Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Sickness and In Health

This picture was taken before Mom's dementia diagnosis.

A Beautiful Autumn Day at Big Rock, Cherokee Park

THIS is how I like to and want to remember my parents.

Their fond gaze with one another is something that was present throughout my lifetime. I've never known 2 people who were as IN LOVE as my parents, and they still are to this day. Dad's devotion to Mom over all of her years of her many illnesses is something remarkable.

Dad still looks at Mom this way, even though sometimes she isn't sure who he is. I know that Mom still has very strong feelings of love and affection for Dad because in the days when she isn't sure who he is she is trying desperately to find him. Usually he is sitting in the chair right next to hers. It is heartbreaking to receive the phone calls from her when she sounds frightened of the strange man in her house with her; she is looking for Dad. Again, he is usually sitting in the chair next to hers, he is the "strange man" she speaks of and is frightened of. Somehow, through the fear, I think she knows deep down in her soul that she is safe with the "strange man" and she tells me that I don't have to come to her rescue.

I cannot begin to imagine how Mom must feel. I wonder if she is living in fear most of the time because she is not familiar with her surroundings or the people in them? She must feel so alone. But this picture can hopefully remind her that she IS loved and she ISN'T alone.

This is how I always want to remember my parents. My parents are the perfect example of true love and devotion, the way a marriage is supposed to be.....
"for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death us do part".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dad's birthday - October 9, 2011

Yesterday was Dad's 77th birthday. David, the kids, and I all went to visit with a delicious Key Lime pie in hand from the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen. Just after we arrived in walked Camille and my nephew Nick. It turned out to be a small, impromptu family birthday visit which was very pleasant. Mom and Dad were eating lunch which we all interupted but they didn't seem to mind. Both parents looked great and were very happy that we were all there. Here are just a few pictures that were taken. Camille and Nick had already gone, I wish I had remembered to get some shots while they were there but I didn't even think about taking pictures until just as we were getting ready to leave.
Dad was being mischievious turning away from the camera which made Mom laugh.
Dad finally got serious and I was able to get this great picture. Mom and Dad both look wonderful and happy which makes me happy.
Had to get one with me!
Then a picture with my kids Emma and Wade - 2 of their 4 grandchildren.

*********** The Sundowners came for a visit later in the night, around 10:00 PM. David and I had put the kids to bed about 30 minutes earlier and had just gotten relaxed on the couch watching Storm Chasers. The phone rang and it was Mom. Here is how it went (approximately):
Mom: "Hi Anne, it's Mom. I hope I'm not interupting your evening."
Me: "No Mom, you're not. What's going on?"
Mom: "I'm here talking to Hal and know I'm married but I don't know to who. I don't think I'm divorced but I'm not sure."
Me: "No, you're not divorced. You are married to Dad."
Mom: "And that is?"
Me: "Dad is Hal and Hal is there with you."
Mom: "oh"
Me: "Today is Dad's birthday. We were all there visiting with you both today and we had key lime pie"
Mom: "Oh you were? I don't remember that."
Me: "Yes Mom, we took some pictures. David and the kids were there and Camille and Nick."
Mom: "I don't remember any of that. I think I'm going to cry." (Mom started sobbing)
We talked a little bit longer after this but it's more than I want to type right now. I appologized to Mom for her not remembering, telling her that I was so sorry. At this point I feel incredibly guilty for even mentioning all of todays events to her because it made her cry. Part of her still knows she is forgetting. I told her that I had emailed the pictures to Dad and that she could look at them and see that we had a fun time. About 20 minutes later Dad called me to see how the phone call with Mom went. I told him I felt awful that I had made Mom cry. He reassured me letting me know I didn't do anything wrong. He also said that Mom cried for a while after she had hung up with me.
This disease is ..... I can't even think of a word to describe how horrible it is.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pictures of Mom


Above: Mom's senior high school picture - J.M. Atherton High School - I believe she was class of 1955.

Below: I believe this was taken when Mom was in nursing school at Vanderbilt University.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"Marilyn and I" - memories from Carol Hopkins

"One of the really good memories is how we got to know one another. I was singing in the choir and Shelby used to give you and your sister nickels to put in the collection plate. He became known as Shelby nickelman.
We began our friendship when I was trying to give a Derby party and needed Julep cups. She loaned me some and helped me to understand the tradition.
Another time we all went to the new Louisville Zoo to see THE animal.
Marilyn talked me into my first microwave and gave me some great recipes. We talked most days and were the very best of friends for many years. I miss her a lot and wish I could see her more often.
Love to you all,
Carol"

Mom with Camille and Me

Above: Camille, Mom and me (in Mom's lap). Dad in the background.

Below: Old Olan Mills picture, I believe from 1973

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My thoughts from reading Mom's journal

As I typed these journal entries of Mom's I remember this period for our family. I remember Mom being gone for so long; in the hospital for weeks and months at a time. I can remember being afraid of getting the phone call that Mom had died. During this period, 1979, I was 14 years old. I was a freshman at Atherton High School. I had friends that kept me busy and kept my mind from thinking about Mom being so sick. If only others had known what was always looming in the back of my mind during my teen years. For years we went through family and individual counseling. It was a tough time for our family. But here we are, 30+ years later and Mom is still here. Although, somehow, I almost think it would have been better for her had she not survived to have to endure dementia. I would never give up having her here to see Camille and me grow to adulthood and to know her grandchildren. But I wonder why she would ever have to have this terrible diagnosis after everything else she has overcome. She fought for so many years to see these events, to have these memories and now she is having them all taken away. Why, why, why???
As I typed these entries from 1979 I can’t help but feel so sad for my Dad who had to take on the full-time job of raising two teen girls, work a full-time job, and take care of a very ill wife. I cannot imagine the sadness, the fear, and the stress he must have felt.

From Mom's Journal - date unknown - 1979 (age 42)

This entry is the last one from this journal. For me it is the most profound. It is a letter that Mom had written for her friends. I believe she thought she was going to die very soon and this is her letter saying good-bye.

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"To my wonderful friends

Thank you all who came to dinner. Those of you who could not come were greatly missed by me.

These last two years have been full of a wide range of new experiences for me - what an understatement! But into my life have come a whole new set of friends. Your kindness, gentleness and friendship have made some of the rough spots easier for me.

I can never thank you enough for what you have given to me."

From Mom's Journal - date unknown - 1979 (age 42)

"My dear Lucy -

I am again in a period of thought that is very difficult for me and I will try to tell you about - because I would like some answers from you.

I find myself confused about my condition and my prognosis. I think sometimes that I am not really sick - am just fine and that is someone's idea of a joke. Then on the other hand maybe I do have something wrong with me but rather than telling me all about it you are making believe it is okay and if I work at it I will be."

*****************************************

To me, it doesn't seem like Mom finished her note to Lucy.

Little Notes from 1979

Loose, in Mom's journal were little notes that Mom had written on small square pieces of note paper. I do not know the dates of each or even the chronological order of them but here they are.

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"I think I am having a drug reaction - I have had 2 or 3 Dilaudid since mid afternoon and I took 2 more at about 11:30 so pain level would go down enough for sleep. I have been itching like crazy - so I took a Benedryl.
3. Still itching but it seems to not be as bad as before.
4. Heart is flopping around 12:40 am."

*******************************************

"I'm so happy & proud of what I have achieved tonight. I never thought I could ever reach such a level. Those at the Gym were so happy for me it really made me feel good. Those not at the Gym don't understand & the telling of it takes all its lustre. Lucy really seemed pleased - I liked that.
I wish my girls could understand. Hal is so good to me - I'm really very lucky.
I'm having weird pains in my back - right under my rt shoulder blade near the center - it hurts - It's coming thru to the front now - I think I take another Rx.
Call Lucy for more Talwin tomorrow."

*******************************************

"discouraged
feel bad so much of the time.
Terry Henkel says Talwin is insidiously addictive.
after dinner - crash
getting ready for bed
drawing feeling
(this word is not ledgible) pulrating hurt."

Monday, October 3, 2011

From Mom's Journal - October 14, 1979 - Sunday (age 42)

"For a while I was doing so well here at home. I even walked a mile one morning with Rosalie Eskind and had no problem with it. I had begun going back to Rehab & was doing well there too.

I went to the Rehab T-shirt party & had a good time - even drove myself. Linda tells me I have become an inspiration to a lot of other people. (I believe the "Linda" she is referring to here is Linda Hankla who was our family Hospice counselor. We all believed that Mom was not going to be with us for much longer.)

I do hope I have contributed something good to this world that will let me be remembered for a while.

I am now back to the situation of not being able to drive or do much of anything for myself. Hal has rented another wheelchair for me. When I had it before it was just for a short while until I got stronger but I am afraid that this down time is going to become permanent.

Dr. Trimbur tells me he feels that the grafts are probably closing again. Lucy is not encouraging either.(the grafts Mom is referring to are the veins that were used to bypass her clogged veins in her heart.)
Last Thursday she told me she thought I was trying to have an MI(**Myocardial Infarction). I have been staying very quiet. Hal stayed home from work Friday for he did not want me at home alone.

I have begun to have unstable angina again & SOB. Looking at my position objectively it does not look good for me at all. Hal & I had a long talk last Wed. night - he does think things are very bright. We agreed to do the best we can for as long as we can. We have had a very nice week-end.

Hal took me for a walk in my wheelchair today."

*************************************************

**Myocardial infarction (MI) or acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as a heart attack, is the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die. This is most commonly due to occlusion (blockage) of a coronary artery following the rupture of a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, which is an unstable collection of lipids (fatty acids) and white blood cells (especially macrophages) in the wall of an artery. The resulting ischemia (restriction in blood supply) and oxygen shortage, if left untreated for a sufficient period of time, can cause damage or death (infarction) of heart muscle tissue (myocardium).
Source: Wikipedia

From Mom's Journal - date unknown (age 42)

This journal entry by Mom is just a list of questions that she had written down to ask her (then) doctor, Dr. Lucy Tyler. Lucy (as we called her) wrote her answers to each question in Mom's journal.

*****************************************

Mom: "1. Will not be doing anymore tests etc at this time?"
Lucy: "Right"

Mom: "2. Will try to control with medicine?"
Lucy: "CERTAINLY. Only when pulmonary emboli not controlled by ADEQUATE ANTICOAGULATION do we clip a vena cava."

Mom:"3. When will I have another stress test?"
Lucy: "SOON I'm talking to Trimbur today"

Mom: "4. How did your sister survive the Hurricane David"
Lucy: "Who knows. Thank you for asking."

Mom: "5. What about heart rate?"
Lucy: "Excercise more everyday. By Monday if it ain't under 100/minute, we'll put a little more DIGOXIN on you - you can handle more.
1. Come to office every Monday & Thursday for a while for Protimes.
2. Call me anytime
3. All is well
4. Up exercise."

******************************************

Dr. Lucy Tyler became a close family friend. She truly loved my mother and cared for her above and beyond what any other doctor could. We are so grateful that she was a part of our family for several years and helped to save Mom's life. Then one day we never saw her again. We would love to find her again one day. My parents think she now lives in Florida but not sure.