Am I Doing OK?

The start of spring was officially a few days ago, but Richmond Virginia didn’t get the memo.

Old Man Winter was hell bent and determined to stick around, and I was not a happy camper. I had already put my winter clothes in the darkest recesses of my closet in hopes that I would never have to see any of them ever again.

Note: I have never been a big fan of the old-as-ice man.  And, this time he took me over the edge. He had worn out his welcome!

So, here we go … again.

It’s 7:30 am, mom has been washed, changed, dressed, fed,  bundled up and is sitting tall in her Big Wheels Chariot waiting for me to roll her out into the cold to our pre-heated Helen-Mobile for her journey to Circle Center Adult Day Care.

Mom’s cold, I’m cold, and the toasty Helen-Mobile was our only chance to prevent hypothermia … turning back was not an option. When I whispered to mom that I was going to lift her from her Big Wheels into the front seat of the car, she had no idea what was about to happen until we heard the SONIC BOOM … the sound associated with the shock waves created by an object traveling through the air faster than the speed of sound.

And, that object was my 96 year old mom being lifted from her Big Wheels and into the car in one fell swoop!

When we arrived at Circle Center, I created one last SONIC BOOM getting mom from the car, into her Big Wheels, and through the Center’s automatic door. Had it not been for automation, I was determined to crash through glass to find warmth … like a heat seeking missile on the loose.

Once we were safely inside, I leaned over and gave mom a long hug. Without opening her eyes, she asked, “Am I doing OK?”

“You’re doing great, mom. You are doing just fine.”

As I turned to leave, I heard her say, “Thank ya.”

Circle Center’s automatic door opened and Old Man Winter sucker punched me with a savage artic blast right to the face … the only portion of my entire body that was left unprotected. I was determined to make it to the Helen-Mobile. I was out for revenge.

Now that I was back behind the wheel, I have transformed into a warrior on a mission.

Nobody messes with my mom and me and thinks they can get away with it.

After single-handedly tracking down Old Man Winter, I  am going to create one more earth-shaking SONIC BOOM by catapulting him to kingdom come!

Even if it’s the last thing I ever do, this spring is going to have my name on it!

 

 

 

 

 

You Get the Picture

Who needs a thousand words when it comes to mom?

There is no denying mom’s talking less and less, but when she says something, you listen and long for every word.

I had just dropped her off at Circle Center Adult Day Care. She was in her wheelchair, eyes closed, when I kissed her cheek and whispered, “Bye, mom, I love you … I’ll see you later, OK?”

Surprisingly she answered, “You’re not going to leave me here are you?”

“No mam. I will never, ever leave you. I have to go to work, but I’ll be back later to get you, OK?”

“OK.”

I gave her one last hug, and as I headed for the door, I heard her say loud and clear, “Good luck to you and your lover. (PAUSE) Ain’t that nice?!”

I looked back and her eyes were still closed, her head was slowly nodding up and down, and I swear she was smiling.

It looked to me like she was totally pleased with herself for, well, being so nice.

I don’t know where it came from, but I still can’t get this picture out of my mind, and I don’t even know what it looks like.

 

 

A Look I’d Never Seen

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It was snowing like crazy, and mom was all bundled up and ready to rock ‘n’ roll (that’s what cars and wheelchairs do in the snow) to Circle Center Adult Day Care, aka heaven on earth!

On the way out the door, I asked Carolyn, our caregiver extraordinaire,  where mom’s glasses were.

“They just keep falling off, Tom. She just can’t keep them on … and (long pause) … she really can’t see much anymore. Her eyes are closed most of the time now, even when she eats. I just don’t think she needs them anymore.”

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Looking back on it now, I realize I was only halfway listening to Carolyn. I think I was focused more on how I was going to conquer the snow and get from Point A to Point B without losing two of my most favorite people on this planet … mom and me!

It wasn’t until I had safely made it to Circle Center and was lifting mom from the car into her wheelchair, that I noticed her again without her glasses. I took a picture of her and then just stood there, my eyes fixated on her face, crying.

The snow was falling in slow motion, in unison with my tears.

It was the first time in my life … my entire life … that I had seen my mom start her day without her glasses.

When I first started caring for her, it was a struggle to even get her to take them off at bedtime.  And, often, she’d have them on again before getting out of bed in the morning.  Maybe she needed them to see her dreams. Who knows? All I know is I never knew.

I wiped my eyes on my coat sleeve and wheeled mom into the lobby. It was as warm as the welcome from the receptionist. “Good morning, Tom! Pretty rough going out there this morning. Glad to see you and your mom made it safe and sound.”

Then she turned to mom. “Hey, Helen! Don’t you look great in that red coat of yours. (Pause) Helen … where are your glasses?”

I basically gave her the same explanation Carolyn gave me. They’re always falling off. Mom keeps her eyes closed most of the time now. And, even when they’re open, I’m not really sure she sees much of anything anyway.

Then the receptionist asked if I was OK. I don’t know whether my eyes were giving it away, but I started tearing up again. “I’m OK. It’s just that … I have never seen my mom without her glasses on … my entire life … never.”

“For all I know, she was born with her glasses on … little tiny baby glasses that must have grown up with her.”

I tried to pull a smile out of my hat, but it wasn’t working.

I bent over to kiss mom’s cheek and say goodbye. Her eyes were closed.

I whispered, “I love you mom … I’ll see you later.”

I went back out into the cold wondering if my mom would ever see me again.

Christmas Baby is 96

Gray hairs seem to my fancy like the soft light of the moon, silvering over the evening of life.- Jean Paul 

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Mom was born on Christmas day, 1919.
Today she’s celebrating her 96th birthday!
That translates to 35,064 days and 35,064 nights on this planet
There have been exactly 1,187 full moons since she was born.

How many of them have you seen?

As fate would have it, mom will have a full moon shining over her on her birthday! The last Christmas full moon was in 1977. The next one will be in 2034.

Happy birthday, mom!

Here’s to many more full moons coming your way!

 

All the Little Children

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a place called Orangeburg, South Carolina, this story unfolded … a story that would change my family’s lives forever.

Mom and dad led my sister, Nel, and me through the darkness of it all.

They were our light.

They showed us the way.

They showed us the meaning …

The meaning of love.

For the rest of our lives we held the torch of love together.

And, I have faithfully passed the torch to my family as they have theirs.

On Christmas day, I know my dad and sister will be looking down from some heavenly place at the 96 candles shimmering brightly on mom’s birthday cake.

They will rejoice in knowing those little lights still unite each of us.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world …

 

 

Mom’s Report Card Rocks!

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Every quarter Circle Center’s all-star caregiver team compiles a report card for each of their participants.

Mom has always gotten great reviews, but this one took my breath away!

If my report cards had looked like this, I would have brought them home more often.

Therapeutic Activities: Helen participates in the daily A.M. Exercise Group, the Sing-Along, and other Music Programs. Helen is sleeping now during the Chair Dance Group’s sensory stimulation activity.

Memory and Emotional Support: Helen continues to be quite content in her own realm at the Center, drawing upon an inner reserve of happiness and joy.

Relationships: Helen will joyfully interact with just about anyone who passes or takes a moment to engage with her, often speaking or singing in a joyful response.

Snoezelen: This controlled multi-sensory environment (MSE) is a therapy for people with autism and other developmental disabilities, dementia or brain injury. Helen participates in the program 4-5 days a week. She responds well to light touch, is observed smiling and rocking to the music.

Summation: Helen is, as always, an engaging, happy, joyful soul who rocks!

Last night, I helped tuck mom in and then I told her about her report card. I told her how proud I was of her and how much I loved her.

Her eyes were closed now. She asked me who I was.

I whispered, “Tom, mom … it’s Tom.”

She responded, “Tom Laughon! I know Tom … I love Tom.”

After a long pause she added, “I am Helen Martin (her maiden name). She is a pretty, beautiful girl.”

“Yes she is, and yes you are. I am so proud of you. And, you know what else?”

“What?”

“I love you, pretty, beautiful girl … I sure do love you.”

I pulled the cover up under her chin, bent over and kissed her brow while I gently rubbed her cheek. I stayed in that position for the longest time, synchronizing our breaths until we were breathing as one.

Girls and Their Curls

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Mom was never a fan of hair salons. But she did love it when my sister, Nel, would wash, trim and roll her hair in those godawful rollers stuffed with tissue.

I never hung around for this most sacred of rituals … THE HOME PERM.

One … home perms stink to high heaven.

Two … repeat one!

Three … I never thought about escaping to another room in the house.

Four … I was too busy running for the front door … I was headed for the far side of town and praying the wind was blowing the against me.

Five … rinse and repeat one through four.

How can anything that smells that bad, and looks like it is holding your hair hostage, be good for you?

Fast forward to now, when mom’s Band of Caregiver Angels give her a perm. It is amazing! These angelic perms magically transport mom right back to those bygone days when Nel was in total control of her hair and happiness. Using curlers vs. a magic wand (which I call “joy sticks” … aka “stinky joy sticks”) the Band of Angels transform a regular day into a joyful one.

There’s no disputing that ear-to-ear smile. Mom is one happy dudette!

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I love it when mom is happy. There is no pretense. There are no filters. There is just an unabashed feeling of joy that comes over her … and it is contagious for all of us who have the privilege of witnessing this magic moment.

Girls and their curls. I don’t get it. But, when all is said and done, I don’t have to get it.

It is, and will always remain one of life’s big mysteries.

All I have to do is immerse myself in the beauty of the moment … one of those moments I will cherish forever.

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