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This Blank Space …

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Naked Trees, Pet Zebra, Cannibals & More

Driving mom to Circle Center Adult Day Care is the best way I know to kick-start a day.

Talk about a great attitude, no matter if it’s scorching hot, rain, sleet or snow, mom never complains or never says she doesn’t want to go … she just goes.

She is my poster child for a great attitude … and she is funny.

When we ride down the road together there is no way to predict what’s going to happen, other than something will happen. I call her my Happy Day Maker.

On this particular day, it was anything but happy outside. It was ice cold and damp, so I warmed up the car, and somehow that warmed up mom’s motor-mouth as well.

She was pointing out “naked trees”, telling traffic lights to quit changing all the time, asking … Where are all the cars going? Where was I born? Where did I buy our car? Who is my mom? … all this while clapping her hands and singing her old University of Richmond alma mater. She was one happy 94 year old out for a wild ride. She had no idea where she was going, but was having a great time going there.

When mom is on a roll like this (which is pretty much every day), I’ll ask her a question or two just to stir the pot even more.

All I have to do is pose a question like, “Mom, have you ever had God over for supper?” Her answer without hesitation starts with, “Yes, many times …”

“Mom, have you ever had a pet zebra?”

Not only has she, she taught it English, her zebra graduated with her from University of Richmond (insert mom singing her school’s alma mater at the top of her lungs here).

So, today’s question was just another crazy Tom question.

Me: “Mom, have you ever known a cannibal?”

Mom: “A what?”

Me: “A cannibal. You do know what cannibals are, don’t you?”

Mom: “Yes, everybody knows what cannibals are.”

Me: What are they?

Mom: They are people.

Me: “Well, do you know what these people do?”

Mom: “Yes, I know what they do. Everybody knows what they do.”

Me: “What?”

Mom: “They talk to each other.”

Me: “Yes, that’s right, but what else do they do?”

Mom: “They go to school.”

Me: “Yep. What else?”

Mom: “I don’t know what else they do. What do they do?”

Me: “Cannibals eat people, mom. That’s what they do. They eat people.”

Mom was dead silent for four solid blocks. And, that gave me plenty of time to think about how absurd, yet brilliant, my question was. I mean, this was the very first time one of my crazy questions didn’t conjure up an instant reply. It was the very first time I had left my mom speechless.

So, here we were, riding in our car, with nothing but the sound of tires on pavement to keep me company.

Then, out of nowhere it happened. Three words … that was all it took. Three adamantly stated words … “I — EAT — CHICKEN.”

I laughed so hard tears were running down my face. And, just like that, mom resumed her normal, non-stop, happy day making chatter. I’ll never know if mom knew just how perfect her comedic timing was or if she just knew that there was no way she wanted to be mistaken for a cannibal.  One thing is for sure … I have no idea why I asked mom about cannibals but I will remember and recount this morning drive with mom for a long, long time … especially when I — EAT — CHICKEN.

Mom’s & My Blog: 2013 in Review

Perfection!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Nighty Night Cap

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Mom loves her hats and she will wear one from dawn to dusk if you let her, even when she is taking her “capnaps”.

I love watching her and wondering just what’s dancing around in that head of hers.

I hope and pray for sweet dreams and by the looks of things, I believe that is just what she is having … the sweetest of sweet dreams!

The Movie: Mom Meets Mr. Booger Head, aka, Mr. Potato Head

OK, you asked for it, here it is!

My mom’s first encounter with Mr. Booger Head, aka, Mr. Potato Head, captured live for your viewing pleasure.

So, count with me …

One potato,

Two potato,

Three potato,

Four …

Click on the play button,

And you’ll get a laugh and more!

PS – You may need to turn up the sound.

PSS – Click HERE to read more about mom and Mr. BH. 

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