I went to see The Battle of the Sexes – the film about the Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs tennis match in 1973. It was a good movie but it really got me agitated! I had forgotten the extent of the sexism women had to deal with back in the 70’s and 80’s! Time has faded the impact of those attitudes but seeing this movie really brought it back home. I hope younger people go to see this movie, especially women because many young women today have totally taken the gains we’ve made for granted. I am afraid society could go backwards in these attitudes and in women’s rights (not to mention LGBQT rights!) with men like the current administration in the US. It’s already happening as we saw on the documentary about how abortion is banned in some States in the US! (Abortion: Stories Women Tell, HBO original documentary). If we don’t keep attention on these things – keep them in the forefront and exposed – women will lose our hard earned rights. Combined with the resurgence of fundamentalism in many religious communities it’s getting scary. Comments like keeping women in the kitchen and the bedroom were frequently used in the movie and these are attitudes we had to deal with that we can so easily forget if it is ignored or swept under the carpet by complacency.
There was a lot about BJK coming out – her awareness that she was a lesbian and the emotional struggle she had with it all at a time when she was fighting for women’s rights in the tennis world.
I can’t believe that the Internet Movie Database only gave it a 6.9 rating and possibly, as a film, it could have been better technically, but when a person (like me) feels so strongly about the subject matter I can’t help but feel it should have been higher. One reviewer, Louise Keller, put it this way: “Equal pay, male chauvinism and freedom to love whoever you want are some of the issues canvassed and as the gay marriage debate reaches its zenith, the subject matter has never felt more relevant.”
The performances by Emma Stone and Steve Carell were excellent and I highly recommend this movie.
I don’t like to post depressing things but for some reason I need to get this out. I went to see my mother yesterday afternoon at the “home”. She was at the dining room table finishing her lunch all by herself. She had watermelon that the cook had cut up in tiny cubes and was enjoying that along with some juice. She didn’t seem too happy to see me at first but got cheerier as I showed her a picture of my 3 year old grandson eating corn on the cob. Later, one of the PSWs brought a doll and sat it in front of her – that perked her right up. She just loved seeing it and eventually we had a good time. She kept smiling at the doll and touching it’s hand and face asking me whose baby it was and what it’s name was. She honestly thinks it is a real baby. Even after touching it’s hand gently or it’s cheek she doesn’t realize it’s made of hard plastic! She isn’t very verbal anymore. Is losing her words and language. When I ask questions she doesn’t answer – just shrugs her shoulders. So now I ask fewer questions and I try to engage her in other ways like showing her photos on my cell phone.
She seemed to enjoy it when people were bustling around and lots of activity but when it quieted down she looked kind of sad and actually said she was glad I was there to visit with. I stayed for quite awhile. The cook chatted animatedly with me as she usually does and then brought over more fruit which was the afternoon snack. She brought me watermelon and a bit of honeydew on a plate and brought mom another little dish of the cut up watermelon which she ate. It takes her a long time to eat but I could see she was enjoying it. She used a spoon to drink her juice like soup and as the volume of juice got lower in the cup she didn’t seem to know what to do – how to get at the remaining juice. I don’t interfere as she usually becomes angry if I do. I think it brings attention to her loss of functionality and makes her feel embarrassed so I try to let her do things for herself as much as possible. She never did like to be told what to do though! One of the other residents came over with her walker and asked if she could join us at the table. Later the woman asked me where my walker was! I said I didn’t have one and she looked at me sympathetically saying “that’s too bad”. Strange what becomes important when independence is eroded. She asked if I had children and I said three children and three grandchildren. She then said “how can that be?” and that I look like a teenager! I laughed and thought to myself “it’s all relative!” Nothing like visiting old people to boost the ego!
There have been times that, as “grown up” as I think I am, if Mom rejects me I get very emotional and have to choke back the tears, wanting to run. This time I stayed past her irritation just letting her be as much as possible. The waiting paid off and she seemed to get used to me being there. When I kissed her on the cheek goodbye she looked up at me so happy, smiling like a little kid. As I put on my coat and my hat I kept waving back at her several times before I went out the door and she would wave back. Sometimes she forgets I was there before I’m out the door but this time she seemed to stay focused on me leaving and to be aware that I had been with her. Then she blew me a kiss! That was a nice surprise! I felt good for going and spending time with her. Even though it’s hard to watch her decline I felt better just knowing I was of some use. It sure is a good way to bring on gratitude and to forget myself. I am blessed.
Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-do my high school days. I was so painfully shy and hated myself, feeling I was worthless – a “nothing”. Who would like me if I even were to let them close enough to get to know me?
I showed up at school every day earlier than the rest of the students. Would go to my locker while the halls were still empty. What a sad, lonely existence I created for myself – and all because of fear and shame.
I worked hard as a student but my concentration was always impaired by my hyper-vigilant anxieties. So I scraped by, barely making my grades. Somehow I managed to reach the minimum grade to be exempt from writing finals but how I did it I’ll never know. I imagine if I did have to write them my anxiety might have made me blow it and possibly hold me back from advancing to the next year. That would have been a humiliation I couldn’t bear!! So I worked and worked at it.
I’ve heard since that many other students thought I was “cute” and popular or at least well liked. That surprised me. They obviously weren’t looking closely enough. But at least I avoided being disliked by keeping my distance – my wall. The thought of not being liked or being hated was absolutely terrifying so I kept my distance.
Now I’m “friends” on FaceBook with some of them. Some I barely knew or had any contact with at all back then but now I find them to be kind and wonderful people. One in particular is a woman who I always felt was a class above me in our small town. Her family owned and operated the local newspaper. Last year I met up with her at a fundraiser for a church in my hometown where my best friend (and only!) from elementary school was performing. (She is now an opera singer.) Later she sent me a “friend” request and messaged me and asked about my art. She said how I must have learned this later in life since it would not have been available to me in our High School. She was so kind! The sort of person I think I would have liked. We chatted back and forth on messenger and it feels still as though we actually “spoke”. What would it have been like had I let these people in and got to know them back then? But I was not the person I am now. And of course neither are they I’m sure. And maybe my instincts were right? I’ll never know. But at least I can enjoy these friendships now and get to know these people today even if most of our interactions are on social media. Social media isn’t all bad I guess.
She is asleep now, a frown furrowing her brow. What is she dreaming I wonder? Cheery banter is coming from the other hospital bed with the younger patient who just moved in yesterday. Why do I resent this? This youthful exuberance? The fact that the staff can communicate and actually enjoy it with a young patient of sound mind. The contrast is depressing and disturbing. With mom the only communication is answering the same questions over and over. “Are you married?” “Do I know him?” and the same amazed reaction each time I answer as though she’s never heard it before. She doesn’t know me any more.
I try to remain patient with her and answer these questions as many times as she asks. I should be happy she can still communicate at all I suppose but that is cold comfort. Odd, how little I expect now from her. Lowered expectations. Not that I should ever have had any because even when I did, before she got sick, they were rarely, if ever, met!
Mom was a difficult woman. Or maybe I should say we had a strained relationship to say the least. I usually felt invisible. Or merely an annoyance. She never seemed to be listening, always distracted. Could it be her brain was damaged even then? The beginnings of this horrendous disease? I always blamed it on her traumatic childhood in Europe during the war, a child of alcoholic parents, then later married to an alcoholic husband. Denial and fog were weapons against abuse and trauma. But there were happy times too, although it’s going to take some effort to recall them. Maybe in a later post….. For now I pray for strength and know even though she’ll recover from this broken hip her brain will never recover.
I went to visit mom this morning and decided to pick up a card and flowers for Mother’s Day. Even though she never remembers anything and I knew she would soon forget the flowers were hers – they would just become a part of the nursing home decor for all to enjoy – I still felt I wanted to do it for me. So I stopped at the grocery en route and got a colourful card and a vase and some cut flowers and walked over to the nursing home. I signed the card outside and when I went in borrowed scissors from the staff to cut the wrappings off the flowers and put them in the vase. I took them over to mom and her eyes opened wide. She seemed happy to see me and pleased to be getting a present. She loved the flowers but they were soon forgotten after I put them on the side table by her chair, but the card was a different story! She read it over and over. She asked if it was for her and who was it from and I said “it’s from me!” She said Oh you didn’t have to spend your money on me but I could see she was pleased. She was so happy and held onto that card like her life depended on it, reading it over and over! When it was time for her to go to the dining room for lunch I said I’d take her over and she asked “where should I put this?” referring to the card that she was still gripping in her hands. I said you can leave it here on the table with the flowers if you like and she held it to her chest and said “NO! someone might take it!” so I said “OK lets take it over to the table and you can keep it with you while you have lunch.” I sat with her through her lunch and we chatted back and forth with the other residents. It was a birthday for Paulie, one of the other ladies, so there was cake and everyone remembered how to sing Happy Birthday and seemed to enjoy themselves. They even all clapped for her after the singing!
It’s so much fun to be around these people! True it is sad because they all have dementia – but it’s also endearing and more often than not, pretty entertaining! Dorothy kept offering her sandwiches to all of us – over and over – and Shirley at the next table yelled over “Put it down you stupid ass!” Fortunately Dorothy is hard of hearing!
After mom finished most of her lunch I asked if she wanted me to take her back into the main room to relax. She had started to doze off in her chair at the table. She nodded yes and I picked up her card again and gave it to her and we walked to her usual easy chair near the TV. When we got there she opened the card again as if she’d never seen it and read it again and showed it to me saying how beautiful it was. We had the same conversation over and over but she seemed eventually to remember that the card was from me because she said after reading it for the umpteenth time “oh you know what it says – you gave it to me!” It was like groundhog day but such a nice one because it was a joy to see the happiness in her face and the pleasure she was getting from the colourful card over and over again. Over the years when she was young the gifts we got her were often never right. She always had a problem with receiving gifts, always finding something wrong with what my sisters and I gave her. One year she said “I hope you didn’t buy me perfume again” and another time I got her a spa treatment that I had planned for the two of us to go together and she was appalled – she was uncomfortable at the idea of going to a spa but it hurt me that she didn’t see it was something I thought she’d enjoy, something that we could enjoy together. So to have her be so happy with this simple card – well I can’t put in words how it made me feel.
As usual she asked me if I was married and I said yes and told her my husband’s name – again as I have many, many times. Her eyes got big and she said don’t tell him I forgot about him or he’ll get mad. I said “Reg doesn’t get mad” and she said emphatically “You’re lucky!!!!” I know she didn’t have an easy time as a child growing up in Europe during the war and later married to an alcoholic. Although they were deeply in love she suffered abuse and a tough time as his disease progressed.
She started to doze off again as Lon, the cook, came over to chat with me. When Lon left I touched mom’s arm and she woke up and I said “I’m going to go now mom so you can have a siesta.” She said “ok come again” and I gave her a kiss on the cheek and said “love you” and she said “love you too”. This is the first time I’ve ever said that to her since I was a very small child. And I don’t think she’s ever said it to me since then either. It’s hard to put into words the strange way this all makes me feel. To have such a lovely time with her now when she is in declining health – well I guess it’s better late than never. I feel so much for these people with dementia – they are so vulnerable. I’ve said it before, the child becomes the parent – but I’m ok with that…..
I went to see mom yesterday and she was in the hair salon having her hair done. They were just finishing up and after Renata, the PSW, took her to the bathroom and brought her over to me at the dining room table because she hadn’t yet finished her lunch (dessert and juice). When she brought her over mom was so excited to see me she walked over to me herself to give me a kiss on the cheek! Wow! That was a first! So nice! I wonder if she remembers that I kiss her every time I leave her these days? That was never something our family did. Cold as ice they were.
She was happy and ate well – finished her pudding and drinks with a minimum of holding her liquids in her mouth so that was good. If you can get her to want to say something while she’s holding it she will swallow faster so she can speak. That’s what the speech pathologist told us – to distract her and she might be triggered to swallow. (the part of her brain associated with swallowing is affected). She is always the last to finish her meals now because of the swallowing problem. Otherwise she’s healthy as ever!
I got her to get up and we went for a little walk around the area to look at the photo of us (Reg me and her) that was taken last summer and is still posted on the bulletin board near the front door. She seemed happy to explore a little and stopped to look at the flower arrangements and then stopped to pat the stuffed cat that sits on the ledge beside the dining room. She thought it was real and said she didn’t want to wake it. I was a bit saddened by that and how she thought the doll by her chair (when we went to sit in the lounge area) was real. She kept stroking it’s hands and saying how cute it was asking the other residents if they knew it’s name. Then she looked at me confused and said “is it dead?” and her face changed to a horrified expression – and I said “it’s a doll mom.” She looked confused like she didn’t know what I meant by “doll” so I said “it’s a pretend baby” which still didn’t seem to register. I almost cried. How horrifying the thought of a dead baby sitting upright on a table next to must be!!! But I don’t think she even has the comprehension to understand that. She did mention, while we were still at the dining room table, that it was a shame that “Dad” had died and she asked me how old he was when he died. She doesn’t always remember that he passed away (over 18 years ago now). I told her he was the same age as my husband, Reg, is now – 68. That got me feeling grateful that so far he’s still healthy and with me! Mom asked me how long they’d been married and I told her. Very quickly though she forgets the entire conversation and goes back to asking me the same questions over and over again about whether I have a “man” or not and do we still “have fun” with a mischievous grin (;-) and asking to see his picture.
I never want to end up that way. I know she would be so embarrassed if she knew how she was behaving and declining. She already is I think because when I first got there she said to me she is “stupid” and feels like slapping herself because she is so old and can’t remember things. Don’t let anyone tell you people with dementia don’t realize what is happening to them! They may not comprehend but they do realize they are losing abilities and it is frustrating to them at times. I just reminded her it doesn’t matter and that she doesn’t need to hold on to those thoughts – just to enjoy the moment! Then we joke about what she always says “I can still walk and talk and eat!!” and we have a laugh. I find these people with dementia love it when you use little catch phrases or sayings they are familiar with. Especially if you do it with a smile! They just need love and kindness. I don’t care if she was never the type of mom to provide that to me. I am happy to have this time with her now and the past doesn’t matter. I know it will only get worse and I just hope and pray for her not to suffer.
I do wish there was a way now for a person to know in time to arrange for assisted suicide but so far I don’t think that is going to be possible for people diagnosed with dementia. I feel that I am in good shape and am doing everything in my power to stay healthy and positive that I will dodge that bullet – I hope and pray.
I went to visit mom yesterday and she was pretty good. she was thinking a lot – trying to figure out her circumstances and even got to asking me quite a bit about how she affords to live there. She asked who pays, which she often does, then asked where did she get the money and even went so far as to ask how long her money would last – was there enough. She was really thinking hard about it. A few times she said she was confused and asked if she was sleeping there tonight and when I said “yep, tonight and every night” she looked relieved and said “good!” She wondered where she sleeps – where her room was – and I said just down the hall and asked if she wanted to go for a walk but she didn’t. She is looking better. Her eyes are clear and green and her skin is almost glowing again.
One of the residents was wearing a stylish red hat as she sat at the dining room table. Later she came to help Chelsea, one of the activity staff, to put the Christmas tree decorations into a storage box as she removed them to put away for another year. The woman took one of the pieces that looked like some sort of glittery branch and held it to the top of her hat looking at us all as she entertained us with her antics. We all laughed and I said “fancy!” She seemed quite pleased with herself. Later one of the staff came and said “your bus ride is here for your art class” and took her away. She sashayed quickly – with help of course – toward the door to hustle off to her class! Right on! She did seem like an arty type! So cute! I just love to see them happy.
One lady, Betty, who is one of the less advanced dementia residents, helped put the tree branches into another box as Chelsea removed them, one by one, and handed them to her. Betty seemed quite pleased to be of service. I really can see how, if they feel somehow useful, their self-esteem increases and they seem happier. Wow! It’s so cool to observe this in the elderly – those who are gradually declining and losing their faculties yet still need to feel useful and productive. Capabilities that are being lost more and more as they decline. I think this is human nature maybe. We all need to feel useful don’t we? I know I do.
Another thing I wonder about is how they all seem to sit in their same places in the common room – those with any mobility at all that is. Ernie and Betty on the one sofa nearer the window, always on the same side, Dorothy on the other toward the dining room, Mom in “her” blue chair, and Margaret close to the back wall in a harder armchair. They can’t remember where their rooms are but they always seem to remember where “their” chair is! Strange!
I never seem to want to go, find it hard, but afterward I just want to go back as soon as I can. Especially when the days are good like this. She still doesn’t know who I am, yet when I arrive she waves and smiles and I’m sure some part of her knows I am her “kid” but it doesn’t matter. It was a good visit.