Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thinking Inside the Box

This is the inside of Mother's precious box.  I have written about this before, but this is very dear to her.  Whenever I bathe her, she is very particular about where I put this and makes sure she gets it back when I am done.  It has items she wants near her:  Vicks Rub, a compact with mirror, lipstick, eyedrops, and Benedryl.....oh, and the tissues.   This affords her a modicum of control in a situation where she otherwise has no control.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Time marches on

I have been coming here to my parents' house every Saturday and Sunday now for five months.  I missed one Sunday.  I am tired.  God knows the deal I made with Him to enable me to continue this pace.  He has kept His end so far, and I have kept mine.  There are weekend days when I just want to stay in bed.  I don't like the drive even though it is only an hour.  My back yard needs attention, but I have no time for that now.

Yet, I relish this time with them. Changing Mother, bathing her....and all that encompasses.  Dad is almost 88, and Mother is 84.  Time marches on.  I am almost 53, a number so foreign to me forty years ago.  We don't know how much time any of us have, so I make the best of it.  He will give me strength for each day to do what I must.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


There is always laughter when I visit my parents.  Much of it centers around Mother's bodily functions.  Weird, I know, but she initiates it.  As I have said before, she has this child-like laughter.  Yesterday when I walked in, laughing was the first thing we did. 

When I walked into the kitchen, Dad was at the counter with a plastic Walmart-type bag--the kind that is killing our environment.  When I asked him what he was doing, he replied, "I'm taping it."

"What?!"  I asked incredulously. 

"I'm taping it.  We go through too many here to throw it away because of holes."

He was referencing, of course, the bags needed for my mother's hygiene needs, to put it delicately.

I shook my head as I walked into the former dining room-turned-her-room.  I greeted her, "You two are a mess.  It's obvious you grew up during the Depression."

Then, I noticed a new "covered" trash can by her bed.  "Why did you get that?" I inquired.

"Because we smelled the other one too much," was her and Dad's response almost simultaneously.

The "old" one was an old shredder whose mechanism had broken.  They used that as a trash can as I do my old broken one.  When I asked Dad where that one was, he replied, "It's in the back bedroom as a trash can."

We laughed, and so we started the day laughing over Mother's bodily functions and the ingenuity borne from being a child in the Depression.  If you are, you improvise, you make do. 

Before I left, she told me I would have to write a story about this.  Last week when I read them this entry, here, about making memories, she laughed, Dad stonily kept his emotions in check, but I broke down, and she offered me a tissue.  I expected her to be the one most upset.  She asked for a printout of it, so that is what I am doing next.

Then, it will be off to see what today's visit brings.  And I will start taping my bags.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Making Memories

  Here are some pictures that will stay with me for the rest of my life when I think back on my time with my parents during Mother's hospice time.

Here is a glimpse into our Saturdays and Sundays together.  I usually get to Walterboro between 9 and 10 am.  Dad always has the back door unlocked for me, so I just go on in.  Mother is, of course, in her hospital bed in the dining room, while Dad is in his recliner in the living room.  We go through just about the same thing each time.  When I ask her what she had for breakfast, she invariably says, "Ginger's cake."  You see, I alternate baking her this lemon bundt cake (in *her* bundt pan she gave me a few years ago) and an apple bread.  She likes a slice with her morning black coffee.  A bundt cake like this will last her about two weeks.  She always tells Dad not to eat too much of it. 

Sometimes then, Dad will leave and go run errands to Walmart, the Dollar General, and other stores.  He has his list, mostly for snack items like in the above picture.  It is funny because when he is gone, Mother usually says, "I don't know what he has in there (meaning the kitchen snack corner).  He doesn't tell me what he buys."  When I took the snack counter picture above, I took my phone to her to show her.  She shook her head.  Sometimes she says, "Well, he doesn't offer me anything."  I have to add that she is horribly allergic to corn and any corn products.  He has to make sure corn syrup is not in anything he gives her, and we know that is difficult.  She does get potato chips and there is a type of cookie she can eat.

Between 10 and 10:30, which is not long after I get there, she begins the lunch talk.  There is great debate on what we will have for this very important meal.  Most of the time on Saturday Dad will go get our lunches.  She pours over the menu from Daily Land, or she will ask him what coupons he has for Wendy's....or she will ask how we feel about shrimp fried rice from the Chinese restaurant.  There have been times when he has gone to two different fast food joints to get our orders. 

Sundays I cook.  Dad will often go to their church's Agape service on the second Sunday.  No matter, at 10:30 Mother starts telling me she needs the radio to listen to their church's 11 o'clock service on the radio.  A few minutes to 11, I put the radio on her hospital tray and turn it on for her.  Then, I go into the kitchen and begin cooking.  We have the same thing now each week. Two students from my earliest years teaching married and live in the same neighborhood.  They and their son are rabid fishermen.  We have enough fish for about a dozen meals.  I prepare Caleb's fish and the baked potatoes and salad.  By the time Mother finishes listening to the church service, it is time to eat.

Sometimes after lunch on either day, we will take a nap.  I go to the back bedroom, turn on the fan, and close the door.  I might sleep for half an hour or so.  Because I am a light sleeper, I hear anything Mother says.  Dad naps in his recliner while he can.

Along about 2:30 I bathe her.  I have written of this before.  About a month ago, Dad asked, "I bet you never thought you would be changing your mother."  I replied, "You do what you have to do." All of that routine is just second nature now, and I can bathe her in twenty minutes.  Afterwards, I leave for home.

I thank God for the sweet memories I am making now.  Long after they are gone I will have these pictures and this blog to look back on.  Those pictures encapsulate what I will remember most about my time with my parents.  Dad's love of all things snacky will resonate with me forever.  The above picture is his main snack stash, but he has some in my childhood bedroom, which became Matthew's tv room in later years.  He also has some in the hall closet, though when Mother had me look last weekend, it was empty of snacks.  I don't keep any unhealthy food in my house, but when I go to my parents' house, my mind goes back to my childhood, and I have some of his junk it chips or ice cream, I am a kid again.

Before closing, I have to explain the dishwasher-turned-pantry.  Several years ago I was looking for something---it may have been crackers---and Mother said to open the dishwasher.  I didn't know they no longer used it.  There were the crackers.  She has had both shoulders replaced and can not reach up.  For practicality, they moved most of their every day food items to the dishwasher.  What an ingenious idea for the elderly or handicapped.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Box

Before my mother became sick, she controlled the finances.  She told my father what he could spend and what he couldn't spend.  Relinquishing control of the checkbook was probably the hardest thing for her after becoming bedridden.  She has had a Kleenex box in the bed with her for months, but last month, he gave her a "piece of money" to squirrel away in it along with her lipstick and a few other little medicinal items.  This has made all the difference in the world to her.  She now has some control...and it comes from that box.  When I start to bathe her or change her and move the box, she says, "Don't lose my box."  She wants me to be careful with it.  I ask her where she is going to spend that little piece of money, and she just says, "I don't know; he gave it to me."

What happens when all the tissue is gone?  Her treasures are moved to the next box, and so it continues.............

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Well-done, good and faithful servant"

Today after I bathed Mother, I brushed her hair, and she asked for her lipstick.  I gave it to her to hide away in her Kleenex box with her other "goodies." In spite of being bedridden, she wanted to look presentable, pretty.  When I teased her, she said, "There are no good-looking men around here."  I motioned to my father and said, "What about him??"  She laughed her little girl laugh.  The last few months she has resorted to that:  a little girl laugh.  Much of what she says is reminiscent of a school girl now, complete with a hearty, child-like laugh.

It has been five months now since Mother came home from the hospital with congestive heart failure under hospice care.  The last few weeks Dad has had a caregiver come in Monday-Friday to help her exercise her legs and get into a wheelchair for a time.  We are still waiting on the long-term insurance to kick in so the caregiver can be five days a week for most of each day.  Let me just say:  NEVER< EVER use John Hancock Insurance.   NEVER!

The last few days Mother has been getting mixed up or confused.  One night she saw someone who was not there, and today she thought Dad was six years older than she.  (He is three years and nine months older.)  There are other little things that she is confused about as well.  It's not Alzheimers, of course, but I attribute it to old age. 

When I came in this morning, she was hungry.  She had gotten mad at Dad earlier and refused to eat breakfast.  He had snapped at her over something she accused him of, but he had apologized.  He was hurt.  She had accused him of not doing something for her when he has devoted the last five months, indeed, the last 66 years, to doing just that.  He told her that he promised her all those years ago that he would take care of her the best he could, for as long as he could.  For the last five months, that is exactly what he has done.  He has stayed in that house, day after day, caring for her.  He has left on the few days when my brother or I am there each week. That is when he goes to the stores, not out to have fun. 

All I could think of each time he has said he will take care of her as long as he is able is this:  One day when he meets Jesus face-to-face, He will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."  Dad is the hands and feet of Jesus to my mother. He is the model of Christ-like behavior to his wife. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"When I meet Jesus"

This afternoon while I was washing up the hospital basins in Mother's bathroom after I had bathed her, I heard her whispering to Dad over her hospital bed.  It was something about her pink robe he had bought her last month for her birthday.  When I re-entered the room, I asked if that was what she wanted to wear when her new .part-time caregiver tries to help her get up.  In a low, shaky voice, she said, "You know, when I meet Jesus.  Do you think it is alright to wear that?"

I replied, "You can wear what you want."  Dad reminded her that my sister-in-law Carol had been buried in the matching pantsuit she had made for her wedding to my brother just four months earlier from when she died in 1975.  

I need to add that my mother is no closer to meeting Jesus than you or I, meaning that only God knows.  I knew since she came home under hospice care in March that she had congestive heart failure.  Somehow, she did not know, and I guess Dad had forgotten until the hospice office told him yesterday.  Now, in her mind she is closer than ever to "meeting Jesus."

Of course, she meant she wants to be buried in that pink robe.  It does not matter what we are "put away in" because when we do meet Him, we will be in glorified bodies.  Our earthly shell in that casket is for the mourners left behind because, in fact, those of us who belong to Him will never be more alive than when we meet Him.

Friday, July 31, 2015

"I'm not...enough"

How many times have you told yourself, "I'm not good enough," or "I'm not skinny enough," or "I'm not smart enough."  Whatever "it is," it's the devil talking to you...and to me, trying to defeat us.  God tells us in Psalm 139:14 that "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."  Meditate on this part:  "I am ...wonderfully made."  Try repeating it over and over when you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself.  If that is not enough, what about this verse from Genesis 1:26:  "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."  Yes, we are made in the likeness, the image, of God.  I have trouble with this one at times, but since He said it, it is true.  God does not lie.

American culture, in particular, has labelled women who are not size 0 as nothings, less than worthy of any consideration for anything.  All we need do is look at the fashion magazines at the check-out line for confirmation.  THEY are the ones who are lying.  The world's idea of beauty and worth are distorted in Hollywood and the fashion industry.  We are not to look to them for our self-worth, for we are to be set apart from them. While we are "in" this world, we are not "of" this world.  We get our worth from God, not the culture.

When you start to doubt yourself, your looks, or your abilities, remember who made you.  Commit Psalm 139: 13-14 to memory: "It was you who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made" by the creator of the universe itself.  Let that sink in.  God knew us in our mothers' wombs.  He made us the way we are.  Whether we are tall, short, or average, He knew that before we were formed in the womb.  He knew our hair, be it curly or straight.  He knew our skin tone, be it pale, dark, or in between. 

So, when that nasty voice in your head starts to berate you for whatever reason, push it down.  Don't listen.  You ARE good enough!

Sunday, July 26, 2015



God tells us not to be conformed to this world.....not to become attached to it .....I take it a step further in that we are not to become attached to "things."  There is the story of the rich  man who asked Jesus what he needed to do, and Jesus told him to sell what he had and give it to the poor.  This saddened the man because he was very wealthy.

Thirteen years ago this month I bought my house.  I knew  the moment I saw it that it was for me; it had my color scheme as well as the fireplace I wanted.  It has served me well.  But, I am not attached to it.  In fact, I am open to selling it after I retire if God moves me.

However, I "do" have an attachment to my parents' home where I grew up, and I am trying to reconcile losing it.  When my parents are gone, I am to sell it and divide the profits.  They have owned it since 1964 and lived in it since 1967.....almost exactly 48 years.  Dad retired from the Air Force for me to begin private kindergarten here.

This house has memories.  I walked through the backyard to my elementary school for grades 1-3; the playground is right behind their house, and now if I visit during a school day, I can hear the kids playing.  Then, I walked the sidewalks to another nearby school for grades 4 and 5.  Also, down the street there was a neighbor with a circular  driveway.  I have vivid memories of racing my bike through puddles on that circular driveway.

When I was small, we had one bathroom for the five of us.  It was not until I was grown that my then-husband and my dad built another bathroom as well as a breakfast room from the carport.  Memories.....

Also, as a child I remember climbing a ladder to the ROOF to help my dad, uncle Robbie, brother, and his friend reshingle the roof.  Dad even remembers me pushing the shingles to my uncle.  Today, I could not do that. As a child, I was brave and wanted to be a "big" girl.

I found out there is no Santa in that house.  On Christmas Eve one year I let our poodle out one more time before bed.  Behind the house was a box.  When I peered in, I saw the desk that Santa was to bring me later that night.  I just knew at that point, but I kept it to myself.

It was in that house that I remember the fake white Christmas tree of the early '70s.  I loved that white much so that I bought one myself a few years ago.

It was in this house that I began my fascination with current events.  I can remember by third grade sitting at the dining table eating breakfast while simultaneously watching the news and reading the Charleston newspaper.

When my husband and I separated, my son and I lived with my parents for nearly three years.  That house has special memories for him as well; he has his own attachment t.

So, I am trying to prepare myself for the day when my brother, son, and I meet at
 the house to take what belongings we want; the rest I plan to sell and add to the estAte.  It will be an excruciating time for my son and me as we realize we will be saying goodbye to the house that has been such an important part of our lives.  

I constantly remind(talk myself into) myself that it is "just" a house, and the memories will live.  I must not love the things of this world...........

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Battle

"For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens."  Ephesians 6:12

These are dark times in this country.  Summertime is supposed to be a carefree, fun time for kids out of school and families on vacation.  Yet, the last two months have been replete with a rapid fire of shootings resulting in mass murders.  It began with the Mother Emanuel shootings a short drive from me, and it has continued with shootings at military recruitment stations as well as in personal homes and another theater, this time in Louisiana.

We turn on the news any night, any time of the year, and we get the same thing:  death, death, and more death.  Children are killed or maimed in drive-by shootings, families are murdered in their homes by those close to them, people are shot dead at work or while enjoying a fun outing.

As awful as all of this is, we as Christians need to never lose sight of whom we battle.  Yes, these are men (primarily) who carry out these atrocities, but make no mistake about who is behind it.  The devil is real, as are his minions.  The Ephesians verse above makes it crystal clear to us believers:  we battle not man, but the powers of darkness that surround us. is getting worse.

I have had young people not understand how someone could do these things; my reply to them is that there is evil in this world.  Ultimately, there are two factions:  good and evil...and they are in a constant battle.  The good thing is that we Christians know the ending already......and our guy wins.