I was recently contacted by www.seniorhomes.com
In honor of November’s National Family Caregiver Month, they’re recognizing caregivers by sharing stories, available online to read, share, and vote on.
I expected to be a caregiver. Though it was 40 years sooner than “planned”; longevity runs in our family’s women. My grandmother looks toward her 90th birthday; lives alone in Nowhere, S.C. Great-grandmother lived ‘caregiver-free’ until age 97! Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 57.
Dad deserves credit – the hospice staff was astounded he took care of mom 10 years. I lived 3 hours away, and was busy with full time jobs, marrying King & his kids, raising our 4 kids. I visited every few weeks.
The most memorable trip was when dad took off for his 50th class reunion. I was glad to help because dad insisted upon staying home and this rare trip was much-needed. I missed Preacher Child’s senior prom; however, Mimi and sister in-law stood in, reported, took beautiful pictures. (Mimi wanted to spank one of those girls for her slinky red dress!)
Mom’s diagnosis was brain cancer; doctors claimed “good treatment” (chemo/surgery/radiation) left memory loss, a form of dementia. I implemented training as a preschool teacher to take care of mom - who resembled 4-year-olds I’d taught or raised at home.
Questions – she asked constant, repetitive questions, years after “good treatment”. I reminded myself: she took care of me. It’s payback for childhood questions she patiently answered – poor lady couldn’t take a bath or enjoy a moment of peace without me plopping down to chat.
I prayed – Heavenly Father, grant grace to take care of this precious woman. Oh Lord, I miss my mother. Sweet Jesus, how on the planet does dad do this every day?
We left sticky notes for her. She wrote notes on a pad. She forgot to read her notes. When she read, she argued. We'd plead: it was her writing for peats’ sake; the words were true. Dad pondered: why the part of her brain controlling stubbornness wasn’t removed, along with the memory and tumor.
Our best strategy was laughter, or we’d lose our collective sanity. I begged dad to try Zoloft; wouldn’t hear of it. He’d laugh; relay stories about mom: “Can’t make this stuff up; hell - some days I think she’s right and I’m losing it.”
That weekend with mom was memorable. Between mantras for long suffering, (and calls to the local florist, begging a same-day corsage for Preacher Child’s prom date) I cooked her favorite meals, planted spring flowers, watched hummingbirds, enjoyed taking care of her so dad could enjoy a well-deserved break.
Oh! And there was breakfast. I sat her down with fruit and a crossword puzzle (believe it or not, she could work them even after “good treatment”. I asked if scrambled eggs would be acceptable. (After a lifetime of being glad someone else cooked so she could simply eat - post brain cancer, mom became quite opinionated about things.)
She confirmed eggs were fine and asked my name. “It’s Anna, mom. Anna.” (Prayed under my breath; returned to kitchen.) I checked again - she asked, “Did you meet that girl, Anna? She’s a real keeper”.
“Sure, mom – I’m Anna”; left to fix her plate.
I set down breakfast and she began eating, raving it was delish. She asked my name – AGAIN. “It’s Anna, mom. Anna”. Her response: “Oh goody, now we have 2 Annas.”
I wonder why this tickles me. After thinking about it 6 years – maybe I’m glad to know she chose me as her daughter, again and again, and again… I know I’d choose her.