The Chair

May Sarton said in a quote, ” A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.” I grew up in a house with many comfy spots but the main one was Mom’s old wine patterned chair from the 80’s that sat in the living room along with Dad’s easy chair that came later – sort of like Momma Bear’s chair and Poppa Bear’s chair. Whenever Mom was not cleaning or cooking or working on her computer she was in that chair. She read whenever she could get a chance. Reading was life to her, just like breathing. It was rare not to find her for hours sitting cozily in her chair reading while the dishes piled up or the dust bunnies swirled around her. Mom and that chair were like the best of friends.

I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Mom’s chair. When Mom was in it reading she was dead to the world around her and all of us in the family might as well have been invisible. Sometimes though, I dared invade her private world and I would curl up on the arm of the chair, my head leaning on the top of her head. She would put her book down and we would talk. Sometimes it was just about what I did at work or about something I saw on TV but often it was serious talk stuff. I suffered from anxiety and depression which were at times severe from having autism ( which at that time I had not any clue of this diagnosis which would come much later). I would pour out my aching heart to her often amidst torrents of tears. I cried a lot in those years and Mom’s chair was my path to my Mom’s heart. It wasn’t all bad times. I remember curled up on the arm of the chair showing off to her the first ever attempt at making a lemon pie. I was so proud and Mom was too. I wanted to be close to my Mom, as close as I could possibly get because as I said earlier, often I was invisible to her. Her autism often made her unable to connect with me emotionally the way I wished and anger, rejection and fear often were feelings I felt deeply.

When Mom and Dad went to the retirement home the chairs went with them. I think they could have just about parted with everything else but those chairs had to go. After Dad died 6 months later his chair went in beside Mom’s bed to help her dress and manage with her mobility issues. Her chair still had the place of honour in the living room and she spent many hours a day in it.

When she came to live with me, Mom chose to have her chair be in her bedroom as a special comfort chair as she often could not sleep in her bed at night. She would curl up with several pillows propping her up in that chair. It was her haven spot, her comfort zone – the only spot she felt truly cozy and comfy and at peace.

By now, so many years later, the chair was starting to sag in spots. The plush wine material had lost it’s softness and was now rough and threadbare in places. Mom had stuck down the sides wads of newspaper to help keep items from being lost in the bowels of the chair. Crumbs were always present from her love of muffins and cookies and nuts. I swear it was love that held that chair together. Her love for her best friend. Mom didn’t have many friends and when you get to be in your nineties many of your dear friends and family are long gone and this was the case with Mom.

When Mom moved to the nursing home, she was much weaker and spent most of her time in her bed. Of course, her chair had come with her but now it had a new occupant – ME. When I went to visit Mom as I did often, I would curl up in her chair. By now the old wine decor was covered with a light blue fuzzy blanket to match the decor of her room. The foot rest on it doesn’t work well anymore so I would often prop my feet up on her walker. For the last two years I have been sitting in her chair for numerous hours each week. In that chair we talk, we laugh, we cry, we watch TV, and now more than ever I watch her resting with her eyes closed as that is all she can muster most days. The chair is a window into her life now, her suffering, her tiredness, her desire to go home to heaven. I sit and watch through this window as the tears silently stream down the insides of my heart and soul. I am sensing that I am becoming more and more alone in the world as Mom is edging closer to her new home.

Her chair. What will become of her chair when she is gone? I had originally planned that it would go to the dump. Who would want an old decrepit chair like that. It didn’t match my decor in my house, I didn’t have room, I wanted something modern and new. But as I have sat day after day, hour after hour in that chair I realize now that the chair is priceless. It holds so many memories. Mehmet Murat Ildan was quoted as saying, ” Old empty chairs are not empty in reality; memories always sit there.” How could I possibly ever think of getting rid of this chair?? Granted, I would fix it up a bit. I would get it recovered in a new cozy material and at the same time get the upholsterer to bolster up the chairs inside workings. It would have a place of honour in my sitting room upstairs in my home, the very same room where Mom sat most of her days for the 5 years when she lived with me.

I also decided that since this chair had been a connection to Mom in much of my past it would continue to be a connection to her in the future. Mom had an old rotary phone like the old black ones but hers was bright red. In my sitting room it would sit on the little phone table that used to sit at the bottom of the stairs in our home on the Gaspe when I was a very little girl. I would often sit on the stairs while Mom talked on the phone and thought it was all very glamerous. Mom would have her legs crossed, her one leg swinging back and forth, toe pointed. Every once in a while she would burst out laughing and I would giggle with her. Memories. So many of them.

When Mom goes to Heaven, every day I will sit in her chair and dial her red phone to talk to her in Heaven. I will tell her about my day, about my troubles and all about what my two cats are up to. I will tell her I miss her. I will tell her I love her. There can never be too many “I love you’s”. I recently read a beautiful children’s book called, “The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota’s Garden” by Heather Smith and Rachel Wada. It is a story of a man and a young boy in Japan who both lost someone in the tsunami of 2011. Based on a true story Mr. Hirota builds a phone booth on a hill with a disconnected phone inside for anyone to connect to their loved ones. They came in droves. They believed their words rode the wind to their loved ones. Mom’s red phone and her chair of precious memories will help me grieve and heal when she goes. That chair will bear me up in my grief, my sorrow, my longings, and my tears but it has had lots of practice and I know it will do it well.

Here is an amateur poem I wrote about THE CHAIR and THE PHONE:

Dear Mom when you have gone away,

And I am all alone.

I’ll sit curled up in your favourite chair,

And call you on your phone.

It’s a direct line to Heaven,

So I can talk with you,

I’ll tell you all the cat’s latest tricks,

And all that I plan to do.

I’ll share my deepest fears and joys,

I’ll know I’ll shed some tears.

I’ll never stop missing you,

No matter how many the years.

Your chair will be my haven,

Your phone will make our hearts one,

Our memories will turn real again,

For moments never done.

Death will live only in reality,

Your chair will bring you alive,

If only for a short time,

Enough to help me survive.

Life must carry on,

The tears dried a million times,

I’ll keep dialing your number in Heaven,

And loving you from your chair so fine.

Lorna-Jean Jan22/21

Sept.-Dec. 2020 Update

I must admit I am very embarrassed to think I have not done a blog post since last September. I do apologize to all those who have been following this blog for my lack of attention to keep it updated. I will try harder in the future.

For this blog I think rather than talk about an issue to do with caregiving, I will update you all on what has been happening with my mother and I.

I went 6 months (March-Aug) without seeing my mom due to strict visiting practices at her home. We were required to get tested every 2 weeks and having just finished radiation I did not want to risk standing in line to be tested. So during the summer, Mom and I enjoyed a few outdoor visits albeit through a large sheet of plexiglass and wearing a mask. I can’t explain how wonderful it was to see her again in person. As the days and weeks passed into Fall, it was getting too cold for outdoor visits. So I took the plunge to get tested. The first time I went I waited 5 hours in line. It was disheartening to say the least. But thankfully, the location changed, appointments had to be made and the wait became half an hour instead of hours and hours. The rules were that you had to sign in, be screened, go directly to my Mom’s room and not leave until I was ready to go home. No interaction with other residents or going out in the hall was allowed. But it was all worth it to see Mom again in her little abode, me in her big armchair and her settled on the side of her bed with her head on her pillows of her raised bed. We had lots of great conversations and times together but I could tell she was not who she was before Covid 19 had hit our country. She was lonely, very clingy with me, her cognitive abilities had lessened to the point where she had a lot of trouble getting her words out and making herself understood. This was frustrating for her and for me as I watched her struggle. Then in late October she took a turn for the worse. Lots of bad days, many shortness of breath spells, dizziness, double vision, and no strength. After a number of talks with the doctor we agreed to change her medications around and try a new pill. This indeed seem to help and she started to have better days.

Meanwhile, I had started back to work at the library for the first time since the lockdown in March. Because of having cancer and then radiation I was off for many months and started back Sept 22. It was very hard. I was so exhausted after a shift even though they were only 4 hours long. I had to take short breaks during the shift just to get through. Going back to work meant I could not visit Mom as often as I could not manage physically to work a shift and see Mom in the same day. This meant I was only visiting her 3 times a week. Mom found this hard but seemed to understand I just couldn’t do all that I had done before having cancer. She often let me know though, that she wished I could be there more often and this brought on a lot of guilt feelings in me. I knew I had to take care of myself or I would have to quit work and seeing her. I struggled to make the most of our visits together bringing her the cookies she loved, magazines, treats, whatever I could think of to help her cope with the isolation she felt. As the fall months progressed, she continued to quietly, almost unnoticeably decline. Only a daughter’s loving eye could see the changes. She stopped reading, she had more trouble speaking, she was forgetting more, she spent much more time just lying on her bed. Her dizziness had increased and some days she could hardly move her head. One of her most favourite nurses whom she had come to love and rely on very suddenly retired. This was a blow to Mom. She does not react well to change with her suspected autism and many other staff had changed as well. She felt more abandoned. She often got staff who did not seem to understand her and who did not endear themselves to her. She often lamented about the staff. They did not mistreat her but just were so overworked and stressed that the loving care did not shine through in their actions. Mom continued though, to thank God daily for her room in the home and her care. My Mom is one of the most thankful people I know.

Nearing Christmas, our visits took on a new form. Mom often would snooze or lie with her eyes closed while I just drank my tea or fiddled on my phone or took the chance to nap myself. Mom just wasn’t feeling good most days. Everything was an effort. Even pulling the brush through her hair or going to the bathroom would put her in a severe shortness of breath spell. Christmas day, determined as she was to open her presents I had brought her, every rip of the paper ripped away her strength. She could hardly manage it and despite my pleading to leave some for later she was adamant that all the gifts would be opened. And she did it but at what expense?? She slept a lot of the rest of the afternoon.

My conversation most often with my Mom now, was to tell her that she did not need to talk but to just close her eyes and rest and that I would stay with her and be with her to keep her company. We don’t talk much now. Once in a while we have a good rip roaring talk and then later she is snoring away – exhausted from the effort.

I think the hardest thing for me is watching her fail. And it is so slow and agonizing for her. And for me. She wants to go home to heaven. She tells me that pretty near every day I go see her. So on a really bad day, I am a mess. I am thinking maybe this is the day she will go home and all her suffering will be over and then I panic wondering how I will ever manage without my Mama. Back and forth I go like a frantic yo-yo with emotions spinning and heaving.

She fell the other day. Her legs just gave out on her when she was up to go to the bathroom. She’s getting weaker. I get more afraid. Then on another day she was looking up her birthday on the 2021 calendar. Her birthday is April 11. She was looking at Feb. 11. She couldn’t remember her own birthday. Warning bells rang in my head. This shouldn’t be happening. She has always been so lucid. Then yesterday we had a great talk about some of the goings on in the USA. Mom knew who the Democrats and Republicans were. We had talked about them many times. This morning I mentioned something about the Democrats and Mom quickly asked me, what were the Democrats??? More warning bells. Louder this time. These things are happening too often.

So that is where we are in the beginning of 2021. Our city is in a lockdown and I have to get tested every week now to see Mom but despite hating getting tested, I do it because I couldn’t bear not to see my mom. I have heard so many people expressing their joy of having 2020 over with and they look forward to 2021 with new hope that this vaccine will bring an end to Covid 19. Unfortunately I don’t have the same hope for 2021. My mantra is ” One day at a Time” these days. Although I would LOVE to see an end to Covid 19, 2021 also has the very real potential to see an end of my dear mom. So I peer into 2021 with trepidation and very mixed emotions. It feels like I am watching a horror movie and I have my hands almost covering my eyes and i am just peeking out through a slit in my fingers ready to shut them tight if a real scary part comes. That is 2021 for me.

Once A Caregiver, Always A Caregiver!

This is the job that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend…I started doing it not knowing what it was and I’ll continue doing it forever just because…. This is the job that never ends…. (taken from ” This is the song that never ends ”  off of Lambchop’s Sing Along by Shari Lewis)

Okay, so this is a silly song but the job of caregiving is anything but sillly.  It is serious stuff.  Life-changing stuff.

I started looking after Mom and Dad years ago when they were still in their own home.  Then when things got too overwhelming for them I moved them into a retirement home.  Dad died 6 months later.  Mom lived another 3 years there with me going over to see her several times a week.  Then Mom moved in with me for the next 5 years and at times it was wonderful and other times were absolutely brutal.  When things got overwhelming for me I would go down to the basement – the only place she could not hear me and I would scream and scream and cry till hours had gone by and I was cried out.  Not long after, Mom was moved into a nursing home much to my dispair.  It was the last place on earth I wanted her to go to.  BUT…  she has been there almost 2 years now and we are both surviving…. just.

Friends, family and others told me things would be much easier with Mom in the nursing home.  Looking after her would no longer be a 24 hour job.  I would have more time for myself and a lot of the responsibility would be off my shoulders.

Well, it may be true in part but as the song sings, “This is the job that never ends….  Let me explain why I feel this way because some of you may be thinking, ” you are free now, what’s the problem?”

The problem is that once a caregiver, always a caregiver.  For example,  the other night I woke straight up out of bed to a loud bang.  My very first thought was,  ” Oh no, Mom has fallen on the way to the bathroom.  How am I going to get her up?  What if she is hurt?”  I was just about to hurl myself out of bed to get to her when light began flashing in my bedroom window and I heard another loud bang.  I suddenly realized it was lightening and thunder I was experiencing NOT my mother falling.  I was this hypervigilant after her being out of my house for 2 years!!!

Today I was in the post office mailing a large parcel to Mom.  I know she only lives a couple of miles from me but with Covid-19  I can’t go in to see her yet.  She LOVES a certain kind of cookie and I keep her in stock.  I also send her pictures of life around my place and a large print Reader’s Digest and a Our Daily Bread devotional.  Other times I am adding tape, or Voltarin, or shampoo or lotion or lined paper and the list goes on and on….

Every time the phone rings my heart is in my throat as I think it might be the nursing home phoning to say she is not well.  Every time I go to bed I wonder if I will be awakened in the night with someone telling me Mom has passed away.  Just like a computer has programs running all the time in the back ground, thinking about Mom is constantly running in the back of my thoughts just under the surface.  Just like the song that never ends,  the track of thinking of Mom just keeps going and going….

Covid 19 has thrown some interesting wrenches into things with Mom.  When I could see her most days,  I could keep a close eye on her health,  her belongings, her medications, her emotional health etc.  But now that I am at a distance caregiving takes on a whole new life.  There are endless calls to the floor to sort out a problem with something that the staff have lost of Mom’s like the feet for her wheelchair,  or getting them to check her oxygen because Mom says it is not working properly.  Then Mom will tell me one of her meds has changed or been dropped altogether.  Then there are numerous calls to try to get in touch with the doctor or resident.  Often it is a game of phone tag.

I still take care of all Mom’s banking,  her mail,  her bills, arranging dental visits, getting everything ready for her income tax,  reminding her of family birthdays and holidays ( which often means going out and buying cards and gifts ).   And most of all I still talk to her usually 3 times a day on the phone – once in the morning, once in the late afternoon and once just before she goes to bed .  ( she says she can’t go to bed and get to sleep without talking to me and saying goodnight and I must say that goes for me too.  I especially have to tell her I love her JUST in case she passes away in the night.)

And so it is the job that never ends even with her in a nursing home.  I realize that this IS my job.  My full time job is to be her main caregiver and that will continue as long as she is alive.  And though there is an actual end point when she passes away,  the song keeps going perhaps not as a job anymore but as a constant remembering and thinking of her as I try to live without her.  That one track in the back of my head will always be there humming along the song of her and me…..and I’ll continue singing it forever just because….

Who Will I Be??

The journey of caregiving is sometimes strange in that you go through an intense time of introspection about something, then think you have resolved it or at least made a positive move on it and then one day – WHAM BAM- you find yourself right back in the middle of it again with just as much intensity as before.

I am talking here today about our identity as caregivers.  Many of us and maybe you too will be a caregiver to a loved one(s) not for a few weeks or months but for years and years.  It has been over 10 years that I have taken care of firstly both my dad and mom and then just my mom.  10 years is a big chunk of my life – a time when you can get entrenched in roles that maybe you did or didn’t want to take on.  These roles can become who you see yourself as.   I see myself as a daughter and a caregiver.  I am not a wife – I have no husband.  I am not a mother – I have no children.  I am not an Educational Assistant like I was for 33 years because now I am supposedly retired.  I am not even a Page at the  library like I was because Covid -19 has taken that from me.  I see my life’s purpose as caregiver to my Mother.  That’s about it.  And I see my identity as my Mother’s daughter.  That’s about it.

Soooo…..what happens when Mom passes away?

My caregiver role will disappear.  My identity as a daugher will disappear. The rug I was used to standing on to support me will be ripped from under me revealing a deep dark hole that will engulf me.  All that I know will have disappeared down the hole. I will be left with nothing to hang onto, nothing to identify with, nothing to claim as my own.

I’ve been through this scenario before.  I thought I was making progress on developing new ways of identifying myself.  And maybe I have come ahead a few steps.  I am a mama to my two beautiful cats,  I make lovely cards to give and to sell to people,  I have lots of hobbies, hopefully I will reclaim my job as Page at the Public Library.  I am an autism advocate and hope maybe to have some speaking engagements someday.  I write this blog even though I don’t write as often as I should to do it justice.

When Covid -19 locked everything down and I was separated from my mother for many long months except by phone and WHAM BAM- this whole issue of identity and role in life came to the forefront again.

I began again thinking about how attached I was to my Mom – so attached that some may say it is unhealthy.  Mom and I, we are a mess of entangled emotions both negative and positive, and a mess of enmeshed needs for each other.  When I think in my head of my mother I think of me clinging to her so tightly that nothing but the jaws of life could get us apart.  And  that is probably just what I need because my life depends on it.  I am 61 years old.  I am no longer the 5 year old frightened child who constantly felt I was going to lose my momma.  But how do I loosen the grip and reach out and take hold of something else positive and freeing?  I don’t know the answer to that question yet.  People have made suggestions.  Make new friends, get more involved with your church, volunteer or work,  take up a cause,  but especially nurture the relationships you have.

Nurturing relationships I have, making new friends, getting more involved in my church are all well and good but for me as one with autism they are not easy solutions, nor are they necessarily even solutions that will fill the void left by the passing of my mother.  I am more likely to hole up in my little house and play mother to my cats.  Relationships take work and often it is exhausting  work.  Disappointing work.  Discouraging work.  How does this make up for losing my mother?

And what will I do?  For the last 10 or more years my every waking moment has been focused on my mom in some form or another.  That’s what caregiving entails.  Where does all that time and energy go suddenly go??  How do you turn off your brain from focusing on your Mom in a matter of moments.?  What will I be without looking after her?  What will I do?

If was funny because today I got an email from an author and pastor who could have retired many years ago.  He had a list of all the things he had accomplished since the date he could have retired.  It was impressive to say the least.  He has a new book out called “Forward” all about just what I have been feeling. We are not useless once we become a certain age or when we stop a certain job.  There are still things we can do, purpose to have, and fulfilling roles to take on.

So can I say my life is NOT over when my Mom passes on?  Do I still have something to live for?  Can there be new purpose in life?  Can I find fulfillment beyond Mom?  Can I be happy?  Can I crawl out of that hole when the rug will be pulled out from under me and be victorious? Is there life after death??

I do not know all the answers to these questions yet.  Mom is still here.  We are still on a journey together.  But some days I take a side road to explore some new countryside and see what I can see.  I find someone new to talk to who can give me a new perspective and new hope ( thanks Kelly),  I take a new travel guide off the shelf and see what new journey I can go on.  I have a plaque in my living room that has a beautiful bird on it with the saying “trust the journey”..  Mom has always said she just wants to fly away to heaven.  I put origami butterflies all over her door to her room.  Maybe I need to make some origami butterflies too but for me.  Cause maybe just maybe I can fly.  I can soar right out of that deep dark pit and wing my way to a new life without Mom.  It’s pretty hard imagining that right now.  I still want to just cling to her with all the strength  I have in me.  But if I am going to succeed in my life with out Mom I have to start somewhere.

Also on my wall in my living room is a saying I put up when  I went through these thoughts the first time round.  It says,” See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the  wilderness and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43:19

That is the verse I turn to when I feel most hopeless.  It reassures me that there is a plan and purpose for my life after Mom goes.  Another verse I turn to is Jeremiah 29:11   “For I know the plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

I say these things but I don’t deny that it is going to be a very difficult climb out of that dark desperate hole.  I know it is going to take every ounce of strength I have, both physical and  emotional and spiritual. The ties that bind me to my Mom are thick and strong as steel.  They wind around me again and again and again to the point of suffocation. Yet at times they are like a warm blanket holding me together when I feel like falling apart.  As I struggle to find new meaning in my life after Mom goes I know I will be drawn back into that hole where like the womb that held me safe before I was born it will call me back to clinging to Mom.  And again and again I am going to have to cut through that umbilical cord of steely sinews and again and again make my way scraping and clawing out of the hole into the sunshine of a new birth.  I will be God’s child, his beloved and treasured one.  That is who I will be.

I Can’t Remember

I have been blessed beyond measure with having my Mom for 92 years so far and up to a few months ago she has been sharp as a tack for the most part.  Mom’s take on things is that she has only lost maybe one marble!  When my nephew heard that Grandma said she had lost one marble and he just happened to find one on a hike outdoors, he had to make sure he brought it to her the next time he came to visit in case it was the one she lost.  Despite her ailing physical health her mind continued to serve her well and we enjoyed many a good talk.  I have treasured the fact that I have my Mom to talk to but something tells me this may not be the case for much longer.

When Mom lived with me for 5 years,  I looked after every part of her life.  I knew her inside out, upside down and backwards.  Because I believe strongly she has autism like me, I often had to intervene with doctors and other medical personnel on many issues like the increased sensitivity to medications and their side effects.  Like me she often needed much less of a dose of a medication for it to be effective.  She reacted with rare side effects,  she could not explain to the doctors where the pain was, or whether there was even pain, or accurately describe what was going on in her body.  Her default statement was often, ” I just don’t feel good”.  This is where I often had to jump in to clarify as best I could what was happening with my Mom.

When Mom moved to the nursing home, I visited her for at least 2 hours almost every day, and if she was sick I would try to stay with her all day.  I kept telling myself, ” noone knows Mom like me.  She needs me to watch out for her”  And that is what I did until Covid 19 so rudely intruded into our lives.

When Covid 19 hit in March of this year, the nursing home shut up tighter than a safe in a bank.  No access was the new norm.  Thank goodness Mom and I had telephones and could still talk to  each other.  But no more was I there every day to check on Mom and see the subtle changes that happen as you grow older.  I suddenly had to trust her to other people, people for the most part who were strangers.  This has been excruciatingly difficult for me and for her.  We had never been more than a few days apart in over 10 years.  My autistic brain did not compute this major change very well at all.  My stress levels were at their max.  On top of this I was dealing with the diagnosis of cancer of the uterus and all that would entail during Covid 19 pandemic where everything is shut tight including treatments for cancer.

As the weeks passed,  Mom and I got into a bit of a rhythm of calling back and forth.  I was able to have my surgery and then start on radiation treatments.  It looked like this might be our new norm for a long time.

Then lately some things have been happening that have gotten my antennae up.  Things began changing with Mom.  First she got pneumonia and was very sick but she was a trooper and came through it.   I, on the other hand, was desperate that I could not be there to comfort her, sit with her and advocate for her.  I felt helpless and scared.   After this, she suddenly was much weaker than she had ever been.  She slept alot she said.  She didn’t want to eat.  She couldn’t hold the phone to her ear for very long before she was too tired.  Some days she was feeling so bad she did not want to talk at all.  Then one morning she sheepishly told me that she had waited and waited for  her breakfast only to realize later that she had already had it.  This raised alarm bells in my head.  This was not like Mom to forget like that.  Then last week she couldn’t remember on two nights if the nurse had been in to give her her night meds.  Again alarm bells went off.  Mom said to me apologetically  that she was just not the same.  She would say to me, ” I am afraid your mother is losing her mind”

I told these incidents to a friend who questioned why I was so upset.  She knew that Mom wanted to go to heaven and that I was ready to let her  go.  Why then would I be upset about her getting worse?  Wouldn’t that have to happen for her to die?  I suppose so, I thought. But that is not the way I wanted it to happen.  I wanted a quick exit – stage left.  A massive heart attack in the night or a stroke which would take her in an instant.  This is the way I imagined it.  Losing her little by little, piece by piece was not the way I wanted things to go.  Every new incident was like an electric jolt on my brain.  A new change that I had to get used to.  And I am confident that Mom felt the same way.  She felt the changes and I saw them happening.  And neither of us could do anything about them.  And I could not be with her to ease the fall.  She was falling headfirst on her own.  I could only watch and wince.

My autism is not dealing with this well.  Each new incident puts me into a tizzy and I frantically want to reach out and grab my Mom but Covid 19 blocks the way to her.  I am losing her bit by bit and can only watch from a distance.  I want to hug her and give her a kiss.  Oh if I could only hug her maybe I could stop her from disintigrating.  I could hold her together and never let go.

Yesterday,  I was telling Mom about my brother’s upcoming birthday.  She asked me quite nonchalantly what was Ian’s birthdate.  She had forgotten.  I guess a 92 year old can forget her son’s birthday.  At least she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s.  I still have pieces of my Mom left  Then just a little while ago I got a call from her out of the blue.  We had a little chat and then she thanked me for calling her.  She said she loved when I called her to chat.  Alarm bells.  Electric jolt.  I am ruminating on her words and whether this is another sign of her falling.  I watch her falling over and over in my mind.  I can’t get to her in time.  I am blocked from reaching her.  Tears streak my face as I anticipate there will be many more of these electric jolts to contend with.  To face head on.  To incorporate into a new normal.   Fear grips me as I struggle with the future to come.

Oh dear Lord,  I need a cup of tea badly. Something stable, and comfortable and comforting.  Yes, tea. And you Lord, will see me through.  You are with her when  I can”t be.  You will soften her fall and you will keep me from falling into despair.  You are our Rock and our High Tower.  You will hide us in the shadow of your wings.  You will never  leave us alone.

Missing Mom

In two days it will be Mother’s Day.  I can’t recall in my 60 years of existence on this earth ever missing seeing my Mom on Mother’s Day.  This will be the first.  All because of Covid-19.

Mom is in a lovely nursing home. Before that she lived with me for 5 years.  Before that I saw her every other day at her retirement home. Before that I spent every weekend at Mom and Dad’s house helping them clean, do yard work, and just enjoying their company.  Before that when I was middle aged I used to pack up my cats, my stuff and literally move home every weekend for years.  We would head out every Saturday morning to garage sales and then I would help Dad clean two churches.  Weekends were sacred times.

As you can see, I have been very close to my parents.  They have not only been my parents but my confidants, my source of help for anything and everything, my source of support and strength, my social fill in.   It may have been a bit strange but my parents were my whole world.  Not till years later did I find out that I had autism.  I think this helps explain this strong reliance on my parents.  The world was not a safe place for me.  It was often overwhelming, very challenging, and confusing.  My parents provided a solid, secure base from which I could go out and deal with the world.  My parents especially my Mom and I were soul mates.  We were connected on a level deeper than a normal family.  My parents relied on me too.  I was basically their only social connection with the world as they rarely had interaction with other people.  Mom, as I know now, is quite likely also on the autism spectrum.  She was very much a loner and resident hermit.  I was their life as they were mine.

The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.  unknown.

Mom and I are deeply connected.  Emotionally entangled like two giant octopuses with all their legs intertwined.  This has not always been a good thing but nontheless that is the way we have functioned as mother and daughter.  We feed off each other emotionally too.  If one of us is upset the other will be upset and vice versa.  We think what each other is thinking before it is said.  And most of all we fear losing each other to a degree that keeps us both in perpetual anxiety.

So…back to Covid -19.  As I said earlier, Mom is in a nursing home.  Her home shut up tight on March 14.  That was 8 weeks ago.  I have not seen Mom in 8 weeks.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have been away from Mom for 8 weeks or longer.  We have always been close by each other.  I can say that in the last 10 years or more I have only been away from Mom for 2 weeks at the most one time only.  Most of the last 10 years I have seen Mom nearly every day.

Mom and I are both in shock.  We miss each other terribly.  I missed seeing her for her 92nd birthday.  I am  missing Mother’s Day.  It’s been 8 weeks of not seeing the face of my dear mother.  How much longer is this going to go on??  And sadly that is a question no one can answer.  These are unusual, strange times.  Nothing is normal anymore.  A lot of things just don’t make sense anymore especially to one with autism. I’ve lost most of the connection with the one person in the world who means the most to me and this is likewise the same for Mom.  She is alone in the nursing home now.  I don’t come to visit every day like I was doing. No two hour visits, no hugs, no watching Lawrence Welk together, no laughing over silly things my Mom does or says.  All gone.

What is the opposite of two?  A lonely me. A lonely you.  unknown

Mom and I are luckier than some.  We have the phone where we can connect each day several times a day.  It’s not the same though but it is better than nothing that’s for sure.  Mom has a hard time managing the phone.  She can’t get the hang of a cell phone so it is often not on her ear properly and she can’t hear or she touches buttons on the phone and things go haywire.  The PSW’s are wonderful in sorting out her phone problems.

But I want to see her!  I want to see her grin and I want to laugh with her.  I want to hug her and sit beside her on the bed.  I want to give her a peck on the cheek and stroke her hair.  I want to hold her hand.  I want to straighten her pillows and tuck her in with her favourite blanket.  I want to be there to gently put her slipper back on when it slips off  I WANT TO SEE HER!

As I stay home during this Covid -19 time I try to do odd jobs around the house or read or knit or snuggle with my cats.  But there are sometimes when I just cry.  I miss her so much it hurts inside me.  I panic sometime when I wonder when this will ever be over.  What if it is never over.  What if I never see my Mom again and she dies in the nursing home alone.  I can’t bear the thoughts of that.  I can’t bear it.

I did three things today – miss you. miss you and miss you.  unknown

There is nothing I can do about this situation.  Nothing.  Mom and I just have to wait and waiting just gets harder every day that passes.  How long?  How long till I see her again??

I miss my Momma.

Shock and Awe – Part 2

Yesterday I left off Part 1 with me frantically waiting for a call for my cancer surgery.  My surgery involved a complete hysterectomy.  Mom was alone in the nursing home with no visitors allowed due  to Covid 19. And I was at home desperately trying to figure out this “new normal” of isolation and social distancing.

One night around 9 am,  I got a call, a robo call from Mom’s nursing home.  It was to advise us that a health care worker had tested positive on the floor above Mom.  I was beside myself with worry.  Your worst nightmare is suddenly staring you in the face (shock).  I decided not to tell Mom lest it just get her too upset since she kept telling me that she was worried the virus would come to the nursing home.  14 days to wait to see if it spread.  14 days of dread.

While I waited at home, unable to see Mom I almost felt like I was in mourning.  I was mourning the loss of my love of being with my Mom ( we had not been separated more than a week in  over 10 years.),  I was mourning the loss of working at the library and all that was enjoyable for me there – my colleagues, the books, the patrons and yes – the money.  At first we were paid but then I as a page was laid off (shock).  Fortunately I was able to apply for government money allotted during this pandemic. ( ultimate awe)  I was mourning not being able to do the normal things I did every week like my tutoring and teaching my piano lesson.  I was mourning not seeing my friends.  I was mourning the fact that along with so many other establishments my church was closed.  I was mourning the loss of my life as I knew it.  And the scary thing was that I had no idea how long this would go on.  There were no constants anymore.  Things changed daily.  With my autism,  this was very difficult to comprehend and make sense of all the changes.  I felt lost and disoriented.  And dealing with a diagnosis of cancer did not help matters at  all.  Or the fact that Mom was in the middle of a Covid 19 outbreak.

But life must go on.  You make do with what you are dealt.  One thing that was especially comforting during this time was  a call from my surgeon who knowing it could be quite a while before i got my surgery decided to put me on a cancer medication that would help slow the spread and perhaps even reduce the cancer.  I jumped at the chance to take it even though I had to pay 155.00 out of pocket. ( it was normally a 700.00 drug but my insurance paid most of it ) ( great awe)  There were side effects but I didn’t care as long as something was being done to stop the cancer.

I was on the cancer medication 17 days.  THEN A MIRACLE HAPPENED.  Friday, April 3 I got a phone call – the most amazing phone call ever!! (extreme awe)  They were scheduling my surgery for the next Tuesday!!!!   Our city had not had a lot of Covid 19 cases so the hospitals were trying to fit in some elective surgeries that were more dire.  I had been told I would be at the top of the list.  I was so excited!!

Oh and more awe – Mom’s nursing home was given the all clear.  No new cases had appeared.  I could relax about Mom.

The surgery went as planned and because I have no other adults in my house and it was a pandemic so no one would come and stay with me I stayed overnight in the hospital.  I had a quiet room and a wonderful nurse and I was home by 10:30 the next morning. ( ultimate awe)  It was a bit scary being at home by myself when I had just had surgery.  I had planned well before the surgery so that I would have all I needed in groceries, cat food etc to keep me going for awhile.  I was thankful for the planning I had done ( great awe)  I was in a bit of good shock.  I couldn’t believe it was actually all over.  And now I just had to heal.  I had told Mom about the surgery with out telling her it was cancer and she kept in touch with me by phone.  It was so nice to hear her voice during this time that I felt alone.  I had good friends who ran errands for me, drove me and just checked up on me.

It was actually the perfect time to have the surgery because I wasn’t missing work or having to do anything major.  I didn’t even have to do the 4 hours each day I did to see Mom.  I could just rest.  This pandemic was working to my advantage right now.

About a week later,  I woke one morning with a feeling of dread.  Something just didn’t feel right.  When I talked to Mom she said all the staff were in gowns.  I didn’t say anything to Mom but I knew what that meant.  Sure enough, an hour or so later I got a phone call from the nursing home.  A resident on Mom’s floor had tested positive for Covid 19.  (frantic shock)  When I called Mom later she said her bathroom that she shares with the resident in the next room was off limits and she had to use a commode.  Then I really panicked.  I knew this meant that the resident with Covid 19 was right next to Mom.  I was in major shock.  How could this happen.  This only happened in nightmares.  Not only was Covid 19 in Mom’s nursing home it was almost bedfellows with Mom. You couldn’t get any closer to it if you tried.  I was a mess.  I was crying.  I was praying constantly.  I was afraid Mom would be terribly upset.  To my total surprise Mom was very nonchalant about the whole thing.  She said, ” I only die once”.  And she liked the fact that she didn’t have to go down to the dining room for her breakfast and lunch.  Well this was a strange turn of events ( ultimate awe)  I didn’t have to worry about how Mom was doing with all this.

So began a scary time of waiting to see if anyone else became positive.  A few days later I got another robo call from the nursing home.  The resident was now at the hospital and had tested negative twice!  They were doing more testing but it was possible this person did not have Covid 19,  (great awe)   Indeed a couple of days later Mom’s nursing home got the ALL CLEAR.  The resident had had a false positive.  ( ultimate awe)

So this just about brings us up to the present.  One more shock to report.  My surgeon phoned with the results of the pathology report.  I was cancer free at the moment YAY!!  ( extreme awe)  BUT  some of the results indicated it would be best if I had some radiation treatments ( shock).  Tomorrow I go to the cancer centre for a consultation.  I am thankful for the fact that I am cancer free and I am also thankful that the radiation will just increase my chances that the cancer won’t come back.

So that leaves me with still  not being able to see my Mom – probably not for a few more months.  Nursing homes are going to be the last places to open up again I suspect.  I have no idea when I will return to work at the library.  I am still struggling with trying to add structure into my day so I do not get depressed.   But hey,  spring is here.  All kinds of flowers are coming up in my garden and I don’t need to social distance from my flowers.  My cancer is gone.  Mom is safe at the moment and staying as healthy as she can under the circumstances.  We can still talk on the phone.  I am going to learn how to do Zoom so I can go to my virtual church service and join a caregiver’s group here in town.  This afternoon a dear friend came by and we sat outside social distancing and drinking tea.  It was the highlight of my whole week.  What we so took for granted just a few months ago now becomes priceless treasure in our eyes and in our lives.

I suspect shock and awe are going to continue in my life for a long time yet.  The world is just too mixed up and nothing is normal.  I can handle the shocks as long as there are the awes.  And as long as there is God there will always be awe and lots of it.  Stay strong and carry on.

Shock and Awe Part 1

I have not written a blog in quite a while.  I apologize but can only say that the last 2 months have been filled to the brim with so many incidents that I have been overwhelmed.  I can only charactize my life in these 2 months as full  of shock and awe.  The little girls face in this picture can either be showing extreme shock or a sense of awe and that is what this blog will be about.  A rollercoaster of events and emotions that even those with the strongest of stomachs may walk away with a tinge of green in their faces.

We don’t necessarily put emotions of shock and awe together in the same framework.  But that is exactly what the last 2 months have been like.  Shock – then awe, then shock – then awe and on it has gone like a crazy runaway roller coaster looking totally out of control but in reality it was all part of the ride.  That’s because God has been busy the last two months riding along with me and helping to turn the overwhelming shocks into amazing works of awe.  He’s been my amazing shock absorber.

So it all started about two months ago.  Life was pretty normal.  I was going to work, seeing my elderly mother pretty near every day, loving up my  cats and so on.  One morning I discovered blood when I went to the bathroom.  I was not too concerned although I knew that at age 60 this was not normal.  It did not stop so that night I went to Emergency.  I had a wonderful doctor ( part of the awe in the middle of the shock)  who very gently talked to me about how relieved they were that I had come down to Emerg. so fast.  There was talk of cancer (shock) and things started moving fast.  The doctor was setting me up with an ultrasound right away.  She was getting me a gynecologist appointment and told me to see my own doctor right away.  I was definitely in shock and some of my first thoughts as a caregiver were what do I tell Mom.  Do I even tell her?  What happens if I am too sick to come see her and look after all that I look after for her?  As a caregiver these are always questions that are on the tip of your thoughts.  As caregiver whatever happens to you also affects the one you look after.  You are connected in everything in a profound way.  I had decided I could not tell Mom after getting advice from her nurse and others in my life.  As the days went by I struggled with the thoughts of having cancer mostly by myself.  I did tell my church family to help me be covered in prayer.  I talked to my psychiatrist who gave me worst case scenarios to help my fears diminish.  I had a very very painful biopsy (shock) and then waited in dread for the results.  All through this time Mom knew nothing.  It felt like I was hiding something from her.  We tell each other everything but I knew this news would just put her in a tailspin of despair and no matter how much I wanted to confide in my beloved Mom I couldn’t do it to her.

During this time as I manouvered through doctor’s tests and visits I had a strange phenomena happen that I still can’t explain except to say it was the protection of God on my life in a lonely time.   I could see a wall of glass in front of me all the time and on the other side of the glass was all my worry, fear, anxiety, dread etc.  It would all peer at me through the glass barrier but it could not touch me.  I was literally separated from all fear, worry etc in my life.  It was a strange experience I have never experienced before but one of amazing awe.

I also forgot to mention that during this time I was quite sick with a virus that wouldn’t go away and ended at Emerg and put on antibiotics.  This virus persisted for weeks but finally was helped with asthma medication that I didn’t know I needed. (awe)

So while all this was happening, something sinister was happening in the background which reared it ugly head and faced us head on – Coronavirus!  I knew things were starting to shut down where I live but was unable to understand the gravity of this virus (shock) or the impact it would have on my life.  It was March 14 and my brother and family were coming down from out of town to see my Mom.  They got here at 2pm.  The nursing home shut up tighter than a drum at 12 noon.  Suddenly the idea that I could not see my Mom and I did not know how long this could go on put me into severe shock.  I cried and cried,  I was depressed,  I was lost.  Seeing Mom was a big part of my daily life.  Suddenly there was a big hole and something even more dire was the loss of control in my life.  Being autistic, control is a big thing.  We like to be able to know we can control large parts of our life and suddenly a large part of my life was out of my control. ( severe shock)  I couldn’t check on Mom,  I couldn’t make sure she had everything she needed,  I couldn’t bring her the cookies she loved,  I was completely separated from Mom.  All we had was the phone to still talk to each other but even that is fragile when Mom can’t hear well.  Today is April 26.  I have not seen my mom in weeks and weeks.  She even had to celebrate her 92nd birthday by herself.

Later that week that the nursing home shut down,  I found out the results of the biopsy and I did have cancer – cancer of the  uterus (ultimate shock).  The only good thing was that we had caught it early and it had not spread outside of the uterus from what they could tell. (ultimate awe) I was overjoyed that the cancer was contained and that it could be treated with surgery.  I was scheduled for surgery later that week.  The day before my surgery I got a call from the hospital.  They regretted to tell me that all elective surgeries had been cancelled due to Covid 19 and I would have to wait goodness how long to be rescheduled. ( extreme shock)  I was terrified.  I had this cancer in me that could be spreading as we spoke and I could do nothing about it.  How long would I have to wait.  Was it going to be too late.  Would I become terminal?  I was a mess but God was still providing me with that wall of glass with all my terror on the other side so I could just rest in Him and trust him to provide what I needed.

I had many people praying for me (wonderful awe) and I felt wrapped in love from my church family and friends.  During this time of waiting for surgery I also had to get used to self-isolating in my home and social distancing.  I was not working at the library anymore as it was closed too.  All the stores were  closed except for grocery stores and  pharmacies.  I have no family at home with me except my two cats.  It was strange to not go out with a friend to Tim Horton’s or go out to my friend’s farm.  Being in the house all day was not the best thing for a person who thrives on routine and consistency.  I was lost at times and struggled to structure my life. (shock)  One thing that brought much joy to my life was being with my two cats all the time.  ( great awe)  And they loved it as much as I did.

So this is where I leave this blog tonight.  I am waiting desperately for my cancer surgery and I am struggling with being totally separated from my beloved Mom and struggling to manage living in this new world of Covid 19.  Tomorrow night I will do PART 2 of Shock and Awe continuing the story of my last two months of being on a crazy roller coaster ride.  Stay tuned.

Drown in Defeat or Rise in Victory

I’m not sure where the last month has gone.  It has been a blur of doctors, nurses, tests, sitting for hours at Mom’s bedside, nightmares and deep deep weariness.

It all started with Mom’s voice going hoarse.  We kidded that she had a frog in her throat that just didn’t want to leave.  And leave it didn’t.  It only got worse.  Mom became very sick with some sort of insidious bug and for over 10 days I did not know if she would pull through.  Every day I sat in her room for hours, drinking loads of tea, listening to my music, playing games on my ipad all the while keeping vigil as she mostly slept and tossed and turned, often struggling to breathe.   Every once in a while she would wake up and look at me with a look that is forever etched in my heart.  Her eyes bore through me as she silently pleaded, ” Please make this go away”  I sat helpless not knowing what to do.  At times I would sit on the bed with her and hold her and stroke her head. At her brighter moments I tried kidding with her telling her that she was Darth Vader’s mother as she had a real gravelly voice.   Gradually as the days went by, she got better and better until she was basically back to her “normal” self.  I finally relaxed feeling very grateful that the worst was over.  Then only a few days later I got a dreaded call from the nursing home.  The doctor wanted to talk to me.  He said she had come down with what they thought was a urinary tract infection.  Again the long vigils started although this time with the help of an early antibiotic she quickly recovered.  Again I relaxed although with some reserve.  I just wasn’t too sure.  Every day Mom and I would phone each other and I would keep tabs on her when I was not down at her place.  One morning shortly after the second health scare, I could not get through on her phone.  All day I tried  ( it was my day off from going down to see her).  I finally phoned the nurse to check on her.  The nurse reported that her phone was dead.  This might seem like a minor inconvenience but Mom was using an old Doro senior’s phone put out by Roger’s which was no longer being made.  Mom could not manage to dial a number.  On her phone all she had to do was press the A button and she got me at home.  If she pressed the B button she got my cell.  It was working well until now.  I went on Kijiji and found a second hand phone just like hers for sale in the city where my brother lives.  A week later and he is still trying to make arrangements with the seller to pick it up.  Needless to say I am very annoyed.  And to make matters worse,  Mom and I both did not realize how much we had come to rely on the phone to keep connected.  I felt totally lost with not being able to pick up my phone and talk to her when I wanted and I could tell she was feeling it too.  It scared both of us.

So add in some health issues of my own, a couple of other irritating incidents and you end up with a very stressful month.

They say it is all in how we react to things that matters and will determine our frame of mind.  Well, I must say that I must be reacting very badly to all this because my frame of mind is shot right out the window.  What I realized was that these were all things I had no control over.  And I like to have control.  Control equals safety and comfort coming from an autistic person.  Having little control makes the ground like quicksand under my feet.  No sure footing, no semblance of order or consistency makes me a sad puppy and a very anxious one.  So anxious that to try to deal with the added stress I attempted to alleviate the stress by simplifying my life.  That meant visiting Mom and trying to continue working.  That’s it.  No being with friends, no going to church, no shopping,  no facebooking, I basically have dropped everyone from my life.  I know people will do this but I think with me it has to do with the extreme exhaustion of being with people that my autism can cause.  By eliminating people I hoped to eliminate the weariness and stress that was overtaking my life.  My cats were my constant companions.  And I must say they are very good kitties. I do not advise anyone who is a caregiver to do this.  We as caregivers, more than anyone else need a network of friends, family and community people to gather round us to support us.  Unfortunately, being autistic does not always make this the best thing for us at certain times.

The other thing I realized was when Mom’s phone went dead I was left to experience a little of what it might be like when mom died.  I could not reach her.  I could not hear her voice.  I could not tell her the silly things that my cat Gus Gus was doing.  I could not tell her about what I did at work or what I was doing around the house.  It has scared me to no end.  And it is not over yet.  We still do not have a phone set up for her.  I sit at home feeling somehow the cord that binds us has been severed.  I know this is only a temporary sever.  It will be reattached but when Mom passes away that cord will be permanently cut and I will be left all alone.

So what do I do?  Do I drown in my despair or do I somehow find a new way to go on.  This is the year of 2020 vision.  A perfect reason to look at things with new eyes.  And a new heart.  In the bible in Ephesians it says,”I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”(Eph. 1:18-19)  I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I don’t want to be afraid all the time,  I don’t want to dread the day when I wake up for fear of what might happen in it.  I don’t want the intense anxiety sit like a large stone in the pit of my stomach every day.  I don’t want to feel like crying all the time.  I don’t want to fear the future.  I want that hope and the riches God has for me and to live in His power instead of my own feeble power. I want to be enlightened to a new way of being through this journey.

My life does not end when Mom’s does.  And although she is in the sunset time of her life my life will go on and  a new dawn, a new sunrise will proclaim it’s birth in my life.  I have a chance for a new vision.  God says in Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  Sure, there are going to be very dark days ahead but I will  follow Jesus into the darkness and he is the Light that will guide my way through to the other side.

Let’s face it.  Caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  It has the ability to take you out and knock you flat.  It has the words of “victim” ready to deliver when you are down and out and feeling sorry for yourself.  I don’t want to end this journey with Mom as a victim.  I want to end our journey whenever that happens as a victor.  That we have run the race and  finished the good fight.  I’m not sure what a caregiver as  a victor looks like yet and i am not sure how to get there.  But I am willing to give it a try.  Anything to escape the life I am living now.  I am looking and praying for a new vision in this 2020 year.  I may need a new pair of glasses but I will get bright red ones with sparkles on them.

Mom: A Legacy of Gratitude

Gratitude – it’s one of those buzzwords you hear so often lately along with mindfulness and optimism and self-care and happy.  It’s supposed to make your life better and more meaningful.  But do we really “get” GRATITUDE?  It seems to me that people are more likely to gripe about having to wait in line or the  nasty service they received at the mall or be quick to honk their horn at someone a little too slow in front of them.  To me people seem angrier  and bitter rather than grateful.  You listen to the news and it is full of stories of people hurting others out of hatred, and people out to get whatever they can get because they are not satisfied with what they have.  We are an entitled society.  So many of us believe we deserve the nice things, a happy life, smooth sailing all the time and when life doesn’t work out that way we gripe and complain bitterly and push against everyone and everything around us.

My Mom is sitting in a nursing home at the age of 91.  She is suffering every day with struggling to breath, pain, severe discomfort, and discouragement at not being able to do the things she once was able to do.  Pretty well all her independence has been taken away from her.  She relies of someone to get her dressed and undressed, to take her to the bathroom,  she wears adult diapers,  she can’t see well or hear the phone when I try to call.  This woman has every reason in the world to gripe till the cows come home.  She should be angry, bitter, resentful and downright miserable.  Yes, sometimes she has moments when she feels these things.  BUT… my Mom is the most grateful person I have ever known in my life and I am so grateful to have a Mom like that.

Mom lived with me for 5 years before I could not look after her any more and she had to go to the  nursing home.  I would often sit in her sitting room with her and we would just chat about anything on our minds.  Inevitably,  the conversation always came around to talking about our lives and how much we had to  be thankful for.  We would tell our life stories over and over again and marvel at how God worked this out or that out.  Mom grew up on a very poor family and I am sure it was not easy but as she exclaimed over and over again with joy on her face she would tell of the wonderful parents she had.  She would say, ” we didn’t have much but we had love!”  She would reminisce about the wonderful man  my Dad was and what a good husband he was.  She would tell me that there were times as she put it, that she would have liked to “murderate that man”  but that was a marriage where there were good and bad times and she chooses to remember the good times and be grateful for the man who helped raise two good children and was faithful to her to the end.   Over the years I have heard so many stories from her and have recounted so many stories of my own, many of them intertwining in our lives together of mini miracles.  God just reached down and blessed us with jobs when we needed them, wisdom when we didn’t know what to do, a new home when neither my mom or dad were working at the time,  miracle after miracle, blessing after blessing and stories of gratitude to fill a lifetime.

These talks Mom and I had were frequent, I’d say nearly every day.  And they continue even in the nursing home.  I visit her 5 out of 7 days of the week.  Every single day mom recounts some story she is grateful for.  It just flows out of my Mom.  It is an integral part of who she is.  She is just a grateful person.  And that gratefulness spills out into my life.  And I am so blessed to have a Mom who reminds me when I feel discouraged all the stories in MY life that I have to be grateful for.

Gratefulness doesn’t usually stand directly in front of you and wave it’s arms and say, ” Here I am.  Be grateful for this!!”  Most of the time you have to go searching for gratefulness.  It’s subtle,  it’s quiet and it is not in your face.  But it is a treasure that if you make it a point of going searching for it you will find it every where.  It is all over the place,  hiding in plain sight.  It is a treasure that will, as so many proponents of gratitude today say, will change your life and your ability to cope and enjoy the life you have no matter whether you are rich or are the poorest of the poor.  Gratitude is like a diamond in the rough, hidden unless we look for it and mine it to it’s great glory.  And the funny thing about gratitude is that there is always something to be thankful for even when we think there is absolutely nothing.  Gratitude is always present – we just have to look.

The bible has a lot to say about gratefulness and long before it was the buzzword it is today.  You may not believe it but the bible is a very wise book with hidden nuggets of truth that people of today think they are discovering them for the first time but there were in the bible all these thousands of years.  There are hundreds of verses in the bible of the people giving thanks to God.  “Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good” says the word.  Yes, Mom and I are believers and we know the power of being grateful in the enriching of our lives.  Because most of our blessings have come from God.  Those of you who don’t believe can still be thankful as you look around you but I encourage you to think about what role a good God may have in your blessings.

I am leaving shortly to go see Mom at the nursing home.  We will tallk and reminisce and I KNOW the conversation will turn to something Mom or I am thankful for.  It is a legacy Mom is leaving me that I will treasure each and every day.  She is the most grateful person I have ever known in my life and I am grateful to have her as my Mom. I encourage you to leave a legacy for your children or husband or grandchildren, friends or coworkers as being known for a person with a grateful heart. We live in a dark world.  Gratefulness sheds powerful light into your own life and the lives of everyone around you.

A while back I was struggling as to how to add more gratefulness to my life.  If you knew me you would know I LOVE my tea and drink tea literally all day long.  So…. I got a jar, any old jar will do and some small slips of paper and a pencil.  I put these right next to the  kettle in the kitchen.  Every time I put the kettle on for a cup of tea I wrote out something I was grateful for.  It could be something profound or something as simple as remembering to charge your phone.  I have hundreds of these little slips of paper and often when I am feeling very down as I often do with the major stresses I am under when you are a caregiver to a person who is continuing to fail and you will probably lose soon, and I read them over and my heart is lifted up and I can face a few more hours or days of walking in the light instead of the darkness of life.

And today I am grateful to all you who have chosen to read this blog.  I don’t know you personally but I thank you for taking the time to read the musings of a person who struggles through life just like you and can write and hopefully say something meaningful to the world out there in cyber space.  Thank you.