathy

It’s OK To Not Be OK

Hope

I wrote this in November 2020:

Here’s the truth: I’m not feeling hopeful today. There is way too much on my emotional plate. And, right now, I’m wondering how the presidential election here is gonna go. Now, please don’t try to assuage my fears. I think I’ll eventually be back to my inspired and inspiring self. I know that there’s a higher plan. I know, as my mother always says, this too shall pass. But I don’t just don’t feel it right now.

Oh, I don’t wanna live through this period of time right now , and what I fear it will bring! And it probably doesn’t matter which candidate wins. The ugly truth genie is out of the bottle: we are broken, here in the US. Angry. Violent. Or silent. Deeply divided on what I always thought were no-brainer values for Americans, Decency being one. And I don’t know if we’ll ever recover. That’s the hard part. So, I’m grieving.

Am I breathing, meditating? Speaking peace and perspective to those around me and on social media? Surrendering control of the outcome? Yes, most of the time. My stomach is in knots, though, and I have an appetite only for sweets, which, for a diabetic, is not good. I’ve worn the same clothes for three days.

I wrote this today, 1/27/21:

There are still holiday decoration that need to go into the attic and projects here at home staring me in the face, and I can’t make myself do anything about them. This is partly because I’m taking care of my mom, and partly because, although the candidate of my choice won the presidency, our Capitol was shockingly and violently invaded. And I see more difficulties ahead. So, this is a time to grieve, I guess. To let myself feel it, and, somehow, become ready to release it. Today might not be that day. Wherever we are, we are. We can tend to it, or not. I do my best. Connecting with my people helps.

I’m choosing, as I write this, to deal with it, instead of overeating sweets and being a slacker. So far, that strategy’s working pretty well, freeing me to let it go. Then I can get back to doing my things that need doing.

Thanks for reading my little life story. Hope you’re doing ok.

BOOK: The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

A Rock And A Hard Place? Or…

Life’s sweet spots sometimes come towards the end of big struggles. I admit I create many of my own struggles, wrestling with how to be kind to a perpetually irksome person, or with the plight of the nearly-extinct white-bellied spider monkey. Oh, and how my country, the whole world even, can be a place where humans can actually live.

In the midst of these inner writhings, I haven’t remembered yet that I’d asked God and His/Her Universe to please get me to a higher level of understanding,  whatever it takes.  So, if I’m to be truly honest, what I’m really asking for is to feel better. I want to be more peaceful, less in turmoil, more comfortable in my own skin. To cross this or that particular demon off  the list.

At the beginning, when I’m miserable and churning, I see my need for divine intervention. I know I need to do the simple-sounding work of letting go. Simple, but not easy. I begin to feel alone in the struggle. Where are you, God? I’m showing up to this mess, which you apparently led me to do. Now what?

Feels like I’m between a rock and a hard place. A very gray area. I sit like a cartoon character with that wisp of smoke sketched above his head. No words. Unhappy. Feeling sorry for myself.

I could just keep griping to the heavens, but, although I do have lots to be concerned about, I’m not very happy being habitually miserable. I decide to go into town early in the morning for a quiet coffee.

I don’t feel like going to my usual haunt where people know me, so I walk up the street to another one. There’s a giant peace symbol painted on the side of a building. Never noticed it before. On close inspection, one can see that the paint is old. Guess I hadn’t walked in this direction on this street in this spot for a while. The peace symbol mocks me. I smirk.

In the coffee shop, I hesitate for a moment when I see a familiar face–dang! The homeless guy. He’s usually in the other coffee shop. Not in the mood, but I nod to him. Sigh. I ask him if he’d like some breakfast today. He says yes. I’m glad when he retreats to eat his breakfast on his own. I’m not very good company.

Later that day I go to see my mother. To keep my thoughts from going all gloomy as I drive, I hit play on my podcast list. On Beingthis time with Glenn Beck formerly of Fox News as guest. (You can read the transcript with a click on the link above.) Here’s the gist: host Krista Tippett spoke with Mr. Beck about how he had been an extremely anti-Obama Fox News personality, then converted to Mormonism, and now sees that no matter where we are politically, we can find the things we have in common with our political opposites. I am (was?) Glenn Beck’s political and religious opposite, but there he was, addressing one of my own concerns, an echo of what I’ve been thinking. His about-face challenged and humbled me. I cried, there in the car. The interview took me out of my own head and gave me a little bit of hope for the future of my country and the world. This has been one of my biggest struggles lately.

Almost at my mother’s house, I notice for the first time ever the skyline of the city beyond her town. Never noticed it before, even though I’ve driven down that same street a million times. I used to live on that street, for crying out loud! Never, ever noticed that skyline. Didn’t realize the city was that high up on a hill, or how beautiful it is on a cloudy day. I was astounded at how I could have had such limited perspective. Again, tears, and a strange relief.

I went on that day to cross off to-do’s, both pleasurable and mundane. I may have smiled a little. There are still life’s very big questions. That’s OK, I think. Between the rocks and hard places, there’s the universe, powered by Love, which I call God, always with me in the struggle.

 (Oh, and what book has my attention lately? Accidental Saints–Finding God In All The Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber. More on that later, perhaps.)

Judging Yourself Harshly

Just listened to a Love + Radio podcast called “No Bad News.” The hypnotist Larry Garrett told his story of being asked to work with an unlikely and world-hated client. What struck me hard about Mr. Garrett is his knack for being “in the moment” and seeing someone as s/he is right then and there. This struck me because I do that, too, and always think of it as somehow wrong. Now, in this new moment, I see it as a gift.

So, two things here. First, I understand as a human being that I’m gonna tend to judge everyone and everything, putting them in neat little baskets with labels: GOOD. BAD. UGLY. SCARY. IMPOSSIBLE. But there’s no need for that, because I can allow myself to (and here comes my second point) be where and what I am, which for me is a lingerer.

I stay in the moment, as my friend Cindy says, a little longer than the rest of us. And I always feel embarrassed when she says it. I’ve spent almost my whole life feeling embarrassed and apologetic and confused. Sorry, I think, I didn’t mean to…  There’s a whole other post I might write about why many women apologize too much. Today, in this, particular moment, I see something I didn’t see an hour ago. I see it’s OK to be the moment-whore I am. I am that way for a reason, and I’m betting it’s a really good reason.

Once again, I realize. I realize that when I start my day with a prayer, with an acknowledgement that I need help, that over some things I am completely powerless, a whisper into God’s always-tilted-towards-me ear, I very soon wind up with an answer.

It of course involves my (reluctant) letting go of distractions. That’s yet another topic for a new post. Until then, more moments to you, peaceful ones.

Still Need A Little Christmas? I do.

It’s my usual post-Christmas funk, so I decide the decorations won’t come down till “Little Christmas,” or Epiphany, as Christians call it. It’s when, as the story goes, the wise men visited the baby Jesus. In my church’s tradition, the event that led to widespread knowledge of the Christ’s appearance in the human world. What I like to think of as Love being revealed in a whole new way. But, I’m still in a bit of a funk; I have been for a while. It started in November. I wrote about it and then didn’t post it. I thought it sounded too cranky. But, now, here it is. 

November 24, 2016
It’s the day before Thanksgiving, here in the US of A, but it’s hard to tell. I’m at the mall, sitting next to a tree loaded with red bows and white lights, behind the candy-themed fantasyland where Santa’s been offering photo opps for a month already. Looks and sounds more like Christmas time than the time to ponder what I’m grateful for. Definitely doesn’t feel like Christmas in my heart.

Are you there, heart?

This heart of mine feels weary lately. Staying positive and serene has taken extra concentration.  Feelings and thoughts take extra time to process. I mean, a wacko has been elected ringmaster of my country and now is filling the circus with a frightening array of clowns. The stress is getting to me. On second thought, maybe this year I need the Christmas season to start extra early. 

My pre-Christmas season has always been about hope. Hope, and the bigger picture–two perspectives that sure are taking their time sinking in today. I’m trying to be gentle with myself as I sort it out. Instead of taking in everyone’s opinions, I’m tuning in to bigger-picture messages, starting with a recent Sunday message.

The story (in the Bible, Genesis 25) was about an ambitious man (Jacob) taking advantage of his brother’s (Esau) hunger. Esau, really, really hungry, craved the fragrant stew his brother had made. He said he’d do anything to eat some stew. Jacob saw his advantage and asked for his brother’s birthright in exchange for the meal, and Esau agreed! So much we could talk about here, but what I’m feeling today in that story is how I crave warm “soul food,” and how I sell myself out in my search for that “food.”  For sure, I could use that comfort right now. 

We read a Psalm together on Sunday, too, from the Bible, number 46: The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us.

I’m taking that on faith today, the day before Thanksgiving. God in my life always has a wild, unexpected plan for good. 

Sitting amongst pre-Thanksgiving shoppers, I think about using my heart and voice to connect more deeply with the preschool kids I sing with; I think about the connections that I so often am blessed to make with neighbors and strangers. I clearly see the hunger in us all, made so very obvious by the recent election. I see how that hunger drives us to sell our birthrights: love. We want to feel better, go about our daily business, hope that the powers that be work it out somehow. Not enough. I’ve got to BE love in all kinds of ways. I now can see the need for lights on the bushes, around the windows, wound around trees–ASAP! 

 Lucille Ball is in my head:

Haul out the holly;
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again.
Fill up the stocking,
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now.
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute.
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry,
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry;
So climb down the chimney;
Put up the brightest string of lights I’ve ever seen.
Slice up the fruitcake;
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now.
(Songwriter: Jerry Herman)

Give a little listen, if you’d like:

Be light in the world. 

I Need A Sick Day

I woke up early, after watching the election coverage for way too long.  Not enough sleep. Time to make the coffee and light a candle, a nod to love and light, which frankly seem absent on this gray day. My candidate didn’t win. The country didn’t, either, I’m afraid. But then again, no candidate would have been really OK, if I’m to be honest.

So many big feelings. I need a sick day.

Fear. That’s my gut reaction, and I want to run and find a place to live that feels saner.  I probably won’t, though. Because becoming a citizen elsewhere is a lot of work. And because the whole world is crazy anyway. And we’re probably gonna have a war to end all wars sooner or later. I think sooner.

I’m also afraid for children. I grew up feeling secure about basic, decent, commonly-accepted values, not the now-popular Jerry Springer mentality. I’m so thankful that my daughter cares about people and has good manners; we struggle as a family with lessons on how to act sometimes, but she’s grown up seeing my husband and I working things out,  and reaching out to others, and she’s been working in groups who go and do for people in need. Still, our culture has a strong pull, and she’s a teenager…

I’m worried, too. About so many things. The planet. Inequality. Greed  in so many of our leaders, not just politicians. Steadily disappearing farmland, not enough concern for the pollution of our earth and our food. Most of all, our treacherous concern only for our own little existences in our own little worlds. And there’s so much more, too much to list.  I’m too tired, and ill.

I’m also embarrassed, for all the above reasons. I don’t blame any one leader for this. We all carry some blame. But, now we’re about to have a leader who outright shouts his disdain for the things I value. I’m ashamed.

My instinct is to berate those who voted for this clownish, outrageous, dangerous man, Yes, I see the dangers of the other candidates. I wasn’t happy with any of them. I see  problems with our current leader.  It’s just that…him? Trump?!?  We could do better.

So, I’ll have to find a way to accept the result of those who were so hungry for change that they were OK with any means and form of it. Change in what? Financial status? Government? Race of the president? Growing support of women, immigrants and gay people? I don’t get it. But, I know. You’re allowed your opinions and your votes. Right now, I wish you weren’t. Not a noble attitude, I know. Just how I’m feeling right now.

I have only one place to go for comfort. I go to God. Not the Republican God, or the Green Party, or any party. I go to the God who likes to party. With me, personally, and with all of us, despite our outrageous actions and opinions. See, we’re invited to put on our crowns, turn our faces to the light, and dance.  Dance, dance dance!  Dance in the face of all that’s unholy. I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about what we are born to do. This is the God who expects us to dance into the world and be light. To tell people there is light.

I’m not feeling it today. I need a sick day. The problem is, I’ve got to get myself together. Later today, I’ll be singing with pre-schoolers. Facing their expectant faces, their tendency to dance and sing. I’ll show up for them today. Then maybe later, I’ll be better able to show up to today’s other realities–the good, the bad, and the ugly–with a little song in my heart.

I wish you all very well.