Writing My Life

Now and Then


Dr.CrazyLove: Or How I Learned to Stop Apologizing and Love the FaceBook

Renae FB

I know there are scores of reasons to dislike this social medium; nevertheless, millions of folks hang out there anyway. We post what we are thinking, doing, eating, seeing, etc. We rant and rave, curse and criticize, stalk and gawk, brag and validate ourselves and others, all the while claiming to hate FaceBook. And I was among those until recently.

I know browsing can suck the time out of a day quicker than we can click “Like”, but sometimes, a few minutes (or hours) is just what we need to buoy our spirits, pat our backs, pinch our cheeks, or cheer us onward. Let me give you an example.

Recently, my sister and I made the VERY painful decision to move our aging mother to a senior living center in order to provide the increasing care she needs. This meant giving away her two darling puppies who provided hours of emotional comfort, but little in the way of physical care. Even Connie and I could not keep up with her minute to minute needs.

Of course, this broke her heart as well as Connie’s and mine. Then my sister posted the story of our experience on FaceBook, and so much love, understanding, support, and virtual hugs poured in from cousins, aunts, friends, neighbors, former school mates and colleagues,  as well as a gentleman whose last name we share who thinks we may be distant relatives, but we don’t know for sure!

Probably the sweetest gift we received from this strange source is the reconnection to a dear old friend and neighbor from our childhoods. I have written about Susan and her family before, and it was such a delight when she found Connie on the “Remember Pocatello” FB page.

Besides remembering days gone by, Susan has also shared her journey of caring for her darling 90-year-old mother Mary, whom Connie, Mom, and I also love and admire. Susan has given us helpful ideas in caring for Mom in her new home, and she has posted photos of the Jones family that we have shown to Mom. And then we talk of our good times in that neighborhood and of the lovely people we enjoyed there.

The point is that I don’t know if Connie and I would have found or felt so much kindness if we were not a part of the FaceBook community. So while there is still much that I ignore or sometimes block when I visit FB Land, there is also much that I savor.

Thank you people who use this social medium to lift the spirits of your FaceBook buddies!

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Mother-Care: A Responsibility and a Joy

The flu bug bit me Sunday – luckily it was the size of a gnat as the mild achiness lasted only a couple of days. YaY for the flu vaccine!

Yesterday, while recuperating in the recliner – a necessary piece of furniture for senior citizens – Mom called to see how I was feeling. She was concerned about her little girl. This tenderness came from a woman who had just survived a much worse round with the virus herself. Our tougher-than-nails, 89-year-old mommy continues to shock and awe us.

First of all, Mom’s little body – from neck to toes is riddled with arthritis. She has been diagnosed with one torn rotator cuff, but probably has two. Only a shoulder replacement can remedy that problem, but at her age she says, “Forget about THAT!” She did try a couple of pain shots and decided being impaled by a six-inch needle wasn’t worth the trip to the doctor – even though she thinks he is a handsome rogue.

Her golfing and driving days are behind her, but she prefers using her walker over riding a scooter. Which is a good thing as it keeps her moving – not as much as she’d like, but as much as is safe. Falling is the big worry, but after a couple of doozies that resulted in black eyes but no broken bones, she recognizes her limitations and moves very carefully. She even pulled herself up after her last fall over a year ago. We are confident that angels were there to give her a boost.

Mom prides herself on possessing a “high pain threshold”, and that is an understatement. She so rarely complains that Connie and I have to play 20 questions to make sure she isn’t hiding something. On one rare occasion she said her back was bothering her a little bit. This concerned us because she experienced serious back problems about 3 years ago that terrified us and really set her back.

After a couple of days of wondering, she asked me to check her back to see if I detected anything suspicious. I saw nothing until I pulled her pants down a bit to see her lower back and discovered a terrible rash. Further inspection revealed a horrendous case of shingles that traveled down her right side, ending near her knee. I felt terrible and immediately whisked her off to the doctor. I could not believe she had endured such a breakout with hardly a word!! While we didn’t catch the condition as early as we would have liked, the antibiotic did help, and she bounced back yet again.

It is hard to watch Mom “wind down”. While she usually puts on her make-up daily, it is a tedious job to shower and change clothes. She remembers that Wednesdays are card-playing days with her friends, but she forgets what she told us just minutes before. She doesn’t feel like eating, but will give in if we heat something up for her. She prefers to stay home, but is always ready to go to the Hale Theater with Connie and me. Her hearing and sight are deteriorating, but not much gets past her! She loves our visits, but misses Daddy terribly – a hole neither we nor her puppies can fill.

Connie and I are so grateful for each other and for our attentive husbands. Among the four of us, we make sure her needs are met – groceries bought, bills paid, prescriptions filled, sorted, and administered, etc. One or both of us are there nearly every day. Nevertheless, we miss things – a lapsed prescription, the shingles vaccine, a check-up – and we feel guilty. We even feel pangs if we don’t miss something. When I take Mom to the doctor, Connie feels bad that she didn’t. When she and Randy clean Mom’s house, I worry that Gar and I should have been there, too. And so it goes.

I dreamed the other night that Mom drove her 1994 Lincoln Continental somewhere and it broke down. She used the carphone to tell me what had happened and where she was. The dream turned into a nightmare when I dallied around and took three days before I went in search for her. When I found her, she was all cheerful and reassured me that she had been fine because she ate the candy bars and drank the water that was in her trunk. My eyes are tearing up as I write this. I don’t need a dream-interpreter to tell me I am worried that I am not doing enough for her.

Yes, caring for Mom is a huge responsibility, but it is also an honor and a joy. Through all of these ups and downs, there are many things we treasure. We are so happy that she holds on to her darling and quick wit. She loves Gary’s and Randy’s teasing, and she can dish it out, too. She keeps us laughing, and we love making her laugh. Mom is also appreciative. She expresses her gratitude to us over and over. If we mess up, she is forgiving. If we’re sick or hurting in some way, she worries and prays for us. If our children are excelling or struggling, she wants details. If we accomplish anything big or small, she cheers for us!

We love and adore our darling mom, and as hard as times are for her, we ache when we think of life without her. And so we ramp up our efforts and hold onto her as tight as we can, appreciating every minute, hour, and day we have with her.

Mom and Her Girls

                           Mom and Her Girls


Life with Mom: The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY

The puppies saved the day by going for help! Seriously.


In spite of chronic pain, my mother is still a delight. Her good attitude refuses to surrender to depression or self-pity. You’d have to get up pretty early to see her without her make-up or in her jammies. Her bed is made every morning – of course, we recently found out that she’s been sleeping in her recliner so she doesn’t have to make it. Naughty Mama!

She continues plays cards with her friends when she can, goes to the Hale Theater with us if the weather is good, and still works on the second volume of her life history. Mom is creating this project with the Heritage Makers program, which means she uses the computer to write her story and post pictures she has sorted through, scanned, and cropped! Impressed?

Mom may be ailing,  but don’t think you can put anything over on her as her humor and wit are as sharp as ever. Her teasing keeps us laughing, and we do our best to return the favor. We have to act fast, however, when she decides she wants to rearrange her furniture, fix her printer, or shop for something she needs. If we don’t, we’ll find chairs moved, cords everywhere, and packages from one or more of the dozen catalogs she receives. (Ex. “Eggies” that “boil” eggs in the microwave and the super-mini fridge to keep her diet Cokes cold and within reach. The Eggies don’t work, but the little refrigerator is great!)

The BAD:

Mom has three majors issues with her spine, and no amount of medication or number of  shots will totally eliminate the constant pain. All we can hope for is to manage it. The problem is the way her body metabolizes these pain-relievers..

When the problems first manifested themselves, we had to rush Mom to the emergency room one day. The technician couldn’t get into her tiny veins to administer the needed medication, and so the nurse gave her a shot. Two hours later, she was still hurting – a lot! The nurse gave her another dose, and that did the trick. In seconds, she finally relaxed – too much. By the time she was admitted to her hospital room, she was non-responsive.

I watched a sweet little nurse try to wake her up. Hoping  not to scare me, she phoned the on-call doctor and then dashed to find him. Gratefully, MOM’S doctor was there that evening and was already rushing to her room. Seconds later the crash cart arrived, and I called my sister the nurse who was working in Same Day Surgery.

ConnieB arrived in nano-seconds and held on to me. That’s when I knew it was REALLY bad. Thankfully, a drug that reverses the effects worked, and the paddles stayed in the cart. Mom came ’round and wondered what the fuss was all about.

That was the first time I faced reality. Mom wouldn’t be with us forever – at least in this realm. I experienced Daddy’s death four-plus year ago, and deep down I know that Mom will follow him – some day. But she had been so healthy, vibrant, and alive that I forgot how quickly things can change.

That experience was a turning point … for all of us.

The Ugly:

Last week I wrote of my wacky dreams, but nothing I experience in the dark of night compares with the scary hallucinations Mom encountered last November. Because of her independent nature and determination (aka stubbornness), we thought  Mom could handle her medications. So while we awaited her first appointment to a pain management center, she administered her own pills – maintenance and pain meds.

While at a work meeting one morning, I received a call from ConnieB. When I stepped  into the hallway to call her back, I noticed a missed call from Mom. I called her before returning Sis’s call, but no one answered. Then I noticed Mom had left a message when she made the call at 6:30 A.M.

Renae, if you want to know more about the fire in your mother’s kitchen, call.

It was Mom’s voice but not her intonation. My heart pounded through recriminations for not noticing the call and message earlier. I dialed Connie’s number and I learned that a neighbor found Mom’s little dogs barking and running up and down the breezeway. When she returned Betty and Lilly to Mom, she invited her neighbor in to see the “fire’s” damage. Thank goodness, there was no fire, but Mom swore there was, and she could see the charred walls.

“See all the damage there along the baseboards,” she said to her friend. That’s when the wonderful neighbor called my sister.

Over the course of the next 24 hours in the hospital, the doctors ruled out stroke and infections and determined the cause was related to erratic drug dosages and interactions. No overdoses but problems with metabolizing the pain medication.

During that time Mom told us about all the visitors who invaded her home during the night and those who had apparently followed her to the hospital: scores of 6-inch, well-dressed children (she knew some of their names and described their cute clothes), and a 7-foot man and woman who ordered her around during the “renovation” of her burned home.

She was so frightened and couldn’t get them to leave her little condominium even though she “tried to be gracious about it.” Mom said they forced her to do bad things while they rummaged through her cupboards, closets, and drawers.

Some attempted to repair the fire damage but those “workers” did a terrible job, and Mom felt so bad. Others redecorated her bedroom in garish green wallpaper and didn’t put anything back where it belonged. One or two threatened her and breathed menacingly in her ear, and a couple of the little folks tried to comfort her. She said she prayed and prayed while some of the “visitors” questioned her faith!  I cannot imagine how terrified she was as it was all so real to her.

Once we were by her side, she still saw frightening scenes: sores on my neck, a snake coiling  from my niece’s hair (probably her long braid), and blood stains on my sister’s scrubs; funny scenes: buck teeth on my husband (she mentioned that she AND he were planning plastic surgery, but she was NOT going to pay for his), pin-curls in my hair, and the 6-inch children in sailor suits; and worries: would my 12-year-old granddaughter be upset that she wouldn’t let her move in; would someone fix the poor repair job done in her kitchen; would we get the strangers to leave her home – none of these circumstances were real except to Mom.

There were light moments when we all laughed: like when her inhibitions let down a little and she shared interesting tales of her and Daddy’s romance that delighted my oldest son and me. And when she described the tiny children,  all I could imagine were the little minions from Despicable Me. None of that, however, changed the fact that this experience was terribly unnerving for all of us.


Although doctors assured us that Mom would be all right once everything was regulated, I still worried that the episode might trigger the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Neither of these have happened, but her memory is getting worse. As a result, Connie and I, along with support from our spouses and others, have taken over management of her critical needs while she takes care of whatever she can that doesn’t endanger her health.

As a result, we’ve seen such  improvement over the last six weeks. And while things are still up and down, and  we know she won’t return to full health, Mom still enjoys a nice quality of life – still painful, a little quieter, but filled with family, friends, and visitors (real people) who love and care for her.