Sunday, November 27, 2011

Change is Hard at Any Age

It's been a busy month.  I know I say that a lot, but this one has been especially busy.  We've had Timothy every weekend while my sister worked, which usually meant picking him up either Friday night or Saturday morning, and keeping him until Sunday afternoon or Monday morning when he returned to daycare.  Meanwhile, Mam-ma has done pretty well.  She had about a week of celebrating for her birthday, including a visit from beloved cousins in Oklahoma who spent an entire Saturday playing "Chicken Foot" dominoes with her and taking her to her favorite restaurant - KFC, or "Kentucky Colonel" as she calls it.

My sister and her husband have decided that it is time for Timothy to return to live with his mother, baby sister Zola and Zola's daddy (who Timothy calls "Daddy," also).  So this coming weekend, the plan is for my sister and her husband to drive Timothy to Texas, spend a few days visiting, and return home without him.  After three months of spending so much time caring for this little guy, the thought of him leaving for an indefinite period of time is truly stressful.  I am trying to stay positive.  I know that Timothy needs to be with his family... but I am going to miss him madly!

And Mam-ma is convinced that Timothy will never see her again... which could be very possible.  Today, we visited her apartment, and she said to Timothy, "I hope you don't forget me."  I assured her we will never let that happen.  When we left, she asked, "Will I get to see him again before he leaves?"  I told her we will try to come and see her next weekend while he is with us, but I couldn't promise.  There were lots of tears and hugs and kisses when we left, and I felt badly, but this is not something I can control.

Thursday, we had Thanksgiving lunch at my mother's.  My sister filled Timothy's plate while I filled Mam-ma's.  I carefully cut up her ham and made sure to get the things I felt she would want to eat.  I think there was more thought required for her plate than Timothy's.  However, after a few bites, he wanted down from the table, and he ended up sitting in my lap, beside Mam-ma, finishing his lunch.  We brought him home late afternoon, so that he could wind down and get settled before bedtime.  Friday, he returned to my mom's for most of the day, while my husband and I hosted a football watch party.  We're all trying to make the most of these last couple of weeks before Timothy leaves.

I will admit that I am struggling with my feelings.  Last week, I said as much to my husband, and he said, "You are blue because Timmy is leaving."  I told him it's more than that.  I feel like my life is on the verge of a major change.  Having part-time care for Timothy these last 29 months has changed our world in ways we never expected and brought us both tremendous challenges and immeasurable joy.  And when his family moved to Texas in August and we didn't see him for six weeks, I was pretty lost.  At the same time, I have (gladly) put a lot of my own projects on hold since Timothy was born... never sure when the phone would ring and he would be coming to stay for a day or two - or a week or more!  Now my niece says it will be at least the end of February before they return for a visit.

And then there is my grandmother... she continues to decline overall, and I feel like some morning the aides are going to find that she drifted away in the night - or she will contract some illness or infection and be gone in a matter of days.  I know she has lost her drive and determination... and she is basically "waiting for the LORD" to take her home.  So there is every possibility that the next few months will find me with two less people to care for, and honestly, I am going to have some adjusting to do!

Clearly, my situation pales in comparison to those of you who have full-time care of either a child or a senior - or both.  But I am also certain that some of you know exactly what I'm talking about - you've "been there, done that!"  So I ask that you remember my family in your prayers... that you ask God to make this reunion of Timothy and his family a good one - and that He equip the rest of us with whatever we need to handle his absence.

My niece needs prayers, too... she will be caring for her six-month-old daughter and 29-month-old son while living over seven hours from her parents and the support system she has relied upon for all of her 21 years.  She is also dealing with the reality that she could lose her great-grandmother in the coming months and not be able to get home.  In a recent phone conversation, she said to my sister, "If something happens to Mam-ma, someone will come get me, won't they?"  My sister had to tell her that this was not likely, for a variety of reasons. 

So this will be a challenging week.  We will keep Timothy over the weekend until my sister and her husband get the car packed and are ready to head to Texas.  I have given this situation to God, and I am trusting He will guide my steps over the next few weeks/months... and keep me sane.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Good Look at Caregiving in the Sandwich Generation... Please Read!

A friend of mine posted this link on Facebook today... it speaks volumes to the circumstances for those in the Sandwich Generation. The stresses, challenges, and emotions described in this post as they relate to fostering/adopting children are strikingly similar for caring for an elderly person. I highly recommend you read this post and share a link to it with everyone on your list. - How to Help an Adoptive Family

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Distance from 2 to 99 is Shorter Than You Think...

Today was my grandmother's 99th birthday.  My husband and I took her to eat catfish at a local restaurant she likes.  We invited other family members to come along.  Joining us were my sister, my cousin and his wife, and of course... Timothy, who was probably Mam-ma's favorite guest.  Actually, it was probably a toss-up between him and my husband, and she sat between two of her favorite fellows.  Having my cousin across the table made her day complete.

Mam-ma is tired.  She looked well and ate fairly well, but when I phoned her this morning, she said she was going back to bed for a while.  She said, "I think it's all downhill from here."  Of course, in true "Mam-ma fashion," she told Timothy a couple of minutes later, "I feel purty good," when he asked her "You feelin' good?"

Timothy spent the night with us last night.  He was so exhausted from a full week of early mornings and long days at daycare.  Since my sister works the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift at a local nursing home as a nurse's aide, he has to be dropped off at daycare at 5:30 a.m.  He does take a 2-hour nap (sometimes longer) each day, and he goes to bed early, but it's still tiring for a 2-year-old.  So he came to our house tired and cranky yesterday, and he spent the first hour or so alternating between playing with toys and standing at the window and crying, his lower lip protruding... saying, "I sad."  Broke my heart.

I finally persuaded him to take a bath, and after soaking and playing with his toys for a while and watching "Jack's Big Music Show," he was rejuvenated and actually played and sang and was a very happy little boy until bedtime.  Thankfully, he has begun going to bed without much fanfare... three stories, two songs, lights out, and he was asleep.  Thank you, LORD!  However, he did awaken this time at 2:00 a.m. and was unable to settle himself back to sleep.  So we had to watch some more "Jack" and "Wonder Pets" and snuggle for awhile.  I put him in bed with me, and he finally went back to sleep before 4:30 a.m. and slept until 8:30.  But just before he succumbed to a second round of slumber, he leaned down from watching "Wonder Pets" and planted a big, spontaneous kiss on my face.  How can you argue with that?!

Today, my husband and I juggled tending to Mam-ma and Timothy throughout the meal.  My husband is such a blessing, and I couldn't manage without him.  He took one vehicle and drove to the ALF to pick up Mam-ma.  The car seat was in our larger SUV, and we decided Mam-ma might not be able to climb into it at this stage.  So I drove Timothy to the restaurant.  After lunch, Timmy went home with my sister, so I swapped cars with Greg and drove Mam-ma back to the ALF.  The maneuvering of a walker into the back of the car is not the same as fastening a toddler into a car seat, but the amount of finagling and rigamarole required is about the same for both.

Once settled back in her room, Mam-ma sat on her bed and talked of resting.  I figured she would have afternoon company.  Morning visitors had happily disrupted her plans to "go back to bed," and as I suspected, she had several guests this afternoon.  She complained that she is not able to make the walk to her friend's apartment in the evenings for tea and have any energy left to enjoy herself.  She also complained that her pants were too tight and she was miserable.  She changed pants, and I took her sharp sewing scissors and snipped some elastic loose from those she wore to lunch... giving her needed breathing room for next time!

I told Mam-ma she needed to rest in case company came, and I gave her a hug and a kiss... and she cried - just as Timothy had cried at the restaurant when I hugged and kissed him and told him he was going home with his grandmother.  They cried for different reasons, but at the end of the day, "I sad" would pretty much cover both of them.  And just like I was unable to console Timmy as he cried and couldn't get back to sleep, I have no answers for Mam-ma at this stage, either, except to tell her that the LORD clearly is not ready for her and she must still have things to do here!

Mam-ma may very well surprise me and live to see her 100th birthday, but I have my doubts.  Life is just beginning for Timmy... but for my grandmother, it's winding down fairly quickly.  He is tired from so much play and the daily absorption of tons of new knowledge.... she is weary from 99 years of learning and living.  So many similarities exist between a 2-year-old and someone who is 99.  The number of years that distance their ages may be vast, but the span of emotions and reactions to them is shorter than you think.
Mam-ma will probably tell others she had a wonderful time, but her limited attention span and hearing loss keep her from fully engaging in conversations and interactions with others now, and it didn't seem like she had all that much fun from my vantage point.  Truly her favorite part of the day was feeding the mountainous plate of chocolate cake and fudge-topped ice cream the restaurant bestowed upon her to gooey spoon at a time.  And that's good enough at this stage, I suppose.  We were together... we celebrated and gave cards and gifts, hugs and kisses, and shared a meal.  What else is there, really?  I'm glad we had this day... and that we got to share it as a family.  Time will tell if we get to do it again next year.