Dear Rosamunde Pilcher…

As I sit writing this note to you, my late mother’s copy of “Coming Home” lays waiting for me on the table. It must have been a very special book to her as she strategically placed 234 small post-it notes in it. (I just counted them.)

Mom’s copy of “Coming Home” with post-its

I have delayed reading it as her passing has caused me much sorrow, but now I feel as though the notes indicating her thoughts will be a way for her to speak to me in absentia – to know some of her innermost thoughts and to perhaps experience the flavor of Cornwall and the West Country from which her mother came.

I look forward to reading it now, but felt compelled to first try to find you and thank you for the joy my mother had when reading ALL of your books, but most especially this one. Mom was born in 1927 and I expect I will be able to crawl behind her eyes and see the world a little as she did for she, along with her sister, lived through the book’s time frame. It was her sister who first introduced her to “The Shell Seekers,” and they had many happy conversations about your books, as well as the other Cornwall chronicle, “Poldark.”

I have attached a photo of the book for I believe it will make you happy to know that you have so deeply affected the life of someone with your beautiful writing. Perhaps it is even similar to a book Mom would have wished to write (though she never tried).

I think my mother would have liked for me to do this, and that she and her sister are in heaven smiling.

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We are ALL caregivers.

It’s been over a year since my mother passed away, and in that time, I have rarely written a blog because I am ‘in-between causes.’ As I wrote about caregiving for my mother, it all seemed so easy to imagine that I would simply set aside my life and dreams for a time, and then pursue them with a vengeance when my responsibilities of family and career were over.

But that’s not what happened. Amidst the hard and soft grieving-time, I found that I had somehow lost my way. So many, many things beckoned – my desire to travel, my need to clear my home of superficial belongings, my drive to write the books I always said I would, a desire to reconnect with friends and family I had lost touch with, and most insistently…the need to take care of old business.

That last one was the ‘kicker.’ As I looked around my home and sifted through papers I saw that there was more left undone and uncompleted than I had realized.  I came face-to-face with my younger self who must have thought she had all the time and all the money in the world to spend on courses that were never completed, fabric that was never used, hobbies that were started and fizzled out leaving in their wake unused sheet music, half-done needlepoint and embroidery, photographs and memorabilia originally destined for albums purchased and still in cellophane.  Dare I say that my bookshelves were groaning with volumes that I always meant to read, but never actually got to start (or finish)?  But most distressing were the journals that sat in boxes that conveyed hope and promise for a future that never quite materialized.

Recently, I have begun to think about my own ‘third act.’ My high school class is having it’s 50th reunion next Spring; my youngest son just turned 46 yesterday; I reached full Social Security age a few months ago. I seem to be rolling head-first into a time of my life that I really haven’t prepared myself for.

I didn’t plan on having problems walking because my knees (one at a time) troubled me so. I didn’t plan on the lack of energy I experience, or the inability to read for very long unless under a very bright light. I didn’t realize that I’d have such attachment to belongings because they represent memories I’ve enjoyed or hopes for my future.  I didn’t know I’d still worry about my sons.

I’ll never forget watching ‘Romancing the Stone’ back in 1984.  There’s a scene where Michael Douglas is telling Kathleen Turner about how he traveled to South America on a coffee boat and collected rare birds, and it suddenly dawned on me that he (the character) probably had a mother somewhere who would be worried about him. And at that moment, I realized, perhaps for the very first time, that your children are your children for the rest of your life!

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. And I never thought, at that tender age of 33, that thirty years later I would be taking care of my own mother.  Had I known, I would have asked, “When is it going to be MY turn?”

I’ve met so many wonderful people that are the primary caregivers to family members who are not always elderly. There are the parents who have children with Autism, ADD/ADHD, Tourette’s and other mental and physical disabilities. There are families who agonize about relatives who have mental illnesses and parents who wring their hands over their sons and daughters who are hooked on drugs or alcohol. I empathize with people whose spouses and significant others have serious health concerns. Whereas the issues confronting people I knew in the past were divorce, financial challenges, wrinkles and fat, their concerns have now morphed into grief about children who have died as a result of suicide and drug overdose, and family members who cannot be found.

Sometimes I think to myself (one of my mother’s favorite expressions when she spoke aloud) that I am glad that I am as old as I am. I don’t know whether I could handle all the chaos in the world and in life if I were only in my twenties. Then again, every generation seems to be equipped to handle the problems of their time.

And when I worry about all the mistakes I’ve made, the wrong turns I’ve taken, I’m reminded of the lines in the Eagle’s song from the album, “Hotel California:”

And maybe someday we will find,
That it wasn’t really wasted time.

So, I’ll just take my challenges one at a time, and share my thoughts on whatever it is that I’m studying and researching at the moment.  No one can put a value on Life Experience. You can’t learn it all in school, and even when you think it’s pointless, in the end, it’s like the commercial by American Express: “Priceless!”

All this is a very long way of saying that although my blog, “The Caregiver’s Corner” was initially intended to be about natural health with regard to senior caregiving, it seems to be evolving into a generalized site about people caring for others – and not forgetting how important it is to take care of ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little bit of human kindness

Ken Ailes, a Regional Manager at  Oracle, received over 11,000 ‘likes’ and almost 400 comments on the following post he made on LinkedIn.  I felt compelled to repost it here…

I was on a #Delta flight tonight from MSP to SFO. fortunate enough to be in the front of the plane. The gentleman in 1C was an older gentleman with some kind of physical challenges- both leg braces and braces on his wrist. The flight attendants were busy servicing a full flight and really didn’t have the time to take care of this guy for the entire flight. There wasn’t a whole lot he could do on his own. I watched him repeatedly ask the guy in 1D for help with a variety of things- help grabbing a magazine, grabbing his water bottle, lifting his mostly useless leg so he could relieve some pain, putting his seat belt on. I was amazed at 1D’s compassion. He even offered to cut 1C’s chicken for him since he obviously couldn’t do it himself. I felt compelled to help, and did when I could , but honestly I don’t know if I would have if 1D hadn’t treated the guy with such compassion. I told him after the flight that he had inspired me. He thanked me and said it felt good to help someone. It was a great reminder. For those of us who get to sit in the front of the plane from time to time, it doesn’t preclude us from having a servant mentality. We should never forget how fortunate we are, wherever we are sitting, and strive to have the compassion for others that the guy in 1D had.

Amen, Ken!

Passing the Mantle

Last Thursday was the first anniversary of my mother’s passing.

All day long I toyed with what I could or “should” say on social media. I thought about all the tributes and photos that people place on Facebook at such a time, all the comments from friends and acquaintances alike who never met my mother, but who would in all probability post something kind or predictable.

I guess I’m just not a Facebook person, and frankly, I don’t know that I will ever be one of those people who advertise what they were thinking, eating, doing – although I acknowledge that for people of other generations, that is a perfectly good way to stay in touch.

However, since Mom’s passing, I have realized that I am now a Senior Citizen and therefore not compelled to act like a Millenial, Gen-X-er or Boomlet.  I am a BOOMER, and proud of it, and I still say VCR and ‘surf the web,’ which, according to http://www.dictionary.com, are several of the ten words that will show my age.  If I were they, I’d be less concerned about advertising my age than I would be to not recognize that ‘surf the web,’ ‘wet blanket,’ ‘Dear John letter,’ and ‘long distance call,’ are phrases and not simply words (of which the article declares there were supposed to be only ten).

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What happens to a caregiver after a loved one is gone?

It’s been six rough months.
I am about 180+Adrienne days into my new life as an orphan, and it’s time to do an ‘about face.’ (Play the music if you want the mood.) I got through the holidays all right, reached my birthday in February without falling apart and for the most part have sorted through the majority of my mother’s belongings. But now it’s time to move forward. Now it’s time for me to answer the question posed in my blog title:  What happens to a caregiver after a loved one is gone?

After combing the Internet for answers and talking to friends who have lost 220px-StAugustineLighthouse_StairsLookingDowntheir loved ones (including one who is a psychologist), it seems there’s no right or wrong way to go about this.  I was hoping for some guidance about time frames, some hurdles to get over or benchmarks to look for – that sort of advice. Alas! Like everything else, there’s no magic bullet. You just have to muddle through the best you can. And I’m also learning that just because you’re fine one day, doesn’t mean that grief won’t pop up years later and make you ‘surprisingly emotional.’
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Response to ‘My Father is in the last stage of dementia’ on AgingCare

I haven’t visited my favorite caregiving website as much as I used to. It’s still too painful. But this morning, I did.  And there was a question from someone whose father had dementia, and I found myself answering her question with more detail than I had anticipated.

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Oldies, but goodies

I’ve just discovered old movies on YouTube. (Yeah, I know… but I just never looked!)

I mean… real oldies.  The ones with Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Bette Davis, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Maureen O’Hara, Robert Young, Errol Flynn, and all the others too numerous to list.  My sister would know the titles.  My Dad and she shared a love of old cinema.

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