Calling Joey

Mom and I hung out today and called Joey from the car. It went like this:

Joey (on phone): Hi mom.
Mom: Hi Joey.
Joey: How are you?
Mom: I’m fine.
Joey: What are you doing
Mom: I’m rocking back and forth in my seat.
Joey: Where are you going?
Mom: We are going to…(pause)…a place.
Joey: What place?
Mom: We are going to a place, Joey.

Matt: Tell Joey we got the car washed.
Mom: We got the car washed, Joey.
Matt: (tapping on a plastic cup) Mom, what is this?
Mom: That’s a milkshake, Matt.
Mom: Hey, Joey. I got a milkshake. I got a milkshake.


Say it. Say it again. Say it again, Kathy. Say it again.

It was our turn to order.  She was rocking back and forth.  My mom Kathy shuffled up to the counter.  She stood there rocking.

The young lady behind the counter greeted us.  She took our hot chocolate order and pressed all the buttons on the register.  The young lady looked at me and smiled brightly.  She looked at my mom and asked, “Is there anything else I can get you?”

“Hey!” Kathy said in her monotone voice looking at the young girl.

“Yes maam?” the young girl said sweetly, smiling back.

“Hey.” Kathy was rocking back and forth.  Her cheeks were sunken and lips pursed where she was sucking in her cheeks against her teeth.  “Hey.  I farted.”

The young lady stopped smiling.

“I farted.  I farted, Kathy.  I farted.”  She just kept repeating it, over and over and over and over again.

The young lady looked at me slightly red faced, slightly nervous.  I straightened up.  I smiled.  I was a bit embarrassed.  Not as embarrassed as I used to get, but a small twinge in the belly.  I handed my money to the young lady.  “Umm, she farted and we’ll just take the hot chocolates.  Thanks.”  I didn’t know what else to say.  Kathy was still repeating, “I farted” behind me.  I got my change, smiled again and gave her the standard, “Have a nice day.  Thanks, again.” The monotone “I farted” was like a skipping record still playing as we stepped to the side to wait for our order.

We drank our hot chocolates in the car.

My mom repeats things.  She repeats things quite a bit. My mom can’t initiate conversation anymore.  I imagine this is her way of having a conversation in the only way she can now.

Sometimes she adds a name at the end of the sentence, sometimes not.  “Speed limit 35.  Speed limit 35, Kathy.  Speed limit 35.  Speed limit 35, Joey.  Speed limit 35.”

Occasionally I can redirect her, sometimes not.  You can ask her a question in the middle of her echoing, she’ll stop, answer, and then repeat her answer.  I don’t mind it.  I know it is the only conversation we can have now.  I sometimes think her repeating is her way of having that conversation, the heart-to-heart, if she could.  Every once in a while you get a “farting” episode in the McDonalds.  Once she repeatedly called someone in the Big Lots “heavy” (not her exact words).  But usually she just helpfully reminds you of the speed limit, or what you are ordering in the drive through.  It’s Kathy’s conversation.

To reenact this experience for yourself, to get a first person point of view, please follow these  steps:

1) Go anywhere in public (McDonald’s will do)

2) Pass gas (the decibel level is up to your own talents)

3) Look at the nearest stranger and with a blank, matter-of-fact tone say “Hey.”

4) Say “I farted”

5) Repeat “I farted”

6) Repeat “I farted” and add anyone’s name at the end (Example: I farted, Joey.)

7) Repeat steps 4-6

8) Repeat steps 4-6


Yesterday was an exciting day. For the first time since we moved mom to the new nursing home in August she had visitors that weren’t me, my brother or my sister-in-law. Or weren’t the numerous family members and friends of other residents that my not-very-shy mother has come to endear herself to. My mom’s friends from home, Paula and Debbie, made the trip to visit. Before they went I sent them the following note to help them prepare and to provide some ideas for what to do when they got there:

So excited to hear how the day goes. I had one of the best days I’ve had with her in months yesterday. She’s doing really well. She will be slow to get started. Just tell her your names a couple of times. I told her you were coming. She said she remembered you and we looked at pictures yesterday.

Really good to dos for your visit:
-brush her hair and put it in a good pony tail
-sit in rocking chairs out front and paint fingernails if it’s not raining.
-have her show you the jukebox. Pick a few songs and sing.
-walk back and forth a dozen times to and from the cafeteria. Lol
-quiz her on who the people are in the photos on her nightstand (me, Joey and Katie)
-if it’s not raining you can take her on a little walk around the parking lot or down the edge of the road.

You’ll figure it out. She gets excited and just repeats the same word over and over and over. Just tell her to relax and calm down. She will. Lots and lots of hand holding. She likes to walk holding your hand. And lots of hugs. She’s a great hug giver these days.

They had a great visit. I got a phone call just from Paula and Debbie just after they left mom and they were so happy to have gotten to spend some time with her. And from all accounts mom had a great time to.

Got this note afterward along with the pictures below:

We had a great visit. I think Kathy enjoyed it more than her face indicates. We talked, reminisced, worked puzzles, sang, brushed her hair, walked throughout her wing, watched TV. I so wish she was closer so I could visit more often.

We polka dotted her nails. 🙂 How do you like the new shades? She wouldn’t take them off.

French Fries and Milkshakes

Had a really great day with my mom on Friday. She was upbeat, alert, chatty, and balanced. It’s been about a month now since our failed experiment to take her off the one psych med took us back to the psychiatrist to put her on something new. And it actually seems to be working for now, so I guess the failed experiment wasn’t failed at all. She really needed to be on something new. Like so much of coping with this disease, remedies are trial and error.

We mixed up our regular routine of hot chocolate and went for french fries and milkshakes. Here is a video of the outing that ends with us returning home, mom so pooped that at 4:30 is telling me it’s time for her to go to bed and time for me to go to my bed.

Unchained Melody

So I have this lingering fear that we will get to the point where my mom only remembers songs I hate. I know it’s crazy, but case in point, I had “Unchained Melody.” Really hate it. Always have. It goes too slow. I hate it so much that I almost started hating pottery because of that scene in the movie “Ghost.”

What I have found is that it really doesn’t matter if all she remembers are the songs I hate, because when she is singing them, I’m not worried about what I like or don’t like, I’m really just focused on how happy my mom is in that moment, and everything else just falls away.

Hit the Road Jack

When we were in McDonald’s a couple of weeks back, Ray Charles came on the radio and my mom got Hit the Road Jack in her head and kept repeating it over and over.  I had left my camera in the car so when we got back in to run errands, it seemed like the perfect way to start the drive…