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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Experiment (02/16/12)

TITLE: My Mother, My Child
By Leola Ogle


“Mom, take my shoulder.” She looked confused as her arm waved around like a thin reed in a soft breeze.

I grabbed her hand and gently placed it on my shoulder, then helped maneuver her into the passenger seat of my van. She scooted until she was comfortably seated. I drew the seat belt around her and buckled it, patting her leg.

After loading her walker into the back of the van, I climbed into the driver’s seat. We were going back to the care home after mom’s visit to her cardiologist. I smiled and asked, “Ready to go back?”

They say necessity is the mother of invention. In my case, necessity forced experimentation. Everything with mom had become trial and error. Her health and dementia had forced us to place her in a care facility in May 2011. Since I lived closest, I was the primary one that got called whenever mom had a problem, needed something, or had an appointment.

At eighty-five, she was like a child again. Although it was gradual, it seemed to my brother, sister and I that mom’s mental and physical health declined rapidly. I felt at a loss as to how to handle her. Before she went into the care facility, she cried frequently, pouted when she didn’t get her way, wanted undivided attention, and had to be helped with the most menial hygiene care. Although she’d never lived with me, I’d taken her frequently when I could get time off work so that my sister would have a break.

When I had her, I found myself continually mollifying her. My love for her didn’t prevent me from becoming physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I was sure it’d be better once she was in the care facility. I was wrong.

She’d cried every time I visited her. “Can I come live with you?” “How come my kids won’t take me in?” “I don’t like it here.” “They’re mean to me.” “No one comes to see me.”

I always left feeling guilty. Always! I tried different tactics, praying to find something that worked. Her dementia left her incapable of reasoning with her in conversation. I tried several times to point out how her health had improved with the 24 hour care, and the friends she’d made, but she would turn her head away.

“I don’t know what to say or do and I find myself dreading my visits with her,” I lamented to my husband one night, tears threatening to spill.

“Keep trying, honey. You’ll find something that works,” he replied.

The breakthrough came on a day one of the nurses called. “Your mom is crying hysterically and we’ve tried everything to calm her. She insists on talking to you. Maybe it’ll help.”

When mom got on the phone, I couldn’t understand her. “Mom, quit crying. I don’t know what you’re saying,” I repeated, wanting to cry too.

Soon the phone went dead. It was a Monday, the day I had my two-year-old granddaughter, Jocelyn. It was lunch and nap time for her, however I decided I better go see mom.

Jocelyn fell asleep on the way there. I hugged and kissed my sleepy, hungry grandbaby, who wrapped her arms around as I walked into the section where mom was. She wasn’t crying, but the minute she saw me, she burst into tears.

Sitting at the table beside her, I couldn’t understand a thing she said. I tried to comfort her, but to no avail. The excellent, compassionate staff tried to help too, but mom kept crying and clinging to me.

Jocelyn usually loved mom, but the crying upset her, so she hid her face.

My frustration overwhelmed me. I firmly smacked the table top. “Mom, stop crying! I’m here because I love you. Jocelyn needs lunch and a nap, but we’re here with you. Stop crying or I’m leaving.” I addressed her as I would a child throwing a tantrum.

Mom eyes got big! Her tears stopped. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

Sighing, I took her hand. “Are you hurt? Is someone mistreating you? Are you hungry? Soiled? Sick? Sad?”

She answered no to everything. “Then stop this crying, mom. It makes me sad and it scares Jocelyn,” I said in my best motherly voice.

It worked! When I told my husband, he laughed. “She’s just a child now so pretend she’s one of the grandkids. Take the loving, no-nonsense approach.”

It was that simple.

** True story.

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Member Comments
Member Date
C D Swanson 02/23/12
My heart goes out to you. It is so difficult witnessing a parents decline physically, let alone cognitively. I have seen many residents go through exactly as you described...the crying jags, very difficult to stop. But you found a solution to the problem.

Thanks for this well written and poginant story.

God Bless you abundantly~
C D Swanson 02/23/12
of course I made a typo
I know poignant is spelled wrong above! Sorry.
God Bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 02/24/12
You did an excellent job of taking me into a day of your world. My heart hurt both for Mom and daughter.

Tiny red ink - You said It seemed to my brother,... and I. It should be to my brother,... and me. (If it were dialog I wouldn't point it out but since it was in the narrative, I wanted to show you. A good trick is to take out everything but the I or me. You wouldn't say: It seems to I.) Also make sure you capitalize Mom when used as a name.

You did a nice job bringing the topic in in a fresh way. This is such a hard thing many adult children agonize over. Actually, our entire life often seems like one big experiment.

I liked how you made me feel grateful for the little things in life. Also the big things --Mom died at age 57 which I struggled with. I often said I'd rather her live and be mentally challenged from her ruptured aneurysm but as you showed me, the mom I knew would have still died that day. Thank you for sharing your story.
Hiram Claudio02/28/12
There are so many things about this story that are so compelling. One thing that caught my attention is the scene when you visited your mom with your your granddaughter. I was just touched by the display of generations from your mom to her great grandchild.

These situations are so difficult and your shared this story in such a fluid and inviting way. Great work!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 03/03/12
Congratulations for ranking 8th in level three!