Category Archives: cole schlesner

Swipe Left and Right

IMG_0446I swiped left and right between the photos.

No, this was not on Tinder. This was in real life. Mine and hers.

Mood swings were at the top of my most despised moments with Mom. I didn’t hate my mother in that moment. I hated myself because I’ve yet to learn how to adjust to her fluctuations.

But in between those moments, was everything that was life and death.

When Mom was cranky or ornery, my first reaction was always UTI. Bladder infections were common occurrences in individuals experiencing dementia. The infections created moderate to severe changes in disposition. Thus, when Mom’s mood swerved and curved like an Indy race car driver, my first thought was UTI.

True confession. My very first thought is Mom is dehydrated. Then, UTI. And because a UTI left undiagnosed for too long could lead to complications, panic sets in. I track down the nurse, or a caregiver informs me the staff has already told the nurse. Then, we wait on a person whose incontinent. It’s really not an exciting time. One of the caregivers will take Mom to the toilet and turn on the running water, to encourage output, so to speak.

My mother would be horrified if she knew I wrote about and shared those challenges. But, I reasoned, she and Dad could have named any of their children POA. They chose the writer.

Back over Easter, I was leading Mom to the Easter egg hunt when we encountered the Easter Bunny. The bunny stopped long enough to hug Mom, but didn’t speak. Did the Easter bunny ever speak? Mom should have at least recalled that, I presumed. But alas, some memories did not cross the span of time and neurons.

The Easter Bunny’s muteness was NOT acceptable to Mom. Several times she yelled out, “C’mon. C’mon.”

Anyone could read those words on her lips, and in between the lines of her furrowed brow.

Eventually, the Easter Bunny disengaged its fingers from Mom’s, while I slid my fingers into the crusher’s hands. We traipsed down the hallway towards Easter Brunch.

The brunch passed without incident, mainly because I maintained strict oversight in allowing Mom access to the orange juice and extra chocolates. Confined to a corner near the window because of our tardiness and Mom’s desire for light, Mom spent much of her time watching the youngsters anxiously waiting for the hunt to start. One little guy told us all about being in second grade while boasting of towering over my five-foot frame. Mom muddled through with the occasional angry outburst because she couldn’t follow all the conversations.

When a seat opened up in the main room, I guided Mom to an open table where she had a better view of the children processing in and out, and out and in. Then, I grabbed the bunny ears and ladybug antennae and fiddled with each, placing one on Mom’s head (this is where I apologize to Mom), and one on my own head (this is where I apologize to my children).

And Mom lips parted, first in a slight grin, then like the Red Sea, ready to swallow up all the jellybeans and life before her. In the span of a half hour, she was content again.

I lived a thousand lives in between a good moment and a bad. Her voice, when at optimal yelling capacity, reminded me of days she didn’t separate far from her rubber spatula when discipline was needed.

Copy of DSCN1093 - softHer voice, when saying hello to new faces sprinkled with sunshine, rang through to my heart, resounding of ten days spent in Italy, when I took my parents twelve years ago. I had never seen my mother more radiant than in those moments in the square in Siena, mangiare al fresco, called out by a carabaniere, or holding court tableside with a carafe of vino della casa in Fiesole, above Firenze, with her Italian-American daughters at her beck and call.

In celebrating Eastertime with Mom, I experienced the rising and dying and rising again of Mom to beat another infection or crush a daughter’s disposition.

Lately, at Mom’s care home, several residents had died due to falls or the natural cycle. Despite having spent countless hours in this setting, I never knew how often one could contemplate the shaky nature of our existence.

We are all one fall away from the precipice, or one flight away from opening the skies. We are one moment away from sheer joy or complete madness.

I swiped left and right, and prayed we wouldn’t have to do this again until Santa Claus arrived AND that Mom would here to scold him too.

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Cole

Blogs seem so inconsequential in the real world, when young boys, doing as we would wish them to do, like play ball, or roll around in the dirt, get hurt in the process.

My neighbor Cole, a little boy who was like a second son to me, and a brother to my son, Davis, was hit a week ago in the head with a ball. Doing what he loved to do – Play ball. Cole grew up in my backyard, making his way through a path we carved out when he was four and my son two. We had no idea that years later, they would walk home from the bus on that path, that others would use it to check in on me, that the deer would trample through, that it would hold so many memories.

Though many tributes are already surfacing for Cole, I can think of nothing better than to share a piece of writing in my blogsphere from the night of vigil for Cole…

To Cole

A Prayer for My Backyard Boy

You are the little boy who made nose and hand prints
on your mother’s back door,
reporting the status of our dinner – hot, cold, pasta or pork –
while through our sliding door, my son reported on yours.

You are the reason we cut a swath through cottonwood trees,
the prickly holly bushes and native vibernum,
so that you two could run freely to our home and back.

You are the freckles and smile that greeted my little boy,
mornings on the path, evenings for slip and slide,
and a few water balloon launchers and snowballs at our back door.
You stomped through the creek, picked up turtles
and loved the life that God placed in your care.

You took the hand of my little boy as a younger version of you –
though you already had two –
and loved him when he needed a place to belong.

Together, you ate pizzelles, cookies whose name you could never say,
made mud pies and built forts with branch clippings and duck tape
that caused us to curse,
though today, we would resurrect every last inch.

And now we await your movement again,
You speak but only in the actions of a simple peace sign,
a thumbs up, agitation through the night.

Though you are the one we pray for,
it is us that needs the prayers.
So tonight, we pray

while the bullfrogs bellow out into the late spring night,
and ambient light wafts over the fields,
dissolving into the glare of the news van spots.

And somewhere in the distance, neighborhoods away
where they have not yet heard of your tragedy,
children shriek and dogs bark, as it should be.
And we sing, Heal me Jesus, but this is not singing,
we are praying with our souls.

We cry because we forget
God does not weep for those whom he has chosen
to teach us lessons that surpass our grasp.

You are still that little boy who steers his bike
through the backyard, over the cedar bark path,
to your dinner table or ours –
where a plate of pizzelles awaits your return home.

AJW

5-21-2009

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