Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fuh-Lease-La-Dee-Da!

On Sunday, I popped over to see Meems before church.  She was parked in front of the TV in the common room of Aberdeen House.  Her eyes were wide open and as I drew closer to her, a sweet smile of recognition lit up her face.

"Mom, we're going to do something fun this afternoon!"

I decided that I would give her a heads up about the Christmas celebration so that she would have something to look forward to.  Again, she smiled.

"We're going to have gingerbread pancakes!  It's going to be CHRISTMAS!"

"But, I haven't finished my shopping yet..." she whispered.

"It's all taken care of!"

"Do you have my transportation scheduled?"   (She knew that she would need the van to transport her in her wheelchair to my house.)

"Nope!  We're comin' to you!"

Big, bright smile.

I leaned in to give her a hug.

"You're a good, good daughter."  

Day made.

That afternoon, Bryce (middle child), Kelly (niece) and I snuck into Meems' room and set out Christmas.  Her Christmas wreath decorated with her favorite ornaments from her legendary big, fat Christmas tree that required sturdy guy wires attached to two walls was hung on her door.  Then, we unpacked her favorite Santa, her beloved Feliz Navidad hat, and a present for each attendee to open.  (Each attendee provided his/her own gift from his/her own closet.)  I had stuffed each gift into a gift sack.  If you know me well, you know that gift sacks give me a twitch.  Only for Pretend Christmas would I not meticulously wrap each gift.  Twitch.  Twitch.

When Alan arrived with Meems' best friend Leonard in tow, it was time for the Reindeer Games to begin.

Leonard was "all in" for the 6/25 Christmas Celebration.  He was all "Meeeery Christmas!" and "A tie!  Miss Helen got me something I can really use - a beautiful tie!  Why I'm going to wear it next Sunday!  Thank you so much!"  The tie came out of his very own closet.  

We served "silver dollar" gingerbread pancakes dipped in orange marmalade syrup.  I called it "intinction."  Mom's gift (a Corsicana fruitcake she's been reminding me about since early March) was passed around.  Meems and Leo were the only ones that partook of the fruitcake.  We are only one or two generations away from Fruit Cake Extinction.

Then, came the carolers!  Our dear friend, Nanette, and her daughter, Mary, started singing just outside Meems' door.  They strolled in wearing Christmas caroler attire.  Tears came to my eyes.  They are sweet, sweet friends who "get it."

I learned something during our little celebration.  I know that this sounds cliche, but  Christmas CAN be any day of the year.  Sitting snuggly in Meems' small room with some of our loved ones...opening fake gifts...singing a few Christmas carols...munching on snack-sized gingerbread pancakes...  It felt like the most wonderful time of the year.  You wanna hear something funny?  Not funny "ha ha."  Just funny.  During the time that we spent celebrating, Meems was awake and aware and responding appropriately to the situation.  She didn't question the fact that we were eating gingerbread pancakes in June, but she was right there "with us" the whole time.  Bless.  Her.  Heart.

That morning at church, Leonard told me that he thought it was a good idea to have a 6/25 Christmas for Meems so that she could enjoy it while she was still "in the land of the living."  Then, he asked, "Are we going to celebrate New Year's Eve next week?"

We will celebrate any holiday that looms ahead in Mimi Land, Leonard.  And you, my friend, will make the celebration all the more fun.  I can hear it now..."Happppppy New Year!"

Merry Christmas, friends.



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Saturday, June 24, 2017

We Need a Little Christmas.

We need a little Christmas right this very minute.  

A couple of weeks ago before the Grand Silence began, Meems was feeling unsettled about all of her Christmas preparations.

"What do the boys want for Christmas?"

"What do you want for Christmas?"

"What should I get Alan for Christmas?"

"Have you scheduled my ride for gingerbread pancakes?"

"Have you addressed my Christmas cards?"

Read the questions above aloud in your quietest, teeniest, tiniest voice 20 times.  Do it.

Now, you've experienced the urgency of the off-season Christmastide that exists in Mimi Land.

This very morning as I ended my visit, I told her that I would be back this afternoon with some fruitcake.  "I love you, Mom."  I could tell that she was trying to respond.  I leaned in expecting to hear a sweet, tender "I love you, too."  Instead, she asked, "Is that (the fruitcake) my Christmas present?"

As the process of packing up for Heaven progresses with Meems' awareness and wakefulness slowly diminishing, we have decided to have a little Christmas in June.  We can have it again in July, August, September, October, November, and December if time and memory allow.

Tomorrow, Alan is going to whip up a batch of our traditional Christmas morning gingerbread pancakes.  I will make the orange marmalade syrup this afternoon.  And, wrap the gifts.  Yes, wrap the gifts.

But first, I need to head up to the attic to retrieve Mom's Christmas wreath.  If I was a king-sized, super-duper, A1 daughter, I would also bring down a tree, lights, and ornaments.  Sigh.

Here's the plan:  Tomorrow at 2PM, we are going to have Christmas "morning" at 219 Aberdeen House at Wedgewood South.  There will be music and presents and pancakes and love overflowing.  The Corsicana fruitcake that Alan and Bryce ordered online will be tucked into a Christmas gift sack.  Even though Mom has already enjoyed a few slices, she'll be thoroughly surprised and delighted when she opens it.  The good news is that if she opens it again in July, August, September, October, November, and December, this week's fruitcake will still be "fresh."

Who knows?  Some Christmas carolers may come by to serenade her with "Away in a Manger" in 3 part harmony.  It could happen.  It could be you.  Fun times. 

Here's a shout-out to Joel Allard in San Antonio, TX:  
Hey, Joel!  Thanks so much for sharing your gingerbread pancake recipe with Southern Living magazine! Your pancakes have graced our Christmas morning breakfast table for yeeeeeears.  I think of you fondly as I slather a steaming stack with butter and watch the golden brown cascade of orange marmalade syrup trickle down over the layers onto my plate.  Dem's good pancakes!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hey There, Jody


Meems and "Jody"
Something surprising occurred last week.  Meems lost Kelly.  Kelly is no longer.

Kelly - granddaughter, niece, and daughter of my sister, Kathy - has visited Meems on average once a week since moving to Lubbock two years ago.

Meems' dimming mind "tagged" her with the words "Kelly," "granddaughter," "nursing school," and "nurses make good money."

Over time the progression of losing Kelly went something like this:

"When do you graduate from nursing school?"

"September of 2017, Mimi!"
..........

"When do you graduate from nursing school?"

"In September of this year, Mimi!"
..........

"When do you graduate from nursing school?"

"In September, Mimi!"
..........

"Are you my nurse?"

"No, Mimi, I'm your granddaughter, Kelly."
..........

Then, last week:

"Mom, do you know who this pretty girl is?"

She slowly raised her head off of her chest and gave Kelly a prolonged thoughtful look.

"Jody?"

"No, Mimi.  I'm Kelly, your granddaughter."

"Kelly?"

"Yes, Mom.  That's Kathy's daughter, Kelly.  She's your granddaughter."

"Oh."

A few minutes later:

"Mimi, do you remember my name?"

"Jody."

Since then, it's been Jody.  Mom remembers me.  She remembers my son, Bryce.  She remembers my husband, Alan.  But, she has lost her beloved granddaughter.  In exchange, she gained a new friend.  Jody.  We're just goin' with it.

Jody.  Jody.  Jody.




Friday, June 16, 2017

What It Is Is

A year ago at the Naturalizer Store buying
$30 shoes.  They cost way more than that, 
but, I knew that she'd enjoy it more if they
were all on "sale."  She bought 3 pairs.
After the outpouring to love from my blog and fb friends, I realized that I need to explain Meems' situation a bit further.  

What it is is that she is not on the verge of dying.  End of life care for elderly people is quite common. Also, it is a bit different than for those who have a fatal diagnosis.  Mom qualified for Hospice because she has vascular dementia.  Without that, she would not have qualified.  "Failure to thrive" is no longer accepted by Medicare as a diagnosis to qualify for Hospice.

Yesterday.  Helen Van Winkle.
The intense leg pain, weight loss, and extreme sleepiness are what prompted me to reach out for help.  Trips to the doctor or ER are really tiring for her.  I knew that if I took her to the ER there was a good chance that she would have been admitted to the hospital due to her impaired mental capacity.  During Meems' last ER visit which resulted in a week-long hospital stay, a nurse mentioned to me that doctors don't like to release elderly patients who can't wake up nor those who fret about not wanting to get pregnant.  Meems checked both of those boxes during her stay.

This seems to be a common problem with people taking care of aging parents.  To ER, or not to ER.  Oh, the stories we could share.

While Missy Meems is, indeed, receiving "end of life" care, she is not actively dying.  "Actively dying."  I made that up.  It's a descriptive oxymoron.  She does not have diabetes or heart problems or any of the many diseases that plague her peers.  Hip pain, weight loss, and sleepiness are not fatal diagnoses.  She has definitely gone "downhill" over the past couple of weeks.  She will either rally, or she won't. 

One of the Hospice people told me that they cared for one elderly lady for seven years.  Meems only needs care until she gets her picture on the Smuckers jar.  Nine good years.  Nine sweet, egg-eatin' years.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Man Who Was, and Then He Wasn't

Yesterday was an emotional day for me.  Ninety-one-year-old Meems has been experiencing pain in her legs and hips.  She's been sleeping deeply for the past 4 or 5 days with occasional wakeful moments.  She's lost 8 pounds in 2 weeks.  And then, a few days ago she STOPPED EATING EGGS.  When my little mother stops ordering 2 eggs "over easy" for breakfast every morning, great change is a-brewing.  We Kinzbachs are lovers of eggs - boiled, scrambled, poached, and most definitely "over easy."

But, that pain though.

After a tearful conversation with Shirley, our doctor's right-hand woman, Hospice care seemed to be the logical choice.  Think of Hospice care like little angels hovering over a waning human sprinkling peace and comfort upon his or her head.  While Meems' plan is to live to be 100 years old so that she can see her picture on a Smucker's jar, my plan is that she will get there in a pain-free, bedsore-free, egg eatin' manner.  I want it to RAIN peace and comfort all UP in he-yah.

There was a man in the Old Testament named Enoch.  He was the great-great-great-great-grandson of good old Adam and Eve.  I can never remember his name.  I refer to him as the-man-who-was-and-then-he-wasn't.  Even Siri can't remember his name.  

Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more because God took him away.  Gen 5:22

That's the man I'm talkin' about.  He lived a full, LONG life.  Then, poof he was gone.

That's exactly what I want for my little mother.  A quiet, simple, joyful journey.  No hospital.  No rehab.  No IVs.  No catheters.  She will simply sleep.  She will be.  And, then she won't.

Her eyes now slowly, partially open like sluggish turtle eyes.  This morning, when she roused enough to get a good look at me, she smiled weakly and softly murmured, "Carolyn."  I thought about the joy I felt the first time each of my sons was able to say, "Mama."  There's something about being called by name - verification, acknowledgment, a meeting of the minds.  I "see" you.  (So, so sorry that I can never remember yours.  I love you, AND I can't think of your name.)  

Meems has rallied from her death bed 4 times since she moved to Lubbock in 2010.  Alan has made his "she's lived a long full life you don't want her to hurt" speech 4 times.  During each episode, I've cried like Ricky Shroeder in The Champ.  Brain surgery, a mastectomy, a badly broken hip, and pneumonia have all been unable to take her down.  She's a tough lady.

So many of you, dear friends, have traveled this road before me.  Some of you are still fresh in your grief.  A familiar song.  The smell of hot pancakes.  A Murder She Wrote rerun.  Your tears are at the ready in the corners of your eyes.  Somehow knowing that you're familiar with this journey brings me comfort.  I can't see you, yet I know that you are with me.

All is well for now.  I'm just thinking of Hospice as really good home health care.  I try not to let words like "palliative" and "comfortable" get me distressed or distracted.  

She will be.  And, then she won't.  Angels and men rejoice.




Visitation

Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...