family, personal

Random events with a purpose

Well am I glad I moved my mom out of Nokomis, Florida just over a month ago or what? Am I about the luckiest guy in the world that my wife convinced me to not give up when my mom suddenly changed her mind about moving. And how thankful am I that her doctor was able to convince her to move.

For those that don’t know, Nokomis is near Venice Florida, just south of Sarasota, and a bit north of Naples. Naples where the hurricane basically went right through.

I would have been worried about her with Hurricane Irma, but I wouldn’t have been preparing to help her or evacuate her. And then Irma shifted paths. And my mom would have been screwed. I would have had a really hard time getting to her.

Thankfully, random events lined up in our favor. Others won’t be so lucky. For everyone who can piece together a series of events and be thankful, others feel the sting of a series of “bad luck” events that put them in harm’s way. Some will suffer medical issues at the absolute worst time. We thankful ones need to be mindful of the unlucky ones, do what we can to help if that is possible. And give them strength when we can.

It is not for us to know the bigger plan, I suppose. But we know adversity is part of life; we have to support each other through it, rely on our faith and our humanity. Be self-aware and mindful enough to recognize when we are lucky, and be thankful. Be humble enough to know our fortune will not last. Be confident enough to know that bad times can be lived through, we can stand firm in our faith and in each other.

 

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family, personal

Saying goodbye to a home

This past week, I went back to Florida to do a few clean up things for my Mom, like turning her car in. Part of my “itinerary” was to clean up the house. When Joyce and I moved Mom back, all we had time to do was clean out the perishable food, grab her clothes and some personal stuff, sending six UPS boxes home and bringing every suitcase she had with us. Thanks American Airlines, for free checked bags for Platinum customers!

In between trips, the realtor moved anything personal or not desirable for staging into the garage. So when I got back, I was faced with a manageable list of stuff to deal with:

  • The rest of the food
  • The remainder of her clothes
  • Personal items – mementos, etc.
  • House “stuff” like cleaning supplies, décor items, etc.

You would have thought food wouldn’t be a big deal, given it was just my Mom…but unfortunately people with dementia or related issues don’t remember what they have or don’t have when they go grocery shopping, so I ended up taking several large contractor bags of food to Goodwill, and threw away several other contractor bags of food.

Clothes wasn’t a problem, but the funny part is that as I was filling a bag with shoes, from one of those hanging shoe storage gizmos, when I found a set of car and house keys. Nice hiding place, wish I had found those several hours before when I had turned the car in…

Personal items took a while. My mom and dad kept a lot of mementos, pictures, cards, etc. And then journaled and scrapbooked and filed it all. Now I know where I get it from. I found some cool stuff though that we somehow missed when we were with my mom, like a whole album of stuff from her high school, and the book of my grandpa’s (dad’s side) poems. He was a great poet, also where my dad and I both got our writing bug I guess. And of course my mom had stashed even more of our school reports, pictures, and notes from when my brother and I were young.

There was plenty of other stuff too. So in between some work calls, I went for about 6-7 hours just filling contractor bags and boxes of stuff. Sent one box home for keepsakes, took 20 contractor bags to the dumpster or Goodwill, and several items were freestanding or were in regular garbage bags. My lower back was rightfully sore for a couple of days after.

The house still has all the furniture, if a buyer doesn’t want it I will get an estate sale person to deal with it. And I never did really get the garage cleaned out. That’s going to either be another trip or just having the estate sale person clean it out.

I rewarded myself for my hard work with a nice blackened grouper meal and a beer. Maybe the last seafood meal I’ll ever have in this little outpost of Florida. But not before a last wistful moment in the house, now almost empty, that my parents lived for almost 20 years. A house I may never see again. They spent the best years of their lives in that house, and for that I’m thankful. I said a quick prayer and hello to my dad, and looked forward to getting back and giving mom a hug. They definitely got the most out of that house as a home, and I am glad I was able to see it one more time.

family, personal

Getting an assist from a loved one

My wife Joyce has been an incredible partner, especially in the last few months. Allowing me to take several trips to “check in” on my mom; talking me off the ledge when I was there to move mom out of Florida and she “decided” she didn’t want to leave; being a calming force for my mom as she gets settled into a new place.

Life is not easy, and it’s especially hard when doing it on your own. I am very lucky to have Joyce, and my brother, and my friends, and my assistant Helen (yeah, flowers for mom, air conditioner appointments for the house we are selling, getting mom’s Nevada Medicare set up…too much) and colleagues – all of whom have been supportive, flexible, great listeners, and many other things for me. Sometimes we just give each other hugs, sometimes we laugh about the predicament, sometimes we cry.

I also have to say how much I admire professionals in the field of assisted living. Maybe I’d say the same about school teachers, but they have way more patience than I do and their grace in the midst of seeming chaos is unbelievable. Talk about unsung heroes, they are literally saving our parents lives. Not medically, but in terms of quality of life. My mom is getting three good meals a day, something she wasn’t really doing for herself. She does multiple activities a day with others, when she used to sit alone. And she is watched for any issues, like falls, that she used to be exposed to living alone.

All amazing. But let me come back to where I started. Joyce has never asked if she could help, she just has. She has never complained about helping, rather celebrates when we get good news about mom. She walks alongside of her, she gives her joy through her smile. She has been so unselfish. We still have both of Joyce’s parents and in good health (knock on wood). I am taking lots of notes on how she is supporting me so I can do the same when needed. I am eternally grateful for her support, it is priceless.

 

family, leadership, personal

Joint post from Rick and Joyce – Love Languages

Do you know your love language? If you haven’t heard of the five love languages, see here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ As I’ve discussed with my team at work, it is also a great way to talk about recognition and appreciation in the workplace (understanding that some modifications are needed, like “touch” takes on a different meaning).

We know ours. Joyce likes physical touch, followed by words of affirmation. She couldn’t find a category for “stare at me uncomfortably for several minutes while I smile and ham it up” so we will call that a form of touch…or it could be part of quality time, which is her third love language.

Rick’s is acts of service. If Joyce does a chore at home for me, I feel awesome. If someone at work goes above and beyond on a project, I celebrate that and have big thanks waiting for them. I also like gifts, something Joyce has adapted to – even surprising me (I’m very hard to surprise) with a framed picture of me and my Dad in advance of Father’s Day. She used to not even get me a card for holidays, so luckily I’ve apparently broken her of that by occasionally reminding her of my second love language.

Love languages can come in really handy. When Joyce goes too long without food, and starts to get “hangry” I know I can make her feel better by just holding her. Even though I might want do take out the trash because that would make ME feel better, that is the time to put the chores off for a few minutes and just hold and talk to Joyce.

Sometimes Rick gets too focused on tasks and getting things done, especially around the house (bad combination of anal retentive and OCD). Joyce can take immense weight off of him by chipping in and working on the chores with him. And it’s quality time together, which is Rick’s third love language. Words and touch aren’t his thing, but he is getting to like them more by engaging in those languages with Joyce.

Hopefully, you can improve relationships at home and in other areas of your life by exploring the five love languages.

family, personal

Three months

It’s been three months since my Dad passed away. I keep believing more and more what a saint he was. My Mom is really struggling, and is frankly hard to deal with – prefers being alone to being with people; hadn’t invested time in relationships with others so doesn’t really have a support system; is pretty stubborn. Which isn’t making it any easier to try to get her to move to Vegas and get the help she needs.

She doesn’t want anyone’s help normally, and she doesn’t think she needs any help now because her ailment isn’t outwardly physical. She probably wouldn’t want much help for a broken leg but would at least relent to a doctor’s care and an x-ray and a cast. Her brain isn’t telling her anything is wrong with itself (why would it) and she can’t remember that she can’t remember…

This has certainly given me the opportunity to self-reflect. It is funny (and not funny) seeing the traits I have that were passed down from her and reflecting on the traits were passed down from my Dad. I am not happy about this idea of not liking help, and I know I’ve suffered from it my whole life. “Letting go” and letting others do things and letting things just happen without being planned – these are not my comfortable places. But similar to some recent posts on leadership behaviors, I am encouraged by the fact that I’ve at least grown through my life; I don’t have to plan every trip anymore, I like surprise gifts, I rely on others to plan events that I used to do all by myself. Things like friends, Joyce, church all help calm me and give me perspective that is focused outwards.

Of course now I’m looking at someone who is going “backwards” in this phase of her life, and all I can seem to do is pray that doesn’t happen to me. My Dad seemed to get more sociable throughout his life, to the point where he was the glue in the neighborhood at the end. I’d like to experience that pattern, not the other way around. He was never the most willing to ask for help, but I saw him “let go” later in life, letting us and others do things for him.

Eventually, I’m going to need to figure out my Mom’s situation. I feel like I’ve not spent enough time mourning my Dad’s death in the last three months because I’ve used all that mental energy on trying to figure out my Mom. I’m hoping I can at least continue focusing on the good things about my Dad, as there were a lot. I want to learn from him: even though he’s not here to teach me anymore he has a lot of lessons to impart just from my memories.

I gave my mom the biggest hug ever this morning when I left to come home. It was more for me than her, she won’t remember it. But I was hoping to give her just a bit more energy and life, because you never know when things will turn around and that energy and life will come in handy. I read a great tweet the other day from Joel Osteen: “You may be facing situations that look like they’ll never change. You don’t see a way. Don’t worry. God has a way.”

family, personal

Dealing with (a parent with) dementia

Heavy sounding topic. Pretty heavy in reality too. As predicted, my dad was the easy-going person, and died in an easy-going way. My Mom is going to be the challenging one.

She started having some short-term memory loss a few months before my Dad died. I meant to ask him about it after they came to visit in February. I never got the chance. I know he knew, he was so helping and caring he just shielded her from the effects and everything was “fine.”

It’s gotten much worse quickly since he died. Her doctor gave her some pills for anxiety, and wanted to wait until her physical in July to evaluate further. He “figured” it was just due to the stress of the death and might get better. Nope. So I am pushing the issue with him and now he is going to start getting some tests done and refer her to a specialist.

Weird thing is, since she’s in good shape physically, and has not lost much of her “institutional” memory, she can get by in daily life. Not great mind you, but ok. I am reading up on “the conversation” – you know, about some form of assisted living – and a lot of the guidance I’ve seen presumes some long runway (plant seeds, keep planting seeds, see if something grows, wait until a small accident happens then use it to sell the idea). But I am worried I don’t have the luxury of time, and since I am across the country, I don’t get the consistency of interactions to properly “plant seeds” and such.

Besides, given the short term memory issue, every conversation I have with her is largely forgotten by the next one…

Not only do I not know much about trying to get your parent into the proper care, I don’t even know much about brain disease and dementia and Alzheimer’s and related issues. I might have titled my blog incorrectly, maybe she has something other than dementia. More studying to do.

The other thing that I have noticed is my own self-awareness of mortality and memory, given what my two parents have gone through lately. I am thinking more about ensuring I maximize time now, given that I’m well over halfway through my life if I were to pass when my Dad did. I’m reflecting more on my own memory – its fine to say that I need to write things down so I don’t forget them – there is a natural process in there somewhere. But the time to take care of your brain is now, not later. So I am going to investigate ways I can bolster my own brain. In looking some things up for Mom I noted how eating the right foods can help, and I actually do ok on that one without even knowing it.

I feel so bad for my Mom, sometimes her mind gets totally clear and she realizes something is not right, other times she’s embarrassed by what she has forgotten. Other times it is just frustrating to see someone you love be so lost, like imagining her husband is still alive and then having to go through the loss all over again when she realizes she forgot.

I hope others are having more success than me – it’s early in the process so I am hoping I can find some small wins to indicate I’m heading the right direction. This seems like a long, difficult road. For my mom, it’s a road I will follow until it ends.

Finally, my brother recently gave me some great encouragement, and it reminded me that in situations like these, once again you are not alone and should rely on the support of others.