The box Chapter 6 The Emergency
Another nice evening serenading our parents, leaving them to reacquaint themselves, the only difference this evening mom was acting like a school girl being dated. Little giggles and coy looks, Stan was soaking it all in.
Paul and I kept glancing at each other wondering how this night would end after my mother’s announcement that she had expected Stan to share her bed last night. Paul made the suggestion to let them be and let the chips fall where they may. I sighed and agreed, which would mean I would be awake all night: good thing there is Jack Daniels to keep me company.
Sure enough mom and dad walked hand in hand up the stairs I had this crazy question run through my head, I wonder if Stan can still do the deed. What a thought to have about your mom and dad.
Paul came back down the stairs in sweatpants, t-shirt and socks
“Hey sis have any more of that Jack Daniels left?”
“Sure do; but the question is will I share. “
“Let me know because I am willing to drive to the store and get more”
“Actually Paul the bottle was not full yesterday and we had nearly finished it sorry, I never thought to go out today to replenish our stock”
“Hahaha No problem I will throw on some jeans and fetch us the biggest bottle they have in the store, we have 2 more days of surprises coming our way”
As Paul pulled out of the driveway I had a eerie sense something was about to happen. I hate when that happens, it happened the night Jessie died, when the officers showed up at my door in uniform I knew something happened. When they told me the day it happened I knew exactly what time it happened.
I am sipping my drink mulling over everything that happened today; mom and Stan sitting on the porch.
He was gracious about the fact mom did not remember him this morning so he started from the beginning telling about himself, about Paul, his daughter in law and grandchildren.
Grandchildren, my nieces and nephews another thing I have not fully taken in. I keep telling myself I have a family. The box I opened a little more than a month ago has given me a box full of gifts that keep on giving.
Paul walked in the side door with a big grin on his face holding up the biggest bottle of Jack Daniels I have ever seen. He talked the owner into the display bottle, I started to laugh as he did also.
“I figured it could be a remembrance of our time together here may be we can go on Pinterest and repurpose the bottle once it is empty”
“Oh Paul that is hilarious you actually know about Pinterest?”
At that moment my mom yelled Fire! Fire! Fire!
I did not know where to go first I started up the stairs, Paul right behind me, Stan coming down the stairs yelling “Next Door! Next Door!”
Oh My God Sherry I have not seen her since Paul and Stan came to visit, have not talked to her, OH God Not my best friend.
That thought rolled through my head I was too afraid to give it a voice.
We all ran outside Sherry her husband and 2 kids where huddled on the front lawn in shock staring at their house engulfed in flames. Sirens approaching police officer speaking to them that they should step back.
I ran to Sherry “Come on Sherry, Glenn come inside the house let these men do their job”
“Oh Penny it is all gone, all gone”
“I am so sorry Sherry, so very very sorry, but you are still here, your children and husband are still here”
She hugged me and wept uncontrollably as I did when I told her of Jessie’s passing
Paul poured 2 more glasses of Jack, 2 glasses of wine and 2 glasses of milk we sat in silence for some time before anyone spoke, first one was my mom
“Well my darlins we cannot stay up all night drinking let’s find a good cuddly place for these young ones to sleep”
“I have a davenport in my office they can share”
Sherry and her husband tucked them in, my mom and Stan went back to bed, separate rooms this time, the rest of us shared Jack.
I need to make an appointment with the Doctor, another conversation.
The Box Chapter 7 Doctors advice
After all the excitement last night with the fire, Sherry, her husband and the kids spending the night; mom stayed in bed late. I asked Sherry if she was up to keeping an eye on mom while Paul, Stan and I went to talk to Doctor Christopher and get his advice about moving mom up north.
There is a part of me which is for it, that part says “Go out of your comfort zone move forward in your life, work part time for your brother”
The other part of me is afraid to make the change using mom’s illness as an excuse to stay; but if I move I will be closing the door to Jessie. Here I can still walk by the condo we shared; the places we went for lunch, shopping. Parts of Jessie are still alive here. Yet I know I need to close that door and move forward.
Paul, Stan and I filed into Doctor Christopher’s office, I have not spoken to him since I opened the box and mom flipped out, he has a reader’s digest version of the contents of the box.
After making introductions, I gave a little dissertation on the current situation.
“Doctor Christopher I am considering my dad’s offer to move up north into the house next door to him, my concern is for mom and if she would be able to adjust to the move”
“Well let me ask you this Penny, how is she handling having her husband back in her life, also add to it her son?”
“Better than I ever expected Doctor”
“Ok so let’s look at what you have accomplished as a caregiver, have you been using the tools you have learned in caring for an Alzheimer patient?”
“Yes, I leave little notes with a short list of things she could accomplish each day, I also put current pictures of everyone staying in the house with their names on them; placed pictures on both bulletin boards, one being in her room the other in the kitchen”
“Well Penny I believe those same skills that you use will go a long way into making this move a good transition, my personal opinion you need to do this for you; all this time taking care of your mom I do not believe you have had the time to completely grieve the loss of your husband. Also you have taken 100% of the responsibility for the care of your mother, you now have a family that wants to share in that responsibility.”
“That is very true Doctor Christopher, and I will admit comforting, I have been feeling a little burnt out, needing some time for myself, also wanting to get back to practicing law, my brother has offered me a part time position in his firm, which would work well for me”
“It will be good for your mom because you will be emotionally rested, and more evenly tempered”
I knew exactly what he meant; he has caught me losing patience with mom especially those times when she repeats a question, over and over till I want to scream. I know in my heart it is not her fault but still drives me buggy. They tell you to answer the question evenly and with a calm tone each time. Sometimes it is not humanly possible to do this.
Paul leaned forward in his chair and asked “Doctor Christopher, I have a question for you, how can you tell the difference between Alzheimer’s and normal aging processes?”
“Paul many people ask this question, the Alzheimer’s patient is not cognitive to assert themselves as clearly as your father has, well thought out his needs, communicating it in a clear and concise matter”
“After listening to you and Penny has me reassessing what is happening with dad”
“Oh Paul I am just an old guy who has brain farts once in a while”
We all chuckled, Paul patted dad on his back, I sighed ; dad sighed, dad is becoming famous for his warm hugs.
Couple of days later Sherry and her family moved in with her sister who has a large farm house 7 miles out of town.
I look out my window at the charred remains of my best friend’s house; the fire marshal said faulty wiring combined with a candle on the dining table was not put out. It hit me in a blink of an eye everything can change we need to make the most of what we have and what is given us.
Paul called his wife Millie, she came down state and Paul went home. Paul needed to get back to work and Millie came down to help me with the move. Since the house that Stan offered us is completely furnished I wanted to take only pieces of furniture that mom treasured like her bedroom set, and a floor lamp near her chair and of course her chair.
Last box taped closed, movers closed the doors to the truck and headed out. Mom did well she had her moments of confusion no different than any other day. She did her repetitive question;
“What are we doing why are we moving”
Millie was great with it, she had taken care of both her parents so it was something she was accustomed too. She likened it to having 5 kids and all asking the same question 5 different ways hoping for a yes instead of a no. I had to laugh, she seems a perfect mate for my brother.
I know this is not going to solve all my problems and I will need to do some adjusting as well. I am not used to having people around I have become a loner since I started to take care of mom. It is time for me to stretch past my comfort zone and let others into my life.
I am not ready for dating but I think I am ready to get to know my family.
The Box Chapter 8 The Move
Moving day, as the truck pulled away a strange sensation went through me, a release of sorts; as if Jessie was saying it is ok to move on. Embarking on a new adventure in my life a new chapter, let’s turn the page and a new leaf at the same time.
It was difficult for me giving some control over to Millie, I am normally the one who makes the decisions even those little curves mom gives me I am the one who comes up with the solution. Millie suggested mom ride with her, she will consider it as may be a girl outing which may change her constant question.
I am in the car alone with my own thoughts for 3 and a half hours, I have not had 3 and half hours with my own thoughts for as long as I have taken care of mom. My senses were dulled from unused portion of my brain; my music was not doing the trick to kick me into gear.
Where are those quick solutions I would come up with mom why can I not find it within myself not feel as if I am only going through the motions suspended within this vehicle?
Just then Millie pulled alongside me on the express way I looked over mom had the biggest smile on her face and she waved, I waved back, another moment in my life I will never forget, priceless; I have to remember to thank Millie for this moment.
I through my favorite CD in by the Piano Guys turned it up, put on the cruise control and got diggy with it.
We stopped for lunch at Apple Bees moms favorite lunch spot, her favorite breakfast spot is Big Boys. Walking up to the door my mom actually hooked our arms together and let out a sigh. I have never heard her sigh, I so wonder at what is going on in her mind, what is she thinking we are doing.
“I have to ask Millie, how was your ride?”
“Fine I just asked her about when she was a girl, what she liked in school; things like that, I was just making conversation and keeping her occupied with something other than where we are going and are we there yet”
At that I literally tipped my head back and laughed, realizing I am glad not to have been in that car and had the time to myself.
“Millie you are a gem, thank you so very much, I have to say up front I may at times be as difficult as my mom, I am not used to giving control for her care and needs so if I step on your toes please do not give up on me”
“I totally understand, with both my parents if it were not for Paul I would have lost myself first then my mind, I became a hovering mother duck”
She is right that is exactly what I have become, I need a way to fly on my own, and allow mom some new experiences as well.
“Penny what is it you are eating?”
“Mom, it is shrimp scampi, and a salad”
“I chose the chicken penne and a salad”
“Perfect choice mom” She always chose that, some constants are good.
When we arrived the movers were closing the door to the truck and pulling away, the house is adorable, a brick ranch with white trimmed windows, white picket fence, just adorable. I just realized I liked the idea of no stairs for mom, it is perfect with huge pines, large maples and looks like an apple tree in the back yard; idyllic setting I can see mom will love this place.
Mom stood on the sidewalk and said “Charlottes house”
Stan came up behind us and said “Yes Sarah, Charlotte used to live here till she moved to Buffalo”
“She did not want to move to Buffalo, she was afraid of a stampede”
It was all I could do not to laugh at that, young girl worried about moving to a town called Buffalo because they might stampede.
Walking into the living room the furniture was over stuffed comfortable country style. Yes this will do just fine, I cannot believe my life has changed this much since I opened that box 2 months ago. Even a box being delivered to your house can change your life.
The Box chapter 9 Adjusting and saying goodbye
The house is idyllic mom just goes room to room repeating different emotions not thoughts emotions, it comes out as a question but what she is asking and what she is remembering are two different things.
Now it is all about me acting out, looking back as I am telling you this I feel shame. Here is how it went”
First off I cannot tell you the exact words I used directed at my Mom those words were MY emotional fists.
“Mom really you do not remember Charlotte throwing a tantrum because you received for your birthday the bike she wanted.” It has been and endless barrage of embarrassments because of my issues. I know it is due to me being burnt out, I love my mom and am glad I now have back up with family.
Millie has been a gem, she has this ability to know when to come by and suggest that I go for a walk or shopping, I do not know what I would do without her.
Stan has been great with her, especially over the winter; here the winters can be brutal, especially with less sunshine. Stan will start a fire and chat with mom, which gives me a chance to do laundry make beds and start a meal.
Paul stops by so I have an adult to talk to, we talk of his firm what they are working on. I am waiting to start there till summer, giving mom a chance to get into a routine, she seems to do better when her days are organized by routine.
I am glad after 6 months we have gotten past my issues because Mom has settled in nicely. Sure there were quirks same as if we remained in her house, the unending questions, the chatter as one with Savant Syndrome.. My mother is intelligent, sometimes I wonder how much is savant and how much is Alzheimer’s.. I have gone through denial, she had a slight case of savant, and repetition was confused with OCD she is not OCD, some have wondered about me all my life and I found out recently that I am dyslexic. When will we understand the differences between us is not that different but that special?
Starting work tomorrow Millie said she will take care of mom while I am at work. 3 days a week I will be working 5 hours each day, some filing, preparing briefs, counseling perspective clients directing them to the attorney within the firm who specialize in their needs.
Walking out the back door there is a full covered porch, mom loves sitting out there watching the squirrels and birds do their dance as she puts it. Stan is out there now with her helping her water the small garden and potted plants. She at times acts like his girlfriend, other times like a neighbor. She is content which is so good to see, Stan is with his Sarah.
Tonight Stan wants to grill some chicken and we will picnic outside on the porch. I made potato salad, cut up raw vegetables, all mom’s favorites.
“Hey Stan how is it going out here?”
“Just fine Penny, we are just finishing up, Sarah is resting in the chair under the maple tree while I roll up the hose”
I walked over where mom was sitting she seemed so still, fast asleep. I did not want to disturb her so I went back to the house.
Moments later I hear Stan “Sarah!!!! My Sarah!!!Do not leave me again!!”
Leave me again; it did not compute into my brain till I reached the chair where Stan was kneeling his head in mom’s lap sobbing a wretched sob.
I called 911 she was pronounced dead Friday May 1 at 11am.
I am glad I opened the box and made the move. It changed my life and mom’s for the better, not regrets now I will be mourning the loss of my mom and yes still Jess. My family will be near to help me through the grieving, and moving forward.