Wednesday, December 30, 2009

the good and the bad of it

The good side of Alzheimer's I have yet to see, but I am seeing plenty of the bad side. Mom no longer has any bowel control, and I don't say that as an insult because it's the Alzheimer's not Mom. She can't help it, of course. I think, "Maybe somebody reading this will have to go through this whole Alzheimer's experience, and they may as well know what they're in for. I'm not going to sugar-coat it." So,'s a bad deal, sure enough, and we're all doing things we have never done before and never really thought we could. It's kind of strange how you suddenly "can" do what you "must" do. It makes a person feel like they are stronger than they thought they ever were, somehow. Anyway, I was dealing with the issue last week and thinking, "Oh, Lord, this is SO bad! I really may die right here and now!!" Then I got to thinking. If Mom was in a nursing center and this happened, there would be no way that a nurse could possibly leave the attention of 20 other people and attend just to her. She would just be there needing help, and have to wait until no telling how long for someone to care for her. And suddenly I was so thankful. Mom needed care immediately and she got it immediately, no problem. That is just such a blessing to be able to care for my Mom in any way, at the very moment she needs me.

Right in the middle of this mess I'm so thankful and happy I could cry! So, maybe that's the "good" of it---not what the disease is doing to Mom, but what it is doing to all of us.

the funeral

Dad's brother, Norman, passed away just before Christmas and the kids, Mom and Dad, and I drove up to Adrian, MO for the memorial service. We had a real time keeping Mom down for the 30 minute service. The family was separate from the general population and the girls and I, (and my two nieces), kept charge of Mom while my Dad and brother sat on the front of the family section. Happily, we had enough space where no one could notice her getting up and down and up and down every couple minutes, and we also had a back door and took her out twice for a walk "downtown" while the service continued. She no longer follows simple commands very well at all. My "sit down" went largely unheeded, but she had to push herself out of the arm chair to stand, so I kind of pushed her off balance a little so she couldn't get up every 5 seconds, (and I mean every five seconds.) Once I got distracted and didn't get her off-balance fast enough and she was already standing before I even knew it. I held her at bay, but thought, "Oh, boy..." and whispered to her, "Now, don't want me to put you in one of my restraints I use at school do you?" She laughed. (I actually do work in a school where I sometimes have to use restraining moves.) Anyway, I had one arm and was wondering what I was going to do if she decided to walk up to the podium, when Christine grabbed Mom's other arm and in one smooth move, forced her to step back which made the chair hit her in the back of the knees, she lost balance and sat. Christine whispered, "Now that's how it's done." I stood amazed. That girl knows what she's doing. Anyway, we made it through the service. That afternoon at the internment, she wanted to walk all over the cemetery, but that was ok with us. Everybody kind of kept an eye open for her, (and I mean everyone)---the whole family was distracted making sure she didn't get away. I think Christine took her to see my brother's grave site, I'm not sure, and I don't know if she had a reaction or not. I don't even look towards that part of the cemetery. It gives me a headache.

Anyway, Dad will sure miss Norman. They talked to each other on the phone each and every day. Dad even said, "I don't know what I'm going to do with this cell phone now. I don't have anybody to call." That's so sad. Dad has lost four siblings thus far---two just this year.

Merry Christmas!

My kids would have it no other way than to spend the night at Mom and Dad's house to celebrate Christmas morning together. And they said there would be a tree. Of course, Dad said, "I'm not putting up no damned tree," and of course, he lost--kind of. Christmas Eve Eve Christine brought home a potted plant that looked quite like a Christmas tree, and the kids decked it out. Eric, Dev, and I packed our bags, (and our turkey, and our stuffing, and, and, and) like we were off for a big Christmas journey to visit our relatives. Forty minutes later we arrived.

We've pared down Christmas a lot in the last several years, mostly so Dad won't stress out over it. Gifts are completely optional and generally very practical. When Mom was doing things, Christmas-time was a major "to do," but not anymore. We still enjoy it, though.The kids gave Mom three of her favorite things....a new hat, chocolate pudding cups, and a card that sang, "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas" every time she opened it. Dad got a corresponding gift of decorative cotton balls with bows on them, to wear in his ears when she opens the card 1,000 times/day. haha Also, Christine bought Dad a new watch. When he was trying to set his old watch for daylight savings time this fall, he broke the stem off and could not reset it. So, he took the new watch and put it on his right wrist, leaving the old one on his left. He said in the spring he'll look at his right arm and in the fall, he'll look left to tell the time. Snort! I bought him new socks and underwear---try to do this every twenty years or so. He said, "I've been thinking about buying some of those....." He's been thinking about it for over ten years, no doubt.

We all enjoyed watching the kids open their stockings with the little presents and candy packed in tight, and it was done---perfect. I fixed the standard fare of turkey, hot rolls, dressing, etc, and it was a warm, cozy, and easy-going day we shared.

Mom is having more trouble eating and we no longer take her out to eat because it gets pretty messy. The biggest problem is she eats with her hands and will not leave the food in her mouth. The food is in and out and in and out, and not for the faint of stomach. We can deal with it, but we save the general population the experience! But, on the bright side, she is not choking!

I don't know if this will be the last Christmas with Mom, but if it is, it was a very fine one and I wouldn't have changed anything. We laughed a lot and Mom let go of her dead-pan stare and laughed along with us for the moment. It's always so sweet when she does that.

Can you write my name?

That was the question Chad asked Mom last time he saw her. She nodded, then wrote clearly, "Chadwick" and laughed.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the quilt blocks

(Photo #1 Mom brought a book of old postcards out of who-knows-where to show me. Photo #2 Dad surveys his kingdom.) Rummaging through bag after bag of fabric in the laundry room today, I happened across two sets of quilt blocks, many of them already sewn together. I knew that in past days Mom had worked on quilts with both my daughters and my two nieces, Liesel and Molly. It was a mystery to me just who these quilt tops belonged to, but so much work had gone into them already, I knew they needed to be done. I figured they were Liesel and Molly's because living so far away, they haven't had as much time to work with Mom as my girls. I asked Mom, "Whose are these?" and of course, was met with a stare. Then I had a thought. I wrote the names "Christine," "Devri," "Liesel," and "Molly," on a piece of paper and said, "Mom, can you point to the name of who these quilt tops belong to?"
She quickly nodded, "Yes."

I held one up. "What about this green one with the butterflies?" I asked.
She quickly pointed to "Christine."

Next I said, "Ok, what about this blue one with the pink swirley deals?"

Again, without hesitation, she pointed to, "Devri," and smiled.

I really had no idea if she really knew what she was doing, but I called Christine and said, "I found some unfinished quilt tops in the sewing room you know anything about them?"

"Oh, yeah," she answered, "The butterfly one is mine and the pink and blue one is Devri's."

BINGO- Mom was right. Made my day. I gave her 'lots of kisses.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Mom enjoyed seeing Devri dance in "Cinderella" last weekend. Unfortunately, there were two 10 minute intermissions and although I did walk with her each time, there is always a time of two or three minutes before the curtain opens and it was very difficult for her to stay seated during this time. She did point her out in the program as usual and looked over at Dad now and again with a big smile as if to say, "Did you see that? Isn't she great?" When it was over, it was over, though and she made a bee-line for the car. I began to think, "Hmmm.....I don't know how much longer I can manage her during performances....she wants to wander so much." But I have an idea of how to solve this problem. When she can no longer sit through a performance, we'll simply attend the dress rehearsal the evening before where she can watch and walk around at her leisure. And we'll pack some M&M's, too. I should have thought of this before!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the "dogio"

I was down at Mom and Dad's today and so as not to let any minute waste, I constructed a "dogio" for Addie. Never was a dog so undeserving as she. A "dogio," if you wonder, is simply a patio made like a mini-deck for in front of the dog house. The purpose, of course, is so that Addie doesn't end up with a mud puddle in front of her house through which to track mud every time she comes in the door. Mom sat in a chair in front of me and watched with great interest, handing me nails throughout. She also chuckled to herself every time I bent one over and continued to laugh as I grunted, spit, and growled, trying to get it out. Considering I was putting nails into the hardest oak scrap-wood, she was amused for quite some time, sad to say.

Mom was always been the Handyman. She actually belonged to a wood-working group once---I believe the only woman there. She was never afraid to give any tool a try and developed skills in building that would put most men to shame. I am amazed at all that she has constructed in her lifetime and sorry that now that she is retired, and has money and time to do things, she is not able. Sometimes I sigh and am frustrated about this. Her mom is 97 years old and is doing great. Her grandpa lived until he was 92, I believe, and his mind was sharp 'til the end. So naturally, I assumed she would also be blessed with a very long life with all her faculties in working order. For this reason it is sometimes easy to feel "short-changed." I have to remind myself that no one is promised a long life, and it was my own presumption that causes my disappointment. And besides that, nobody said life was fair. I think to myself, "If I had had any clue that you were going away, Mom, I would have told you goodbye----but I didn't know.....and then it was too late." I get whiney sometimes, especially when the day is quiet and I have time to think about the whole situation without distraction. When I start thinking like this I tell myself, "You need to go spend a few weeks in Haiti and get your head screwed on right, you spoiled brat." Then afterwards I am more able think about how nice it is to have Mom here handing me nails and laughing at me. And it's not so bad, really, all things considered.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

70th birthday

Mom's 70th birthday was on October 11th. I was down that Saturday before to bring a present and wish her well and I also took Mom to a benefit for a student she had taught, (also my classmate.) She smiled a lot and saw a few people she recognized. When we returned home Mariko, who she went to Japan with years ago, had come bearing gifts and well wishes. Before I left, Carla and her family came with an apple pie that I deem "restaurant quality" to be sure, so I was happy for Mom to receive all the attention.

On Sunday Allen was down and my kids with two boyfriends in tow spent the day making cake and blowing up balloons. Mom enjoyed tossing her balloons back and forth with the kids. I don't think her reflexes are quick enough to play catch with a ball, but balloons she is quite good with and appears to enjoy them.

The next time I went down there it wasn't too long before Mom came out of the bedroom with one of her left-over birthday balloons to play catch. Ah, the simple pleasures!! Balloons have to be one of the best inventions of all times. Dad was not happy, though. He said, "All those birthday cards she got, she just ripped them to shreds!" I could tell he was irritated. I said, "Dad, people sent her cards so she would enjoy them. She enjoyed ripping them apart, so that's exactly what she should have done. Nobody cares 'how' she enjoyed them, they just wanted them to make her happy---and that they did. They accomplished their purpose." He smirked, rather unconvinced, but let it go at that. Poor Daddy. Mom is making him crazy....he's so cranky these days.

Hopefully, Allen will get a photo to me of Mom tossing balloons. Then I'll put it on the blog so you all can see.

Devri's first college concert

Christine drove Mom and Dad up for Devri's college debut this Thursday. I was amazed to hear the difference in sound between her high school choirs and college---it was beautiful! Mom was attentive during the entire performance, clapping appropriately, and pointed to Devri's name in the program.

When Eric came up to say hello, however, her mind was occupied with what people were doing in front of her and she did not see him. He said, "Hi, Grandma....Grandma....Grandma, over here....." then looked at me baffled as to what to do. He was standing only a step ahead of her, just off one shoulder, but still she did not turn. He waved in front of her face even, and received no response. I said, "Stand right in front of her." So he took one step left and repeated, "Hi, Grandma." She focused on him in surprise as if saying, "Eric! Where did you come from?!" She gave a hug and was happy to see him, but it was rather odd that she did not appear to see or hear him until he stood right in front of her eyes.

It was a beautiful concert as I said and I'm sure she enjoyed it. Each time I take her somewhere I think, "Wow. Mom is absolutely, undeniably qualified to be in a nursing center, but instead, I get to take her with me wherever I want. That is just so great!" We are incredibly fortunate!

Taking Aim

Build-A-Bear is putting toys in Happy Meals these days---a little stuffed animal with a shirt that comes on and off. When I go to my night class on Mondays, I pick one up for Mom and she appears to enjoy her little collection, sitting them all up straight in a chair facing her. She takes their shirts on and off again and again. It takes quite a bit of fine motor skill to do this and it takes her a very long time to do, but she doesn't appear frustrated, just keeps working and working on it to get the shirt over the head and the arms in the sleeves. It makes me crazy to watch her because I get frustrated---so tempted just to take it from her and do it myself, but I know that getting bears dressed and undressed is really not the's the practice using her hands and fingers whose use appears to be deteriorating more each time I see her.

Anyway, I was sitting at the table watching the football game and she was sitting with her little animals, situating them just so on a chair, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a pink monkey in a T-shirt sailing straight toward my head. I turned to see her smiling at me, waiting for a reaction. I said, "I guess I'm not paying enough attention to you, is that it?" She laughed. I shook my head and gave her a smirk, tossed the monkey back, and turned back to my game. A minute or two passed and again, (this time a polka-dotted cat) came flying at me. I turned to see her same hesitation, waiting for my response. I said, "Mom, you are such a you know that?" She laughed some more and I pelted her with the cat in return. So, you must know that although her communication skills are limited, her aim is quite good. The lesson learned is that even though Mom isn't talking, she still wants to receive her fair share of attention. I'm thinking I'd better watch my back for the day she decides to pick up a brick and send it sailing!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

three visitors from California

(Mom and Darin with Dad in the back---Grandma Lottie's house.)
My cousin, Darin, came to visit en route to his brother's wedding in St. Louis. Mom's sister and Darin's mother, Janice, made a great meal at Grandma Lottie's house. Mom hugged Darin more in that one visit than she probably had in his whole life! She evidently recognized him and appeared very happy to see him. Lottie (Mom's mother) was doing very well too, particulaly since she's 97! Today, however, she's been admitted to the hospital, so I'm on my way to see how that's going.

Also visiting from California last Wednesday were the Ramey's who are relatives on Dad's side of the family. They have been coming out once/year and Mom and Dad always look foward to it. They brought dinner, too, which was a definite plus. I had planned to go down and visit, too, but after a day of school, "the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak." In other words, I was lazy and didn't go and now I wish I had.

Mom is doing fine. Her fingers are pretty curled up now and she uses her thumb an forefinger much like pinchers when she eats. She has a lot of trouble with buttons, too. Dad says she's being "beligerant" about swallowing her pills, namely calcium and thyroid stuff. I guess she gave him the old "switch-er-oo" by putting the calcium tablet in her mouth and later he found half of it somewhere and another half somewhere else. Kind of reminds me about Mom saying I used to take food I didn't want to eat and hide it in the potted plants. So---now we know where I got that! I told Dad to ask the pharmacist to put her pills in liquid form, which he didn't know was possible. He said he tried hiding them in applesauce, but she got wise to that real quick and it was "game over." She's definitely ornery and she knows it, and laughs. And of course we just laugh, too. It's such a bizarre trip, this Alzheimer's stuff....wish Mom were "here" to enjoy the craziness with us. She'd probably laugh at herself! (Darin, Eric, Dad, Devri, Patrick, me,Mom, and Grandma Lottie at dinner.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

CB saves the day

CB, otherwise known as my cousin, Carla, (Carla Baby, thus called by Dad,) will be watching Mom four hours/week so Dad can have some time off. Exactly one week after Dad dismissed the Oxford-care lady he announced to me that Mom was making him completely and certifiably crazy. I said, "You don't say.....what a surprise." So, I suggested having Carla come. She will be paid, of course, but will not be as expensive as Oxford. He thought that was a good idea and gave me the go-ahead to ask her to come next Tuesday. She does substitute teach some, but if she gets called away she can always come a different day. Christine has been home a lot more lately after school and on weekends because she has so much homework she can't breathe. (And she takes her schoolwork very seriously.) I had planned to go down to Mom and Dad's this Saturday so she could go out after her homework was done, but she announced her homework wouldn't be done until midnight, so she'd be there. Through the daytime, though, she is attending classes and working, and Dad is left alone. I know that's pretty tough for him.

Dad is keeping very busy working with Tommy White to basically rebuilt the rock house at the VanSlyke place off D highway. He enjoys being with Tommy and they are really making progress. The house needs a complete and total overhaul. Dad made an agreement with Tommy that if he helped him fix the house, he could "rent" it for free for one year following. I had my doubts. Then I saw the house. Now I'm thinking Tommy is worth every bit of that....what a disaster! He's working like a wild-thing. They've had to re-plumb, put in new floor joists and floors, the tub was about to fall through to the crawl space----then there's the plaster and lathe (sp?) walls that need to be removed because of termites----wow! Anyway, it's quite the distraction from Mom, so I guess that's good, but Dad absolutely cannot work and bring Mom with him with the highway right in front of the house. Again, it's going to be great to have Carla down there so Dad and Tommy can do their thing. Thank you, CB!!!

Also, Mary Schroer and Liesel came down over Labor Day. They watched Mom a great deal while Dad and Tommy worked on the house and Liesel made a fantastic and quite nutrious vegetable pizza. That girl can cook! Thanks so much for coming down to help! That's really something when people spend their Labor Day weekend to drive down from Lincoln, NE and Kansas City, to help with Mom!! If I had my rubber stamp from school, I would stamp "Fantastic!" on both their foreheads.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"What a Wonderful World"

Devri's last concert included several local yokels singing a variety of 40's and 40's-type tunes. Had I known it was going to be so "audience participation friendly," I no doubt would have sat in the balcony, but not knowing, we found ourselves on the very vulnerable 2nd row. As singers performed, the audience was "encouraged" to dance in front, so I wasn't too surprised that Devri came trotting down the aisle to hook Grandpa by the arm and drag him onto the floor. Of course, he really tried to resist, but there comes a time when you just have to conform or make a scene, so off they went. I was surprised, however, that following Devri was Patrick who came and took Mom to the floor after them. I think Mom was a little nervous, as she began to scoot closer to Grandpa and Devri. Patrick guided her closer to them and she seemed content. She patted Patrick's shoulder throughout in a "I-know-you-and-you're-such-a-nice-boy" way. And so they danced, while the singer crooned, "What a Wonderful World." And it was kind of sweet in a sad kind of way, but I guess that's the way it's supposed to be...the young caring for the old and someday becoming "the old" themselves. Devri and Grandpa, Patrick and Grandma, all dancing.......what a wonderful world.....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Yes, we had a hot German time in Freistatt a couple weeks ago. Mom, Dad and I drove up together, and we were able to meet Dad's sister, Ina, from Springfield as well. Erntfest is always something Mom and Dad have enjoyed and they have gone several times, twice when I was a kid, that I remember. Dad enjoyed the meal and mentioned more than once how long it had been since he'd had such good sauerkraut. (I'm not sure that I've ever had good sauerkraut, but to each his own.) We opted for the water rather than the beer, (as if we don't have enough issues to deal with, without the alcohol,) and spent the evening listening to polka music and watching couples dance. Mom enjoyed herself, tapping her feet to the music and clapping now and again. As the evening wore on she wanted to walk around more and more. I have to walk her holding both hands, sometimes, because she wants to touch everybody, whether she knows them or not. We get some funny looks, but it is clear that Mom isn't thinking too clearly and everyone is very kind and understanding. One young lady even took her hand as if she was her dearest friend and said, "Well, hello. How are you?" smiling, looking into her eyes, but not expecting an answer. So convincing was she that I had to ask, "Do you know my Mom or are you just being friendly?" She smiled and said, "Just being friendly." I think that is just so kind. I thought, "She must be a nurse or something." Anyway, it meant a whole lot to me that she did that and Mom loved the happy greeting, nodding and giving her clear eye contact with a big smile. What makes people so nice?

Anyway, Mom and I walked while Dad and Ina had a chance to visit. While we were there, on two separate occasions, young men she had taught in the 5th grade, 15 years ago, recognized her and she recognized them. Each gave her a big hug and the guy in the photo, Scott Perkins, whispered to her, "You mean a whole lot to me, Mrs. McCleary." I bit my lip. He is now 28. I thought of the countless children she has meant so much to and I was proud. It made me want to take my own teaching career and my students more seriously. Sometimes it's hard to get past their orneriness and keep in mind that someday, these kids will be young men and women. I wonder if someone will want to give me a hug someday and say, "You mean a whole lot to me, Mrs. Stebbins." I hope so. I want to make Mom proud back.

The End of Oxford

Well, Dad cancelled the Oxford Care lady's weekly visits. His argument was that it was "too damned much money," (as I said previously,) and he definitely "was doing fine and could handle it himself." However, I think he did get used to the idea of having someone else watch Mom so he could work outside which was, of course, the whole point. So, he is having my cousin, Carla, come in now and then so he can cut brush or whatever. She does a good job with Mom and it doesn't matter to me who helps. I just want someone to give him a break through the week since I can't. He tried Oxford for actually a month before cancelling, which was our agreement. So I just said, "Ok, Dad, but if you go crazy, don't blame me." Heartless person, I am.

I did have fun with him yesterday, (at least it was fun for me.) I can manage his Jitterbug phone account online and was on there getting him a better deal. While I was there, I did a little "switcheroo-ing." I changed the ring he hears from me to chimes, the one from Christine to "music box," and the one from his brother Norman to harp music. I also alphabetized his phone list which was previously in no order whatsoever. Then I gave him a call---actually about five calls, before he finally picked up (I could envision him walking all over looking for the source of the chimes.) He answered with a little bit doubtful voice, "Are you trying to call me?" Then more adamantly, "I don't know what's the matter with this damn phone---it's gone crazy!" haha After I explained the whole idea of being able to manage an account online, (not sure how much of that he understood), he said, "You're messin' with me, aren't you?" I laughed and told him I amuse myself by twisting the minds of the elderly.

I will also report that Dad's walk-in cat, "Mae Belle," delivered a bundle of fuzzy joy in the floorboard of his truck yesterday (Dad called immediately to make the announcement.) I guess that means he can't drive the truck now for at least six weeks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guys and Dolls

Big weekend of Guys and Dolls with Devri in one of the two female leading roles----Adelaide. Mom and Dad came with us Saturday night. Mom enjoyed the orchestra and tapped her feet along. She also clapped after the music and of course, we both enjoyed our M&M's during intermission. This was Devri's first "real production" with a real audition and a real review which said, "Miss Adelaide nearly stops the show every time she opens her mouth." I know Mom was proud of her and she was aware of when and where she was on stage. Dad dubbed it her "best performance ever." (Dev decided Mom should try on her veil.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Battle of Oxford

Never heard of this battle? Well, it concerns my father vs Oxford Health Care. Our story begins when I began to notice that the caregivers, (Dad and Christine), were both getting pretty cranky. (lightly stated) Evidently the stress was getting to them and I knew it was only going to get worse in just two weeks time when the entire Brock/Stebbins family leaves for Galveston for a week and Dad is alone with Mom. When we return, Christine and I will both begin school, as will Devri, so the visits we have been able to provide through the week this summer will be coming to an end. After getting grudging permission from Dad to "check into" home health care, I found what I thought was a good program. An LPN could come to the house for four hours, twice/week and would help Mom get through her shower and dressed, and also would clean house, do laundry, fix lunch, run errands, take her for walks, and encourage Dad. I knew this would de-stress Christine a little bit when she is away at school/work, and I hoped Dad would be able to leave the house to visit friends, or do chores outside without trying to contain Mom simultaneously. I also hoped he might get a nap in. Mom has started getting up around 3:30-4:00 a.m. and moving to the couch, so Dad has been following her out there and getting very little sleep, no doubt contributing to his irritability. The cost would be $17/hour, which calculates to $68/visit.

So, I introduced the idea to Dad and got an immediate and adamant refusal. He didn't need any help, whatsoever. The reason he brought up, primarily, was that it was too expensive. This is also from the man who refuses to buy lettuce for the same reason. I smirked. I knew that someday we would need some nursing help if we are going to be able to keep Mom at home and it made sense to me to set it up now, rather than wait until everybody has a nervous breakdown.

The final result is that I made Dad mad, but he agreed to have someone come out on Mondays for the next two weeks and then made a decision as to contuing or cancelling. He still thinks it's too expensive and that he doesn't need any help, but he agreed to this concession just to shut me up. The first week I will go and meet the home health aide and the second, she will come while we are on vacation and Dad is there by himeslf. The nurse who sets up the whole program came to the house yesterday to meet Mom and Dad, (and I), assess what the needs were, and fill out paperwork. She was a funny lady who dad enjoyed, which helped, and she talked straight with him saying, "You cannot get down," and suggesting taking a break was a step in protecting his own health. So, although I'm disappointed that it doesn't appear he will take a break, (rather go nuts alone than stay sane with help), we are in the system so if something comes up and we suddenly do need help, (like if Dad were to get sick or something,) we are set up and ready to go. We just have to call and say, "Please send someone out."

Mom appeared to enjoy meeting the lady. She smiled at her a lot and nodded, sitting at the table with us while the lady typed information into the computer. Her eyes that were previously dull and bored perked right up when she walked in. Mom even situated her chair around the lady's shoulder so she could watch her type, still smiling. You know what a social creature Mom doubt she's dying of boredom being at home with no social outlet. I guess. Who knows. She sure was perky, though, during the entire visit. And the lady was a hoot who joked around with Mom as if there were nothing at all out of the ordinary going on. That was refreshing.

We'll see how it all works out. But this is the second time Dad and I have knocked heads....the first time was when we put locks on the doors. He ended up thanking me for them, but this time.....he's a hard sell. Always ready to help everyone else, but when it comes to himself...."It's too expensive." Why does he have to be so darn good?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

high school reunion

Well, I haven't seen the musical, but I'm thinking it wasn't quite like Mom's high school reunion, Class of 57, that met today for their yearly get-together. Dad said she wouldn't say whether she wanted to go or not, so he figured he'd go ahead and take her. Then last night, I think he began to think about the whole logistics of the thing. What if she needs to go to the restroom? What if I need to go to the restroom and she takes off? What if she just walks out in the middle of everything? He called and asked if I thought she could make it through. I told him, "Mom will have no problem, whatsoever. The question is, can you make it through the class reunion?" That's what he was concerned about.
They met at Ryan's Restaurant in Joplin which made it quite easy for me to drop by and assist as needed. Mom enjoyed seeing everyone, it appeared. She smiled a lot and greeted each person with a pat on the back and many others with a hug. When I pointed and asked who different people were, she correctly answered, "Nana," "Jerry," "Jim," etc. She had no trouble filling her plate at the buffet, or sitting and eating. We took a little walk midway through, which was a blessing to get out in the sunshine for a few minutes and then headed back for the remainder of the visit, giving Dad a few minutes to speak without worring about where she was. I believe I heard they had only 2 classmates missing this time, from what looked to be about a class of 20 or maybe not quite.
Anyway, they were nice folks and it all went smooth as could be. I could tell Mom really enjoyed it as she went down the row of people, patting each one, smiling and nodding to them. One doesn't necessarily need to speak to be sociable! :) And her classmates were so glad to see her and so kind towards her. It was pretty sweet---I know this affects them, as well. Mom always enjoyed going to her class reunions every year and we were glad she was able to go again this year.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

honeysuckle etc.

Nothing new to report, particularly, except that the honeysuckle is blooming and you see Mom standing in front of it in her new size 16 clothes. Yes, she's losing a little weight, but not to worry, it's certainly not from lack of appetite! It's easy to pick nutritious food for someone else to eat, and then consume fast food ourselves! Not to say that she's sugar/junk food deprived....I took her to Sonic for sundaes last week and we had M&M's last night. But on a daily basis, Christine runs a tight ship, as Dad says, and things like pop, (which Mom used to drink a whole lot of), have been cut from the drink menu, (if Christine finds it.) Really, I think if she were thinking clearly, she would be quite pleased with her more healthy self. And of course, she's getting plenty of exercise....always on the go.

Last night we (Mom, Dad, and I), went to see Devri perform in "Beauty and the Beast." It was a ballet and Devri was proud to have her name all by herself for the first time instead of under the heading, "trees," or "snowflakes." She actually had a character with a name! Her character was Selfish, a sister of Beauty from the original writing, and she was all that. All through the ballet Mom pointed to Devri's name in the program. I continued to point her out as the girl with the black hair, but wasn't really sure she could recognize her. I added this photo to show how different Devri looked. Of course, my battery was dead on the camera when Mom and Dad went, so I didn't get a photo of them together. After the performance, when the dancers came out to greet the public, Devri headed right for Grandma. It took a bit, but when she got within three feet, Mom's face lit up like the Fourth of July---the eyebrows went up, the mouth opened in silent exclamation, and she wrapped Devri up in her arms in a tight squeeze. I can only describe it as "joyful exuberance," like finding the Hope Diamond in a box of Crackerjacks. Speaking or not, there was absolutely no doubt that Grandma remains Devri's most dedicated and adoring fan. For a split second there, she was herself again was a flashback that brought Devri tears, and me a memory to play again and again in my mind, so I never forget what a wonderful moment it was!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Berry pickin'

Strawberries in Carl Junction have ripened despite the cloudy, drippy days, and Mom, Dad, and I went picking Saturday morning. Dad had thought about going when the patch opened on Wednesday, but lost his nerve at the thought of managing Mom and picking at the same time. He says he really can't take her anywhere anymore, because she's "so damned unpredictable." I don't think she's unpredictable, at all. You can count on the fact that whatever you're doing, she's going to walk off and asking her to come back will have no effect whatsoever. What's unpredictable about that? Anyway, we went and she picked a good number of berries here, there, and everywhere. Most of the time she was content to stand and hold the crate for me while I picked. The patch is a side business owned by Devri's boyfriend and his family, so we had Patrick, (the boyfriend) on hand to help as well. We got a system down where Patrick stood on one end of the row picking, while Dad and I picked at the opposite end. Mom would walk all the way down the row, stopping to pick here and there, but ultimately had in mind to leave the patch. Patrick would catch her on the other end and point her back to Dad and I and say, "Let's pick some more berries." She headed back to Dad and I, picking as she went, then turned and headed back again to Patrick. Back and forth she went, but she did pick quite a few berries and the day was warm, wet, and farm fresh. I was glad she was pacing in a berry patch rather than a nursing home. How great is that! When we got home back to my house, Dad went home in hopes of taking an uninterrupted nap and Mom and I began stemming the 28.5 pounds of berries we had carted out. (Cost us $50 bucks, but we just couldn't stop!) Mom always stems her berries with a spoon rather than a knife, thankfully, and we spent an hour stemming side by side at the sink, mostly in silence. I did get confused a few times and put the stems in with the berries and the berries in with the stems. She chuckled and fished them out for me.

After the stemming we went to the hardware store to have a key made. We dropped off the key, lapped the store, and it was ready when we came back to the problem.

Next stop was the shoe store as Dad had asked me to take Mom to buy some sandals. This was a bit more of a challenge, running between the shoe shelf getting the right size and keeping her in the chair by instructing her to "take off your socks" and "hold this box" and whatever else I could think of to keep her in one place. We were in and out in ten minutes---forget putting those shoes in a bag. Mom took the box and headed for the car, leaving the sales girl holding the sack with a question on her face. No time to explain, just a quick wave, "Thank you very much" and hurry, hurry to catch up with Mom before she got to the door. For someone who walks so slowly, she sure covers ground!

I delivered her home and we made a shortcake, of course, polishing off two pieces each before it was over. It was quite delicious!! Is there anything better than the first strawberry shortcake of the season---that you've picked yourself? I don't think so.

Devri's graduation

We had a busy week this week as Devri graduated from Carl Junction High School on Thursday. Mom was watching me get dressed and noticed the corsage the kids had bought me for Mother's Day sitting on the bathroom counter. She held it up to her own shirt, and I agreed, it looked quite nice. So I pinned it on her. She is the grandmother and she deserved it. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right? The ceremony was held in the MSSU gymnasium and Mom did very well going up the stairs to her seat. She clapped appropriately, (with a three second delay), but who cares, and she was very attentive, constantly scanning the crowd intently, no doubt looking for someone she knew. After about three speeches, we were all holding our heads in our hands, praying to God for mercy. Mom decided it was time to leave, and believe me, I jumped at the chance to take a stroll. So we took a little tour around the building and returned to the gym when names began to be announced. I'm confident we didn't miss a thing. It meant a lot to Devri that Grandma and Grandpa could both be there to see her graduate. Dad took the photo on the right--his first with a digital camera, and we were all very impressed that he got all us girls in it.....pretty much. :) He had a hard time understanding that he didn't have to put his eye up to any little box to look through, but once he figured that out, he clicked with confidence.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a gumdrop by any other name

The extended Easter weekend made it possible for Allen and Kausick to come visit for 2 days. We had two reasons to celebrate on Sunday, the first of course being Easter, and the second, Devri’s 19th birthday, (which is the 13th). In light of the celebration Allen constructed a white bunny cake like we used to do as kids----a couple round cakes, cut and slapped together with icing in a bunny shape, white icing and coconut for fur, green coconut grass, pink paper ears, pink pipe-cleaner whiskers, and gumdrop eyes and nose. It was pretty authentic, in my opinion. We took photos and oohed and aahhhed. Mom sat down in front of “bunny” and gave it a hard look. I think in her mind she was saying, “Eyes and nose my foot---those are gumdrops and they are meant to be eaten.” (If you’ve known Mom long at all, you know that gumdrops are one of her all-time favorites.) So poor bunny quickly lost his nose, followed by his right eye. The girls and I did our best Mr. Bill imitation, “Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, NNNNNNNNNNNNNoooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! She laughed, and then went for the other eye. Mom’s no dummy. She knows that a gumdrop by any other name, (be it eye or nose) is still a gumdrop! :) (Pictured, Eric, Devri, Mom, and Christine.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dad's story

Dad called last week to tell me the following story: Mom had gone out (to the "grandchildren's row) and picked a bouquet of jonquils, put them in a vase, and took them to the car. She had been doing this a couple days, he said. He told her, "If you want to take those to somebody, you have to tell me who and we'll take them." She did not respond at that time. Later, however, she brought a notepad and he supplied the pencil. She wrote "Mama's house." Dad had trouble making out the "Mama" part, so he asked her, "What does this say?" She responded with "Mama." So, they took Grandma Lottie her flowers and it was just the sweetest day!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the grandchildren's row

Since time began, the rule at our house, (Mom and Dad's house), has always been don't pick the flowers! Then came the grandchildren. As a compromise, Mom planted a long row of jonquils in the very back of the garden where blossoms would not be missed and dubbed it "the grandchildren's row." The grandchildren were allowed to pick this row to their heart's content and have spent many happy springtimes in this area. Well, the grandchildren's "row" is more like a "swath" now and it's in full bloom. Also, to Dad's delight, the onions sets are poking themselves up, the apricot tree is blooming, and he and Christine have been working on a new and improved flowerbed.

Mom's favorite spot lately is the picture window on the east side where she props her feet up and has a nice view of whatever is budding outside, the dogs playing, or company coming down the drive. The rocking chair of choice is the one that Dad bought her when I was born. It has been back and forth between houses through new babies, moves, and whatever else happened to be going on at the time, and has finally found itself back at home for her. Mom is well and comfortable and able to get out and about quite a lot with the warm weather. So, all things considered, life is good!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

for the love of pumpkin butter

Miss Jessie (Mom's niece) came to Lottie's house this weekend on her way to visit her parents, Keith and Donna, (Mom's brother and wife) in Ohio. I'm not sure I'd seen her since her wedding, but she sure doesn't look like an "old married woman!" She looks just great! Janice fixed an awesome shepherd's pie at Lotties, Mom and Dad came to eat, and Chad and I dropped in as well. Mom wasn't speaking, but she was smiling and ate plenty. She took a special liking to the pumpkin butter Janice had laid out, and probably would have eaten it to the bottom of the bowl if she had had another sheet of biscuits!

While there, Lottie gave Mom her large photo collage, that she made for each of her children. Mom carried it carefully and wanted it put up immediately when we got home. She also had one of her wedding photos from Lottie's house that she carried around awhile and then tucked in the edge of the frame. We put it in the living room and Mom seemed content with that. While looking through photos at Lottie's, Chad pointed to a couple people and asked, "Who is this?" Correctly, she answered "Grandpa" to one and "Merl Dean" to the another.

I was kicking myself because I forgot to take a photo for the blog last week when Mary came and this week when Jessie was here. I'll have to keep the blog more in my mind!

Mary visited

Over President's Day Mary Schroer came to visit and stay with Mom and Dad. This gave me Saturday and Sunday off to go clean my own house which had been feeling some neglect. We appreciated all she did while there. She spent some time with Ellie on her new lead and Dad was amazed at how quickly Ellie is catching on. Christine texted me last week to say, "Grandma is playing with the dog...of her own accord...and laughing."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

visit from Allen

Allen and Liesel were down last weekend and got to see the new dog and the new locks for the first time. They only heard Mom say one word from Thursday through Saturday afternoon. When Patrick and Devri came to visit, she repeated his "How are you?" but Allen was in the other room and missed it. Mom likes Patrick and gives him random hugs when it suits her. She walked around and around the circle of the house many times, and patted Patrick on the head each time. She ignored the rest of us. She's bad about playing favorites! Each time she placed her hand on his head, she smiled. Patrick is a good sport. His grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about the same time Mom was, but his disease has progressed much more slowly.

Mom chopped up bananas with a butter knife to put in a fruit salad. We're always looking for things she can do successfully and without injury. All my kids were able to come to dinner with us, and Liesel made an excellent peach/blueberry pie for dessert. It was one of those "freezer's choice" pies---whatever comes out of the freezer is what goes in the pie. Anyway, it's an idea worth patenting! It was a great dinner with 'lots of quick quips and laughter.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


When I got down to Mom and Dad's house today, Mom was already outside. She was wearing three coats with three shirts underneath that, so I'd say she was sufficiently bundled. As I got out of the car I said, "Hi, Mom. What are you doing?" She said without hesitation, "Getting ready to go to Competition." (where they lived when the boys were little.) I said, "Oh, yeah? Hang on a minute and I'll go with you." Why argue? She opted to come on into the house with me, instead. I said to Dad, "Mom says you're going to Competition." He said he'd like to, but would have to have someone go with him because he can't drive all that way by himself with Mom not talking to him. We'll have to plan a trip up when the weather is a bit warmer.

The afternoon was full of things that pointed to Mom's confusion, but I don't want this blog to be a list of "crazy stuff Mom does." I will say only that she has some brown jersey gloves she is now enjoying wearing. That's a good thing since she likes to be outside as much as the weather allows. She likes to wear them in the house, too, and to bed. We're glad she is at home with us so if she wants to wear jersey gloves to bed, that's her perogative. If it's a comfort to her, it's a comfort to us! Who really cares?

Dad's going to have to watch his mouth, though. We were sitting in the stove room swapping stories when he told me about how as a child he had once taken a candle and written with it on the stovepipe. He received quite the reprimand, I guess, because it caused a fair amount of smoke. Less than 30 seconds later, Mom was there with a birthday candle ready to try it out on the stove pipe herself! I said, "Dad, watch what you say and don't be giving her any more ideas!"

At one point in the evening, Mom got a jacket and put it on me. I remembered someone telling me that some Alzheimers patients feel a need to "nurture" and sometimes a doll will keep them happy and occupied. I decided to give it a shot with a doll I found in the attic. I gave it to her while she was sitting in the rocking chair. She looked at it with the same care and concern she would a grandchild and there was a glimmer of normalcy in the way she held that doll so carefully. She rocked it a while then put it on the dining room table. After a break to do something else that crossed her mind, she found the doll again and occupied herself with sitting it on her lap, tucking the "blanket" (tea towel) close around its neck and feet, and holding it vertically, then horizontally to watch its eyes open and shut. I hope we're on to something here and this will give her something to do besides try the doors. My goal is to enjoy having her here and to keep her happy and safe. So far, so good!

Friday, January 2, 2009


(Sadie, Ellie, and Mom take a walk.) Mom has a shorter trek than the Magnus Corner she enjoys. It's the prefered walk for us in that we can see her from the house the entire time. She goes down to the field south of the house, picks up some fluff from a stuffed animal that evidently died there and loops around to the cars, putting the stuffing in the cupholder of the Toyota. One thing, though, she has to cross electric fence to get there. No problem to her, though. She takes hold of the fence with both hands and takes her time stepping over and does not even flinch. Dad has watched her do it a number of times and thought, "There must be something wrong with the fence." Nope, it's hot alright. There is some sort of disconnect somewhere, though, because she has no reaction to it at all. It's not dangerous, I guess,'s pretty strange. Dad started locking the car saying "I'm tired of all this )*(&^(*^& stuff she puts in the car." I tried to encourage him to relax and let her do her thing. So, he has fluff in the cupholder---welcome to the new normal!