Monday, April 28, 2008

Taking Care of Our Mother

We are five grown children, far flung geographically, but connected by cell phone towers and our vacant mother. We talk all the time. Mom's sick again. She fainted. The ambulance was or was not called. She went to the doctor or the hospital. She won't be discharged for a few days. They are giving her fluid. She needs antibiotics. She is bored and grouchy with the nurses. She wants to go home to her grandchildren.

Alzheimer's Disease is taking our mother away from us. The current system is so strained that it can't last. My niece is living with her, but she has three young children and a full time job and Mom is no longer able to be alone while Jessie is gone. We are looking into secure Alzheimer's facilities. Memory care, it is called. We are all torn up.

"Sometimes people flourish. Many of our residents do well," says a voice on the phone. But, also, some deteriorate, losing the anchor of what is familiar. "I feel like we are walking her to the edge of a cliff and pushing her off." How can we do that to our mother?

The last days with Dad still echo, though it has been more than 19 years. He was in the hospital, hoping to go home, but the descent had begun and there was no going back. His brown skin yellowed, his belly swelled.

We gathered around him, never leaving him alone, taking turns spending the night. There was always someone to help him stand or to guide the bent straw to his dry lips. He would wake up slowly, spurting Spanish or some dreamy English nonsense, then his mind would focus for a bit. He fought through the fog of a failing liver and spoke to each of us in a small voice. Final instructions. Last words. All that really mattered. "I love you, hija," he whispered, right in my ear. "Take care of your mother."


Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Winter Scarf

Yarn: Jitterbug
100% Merino Wool
Color - Toscana 55
1 skein

Needles: US 3

Pattern: Garter Stitch Rib
48 stitches

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ugly Juneau

This town has no architecture. In the late 19th century, white folks poured in to pan for gold. They weren't planning to stay so they built nothing to last. Plywood was invented. It rains a lot. Moss and rust are happy here.

Usually, I don't take pictures of the ugliness. I look right past it to the mountains above. I wait for better weather and more daylight. I am used to the gloom and decay. Some days full strength coping strategies are necessary. But, most of the time, it is easy to find the beauty and be grateful. Just look up.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


It has been a long winter. There was a snowstorm two days ago and a massive avalanche south of town that took out the main source of hydro power for the entire city. Now we are told our electric bills will rise by 500%. $80 becomes $400. Those with electric heat already pay several hundred dollars a month to fight the cold. Natural disaster? Part of life? At our house, we can mothball the dishwasher and stop buying expensive plane tickets. There is a lot of daylight this time of year. It was 20 degrees this morning but walking warms me up. The mountains watch, uncaring.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Young Minds

Last night, Ray wondered, "Mom, what if we were just zapped here at this moment in time? What if I just appeared today with my memories programmed in? There isn't any real proof of the past, is there? "

We have a curious child. There are papers scattered around the house with lists of phobias, pages of semaphore alphabet for flag signaling and descriptions of Greek immortal gods. Morse code. The phonetic alphabet. Pendragon and Percy Jackson adventure fantasy books. Calvin and Hobbes.

"How can a person die of stress?" "Is it really impossible to travel faster than the speed of light?" "Do you believe in the afterlife?"

I made a quick trip to Mexico in February, for a family emergency that is now resolved. I sat next to a 5 year old and his father on the four hour flight from San Francisco. The boy was a wonder, reading already, spelling his name, asking his dad about everything. And on the ferry, in March, I listened to a woman, loud and proud, talking about her granddaughter, exclaiming that there was really something special about the girl. And I realized that family life gives us access to children as individuals and allows us to notice them and share their marvels and their delights. Kids are cool.

Some annoying facts from Ray, the guest blogger:

The average 2 year old asks 439 questions a day.

Cat urine glows under a black light.

And his favorite quote from a coach is "Now pair up into groups of three and line up in a circle".