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Today is my mom’s birthday.  She’s 89.  I brought her flowers. She’s not really sure who I am, but the roses are lovely.  She also doesn’t remember from one minute to the next that it’s her birthday, so we remind her.  Over and over and over again.

Like we have to remind her that my dad isn’t coming to dinner, because he’s been gone almost three years.  Don’t get me started on this one—I’ve been outvoted.  My choice would be to tell her he’s out of town, and wait until she remembers on her own, which she eventually does. Reminding her of his death seems to me to be unnecessarily cruel—usually she snaps back and remembers, but on a few occasions it’s been like telling her the first time, and she’s inconsolable with grief for hours.

But there are no easy answers, and the things that work one day may not work the next day, or even the next hour.  It’s a constant struggle to keep her safe, healthy and as happy as she can be under the circumstances.

When you reach the stage where all your siblings (she had nine), your spouse of over 60 years and most of your friends have died, life can seem very lonely.  Even though one or more family members visits every day, she still feels the voids left in her life by the deaths of so many people she loved.

A few years ago she suffered complete heart block, and a pacemaker was implanted.  My son refers to her as the Energizer Bunny, and we all look at one another and wonder how much longer she has.  She has survived multiple cancers, including lung cancer 25 years ago, and has none of the usual diseases of old age—no diabetes, no high blood pressure.  

So we watch her mind and body slowly deteriorate; doing the best we can to maintain whatever quality of life is possible.  But while I’m grateful she’s lived such a long life, I feel bad for her.  The frustration she has of knowing that she doesn’t remember things, the confusion, the depression and lack of mobility are all painful to watch.

So, happy birthday mom, from your daughter.  Whether you remember me or not, I remember you, and all the things you’ve done for me, and I love you.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Beautiful (7+ / 0-)

    I think of you and your mother every day, and hope they're all days she remembers who you are. I know they're not. Those days that you're that new caregiver must be some of the most frustrating times a child can have. I don't know how you do it. I'm not sure I could. She is blessed to have you.

  •  a good daughter. (7+ / 0-)

    only such a person could write this.

    happy birthday to your mom, puzzled.

    every adult is responsible for every child

    by ridemybike on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:39:41 AM PST

  •  Hugs and peace to you (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled, Lorinda Pike, weck, hazey, Alma

    My 88 year old father left us a month ago, at Christmas.  His missed my mother, his siblings, his friends.  He missed them all the more because they were really all he could remember clearly.  

    There are no easy solutions to what you are going through.
    You'll be in my thoughts.  I hope you found some small enjoyments on this, her special day.  I know, sometimes those are hard to come by.  I'm sorry for how your heart is aching right now and for the road you have yet to cover.  

    You are my brother, my sister.

    by RoCali on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:43:59 AM PST

  •  My dad will be turning 85 at the beginning of Feb. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled, RoCali, Lorinda Pike, hazey, Alma

    All of his kids and his younger brother will be flying to Florida to celebrate.  He has survived the widowmaker heart attack, and had his knees and hips done.  We are all thankful for his health and mental well being, and I love him very much.

    We need to take the time now, because we fear the time of losing and the time of loss.  We need to make our moments now, when we still can.  There will probably be a time for us while we try to keep up his quality of life, the way you are for your mom.

    I hope you will hold in your heart the wonderful times you made with your mom, before her time of confusion and frustration.  She was a different mom for most of her life than the mom she is now, and I feel the sorrow you have expressed for the changes.     {{{puzzled}}}, I will be thinking of you today.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

    by weck on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:47:15 AM PST

  •  A poem (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled, weck, hazey, Pluto, Alma

    Cranky Old Man

     What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
     What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
     A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
     Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
     Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
     When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
     Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
     And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
     Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
     With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
     Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
     Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
     I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
     As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
     I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
     Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
     A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
     Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
     A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
     Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
     At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
     Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
     A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
     Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
     At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
     But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
     At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
     Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
     Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
     I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
     For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
     And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
     I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
     It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
     The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigor, depart.
     There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
     But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
     And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
     I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
     And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
     I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
     And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
     So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
     Not a cranky old man .
     Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

    I have no idea of the origin. Stolen Borrowed from a FB post from someone, I can't remember who.

  •  ((((((puzzled)))))) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puzzled, Kane in CA, Sylv

    I'm sorry I missed this last night.  I'm pretty much just been online in the mornings lately.

    I agree with you on telling your mom that your dad is out of town or something.  After dad had his foot amputated I hated having to tell him over and over that he couldn't get up because he didn't have a foot anymore.  It haunts me and I wish it could have been something I could have lied to him about for both of our sakes.

    Love you puzzled

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