29 Aug 2017

Life with MIL – What is relaxed? …

August 29, 2017Inspiration, lisa davenport

‘Life with MIL’ a very candid, funny, moving, and sometimes difficult journey of Alzheimer’s with my mother in-law …

Frank stood outside the upper slider door and waved as I climbed out of the car.  Looking up to the second story, I waved back and squinted my eyes trying to see his face…was that a smile on Frank’s face?

ME: Hiya Frank!

FRANK: (smiling widely) Hi!  Ya better come around up here.  I think the lower door is locked.

I make my way up the stone steps and across the upper deck.

FRANK: Yeah, I’m working on scraping this (pointing to the deck) and getting it ready to paint. (chuckle) Rosemary’s helping …er … watching from the window.

ME: It’s looking good Frank! How’s Mom?

FRANK: Good! Yeah, she’s right here …. she’s good.  Oh, watch Toodles; she’s trying to escape today.

I grasp the door handle and look through the slider.  There sits the cat ready to sneak out the door.  I raise my eyes, admittedly looking for clues of what Mom will be like tonight.  Through the glass, my eyes lock with hers as a smile crosses her face and she waves.  I begin to feel my shoulders relax and a smile creep across my own face.

ME: Hi Ma!

MIL: Well hellllllo!

Her eyes are bright, she’s smiling …

ME: How are you?

MIL: Good! How ‘bout you?

ME: I’ve got no complaints!

MIL: (she waves her hand at me and giggles) You always say that!

ME: I do … Life is good, isn’t it Ma?

I lean in and kiss her forehead.  Frank has joined us and sits and leans back in his recliner.  I turn to watch the latest report on the horrific flooding in Texas.  My hand is still on Mom’s shoulder when I feel her start to stroke it.  Turning and looking down at her, I find her smiling and looking up at me.

ME: You ok Ma?

MIL: Great … what are we doin’?

ME: It’s bath night …

MIL: Well I better get going then! (wiggling in her chair to get up)

ME: Not yet Ma.  I need to get a few things ready first.

MIL: OK! Thanks! (tilting her head up and smiling … her eyes are bright and clear)

I look down at her smiling … I’m looking at the woman I’ve known for decades but haven’t seen for many years.  I pause for a second and just suck in this moment.  A lump forms in the back of my throat.  I almost want to pull over a kitchen chair, pour a cup of coffee, and chat with her like the old days.  Talk about that fierce independence she’s always had, listen to her thoughts on what she’s witnessing in our world today, or maybe share our opinions and views in a judgement free zone.  I shake my head and sigh …

MIL: OK, I guess I gotta go …

ME: Not yet Ma, sit for a minute.  I’ll get things ready.

MIL: OK … Thanks!

I leave her rocking contently watching the news.  I clean out the dirty clothes from her dresser and prep the bathroom for her shower.  I look out the window and see the sun streaming through the trees, bright little bursts of light through the leaves, canopied by the darker sky above it that has started to creep in.  I think to myself, ‘she’ll be gone when I get back to the family room.  Dusk is never a good time for Mom’.  I turn to leave the bathroom …

MIL: Hello!

ME: YIKES! (I jump out of my skin.)

MIL: YIKES!!! (Mom jumps back herself.)

ME: (laughing) Oh my God Ma, you scared the life out of me!

MIL: As you did me!

ME: I’m sorry.  I just didn’t exp…

MIL: I do live here (giggling) … now can I use the … the .. oh that (pointing at the toilet)

ME: of course … (smiling).  Why don’t you start to get undressed too while I start the shower.

MIL: Yep!

I look over my shoulder to make sure she’s steady as she makes her way to the toilet.  She begins to undress, and I finish my prep.  I step into the bedroom to gather her clothes and return to her stuffing her shoes into the garbage can.

ME: Hhmmmmm, Whatcha doing there Ma?

MIL: Well, I’m putting these away … that way I know where they are.

ME: That is a good idea, but maybe not in the garbage.  How about right here (pointing to the corner of the bathroom)?

MIL: I think the can is fine.  There’s nothing in it … can you hand me that … that little .. that one (pointing at the hand towel with one hand, wiping her nose with the other).

ME: The hand towel? … How about a Kleenex … do you need to wipe your nose?

MIL: yea …

I hand her the tissue, and we continue our routine.  I climb into the shower with her and clean her up. Tonight though, there are a few more smiles and an extra giggle or two.

We finish in the shower and move to the bedroom. I sit her on the bed and begin brushing out her hair.  As I do so she lets out a big sigh.

ME: Everything okay Ma?

MIL: Oh yea, I was just thinking…I’d like to wake up and have you standing right here ready to do this.

ME: Do what? Brush your hair?

MIL: Yea, it feels good … I feel … ummm … I don’t know (she taps her forehead) … the words for it

ME: Do you feel relaxed?

MIL: What’s that …?

I sit on the side of the bed and look at her. Her eyes are gentle, her eyebrows are soft, and her shoulders sit at ease.

ME: Relaxed is this Ma … (I pull the brush through her hair again as her eyes close.) That feels good doesn’t it?

MIL : Mmmmmmm, yea it does.

ME: Do you feel happy? Comfortable? (I guide the brush through again.)

MIL: Mmmmm

ME: Do you feel like you want to go to sleep but you’re not really tired? (I pull another stoke of the brush across her head).

MIL: Mmmm yea ….

ME: (almost in a whisper) That’s relaxed …. Sit and enjoy it Ma …

I brush her hair for a little longer.  Then I gently place the brush on the dresser and look back at Mom.  Her eyes are still closed … she looks so content, comfortable.

ME: (Softly as I place my hand on her shoulder) Ma? You want to go sit with Frank?

MIL: (Her eyes pop open a little startled.) YEP!

ME: (giggle) Did I startle you?

MIL: I was just … hmmm … just … I don’t know …

ME: Relaxed …

Mom huffs and puffs getting off the sofa.  I walk with her to the family room and she sits in her chair.  It’s late and I need to head home …

ME: Frank, I leave for Florida on Wednesday morning … need anything before I leave?

FRANK: Nah, we’re good.

MIL: (Grabbing my hand) Why are you so good to me?

ME: ‘cause I love you Ma.

MIL: I love you too …

FRANK: Have a good trip.

MIL: Trip?

ME: Yes, I leave for Florida on Wednesday.

MIL: Oh ….

ME: I’ll be back before you know it!

I lean in and kiss Mom’s cheek.  As I do so her arm comes up over my neck and she hugs me a little tighter.  I pull away and look at her, she’s there again smiling at me.

I start to back down the driveway thinking back on my night with MIL.  Just the day before, I sat with my own parents and my daughter discussing MIL and the challenges Alzheimer’s brings to a family, specifically Joe and me.  My Mom. and even my Ashley. must have recognized the weight that this disease has placed on our shoulders and suggested that maybe it was time for a support group.  I dismissed it, challenged them on how I could possibly even fit it into my schedule, that I was doing just fine.  The reality is it might be time for a little help. 

For months MIL has had outbursts and moments of frustration that can be difficult to handle.  I face them head on and never lose my patience or temper.  It helps that she always comes around and apologies for her actions.  Still, I find when I get home I feel like I’ve been through an emotional boxing match.  Tonight … she was gentle and gracious.  She laughed and gave me a little piece of her old self to enjoy.  

Maybe the new medication is working … or maybe God felt I needed a little gift tonight.

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  • Rachel Aug 29, 2017

    It is a very difficult thing to go through, and never has to be alone. My family is at the beginning stages of this and it’s the most painful thing for all of us. Reach out for help. If I can help you, as you’ve helped me… I’m there. ❤️

    • Lisa Davenport Aug 29, 2017

      Thank you for you kind words Rachel … and thank you for your offer to help, likewise we’re here … every story is a little different yet still very much the same. Stay strong my friend stay strong.

  • Brenda Keating Aug 29, 2017

    Your blog makes me feel better about the world, knowing that there is proof through your MIL blog that kindness, love, dedication, patience and so much more still exists in the world today. Thank you for your sharing, you never know where your influence stops in helping others get through their own little corner of the world, by realizing, things are not so bad in their own lives. Reading your blog always ligthens my day with a ray of sunshine, thank you Lisa.

    • Lisa Davenport Aug 29, 2017

      Thank you for your kind words Brenda … While this is a difficult season to navigate, the blog sometimes helps us unload a little … I’m glad it brightens your day.

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