Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Friday, December 30, 2005


I called my mom a little while ago to see how the last few days had gone for her. She was supposed to call me two days ago and hadn't, so I assumed she'd been really busy and was tired. I was right.

Wednesday they went up to the hospital to meet with the surgeon they'd been referred to to do my grandmother's bypass surgery. Apparently, usually when a bypass operation is done, the patient's heart is stopped, they are attached to a heart/lung machine, and then after the surgery is over their heart is restarted. But this kind of thing can speed up the negative effects of the Alzheimer's. So in my grandma's case the cardiologist referred them to a surgeon who does a different kind of method of maintaining the heart during surgery. He's used it since 1996 and has done thousands of patients since then. And it appears he is the only one in the state who will do it. It seems like the optimal situation for her. Still they weren't able to work her in until Feb. 2. If she doesn't have the surgery, they say she has at most 2 years. If she does have the surgery, she could live another 10 years.

Meanwhile, on Thursday my parents and my aunts and uncles were called to the nursing home for a family meeting regarding my grandfather. He has been falling almost daily because his legs are so weak. Also, they are having a difficult time with him at night. He roams around and enters women's rooms, undresses and gets into bed with them. My dad and his sisters were shocked because this is so out of character for him. They are starting to realize that this is no longer my grandfather we're dealing with. I think the person who used to be my grandpa is gone. He seems to be existing purely on animal instinct. They have moved him into the most secure wing of the facility and he is with the "worst" cases. It is such a fine line between protecting him and others and imposing on his rights. They have to realize that he isn't the same person anymore. I think they are starting him on some medication that they say will diminish his sexual urges. He doesn't know what he is doing.

I am just so struck by the lack of dignity of this phase of his life. It is sad and embarrassing and my father is crushed that this is what has become of his parents. I believe Alzheimer's is a fate worse than death.

My mom advised me that I shouldn't take the kids to see him because it is so disturbing there and she even suggested I probably shouldn't go. He won't know me anyway. He doesn't seem to know even the closest family members anymore.

All I can do is say a prayer for the Poppaw I remember and for my own father who is probably going through one of the most difficult times in his own life.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Polar Express

Last night we decided to PPV a movie so we ordered Polar Express. I hadn't seen the movie. Heck, as an elementary teacher it is embarrassing for me to admit I hadn't even read the book (yet - it's on my list). Anyway, I figured it was overhyped. I mean, my impression of the book was that it was just a bunch of pretty pictures without much story. I do admit that Chris van Allsburg is a very talented artist. Well, as for the movie, I stand humbly corrected. This is one of the most amazing holiday movies I've ever seen. The computer animation is unlike any other movie. Period. It looks so real that I had to keep reminding myself that these were not actors, but animated drawings. Absolutely beautiful. And the story was incredible too (more on that in a minute). Anyway, I think we are going to have to buy the DVD of this movie before next Christmas.

The main idea of the movie is that the young boy who is the main character is a Doubter. You know what I mean - he doubts the existence of Santa Claus. He seems to be collecting evidence to support his refusal to believe. But at 5 minutes to midnight on Christmas Eve, the Polar Express shows up at his house to give him a ride to the North Pole to meet the big guy himself. Well, as the movie progresses and he repeatedly experiences the magic of Christmas, he still refuses to believe. As Tom Hanks, the conductor says, "Seeing is believing." At the climax of the movie when he gets to the North Pole, he is unable to hear the tinkling of the jingle bells that everyone else seems to hear and the elves block his view of Santa. He lacks ears to hear and eyes to see - to borrow another reference to belief. Finally, he *chooses* to believe and he hears the bells and he meets Santa face to face. Santa grants him the first gift of Christmas - one of the jingle bells to remind him of his choice to believe.

Of course, my boys loved the Christmasy-ness of the movie and, I'm sure, didn't get the other references I did. I was in tears when the boy chose to believe and all was made apparent to him. I was the same way when I was struggling to believe in God. Once I chose to believe, I could hear Him speaking to me and I realized He'd been there all along - I just hadn't had eyes to see and ears to hear. And even now when those around me can't hear the jinging of the bells, I can hear and I believe. Thank God and Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Difficult Fall

I haven't posted in a couple of months now. I have just been in a funk for most of the season. I don't really know what the problem is. I have been praying daily just to get through the day and feel like I've been hanging on by my fingertips. I'm hoping that with the resurrection of the new year, I'll find and feel a new inspiration.

In addition to dealing with the stress of working full-time and shuttling kids here and there, I've also been worried about my grandparents. My dad's parents are 78 and have been showing signs of declining mental (and physical) health. A couple of weeks ago, my dad and his sisters finally had my grandfather put into a nursing home. He seems confused most of the time and doesn't know what is going on or who anyone is. He no longer speaks because he's forgotten the words. Meanwhile, my grandmother calls my dad 6-8 times a day to ask the same question because she forgets she's already asked it. And they've found two blockages in her main arteries - 70% and 75%. She is going through with the bypass even though it is risky at her age. Plus we've been told that the Alzheimer's will most likely increase after the operation. I worry about my own dad because of the stress this puts him under. His own parents have become like children and he is their main caretaker since one of his sisters is facing her own battles with cancer that isn't responding to chemo and his other sister has other life challenges. It really is true that when it rains, it pours.

And our finances have had me worried too, but that's nothing new. Maybe one of these days I'll be in a position to stop worrying about money. That day is a long way off though.

I mention all these woes only as a means of releasing them into the universe. I want to get rid of them before the start of the new year. Next year will be better and I will be more balanced and at peace. That is my resolution.