Category Archives: life

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.

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.

Five Sensing the Circle of Life

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Mom, her baby & constant companion, and to her left, going clockwise, are great granddaughters, Kenzie, Tyli and Livi.

Come, join our circle!

Whisper the following as you would a prayer or a chant …

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding

In the Circle

The Circle of Life

– The Lion King

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Mom, her baby & constant companion (I told you her baby was her constant companion) and Livi.

This time, take a few deep breaths and look deeply and reverently into the image of Livi and mom … look into their hearts.

Do you feel what I feel?

I feel the gentleness of their touch. I feel the warmth. I feel the desire to care. I feel the need to be cared for. I feel pure unadulterated  love all around.

Do you see what I see?

I see kindness that is instinctual and comes from a special place within our souls.

Do you hear what I hear?

There is no talking. I hear the breathing. The breath of life. The steady sounds slowly cast their spell … they are hypnotic and comforting.

Do you smell what I smell?

It is the purest scent of all. It is not an incense. It is innocence … the scent of a child that is and was.

Do you taste what I taste?

I savor the taste of savory. Just imagining what it taste like makes my mouth water.

The Japanese word for savory is umami … it literally means “delicious essence”.

That’s what I taste … I taste the delicious essence of life when it is lived to the fullest.

Please join us, share with friends, and for heaven’s sake, savor every second of the delicious essence of life.

We are all in this amazing Circle of Life, together.

Feel it. See it. Hear it. Smell it. Taste it.

Be brave, be kind, be caring, be grateful … enjoy.

NO BITING: Earth Angel or Me!

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Nine months ago, Carolyn flew our way … not in an airplane … don’t you know angels have their own set of wings?

We call her our high-flying Earth Angel. She has been, in so many wonderful ways, our saving grace.

The problem was that Carolyn brought Jovi, her uber faithful companion, watchdog, and protector with her.

Carolyn had convinced me of just how kind, caring and loving Jovi was, so I thought, what the heck … angels don’t lie.

Jovi and Carolyn instantly fell in love with Mom, but Jovi had a big problem. And, it turns out his big problem was me.

Jovi saw me as an intruder … make that the INTRUDER!

Since Jovi doesn’t speak people talk, he let me know how he felt with his bark and his bite.

Jovi loved biting me. Little nip, nip, nip bites. Nothing life threatening, but nip, nip, nip is not what you wake up in the morning and long for (especially in your own Mom’s home).

What was incredible was that Mom instantly fell in love with Jovi, but Mom had a big problem. And, it turns out her big problem was Carolyn.

Mom saw Carolyn as an intruder … make that the INTRUDER!

Since Mom doesn’t speak angel talk, she let Carolyn know how she felt with her bark and her bite.

Mom loved biting Carolyn. Little nip, nip, nip bites. Nothing life threatening, but nip, nip, nip is not what an angel wakes up in the morning and longs for.

So, Carolyn and I took matters into our own hands. NO BITING was our end goal.

Our plan: The instant you feel your dog’s or Mom’s teeth nip, nip, nipping you, give a high-pitched yelp. Then immediately walk away. Ignore him or her for 30 to 60 seconds. If your dog or Mom continues to try to nip, nip, nip at you, leave the room for 30 to 60 seconds. After the brief time-out, return to the room and calmly resume whatever you were doing.

If none of this works, practice the “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” tactic.

Bite me and food is off the table.

Luckily, Jovi and Mom both learned, often the hard way, NO BITING was the number one rule of engagement … period.

This took time, patience and most of all faith … but hey … I had an angel on my side.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the picture of Jovi and me, Mom and Carolyn says it all.

NO BITING rules and it is indeed heavenly around here these days … absolutely heavenly!

Thank goodness my winged warrior and I never had to put our last tactic to the test … BITE BACK.

But hey, you do what you have to do!

Do you hear me, Jovi?

Do you hear me, Mom?

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