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Thursday, December 19, 2013

MIL

She moved in with us October of 2010. We thought she'd live in our home so we knew she was safe, but be fairly independent. I had been running back and forth to her home, just ten minutes from ours,  many times over the year before the move. In some ways this was to simplify our lives. Having us all under one roof would mean only one home to shop for and to clean. It would mean she was here when I needed to drive her to an appointment or check to see that she was taking her medicines and refills were not needed. That wasn't the case. Immediately after moving in, it became apparent Mark's Mom had been covering far more than we realized. Mark's strong, independent Mom was failing. Her memory was going and so were her abilities to do much for herself. Mark and I had been thinking about my getting another job outside the home. At that time I was helping a friend's family with their father who was in a steep decline of Alzheimer's, but we were considering my adding hours or finding something more regular. We had talked about how we thought his Mom would be able to read to Gwenn and help her with her schoolwork. My Mother in law or MIL as I often refer to her, had been a school teacher in our district. The thought of having an extra parent in the home to help Gwenn was somewhat appealing, after all, we often felt like Gwenn got the short end of the stick in our busy household. Teale took much of our time, Beau had a busy sports schedule and Gwenn was often left to her own devices. Gwenn was seven at the time. Having Mom here to leave her with if I was stuck in an appointment with Teale and Beau wasn't available, was handy. It turns out we weren't really prepared for the reality of it all though. Gwenn would be caring for her Nana far more than the way we had envisioned. The idea of my getting another job outside the home, quickly faded when it became clear that leaving my MIL on her own was both not safe and not healthy for her mentally or physically. If she was left for a few hours after a fifteen hour night in bed, she would just sleep more. Sleeping was her preferred activity and concerning to all of us in the family. We talked much about her Parkinson's and Parkinson's dementia with her team of doctors. I had been taking her to most of her doctor appointments the year or so before her moving in with Mark and I. We had seen the decline, but her living in our home really crystalized how bad her mental health was. Was she depressed, trying to escape through sleep? She and I had shared the inability to shake the Winter blahs every year. We both were diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder or SAD, as it is referred to. Rochester, NY is a gray place in winter, the sun barely ever peaking out from behind the clouds creates a feeling of wanting to hibernate in many people. I had always been grateful Mark understood the condition because of living with his Mom before living with me. Mark knew if I had stayed in the house for too many days in a row, he should get me out and he was good at paying attention to how I was doing during the long winter months. That role became mine with MIL, I would need to keep her active, provide fun activities and sometimes that would mean fighting her to get up and dressed and go out with me. She would always thank me afterwards for pushing her, but the reality of becoming the parent of a parent is harder than most realize. The mental fatigue taking care of MIL was often exhausting. She was the least nice to me in those early months, turning on the charm for Mark when he got home from work, my feelings were often hurt. After all, I was there for her, day in and day out, but she argued or was passive aggressive toward me by ignoring requests to stay hydrated or get out of bed or even reminders to use the bathroom. Mark was gentle and kind and grateful to me, he kept me going by his love and support. As the months moved on MIL's demeanor changed. It wasn't sudden, but ever so slowly as she felt better because she was getting more interaction, love and care, she slowly became kinder to me. Those early months were the toughest, to let off steam I'd call Mark or text him and his response was always the same, "I love you." It was all I needed to keep going. MIL and I fell into routines, going to St John's Home, a senior care facility, to do sing alongs, I would take my friend's father with me also. He was a charmer and loved cheering up the "old ladies." His Alzheimer's was progressing rapidly though and soon it became apparent I would no longer be able to care for him and my MIL. They got along well though, so there were times I would take them both out and his cheery disposition helped both MIL and I feel better. I have many fond memories of those times. As the time passed and spring arrived in Rochester, I remember how it occurred to me that MIL had barely gone outside in her later years when living alone. There had been no outside furniture and she had not cared for her yard or done any gardening. So in my care I decided to get her outside more. On chilly days, I would bundle her up and set her up with a book in the sun and there she would sit, watching the kids play and the neighborhood come to life. She'd fight me about going out, but once outside, she'd tell me how lovely it was. As spring turned to Summer the back porch became MIL's second home, a rocking chair, a book, a glass of iced tea, she'd watch the many birds that visited my feeders or the kids playing in the pool or on the trampoline. MIL would watch me garden and tell me how beautiful my yard was. I knew those times were special, she was at peace. Our time together was precious in the end. I know Mark appreciated my taking care of his Mom and I appreciated the healing I experienced in my relationship with her. Our journey to the warm relationship we had in the end was slow, but God works in mysterious ways and in His plan, there would be peace...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy 15th

The night you were born I had no clue,
What on earth I'd learn from you.
The days I'd worry,
The times I fret,
The many people that I met.
Today you turn that magical year,
15 you are, it's finally here.
It's been a journey,
It's been a ride,
I've held on tight and I've wished to hide.
Someday I might finally see
The answer to your life was me.