My Journal
December 1994

Thursday, December 1, 1994 

We were up at 4:30 a.m. after my mother questioning for an hour "Do we have to stay in this place? Is anybody going to come and let us out of here?" It seems she got cold and couldn't sleep. She doesn't like me to have the heater on in the bedroom at night. She's afraid I'm going to "burn the house down." I did have it on from about midnight till 3:00 a.m., but then I saw her getting restless, and I turned it off, fearing she would be upset with me for having it on. 

So now she sitting, bent over in her chair, looking like she's about to fall out of it as she sleeps. I dread morning after her having slept like that; I dread the confusion that it may bring on. 

Saturday, December 3, 1994 

My mother stayed in bed for only three hours tonight--in bed at 7 p.m. and up at 11:00 p.m. She had complained of a leg ache at bedtime, but when she got up at 11:00 and again when I asked a few minutes ago, she said she wasn't hurting. Her reason for getting up was that she just couldn't stay there, just couldn't sleep in bed. She's been asleep in her chair most of the time so far except for when she got up to go to the bathroom a few minutes ago. 

I don't mind much being up tonight. It gives me time to do things I was afraid I wouldn't have time to do tomorrow. I'm doing a Christmas tree decorating dinner, having the family here this time for Sunday dinner. I had been afraid I wouldn't have time to get everything done with my mother and myself ready in the morning and handling any confusion or even catastrophic reactions she may have. So this way I get a head start. I've put the ham in the oven, made a congealed salad that is now chilling in the refrigerator. I may make the pear salad in a few minutes, maybe the tossed salad, too. Maybe I can get it all done, except that I don't think I could stand smelling beans and peas cooking until after breakfast, and the potatoes will be better done later, too. Any noise I make doesn't seem to bother my mother. Sometimes she seems to sleep better in her chair if there's a little noise going on in the kitchen. 

I was just about too excited to sleep anyway--couldn't go to sleep myself till around 9:00 p.m. I had just went to sleep, it seemed, when my mother got up, so I really don't mind tonight. I'll keep running on the caffeine in my diet coke till our Sunday get-together is over, and then I'll take it easy on Monday. 

Sunday, December 4, 1994 

It's 1:45 now, and the dinner is coming along, the ham is baking and two salads are in the refrigerator. My mother slept through all of it, until just now when I sat down. 

She got up and mumbled about cooking something, and I don't think she understood anything I said when I asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom or if she needed something. She got up, said she was looking for something (to cook?). I turned on the overhead light. She said she couldn't find it, and she would just have to cook the others. She fumbled with her robe, which had been wrapped around her shoulders, and with her leg wraps, attempting to fold them and lay them aside. Then she sat back down and went to sleep again. 

I'm glad this happened tonight instead of a few nights ago when it was colder. I didn't have the heaters on when she woke up, but now it is nice and warm in here. That's good because she wouldn't let me put her robe on her, so I just put it around her shoulders. Now she's just sitting there in here gown with neither it nor her leg wrap. I'm glad it's one of her warmest gowns. I asked when she was awake if she wanted her wrap over her legs. She replied "No, leave it alone." I think that would have been said again with an exclamation mark if I had persisted. 

I guess my mother was having a dream about cooking (perhaps because she knew I was cooking?) and was acting it out. I'm glad she didn't go to the kitchen and actually try to cook. It's better to go along with it. Telling her it's just a dream doesn't do any good. Sometimes she will nod her head when I say that, and then she will say something like "Well, he said he was going to pick me up", obviously referring to someone in her dream. 

Saturday, December 10, 1994 

I've just noticed that our nights of being up seem to occur mostly on weekends, and probably most of the catastrophic reactions do too. I wonder, could they be a reaction to change? Perhaps so simple a change as my going off shopping once a month on Saturday? And having Sunday dinner at my sister's? 

My sister was off work yesterday, so I went shopping on a Friday this time. And we were up at 3:00 a.m. this morning. That's not too bad, though. The night before it was at 11:00 p.m. 

I just looked back over my calendar, and yes, most of the catastrophic reactions have been on weekends, or on holidays, or any time there was change--me going shopping, the two of us going to my sister's, people coming here. 

I've been with my mother four months now. Nomatter what we go through, I don't regret coming home. 

We looked at old photo albums today, and my mother identified all the old ones from fifty to sixty years ago and even some more recent ones. She identified all of her children (except me). She identified the pictures of my ex-husband as the man that was married to "Sue" (she always called me by my middle name), but she can't see that I am "Sue". She says I don't look like her. But she thinks I'm someone who knew her. 

This is what hurts most. Not her behavior, not staying up all night, not the catastrophic reactions, but the fact that she doesn't know, or won't accept, who I am--this is what hurts most. 

Sunday, December 11, 1994 

We were up at 1:00 a.m. My mother had asked earlier if anyone was up. The next time she got up she didn't ask, just reached for her clothes. I talked her out of putting them on, because there's always the chance she might go back to bed if she doesn't get dressed. We almost had a reaction when I tried to help her put her robe on. I didn't realize that she had to go to the bathroom immediately. 

It's so much better now than it was in my first month here. Even though she's getting up more often, there isn't the wandering through the house looking for "home" or "the baby" like there was then. We're doing all right. 

Monday, December 12, 1994 

Yesterday at my sister's wasn't too bad, except for some communication problems. My mother had already begun the day asking me questions. It's so hard knowing just how to answer, when she often doesn't understand what I'm saying anyway. Then at my sister's, an old friend came to see my mother, and that brought up childhood memories. My mother got a little upset with my sister because she couldn't remember what she was talking about. She thought she should be able to remember her childhood, because at the time, she was thinking she was her sister, not her daughter (That's what she thinks much of the time). 

Other than that, the day went fine, even though my mother showed no interest in the Christmas tree that was being put up. After the tree decorating, I napped on the couch for a little while. It seems that's the only time I get real rest--on Sunday's at my sister's. I can sleep knowing they are looking out for Mama and that I don't have to be listening for her even in my sleep. 

Surprisingly, my mother slept all night last night. But this morning wasn't a good one. She was worried about us using the gas heaters, and she said I was going to burn the house down. I tried to explain that it was freezing outside and that those were the only heaters we had to keep us warm. Then her worrying shifted to "the children", and I told her that her children were all all right, all grown up and in their own homes. We went through an hour of talking about things like this before she was calm enough that I could leave her long enough to fix breakfast. 

After eating breakfast, she announced that this was her "last day", that she "wasn't going to do this job anymore", that she was "going to let the man know when he came", that she was "too old to take care of all you kids." (She's always talking about "the man", and none of us can figure that one out.) I told her she didn't have anything to worry about, everything was fine, that I was here taking care of her right here in her own home. Then she said she didn't like this house, that it wasn't any good, and that she was leaving. 

She's sleeping in her chair now, after getting up agitated a few more times. I don't know what's brought on all this--maybe something she dreamed last night? It's so scary because dreams are so real to her. 

Tuesday, December 13, 1994 

We had a bad time early this morning. My mother had been trying to get up all night since about 10:00 p.m. Each time, I would tell her it was still the middle of the night, and she would go back to bed. That didn't work at 4:00 a.m. She was up and wanting her clothes on because someone was "bringing the berries." After I helped her get dressed, I said I would go cook breakfast. She snapped back at me that there was nothing to cook because "they" were not here with it yet. I told her I'd be in the kitchen, and she said she was going to tell Myrtle (my sister, who she usually thinks is her sister--unfortunately they had the same name) what I said and I would have to leave. 

All through breakfast she was convinced I had said something terrible, but she said that she would forget it and forgive me and she wouldn't tell Myrtle this time. I could stay, but I'd better not do it again, she said. She added "I know you lied to me." 

I think my problem is telling the truth instead of lying. I just haven't learned how to play along with her the right way. And it's so hard to understand what she's talking about at times. 

One other thing she said this morning--that this was her house and I wasn't getting it. I'm afraid I may have brought that on by trying to fix up the house a little in my first month or so here. I have stopped that now, and probably should have sooner. 

A couple of weeks ago when I went shopping, my mother told my sister that she had given me all her money to buy groceries and she was afraid I would run off with it and not come back. I never take much from her, but she had given me a little extra, saying that she wanted me to buy Christmas presents for all her kids. 

After this morning's incident when she said she would forgive me and forget what I'd said, I asked her "What did I say?", and she said "I don't know. I didn't hear it. One of the others told me." 

She thinks there are several of us here, not just me with her. Often when we get ready to leave my sister's, she will ask "Where's that other girl? Is she coming with us?" We ask her who, and she says "That other girl that came with us." 

Sunday, December 18, 1994 

Sleeping was back to normal the rest of the week. Then I went shopping, and same night we were up at midnight (I know--too much shopping--but it's almost Christmas!). Not long after getting to her chair, my mother began looking confused. By 12:30 she told me she didn't know how she got there and that she wanted to go back to bed. Then an hour later, she's up again, saying she just wants to sit in her chair. When we were up at midnight she asked me "Who are you?" 

I had a feeling this would be one of those nights. My mother wanted to take her throw that we keep over her legs to bed with her, because she said the cover in the bed was no good. Then she wanted to move one of her pillows halfway down on the other side of the bed to for her head. I told her there was another pillow on that side of the bed, and she told me I was awful. As she lay down she said she didn't know how she could get to sleep on such an awful bed. 

We were up the rest of the night after 1:30 a.m. My mother did a lot of talking in her sleep, as she sat in her chair. I couldn't understand much of what she said, but once she said something about "a picture". 

The day didn't start out well. My mother refused her Sunday bath, and she said she wasn't going to my sister's for Sunday dinner. She refused a morning snack, saying she couldn't swallow, and was holding her chest and throat, saying it hurt. I knew it was probably indigestion, so I got her something for it, but she refused, saying she just wanted to die. I told her I loved her and wanted to help her feel better, and she said "You don't do anything but poke stuff down me that the doctor says I'm not supposed to have." I told her I was just trying to make her comfortable and to stop the pain whenever she hurt. She finally let me give her something, and then she fell asleep. When she woke up and walked through the house, admiring the sunshine through the window, I asked her if she wanted to go out and walk in the sunshine, thinking maybe I could still get her to go to my sister's. But she said, no, that her legs hurt. I will call my sister and tell her. I'll just fix something for the two of us to eat here today. It's not long till Christmas, and I'll have to insist then, but we can skip today. 

Tuesday, December 20, 1994 

My mother was up at 1:00 a.m. looking for "U.S"--my dad. She doesn't do this often, but I dread the times when she does. I don't know what to tell her. Sometimes it's like just finding out if I tell her he'd dead. It's the same way when she asks about her parents. I never know what to say. 

She kept walking through the house looking for him for about a half-hour. Then she went back to bed, but she kept getting up, sitting on the side of the bed, asking about him three more times before she ever lay down and went to sleep--about 2:00 a.m. Then she was up again at 3:00 a.m., saying she was going to sit in her chair. And that's where she slept the rest of the night, as I sat up and watched her. 

Sunday, December 25, 1996 

It's Christmas morning. My mother has no interest in opening the presents under the tree. She's refusing to go to my sister's for Christmas dinner. She hardly touched the special Christmas breakfast I fixed for her. she says she's going to die today. She refused to take anything for what must be indigestion. She's still in her nightgown. We can skip the bath if we have to, but I've got to get her into some clothes when she wakes up from the nap she's taking now. I won't mention going to my sister's. I'll just see if I can get her to take a walk the way we did last Sunday. If not, I guess we'll just have sandwiches here for Christmas Day. 

At least we had yesterday--a Christmas Eve drop-in party with finger foods. I did that because one of my brothers has a big family by marriage and can't come on Christmas Day. It all went well when everyone was dropping in one at a time, but last night everyone showed up all at once and were here together for about an hour. I saw that bothered, confused look on my mother's face then. That may be why we're having this problem today. But it was the same way a month ago, on Thanksgiving Day. 

Now at 7:30 a.m., my mother has been to the bathroom a couple of times, and a few minutes ago she told me where she wanted to be buried. I could hear her stomach rumbling, and I asked her to take something for it. This time she didn't refuse. We might have a good Christmas Day after all. 

And it was, a good day. It's 8:00 p.m. now. At about 9:00 this morning, my mother let me help her with a bath and getting dressed. We went to my sister's and had a good day. All went well until a few minutes ago. 

About a half-hour after we got home tonight my mother became angry when I was helping her get ready for bed. She told me she didn't need me anymore and wanted me to leave so she could find someone else to stay with her because I was always saying "mean" things to her. I just went ahead with helping her get ready for bed, and then I let her sit in her chair. Sometimes I think it would be better if I said nothing to her. I think at times she hears something completely different from what I say. She honestly believes I've been saying mean things to her. 

It was a good Christmas, in spite of this. It was good being with all the family, and having my two nieces home. My mother was showered with gifts, and she has plenty of warm comfortable clothes now. So let the cold winter come, and even nights up like this. We are ready. 

Monday, December 26, 1994 

We slept all night last night! At about 9:00 p.m., Mama said she wanted to talk to me. She tried telling me about what happened with that "other girl", my "sister", and that she didn't really want her to leave, that she needed her. I assured her that I knew that, told her I was the "other girl", that I was here staying with her full-time. Then she decided to go back to bed, and she slept till our usual getting-up time, 4:30 a.m., without even asking about getting up any earlier. 

She's slept off and on in her chair most of the morning since breakfast, of which she took only a few bites. Once when she seemed wide-awake, we watched part of a Christmas video-- still trying to finish the ones we were loaned for the holidays. 

One of my nieces is still here, one granddaughter still to visit my mother sometime this afternoon before she leaves tomorrow. But there will be no more crowds. I'm having the family for New Year's, but I'm not going to fix so much as I did Christmas Eve, and I'm not going to mention it till it's here. 

Wednesday, December 28, 1994 

It's 2:00 a.m., and we've been up for about fifteen minutes. My mother has been trying to get up since 11:00 p.m. or earlier. I haven't slept much of the night because each time she woke me up, I haven't been able to get back to sleep until, it seems, just before she got up again. 

Yesterday was a good day, after the usual confused and sleepy morning hours and no appetite at breakfast. The rest of the day she was asking for food, and for a change, eating everything in sight! The weather was nice, and we took three walks outside. 

I look forward to seeing the flowers coming up outside in the next few months. The walks will be fewer because the weather will be cold, but when we do get out, it will be wonderful to see my mother's delight when the crocus, hyacinth, and daffodils begin blooming. She got warm jackets, gloves, and socks, as well as warm pantsuits for Christmas, so we can bundle up and go see it all happening soon. Maybe it will make the times we spend inside better, too. 

My mother just went to the bathroom, and when she came back she said she was going to get everybody together and tell them she couldn't go on this way, she wanted to be taken somewhere, that she wasn't like this before I came, and something had to change. 

It must have been a dream. But one good thing is whenever something like this happens, she will soon forget it. When the sun comes out brightly today, hopefully she will be in a good mood, and we will go outside and enjoy the pansies which are still blooming their hearts out. 

She seemed content a few minutes ago when I said "OK, I'm sorry, I've failed.", and I assured her that I would tell my sister that she wanted me to leave. Tonight she's happy with the idea of me leaving. Tomorrow she may hug me and tell me I'm sweet. Tomorrow night she may hold my hand as usual while we're watching TV. In another week we may go through some bad nights again. But she always forgets, and she becomes sweet and loving again. 

There was a pleasant surprise on the day after Christmas when my niece visited. My mother seemed to recognize me for a little while. She asked my sister about "that girl who claims she's mine", and then my sister pointed to me and asked who I was, and she said "Sue". (My mother always called me by my middle name.) I guess she thought I was here just for Christmas, but she hasn't asked if I'm still here or if I left. 

Her not knowing me bothers me more than anything. If she just knew me, that would make it all so much better. She wouldn't tell me to leave if she knew I was her Sue, her baby daughter. She wouldn't be depressed so often if she knew that I, her Sue, had done what she had asked me to do--actually come home to stay. If only she knew. 

Thursday, December 29, 1994 

We were up at for an hour at 11:00 last night, after having a not-so-good day yesterday. My mother was talking to someone last night and said something about babies, then she got up, said she had a headache, refused to take anything for it. She told me she did this lots of nights (as if I didn't know) and she went to her chair, where she fell asleep. She got up an hour later and told me she was going to bed, and she actually stayed there till 5:00 this morning! 

Yesterday morning we were watching a movie, and all of the sudden she got up out of her chair and said she wanted that Christmas tree down and that mess cleaned up and out of her house. So I started taking the tree down, but she didn't want those boxes in the floor, so instead of carefully packing my ornaments (some very expensive and fragile), I just piled them in the boxes and took them upstairs as quickly as I could. While I was doing that, she was complaining about me going to break her ornaments. Later she talked to me about "that other girl" and what she had done that morning. 

Friday, December 30, 1994 

We were up at midnight for my mother to go sit in her chair and sleep. A little later she awoke and began acting out a dream. She asked me for a knife. I went to the kitchen and brought her a spoon, hoping that would do. Then she was looking for the okra she was going to cut up. I convinced her (I think) that it was a dream, and she told me I should get a job somewhere else. Then she sat back down in her chair and fell asleep again. At 3:00 she wanted to go back to bed. But as soon as I'd fallen asleep, she was back up again for the rest of the night. At 5:00, I just couldn't stay awake any longer, so I lay down on the couch, but five minutes later, she was up again. 

Today I did something I rarely do--napped in the daytime. My mother was sleeping in her chair, so I took a nap on the couch beside her. I was asleep at 3:00 when we had relatives come for a visit, and I know I acted strangely because I was so deeply asleep that I could hardly get awake to answer the door; In fact, my mother got there and opened it before I could. 

The only other time I've done this, a Home Health nurse caught me, and I don't think she liked it very much. She said "You know, they can get away if you're not watching them." Maybe it would be better if I go ahead and try to sleep at night when I'm up with her, as long as she's sleeping in her chair. 

Saturday, December 31, 1994 

I did get a couple more hours of sleep early this morning, but it didn't work out so well in the end. When I woke up, my mother was staring at me. She said "Get back over there! You took this job, so get back over there and take care of the babies!" I just sat down. Then in a little while I told her I was sorry I had fallen asleep, but now it was time for me to fix breakfast, and I was going to get dressed and do that. She didn't say a word, but she kept staring at me. Then at breakfast, she ate wonderfully--every bite for the first time in a long time. She asked me about the children, and when I told her that hers were all grown up and she would see them all today, she seemed satisfied with that answer. 

Today is New Year's Eve. Instead of a party like Christmas Eve, I'm just making a pot of soup that will go with sandwiches. There's hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and hot teas for afterwards, to go along with leftover Christmas goodies. And tomorrow I'll do fifteen-bean soup (including black-eyed peas, of course), my sister will do the traditional southern collard greens, and my brother-in-law will do cornbread. No big deal this time--just a drop in Saturday night and an ordinary Sunday dinner. Just relaxing, warming-up with some hot food and drinks, and enjoying being with family. Hopefully all will go well. 

Copyright © 1994-2004 Brenda S. Parris
Background Copyright © 1999 Brenda S. Parris

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