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The woman sounded alarmed. She called to tell me she thinks Mom, 80, is really slipping.

“She asked me to take her to the dentist the other day,” she said. “I told her to meet me in the lobby. When I got there she smiled and said, ‘Do I know you?’ She wasn’t joking.”

That Mom’s asking people I don’t know to ferry her to the dentist alarms me.

The woman’s one of Mom’s neighbors in the condo where she’s lived the past 12 years. My second cousin’s been living there with her the past two years, but the busy girl has a boyfriend and Mom doesn’t see her much.

I sensed the kind woman wants me to move Mom out of there into someplace where she could get more care.

Mom dreads the thought. She’s comfortable where she is.

Me, I’m like a third string quarterback with a fourth quarter lead. I’m just trying to run out the clock and not make any stupid mistakes to infuriate the fans.

I didn’t tell the woman that financial considerations are in play. We are in no position to add any level of elevated care for her.

I didn’t tell her caring for her has led to a profound estrangement from my absent older brother, someone I used to lean on for advice and support. We haven’t spoken for two years and any thaw seems unlikely. It’s something I should have seen coming, I guess.

Fifty years is a long time for a conservative to love anything.

I didn’t tell her I know I should feel more ashamed that I think it would solve a lot of problems if Mom just dropped dead of a massive heart attack.

I didn’t tell her any of those things. Instead, I just thanked her for her call and concern.

“Sure,” she said. “I really love Rachel. I just thought I should tell you about your mother.”

Tell me about my mother?

Let me tell you about my mother.

I always think of her whenever I see Carol Burnett.

It’s too bad they never met. They would have been great friends. They had the same preposterous sense of humor. It enriches the lives of all who know her.

I’ll never forget the day Mom did a sit-up.


I was probably about 15 or 16. It was the summer that she for some reason decided to take up the fitness kick.

She lay down on the floor and asked me to secure her feet. She put her arms behind her head and raised up to her knees.

Then on the reverse as she was trying to strengthen some muscles in her body, other key ones loosened. Her body became a bellows.

There, about a foot from my face, she blasted out the kind of fart that would have earned cheers in a fraternity house.

I don’t know how your mother would react, but here’s how mine did: she howled with laughter. It may not have resulted in the desired weight loss, but right there she laughed her ass off.

I did, too.

It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

She grew up in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Yes, she and Groundhog Phil spring from the same ground. But unlike Phil, she’s never seen a shadow.

She’s one of the most sunny people I’ve ever known.

A friend of mine told me it was his experience that a person with dementia becomes the opposite of what they were prior to onset. He said his once-darling mother became a mean old bitch before she died.

I don’t see that happening, and it will surely kill me if it does. If anything, she’s become even more childishly cheerful as her mental capacity is decreasing. Next to her, the late Fred Rogers was a cranky sourpuss.

Today’s not the day to write a eulogy for a woman who, if she lives as long as her 97-year-old father did, will endure until, gulp, 2030.

So today I will simply wish you and your loved ones a Happy Mother’s Day and share with you a lesson I learned at the feet of my dear, sweet mother:

Remember to try and always laugh your ass off even during the times when the situation really stinks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A wonderful story.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petesmom, FloridaSNMOM, chimene

    My mother would have liked your mom too....

    Have a  happy day....  :-)

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abbey

    by SaraBeth on Sun May 12, 2013 at 05:53:42 AM PDT

  •  Your mother was born two years before mine (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petesmom, FloridaSNMOM, chimene

    based on the date you mentioned.  My mother died almost five years ago.  Her decline was swift, less than six months between full self sufficiency and death.  But that gives me a feel for what many have to go through for years and years.

    Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman and I hope aging doesn't change that.

    "To see both sides of a quarrel, is to judge without hate or alarm" - Richard Thompson

    by matching mole on Sun May 12, 2013 at 06:28:17 AM PDT

  •  Sorry you are going through this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    petesmom, rebereads, FloridaSNMOM

    I am too. I went through it with my step-father to and can say that your friend was wrong. My step-father was the sweetest man on the planet both before alzheimers and during. Even when he was scared because he didn't know me anymore he tried his hardest not to let on.

    My mother is in the early to mid stages. She is pretty much the same too. Easy to laugh, easy to anger. A little more paranoia than I am used to but as long as I remind myself that it is the disease and not her I get through it fine. Of course since her memory is failing she mostly has no idea that her memory is failing. If you have forgotten that you forgot there can be no memory problem.

    As far as the money goes look into whatever your state's version of Medicaide is. Once you get through her money for care the state should step in and pay for that care.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Sun May 12, 2013 at 06:42:09 AM PDT

  •  Lost My Mom This Past Winter. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    One Sunday a few years ago she asked the church secretary where everybody was. The secretary reminded her that they were probably all at work or school since Sunday was yesterday.

    Mom was cheerful and cooperative to her very last minute, but she needed to move to assisted living some years before that. It was the best thing that happened to her in her later years. She was so happy to have the company.

    There are many services available to people who want to live at home as long as possible: visiting nurses, daily activities, in some locations free transportation. I hope you're able to put together the best possible life for her in these next years.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 12, 2013 at 07:12:19 AM PDT

  •  A day she'll never remember (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and you'll never forget.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:26:20 AM PDT

  •  Alzheimer's/dementia changes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I worked in Geriatrics as a CNA for years. I've seen it go both ways. Some of it is personality, they lose inhibition, so if they kept a cheery face but were thinking dark thoughts, those dark thoughts come out. Some of it is how they handle challenges, fear, and uncertainty. Most people have periods of lucidity between periods of confusion, especially in the early to mid stages. Much of their 'temperment' during those time frames stems from how they handle those changes. Some people get frightened and lash out, or go into denial. Some take it with the calm courage and sense of humor they've always shown in the face of adversity. Sometimes it also depends on how they are doing physically. Pair dementia with nutritional imbalances and you can get a lot more mood fluctuation for example.

    Given what you have said of your mother, I would suspect that unless other physical changes go on, she'll keep that sense of humor she's always shown.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:10:37 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, sympathizers (0+ / 0-)

    Very kind of you to share your support and encouragement. My father died very suddenly at the age of 76. It was like having a bandaid ripped off.

    Having her father live so long is what's scary. So many unforeseen eventualities.

    But I believe we'll be fine. I hope those of you in a similar situation are, too.

  •  Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    Your note has spurred me to make the phone call I've been dreading all week.

    "The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it.". Abbie Hoffman

    by Joes Steven on Sun May 12, 2013 at 11:51:41 AM PDT

  •  This diary hit me hard. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I sympathize with you in your present situation with your mother, and I sympathize with her. Losing oneself has to be one of the most frightening things imaginable.

    My mother is in the early stages of dementia, but she also has frequent panic attacks, leading her to call my brother, who lives 20 miles away on country roads, at all hours of the night to come and take her to the hospital. He's 65 years old, and his health isn't that great, but of course he always goes.

    I live about 65 miles away, so am not so available. I'm ashamed to say that I make up excuses not to go home on the weekends because staying overnight with mom always leads to bitter arguments - not about politics, we agree about that; but arguments usually sparked by her failing memory and my some-times ill-chosen words.

    We love each other, but can't seem to spend too much time together without verbal explosions. It's sad because I used to love to call my mother and visit, to ask her advice, to go out to lunch and a movie with her, to shop -  how we both loved to shop.

    Mom now lives alone in a condo right next to an very nice assisted living complex with individual apartments. It's getting very close to the time when she's going to have to give up her condo and move there, but whenever my brother and I try to talk to her about it, she refuses. She's clinging to her last shred of independence, and how can I blame her for not wanting to give that up?

    But yet I still resent her stubborness, before turning on myself for being selfish. For years I've provided a substantial portion of her financial support, which would not be necessary if she were in assisted living. She has an arrangement that would allow her to be "grandfathered" into an apartment in the complex, so monetarily the move could be managed.

    In 2 weeks I'll be driving mom 250 miles to her 72nd H.S. reunion, and in July will be driving her 300 miles to celebrate her 90th birthday with her sister and cousin. She has very little family left, and most of her friends where she lives have died.

    About the trips - I feel a bewildering combination of resentment for giving up so much of my vacation, gratitude for all that my mother has given up for me over the years without complaint, fear and grief that she's starting to slip away from me, and love.

    So we'll climb into the car, hit the road, and probably have several arguments; but when driving over the gravel back roads of her childhood in Missouri, we will also make some wonderful memories. Because regardless of how much of the present my mother is losing, she remembers every detail of her childhood as if it happened yesterday.

    I'm sorry if my comment strayed too far from your diary. It's just that the struggles your mother is going through, the hard decisions facing you, and your conflicted feelings about everything really spoke to me.

    _Let's dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Robert Kennedy_

    by bogieshadow on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:47:01 PM PDT

  •  We take our magic where we find it. (0+ / 0-)

    Some magic mushrooms, f'rinstance, grow in cowshit.

    One of my memories from Mom labradog's last years with us: Mrs.labradog and I changing Mom's diaper and getting her cleaned up and "ready for bed" - she was bedridden.

    We had Casablanca on the TV. During this, the scene of singing La Marseillaise was on. So in response to our request, Mom translated the words for us as the patrons of Rick's Bar sang.

    A typical moment of Mom's matter-of-fact attitude to her own intellect and education, and her willingness to share what she'd learned.Plus a fun shared moment around a great movie, about the war in which she served and that shaped Mom's life.

    Magic in the shit.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:57:10 PM PDT

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