Life

My kids are hungry. But they can’t afford to eat. This was happening long before the current economic crisis. My daughter, a long-time vegan, is a budding microbiologist who desperately wants to eat healthy but…college bills. She makes her own nut milks and cosmetics because she wants to be clean and sustainable. But have you seen the price of clean ingredients? (Just switch out the french fries for broccoli at any restaurant and you’ll see the upcharge.)  My son, an Olympic weight lifter, needs to consume a lot of calories to fuel his sport. But he chose to live in New York City so buying food on his budget is more challenging than paying his rent (and you can only eat those massive Chipotle bowls so many days a week). Throw in the busy-ness of their career-upstart lives and it’s almost impossible for them to eat in this modern world. As a resourceful mom, I’ve spent countless hours researching meal delivery services and so-called online healthy markets but they’re simply not affordable for Millennials. 

Many in this generation are eschewing our processed, fast food culture but we’re not giving them many (affordable) alternatives. Both of my kids love to cook but planning and prepping ahead just didn’t make their gene pool (just ask the slowcooker I gave my daughter for Christmas last year – that is still in the box). I researched all the popular meal delivery services, like vegan favorite Purple Carrot (which I once gave my daughter as a gift and got addicted to myself). In my quest to eat healthier, I’m actually trying it again – I can throw in chicken slices or shrimp for my meat eater husband. But at roughly $12 a serving, it’s not doable on a mommy-funds-my-college-lifestyle budget.

And then there’s my growing boy who at 25 eats like 5 teenagers. So I researched meals for athletes and sure, they’re out there, just not in the quantity and price range he needs. I looked at the traditional companies like Blue Apron and Home Chef but he’d need two servings per meal just for himself. Again, not feasible. All I wanted were affordable, easy-to-prepare meals for my kids.

If I lived closer to them, I’d gladly prepare their meals. I mean, I did this for my ailing dog for three years. Solutions lie in a deeper understanding of the problem (and its implications on our future health as a society) but also in a return to simplicity – habits like shopping at farmer’s markets and good old-fashioned food prep. But those require a paradigm shift. Food deserts are a serious problem but I would submit there’s another type of food desert happening in this generation. They want to eat healthy but those with non-traditional diets just can’t afford to. 

I recently spent a week as a faux celebrity. Sundance Film Festival, walking the red carpet in Los Angeles, meeting Marky Mark, lights, camera, action! It was exhausting but oh so fun! How did I get there? My husband, a former FBI agent, appeared in the McMillion$ documentary on HBO. It was a total twist of fate that we happened to be living in California at the time so he was able to spend a lot of quality time with the directors. Talk about friends in high places!

Almost two years later, the McMillion$ documentary series was complete and we were invited to participate in the premiere festivities. Naturally, my first thought was, “What will I wear?” Second? “Should I get liposuction?” LOL!

Fortunately, first on the itinerary was the Sundance Film Festival which tends to be quite casual. I had never attended and really never knew what to expect, but I can assure you this spectacle will be on my annual calendar! It was such a blast. The different movie studios rent out restaurants, bars, and venues and host all-day premiere parties. People, open bars, live music, entertainment, and such excitement! The money these studios invest in getting the public excited about a film or project is amazing! We had a “driver” who picked us up in a black SUV (Kardashian-esque) and shuttled us from party to party. Good thing! Daydrinking is exhausting! And the team behind the McMillion$ documentary – from the directors to the executives to the crew – were incredibly congenial to us little people. 

Chris and I at the McMillions documentary activation site

The actual McMillions$ documentary premiere, the first time we would see the show, was filled with anticipation. We were so anxious to see what an audience thought of the story so watching it alongside hundreds of others was exciting. I was taken to the proverbial green room and my husband was whisked away to greet the media and shoot photos on the red carpet. (Sad face that I didn’t get to participate in this.) I felt as invested in this piece as the directors did. I mean, my husband’s face was front and center. So we all breathed a sigh of relief when the audience laughed throughout the first episode, and then stuck around for a second and third episode. They were hooked! My husband was invited on stage after the premiere for a Q&A session and became an instant celebrity. I couldn’t believe how many people were coming up to him after the events and asking to have their picture taken with him. I was just his hanger-on, his ball and chain, his groupie. He remained his usual, humble self.

On stage talking about McMillions

Next stop – Los Angeles! Never mind that we were incredibly exhausted from a week of partying and day drinking. We had to do it all over again in Hollywood! This was the real deal, the Hollywood red carpet and celebrities. Mark Wahlberg produced the McMillion$ documentary and I had made it my mission to get a photo with him. The president of his production company turned out to be just the greatest guy in the world, someone we hung out with at Sundance, and he knew my celebrity crush so he immediately made it happen. Mark chatted with my husband and seemed genuinely interested in his role in this case. I was able to get a few shots with my husband on the red carpet before he was once again whisked away for the cameras. Again, I stood behind the velvet ropes, the groupie, the dutiful wife. There was an elaborate after party, complete with hamburgers and french fries, and again, my husband on display for photo opps. True confession: being a celebrity (even a faux one) is exhausting. I wandered off and found a quiet room where I kicked off my heels and enjoyed my wine with some peace and quiet. My husband stayed for the cameras.

Meeting Mark Wahlberg, producer of McMillions

Once the show premiered, the emails, texts, and private messages began. Not only to my husband, but to me, and my kids. “Is that your dad in that HBO show?” “What’s it like being married to an FBI agent?” People came out of the woodwork.

It’s been a wild ride and the experience of a lifetime. If you haven’t watched the show, it appears to be a hit and a hoot! As for me? I’ll be waiting by the phone for Marky Mark to call. 🙂

cannabis oil for anxiety

My mom uses cannabis oil. So does my daughter. I guess that makes me the sandwich generation of weed.

My mom is 82 years old and suffered a stroke 18 months ago. She has significant deficits including aphasia which have left her unable to communicate. Until recently, her days were spent crying uncontrollably with no explanation. That is, until I introduced her to cannabis oil and got her stoned. 

My young adult daughter introduced herself to cannabis oil after years of trying to dealing with migraines and anxiety. She’s a perfectionist and a bio-medical sciences student. Cannabis helps her balance those two opposing forces. 

So I’m the caregiver in the middle. And the funny thing is, I don’t use it myself. I have a medical card as the caregiver for my mother and while I’ve been tempted to pick up a little something for myself, I’m really too focused on ensuring that the two girls in my life are getting the right products and dosages. 

My mother was taking a strong cocktail of meds that made her groggy, sucked away her appetite, and left her staring off into space. My family suffered with her in this condition until Florida realized the benefits of medical marijuana and legalized it. I surreptitiously got my hands on some cannabis oil and decided to try it on her. Those first moments were scary since we didn’t know how her body would react to cannabis and with her unable to communicate, we didn’t know what we were in for. But through a lot of trial and (little) error, we found the right combination of CBD and THC for her. She went from crying to giggling after the first dose. It was like a miracle drug. She was so much more fun to be around when she was stoned. Today, it’s part of her daily routine when she gets anxious or weepy. 

The other slice of my cannabis sandwich is my daughter. She may or may not be one of those who was self-medicating before it was legalized in Florida. And I’m not going to lie, even though my daughter is of legal age, I still have a hard time getting past that stigma that marijuana is bad. But once I saw the results with my mother, I knew I needed to support my daughter in her effort to find relief from her migraines and anxiety. I’m now the cool mom on the block as her friends are incredulous that I not only allow her to use it, but I encourage it and in some cases provide it. Medicinally, of course. But again, it works wonders for her and I’d much rather her take something organic than any of the powerful synthetic drugs on the market. 

When I saw how much cannabis benefitted both of them, I wondered why I wasn’t using it myself. So one day, I took a dropper full of my mom’s custom cocktail. I’ll admit, I didn’t really feel much. That was, until I started coming down. I felt like I was having a mild panic attack. I would repeat this agonizing test two more times, only to have the same result. So perhaps one of these days I’ll experiment with some different dosages and combinations. But hey. It’s cool. My mom gets high. My daughter gets high. And they’re both the envy of their peers. Stuck between them, I don’t get high, but I am using my voice to advocate for the benefits of medical marijuana for those who truly need it.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. We should be celebrating his 81st birthday, but instead, we’re placing flowers on his grave.

I was “Daddy’s little girl”, the only girl and the youngest with two older brothers. My father taught me so many life lessons – in the way he lived, but also in the way he died. He exuded patience and kindness everywhere he went among everyone he met. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get those genes.)  One of the most profound lessons I learned was not from him, but because of him.

I recently had a conversation with a friend as we both expressed our dream of living in France someday. The dialogue turned to: “…when the kids are all out of school…” and “…when we have enough money…” But I told her a personal story about why we need to make our dreams happen now. Sooner, rather than later.

My father worked for the Federal government his entire life and happily climbed the ladder of success. He traveled the world as part of his job and the plan was to retire at 55 and take my mother back to all of his favorite places he visited over the years – Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Asia, and countless others. She stayed home, raised the kids, took care of the house, patiently waiting for those golden years when they would be free to travel. It was a commonly discussed dream within our family.

But at age 54, my father was diagnosed with cancer. He died 18 months later, shortly after my wedding, and just months following his long-awaited yet uncelebrated retirement at 55. His only travel at that point was to and from the hospital.

He, and my mother, waited his entire adult life to live that dream. But he was blindsided. We were all blindsided.

So here’s what I learned: I don’t believe in waiting. I’m impulsive. To a fault. As I write this post, I’m sitting on the beach in Miami because four days ago, I decided I wanted to go sit on the beach in Miami. So I made it happen. It’s one of the many things I learned from my Dad, or more from my Dad’s early death. I don’t put off doing things that make me happy until a later date. I live in the present, not the future.

So what ARE we all waiting for to live our dreams?  Let’s be honest: there will NEVER be enough money or time. So those excuses are off the table.

Life is short, as my Dad’s story illustrates. Memories are all we leave behind when we’re gone, but if we don’t make them, we can’t leave them behind to those we love.

It’s only been recently, as I, and my husband, approach the age at which my father died, but I have learned to live in the present and stop waiting for the future. It’s the strange way we’re wired ourselves as a society – that magical era called retirement. But we’re wrong to keep putting off living life.

So do yourself a favor. Set a goal. Make a deal with yourself. Do at least one thing this year you’ve been dreaming about. It may be a trip somewhere, or it may be as simple as learning a new skill or a new language. Whatever you do, just do it. Now.

Death is birth in reverse. That’s what our hospice nurse keeps telling me every time I question a new behavior of my mom. And every time I find myself in the baby aisle at Target buying diapers, sippy cups, and picture books, I realize just how right she is a caregiver for my mother.

Fifteen months ago, my mother had a brain aneurysm. My life, and my self as I knew it, changed dramatically in the months following as I recounted in this blog post and became the caregiver for my mother. And the dramatic changes continue.

I’m fanatical about researching things (just ask my friends and family who call me often to ask about everything from diagnosing a strange symptom to solving a household dilemma), so I’ve acquired an inordinate amount of information and resources from this experience. And the reality is that many of us have, or will, experience this same task of parenting a parent. I received a call from an acquaintance recently whose father had a stroke, and she said, “Tell me everything you’ve learned.” I asked her how much time she had. So I thought I’d pay it forward and share some of my wisdom.

I know her best
I have encountered numerous health professionals telling me how my mom should act, feel, behave and respond. And I can’t help but think to myself, “I have known my mom for 55 years – you’ve known her for six months. I’m the caregiver for my mother. “Doctors, nurses and aides are tasked with taking care of her but no one knows my mom better than I do. I’m the one who can tell when she’s got a UTI simply by her behavior (my mother can not speak or gesture). I know she cries in the shower because she’s cold. I know she doesn’t like to sleep with socks on. Above and beyond, I know her better than anyone so I will not stop being her advocate and her voice.

On caregivers
Initially, we took my mother home thinking we could care best for her on our own. I planned to be the caregiver for my mother. Within a few short weeks, we knew we needed an extra hand or two. I placed an ad on a local website for caregivers and my life became consumed with interviewing CNAs and eldersitters. I asked for references, checked backgrounds, and held tryouts. There is no substitute for gut instinct. There was the overnight aide we had to send home at 4am because she was too rough with my mom, and quite frankly, creepy. There was the live-in we interviewed who was a sweet Southern belle from my mom’s hometown and seemed too good to be true. We would later find out she was. The sad fact is that eldersitters and certified CNAs are woefully underpaid for the tasks they perform. Some days, I felt like I was running a fast food joint staffed by teenagers as I got call after call with excuses of “My car won’t start,” “I don’t have money for gas,” and “My kid is sick so I can’t work today.” We ultimately went through an agency, paid a higher rate, and found somewhat more reliable aides. The lesson here: Good aides are hard to find. If you find one, do everything possible to keep him/her happy. We currently have two sitters for my mom who have become like family to us.

Get financial guidance
I’m fortunate that one of my brothers is in the financial industry. But if you’re not that lucky, I highly recommend you find someone who knows the eldercare market. Just as a point of reference, we had my mom’s care based on her finances figured out to the month (roughly 84 of them). We went through about 30 of those months in the first 12. You’ll need to understand what Medicare covers and more importantly, what it doesn’t. (It does not cover home health aides.) Long-term care policies (my mother’s saved us, quite frankly) often have a waiting period; we endured unplanned out-of-pocket expenses for the first 90 days of my mom’s care. If a parent was a veteran, they or their spouse may be entitled to a monthly stipend. I spent weeks trying to track down my dad’s documents only to find that he did not qualify based on his dates of service. The bottom line, two pieces of advice I can offer as the caregiver for my mother: 1) sit down with your parent before they become ill and understand these financial resources and know where the actual documents are – or better yet, hire an elder attorney to help you with it all, and 2) plan for more expenses. We didn’t anticipate needing sitters for my mom but our/her needs changed; they generally run between $12-15 hour so you do the math.

Know when to say “uncle”
As I recounted in my previous post, my brothers and sister-in-law and I took turns sleeping on her floor and taking care of her in those early days. We cared for her 24/7. But as her needs increased (two-person assist will become part of your vocabulary as will lots of potty talk) and our need for sleep and respite increased, we hired aides. But after numerous hospitals stays and continued cognitive declines, we knew we were out of our league. We made the difficult decision to take that next step and look at assisted living facilities. Truth be told, I lay awake many nights and question whether this was the right decision.

Choosing an ALF
I think this step of the journey is akin to that of finding the perfect wedding gown. You just know. And in both of these cases, for me, it was the first one. This was probably the most difficult step of the journey. In those initial days, we were filled with distrust. I was leaving my mother, who is unable to communicate, in the hands of strangers. It’s much like dropping your baby off at that new day care (remember that birth in reverse analogy I started with). We were the squeakiest wheel for which no amount of WD40 could silence. In our first week, the new primary care doctor we engaged fired us. Yes! He fired us! He felt we were asking too many questions, especially about new medications he was prescribing. We frequently made requests of the staff as she, and we, tried to adjust to her new “home.” She likes her coffee this way. She is hypersensitive to noise and activity so she needs quiet, alone time. She gets uncomfortable in her wheelchair so her legs need to be propped up just so. Her room was covered with sticky note reminders and lists. We knew we were annoying the staff but my mother had no voice so we had to be hers. There are amazing aides at her facility and there are mediocre aides. And clearly, there are a few who certainly don’t want to be there. But I would say that the majority of them are incredibly passionate about what they do and when they don’t know I’m looking, I see them steal kisses and gently brush a resident’s hair. But the stark reality is, in ALFs, time and attention are a commodity. Many of these aides have 7 or more patients. It’s difficult for them to give one on one attention for feeding, calming, or just offering companionship (which is why we have sitters).

The miracle of hospice
This is one of those tips I learned from a friend who was parenting a parent. Hospice has proven to be an invaluable resource for us. Since my mother is wheelchair bound, taking her out to see a doctor was a nonstarter. Most ALFs have doctors who come visit patients. Ours did, but remember, he fired us. I found other medical services and physicians that offer housecalls for a premium rate (worth exploring). But as the caregiver for my mother I learned that hospice provides a full medical team, and many other services, to those who qualify. Being certified for hospice generally means you have six months or less to live but some patients actually improve after receiving hospice care (my mother did due to the quality and continuity) so they’re able to get re-certified. My mother has a nurse who visits her one to two times weekly, an aide who bathes her daily, a massage therapist, and a chaplain. As the caregiver for my mother, having access to these services, not to mention the incredibly caring spirit of the people and organization, has given us incredible peace of mind. You should know that Medicare will only cover hospice and will not cover any other care. So we had to stop physical therapy (she wasn’t making progress anyway) and we could no longer see her doctors at Mayo Clinic (unless we private paid which we did a few times just to get a second opinion – that’s that cha-ching I mentioned earlier).

Cannabis is not your high school high
My mother’s aneurysm left her with a brain injury. So it causes some behaviors and symptoms we’ve really never been able to find an answer for. She’s been on multiple medications to manage these symptoms and as I’m sure you can guess, most have side effects including sedation. But we didn’t want my mom sedated. We wanted her to be awake and able to interact with us in her own way (many people ask, and yes, she knows who we are as she does not have classic dementia). Her dosages of meds continued to increase to control her (increasing) agitation and restlessness. And with that, came more sleeping, less eating, less interaction. So we began experimenting with cannabis. The first day we gave her a dose of the oil, within 30 minutes her entire demeanor changed. And soon it gave way to smiles. And laughter. And giggling. And yes, the munchies. We’ve tried oils (dripped into her mouth) and patches. We recently discontinued all of the synthetic medications and replaced them with cannabis. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, find a doctor who can prescribe it and at least try it. Some ALFs are onboard and will administer it if prescribed by a doctor. Cannabis is simply an essential oil – just like lavender oil they diffuse in hospitals. You can choose from non-psychoactive CBD and psychoactive THC. We’ve found that a combination of both work best for my mom.

Don’t feel guilty
Sometimes, when I’m sitting home drinking a glass of wine or driving by the beach, as the caregiver for my mother I feel these pangs of guilt that my mom can’t do these things anymore. I’m sad that I can’t take her to a spa and treat her to a facial – one of our regular mother-daughter indulgences. She’ll never do many of the things she always enjoyed. I’d like to be able to offer the advice, “Don’t feel guilty,” but I can’t. It’s horrible that she’s living in a cell-like tiny room and her only escape is when someone wheels her outside for some fresh air. She’ll never see the beach again. She’ll never visit another spa. But we’re there for her virtually every day and we now relish the little things, like her recognition of The Andy Griffith Show opening music. Or seeing something in her brain click when I make her one of her favorite southern casseroles and she takes that first bite. Or when she laughs as my brother talks about how dirty her house is and that her dog needs a haircut. We now cherish the little reactions as we create new memories. Not memories of places, but memories of us.

It’s taken me a long time to write this post. I generally write about happy things – mainly my happy places. But writing is therapy for me. So as difficult as this is, my mother’s story needs to be told.

Often, when I’m writing a blog post, I talk into a recorder and tell a story – it sounds more conversational which is my style of writing. But in this case, I couldn’t do it. My voice kept breaking and Siri couldn’t interpret my words riddled with tears.

And true to the name of this blog, MomUncorked, I’m writing this post after a glass (or three) of wine, as wine is my muse and helps me tell my stories.

So here we go (deep breath)…

Imagine walking out your front door one day and unknowingly never being able to walk through that door and go home again. Never seeing your dog again. Never sleeping in your own bed. Never sitting in your backyard sipping a glass of wine.

This is what haunts me at night (when I let it)…

On November 3, 2017, my mom and I went shopping. We bought her new shoes, new pants, and had lunch at Nordstrom where she discovered her new favorite salad and exclaimed, “Let’s come back here tomorrow.”  It was the perfect mother-daughter day. Less than 24 hours later, she was laying in a hospital and I didn’t know if she would live.

I had come from my home in California for a one week visit, when she came into my room early that Saturday morning and said, “Something’s wrong. I have the worst headache of my life.”

I knew those words. And I knew what they meant. I texted my brother who lives a mile away and he responded, “I’m on my way.”  We rushed to the hospital and within 90 minutes, I sat outside the CT scan room as the doctor said to me, “She’s got a brain bleed. We need to get her downtown.” Thirty minutes later, I was in the back of an ambulance with her making the trip downtown where they were more equipped to deal with…a brain aneurysm (the result of a new medication she was prescribed, but that’s another post).

The hardest thing in those first 120 minutes was seeing my mom go from being lucid and aware, and scared, to incoherent and unresponsive. I think back often to that exact moment, when I saw that change. That’s when life as I knew it changed.

Let me backtrack. My family is affectionately known by our friends as “The Cleavers.” We’re one of those ridiculously close, incredibly supportive families, primarily because we were pulled together by the gut-wrenching death of my father at just 56 years of age. The day he died (when my mother was the age I am today, 54), my brothers committed to take care of my mom for the rest of her life. And as you’ll see, they’ve certainly gone above and beyond the role of sons.

My oldest brother had taken his annual sabbatical to Yellowstone, his happy place, to R&R and indulge in his hobby for amateur photography. Imagine having to make that phone call to tell him what happened. Fortunately for him, he was in a remote area so by the time we reached him, my mom had stabilized. But he was on the next flight home.

The ICU vigil was in full swing (sadly, we had been down this road before with my father). Panera became our best friend as I, my brothers and my sister-in-law, took turns sleeping on the awful plastic sofa next to her bed. There was NO WAY we were leaving her bedside at that point. We wanted to talk to every doctor, every resident, every nurse who entered her room. And so began…the journal.  A notebook where we kept detailed, overly detailed, notes for the next 90+ days. What medications she had, what the doctors said, what tests were administered and their results, and ultimately, what she ate, and funny enough, we documented her bodily functions. It’s as if we wanted to solve the puzzle and put her back together.

Ten horrible, sleepless days and nights on that ICU rollercoaster. I had so much powdered Sanka from the “family lounge” that I almost gave up coffee. And having a Chick-fil-A right in the hospital proved to be a bad thing. Can you say “stress eating”?  But between the four of us, there was no wavering. We were a fortress in supporting each other and her recovery. I can’t even begin to explain how we pulled together as a family. There were morning Starbucks runs, mid-day Panera runs (often more than one a day) and, yes, late night wine runs. You do what you can to stay sane.

Ten days in ICU led to 30 days at a rehab facility. Remember that I left home for a one week visit with a carry-on suitcase. Shout out to Target for my new wardrobe.

Fast forward…rehab (for her, not me) was great. She progressed. She was able to somewhat feed herself and was able to stand, with assistance. We thought we were on the way to recovery. I distinctly remember telling people, “Oh yeah, the doctors expect her to make close to a full recovery.” We hung our hope on the doctors’ use of the word “could.”

Here’s the funny thing about a brain injury complicated by cognitive impairment. The part of her brain that says, “I need to get up and go to the bathroom,” is still intact, yet the part of her brain that tells her legs how to walk isn’t. So she tries to stand up. Often. This is the woman who had two knee replacements and couldn’t sit still to heal because she had things to do – things that usually involved cleaning the house or cooking. That’s my mom. She never sat (sits) still.

Once she entered the rehab hospital, we knew we needed a break. None of us was getting a full night sleep. Terrified of a fall, we hired private nurses to stay with her at night, and we continued to rotate shifts among the four of us during the day. For 30 more days. Sidebar: I love to sleep. I mean I REALLY love to sleep. I had no idea until this happened how little sleep I can actually get by on. I remember 90 days after her aneurysm saying, “I just want to go to sleep one night without worrying.” (As we approach 120 days on this journey, I’m still waiting for that night.) My brothers essentially put their jobs on hold as we all put our lives on hold. At this point, we were in the Christmas season – it was anything but merry.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my brothers and my sister-in-law and how we pulled together like I believe no other family ever has, to take care of my mother, and each other.

You honestly have no idea! We pulled 24/7 shifts, alternating sleeping on a mattress on her floor once she came home from rehab, to staying with her during the day and tending to her daily needs. I’ll spare you the details, but my brothers, without hesitation, took on new roles as caregivers, dressing her, bathing her and so much more. Again, it falls into the category of “things I never thought I’d talk to my brothers about.” I’m in awe of how my brothers have put aside any modesty and their own phobias to take care of my mom. And my sister-in-law, who has cared for my mother as if she was her own. I found a photo on my phone yesterday of my SIL in those early ICU days washing my mom’s face and it’s so bittersweet. I have truly learned the meaning of selfless. And patience.

Fast forward again to where we are today, almost 120 days post-aneurysm. She’s now living in a memory care facility where she can get full-time and intensive specialized care and therapy. We still hold out hope that she’ll be able to come home one day.

One thing I’ve learned: if you can’t find humor in such sad situations, you’re doomed. Our motto was: “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” My tentative book in progress is titled “Have you seen my mother naked?”, because, well, you know. If you could only see our 90+-day long text string about tending to my mother’s daily, and often, rather personal, needs.

I mentioned the beloved “journal” that filled a notebook for 100 days with every possible detail about her recovery, or lack thereof. But what I really cherish is our group text chain. At last count, we were at well over 1,000 text messages. Some serious, some downright depressing, but some that are also hysterical and will give you a glimpse into how we were able to make each other laugh – our coping mechanism.

These are actual unedited texts:

From my brother at the hospital: “One thing I forgot to share. The ER dr came by before mom went up to a private room. She was asking mom if she knew the month, date or day of the week etc. of course mom couldn’t answer any of her questions. So the dr points to her own eyeglasses and says to mom ” what are these on my face?” Mom looks at her face and then thinks for a second and replies “wrinkles?”

Text from my brother at the hospital: “Reporting from the front lines: metropropol and Xanax deployed in banana pudding.”

Text from my brother at the hospital: “She hated the pull ups because they are uncomfortable. Not sure what to do. Girls?”

Text from my brother at rehab: “After therapy I took Mom to breakfast and left her.  Went back in 20 mins to get her. The other 3 people had left. Mom was cleaning up the dishes everyone left on table. Had scraps from table on one plate and had stacked empty plates and bowls all together.”

Me texting to my brother who is with her at hospital: “Have a conversation with her nerves. This is not their first rodeo. I’m quite sure they have experiences with other patients on a regular basis and perhaps could give us some suggestions or advice on what to do during the downtime.”
(pause)
Me: “Nurses. Not nerves.”
Brother: “Oh man! I just had a long talk with her nerves.”

Brother texting from hospital: “She keeps talking about a girl who came to do something at her house today? Not the maid. Something else? It was a girl who she saw today who put something somewhere “in the “”””.  This is like a really hard crossword!”

And there were moments of lucidity:

Brother at rehab: “Some volunteer just brought Mom a magazine. It is US weekly and the lead story is about the Kardashians. I asked Mom if she wanted me to read her a story about the Kardashian’s.  She looked at me with a sour face and said ‘please don’t.”

There are hundreds, almost a thousand, more. Some funny. Many sad.

There are no real lessons here, except to take nothing for granted. One day we were out shopping. The next day she was fighting for her life. 

As we approach that 120th day, the doctors have said we have to give this type of injury at least six months. Just when we think we’ve hit a plateau, she’ll surprise us and have an incredibly lucid day. We know she’s still in there. So we hold onto hope.

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