Taking care of mother.

We just got back from a trip to visit family and friends in Utah.  As I am able to visit my mother often I see her getting older and as she does she seems to be loosing more and more of her cognitive abilities.  She doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia, but we have noticed a marked decrease in her short term memory.  That means she doesn’t remember little tasks that we have to think about all day long.  For her it means not remembering if she has taken medication, not remembering how long she has been wearing the clothes she has on, not remembering if she has washed her sheets, or when she last cleaned her house.  I am understanding where a lose of short term memory really is a problem.  Most of her day to day things we have set up so she can be independent.  My sisters bring her food or take her shopping or out to dinner.  My niece cleans her house for her.  She gets lots of calls to check on her, to make sure she is safe or has taken her medications.  When we were there one of my sisters noticed the sweater she was wearing was quite dirty.  So she asked mom if she could wash it.  Then my sister noticed that moms bed linens were not looking that great, so she stripped the bed and we washed it.  Mom looked a little upset until I told her that it wasn’t good for the environment to just wash one thing, and then she was okay.  Her house looked fabulous when I walked in (thanks Courtney), but now we will have to be doing laundry for mom. 

The other thing I saw when I was there was how much she loves her little backyard garden.  She was so pleased that her children had worked on it for her.  Lynne bought a new rose bush and planted it in the corner, she also planted herbs after she had taken out all the matted grass.  I noticed mom had a cut rose in a glass on her table.  That is when I decided that we need to make sure she always has flowers in her garden.  This fall we are planning a trip to visit again.  I am hoping that I can plant some daffodils, tulips and other spring flowering bulbs.  We can change up what is in there according to the season.  I am hoping that she will be able to go out and cut a flower to put in a vase for most of the year. 

My sister told me a story about how irritated my brother is by mother repeating the same five stories over and over again and he wanted my sister to make mom stop.  I was pretty steamed over his attitude.  I guess he has forgotten all the hours that mom listened to his childish conversation.  I wonder if she ever thought to her self, “if he tells me that one more time I am going to scream”.  

Mother took care of us and raised us by herself.  I am happy to be able to help with her care now that she needs me.  I wish I was closer so that I could do more of the day to day things.  I don’t mind that she repeats herself.  I try and steer the conversation so that we can talk about her childhood and I have heard some wonderful stories about her growing up years.  She repeats those as well, but that way I won’t forget them.  It is as if she is telling me what is most important to her.  I suppose I should write them down.

A quarter of a century

That’s how long we’ve lived in this house.  We moved here this month 25 years ago.  I am a little surprised that a military/gypsy family like us has lived in one house for so long.  I need to clarify.  We haven’t lived in the house that long.  We were gone for three years while we lived in Berlin from 1989 to 1992.  Dale retired from the army in September of 1992 and we have been here ever since.  We also spent 18 months in Germany on a mission, but we still considered ourselves residents of Lacey Washington. 

We thought it was just about time to paint the inside.  Yep, first time, from top to bottom.  Last summer we had the extreme fun of removing the popcorn ceilings and then having the ceiling retextured.  We also took out the wood burning fireplace and replaced the brick surround with wallboard.  Dale has been working on the outside front of the house taking off the old sealant and resealing the cedar lap boards.  It looks great by the way.  The outside back deck balusters and railings were being worked on when we decided to paint the downstairs and re carpet before Kurt moves in at the end of the month.  It will be a race to see if we can get it done.  The carpet guy is coming on Tuesday to measure and give us an estimate.

I can’t believe it has been a quarter of a century since we moved in.  I think it is just about time we painted.  Hopefully we won’t have to do this again for another quarter of a century.

More about family

My last post left my readers with the idea that I don’t love and appreciate my siblings.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  They have been an inspiration in my life.

I have four sisters and three brothers.  I am the oldest girl with two older brothers.  When I was born I’m sure my mother rejoiced.  Every women wants a daughter (just ask Leslie).

My dad was a great dad, my mom a wonderful mom.  We moved around quite a bit.  I had lived in three houses by the time I was three and then we moved to Utah from Idaho when I was nine.

My dad passed away when I was eleven, I remember many details from that day.  After that day things changed quite a bit at our house.  My mom had to go back to school to get  a teaching certificate.  She had taught before she got married, but only needed a two year degree.  She was also expecting my little sister.  I was given a lot of responsibilities, and since I was so young I’m sure I didn’t do things as well as mom would have liked them, but she never scolded me about that.

My oldest brother was mean, and would terrorize me when he could.  I don’t think he picked on me and not on my siblings, but who notices other kids being picked on.  He would hold  a pillow over my face until I flailed in panic mode, I still remember this and have a fear of being smothered.  My next brother was kind of a trouble maker and was constantly in trouble, but he was just an inquisitive little boy with lots of energy.  My next brother was my playmate for many wonderful years until he turned about eight and I was ten.  That was just after we moved to Salt Lake and into a neighborhood with lots of children.  He had boys to play with and so I found new friends as well.

Then we had a string of four girls.  Candace, Gay (who later changed her name to Julie for obvious reasons), Lynne and Allison who was born seven months after dad died. 

My brothers have done well in the world.  My two older brothers have retired and are happily enjoying their well-earned retirement years and all that goes with that.  My younger brother Kevin still works as do all of my sisters.  I am sure they are working towards retirement as well, but at this time it is difficult to retire because of the economy.  Hopefully they have all planned and are working on their plans now.  

  Mom had to work which left us kids at home to carry out the things that needed to get done.  When you are relying on kids to do the house work sometimes things don’t get done.  I remember the house being very messy a few times and mom warning us that we would be taken away from her if the house was so dirty that the health department would get involved.  I am sure that was just to motivate us.  Our house may have been messy, but not dirty or unhealthy for us.  I remember many times cleaning the house with my siblings.  Often we would play music while we worked.

What we really missed was a father’s influence and love.  My sisters really suffered.  They went through all the signs of girls crying out for  male influence in their lives.  Unfortunately we have many divorces in my family.  Some of them were bitter and ugly.  Through it all my sisters worked and raised their families.  I am sure sometimes that they were so poor they were afraid they would have no place to live, but they persevered.  I am so proud of each of them for what they have accomplished.  One sister hadn’t finished high school and later went on to earn her BS from Utah State.  How often does that happen in today’s world?  They have all had to work hard their whole lives, sometimes with the odds against them, to succeed.  I really had the easiest life, and sometimes I am embarrassed at how easy I have had it. 

This blog is a tribute to my incredible, hard working, intelligent, industrious and fun sisters.  I am so glad I have them.  We don’t always get along the way we should, after all with four women who are strong enough to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, you are going to have some strong (bossy) personalities.

Recently there was some family turmoil about the care of my aging mother.  The emails were hot going back and forth.  I decided that I didn’t want to participate in that.  I don’t like to see my family arguing.  My kids, who all dislike that kind of family drama, were astonished at what was going on.  They already don’t have good feelings about my siblings because of many things that have happened in the past.  I opted out of the fight.  I didn’t opt out of my responsibilities to my mom, just out of the bickering.  When all this blows over I hope we can get together and enjoy each others company again.  I hope nothing happens to any of us in the interim.

Family

I have five unique children.  Every mother thinks their children are wonderful, one of a kind gifts, but mine really are.   

Dale and Leslie are similar in appearance.  They are both in the taller percentile of their sex, though not unusually so.  Their faces have a similar shape, their noses are very much alike (Leslie calls it a bulbous nose).  They both have the same type of hair, fairly coarse, naturally wavy and brown, although Leslie’s is darker.  Dale was born with blond hair and it turned to brown by the time he started school.  Their feet are completely different. But the thing that is the most different about them are their personalities.  Dale is reserved and Leslie, though shy, is very outgoing.  Leslie also likes to run the show, which caused a few minor skirmishes while they were growing up.  Dale is quiet, not shy and has opinions about things that he mostly keeps to himself.  He doesn’t like to talk about politics at all, which is refreshing. 

Carolyn and Kurt look a lot alike.  They both have oval faces like their dad.  They both have soft brunette hair that is almost completely straight like mine.  They both have their dad’s nose, Carolyn received a feminine version.  Everyone thinks that Carolyn looks like me, she really doesn’t in the face but we both have the same hair and build so I can see why people think we are look alikes.  Kurt is the tallest of the five.  I don’t know exactly how tall, but six two or three I think.  He also has the darkest skin of all the kids, and since he is outside a lot he is usually quite brown.  They are the two who have been the most “green” of my children.  Although they don’t carry it to extremes.  Carolyn was a vegetarian for most of her high shool and college.  She started eating meat when she married a hunter/fisherman.  Interestingly, she grew several more inches after that.  Kurt loves to camp, hike and fish.  He may take up hunting  just because he inherited his dad’s rifle.  He has no qualms about killing animals to eat them.   

Mark doesn’t look like anyone, and for years I couldn’t figure out who he looked like until I saw a profile of my dad and realized Mark has my dad’s jaw and nose (that’s where that came from).  He has dark straight somewhat coarse hair, not like any of his siblings.  He is also the hairiest of the kids, he looked like a little hairy monkey at birth.  I don’t know when he lost the fur off his ears, but it wasn’t in infancy.  He has hairy legs and arms.  He even has cowlicks on his arms.  My brothers are all hairless on their arms and legs.  Dale isn’t that hairy, so I don’t know where that came from.  Mark projects an image of a deep thinker because he is so quiet.  When you ask him a question he will pause before he answers.  This makes phone conversations a bit hard sometimes.

My children enjoy being together.  We get a bit noisy at times.  I have found that my children who were quiet growing up, Dale and Mark, will often quietly leave and find a quiet place to sit.  Dale usually takes his laptop downstairs, which is perfect because he can keep an eye on the kids down there.  Mark usually migrates to the living room.  He really enjoys the after dinner chats that we have every time he visits.  Kurt is usually surrounded by his nieces and nephews somewhere.  Leslie and Carolyn are in the middle of whatever is happening.  Often in the kitchen. 

We don’t communicate well, and sometimes people get their feelings hurt, but we all get over it.  We don’t do weird passive/aggressive stuff, if we have a problem we talk about it (or yell).  I think this is perfectly normal.  I don’t talk about everything that is going on with my children to my other children and I think they appreciate that they can tell me things and it will never go anywhere else.  I wish we were closer in some ways, but we do a pretty good job.  At least better than the family I came from. 

When I see pictures of family reunions and the siblings are all standing together looking like they are loving being together I get sad.  When I look at pictures of my family together all I can think about is who doesn’t get along with who and how the smiles on their faces are pasted on fakes.  I am sad that my family is so dysfunctional.  At a time when mom (age 93) needs us the most we bicker about things. 

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a rant.  I love my family, both the nuclear one and the extended family.  I didn’t have a good role model for what a family should be like and so with Dale’s good help and example I have learned how to do it on my own.  I am the way I am because of my heroic mother.  She modeled to me what a loving mother does.  The rest I learned by doing.