Mom explains a date

The late 90’s were a struggle for all of us to figure out how to make it on our own.  My mom was adjusting to being divorced and starting her new career as a magistrate.  My brother was hopping from university to university, going from major to major.  After graduation I had packed up and traveled half way around the world to join the Peace Corps.  All of us were searching for a different life than the one we had, because the one we had didn’t exist anymore.

When Joey moved back home to finish his degree, it took a lot of patience and compromise to get through.  Mom had to adjust to having an adult son in the house, and Joey had to to adjust to not living on his own anymore.  Those were some of the hardest times for both of them.

One night Joey had gone out on a date and didn’t come home.  Mom didn’t say anything but the next night Joey was going out with the same girl again.  When she arrived to pick Joey up, my mom walked out to the car.

Joey’s date, who mom had known for many years, rolled down the window and greeted mom.  Mom made conversation, asking her how she was, how her parents were, how school was going, and so on.  Joey, who was now in the passenger seat, was antsy and saying, “We have to go mom.”

My mom has an incredible gift for making a short story long, and after several minutes of what was surely agonizing chit chat for my 21 year-old brother, my mom leans down and puts her head in the window and says, “Ok, you two have fun tonight on your date.  Oh, and just remember, a date ends with you bringing Joey home at the end of the night.”


Pink nails

My mom likes pink now. It’s so funny because I never remember a time when my mom was a big fan of frilly and pink. But now she is. So we do everything frilly and pink and she loves it.

Today we bought her a pink puffy vest, pink striped fleece and sat in rocking chairs in the warm autumn sun and painted her nails bright pink. She had a princess day.






You lost weight

A nursing home is an interesting environment because the residents are either really outgoing and chatty or really withdrawn and quiet. It’s funny to think that one day my mom will be the quiet one because right now, she is the loudest person in the whole place.

When I visited my mom on Thanksgiving a man in his mid to late 60s struck up a conversation with me. He was sitting on one of the couches, plaid shirt, jeans, huge coke bottle glasses and as chatty and pleasant as he could be. I had to examine him to determine if he was a resident or a visitor. I finally decided that the house slippers he was wearing meant this was home for him.

He asked my mom, “Kathy, who is this?”

Mom said, “That’s my boy. That’s Matt.”

He turned to me, “You’re from DC?”

“Yep, that’s me.”

“How’ve you been?” he said. He was really studying my face and he look puzzled.

“I’ve been fine.”

“You’ve lost a lot of weight,” he said to me.

Now I have never met this guy before and it’s not unusual that folks that live there are confused. Sometimes you just gotta go with it and be who they think you are. But this man was different. He really seemed to be with it. And he seemed sure he knew me. So I took a shot in the dark…

“I think you’re thinking of my brother.” My brother is about 80 pounds heavier than me.

“Oh, Kathy has two boys?” he asked.

“Yes, she does. You would have met him when he was here last month,” I told him.

“Oh, ok. I just thought you must have been really sick or something.”


Shoes with laces…

This year I have so many people and things in my life to be thankful for.  I feel truly lucky and blessed.  And way up at the top of my list of things I’m thankful for are shoes with laces.

More specifically, I’m thankful for my mom’s checkered shoes with laces…one white lace and one blue lace.  When she wears them she looks like she is going to a Cindy Lauper concert circa 1985.  They are old now, worn around the edges, and faded from lots of washings.  Most importantly, though, they are shoes she can put on and tie all by herself.

Why would that be important?  Because she will, at some point, lose the ability to do complex things like using a fork and knife, like walking, like tying her shoes.  She will lose the ability to do the things that require lots of parts of your brain to work together.

But not this year.  No way.  This Thanksgiving she put her own shoes on, tied them without any help, used a knife and fork to eat Thanksgiving lunch, and had a great day riding around and singing songs with me.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving dinner was a big production.  Mom made multiple grocery store runs, prepped all day Wednesday and cooked all day Thursday.  My brother and I were in charge of the table.  Our dinner table had to have a clean table cloth, the good dishes out, silverware in the right places, and wine glasses with no spots.  It was a big production, and it was very important.

For several years, I would be mad and even sad that we didn’t have that Thanksgiving anymore.  I couldn’t enjoy or be thankful for what was, because I really wanted what used to be.  What I understand now that I didn’t then is that Thanksgiving is about finding joy in the now and appreciating what you do have.

And this year, I have my mom who can lace up her own tennis shoes and I wouldn’t trade that for the nicest table cloth or the best dishes or the fanciest turkey dinner.  Our nontraditional Thanksgiving works just fine for us.


Here is our embarrassingly terrible version of “Fancy.”  The part to watch for is halfway through when mom spies a bowling alley sign and feels compelled to stop singing and read it to me in case I want to stop.

All Settled In

I had a coordinated care meeting for mom today, the first one I’ve had since we moved her to the new rehab and nursing facility in August. It seems she is settling in fine. She’s her usual social self when she wants to be, and she goes to her room, shuts the door and watches tv or sleeps when she wants to. What more can you ask for?

She still likes to go in to other people’s rooms and steal their drinks, or walk around the cafeteria and grab a milk or juice that an unsuspecting resident leaves unattended. They are going to try getting her a water bottle that she can wear and have with her at all times. Something that straps to her belt or something. I didn’t quite understand the mechanics of it, but they are hoping that helps.  My prediction is that there is going to be an upcoming post about this water bottle not working.

They wanted to hear what my concerns were.  I had the normal ones…how is she adjusting to the new med; is she eating; is she sleeping?  And then I had what is probably a really strange concern…I was worried that I wasn’t supplying her with enough clothes. Here’s why, when I went the last two weekends there were lots of second-hand clothes in her closet. My first thought was she’s gone and stolen some poor woman’s floral mumu dress and some man’s firetruck red blazer and put them in her closet. (It would not be the first time.) Then I looked at the clothes, and there was an iron-on label with her name on them. The only thing I could figure out is that the staff thought mom didn’t have enough clothes and instead of telling me, they were giving her charity clothes. Now, I am not above taking help when I need it…I may not ask for it enough, but that’s another story…but buying her clothes is something I can do, and quite frankly is one of the more enjoyable parts of this journey. It’s something concrete that I know I can do that helps!  And when you are going through this, you want all the hands-on, easy fix things you can get.  Makes you feel like you have some power over this thing you have no power over at all.

It turns out they weren’t charity clothes, well not in the sense I was thinking. People donate lots of clothes to nursing homes. It makes sense, I just never thought of it.  Anyway, my mom, one of the biggest busy bodies I know, likes to insert herself into the big reveals when the staff is going through the donated clothes, and she likes to call dibs on the stuff she wants. Hence, the mysterious dress and red men’s blazer. They were donated clothes that as the staff was pulling them out of the boxes to go to the laundry, mom was laying claim to…presumably when she should have been at exercise class or bingo.

So, mom gets to grab the clothes before anyone sees them.  The staff gets a no cost way of making her happy.  And I still get to go on my Old Navy shopping sprees. Everybody is a winner.

Thanksgiving is coming…

In this really helpful post, mom and I discuss the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Unprompted, mom told me that Thanksgiving was Thursday…which is huge for someone who confuses dinner and breakfast on a regular basis.  I asked her how she knew it was this Thursday.  She said, “The people around here told me it is Thursday.  The people around here talk a lot.  A lot.”

So I decided to interview mom about Thanksgiving.  In addition to a helpful reminder that it is this Thursday, she also discusses how to make an apple pie, and what hot drink best accompanies it.