Do Little Things with Great Love

2 02 2015

1ooo Voices for Compassion is a group I recently joined. 1000voicesA bunch of writers plan to write about compassion and caring to help make the world a better place. Little did I know when I signed up that it would be me writing about being compassion’s recipient.

compassion

My Mom was just accepted into hospice care. In the last two months my 86-year-old Mom’s mind has become as frail and fragile as her body. She lives in a nursing home and is well cared for. Hospice will provide another level of care. She’s been a drama queen and southern belle—a dangerous combination—who’s been feisty and smart, had a great sassy sense of style, and a wicked sense of humor. She now drifts in and out of lucid moments. In her hallucinations she is powerful, in charge, directing unseen people and telling them what to do. Her phone had to be unplugged last week because she called 911 from her bedside phone and told them she was being held hostage. I understand that in a way she is being held hostage by a body and mind that won’t act like she wants it to.

Morning
I was in the middle of an intensely busy workday when I got the call that Mom’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I work for a woman’s specialty hospital; it is a compassionate place not only for patients, but also for employees. I was told to go be with my mother. I’m grateful that I work for an organization that at its very core understands the importance of family.

I was expecting a quiet day spent at Mom’s bedside. I knew what she needed most was my presence. What was unexpected was the flood of love and compassion that washed over both of us throughout the day. Not only did family come to visit, but also mom’s nurses, aides, social workers, administrators, and even the beautician came by to check on her. I got a tight hug from everyone whose life has been touched by Mom and they wanted to check on me too. I’m use to being the strong one and the decision maker. The concern for me left me tearful. I knew that I was being sent divine gifts and I embraced my tears and vulnerability with every hug I received.

Afternoon
I met with hospice after Mom’s nurses suggested a consult. The hospice nurse spent time going over the details of what hospice care is. I’ve always heard great things about hospice, but I was astounded to learn how much they also care for the patient’s family. I did not know they were there for me as well as my parent. The two nurses I met were the embodiment of warmth and compassion, even their voices were gentle and calming. They treated me as tenderly with their questions as they treated Mom when they examined her.

Evening
My daughter and her cat were boomeranging back home from living across town during all this. She plans to save her money and take off to follow her dreams in a few months. Between transporting carloads of stuff from apartment to home, she would stop to check on her Nana and me. We are both only children and both have close mother/daughter bonds. We have both been able to tell my mom how much we love her. Nothing has been left unsaid.

My daughter and I both realize that the next few months will be a special time for three generations to connect as we all transition to new chapters in our different, yet connected journeys.

By the end of the day, I knew that the time for my mom’s exit had not come. Mom was center stage yet again, surrounded by an audience telling her how much they loved her. She is not yet ready to leave the stage.

The Following Day
Mother Teresa said, ‘’do little things with great love.” Mom is feeling stronger and is more lucid today. She loves when I write about her on my blog. She takes great delight in hearing her own wild woman stories and she loves everyone’s comments. I’m going to read to her the stories of her life. It’s a small thing, but it’ll be done with great love.

Mothers and daughters, our maternal lineage

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

More Mom Stories
Wild Woman
Going Blond
A Mother Moment
Maw Maw’s Naked Lady Bowls
The Sandwich Generation

Today many writers, videographers and artists have created their own stories of compassion and are using #1000Speak to spread the word. You also can click on the link here and read what others have to say. 

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Transitions

1 01 2015
Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face)

Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face). Spring 2014

I’ve seen the abundance of New Year’s resolutions and nonresolutions floating around social media. The idea that resonated with me was to pick one word for your New Year. On this grey and cold January morning I pick the word Transitions.

I spent a rare New Year’s Eve with my 24-year-old baby girl. My sweetheart fell asleep early and that left my daughter and me deep in talk as one year transitioned to another. In sparkly hats and glasses of wine, we talked of her childhood, of her teen years when her father and I divorced. She and I talked of the uniqueness that we are both only children and how close that makes us since we don’t have siblings to remember our lives with. We talked honestly of her grandmother, who is slowly slipping away from us. My daughter told me that watching me with my mom has taught her how to be a daughter.

We’ve watched my mom grow frailer over the last year with three different visits to the hospital. But it’s just over the last few weeks that her mind has slipped away along with her strength. We knew when she told us that her 90-year-old boyfriend was building something with batteries that she thought was a bomb—it was his hearing aid—that something had fundamentally changed in her mental state.

It was just a few weeks ago that she told me how much she appreciated me and how important it was to her that I was always honest with her and was always there for her. I grew up with unconditional love from both my parents. Our roles shifted after my father died and I became my mom’s caregiver. Her compliments became rare and there was often a bite in her conversation to me. I took her compliment as the gift it was.

My baby girl is going to boomerang home next month. She’s determined to save all her pennies and take off to Chicago this summer. I support and even encourage her following her dreams, just as my parents did for me when I flew out of the nest.

I will hold this last holiday season tightly to my heart, all of us together enjoying each other’s company. I will find the gifts the universe sends in the transitions the New Year will bring to my life. I will also allow myself to grieve for things that are no more. I know there will be bumps in my 2015 journey and I also know there will be unexpected gifts.

Joy will always shine out. Happy New Year.

 Here’s the bloghop that inspired this post. Click here to check it out.





A Mother Moment

4 05 2014

The women of Midlife Boulevard May’s bloghop is on memorable motherhood moments. A bloghop is when a group of bloggers write on the same subject. The links to my friend’s blogs are at the end of this post.

Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face)

Three Generations (I love mom making a silly face)

I just spent a week with my Mom in the hospital for a broken wrist. It was a hard fall and at 85 breaks and surgery get real serious, real fast. It was very difficult for mom and for me too. But I can’t deny that she’s a drama queen and when she has an audience she likes to perform. Because of her age and her sweet little old lady demeanor, she gets away with murder.

She had names for the various staff who cared for her; Doogie Howser, Justin Beiber (it was the hair), Queen Latifa, BarBarBarBarBaran, and George (from Seinfeld). When the Physical Therapist didn’t look too happy about being called George Costanza she tried to make him feel better by telling him she adores that character. She told him she loved George because of his ineptitude and because he couldn’t get a date. Poor George, I never did learn that therapist’s name.

Doogie Howser came to ask her questions to make sure she was informed and ready for her upcoming surgery. I appreciated the time he spent especially when her answers were long and had nothing to do with the question. I knew he was about to ask her about Do Not Resuscitate orders when he said he had a final important question to ask her. That’s when she said, “You want to know if I still have sex?!” He actually blushed.

The Chaplin was a small quiet man whose hands stayed in his pockets. It was the end of the day and you could tell we were the last stop and he was ready to go home. He asked mom if she would like him to say a prayer for her. After she said yes, he wanted to know if there was anything she would like him to pray for. He was not expecting her to say World Peace in her best beauty pageant voice. “Let us pray for Jimmie’s health…and for world peace.” I kept my head bowed to try to hide my laughter.

My sweetie came to stay with her while I went home to catch up on sleep and take a shower. When she complained to him that I was cranky, he explained to her that I had not left her side all week and one doesn’t really get any sleep in a hospital at night. The next night when mom called for the nurse, she explained in a loud whisper, “SSSSHHHH, DON’T WAKE MY DAUGHTER, SHE GETS CRANKY WHEN SHE DOESN’T HAVE HER BEAUTY SLEEP.”

My daughter came for a visit and she helped me to see humor in my mom accusing me of smoking marijuana in the room, when in fact she was the one on morphine. When Mom accused me randomly at 6:00 AM, I didn’t find it funny, but my drug of choice, caffeine, hadn’t kicked in yet.

So why would I treasure this moment in time, when in reality it was a very difficult week? Once I caught up on sleep I realized it was a week filled with love and not just outrageous things mom said. When Mom was first admitted she waited hours on a gurney in the ER hallway waiting to find out how bad her injury was. Vulnerable, in pain, unable to move in a neck brace and not even allowed to take a sip of water to quench her thirst, she was very scared. She only had me to keep her calm. I started reading my blog to her from my phone. She loves my writing, especially when I write about her. My blog is filled with stories of my family, both sentimental and quirky. I could see her visibly relax as I read post after post.

Mother to daughter—l’m now mothering my mom. When my adult daughter came up to visit her Nana, we all three came up with a list of people that needed to receive her college graduation announcements and who needed to come to her graduation party. With a bittersweet joy I knew to savor that moment. At 85, every day with my mom is precious. And I don’t know how much longer my daughter will be able to drop by before she flies away on her own life’s journey, far away from home.

Gifts from the Universe come in unexpected packages. I’m grateful for this year’s Mother’s Day gift. I’m a grateful mom and a daughter sandwiched with love between generations.

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

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The Sandwich Generation

4 08 2012

My mom, my daughter and me at a family crawfish boil.

I was born on the cusp of the baby boom. What that has meant to my life is that I have been in the middle of every trend for the past 50 years. Schools were built to accommodate my generation. I’ve been a backpacker across Europe, a YUPPY, a DINK, a New Ager, married, older parent, soccer mom, Girl Scout leader, divorced, single mom, and online dater. I’ve been upsized, downsized, done yoga, fad diets and the no-diet diet, become a foodie and lover of good wine, done self-help and life coaching and now blogging. Every time I have discovered something new, it’s the next day’s headline of the country’s latest trend.

The hardest trend I’ve been a part of was joining “The Sandwich Generation.” This is the when you’re still raising your kids while caring for aging parents.

My parent’s wedding, September 2, 1955

My mom moved in the day my dad suddenly died from a heart attack. I’m an only child and my Mom has epilepsy, so because of Mom’s health and financial resources, this was the only choice I felt I could make. While the decision was easy, the reality was more difficult. In hindsight, Mom moved in as my marriage was falling apart. My ex and I suffered from having to have the last word, which made for long, loud arguments. Mom was often in the eye of the storm. I blamed her drawing inward on our family dynamics. I really related to a comment I heard Wynona Judd make—she said her family could suck the oxygen right out of a room.

I helplessly watched Mom’s health decline. I kept expecting her to “get a life,” and found it difficult to understand when I came home from a full exhausting day to realize she had just sat in her bed doing word puzzles. I couldn’t accept the fact that that it was her life and that if all she could do was watch TV all day that it had to be OK with me. I kept thinking she would soon start to blossom in her new life. I would make list of things I thought she should do: call the Council on Aging, contact the Epilepsy foundation, join a widow’s support group. What I came realize was that all she needed was a hug and for me to allow her to just be.

On the eve of the anniversary of my Dad’s death, she got sick with a bad cold that my family all had. It had her in the hospital in 24 hours, and in 48 hours I was discussing “do not resuscitate” orders with her doctor.  The immediate crisis passed but she was eventually in the hospital for over a month. At that time, I didn’t expect her to ever be the mom I knew her to be and longed for again. I believed she was at the end of her life and the next thing I’d be planning was her funeral. During this time I continued to work full-time, taking lunch breaks at the hospital, juggling my life and family’s activities.  I came to the realization with the loving help of my family and friends that I would no longer be able to care for Mom at home when she would eventually be released. She needed constant nursing care, 24hours a day and, no matter how much I juggled, I couldn’t do it.

I started the process of finding a new home for Mom. She had little awareness of anything during this period. By the time she left the hospital she seemed to understand and seemed perfectly comfortable with all the decisions I had made for her. I found a nice nursing home less than one mile from my house. And soon, I had her furniture, pictures and clothes in her new room.

She has made a recovery that no one expected. She slowly regained her strength and with the stabilization of 24-hour nursing care, her seizures have almost disappeared. She’s now got a boyfriend. She says she has no interest in getting married, but she did make her fiancé buy her an engagement ring. While still frail, she is once again the smart, clear-minded, feisty woman who loves to be outrageous and the center of attention. Most importantly, she got that life I was hoping for.

My Mom and me, 1961

She recently gave me a gift that I didn’t know I needed.  Even though I know she is in the best place for her I still had a deep hidden seed of guilt that I hadn’t done enough for her.  Then one evening my daughter and I dropped by. My daughter, Mom, her nurse and I were all looking at a bunch of cats that people had abandoned behind the nursing home. Mom said that she felt that there were some people at that home who were like those cats…abandoned. And that maybe God had wanted her to reach this stage in her life, so she could be there for someone who didn’t have anyone.  And I thankfully realized that Mom had reached another place in her life’s journey, just as I had.

And me…I’ve found love again with a widower. As my daughter grew up and moved out and I became an empty nester, he moved in. Yeah, over 50-somethings not bothering to get married, that’s yet another trend I’m part of.