Happy Mother’s Day… Two Weeks Late. Whatever.

Me & Mom
Me & Mom

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. It’ll be two weeks this Sunday. I think. OK, so I’m totally late to the game here. I wanted to write about it; but for me, the day was just another day. Sort of. It was my first Mother’s Day. It was my Mother’s 37th Mother’s Day. She was probably aware of maybe 30 Mother’s Days, give or take …………………………………………… who knows. It’s hard to say. Still, for a long time, Mother’s Day hasn’t meant that much to me.

(if your mother had no idea what day it is, you too might find it really hard to go all out on her behalf; I mean, at that point, it’s more about you, not about her. It feels cheap, even forced. At least that’s how it felt to me.)

After my mom started forgetting things like Mother’s Day, I stopped paying attention to the day. Besides being hurtful, the day is over the top and absurd. I mean, let’s be honest here, if you are so inclined to thank your mother because it’s Mother’s Day, you’re a) thanking your mother for doing her job. b) it’s a little self-congratulatory; moms you signed up for this; and c) maybe you should start thanking your mother on a daily basis.

By the way, C is free advice.

That said, I suppose this Mother’s Day was different. I’m now someone’s mother. I received my first Mother’s Day cards. People reached out to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. Still, it was all very foreign to me. And yet, despite the lovely sentiments, I managed to remain mostly indifferent about it. OK, I managed to ignore (or rather, avoid) the day (and what it means) to the best of my abilities. I didn’t want to feel anything. Because maybe if I actually felt something, if I let the day mean something to me, it would have been a betrayal……………………………………… to my own mother.

I think next year will be different. Two weeks ago, it was just too much to process. Too much to take in. Just another reminder of the past; the horrible, horrifying past.

You see, when I sit down and think about the last ten years and process the loss, the sadness, the disappointments, the grief, the frustrations, the letdowns …………………………………………… to inhale that kind of pain…………………………… I think few people get it. Watching your mother endure this kind of agony, watching your mother pound on glass inside a looney bin………… witnessing horror after horror………………………………… this endless agony, it does something to you; it alters your DNA.

 

Sometimes, the Sharpie is Mightier than the Sword … A Caregiver’s Sidekick

Purple Sharpie…. for added whimsy

The days are finally cooling off following a blistering summer, and now it’s time to get mom ready for the chillier a.m. temps. Another blanket…. it’ll probably get lost, like they always do…….. still, I label — like an obsessed madwoman, I label everything, leaving little room for mix-ups, even though mix-ups occur and often. I have decided that it might be a good idea to invest in Sharpie stock………………. if you have a loved one in a nursing or assisted living home, you know what I mean. I can’t tell you how many Sharpies I’ve gone through, labeling my mother’s clothes, only to see them on the back of another resident. It happens. Just let it go. Keep on labeling. Indeed, it’s what we do. Yes, it’s just one intsy-wintsy aspect of what we do, but, truly, spend 30 minutes Sharpie-ing clothes, blankets, shoes and you’ll quickly realize, that’s 30 minutes of your life — wasted……………………………. plus the unintended high (or headache) from inhaling Sharpie fumes. I have lots of Sharpies. Frankly, I think the Alzheimer’s Association should sell purple Sharpies since we all need Sharpies…………. what a great way to raise money — I mean, they would make such fantastic stocking stuffers…………… and with the increased number of people set to develop the disease, well, Sharpies are certainly going to be in demand. Sharpie probably has no idea how valuable their product is to caregivers……………………. and really, they ought to donated $$$$ to the Alzheimer’s Association and/or other organizations around the globe that are committed to finding an effective treatment……………….after all, we’re a unique segment of Sharpie’s business, help a sister out!

When I buy a Sharpie, I buy it for color — will it show up on her clothes or a thick blanket? — and girth. I like thicker Sharpies. They get the job done more efficiently as you can see by the above photograph, plus it holds up when washed repeatedly. Of course, when I’m feeling fabulous, I opt for silver……………….. unfortunately, it doesn’t always show up so well, nor does it hold up following multiple washings, but it just feels magical. I know what your thinking, but hush. It’s my silver lining. Let’s face it, there is no happy ending at the end of this grim fairy tale, no light at the end of the tunnel…………………………. nothing……………………. but this grotesque disease……………. and if all it takes is a silver Sharpie to please me, so be it.

And besides, our days our numbered. My mom has a chest cold with a mucousy cough……….. I don’t know if it’ll get worse.

What I do know is that nature will take its course………………………. her maker will decide what happens next.

Falling Down Sick or The End. Maybe. Finally? Maybe.

My mom fell. Hard. On her face. She was trying to get out of bed. She seemed OK. Shaken, but OK. I walked in the door as they were calling me to tell me about the fall. I stayed for dinner. She had a slight fever…………. could be from the fall; could be something else. She had seriously declined over the last month or so………… I fed her soup, gave her sips of water…………… I was worried she was dehydrated. I kept giving her water. I gave her too much. She threw-up. The med-tech said it could be the fall………….. a head injury. We should go to the ER. I hate the ER. Staff are just not equipped to deal with severely demented patients……………..  and it’s incredibly traumatic for the demented individual………………… Still, I knew the nurse was right. We needed to go. So we went. It was around 5:30 p.m.

I decided on the way that if there was serious brain trauma, I was going to let nature take its course. I would call hospice and make her comfortable. I wanted no extraordinary measures taken………………….. my mother has a lousy quality of life. She can no longer speak. She lost her two words: “Despierta America” and “la fruta.” Instead she yells out. She can’t walk. When she’s not sleeping, she just stares at nothing. Her food is pureed like baby food. She can’t bathe herself. She wears diapers. She needs a caretaker to physically change her position so she doesn’t get a sore.

Something is very wrong with our definition of “life.”

A cat-scan revealed nothing……………….. good news. An x-ray of her lungs revealed pneumonia. Pneumonia is a killer. And it’s a blessing in disguise (depending on your definition of life). I had a choice. I could admit her and begin a course of intravenous antibiotics…………….. or not. They would send her home with a script. It was 11 p.m. I was tired. So we left with a script. I regretted it. I wanted to tell them to stop. I didn’t know what to do…………………… I don’t sign death warrants for a living. It was just me and I had to make a choice……………… I don’t know………………. I should have said no. I wish I had declined the script.

I prolonged her suffering.

What did I do?

Around 2 p.m. the next day, I drove to her church and waited to talk to her priest. I wanted to discuss last-rites……….. and I wanted to talk about the antibiotics. I hashed it out with friends, with my boyfriend……………. the thing is, no one can tell you what to do in this kind of situation……………. they can’t. It’s literally a life or death conversation and only you can make the final call. Sure, they’ll listen; they’ll tell you that you’re doing the right thing………………… they’ll say, I can’t even imagine. I hate that.

I can’t even imagine. Now that’s just a shitty thing to say. But I know what you mean, so it’s OK.

I decided to finish the antibiotics, wait and see. If there was a reoccurrence, I would let nature take its course.

A few weeks have passed and while she’s kicked the pneumonia, she’s not exactly eating. We’re talking about a woman who was ravenous………… she was the person who ate her meal plus her neighbor’s meal…………….. Now she only eats a few bites and drinks a few sips……………….. Hospice was called to assess.

The nurse looked at her, looked at me and said she qualifies.

He gave me a hug and left.

Is she dying?

My mother is not “actively” dying. She’s dying………………. but not actively…………. nor is she “pre-dying.” Dying is a process………… like birthing a baby………………. and it happens in stages. They should really provide you with a scale like they do with your cervix………………. I’m guessing here, but I’d say we’re about 2-3cm dilated.

Welcome to Purgatory.

I am ready to let my mom go. I don’t know how much longer I can keep going………………………. I’m tired. She’s tired. Maybe she and I are feeling the very same thing………. we just want this to be over with. I think she knows. Sometimes, she’ll look at me and her eyes will be crystal clear…………… like she knows she’s trapped in a broken-down body…………….. her mind, mostly mush, except for that one part that says, Hey, what the fuck is wrong, why can’t you understand me….. save me…. help me…… please help me.

THAT THOUGHT wakes me up in the middle of the night. Like wake-up sweaty, stressed-out and with a headache to boot.

Thank you Costco for bulk Advil.

So where are we? I don’t know. Limbo, I guess. I am trying to make arrangements. I picked out an urn. I’m 35 and I picked out an urn………………… and then I thought about what should I wear to the funeral. I know. But it crossed my mind. She’s not even dead yet and that popped into my head. You can laugh if you want. Or you can judge me. I don’t really care.  I am too tired to care.

Dying or End Stage…………… it’s like opening up a can of maggots.

It’s that shitty.

But it will get better.

>>Flickr photo by archangel_raphael

I Look Like Her

I do not look like my mother.

But ask anyone else and they would disagree with me. Oh my God! You look exactly like her, they say…. I’ve tried, but I have never seen my mother in the mirror……………….. And I have many mirrors. Truthfully, I’ve always fancied myself my father’s daughter……………… both in appearance and overall disposition. However, in recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that as far as disposition is concerned, I am neither parent.

I march to the beat of my own drummer………….. my temper is neither his nor his, maybe a blend of the two…………….. My coping mechanisms are much different. My approach to problems, vastly different. My view of the world…………….. different.

My sense of humor is neither his nor his……………. In fact, as sad is this may sound, I don’t recall either parent ever making me laugh out loud. I don’t remember much joking going on at all in our house. That might explain why I overcompensate in the humor department………………. I like to laugh, and I have a pretty loud laugh.

Just ask anyone who knows me.

Physically, I always thought I was my father. Big lips, brown hair……………….. wide feet.

It actually bothers me when people remind me that I look like my mom. I have no idea why, I almost find it irksome………….. I don’t look like her, I think to myself when people make the comparison…………… I can’t really explain where this contempt stems from, except to say that I’ve sort of always viewed my mother as weak. Fragile. Never one to take risks or follow her heart. Never one to pursue her dreams. She is dying now and I know that she never accomplished one of her goals……………………… She would always say, “I should have gotten my degree, so I could teach Spanish…” or “If I had started working on my degree when we lived in Iowa, I’d be done with it by now…” My mom had earned her college degree……………….. in Ecuador. She needed to take more classes in order to teach here in the U.S. She never realized that dream. I suppose there was always something…………………. isn’t that how life operates? There’s always something to keep you from doing what you want to do……………………. Instead of going to college, she taught privately at night to school teachers here in Phoenix who needed to learn Spanish and worked as a school secretary. I don’t think she was especially happy about her lot — she always seemed anxious or nervous; she was a hypochondriac. There was always something when it came to her health…………. maybe she knew all along that something was wrong……………….. nobody would have figured out, not until she was too far along to do anything (if anything were an option) about it.

I don’t know what my mother was like before she met my dad……………………. I have a photograph of her from when she lived in Louisiana (was she this world traveller? Is that where my itch to see the world came from?) and on the back she had written a note professing her love………………….. to another man. After living in Louisiana, she moved to New York City (like mother, like daughter I suppose) where she worked as a secretary. I have no idea why she went to Gotham………… all I know is that she lived in Corona………… a neighborhood in Queens that is still popular with the Ecuadorians. Someone in Corona probably knew my mother……………. what she was like, what she aspired to do and be………………….. my mother’s past is shrouded in mystery. I don’t even think my own dad knows that much about it……………………

I suppose it is because I don’t know her………… I don’t see the resemblance. We’ve always been different she and I…………… I often wondered if she thought she had done something wrong in raising me………………… why is she like that? 

It doesn’t matter because it doesn’t anymore.

Wishing Her Away

I started this blog to chronicle and share my experience with my mom and her disease… but the more I wrote, the more it forced me to examine my own relationship with my mom (and myself)—before she became my demented mom.

It’s easy to lose sight of the “before” when the present is always is so incredibly, in-your-face-front-and-center present… that probably explains my own memory loss when it comes to my mom… for whatever reason, I can’t fully remember what she was like before she became sick, before the disease stole her away… my memories are mostly feelings… of course, occasionally, somethings pulls me back in time and I catch a glimpse of our mother/daughter dynamic… that’s always weird and painful because you also see how you were…

Last Friday, we were sitting at my dad’s dining table looking at old pictures… Jon was snapping photos of my incredibly awkward stage and uploading them to Facebook… we were laughing and listening to dad share stories… stories about my grandpa and how he was offered a 2nd Lieutenant position because he could speak Italian… I told my dad that after this last trip to Italy, I decided I was going to take Italian at the community college, I suggested he join me…

………………………………and then I remembered Independence Day… the movie.

I think it was 1996. ID4 was a big deal, I could hardly wait to see it. My dad wanted to see it too. My mother was never into “scary” movies; not 10 minutes into it, she stormed out of Saving Private Ryan—dad was pissed. This summer was different. My mom was going to Ecuador for a month or two. I don’t remember if I was going to meet up with her later (we traveled separately for two reasons: 1- she would stay longer than I would and 2- she stressed me out when we flew—turbulence for my mom meant the plane was going down). My cousin was getting married in Minnesota that August and I was in the wedding party; I was probably staying home, getting ready for the Minnesota trip and working at the local movie theatre.

I remember feeling happy that my mom was leaving, and that my dad and I would finally get to hang out—just the two of us. My mom and I never really had deep conversations from what I recall; I think maybe we were culturally divided to some extent… I was an American kid being raised by an Ecuadorian mother… our differences were stark. I couldn’t always relate to my mom, I’m sure she felt the same frustrations… how do I communicate with this foreign child of mine? My dad was different. My American father. More like me. But then again, my dad traveled a lot for work and he wasn’t always home… so maybe it was just having someone else to talk to… that, and I felt like I could talk to him on a different level… maybe deeper, or maybe it was as simple as wanting someone else to talk to

As an only child, I felt lonely a lot.

I guess I hadn’t settled into being OK with just me.

The morning of our movie date, my dad took my mother to the airport… that night we went out to eat and caught the movie. I remember telling him on the way home something about my mom… his response was something like, “she’s your mother…” I can’t remember what was said or what I said… I was 19. I think I just wanted my mom to get me, to understand me and that I was not like her in many ways.

I once had a therapist tell me that when it comes to mothering, there are different behaviors or something… there are mothers who are incredibly nurturing when the child is a baby or toddler; their ability to connect is deep; but when that child transitions into adulthood, something happens… a shift. A miscommunication. The mother doesn’t perhaps know how to mother an their adult child. I don’t really remember how she explained it, but that seemed to be our relationship… my mother was an incredibly warm and loving parent, very nurturing. She would do anything she could for me. Even when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, we would spend time together and go shopping—it was our thing, perhaps our way of communicating. But we never reached that “friendship…” stage… where you could talk and confide, share secrets, talk about life, it’s meaning, how to cope and deal with life, men, careers, life, family…. we were clearly mother and daughter. Very black and white. No crossing of lines… I don’t know, maybe that “friendship” or blurring of lines is what happens as you get older.

I wouldn’t know… I started losing my mom when I was 27 or 28.

Fast forward.

When I asked my dad to join me; it struck me as ironic that so long ago, I wished away my mother… and the god’s listened to me. They actually listened.

They took away my mother.

So there I was, 15 years later (almost one week away from the day), sitting at that dining table, looking at old photographs with a glass of wine, realizing what I had done.

I opened Pandora’s Box.

Flickr pic by Big Fat Rat

Squishes

It’s been a while since my last post. Sorry about that. New job and all… these blog posts are sometimes tough to write… not because it’s especially difficult to express myself, but rather because I feel like we’re in a bit of a lull. Nothing is really happening with my mother. She’s mostly the same. I see little changes… but for the most part, she’s not any worse… I suppose the biggest change, which I’m clearly used to—already—is her poop situation. She has more accidents than say a year ago… but, you know, what can we do? It is what it is. Funny how you just accept things. Deal with it. Cope as best as you can. No point in crying. It won’t remedy the situation. I’ll use diapers when we’re going out for long periods of time—or rather, I will try to diaper her. Not always easy. Especially when your own mother is stronger than you are.

Anyway, my point. Changes. Better. Worse. Happy. Sad. Not really…

Because of my mom’s type of dementia, she is never “lucid,” whatever that means… there are no moments of wonderful clarity where my mother returns to her old self……………. my guess is that when someone actually has a lucid moment it’s like walking out of a dense fog, only to walk back into it again as the moment passes………………… my mother doesn’t have those moments………. she never really did.

However, she did do something recently that was just precious, maybe that was a glimmer of lucidity—sorta, kinda……frontotemporal lucidity, maybe…. I should preface this story by saying that I love of cats. I absolutely adore them, especially my own two cats……. I grew up with cats. My mother was also a huge cat lover………… we could never say no to a poor, homeless cat—which would explain our collection of cats over the years………….

Jon, my boyfriend, was over at my parent’s house. He has only known my mother as she is today. Severely demented. As her disease has progressed, she has sort of forgotten that she loves cats…. it’s actually rather sad, because two of her cats still try to rub up against her legs or simply vie for her attention. Most times, she just gets annoyed with them…. or pushes them away…. or ignores them……… occasionally she’ll pet them, but she doesn’t seem to understand that they want her to love them… I will say, she remembers that she has to feed them, so I guess that’s still there. Well one evening before dinner, my mom was sitting in her chair when her cat, Emilio, came walking by. Emilio rubbed his head against her ankle and she actually picked him up, held him in her arms and gave him a big squish—or a hug. I, much to my cats horror, am a massive squisher… but when we squish, both my mother and I make a little noise… Jon smiled… “So that’s where you get that from….” He saw a piece of me in my mother. I had forgotten about that myself… I don’t know what qualities I have inherited from my mother….. sometimes I feel like my memories of her are lost in that same fog…. yet I have no lucid moments… sometimes I dream about her, but she’s demented in my dreams.

I have never dreamed about my mom before her disease….

Communion for the Demented. Maybe Not.

Too demented to receive Communion?

Possibly.

Last Sunday, I briefly chatted with our priest about Communion…. the holy rite that makes us Catholics, well Catholic. Or to be more precise, the fact that we believe the bread and wine actually transforms (transubstantiated) into the body and blood of the big J-C.

My mother used to be what they call, a Eucharistic Minister—she would give Communion to churchgoers and the sick. Now, she’s sick and no one comes to our house. I’ve called about this. I guess I could try harder. I’ve sort of given up on this… mostly because she still takes Communion on Sundays. The problem, however, is that she not only takes Communions, she holds up the line trying to talk (actually, she rambles—LA FRUTA, LA FRUTA, MI ESPOSO, DESPIERTA AMERICA) to her boyfriend the priest……………….. then, making matters slightly worse, she chugs the wine—and backwashes—and refuses to give back the chalice (so I have to yank it out of her hands)……………. she likes the blood of christ…. it’s Berringer, White Zin. Nice legs.

This has caused some commotion and so when I talked to our priest about this in hopes of making the process less loud and messy, he told me that we should start “weaning” her off Communion. Apparently, one of the prerequisites of receiving Holy Communion is that you understand what you are doing, that you are consuming the body and blood of Jesus Christ. She obviously doesn’t, and therefore should not receive the most sacred of rituals within our church.

This is frustrating. My mom LOVES to get her Communion—despite not having the most pure motives (she wants to chat up her priest and she likes wine)……………….. but is it really up to mortal men to decide whether she can consume the body and blood?

{Long siiiiiiiiiiiiggggggghhhhhh, eye roll}

Seriously. I mean, I don’t have the deepest connection to Our Father, but I think God will cut my mother some slack in this situation (Preemptive apology: I am very sorry Dear God that my mom chews your son up and then chugs his blood, often spilling it on herself), especially since he is the one who made my mom sick—if you believe “that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything.”

Some quick Google searches on the subject, and the reviews are mixed.

One person on a message board called it “inappropriate,” another said that if the individual knows that the host is “special,” which I think my mom does, then it’s OK.

For me, I want her to have Communion because my mom was (and still is in her own way) one the most devout women I’ve ever encountered. I used to think her love for God was stronger than her love for me…………………..

So, for me, as her only daughter (who tried to get ex-communicated to avoid going to catechism class—it didn’t work—and now recites the prayers in Spanish so she can follow along with me—I intend to de-raise a good Catholic mother), all I want is for her to be able to receive the body and blood as she’s always done. I won’t fight the Church on the matter and I suppose we’ll see how things go……….. he wants to slowly limit her by just giving her the host (no wine)………………….

Holy Communion gives her joy and she’s often said that it makes her feel better……………………. the placebo effect of Christ.


Alzheimer’s by the Numbers… You Seriously Should Watch This Or Time to Pay the Piper

Mater, Mommy, Ma, Ama, Madre, Mueter, Em, Mami, Ummi, Mamma… My Mom



My Demented Mom in Pictures

A Hug & A Rag… or Another Behavior

I love my mom. Might be hard to understand the range of emotions that go along with this disease—love, hate, contempt, resentment, humor, respect, disgust, horror, sadness, grief, sympathy, compassion—a roller coaster to say the least.

That’s why I blog.

I write so I can hopefully look back one day and make some sense of it all because this—this situation—is not how our lives were supposed to play out. Watching your mom deteriorate in such an inhumane way is not normal…………………………………. of course, there are moments…… sweet, touching moments where I’m really taken aback by who she is, what she’s become and how at her very core, she’s still such a lovely person. This disease does something to the brain—it strips it of all our masks. You’re no longer playing roles, pretending to be a character in the play of life—you are raw, grotesque, and what you see is what you get to the very core. Your essence is revealed and there’s no covering it up. No more hiding. You have no control. So while, I may think about the day my mom dies, I also think about how long it will take me to recover from her passing. You see, I will miss my mom. My mom’s sweet. She’s kind. She wants to be in the middle of everything………… mixing and mingling……………….the hostess…….. I saw a glimmer of her heart just the other Sunday.

A good thing because it’s so easy to lose sight of the positive.

Our neighbor came over and while I had no idea who she was, my mom immediately went over and kissed her…. “Hola, I luf you. I don’t speak English (in English), but I luf you, you’re so beautiful.” I was touched. I almost cried. Her genuine emotion and joy at seeing this woman was truly remarkable. Pure sweetness. Pure heart. You don’t see that sort of honesty in life anymore…….. and then I understand where I get my own lovey-dovey ways with those close to me. I am my mother’s daughter.

But with dementia, there’s the flip side……… and then there’s the rag……… a new behavior, actually. Here’s where I go from tender thoughts….. to having to walk away. My mom, in her usual TMI sort of way, told me that she had to pee (she does this by touching herself)… I scooted her along to the bathroom and then she opened a drawer to pull out a washcloth……….. confusion. What is she doing with that? She tells me in a mix of Spanish and words that make no sense unless you speak fluent dementia like myself that she’s using it to wipe herself.

“She uses that now to wipe,” said my dad who was sitting on the edge of the bed. “I don’t know when it started, but now I have to take it and wash it… she gets bent out of shape when I take them away.”

“She’s never done that before,” I said.

“Yeah, well she never used to do a lot of things….” he replied.

He looks exhausted.

She wipes herself with a washcloth and puts it back………………. I had to walk away. There’s always something with her, with this disease…………………. where she goes from incredibly sweet to vividly grotesque in an instant.

I don’t understand how her mind works. She doesn’t know my name, but she knows where I came from—she points to her belly and tells me that I came out of her.

I guess childbirth is the kind of pain that really does stick with you despite the mess of plaques and tangles and whatever else is gnawing at her cortex.

I don’t know. I really don’t know what to make of it all at the end of the day. This blog is a record of my experience and these are the moments that I see and capture…………………… my words are like a camera.

I don’t want to remember my mom as the woman who wipes with washcloth, so I try to temper it with her sweetness, her heart……. she’s there……..

Margarita Ritchie. Mom. Wife. Sister. Aunt. Cousin. Daughter. I think of her mother……. my grandmother…….. and I often wonder if she’s in heaven crying for her baby girl…………. just trying to reach out and hold her from beyond…. to comfort her daughter; to let her know that she’s safe and nothing can hurt her.

When I go deep into that place. I cry.

My heart bleeds for her.


Bad Thoughts. By a Bad Daughter

My Demented Mom

I’m going say what you’re not supposed to say……………………………………

I’m counting down the years until my mom dies…………………….

Let’s see. It’s been about about 5 years since I first noticed something was horribly wrong. 4 years since her “official” diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease…. which turned out to be Vascular Dementia, or maybe it’s both—mixed dementia No one really knows. Most of her doctors don’t really seem to care, it seems. Probably have another 4 or 5 to go based on what I’ve read and the stage she seems to be at. Yeah, I can deal with 5 years.

6 might send me over the edge.

But 5 is a pill I can swallow.

4 would be a blessing.

3… there is a God.

2… there is a God who likes me.

That is my inside voice convincing me that it’s OK….. that I will be OK….. that I can cope with this and keep on going. You see, there will be a time when “normal” returns and the hurt and frustration that I feel almost daily will come to an end.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be very far off, but it’s there.

KATs BRAIN…….. Welcome. That is how I rationalize this ordeal….. and now that you understand that, that I am merely trying to protect me from everything going on around me, you might not think me so foul a daughter……………………..

………………………………that if you were in my position, you might pray for her death.

(Or you could say I should embrace each moment and step into her shoes, into her world, whilst at the same time smiling and dancing with her as she tumbles down the demented rabbit hole. Ah, the simple joys of dementia.)

Alas, I am a realist. And I see firsthand the toll her disease has on the people around her. Her disease is devastating. I not only worry about my dad’s stress level, his physical health and mental deterioration, but I wonder how much her dementia impacts me…. subtly, chipping away at me.

Here’s what I know…. I am in a constant state of worry. I just worry. I can’t help it, nor can I stop it. I worry about her. I worry about dad. I worry about my cats. I worry. I worry every time I plan a vacation that my plane will crash and my dad will not be able to cope with mom alone. I worry that I will be killed on the way to work, again leaving dad alone to deal. I worry that I’ll develop cancer at 33, only to die (again) and leave dad to fly solo, with mom constantly calling my ghost……….. This number has been disconnected.

Hola, mijita Kathy. I luf you, yo so tu papi. Tu eres mi esposo. Tu saliste de mi. Que dios te bendiga.

To not worry is to be outside of my comfort zone.

So, yes. I do sometimes find myself asking God to take my mother to heaven. To free us of this woman who is neither my mom, nor my dad’s wife. She looks like the woman we once knew………………………….. but Margarita is not there.

She is being eaten alive from within by a parasite so insidious, so nefarious, it doesn’t just take out its host, it takes out entire families.

>>Flickr image from Pareeerica

Demented Shoe Shopping or Dying Alone With Bon Jovi


My mother had me late in life. She was 40. My father was 30. I can’t imagine being a parent at 30; I can’t imagine being a parent now at 33—although in some ways, I am, but not really. It’s weird. Most of my rearing was done by my mother. She was the strict one. My dad, on the other hand, was gone during the week on business. Of course, me being his only daughter, allowed for some leeway, shall we say, unless the situation warranted yelling, like when I crashed his car—more than once.

I don’t have many memories of my mom. Our relationship was never exceptional. We went shopping a lot. Our bonding took place in Z, L or U-shaped malls. We would spend hours walking around, perusing major department stores in search of I don’t know what, nor can I remember what. I can’t recall a single conversation that we might have had. I can’t even remember what she sounded like when she spoke English.

“That looks nice on you….”

That sounds strange.

Last Thursday, my therapist asked me to tell her about my early relationship with my mom. I didn’t understand the question. You mean, like what we talked about or what we did? We went to the mall and shopped.

Did you enjoy that or was it for her?

I think I enjoyed it. I like shopping.

What came out of that back and forth was that my mom, in all likelihood never really understood me, nor I her. She raised me as she saw fit. A good Catholic girl. To that end, she never really took the time to know why I didn’t want to attend catechism classes or participate in a particular activity. She did what she thought was best, while in the process never giving me much of an opportunity to develop on my own—to formulate certain opinions (might explain my need to constantly apologize or in some cases, wait to see what other people think before sharing my views), to express myself as most pre-teens or tweens or whatever that age group is called with fashion, hair or even music (my friend natalie’s favorite memory of my mom is the one where she cut out the skull where my idol Axl Rose’s hand was resting… my second  attempt to cut the cord; my first attempt to just be me involved a Bon Jovi tape a few years earlier—my mom made me destroy it after she heard the word “devil” in one of the songs…. this could be construed as a slight Fuck You, but I occasionally listen to “Blaze of Glory” in my car…. bad, bad ass). I was never rebellious. I never sassed off—OK, maybe a handful of times…. oh, I did throw a plastic chair in the pool during a fit of depression/anger. I went to my room to cool off. Then I cried. I never stayed out late. My mother told me that sex was only good for the man, so I never dated (let alone put out) in high school, preferring instead to stay home and watch the X-Files on a Friday night. The idea of kissing a boy actually horrified me. My poor prom date had to practically force a kiss out of me—actually, he held something of mine for ransom in his trunk. I was coerced.

So here I am today. Afraid of dying alone, and childless to boot. I am scared of being abandoned, of having no close family to speak of to support me and invite me over for those smaller holidays like Flag Day. My dad’s family lives in Minnesota and my mom’s live mostly in Ecuador…….. and even at those occasional reunions, I just don’t feel like I fit in. I want to fit in. I want to belong to something bigger than myself. I suppose I long for a life that isn’t my life;”longing” that’s my shrink’s word…. but I suppose it’s accurate. I long for a traditional family. I long for laughter and family gatherings. I long and crave understanding. A mother who gets me. A mother who appreciates my peccadilloes. A mom who can openly talk to me about life, love and all that stuff that I envision mothers and daughters talk about. I long for something that does not exist, nor will it ever exist. It’s a fantasy that I’ve held on to and I am working on letting go—at $40 a pop. My new mantra, I’m OK and will be OK and this is my reality.

I don’t hate my mom. I know she raised me with so much love and for that I’m lucky and blessed. Certainly, some days I feel conflicted. Here I am raising her… trying to allow her to be who she wants to be and to not force what is PC on her because it makes some stranger more comfortable with her disease. I have no idea if I’m doing a very good job. Ironically, I take her shopping. I take her to Target and to Payless. We’re shoe shopping. I just wish she would wear a pair of Uggs! So easy! We walk around and she spits on the floor. She’s not as patient, but it’s all we have left.

>>Photo from by Rocket Ship | Flickr

TMI? Not In My World…

Mother’s Day has come and gone. It wasn’t really that big a deal. The only thing that bugs me now is when people insist on wishing—and repeating over and over—her a Happy Mother’s Day. People: She does not know it’s Mother’s Day. She doesn’t care. I don’t care anymore. She does not understand you. She is more concerned about the priest. NOT YOU. Not your attempt to treat her like a normal, healthy person. Please stop imposing YOUR need to be comfortable on her. On us.

We went to church. A typical Sunday. She spit on the floor—at one point, I actually caught her spit before she was able to hack another one. Oh mom. Those moments are when I really feel like her parental unit—able to react before she does something inappropriate or if she simply needs something. It doesn’t really bother me anymore.

Maybe I’m just numb to things…maybe I just don’t care because it is what it is and there’s not a thing I can do about it.

TMI or “Too Much Information,” doesn’t carry much weight in my world. My mom touches herself when she has to go to the bathroom like a child…. it’s my cue to hurry her off to the loo before she has an accident. She tells me when she has to poop…. again, my cue to rush her of bathroom. She uses childish words like, “caca.”

It’s funny, but not really.

She throws her food on the floor to feed the begging cat. I ask her to eat her own food and to please not share with the fat cat. She ignores me and laughs. She misbehaves. She laughs at her own reflection, and then proceeds to cry like a little girl. I ask, “what’s so funny? Are you funny? You’re not that funny.”

I don’t understand TMI. On my personal Facebook page the other day, I posted something about pooping—most people responded with, “TMI.” Huh? TMI?

My mother’s life is made up of a random series of TMI moments strung together.

TMI?  Are YOU uncomfortable? Why are YOU uncomfortable? What does it feel like?

I will not stop her from telling me when she has to go “caca”—what? The woman has to take a poop and I don’t need an accident. She spits. Fine. She pees with the door open—even in public (yes, I hold the door closed). Whatever.

TMI? Please. With this disease, there’s no such thing as TMI.

SMITH Magazine Interview: Jeannette Montgomery-Barron

An excerpt from my latest interview, which appeared on SMITH……………

It was two Sundays ago when I showed my mother Jeannette Montgomery-Barron’s new book, My Mother’s Clothes. Thing is, I wasn’t talking to her about my latest freelance gig; I was actually trying to distract her—in church. It wasn’t working. I know, you don’t get it. You don’t get the fact that my reading Jeannette’s book to my own mom was tragically ironic.

Or maybe it was just sad. Possibly humorous. I’m not really sure.

Funny and sad are intertwined, and “happy” is a word I reserve for special occasions, like “love.”

Turning the pages, I read to her out-loud and pointed to each beautifully shot photograph.

“Pants. Pantalones.”
“Blouse. Blusa.”
“Shoe. Zapatos.”
“Purse. Cartera”

Then somewhere in the mix, as often happens, I became the mother and she became the child.

And so the common thread emerges.

Montgomery-Barron’s book is a memoir and a poignant tribute to her own mother, who passed away in 2007 from Alzheimer’s disease. My mom is living somewhere in the murky, muddled middle stages of vascular dementia—one of the many diseases that fall under the umbrella that is dementia—Alzheimer’s being the most common, with some five million Americans living with the disorder.

Check out the rest of this interview and/or share it with your peeps.