It was the Little Things at First by Loretta VeneyAugust 7, 2015
Guest Blogger: Loretta Veney, family caregiver, author, trainer, motivational speaker
It Was the Little Things at First, excerpt from “Being My Mom’s Mom”
We would go to the grocery store and my Mom would not remember the date that
she needed to write on her check. Several times, even though we always went to
the same store, she couldn’t remember on which aisle a particular item was located.
That may not seem like a big deal, but my Mom is a creature of habit. She bought the
same brand of the same items every week, even if a different brand was on sale. Not
being able to remember where to find always purchased items should have been a
key for me. At first, thinking how odd it was that she forgot the layout of her
favorite store, I would remind her, saying, “You’re really distracted today.”
She would leave blank a section of a check that needed to be filled in and mail the
bill anyway. When the check would be returned to her as incomplete, my Mom would explain it
by saying she was busy at the time she wrote the check and her mistake was
simply an oversight. She then would fill in the blank area; or write a new check.
To my knowledge, she never was penalized for a late payment.
I tried to have dinner with my Mom as often as I could, especially when Tim was
working late. One of the things my Mom loved most about her building was the dining room
dress code: no t-shirts, shorts, jeans, or flip-flops allowed. Everyone looked lovely
arriving for dinner. As my Mom required no assistance, her dinner time was the
later seating (the earlier seating being reserved for residents who were in
wheelchairs or had walkers and needed special assistance with their food trays).
My Mom also loved the cafeteria style setup where residents could pick out
whatever they desired in entrées, vegetables, salads, and desserts. My Mom, a
dessert-lover, was in heaven. Each time I walked through the line my Mom was so
excited, introducing me to all of the workers behind the counter, even if I had
met them before. Then one evening, I showed up for dinner without calling her
beforehand. She was thrilled to see me, but also seemed a little rattled. She
was running around her small studio apartment looking for the guest tickets,
which were required before I could go to dinner with her. She found them, but she
didn’t seem like herself as we rode the elevator down to the dining room. When
we got downstairs, the first thing I noticed was that she was attempting to
enter the exit door of the dining room. I said quickly, “You’re going the wrong
way”, and she said, “Silly me, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
As we entered the line,one of the workers said, “Hi, Mrs. Woodward, do you want
your usual chicken?” My Mom looked around as if Mrs. Woodward wasn’t her name.
Then she asked, “Do I usually get chicken?” The worker looked startled, for I think
my Mom ate chicken every day of her life. Seeing the surprised look on the worker’s face,
she quickly said, “Yes, my usual chicken is fine, and please give my daughter
whatever she wants.” My Mom barely ate her dinner that night. In retrospect I
wonder if she was feeling lost for the first time, as she had forgotten where
the entrance was, her name, and her customary dinner fare. I didn’t do what I
should have done that night, which was to comfort her because I didn’t know
what she needed. She looked confused, but rather than address it, I continued
with my usual dinner-time chatter.
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