17 Mar 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Aging in Place, Mom
With Mom moving in this past October it seems natural that my blog will start to reflect this new life. I’ve decided to take a documentary approach to our life with an aging, ill parent, living in our home; mostly pictures, but in posts too. These posts can be found together with the tag “Aging in Place”.
As I was prepping meds for Mom this morning, with the spring sunlight streaming in, I was struck by the image of it.
Sunday Mornings with Mom
This is usually how I start my Sunday, every two weeks. One of her heart medications is taken every other day, so having a two week “set” makes it work best.
This picture represents one of those milestones for an aging person. The point where this becomes difficult to self-manage is a point where phrases like “Assisted Living” and “Adult Foster Care” begin to be heard. It was one of the reasons we moved Mom in, just helping with this task, along with making sure she’s taken the meds, already has helped with her falls and lucidity.
We’re trying to help Mom to mostly Age in Place, she no longer can be completely independent, but staying with us keeps in with her community, even if that community largely is just CK and I, well and our herd of animal companions. We’re planning to investigate some more community resources for helping us to help Mom.
16 Mar 2013
in Uncategorized Tags: Aging in Place, EveryDayStuff, Mom, pain, practice, relationship dynamics
I look back at this blog and realize that two months have whooshed on by. One of those weeks was spent celebrating Mom’s 70th birthday in on the Big Island of Hawai’i, which also felt like it went by far too quickly.
It was a bittersweet trip. Mom was delighted to be there, but the rigors of travel exhausted her. Her blood levels fell, in fact we spent the morning at the Kaiser Infusion Center having a transfusion of blood and platelets. The flight home was arduous, with her saying she was hallucinating and constantly fighting with me when I’d remind her that her bag needed to stay under the seat, that she needed to not hold her cane until the plane was on the ground, etc. I feel like we’ll never take a big trip with her again. CK thinks maybe we might, but if we’re able to bear the cost of first class tickets. Mom’s always wanted to go to EPCOT and I’d really hoped she might be able to do some of these things.
Some weeks are better for Mom, but in general she seems afraid of the world and too content to just while away the hours listening to books on tape or watching shows on the Lifetime channel. To me these all seem to be the same story line of families facing challenge that they greet with Faith and are therefore led to a happy ending. Improbable and so narrow, I don’t seem my life reflected in these stories at all, that I find them grating. I worry that this consumption of brain-candy stories to be worrisome. When I urge some engagement with her peers, attending some activities at a local senior center, she professes too great a fear of venturing into any group.
Looking back, I think Mom’s always had some level of social anxiety and I think she’s sabotaged a lot of connections. When you add to that her deteriorating eyesight and the legacy of the emotional and financial abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband’s family, I can connect it all to this fear of joining any kind of group. That said, it is hard to watch her passive consumption of mindless entertainment, ticking away the moments that make up a dull day.
When I was younger she at least tried some new things, particularly arts and crafts. She developed some skill, and enjoyed tole-painting, sewing things, some quilting, and a little machine embroidery. All pursuits that the pain in her hands and the failing eyes have taken from her life. I cannot say the same for reading materials and shows, I always remember her with a stack of Harlequin Romance novels and a fondness for movies like An Officer and a Gentleman and Ice Castles.
She resents my prodding, it makes her feel bad about herself. She hurts, profoundly. Her health has never really been well in my lifetime. It is hard to greet pain and keep going, I know this from personal experience. It takes a lot of will to try and keep moving with, and through the pain. I especially know that when the pain increases the fatigue it brings make it even more difficult to stay engaged and moving, however, I know at those times that it vitally important to keep trying.
And yet, she suffers profoundly. Physically, emotionally, mentally, she suffers. Is it wrong for her to hope to ease into death and go to the heaven she imagines in her mind? Is that so wrong for her to want that? Is it just that Dylan Thomas made too deep and lasting an impression on my young mind that I recoil at the thought of pursing, of longing for an easy death?
The other night I shared with CK that I felt like she’s just giving up and that it hurts. I felt like both my biological father and my step-dad both just turned toward pleasure, pleasure that was surely killing them, and refused to do the hard work to stay alive and present, part of my life. It hurts a lot to feel like my Mom’s doing the same thing.
Watching sunset at Kealakekua Bay – Hawaii – March 2013
25 Nov 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: EveryDayStuff, gratitude, MaryOliver, Mom, poetry
“Oriental Beauty” tea, an Oolong with peachy flavors
It has been busy. This year has been made of busy. No glorification of Busy here, just an observation. We’ll all be happy to see the end of 2012.
A lot has been done. I am filled with gratitude for all that we’ve managed to accomplish this year.
CK and I bought a new house and are renting the old one to a friend who found herself is real need of a place amenable to her companion animals.
I spoke at a conference in September in Orlando at Walt Disney World. I’ve now been at EPCOT (the leading favorite) and have ridden on the Its a Small World ride (freaky, freaky).
Work was all kinds of extra crazy around this time too. I’m ending the year with quite a lot done, CK attributes much of this to my being a workaholic (a bit) at a company full of other workaholics.
We got home. Packed. I rather dropped the ball on helping with the move, but we’ve moved on from although I’m still feeling bad about it. Working on that.
We moved and are in that limbo of not really knowing where just everything is yet.
Mom moved in with us at the end of October. We’ve already had a fire truck at the house due to a low blood sugar. We’re learning.
Yes, it is hard. Worth it, but hard.
I’m feeling rather worn down by the year and hate that it is really showing. CK suggested today that I should take a weekend away by myself to just rest. I’m thinking about it.
Took a few minutes to just sit down and have some tea before tackling the week’s grocery shopping today. We had a little bit of time this week between the holiday and a flurry of medical appointments for Mom to go to Powell’s and I picked up Mary Oliver’s book of poetry, Why I Wake Early.
The poem Bone in it really caught me for the whole cup of tea. Still has me caught, and here it is:
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape –
and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died
hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something –
for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where
once, in the lively swimmer’s head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only
two inches long –
and thought: the soul
might be like this –
so hard, so necessary –
yet almost nothing.
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,
unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn’t see anything
through its dark-knit glare;
yet don’t we all know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts –
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
through the pale-pink morning light.
27 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, EveryDayStuff, gratitude, Haiku, Mom, poetry
Water Lily - Conservatory of Flowers, San Francisco, California - October 2003
Sometimes I’m just blown away by my wife, in a good way. Not only does she help me through spots that are really tough for me, but she does it without it feeling like she pushing me along or dragging me a long with her ideas. Plus there’s the whole being involved with an adult, someone who really is my partner. Who throws down with the tough shit and just starts getting stuff done.
We each have our own stuff we’re working on, which makes things a challenge sometimes. Then there’s the stuff that arises out of those raw moments when our own respective history and the baggage chafes together. It is hard, sometimes it is really hard. But I feel like we’re really working on it together, as equals.
Today she went and picked up Mom from the hospital since I had 4 meetings sandwiched around teaching yoga… out at my office in the Southern Burbs. She took Mom to her apartment in the Eastern burbs, changed up her pill boxes, redid her insulin, found her walker in the closet, and made sure Mom went down to lunch. Then she made us dinner tonight and we watched a movie I’d wanted to see. Yeah, she’s awesome.
Pink petals rising from muck.
Stronger than it looks.
26 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, EveryDayStuff, Haiku, Mom, poetry
Spring Goslings - Wilsonville, Oregon - April 26, 2012
CK and I trying to bring some creative thinking to things with Mom. Still in the planning stages, but we have some ideas that we’re going to look into to see how feasible they are.
Today at work I took a little break and sat by the stream that runs through the campus. Nearby were some more of the goslings we see each spring, I think there’s almost a dozen of them around the campus. Goslings in spring are definitely a perk!
Small feathered beings
Carefully guarded over
By cautious mothers.
11 Apr 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: 30-Poems-30-Days, anger, Mom, poetry, practice
Broken Piano Foot - Our Basement, Portland, Oregon - June 2010
Today was another page in the Troubles of Mom, sadly. Still don’t want to say much in such a public forum, but the end result is that I’m feeling angry and sad tonight. So angry that the poetry I come up with is something like this:
I’m reminding of a song from Bruce Cockburn, “Pacing the Cage“, which has the amazing lyrical image of “eddies in the dust of rage”. The difficult waiting game, waiting out the rage, reminds me a lot of this song tonight.
And then on my commute home there was an enormous rainbow, clearly seen in a glorious arc across a gray, spring sky.
It is hard practice sitting between the simple joy of rainbows and unethical people hurting my Mom. Practicing with my own anger very certainly feels like all the training wheels are off.
And yet, there is this nagging commitment to poetry…
Waiting with Anger
There’s a video on YouTube of Bruce Cockburn performing “Pacing the Cage”, check it out!
30 Jan 2012
in Uncategorized Tags: anger, Grave Precepts, Mom, precepts
Xenophobia is a great, big-points-in-Scrabble kind of word. Wictionary defines it thusly:
xenophobia (plural xenophobias)
- A fear of strangers or foreigners.
- A strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners.
The Seventh Grave Precept, one of the vows I received when I took refuge, provides us with clear direction about xenophobia:
Realize self and others as one. Do not elevate the self and blame others.
Mom & Mr. Murphy, January 2012
The past ten days have been a roller coaster, a Mom roller coaster. This time it is something entirely out of the realm of the usual conflicts and hurt between us. In some ways there’s a rather painful familiarity to what’s been happening, but for now I don’t want to go into the details, although I will in time.
What I want to talk about is what happens when we do not realize the self and others as one. What happens and what we are capable of when we don’t practice with the Seventh Grave Precept.
We truly see and hear about the consequences of seeing people as other every day. Wars, murder, sexual exploitation, ethnic violence, abuse, theft, and more all happen because one group of people sees another group as other and their xenophobia lets them justify all manners of horrifying behavior.
We also witness this when animals are treated as commodities to be tortured, killed, and consumed. We tell ourselves that animals don’t feel the way we do, that their suffering isn’t on par with ours so we find it acceptable to treat them horrifically. We justify laws that classify sentient beings as property and allow barbarous treatment of them to be classified as “animal agriculture”.
The Seventh Grave Precept asks us to keep our hearts open to the compassion of the Buddhas. It tells us to never flinch away from taking responsibility for ourselves, never put ourselves above another being either by seeing them as other or through blaming them for our own poor choices. At every moment we look at another being knowing that they are absolutely the same, equal with ourselves.
The First Noble Truth reminds us that we all suffer. It is the human condition to suffer. In this, and in so many other ways, we’re each of us exactly the same. We all long to be loved and seen for who we are. We fear the suffering of illness, injury, loss, and our inevitable deaths. Each and every moment we’re all out there together with our worries, hopes, dreams, and desires.
The past 10 days have created a gulf between people who have tried, in their own flawed and human way, to love each other. There’s been both discord and joy, misunderstanding and communion. There have been unexpected and grave illnesses. In the end my Mom was seen as other and experienced shocking treatment because of it.
It hurts a lot and I am mindful of an anger so keen that it leaves me feeling ashamed and overwhelmed.
In contrast to the negativity that comes from not practicing the Seventh Grave Precept, loving-kindness and compassion arise naturally. In response to the events of this past week I see the true compassion people have for one another. There have been so many people, some of them complete strangers, who’ve offered help, time, money, creative thinking, concern, and loving-kindness. People have been giving in so many unexpected ways. These kindnesses, both small and large, help me to remember to keep my heart open instead of closed in anger.
12 Nov 2011
in Uncategorized Tags: Appreciation, EveryDayStuff, Mom
That’s kind of what life does. When we’re little it feels like it moves intolerable slow, as we age we find ourselves looking up, blinking in astonishment at how quickly things speed by.
Case in point. Here it is November, nearly middle of. Gracious!
Work remains very busy. I’ve come to accept that the crazy busy feeling at first wasn’t the “ramp up” period of getting used to a new job, new team, etc. My team just seems to run on “damn busy” all the time and I’m trying to find peace with the fact that I end each week just worn out and feeling like I haven’t accomplished nearly enough.
This past week I received a very nice compliment from one of the project managers. I’d run a meeting to review and validate user acceptance testing. It was a busy 90 minutes of keeping client testers on task and keeping our developer from feeling overwhelmed and picked apart. Later that day the project manager made a point to tell me how impressed he is with the work I put into making this project run. He went further to say that he felt he could really learn from the way I run my meetings and projects.
I’m trying to just let that one sit and feel good about it. I feel like I’m behind on all the tasks for that given project, so it would be far to easy to pick apart that compliment until there’s nothing left but my task list. Instead I’m just reminding myself that I am actually very good at what I do and that people both see and respect it.
Mom… I haven’t seen her since this summer. I’ve spoken to her several times, but I can’t quite get enough energy together to see her in person. It is a combination of the fact that spending time with her literally eats away one of my precious weekend days, complete with a bunch more driving, and feeling the hurt of how she treated me.
We got into something of an argument on Monday night. I won’t go into the details, but it mostly all got hung up on how angrily she meets my setting boundaries. When I fail to respond how she wants me to, she lashes out at me and at herself. I’m still growing the skill of setting a boundary and not rising to the bait when she responds negatively. It is hard practice and somehow seeing her in person seems like just one stone too many right now.
Her health remains precarious. She has ulcers that are bleeding and she’s receiving transfusions about every 6 weeks. He husband’s health is failing rapidly and she feels alienated by his family, like they don’t trust her. It is hard and I feel so very sad for her suffering.
On my health front things are well. I’ve lost 10 pounds and my cholesterol isn’t the 219 it tested at at the employee health fair, but a far happier 178. I’ve been going to the aqua power class on Saturday mornings and trying to go to a Zumba class offered at the gym at work. Being in the water on Saturday really helps a lot. Zumba really feels out of my comfort zone, I generally just try to keep moving and not crash into anyone else, but the group of women who go are generally encouraging and supporting, which helps.
27 Aug 2011
in Uncategorized Tags: Mom, practice, VidaVeganCon
As of yesterday my Mom is speaking to me again. We chatted on the phone for a little while so I could get an update on the bleeding ulcers she’s suffering from again. She brought up the blog to say that she felt overwhelmed reading it and just hopes that I can forgive her.
I avoided talking about her choice to live out in Corbett. I’m still so sad and angry about this choice, but I’m trying to at least interact from a place of non-judging. As much as it hurts to watch her make a choice that hurts her health, she is going to make those choices regardless of what I want or need. It is hard, but worthy Practice.
The thing she’s missing is that I don’t hate her, don’t hold a grudge against her. I just ache to see her suffer and know that she was so hurt in her own childhood. I’m reminded of a talk Chozen Bays Roshi recorded on forgiveness of the abusers she interviews after examining hurt children — that often these people are just abused children who grew up without ever having their abuse acknowledged, never treated, never healed.
That’s my Mom – an adult who inside is an abused child who was never held in compassion. It helps me when trying to stay on even ground with her, stay in non-judgement. It also helps me be resolved to keep going to therapy even when some of those sessions are profoundly triggering and painful.
I have been so deeply touched by the thoughtful, sharing, compassionate and supportive messages I’ve received here and in person. Even today at Vida Vegan Con someone made a point to come up to ask me how my Mom was doing and how I was. Here was this lovely woman and she took a moment to tell me she’s been reading this blog and thinking kind thoughts toward us. I feel so much gratitude that my fears around opening up have been meet with such loving-kindness.
I started talking openly and honestly about my recovery from trauma because there is a chance another person might be helped by it. Often I post stuff and I almost forget that people are out there reading it. When people reach out to me because of something I’ve written I am continually touched to learn that someone felt better for reading something I write. I’m also just humbled by the people that come to me to share their own experiences and offer their support.
Tomorrow will be my birthday, I will be 42, and on some level it feels odd to not be planning some party. I’d intended to, but with all the upset around Mom, my busy schedule at work, and getting ready to speak at Vida Vegan Con, there just wasn’t time. I unfortunately forgot that DW made extra effort to take tomorrow off of work to go to the event I’d intended to plan, but we’re going to make a point to spend some time together tomorrow afternoon. That bit of forgetfulness aside, it feels good to be speaking to Mom again and spending the weekend surrounded by people who are writing and working toward a more compassionate world.
29 Jul 2010
in Uncategorized Tags: boundaries, Mom, PTSD
Last Saturday our plans to sleep until noon to recover from all the sleep lost during OSCON were dashed by an early morning call from my Mom, phoning from ER. She’d spent much of the night with terrible chest pains and her husband had taken her into the closest hospital. By Saturday afternoon she was back at the hospital associated with her health care group and we went up to see her.
Here’s where it goes weird.
Through some miscommunication my Mom believed she had been given a firm diagnosis of stomach cancer. That was back in February. I assumed that they’d done a scope, some blood work, and all those usual things to diagnose something like that. But they hadn’t.
On Sunday morning they performed the scope and saw some spots that looked like ulcers that had likely been bleeding. These were cauterized and a tissue sample was taken for biopsy. On Monday some abdominal and chest x-rays were taken and nothing suspicious was found. We’re still waiting to hear the results of the biopsy, but as of this moment it appears that Mom never had cancer.
Mom is furious that she was lied to. No mention of a “diagnosis” from a doctor appears in her charts anywhere; Mom sees this as a conspiracy and is certain records have been deleted. On the advice of her naturopath I’ve mentioned that she should make sure that all her records, even things marked as “sensitive” be evaluated. Mom is more concerned about having to tell people she was wrong about having cancer than she is happy to be freed of this burden.
CK and I believe that there was very possibly not a firm diagnosis. Mom was referred to an oncologist, but never went. She also had been told that it would be 8 weeks to get her in for the stomach scope and possible biopsy. She also never went. We feel that there probably was the suggestion that the digestive distress she’d been experiencing could be a recurrence of stomach cancer. Upon hearing that Mom went into her consistent behavior of reacting from fear and impatience, deciding that she did have cancer.
After a second Sunday visit CK said to me in the car on the way home, “That’s what you grew up with?!”
I am first and foremost thrilled. On the other hand I’m furious with the way Mom spins stuff. I’m frustrated with her continual impatience and her drive to try and control everyone else while refusing to take care of herself. In trying to just offer sympathy at listening to her irritation I’ve been accused of belittling her.
Today we had a long phone conversation and she was much more rational to talk with. When she went off about her husband not taking care of himself I told her to let it go and take care of herself instead. She doesn’t like taking care of herself and would prefer to think she’s in control of everyone else so she doesn’t have to think about her own needs. She also prefers to let other people take care of her and angry when they don’t “do it right”.
In a big moment for me setting boundaries as to what is acceptable I asked her to stop sharing a childhood story because for me it is a very painful, traumatizing memory. She hurt at hearing that this incident causes me nightmares to this day but wasn’t defensive. She agreed to never talk about it again and made additional overtures in accepting that many times she did not make the best decisions for my well being.
All this and an incredibly intense EMDR session yesterday. Last night’s sleep was frustrated by nightmares. CK reminded me again this morning that I need to “give in” and take Xanex when that happens. I’m about to head off to see my acupuncturist and hopefully that will settle some of this energy. It has been a really long, exhausting week and I’m feeling pretty worn out from the intensity of it.