First Relationships

“each child has their own special”…….

and she doesn’t finish but retreats back into herself


Right now I’m  watching  Mom , sleeping in her chair.   I honestly wonder more about her life now than I ever have.   Her life before me I mean.  The parts she never filled me in on.  I look at the pictures and I want to know the story behind them.

Was that your own chicken you are holding?

Is that your cat?

That baby picture obviously you are at your farm and is that your baby buggy in the background?


You look so happy riding your bike mom, where is that?

mom riding her bike

I wish I knew more and had asked more questions over the years, about the pictures and the stories behind them.   She always had such funny and interesting stories to tell  about her growing up years,  but now watching her sleep I wonder about so many different parts of her life.


 Did I hear enough? 

Did I ask enough questions? 

Will I be able to share some of her stories? 

Is anyone going to be interested in her stories?

It would be so nice to hear some of those stories again.

I am thinking about all of the relationships  she has had in her 90 years.  I want to recall for her sake.

Now that she is unable to recall  very accurately to tell me more, is when I feel the need to want to know more.  I often times will still ask about a picture or an old relative and she will respond with confidence and sadly I question if that is accurate recall.  But then

….does that matter?


Our “first relationships” to develop are with our parents and siblings.  What were those relationships like for mom, I know the basic answers but not the details.  I do look at old photos and try to piece together the things she has told me.

Mom always spoke lovingly about her own dad with the utmost respect and admiration. He was a “kind and gentle giant” .  But, when he spoke, you listened. Even when he didn’t speak you listened!


moms parents


“He had a way of looking at you that you knew not to say another word.”

“All he had to say when we were sitting at the table is one word…  “Bud”,

or whomever,  in his stern voice.  Bud would stop what he was doing right away, and there was no discussion of what he wanted Bud to stop doing.

Moms Mom,  was very sweet, to everyone, always.  Welcoming  to all (parents in a future post)



Mom  adored her siblings. (siblings in a future post) 

“They always made me feel special”

 referring to  her parents and siblings. She knew she was loved.  Mom  was the “surprise”, and ten years younger than Uncle Bud.  img_1404

“There was always family around, I was never lonely”


The firsts of any kind of relationship come with intense excitement.





“we could look across the table from each other and not say a word and know what the other was thinking”

When mom tells stories or talks about the special relationship that her and  dad had, I think that what they shared was rare.  I think that now, but growing up, I thought that all husbands and wives had what my parents had.

They don’t.

I have never gotten tired of hearing stories about when my parents were young.  They had great friends and so much fun with their friends.  (friends in future post)

First love in future post, too , but all of this leads to , drum roll please…..



AGAIN…The firsts of any kind of relationship come with intense excitement.


Our “first relationships” to develop are with our parents and siblings.

There is not much more special than your first born child,

that is, of course, until your second born child comes along.

mom and baby bruce


What happens through these years  – just look at the way she is looking at him (above) and how happy she looks with him (below).  That love, that connection, so evident through her eyes then … and  now…


Mom with baby Bruce



Does geography play a part in a relationship?

Not in this case… not in the least.  Mom has certain expectations of Bruce.  She would usually  visit him pretty much wherever he has lived.

“I always liked to know where my kids are.”

 The frequent phone calls, the flowers he sent/still sends for every occasion.  Always on mothers day regardless of where he has been.  She will definitely mention if he hasn’t called or if she didn’t receive her flowers on a particular occasion.  Funny though that she acts surprised when she does receive them.

her most recent bouquet

Bruce  had the longest time with daddy, that must have made it more difficult for him in some ways.

Was there an expectation to care for mom?   

Was there an expectation to care for the rest of us?

But he rarely talked/talks about it; his relationships with mom or dad.   Bruce was only 18, almost 19 when we lost daddy.

Did that experience for Bruce, barely a young man,  help to mold his relationship with mom?

Bruce is an oxymoron, he is a “sensitive male”, a real one, and I have always wondered if he learned that from mom or dad but most likely it was the combination.


“So mom what are the things you remember about Bruce as a child?”

“oh I don’t know, I guess he was always on the go, always liked  a little adventure”

“well that has never changed”

He always looking for adventure.


“What else mom? About Bruce?”

“each child has their own special”…….

5 kids

and she doesn’t finish but retreats back into herself

Please,  mom come back….. just for a bit.


“what else mom, about Bruce? What are some special things about your relationship with Bruce?”

“oh I don’t know, I don’t know if I know what you are asking.”

she was quiet for a minute

  “Music, I guess, we both grew up enjoying music.”

” oh that’s true, so he must have acquired his love of music, and his musical talent from you then.”

“well I don’t know about that.”

Christmas with Tabogan cropped
Bruce and Robs first guitars.. and the family tabogan!

She has talked about each of my siblings at length so often over the years, and now I feel that I need to squeeze out  every last memory .  Why didn’t I journal more over the years.  I want to share with all of my siblings their special place in moms heart.

I try again… please be good timing

“What are some things he did as a kid?”

“He always found good healthy fun, like building the log cabin in Concord.  He was older and daddy never had a problem with him using any of the tools”

log cabin


“Those were such fun years living there, it was good for everybody.”

again she retreats



4 of us in the tree
look closely. Bruce is up the highest, then Scot, Rob and I’m the last one up. Look at the date.

We all looked up to Bruce, literally and figuratively.

“Did you ever get mad at him, I mean did he misbehave, ever?

“You know I don’t believe so, well not that I know of, he was a pretty good boy”

(Well that’s cute,  he was a pretty good boy. )

“were you mad when he cracked up the Rambler?”


“oh no, I was glad he was alright”


mom floating down the river while visiting  Bruce and I in Colorado

fenway bruce nate and mom

“He brought you to your first red sox game with your first great grandchild, didn’t he”

I show her the picture

“oh that’s right, he did , didn’t he?”

Again, her recall is foggy.  I wish I had written things down over the years, documented some of the things she has said.  Her concerns about her kids.  Her memories, both happy and sad.  Mom was busy when we were growing up and may not have always had the time with us that she wanted and after we were all settled away from home is when she was able to have a bit of time.  I believe she has had some of that time given  back to her from each one of us.

We all know that her  time is limited and I am sure you must be thinking the same way I’m thinking…..

I wish I had asked more questions.

I wish I had written things down.

I wish we all had had more time.

Will I be able to share my stories?

Will anyone be interested in my stories?


“mom, Bruce is going to come for a visit.”

“what about Karen?”

“she can’t make it this trip”

I am so happy that Bruce is coming back again , even if for a short visit.  That connection, that bond between a mother and child can always use a recharge at any age.  And  I need to hear his stories.  Is that selfish of me?  I need to hear more about her, I’m hanging on to her  as best I can.   I want to share her and her memories or what were her memories.

That love, that connection, so evident through her eyes then … and  now…

…. through his eyes.





She Never Complains

“Oh,   it’s just a little tickle”

“How are you feeling mom?”

“oh fine”

I know I have mentioned this  before but mom NEVER complains. Let me be more specific about that, she never complains about her health or how she is feeling.  She does however complain about waiting in line for anything (and she makes loud comments about how slow people are),  the weather ( it is too hot , too cold, too wet, too humid),  technology (of course , how can she learn it all), the dogs barking  and lots more,  just not about herself or how she is feeling.

Moms immune system is amazing, always has been.   She receives her flu shot faithfully every year, she has had her pneumonia shot ( I think that is every 10 years) she also had the whooping cough booster.  She does not take any medication other that a vitamin B12. That is impressive for a woman in her 90th year.

I have mentioned in previous posts my concern about her diet and nutrition, that is due, in part to her lack of appetite.   There is serious evidence that appetite loss going hand in hand with dementia and Alzheimer disease. She does drink her (ensure + ) shakes, when I place them in front of her, and I try to force her to drink water, by reminding her constantly, I keep her cup next to her all the time. Still a challenge.

I believe I have also mentioned her stubbornness, but did I ever mention she was  a nurse?  That is how her and daddy met. (story for another time) So just like a nurse and a mother, she cares for others and puts her own needs last.   Still.

nurse mom
So pretty and so young


When someone you know has a cold or isn’t feeling well,  you know it, I mean they sound funny ( congestion makes us sound funny) for one thing,   and of course the nose blowing  and groaning, for some. But sometimes they are just out of sorts,  just like with a child you have to try to figure it out .  This is how it is with mom now, I have to try to figure it out.

She  slouches in her chair slightly and pulls her afghan up around her neck

“are you ok mom, do you need anything?”

“no, I’m just cold”

She has a slight fever, (99.8).  I warmed her corn bag for her and put it under her afghan so it could help to warm her up a bit.  Give her some Motrin and force liquids.

regardless of how she feels she really only ever says

“oh fine”

one time recently she said

“eh just not 100%”

So how do you know and how can you tell what’s wrong or what hurts, other than the obvious I mean.  I have to ask very specific questions, even then I don’t get a good answer.

“does your head hurt mom”

“no not really”

what does “not really” even  mean. What I think it means is that, it does hurt but not too bad or at least not enough for her to say it outloud.

And when I say her short term memory is bad,  it is these situations when it becomes a real problem.   I mean she can be coughing a lot one minute with obvious chest congestion ….

”goodness mother that is an awful cough, how are you feeling”

seconds to process and she forgets she has a cough.

“Oh,  it’s just a little tickle”

Bob and I were discussing my concerns and he made it clear I should be concerned

“she must be feeling pretty bad, she hasn’t had a cookie in days”

we chuckled,  but there is a lot of truth to that.  Mom always eats a cookie after her meals, even if she doesn’t finish her meal she still allows herself the treat.


It is so much harder to do anything when you are not feeling well, everything seems to be so much more difficult to accomplish, even getting dressed.   Mom gets understandably frustrated, and when she gets frustrated she mumbles clearly

“oh for Christ sake”

That is my cue to go and assist her.  Today I told her that I am thinking that she thinks  my new name is Oh For Christ Sake. She chuckled. I love that I can still make her chuckle, even when we are both under the weather.

Mom is so weak these days ( but even more so when she is sick) that she has a hard time pulling her pants up, imagine when you get that weak, how helpless you must feel. Because she is sick,  and she is coughing a lot, that is causing  a lot of other problems. When you cough you pee, usually simultaneously.   (Often times that peeing gets on the chair, so when she gets up to go to her room, I wash the chair and put a towel down) When you pee you need to change your clothes.  When you need to change your clothes, you need to walk to your room. When you walk into your room you need to take out dry clothes to put on. Before you put on your dry clothes, you need to take off the ones you currently have on.  Once your wet clothes are off and your dry clothes are on you need to get back to your chair. (somewhere during this process, I will here my name, “oh for Christ sake”, and I will go assist her) So coughing is a lot more complicated than just a cough.

Okay so she is all snuggled back in her chair, wish fresh clothes and fresh water and she taps the arm of the chair and encourages Rookie to come up on her lap.  Rookie jumped but moms arm was in the wrong spot and Rookies claw caught moms skin and tore it like paper.

“oh damn”

she never talks like that

“its OK, I’ll fix it”

as I was washing  and covering her newest cut , she looked at me

“I’m a mess, huh”

“right now, yes, we both are mom”


2 days of this and then….

A trip to the doctor and the clinic for her chest x-ray (still  waiting on those results) picked up her antibiotic (concerns about a lung infection)  and back home. She is resting again.


She is weak and shaky so I didn’t trust her to walk to bed on her own so I assisted her in her evening shuffle to bed

”what would I do with out you?”

a lump catches in my throat, (it is the second time in recent days she has said this) and it is a second before I can respond

“good thing we don’t need to worry about that mom”




Stubborn Insecurities

“yes, I didn’t know where you were”

” Deb?”

seconds later and a little louder in her weak voice


“what mom, what’s the matter”

“where are you?”

“I’m right here, bringing in firewood, what wrong?”

“nothing, I just didn’t know where you were”

“okay, I’ll be right in”

A few minutes later, it’s  the same scene,

She does not like me to be too far away from her these days.  She checks for me often.  If I’m in the office or my sewing nook downstairs , she calls to me.


“I’m down here mom”

“okay, just checking”

Sometimes, if I’m sewing, she comes down and joins me and she curls up on the couch in the heat of the wood stove and she nods off. (that’s my favorite, so I know where she is too )

So many people comment about the stubborn people in their families. We all have them,  or we are them. (sorry, about the grammar)   I think stubbornness could be misunderstood some of the time. As people age, what we perceive sometimes  as being stubborn is actually their  insecurity.

Mom carts a lot around with her everyday, 3 bags.   She has her pocket book (1) cram packed with, I don’t even know what.   The other bag (2)   is a cloth like shopping bag, in that  one she has a few  word search books (most have a pen or pencil stuck in the binding), incontinence pads, tissues ( always so many tissues) and a few other odds and ends.  The  small bag (3) fits inside the larger bag,  in that one are more tissues (again, for her ever running nose) and she has a few skeins of her crochet cotton and a crochet hook,  (which she never uses)

“mom, why don’t you leave the bags here, or take just the smaller one with you”


“well it is a lot to carry everyday”

she defensively, almost panicky replies

“no, I want it with me, I might have a few minutes to crochet, I just want to have it with me”


“okay, just thought I’d mention it”

I would never  battle with her over it, I mean,  it is a pain in the neck to carry her bags around.  I know she isn’t being stubborn, it goes deeper than that, you can see it on her face.   I think it is a secure feeling, to have the familiar things with her, things  that she thinks she needs or should have.  She has always carried at least her pocket book, but now she insists on  the extra bags too.   Mind you, she isn’t the one to  carry them, her bus driver carries them to the bus and when I get her off the bus I carry them into the house.  She does, however,  have them hanging on the arm of her chair at day care everyday.  She has forgotten her cane, but never her bags.   So she has all of this luggage to take with her and she feels good about it.

There once was a day where she could pack for 7 of us for a weekend at camp and have it all in the car with all seven people and we fit comfortably – so she once packed lightly.

I wish I knew what she was thinking about when she insists on bringing her bags because, she does not use anything from any of the bags  except for  the tissues.   But really, so what if  she carries a few extra  bags around wherever she goes, I don’t think that it is just that she is being stubborn, I believe it gives her that sense of comfort.


Mom has been walking with a cane for a very long time.  I believe at first it was for security.  One year when Bruce was here visiting he wanted to bring Mom to Fenway for a game so she brought her cane  (it was new at the time and we had to walk a little ways). The staff  and security at Fenway Park treated mom  like a queen, she got to cut in line and go through the large gate they opened for her, none of the rest of us could go just her.  fenway bruce nate and mom

I think Barbara was the one to encourage Mom to use a cane way back , she even bought her a pretty pink flowered one. So over the past 20 years she has grown familiar with the use of a cane.

When the insurance and health care, committee, I’ll call them, came to evaluate moms mobility they told her she should be using a walker. One was provided for her through her insurance.    Mom would push the walker out of her way and wobbly walk around it to get where she wanted to be.

“Mom, you’re suppose to be using that”

”oh, I’m just going to the bathroom”

”I understand, but that is the point, your suppose to use it”

” oh, it’s too bulky”

and it went like that for a very long time, months. So I finally folded it up ant put it in the closet.

Every once in a while I bring it out and try to encourage her to use it, but she still pushes it out of her way and now even wobblier walks around it.

Is she being stubborn? I mean I believe that the stubbornness lies in her genes, and she definitely has that gene, but is that refusal to use her walker just being stubborn or is it more?

I have noticed lately when we are walking to the car or into the house she reaches  for  my hand with her free hand and uses her cane with the other, similar to the security of a walker, dang it.   But it is  another change and one more thing she would  need  to adjust too.   Again, the cane is familiar to her, it is what she understands.  Not stubbornness alone but also security in the familiar.





I reply but she can’t hear

“yup mom, I”m in the office”

I hear the back door open and I know she is going out on the deck looking for me.


I come out of the office  and up the stairs

“mom, are you looking for me?”


I’m never far from her.

I still remember as a child the comfort that I found just hearing the dishes clanging in the kitchen, or the cabinets closing and opening as she bustled about the kitchen.  I loved the noise of the vacuum when I laid sick on the couch. There is so much comfort just knowing that the person that cares for you is close by.  I had the best  secure and comforting childhood (12 and under) and  I knew where mom was all of the time.

When she calls out to me, tying to find me around the house, I equate her need to know where I am, to what  I felt as a child.  That she must need that same  comfort and security that she once  provided for me.

“yes, I didn’t know where you were”

“I am in the office doing some work, I’ll be right up”


I look at her and I still see my secure  independent mom – but her behavior shows me something else.  I hope I can provide the same comfort that she provided for me.







Uncomplicated Relationships

“Pretty blue sky today”

“Mom, your lunch is ready”

From her slumber she replies groggily

“Lunch? I thought it was dinner time”

Moms sits at the head of the table which faces the  outside through the sliders and to her left is a picture window. It is a fairly wooded backyard with lots of birds. The view outback  is beautiful in every season.

“Pretty blue sky”

“Yes, it is”

 a minute passes, maybe…

”pretty blue sky today”

”it’s beautiful”


Mom will fixate on a word  or a phrase,  occasionally I can predict what the phrase will be for the day. Her thoughts are elementary these days.  Anything slightly complex is too confusing for her, she gets frustrated.  The frustration shows in her eyes  and it is incredibly difficult to watch.  “Eyes are the window to the (soul) heart” they say,  it’s true, I swear that I can see her heart through her eyes.

It is hard  for us to think in simple terms once complexity becomes our norm.  In moms case she no longer has a choice. Her brain just wont let her get to the right stuff.

It still amazes me to think of what she would accomplish in a day or a week  and the organization and drive it took for her to do it. The complexity in which she lived, I believe she was happy for the most part.  She is one to be admired, life was not at all simple for her,  she could made it look that way though.

life is good


Kids always keep things simple, for them I believe it is because they don’t know anything else yet.  For mom it is because she can no longer manage the complex thoughts.  She connects with young children quite easily.

nana with paxon and timmyt

Mom  will lean forward in her seat and put her hands out in front of her and wait (patience is one of her older traits), sooner or later someone may arrive to her outstretched hands and  when they do her eyes change and  they soften.

piano with paxton

Paxton held moms hands today and just looked at her for the longest time (I couldn’t take a picture because I was so involved in watching and admiring their simple intensity) and mom was smiling, then all of a sudden Paxton launched herself up on mom and gave her the best hug ever.  As I was watching Paxton, (my  2 year old granddaughter) with mom, I realized that their relationship is quite simple , with an overflowing amount of  love.  Mom truly lights up when my grandchildren (some of her great grandchildren) are around her.  She interacts with them on their level.  Even when she doesn’t understand what they are saying she is happy with them around.  They color, they sing,  they chat, they smile and hug. Accepting and uncomplicated love.



Over for an afternoon visit, Timmy, (my 2 1/2 year old grandson) insists on coming outside with me to help  get mom  off of the day care  bus.  He will start chattering to her right away, before she even has her foot on the ground, he chatters  about, I’m really not sure what its about, but he goes on and on. Once off the bus , mom will  acknowledge that he is talking to her.

“you don’t say, well you have a lot to talk about”

as she leans in to me

“What is he saying?  I have no idea what he is talking about”

she is smiling the whole time and often reaches for his hand.



Timmy will run in and up the stairs, talking to mom the whole time.

He will wait at the top of the stairs still chattering away as she forces her knees to bend enough to get up the stairs. Timmy connects with mom wholeheartedly and it is obviously special for them both.  He points to her chair and takes her cane or gets the other cane in the corner.  He will walk around with her cane for a bit, he always returns it to her. Timmy and mom might roll the ball, and chat, they eat cookies, go outside and sometimes watch Mick.  (Mickey Mouse) Most days, when he is leaving, he will run over to her and give her the best  good bye hug, sometimes he just blows her a kiss.  She smiles a big smile (again her eyes soften) and blows a kiss back.  Accepting and uncomplicated love.

nana with timmy


The kids keep things simple, most adults unconsciously ignore or think they have outgrown the simple.


The kids will do the same thing over and over and over and each time they will find humor, fun and entertainment in that same action.  We enjoy watching them.


Paxton:  “momma do it again”

Megan:  “ready set go”

Paxton:  “again”

Megan:  “ready, set go”

Paxton:  “again”

We have  all been part of  the repeated actions/sayings of kids and know  how cute/funny/sometimes annoying it is. Yet we will continue that repetition for a very long time because it is obviously making them happy.


After a visit to Megan’s, when mom and I were riding home in the car,  is when I truly realized the connections with children and old people.  The 10 times Paxton wanted  Megan to repeat the game actions, and the 27 times mom mentioned the color of the sky are as different as they are similar.   Similar because it is what their capabilities  happen to be.

“Pretty Blue Sky today”

“very pretty”

the traffic starts to pick up the closer I get to Fall River and I focus on my driving

“pretty blue sky, not a cloud in it”

“I know, huh”

my mind wanders and a minute or two passes

  “pretty blue sky today”

… I didn’t respond, I just thought.  I thought about Paxton “again momma” and I thought I need to  acknowledge moms comment,  ( commenting on the sky).   I halfheartedly converse with her about the sky, (of course) but  as unimportant and repetitious as I feel it is, it is probably the most uncomplicated topic for us to share and for her to think about as we travel back home.  I don’t need complicated conversation that minute. Mom and I  can no longer converse with any complexity. Just hearing a loved ones voice can be reassuring and comforting.

Frustrating, it is, to try to vary a response to her repetition and do I even need to?

We are willing to play and repeat the same game or song or activity over and over again with a 2 year old,  while we smile and giggle with them.  Yet we will become  frustrated when it is an 89 1/2  year old that repeats the same few words, sayings  or ideas over and over again.  Why would our expectations be greater for someone who is no longer capable of the same cognitive function as they once were?  This cognitive deterioration is the realization that the conversation needs to adapt to the individual going through the process.  Just as we adapt to the 2 year old. The frustration, at least for me,  is sadness for the loss that I already feel.

“Pretty blue sky today”

“It really has a variety of blue shades and as you look straight out it is white, did you notice that mom”

“I do now, and the clouds are gray on the bottom”

“funny, that the sun is shining at the same time as gray clouds are here”

“maybe it will rain later”

then we were quiet


The innocent qualities of children  are  very similar in some ways and drastically opposite in other ways to an adult with dementia/Alzheimer’s.    The appreciation for the simpler things leave our minds for what we perceive as more important things and we really don’t ever welcome simple  thoughts back.

Until a circumstance jolts you back.

We arrive home and saunter our way into the house.  Mom shakes her coat off into my hands and shuffles to her chair.

“be it ever so humble”

For Your Information;

 I was researching it a bit and found that there are places that have a combined day care situation .     What a fantastic idea.     The preschool inside of a nursing home.  Just read these articles and think…. why wouldn’t we do this?

Caregivers most definitely get frustrated, but so do the individuals we are being cared for.  There are many resources available.  What frustration must she be going through.   

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