A few weeks ago my siblings and I came to the consensus that the time had come to begin the process of selling our mother's house.
As anyone who's gone through the logistically and emotionally ponderous process of selling their parents' house knows, the first step in this process is the disposition, distribution or otherwise clearing out - save for a few strategic pieces of staging furniture for showings- of all the stuff that's been accumulated over a lifetime, often along with some additional stuff left-over from previous lifetimes that's been inherited or otherwise acquired by one's parents, such as the pieces below given to my mother by her mother, a washer woman, who received them close to a hundred years ago from a well-to-do customer in exchange for payment.
(Which gets one thinking about one's own accumulation of stuff which will someday have to be disposed of, distributed, or otherwise cleared out by one's own children).
In any case, the task of overseeing the prepping and selling of our mother's house has fallen to my brother who lives in Seaford, Delaware and who was our mother's guardian up until two-and-a-half months ago when we relocated her to Gahanna, Ohio and I took over the job.
A few weeks ago my brother put out an APB to the siblings that the clearing-out phase was imminent, and if anyone wanted anything from our mom's house, now was the time to come and get it before everything but the staging furniture was disposed of.
As for me, there were only two things I desired to take from my mother's house, a couple of wall hangings.
The first was a piece one of my father's artist friends made as a gift for him, an illustration of a quote by the ancient Roman writer Juvenal. The artist crafted ceramic pieces which he glued onto wood:
The words, "Quis tumidum guttur miratur in Alpibus" are Latin and mean something like "What a strange swelling of the throat in the Alps." It's believed that Juvenal was remarking on the existence of goiters among the people in the Alpine region.
My father being an endocrinologist and diseases of the thyroid being his specialty, his friend thought he'd appreciate this reference to thyroid disease found in ancient writings.
My father did, in fact, like the piece and it hung in the living room of our home in Philadelphia (See post from 11/29/2018, "The New House, Part 2"). When my parents moved to Seaford, Delaware in the 1990's it hung in their living room there, too.
I always thought it was a cool picture, sculpture, or whatever it was. My siblings, however, referred to it as "Goiter Guy." Turned out nobody but me was interested in inheriting "Goiter Guy."
The other of my parents' items I hoped to have was a picture my mom made of the dancing gypsy Carmen from the opera "Carmen," and which she and we subsequently referred to as "Carmen."
My mom made "Carmen" by dying sheets of newspaper then ripping the dyed newspaper into small pieces which she fashioned into spit-ball shapes. She then dipped each spit-ball into a mix of glue and water and then glued the pieces onto a piece of painted wood.
Turned out nobody but me was particularly interested in taking "Carmen," either.
But I was always fascinated by my mom's stylized papier-maché process in making "Carmen."
I tried it myself back when I was a teen-ager and made a copy of Paul Klee's painting "Death and the Fire"
And so Tom and I decided to drive out to Seaford, Delaware to my mom's house for a final visit and to retrieve "Goiter Guy" and "Carmen."
To be continued...
What do my mom and Elizabeth Warren have in common? Can you tell from the above photos?
In case you can't, the answer is great skin for their age. Elizabeth Warren is 70. My mom is pushing 100.
Oh, my mom has a few wrinkles. But only a few. And again, she is ninety-nine and seven-twelfths.
The thing is, my mom has always had beautiful skin - as apparently Elizabeth Warren has - with nary a visible bump or pore. And I don't know about Elizabeth Warren, but as far as I know my mother has never consulted a dermatologist, and the only skin care products she ever availed herself of were her bar of Ivory soap,
My mother swore by washing her face morning and night with Ivory soap then slathering on the Ponds, and she preached this beauty regimen to anyone who'd listen, which wasn't me.
"All you need is soap and water and Ponds," my mother preached to me from my bad-skinned teen-aged years on through my not-great skinned adult years.
However I, heedless youngster that I was, had less than zero interest in being caught dead using what I considered to be my mother's greasy old lady goop from the 1930's.
So, unlike my mother, I never used Ponds, and she gave up trying to convert me decades ago.
Fast forward to last week when I was reading the Life & Arts section of the Columbus Dispatch and came across an article on an interview Elizabeth Warren did with Cosmopolitan magazine in which she revealed that the secret to her beautiful skin is...Pond's cold cream morning and night! Exclusively. Meaning she uses Ponds and only Ponds on her face. No soap. Elizabeth warren doesn't wash her face. Ever. Ponds in the morning and Ponds in the night. That's it.
Which sounds to me like dermatological blasphemy and felonious face abuse.
A couple of years ago I saw a dermatologist for a suspicious-looking mole. She pronounced the mole as nothing, but suggested that I try a .5 ounce jar of $75 cream to help with all the fine lines crisscrossing my sexagenarian punim.
Back when I was young a large jar of Ponds cost about a dollar. Today a 6.5 oz jar costs $4.99.
I really should have listened to my mother.
Back to my mother.
It's been a little over two months - though it feels indefinably longer - since my ninety-nine-year-old mother left her home in Seaford, Delaware for her new home at the Sunrise senior care facility in Gahanna, Ohio,
From the time of her arrival at Sunrise I endeavored to do everything I could think of to make my mother comfortable and happy as she transitioned into her new home.
Mayhaps I sometimes overdid it.
My mother being a person who always liked to be out and about and still pretty energetic for pushing a hundred years, I figured that going out to eat would be an enjoyable, beneficial, and doable outing for her.
Granted, taking mom out was an undertaking: bundling her into her coat, hat, scarf, and gloves; helping her into her wheelchair then tucking her in with a lap blanket; maneuvering her into the car then folding the wheelchair and hefting it into the back of the car; getting mom from the car back into the chair then into the restaurant; getting her out of her wheel chair, hat, gloves, scarf and coat and seated in a chair; then either finding a spot in the restaurant to store the wheelchair or running it back out to the car; then, after we were finished eating, doing the whole process in reverse.
But after a few times and with the assistance of my faithful, helpful hubby Tom, we got it down to a drill, and Tom and I got into the routine of taking mom out for 8 am Mass on Sundays followed by brunch, and out for lunch a time or two or three during the week.
On the days we didn't go out I'd visit my mom at Sunrise and hang out for an hour or so, often bringing sweets or snacks or any article that she might need or have asked for.
Over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays some of my siblings, my children and my grand children poured into town to spend time with mom, and her days were full of visitors,
Too many visitors, activities, and outings, we were to learn, when two days after Christmas she seemed depressed and tired out.
Turned out that she was, in fact, tired out. Wiped out, in fact, and, as pointed out to us by one of the Sunrise caregivers, in need of a day or two of peace and quiet (see post from 1/2/2020, "Epilogue").
But, after the previous weeks of frequent outings, visits, and holiday excitement, my mom was to have a sudden spell of more peace and quiet than she'd had since her arrival at Sunrise; by December twenty-ninth all the visiting relatives had returned home and I was headed off to Los Angeles to spend eleven days visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grand daughters.
My mom would have no outings during that time and only evening pop-in visits from my daughter Theresa.
I worried that, in spite of her new friends at Sunrise and her self-appointed task of assisting with the care and feeding of her fellow residents in her Memory Care neighborhood (see "Epilogue"), my mom might be feeling lonely for me or longing for one of our outings.
But no. When I returned from my trip to Los Angeles I found my mom looking better and in better spirits than when I'd left. I wondered if having some time without me constantly hanging around and schlepping her out every other day had actually helped her relax, adjust and settle into her still relatively new surroundings on her own terms. The Sundowners - the state of anxiety that often grips elderly people - even seemed to have abated, as I noticed when I visited her in the early evening.
In fact, one evening when I visited her a little before dinner time she was sitting contently around the dining room table with some of the other residents. I sat and chatted with her and her friends for about ten minutes, at which point she told me that I should go ahead and go, as she wanted me to get home safely. I think she really just wanted to get back to her socializing, such as it was.
As for missing all the outings: my mom didn't appear to notice that she hadn't been out for a couple of weeks. In fact, whenever I'd ask her what she did during the day she'd usually tell me that she and some of the ladies had gone out for lunch or dinner to to Mass together. She seemed to be living a very full, satisfying life in her mind, along with her de facto relationships with her Sunrise friends and fellow residents.
All of which made me wonder whether I should take my mom out any more at all?
Why have her woken up at 6:30 am on Sunday mornings to be taken out to Mass in a church if she believes she's going to Mass in a church whether she does or doesn't? Why drag her to a restaurant if she gets the same satisfaction from believing she's gone to a restaurant? After all, if taking my mom out is a haul for Tom and me, it's likewise just as tiring for her being the haulee.
And, I wondered, with the colder weather upon us and all the sickness that's been going around, is it even healthy to be taking her out, tiring her out, and risking her picking up one of the infinite bugs - or, God forbid super-bugs - always stalking crowded public places?
And, of course, there's always the risk that, careful as we all are with my mom, she could miss a beat getting out of the car or while in the church or restaurant and fall. After all, relatively good shape that she's in, she's not getting younger by the day.
On the other hand, almost every time I visited my mom since my return she'd suggest that we go out for dinner. Whether it was morning, afternoon or evening, she'd suggest we go out for dinner. Even if she'd told me just a few minutes earlier that she'd gone out for dinner that day. It made me think that she must actually want to go out for dinner for real.
Or did she? In any case, I always told her that we'd go out tomorrow.
And so I spent about a week ping-ponging back and forth whether or not I should take my mother out, or whether she'd be better off just staying at Sunrise.
Finally yesterday while visiting my mom I asked one of the nurses on duty if she thought it would be okay for me to take my mother out. She thought it would be.
A little later while I was at the reception desk signing out from my visit I poured out my dilemma to the friendly concierge at the desk and asked her if she thought that, under the circumstances, I should be taking my 99-year-old mother out.
The concierge replied that I absolutely should. She said that everybody needs to get out now and then, even my mother, and more than I might realize. "Take your mother out," she told me.
So we did. Tom, Theresa, and I took her out today for lunch at the Rusty Bucket.
It was fine, and all the maneuvering and hauling and hefting notwithstanding, we all had a really nice time.
After we returned her to Sunrise my mom thanked me for the movie.
You didn't happen to watch the Democratic debate the other night, did you?
Well, don't feel bad, nobody else watched it, either. Or just about nobody. Or at least just about nobody I know,
So if hardly anybody I know watched it, I figure hardly anybody at all must have watched it.
I nearly didn't watch it myself. Ever since the first debate back in August, which I found to be a nice getting-to-know-you event (see post from 6/28/2019, "The Air Is Hummin'), I haven't watched much of the subsequent debates, which, after the first one, seemed more like tiresome affairs with a dozen or so people vying to get a word in edgewise as opposed to imparting any relevant enlightenment.
And besides, there's so much alarming, consequential news constantly coming at us, day and night, night and day,
...that it's hard to scrape up enough left-over interest in current national events not of the highest level of heart-thumping urgency. Which the Democratic debate somehow didn't seem to be.
However, with expectations low and attention span at half-mast, I decided to watch at least the first few minutes of the debate.
And I'm glad that I did. Because, from the first few minutes onward, this one was a really good debate - at last.
With only six candidates on the stage:
...there was time for each of them to present and enlarge upon their plans in detail, and everyone had plans: plans for dealing with Iran and the middle east; trade plans; plans for affordable health care, child care, and higher education; plans to address climate change, environmental issues, and the economy.
And everyone spoke so coherently. Lots of straightforward “yes’s” and “no’s” to questions. So much meat and potatoes. So satisfying.
And there was so much civility among the candidates, and so much agreement on the issues and on policy. Sometimes the candidates even referenced or agreed with or emphasized each other’s ideas.
They even shared an occasional joke.
And though the candidates generally spun their ideas in their own way and in their own direction, there was general agreement over goals and principles.
Nobody went after each other. Nobody’s fangs were bared or claws were out. I liked it.
I especially liked that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders cordially agreed to disagree over whether Sanders once told Warren that a woman couldn't be elected President, and when questioned by one of the moderators on the subject neither took the bait to fight.
...suddenly hearing the smooth, dulcet tones of fine classical music.
Nor did any of the candidates waste time excessively slamming Donald Trump, but rather used their time to talk about their own ideas for bettering our country.
And what good, sensible, ideas. I found myself suddenly feeling optimistic and hopeful that big ideas were possible, big ideas that really could reform health care in this country, save the planet from climate change, pull us back from the brink of war with Iran.
Yesterday, after a 10-day visit to Los Angeles with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren,
...Tom and I were waiting around in the Los Angeles airport,
… for our flight back to Columbus.
…when a young guy sitting in one of the spaces in a row of seats on the other side of the charging station called over to me and asked me if I would keep an eye on his things,
I said, “Sure” and walked over to take the seat next to his stuff.
Having apparently expected me to just keep an eye on his stuff from my spot several yards across the room, the youngster said with a smile, “Wow, you’re really rising to the occasion,” and thanked me.
“Well,” I joked, “if I’m gonna babysit, I’m gonna babysit.”
...still, you never know, and there are enough dishonest people out there that things are stolen all the time.
And so I pondered being deemed by a total stranger in an airport as trustworthy to guard his things.
And it occurred to me that, for all the times in my life that people have sized me up as a push-over, clueless, incompetent, addle-brained and helpless; for all the times I’ve actually been all those things, along with confused, indecisive and insecure; for all the dumb, wrong, ignorant and regrettable decisions and choices I’ve made,
Or at least that’s true in my case.
…Continued from last time:
The morning of the first day after my mother arrived at her new neighborhood at the Assisted Living unit of Sunrise of Gahanna,
...she made a friend, whom I’ll call Rose, which is not her name.
My mother actually made several friends that first day,
As my mother said to Rose shortly after they met, “It seems that you and I have a lot in common.” My mom and Rose appeared to enjoy passing the time together and they always sat next to each other at meals.
And so it hurt my heart when, three weeks later on the day when my mom was transferred from Assisted Living to the Memory Care Unit whose residents were in various stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, my mom sat down for her first meal at the dining room table, looked at the seat next to her and asked, “Where’s whats-her-name?” I knew by “what’s-her-name” my mom meant Rose.
Fast-forward three weeks later to Christmas Day. While visiting my mother in her Memory Care neighborhood I caught sight of Rose leaving the neighborhood with her daughter. I went over to say “hi” to Rose and her daughter, who was taking her mother out for the afternoon. I learned that Rose, too, had just been transferred from Assisted Living to Memory Care. Neither Rose nor my mother appeared to recognize each other that day.
Three days later I left with Tom for a ten-day visit to Los Angeles to spend some time with our daughter, son-in-law, granddaughters,
Theresa and I chatted every few days, during which she gave me updates on my mom’s spirits and well-being.
During one of these updates a few days after I’d left, Theresa informed me that when she arrived at the Memory Care that day she found my mom and Rose sitting on the living room sofa watching TV and holding hands.
The two friends had found each other again.
...Continued from yesterday:
One mid-morning a few days after my mom moved to the Sunrise Memory Care unit I came for a visit and found her sitting at the dining room table with some of the residents. One of the more high-functioning residents from the other Memory Care neighborhood down the hall had come over to my mom's neighborhood and was sitting at the table.
"She's so sweet, she's my new friend," said the woman, referring to my mother.
"Isn't that a pretty blouse she's wearing?" said my mother of her new friend.
My mother then proceeded to tell me how well some of the other residents had eaten their breakfasts that morning. Evidently my mom helps with the feeding of the residents who need help then she eats her own meal afterward.
If I bring my mother cookies or other treats I make sure to bring enough for all the residents as my mom likes to offer around, pressing cookies into the hands of the non-verbal residents, who nonetheless are responsive enough to take and eat a cookie.
I visit my mother every day. Or at least I did until the Christmas holidays, when my sister and other visiting relatives sometimes substituted for me. And then I was out of town for a long weekend in December, during which time my daughter or son popped in for visits. And then I stayed away for a couple of days when I was sick with a cold.
In any case, I've visited my mother most days since her arrival at Sunrise. Since her move to Memory Care I generally find her to be her sunny old self. But sometimes I'll find her gripped with anxiety and worry over herself or one of her fellow residents, all of whom she worries over like a mother hen. She's prone to Sundowners, a phenomenon explained to me by the Sunrise staff as the tendency for the elderly to be gripped by anxiety and confusion in the evening. Subsequently I try to spend time with my mom in the morning or early afternoon, before Sundowners sets in.
Still, I believe that the wonderful caregivers at Sunrise do their best to give my mom and all the residents as good a life as they can, and we, my mother's family, do what we can to make life good for her,
...going out for lunch from time to time,
On Saturday, December 21, the first round of holiday relatives arrived, my daughter, son-in-law, and grand daughters from Los Angeles, who joined us the following day for Sunday brunch,
...then the next day spent the afternoon with her at Sunrise.
The following day my sister Romaine arrived and the next day, Christmas Eve, she and my grand daughters spent the afternoon at Sunrise with Mom making Christmas cookies for her Memory Care neighbors in the kitchen of my mom's neighborhood (each neighborhood has its own kitchen).
Afterwards my mom cleaned up the area and washed the cookie pans.
The next day, Christmas Day, we took my mom to Christmas Mass then brought her to our house for lunch with the family.
The day after Christmas my sister again took one of my grand daughters over to Sunrise to spend the afternoon with my mom.
The next day, Thursday, my brother and his wife arrived from New Jersey for a visit, and I suggested that on the following day, Friday, we - all ten of us - take my mom out for to an early lunch.
But when my brother and his wife arrived on Friday to pick up my mom for lunch she had no desire to go. In fact, she appeared to have no desire, period. She seemed 'way down in the dumps. She said her foot hurt. We wondered if a hurting foot would be sufficient cause to send our mom into what appeared to be a state of depression. Or was Sundowners setting on my mother earlier, and more virulently, than usual that day?
Concerned, my brother approached one of the caregivers and told her about our mom's seemingly depressed mental state.
The caregiver elucidated what, in retrospect, probably should have been obvious to us all: Consider, said the caregiver, that you've all been running your ninety-nine-year-old mother non-stop for the past week: taking her out, visiting her every day, bringing gifts over, bringing the children over, making cookies. The poor woman, said the caregiver, is wiped out. Let her rest today and you'll see, she'll be better.
And so we all did let my mom rest that day, and sure enough, by the next day she was happy to see us again, and her foot no longer hurt.
In the future I must try to remember that, at ninety-nine-and-a-half, my mother isn't as young as she used to be.
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
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of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.