Awakenings

June 2022

We saw my mom recently.

I mean we really saw her. She was there. With all her personality shining through.

You see, I usually visit her twice a week when we are not traveling. Most of the time, she is there. But not really. You may know what I mean should you have or have had an elderly relative. My mom is 99.

Normally, when I arrive, she’ll greet me by name. Which I think is actually pretty good. I arrive in time to help her with her lunch, the big meal of the day. I coordinate my visits with two of my siblings, so we try to cover most of her lunches. She can eat on her own, but she does better with help.

After lunch, I can usually get her to answer my questions, but most of the time, I can’t get her to engage in conversation. She does talk though. She will repeat certain phrases – over and over. Things like, “I’ll take a salad. Ranch.” At times, she will randomly call out, “Come in!” And sometimes she will say, “Close the door, Maggie. Close the door.” We have only ever known one Maggie, and to my knowledge, she didn’t leave any doors open.

Another often repeated phrase is, “How much I care.” I take this as a sign of the deep seated love in her heart for her family.

Even so, sometimes, the repeating can kind of get to you.

So, I started bringing books for her to read aloud. Sometimes she reads in an almost robotic voice. But other times, she self-corrects and even has a hint of expression. I take these as good signs.

I thought she’d enjoy these books.
My parents had an apple tree in our backyard.

Sometimes when I visit my mom, I will video chat with my daughter, Talia. On a recent video call, on a day my mom was not lucid, Talia suggested the three of us sing a song. We sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “God Bless America”, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” My mom sang along every word, and the three of us had a wonderful connection at a time when such moments seem a far reach.

I try to think of the good things. She is comfortable. She gets good care. She is safe. I do what I can for her, and my hope when I visit is that I’ve made her day better – even if just in some small way. It isn’t easy seeing your mother fading away, becoming more and more frail.

Every once in a while, though, my mom appears. On these days, we say she is “lucid.” She may not get everything right when she talks, but, make no mistake, it’s my mom!

On these days, she wants to get her hair done – meaning she wants to go to Connie for a “cut and color” as she is quite unhappy with the grey she sees in the mirror. She’ll ask us to get her a lipstick the next time we stop in at Walgreens. She’ll mention she is not joining Indian Hills this year, a swim club she belonged to for years, as she no longer has a car and can’t get there.

And invariably, she’ll become a bit sad about her brother, my Uncle Henry, who passed away at 94 in 2018. On the other hand, she will always express happiness and gratitude that she has company. One time, she said she was praying someone would visit, and there I was! How’s that for an ego booster!

The last time my mom had been lucid was back in early December. On this day, she was really excited about the family birthday party we would be having later that month to celebrate her 99th birthday. We had reserved the community room at her facility, and many of the grandkids were coming for the party.

Talia and My Mom
at her party

On that lucid day, she talked about getting her hair done for the party. I went through her closet, so she could pick out what she wanted to wear. She picked out a top that was red and sparkly. She told me she wanted to look good that day. She was really looking forward to her party.

We were so hoping she would be lucid that day. I prayed and prayed, and so did my sister, for one of those glorious days. But, it was not to be. She was okay, but not great. I don’t know how much she really knew this party was all about her. We don’t really know what goes on in someone’s mind and heart when that person is frail with age. I like to think she knew and felt the love.

After December, she didn’t have any more lucid days for more than five months. We thought her lucid days were over. But lo and behold, when Dan and I visited this past Tuesday, there she was!

Anybody notice anything odd?

Dan knew as soon as he walked in. He could tell by her eyes and the fact that she was sitting straight up, not leaning over. The first thing she said to him was, “Where’s my lunch?”

After lunch, we went to the community room where we played not one, but two games of Scrabble. While we played, we enjoyed conversation about all kinds of things.

For example, she asked me who was having Thanksgiving this year. I told her it was my sister’s turn. The truth is we haven’t taken her out for several years, but if I’m signing someone up for the big holiday meal, why not pick my sister?

We sure don’t know the rhyme nor the reason why these days appear. It’s a mystery. But the fact that she had a day like this, gives us hope – that there will be more. It’s such a joy to be with my mom again. And you know, even though it’s not November, and my sister isn’t hosting the big dinner, we really did have Thanksgiving after all.

64 comments

  1. I am a bit lost for words. I hope your mom gets the grey out of her hair and I hope she is comfortable in whatever stage she is in. We do treat old people like children, perhaps reading children books to them is what we need to do, yet we expect them to act like adults. Your mom seems to be in good health and I hope she will have many clear days to enjoy her family, her life and her surroundings.
    I never realized how religious you are until today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this blog. We are living this along with you. Aunt Virginia still looks really good. Celebrate and enjoy the good days. That’s what we do as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Karen. Hey everybody, Karen is my cousin. 🙂 Yes, my mom does still look really good. I saw a picture of your parents a while ago. I think they were holding something that you had brought them. Maybe for their anniversary? In any case, they looked happy and proud. Your advice to celebrate and enjoy the good days is spot on. Blessings to you all!

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  3. One of my strongest memories is helping my nearly 100 year old grandmother eat. It seemed somewhat surreal to feed my mom’s mother like a baby, but it was actually an honor. I’m glad you and your sisters are there for your mom during this precious time. It’s wonderful that your daughter, Talia, is able to help as well. By the way, how do you pronounce your daughter’s name?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, David, that it is an honor to be of service in this way. And my mom is very cheerful, positive and grateful – as she has always been. Even on the days when she is not lucid, she will still say, “thank you.” My daughter lives in Washington D.C., but when she comes home, she will visit my mom. We do the video calls once or twice a month. They always had a special bond. Her name is pronounced “Tal ya.” And – the other sibling on lunch duty is a brother. Thank you for your comment, and enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, what a beautiful read to start my morning. So heartwarming, even the lucid days and those other days in between I know your visitis do make her day better. I love the idea of reading the books and looking at their pictures, plus singing. Music seems to remain in the human mind longer than anything else. Do you show her family pictures? I have a friend whose wife has Alzheimer’s and she enjoys looking at photo albums.

    At 99 she still looks beautiful and, in her world, joyous! Thank you for sharing and a big hug coming to you for strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good reminder about showing her family photos. My sister does that pretty often. I should do that more. She really enjoys seeing pictures of her grandchildren and her great grandchildren. Thank you for your kind words, and I appreciate the big hug, too! I hope you have a wonderful day!

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  5. Look how pretty she is! Love this post so much. Love the books and the singing. While I don’t have experience in what this is like, my heart goes out to you. But, how wonderful those moments must be, when you do have the mom you know, even if briefly. Sort of reminds me of a movie I love where the mom/grandma remembers who she is briefly at random times. It must be a joyous time when there are glimpses of her. Thanks-giving indeed.

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  6. I have been there with my parents. It is great that you and your siblings are able to take turns spending time with your mom at lunch. Even on the days when she does not seem to be lucid, I bet there is more going on in her head than you are aware of. I am sure she knows you love her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Meg. I agree with you. Even if someone can’t fully express their thoughts and feelings, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a bittersweet post, I am glad that you get these pockets where your mom is lucid. It is wonderful that you sing with her because music is a language that stays in our memories. we sing to our babies, we attach to it in out teens, we all have favorites with our spouses.

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    • You are certainly right about music being a language that stays in our hearts our whole life long! Wonderful point! Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your day!

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  8. What a beautifully written post. You have my sympathy for the slow loss of your mother. I know it is very hard to see a loved one who no longer remembers who you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julia. I appreciate your compassion. I know you lost a loved one not very long ago, too. Years ago, I lost my dad to Alzheimer’s. He had it for about 8 years, and he did not know who I was. Fortunately, at this point, my mom still remembers who we are. She has dementia but not Alzheimer’s. For that, I am grateful. Safe travels to you and Bruce!

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    • It’s nice to know others have walked this same path. It’s an understanding that is just there. I wrote this post to express my thoughts and feelings. But you pointed out something I hadn’t thought of – that I am getting these memories down in the blog. I am glad I am capturing the memories. And yes, you are right on another point, too. The lucid times are a treasure! Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your day!

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  9. This was a beautiful and candid post, Betty. A large portion of my nursing career was spent in geriatrics. It was so rewarding to experience moments like you had with your Mom and even more rewarding when I was able to witness family members enjoying those moments. Big hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terry. We very much appreciate the aides who assist her with daily activities. These people should go straight to heaven! Enjoy your Saturday, and thanks for the hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The aides are truly angels. As a nurse and dementia care coordinator, I was responsible for the education of our aides other staff, and families in the area of dementia care. The aides were eager learners and were keen to learn appropriate approaches. The years I spent in dementia care were among the most rewarding of my almost 40-year career.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. My mom is 94. I so identify. Maybe someday I will have the courage to write about my mom as she is today. I love her good days but they are getting fewer and fewer. Thanks Betty. A lovely frank and thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand what you mean. After I wrote this, I asked my husband to read it. I didn’t want any of it to sound disrespectful – because some of it is – as you say – frank. I feel very lucky to have had my mom for so long. 94 is pretty darn good, too. I guess I hoped in some way the post would resonate with others and maybe even be encouraging in some way. Thank you for your comment, and God bless you and your mom.

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  11. One of my early blogging friends said of one of my posts about caregiving for Dad, “We do the best we can and most of the time, it is enough.” It is wonderful when there are lucid days or even lucid moments. Blessings to you both and may you continue to Scrabble on. Ya, Ye, Qi, Li, Oba, and Lido are all names in other languages. Pretty cool if you ask me…which you kind of did in the global “anybody notice anything odd?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t follow you in those days when you wrote about caregiving for your dad, but your friend’s comment is pure gold. What else can we do but the best we can? It’s all we can do even though we may wish we could do more – or in other words – make things better for our loved one. For many things, “enough” leads us to be content and to be grateful. Now, regarding the Scrabble game my astute friend: everything you say is true; however, it was not the odd thing we noticed. (As Scrabble players, we are used to all those odd words!) Because we hadn’t expected my mom to be lucid, we didn’t bring any board games along as we did for years. So, we used a game in the community room. During the first game, we discovered there were two extra tiles – both were blanks. On our game board, three blanks were played. (The second extra blank wasn’t played.) For us orderly Scrabble players, any deviation from the standard set of tiles throws us way off kilter!

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  12. What a lovely post. You are a very good writer Betty. Your family is lucky to have you, you are so very thoughtful and loving. Your mother looks just absolutely beautiful and I for one, totally love her grey hair!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very kind words. My mom is very cheerful and positive. She always says, “thank you” and she doesn’t complain. So, in other words, it is easy to visit her! I am glad you like her grey hair. I like it, too. Hope you have a wonderful 4th with your family!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. It is still great that you have your mum at that age. We love our mums. I can imagine it is hard when she talks random stuff, still I guess it is good to see her. She knows you love her,even on the odd days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we love our mums. 🙂 I will visit her – no matter what the days bring. She’s my mom, after all. And yes, we are very lucky to still have her at 99! Thanks for your comment, and I hope you enjoy your day!

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  14. Awww, I’m so happy you got to “see” your mom again. I was fortunate, my parents didn’t “fade” that much before their deaths. My MIL had Alzheimer’s and I will always remember how broken-hearted Kenn was the first time she didn’t remember him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alzheimer’s is tough. My mom did really well for a very long time. It was during Covid, when we couldn’t see her for 4 months, that she declined a lot. Until then, even though she was 97, she was great. She never did get Covid, but the 4 months of no family visits was brutal for her – and for many seniors. Thank you for your kind comment. I hope you and Kenn have a nice holiday weekend!

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  15. My mom had Alzheimer’s; she died in Nov 2007 when she was 79 years old. Mom had her good days; she had her bad days. I referred to her good days as “Mom is in town today”. On her bad days I would say “Mom is out of town today”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 79 seems too young to pass away. My dad had Alzheimer’s also, and he passed away at 73. It is a terrible disease. I do like how you referred to her good and not so good days. Thank you for your comment, and I hope you enjoy the 4th.

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  16. This is so sweet. A story both happy and sad. The love you have for you mom comes through in your writing. Despite your mother’s decline, you are blessed to still have her and share those fleeting moments. Cherish those moments and joyful memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michael. You are right that even with her decline, we are blessed to still have her. I do cherish these moments and memories, and I am so glad that through the years, we did many things together and had wonderful times. These memories remind me to make good times now with those we love – because the day will come when – for whatever reason – we can’t. Enjoy your day, and I hope you and Grammi have a wonderful 4th!

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  17. Such a beautiful post. Your mom has a really fantastic and caring daughter, namely you. How wonderful that you can spend time with her. What a treasure those “good” days must be. As my mom got older I can remember times like that as well. My prayer is that there will be many more good days in the future. Cherish the moments you have together, celebrate the good days, and may God grant you and your mom many more days together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Bill, and thank you for the prayers! The good days are certainly a treasure. My siblings also do a lot for my mom – especially my sister. It is thanks to my mom that our family’s Pentwater tradition started – and it still continues. I have been very blessed to have her for my mom! Enjoy your day, and Happy 4th of July to you and Barb!

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  18. Oh Betty, I am so happy that you were blessed with one of those wonderful days with your mom! It is amazing how well she is still doing at 99 and I am sure that gives you hope that you may be an almost centenarian one day too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, David! I appreciate your kind words. And yes, I have hopes that I can follow in her footsteps. I do what I can – and the rest is up to God. 🙂 Hope you have a good holiday weekend!

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  19. I cracked up at the end when you nominated your sister. Anyone not in attendance is voted for responsibility! This is a lovely ode to your mom, Betty. My own lived to 92, and I recall the lucid and not-so lucid days. You’re a good daughter. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marty. 92 is a long life, too! Those lucid days that seem to appear out of nowhere are just such an oddity to me. I appreciate your kind words. The time will come when I won’t have my mom, and I want to be able to look back and know I did the best I could for her. I hope you have a wonderful day!

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  20. This is such a tribute to your mom and a memory you’ll treasure. I could hear your happiness as I read your words. Wishing you more days like the you described.

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  21. Well, Betty, I’m finally catching up on reading your blog. Somehow WordPress stopped alerting me of your posts. Your writing in this post brought me to tears. So beautiful! Your descriptions of visits with your mother take your readers right into the room with you both. What a gift to have the “lucid” visits, I pray there are more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. We were really surprised for her to have such a day. That has happened to me regarding WordPress and following blogs. I sometimes think it is because I click around too quickly, but who knows. I am glad you are back! And I appreciate your prayers for more good days with my mom.

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