I started a new job so I have had little time to post anything! I so much loved to write and keep track of the goings on in our lives – it helped to sort out my feelings and the process of learning and adjusting.
We had a little incident that happened this week that is stuck in my craw. The aunt that was moved into a new care home was “visited” by her former caregiver. At first glance, it actually sounds like a nice gesture. The caregiver had opened up her home to our aunt, yes for a price, but it seemed like such a nice arrangement at the time.
At first, life seemed so happy for our aunt. She settled in and started calling her caregiver her “daughter”. I should say that we are grateful that this was the case for quite awhile. Then it started. Our aunt’s cell phone would be taken away from her. We couldn’t have conversations unless the caregiver was home to be in on the conversation. During visits, extended family could not really detect anything was amiss.
To explain a little further, this caregiver rented out a couple of rooms in her house as the cost of living in that part of the country was pretty steep. Those that rented space were happy to have a room while they got on their feet enough to find a place of their own. It was through these folks that my sisters started to get a different story than what was being shown during visits. Though no one could really prove anything, some of the tenants were saying that the caregiver was abusive, abrasive and uncaring.
So, there was an element of surpise when my sisters found out that our aunt had been visited at her new home by this caregiver! It was during this visit that the former caregiver asked our aunt to sign a document. Exactly what it was, we have no idea.
So many unanswered questions for now, but we all need advocates. We all need to know to say “no” if we are not sure of something. Even the best of us – nevermind the elderly or those like our mother that is suffering from dementia – need trusted advisors to help make decisions. I feel like I am of sound mind and judgment, but still ask for help. It is never a sign of weakness to ask for help, but it is a sign of love to be one who helps. I wish my aunt had known this – that she is loved and can always ask.
Last week’s events included my California family moving our elderly aunt to another care home-where hopefully she will get a better level of care. At nearly 90 years of age, she is getting to the point of losing her discernment and her ability to truly care for and defend herself. It is a sad state for those of us who can see the deterioration. With no other family, my aunt is reliant on nieces and nephews to see to her care.
Enter two of the most incredible women I know – my sisters. Yes, and some amazing cousins – but the point of this post is what these folks are willing to do to make sure those who cared for us while we were growing up are cared for in return. I could not be there in person so one of my sisters put me on FaceTime while they sorted and cleaned through our aunt’s remaining earthly possessions.
For hours, they sorted and cleaned through piles of hoarded tissues and napkins, assorted bits of fancy jewelry, partially eaten snacks, carefully written notes that were tucked in between pages of books, coins, and a host of small things that could be easily tucked here and there. They also had to sort through clothing, bedding, and linen – the dirty with the clean, some unwashed and soiled beyond belief. They had to wear gloves and I am sure they probably should have worn masks.
Despite the unpleasant, but necessary chore, my sisters remained good-natured. Instead of grumbling and fussing, they chose levity. From the outside looking in, one may judge the hullabaloo, joking, and laughter as cruel, but it wasn’t. They did their best and our aunt is better off because of their selflessness, but so are our hearts. There was no begrudging undertones, no tallying of accounts, and no finger-pointing. They became my heroes that day because I’m not sure I could have done what they did.
My love and admiration for my sisters swells in my heart. They are my new heroes.
P.S. I have a pretty awesome brother-in-law too! All he would say is “Pshaw! – we do it for love“.
I am on Facebook with many of my friends – I am grateful to be able to connect even in a small way with those I have known over the last 40 years of raising a family, moving so many times, and crossing paths with truly wonderful people. For those that are my age and older, though the sharing is mainly positive – much of it has been about the struggles that naturally occur with aging and the passage of life and time.
I took a couple of psychology courses in college, but never quite understood some of the nuances of defining and marking stages. I suppose it was because at the time I was a young twenty-something and it was all academic information I needed to know for a test. Just like I wish someone would have mentored me through my mothering experience, I wish someone in the academic world would have stopped and gotten an older person in to simply share experience.
The other piece that is affecting us now but we did not correlate until now is the cultural influence on what is taking place in the lives of mom and her remaining siblings. My sisters and I did not grow up in a traditionally Filipino environment. It was very much mixed and who we are now is the product of being raised in a culture of mixed norms and mores.
Already the conflict is making itself evident in my relationships with my children. They don’t quite understand my stances or reasoning for why I do things. This and the fact that our lives don’t intersect often will create what my sisters and I are seeing in our relationship with our mother. We often misunderstand and misinterpret her values, what she is communicating, and how she communicates. Of course, this is just a blog so is not comprehensive. I am sure there are books out there that explain all this – that I need to read.
Maybe all this is why I feel a need to write it all down. Maybe that is why my sisters and I make it a priority to have an “us” time at least once a year without family – just us in a place where there is no laundry, dishes, or distractions. Maybe I want to do a better job of being cognizant so that I communicate, relate, and connect to those I love.
I see them on Facebook and in church and out in the community. People trying to connect, communicate, and relate. What do I want? I want to do a better job of connecting with mom in the time we have left where she is still able to share in her own way. Then, I want to do a better job of connecting with my family and it won’t be on social media using cryptic posts or tweets.
Yesterday was a trying day. Not for me, but for my sisters, a cousin, and mom. They moved mom’s older sister from one home to another in hopes she will be more comfortable and get much-needed attention and care. She is 89 and is beginning to decline. The care she needs is more specialized and beyond what any one of us are capable of giving her.
As this is a blog about life with mom, I wanted to imagine this from mom’s perspective first. She really can’t process anything too deeply so much of what she knows has to be told to her on the day of rather than in advance. So, my sisters, cousin, and mother converged at the old care home and proceeded to load the vehicles with all the earthly possessions of my aunt.
My sister summed up mom’s feelings about it all when she relayed mom’s response about the new home. It was good enough for mom’s sister, but not for mom. At the end of the day, mom was more than happy to return to her surrounding of choice – where my sisters are.
In my last post, I shared my idealistic dream of getting the remaining siblings of mom’s family together for a goodbye of sorts. As I spoke to my sister about the day’s events over the phone, I came to the realization that not everyone wants the same thing!
Maybe the siblings simply want to be with their children because they are who they have invested the majority of their lives in. It is their families, their homes, their lives they want to be part of in their last days. Sure it would be nice, but when priorities are lined up our elderly aunts and uncles put their children and grandchildren at the top of the list and not each other.
My sister is right. It is not about what she or I want – it is about listening carefully to what they want and making sure we honor their desires as closely as we can. So for now, mom stays home.
I had planned to write all about the happenings on our trip home and I still will, but with all the tragic events it is hard to even stop to write because what I have to say seems mundane and unimportant in comparison. With the technology of today it is truly amazing to feel like you are transported to the scenes flashing across big and small screens. Despite how paralyzing these events are, we still have to face what is in our own lives.
Our family has had much to contemplate these last couple of weeks. Our mother comes from a family of seven children. Out of the seven, five are still alive – all of them being at least 80 years old. The spouses of the two that passed on are also still living so because our family is fairly close, I will include them. Our whole family to include the seven (living), their children, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren ought to pause and just contemplate the enormity of this. As far as I know, of the 23 children born to these folks, 22 are alive and kicking and of course these “children” have had children – I am one of them and I am a grandmother!
But now, we are seeing their decline. I am not geographically close to our family, but I am feeling the pressure of this seemingly sudden change. I know in my heart and mind that the changes have been gradual, but no one really keeps track of the subtle shifts until it finally gets to a point that now we are the ones making changes.
An inevitable question has hounded my heart and mind – one always appears when I am faced with these types of thoughts. Here it is: How am I going to be different – how will contemplating this change me? Well, I need to spend more time with my siblings – value them – share my life with them. I want them to know I love them before I can’t tell them anymore. Busy is no excuse because they are family. I know this includes all the people God has blessed me with by putting them in my life.
We are very blessed in that each of these precious older siblings are surrounded by their families, but we are busy – too busy to stop and maybe bring them together for one last hug and kiss and let them say goodbye to each other. Just a thought and a dream.