Mom Talk

Mom Talk

I visited my mother several days ago. She is almost 96 years old and has had Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. Her money ran out in January from the remainder of my father’s life insurance since he died 3 years ago. It was a busy time for me looking around at nursing homes, hiring a lawyer, establishing a Qualified Income Trust, and applying for Medicaid.

Medicaid

Fortunately, we got lucky and somebody passed away a fews earlier and there was an opening so we jumped at the opportunity and moved my Mom right away. So she has now been on Medicaid pending status effective February 1st while we’re waiting approval in several months. It’s a very nice facility with above average ratings, and she’s getting much better care now that she was in the memory care unit of the assisted living facility where she had been living for over 7 years.

Volleyball

In fact, the Activity (“Wellness and Life Enrichment”) Director is great since she had been at the nursing home where my father was during his last year. She was so good with my Dad and now she gets to know her too. She told me recently that she had my Mom playing “volleyball” (where they bounce balloons around each other from their wheelchairs) after she told her that she needed more people to help her and my Mom said “sure!”. Maybe she will get her more involved with some of their activities like she did with my Dad.

Care

Actually my Mom is doing quite well considering her age. She’s always in good spirits, smiling, and happy most of the time. She usually stills knows who I am, and also my wife and siblings. That day we woke her up and she was somewhat groggy for a bit and slightly confused. However, as she came to, she was responding to my wife, but I didn’t register with her at all. That was rather strange because she normally can’t keep her eyes off me, wants to hug and kiss me, and tells me that she loves me (constantly). Not this time. So my wife was getting her attention, and she pretty much ignored me.

Sayings

Since I wasn’t that busy, but just a spectator this time, I was observing the “conversation”. Actually she can’t really put more than a few words together at a time before she forgets what she wants to say. So everything is rather short, with many of the same expressions. So I thought it might be interesting to capture some of them on my iPhone. Here’s the intermittent dialogue.

I don’t know
Okay
Right
No, I don’t think so
You’re wonderful
I love you
Yeah
Thank you
That’s about it
Well …
That’s the way it goes

Piano Music

I love piano music! I took piano lessons for several years as a kid in elementary school, when I was probably about 8 or 9 years old. My parents signed me up with a piano teacher that was recommended by someone in our church. She was older and lived in a neighboring town, so they drove me there for my lesson each week.

Eventually I managed to pick it up, along with my (somewhat irregular) practice, but she didn’t make it interesting enough for me and I got tired of the lessons and quit. I think it was a traditional approach to teaching piano, but it didn’t get me playing music that I enjoyed so it lost its relevance for me. Later I tried some other musical instruments at school, such as the clarinet for a while; then I tried guitar lessons at a local music store for a little while (until my fingers got sore and calloused).

With high school, college, work, marriage, and children, I never really got back into playing music, although I always loved listening to music, attending concerts, etc. My music interests have always been quite diverse, but recently I have become infatuated with solo piano music again. Now I have decided that I finally want to try learning and playing piano again to see if I can play it like the wonderful artists I enjoy.

We have had a Yamaha piano in our house for probably over 30 years now, but it’s rarely used. Initially, we thought it would be nice to have a piano available to play, and always thought it might be something I would like to do someday. Also, we rationalized that it would be good if our two boys had it available so they might learn music.

Actually, my youngest son is quite talented and creative with both art and music. He has a great ear for music, and could hear a song on the radio, cassette, or record (remember them) and just sit down and start playing it from what he has just heard. We were totally amazed that he could do this, but he would never actually want to learn or read music.

We bought him MIDI keyboard synthesizers, drum machines, and music software to encourage his interest in music, and he really got into that. In fact, he has composed lots of music, which is really quite good, and he even was selling it on the internet for a while and making some money from it; it’s mostly trance, house, techno, etc., and he has even DJ’ed a little at some dance clubs with his music. He still enjoys it, but mostly for himself, and even has those initial things we gave him as Christmas and birthday gifts. My older son also likes music a lot too, and does play guitar which he picked up on his own.

I have thought I would like to play piano again, but there just was never enough time (or at least I did not make the time available). Since I retired several years ago, it’s something I have been thinking about doing sometime, and now is the time to get started! I will turning 70 soon so time’s passing by, and it’s about time to do things that I have put off until later. By the way, I decided to finally get started cooking too, but that’s another post. Later is getting shorter!

Unlock Your Mind

This is the Day 1 post for Writing 101 – Unlock Your Mind. The objective is to just write for 20 minutes without thinking about it – just stream of consciousness. So here goes.

We’re taking a little getaway trip for 3 nights at a bed & breakfast at a farm in the country in southeast Texas. We are going to meet friends who were neighbors for many years when we used to live in the Dallas area before moving to Austin. It’s a quaint 2-bedroom log cabin with front porch with swing. Of course, we get breakfast each morning, but we also signed up for dinner the first night after we arrive.

It’s located near the Big Thicket National Preserve which we plan to visit, do some hiking, rent some kayaks or canoes, etc. Also we will probably golf at a nearby course one day. It will be interesting to just explore a new area, and spend some time with our friends.

On the way, we will get a chance to see all the wild flowers that appear in Texas in the spring, such as Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Mexican Hat, etc. we will passing through Brenham where Blue Bell ice cream is made so maybe we can stop there. We’ve taken the tour before, but maybe just stopping for a cone might be good.

Well that’s about the end of my 20 minutes. I will get some nice photos for my blog. It will be fun!

Love, Memory, and Music

I was thinking about love, memory, and music during Valentine’s Day weekend.

Love

First, this makes me think of my Mom who has had Alzheimer’s disease for probably about 10 years now and will be 95 in May. Every time I visit her, all she knows and says is how much she loves me, and we spend the time with hugs and kisses. When I leave, she doesn’t really know that I have been there. But when I suddenly show up again the next time, it’s a wonderful surprise for her that makes her day. This constantly amazes me how she still remembers me and knows that she loves me (and my wife), although sometimes she doesn’t know whether I’m her brother, husband, friend, or occasionally son.

She still has her same warm, pleasant, and loving personality much of the time. She’s always telling me how wonderful I am, thanking aides and saying that she loves them, and even EMS ambulance staff how they’re doing a “good job” when taking her to the emergency room when she recently was hospitalized for the flu. On good days, she still exhibits a wonderful sense of humor even laughing at her own inability to find words or complete a sentence. Another thing that strikes me is how she still comes out with typical phrases or sayings that I’ve heard her say over the years. She’s still the same Mom I’ve loved all my life.

Memory

Although this is very sad, it’s probably a blessing that she doesn’t remember that she hasn’t seen me for a few days or wondering when she will see me again. Everything is just “right now”.

She doesn’t even realize that the husband she married over 70 years ago has not been with her for almost 3 years now, and he died a year later in 2013. When he left after a fall in the bathroom for the hospital and nursing home and we realized he was never coming back, she was moved to another room with another woman about her age.

My Dad fell forward hitting his forehead on the vanity, and then backward onto a small table which fractured some ribs and vertebrae. He never recovered in spite of their rehab efforts, and his vascular dementia became significantly worse during his final year..

It’s really amazing that she doesn’t know he’s gone, and it was somewhat strange that we never told her about his death. However, we were advised that it might destabilize her and she would not remember anyway, but possibly know that something was wrong and be anxious about that, and maybe have to experience grief over and over. So it’s much better this way.

Music

Music is wonderful for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They always have music playing in the assisted living memory care facility where my Mom lives. It’s enjoyable, familiar, and comforting for listening while they spend their days. It’s amazing how often residents will start humming or singing along to old hymns or songs from their younger years.

Somehow the music connects with emotions, feelings, and experiences from their life which they would not be able to recall cognitively. It seems to help take them back then and feels good. Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease that gradually destroys your brain, but there’s some way that music and love remain (for now anyway). At some point she won’t even know who I am, that she loves me, or I love her!

I’m Not Gonna Miss You

This also reminds me of the country music legend Glen Campbell, who has been struggling with Alzheimer’s. See my music post about his final song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, his “I’ll Be Me”  film, and a CBS “Farewell Tour” video.

I can relate to that very honest song, when listening to the lyrics, which reflect his Alzheimer’s reality with a focus on his wife and family. My Mom won’t miss me either when she dies. Her world is limited to the current moment in time, and sometimes she is overwhelmed with emotion because she is so happy when she sees me. Although there is no past or future for her, she lights up, smiles, and sometimes cries when I visit. But when I leave, she doesn’t even realize that I was there a few minutes ago.

After writing this post, I also wrote a poem about her for a Writing 201: Poetry assignment on trust. Although she may not miss me, I definitely will miss her.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom & Dad. Thanks for your love and support all my life. I love you!

Writing 201: Poetry – Animal

Writing 201: Poetry – Animal

Assignment #4 has a word prompt of Animal to be written in the form of a Concrete Poem using the device of Enjambment.

pepper-christmas

Here’s my poem about our cat Pepper and my youngest son.

         Our     cat 
     was named Pepper. It  
   lost     its     mother, 
     so     we     thought 
     it would be a good 
      pet for our kids. 

        Our    youngest 
        son    was    
     always    good   
       with    music 
        and    art.
   It was black and white, 
    and one day we found 
   he carefully colored in
       the white area 
       along Pepper's 
              n
              o
              s
              e 
   between    the    eyes 
    with purple marker 
    while it was asleep.
         Another time 
        we discovered 
       he had drawn a 
      life size picture 
        of an indian 
      in full headress 
     (with arms crossed) 
        using crayons 
     on his bedroom wall - 
 we had been in Indian Guides. 

Sometimes we would 
     find the cat 
          hanging 

by its claws 
     from weave curtains 
          in the living room.


And somehow it survived 18 years.

It thought it would be interesting to learn more about poetry, so I am taking the Writing 201: Poetry course over the last two weeks of February. Let me know what you think, and comments are appreciated.

Glen Campbell: Love, Memory, and Music

Originally I published this post over Valentine’s Day weekend. At that time there were several thoughts I wanted to share about love, memory, and music as I was thinking about my Mom who has Alzheimer’s. With Glen Campbell receiving the Grammy award for his last song I’m Not Gonna Miss You, from the documentary I’ll Be Me filmed during his Goodbye Tour, made me also think about his similar struggle with Alzheimers over the past four years.

However, I think it became much too long when these were combined in the same post, after all these ideas evolved during writing. So I have now split it into two separate posts, which they should have been initially. Recently, I also created another related music on The Band Perry which features Glen Campbell’s song Gentle On My Mind.