A Heavy Scent of Bananas But Not a Hint of a Hearing Aid

Bananas

Oh dear. The last few times I’ve visited my mom, her room smells like bananas. It’s not due to a new air freshener. It’s because she’s started hoarding bananas.

They’re always on the dining tables at meal times. Bananas are good for you – full of potassium and stuff – and they’re easy to eat, an important factor for many older adults. Besides, it’s something easy to take and keep in your room in case you want a snack later. I’m pretty sure the snack later part never happens for my mother.

Every time I visit, she offers me a banana. Every time I decline, explaining how I’m off bananas for the time being as they make me gassy and I work with the public.

Here’s what my mom doesn’t have right now: her hearing aid. It was getting loose as it got older and I suppose the shape of her face and head has been changing. Sometimes she takes it out for a moment if her ear itches, or she knocks it askew while putting on her glasses. A couple of days ago, the hearing aid disappeared.

Nurses and aides have turned the place upside down. They did their best to retrace Mom’s steps from the day the instrument vanished. Nada.

Today I went to visit and saw a banana, as usual, on my mom’s nightstand.

“You want a banana?”

“No thanks, Mom, they give me gas. Did they find your hearing aid?”

“No. They looked through everything.”

“I’ll look, too, in case they just missed it.”

I opened the top drawer of her nightstand. I didn’t find a hearing aid, but there was a second banana, this one wrapped in a paper towel. Same thing with the bottom drawer. Likewise, the footstool that doubles as a storage unit held no hearing aid I could find, but there was a banana.

“Mom, do you think you have enough bananas?”

“You want one?”

“No thanks. I’m off bananas for the time being. I’ll check with Medicaid next week and see if they cover hearing aids.”

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and a New Pair of Shoes

toast
A toast to self-indulgence

I’m doing okay. I have the most excellent jar of strawberry rhubarb jam in my refrigerator right now. It’s an essential part of my new nightly snack and moment of zen. In the midst of trying to get my kids launched and see my mom through her last years, I keep from burning out or falling into martyrdom with strawberry rhubarb jam. Also new sneakers.

Here’s the deal. I get paid twice a month. Out of each paycheck I make sure to buy something for myself. Often it’s something I truly need, but in the past I might have gone without anyway. Usually it’s something small. I’m not talking diamonds. I’m talking new hair elastics or a book of kakuro puzzles. But it’s something for me, a selfish indulgence to keep me human.

A couple of weeks ago it was a pricey jar of strawberry rhubarb jam thrown into the cart with my pile of store brands. I still have half the jar to enjoy after a several nights of enjoying of a spoonful of red heaven spread on toast. This most recent paycheck saw me retire the shoes that have served me for more than a thousand walking miles. I thanked them for their aid and put them out to pasture (literally, I’m using them for yard work now) as I laced up my new sneaks. I have tread again!

shoes
Old and Wallered Out, you’ll be expected to train your replacement, New and Shiny.

I don’t know if it’s admirable or pathetic or something else altogether when I find myself coping with a stressful moment in the morning by reminding myself of the snack I can have at night. I hope I’m not straying into “Bread and Jam for Frances” territory.

I don’t think it’s indicative of a pathological food issue. I’ll walk off the calories – I have shoes for that.

Our Other Mom

Marigolds
These marigolds don’t have anything to do with the post, but aren’t they pretty? Also, a butterfly.

I write a lot about my own mother, because our lives are so enmeshed. I may or my not have mentioned that my husband also has a mom, and we all love her just as much. We don’t see her often, because she lives a few hundred miles away.

It can seem overwhelming sometimes being the close child, the one who is involved every day, the one who has to track every detail, take every phone call, drop everything and run to assist when your parent needs help. But now we’re experiencing the challenges of being the far-away kids.

Continue reading “Our Other Mom”

The Many Meanings of Senior

The word “senior” has a prominent place in my life at the moment, but with a variety of meanings. At age ninety, my mom is a senior. At age seventeen, my son is also a senior.

In my life at this moment, senior means both Medicare statements and college applications.

Senior means a skilled living facility and classes in two different school buildings.

Senior means rock star parking with my mom’s official hangtag and a photo of my son in a tux.

Senior means being old and disabled enough to be excuse from jury duty and being a smidgen too young to vote, yet.

Senior means more difficulty eating and the ability to consume pizza without end.

Senior means fewer choices every day and more decisions to make.

Senior means spending hours every day reminiscing on the past and hours every day looking to the future.

Senior means discounts with an ID.

Senior meaning so many things at once means I’m still in the sandwich generation.

Shaking Up the Routine

I felt adventurous yesterday evening. So when I went for an after-dinner walk, I traveled my usual route in reverse. Everything looked different, it really did.

The bulk of my life happens within a limited geographical space, with a repeat of the same routines again and again. Like most people, yeah I know. I go to work, a few blocks down the street from my house. Sometimes my presence is required at my son’s high school, a mile and a half away. A couple of times a week I drive across town to visit my mom. I go to the same coffee shop once a week, and other than that rarely eat out. In fact, I usually stick with only coffee there. I divide my grocery shopping among three different stores, depending on who has the best sales each week, so there’s some variety.

And I take the same 1.7 mile route through the neighborhood when I go on a walk. It’s a nice walk. I leave my front door and turn left, then I circle a lovely park and then traverse streets lined with interesting homes in a variety of styles. There are mature, magnificent trees everywhere. It’s a perk of living in one of the older parts of town.

Wooden f
I crossed this bridge from the other side.

Yesterday, I was tired of the same things, going the same places and doing the same things over and over. So I mixed it up. After dinner, I walked out of my front door and turned right. I went down the same streets in the opposite direction. I circled the park last.

It made a bigger difference than I expected. The houses and yards all look different from the other side. I noticed things I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked all this time. Had that passion flower vine always been there? Wait, those folks have a trampoline? You totally can’t see it approaching the house from the other way. Hey, that house has a stained glass window!

I’m convinced I need to break out of my rut more often. I’m going to the grocery store later today. Maybe I’ll enter the store through a different door than usual and walk the aisle in the opposite direction from my established routine. I could even go wild and buy some item I don’t usually include on the list – a new kind of crackers maybe.

Watch out world, I’m on a tear!

Pneumonia Falls

Pneumonia Falls — it’s the dystopian anti-vacation destination my mom has been visiting for the past several days. First she spiked a fever, then she got weak and dizzy, then she fell. Nothing broken, so I guess that means her osteoporosis medicine is working.

After a series of tests, it was determined she had a mild case of pneumonia. Antibiotics have taken down the fever and cleared up congestion. But neither her strength nor balance has returned. She’s fallen two more times and is now under injunction not to walk anywhere without the accompaniment of an aide.

Yesterday she told me she has to stop and rest on her way to the dining room and asked me to bring her wheelchair the next time I come. This feels like a big step down to me, as she’s been adamantly anti-wheelchair up until now. But she’s looked a lot closer to the edge of death than this in the past and then bounced back.

I guess we’ll go on the way life has to go on anyway. One day and then another day and then another until eventually there isn’t one more.

Last First Day

I’ve probably made this observation before on my blog, but indulge me, please. As my kids reach their young adult years, I find firsts are changing to lasts. Today is our last first day of school. My 17-year-old begins his senior year today, and I do believe he’s as nervous as he was on the first day of kindergarten. Maybe more.

This is the year he not only has to think about getting through his classes, but he also has to make big life decisions. He’s been trying to research colleges on-line and ends up stressed out about narrowing possibilities and knowing what he’s supposed to do. He’s pretty sure he wants to go into computer programming, but also holds out music technology as a on the short list of majors.

There he goes, leaving for the last leg of the school journey.
There he goes, leaving for the last leg of the school journey.

As is common with kids who have sensory integration issues, his grades are not-so-great, but his test scores are stellar. I’m eating crow about having railed against standardized tests in the past, because now I see those scores as his key. I hope they open doors the grades have closed. He’s never had a problem with learning the material in any of his classes, but depending on the teacher, has experienced varying degrees of difficulty with understanding assignments and keeping track of due dates.

He’s come a long way in learning to cope and navigate the world, though. I remember taking him to kindergarten round-up, the spring before he started school. Kindergarteners-to-be were invited to visit their future classroom for part of the day to get a feel for it so it wouldn’t be so intimidating when they started in the fall as students. I think it may have been for the parents’ benefit, as well. I clearly recall standing outside the building with him as he screamed “You’re not getting me through those doors!”

He was overwhelmed with the numbers of big kids and adults milling around. So we explored the outside of the school for a while until he was able to go in. He was fascinated by the classroom fish tank and promptly got into an argument with a girl about fish facts. It ended with her saying, “These are our fish, buster. I think I know about them.” So that was our beginning with his school career.

Though I’m concerned about the big picture things, as my son is, this is the least stressful beginning of the year for me. And the difference is him as a 17-year-old vs. him at any previous age. He’s so darned prepared. He remembered to do all of his laundry yesterday. He sat down last night with a map of the school and marked where all of his classrooms are. He made sure he had school supplies. And he’s planning a homework schedule with talk of bringing up his grades. Wow. I’ve had so many worries about him over the years, but they’re dissipating as I see the wonderful, capable person he’s becoming. I do believe he will make his way in the world.