Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Returning to Infancy

Gidget and I took Peggy for her annual exam at USC research center.  The Doctor comes in and I'm the only one that says hello.  Peggy is in her chair, mouth open, holding on to her blanket.  Gidget is playing games on my android and I have to make her say hello and then start to worry about how her brain is developing with this modern device.
   They said she doesn't need to come back next year, it will be easier to just talk over the phone.  In other words, Peggy can't take any kind of mental test.  Although she did check her vitals and take a look at her reflexes.  It was very interesting and actually quite disturbing because I have known her mind was taking her backwards, but her body now is too.  I watched the Doc touch my Mom's face and Peggy's mouth opened and head turned searching for milk like an infant.  My Mom hold's her hands tightly in a clutch, like a baby does.  I remember trying to smooth out my own children's precious little hands, and watch Allen's huge smile when he thought the baby was grabbing his finger.

Now, it's an old ladies hand, that clutches and searches and it's not precious.  Peggy responds to sounds, to cooing, and singing, you have to be right in front of her to catch her attention.  Just like the strange little creatures we all bring home from the hospital to our homes.  And so this journey continues, backwards.  But today gave me a little more understanding, to see that all she really just needs is shelter, food and love, just like an infant.
Oh, and some anti-psychotic drugs so she won't hurt people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Smells like home.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  We did.  My brother David came out with is kids and we've been goofing around all weekend.  Peggy's place had a nice Thanksgiving with lots of people and cooking.  It smelled like home.  All the residents responded with smiles and good moods.  Even if they weren't totally aware what was going on, they knew something comforting was.

Later after they helped us get Peggy in the car, David and I wrangled her out of it.  Let's just say it was not elegant.  Getting her back in the car was worse.  You see, Peggy hates being moved or touched and trying to get her from the wheel chair to the car is scary for her.  What she doesn't know is that it is scarier for us.  As she screams and hollers and resists we have to believe that we are not actually hurting her and continue with the back breaking twists, turns and lifts to squeeze her into the rented sedan.  Then she's in, we click her seatbelt and everything is okay again.  Whew!

But, as you can see.  It was worth it, here she is at my house at our table with everyone at Thanksgiving.   

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Proud Mom

We decided to take Peggy for a walk.  I had forgotten something and was running behind to catch up.   This is what I saw.  Peggy Lu taking time off from her busy life to visit, Gidget being stubborn and insisting on pushing the wheelchair and Sunny growing up by her Nana's side. My lovely little family helping my lovely Mom.  Makes me proud.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Wonderful Life

We all met at Nat's Early Bite for breakfast.  Then over to Peggy' home.  The girls ran in, knowing the routine.  I was hesitant.  Th guys politely stepped in.  We open the door and the bell goes off, the dogs bark and my mom is there in a chair.  I go up to her and hug her, she responds.  Everyone says "hello".  We move into her room so I can show them some pictures of me and my family.  I look at one and say "she was so pretty"  Danny says "she still is."  I'm looking through the box of photos, I hear Danny whisper to my Mom.  "Thank you for taking good care of Lois" 
  

Wow!  I take these pictures, am overwhelmed with emotion, the girls bound in and we are all laughing again.  It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.  Other than my kids being born.  That we all had that small opportunity to appreciate life and love and show gratitude, is what being alive is.

Thank you everyone for letting me share this story with you.  I know you all have your own stories, and appreciate you listening to mine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The visit


The Fountain Family siblings






Me and my brothers
So, I hung up the phone.  Smiled for a week.  Liam came over to visit that Saturday and Danny and his best buddy were to arrive at the beginning of November.  The family shot over a few e-mails, I responded, we sent pictures of our families.   I saw pictures of them as little kids, and then as adults. We all friended on facebook.  I called my Dad, my brothers, my friends, my cousins.  It was exciting and weird.  I saw a picture of Patty, my birth mother.  They all see a resemblance but I don't.  I'm not sure.  I see a girl that I wish didn't have to go away to Green Bay to give up a baby.  I also see a girl that had a family that loved her.  Honestly I didn't feel any more or less connected to her after seeing the photos.  I'll tell you why, because she has a very special place in my heart, it's a feeling, not an image or a memory.  I always wanted to let her know that I was okay.  That I wasn't a secret or something to be ashamed of.  That I love her.

Liam and I called back and forth, he's the only creative one in his family too.  We seemed to hit it off really well and so easily.  We messaged back and forth, where should we take these Chicago guys in LA?  Definitely not Italian food, Jimmy's Italian (Danny's life long friend) and he definitely will hate the italian food here, as we do.  I know they are probably not picky, but we didn't think sushi would be quite right either.  So we settled on The Great Greek!  They even get the Pita bread delivered from Chicago.  So, after work I showered and my cousin Eric and mother' in law Beverly took care of the kids and Allen and I drove up Ventura Boulevard to the restaurant.  There at the table was Danny, Jimmy and Liam waiting for me.  We hugged, smiled and he gave me roses.  Lots of roses!  He was so nervous and grateful and happy.  I was nervous, happy and curious.  I asked if I looked like her, he said yes, but she was smaller!  I'm what most people would call "petite" so that was pretty funny.  We sat down, Allen and I held hands.  He told them that they didn't just find anybody, that I was special.  We've been married 13 years, together 18...we don't really say stuff like that anymore.  I smiled some more.  I kept looking at my roses.  We talked, and ate.  They have live music at the Great Greek and dancing.  Liam and I danced.  Patty used to like to dance.  It was really wonderful.  After dinner, I said "this must be really weird for you", Danny said "yes"  I said, "do you feel like your looking at a  ghost?"  He said yes.  We paused.  He loved his sister, and here I was, he wanted me to know that.  He also didn't want to say the wrong thing.  He wanted to hear about my family and tell me how grateful he was to them.  We said goodbye, they will come to the house  on Saturday and meet and hang out with the kids.   I have life drawing on Friday's, so I was busy.  Then I cancelled life drawing and they came over on Friday.  What the hell would I be doing at a studio drawing from life, when life was right in front of me in my own home.  

Me and Danny Fountain
Jimmy, Liam and Danny
So they came over on Friday and we hung out all day, they brought the kids a Wii game and we all played bowling, and got to know each other a little more each visit, each day.  People came over to say hello.  Beverly was there and Eric.  Saturday Allen made tons of food and I bought coke's for them, Barbie and Ray stopped by, and Danny made sure to thank her for helping me make the call. 

Then it was Sunday....Danny said he would like to go visit my mom Peggy with me, if that's alright.  

Next post, visiting my mom.




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How I made the call.

Wow, so life is beautiful.  What else can I say. I know it is not always that way and sometimes a lot of sorrow leads up to these beautiful moments. I'm working now, and only have a little time for everything, so it's going to be told in parts.  But hang on it's a good story....

I had been searching for my birth mother for 25 years, not actively that whole time but, every now and again the urge to know what happened, what my story was, would surge and I would search the internet, draw a picture, go through my old manilla folder of paperwork that I have been carrying around with me my whole life and update my information.  I'm turning 43 this year and  I began to feel more and more that I was going to have less and less of a chance to meet my birth family.  I thought, I have ONE life, that's it, and decided to implore my girlfriend Barbie's help.  She's a producer, one of my oldest friends, and well let's just say she know how to get things done.  I called Catholic Charities to get things started.  No one apparently has opened the file since 1968.  Darn, so they aren't looking for me...this is what I had feared.  Do I want to continue...yes, I do.  It's up to me to take the first step.  So, I filled out some paper work, donated some $ to the Catholic Church....asked myself the question, how will I feel if they don't want to hear from me.  Honestly, will that be worth it?  I'm very happy with my life, I love my family and we all get along, I dont' have emotional problems and besides the regular tulmoutuous life of trying to make a living through creative pursuits, I am a generally happy person.  Why screw it up?

The nun loses the paperwork, she doesn't call me back, so I have to constantly get up my nerve to pursue this and make more than one phone call. Finally after one more call back, she phones.  "I believe your birth mother died" she says.  "Oh"  I said.  That's it.  Not much more, she can't tell me much because of the closed records.  I only had her name. She asked me if I wanted to pursue her family.  Yes, I did.   She had 4 sisters and a twin brother, yes, yes I did want them to know that I am interested in contact with them.   I contacted the ALMA society, who help with adoption searches, let them know the info I found from Catholic Charities and they were on the case! And that's where it sat for a long time...
"She's Buried in My Garden"

They found Danny Fountain. Patty's twin.  They forwarded me the number.  Now here is something that   was very difficult for me. In my "non-identifying" paperwork, it stated that everyone knew about the pregnancy except for Danny, he was away serving in Vietnam at the time and they didn't want him to know.  I kept reading this...why did I have to be the one to tell him.  I didn't call.

Barbie and I went to lunch.  She dropped me off and I said, "oh yeah, Catholic Charities called again, now they are not sure if my birth mother is really dead."  She looks at me and says "Just call the brother!"
She was right, I should just call the brother.  So we parked, went into the house and I found the number.  I knew exactly where it was, underneath this entire pile of disorganized projects that if you asked me to find something else we would of been there all day.  We went into the bedroom and I dialed....the previous post tells the rest of this story.

The next will tell about Danny coming to visit me.


Friday, October 21, 2011

There is no nature vs. nurture, just love.


Mother's Love
Sunny, Lois, Gidget, Liam and Allen
  If you have been reading this blog for a while you may remember my post about being adopted and my search for my birth family....well that day came last week.  It's been pretty strange, amazing, exciting, weird, and sad.  My birth mother died at a young age, 37 from an aneurism, not but ten miles from where I live now.  She came from a big Irish family just outside Chicago.  They have all been calling me and I can tell they really loved her and are so excited to meet me.  It's almost like I am picking up where she left off, age wise.  My first connection was with her twin brother Dan.  Peggy had a twin sister that died in her 30's as well.  Dan has a son, who came over to our house last week!  His name is Liam and he is so cool and sweet and fun and well, kinda looks like me!  Okay, so how do I make this post short.  Well I guess it took 24 years to find them, it might take a few words to tell the story.  My mom helped me fill out some paperwork when I turned 18 that would put my name on a list, and if the birth family was on the list too...you've got a match!  There never was a match, and I continued to look, sort of, throughout my young adult life.  I was curious.  I also wanted to let my birth mother know that everything had turned out alright.  That I was happy, I had a neat family that loved me, and well that I wasn't "an accident".  Long story short.  That same society ALMA and Catholic Charities gave me the clues I finally needed to make the call to Dan.  I asked if he was Dan Fountain, and if he had a twin sister named Patricia Fountain, and that I believed she was my birth mother.  He said, "your the baby" and proceeded to tell me the rest of the story....

Me talking to Dan for the very first time.

The first person I wanted to tell was my Mom, Peggy.  So I took her for a drive and I did.  And she smiled and listened and I talked.  My Mom has always been there for me, and she still is.  I love my family so much for giving me love and freedom and making me feel special because I was adopted.


WOW!

We raised $4950 for the Walk to End  Alzheimer's!!!!Here are some great photos from the day. I want to really thank everyone for donating.  There were so many people at the walk with so many stories and your donations helped every single one of those people and their families.  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ukelele Visit



video
Sunny just started playing the ukelele, she carries it around with her wherever she goes.  So far this is the only song she knows...and they love it, everytime.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Purple


          

The new color of this blog is purple.  That is the Alzheimer's color, and today is World Alzhiemer's Awareness Day.  I know it seems like every day is filled with articles, news, voices, information, donation requests, but until this is on the world radar the way AIDS and cancer fighting is, we have to shout it out.

A friend of mine's mother was just diagnosed yesterday, many more will be today.  We can find a cure before they get to the end stages.  I really believe so.  If you have been touched by Alzheimer's and aren't afraid to look into the future, you can help us now.  Please click on my personal donation page and offer your support.  Any amount is welcome and I will walk with pride and encouragement and hope for every family that needs it.                          

Click here to donate.  Thank you.

Sincere Sentiment

I received this card in the mail, an old-fashioned card, with a note...sending me well wishes and love about me and my Mom.   It made me cry, the kindness of it....Sunny my 8year old, came over to me, smiled and gave me a hug.  I felt her strength, her kindness, her understanding and her beauty.  I guess that's just what daughters do.

I'm grateful that I have spoken out and told our story, and hope I can be there for those that need company too. Caring for or about someone with Alzhiemer's is not something you can do alone.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not


Glen Campbell: Forget Me Not
Listen and read about Glen Campbell's Alzheimer's diagnosis.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bye, Mom....

Now when Peggy has appointments, I meet her there.  The guys do a great job of getting her in and out of the car.  She hates change, especially changing her position.  She really gets freaked out.  I got there and saw her in the waiting room.  She was, obsessive talking and I showed her a sports magazine with lots of golf and tennis, she tried to talk back, but it got kinda embarrassing because she could't find her words and was kinda loud.  So I just sat with her.  We went in, and the guys got her in the chair, and once she settled she did pretty good.  Remember...she's a biter.  Adrienne is the best!  I totally recommend her, just click on her name if you have someone in your life with special needs that needs a cleaning.  So, then it was over and we had to move her again, just when she was getting comfortable.  Then she got her little toothbrush and off she went and I said goodbye and the guys rolled her away.  I paid the bill, went downstairs to my car, and I saw her in the van and felt sad.  She should be with me in this car.  This is HER car, I inherited it after she could no longer drive.  Seeing her from a distance is uncomfortable, I could see her anxiety through the tinted glass, and then she seemed okay, maybe it was just my anxiety.  I have to convince myself she is in good hands, I could not take care of her myself, (for goodness sakes, it take two grown men to move her from one chair to another), I have a family of my own to take care of,  she is, she should be with me.....in her car.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remember What's Your Name Again?

The Children's Book I am still trying to get published, that has had beautiful rejection letters, reave reviews and is still sitting in my drawer?  Well, I applied for a grant from the SCBWI and got a "certificate of merit" Which is better than not getting one I suppose. 

In honor of Peggy's Birthday

In honor of my Mom's birthday, I am starting the fundraising for the annual  WALK TO END ALZHEIMER'S.  Please, if you've read this blog, you know how this disease effects families.  We are doing our part, by participating in events, fundraising, and raising awareness.  Now it's time to do yours.  Visit my donation page and give whatever you can.  The Alzheimer's Association does wonderful work for patients right now also and also supports research and raises awareness in hopes to eradicate Alzheimer's disease in the future.  Click here to donate.

Happy Birthday!

Today is Peggy's birthday.  We went over and celebrated yesterday with fruit, balloons, music and time.  It's hard to understand where or why she is the way she is now, but we try and put that all aside and celebrate. Because if there is one thing little girls know, it's that birthday's are important!
Fruit Bouquet!
Happy Birthday!!!

We named the bears Sunny and Gidget


A fun present of CD's from Betty

spending time...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Family Drugs.

Family is the best medicine.  David and his family came to visit and we had a great time!  We took Peggy out on a four hour mountain drive, visited with her everyday, hung around and she was so relaxed and on board with us it was really wonderful.

But back on the subject of drugs....her psychiatrist, has been trying to find the right cocktail for Peggy.  Something that eases her agitation and aggression that also keeps her a "functioning" person emotionally and physically.  If you've read this blog you've seen the ups and downs and sometimes even sideways state of Peggy.  After a few months of continuing on this anti-psychotic track, which all of her doctors thus far have recommended he has decided to try a different path.  Keeping her seroquil low and adding anti-anxiety and anti-depressants.  This change happened a week ago Thursday.  Today is Sunday, and she really seems to be responding well.  The furrow on her brow is gone, and she seems more awake and relaxed.  I'm not expecting her to go back to where she was a year ago, I am just happy to see her paranoia and irritation smolder a little.
Peggy at the Mt. Wilson Observatory
After David's visit, and our super outing Linda called me to say how encouraged she was about how Peggy was doing.  Thanks David and Sharyl, we loved having you here!  Ashley's cheer leading had Nana clapping, and Christopher's kindness to her was unforgettable. 

National Alzheimer's Project Act



This is a pretty cool project.  Last week I took part in a national live phone conversation.  It was like a townhall meeting asking opinions and giving people a chance to say what they would like to see in terms of Alzheimer's care and research in the future.  I encourage you to take part, or listen, and voice your opinion.  The Alzheimer's Association is asking for input from us, who deal with the disease for our input.  CLick here to find out more, and to share your story and ideas.
http://napa.alz.org/share-your-feedback

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quality not Quantity

Paul and Wendy were able to make it out to see Peggy.  They were here for a conference in Newport Beach.  Great, they can drive over and see Mom for the afternoon and have lunch with me and the girls.  Great idea!  No problem, it's only 35 miles away....NOT IN LA!!!  They were stuck in traffic, so it took 2 hours to get here, and 3 to get back to be on time for their evening dinner.  Which means 20 minutes with Peggy....
But, you know what, it was worth it.  I'm so glad they made the effort.  What is it that they say quality time, not quantity time.  That is really true with Alzheimer's because there is no concept of time anyway.  And even though it doesn't seem like she knows what's going on, we have to continue to show her love and that she is part of our family and include her in the conversation even when she can't participate.
So, go visit your elder people, people!
Peggy, David, Lois and Paul
Click here for a link to Paul's company, it's a great story and even better immune boosting product.... Epicor

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ice cream

Lois- "Mom, What's your favorite flavor? Chocolate or Vanilla?"

Peggy- "Barbecue"
Momofuko Milk Bar





Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kohler Art Center exhibition- MEMORY

I went back to the mid west this week to visit family and friends.  We usually only go back for a few days and split our time between Milwaukee and Chicago, and never have enough time to visit everyone we want to see.  THIS time, I really wanted to make an effort to see my artist girlfriends, Erica, Rachel and Anne.  We used to share studio space and coffee together.  I hadn't seen them since I left, and having trouble making art these days, I needed some inspiration from these gals, who are struggling to do the same.

Erica works up at the Kohler art museum in Wisconsin.  One morning I had just enough time before I had to catch a train to Chicago to run up there and see her.   I burst into the museum to find her waiting for me, her eyes bluer than I remembered.  The girls played in the amazing ARTery, an interactive art making space for the public, that she runs.  She had a meeting, and encouraged us to check out the exhibit.  Which just so happened to be called "HIDING PLACES: MEMORY IN THE ARTS"
Kohler Art Museum please click here for lot more information on the exhibit and center.

So, we went in...there were four categories... Holding Memory, Forget Memory, Shared Memory,  and From Memory.  We walked right into these hanging tangles of wires, with blinking lights, tiny television slide shows and creepy music.  I said to Sunny, I feel like we are inside Nana's brain...turns out, it was a piece on Alzheimer's.  We were enthralled with the exhibit.  But, for me it was very, very sad, and quite disturbing.  Every piece resonated in my heart about where Peggy is.  How I have to leave her there all alone with her brain.  Sunny was scared and very upset about a particular piece.  It was large rooms, with sand and it was dark, and images flew by on the wall.  There were set like pieces from life, a dresser with pictures, a bed, large dresses hanging from the ceiling and writing on the wall, snippets of life.  The artist' mother had Alzheimer's.  So does ours.  So many pieces dealing with memory, were sad.  There were not many beautiful images, or  I dare I say "fond memories"

I was happy to see Anne Bastings was there, and frequently shows up and talks and does workshops.  If you read this blog, you'll remember the day I found her book "Forget Memory" which helped me change the way I see Peggy.  And David Greenberger,  who puts Alzheimer's "musings" to music.  These guys are all trying to help communicate and love people without focusing on their memory, or loss of it.

There was an interactive piece, and I encourage you to do it now.  Take 10 pieces of paper and write anything that is important to you, or something you like on them.  It could be a person, place or thing... I chose family, daughters, dogs, garden, art, friends, home, husband, coffee, reading.  (not in any particular order)  NOW fold them up so you can't see what they are.
Throw five of them away.......you are in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's
Open them up and see what's left, fold them again and
Throw three of them away.... you are in the middle stages
Open up to see what's left, fold them up and now throw two more away
You have one thing left.....you are in the final stages.
I was left with garden.  Nothing else, no daughters, dogs or husband.  No art.

Erica Jane Huntzinger, at the Kohler Artery
The exhibit was challenging, moving, creative and thorough.  You could spend a weekend there in lovely Kohler Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan and then make art from all the things you learned, and contemplated, imagined and saw for another week.  I think you'd come out a more sensitive being.  I only had two hours, and that included another hug from my dear friend, with whom I do have lovely and fond memories and will cherish all of them, whether I remember or not someday.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

One block away

I've been working at the pre-school one block away from Peggy's house.  Knowing she is right there inspired me to paint this little mural of us reading under a tree.  We used to always go on picnics at Cantigny in Wheaton, IL
Anyway, I've been able to stop by quite often and at different times of day and night. Not that time has any meaning there.   It's nice to be able to say hello and goodbye more often, even though she always gets mixed up.   I say hello and she says goodbye.  Hey isn't that  another great Beatles song?
Remembering me and Peggy
a lot of help!

Sometimes I have a little help


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Having fun at Nana's, sort of.

 
We bring Ginger over and they all go crazy and run around.
I'm not sure FUN is the right word, but the dogs and Gidget seems to think so.  I don't expect as much from Peggy.  She used to paint with us, now she watches, she used to pet the dogs, now she pinches, but Gidget still makes her smile.  Although, I have to be careful with them now.  Peggy pinched her pretty good the other day, and the look on G's face was kind of heart breaking.  It took her quite a while to recover.  She thinks Nana is funny.  She knows Nana has a disease, but when it's someone you love you don't think they are going to pinch you too.  
We bring her into her room, to hang with us...
On the way home we were listening to the Beatles song Hey Jude....at the end when John Lennon sings that crazy nananannanannanna part, we all laughed because it sounded like Nana. 
Not just the word, Nana, but actually sounded the way Nana tries to talk to us with her stuttering.  The kids, they want to understand her, and love her even when she can't really love back.  :(

We paint her pictures

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wise beyond your years

  Peggy seems to be doing okay....She is getting used to the place, and they are getting used to her.  I didn't see her for a whole week....and that was okay.  I know my Mom wouldn't want me to worry so much.  I wouldn't want my girls to have to worry about me in that way.  She would want me to be at their recital, and school play and be with Allen and read, and paint and work.  All the things she taught me and encouraged me to do as my Mother.  She always said to me "You are wise beyond your years."  Sometimes she meant that in a good way, and sometimes not.  I'm afraid the years have now surpassed the wise part of that statement.  She also used to tell me "My eyes were bigger than my stomach"  Unfortunately that is no longer true either.
That's Sunny on the far left.
G at Ballet class
Anyway, I do think that it was wise having Peggy Lu visit.  She relieved a lot of pressure on me, and I can go back to including Peggy into my routine, instead of making my routine specifically around her. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"I'll love you forever."


We had a great visit with Peggy Lu.  It makes it easier to go over to the house with someone, because when we sit and chat together, Peggy gets into the conversation, she mumbles, and stutters, and shouts, and smiles, and drinks her tea and participates, in her own way.  Instead of me just staring at her asking questions, wanting answers.  So, I guess my advice for today is to include your alzhiemer's patient in as much as you can.  Don't expect a lot, but you might get a surprise like a bite, or maybe even a coherent whisper like  "I'll love you forever."  That's what Peggy said, when Peggy Lu said goodbye to her last night.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A wonderful visit

Peggy Lu, my dear cousin and Peggy's niece is here from New Hampshire.  I have been preparing her for the visit on the phone and through this blog.   She was nervous.  I was nervous.  My family has trusted me to the care of Peggy.  Ultimately I am making all decisions for her right now and that has been stressful for me because it has been a very difficult move, which was expected...but if you've read the posts before, I wasn't prepared for HOW difficult.  I guess the lesson here is, you can't really be prepared for any of this, you just deal with the hand you get, every day.  
So, what I'm trying to say is this.  We had a wonderful visit yesterday!!!!!  Peggy Lu loved Peggy's new home and her room, and the people there.  This made me feel good. To have someone else say, "yes you have made the right decision" that cares as much about Peggy as I do, gave me such a sense of relief.  But, this post is not just about me...
Peggy Lu walked in and there was Peggy in her chair, and she looked and looked and smiled and got excited and reached out and she didn't know Peggy Lu's name, but she KNEW that it was someone she loved, one of her people, her family.  She held her hand and said "it makes me want to cry".   OH!  We were so happy.  Honestly this is the best Peggy has been since she moved in.  It was unbelievable.  Peggy Lu came at just the right time, and hopefully Peggy will continue to adjust to her meds and environment.  Or maybe, today we just had all the right combination of care, love, medication and family to make a really great day.  I'll take it!     

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stages

So I kinda feel uneasy about posting the video of Peggy.  I don't want to scare anyone that might be headed down this path.  Just this month, two of my dear friends in my neighborhood have had an alzheimer's diagnosis in their family.  One thing I heard on the Larry King Show that hit home was that the founder of  the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health  decided not have any waiting rooms in his facility.  BECAUSE when his Dad was going for testing, he was in a waiting room with patients in different stages of the disease.  His Dad saw his future, and well...that's why his son, now has no waiting rooms.

I remember looking at Sunrise here 2 years before I decided to bring Peggy out to the "reminiscence center for the memory impaired" That first time I went up there, I was frightened and knew right away, she was not there, yet.

So here we are today, 4 years later from that first visit.  6 years from moving her to Assisted Living, 8 years from Independent Living and her first diagnosis.  The other thing is that not every patient is the same.  Besides there a lots of stages to this thing.

The stages are fundamentally different,  but you don't know that until you get there.  It is all bearable.  It is the unknowing that I have always struggled with.  I always wanted to know how this exactly was going to play out.  The truth is, you don't know until you get there.  It's like you are in the present that has an empty past and no hope for a future.  That sounds so dramatic and awful.  So, I have taken the stages in years, and months, weeks, days and now minutes or even moments.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Adjustments

I'm adjusting.  I went to Whole Foods for flowers and coffee.  I tend to go there before I visit Peggy.  A little breathing space before I go see her.  I'll pick out some flowers that I think she might like, something seasonal, something to talk about.  Or I'll get something she might like to eat, something I might like too.  A treat, or fruit, or... Today I couldn't decide.  I kept picking something up and putting it back.  I blankly wandered around with a sadness that even the bakery section couldn't hide.  I felt defeated.  Nothing was going to make her better.  Nothing I could buy or do would make her better, even for a moment, like it used to.

I finally decided on a bag of oatmeal raisin cookies, a large coffee (for me) and some yogurt for later and left.  Drove to the house and went in.  DING DONG the bell always goes off announcing my arrival.   I pull a chair up next to Peggy and sit down.  I told her about the cookies, and she wants one.  She gobbles it all up like the cookie monster.  She loved it.  Oatmeal raisin cookies have always been her favorite.  And you know what?  They still are.

So I settled in and adjusted to our new norm.  I held her hand, she held mine extra tight. She lurched toward me now and then, but I knew when to back off.  I talked about golf, and mentioned old friends and family names.  She nodded, she smiled, she got crumbs everywhere and I did too.
                                                                      cookie monster

Friday, May 20, 2011

Larry King, The Alzheimer's Report

video
So, this is not easy to watch.  I want to show it, so you can see what Peggy is dealing with.  Why we need more research and funding and attention to this disease.  Because as you can see...Peggy loves us, but can't show it, other than through aggression.

Did anyone see the Alzheimer's report on Larry King?  Here's what I took away from it.
THANK YOU to all the celebrities and families that spoke up.   Larry King seemed to think that the worst  thing about this disease, was the forgetting.  Yes, it's true there are different stages, and forgetting is part of all of it.  But remember this a progressive disease, you go from forgetting a name, to forgetting how to swallow. And now that my family is in the end stages, I see why at the beginning, no one was totally honest, or maybe I couldn't grasp how long and difficult this road is.   Angie Dickinson was awesome, her advice was to visit, hold, touch and love the Alzheimer's patient.  Her sister had an early diagnosis.  And when Larry King asked her what she would say to someone who was just diagnosed, she looked honestly at him, paused and said "Oh, shit."  Brutally honest.

Maria Shriver loved her Dad, and it is unfathomable that a man like that could take such a mental fall.
Judd Apatow and his wife are younger than me, and are reaching out to let everyone know that it is not just an old persons disease.  Because the caregivers, whom are just as effected are the generation before them.  Leeza Gibbons, having been there herself knows this, and her objective is to take care of the caregiver.  As Ron Reagan stated, there's a flip of the coin in this epidemic, either you are going to get it, or take care of someone who does.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Depression and Dementia research in elderly women

She bit me.


So I had a lovely mother's day with the kids and Allen and my mother-in-law Beverly.  Took the girls to the Studio City Farmer's Market I got beautiful cards and earrings and we went out to eat at Canters Deli for corned beef and pickles.  Yummm.  We stopped at the Melrose Trading Post and Flea market and came back home and ate our bakery treats and coffee.  The kids were playing with Ga Ga (ie:Beverly) and so I decided to go see my Mom by myself.  They don't get to see Beverly very often.  I picked up a lemon meringue pie and some berries to go with it.  Another yummm.

I came in with the pie, and everyone smiled.  PIE!  I bent down to give Peggy a kiss, and she was so excited.  She bit me.  "OUCH! Mom you bit me?"  I said.  "Why did you do that?"  Peggy whispered, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" and had a manic smile on her face.  I know she didn't mean to.  I know it was a reaction, I know all these things.  But, it still hurt.  It hurt in more ways than one.  "Well", I said to the others.  "Peggy's awake!"  Yes, so Peggy is awake, but she is having these almost tourette's like tiny episodes.  Where she will swear at you and then say I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.  She will say "Shut up" out of nowhere, and her arms and legs will try and hit or kick anyone that is near her.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that"  she whispers.  And it's gone and she's there again, in her chair.

We ate the pie on the patio, I took her for a walk around the block.  It was a beautiful day.  She seemed to like it.  She seemed calm.  We hung out in her room and looked at pictures and listened to music she was calm, and as I went through the old box of photos of me and her.  I cried.  I cried because it's hard.  It's hard taking care of her.  Pie and cards and walks and drugs, or no drugs are not helping her.  Or maybe I should say they aren't helping me anymore.

And then I read this poem I found in the box. This is going to go into another subject, and I usually like to keep these posts short, but I guess this is going to be a long one.  I am an adopted child.  My Mom Peggy has always been so supportive of who I am and has always wanted to know where I came from.  She has helped me put my name on lists to find my birth family.  She always wanted to meet my birth mother and so have I.  That's why I have over the past two months began a search to find her. So this is the poem I found in the box. When she reached out her hand for mine, we both cried.



Once there were two women who never knew each other.
One you do not remember, the other you call Mother.

Two different lives shaped to make you one.
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.

The first one gave you life, and the second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love. The second was there to give it.


One gave you a nationality. The other gave you a name.
One gave you a talent. The other gave you aim.


One gave you emotions. The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile. The other dried your tears.


One sought for you a home that she could not provide.
The other prayed for a child and her hope was not denied.


And now you ask me, through your tears,


the age-old question unanswered through the years.
Heredity or environment, which are you a product of?
Neither, my darling. Neither. Just two different kinds of Love.


nature vs. nurture self-portrait that I did and hangs in Peggy's room.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Much better!

Peggy is much better today!  OMG.  Can you imagine having a toothache and not being able to tell anyone, even yourself?  So the drugs are leaving her system and she was awake and I brought the flowers Paul sent and we played with make-up and she loved everything.  I am smiling.