Posted in Dealing with your Olds, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Inside Lane

The Call Is Coming From Inside


Hindsight is 20/20. 

 

Looking back, my Mom was exhibiting behaviors symptomatic of dementia as many as five years before the day I found her wandering around her house in a state of pantsless confusion, and hijacked her out of the 3-bedroom house of my childhood and into an independent senior living community. 

 

My mom has always been a little…weird. Her behaviors have never followed any kind of norm, or been at all regimented. Her moods have always swung wildly between delight and despair. She has always been unusually paranoid. She has always been abnormally unpredictable, careless and scatter-brained, and sometimes frighteningly in denial of reality. It was all part of her charm if you weren’t living with it.

 

So, the night she called me from a stranger’s phone because she had lost hers and then gotten lost in Dallas, I just chalked it up to my mom being her kooky, forgetful self. If she hadn’t had my son with her, I wouldn’t have given it another thought.

 

The stranger gave her directions to get home, and I met her at her house to pick up my son and take her a burner phone to use until we could retrieve or replace hers. She was as distressed as I’ve ever seen her. 

 

Before we did anything else, I started dialing her phone to see if maybe it was just under or between a seat. We could hear it, which was great. But we couldn’t see it. Finally, when Mom and I leaned into the same space, I realized it was coming from her. The call was coming from inside. Inside her blouse. It was in her bra.

 

We laughed, sort of. She was embarrassed and angry. I was worried and angry. And, we were both in denial that something was really wrong. 

 

I told myself that maybe her chest area was still numb from the heart surgery she’d had the year before. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t feel the vibration that accompanied the sound? I mean, she’d always gotten lost while driving. Half of my childhood was my mother being lost and us having to stop and ask directions. 

 

It was easy to ignore the problem because I didn’t want to see it. The problem inconvenienced my life. It meant I had to have hard conversations with my mom about moving out of her house. It meant hard conversations were coming about whether her driving days were over. It meant confrontation about how she couldn’t take my son out anymore, and inconvenience to me because she was my best babysitter. It meant hurting her feelings and insulting her sense of dignity. And, it meant confronting my own mortality. 

 

The writing was on the wall, though, and I started trolling the internet for information about how to ease cranky seniors out of their homes into Homes. I narrowed my search from Everywhere down to 3 potential places.

 

Then, in September of 2017, after she hadn’t answered her phone in a few days, I went to her house to find her wandering through her hoarder’s nest dressed in only a t-shirt. She was confused about what day of the week it was and why I was there, and I couldn’t be sure the last time she’d eaten. 

 

I took her to IHOP and fed her, which seemed to help clear up her head, then took her to my house, where she stayed until I moved her into the Independent Living community a mile away.

 

Since her official move-in date of October 31, 2017 and her official diagnosis of Vascular Dementia on November 13, 2017, I’ve learned a lot about Elder Care, Independent versus Assisted Living, and Memory Care versus nursing homes. I’ve learned the differences between hospitalized rehab and skilled nursing rehab, geriatric psychiatric units versus geriatric behavior units, versus geriatric care. I’ve learned about Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives. I’ve sold my mom’s house and researched the best way to save her money. I’ve also freaked out a lot about her money.

 

I’ve dealt with doctor’s appointments, and insurance, and the Department of the Navy, and the IRS. We’ve been through multiple stays in the hospital, a stroke, surgery, and recovery. I’ve managed her friends and family, a full-time job, and a teenager, and perimenopause.

 

I’ve learned tricks to manage medication and mental illness, while trying to take care of my own physical and mental health. I’ve learned to do what is necessary and let the rest go. I learned to let the internet carry my load, and let my friends carry me.

 

I’m kind of tired of learning right now.

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Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Inside Lane, relationships

My Mother’s Keeper


You’ll notice I haven’t posted here since September of 2017. I hadn’t even realized that until I came to make this post, which works out because the reason I stopped posting is also the reason I’m coming to post today: My mom.

On Facebook, I’ve been sharing a lot of the journey I’ve been on with her declining mental health over the past two years, but especially the past three months, and I’ve had so many people reach out I decided to share with a wider audience.

So, let’s start in September of 2017 and I’ll get you up to speed.

Actually, let’s start in October of 2008, when my mother was recovering from colorectal cancer in my home and I realized I was not a nurse, I was not a natural-born caregiver, and my mom was a double-fisted handful of impossible to please when she’s ill. I mean, I already knew that last part. I had remembered that from my childhood. What was new was realizing that my patience level had changed.

In October of 2008, my son was three, my husband was working full time and going to school full time. I was also working a stressful, full-time job, caring for my little family, and then driving 1.5 hours every night ONE WAY to visit my mother in the hospital, until I brought her home after a series of events in the hospital nearly killed her.

I learned that I had the patience to be my son’s mother or the patience to be my mother’s caregiver, but I did not enough for both–and that’s probably the healthiest realization I’ve ever come to and set me up for success in the following years. I don’t feel bad about that. I have limits and I know what they are.

From 2008 through 2014, at intervals, I would ferry my mother to and from appointments in order to be the detail-keeper. I took her to the MRI appointment when she took 3x the dosage of valium they had suggested and then behaved so cruelly and so badly that I chose not to connect with her for a couple of weeks after I was sure she was back to normal. (She needed the MRI because in a bout of what was increasingly erratic behavior, she had “playfully” charged my son like a bull, tripped, and busted open my front door with her head, pile-driving my then-7-year-old first-grader into a flight of stairs. She hit the door so hard, it knocked out a chunk of drywall when it hit the wall. A couple of years later, while “playfully” grabbing at my son, she would trip, fall, and break her arm.)

In 2014, when she had open-heart surgery, I reprised my role of caregiver both before and after her hospital stay, and was there when she went absolutely apeshit in the ICU for three days. I stayed at her house with her to help her settle in and it was pure, unadulterated misery for both of us. I couldn’t do anything right for her, and she couldn’t find any relief. My mom suffered every emotional side-effect associated with open-heart surgery, without the willingness to do anything the doctor or I asked her to do.

When we made our 6-week return to the surgeon, my mom (whose recovery had been arduous and unending) admitted that she had stopped taking any of the medication that had been prescribed after surgery because she didn’t think she needed it, and I lost my shit. I sat through the surgeon berating me for not taking better care of her, and not making sure she was taking her medication (I would ask, she would say yes, that was that.) I sat through her truculent response to his insistence that she take her medicine. And, I sat through at least five red lights on our way home before I absolutely lost my shit.

I was furious that I had spent so much time and expended so much emotional energy into her health, only to have her scoff and say she could cure herself with herbs. I was enraged that I had missed important things with my son so I could sit by her side while she recovered since she was just going to kill herself with a refusal to cooperate with the doctor after the fact. I was livid about all the pieces I had been forced to pick up before and after her surgery, and what all I’d had to give up and do just to make her home habitable for when she returned from the hospital. I had poured money, time, sweat, and a lot of tears into her health. All she had to do was take some pills.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. It always is.

A transient ischemic attack (or, TIA), is what kicked off the ER visit that led to the heart surgery. Now, I know that a TIA can also kick off or kick up levels of Vascular Dementia. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can see that in the weeks and months after the TIA, my mom’s mental health was never the same. I can see that she honestly could not understand the importance of her medication routine. I can see that the part of her mind that helped her plan for the future, and helped her reason was crippled. I can see that my mother’s current diagnosis of vascular dementia probably got its start in 2014–maybe earlier.

All I knew then was that my mother knew she had Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and she wasn’t willing to do the work to manage either issue, and I had a child to raise and a marriage to foster. I had to work, and I had my own physical and mental health issues to deal with. So, unless she needed me for transportation due to anesthesia (colonoscopies 2x a year) or wanted company at the doctor, I released her to her own healthcare. I worried, but I let go of responsibility.

Over the course of the next three years, I saw (but did not recognize) all the symptoms of dementia in my mother:

  • Confusion
  • Trouble paying attention and concentrating
  • Reduced ability to organize thoughts or actions
  • Decline in ability to analyze a situation, develop an effective plan and communicate that plan to others
  • Difficulty deciding what to do next
  • Problems with memory
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Unsteady gait
  • Sudden or frequent urge to urinate or inability to control passing urine
  • Depression or apathy

I started scouting senior living facilities because I was worried about her house falling down around her, and her not being able to manage or maintain it (and also because I plan in advance like I’m playing chess with Death), and I started trying to convince my mom that she needed to move.

We fought a lot. A LOT. Our usual daily communication dwindled because her behavior was so erratic and unsettling. She was not emotionally reliable, and I started pulling way back on the time she spent with my son because I felt like she was using him to fortify herself. It wasn’t healthy for him. She started asking him to lie for her, and that was the end of that. She thought I was mean and condescending. I thought she was stubborn and killing herself.

And that’s where we were in September of 2017, when after three days of her not answering her phone, I went to her house and found her wandering around pantsless and weeping.

And that’s the day I became my mother’s keeper.

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Robyn Lane Books

Cats + Rainbows + The Internet = Perfection…Right?


You can ask anyone who has ever worked with me, and they will tell you how rare it is for me to feel like I’ve done a job that is even close to good enough (*cough*Nicole*cough*).  It happens once in a blue moon.  So, imagine my surprise to complete two publishing projects with two very different beginnings, and actually feel really good about them.

One project was a lark to entertain my son, born out of his imaginative tangents in the car.  The other was a Phoenix, rising up out of the ashes of another much-loved-but-lost project.  I didn’t expect either of them.  I certainly didn’t expect to want to show them to anyone.

And yet…

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What If One Day is available now on Amazon & CreateSpace, and My Rainbow World will be available through Robyn Lane Books, all over the place on August 17.

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I think a lot of my pleasure (and pride) comes from the models.  Of course What If One Day is based on my boy.  My Rainbow World’s model was inspired by my boss’ granddaughter.  I love looking at my son, so it only follows I’ll love looking at illustrations of him.  And my boss’ granddaughter is DARLING, eat-her-up-cute.

Thor and I dedicated his book to my father because he always told me the best, crazy stories, and I have kept up that tradition for my [poor, long-suffering] child.  Rainbow is dedicated to Thor, to Robyn’s daughter, to my boss, and her granddaughter–and to grandparents and grandbabies everywhere.  Half of the art in this book got an unexpected second chance, with a whole new set of words and different story, kind of like how grandchildren are happy chances to enjoy our families all over again.

I enjoyed every second of the artwork in these books.  If readers can enjoy them a tenth as much, I’ll feel really good.

Thor reading his own book.
Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Howling Sea Lane

Gods, gods, and godly. And Joan Collins.


Little reminder that all royalties from December sales of TIARA TROUBLE are going to help out senior citizens through The Senior Source.  Click the link to your left to buy your copy, or send it as a gift.  You can even send the eBook as a gift!  

And now on to my random thoughts:

I rewatched both Thor and Thor 2 last night, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the first one.  The first Thor is a great superhero movie.  It’s lighthearted and comical, with great bursts of dialog and real chemistry between the stars.  The second Thor is pretty terrible, made redeemable only by Loki and Frigga.  I love that scene with Frigga fighting Malekith.  You go, Renee Russo!

Thor hit all the right notes, thanks to Joss Whedon and Kenneth Branagh.  Thor 2?  Outside of the scenes between Hiddleston and Russo, the chemistry was gone among the actors–the sparkle was gone.  Remember when Chris Hemsworth strutted into frame in the big reveal of Thor in the first movie?  He WAS Thor.

Hemsworth was charming and charismatic, and seemed really happy to be there.  He and Natalie Portman were believably enamored of one another–which had everything to do with the dialog.  She was mostly believably scientific and adorkable–again with the dialog.  Anthony Hopkins didn’t seem embarrassed.  Josh Dallas was gorgeous–what happened with him?  And whose idea was it to replace him with Chuck?  Y’all, do not put Chuck in a blond wig.  All the wigs were better in Thor–in Thor 2?  No.  I’ve seen a better wig on The Blacklist.

Thor 2 ruined the Jane Foster character, who was fiery, driven, and wicked smaht in the first movie, and relegated to cowering and running around in the second.  Bah.

Thor was a fantastic romp.  Thor 2 had no heart–or only the small, black one that belongs to Loki.  I’d still watch a 3rd.

Ducks:

I loved Dynasty.  The hair.  The drama.  The shoulder pads.  The slap fights.  The hats.  The turbans.  Were there people on that show other than Joan Collins?  There was definitely Steven Carrington, who was one of network television’s first openly gay main characters.  He was cute.  His Steve Coleman incarnation was cuter–I want Steve Coleman to be a SHIELD agent, btw.

I do not love Duck Dynasty.  While my mother was recuperating at my house, I ended up squinting my way through a Duck Dynasty marathon.  I did not understand the appeal.  It did not compute.  Then my mother said the magic words, “I like them because they are Christians.”

It didn’t matter that they were jaw-droppingly inane, and borderline inappropriate (this from the episode where tw0 grown men were grilling a 14 year old girl about how far she was going to let her first date get with her.)  They were Christians!  The magic bandaid that makes everything better.  Slap a cross on your bumper and you’re good to go!

You know who else were Christians?

David Duke (“We [Whites] desire to live in our own neighborhoods, go to our own schools, work in our own cities and towns, and ultimately live as one extended family in our own nation. We shall end the racial genocide of integration.”) 

George Wallace (“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth [white people], I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. )

 Cecil Price (“Well, boys, you’ve done a good job [murdering Civil Rights workers.] You’ve struck a blow for the white man. Mississippi can be proud of you. You’ve let those agitating outsiders know where this state stands. Go home now and forget it.”)

Good, southern boys out to protect what the good lord and the good book says is so.  By whatever means necessary.  Looking at color, or religion, or sexual orientation rather than seeing human beings because it is easier to lynch a man than try to understand him.  Good old southern boys, two of whom were elected to public office–just in case you doubt their popularity.

I don’t give a rat’s tail what some hairy hillbilly thinks.  (I care less what a reality TV star thinks–you don’t get to be on a reality TV show because you are well adjusted.  No one is going to watch Bob go to work, work hard, and come home to help his wife do the dishes).  What I care about is that there are human beings on the receiving end of this Heehaw’s flapping beard hole.

If you’re going to hide behind God’s skirts, then I highly suggest you use the language of Jesus when you get brave enough to poke your head out from behind the big guy’s backside.

I highly suggest you take your example from Jesus, not Paul, or Peter, or Moses, or any other imperfect man.  Model your behavior after the Son of God, not the Sons of Thunder.  If you aspire to be a godly man or woman, my recommendation is that you save your judgment for The Church, like Jesus did.  And you offer your love, compassion, kindness, and MEEKNESS to the world.  Like Jesus did.

Jesus wasn’t throwing over the tables and going postal on the temple prostitutes, or losing his temper with the tax collectors.  He saved his ire for those who said they knew better, and still did just as bad, or worse.

If you want to love people, then keep your mouth shut about them and let your lifestyle be the example to follow.  If you want to shun, shame, or hurt people, just keep jacking your jaws.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior

How Rupert Everett Set me on a Crime Spree


I’ve been talking to Robyn and Irene about The Feels today.  You know The Feels. 

The Feels is what happens when you are somewhere between the ages of 8 and 17, and you lay eyes on someone (usually a celebrity of some sort) whose innate charisma sparks something on the inside of you that wakes up a desire you are too young to name, and that your tiny brain is incapable of understanding.  The Feels is a sudden rush of desperate, aching, unrequited love, trembling somewhere on the balance between agony and ecstasy, threatening to tip to either side at any moment.

The Feels is accompanied by the need to laugh, cry, curl up in the fetal position, wail, giggle, gag, and lie catatonic for want of the object of your affection.

You might be surprised to learn that I did not have a true case of The Feels for Duran Duran.  No.  My first case of The Feels happened when I was walking through a Blockbuster Video store in 1986.

I was somewhere in my fifteenth year, having managed to avoid most pitfalls of The Feels because my deep-desire tastes ran to Hamlet and Heathcliff, rather than Jake Ryan and Ferris Bueller.  You don’t get a lot of Hamlet in Grand Prairie, Texas.  You don’t even get a lot of Ferris Bueller.

I had tremors of The Feels for members of Duran Duran, Matt Dillon, and Judd Nelson, but never anything that shook me out of my shoes.  Then, one day I was walking through Blockbuster and stopped cold.  On the far right hand side of the shelf closest to the door, facing inward of the store, on the third shelf down was a video.

guh

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  But everything changed.  I saw this video jacket and something happened.

That boy.  His tie.  His shirt.  His sweater.  The way his sweater was so… His tie was so… His hair was so…  His lips were so…

I had already hit puberty, but when I saw that video jacket, puberty hit me back.

It was like a sucker punch.  I can remember feeling like all the air had gone out of me.  I felt too hot.  I felt sick.  I felt like I wanted to throw up.  And I felt…good.  Oh my word–I had never felt so good.  I had The Feels.

I would not allow myself to rent the video because I was so stunned by The Feels I got just looking at the picture of the boy on the cover, that I was (rightly) afraid that if I watched the video, something inside me would break.  I would be wrecked.  Ruined.  Altered.

So, for TWO YEARS, I walked past that video.  I would stop and gaze and Feel Things, and now and then I would let myself touch the video jacket, read the back of it, and look at the pictures there.  I would fantasize about meeting The Boy on the Cover, who was either Rupert Everett, or Collin Firth (I had hoped The Boy on the Cover was called Collin because Rupert is an awful name, but alas) and telling him how I had abstained from–what?  From looking at him doing his job in a movie?

Finally, when I was 17, I gave in and rented the video.

I was wrecked.  I was ruined.  I was altered.  And not just because the premise of the movie centers around The Boy on the Cover being gay for The Dread Pirate Roberts.  You’d think that would have dampened The Feels, but it did not.  It just made The Feels more complicated, and the only thing a teenage girl loves more than the telephone is FEELING COMPLICATED*.  GOD!  NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME!  YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE, MOM!  GET OUT OF MY ROOM!  *SOBBING*

I watched the movie over and over again. Then, I took it back to Blockbuster and asked to buy it.  Begged to buy it.  I had to beg because they told me no, it was their only copy.  I tried to explain how I needed the movie.

I have never told anyone this before:  I started crying.

I begged the Blockbuster lady to sell me the movie because THE FEELS and I NEEDED IT.  FEELS.  I HAD THEM.  *TEARS*  PLEASE UNDERSTAND MY COMPLICATED FEELS FOR THIS ACTOR WHO WILL NEVER LOVE ME.

She sympathized, but still said no.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do.  I stole it.

That is, I rented it again from a different employee, because Blockbuster lady knew what was up and wouldn’t rent it to me again–she made up some rule about Teenagers with The Feels–and I walked out with it under my shirt and never took it back.  I also never rented anything else from that Blockbuster because…THE FEELS robbed me of my ability to do so.  (You can’t rent new movies until you have returned all the movies you have outstanding, and I was never going to return that movie.  I gave up my right to watch Weekend at Bernie’s, 16 Candles, and Mannequin for the love of Rupert Everett.)

I still have that video.  I keep it in a special place.  You don’t believe me, do you?  Believe.

I had The Feels for Rupert Everett into my late 20s.  Then, I bought a computer and access to the internet.  Rupert Everett kind of ruined Rupert Everett for me.  Too much access is bad for The Feels.

But I’ve still got a baaad thing for tall, skinny, smart, slept-in, English boys.  And an embarrassing case of The Feels for Tom Hiddleston.  Shh. Don’t tell anyone.  I am purposefully not rewatching Thor 2 because there was this one scene that wrecked, ruined, altered me, and I am way too old (and married) to be laughing/crying/curling up in the fetal position/wailing/giggling/gagging/lying around catatonic.  I have things to do**.

*I thank God I had a boy child.  I don’t know what I would do a female carbon copy of myself at 15.  My poor parents.

**Like google pictures of Tom Hiddleston in Loki garb.***

***Not really. ****

****Maybe just a little bit*****

*****Okay, but just once and I promise never to do it again.