Tag Archive | losing a parent

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

The other night, shortly before my mother-in-law, Doris, fell and broke her hip, I was singing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to Annabelle, who turned 4 today. She turned to me with her enormous eyes widened and said excitedly, “You used to sing that to me when I was very little.”

Yes, I did, when she was months old and I had the pleasure of keeping her when her mom first went back to work. We listened to music every day. (I’m constantly singing to the grandkids – one of those grandmothers. I was as impressed as she was excited that she remembered.

And since it’s such a cycle-of-life-affirming song for this spell we’re going through (albeit an alternative lifestyle), it seems the perfect backdrop for this dual purpose post.

In case you missed it before, not only did our darling Doris break her hip two days before Christmas, she died in the early  morning two days after Christmas. John and I made a hasty trip to the Yakima Valley (in Washington) and it’s been a confusing and blurry time.

She was 93 and had been lost in confusion for years, but what a great little lady she was.

I’d like to share a few sweet photos from her lifetime.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Little Doris Hardy, sometime in the early 1940s, I'd say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her

Doris (the little one), sometime in the early 1940s, I’d say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her “big” sister and is still a ball of fire).

Doris in her prime – definitely around her birthday, and I'm guessing in the vicinity of 40. Kitty, can you correct or confirm?

Doris in her glorious prime – at her 40th birthday party.

We saw her for a moment before she was cremated, and as her beloved Walt (Allan, her second husband, to whom she was married for 38 years) chose to be scattered in the mountains he loved to hike, her ashes now rest in her mother’s grave. She adored her mother, so it’s a perfect resting place.

But Doris resides in the hearts of all who knew her.

We came back flight-delayed in the middle of the night – and well into January – with our bedraggled Christmas tree still standing – I undecorated it yesterday, just before Annabelle’s party, and John carried the sad little thing to the curb today.

Life goes on.

In three months, Mother and I go to Italy. I’ve got to get my head back into that trip, book our train tickets, learn Italian (OK, refresh myself enough to get by), etc. etc. The good new is that Mother’s health is on a definite upswing at the moment.

John is hanging in there. He and Mother have a  mutual admiration society and deep love for each other, so that helps. But losing your mommy when she’s been a good one, no matter your age  …

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle's party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle’s party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Life goes on, happy ever after – despite the all-too-frequent bumps these days – especially when you get to be Lolly and Pop to five precious grandkids.

cake

Until next time – ob-la-di.

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Babes in Toyland

December has been a blur – as is much of life at 59 – and we’re ending the month and year with an impromptu trip to Yakima. John’s little mother has fallen and shattered her hip and things are very grim.

The sadness is palpable in our house, yet as death approaches, life goes on. That’s the beauty of life and generations.

Most of the month has been good hectic, though (I’ll skip over the icky parts). For one thing, this is the year I bought Disney’s Babes in Toyland to show the kiddies. I saw it with my friend Kelly when we were 6 and loved it then bought the VHS when my kids were little. Liz has told her kids it was her favorite Christmas movie.

A full-fledged musical, Babes is both excellent and lame, depending on the scene, but Annabelle and Luke, who saw it Dec. 12 when I kept them, loved it. Sylvia and Jude liked it when they saw it here the next Friday night. (Sylvia loved the wedding scene, as did her mama when she was little.)

We kept them until around 1 Saturday, when their other granddaddy picked them up, but we kept Silas until Sunday afternoon. He and I made vegan gingerbread to take to Mother’s for Christmas at her house that day.

Since Si is so allergic to milk and eggs, all my baking (which was not much compared to year’s past) was vegan. In addition to the gingerbread, we had dark chocolate zucchini/cranberry loaves for Christmas Eve and pumpkin streusel coffee cake for Christmas brunch.

At Mother’s we had lasagna, too many sweets and present pandemonium. Mother outdid herself for a 79-year-old – in addition to gifts that thrilled the wee ones and pleased the adults, she had red “Peace, ya’ll” shirts made for all us women – said she wanted something “in your face” to make people notice the message.

Mother loves to give gifts, but she still gets as excited as a little girl about getting them, too.

Mother loves to give gifts, but she still gets as excited as a little girl about getting them, too.

I’d like to think she’s taking after me a bit in her older age, or at least that I’ve rubbed off on her some. I got her a “Coexist” bumper sticker for her car (she wanted one). We also gave her a CD copy of “Rubber Soul” – she always had to rely on my Beatles records, but now she has one of her own.

All the men got nice flannel shirts – but you can see a hint of little Johnny Hardy in this pic. You can't take the boy out of the man, can you?

All the men got nice flannel shirts – but you can see a hint of little Johnny Hardy in this pic. You can’t take the boy out of the man, can you?

Monday I was sick, of all things, right out of the blue (fever gave me an excuse to cuddle up and watch Kinky Bootswhich I’d been trying to fit in – you should see it, too), but by Tuesday, the day we learned about Doris, I was at work. Anita graciously sent me home to be with John and help him find us a flight – hard to accomplish this time of year.

Christmas Eve we closed an hour early and John and I scrambled to clean the house (construction mess + muddy dogs = super yuck) and get the food out before friends and family arrived. Brother Paul was in bed feeling puny by that point, so Cathy came alone.

Our friends Marsha and Lee picked up Mother. Our next-door neighbors/surrogate kids Alyssa and Matthew joined us, and my former coworker and friend of pushing-30 years, Helaine and her husband Dre rounded out the crew.

Christmas Eve conversation.

Christmas Eve conversation.

The dogs opened their gifts from Grandma,

Tess and Zuzu consult over their gifts from Grandma. Zuzu never touches a toy without permission from the bully big sister.

Tess and Zuzu consult over their gifts from Grandma. Zuzu never touches a toy without permission from the bully big sister.

and the adults posed for fun photos. It was nice.

C.Eve group

Not a bad looking bunch!

Christmas morning I got up early after staying up late and started baking the coffee cake, then we had our Christmas before the kids and grands arrived. What a marvelous morning/early afternoon we had.

The togetherness and how the little ones love each other was the best gift of all.

I could go on, but I won’t. At least not today. Maybe tomorrow.

I don’t feel very profound. Just aware of the joys and sadnesses that make up a good life.

All things must pass

John, Sweetie and Doris on a very good day during our visit.

John, Sweetie and Doris on a very good day during our visit.

Life can be so sweet and so bittersweet; all things must pass, which is hard to abide when those things are a parent – or a parent’s memory.

We baby boomers are all in it together; we’ve lost a parent, are losing a parent or know it’s coming. That’s the cycle of life.

Some situations are harder than others, and watching dementia or Alzheimer’s take a loved one someplace else is high on the list of horrible.

But you make the best of it and love the moments you get.

John and I just made a trip to his home town in Washington for what may be our last visit with his mother, sweet little Doris, who has a nonspecific dementia and failure to thrive syndrome. At this point, she’s just fading, no matter how much she eats. She can remember a few things from the 1940s, but you have to go way back to her childhood for her to really remember anything of substance.

Little Doris and her daddy await the boat to Catalina in the late 1920s. Those are the years Doris remembers these days.

Little Doris and her daddy await the boat to Catalina in the late 1920s. Those are the years Doris remembers these days.

Otherwise, she’s on a loop about the weather, the wind, her beloved cat, Sweetie, and the time. But occasionally she’ll throw something in that gets your attention, makes you laugh.

The long-suffering good girl, Sweetie, who was the chosen cat of three who moved from the orchard to the tiny apartment.

The long-suffering good girl, Sweetie, who was the chosen cat of three who moved from the orchard to the tiny apartment.

Doris now. You can still see a bruise from a fall a few weeks ago – but you can also see the woman behind the curtain of confusion.

Doris now. You can still see a bruise from a fall a few weeks ago – but you can also see the woman behind the curtain of confusion.

My first day back in Little Rock, I saw a friend I haven’t seen in years – she popped into Esse Purse Museum & Store, where I hang out – and told me her mother-in-law died last year from nonspecific dementia and failure to thrive syndrome. She just faded away physically and mentally over about two years.

Doris has been fading longer than that – looking back, it’s hard to say when the confusion really set in, but it’s been a good long while.

As of a few weeks ago, she’s in hospice care at home, which is an assisted living facility now. Many days she thinks she’s traveling and is ready to come home; the really bad spells are when she’s frightened, doesn’t know where she is and is frantic to get home.

John’s sister, Kitty, deals with the bad spells on a sometimes several-times-a-day basis. For our trip, though, Doris rallied. She dressed most days – something she rarely does now – and even went to the dining room for a few meals, with or without John, much to everyone’s surprise.

John texted a mother and son selfie to Kitty and me, much to our delight.

John texted a mother and son selfie to Kitty and me, much to our delight.

Kitty and I slipped away to give Kitty some respite time and fun, while John soaked up every moment he could with his mother. We did get to visit with our niece and nephew – which is always a treat – but this was a Mom-centered visit. She doesn’t leave the facility now and most conversations are on an Abbott and Costello-style loop, but we still loved basking in her gentle and sweet presence.

The Yakima Valley is wine country, and we made the most of it this night – in the Inaba's kitchen. That's me, Kitty (in her Eiffel Tower apron that commemorates our trip to Paris together) and Norm.

The Yakima Valley is wine country, and we made the most of it this night – in the Inaba’s kitchen. That’s me, Kitty (in her Eiffel Tower apron that commemorates our trip to Paris together) and Norm.

In some ways Alzheimer’s is easier to deal with – at least that horrid disease has an anticipated trajectory. With garden-variety dementia, anything goes; somedays are horrible with short-term memory that holds for 10 seconds or so, but occasionally you get the person you miss back for a bit. Then she’s gone again. All you can do is cherish those moments.

And remember that everyone, no matter how lost, has something to say. You just have to listen for the message in the mania, the explanation in the inertia. Or meet them where they are, even if that’s in 1928.

John spent hours showing Doris photos on our phones – the same ones entertain her over and over. But here she's explaining to us every detail of photos from her childhood. The mind is a peculiarly fascinating organ.

John spent hours showing Doris photos on our phones – the same ones entertain her over and over. But here she’s explaining to us every detail of photos from her childhood. The mind is a peculiarly fascinating organ.

When it came time to say goodbye, Doris was back with the wisdom of her almost 93 years. She told us what a long and wonderful life she’s had – yet how time flies. She talked about how lucky she’s been to have such wonderful children and how pleased she is to have me as a member of the family – that John found me, as she puts it. I thanked her again for raising such a wonderful man for me to marry.

“Take care of each other,” she told us. She was 100-percent lucid in those moments.

We assured her we would. And we didn’t cry. The goodbyes were sweet and tender and strong.

All things must pass. Acceptance is hard but resistance is harder. If The Beatles are right, and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make, Doris will be a wealthy woman when she gets home from her travels.

And we’ll be poorer for her absence, even though in many ways she’s already gone.