Author Archives: Tom Laughon

Missing Mom Blog #2 … Six Years Later

I published my first “Missing Mom” blog six years ago. Mom is now 97.

As you might imagine, I am missing mom more and more. It’s the main reason my blogs are spaced so far apart nowadays.

It startled me when I realized the last blog I wrote was published almost eight months ago. I simply have not known how to come to grips with what I am holding inside.

Nevertheless, here’s my attempt to share where mom and I are on our journey together as of now.

A year and four months ago, we moved mom from Cheswick (her home), to Sunrise of Richmond, which is less than two miles from where my wife, Melissa, and I live.

As a result of her ever increasing caregiving needs, mom is being cared for by a new band of angels who are by her side 24/7.

Mom’s mind holds no past, no real present or no sense of future. 

Thankfully, it holds no pain.

Her eyes are closed, her world is darkness. Except for meals, bathing and changing bed clothes, she is in a constant state of rest.

When I’m with mom, thanks to her, my brain overflows with never ending memories of her life and our lives together. This includes the lives of my dad and younger sister who have both passed away.

Even in mom’s darkness, she is my beacon of light.

Except on the rarest of occasions, mom doesn’t communicate with words anymore, but I believe with all my heart we connect with an unspoken language that comes from our souls.

We connect when I feel the warmth of her hand in mine, when I hear the sound of her breath and when I sense she feels the same emotions I feel when I stroke her hair, kiss her forehead, or whisper, “I love you, mom.”

Her head still bobs to the rhythm of songs I sing to her, like Jesus Loves Me, This Little Light of Mine, and Simple Gifts.

This is as a real as real can be.

It continues to give me the calming feeling our lifelong bond of togetherness has always given me … but now it is accompanied by the unbearable feeling of aloneness that has taken up permanent residence down deep in my heart.

It is the feeling of missing my mom terribly.

 

 

 

This Blank Space …

Posted on

Hush little baby, don’t you cry,
Y
ou know your mama was born to die,
All my trials, Lord, will soon be over
-Lyrics from All My Trials

I started my blog about mom and me in April of 2011.

Confession.

My last blog was posted on March 30th, 2016.

Confession.

I have attempted to write a blog almost every day since then. And, as you can see, I have nothing to show for it other than almost a year of blank pages and a folder full of thought starters and unfinished drafts.

Back in the day, I was known as a creative guy in marketing and advertising. One of my biggest fears was to open a newspaper or magazine, or turn on the TV and see the following words: This blank space is brought to you by TOM LAUGHON.

It was a fear that never let me miss a deadline … never until now!

And, boy, have I made up for lost time … these blank spaces are brought to you by TOM LAUGHON.

My core family is down to two of the original four after the passing of my dad in 2002, and my younger sister, Nel in 2011.

20170228_161005.jpg

That leaves mom and me … half of what was once a mighty powerful force. We were a fearless band of leaders … each leading in our own unique ways.

Together, we were unbeatable … invincible.

But, that was then.

My wife, Melissa, and I moved to Richmond, Virginia from Tallahassee, Florida in 2010 to be with my mom and sister.  Mom was showing signs of dementia. Nel, who lived with mom, was also showing disturbing signs of something we couldn’t put a finger on at a distance. But, not long after our move, she was diagnosed as having early onset Alzheimer’s.

Nel passed away after an agonizing battle with this horrifying disease eight months after we arrived in Richmond.

Mom was 90 at the time, and mom and Nel had been inseparable since the day Nel was born … literally. Nel never lived away from home, no matter where home was, her entire life. Mom’s name is Helen so we called them Nelen. They would both answer! They were indeed one.

Confession.

I just remembered there was one time Nel didn’t live at home.

Home was in Gainesville, Florida. Nel was starting her senior year at the University of Florida (she started college after me and graduated before me, but that’s another story). She was elected president of her sorority, Chi Omega.

After her election, she came home crying.

“Mom, I was chosen to be the president of my sorority and I don’t want to do it (tears running down her face).” Mom quickly uncovered the reason. Nel didn’t want to be president because the president had to live in the sorority house for two semesters. Mom convinced Nel that this was an amazing honor … an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up. And, since this was about to be the very first time Nel had ever lived away from home, mom assured her the sorority was only a few miles from home. I remember mom had to get a map of Gainesville to prove her point. Nel wanted to know the exact mileage. And, even with the proximity, Nel snuck back home anytime she got the chance!

So, back to my blog, back to why I am drawing a blank and trying for the millionth time to fill in the blank spaces.

In 2010, Melissa and I committed to moving to Richmond to take care of mom. We literally moved our leadership development company, Catch Your Limit, with us and basically started over from scratch after 10 years in business in Florida.

My personal commitment was to keep mom in her home, Cheswick.  She, dad and my sister bought and restored Cheswick when they moved to Richmond in the early seventies. Speaking of early seventies, Cheswick was built in 1779 … that’s not a typo … that’s really the early, early, early seventies!

And, as you know from reading my blog, with the help of the earth angels at Circle Center Adult Daycare, an amazing team of caregivers, and the fact that Melissa and I have the opportunity to live right next door, WE did it! Through rain, sleet, snow, hot and cold … we kept mom in her own home, safe and sound.

For seven years, we caregivers did a lot of caregiving!

Having been front row and center, I had followed mom slipping further and further away from this world. But, she was still a joyful human, eating like there was no tomorrow, singing and swaying her head to the beat of any song you sang or played, smiling and answering pretty much anything you asked with an upbeat sentence of two. And, always throwing in an “I love you so much” or “I love you, boy,” every time I whispered “I love you, mom” in her ear.

And her touch … she would hold my hand in both of hers, bringing it to her lips and kissing it over and over and over again. She wouldn’t stop … she wouldn’t let go.

And, I hoped she never would. I wished she would hold on to me forever.

But, for mom, everyday brought new challenges, and less connection with her world and her universe.

Almost a year ago (yes … that is when the blogs stopped), Circle Center called me in to tell me that no matter how much they loved and adored mom, they were unable to give her the care she needed anymore.

I can’t say I didn’t know this day would come … I felt the same way that they did (although I couldn’t admit it at the time) … but it still hit me like a bolt out of the blue!

And, the caregiving team at home was facing their own set of challenges caring for mom … the job was getting more and more physically intensive every day.  That same month, Carolyn, who was Mom’s lead caregiver and roommate needed to resign so that she could care for her mother in her last days.

It was a perfect storm that shattered my world.

I was faced with building a new plan for mom.  I did the math and the cost to keep mom in her home was astronomical. However, the admission that mom needed a different level of care was the deciding factor.

My whole plan, my promise, my commitment to keeping mom at home was nil, null and void in an instant.

With the help of Circle Center’s earth angels, we found a home for mom at Sunrise Senior Care less than 2 miles from Cheswick.

Mom is closer to her Cheswick than Nel’s sorority house was from our home when we lived in Gainesville, Florida. But even so, I now realize how Nel and mom both must have felt those semesters Nel was just across town from her real home.

It is an unbearable feeling of aloneness. I felt like a failure for not being able to uphold my solemn promise to keep mom in her home … even though I know deep down, it was the right thing to do.

I get these feelings every time I walk around an empty Cheswick next door … I feel empty, too.

This blank space is brought to you by TOM LAUGHON.

This blank space is brought to you by TOM LAUGHON.

This blank space is brought to you by TOM LAUGHON.

Mom has been at Sunrise for 8 months now, but this is just a temporary layover.

She is preparing for her journey to a new home.

Her eyes are closed … she cannot really see anymore.

20161210_172459

When I hug her or hold her hand and whisper, “Hey mom, it’s Tom, … I love you, mom … how are you doing?” I get fewer and fewer responses. So, I ask, “Mom, do you want to sing Jesus Loves Me?”

The answer use to be a quick yes … but now, it is more often the sound of silence.

I rub her hair with one hand, holding her hand with the other and softly sing “Jesus loves me this I know …” Some days she sings with me keeping the tune, but mixing up the words. Other days she just nods her head to the beat. And, more and more days … she is far, far away … somewhere out there.

I never can quite get through more than a verse and a chorus or two before I start crying. It is selfish of me … but I want my mom.

Just last week, Melissa and I walked to Sunrise to visit mom, and I hesitated briefly before holding mom and saying, “Hey, mom, it’s your boy!”

Silence.

“Mom, it’s Tom … Tom Laughon … your precious son!”

Long pause.

And then, with her eyes closed, mom whispered, “I know you … I have loved you since the day you were born.”

And, as if it couldn’t get any better, she topped it off by singing Jesus Loves Me while nodding her head side to side with Melissa and me.

Mom is on her journey to her new home, home to reunite with Dad and Nel. What a reunion that will be. Talk about singing … their three part harmony will blow their fellow angels away.

Confession.

I am crying now, but I am also filling in some much neglected blank spaces with my thouhts like there’s no tomorrow.

I love you, mom … I am with you all the way.

I wish you Godspeed.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home
– Lyrics from Swing Low Sweet Chariot

 

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

Posted on

 

20160305_100345.png

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.”

20160306_150450.png

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 

20151225_105026
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 …

 

 

%d bloggers like this: