Thursday, August 17, 2006


This past weekend, my sister Sharon from Chicago came to town for a short visit. On Saturday, all three of us daughters met at Eventide to visit Mom.

I arrived first, then Sharon, and finally Betty. While Sharon and I were awaiting Betty, Sharon left the family visiting room to check on something. While she was gone, I started talking with Mom, even though she was dozing and hadn't said anything despite our trying to engage her. I went around back of her wheelchair, and put my arms around her and bent down to talk softly near her ear. I told her how much I missed talking with her and Dad, and how much I loved her, and then just smelled her, and felt her skin next to mine, and was quiet with her. Before I knew it, Sharon was entering the room, and I realized my eyes were moist...I was very glad to have had those few moments alone with her.

Later during the visit, I got down in the front and said to Mom, since you are so tired, I'll get down here to take your picture, half-joking with her. She momentarily lifted her head and looked at me as I shot this photo of her...

Later, as I said goodbye, Mom spoke for the first time, asking did I have to leave, and I explained I would see her soon, and that I loved her, and she responded I love you, too, Trisha...That really made me smile! She did know me after all...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lifelong Love

It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch
[ Epithet on a New England tombstone ]

This weekend I was listening to this program. A segment featured the lifelong love of Page and Eloise Smith, a couple that died one day apart after spending a lifetime together. Of course, it immediately made me think of my own parents.

I wrote to their son Eliot, the man behind the memorial website, and he responded...
Good Morning Trish,

Thank you so much for reaching out. We are the lucky ones with family legends to live by and deep gifts that enrich us. It has been over 10 years now and I still think of them every day, see things I wish I could show them, learn things I wish I could share. Now in my 50's, there is nothing I would love more than to climb into bed next to them and watch TV while my mother dozes with her bifocals turned upside down, and my father reads a book.
A short while later, I heard from Anne, Page & Eliose's daughter...
Dear Trish,

My brother Eliot emailed me this morning to say that you had written to him after the "this American Life" segment on last words and the story of our parents deaths. The voice in the piece was mine (along with John Dizikes, a close friend of mom and dad).

I looked at the links you included with your email. I was struck by the similarities in my in-laws lives. My mother-in-law died 5 years before her husband did. My father-in-law lived a hard and lonely five years without her and died this last December after being bed-ridden in a nursing home for over eight months. It was a terrible decline and he was very confused, barely able to participate in a conversation the whole time. It was very hard for us watching Bob's decline and spending so much time in the nursing home for such an extended period. What a journey our parents (and we) all must travel. I feel deeply for you and your mother.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Young Love Remembered

Herman and Nora were young and in love. They met as students, and had a passion for writing.

Herman's life was cut short. Nora's life has been long.

Listen to her remember...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Telling It All

Geriatric1927 is not just using simple tools, he is re-engineering his social world with them.

His name is Peter. He's from England, he's 79, and he's found what for him is an exciting new way to meet new friends and be engaged with the world. Read more about Peter here.

You can see one of his videos here...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Twilight Descending

At night, as they read and reminisce and sometimes just gaze at one another, the Grahams' conversation often turns to what they believe awaits them beyond the grave. "I think about heaven a great deal, I think about the failures in my life in the past, but know that they have been covered by the blood of Christ, and that gives me a great sense of confidence," says Graham. "I have a certainty about eternity that is a wonderful thing, and I thank God for giving me that certainty. I do not fear death. I may fear a little bit about the process, but not death itself, because I think the moment that my spirit leaves this body, I will be in the presence of the Lord."
In the twilight, Billy Graham shares what he's learned in reflecting on politics and Scripture, old age and death, mysteries and moderation.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Mother (Alberta, aka Pat)

My Mother gets weaker and weaker ,week by week and dementia gets worse and worse. I had a care plan meeting for her yesterday. They said they have been having some problems with her again being belligerent and cussing at everyone. Also she keeps telling the nurses they don't need to baby sit her when she takes her pills she knows how to take them and as soon as they turn their back she shoves her pills in her bra. So she is missing several of her pills each day.

They told me too that I may not be able to take her out much longer to go to the hair dresser and all as she will soon be at a point where she will have to be lifted form wheel chair to car etc. They have her in a restorative program to try keep her walking but she refuses to let them do most of the exercises. She will walk now and then but refuses any upper and lower extremity strengthening exercises. Said I may have to start taking her just to the beauty shop there at the home and bring a meal if I want her to have something special.

Also I asked them about her fingernails as they are so ugly as so very long then when she wipes herself she gets "you know what" under her nails etc. They are horrible. They said they have tried and tried to get her to come to activity for a manicure but again she refuses saying she likes her fingernails long. So Monday I have to go in at the time they are doing nails and take her down there on the pretense that I have a manicure appt. for her and I will have to make her get them cut since they really can't force her to do anything where I being the Guardian and her daughter have the authority to insist.

She keeps asking me when I go see her if her Mom and Dad are still living. Then she even asked me if her sister Clara is alive. It is all so sad to see someone deteriorate so bad.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"..waiting for the inevitable..."

Age is a terrible thief. Just when you're getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back. It makes you ache and muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse.

Metastatic, the doctor said. A matter of weeks or months. But my darling was as frail as a bird. She died nine days later. After sixty-one years together, she simply clutched my hand and exhaled.

Although there are times I'd give anything to have her back, I'm glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. It was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn't have wanted her to go through that. Being the survivor stinks.

I used to think I preferred getting old to the alternative, but now I'm not sure. Sometimes the monotony of bingo and sing-alongs and ancient dusty people parked in the hallway in wheelchairs makes me long for death. Particularly when I remember that I'm one of the ancient dusty people, filed away like some worthless tchotchke.

But there's nothing to be done about it. All I can do is put in time waiting for the inevitable, observing as the ghosts of my past rattle around my vacuous present. They crash and bang and make themselves at home, mostly because there's no competition. I've stopped fighting them.

They're crashing and banging around in there now.

Make yourselves at home, boys. Stay awhile. Oh, sorry — I see you already have.

Damn ghosts.
From Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants