“Bam!”

“Robin, it feels like I had a screw loose and it finally fell out.”

Those were my mother’s words on Friday morning, March 3, 2017.

The day the screw fell out.

My mother and father were married for almost 56 years.  They had four children.  My older sister, myself, my younger sister and brother.  We grew up in a pretty typical household.  My father worked for the United States Air Force (including a tour in Viet Nam), and the Air National Guard all of my young life.

We grew up in Maryland.  My oldest sister is 4 years older than I am, my little sister and I are only two years apart, and my brother is 7 years younger than her.  My older sister was the only one of us who earned a college degree.  My brother served four years in the US Navy.  After Dad retired he and my mother made 3 cross country trips to see this beautiful land.  They towed a trailer and stayed in campgrounds all across the USA.

Two of us remained in Maryland, one moved to Virginia and I moved to Indianapolis.  We gave our parents 12 grandchildren.  The oldest is now 34, and the youngest is 14.

On September 15, 2013 my father died unexpectedly.  We were all devastated, but none so much as my mother.  Dad was the love of her life.

In the next couple of years we (my siblings and I) began to see mom decline.  Just little things, really.  Not remembering dates.  Not being able to set the timer on her lamp (which comes on at dusk every night).

My brother started greeting me when I came in town with, “Mom’s really starting to slip.”  I didn’t see it.  When I visited from Indianapolis to Mom’s home in Maryland I didn’t really see it.  Whenever I come to town all of my siblings try to see me, so the house is usually chaotic, to say the least.  I didn’t have any real “one on one” conversations with her because we were never alone.

In the fall of 2016 my younger sister and I could no longer deny that mom was, indeed, slipping.  We contacted her doctor’s nurse and told her that we had concerns about Mom’s memory.  She assured us that the doctor would be quite discreet in discussing the issue with her.  My younger sister accompanied Mom to her appointment in October.

The doctor asked, “Well, Carol, are you forgetting things, or have you gotten lost?”

“Oh, I haven’t gotten lost.”  (She’d gotten lost at least twice that we know of.)

“Then you’re fine.”

The New Normal

I’m sitting in my mother’s kitchen with her.

She calls a friend to make dinner plans for us tonight.  The friend is available!  We’ll see her tonight.

She is trying to make another phone call.  She has forgotten all of the phone numbers she knew by heart.  I look up the number she wants to call and read it to her.  She is confused about the message she hears when the call connects.

“Who the heck is that?!?”

She has dialed the number incorrectly.  I read the number to her again.  (She says she couldn’t read her handwriting.)  And this time she is unable to reach who she’s calling.

I want to keep her busy today.  Get out of the house and do something.

I want to get my mother a Mother’s Day gift while I’m in town.

“Mom, do you remember where you used to get your car detailed?”

“I’ve never done that before,” she responds.  (Gift certificates for this used to be the perfect gift for her.)

We leave to run errands.  I need to get fuel, get my car washed and go to Verizon to upgrade her phone.

We start to drive to get the gas.  I put the destination in the GPS program on my phone.  It gives me directions to the store only about 10 minutes away.  Our route includes some road work.

“Get over here, if you can.”

“Mom, I can’t.  The construction won’t let me.”

“OK.  It would be much faster that way,” she says.

I continue to drive the route my app suggests.

“I’ve never been here before,” she says.  We are still in the small town she lives in.

“I’m just going to follow the directions it’s giving me,” I say.

“OK. Fine,” she says, displeased.

We get the gas, and despite the Verizon store being only 5 minutes away, we must get the car washed first (she says).  We go to the car wash.  I order my wash.  We go inside to pay.  I ask the girl if I can buy her some coupons/gift certificates.  We talk about what to purchase.

In the middle of the conversation the young girl says, “I live next door to you.”

Mom says, “Oh!  I thought you looked familiar!  You look just like your dad!”  She whispered to me, “Ask her what her name is.”

We finish in the car wash, return to the very store where we purchased the gas, go in, get what she needs, then go to Chick-Fil-A – the same one we always go to.

“Hey, mom.  Wanna go to Chick-Fil-A?”

“Sure.  I’ve never been there, but I’ll try it,” she says.

I can’t even begin to explain or recount the time we spent at Verizon.  We had to write numbers down for her to understand how much she would pay.  She kept thinking that her bill was going to go down…?..  It probably took her a good three or four minutes quietly thinking things through in her head before she decided to continue with the purchase, only for them to tell her the phone she wanted wasn’t in stock.  ARGH!

 

This is a short, 2 hour glimpse into a part of our day today.

This is the new normal.