Looking Folded

Pressed paper dry and brittle
Origami woman creased deeply and folded neatly
Faded ink hints at a boldness lost in kimono patterns
Her hands lay in her lap
Her heart lay in her hands
Her memories fold back on themselves
Sliding like silk between parchment
A puff of wind and the silk billows
Scattering thoughts as dust motes
Love lost like frozen flakes and
Haiku emotions sharply cut the paper

My youngest sister is preparing to bring her MIL into her home. There are issues. Not the least of which is that dementia has become so pronounced that it is no longer safe for her to live alone in her own home. They have been attempting to care for her long distance (my sister and her husband live in Florida and his mother lives in Ohio) but even with a Monday through Friday sitter/housekeeper and the installed monitoring cameras it has become obvious that she needs someone with her around the clock. The town she lives in doesn’t really have many options, even with her daughter nearly next door (but she is still working and has a husband who is not willing to have his MIL join their household). So as soon as the bathroom is remodeled to be safe, they will move her to Florida. She indicated that was her wish when she visited them this last summer in a rare moment of clarity. If they can get her moved then the house and car can be sold. If it comes down to finding a nursing home there are many in the area to choose from. As I look on from a distance, and the grief of losing my mother still a raw memory, I see the pain of losing a parent while they are yet present as a special kind of torment.

Advertisement

87 thoughts on “Looking Folded

  1. I feel for you Val. Yes, to lose someone while they are physically still alive is awful. What a horrible situation and what a terrible disease dementia s. I can alsovempathise with you in losing your mother. It is an experience like no other,cand, just over two years on I still feel the grief over y own, albeit abusive, mother. Sending love Val, and prayers too ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lorraine. You have a very big heart! I am praying for you as well. I don’t think we ever “get over” losing a parent (even imperfect ones). ❤ and (hugs) back at you!

      Like

  2. have really enjoyed the juxtaposition of origami, wrinkles and what is folding in the family scenario. As for the latter, I marvel at the relative fortune to have all those resources (such as a house to sell) while reading between the lines about the complex family dynamics these processes involve and raise. Thanks for writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you liked the poem. Dementia is a horrific condition that I’ve seen played out in the lives of friends’ parents and now within my extended family. We are fortunate that money has not been an issue but there are too many who are left to struggle…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My sister had her MIL journey similarly to your sister’s, though it was within Georgia, not too far apart. This is very hard when it has to happen after the Elder is already struggling. I can’t think of many good ways to try and have that kind of conversation before they decline, though.

    Like

    1. My sister’s MIL has tried to live independently but she has rapidly declined since her husband died. We suspect he compensated for her failing mental capacity. Once the safety net was gone it became very obvious that there was a serious issue. This last year has been very hard. I think the move date is this coming March.

      Like

        1. I’m fortunate that none of my parents or grandparents had the condition. A HS friend went through it when she was in still in school and her mother’s early onset dementia was tragic for her whole family…

          Like

    1. Thanks Zakiah. I doubt she’d describe herself as saintly but definitely selfless and loving… Her husband is now retired so his mother’s care will fall on both of them equally…. Except for the hygiene issues – that will likely be all on my sister…

      Like

  4. I’m sure by refusing a mil move in some more stress has been added to that family. Hopefully mom will fit in after the move. They do not like change as a rule.

    Like

    1. Yes Bonnie it is stressful but will be a relief for his sister. This will take the pressure off her and make it easier when she ends up caring for her husband (she’s 55 and her husband is 70)…

      Like

  5. Helping my own mum through the creeping fog of dementia was a learning experience that I have never regretted. She was a strong woman and willful in her decline, but she had earned my respect over a lifetime which helped me deal with losing her day by day. I volunteered to care for my MIL and even moved her into our newly renovated rental next door. After a year, her decline was noticeable but not yet debilitating and she opted to move to a senior community where she could have more autonomy. Recently, she fell and is now in a care facility. I feel like I dodged a bullet. Caring for anyone who has lost their reason is exhausting and if you don’t have a deep affection for them, resentment is bound to manifest itself eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Judy that is so sad. My sister’s MIL started doing better after she was weaned off the antidepressants that were prescribed after her husband died. But the SIL found her mother more difficult when she wasn’t medicated (due to her being more aware of what was happening). She is hoping that after the move, and with better nutrition and more closely monitoring her medications, they will have several good years before she will need to be moved to a nursing facility. At least in her area there are several very highly rated places very close to the house that will allow them to visit daily. If she were in Ohio, I doubt her daughter would make a visit every week!

      Like

  6. These two lines are so lovely and evocative in the middle of your poem, “Her hands lay in her lap
    Her heart lay in her hands”

    I have also been there done that with my mom and my aunt Martha though neither came to live with me. Fortunately my mom didn’t live long with her dementia. My Aunt Martha, though, 10 years completely aware of what was happening to her. I wish your sister the best of luck with this sad and hopeless situation. There were — for me — some redeeming experiences I would not have missed but they didn’t make it OK.

    Like

    1. This one is a poem from my heart. Our Pastor’s wife had Alzheimer’s and it was so difficult and very frightening for her – knowing that her memory was fading. She was angry and afraid and as the disease marched through her mind she eventually forgot that she didn’t remember which was in a way a blessing. But until that time horrific. It was never okay for everyone else…

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I wish them luck. My parents moved in with my sister in 1995 for practical reasons but when Dad died the following year, Mum stayed. She came to us for weekends and the occasional week and met me for lunch every Wednesday when we were local, and when we moved away, came up for holidays of four to 8 weeks twice a year. Sadly dementia set in and although we offered for her to come and stay with us on several occasions, she wanted to stay where she was. The family were there, she had friends, and a good GP so it would have been heartless to force the issue. Sister sees it differently, but to me, never seemed to appreciate the length of the journey we had to make, not just in distance, but duration. We had to do it in one day, so that was a round trip of over 500 miles.
    Unable to cope anymore, Sis put Mum in a home in Sept 2017 where she could get the care she needed. We were able to visit her there once, but she was unwell and apart from a few fleeting seconds, unaware I was there. She broke her wrist Christmas Eve and was in hospital until she died in January. She was 95.
    Dementia affects the entire family, and I didn’t ring because Mum could not put a face to the voice on the phone and got distressed. She knew who wrote the letters though and I did so until the week she died. It is a comfort that she received my last letter in the hospital and the nurses read it to her.
    I hope the move goes smoothly, or as smoothly as it can with the upheaval of leaving familiar things and surroundings.

    Like

    1. Di this is heartbreaking. I’m so lucky that my sister willingly and selflessly took my mother into her home. My mother traveled to visit both me and my other sister on several occasions, and we visited her too. I can’t imagine my sister feeling that we didn’t interact with or care about my mother. We all called weekly and with facetime it was a video call so she could see our faces and it was almost like being in each other’s company… I’m so sorry that your experience was not as good. It is wonderful that you were able to get letters to her. My younger sister always sent flowers that were very appreciated. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the move from Ohio to Florida happens sooner rather than later and that she settles in comfortably.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just the way things were Val. I enjoyed the time we had with Mum, however it was and have so many lovely memories. We went and stayed to look after Mum so that Sis could have a well deserved weekend away and would have done it again had she given us the opportunity. Instead she told people we didn’t care and that I’d shirked my responsibility and decided to bugger off for a week with the boyfriend of the time leaving Mum to fend for herself. A neighbour went in twice a day to make sure she took her meds, got her up and dressed (she was a professional carer) and helped put her to bed, and my nieces took it in turns to go in daily. Meals were all microwave dinners, but Mum didn’t know how to use the microwave. I had a feeling that morning that Mum was alone so we locked up the boat and went down on the off chance to find just that. It turns out that my nieces were angry at their Mum for going away like she did and had asked her to wait a week so that one could get time off. Also my brother had offered for Mum to go and stay with them, but Sis would have had to take her there and collect her as neither could drive because they’d had knee operations. Sis never put herself out for anyone and never dropped Mum off or collected her when we were local, so we did all the running. It would have been so much better IMO for Mum to come and live with us……… there were two of us to start with to share the load and we lived in a bungalow so no steep stairs, but Mum wouldn’t have it. The outcome would have been no different of course, but I like to think that the last couple of years of Mum’s life would have been less stressful and upsetting for her.

        Like

        1. Yikes. Sounds like your sis had a need to look like she was the only one who cared… Sad for everyone. At least did as much as she’d let you! I know your mum loved you and you her… and in the end that’s what’s important. Hugs for what was and what it could have been…

          Like

          1. Thanks Val. Sis likes to be seen as the martyr. A lot of people came away from Mum’s funeral with a different opinion of me. I am glad neither of my parents are here to see how things have turned out between us. We are just two individuals who happen to be related now.

            Like

            1. That is sad especially since she is so short sighted. Sometimes you get to choose family and other times you don’t.Glad you do have family of your choice! (that’s what some friends can be)

              Like

                  1. Actually, I think she may have. She visited Down Under a couple of Chrismases ago with the boyfriend as he has a daughter in Australia and stayed with Bro and SIL for a week or so. I’ve sensed a change, especially with SIL, and a couple of things said seemed to be news to her……. for example, the reason why we left Mum’s wake early was because Hubby was in so much pain and we ended up in A&E. for three hours and weren’t seen. I drove back to MOH who was looking after Maggie for the day and putting us up, and took Hubby to A&E in Bath at 7am the following morning. He was scanned and ultrasounded and it turned out he had a DVT. I know I’d told her, but her reaction when it was mentioned on a skype call was one of surprise. I’ve asked if everything is OK and Bro has rung me a few times, but not as often and my emails are rarely responded to as SIL is the technical one.

                    Like

                    1. I like to think so too, as she did the dirty on him as well by trying to charge him for work done on his truck that hadn’t actually been touched. Apparently she even threatened court action until he produced evidence of rusted in bolts on something that she said had been removed. Her late husband was a mechanic, and a good one, but she did the accounts and billing. I also remember him standing up to her about getting my car through the MOT. I had no money other than £50 and he said he’d get it through for that. She tried to charge me an extra £30 for the test fee but he stood his ground and she was fuming about it. Basically he’d done any work on my car and not charged for the labour. He was a good bloke, not that much older than me and suffered a fatal heart attack in February 2010.

                      Like

  8. This story is repeated every day. It’s death twice over, but the first goes on painfully for years and years. My own genetic prospects are not good. My heart goes out to them, to all of us, the elders who lose themselves, and those who must watch them become a stranger. (K)

    Like

    1. It is terrifying prospect. I know too many who who have had to watch their relatives decline and fade away until they have a person who looks like someone they love but who is a stranger to all including themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Alzheimer’s and dementia rob the elderly of the respect and peace they deserve in old age. It is equally trying for the caregivers, in fact even more because they have their mental faculties intact. In India we have very few facilities for the old and the infirm. Usually the parents stay with their son and his family or the daughter and her family. Most are taken care of, some aren’t. I hope the move goes smoothly.
    That is a beautiful and poignant verse. Very moving.

    Like

    1. Thank-you Punam, I liked the way this one reads. I think that some older people do better when held in the bosom of their family.But you are right that it is a heavy burden sometimes for the caretakers – especially if there was not the respect and love present in the relationship. I wish there were better options here and there!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thee opened up a huge conversation. (hugs for what you all are going through)
    Meanwhile, that poem! What a poignant painting. Thank you; it’s wonderful.

    Like

  11. your poem conveys the beauty and disparity so well! Such a sad story, and losing a parent to dementia or the realisation that they were never the parent we imagined is tough …

    Like

  12. A beautiful yet sorrowful tale…I have a grandmother who doesn’t recognise me or my family…or anyone,for that matter, she has Alzheimer’s disease…it almost seems like she’s dead to everyone but the family that takes care of her.. 😦

    Like

  13. The poem is beautiful and immediately made me think of my own mother… Then I read your post. It’s heartbreaking. Though I am so glad they are able to bring her into their home. I hope she makes the adjustment well. These situations can be very complex and difficult. Peace 🌻

    Like

      1. Yes – it can be difficult for dementia patients. But, just my opinion, I think that depends on initial personality, degree of comfort in new situations/places and possibly how far the dementia has advanced. I don’t know! It just makes sense to me. But people have to do the best they can in these situations.

        Like

        1. It is so variable. In this case she was a people pleaser and not very assertive so she is fairly easy to get along with – but she is also a little stubborn. She has decided that she doesn’t need to bathe very often… a little bit of a problem but likely because her home does not have an easy access shower. My sister is remodeling her bathroom so the hygiene issue will be better once she is living with them. I hope you are doing okay.

          Like

  14. Oh, no, Val. I imagine this will be a big adjustment for your sister and HIL after she is moved in. And yes, I cannot even imagine what that would feel like to watch the connection disappear right before your eyes. So sad. I hope your sister can adjust to this new reality with grace.

    Like

  15. My biggest fear is dementia, and I’m not sure any of my kids would be up to taking care of me. My Dad needed round the clock care, but when he was in the nursing home for rehab, they didn’t take care of him properly either.

    Like

    1. It is sad but not uncommon to have less than optimal care in some nursing homes. We were lucky that my mother was able to stay at home (but she never had any cognitive impairment). My sister is taking on a big challenge but the current situation is not working.

      Like

  16. It sounds as if a Florida move is the most sensible and humane thing to do. My mother is in a good situation now, so fingers remain crossed-and I will do whatever is asked of me, if the situation changes.

    Like

    1. It is a very difficult undertaking but it will be best for all involved. They are working on getting the bathroom handicap accessible since she is starting to have balance issues and should be using a walker but doesn’t…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My sister has a big heart. Even though she didn’t get to have mother live with her she was open to it… ultimately it was my mothers decision. Anyway, her MIL has become more pleasant to be around as she has started to lose touch with reality.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s