I am blessed that I have an opportunity to spend time with my mommy. It is however, bittersweet as always. I try to focus on the positive and not get caught up in the sadness so that I can actually enjoy the moments we have together because only God knows how much longer we have.
Those who knew my mom when I was growing up will remember a fiesty, beautfiul, smart, successful woman. A woman who took great pride in her appearance. My mom paid top dollar for clothes and accessories. She got her shoes, hats, & purses dyed to match her outfits! It was a point of contention for us because through college I was not really interested in fashion. I shopped to buy clothes to cover me but was not as concerned with fashion. My mom could spend all weekend at the mall. And she shopped for more than just clothes….house hold items, things to give away, books, anything really…it bordered on being an addiction.
One of my most vivid and fondest memories is of her taking us on the Friday after Thanksgiving to the mall for the “Black Friday” sales….EARLY we’d be lined up outside the mall, in cool California weather, sipping hot chocolate. While most people use that day to buy BIG ticket items she used it to buy more clothes…and we benefitted also with new clothes. She got so caught up in her shopping that Marla and I had to remind her that we needed to eat lunch!
Today we went to the mall….well, it started at home. It’s 95+ degrees in Atlanta and I couldn’t find her summer clothes. No sign of a sun dress or cropped pants….astonishing to me for a woman who bought 2 of everything and who had just gone shopping with my Godmother. Anyway…at the mall she was uninterested in looking at clothes; even when prompted by me to look at a particular item or two. I know the stores are now overwhelming for her and the noise too much. I try to remember to go earlier in the day while her energy is still up. It’s sad for me to see a woman who I remember as the best dressed mom (urging me to be more fashionable) now wear the same black stretch pants day-in and day-out and show little interest in buying clothes. It’s almost as if she has forgotten how to shop.
They say that in older age, and particularly with dementia, your personality traits are magnified. So I thought she’d be spending up a storm (almost like on a bi-polar high) but the opposite is happening. She has other magnified traits which are kind of funny, but this one is strange to me given that she owns 5 or 6 sets of dishes; probably 50 towels; 12 or so sets of sheets; more shoes than I can count…and the thought often crosses my mind about having to clean it all out, pack it up, sell it, give it away, etc….OY!
The plus side tot his is that she kept repeating how happy she was to spend time with me and her grandson (our Miracle BSo I wonder if I’ll turn into a fashion diva when I get older and spend my life savings matches my outfits to shoes & hats!Anyway, just another note in my journal of being the daughter of a woman with Alzheimer’s.
I did not do road trips as a child. As a young adult my road trips consisted of my work as a college recruiter and moving my friend RSJ to Arizona. Since I’ve been married we’ve road tripped every summer. In fact I think our honeymoon was our first road trip. I’m glad for the road trips. It gives me a chance to see America and gives me more material to use in my classroom
Most of the funny and interesting stories about our trip so far are the kind that you had to be there to enjoy it, so I’m going with this post instead:
- Babies, infants, & toddlers could universally change race relations. We stopped in places that I probably would not have stopped in as a single woman of African descent and our son just made everyone smile, laugh, and say a few words to us. Which I am convinced would not have happened had I been alone or just with my husband.
- I’m no climatologist, but I’ve heard the news and have seen first-hand how the heat has destroyed the nation’s crops (especially corn crops). It was frightening and sad to see many smaller farms totally dried and dead. It made us wonder how those families were surviving if this were there only livelihood.
- Cities with football & baseball teams that build BIG stadiums in the downtown areas should not have abject poverty in the shadows of their NFL or MLS stadiums (Cleveland, St. Louis)…anyone see Jonathan Kozol’s documentary Savage Inequalities?
- I think Missouri is a southern state and not a Mid-western state.
- I now know the real reason why so many American kids are drawn to McDonalds…on road trips it is the one place that parents can rely on – it is the one place that consistently has: room for kids to roam/run/play; a changing station; high chairs; and a kid’s menu that parents can tolerate. My hubby and I are not huge fans of Mickey Dees (I get my coffee there because I prefer it to Dunkin and Starbucks is too far and the occasional “I’m stressed out” double cheeseburger meal). Neither one of us grew up eating at the golden arches and we don’t feel compelled to introduce our son to Ronald McDonald…except that we tried stopping other places on our road trip and the place either did not have a changing station, did not have high chairs, or did not offer something or child could eat.
In defense of McDonald’s I’d like to add that last year I noticed that many of the Mickey Dees were under renovation and this year I see that the renovations were mainly about accessibility. Every Mickey Dees we stopped in had wide aisles, wheelchair accessible tables or tables that had a pull out, low sinks and low hand dryers, and a bathroom stall truly big enough for a wheelchair or for a person with mobility challenges. I’m able-bodied so I can’t truly judge the appropriateness of the changes, but from my social worker lens it looks good.
- Our Miracle Boy has learned several new words including “vacation,” “Wal-Mart,” (I learned there is a Wal-Mart in Sweden!) and “Mickey Dees”; he’s adjusted well to eating, sleeping, and bathing in new places each night this past week; he has found plenty of opportunities to dance and sing; he tried some new foods (tomatoes & cucumbers, which he did not like); and he’s reminded us that we take these trips because it gives us an opportunity to see the world through his eyes – which is always fun and exciting!
This became my motto when I turned 30. Those people who have known me for a while know why 30 was significant and how that turning point in my life is the foundation for my strength, empowerment, resilience, perseverance, faith, and survival! The motto has especially new meaning for me as a mom. This is a slight rant mixed with unsolicited advice (but it is my blog after all)
When we found out we were going to be parents one of the things we discussed was the amount of unsolicited advice we would receive. We agreed to handle it with grace and openness and take what we wanted to use and leave the rest! I was once one of those young, single, child-less people who had A LOT to say about how people handled their children – Silly me! It is very true (and I teach my students this in various ways) that you cannot really speak on an experience or situation unless you have lived it yourself. Hence my less than gracious attitude lately when people criticize our decisions as parents or say our child is misbehaved. This last one really burns me up!
For friends of parents:
- You are the friends, or auntie, or godmother…whatever your role…you are NOT the parent. Be supportive & understanding. Listen. Offer “advice” only when asked.
- Different strokes for different folks – everyone has her own values and norms and she uses those to guide her parenting & make decisions. You can either respect that or get out of the way. Don’t impose your values and norms on other people. That’s rude! J
- Judge if you want to, but be careful about the judgment you might endure yourself.
- Ask yourself “Why do I care so much about this issue that I feel the need to offer my advice?” Is the child being harmed? If not, then what you have to say may not matter that much.
For the parents:
- Take a DEEP breath.
- Be gracious and firm. Listen to what people say, it may be useful, you may learn something & if not smile and move on.
- Be careful not to do unto others what you don’t want done to you – don’t offer unsolicited advice or judge others’ parenting styles
- Immerse yourself in the love and joy of your own family – time flies quickly as I am learning – and in the end….all you got is yourself, your partner, & your child (children). Don’t spend time wallowing in anger over what someone said to you about your parenting style. Go back to #1 on this list.
- Empowerment isn’t just for individuals, it applies to couples & families as well. Be an empowered family!
We’ve been under scrutiny for some of the decisions we make – many of which are small things that shouldn’t even matter to anyone else (for example: we try to stick to a schedule of eating & sleeping – it’s important to us – as older parents especially for our sanity & well-being and that of our child….and I shouldn’t even have to explain it, even in a blog!). Anyway…we just keep doing what we know is best for us, try to smile, breathe deeply, laugh about the advice & criticism at home, and keep loving each other and our Miracle Boy!
I challenge you to live YOUR best life, when you do so you have less time to worry about what other people are doing.
Thanks to our friends who let us to what works best for us!
If you are a child of a parent who has some form of dementia, in particular Alzheimer’s then you know where I’m coming from when I say I often (sometimes needlessly & obsessively) worry about what I don’t’ remember.
I notice that my toddler has an amazing memory! While his language skills are still developing, he remembers the word to every song we’ve been signing since he was at least 4 months old! He recites the names of all his teachers (past and present) and classmates (almost 20 of them). He remembers where he puts a toy, even the ones that roll under the couch or find their way behind a chair, etc. It is just a joy to watch him use his mind that way!
Meanwhile I’m trying not to cry over the fact that while making my list of things to pack for our summer trip I couldn’t remember the word “toiletries.”
I misplace my wallet or the contents of my wallet (ID, debit card, insurance card, even money) on a weekly basis.
I had lost my office keys for an entire semester this past academic year.
I MUST make a shopping list.
I drive to work checking the rear-view mirror to make sure I dropped Our Miracle Boy off at daycare and he isn’t taking a ride with me to the office.
My mom has been in some mid-stage with a very slow decline of Alzheimer’s since 2004. We don’t say the “A” word around her because it sends her into a rage. Her mom died after a battle with Alzheimer’s at age 75. My mom is 71. I”d love for her to make it to 100!
Some of my “memory problems” are due to a lack of good organization skills. I am a little bit messy although being married and having a toddler force me to tidy up more often than I would if I were single. Some of my lapses are due to my reliance on technology (I don’t memorize phone numbers because they’re all programmed into my phone). But some of my lapses I’m not so sure….so I worry and keep hoping that preventative measures help and that a cause and cure on soon on their way.
So I take a DHA vitamin, I work the Sudoku in the newspaper, I read, I keep talking & moving, I avoid aluminum cans (although I couldn’t remember if it was aluminum and/or cast iron….), I eat dark berries and green tea (anti-oxidants), I pray and I provide as much support as possible to my step-dad who cares for my mom. And I call my mom daily just to say “hi” and let her hear her grandson sing some song he’s memorized.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s Alzheimer’s Care Giver Center
When I first learned how to drive my mom told me to not eat or drink while driving, not to play the music too loud, and not to carry on conversations with my passengers lest I be distracted from the road. Basically: keep both hands on the wheel, look straight ahead at all times, and get where you’re going safely.
Our state recently convicted a young man for texting while driving. Which got me to thinking about how I am a distracted driver. I don’t text while driving and I try not to talk on my cellphone while driving unless very necessary, but it got me to thinking about what other laws could be passed to prevent other types of distracted driving. Here’s how I’m distracted (maybe you are also):
- I drink coffee or some other beverage while driving – I drink and drive (Auntie J this one is for you!)
- I sometimes eat while driving
- I constantly check the rear-view mirror (taking my eyes off of the road) to see what my toddler is up to in the back seat
- I sing songs with my toddler, including hand movements & clapping (taking my hands off of the wheel); and if I’m not singing with him, I’m talking to him
- I fiddle to reach my wallet as I approach the toll because I didn’t think to pull change out ahead of time
- If my toddler drops a toy, I try to reach it to give it back to him so he won’t start crying and yelling
These are just a few examples, but you get the picture. We’re all distracted in some small way or another, especially if we’re driving with children. I wasn’t quick to condemn that young man who was convicted of texting and driving, but it did make me more conscious of what I do while I drive.So my admission for the day is: I am a distracted mommy driver! And I’m thankful that I make it to my destinations safely.
Please don’t text and drive. Use hands-free if you’re on your cellphone. And let your child cry if he drops his toy! 🙂