Friday, December 13, 2002


Mom is visiting Sharon right now in Chicago...In the past few days, some exchanges via email from Sharon, to Betty and I...

Sharon:

...Yes indeed, Mom misses the little things SO much,...I think we all would, wouldn't we? She LOVES having her hair brushed, and have her back scratched, as well as gently rubbing in body lotion onto her dry skin. I suggested to her that she take her lotion with on bath days and apply in the bath room right after dabbing dry, to keep in moisture as much as possible. Due a lot to her not drinking enough water more than anything else, (along with inactivity), she's drying up literally and it's most uncomfortable for her. She just doesn't have the spirit or motivation to always think ahead on those things herself anymore...

Trish and Betty:

Mom surprised me yesterday by getting up for breakfast and staying up for the day until she had her podiatrist's visit at 2:55. Bill ran some errands for her and she wanted to stop at Starbucks so he treated her to a vanilla latte. She was so stuffed that she hardly had room for broiled salmon and a baked potato. The podiatrist cut her toenails. He also cut back the toenail that has the fungus. This will ease the pain and allow the skin to grow back. He noted that she has circulation problems in her feet. They are white just like her hands. Otherwise, her feet were in ok condition from his examination. Barb Chang noted mom's white hands and circulation problem. Barb has a similar problem. She gave us an interesting therapy for that. She takes fine sand and bakes it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at 200 degrees. You take the sand out and play with it with your fingers. It warms the hands and fingers and helps with the circulation. Bill bought some sand and mom tried it out last night after supper. It really works...

She seems to enjoy having me brush her hair andd scratch her back. She really misses dad's loving touches and scratching.

Sharon

Sharon:

I had the strangest dreams last night (driving in LA, being harrassed by thugs at a convenience store, etc.)...but in the end, I was woken up by someone calling my name, "Trish"...as I responded, I knew it was Mom...it scared me a little. I assumed if anything was wrong, you'd call, but I had to ask...everything OK?

Then, just now as I returned from the restroom, a voice mail from Mom, asking what the company's name was that handled her house in New Mexico...I'm not going to call her back, but you can mention to her if you want to that I got the message and you can discuss it with her, up to you...

Very strange and unsettling, being called awake like that...never had that happen before...

T.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Well, it's been 4 days now since Mom flew to Chicago to stay 7 weeks with Sharon. Both Trish and I can feel it. We needed a break.
I miss her. I think of her everyday. She usually called 1-3 times a day. But, we needed the rest and I know Sharon will enjoy Mom as well as Mom enjoying Sharon.
I don't think there will be many more trips to Chicago as Mom's mobility is rather slow.
We will all be praying for them during her stay there.

Sunday, December 01, 2002


I know what you mean Aunt Betty.

To be honest, I was not prepared for how Grandma was when she came. I didn't expect her to be joyful all the time, but at the same time I thought that a year after Grandpa's death that she would have been doing a little better. But the way she is, how she will keep repeating herself saying "My dear Gordon, How I loved you so..." breaks your heart. And you're right, what can a person say when you see someone crying and wishing for death because they lost someone that they were with for over 50 years? I tried my best to comfort her, and many times I too steered the conversation somewhere else. Thank God for Mu'min! Many times I would hand her him and for a brief moment you might think Grandma was back to her old self. She would sing songs for him and whistle. She called him her little dumpling...I have been married for only 6 years, but the thought of losing Meran almost makes me go crazy. I wonder sometimes how I would handle it, and in the end I don't think I could do any better than how Grandma is. Grandpa was the "love of her life" as she puts it, and life just ain't the same without him...

Saturday, November 30, 2002


Today is Saturday, November 30, 2002. On Thursday it was Thanksgiving. After getting the turkey in the oven; I went in to get Mom. She was in bed and did not want to move. It took some time. What do you say to your Mother, who has always been the one you saw as so strong that is now crying and says has nothing to live for? What do you say to anyone in that state? Words seemed so meaningless - I just held her. I just held her.

The one good thing about Mom's mental state at this point is that you can steer the conversation very quickly in other directions. It wasn't long before I was helping her get dressed. She doesn't ask, but it's obvious that she wants the help. Now even combing her hair. I see little things that she is not doing anymore - the personal care for herself.

Bill feels this will be the last trip that Mom will take anywhere when she leaves on December 4th for Chicago to see Sharon. Over the last 1 1/2 years since Dad's death, she is failing.

Is it uncaring, unethical to not want to see your Mother slowly dwindle away but rather just have God take her home? I don't want her to go; but this is also so hard.

She just wants one thing - to have Dad meet her in Heaven - that's all she wants.

Friday, November 22, 2002


Mom's appointment with Dr. Haake yesterday went well in the sense that after waiting over an hour we finally got to see him! A long wait this time, they were swamped!

Dr. Haake examined Mom using oral cues and questions as he always does. Mom did about as well as usual, meaning she could answer correctly most things, but was a bit vague on the day of the week, for instance, but knew it was 2002, etc., etc.

Dr. Haake told both Mom and I that since Aricept does so little and only for a short time, and because Mom on Zoloft isn't noticably any different than Mom off Zoloft, he concurs with our feelings to not have Mom on either one. He does stress though that Mom continues to exhibit signs of what's looking like the early phases of dementia, most likely (but not necessarily...just the most likely) Alzheimer's. He said that one of the classic signs of dementia is depression-like behavior. In my opinion, Mom's age and health factors combined with Dad's death have compounded one another for her and it's just a touch situation for her. She sort of understands, but sort of doesn't. Mainly she just takes a day at a time, and doesn't worry the details. The time I spend with her is very precious, and I urge both of you to do whatever you can to do the same. The 7 weeks will be wonderful for both of you Sharon, for instance. Mom is really looking forward to it. She complains at times of being glad to be back at the Manor, but she also realizes that time is short and wants to spend time with all of us...

Time will tell how things will go. Dr. Haake ended the visit by saying take care, come back in 6 months, and wished Mom well....

Friday, November 15, 2002


To which my wonderful sister Betty says, "Sometimes Trish you amaze me. I love you..." Ah, now that's what it's all about, folks. That's why we care, because that's all there is at the end of the day...compassion and everything that comes out of it...

Sometimes, Sharon and Betty, we amaze ourselves! The tenacity we saw modeled by Mom as we grew up has stood all of us in good stead many a time...


My response to Susan:
You've hit the nail on the head, Susan, about Mom - it's grief, not clinical depression. And yes, we can't stop her eating junk. It's just so frustrating, that's all! And I'm thinking you're right about the behavior modification unit...I guess like it or not, we just have to continue being patient, and inventive about solutions,...be like St. Francis (change what we can, accept what we can't...) Not easy, but there you go. I definitely will keep showing my love to Mom by spending time with her and listening to her, etc. Many people would think, how in the world can you listen to the same thing over and over? How can I NOT, I would reply...I love her, and she needs to talk, and it's just the right thing to do.

This is from Susan, the woman who runs Moorhead Manor, the assisted living facility where Mom lives...
Hello everyone...
Here are just a few general thoughts--

First, your mom has been in this sleeping mode for months and months. She is very sporadic with everything from eating, sleeping, laughing and weeping. Generally she is physically pretty healthy, she doesn't have bed sores or open skin breakdowns, and she is maintaining her weight. When I talk to her she claims that it is because she is grieving. Basically this seems to be chronic grief. Everything reminds her of her husband and sometimes she just doesn't want to face the world.

You guys have done basically everything that could possibly be done to motivate, redirect and make life better. She has been to many doctors. But if she won't follow the orders or isn't motivated to change, no one can make her. You can certainly get dietary orders from a doctor, but if she is unwilling to follow them there is nothing that anyone can do. Currently we don't give her any candy, Dolores claims that she hasn't bought anything from the cart for a very long time. I don't know where she is getting the bags of candy at all. We don't even supply them. The only thing she can get are the desserts and the snacks at snack break.

Here's the glitch. Even if you get doctor's. orders, we cannot stop her from eating whatever she likes. That is her right. For example, we have diabetics that we prepare special snacks for, if they don't want them and continue to eat sugar food, nothing we can do. We can advise that it would be better not too, but we cannot physically stop them) I cannot have the staff patrol these issues because that is not what we do. Also, if in a nursing home, they can prepare the special diets but can't enforce outside eating at all. We prepare and serve well-balanced meals with a variety of food choices, but if they choose to eat only certain items, again nothing we can do. So, doctor's orders on eating will not assist us in anyway.

I know that Trish spoke with Dianna about placement at another facility that focuses on behavior modification. To me, this could make things worse. She is not a behavior problem, she just doesn't want to be here without her husband. When I speak to her she keeps stating that I need to promise that she not be moved. But, this is not my decision, it is yours as a family. Harriet is basically not wanting to participate in life, she is weepy, she is lifeless and one can see on her face that she is sad. I have dealt with Dr. Martindale on many different levels and he is a great guy and a very good doctor. But his forte is not depression or grief. Possibly hospice (I believe that they have a grieving program), or one-on-one therapy, Lakeland mental health or an internal medicine doctor. From my experience general practitioners focus on medication, internist are problem solvers. Again, all of these appointments can be made, but if she continues to refuse to go or get help, there's not much alternative.

I truly care about Harriet and hate to see her in this mode, but possibly what she needs is just time, consideration and listening. It's like dealing with any addiction or mental health issue, one cannot control the outcome unless the person is willing to accept the help. I hope that I am not out of line on any of this, but until your mom reaches out, I don't know that there is much that can be done. We at the Manor can and will continue to try and get her involved and moving. I did speak to one of my staff who's husband died 2 years ago and she said that she has spoken to Harriet and they have had many heart to hearts. Chris did say that the second year for her was worse than the first after losing her husband. They were married for about 15 years, imagine what it must be like after 60! I don't know what this is worth, just my latest thoughts. I hope it helps in some way. Let me know if you have any response. Thanks Susan

Thursday, November 14, 2002


Things have been building up to another head...concerns my sisters and I have for Mom.

Today, I started taking action again...
Susan:

I hope to talk to you as soon as possible about all these things, but also wanted to reiterate them here for your reference...

1. Mom has appointment with her general physician, Dr. Martindale, on Wednesday, November 27th at 2pm. I'll come at lunch to get her ready and take her that day. The appointment is for discussing with the doctor our concerns about Mom's diet, activity, sleep patterns, etc. I will be trying to get answers that day for all of us, or at least get the ball rolling towards the answers...

2. Between now and then, we need Manor staff to document Mom's 'activities of daily living', i.e., start a log for every day between now and 11/27 that includes a) sleep patterns, i.e., when/if she gets up, when/if she goes to sleep, when/if she naps inbetween; 2) eating patterns, i.e., what/if she eats, and when; c) social interaction, i.e., when/if she participates in any activities and what they are; and d) exercise patterns, i.e., what/if she does physically such as walking the halls, etc.

We realize this puts more work onto Manor staff for this time period; however, in the long run, we hope it will assist the doctor at the time of the appointment so he can better address recommendations, if possible, to help improve these areas for Mom, and in turn make things more clear and easier for Manor staff.

3. Please let Manor staff know we'd like them not to sell Mom candy any more. I have not bought her candy in months, and she has no other way to get it except through their kindness. In Mom's case, however, it's killing her with kindness! If she wants some of her Schwann ice cream, or one of the served desserts that come with your meals there, that's fine, just no more candy.

4. I left a message with Diana Jorgeson, Mom's case manager for the Alternative Program. I will be discussing with her how/if it would be possible to incorporate some personal care for Mom into the time alloted her for that via Manor staff. Our concerns are:

a) Mom's scalp is tender and dry; it's been recommended by her hairdresser that it be massaged 3-4 times per week between salon appointments. I try to do that myself for her when I'm there twice a week, but more often would be better.

b) Mom's skin in general - I've noticed small dry patches on her upper arm lately, and am wondering if some of the body lotion I see that she has wouldn't help her with that if it was ensured that it be applied after her baths (having staff prompt her to apply, and have them observe her application of it...)

d) Mom's dental habits - Mom has horrendeous dental habits in recent months. I'll be asking Diana about how it might be incorporated into the daily personal care time for someone to prompt Mom to brush and observe her doing it for confirmation. This is having direct effects on her gums and mouth tissues being very sore and tender, not to mention very bad breath and making it harder to eat...

e) Footcare - Mom's toenails are in bad shape. I've tried to get her to allow me to trim them, but she won't let me. I've asked my sister Sharon to try to get Mom to agree to visit a podiatrist while she is in Chicago, but that may or may not work out. In the meantime, I'll ask Diana if there's a way to incorporate this as a weekly or ---- personal care item for Manor staff to aid Mom with. Right now, she has something painful with a big toe (ingrown??) that needs addressing, for one thing...

I realize that even if Diana feels that many or all can be addressed by Manor staff through the personal care time allotted, that Manor staff may not have the time available to devote to this. If that is the case, I will try and see if there are alternatives such as someone outside of the Manor staff that could come in and help Mom with some of these items...

I will keep you posted, Susan; in the meantime, I hope to talk to you about these items, and allow you any clarifcation or questions you might have, as well as confirm that you can log Mom's activites for the next two weeks. Thanks MUCH!

Thursday, October 24, 2002


Last night I went to visit Mom her and do her bills like I always do every Wednesday evening. Mom was just coming from the dining room after eating dinner.

After bills we chatted for 1.5 hours. It was really a great evening together, just small talk, not memories of family history or anything. Mom had me use her sewing machine to mend her housecoat sleeve that was halfway unsewn. We also cut off six inches that she was almost tripping on!

I set up her humidifier and got that going. Mom's outside window was open and was a devil to close, but we got that shut right (I noticed humidity on one window and discovered it that way...) I brushed her hair, her scalp being dry and therefore itchy. Her skin is definitely dry on the whole head, including her face. She uses the cow udder cream on her hands and face and swears by it, but she doesn't know what to do about the scalp situation. I'm going to see if there's something you can spray that can help, something easy to apply for her that won't mess up her hairset...

I can definitely see more of her old spirit coming back, and she told me she hopes she'll get more ambition and motivation back soon because inside she definitely WANTS to be doing handwork like crocheting, embroidering, and even some small sewing projects. She hates feeling unwell, and we all have great hopes her new medication for nausea will help her with that.

I think it may be quite possible that a few months from now, after being off of Zoloft, coming out of the initial grief, and having her dental work finished, she'll be doing even better.

For now, I'm looking forward to November 11th, when I'll be sitting down with Mom at my home to record her memories, taking photos of ourselves, eating good food, and drinking LOTS of tea!


Friday, October 18, 2002


My daughter Eva commented about my whistling post:
Grandma whistled quite a bit on her trip here. She even sang some songs to Mu'min. I think he really cheered her up. It was nice to see her happy when she played with him. Sometimes its hard seeing her so upset all the time about Grandpa.
My sister Betty also shared, "You know when Mom has been out here on Saturday/Sunday's; I have heard her whistle. You should try to get her on tape when you are doing those recordings!!!!"

Whistler


On my way to work this morning, I heard Leon Redbone's band doing "The Whistling Generals". Now there's a man who knows how to whistle beautifully. It puts a smile on your face and lightens the heart.

Why don't people whistle anymore? As Stuart Butler says in his poem, "Whistling", maybe it's because
"...Today there is less silence to break,
Less listless boredom to shake,
With Muzak attacking our heads
And radio alarms invading our beds..."
As long as I can remember, Mom has been a whistler. In fact, my earliest memories are of hearing my mother whistling. The tunes she whistled were sometimes borrowed, but as many times as not, they were made up on the fly as she went along. Her whistles were so strong and clear, you could hear them from some distance away.

I haven't heard Mom whistle for a long time. I hadn't thought about it until I heard that song this morning. I can only speculate as to why, but I think it's partly due to her grieving, and partly due to physical condition ... Sometimes it's like watching a clock running down. Just the other day she told me that she wants to crochet and embroider, still having the interest, but her motivation is just not there. She'll pick up a project, work on it a bit, then put it down. She glances at them, but the mood just isn't there.

I think if I was in her shoes, it would be very tough to feel motivated. Despite being in a facility where you can interact with others, there is still a lot of isolation that's difficult to get past. Every individual there has their own concerns, memories, and physical challenges to deal with. That takes a lot of emotional strength from a person, leaving them drained. Unless interaction comes to them in the form of caring friends and family, it's all too easy to fall into patterns of complacency, or even despondency.

Mom enjoys talking on the phone, and in person, just chatting about everyday things, or how she feels, or how others are. She calls each of my sisters and I regularly, and we talk. None of us probably feels we give her enough time. It's a tough balance. I don't want to someday look back and wish I had given more of my time. Mom is with us now.

Monday, September 16, 2002


It was the longest night of the year -- December 21. They played an endless loop of Christmas carols at the nurse's station. I tried to say all those things they say in the movies over the words of "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." It was a moment Stella would have appreciated.

Just as I did when I was a child, I laid my head on her breast, close enough to hear her heart beat, as soft as the flutter of wings.

When she was finally still the nurse came and I asked for a moment. I peeled off all the band-aids stuck to her skin, as thin as crumbling parchment. I combed her hair. She never wore it neat. This was my own small triumph.

My brother came for me and we went outside. Dawn was breaking, bathing everything in a steel gray. I thought of that tub she painted and laughed. Then we each lit a cigarette. For Stella.

From Smoke and Mirrors, by Dawn Shurmaitis - As a mother battles cancer, her daughter turns to cigarettes for comfort.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


As I usually do every Wednesday evening, I went over to Mom's to help her with her bills, as well as spend time with her. We often go out to eat since it's a real treat for her to get out and about, and eat some fun food. I sure don't blame her, I'd feel the same way if I was mostly cooped up somewhere, hard to get about on my own.

Today, as is often the case in recent weeks, Mom was still napping the day away, not even dressed yet. I helped her get up, then she took it from there, washing up, dressing with a little help from me. I brushed her hair to make it look nice.

All during this time, she was quietly (and sometimes not so quietly, when it overcame her even more deeply) weeping. It was one of those days when the absence of Dad hit her hard again. My own theory about why it's not getting any 'easier' for her, at least those raw emotions associated with recent loss, could be because Dad's decline and death occurred at the same time Mom's own physical/mental health appears to have begun to decline. Perhaps for her, every day is like Dad has just passed away. She can't 'get over it' because it keeps starting over in her mind and heart.

On the other hand, I've come to realize even more than I knew before, how very close they were, and how perhaps I've got it wrong. Maybe Mom's decline happened in response to Dad's.
Recent research has shown that intense grieving lasts from three months to a year and many people continue experiencing profound grief for two years or more.
I dunno. All I do know is I try to show her my love, to touch, to spend time, to stumble my way through talking with her about it. She often says she has nothing to live for, wants to die, wants to be with Dad, then says she doesn't know what happens when you die. I tell her no one does this side of death. It's the undiscovered country from which no one returns...that we know of. We can hope, we can believe, but we can't know. It's hard to accept, but there it is...

Monday, August 19, 2002


Mom called last night and then this morning before church. She did not sleep all night. Even took 2 Tylenol PM's. We picked her up for church. Then stopped at Hornbachers and Wal-Mart afterwards. Had corn the cob for 2:30 dinner. While there, she was going over everything in the will, wondering where alot of it was. Was nice about it and didn't ask for it back, was just wondering. She gave me a big hug when she left and said thanks for listening and cranky attitude. I said that was ok as you need someone to talk to. It was just good for her.

Yes, she is still set on trying to get her license. After she got home she called and asked, when did we get the license plates for the car? I explained when and etc but did not go into detail nor mentioned about the drivers license. I just agree with her and she will have to find out for herself. She waivers about Mhd Manor, up and downs about liking it there. She has her moments but 75% of the time she likes it. She just needed to vent, talk and think today. I listened - it's hard - but I love, respect and honor her as I know God would want me to do and the way I pray my kids will do for me.

Bill and Taylor are at the Dorothy Day Meal right now. Randy came home from a movie with friends and I told him about Grandma and what a great mother she was and he came over and gave me a big hug and said I know Mom, that's why you are such a great Mom - talk about making my day.

When we get frustrated with Mom - just remember - remember - remember - remember........


"Pervasive computing's* earliest adapters will be old people...an aging, increasingly demented America, who forgets to take pills and is forever misplacing the TV remote control."

Examples are gesture pendants, Autonomy Enhancing Devices, and an artificially intelligent health adviser, part of a "Smart Home" environment.

Full story...

* The essence of pervasive computing is the creation of environments saturated with computing and wireless communication, yet gracefully integrated with human users

Friday, August 16, 2002

Tuesday, August 13, 2002


Tonight I was cleaning out a closet of mine, and as often happens, I digress from one task to another. At one point, I'm at my desk rearranging and clearing out to make room for this and that (it's a long sad tale), and I come across a slip of paper taped to a cubbyhole in the desk. Document "Uncle Henry" and "Aunt Daisy" in family history it says. For a moment, I wondered what in the world, then a split second later I smiled, remembering Mom telling me last year, in the midst of her first flush of grief and confusion. "I want to tell you before I forget..."

"Uncle Henry" and "Aunt Daisy" were Mom and Dad's code phrases in their early love letters to each other, especially during the war when they were quite aware that many letters were read by the Army censors, for their genitalia. When they would write to one another that "Uncle Henry misses Aunt Daisy", they knew exactly what the other meant without being crude or letting anything slip to the censors.

Mom has kicked herself more than once for having Dad take out the bundle of their love letters and burn them. She can't for the life of her remember why they did it, either. What she does remember is Grandpa Fitzpatrick, her father, joking that "...that's the hottest fire ever seen around here..."

The evidence of our existences are fragile at best. All too easily it disappears and no one knows we were ever here...

Friday, August 09, 2002


Charlton Heston shared with the world today that he may be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's...
[Sharon, Betty, and I have been told that our Mother is in the same situation. Only autopsy post-mortem can confirm it currently. But all the tests Mom has been through is leading the doctors to believe she is showing early signs of a dementia. I want to appreciate every moment we are given with her...]


``My dear friends, colleagues and fans, my physicians have recently told me I may have a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer's disease. So I wanted to prepare a few words for you now because when the time comes I may not be able to.

I've lived my whole life on the stage and screen before you. I found purpose and meaning in your response. For an actor, there is no greater loss than the loss of his audience. I can part the Red Sea, but I can't part with you, which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life.

For now, I'm not changing anything. I'll insist on work when I can. The doctors will insist on rest when I must. If you see a little less spring in my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you'll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please, laugh anyway.

I am neither giving up nor giving in. I believe I am still the fighter that Dr. King and JFK and Ronald Reagan knew. But it's a fight I must someday call a draw.

I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure. Please, feel no sympathy for me. I don't. I just may be a little less accessible to you, despite my wishes.

I also want you to know I am grateful beyond measure. My life has been blessed with good fortune. I'm grateful that I was born in America, that cradle of freedom and opportunity, where a kid from the Michigan Northwoods can work hard and make something of his life.

I am grateful for the gift of the greatest words ever written that let me share with you the infinite scope of the human experience. As an actor, I'm thankful that I've lived not one life, but many.

Above all, I'm proud of my family. My wife Lydia, the queen of my heart, my children, Fraser and Holly, and my beloved grandchildren, Jack, Ridley and Charlie. They're my biggest fans, my toughest critics and my proudest achievement. Through them I can touch immortality.

Finally, I'm confident about the future of America. I believe in you. I know that the future of our country, our culture and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience as our ancestors did and come through with flying colors--the ones on Old Glory.

William Shakespeare, at the end of his career, wrote his farewell through the words of Prospero in ``The Tempest.'' It ends like this:
'Be cheerful, sir.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air;

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.'

Thank you, and God bless you, everyone.''

Thursday, August 08, 2002


It's been one year since Dad passed away. He was such a positive person, curious, loving, hardworking.

If only I could see his smile one more time, blue eyes twinkling...No wonder Mom loved him...

Tuesday, August 06, 2002


From an email to my daughter Eva tonight...
Grandma left me a voice mail last night saying she had called and talked with you.

It's hard to know how much time she has left on this old earth. I hope that you'll try and call her as much as you can. I know that you'll really appreciate your time there together in August.

Grandma sometimes seems shy or tough, but believe you me, she loves hugs and affection. She needs that right now more than ever between missing Grandpa and feeling alone (not to mention bored...sometimes she says she's bored out of her skull...) Aunt Betty tells her she should crochet or do embroidery, but she probably won't. Grandma wants to, but she's tired, her hands don't work as well as they used to. She says they're OK, but it's obvious to me that they are getting gnarled more and more from arthritis setting in bit by bit, not to mention the fact that she doesn't move much let alone exercise/stretch, etc.

We had her to the physical therapist and he suggested exercises for her to follow at home, but the list sits on her footstool and she admits to never doing them. What can you do? Not much. The person themselves has to want to...But what we CAN do it give her our time and our love. I admit I don't as much as I could, but try to do as much as possible and still balance the rest of my life. It's a tough call. You feel guilty either way...

Friday, August 02, 2002


Mom is alone after being part of a couple for the vast majority of her life. She tells me she misses the physical closeness - the snuggling, the sleeping with, the touch of Dad. You feel empty inside. Put that emotional distress together with her physical/mental problems (bad peripheral vision, increasing dementia), and it spells disaster for being behind the wheel.

We've been struggling with this issue for months now. It's one very practical manifestation of Mom's struggle to cope with all the stresses that growing older and becoming a widow has brought to bear on her.

I came across an article about that very subject - older drivers - today that made me think about the issues our society as a whole are facing with the increasingly older population...
"Driving has an essential role in helping older men and women live independently. However, with age, a person's competence and confidence behind the wheel may erode to the point that quitting becomes an unfortunate necessity and dependence on other means of transportation becomes an inevitable reality...If we, as a society, fail to take steps to help older people prepare for and cope with this transition, then the goal of improving the quality of life in old age will be greatly compromised, both now and in the foreseeable future." Full story...

Sharon recalls talks with Mom during the recent visit from Mom:
When mom visited me this past June and July, we often sat out in the evenings on the front stoop or in the back yard under a canopy tent set up with wicker and metal furniture. Mom took a great interest in watching the airplanes flying overhead that were headed to O'Hare airport and in watching the fireflies when it became dark outside. She'd often marvel at how those planes stayed aloft quoting the law of aerodynamics. During these times as well as when traveling in the car, we talked about dad, about her earlier life, about Bill's current job situation, Rachel, Paul etc.

In one of her wistful moments sitting on the front stoop, an interesting, previously unknown fact slipped out about mom. If she had had her druthers, the money and opportunity, she would like to have been a scientist. I always thought she had been interested in being a science technician. But, no, she was very clear about the dream of being a scientist. No doubt, she regrets not getting that opportunity but has since resigned herself to it. She said she always liked science more than English when in school. In a different generation such as ours, she would have had that opportunity to see her dream materialize.

From things she said and intimated, I believe that she is very proud of the accomplishments of each of her daughters and the fact that they really care what happens to her (that she is really blessed to have such loving and caring daughters).

She reminded me also of the history of the small round table and chair set that came from the soda fountain place in Pembina and how Grandma bought the set for less than $5.00. It came with only 3 chairs. Grandma put new masonite boards in the seats and painted the metal black and the seats silver.

I didn't realize how close mom and grandma were til she was sharing how dad would often laugh that they could be down to Grandma and Grandpa's for a meal and then mom would be on the phone with her just after she got home. Grandma had a chance to see Dad work at the Short's cafe and told mom that he would be a good provider for whoever he married. Also, dad really
thought a lot of Grandma too.

Mom recalled some of the funnier aspects of their married military life in the service. When stationed either in Texas or California, dad overslept one morning and didn't make it in for roll call at the camp. He was really scared that he would be charged with AWOL but fortunately one of his buddies covered and answered for him at the roll call.

Mom said several times she wished she could have given dad a boy. She went on to talk about losing the baby boy in California and the trip home when she was having a nervous breakdown. The train stopped in Des Moine, Iowa and dad thought of putting mom into mental hospital because she was in such bad condition. He contacted his Aunt Ragnil and she told him that if it were her spouse, she definitely would not put him in one of those places. She advised him to take her home to Grandma as he originally
planned.

If I recall any other conversations containing unique info, I'll pass it along to you both.

Monday, July 29, 2002


Betty and Trish: Here are my observations comparing mom at Christmas to mom this summer...

At Christmas she was awake more and sleeping less. This summer she was sleeping all day til supper time except for the weekends when we were home to get her up to go some place. Last Christmas, she took the initiative to wash up,pick out her clothes and get dressed. This summer, I had to prod her to wash up and get dressed and even brush her teeth. She was more weepy and emotional in this last visit than at Christmas. She took more of an interest in the old phonograph at Christmas than during this last visit.

This summer she often said she did not want to live and had no reason to live. Her short term memory was about the same both times. Sometimes she remembers better than others. If we talked about something long enough over a period of time, she seemed to remember it so she could bring it up in conversation. She was more mobile and better able to traverse stairs at Christmas than she was this summer. Glad she had the cane.

Later this week I will put down more information about memories, etc. that mom and I talked about during her latest visit.

Sharon

Sunday, July 28, 2002


Betty's Observation of Our Mother over the last 6 months:
As I begin this letter my heart is heavy for the daily loss of our Mom. It's hard to verbalize at times and hopefully my words will express it.

Last night about 9 pm Mom called me and said, "Betty, where have I been since August 8th?" I said Mom, "It's not August 8th yet". She said, "I know, from August 8th last year. I don't remember anything." (what must that be like) I said, "Mom, you have been at the Moorhead Manor all that time". She said, "It's been like a blur, I can only remember bits and pieces."

She couldn't remember just coming back from Sharon's in Chicago a week ago and having spent 4 weeks there. "Yes, I said Sharon said you did not do as well this time."

"What do you mean this time, was I there before?"

"Yes, Mom for 2 weeks at Christmas."

I have labeled Mom having two moods - her passive mood and her rampage mood. I will explain...

When she is in her passive mood here is her routine: she sleeps all day, will get up around 4 pm. Has supper and goes back to bed around 10 pm. She is not interactive and very weepy. Says things over and over like: "I wish I would just die, I have no reason to live. Why didn't God take us both." (It has been almost one year since our father passed away) Does nothing except sleeps, eats one meal a day, eats excessive amounts of candy, does not tend to hygiene, cares about nothing, can't carry on a conversation except briefly and repeats over and over. In less than 5 minutes time, she can't remember. When I got her from the airport coming back from Chicago, we picked up her luggage and went out to the car and put in trunk. Before we could exit the parking lot, she asked me why we had not gotten her luggage yet. These moods generally last anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.

Then all of sudden - there's the window - the rampage mood. We call it a window like we have read about Alzheimer patients. She can't sleep - sometimes for 1 to 2 days. During this time she asks A LOT of questions of what has happened, where are her things. I call it the rampage mood because she can then be calling you up to 7-10 times a day asking about things - and not knowing that she makes these calls. We never belittle her and have always been taught to respect our parents; therefore, we respond with love. She can sometimes get very crabby during these times. It's during these times that she says things; "I can still drive better than most people" - which she has not driven in over a year and has no license to drive at the present time. These moods generally don't last longer than a week.

She does watch TV at night, plays solitaire and is a very good reader and enjoys her books. She was an avid seamstress and needlework person but now only talks about them but never gets back into it. My one sister here in Moorhead sees her every Wednesday night and goes over bills and pays them for her; and visits. Plus she takes her every Saturday for a hair appointment. I take her to church on Sunday - when I can get her up by 10 (50% chance) and have her out for the afternoon.

All three of us stay in very close contact with each other - daily - and the Moorhead Manor to make sure Mom is well taken care of and that she knows we love and want to care for her. I know these are difficult things to analyze and help us; but can anything be done?

We have a large clock in her room to show her the time and it also has on the day, month and year. But time does not mean anything to her. She has no motivation or desire to live. She is not suicidal and would not take her life. But she has given up on life. My 2 sisters and myself love our Mother desperately and want only the best for her. She is an amazing woman and has lived a lifetime of love, hardship and sorrows. We just want to know if we are doing everything possible for her and have not overlooked anything. So, we ask ourselves - what can we do??!? Do we let nature take it's course? Is she under-medicated? Should her medicine be changed? She is only using 50 mg of Zoloft - and is this the best for her or another medication? Would any medication help these symptoms? Who do we turn to? We are asking both of you - Doctor Martindale and Doctor Haake - PLEASE consult after reading these letters from all three of us sisters and combine your sources and be open and honest with us - if there is anything we can do??

Susan, Administrator at the Moorhead Manor has recently had Mom reviewed by the Clay County Health and they feel she should have a mental eval. Now, we totally agree but you know something - it will ALL depend on which mood they find her in when it is done. If this is done, I would like to recommend and request that it be done when she is in BOTH moods to get a fair assessment. Also, Susan mentioned that maybe some counseling of some sort would benefit our Mother - we are open to that as well.

We are begging you to please take the time to carefully read all three evals from us and consult each other and THEN contact us. We are not taking this lightly and ask that neither of you do as well. This is a life of a wonderful devoted mother, wife and human being that deserves whatever we can do to help.

We thank you and admire you both for the love and care you gave our father (Gordon Short) and continued care for our mother.

Sincere Respect,
Betty Thorsvig (second oldest daughter of Harriet Short)

Saturday, July 27, 2002


Mom over the past six months...
1. Physically slowing down - She makes an effort to remain mobile, but it's becoming more difficult for her. Some of it is age, but I feel just as much of it is lifestyle choice, i.e., poor diet/exercise. I also feel that her medications may be interfering with her metabolism. Just before Mom left on vacation is when she was evaluated for physical therapy. If I remember correctly, that was left rather open-ended since she was leaving soon. I _think_ it was settled that she could continue receiving PT and Medicare would cover it. We could check on that and see if that is the case. I feel it's important, if Mom wants to do it, to encourage her to keep mobile, keep circulation as healthy as possible.

2. Mentally about the same - She is forgetful about some short-term things, but other times remembers. She depends on me a great deal to keep track of her bills and remind her to write out the checks for them. Sometimes she'll mention to me the health insurance bill came and we must pay it, but most of the time she leaves it all to me.

3. Emotionally slowly improving - She still grieves Dad and probably always will. She still talks about why he had to die even though she knows why, because she misses him so much. She sometimes weeps yet. However, in my experience with her at least, she seems to be healing a bit because despite the pain of loss, she is not quite as emotionally fragile to me as she was six months ago.

Thursday, July 25, 2002


She’s been dead for almost a decade, but tears still stream down my face when I let myself remember that she’s gone. Her name was Salina. She was my grandmother.
From A Drawer full of Memories...

Tuesday, July 23, 2002


You might have guessed by now that Aunt Pat is our Mom's sister. Alberta is her actual name, but everyone has always called her by her nickname 'Pat', short for her maiden surname, Fitzpatrick.

She's an opinionated, strong-willed, vivacious lady that knows what she wants, what she thinks, and goes for it. I always have the image of Auntie Mame go through my head when I think about Aunt Pat. When I was little, I was always fascinated by her since she seemed to live such a different life than we did...than her sister, my mother, did. She was a 'working woman', working in an office upstairs behind one-way glass at J.C. Penney's in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her husband, Uncle John, was a small wiry man of French descent who was a 'body man', working on cars in his shop.

Always a house-o-fire, my Aunt, it's hard to imagine her being 90 years old*, and finally slowing down. I last saw Aunt Pat over 15 years ago, but talked to her as recently as a few months ago about Mom. She sounds as cheery as ever, but a bit more absent-minded. That's the hardest part of seeing Mom and Aunt Pat now...seeing them there, and yet slowly fading away. I understand in many ways why our cousin Jerry is torn about coming to visit them.

* Alberta Mae Fitzpatrick was born on July 13, 1912...


I was bemused, saddened, and then bemused again as I read this message from Betty last night...
I forgot to tell you Jerry Johnson called me Saturday and we talked for almost an hour. I ALWAYS recognize his voice. Knew it was him right away. It was SO good to talk to him.

He calls Aunt Pat and Delphine every Saturday.

Yes, Aunt Pat had had a stroke and she CHECKED HERSELF INTO a nursing home but it only lasted TWO DAYS and she left. According to Aunt Pat she tells Mom that Delphine put her in there - she did not.

She also says Delphine never comes over and Delphine takes her out to breakfast every morning. In fact there has been mornings that Aunt Pat has forgotten that and drives out for breakfast again. According to the Doctors, she is NOT suppose to be driving but no one is doing anything about it and she still is.

She is 95 now.

Jerry is torn to come and see them both; but really wants to remember them from before. I gave him Mom's new number and encourage him to call her.

Well, I am going to bed now.
Later - Bets

I LIED - NOT YET. I forget also to tell you that when Sharon called me today she mentioned about some little stories and incidents that happened while Mom was there. I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE HER TO PLEASE PLEASE WRITE THEM ON MOM'S WEB PAGE AND TO DO WITHIN THE NEXT 2 WEEKS. So they are fresh in her mind. After that her and Bill are going over to Hawaii for 3 weeks to celebrate his parents 60 anniversary and by then she wont remember. Now I am going to bed.
Jerry is our first cousin, the son of Mom's sister Clara. He's a sweet, gentle, funny man, who cares about family a lot...He always had a soft spot for Mom since he used to be watched by his Aunt Harriet as a kid, hanging out later with her and Dad as a teen sometimes. He's been far away in California, but close in Mom's heart, as she is in his, over these many years since those days long ago...

Tuesday, July 16, 2002


Seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, with mild to moderate memory loss, are writing Web logs to help them make sense of their daily lives. And the activity, they say, is slowing the onset of their symptoms.

"Keeping journals or engaging in other intellectual activity is good at any age...But it is particularly important to stay intellectually active as we get older, retire from demanding jobs and have fewer family obligations."
More...

Sunday, July 14, 2002


After comments about Mom's mobility becoming obviously more limited from Sharon, while Mom's there on her trip visiting her...
I don't doubt it about Mom's mobility - Sharon would notice it more than we would, seeing her all the time, but I thought she was slowly down.

A lot of that, as we all know, comes from Mom's mental and emotional state of mind since Dad's passing affecting her physical condition, including lack of motivation to move, and a slow shutting down of herself as a result. She may or may not see what's happening, but either way, she doesn't care enough to change her lifestyle. There are moments when she speaks up for herself, but it's usually due to comfort-related issues like her teeth. It's one of those times again where we honor her choices while wishing they might be otherwise, I guess.

Friday, June 28, 2002


From Karen Stevenson Brown, publisher of ElderWeb:
I have begun a comprehensive look at the history of long term care in America over the years, both how we have provided care and how we have paid for it. It provides some fascinating insight into when and why our long term care system evolved as it did, and I have created a special section of the ElderWeb site for this information.

This is still a work in process, and I have been going back and re-writing sections as I uncover more information. The posted material covers the period from the inception of the country in 1776 to just before the Great Depression started in 1929. I will be bringing the story forward to the current environment in the weeks to come.

Some tidbits from the information posted so far:

► In colonial days, “old age security” meant having children and/or property. Old men and women who had no children to care for them and no money had few good options available.
► The first “institution” for the poor elderly was the poorhouse, where “inmates” had to give up all their rights. It was like a prison, inmates couldn’t leave or have guests without permission. They were even forbidden to wear their own clothes—they had to wear a uniform. Many of the elderly shared space with the mentally-ill, who were sometimes chained and kept in pens or stalls.
► “Benevolent Societies” created one of the first organized old-age assistance programs. Members paid monthly dues to the Society while they were young and healthy, then received help when they were elderly, infirm, or in need.
► “Old age homes” were developed during the 1800’s to protect “respectable” people from the “indignity” of the poorhouse. Some of them required the recipient to pay an up-front fee and turn over whatever income and assets they had in exchange for a guarantee that they would have a home as long as they liked—an early version of what we now call “lifecare”.
► Early retirement communities were also developed during the 1800’s.
One had “convenient two-story brick cottages”, a community center, a hospital, and its own water system.
► While fewer people lived to age 65 or age 85 in 1900, those that did had nearly as many years ahead of them as people of those ages do today. There were reports of hundreds of people who lived past 100.
► Urbanization and the migration to the west in the 18th and 19th centuries reduced family sizes and disbursed families so that older people could not count on having a family member available to care for them, increasing the need to develop alternative solutions.

You’ll want to read the story online so you can see the photographs of poorhouses and old age homes of the time. You’ll also want to take a look at dozens of interesting pictures, narratives, graphs, and charts collected in the appendix, many from the wonderful Library of Congress American Memories collection. more...

Monday, June 17, 2002


A snapshot of Our Live with Mother(via emails today):

Betty:
I don't know whether to scream, laugh or cry!!! Mom has called me I bet 6 times already today!!

I guess she ends up having a 2 pm appointment with Petersen and a 3 pm follow up with Jung. They are leaving now for appointments.

Mom's last call just now; said did you know I had 2 appointments today. I said yes Mom I gathered that from your last 2 calls. I told her to get moving cause she is not to be late for that 2 pm one!! But I think they
will be.

Boy, do I need a vacation!!!

Trish:
...and the sad part is that Mom knows she's interrupting, and she's so sweet about it, you hate to say anything. She was telling me today that she's once again forgetting about what happened since they left New Mexico. She readily admits to me that she remembers enough to know she DID know, but she can't grasp ahold of the details. I told her, well, Mom, do the best you can, and don't worry about the rest. That's all you can do, and she says, yes, I suppose that's true. She then says, I hope you don't EVER have to go through this, Trish. I told her it must really stink. Yep, it does, she says.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, and as Mom says Grandma would say, there are more downs, so definitely appreciate the ups...

Every time one of us says the secret code "I'm going insane...", we gotta reach out to that one! Hang in there...

Thursday, June 13, 2002


Mom has had her share of physical problems over the years. Her own mother suffered from arthritis and diabetes, the latter causing complications that eventually led to the amputation of one leg below the knee.

These are some of the conditions Mom has suffered from - and is still suffering from:

Meniere's Disease - "Since the attacks of Meniere's disease occur irregularly, may be triggered by outside forces, and may go into short or long remissions, it is often extremely hard to determine if any given treatment is actually working or if the disorder is just in a quiet phase. This has made studying this disease extremely difficult, often producing scientific opinions that contradict one another. There are many different treatments available for Meniere's disease. Some will work better than others will for individual patients. It is often very hard to find a treatment that will work best for any given person."

As long as Mom can remember, she has suffered bouts of this condition. It will come on suddenly for her, causing severe dizziness and nausea. The only thing that helps her both cope with the symptoms, and help her get over it, is to retreat to her bedroom to quiet, darkness, and stillness. No one knows what causes it, nor is there any one way to treat it...

Raynaud's Syndrome - "Raynaud's phenomenon is a condition caused by a problem in the small blood vessels that supply blood to the skin. During an attack of Raynaud's phenomenon, the blood vessels become smaller (constrict), limiting the flow of blood to the hands and feet (less commonly the nose or ears). This often causes fingers or toes to feel cold and numb and then turn white. As blood flow returns and the fingers begin to get warmer, they may turn blue, then red. The fingers may begin to throb and become painful."

Mom has been vulnerable to stress all her life, succumbing to what was once called nervous breakdowns at least twice in her life - her miscarriage in her first pregnancy (1943) and later on in the early 1950's when Dad was gone a lot working and she was home alone with my two older sisters. Mom also said she frostbit her hands badly when she was young. Together, these are strong contributory factors in this disease...

Meningocele ("Tethered Cord Syndrome" - Adult Onset) - "Adult onset of tethered cord syndrome is a rare pathologic entity. Its treatable nature makes early diagnosis and timely surgical intervention important goals....Thorough clinical history and physical examination should direct investigators to include tethered cord syndrome in the differential diagnosis of select patients."

When I read the document the above quote is from, I realized that my sisters and I are very lucky to be here. Mom said she was told that if she had waited a week longer to have her surgery to fuse the lower spine, she probably would have been dead. She said she asked the doctor about having children and he said he thought she should be able to. She was very nervous about it, but did so. During her pregnancy with Betty, she carried all out front, nothing to the side, and her back bothered her a lot, but she made it through OK...

Glaucoma - Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. In most cases, increased pressure in the eye plays an important role in this damage. The damage to the optic nerve causes loss of peripheral (side) vision. As the disease worsens, the field of vision gradually narrows and blindness can result.

Since Mom had regular eye screenings (good for her!), they caught hers fairly early. As long as she continues to have her eye drops given correctly, the progression is virtually halted, comparatively speaking...(old age affects everything anyways, including our eyesight...)

Friday, June 07, 2002


Mom emailed me tonight...
From: harrietshort
To: trishymouse@hotmail.com
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2002 22:17:35

i am trying to practice on this little gizmo to see if i can learn how to master it. i am determined t0 do so and will probly do so before i kick the bucket . i spelled probaly wrond and still do not k now for sure if i got it write . there i did it again. i can hear you giggle. smarty. i must get tobed and see if i can get to sleep tonite. love you and wish i could give you a good nite kiss and hug and tuck you in love mom

Wednesday, June 05, 2002


To say Mom's moods move as quickly as a butterfly is underestimating. I'm not saying that is good or bad; but due to her memory from one minute to the next literally she can be either up or down.

I just called her now 9:45 and woke her up - admitted she was not dressed yet. I am going to start calling her in the mornings and purposely check to see if she is getting up. I encouraged her today to go out with her neighbor lady for a walk around the block - it is such a beautiful day. I asked her how her appointments went and she said ok I guess. I asked her what she had done at the dentist - oh, I don't know, can't remember. I don't think she could recall the appointments if her life depended upon it. She did remember an appointment with Dr. Martindale, she said, for 2 pm today - she doesn't know what it is for though.

Bare with me here - maybe I am just blowing off some stress but...

I can't tolerate (even though I do) negative people. I hate being around them. I hate pity parties. I am 99.9% a positive person. I have always tried to tell my kids and tell others - Life is what you make it! I CHOOSE not to live in misery. Yes, I have stress. Yes, I have worries. But, life has "taught" me that you need to savor EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY - as God has richly blessed us. I love the mornings, I love the green grass, I love the sunrises and sunsets, I TAKE TIME TO APPRECIATE THEM, I love to look at trees, I love to watch clouds, I love to watch birds and insects, I love the smell of rain, I love seeing Taylor at the beginning and end of my day, I love how Bill loves me, I appreciate and thank God for a good night's sleep and for my present health (knowing years are catching up on me).

Yes, trails, tribulations and many sorrows come to each one of us over the years; but I CHOOSE TO ENJOY THE BEST OF LIFE.

Grandma Fitzpatrick always told me "Enjoy the good times because in life there are more trials and tribulations!" Recently I re-read many of her letters to me and what struck me was what a personal relationship she had with God. She was amazing.

Anyway, if it means encouraging Mom to get the car going; if it means getting the sewing machine over there in an already crowded room; then so be it. But, I WILL NOT let Mom pull me down and I will continue to have her out but I WILL NOT encourage her grieving any longer.

The end of our lives - even for Mom - is UP TO GOD.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Paradox

When I was growing up, I was in awe of my Mom. I didn't think of it as awe at first. In the beginning I just thought, "She's so tall compared to me..."* As I was growing up, she always seemed so confident, so strong. Little did I know that while this was true, it was also false.

Her bravado masked a weakness. She was vulnerable. Only through time did I and my sisters come to realize that our mother was more than just our mother, but a person. A person as complex as any of us. She had a story, and it was utterly fascinating.

I'm not sure where it came from, this vulnerability. Grandma Fitzpatrick, our mother's mother, was a very strong, independent woman. Circumstance necessitated that she was. Eventually she was married to my grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick. My grandfather was a man with a great sense of himself - confident, gentle, and a devilish sense of humour. Despite her independence, they were a great fit for one another. Their combined intelligence, resourcefulness, depth of faith, and sense of the work ethic passed to my mother.

However, despite this foundation, Mom was vulnerable. It manifested itself during times of emotional stress. The first time we became aware of it was from stories told to us years later...about when Dad and Mom were first married, and Mom was carrying her first child - what would have been our older brother. She miscarried, and the resulting circumstances became a blur to her, Dad taking her on a train trip home that she doesn't remember. Years after that, Dad was working away from home. Mom had two small children on her own, and despite the support she had from her parents, it became too much for her. Once again, she became overwhelmed, and had a nervous breakdown.

Now, since Dad died last year, she's showing this vulnerability again. I'm convinced that it's not just her age. No, it's more than that. She's devastated from Dad's loss. She's coping the best she can. We're a source of strength and support to her, but she still misses him terribly. The sincerity of her pain is physically palpable when you're in her presence. It's not every day that you witness a love and devotion so utter, so strong, so elemental, that you know that the person's grieving will not have a quiet, neat ending, a moving on...Rather, it will continue to the end of their lives. The depth of the connection between them and their loved one passed on is such that it cannot be any other way.

It makes those of us living life at a younger pace uncomfortable. We don't know what to say, or what to do. I smile when I think of it. My mother is a fantastic person. She worked SO hard all her life, in the shadow of a woman she greatly admired and never felt she lived up to, her own mother. I feel the same way about Mom, as she has about her own mother. I don't know how much more of a compliment you can give another person.

Despite our times of conflict (mostly due to the fact that we're both intelligent, strong-willed people), I love my mother more than anything. Exasperating, frustrating, yes. But inspiring, loving, supporting, yes too. That's my Mom. Harriet Short...

*(Now I think, "She's so small compared to me...")

Friday, May 24, 2002


Mom told me about a dream she had this past week. In the dream, it was dark. No light. She could sense the presence of two others near her. She knew one of them was Dad. She didn't know who the other person was. She was standing alone. Dad and the other person were standing together, across from her. She was facing towards them. At one point, Dad reached out his hand, and she raised hers to take his. She felt a desire to be with him...to go with him. As she was thinking this, Dad let go of her hand. She didn't know why. She told me she can only think it was his way of saying, he had to go, but she couldn't come...that it wasn't her time yet.

Or maybe, Dad was trying to tell her goodbye. To let him go...

Tuesday, May 07, 2002


It's my birthday this Friday. I'll be 43 years old. I remember when my Mother was 43! This Sunday is Mother's Day. I was born on Mother's Day.

I'll be leaving Thursday for a long-anticipated holiday with my daughter and her family. I'll be seeing her graduate from college. Hard to believe. I remember the day I came home, tired and bedraggled, VERY unsure of myself as a new mother, with this little lump with blue eyes and golden downy hair on her little head, wiggling and looking at me...As if I knew what to do! But she trusted me, so I pulled myself together and stumbled along as best as I could, learning as I went by the seat of my pants. Making mistakes, I also tried to be open and honest about them.

So much has happened since then. One thing for sure, there's never been a dull moment with Eva. She's been the most fascinating person to watch grow into herself. So many wonderful things to come yet.

Mom has often said similiar things. Remembering me and my sisters when we were young, when her and Dad were young parents. It's said with a mixture of happiness and sadness. Happiness because of the blessing of those experiences, sadness because they are long in the past, and so bittersweet when reality of her present forces itself in front of those memories.

Monday, May 06, 2002


Life goes on.................

As hard as it might be these are my thoughts for Mom:

Whether we are experiencing the death of a loved one, an ended relationship, or grief for the past, as incomprehensible as it may seem, life DOES go on. Hardships may indeed befall us, but the ebb and flow of life
energy prods us to survive.

Indeed there is a time to mourn, but there is also a time for tears to dry. As does the sweet scent of the poppy linger in the air, the warm memories and love for those we have lost will remain always safe in our hearts.
Life is about living.

It was hard for me this past weekend, seeing all the things that Mom and Dad cherished all their lives. I cried many tears and mourned my loss of my Daddy. I know as I go through and unpack their belongings, more will come. I smelled Dad's hats and remembered his smell. I cried. I fumbled through the little boxes that meant so much to him the last few years and wanted him to be there...........

It is so true that you never realize how much you love someone until they're gone. And, it is also true, that I never realized how lucky I was to have parents like I had.

What I also want to convey is that we need to try and bolster Mom up and help her get on with living. I am going to try being a little tougher on her - gently of course.

But - life does go on and there is a time for tears to dry.

Friday, May 03, 2002


Some Things You Keep


Some things you keep. Like good teeth. Warm coats. Bald husbands. They're good for you, reliable and practical and so sublime that to throw them away would make the garbage man a thief. So you hang on, because something old is sometimes better than something new, and what you know often better than a stranger.

These are my thoughts, they make me sound old, old and tame and dull at a time when everybody else is risky and racy and flashing all that's new and improved in their lives. New spouses, new careers, new thighs, new lips. The world is dizzy with trade-ins. I could keep track, but I don't think I want to.

I grew up in the fifties with practical parents - a mother, God bless her who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then re-used it- and still does. A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

They weren't poor, my parents, they were just satisfied. Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Fifties couples in Bermuda shorts and Banlon sweaters, lawnmower in one hand, tools in the other. The tools were for fixing things - a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things you keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, re-heating, re-newing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant there'd always be more.

But then my father died, and on that clear autumn night, in the chill of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any 'more'. Sometimes what you care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.

So, while you have it, it's best to love it and care for it and fix it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. That's true for marriage and old cars and children with bad report cards and dogs with bad hips. You keep them because they're worth it, because you're worth it.

Sunday, April 28, 2002


From my journal, nine months ago...


"How quickly things change...On June 30th, Mom and Dad called. Mom scared. Took Dad to ER. Had heart attack. Released after testing July 4th. On July 13th, second bad attack. This time, the Cardiologist, Dr. Evans, did an angiogram, angioplasty, and echocardiogram. Dad is in ICU with breathing tube, IV feeding him, catheterized, with a blood pump. Also had to have dialysis for awhile. By July 16th, breathing tube removed. Two days now has has slept, moving around and trying to turn this way and that. Who knows what dreams he dreams?

"Mom cried when Chris and I drove to the hospital. 'No more Hawkeye and Chingascook...' was all she could say, over and over. In ER, Dad motioned us over to his bedside, saying if he doesn't come out of this, he knows he'll see us on the other side. I'm so glad I took their photos on Saturday, July 7th, as I did. Images of them kidding with each other, smiling at each other, goofing off, holding hands, kissing, or just gazing into the camera naturally.

"As I write this, I am alone in the ICU waiting room except for one solitary woman, and Mom. Mom plays solitaire quietly, across the room on the coffee table. She keeps asking me, when I go over to her, why she's paying two months' rent for the old apartment. I explain we're late this month and we need to give notice. Where are we moving to, she asks. I tell her, but a few moments later, she has forgotten and asks again. 'Oh yes,...where Dad needs to go...' I smile inwardly as the solitar woman leaves us alone.

"Mom remembers enough of a conversation a few days before when we told her and Dad they had to move to a nursing home. Then, I could see Dad's face become relaxed and visibly relieved, knowing finally that someone could be there to help them.

"My ears notice that Mom is whistling as she plays cards. Cards and whistling - how appropriate. Two things burned into my mind from my earliest memories that I associate with Mom.

"I hear Mom moan...she says she has eaten too much, and decides to quit playing cards, and lay down for awhile.

"Sharon and Bill, arriving in the afternoon, are with Bill and Betty running errands.

"The hours as this goes by seem surreal. Time passes differently. You don't acknowledge it. Instead, you ignore it, withdrawing into a safe, emotional cocoon. At one and the same time, you reflect superficially on memories that surface unbidden but don't surprise you, but you never let them manipulate you into giving way to any emotional release. This is your way, you say. Maybe so. Maybe it's just your defense against facing mortality head on instead of intellectually, the way most of us most of the time deal with it, if we deal with it at all..."

Friday, April 19, 2002

When we think of grief, we generally think of the process and feelings we experience after someone dies. In reality we begin this process on the day someone we love is diagnosed with a life threatening illness. This process of mourning before someone we love has died is called anticipatory grief.
Remembering how it was with Dad, I definitely felt this...I know Mom did, too...she openly talked about it for years. It's like when Sunday hits, and it's still the weekend, but you feel the pressure of work already coming back...

Wednesday, April 17, 2002


Mom's physical was last week. Results are in: BP 118/62, Hemoglobin 13, blood sugar 92, thyroid levels good at 4.6, urine normal, etc., etc.

She's still sleeping too much. Today, she was asleep when I came to visit her at 5pm. Once again she was laying around in bed most of the day, in and out of sleep, admitting that she was dreaming about Dad again. I hope to encourage her to be more active and enjoy her life now as it is. I am looking into getting help with that since she's not motivated much by my words alone...

Sunday, April 14, 2002



(Written at Betty's on Saturday afternoon - April 13th, 2002)

Thursday, April 11, 2002


After talking with Mom last night, I'm coming to a personal conclusion that her sadness concerning Dad that seems to come and go is just that - something that is deep within her but only surfaces at moments when something brings him to mind, something that can be overwhelming in the retching sense of loss at those times, but also something that ebbs like the tide.

Mom has shared with me that she's unhappy, sometimes angry - very sad all the time as an undercurrent - but is being patient as she can be, abiding her time in God until he sees fit to take her home, as she puts it.

Until then, we'll ensure her health is taken care of and all those necessary everyday things, as well as being there for her, loving her, and enjoying our opportunities to get to know her better. I think that's the most important thing of all...

Tuesday, April 09, 2002


Here is an excerpt from an email received from Susan, the Administrator of the Moorhead Manor with concerns about Mom lately:
The problem that we are having lately with the bed being made is partly because of the trouble of getting your mom out of bed. Housekeeping is going to keep a log because what happens is when she gets up for lunch, they go into the room and make the bed. A lot of times, then your mother crawls back into bed. She comes down to play cards, they go in and make the bed, she crawls in for a nap before supper. She will even say to them "no use in making it, I'm just going to get right back in..." Now I'll have them also go in just prior to leaving their shift for the day anywhere between 4-6pm. They will again make the bed.

I am hoping that some of this sleeping will be taken care of after her med review with the doctor. Again today, we were into her room 4 times prior to lunch trying to get her up. She takes her am pills and does not want to get up. Went in prior to lunch-wouldn't get up. I finally went in mid afternoon and again checked. Doesn't complain of being sick, just has no energy and wants to stay in bed. I am not quite sure what to do with this-maybe nothing until she is seen by doctor. This is one of the first afternoons that we have had problems getting her up. Usually she's ready to go by lunch or at least snack time.
We are very concerned about this so we have made an appointment for Mom to see GP, Dr. Martindale to check out all her meds, etc and blood levels. This will be coordinated with the neurologist, Dr. Haake during a later appointment. [Note by Trish: In other words, we want to see if it's physical, neurological, or both, and get to the bottom of it...]

Last night I was over to see Mom and she said again, "I dream of Dad, and when I wake up I am sadder than ever..." *heavy heart*

Silence.................

Here is a reading called, Grieving With God that I sent to Mom:
One of the hardest things to accept is that life as we know it does not go on.

Relationships are often difficult to establish and maintain. And on rare, wonderful occasions, some just fall into place so easily and run so smoothly from both ends.

Losing one we're close to, feels unfair and so sad. Those we just fell in love with from the start, that were there for us whatever our circumstances, whatever our pain, no matter how we lost our humor, those we could wrap our arms around and receive comfort from, we find it impossible to release them to death.

Once we relax in knowing they are there, will never reject us, will always return our love and affection, how can we plan a future without them?

How can the memories be enough when our hearts seem to slow, yet pound so loudly in our throats, when our joy is crushed, when our eyes cloud and will never view things the same again?

How should we behave? Why should we just walk back into life as though nothing ever happened? How can we ever be expected to smile again? How can we let go?

Amazingly enough, long before we were conceived, long before we participated in life, God had a plan........a perfect plan.

He foresaw the need for this life to have a beginning as well as an end. He created and thoroughly understood the complexities of relating to others. He gave us the ability to love and draw close. He knew the path our lives would take and how deeply we would feel pain. He left nothing out.

He built within us the abilities to grieve without dying, to let go without forgetting, to cope without quitting, to continue to love those who have gone on, yet grow to love others more strongly and even to add new love to our hearts.

He even gave us time......time to grieve.....time to heal and time to grow from our new understanding.

Beyond our awesome creation, He knows exactly when we suffer loss and how hard it is for us.

We are among those He just fell in love with from the start, He is there for us no matter what our circumstances, what our pain, no matter how we've lost our humor, He wants to wrap us in His arms and receive comfort from Him.

We can relax in knowing He has always been there, will never reject us, will always return our love and affection, and will help us plan our future.

He will rejoice with us in our memories and restore our joy and make our hearts pound loudly in our throats in anticipation of a glad future.

We should not walk the same roads over again. He devised that when our eyes have clouded with tears we should never view things the same way again. We could grow bitter from sadness, or we can grow and learn compassion. We should never behave as though nothing ever happened. We should fondly remember that knowing, then missing someone has changed us, that we were blessed with the company of angels while they were here.

This amazingly perfect plan that God has, of which He mapped out every possible outcome, leads us always back into His very capable, loving arms.

It's not that He wants us to suffer, not that He wants us to cry, not that He wants us to lose those we love dearly. God just wants us to remember that while we were happily on our journey with our loved one, He was happy too.

He leads us to know that after losing our loved one, when we return to life more lonely, He steps up closer to us and not only understands our loneliness, but helps us hold our head up.

When emptiness invades your sleep, He offers what no other friend can..... serenity as deep as the emptiness and hope as promising as the sunrise.

He is the one friend that cannot and will not die, and will never leave our side.

He is the almighty creator who gave you forever your friend or relative.

By Carla J. Wilson

Friday, April 05, 2002


An online chat today with my daughter...
Eva/Nirgaz says:
Tell grandma hello for me, is she using the internet?
Trish says:
Yes, she does use the internet sometimes, but she's not consistent...she forgets to check sometimes...but yes, give it a shot...I will tell her hello, definitely...she always says she has a special place in her heart for you and daniel since we lived with her and grandpa.
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I think I will make some roast beef and mashed potatoes and gravy and buttered carrots tomorrow.
Trish says:
Nummy!
Eva/Nirgaz says:
I have a special place for her too. Make sure you let her know that if I lived up there I would be at her place a lot. But as things are, i am thinking of her often. Tell her that I am there in spirit at least.
Trish says:
i sure will, honey!

Thursday, April 04, 2002


What Mom has been saying over and over, during the the past 8 months since Dad passed away:
"I have nothing to live for."

"That's a mistake God made, letting one die and the other live on; when one dies, both should die."

"Gordon had his wish. He always said he hoped he would go first, that he didn't think he would be strong enough to go on alone."
From Dolci Deleria:

"My father died when I was 18, seven years ago, when I was a freshman in college. That's when the dementia had destroyed enough of his brain to destroy the man I knew as my father...

"...I am angry at the dementia, but I can't scream at it, I can't reason with it, and I can't ignore it. It's just there, self-satisfied and taking up the entire living room like some monster-cat on steroids, impervious to temper tantrums and contentedly shedding fur to be tracked through the rest of the house. I hate it for killing Dad, for aging Mom, for having an immediate impact on the lives and bodies of people it doesn't inhabit. I hate it for moving so slowly. I hate how much of my life will be lost by the time it's done and how much my family has already lost. I hate that I want to postpone any children I might have until after the funeral, since what's left of my father will never understand and since I would rather my children grow up with stories of how their grandfather was instead of memories of how he is now.

"I am angry, but there is nothing for me to yell at that would make any difference."

Sunday, March 31, 2002

It's Easter today. I haven't had a moment to write down my thoughts until now. My sister Sharon flew in on Friday to be here for Mom's 80th birthday on Saturday. Friday evening we had a talk with Mom about her finances and her car. She agreed to sell it. Also, we'll be going through the storeage unit and dispersing the items in it asap. Mom explained who she would like to have what items, etc. Betty will store the items for Sharon until she can come up with a car to take them home. I hope to find a pair of Dad's overalls to keep for sentimental reasons.

We celebrated Mom's birthday in fine form. Betty's inlaws provided music. Mom even got up and danced for a bit. Tears came to her eyes, and I daresay a tightness in her heart, as the band played her requested "You are My Sunshine". Chris and I photographed the event. Mom's oldest friend from her high school days, Betty (Clinton) Bjerke, was able to come by and celebrate with her. I took some shots of them together...


It's moments like these that force you to take stock of your own life, to slow down and remember what is truly important. Fortunate is the person who can appreciate these moments for what they are...

Monday, March 25, 2002


This past Saturday, I went to pick up Mom after her hair appointment. I rushed into the mall where the salon is, feeling late. She was walking towards me in her black coat in her black boots holding her black handbag. I say, "Mom, sorry I'm late, were you waiting long?" "No, not long, 5 minutes maybe..." We walk out to the car. As I pull away, Mom says, "I saw a man who looked just like your Dad...I thought it was Gordon for a moment." My heart tightens. This isn't the first time she's said that. While I would never presume to know the depth she feels, I imagine it a bit remembering a time in my own life that someone I held dear left me, and the pain was horrific. That pain pails in comparison to hers. From age 16 to almost age 80, Dad was a constant in her life. "I dream about him," she says between sobs. "I have nothing to live for..." What can I say? There is nothing to say. I try and honor her feelings, and be there for her; that is enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2002


From A Recovering Widow's Poems website:
It's so hard
to be in love
with a dead man

I just want this pain to end!
But it seems
if that happens,
it will be the end
of him.

Sometimes
when the memories of "before"
flood over me
it's like waking up and
realizing it was all a dream.
I even remember the part
in the dream about thinking
"this is too good to be true".

Saturday, March 23, 2002


From JoAnn and Jerry Johnson (Jerry is my Mom's nephew, her sister Clara's son, and our cousin):

Hi Trish,

I just showed and read the website about your mother to Jerry. It was beautifully done! You did a beautiful job of setting up, and what a nice tribute to her.

It sure is sad when we have to see our parents deteriorate in mind or body isn't it? The best we can do is be there for them, and love them. We're
sorry to hear that she's gotten so forgetful and is so lonely, but it would be so hard to lose your companion after so many years!

Thanks for thinking of us! Your mother is lucky to have you girls!

Love,
Jo-An & Jerry

Friday, March 22, 2002


will be praying for a safe trip home for yu in this nasty weather. I always wirry about out in this kind of weather so please cALL ME WHEN YOU GET HOME; HAVE YOU HEARD FROM RANDY YET? WONDER IF HE GOT TALK TO ANYONE WHO KNEW DAD. THE BELL IS RINGING SO BEST GO SEE WHat that is all a out
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Clear Day. Thanks for the emails tonight. I am glad to see that you are sending me some.

So I hear that Lori Webster was over to see you. That was great. Sure hope she can stop in again; I know you love her visits. How was Gary doing now that his mother died? Did Lori say anything about the funeral?

We are suppose to get bad weather Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Just hope I can make it home during it all; then I don't mind so
much.

Must get to bed - SEND ME ANOTHER EMAIL and don't worry about your typing; it will get better the more you use it.

Love you always and forever - BETTY

Received from Mom on 3/20/02, with my response


did not spell too good i see but hope you cN UNDER STnd it NHOQ IT KEEPS GETTINY WORSEsi SLEEPY. LORI WEBSTER Ws here todY TO SEE ME. HER GIRL my is going to school here this yeR SO WIIL BE lot o lori i expect. we hD A REALY GOOD VISIT. SHE BROUGHT ME SOME GOODYS and i ha e been enjoying yhem she sid she will be back in a couple of days again. good nite and sweet dreams. love you mom

Received this from Mom on 3/6/02


Dear Mom:

Thanks so much for sharing your feelings with me! I miss you much and I miss dad too. He was a wonderful father and I have many great memories of his humor, teasing, tickling and his story-telling abilities.

You were so lucky to have such a great love and to have shared so many years together. I hope Bill and I may have many more years together. Each day is a gift. I'm glad that you and dad got to share many years together in New Mexico and finally got to buy and live in a new home down there.

I look forward to having you visit this summer over part of June and July when the weather is nice and we can get outside more. We can play the old phonograph some more and laugh and cry together over some of those melodies and memories.

Bye for now.

Love, Sharon

-----Original Message-----
From: harrietshort
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 7:05 PM
To: shannaford
Subject:

I miss you so much and I am so lonesome for dad that I sit and cry most of the day. I am so lost without Dad and do not know what to do. He was the love of my life and none can ever take his place. He was so special.

He was wonderful father to all of you girls, and the most loving husband you could ever ask for in lifetime; I was so lucky to have him. You girls were most fotunt to have him as our father.

I know he will reap many rewards in heaven for his time spent on earth. He was faithful to me and never strayed. I loved him so much and that is why it is so hard to release him from my heart. I will always love him the rest of my life. No one can ever take his place. Love, Mom

Thursday, March 21, 2002


From our cousin Jackie (whose grandfather Fred Fitzpatrick was a brother to our grandfather, Sheldon Albert Fitzpatrick) after she visited OurMother, and my response to her:
Very depressing! Death is inevitable, its sad but true. The minute that we are born, we know that death will come. When and how or where we don't know. Get as much information from your Mom on her memories now while you can. Its important. Ask her about her mother and father, grandparents etc.

I know what your going thru! God bless you all. My mother had such a bad childhood and would not talk about it until the near end, when she would answer the questions that I asked her. Stella and her two sisters were put in the Poor farm in Hallock until they were 18 yrs old. They were put in their by their Uncle Ward Finney. Their mother wanted them to come to Canada to be with her and her sisters. But that would have been to much trouble to get the birth certificates of the girls so they could go there.

They were born all over while Ella followed her husband on the railroad. They were molested by the man who ran the home. Her grandparents would not except them, as there own.
I believe only Hannah Fitzpatrick Fox came to visit them. They were in a loveless invirement. She said that Mom Anderson was the only real person who loved and cared for them.

When the girls reached the age that they could work then their father Fred Fitzpatrick would have them come to Detroit to work. The only one who stayed in the area was Kay Fitzpatrick she went to work for a Doctor in Fargo and she was the only one that finished school.

Ask your mother about this, will you? Tell her I think of her often, and hope she is happy.

Love Jackie
-----------
Jackie:

Thanks for replying so promptly, and for your reactions. Also, I really appreciated your sharing about your mother more. From what I can tell, there were very hard decisions made (sometimes unnecessarily so as you indicated, if someone had cared enough to bother) by both sides of my mother's family, the Fitzgeralds AND the Fitzpatricks. As you may or may not know, my Grandma Fitzpatrick, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald, had two younger brothers who were put up for care after my great grandmother died. Their father, William Fitzgerald, was such an alcoholic, it was probably for the best (he died only 5 years later ran over by a train while intoxicated). I remember my mother saying that her Mom, their sister, would have taken them in, but she had only just gotten married herself, and things were very tight. It was definitely a different time then...

Tuesday, March 19, 2002


From Golnar Fozi's First Day of School, an essay about her mother:
Three years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease...Her neurologist, who lost his own mother to Alzheimer's Disease, explained it best. He said it is as if Alzheimer's Disease patients live in a parallel universe where time is meaningless and nothing makes such sense. Periodically, they stop at a window that gives into our world, and look through it. If we happen to be standing there at that same instant, then we establish a momentary contact before they walk away. The best those of us who love them can possibly hope for is that we are standing there when they look through the window. For a few seconds they see us there and know that we never left them.

Monday, March 18, 2002


Our Mother is quoted.

"...Her mind and soul are always with Dad, and is just waiting for her earthly shell to give up."

It's insights like those, as well as our own experience, etc., that I'm looking for on this blog.

All 3 of us have now been parents as well as partners with people we love dearly, and can surely relate to the trials, tribulations, and blessings of relationships. I think we will be very blessed by writing about them on this blog, and in turn likely bless others...