Monday, November 15, 2010

"What am I going to do with my Mother?"

     We arrived at her home shortly after 7 pm Saturday.  My mission was to find the missing Title to my Dad's truck and the missing copies of his death certificate.  I knew they had to be there in her little home somewhere and that she had forgotten where she put them. 
     It is the new norm now, as nothing can be believed because her short term memory has declined so that she truly doesn't remember where anything has been placed by her own hands or that she has even touched or ever seen what you are talking about.  It only angers her when I explain for the 15th time that her Grandson doesn't have the title even though she is strongly convinced otherwise because he is selling my Dad's truck for her. It seems she remembers giving the title to him but she will not be convinced that he didn't take it with him. It makes no difference that I am telling her that he said he would leave it with her.   She knows for sure that he has the title because she gave it to him.        
     The other goal I have is to figure out what bills she has coming in so that a budget and income can be calculated for her by Dad's financial advisers.  She is very suspicious and momentarily forgets that this is why I have come today.  She wants to know what business it is of theirs to know how they spend their money.  It has truly escaped her that we have met with them on two occasions just for that determination.   I explain again that they asked me to figure out her monies coming in and going out monthly.  She repeats again the same question.  I remind her that due to Dad's passing away that the bills are her responsibility and they need to know how much of his holdings need to go to an income and what will be left to reinvest for her.  This time she is compliant.
      Her obsession for neatness compels her to put things out of sight that have stacked up since the funeral.  She truly doesn't know what they all are, these papers that come in the mail. She tells me that she "got sick of looking at them" and put them away.  I've been counting on her long term memory to be able to distinguish between the junk mail from Publishers Clearing House, the NRA, the amazing Kreskin, Herbal Healing and vitamin newsletters, the Republican National Comittee and various other places that sparked my Dad's interest  from the business mail she receives from Alcatel Lucent, their Bank statements, Utility Bills and Life Insurance letters to the beneficiary.  It would be so much easier for me to be able to believe her yet her actions betray my trust.
     Her dresser drawer holds all of "her things" she tells me.  We open it to find,
lots of junk mail, empty envelopes, cards and notepads but no sign of what we are searching for.  I go to my Dad's dresser and open the drawer not sure of what I will find.  There where his socks and PJ's use to be I find the three tall stacks of papers that had been accumulating since the funeral.  Only moments ago I asked her what had become of the stacks of paper that I previously saw lying on her hope chest. She couldn't tell me where she put them only that she "got sick of looking at them"  I think of how it compares to little children shoving their toys under the bed out of sight when they are cleaning their rooms.
     I weed through every paper looking for the ones needed that have some how disappeared into thin air from where they were placed in safe keeping.  I locate the title to the truck and lift it up to show her.  She asks me how it got in there and did I put it there?   I tell her No, I didn't.  I never was in the habit of getting into their things before my Dad died but those days are gone.  I block the feeling that arises in me that somehow I am betraying their privacy yet I know it is what has to be done.  I don't like looking through her things, it feels wrong to me but this person who once was impeccably organized is also nowhere to be found.   As I continue my quest,  I find the missing copies of Dad's death certificate.  There are still businesses that need proof of his passing.  A wave of guilt reminds me that when we received the 10 copies I didn't trust her to keep them all.  I feared that she would misplace them so I only gave her four.  I remembered asking her where she felt she could safely keep them and she suggested her brown lock box. At that time I took her to the box and explained that we would put them in the very front of the box so that if she needed them she would be able to find them.    This time, I place only one of them back in the box. She asks me at least three more times where we are putting the title.  I suggest to my husband that rather than placing it on her dresser for safe keeping that we should take it to my nephew so that none of us will be responsible for it.  It should stay where the truck is.  She agrees.
      I look in to her check book and discover that she has made payments on bills that were paid off only a month ago.  She has forgotten that she paid them off.    I am able to figure out what bills my Dad was paying on a regular basis and I chuckle when I see that he had written checks to Publishers Clearing house; probably his Woodworker magazine or maybe the Martha Stewart subscription for Mom.    I am ready to go home but she offers us ice cream and I can't resist.   She tells me that she has recently read an article that explains why she forgets things;  she isn't eating enough sugar. I have lost track of how many times she has told me the reasons that she forgets things but this time she has the solution, adding sugar to her tea.
     I leave the house with a whirlwind of thoughts running through my head.
What can I do for my Mother.  She will not hear of leaving her home, she is sure that she is able to take care of herself and is in total denial that the extreme nature of her short term memory problem is nothing more than being 80 years old and losing your husband.  I know that what she exhibits are not signs of the natural aging process. It is more severe.  On occasion her friends and neighbors have approached me asking, "What are you going to do with your Mother?"   Everyone who interacts with her sees that there is a problem. These questions run through my mind: Is she still bathing?  Why does she wear the same clothes three days in a row.  What is she eating?  She doesn't seem to be cooking anymore, even though she doesn't admit it.   Does she remember to take her thyroid and blood pressure medicines?  Does she remember that she has medicines to take?  Will she remember how to get home the next time she drives to the grocery or bank?  How will I convince her that she must see a doctor?   Her personality has always been one of non-compliance, and she has always been one who knows she is always right.   How will I ever find  a way to help her if she has no recollection that she is forgetting.   The very suggestion that she needs to see a doctor and be tested incites her combative nature and I am accused of wanting to "put her into an asylum."   I am getting nowhere and the question still remains; "what am I going to do about my Mother?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Strangest Dream

      On the Friday evening that my Dad passed away I didn't want to leave my Mother alone so I decided to go ahead and spend the night at their house.  She has a futon couch in her little den room that is just a cut above sleeping on the floor!     I don't know how manufacturers expect anyone to get a good nights sleep on those things but it was either sleep on it, the floor, or a small love seat that Mom has in her living room.  
I figured that I wasn't going to sleep much anyway, so I might as well be wrestling for sleep on the futon. 
      The next day, my sister arrived late in the evening from Utah. We were all so tired just from mourning  and decided to try to get some rest.    Somehow, without any discussion, my sister Chris got the futon and I ended up on the tiny love seat in the living room.  I probably could have opted for Dad's recliner but I just couldn't bring myself to sit in my Dad's preferred seat yet; him only being gone for one night.   I sleep most comfortably curled up in a ball anyway so I didn't think a whole lot about not being able to stretch out.   I was exhausted and just needed a place to rest.   Their little patio home has a nice size living room but the space doubles as a dining room too.  My mother is a woman who doesn't really like parting with her things so the room is lined with furniture.  In addition to the love seat there is:  a lovely secretary desk, an entertainment center with a TV in it and a mantel clock up on top, a buffet table my Dad made that is covered with pictures, a dining room table with 6 chairs,  a set of wooden snack tables, an antique china cupboard and a round table with a lamp on it in the corner, a  winged back chair with an end table beside it, Dad's recliner and a glider rocker that Mom usually sits in with a foot stool in front of it.  Between Dad's recliner and Mom's chair stands a beautiful handmade Grandfather clock that my Dad made for my Mom.    I wondered as I crawled up on the love seat if I would be able to sleep in a room with two clocks ticking, one that chimes every fifteen minutes and dongs for every hour that passes.
     I had no trouble falling fast asleep and it wasn't long until I found myself having the strangest dream.
I saw my Dad vividly, walking up the driveway behind the lake house.  He looked tired and it seemed to show a bit on his face.    As he approached the side door to the garage he turned left, opened the door and stepped in to the garage.  He walked over to his workbench and turned to face it, suddenly he cried out and his hands went up, one crossing over the other as he grasped his chest.  He took one step left and then fell back on the concrete floor.   He hit his head on a stack of wood by the workbench;  he was already gone when he hit the floor.    It was as if I was there, a silent observer to how my Dad passed away. The most peculiar thing was that as I saw Dad walking up the driveway I heard the sound of the Grandfather clock ticking  increasingly louder and louder and louder until at the very moment in the dream that Dad fell dead on the floor it was so loud that it woke me up.  Startled,  I then listened intently to see just how loud the clock was ticking.  It was a soft, quiet, soothing sound.   There was little doubt in my mind that God had just given me an explanation, a brief glimpse of how it all happened.

My Hero

     On October 8, 2010 I received the phone call that no one ever wants to get.  The woman said, "Hello Carla, this is Teresa Gillentine." She asked me, "are you driving"?  Confused, I replied "no, I just walked into Burlington to look for dresses for my Grandaughters."  She stated, "I am here with your Mother and you need to talk to her."   A dark cloud began to creep in as my Mother explained to me that she and Dad had been down at their lake house all day. Dad was installing handrails going up to the upper deck over the boat lift.  He finished working for the day, walked up the hill toward the shed at the back of the house to put away his garden cart.   Mom noticed that he was taking longer than usual, looked out at the shed and didn't see him.  She thought he might have gone on up the hill to put some tools away in the garage.  She walked up the hill to find him.  She went in the side door to the garage and there found my Dad lying in front of his workbench.  He passed away so unexpectedly.  The Coroner said that he most likely had experienced a heart attack and died before ever hitting the ground. Our world turned upside down.
     My sister arrived in town the next evening and without hesitation, we agreed that speaking at his funeral was something we wanted to do.  This would be the last thing that we could do to honor him and his life.  
     My sister stepped up to the podium and read her letter first.  I stood by her side listening to the love for our Dad pour out from deep inside her.  Then came my turn:
     " Daddy's girls probably have a tendency to exaggerate their first hero's (their Dad's) and his abilities; and just exactly what they are able to do in reality.   But my Dad was extrememly talented and a very intelligent man!   He did very well in his years attending Tech High School, graduated mid-term working where his father worked at Zimmer Paper Products. After graduation he couldn't wait to enlist in the Army and served his country with great pride.  He loved being a soldier. He loved getting to see and experience other countries.  He loved riding in the cockpit as back up to the pilots.  It was during the time he was stationed in Newfoundland that he learned how to snow ski, but his slolum skiing behind his first ski boat was really his forte.  I have to admit that when I went along to flag for the driver of the boat, my mom, it made me just a little nervous to see my Dad out there crossing the wake back and forth, loving the thrill of it all.  Sometimes he would even give out a 'Yee  Haa!' and he always exclaimed when he got back into the boat that it was 'Fantastic"!
     After his tour of duty he went to work for Western Electric. It was at Western that my Dad was promoted to supervisor in the plating department.  He was the very first person to ever be promoted who didn't have a college education.  I remember when we would drive down Shadeland Avenue past the plant, he would tell my sister and I, 'that's where your bread and butter comes from!'  It took me a little while to realize he wasn't talking about the Wonderbread Bakery outlet nextdoor!!!  My Dad was a funny guy and at times a rascal!  He had many sayings that we will never forget, like: "I'm goin to slap your mouth full of $5.00 bills, you'll be cryin around wantin me to slap you again.', at the dinner table he would often say to us 'eat it, it'll put hair on your chest'.  It wasn't until I was older that I wondered, why in the world would I, a woman, want hair on my chest?'  And then there were the nicknames he gave me, 'big dutch', 'Carla Dean, the green bean' and I will always cherish the times when he would call me and I'd pick up the phone and hear 'hello Carlie, it's me Dad'. 
     When I was still living at home he would often say to me: 'love me good, Car?' and I'd reply, 'love you good, Dad'.  His vast knowledge of how to fix things, work on his cars, plant his garden, craft things from wood starting with the very cutting down of a tree, build a house, make a musical instrument are just a few of the multitudes of things that he knew how to do.  It was when I was forty something that I heard my Dad pray out loud, for the first time.  I was so proud of my Dad.  My Dad was my hero.  He lived a good life, and got to experience many things.   My Dad loved life and lived it to the fullest right down to the very last minute.  I had all this hidden inside my head and heart and as he approached his golden years I knew I had to tell him.   So it was at my sister's suggestion that we wrote him letters.  We didn't share with each other what we wrote.  We just agreed that we would mail them on the same day, hoping he'd get them at the same time.   I'd like to share with you what I wrote:
Dear Dad,
     On my way home from the Doctor's office last week I decided to drive through our old neighborhood to take a look.   Of course, it has changed a lot since I lived there 32 years ago.  I drove around the block 3 times just looking and remembering who lived where and what it was like so long ago. 
     One thing that I had never really thought about before was that we had a custom built home and that I grew up in a neighborhood with all custom built homes.  A "custom built" home!  As a child I had no appreciation for what that even meant.  I didn't know then about the quality of craftsmanship or the design and skill and detail that went into building a house of this caliber nor did I know the cost involved in one as compared to a pre-fabricated house. 
     Looking at the old back yard it's nothing like it was then but I remembered it as it was in great detail,  the gardens that you so masterfully created every year and how perfectly straight every single row was and how you taught me how to get rows like that with string and wood posts stuck in the ground.  You taught me to hoe the soil and plant the seeds just the right depth and spacing apart, to cover them with dirt and to fertilize and water just the right amount.   You taught me that rhubarb has to be mounded and squash and cucumbers and pumpkins are all viney plants that spread out and need room.  Tomatoes need staked and suckered so that you will get the biggest and best tomatoes and lettuce needs to be sewn early in the Spring before it gets too hot.  I remembered going out and just sitting in the grass at the end of the row,  just watching you work the ground and soaking up everything you did.  ( too bad I didn't get yours and mom's green thumbs!) 
     In that same back yard you taught me to throw a football, swing at a baseball, kick a kickball and swing at a birdie in badminton, fly a kite, make a tail for it for windy days, even how to wind up the string in figure eight fashion so it wouldn't get tangled.
     The birthday card that I gave you this year really struck me and started me thinking.  You know, the part that said that so much of you made me who I am today?  I am a woman with a strong work ethic.  I am very honest, one who has integrity, believes in myself and my abilities because of my upbringing.  I have a spirit within me that makes me believe that I can do anything I put my mind to because that is what I was taught.
     Even though I know in my head that you can't actually walk on water Daddy, I have always believed in my heart that you probably could if you put your mind to it!
     You are an amazing man and father.  I marvel at the things that you know how to do,  the perfection in which you do them and the knowledge that you have.  I always know I can get an answer from you when I don't know how to do something. I am a good painter because I had a good teacher.   I love to drive in snow because you patiently taught me how to do it.  I have no fear, the deeper the better! (people think I'm crazy but I think it's great!)  I can fish, drive a boat, and row a boat, water ski (one and or two ski's)  I actually could skin a rabbit or clean a fish if I had too. Not that I really want to, but I know how to!  I get my sense of adventure from you Dad.  My sense of
humor too!  You and I dad, we are hilarious!!!!
I didn't learn to ice skate until I was almost 20, learned to snow ski when I was in my 40's.  Who knows what's in store for my  50's!!!! I know that there is no age limit to learning knew things.   I learned from  you to never stop, keep on going, stay active, eat healthy and drink milk.  You taught me how to check my oil, my tire pressure and wash my car.   As a child, I didn't really get it when you wanted to watch the news or read the newspaper but I learned the importance of staying up on my current events through my parent's example. 
     It would take me the rest of the week and a ream of paper to list all the things that you have taught me, Dad.  I just want you to know that I am so proud of you and so thankful that you are my dad.  I love you so very very much.  Happy 79th Birthday!

                                                                    Love you good!
                                                                    Carla Dean, the green bean!

                                                                   Orville Dean Harrod
                                                                   9/03/1927 - 10/8/2010


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The dreaded knee question. Looking for answers

Today I visited a new Doctor to obtain a second opinion regarding my knee and its decline.  I was advised to see him because he is also a sports medicine doctor and they sometimes can offer other alternatives rather than having you plunge right in to joint replacement surgery.  Not..this..time ! :^(      As it appears today, my knee is arthritic, the knee cap is actually catching on bone when my leg straightens causing a clicking sound and much pain.  I have pain almost every time I walk and even sometimes through out the night, probably because the knee is swollen.    I was told after my surgery last year that I don't have any cartiledge left in that knee so I am basically walking with my bones grinding on one another. 
He told me that if it were him, he would have the knee scoped again.  ( a clean up surgery where they go in and grind off the rugged edges of the arthritic bone)  It could buy me a year before the inevitable knee replacement surgery,  something that I definately don't want to do.  Nothing man made ever works as good as what God made for you.  Pardon me, if I sound like I'm whining.  I'm just trying to
paint a clear picture of where I am and the choice I'm facing in my not too distant future.    
These Golden years are getting rusty!   Oh boy.....yippee skippee!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Can a Leopard Change his spots????

I have been trying to write part two of this blog for over 6 months and haven't accomplished it. Today I will put it to rest.
NO. The answer is NO! A leopard can not change his spots. It is impossible for a leopard to do anything to change the spots on his fur. Can mankind do anything to change his own spots? Spots of course meaning those qualities that are negatives about him. Selfishness, greed, conceit, hatred, lust, depravity, deceit, are just a few that come to mind. There is absolutely no way that man can make himself better. No amount of school, no one that you know, no job that you have had, no experience that you are relying on or money that you earn will make you into someone who is pure and holy, righteous and just plain good. The Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) There is no goodness in us. There is only one way to be the best that you can be and that is to admit that you are not and ask God to make you over into who He wants you to be. Surrender yourself to the one who created you and he will begin to make you over into the very best.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Leopard's Spots - Part One

There is a phrase that has been going through my mind lately over and over again. So much so that I finally just had to check it out so that I could just let it go! You can actually Google it and it will come up. It's origin is found in the Bible, Jeremiah 13:23
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?"
It might seem obvious that the answer to this question must be "NO, they can't!" The story leading up to the question is basically this: God was so grieved about the sins of the people of Jerusalem that he sent a prophet, Jeremiah, to warn them about what would happen to them if they continued to live like they were. Jeremiah went predicting God's wrath over them because of their sins of pride, drunkeness, idolatries of different kinds that were practiced in various ways, accompanied with gross debauchery. People had become complacent about their own wrong doing and evil. Their sin had become second nature to them. They were deeply steeped in sin and self absorption. They worshiped anything and everything but GOD and it never occured to them to do anything different. They had completely forgotten about God. It would have been as likely for a Leopard to change his spots as it would be for them to do good because they were so accustomed to doing evil. It is very difficult to get anyone who is so deeply rooted in sin to be brought to the knowledge of himself and God. This verse implies that it is impossible in a natural sense for anyone to change the color of their skin(except maybe Michael Jackson, may his soul rest in peace) or a leopard to change it's spots.
What is boils down to is, Jeremiah warned them, pleaded with them to change but they didn't. They chose to be stubborn and to continue with their own plans to "do their own thing". Consequently there was a price to pay for the choice that they made.
It occurs to me that God, being a loving and gracious Father, doesn't want anything to separate us from Him. He does everything he can possibly do aside from taking away our freedom of choice, to get our attention, to warn us to straighten up and fly right! It is impossible for us to change on our own. We don't even have the power or ability to change. God has given us a way. The scripture says that nothing is impossible with God. There is hope through Jesus Christ. To accept and believe that he is the one and only begotten son of God that he paid the penalty for our sin and wrong doing so that we don't have to. Phillipians 4:13 says:"I can do everything through him that gives me strength."
It troubles me that there are actually people out there that are so far gone and that there is no hope of change because they don't want it.
They delight in evil doing and even get angry when some one suggests that what they do is evil. Has society, people, the world, changed so much that you can no longer determine what is right and what is wrong. People get so critical that you would even call a sin, a sin. They would have you believe that right and wrong are relative. That change isn't necessary because what ever anyone believes, thinks, espouses is hunkey dorey; just keep your opinions to yourself and let them do their own thing and whatever you do don't tell them that what they are doing is wrong. Has right and wrong become fuzzy in the world today or is there still an unwritten understanding or code, if you will, of right conduct???

See my next blog: A Leopard's Spots Part TWO

Friday, January 1, 2010

I hate sad endings!

I have never liked the first day of the year. My sister usually calls me to ask me what I am doing on this "your favorite day of the year". This year was no different. I put away all the Christmas Decorations, the trees, the Christmas boughs, the tinkling bells in the entry hall, my favorite nativity scene and ceramic tree that my Aunt Irma made for me many years ago. It's all packed away for another 12 months. I love Christmas so much maybe that is why it is hard for me to transition to New Years Day when all the signs of it are missing. The house just seems to have lost it's sparkle!
This year during Christmas there was a bit of a cloud looming over all of us as my youngest daughter and her husband have separated. They have been married for only three years and dated for three years prior to that. I don't know what to do with the feelings that I have about it. Always being the Mother who wants to fix things, this is something I can't fix. When I look back over the last 3 years that they have been married I see the reality that two people could not have been more incompatible then my daughter and son-in-law but I was so hopeful for their marriage to work. I was rooting for them. I prayed for them so many many times. I am sad. Sad to admit it just didn't work, sad to admit that I encouraged them to get married, sad for my two little grandchildren, just plain sad.