Archive for the ‘aging’ Category


A year ago today my phone rang at 8:10am. Sleepily, I reached for it, saw it was my sister and answered. “She’s gone.” “What?” “She’s gone. Mom’s gone.” My first thought was, where did she go? How did she get out? She’s in a locked dementia ward, how did she escape? Did they leave a door open? Have they put out a silver alert? And then it hit me. My sister wasn’t telling me that Mom had run away, she was telling me she had died. In a way, I guess she had run away. She had escaped in the most complete and final way.

Mom loved to travel, to take trips and explore. Summers, when we were children, my Dad worked long hard hours, from sun up to sun down, pouring concrete. He gave us a very good life, one that meant Mom could take those trips, could travel and explore. It meant he didn’t actually get to enjoy that life with us much, but he was happy if his Nancy was happy. It was nothing for Mom to load up the car with us four, plus how many other extra kids were around (and there were always extra kids) to take us on an adventure. Sometimes we would end up driving through endless forests, looking for unique places. Sometimes it seemed like we were driving in circles. My brother would ask if we were lost, and Mom’s response was always no. We were just exploring. I wonder what she’s exploring now?

The last couple of years of Mom’s life were not easy ones. It became evident about 4 years ago that she was having difficulties with her thought processes. Blank looks when something was explained. Poor financial decisions. Outbursts of anger. Paranoia. Meanness. Each getting progressively worse over the years. Slowly my sparkling, witty, charming momma was disappearing. Trips were on the well traveled roads to the doctor, not exploring what was around the next bend of a fire road. By the time Dad died in December of 2019, we could see that things were not going to get better. And so began a series of moves.

From the house they had lived in for 50 years to an apartment in a very nice assisted living setting. When Covid hit just months later, she couldn’t understand that the whole world was shut down. Everyone was being restricted, not just her. The assisted living no longer worked, she needed someone with her all the time, which the assisted living didn’t like. So we brought her to the cabin. My sister and her son were there, and my brother moved his family in as well. I live next door. There were plenty of us to take care of her.

From spring until the end of summer, she stayed at the cabin. By August, the world seemed like it might be getting back closer to normal. School was supposed to start again, people were going back to work and the decision was made to find a place for Mom back home. Back where she had friends, could have more of a social life, and closer to her regular doctors. Move number three was to a new living facility near our hometown. On the surface it looked ideal. Beautiful building, lots of activities, people that she knew. Unfortunately, with this move she was placed in the dementia part of the building. An admission of where things were with her mind. After a couple of months, it became apparent that she wasn’t being cared for properly. Covid had tightened restrictions again, they were understaffed. Her room wasn’t being cleaned thoroughly. We met with the staff, and were assured that changes were being made. They weren’t. December led to another move.

With this last move, she had constant supervision from family. Even though the facility was still in fairly strict Covid lockdown, we thankfully had family that worked there. They were able to check on her everyday, which she enjoyed immensely. She had several health challenges during this time, including several falls. And I think she got tired of it all. So she took her final trip and made her great escape. She got up that morning, needed some assistance in the bathroom. As the aide helped her stand, she died. Just like that. One minute she was here, the next she was off exploring.

I miss my momma, the momma I used to have. But I can’t help but be grateful that her last journey started the way it did. The end stages of dementia can be very ugly. I’m glad she didn’t have to go through that. I hope she is dancing through the clouds with Dad, twirling and laughing as they travel new roads together.

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Transitions Part One

The saying goes that the only thing constant in this life is change, and this last year has been the beginning of so many changes.  My youngest son is approaching the end of his senior year in high school.  We’ve gone through college searches, applications, the disappointment of denials and the excitement of acceptances.  The breakup with his first love, and his discovery of a new love.   We’ve easily weathered his pushes for independence and enjoyed the debates of an 18-year-old.  We’ve seen, amid much heartache,  the closure of the business that my grandfather started in the 1920’s.  We’ve spent hundreds of hours on the  roads between Indiana and Wisconsin, going back and forth to prepare for our move in June.  There is a huge transition about to occur in our lives, in my parents’ lives.  For me, it will mean I no longer have any of my children living under the same roof as I do.  It will also mean that I am, once again, under my parent’s roof.   Only this time, I’m there not to have them take care of me, but to help take care of them.

As part of preparing for this transition, we have been remodeling the house that I grew up in.  Late at night a couple of weeks ago, I sat in my parent’s family room.  The house was quiet, the lamp next to my chair casting a soft pool of light around me.  In the still quiet, I had the peace to reflect, for a moment, on one of the transitions that are happening.

For the last 46 years, my parents have slept in the same bedroom of their home.  The brick home that looks like Carter Hall, built to replace the farmhouse that burned, upstairs, at the end of the hall, next to the boys’ room, they lived , loved and had their sanctuary.  It wasn’t the only place they slept, they traveled, they have a cabin in the woods, but this space, this room, was their “home”.  This night  was the first night that they sleep in their home, but a different room was now that sanctuary.  Over the last couple of months, we have transformed the downstairs office into their bedroom and on this day we had  moved them down into that room.

An expanded closet, a gorgeous new hardwood floor,  familiar furniture and family photos.  Old mixed with new.  The room is comfortable.   To me, it is beginning to feel like them.  But my feelings aren’t the important ones, their’s are.  Although I have moved countless times, from one end of the country to the other, I can’t imagine what my emotions would be if I was in their place today. I understand moving.  I understand getting used to a new room, a new place.  They don’t.  They have been in the same place since 1969.  I can’t know what it feels like to live in one place, to sleep in the same room, to live, love, fight, and grow in that single space for so many years, and then move.   I can only hope that I can help make the transition easier.

Today’s society can be very transitory.  Once I graduated from high school, I  easily moved  from one city, one state, to another at the drop of a hat.  New job?  New city.   Many of us don’t have loyalties to the communities we grew up in, we don’t have the anchors that many of our parents have.  For many years, I didn’t think I had those anchors either.  I felt that when I left my home town, I was gone for good. I was launching myself on the world, eager to make my mark when I left.  I now understand what a fallacy that was.  My roots are here, always have been and always will be.  Home is home.  No matter where I went,  no matter where I moved, home in my heart was where my mom and dad were.  I created homes for myself, for my children and my husband where ever we lived, but in my heart my home was where I grew up.

As I sat in the chair that my mother usually sits in, I thought about this transition point.  Very soon, this house will be my home again.   Instead of sleeping in the room that was mine when I grew up, my husband and I will sleep in the room my parents just moved from.  I’m coming home, but  instead of being the child, I am now one of the adults.

And as an adult,  I have learned to think about others.  While I have lots of emotions about my future role in this household, this night my thoughts weren’t about me,   my concern was for my parents.  How must it feel, at the ages of 81 and 75, to move into a new bedroom?  To leave the space you have slept in, loved in, lived in for the last 46 years?  To know that even though you are still in your own home, things are changing and shifting?  Was last night, the last night in your old bedroom bittersweet?  Or did it feel like any other night?  Are you worried about the changes, or happy about them?

As we blend our households over the next couple of months, there will be many times that I have the same thoughts.  Are you feeling alright about the changes?  Are we feeling alright about the changes?  I am blessed with a husband who supports all that needs to be done to make all the transitions that must happen over the next several years happen.  And he does it with love and a smile.  Without him, this transition would be more difficult for all of us.

My hopes on this night were that this transition will be easy for all of us.  None of us like to think of our parents aging.  They are eternally young,  strong and invincible, dancing together to the records we played on Saturday afternoons. But reality is that we all get older.  It becomes more difficult to navigate life’s daily chores.  Just as when we were young, we needed help to navigate those same chores.  There is a circle to life.  When we were younger, we needed their help, and as we close the circle, they need ours.  I am honored to help my parents navigate to the next transition.




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