Feeling Like A Rock Star

Yesterday was my son’s school field day. All the kids wore their tie dyed shirts they made in Art and took to the playing field for a day of games and fun.

In hind sight, I should have at least volunteered in the morning. But with everything going on with my mom etc., I just didn’t know if I could commit to it. Anything could change and I certainly didn’t want to have to bail at the last minute.

In reality, the volunteer slip that came home in my son’s backpack asking parents for their help with Field Day — well my dog ate it. I swear. Shredded it. (He may be 13 1/2, but he has some puppy left in him.) So that kind of made my decision for me. I know, bad excuse. Bad mommy.

In any case, yesterday morning, my son got up early, got dressed in his tie dye and shorts, made sure the Gatorade and Cliff bars were securely in his lunch box and was ready to go a 1/2 hour before we needed to get out the door. If only everyday could be like this?

We dropped my daughter at preschool and then went across the street and waited in the drop off queue at my son’s elementary school. He saw a friend so be barely kissed me goodbye and off he went to compare the tie dyes he and his pal had.

At 11:30, I picked up my daughter and ran into my friend, who was picking up her daughter and then heading back across to the Field Day activities our boys were partaking. She was a good mom, volunteering all day at the Tug O war.

I thought what the heck. I will go sneak over and say Hi to my son.

So my daughter and I headed over to the elementary school where I found my son blindfolded playing Tank and Commander with water pistols. He was having a grand old-time. He didn’t see me at first, but when he did, he ran over and gave me a big, wet hug. It was so sweet.

After a few minutes, their class was switching activities. I thought it would be a good time to sneak out. But my son asked me if we could stay for lunch. Since I didn’t have my purse, or any money, I said I needed to go home. He looked crushed.

Guilty. Bad. Mom.

“Of course we’ll stay! Let me run home and grab my purse!” I told him. (I have to admit that I don’t know whether the school cafe takes cash or what. Sad. But just in case I drove 5 minutes home and came back.)

By the time we got back, 10 minutes of his 30-minute lunch had already been used up. But my daughter and I got our School Friend stickers and headed to the cafe.

I scanned around looking for my son. I heard “MOM! You made it!” And I saw my son pick up his tray from between his two friends and move his seat to an empty part of the table. “Come sit here!” He gave me a giant hug and told me, in front of his friends, how glad he was that I could come.

I was so enamoured by this little gesture from my 9-year-old. Another one of those moments to store and take out later to remember.

Mainly because I know this probably won’t last. He might not be so happy to see me (at least in front of his friends) for a whole lot longer. He might not even want me to come to his school in a few short years. I hope that isn’t true, but it just might be.

So I will add it to my ever-growing list of things my son does to make me cry happy tears that I am his mom.

A small gesture yes. But yesterday, he made me feel like a rock star.

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Pasty White in Shorts and Other Scary New England Sights

There’s this thing about weather in New England. Even though we are supposed to have four seasons, sometimes Spring is nothing more than a month of cold rainy days and before we know it we are hitting 90 degree days before Memorial Day.

So like today, it’s a beautiful late May day that feels more like July than almost Memorial Day. Not that I am complaining. I love this warm weather. After our long snowy winter, my mind is so ready for the warmth.

My body, well that’s entirely a different story.

Take my legs for instance. They haven’t seen the light of day since September. They’ve been under wraps for more than 7 months. That is a long time. They are pasty, pasty white. And today, I bared them as I donned a pair of shorts I unearthed from the bin of summer clothes I put away in October. What can I say? I wasn’t thinking straight.

One word. Yikes.

It was not a pretty sight I have to say. Although they were shaven, that clean stubble-free look was no match for their pastiness.

Yet, it was hot, so I kept the shorts on. All day.

It’s not like I didn’t know Memorial Day was this weekend. I mean it happens every year around the same time. But let me just say, it was preceded with about 11 straight days of rain and cold. Not exactly the summer preparation type of weather. So I guess I kind of forgot that it was supposed to be the official “unofficial” kick off to summer.

But if I look on the bright side of things, it’s okay to wear white pants after Memorial Day, so if my legs are white, I guess they would be considered in fashion.

In any case, white legs or no, summer will be very warmly welcomed in my house. We have popsicles. I found some sunblock. And I’ve already started the hamburger ritual. We are good.

Summertime and the living should be easy, breezy. Looking forward to it. A lot.

Some Fun

You know you have had a long week when:

  1. You realize you are about to pour orange juice into your son’s cereal.
  2. Your son asks pointedly why you are wearing a pair of ugly gray sweatpants that look like ones his classmate in third grade wore to school yesterday. And you hesitate more than a minute before you climb the stairs to throw on the same jeans you’ve worn all week.
  3. You realize the smell is you. You forgot deodorant. Again.
  4. You can’t remember lunch. You think it was a Snickers Bar.
  5. The sound of the incessant croaking of tree frogs doesn’t bother you anymore. In fact, you are humming right along to it.
  6. You are thankful it is raining, again, so you don’t have to go outside and play.
  7. You don’t fight with the kids to brush their teeth before bed. You’ll get that nasty plaque in the morning.
  8. You rationalize not brushing your own teeth before bed. “I’ll get that nasty plaque in the morning” and when you forget you don’t even get mad at your children for telling you that your breath smells worse than the dog’s.
  9. Your hair is a wreck so the baseball hat becomes your new hair accessory. Day 5.
  10. The mascara you put on at 8:30 a.m. to try to not look tired ends up on your cheeks by 10 and you realize that at 11:30 when you pick up your daughter at school that you still haven’t wiped it off.

Next week will be brighter. I am sure. But I’ll keep a pack of handiwipes nearby just in case.

PS. Mom is doing ok. The week was not that bad. Just having some fun and trying to get back to other things, too. 🙂

Respect Your Elders

I guess we can breathe a little bit now. Mom was transferred to a rehab to begin her climb back to being the spry almost 83-year-old she was before all this happened. It’s a nice place, as far as a skilled nursing facility goes, but for her it’s one more change. One in the long line of changes to come.

Mom’s experience has really opened our eyes to the state of elder care — something we knew existed but never had the need, or desire I suppose, to find out more about. Ignore it and it doesn’t bother you? Perhaps. Or maybe it was a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

It’s all so new. And scary. And sad. And a whole lot of things.

Being on a hospital floor dedicated to the elderly was, to say the least, a very interesting experience for mom and for all of us.  I felt a sadness for these patients. They have lived long lives and yet here they were. They all had their own story that spanned decades and decades. Most, hopefully, had some family in their room to keep them company, but not everyone did.

There were a lot of call button lights on in the hallway.  There was a lot of movement by staff, but it seemed slower than I imagined it should be. Elderly patients who need so much help to do everything –I’d wager the nurses work pretty hard.

But I kind of felt, for lack of a better word, a sense of detachment. Maybe it was because she was my mom and I wanted them to feel more compassion for her and her situation. But I didn’t feel enough of the warm and fuzzy. I guess it depended on the shift, the staff personality. The day.

A well-oiled wheel it was not. There were lots of gaps, miscommunications and, in some places, total lack of communication. It wasn’t one thing that stood out, just as a whole, it left me and my family dumbfounded. Is this it? Is this really the way things are?

Looking at the portraits of the people who I think are the benefactors of the elder care wing at my mom’s hospital, they are themselves older Americans. I wonder what they would think if they were patients there. Would they feel the detachment? Would they feel like they were just another old person who had the unfortunate luck to have to come there? On the outside it is a beautiful place. One the inside, at least for us, not so much.

I like to give people, and things, the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the feeling that my mom’s trip into elder care left with us could be because we were muddled up in the middle of it all, looking at everything through magnifying eyes. I’d like to think it was an anomaly and elder care is not always to be this way. But at the end of the day, I am not sure I want to know the answer to that.

(That may be my oldest sister’s cause — the bulldog will be a champion for the elderly. And if she doesn’t get what she wants, I think she might even bite.)

I think we as children don’t want to accept a parent as being old, but then all of a sudden one day they are and they need help and things that used to come naturally to them don’t anymore. For us, the children, it is frustrating and heartbreaking to watch. We try to help and do what we can.

But I can’t even fathom what the parents go through.

Something I guess we will all go through eventually.

Whenever we would encourage my mom to go to a Senior Center or something for older folks in her community, she always said she didn’t want to go hang out with “old people.” We’d laugh because it was funny that as a woman in her 80s, she didn’t think she qualified as being old. And for her to look in the mirror, well she didn’t look her age, so it was probably easy to believe that she wasn’t old.

After the stroke and all the complications that came with it, she sat in her bed one day and as we talked about all the “stuff” we needed to get done — rehab, a visiting nurse, a walker, a dietician, etc… she listened and then looked at us and said. “I am old.”

The words were hard to swallow. For all of us. Of course we immediately told her she was not old. It was just a minor set back and she’d be up and running soon.

The thing about my mom is that nothing about her has changed that much in 30 years. Yes, she is skinnier, and maybe shrank an inch or two and her pace has slowed, but really, she is still the same silver-haired lady we have always known and loved. She still laughs at the off-color jokes her children tell her. And a week prior to the stroke, she was creating painting masterpieces with her 5-year-old grand-daughter and helping to collect pieces of broken fences for her 9-year-old grandson to build a fort in her yard.

The stroke slowed her down a bit, but I do think after a few weeks of physical therapy at the skilled nursing, she’ll be ready to race. We are talking about aqua therapy and getting her moving in the water. She likes that idea I think. And I do think she is ready to embrace a different outlook on life.

She may be a senior, but at least today, she says she realizes that there is alot more to do.

Keep the happy thoughts coming.

Froot Loops for Dinner and Other Things

Well, in an unfortunate turn of events, my mom was released from the hospital yesterday morning only to be back, via a 9-1-1 call and ambulance by 5:30 p.m. Still no word on what it is, but something happened that wasn’t normal.

She was fine all day — well as fine as one could be after what she went through. She was complaining a bit about some hip pain on her left side. And knowing what we know about her — she is the original minimizer when it comes to pain. And complaining — well it’s just not in her nature. So we kept a close eye on it.

She sat on the couch and we didn’t let her get up. I had picked my daughter up from pre-school and shot down to my mom’s because Gramma wanted to see her granddaughter and I needed my sister to sign something. Plus I could help get my mom settled in. I figured it would be a quick trip. I did some cleaning and moving things around so that she could get around on a walker temporarily. She played with my daughter for a good time and then got tired and sat back for a while.

My sister ran around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to find this medicine my mother was prescribed. From pharmacy to pharmacy, she struck out. This injectable form of her stroke prevention medicine — something that she needed to have the same time each day — was not something places like Walgreens or CVS had on hand. (You think the prescribing MD or hospital staff might know this prior to sending my mom home?) My sister finally found a place that had it, secured it, then nearly fainted from its price tag, called my mom’s cardiologist and explained the situation and scored my mom some good old fashioned free samples. Woot Woot!

I stayed behind and puttered. Really just secretly tossing away some of the items my pack-rat mother has kept over the years. Things like bags of bags and tissue boxes she wanted to turn into “toys” for my kids when they were younger. I think some people deal with getting older by holding on to everything. Perhaps not throwing an old item out lessens the blow of aging. Who knows. For another day to figure out.

In any case, we got mom some cottage cheese and pears around 5 p.m. then walked her to the bathroom and back, and that is when she said she started feeling weak on one side. We sat her down. Then something happened. Without any words to explain it, it was as if she just went away for a few minutes. Her face changed. Her body changed. She changed. We couldn’t fool around trying to decipher what it was, so we called 9-1-1.

A few minutes later, a police officer showed up, followed by a paramedic and the rest of the EMTs. By then, mom was more like herself, but still had no strength when they tried to get her to stand. (Can I just say I love EMTs? They were so great with my mom. They joked with her and talked and laughed with her. One even called her sweetheart. I think she blushed.)

In any case, I made sure my daughter did not know what was going on and didn’t see them take Gramma out on a stretcher. She didn’t hear the sirens, but she did see the policeman and asked who he was. I told her he was a very nice man who came to make sure Gramma was feeling better. She said “Oh”, shrugged and went back to Nick Jr. in the bedroom.

Phew.

It was one of those things where I was unsure what to do. Or maybe my mind went blank and I couldn’t figure it out. I knew I had no choice but to take my daughter with me, as there was no one down at my mom’s that could watch her. I had secured care for my son back home from my friend. But I was momentarily at a loss. I needed to go be with my mom, but I surely didn’t want my 5-year-old anywhere near the ER and all that goes with it.

And then it dawned on me. The hospital cafeteria!

My mom’s hospital is a beautiful place a la a renovation a few years back. It’s like a hotel. Fountains, pianos, etc… And my siblings and I could tag team with my daughter in the cafe while we went in to see my mom. So I explained to my daughter that her Gramma left in a really cool car called a GEM (Greenwich EMS — pretty clever, no?) that went fast and had lots of pretty lights that flashed and that we would go have dinner in an awesome cafeteria and she could have anything she wanted for dinner.

So off we went. That’s where the Froot Loops came into play. Out of all the things she could choose from — cheeseburger, fries, chicken nuggets, deli sandwiches, etc.. — she chose Froot Loops, an ice cream bar and a Gatorade. (I know, but what?) I chose fried fish and mashed potatoes. My sister came into the cafe while my brother was with our mom. I ate. My daughter tried my fish and declared she’d like some for dessert. All good.

So back to mom.

She seemed better as the time ticked on in the ER. And believe me, it ticked on and on. By 9:15, they still hadn’t admitted her. The ER was crazy busy. I had at that point run out of tricks to keep my daughter entertained and it was time for us to go. My oldest sister, who apparently is part Bull Dog (in a really good way), finally told the ER docs they needed to decide because we needed news. And within 15 minutes, she came back out of the ER with news they were admitting her.

I kissed mom goodbye, drove my sister back to my mom’s so she could get her car and go home and we left my mom, who was with my brother, to be admitted to her room.

Here’s the real kicker. One could not have known that she would sit in the ER until, wait for it… 4 o’clock in the flipping morning! Apparently there was some sort of lock down situation there and they could not move patients. Anywhere. I think if my mom weren’t so tired and this wasn’t her second go around there, she would have gotten up and kicked some ER asses.

Oy.

So today she rests, and after a night like that, she’s probably happy to rest in a nice hospital room where people don’t bother her too much. She gets more tests. CT Scans, MRIs, ultrasounds and x-rays.

And we wait.

Life

I am not sure my mother will be happy about me sharing what’s under our pots. She’s a relatively private person. But as the saying goes, Write What You Know. And right now, what I know is that my dear mom is in the hospital surrounded by strangers poking, prodding and looking.

My 83-year-old mom suffered a stroke on Friday night and was admitted to the ER.

I should have known that a call from my sister at 9 o’clock on a Friday night couldn’t be good. I kissed my family goodbye and drove the hour or so to the hospital. All the way down I couldn’t help but wonder what shape she would be in. Could Mom speak? Could she move?

I was happily surprised. Other than stumbling on a few minor things — like shaving 20 years off her age (good girl!) and not remembering right away the name of our current President (not that I blame her for that) she seemed pretty good. She could move well, and her speech wasn’t slurred in the least.

I told her it was a heck of a way to ensure she got flowers for Mother’s Day, something my sister and brother probably said when they got there too, and she laughed. But behind the facade of our family always trying to wing a good joke in the face of sadness, she sure scared the hell out of us all.

On the outside, my mom didn’t look like someone who suffered a stroke. We were relieved when the ER doc told us it was a TIA – a transient ischemic attack. A likely precursor to a stroke. But upon further testing, they found more lurking on the inside: My mom had indeed suffered not one, but three or four small strokes and that her brain did suffer some injury.

And yesterday it was discovered that my mom also has a form of pulmonary hypertension where there is no mechanism to block a clot from her heart to her brain. And they discovered a small hole in her beautiful heart. She now needs to add coumadin to her array of meds she already takes.

So it begins.

If I had a lick of advice for anyone with an elderly parent, it would be this: educate yourself BEFORE something happens.

Right now, my siblings and I have to take a crash course in caring for an ill elderly parent.

There are literally so many questions — Will she need food delivered? Will she eat it? Should we just cook and hope for the best that she eats it? Which medical alert device? Will Medicare cover it? Do we need a home health care worker? Will Medicare cover it? How will we get her to rehab appointments? How will she get around? How will we ensure she takes her meds? How will we configure her house so that we can ensure she does not bump into anything for fear that her dose of coumadin will make her bleed? Will she be okay?

Can all four of her children do this without ripping each other’s throats out?

 These and so many more questions need to be answered before she gets home.

My head is spinning. I am tired from the driving back and forth and why I feel compelled to be sitting at my computer instead of researching more or dragging my kids into bed with me is beyond me. But here is where I sit, perhaps trying to figure out the next move. Or just trying to get my mind to work again.

The thing about my mom –she is a fierce little thing. All 90+ pounds of her. She’s beaten a lot. Breast cancer at 58. Car accident at 62. Widowed at 62. Heart attack at 79. Now she’ll handle this. I know she will. It’s who she is.

She’ll be back to puttering around her home in no time. But for now, she gets killer milkshakes from her nurse Paula, is forced to relax and is slowly getting to know the kind old lady in the bed next to her. She chats with all the staff and really is in good spirits. Not a bad place if you take the stroke out of the equation.

On the sibling front, it’s been a wakeup call for all of us that is for sure. We need to pay more attention. To everything. I just hope we can wind our way through all this without any additional stress on my mom.

I realize we are not the first family to have to care for an aging parent or one that falls ill. But when it happens to you, it is overwhelming. There are lots of organizations and websites and articles and phone numbers, not to mention emotions, that we need to weed through.

We just want to do what is best for her.

But it sure can’t be easy on her — the caregiver becomes the cared for.

Anyway, hopefully my mom doesn’t disown me for sharing this. But since she knows I am a writer, and I need to write, perhaps she’ll make an exception and keep me in the family. I know she won’t be reading this, cause she isn’t connected, but don’t tell her, just in case.

So I am sure to be sharing some updates. I am sure I’ll need to vent, too. I’ll try to blog about other things if I can.

But right now, this is life.

Whose Project Is It Anyway?

I can’t help myself. I have tried. But when I get the crayons, paints and glitter out, my instinct takes over. And my bad habit of taking over my kids’ school art projects comes out to play.

I realized it has been going on for years, probably since my son’s preschool Valentine’s Day exchange. I suggested we take black construction paper and cut out stars and planets and finish with “You are out of this world.” Pretty clever, no?

Well, I cut out the planets and glued all of them of 10 black sheets and wrote the greeting. My son signed his name 10 times and that was that. Same thing happened in kindergarten and first grade when he brought home projects. It was fun and I saw no harm in it.

Well, this year, my preschool daughter had a “family project” around Christmas time. She was to make her own gingerbread person with help from the family. So I helped. A lot. We spread out on the coffee table in front of a roaring fire, she and I. We placed our items to use on the table. Pattern. Check. Felt. Check. Glue stick. Check. Yarn. Check. Googly Eyes. Check. Stick on gems. Check. I had been to Michael’s Crafts that day and picked up some self-stick glittery foam as well. Check.

So sitting by the fire, we created a beautiful gingerbread princess with long flowy yellow yarn hair. She had bling — rings and earrings and a bracelet — and a crown. I cut out her dress. I cut the yarn for her hair. I made the shoes. I let my daughter decide what color gems she should have on  her crown, which I had also cut out. My daughter meticulously placed the little faceted fake gems on the sparkly crown. And when she wasn’t looking I moved them to where I wanted them to go. All in the name of “fixing” her. What? They looked better.

Well our gingerbread princess was beautiful and I was proud of myself my daughter.

Our family project was complete and we returned her to school. A few days later as we were  rushing in, I noticed all the gingerbread people hung up in the hallway. After I dropped my daughter in her class, kissed her goodbye, I went to see the wall on my way out.

Ok this is really embarrassing. I was actually mortified. Ashamed of myself.

The other gingerbread people all looked like they were done by preschoolers. But my daughter’s  — well it was clearly done with way too much help from her mother. She stood out on the wall among the other gingerbread people who were colored with crayon, had decorations and embellishments glued willy nilly. Some of the kids even cut out their own patterns. You could tell those by the ragged cut of a preschooler’s little hand in a pair of unfamiliar scissors.

Apparently family project does not mean have mom do it.

OK, got it this time.

So I thought I had learned my lesson. But then my son comes home with this book report project he has to complete. It’s called a Can Character. Take a coffee can, design it around your character, and fill the can with index card facts about him or her. Then you do a report on him. Actually a very cute way to do a book report for third graders.

My son chose Ulysses S. Grant. Did I mention he is a Civil War buff? So proud I am.

He brought home his book and sat down tonight to begin his work.

I got him paper and then went back to what I was doing in the kitchen. He was looking for crayons. I told them where to find them and went back to doing what I was doing in the kitchen, stealing looks at my son as he began his project.

“Hey mom?”

Well, that was all I needed. Before I knew what was happening I was at the table drawing my own version of General Grant and was detailing the grey in his beard when I looked at my son. He stood there, crayon in hand, watching his mother take over his school project.

“That’s good mom. Can I use that?” he asked.

“Uh, er, um. No. I was just showing you how to draw a person is all.”

This is NOT normal, is it? Am I an as yet undiscovered stage mom? Pageant Mom? Will I be that mom who yells out the answer during my son’s spelling bee?

So I backed off.

I guided my son as he drew his own. It was not bad. I “helped” him with harder parts like the ear and a wisp of Ulysses’ hair that curled just so, but for the most part it was all his.

I “suggested” he draw an American Flag on the paper as well. So I just sketched it out for him. And drew the stars. And the flag pole. And got the correct color red and blue and then gold for the stars.

Oh boy.

According to wikipedia:

Helicopter parent is a colloquial, early 21st-century term for a parent who pays extremely close attention to his or her child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions

Oh, I shutter to think.

It’s just an art project. What’s the big deal?

Fine. The next time I won’t help AT ALL. I will force my husband to tie my hands behind my back so I can’t color, cut, glue, glitter, embellish. I will just sit there. I won’t say a word.

Yeah. That’s it.

Helicopter parent. As if.

Gotta run. I have flashcards to make. Er, I mean my son has flashcards to make…