Monday, February 8, 2010

The End Of An Era

To leave a home that you've lived in for 55 years must be a hard thing. To watch a mother struggle is almost impossible to describe. I can't say words escape me because they never arrived.

Blogging friend, Leslie talks about the insistent quality of her story-telling. I envy her ability to get it all down - to dish it out in a way her readers can bite into, chew on and digest so that the assimilation is universal.

I don't feel able to do that. Any troubles with my mother I might have wanted to hash out seem irrelevant in the face of what she must be going through. This, coming from the child that ran away from home, the one who as a teen-ager, used to flip her mother the bird. 

All I feel capable of writing about is the positive things that have occurred since my sister and I moved our mother into an assisted living community. These communities, as they like to call them, are not other worldly, they are nether-worldly-with-a dash-of-imposed-cheeriness. But the good news is, it works. The staff plasters smiles on their faces and greets everyone with obsequious glee. It does create a pleasant atmosphere.

Mother was assigned a seat in the dining room. I sat with her. A very attractive 97-year-old from Norway announced that this was her table and she decided who got to sit there. A woman to her side, who appeared to be younger than me and an obvious survivor of a head trauma, explained that a very unpleasant woman used to sit at the table and had made their life miserable. They said they got her kicked out of the home. Mom and I raised eyebrows at each other. By the end of the meal, Mom had managed to get a smile from the Norwegian Ice Queen and had given her hand a squeeze wishing her a pleasant evening. Mom was workin' it.

Being forced to dress for meals and interact with people has lifted Mother out of some of her confusion. On her own, she has decided to act rather than react in this new situation. In typical role reversal mode, I am proud of her.

I took Mother to her old church Sunday. She has not felt well enough to go for months, but I knew the members would make a fuss over her since it was her Birthday. They didn't disappoint. Mother was in such a good mood afterwards, that she actually agreed to pose behind the pulpit for her  daughter and what she calls "that damn camera." Sorry, Mom.

Later, back at 'the home,' some of her friends stopped by to give her gifts and have ice cream and cake. The best gift of all came from the younger woman from her dining table. Mother had admired her lamp and she brought it over and insisted on giving it to her. Whatever has happened to this woman, it has turned her into some kind of angel. 

To all the well-wishers, you can't know how much it meant to me to check in during the week and see your comments, even though I had not posted. Thank you, Leslie, Rachel and Gabi and all the others who seemed to sense there was more to my plant dilemma than artistic musing.


  1. This is a beautiful post. It's real, heart centered, and tender.
    I'll hold a loving space for you, as you know I always do. xo

  2. Oh, yes, Kass. I knew that wasn't about that geranium, but it was a nice analogy.

    You have gutted me with this one and I'm already pretty emotional today, so I am just sending an awe-flower of the heart bouquet and I will try to say something cogent soon.

    You may have flipped her off as an irrepressible teen, but you are surely taking good care of her now when she needs to be able to rely upon you.

    <3 <3 <3

  3. i've been watching in the wings, knowing just a bit of what's been happening. this hits very close to home for me. your grace under pressure has given me a model to emulate. your heart is right there, front and center. thank you for sharing this. you are in my heart.

  4. Setzen, sechs!

  5. How like Nanny to break the ice of the Norwegian Queen and make a new sweet friend on the first day. The place will certainly be wittier and more pleasantly musical with her in there. We've been to this assisted living place before, one of a few on a holiday performance tour with some kiddies. This was my favorite place because the atmosphere was more natural and the people were so lively and involved in everything. It seemed more full of happy life than any of the other places. They've got quite a gem now! I know if Nanny has anything to say about it, things will work out well . . . and exactly how she wants them. : )

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  7. All because of you,
    I believe in angels.
    no, not the kind with wings,
    no, not the kind with halos.
    but, the kind that bring you home,
    when home is kind of strange.
    I'll follow your sweet voice,
    and know that I am safe

    Cameryn Williams

    Part of a poem I found on my daughters notebook. Kass, I think you are one of those angels. I'm happy to know your Mom is in good hands. Yours.

  8. Shedding more than a few tears for you and your mum - but hopeful ones. This isn't running away. You're facing the headlights and I think you'll come off stronger for it and your mum has a daughter to be proud of. You are two very formidable women.

  9. this deeply touched my heart ... miss my mother so much

  10. Oh, Kass! I've been there. I've walked in your shoes. I've spent a quarter of my life roaming the hallways of Alzheimers' wards.

    The sights, sounds and smells shaped me into who I am today.

    There is no solace except through Love.

    There's only Love.

    Everything else is simply too horrific/depressing to bear.

  11. The End of an Era and the beginning of a New One.
    Moving into an assisted living community has its positive side: your mom will be able to share interests and activities with people of her same generation. She will be taken care of by specialized staff who has all the time to care for her. She will not have the feeling that is a burden to her family and that they actually enjoy the time they spend with her when visiting. Dressing up for meals and be able to interact with people will keep her active and feeling part of a community, which is paramount to every human being.
    For what you said she is coping with the change and is embracing it to her best – you should indeed be very proud, she is an inspiration to many. She accepted the change and is moving along with it!

    Keep strong Kass and enjoy the process.

    “If you would attain to what you are not yet, you must always be displeased by what you are. For where you are pleased with yourself there you have remained. Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing.” ~Saint Augustine


  12. Assisted living facilities are great environment for our loved ones who we feel like we neglect due to the demands of life. Yes, it may be difficult to live home but the transition to move is way better.
    Excellent post. Those are cherished moments with your mom which are really helpful for her. Keep it up.

  13. OK, it's been almost 24 hours and I'm going to do this. This part of your post stopped me dead in my tracks: "Any troubles with my mother I might have wanted to hash out seem irrelevant in the face of what she must be going through." Most of us don't want to show the less attractive parts of ourselves publicly, but I'm going to be emotionally brave in order to give you this gift. I know about your mother and your upbringing. There are reasons your ran away and flipped her off. But you've developed and evolved to a place where you are able to put it down and move forward taking care of her. I'm not sure I'm as well developed and evolved, Kass. When I read your words, I was slammed: "Kass is a big person. I'm not sure I could be as good, if called upon." You have my heart and my imagination.

  14. Kass I thought about that geranium only momentarily I'm afraid but now it becomes so much clearer and I'm sorry to have come in to this post late today.

    I have had a full day and it's past midnight, I should get to bed - up at six, but I want to register my recognition of your plight, and these mixed feelings we have about our mothers.

    I too find it unbearable to see my mother now ninety years old sitting at a table in her 'old people's home' alongside all these other mainly old women who do not seem to communicate as well as my mother.

    My mother's body fails her, but not her mind.

    We know there is more to the stories we tell, as Lesie suggests in her comments.

    Perhaps it's enough to know this, as with your geranium.

    The thing about geraniums is that they are hardy and they can relocate readily. Their flowers can be spectacular

  15. MARIE - I appreciate the loving space you have always held for me. There are few constants in life, but your love and acceptance of me is one of them.

    LESLIE - Don't be so hard on yourself. What you went through as a child is a totally different scenario than what I experienced. From what I've gathered over the months we have been getting to know each other, your loving acceptance in another area of your life is something few people have ever achieved. Love is the great equalizer. For whatever reasons we feel snitty in defense of our boundaries or egos, to be the ones acting in love, instead of helpless victims being acted upon, is the solution Mom seems to have come to. In her confusion and forgetfulness, this quality prevails. Maybe we should all develop selective dementia so the love can shine through.

    STANDING - I love being held in your heart space. I feel like one of your well-lit flowers. You were never in the wings. You are part of the loving scenario.

    SETZEN SECHS - You appear to be a YouTube Viral Marketing program, but I hope you feel the love.

    EQUINOX - I'm so happy to hear you have some experience with the Avenues Courtyard. I love your expression of Nanny's ice-breaking technique. It was so wonderful to be able to bring Nanny to your joyous party for Sandra on Saturday. It normalized the transition to her new home. What perfect timing!

    TAG - Every time I read your poem (and believe me, I have read it over and over), I cry. How serendipitously perfect this is. There are no coincidences. There are angels and miracles everywhere.

    RACHEL - Thank you again for reaching out across the continents and oceans to extend loving support and understanding. This new shoot of a plant that you started is a wonderful symbol of the life that connects us all if we care to nurture it as you have.

    S. ETOLE - Your blog touches me so much, I'm glad you stopped by here so I could thank you again.

    JONAS - Your right. Everything else IS too horrific and depressing to bear. Isn't it interesting that through this emotional upheaval, there is such love? The emotions I feel coming from the World Of Blog are startling. From moving fingers on a keyboard? How can this be? But then how is this different from any other several-steps-removed-human-interaction? Sometimes even our bodies get in the way.

    GABI - Thank you for reaching out from your far continent to offer your wisdom and support. I'm having a hard time getting over the feeling that I have put her away, but you have reminded me how positive this new place can be for her. I love your quote from Saint Augustine. Thank you again.

    BEN - Thank you for your kind words. Your Senior Service Hub must be a nice organization.

    ELISABETH - Thank you for commenting, even though you were tired from six days worth of busy activity.

    I know the complexity of our feelings for those responsible for shaping us will always come out in our writing. Even the negativity can be viewed with love.

    Your analogy to the geraniums brought it back perfectly.

  16. Oh JONAS, I hate it when I type YOUR, when I mean YOU'RE.......sorry......

  17. Hello. I am new to your blog, but that was such a touching post. It must be a great comfort to have a supportive staff around your mother. I remember my stubborn grandmother living on her own until she was 91, and it was an anxiety to all of us.

  18. JULIE - Thanks for landing on my blog. I looked at your paintings on your blog. You are very artistic!
    Thank you for your kind words.

  19. I too have been impressed by the professionalism displayed by the staff in these facilities. They seem well equipped to help facilitate the residents' final journey. But it is done at an emotional price.
    The picture of your mom at the door was especially poignant.

  20. What does this say about your heart, that so many from so many different parts of this great globe we call home have responded with love.

  21. Your comment really spoke to me. You've got my number, Kass. Yes, I was victimized, held on somehow and now enjoy something that most people don't attain in this life. Sign me up for some of that selective dementia.

    And in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make.

    You will be rewarded greatly.

  22. REC - I'm glad to hear you think these facilities are professional and helpful. I am emotionally exhausted at this point from the decision-making process.

    I'm glad you like the picture. It may have seemed weird to some that I would take pictures of the move. As irritating as my new-found toy (my camera) is to people, I feel about it as you feel about books. They will have to pry my dying fingers from it.

    TAG - Really I think it says more about these wonderful people, but thank you.

    LESLIE - As far as rewards go, I feel rewarded already, as you should, for the love you make.

  23. My mum was in two care homes. The first was grim, the second enormously supportive and caring. Your description, Kass, of this assisted living community (these euphemisms!) promises well, reminding me strongly of Mum's second residence. So bon courage to you - but there seem to be strong positives in place at this difficult time.

  24. DICK - Thank you for your encouragement and support. Let's hope the positives keep rolling in. I hate hearing that your mother had to be in a grim place for any amount of time.

  25. That brought a lot of things - good and bad - back to me, replicating much of what occurred and much that went through my mind when my father had to move into a home - which is what, to give them their due, they did try to make it.

  26. DAVE - Well said. Mixed feelings all around. Thanks for stopping by.

  27. K-- Awesome and wonderful that you have chosen to write about the positive aspects of this challenging transition. Focusing on the good stuff is the best way to thrive (I believe), much like the plant leaning toward the sunlight. Very touching update. Thanks....


  28. Great blog here,wonderful post :)

  29. POMPOMS - So glad to hear from you. As you've probably noticed, I've been busy night and day for over a week now. I hope to 'thrive' soon when I catch my breath. Thanks for your kind words.

    MARINELA - Thank you for your nice words about my post and blog. I enjoyed stopping by yours too.

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  31. This is such a powerful thing to share and I admire the people that are put in challenging situations.

    I really thank you for giving me this different view of this.

    Tom Bailey

  32. TOM - Thank you so much for your kind words.

  33. what a wonderful post. all the best to your mom.

  34. I'm new to your blog but this entry about your mother is so touching. It is a difficult time for an aging parent, and their children. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  35. SARAH JANE - Thank you for your kind wishes.

    JAN - Thank you so much. Enjoyed exploring your blog.


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