Monday, November 30, 2009

When the cat is away...the mice will be jerks

It’s been a year and half since my mom passed away and I’ve seen some pretty sad, ugly and upsetting things unfold since her passing.

My siblings, who have always been dysfunctional at best, have become even more so. We saw each other on the first Christmas after mom passed but since then, things have become pretty crappy.

This Easter, one of them decided they didn’t want to participate in any sort of family dinner. I organized dinner with the other one and it was okay. After Easter, the one who boycotted asked if s/he was missed and if anyone asked about him/her. Really. Looking for attention, much?

This Thanksgiving (it’s in early October in Canada), after a summer full of dysfunctional behaviour, I decided that I wasn’t going to bother trying to organize dinner. I am always the organizer and sometimes wonder if my siblings just accept my invitations out of guilt or actual interest in seeing me. I made no efforts and guess what happened? Nothing. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Nobody called each other. It was like the holiday didn’t happen. It really saddened me.

About a week after Thanksgiving, the Easter-boycotter called me and lamented that we didn’t have Thanksgiving. S/he said “if you had invited me over, I would have come”. I flipped out at this point and recalled how s/he boycotted Easter and said I was sick of cr*p like that and that’s why I didn’t bother trying to organize anything.

So here we are, a month before Christmas. Now, it’s the other one’s turn to boycott. S/he told me a few weeks ago that s/he’d rather “skip” Christmas this year and perhaps just go out for dinner sometime in the weeks afterward. S/he said that s/he would just rather not deal with all the stress of the day and just go out to a restaurant and eat and leave. I was a bit surprised by this statement and replied that I was happy to host Christmas as I had always done and all s/he had to do was show up. S/he replied that s/he was going to try to go away with the spouse and kids for a few days over the 25th so to go ahead with whatever other plans I have and not count on them. But somehow, this sibling still wants to have dinner “at some point” after Christmas? For what? So their kids don’t miss out on gifts from Auntie Citygirl? Mind you, this sibling pulled this a few years ago and their big plans of going away failed and they ended up at my place on the 25th.

This has bothered me for weeks. I am absolutely sick over it. I am so tired of holidays being so hard for us. Holidays weren’t perfect when my mom was around but we at least held them. Everyone wanted to see mom on holidays so we all had to co-exist for the day and it was actually fine and we’d end up having a good time. Even last year, despite it being a crap year, we got together at my house and it was ok. But now, it seems like all bets are off. The cat is away so all the mice are free to be selfish jerks who can do whatever the hell they want with no regard for anyone else.

I tried explaining this to my DH a couple of weeks ago when I was (once again) crying about this. Both his parents are still alive & well so they organize holidays and no matter what, he sees them and his sibling. As a non-member of Club O, he just doesn’t get it and gets frustrated to see me upset about it.

I said that once your parents are gone, it’s really up to you and your siblings to see each other and continue to be family. If you choose not to do this, it’s up to you! Nobody is around anymore to make you get along with your siblings (or at least tolerate them). You answer to no one. You are nobody’s child anymore and you can do whatever you want without any repercussions. It’s the evil rebel that used to come out when your parents weren’t looking – but now, you don’t even have to look over your shoulder or feel any guilt!

One of my siblings hurtfully pointed out to me that s/he has a family – the spouse and kids – and THAT’S their family now. So what do your siblings become? I think it’s especially hard for the siblings who don’t have kids or a significant other. They’re pretty well alone and still consider their siblings family.

My DH was totally annoyed by that sibling’s statement. As hurtful as the statement was, I also explained to my DH that although my mom had Alzheimers and it took her mind and eventually her life, we (the children) were also affected by it as long-time caregivers. After 16 years, a toll has been taken mentally, emotionally and physically. It has affected us in different ways and perhaps permanently changed our personalities, sometimes in negative ways. I know that I feel broken in ways and although I’m doing much better overall, I fear there is a chunk of me is irreparably damaged. I encouraged my DH to have patience with my siblings and me as we’ve been through a lot and that nobody is perfect. Rich advice eh? Do as I say, not as I do!

I actually talked to my best friend about this one night on the phone. She’s been my friend for 20 years so she has seen this situation every step of the way. She was very sympathetic and noted that it’s hard to lose someone, grieve and move on under average circumstances but this was like grieving for 16 years. I cried a bit and agreed…it was like my mom died a bit everyday for 16 years. My friend also pointed out that she’s experienced things in her life that she feels that she’ll “get past” but never fully recover from; it’s like a scar is left behind.

I also talked to DH about not letting my siblings level of involvement in my life dictate whether I’m happy or not. I think I cling to them a bit because they’re all I have left for family. I also used a couple that we’re friends with as an example to follow: both of their sets of siblings are dysfunctional and not really part of their lives. Mind you, their siblings are living in another province so they’re geographically distant from them but they are also definitely not chummy with them. Each of them have one sibling that they don’t even talk to. Does this bother them? No! They have their life here and what their siblings do doesn’t affect their happiness.

So, where to go from here? I’m not sure. I know that my DH and I should create our own holidays and not depend on my siblings to make or break things. We spend time with DH’s family but that pulls on my heartstrings that I wish I had family to spend time with too – his family is ok but they’re not my blood.

There is something to be said about the bond of blood relations, no matter how whacked they are.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lock the door when you see elephants running towards your house

I had an odd dream the other night that I’m still thinking about.

I was walking in my old neighbourhood with my mom and it felt so real. Everything was exactly as it was years ago – it’s amazing how many details were in this scene. I could see every single house as if I was really there. It was fall and leaves were rustling under our feet. The breeze was cool and I could even smell my mom’s familiar scent.

We were walking home from the grocery store and got stopped in our tracks by a person repairing their fence. The sidewalk and half of the roadway were closed off and this person had all sorts of heavy construction equipment and people working on his fence. As pedestrians, I’m not sure why we just didn’t walk on the other side of the street. Anyways, a friend from school and her mom came along and we chit-chatted a bit with them (as we used to) and noted how interruptive this person’s work on their fence was. Even my friend and her mom were crystal clear.

We finally got home and my mom sat down in the living room while I went to the kitchen. I looked out the kitchen window and there were elephants running towards the house! Terrified, I ran towards the front of the house/the living room to save my mom. When I looked back towards the kitchen, the elephants had made their way into the house and were roaming around (somehow, they had decreased in size to fit in the house). I thought to myself “why didn’t I lock the kitchen door? that would have kept them out”. Moral of the dream: Lock the door when you see elephants running towards your house!

Seriously, I dream so vividly sometimes, it’s almost like having a “visit” from my mom. I was telling my friend about this dream on the weekend and ended up tearing/choking up so much that I couldn’t go on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Visit

I finally went to the cemetery this past weekend. It was a bit hard to go but I was determined to visit before winter sets in.

DH came with me and was quite supportive. I gave him the job of clipping the grass edges around the nameplate (we don’t have tombstones at our cemetery) which kept him busy. I think he gets a bit unsure of what to do at the cemetery. We brought fresh flowers and put them in the built-in vase so the site looked nice (as far as gravesites go!). Neither of my siblings have ever visited the grave so I am the only one who even checks in on it. Overall, the cemetery is very well kept but there are a few graves there that are in need of some TLC. I guess those graves don’t get visitors or all their family have passed on or moved away.

I asked for a few minutes to myself so DH went & waited in the car. I had a little cry and talked to my parents a bit about how much I miss them, our dysfunctional family and the direction (or lack thereof) of my life. I know this all sounds insane, but when you lose your parents and you’re standing over their graves, you tend to “talk” to them. No matter how much anyone else loves you in your life, nobody ever replaces your parents. I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife or anything but it just feels good to “talk” to them, even if you’re really just talking to a bunch of dirt and grass.

I seemed to be okay and did well with the visit. However, later that day, I got a bit moody and pensive. It was the 17th anniversary of my father’s passing so I was feeling a little emotional about that too. I thought back to that day and where I was in my life (I was 17 years old) and look at where I am now and have mixed feelings. I think I’ve done well in my life so far. I have definitely accomplished some things – I finished my education, got a pretty good job and have a great DH (which is a vast improvement over the person I was dating 17 years ago – wow!). However, I also get critical of myself. I wonder if I’ve done well enough. I wonder if my parents would be happy with how I’ve turned out? I got into quite funk and ended up having a little cry while I was falling asleep that night. Crazy, I know. I recovered the next day and I’m okay now. It was just an emotional day. But I’m glad I went to the cemetery. Some people might say “don’t go if it upsets you” but I really like to visit, even once a year. Even though it upsets me a bit, I almost feel better after visiting.

On a lighter note...now that I teased you with a hint of what kind of person I was dating when I was 17, I have to share that story! I was dating this guy (we’ll call him “J”) for a week before my father died. J was a nice enough guy but I’m pretty sure my father dying was a bit much for him to handle. We were 17 years old and my father’s death was quite sudden and unexpected. When I called J to tell him about what happened, he really didn’t have much to say; I don’t think he knew what to say! Later that weekend, I called him to let him know of the visitation/funeral arrangements and he said something like “I can’t make it because I have school”. I wasn’t really bothered by this because I really had bigger issues on my mind.

We dated for a couple of months afterwards (only seeing each other now & then) and I finally decided it really wasn’t for me. On Christmas morning, I called J up from work. I offered to work that day – I worked part-time retail - and really, I didn’t mind. It got me out of the house on a difficult day. We wished each other a Merry Christmas. There was a slight pause and then I said something about wanting to break up and he agreed somehow. I wish I could remember the wording – it’s hilarious now that I think about it! Can you picture it? I must sound like a diabolical person – working on Christmas Day and calling up my boyfriend to break up over the phone within a matter 30 seconds in a curt and businesslike manner. Haha! Oh, I crack myself up somedays.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It still hurts somedays

I had a bit of a bawl last night. I was in my old neighbourhood doing errands and ended up having a cry on the way home (great to do while you’re driving!). I also had a cry later at home.

I don’t go to my old neighbourhood very often because it’s out of the way from my home & work and I do get a bit emotional when I’m there. It’s like there are reminders of my mom everywhere: my family home, my old school, the places I took countless lessons (piano, ballet, skating… you name it, I took it), the park that my mom took me to every.single.day. every summer and my mom’s nursing home. Even the storekeepers knew my mom so when I run my errands, the stores even tug at my heart.

Somedays, I look at these places and smile, remembering how devoted my mom was to me. She didn’t drive a car so we walked or took transit to everything. My mom didn’t work so her whole life was taking care of me. My siblings are much older than me so I had my mom to myself ~ it was almost like being an only child. It’s no wonder I sometimes think that out of the three kids, I have taken her passing the hardest.

Other times, like last night, I get emotional looking at these places. I almost pulled into her nursing home’s parking lot last night just to sit there and bawl and “feel close to her”. Yes, I know she’s not there and this sounds insane but it’s the last place she was alive. However, I drove on. I think my upcoming birthday is a bit of a factor in emotions this week…I have a thing about birthdays as my readers know.

At home, my DH could see I wasn’t 100% and asked me what was going on. I didn’t want to get into it so I brushed it off but he kept asking. I finally told him what had happened and he really didn’t know what to say (which is probably why I didn’t tell him in the first place – he’s not very good at this stuff). DH is not the most sensitive person and at times, he can even be a little abrupt.

I tried really hard to explain my feelings to DH. DH was a bit insensitive at points like when I said I sometimes "feel alone" in the world because of my parents being gone and my siblings being distant. He said something rude like that I was just “being dramatic”. I said I wasn't "being dramatic" or looking for attention and that I truly feel that way somedays.

I don’t think DH gets it. He has his parents who call almost everyday. He has a sibling who is somewhat close (i.e. she’s at all holiday dinners at his parents). Since my mom died, my siblings have become more estranged than they were before for various reasons that could warrant their own blog. I speak to them occasionally and see them rarely but things are definitely AFU. I definitely feel like I no longer have family. One of my siblings tried to say that my DH is my family now. Hmmm… not sure I’m totally buying that. When I think of family, DH is not the only person.

Overall, I think I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m definitely doing better than I was last year and day-to-day, I’m okay. There are just somedays where I fall down and last night was one of them. My DH looked at me sometimes last night like I insane. I tried to explain that it hasn’t been 10 years…it’s only been over a year and yes, it still hurts somedays.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I had a dream...

I had a really strange dream the other night. In my dream, I was sitting with my husband (who wasn’t really my husband – it was some other random person but in my thoughts, I was thinking it was my husband!). Anyways, it was evening time and we were chatting.

I was asking how his day at work was and he was giving vague answers. In my mind, I was panicking because I couldn’t remember what he did for a living. I was desperately trying to figure out what he did for a living before he caught on that I didn’t remember. It was freaky! My mind was racing and frantically trying to retrieve the information but it kept coming up blank. I kept asking him questions in hopes of getting a clue and to cover up that I didn’t know. I asked if anything different happened at work today (nope); if everyone was at work today (yep…was hoping for a name of a co-worker to help me); if he ate lunch today (hoping he’d mention where he ate lunch for a possible location clue).

I also looked at how he was dressed, if he had tools or a briefcase with him, the state of his hands (I thought he might be a mechanic at one point) and I tried to remember what hours he seemed to work. I woke up before I figured out what he did.

It was the weirdest dream I’ve had in a quite a while! I felt a bit startled by it. That must be how an Alzheimers patient must feel like when they’re in the early stages and trying to cover up their memory losses. My mom used to be quite clever about getting around things when she was confused…and that’s when I actually knew something was wrong with her. I wonder how long she had been operating like that before I caught on. I’m also thinking about the person not really being my husband in the dream… how it must be so confusing and scary to be sitting with someone when you aren’t quite sure how you’re related. My mom used to think I was her sister and my brother was her husband or her own brother (who was deceased for years). I was also forever a student in my mom’s mind ~ she was always asking how school was. Her Alzheimers became apparent when I was 17 so maybe that was the age range that she had me set at.

It was a scary little glimpse I had in this dream. As scary, frustrating and heartbreaking as it is for caregivers, it must be absolutely terrifying for the patients in the early stages when they’re still aware.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our visiting hours are:

I’ve been putting off visiting the cemetery for a few months now.

My last visit was in September 2008. During the winter, I don’t find much point in going because it’s a bit far to travel and everything is covered in snow. The cemetery has flat headplates in the ground instead of headstones standing up so I don’t even know if I could find my parents in the winter!

I thought about going around Mother’s Day but pushed it off because the place becomes a zoo on “holidays” like that. Same with Father’s Day. I thought about going on the first anniversary of my mom’s passing but ended up getting so worked up about it that I didn’t go. And now I’ve been procrastinating for weeks about going. I’m not exactly sure why.

I want to go and visit but something is holding me back. I’ve been doing better these last few months and perhaps I’m just avoiding visiting? On a kind of related topic, I have to make a horrible confession. Sometimes, I used to make excuses to not visit my mom when she was in the nursing home. I think it was more than being a lazy & selfish person. I think it was my subconscious trying to save me from seeing my mom. I’d get all worked up about going to see her somedays, especially if our last visit wasn’t so positive. I wouldn’t stay away for long...maybe a week at most...but I’d feel so horribly guilty about it.

Another factor in this issue is that I’d like my DH to come to the cemetery with me. I often feel frustrated or “alone” that he doesn’t quite “get” what I’ve gone through and I like to try to expose him to this part of my life now and then. (He has NO IDEA that I blog…which is probably for the best because I am free to say whatever I feel on here and not worry about what he thinks!) My DH would rarely visit my mom at the nursing home with me. He would come with me if it was a holiday or an occasion but never for my regular visits. Not that I wanted him to come with me all the time, but a little support now and then would have been welcomed. Then again, my best friend never visited my mom with me during the whole six years that she was in care. I often invited her and she often said she’d love to come but the actual visits never happened. I know it’s hard to visit people in nursing homes. A bit of advice for people out there – try to go & support your friends or spouses when they have a loved one in care. You wouldn’t believe how much it would mean to them.

Sometimes, I felt sad or drained after visiting my mom and I’d come home to my DH who would ask about dinner or look for some “action”. Really!? Yes...but I don’t think he meant to come across as insensitive. I would have loved to come home to some dinner waiting for me (even takeout!) and/or have a little chat about how my visit was. I don’t think he meant to upset or hurt me by being the way he was; he’s just a guy’s guy, through & through.

So back to the original topic of this post: visiting the cemetery. I’m going to get there within the next few weeks. I bet my parents are dying to see me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Still Alice

I just finished reading the book Still Alice and I’m wondering if any of my fellow bloggers have read it? It was a good book but I found it very interesting (and confusing?) that the main character KNOWS that she has early-onset Alzheimers.

With my mom, she never realized that she had Alzheimers. She would have days where she would realize that things weren’t quite right or that she wasn’t thinking properly but she would never be able to tell someone (never mind REMEMBER) that she had Alzheimers.

I found it frustrating when people would ask me “how my mom felt about having Alzheimers”. I also found it really hard to explain why I couldn’t just sit down and chat with my mom about her condition and how she’d understand and everything would be better. I’d tell people that it does not work that way and they would look at me like I just wasn’t trying. My mom couldn’t remember what we talked about 5 minutes ago, never mind remember day-to-day that she had Alzheimers.

I read a blog once (can’t remember the blog’s name) where the person was “going to tell her mom tomorrow that she has Alzheimers and wish her luck” because she (the blogger) was moving away and leaving her mom on her own. WTF?! I was so floored by this entry that I wondered if the blogger wasn’t fully coherent either.

Over 16 years, of all the Alzheimers patients and caregivers that I’ve ever met or corresponded with, I’ve never heard of a patient who is fully cognizant of their condition and goes around telling people about it like they’re talking about the common cold. Can you imagine?!

“Gee, you missed your appointment this morning”
“Yep, must be that darn Alzheimers flaring up again”


This is the case for most of the story in Still Alice and I found it quite irritating to read. It gives people the wrong idea about Alzheimers. I won’t ruin the book for those who have not read it but by the end of the book, I thought to myself that it was a mild portrait of Alzheimers.

Is there something different about early-onset Alzheimers? Do they have a period of time where they comprehend and REMEMBER what they are facing? There was one early-onset Alzheimers patient at my mom’s first care facility and she was not aware of her condition. When I first met her, I thought she worked there because she was relatively young, still well dressed/accessorized and groomed very well but once you watched her for a few minutes, it became apparent that she was a resident.

What about my fellow bloggers? Did your parent ever know or realize they had Alzheimers? And when I say know/realize, did they remember it from day-to-day and fully understand what was going on (not just for a few minutes when you talked about it).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One Year

It’s been a year today since my mom passed away. It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed since that dreadful day. It seems like it was just yesterday sometimes as I can still hear every word of “the” call fresh in my mind. It still hurts like h*ll and I still tear up at just the thought of my mom.

I’ve been through many emotions this year, ranging from deep sadness to anger to guilt. I’ve been selfish and extremely needy at times. I’ve felt completely lost and withdrawn at other points.

Somedays I’m okay and that is becoming more of the norm. On other days, random memories, images, sounds, smells, tastes or whatever suddenly sneak up on me and I’m bawling my eyes out before I know it.

Is the anniversary any different or harder than any of the other 364 days? Yes, it is in a way because the date sticks in your mind and it’s a milestone. You’ve made it through an entire year which is quite an accomplishment. You’ve made it through all the meaningful dates of the whole year without your mom. All of the “firsts” are done. First Christmas, first Mother’s Day, first birthday (which I’ve always considered my “anniversary” of sorts with my mom, it’s the first day we met!)…I know when I lost my dad, the first year was definitely the hardest.

On the other hand, the anniversary isn’t as hard as other days. I know I’ve had much worse days than today. Just because today marks “ONE YEAR” on the calendar, doesn’t mean it’s the worst. I can think of a handful of other days in this past year that were way worse. There were days where I would cry so hard that my throat would be hoarse from wailing, I’d throw up and I’d have a full-on asthma attack. Those days were dark and horrible but I did feel a weight off my shoulders after letting all of that raw emotion flood out of me.

Two things have really helped me through this year. My close friends have been so caring, supportive and patient over many years, not just this year. I am thankful that I have them to lean on and to pick me up when I fall down. I wish I could say the same for my siblings. Blogging has also really helped me. I’ve found it extremely therapeutic to write about my experiences and hear from others going through similar situations. I am doing better overall but this situation was a long time in the making so the effects will be felt for some time… and some effects will be life-long.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Update

I’m writing to update my readers on the weird health situations. As someone who pored over blogs regarding Holter Monitors, Costochondritis and leg pain, I was always very happy to read updates and learn how things turned out for the bloggers. When there was no update I wondered if their health got worse or what happened!?

I went for the results of the 24 hour Holter Monitor this week and it turns out that it was completely normal (thank G*D). I have little skips here and there (like I did 8 years ago) but nothing above average. I teared up a bit (yes, I felt really silly but I couldn't help it) when my doctor told me this and he looked at me like I was completely nuts. I apologized and said I was relieved to hear that my heart was good because I felt rather stressed during the actual 24 hour monitoring period and for the last two weeks waiting on results. Again, the doctor looked at me like I was crazy and asked why I was stressed out about it. Um, gee, I don’t know...a few weeks ago, the mini ecg at the doctor’s office showed my heart had irregularities and was fibrillating (convulsing in English)??? Yeah, I don’t know why I felt stressed about this! Is it me or are doctors completely unsympathetic somedays? Anyways...he went on to say that my heart rate was 150 when the monitor was put on me at 9:30 a.m. and there was a little skip at that point. He also laughed a bit and said that the tape showed that I actually didn’t settle down till 5:46 a.m. that night morning when my heart rate came to a resting rate of 50 beats (which he noted was a little low but I was completely exhausted from stressing out all night and having 5 minute dozes instead of sleeping so perhaps I finally fell unconscious --- I’m kidding). No real explanation of why the mini ecg showed what it did except that it was a fluke (or the machine was broken??).

In other health news, I have completely cleared up my bizarre leg/calf pains. After what I went through last year with the pill, I instinctively stopped taking the birth control pill and the pain was gone within a few days. After two months of agonizing leg pain, it was gone. I reported this to my doctor and he shrugged saying that perhaps it was related. Oh, how I miss my regular doctor (she’s on mat leave). Somehow, I think female doctors are much more tuned into female issues.

Lastly, my costochondritis is continuing. Not as bad as a few weeks ago but still needing daily ice and anti-inflammatories. Some good news is that my regular chiropractor is back from mat leave (mat leave seems to be a trend among my doctors lately!). I went to see her immediately after the regular doctor this week (i.e. after I found out my heart wasn’t going to explode). Luckily, my chiropractor has experienced costochondritis herself so she knew exactly what I was going through. She concurred that costochondritis does feel like your entire chest and ribs are broken and that you are having a heart attack. She ended up going to the emergency department with her costochondritis even though she logically knew that it wasn’t her heart. It was great to hear that even medically-knowledgeable people freak out sometimes! My DH is a bit skeptical about the whole costochondritis thing…he doesn’t realize how painful it is and almost seems to think it’s a “made up” thing or that I’m being wimpy...ha ha, says the kettle to the pot. DH has been nursing a sore elbow for months now and I’ve been the utmost sympathetic to him!

So, overall, things have worked out, thankfully. It’s really quite scary when you have health issues going on and I am very lucky that things are working out. I hope this entry helps others who are going through any of these issues; I know that I appreciated other bloggers who wrote about their experiences!

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Update on costochondritis as of July 1/09: much, much better. I am amazed how long this took to clear up. It started around April 1 and I am only now feeling "normal". THREE MONTHS?!!? Yes, it's true. I am only now able to do proper, full workouts at the gym. I read other places that costochondritis can last anywhere from days to 6 months.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bread & Onions

Ok, I think it’s time for a fluff post so I’m going to write about this funny thing happening in my backyard – yes, literally in my backyard!

Earlier this spring, I kept finding bread in my backyard. I’m pretty sure it was from raccoons dropping it as they were passing through but I would think they’d pick it back up. We’re not talking a little piece of Wonder bread either. We’re talking huge, honking crusty loaves of bread! So large that I saw a squirrel try to pick one up and he almost fell over. I found bread about 4 times and then it stopped.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed our lawn was starting to grow back from our miserable winter. Sprinkled throughout the lawn, there were larger blades of grass that looked different so I pulled on one. It wasn’t grass. It was green onions! WTH?!?! How do we have green onions randomly growing in our lawn? We don’t have any green onions growing in our backyard and neither do our neighbours. Is this some kind of divine sign? Are we receiving some sort of coded message from God? Heh heh heh.

For fun, I looked up what bread and onions symbolize:

Bread - The Lord's Prayer contains the line “Give us today our daily bread”; here, “bread” is commonly understood to mean necessities in general. In Egyptian the word for bread means literally “life”.

Onions - The Ancient Egyptians worshipped the onion, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life.

So I can summarize that the mysterious appearance of bread and onions in my backyard means we are receiving is “life”???

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday to Me

I’m becoming a hypochondriac.

I‘ve been debating with myself about writing on this topic because some people just wouldn’t believe the weird stuff that has been going on with me health-wise and I’m beginning to feel like a hypochondriac. However, I’ve found myself reading other people blogs about health in an effort to find real-life experiences. I know that blogs aren’t substitutes for real medical advice or facts but it is oddly comforting to hear other people’s experiences (one of my main reasons for starting this blog was to share my experience of having a parent with Alzheimers!). I also find that if I read the “real” medical sites too much, I end up freaking myself out way too much!

In late January, we got new workstations at work. This new desk threw my back out (I’ve had back issues in the past so it’s not hard to tick my back off!). In mid-March, I went to the chiropractor to get my back adjusted as it got that painful.

After a few chiropractor visits, I found my back was feeling better but I had an odd sensation in my chest. It felt exactly like I had a cool (as in temperature) medal or large coin resting on top of my left breast. It was freaky. I poked around at it and found a point near my collarbone that was painful if I pressed on it. It was also a bit hard to breathe but that could have been unrelated as I have allergies and it’s spring. I was also feeling weird aches and pains in my calves. I was taking Advil and using a hot or cold compress constantly.

After about a week of this, I went to see my family doctor (who’s on mat leave so it was a replacement). He listened to my heart, took my blood pressure and poked around. He advised that he thought it was costochondritis (or chest inflammation in English) most likely caused by my back issues creeping over my shoulder and around my ribs. He also ordered an ecg and chest x-ray just to be sure but those results would take a while. Of course, the doctor’s office has that “we’ll call you if we need to follow up” policy which drives me nuts. I’d like a call either way just because I worry about my file being misplaced or misfiled.

Another week went by with similar symptoms and no phone call from the doctor’s office so I thought I’d book a follow-up with my doctor. The first available appointment was in a month. YES, A MONTH – Canada apparently has a shortage of family doctors. I booked it but was feeling really frustrated. I imagined that I’d go to this appointment in a MONTH and get more testing ordered and end up dragging this out forever. I wanted answers now because I was in pain and worried but didn’t feel like I warranted a trip to the emergency room.

Totally frustrated with the health system, I decided to take matters into my own hands. My employer has a contract with a private medical office where you can go get checked out head-to-toe for a fee which you can get deducted off your paycheque in reasonable amounts. I booked an appointment and went to this place. By then, the sensation in my chest had moved down and centre a bit and my ribs were a bit sore. My calves were continuing to ache. They ran a bunch of tests on me and found absolutely nothing. They diagnosed my chest pain as costochondritis and shrugged at my leg pain. Other than that, NOTHING. I was the picture of health.

In the meantime, I had kept that follow-up appointment with my doctor booked. It was another 3 weeks away but I thought I’d keep it just in case. Thank goodness I did. My chest and calves were continuing to have pain and ache like crazy. I deducted that perhaps it was the birth control pill causing the leg pain because of the havoc it caused last year with my blood pressure and it’s the only medication that I’m on. I am on a different pill this time but maybe my body just isn’t agreeing with the pill in general anymore after so many years.

The doctor opens our visit with “so you got my message that I needed to see you?” Umm…no? Turns out reception was supposed to call me for a follow-up appointment but saw that I was already booked so left it. Nice. Anyways, he goes on to say that there were some irregularities in my ecg from the last time I was there and he’d like me to go on a 24 hour Holter monitor to look into this further. I said I did this years ago in 2001 when the Dr (who is on mat leave right now) thought she heard something odd during my yearly checkup. It turned out to be nothing huge...my heart skips or flutters now & then and it's ok. It’s also interesting that no irregularities showed up at the private clinic but that’s the way irregularities go…it’s sometimes hard to catch them on tape. This Dr said would like me to do it again as things change. UGH!!!!!

Regarding the achy legs: nothing conclusive. The Dr thinks the birth control pill may be the cause (you know how that thing might cause everything under the sun) but is not 100% sure. He said of course I could go off the pill again or change to something else but we'll discuss that again when I come in for results of 24 hour Holter monitor.

I felt quite frustrated about this appointment afterwards. Not only did they not call me (which is something I'm always thinking could happen) but I seem to be repeating a test from 8 yrs ago and even though it's probably the same thing again, it's still freaking me out.

This past weekend, I wore the 24 hour Holter monitor and I’m sure my anxiety level about the whole thing must have screwed up the readings. I barely slept overnight and could feel that I was all worked up to the point that I could feel myself pulsing. Now I have to wait 2 weeks for the results to be read by the hospital and for my doctor to see them (I booked the follow-up right away this time knowing that it’s impossible to get an appointment).

In the meantime, my back pain has subsided but my chest is still bugging me a bit. You wouldn’t believe how much pain this apparent costochondritis causes. I was convinced at some points that I was having a heart attack because the pain was so bad. Now I just seem to have really odd discomfort in my lower left ribs and abdomen which I ice every evening. Sometimes, it feels like things are out of place in that area (I know that sounds weird but it’s the only way I can describe it).

I’ve been considering stopping the birth control pill but this past week confirmed that idea. I started feeling pins and needles in the side of my face and could literally feel my pulse in my head (no, I was not hung over!)….and was overall just feeling SOOOO crappy with no apparent reason. So, I’ve stopped taking the birth control pill and the aching in my legs has definitely gotten a bit better. The pins and needles haven’t come back but I’m still feeling rather “pulsy” where I can almost feel myself pulsing. I know it’s only been 5 days but I also noticed last month that my calves stopped aching when I was on my period (when you don’t take pills). Weird eh?

So I hope this entry reaches someone who has gone through or is currently going through some weird health issues. Over the past while, I’ve felt like I’m 100 years old. I’ve had the most bizarre aches & pains and you can often find me in bed by 9 pm most nights with an ice or heat pack and Advil. I feel like such a hypochondriac and I often say I’m okay to friends or family because I don’t want them thinking I’m nuts. But here on my blog, I tell it like it is!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother’s Day

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day without my mom. It was hard. Like any “first” that I’ve experienced in this past year, I mostly got through the day by just pretending it was an ordinary day. A few times it hit me and I got a bit teary-eyed but overall, I think I did well.

Until this year, I never really noticed just how much advertising goes on for Mother’s Day in the couple of weeks leading up to it. I think that bugged me more than the day itself.

I saw one of my siblings for lunch which was okay. The other one was too busy with his/her life which was a bit sad to me. In a perfect world, it would have been nice if the 3 kids could have acknowledged the day together somehow but hey, we’re talking about my dysfunctional group so what did I expect!? We didn’t function properly for Easter either so why be normal for Mother’s Day?

DH & I went to see his parents for dinner and it was okay. Truthfully, I didn’t really want to go. In ways, I felt like I was disrespecting my mom by “celebrating” the day with DH’s mom. I know that sounds a bit nutty but it’s true.

I considered visiting the cemetery on the weekend but decided to postpone it for another weekend. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day at the cemetery are insane. I’ve been there on Father’s Day before and it was just a zoo. You get no privacy for your visit and the place is just way overcrowded. They actually hire police to direct traffic in and out of the cemetery – that’s how bad it gets.

Today at work, many people were discussing how their Mother’s Days were and around noon, I wished I had taken the day off like I had thought about. I realize people lose track of who’s parents are alive so I didn’t take huge offense to people asking me what I did for Mother’s Day but ugh it felt horrible answering. Thank G*D this day is over.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ring Ring

Another blog inspired me to write this entry. It’s amazing how I haven’t thought about this aspect of my mom’s illness in a while. Reading entries about Alzheimers patients and phones made me remember and want to comment…my comment looked way too long so it ended up becoming an entry on my own blog.

In the first 10 years of my mom’s illness, the phone sometimes played quite a role. In the early years, she'd call me and my siblings up to 15-20 times per day combined (not kidding). This was despite the fact that we’d regularly call her during the day to check in. We had a large-print phone list of important numbers beside the phone for her, including emergency for fire/police/ambulance. Thank G*D she never had to use and never abused that number.

One of my siblings finally got so fed up with the calls that he took a black marker and crossed out his work number. I could kind of understand the frustration he was feeling but at the same time, I felt that was pretty harsh as he was the one she most trusted. My mom was still living at home so she was completely on her own all day and needed these lifelines as she strongly rejected any sort of help/visitors we tried to bring in.

At the time (the early 90's), I was at school full time and only had a pager (cell phones were still rare & expensive). My mom would call my pager and leave a message and I'd have to retrieve the message and then call her back using a pay phone. My pager had the option of just inputting a number for call-back but my mom couldn’t understand that so she left messages. I should have bought a coin dispenser to wear with the number of pages I got/calls I had to make. Fellow students must have thought I was a drug dealer.

The calls were like the weather; somedays were good, other days were terrible. On good days, my mom might call once or twice and be happy to hear that I’d be home soon to make her dinner. On bad days, she’d call many, many times and be quite confused, angry and upset.

Then, there were the days when she wouldn’t call at all (which were almost more alarming) and there would be no answer when I’d call her. Quite often, she’d be chatting with one of the neighbours (whom she still recognized and loved to chat with) or at the local store which wasn’t far (those were very early days when she could still venture that far and not get lost). The worst were days when she didn’t answer and it would be a snowstorm outside…I’d start panicking. If I couldn’t reach her for a few hours, I’d leave school to go home and 9 out of 10 times, I’d find her at home. She would have no recollection of the phone ringing or where she’d been. There were a few times though that she wasn’t home and had wandered off and that was a big part of the reason we finally had to decide to put her in care.

While still living at home, my mom forgot our home address and phone number at some point and I thought that was information that would be lost forever. I found it amazing that she could forget information that was the exact same for 40 years. However, one day, months after we had placed mom in care, she called our home phone number (it was still operating for a few months while we decided what to do with the house/etc). It was both sad and haunting to hear her talk into the answering machine. She just kept saying “hello” and then hung up. I wonder what she called for.

Friday, March 27, 2009

p.s. pull over - seconds can save

It’s been a while! I haven’t been writing much because I don’t seem to have much to write about (which is good in ways!).

One thing that I thought was blog-worthy was my neighbour’s passing a couple of weeks ago. He was a nice old guy who worked till the day he died (literally – he took the bus everyday an hour to a shopping mall where he worked as a tailor just to keep himself active).

He & his wife have lived across the street from our house for a million years. In fact, they lived there when our side of the block was a factory. They’re a nice old couple who waved and made conversation with us (as much as we could with our different languages). My DH shovels their snow in the winter and we generally look out for them.

I noticed something was up a few Friday’s ago when I was going out to work in the morning and saw that their 3 adult kid’s cars were parked in front of their house. At 8:00 am on a Friday? Hmm.

When I got home from work, they were still there so I knew something had happened. I wasn’t sure whether I should go over or let them have their space and privacy so I peeked across the street now & then. The occasional person would come out and stand on the porch for fresh air (or a smoke!) and stare off looking very sad. Oh my heart broke for them as I recognized what they were going through. I remember the day my father died was horrible and the empty & sick feeling that went along with it. The first parent to die is always quite shocking as it's new territory. Later in the evening, I finally went upstairs to stop watching the scene and making myself sad. I avoid sad movies and songs at all costs just because I can’t seem to take them but here I am glued to the front window like some cat watching a bird outside.

The next day, I finally asked one of the kids and he confirmed that his dad had passed away. I almost said “Welcome to Club O” but stopped myself.

Later that day, I brought some flowers and a card over to the house where I was greeted by the wife of the man and another kid. The wife spoke rapidly in her language which was instantaneously translated by the kid. It was almost like verbal subtitles! She said it was her husband’s 77th birthday that week and they were planning on a family party that weekend but instead they were having his funeral. I had to hold myself back from crying with her. I looked at this woman and saw how my mom must have looked to other people when my father died. She looked so sad, scared and alone. The kids looked so sad and unsure of what to do. I looked at the kids and felt great sadness for them, wondering if their mom would become like my mom did. I have noticed over the years that their mom had been a bit “off” here & there. Nothing huge, just subtle actions that I noted might be early signs of dementia. For example, she would act a bit strangely towards us somedays (when we’ve been nothing but friendly & helpful) and her husband would shake his head and try to cover up her behaviour.

It’s funny how sad I felt while watching this family’s tragedy unfold across the street. I think it’s something that once you’ve been through it, the “feeling” sticks with you so when you see a similar scene, you are flooded with memories. It’s the same when I see emergency vehicles on their way to a call. Between my father & my mother, I’ve had to call for help and ride in more ambulances than the average person. When I see the flashing lights and hear the sirens, I feel very mildly sick and panicked for a moment because I know the feeling of helplessness while waiting for help to arrive. Your parent is having his/her 1st, 2nd or 3rd heart attack or lying dead in your living room (I experienced all of the above by age 17!) and you’re just praying for the ambulance to get there and take over. Or you’re riding in the back of the ambulance with your parent and just wanting to get to the hospital. It’s probably the reason I get so angry at drivers who don’t pull over and let emergency vehicles by when they’re wailing along…every second counts as it could literally mean life or death.

Wow, what started as a short post became quite a therapy session! It’s amazing how things subconsciously stick with you after traumatic life events and how other people’s tragedies can trigger things, such as a blog entry!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I’m back


Hello readers! I’m back. I enjoyed my trip with my DH immensely. It was perfect weather, a nice resort and a great beach. I was in the ocean everyday as long as I could be; I find the ocean very therapeutic and almost healing in some weird way. It’s amazing how much difference a holiday can make in your life and well being.

It was my first real holiday since my mom passed and it was completely different than any holiday before: I didn’t have the anxiety, worry and guilt that I used to carry. I didn’t hit the ceiling every time the hotel room phone rang. I didn’t sit on the beach and worry about being unreachable. I didn’t have crazy thoughts tormenting me about what was happening back home. For the first time in my adult life, I felt free. I even thought to myself “I could stay another week and not have any guilt or worry. Nobody is dependent on me anymore”. It’s almost like I’ve had a child for the past 16 years and now I’m experiencing the freedom that most young adults usually experience. Now, of course, I feel horribly guilty about saying these things because I feel like I’m saying that my mom was a burden or something. That’s not the case and I would give anything to still have her with me and I never begrudge anything I ever did for her. I’m just trying to honestly describe how I felt on holiday.

Of course, I had a few “moments” on the holiday. In ways, the freedom was a bit overwhelming, bittersweet and sad so I had a few teary moments by myself during the week. It’s weird having someone NEED you for so long and then to not have that anymore. Sometimes while I was wading in the ocean, I would stare off into the horizon and think about the years and all that has happened. I have regrets about some things but overall, I think I did the best I could. The one main thing that I regret most is running out of patience with my mom somedays but when you’re knee-deep in the situation, you can’t help but crack sometimes. I also lament that my siblings are completely whacked but I don’t think I can really help that situation.

I also had a horrendous nightmare about my mom one night on holiday that still gives me the shivers. I dreamt that my mom had passed away and my sibling & I had to transport her body (long side-story going on in the dream about the funeral home & why we had to transport ourselves). Anyways...we put mom’s body in the car in the backseat with me so I could keep my arm across her as a seatbelt. We were driving along (backwards, for some unknown reason) when my mom opened her eyes and started talking to me. It was terrible. She was saying words and phrases that mostly didn’t make any sense (for those who watch Battlestar Galactica, think of the Hybrid in the resurrection tub). I was bawling my eyes out, freaking out and at the same time, feeling grateful for these moments to say good-bye to her, which is something I never did in real life. She called me the pet name that she used to call me and then I woke up. I’ve actually had a few nightmares like that over the past 8 months. It’s amazing how graphic and real dreams can be.

So...back to normal day-to-day life. Dare I say that I’m feeling a bit better these days? Ok, let’s not get crazy. I’m not over-the-top and ready to write a sequel to The Secret but I’m doing a bit better. I think the combination of time, more daylight and a much-needed vacation have helped me along a bit. I’m sure I’ll still have bad days now & then but I’m pretty sure I’m rounding a corner in my journey.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A mid winter getaway

DH and I have planned a winter getaway in February to the tropics. I am really looking forward to this. We usually go away every winter except for last year when my instincts told me to stay home because my mom’s time was running out. Turns out my instincts were off by 4 months but I think that’s pretty good considering it was something that was in the works for 16 years.

I’m going to say some really horrible things next. I’ll try to ease the selfishness of my statements by first saying that I miss my mom terribly and would give anything to still have her here (better yet, have her here in GOOD health). However, here we go... I am looking forward to going on my first vacation of my adulthood without worrying. I used to go on vacation and constantly worry about my mom. I had care in place for my mom when I would go away but I’d still worry. I would never completely relax. I’d be waiting for that phone call. I’d dream that something was wrong. I’d be sitting on a beach worrying that I was not immediately reachable and want to go back to the hotel room to ensure there were no calls. I’d just about jump out of my skin if/when the phone rang in the hotel room. It was a heavy mixture of worry, guilt & fear and it was very hard to carry.

I should backtrack a bit...this isn’t the first time I’ve been away since my mom passed. DH & I went away for a few days in the summer to another province to visit some of his extended family. (Trust me, it was no vacation!) It was a lot of visiting with extended family and some sight-seeing. I bring this trip up because I just about had a mini panic attack the night before we left. It was the first time I was going away since my mom passed away. I felt anxious and like I was missing something. Usually, the day before a trip, I’d spend time with my mom, ensure her care was in place and fret non-stop. I ended up calling a good friend to chat because I was so wound up. I’m hoping this coming trip will be different. In fact, I know it will be. It’s almost a good thing that I had this little “test-run” of a getaway in the summer!

I’ve been reading reviews of the resort we’re going to on Tripadvisor (love that site!) and it looks pretty good. Of course, there’s always the complainers who whine about the silliest things and don’t seem to realize that they’re at a resort down south, not a luxury resort in North America. My DH’s mother would be one of those people. I cringe to think of her writing a review for anywhere. You should hear her go on about my city (even though she lives in the country). If you didn’t know any better, you would be convinced the city is the most dangerous, overcrowded, expensive and horrible place in the world. She boasts that she used to live here (when in fact, she stayed in a suburb of the city for about 2 weeks when she was younger and couldn’t hack it). I have actually lived right in the city for over 30 years and absolutely love it. So remember when you’re reading trip reviews, it’s all in the eye of the beholder and that beholder could be someone like my DH’s mother!

Vacation, here I come!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Taking a Walk in Winter

On January 31, I’ll be participating in a province-wide fundraiser for Alzheimers which I have participated in every year since 2000. The funds raised go to Alzheimer organizations that provide information to patients/their families, run support groups and fund research. It’s a great event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for an excellent cause. This year is especially moving for me, now that my mom has passed on.

The event itself is a walk-a-thon that takes place indoors in large malls or arenas (ie there are many walks going on simultaneously throughout the province). Many participants bring their loved ones who are suffering from Alzheimers to the walk – it’s nice & safe as it’s (1) indoors so it’s climate controlled (2) is clearly lit and has dry & level walking surfaces (3) is wheelchair accessible (4) has plenty of washrooms (very important as you know!) and (5) the organizers have TONS of volunteers so all possible exits or “off route” areas are guarded to avoid any “run-aways”! In fact, some nursing homes have teams and bring big groups of patients!

I never took my mom to the Walk because she didn’t do well in crowds. She’d get flustered and I think it would be too overwhelming for her (especially the big opening/closing ceremonies – it gets pretty loud). My mom also had a heart condition so walking was limited and stress was to be avoided. But for others, they seem to enjoy it or just be oblivious to the chaos.

My sibling has joined me on the Walk for a few years now and it’s funny (in a sad way) for us to see all the patients. We point out different patients saying “oh, there’s a mom” because they have similar habits or expressions that our mom used to have. It’s sad to sometimes see the vacancy in their eyes though. Some have no idea what is going on or where they are. On the other hand, it’s nice to see the ones that are happily unaware of things and walk along smiling; enjoying the crowds and free samples from sponsors (you end up with a bag of pens, notepads, key chains…you name it!).

I’m looking forward to the Walk this year – it’s a bit of a milestone for me. I remember the first Walk I participated in was in the year 2000...the first year that I definitely knew my mom was suffering from Alzheimers after years of being told “she’s just getting old” or “she just misses Dad”. I went to the Walk by myself (despite my siblings still being in a bit of denial) and found hundreds of people, just like me & my mom. I highly recommend to all my readers with Alzheimers patients to look into events like this in their area – you won’t regret it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Year

The First Noel has come & gone and I survived. It was pretty hard at some points and I had a couple of good cries. I think most of my survival can be attributed to distracting myself. If I thought “it’s Christmas” or “it’s New Years” then I got sad and started thinking about my mom. Instead, I just ignored what occasion it was and pretended it was just another day. Kind of like numbing myself to what was actually going on. Perhaps not the healthiest strategy but it got me through my First Noel. However, I did catch myself a few times thinking back to the first Christmas after my father passed away and how empty it felt, just like this year.

I hosted what’s left of my dysfunctional family on the 25th and got through it. I think the only reason I put a tree or any decorations up was for the children in the family. I didn’t want them to feel my sadness. It was quite an effort for me this year but I felt they shouldn’t suffer just because we’ve lost our matriarch and the family is a bunch of dysfunctional tools.

I seemed to have most of my teary moments before the holidays though. I pretty well avoided talking about the holidays at work and tried to avoid going to/partaking in any holiday gatherings. If I did get forced to go (e. g. the company luncheon) I strategically sat in the middle of coworkers from my workgroup so they would sit & talk to others about their jolly holiday plans. This way, I was insulated by people who would carry on the insane chatter so I wouldn’t have to. I just couldn’t do it without feeling like I was going to choke up. I couldn’t carry on mindless small-talk conversations with people and I cringed every time I heard “so, what are your plans for the holidays?” in some annoying chipper tone. I couldn’t be bothered faking any happiness. I just kept thinking how I’d like to sleep through the holidays and not deal with any of it. I can’t tell you how happy I was to finish my last day at work in 2008 and go home. Actually, I can’t tell you how happy I was to see January 2 so that meant the holidays were over and we could get back to “normal” life.

I slept a lot during my time off. I must have really needed it. I would sleep 10 hours at night and then have a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. Plus, when you sleep, you don’t hurt. It’s a good way to pass time when your heart is hurting. In my awake time, I’d watch tv. It was really nice to have this recovery-type of time. My DH was right into it too. He was quite happy to be a couch potato with me.

2008 was quite a year and it’s weird to think it’s over. It’s weird to think my mom passed away LAST YEAR. Someone mentioned to me how the wheels of time don’t stop no matter what happens and sometimes you get caught off guard how time keeps going without you when you get so consumed by something. This same person said their spouse is very depressed, anxious and needs to change the way he handles things but sometimes people are scared of any changes. It would mean letting go of the grief or whatever has a hold on them. That way of living has become normal to them and life without it would feel empty. I think that’s probably what I went through for the first few months without my mom. She was always front and centre on my mind for the 16 years that she was sick so it’s taking quite a while to get adjusted to life without her. I think I’m doing better though!

In other news, this week also marks my one year anniversary of blogging. I officially started blogging in January 2008 (yes, I have one entry before that which I imported to give some history). I have to say I’ve found my first year of blogging very therapeutic. I’ve released a lot of stress, sadness, anxiety, information and some happiness through this wonderful activity and met some really nice people along the way! I’ve also read other blogs and found great comfort in them. I hope others have enjoyed reading my blog too.