…since my last post. I don’t like neglecting this blog because I don’t want to suggest that my caregiving stopped when my Mom moved into Garden Manor. In many ways, of course, the caregiving changes. When we had a snowstorm a couple of weeks ago it was nice to know that she was safe and warm beneath a much broader umbrella of care than I could give her. My visiting routine varies, depending upon the class I’m taking, but we always go out for lunch and a ride on Sunday afternoon. Otherwise, I stop by for a short visit after work once or twice during the week. She still brightens up when she sees me.
Has our relationship changed? I suppose it has. Neither my mother nor I have ever been touchy-feely in our affections, but I find myself becoming that way with her now. Because I don’t seem to reach her with words all the time, I hold her hand or lock arms with her or rub her back when she gets agitated about something. I think this contact reassures her.
As I was driving home today from our visit I thought about the year that has passed since she moved. I remember thinking that I could somehow explain to her why she needed to live at Garden Manor, that I could talk her into the move. Of course I couldn’t do this–there’s no way around the emotional rupture of placing a parent in a care facility, especially if she doesn’t want to go and isn’t capable of understanding her situation. You just have to do it and brace yourself for the initial anguish. Remaking the relationship takes time. You just have to keep showing up and hope that, even though she often can’t remember your last visit, she knows in some way that you’re around, that she hasn’t been abandoned.
And you also have to learn her new language, a language that has no past tenses. If she’s anxiously wondering about someone who is long-dead or fretting about obligations that are long past, you don’t try to set her straight. Her truth is in the present and has to do with what she is losing right now. I don’t know what it’s like to lose the familiar, but this isn’t about me understanding. It’s about accepting and reassuring and appreciating whatever I can share with her right now.
As for me, I’m taking another class this semester and hoping to create a website as a final project. I’ve done some research on a race riot that occurred in Providence in 1831–the Snow Town, or Olney’s Lane, riots–and I’d like to figure out a useful and novel way of digitally presenting it. I adopted another dog back in August, and he is very sweet and extemely energetic and often destructive. So we are in obedience class right now.
I’m also still fighting for my mother’s Aid & Attendance benefit from the VA. Two weeks ago I wrote to one of my U.S. senators, Jack Reed, and explained that my mother had been awarded this benefit FIVE MONTHS AGO but the VA has shown no sign of appointing me fiduciary, despite my pleas. Four days after I mailed the letter I got a response from Sen. Reed. He and his staff got on the problem immediately, and this past Friday I came home to find a telephone message from someone at the VA, wanting to set an appointment to meet me and my mother next week. Hallelujah. I owe this success to Debbie Burak at VeteranAid.org and Senator Jack Reed.
And so, in closing, I promise I will not neglect my blog anymore, despite my schoolwork, puppy-training, the exciting presidential campaign and my concert-going ways (in the past five months I’ve seen Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Amos Lee, Tori Amos, Van Morrison, and Richard Thompson). Until next time…