Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tender hearts

Sometimes all it takes is a simple look from my parents to either break my heart or melt my heart.
Daddy can break my heart in an instant. Sometimes when I'm leaving their house, he'll look at me in disgust, kind of wrinkling his upper lip. His eyes look straight at me, then he picks up his hand, waves it in a dismissive way in my direction and turns his head away from me. Often he'll add, "Just go then." Of course, I have to walk back to his side and repeat that it's time for me to leave — to go back to work, to my family, to make supper for him, to do our grocery shopping, whatever the rest of the day holds. Guilt makes me hug him one more time and assure him I'll be back. "When?" he wants to know.
But it was Mama who grabbed my heart last night. I was sitting at the dinner table with them. Like most nights, I had taken down their supper. I had eaten quickly at my house so I could linger over mealtime with them. Daddy had shredded barbecue chicken on his plate with a bowl of mixed vegetables, two deviled eggs and a biscuit. A slice of marble pound cake waited for him on the counter.
I knew Mama wouldn't eat the barbecue chicken; it would be unrecognizable to her and too hard for her to manage on her fork or to eat with her fingers. Instead she had a chicken biscuit cup I had taken out of the freezer the night before, two deviled eggs her sister had made for her, a sweet potato biscuit and a bowl of vegetables.
Everything but the vegetables was arranged in separate quadrants on Mama's bright red plate. The plate is a relatively new addition to the kitchen. The contrast of the light-colored food on a dark plate makes it easier for Alzheimer's patients, like my parents, to see the food.
I was sitting across the table from Mama, just watching her. Mama needs a lot of encouragement and direction to get through a meal. She has to be reminded to eat almost each bite. She loses her concentration and just stares. Last night, I didn't say anything to her at first. But I'm glad I was watching her, otherwise I would have missed the look.
Mama tilted her head to the right, looked at everything on her plate and smiled. It was a pleasant smile, a smile of anticipation. She actually looked happy to be sitting at the table and pleased with her options. She touched everything on her plate, like she was taking inventory, and then chose what to eat first: the chicken biscuit cup. Her hands, which usually shake when she eats, were unsteady once again as she took the food to her mouth and started eating.
Since last night, I've thought often about that happy look on her face. It brings me joy to remember it. I actually did something right! I took her a meal she wanted.
But it was a very different emotion that rocked me to the core Saturday. I was sitting with them for a few hours while the sitter was at another obligation. I was in charge of lunch and was encouraging Mama to eat a bite of the wiener I had cut into bite-size pieces. I wasn't patient enough, I'm sure, but I kept saying, "Mama, please eat." Instead, she would pick up her cup of tea and take a swallow. She did this maybe three times, and I grew more and more impatient. I put a piece of the hot dog on her fork and said, "Eat this. You have to eat or you'll get sick." She hates it when we feed her, but I tried anyway, and guided the fork to her mouth. "Take a bite."
My voice was too firm for my tender-hearted mama, I'm sure, and she started to cry. Her sitters had told me she had cried for an hour or so at the time most days that week, now it was my turn to listen and try to make her stop. I wasn't very successful. She ate very little at lunch that day, but she cried and blew her nose for at least an hour. There were wet tissues and napkins everywhere from where she was wiping her eyes and her nose. I had made her miserable because I encouraged her to eat and grew weary when she wouldn't. And all she could say was how mean I was. Broken heart again. Hers and mine.
After days like Saturday I feel like a big jerk. I wish I could be more patient. I wish I could always be happy and upbeat. I wish I could be something other than human, I guess.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Aunt Nellie Rose, I'll miss you

Early morning phone calls seldom bring good news.
In about a week's time, I've gotten two before 7 a.m. Monday's came as I was getting ready for work.
My cousin Nancy was calling. Our Aunt Nellie Rose Lassiter was very sick, and her daughter, Cathy, wanted us to know.
Aunt Nellie Rose has been very sick before, many more times than anyone should have to endure. But she was a fighter. The smallest, but toughest, fighter in the family. I gave my children the news, and Anna grew teary eyed, recalling a missed chance to see her great aunt just the week before.
Aunt Nellie Rose was on my mind as I drove to work and while I sat at my desk. I kept thinking back to my favorite memories of her. When the cousins were all young, elementary school-age, we'd gather at Granddaddy's Rock Ridge farm on the weekends. I loved playing with my rough and tumble Lassiter cousins, although it came with a little danger. Those three girls could get in all sorts of trouble, and Aunt Nellie Rose could sense it. I was a little scared of her, especially when she started calling out her girls' full names. I swear, 40 years later I can close my eyes and take myself back to the dirt driveway or the area around the two-seater outhouse, where the mischief usually occurred. Shivers still run down my neck and across my arms when I recall her shrill cry: "Debbie Jo!" "Cathy Rose!" "Betsy Jean!" I don't know what she did to them when she caught them because I'd run the other way before she called "Lisa Helen!"
Those thoughts were fresh in my mind when Cathy called just before 9 Monday morning; I wasn't expecting to hear that my beloved aunt was gone. She always bounced back, but not this time. After collecting myself and making a few calls I stopped to gather my thoughts and to remember a much happier time.
Several years ago, Daddy had to have several heart procedures at Wake Med. Aunt Nellie Rose lived in Raleigh, so she called and volunteered to sit with me during one of them. I declined, saying I'd rather spend the time alone. I didn't want to make small talk; sometimes it's just too much effort to make small talk. She came anyway. At first, I was a little annoyed, but within a few minutes, I was so happy to have the company. It was the only time the two of us have ever spent time alone. When you're part of a big family, there's seldom time for one-on-one visits. We did make small talk at first, but then she started talking about my Daddy, who's 15 years her senior. Aunt Nellie Rose knew stories about my daddy that no one had ever shared. She gave me an insight to his life just before he was shipped overseas during World War II and the wife and child he came home to several years later. She didn't hesitate to share stories about his first marriage — stories that others had probably thought taboo to tell. She waited around with me to see her big brother after the procedure was over. She sort of filled in for my mother, who has Alzheimer's and was not up to sitting with me all day at the hospital. I was very grateful for the fill-in mom, which is how I view all of my aunts.
We haven't seen the Lassiters much in recent years. Each family has had its own sicknesses to contend with. But Cathy brought Aunt Nellie Rose and Uncle Jimmy to see Daddy and Mama when she could. This spring, they came to Wilson soon after Daddy's rapid mental decline began. I wasn't sure if he'd even know them. During the visit, I looked for clues to see if Daddy really understood this was his sister sitting in the wheelchair in front of him. I wasn't convinced he knew, until it came time for her to leave. Aunt Nellie Rose scooted over to where Daddy was sitting, reached out and held his hands and told him goodbye. He looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I've loved you since the day you were born." My heart skipped a beat. It was one of those moments when time stops; I'll never forget it.
When the Lassiters came back just over a week ago, more than six months had passed. Daddy has grown increasingly worse both physically and mentally. The morning they were supposed to come, I called Aunt Nellie Rose. I wanted to prepare her for what she would see. Daddy was hallucinating that day, a side effect from an antibiotic to treat recurring pneumonia, and it's not pretty to see. She said they wouldn't come if I didn't want them to. "No, no," I told her. "I want you to come; it's important that you come."
So all of the siblings gathered at my parents' house a week ago Saturday. I think we all sensed it would be the last time they'd all be together, but it was my daddy who was the sickest, and the one everyone assumed would be next to go. We talked, laughed and told stories. It was almost like old times. Someone suggested we take a photo of all of them, but we didn't because Daddy looked so sick. It's not how we wanted to remember him.
Whenever the siblings gathered, we always took photos. We have photos from birthday parties, Christmas parties and anniversaries. But my favorites are from the pig-pickings we had when the cousins were teenagers.
The whole crowd would gather at Granddaddy's farm for one weekend in October. It was a homecoming for the siblings who had lived there and the grandchildren who had played in the fields. I find it very fitting that Aunt Nellie Rose died in October, the month for homecomings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Golden evening

My family and I have been savoring these glorious days of early autumn, especially relishing in the coolness of early evening when we can take a walk without getting too hot or too cold.
On many evenings, my husband and I sit under our carport, watching as the foxes and a stray cat or two come up to scour our back lawn for the birds' bread crumbs or food our cat, Sammy, has left unfinished. Or we sit on the front yard bench and watch the neighborhood walkers pass by with their dogs or children.
Last night, I walked the short block down the street to my parents' house and visited with Mama on the front porch. Sammy walked with me, as he often does, but stopped before he got too far, distracted by a rival neighborhood cat.
The porch was quiet. We both commented on the mandevilla, still blooming across the front porch rail. I asked her if she was cool; she said "a little," but she liked the way it felt. I did, too. She noticed the intense red and orange glow as the sun started to set, and she even heard the call of birds as they settled in for the night. "Listen," she told me as she tilted her head towards the birdsong and smiled.
Earlier that day and even the day before, I had wondered if Mama was losing her hearing. She had stopped responding to my questions or directions. "Mama, will you please eat your chicken?" "Mama, do you still have a headache?" She'd just look at me with a blank stare, with no indication she had heard me and certainly no response. It happened over and over. A progression of Alzheimer's, I thought. And I'm sure I was right.
But, by ourselves last night, she was talking and answering questions. I know why. There were no distractions. No telephone ringing, no TV actor talking in the background, no one emptying trash or hauling laundry from one room to the next, no equally debilitated husband hollering for help or demanding attention. It was just the two of us, and we both loved it.
After a few minutes on the porch, I looked down the street and saw Sammy in the next yard. He was taking his precious time, sniffing the grass in his never-ending hunt for prey of any description, from grasshopper to squirrel. I called his name, and he came at a gallop. By the time he was in the yard, Mama spotted him. She reached down her hand, moving her fingers in an effort to get his attention and calling, "Here, kitty."
Sammy jumped onto the porch and made a beeline to Mama. First he rubbed against her leg and the outstretched hand, then he put his paws on her knees to test the territory and jumped up onto her lap. He rearranged himself until he got comfortable. Mama rubbed his back; I rubbed his head and under his chin, hopping he'd stay content and linger in her lap. He did just that.
Over the summer, Sammy would often choose everyone's lap except Mama's. She'd call him, reach down for him, and scold him when he wouldn't choose her: "You mean cat," she'd say.
I'd get so mad at him. I told my husband I wished I could bribe him. You know, "If you'll get in Grandma's lap and be still for 10 minutes, we'll go get a milkshake." There's no bribing a cat, of course. But things change, and over the last few weeks, Sammy almost always chooses Mama's lap.
Last night, she petted him and talked to him in a higher pitched voice than what she normally uses. The voice we all save for talking to babies and pets:
"Have you had any supper? Are you hungry?" she asked him at least five times. Each time, I'd tell her that Reggie had fed him both dry food and canned food and he shouldn't be hungry. "I don't have anything to feed you," she said. Mama always made sure man or animal was fed if they visited her house.
As she stroked the cat's fur, Mama talked about how pretty he was.
After about 20 minutes, Sammy fell asleep and drooped a little bit off Mama's lap.
"I sure don't want you to fall and get hurt," she said, looking down at the orange, purring cat in her lap.
He didn't fall but stayed put a little longer. Then he hopped up and stretched out on the cool bricks of the porch and fell asleep.
I stayed a few more minutes before returning Mama to the house and her spot on the couch beside Daddy.
I'm so thankful for these golden evenings of autumn and for a tomcat that can't be bribed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder I'll Be There

I don’t want to forget Tuesday night. I probably wouldn’t anyway, but I want to write about it, to tell the world about it.
My daddy might not remember the year he was born, or where the bathroom is or the front door, or how to put on his shoes, but he remembers the hymns he sang for decades in the pews of Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist Church.
My daughter, Anna, and I stopped by Mama and Daddy’s last night after a visit to the county fair. Mama had a miserable day, and when I left her at suppertime, her eyes were red from hours of crying and frustration. I gave her a big hug, squeezed her hand and promised I’d be back before bedtime.
But it was Daddy who needed me more last night. Nighttime is nightmare time for Daddy. He has what’s known in the world of Alzheimer’s as Sundowners. Once the sun goes down, and actually a few hours before, what’s left of his sensibilities escapes him.
He panics and frets and complains and worries: Where will he sleep? Does anyone know where the bed is? How will he stand up from the couch? Will his feet reach the floor? How in the world will he take off all these clothes? Who will help him put on his night clothes? Who will help him take them off in the morning? Is anyone going to feed him? It goes on and on for hours.
He was in full panic mode when Anna and I arrived. Already dressed in his black and gray plaid pajamas, he was leaning to the right, almost falling over against the side of the couch, worrying aloud and loudly how he was going to get up.
“Will someone help me get up? I’ve got to get up from here.” It’s a common refrain with no real answer. If you ask him where he wants to go his response is: “I don’t know. How in the world am I supposed to know?”
I worked hard to distract him by rubbing his leg, talking softly and encouraging him to relax and calm down. He was having none of it.
“Why don’t we sing?” I said. He didn’t even move his head from its resting spot on the sofa, but his face perked up a little. “Do you want to sing? We can sing some church songs.”
“Those are good ones,” he said.
“What shall we sing?” I asked him. He didn’t have any suggestions. My mind raced through the hymns I grew up with, and I tried to think of ones I could remember. I felt like I was on a stage and sort of panicked myself because no song names came to mind. Then I remembered one:
“I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore. Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more.”
Daddy still didn’t move, and I wondered if he was even listening to me.
“But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry …”
And then I heard it. His weakened but beautiful voice joined in:
“From the waters lifted me now safe am I. Love lifted me. Love lifted me. When nothing else could help love lifted me.”
We sang along until we came to the end. I had his attention! He was distracted! He was singing!
Anna was amazed. I was ecstatic.
But what could we sing next?
Suddenly I was flooded with ideas, and we sang “How Great Thou Art,” “Just As I Am,” “Jesus Loves Me.” He didn’t always sing along with the verses, but by the time I hit the chorus, he would join in.
Then I remembered another song, which I knew was one of his favorites:
“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more, and the morning breaks, eternal bright and fair.”
He finally picked up his head and I saw, I really did, a sparkle in his eye. A recognition. A flash of a memory perhaps. And, definitely, joy.
He sang along with me and really piped in when we got to the chorus:
“When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”
But as soon as we finished, he started worrying again. “How am I going to get up?” he asked Anna.
“Daddy,” I said, “let’s think of something else to sing.”
He didn’t want to sing anymore and asked me to stop. But I’m not one to take no for an answer and asked him what was his favorite hymn. He sang a few lines from “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder “ again, and I joined in.
Then I asked him if he remembered “I Come to the Garden Alone”?
He hesitated for a few seconds, then looked straight ahead and sang by himself, his voice even weaker because I had tired him out. Weaker but even more beautiful and determined: “I come to the garden alone. While the dew is still on the roses.”
Anna looked at her grandpa, her eyes wide open with amazement and on the verge of tears. Tears did fill my eyes, but I started singing and didn’t worry if my emotion showed and my voice cracked.
“And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own…”
We sang the whole song. He knew every word. Every word.
But on most days, he can’t tell you the city we live in and doesn’t believe he’s in the right house. And many days he can’t recognize family members. But he knows the words of the songs he sang at his beloved Marsh Swamp Church.
I’ve read that our earliest memories are our strongest memories. I believe that’s true. I also believe I’ll have the memory of Tuesday night for years to come. I only wish Daddy could remember it too.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Loud, stinky stores

I'm really annoyed with stores that find it necessary to play music loud enough to make my brain tremble.
My daughter and I spent most of Saturday morning shopping at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh. I knew she wanted to go to Hollister, but I really dreaded it.
For those tired old moms like me, a trip to Hollister is almost torturous: loud music, dim lights, overpowering perfume apparently sprayed throughout the store like Glade. But we went anyway. I took two Motrin in advance to ward off the inevitable headache.
Nothing had changed since our last visit to the store. The music was so loud that I couldn't comprehend what Anna was saying to me as we looked through stacks of sales clothes in the back of the shop. And when her daddy popped in to check on our progress, I told him where to meet us in a few minutes, knowing that he couldn't hear a word I was saying. Maybe I should have just sent him a text message!
Every few minutes, as the songs changed, there would be a few moments of silence. Anna said the silence was kind of spooky. I thought it was bliss.
Hollister wasn't the only offender on this trip. We were also clearance sale shopping at Abercrombie, which is apparently owned by the same company. Their music is equally obnoxious and their perfume equally offensive to my sensitive nose.
When we got back home, Anna took the new clothes to her room. Within an hour, her bedroom smelled like a perfume counter at department store. We stripped the clothes of their tags and washed them, using a laundry deodorizer to kill the aroma. I hung the clothes in the kitchen, which doubles as my laundry room. The next morning, my kitchen had that same perfume counter smell, even though the clothes had been washed!
Perhaps other families enjoy shopping in the dark while someone screams incomprehensible lyrics and having someone else choose their perfume. But it's not my favorite way to shop!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

One Person's Trash

Daddy's getting a new chair this week. Maybe as early as today. It's a geri chair, short for geriatrics. Pictures I've seen on the Web remind me of hospital patient chairs – the ones on wheels with a tray attached. Our hospice nurse recommended it.
We're hoping it will give Daddy a comfortable place to sit. Lately, as Alzheimer's progresses, he's having more and more trouble sitting up. He tends to lean. In fact, sometimes I'm afraid he's going to lean so far that he'll fall off the couch he sits on with Mama most of the day.
But to make room for the geri chair, we had to do some furniture moving. Mama and Daddy's main sitting area is their very small den. The most logical piece of furniture to move was an ugly blue upholstered rocker. It looks like a recliner, but it isn't. I don't put Daddy in it because it's a low piece of furniture, and it's too unsteady for him to stand up from.
I talked to my sister yesterday about the blue chair's future. I told her we could put it at the curbside, move it into the already crowded living room or throw away another chair from the living room and replace it with the blue chair. She suggested we talk to the sitters and see which chair they'd rather keep in the living room, where they often sit. The sitters preferred the chair they already use in the living room because the rocker is just too low and unsteady for them as well. So, it looked like the ugly rocker was on its way out the door. It seemed like the easy, sensible thing to do. I certainly didn't want it at my house, and neither did Susan.
I planned to have my husband move it out last night, thinking someone would probably pick it up from the curbside and take it home with them. I might even call the Red Cross, I thought, to see if they wanted it.
I happened to mention all of this to my daughter, Anna.
"Grandpa's getting a new chair," I said. I told her about the geri chair and how nice it would be to have somewhere that Grandpa could sit upright.
"But we'll have to get rid of that ugly old blue rocking chair," I said. "I'm going to have your dad move it to the curb tonight."
She looked at me with wide-open eyes.
"You can't get rid of that chair," she cried. "That's the chair they rocked us in!"
I looked at her, seeing not the 14-year-old she is now but the blond-headed toddler, clutching a blanket and sucking on a pacifier, sitting contentedly in her beloved grandmother's lap. I remembered a favorite photo of her brother on his first birthday, sitting in the chair in his Uncle Mike's lap. Robert's cheeks are flushed with fever from an ear infection and his eyes look weak.
I shake off the memories and look at Anna's concerned face.
"You're right," I told her. "We can't get rid of the chair."
The ugly blue rocker is not at the curb this morning. It's in the over-crowded living room where it will stay. As it turns out, it didn't need a new home after all.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Farmers Market

Reggie and I made our second trip to Wilson’s farmers market Saturday.
The first time was three weeks ago. We bought some delicious snapbeans. There was a steady stream of customers, and we were pleased to see that the farmers were selling their produce.
This week, the market was jammed when we there! When we pulled in, I told Reggie there must be something else going on at the fairgrounds because there were so many cars. What was going on was fresh corn, newly-dug potatoes, cantaloupes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and blueberries. There were so many shoppers that we had to turn sideways to walk in the sheltered area where the market is held!
We got in line behind several other customers to buy two dozen ears of corn from the back of a pickup truck. I’m glad we got there when we did because soon after 9, several corn varieties had already been sold. We bought a dozen white ears and a dozen yellow, and both were delicious. The scene reminded me of a passage from Jan Karon’s Mitford books when the villagers line up for the first round of fresh corn from the valley.
I also bought an organic green bell pepper Saturday morning. The flesh was very thin and had a nice crunch, which I love. It made a nice addition to my fruited chicken salad for Sunday’s lunch. From the same booth, we purchased organic yellow squash, which made a very tasty casserole.
We’ll be back at the farmers market for more fresh produce. I love to take advantage of fresh corn, especially, and don’t want to miss the season’s peak.
If you haven’t been yet, make a point to stop by one Saturday morning soon. The market is located on U.S. 301 at the Wilson County Fairgrounds and open each Saturday, except July 12, from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What's in a name anyway?

I think I've finally accepted the fact that Mama doesn't know who I am.
She knows I'm Lisa. Asks for Lisa, gets upset when Lisa leaves. But she really doesn't know who Lisa is.
Yesterday was my birthday. After I sat with Mama and Daddy while they ate supper, I walked with Mama to the living room to say good bye. She didn't want me to leave and started crying a little bit. I put my arms around her shoulders and made sure we were making eye contact so she could concentrate on what I was saying. I explained that it was my birthday and I was going home to have a birthday meal with my family. No response, no facial change, no "happy birthday!"
"Do you remember when I was born?" I asked her. "No," she answered. "Did you know I was your first baby?" See looked at me with a confused expression. She sort of laughed softly and responded again: "No."
I looked over at the sitter. "She has no idea I'm her daughter, does she?" She shook her head, agreeing with my assessment.
I didn't cry over this. It wasn't a big revelation.
Alzheimer's confuses so many things. Mama has no idea of relationships. No idea that Reggie is my husband, for instance, but she loves Reggie and asks for him by name.
Mama may not know I'm her firstborn child, but she knows I love her and that I'm going to look after her, and that's all that counts. Really. She knows when I come to see her that I'm bringing supper or the groceries or arms that wrap around her in a hug and hands that clasp hers as we walk. She knows she can count on me and trust me.
I tell her that often when she worries about nightfall approaching. She's scared for it to grow dark, sad that I'm going home to my husband and children. I reassure her that she will never be alone again, that she can trust me to do what's best for her and Daddy. She nods and assures me she's doing the best she can, too.
Who can ask for anything more?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mother's Day card

I was close to Lynn’s Hallmark Tuesday afternoon, so I decided to go in and buy a Mother’s Day card.
I’m not sure who I was buying it for. Me, I guess.
My mom will not realize it’s Mother’s Day, I said to myself. She will not understand, I don’t think, when I explain it to her. And the significance of the card will mean nothing to her. I’ll hand her the card, kiss her and say “Happy Mother’s Day.” She won’t know how to open it, although it won’t be sealed, and when I hand it to her, she will turn it over and try to figure out what it is and how to open it. I’ll point out the pretty picture on the front and read the verse, and she will look at me with a blank stare or will look beyond me, not really hearing me.
Please don’t think I’m cruel in my description, but that’s how it is in this late stage of Alzheimer’s. Things that used to be so important to her — and that includes special greeting cards — have absolutely no meaning to her now. Not a speck.
But there I was, standing in the Mother’s Day aisle at Lynn’s, looking for a perfect card for my beloved mama. I could feel the knot in my throat before I picked up the first card. The knot turned to tears as soon as I read the message. It was something about Mom being the first person I call when I need someone, when I’m happy or sad.
“Oh my God, I can’t do this,” I said, knowing full well that Mama was always the first person to hear my good news and my bad. She was my rock. As her mind deteriorated, I stopped turning to her because it was too hard for both of us. Hard for her because she couldn’t comprehend or help me. Hard for me because she couldn’t comprehend or help me.
Up until maybe six months ago, I still told Mama my problems and concerns. I’d look her in the eye, and she’d look back (something she hardly ever does now.) She pretended she understood what I was saying. I pretended she understood what I was saying. I felt a little better. She felt a little better. It’s all very pitiful, isn’t it?
Anyway, back to Hallmark. My eyes roamed the pretty pastel cards with flowers on them, the ones with people on them. Wonder which one wouldn’t make me cry? But one caught my eye. A young girl with short blond hair peered from the corner of a card.
That child looked just like me and just like my daughter, for that matter! I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up, read the sentiment. Something about trying on Mom’s high heeled shoes. I did that! Every little girl has done that. But it didn’t really matter what the card said, it was the card I was buying. Somehow, it cheered me up knowing how excited my daughter would be to see the card because I knew she’d get it.
I’ll give Mama that card on Mother’s Day. She won’t recognize how much the child on the card looks like Anna and me, and I’ll probably cry again.
But I’ll give her a hug and a kiss anyway because she’s my mama, and I love her like no one else.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farm Fresh

I had another new grocery store experience today. I went to Farm Fresh, along with half the population of Wilson County!
The new store is really nice. Beautiful floors, nice decorative touches. And the food is so fresh and enticing.
I was especially drawn to the baked goods section, where fresh breads are bountiful. I tried a sample of focaccia and didn't hesitate to purchase my own tomato and cheese loaf. The pastries also caught my eye; I'll be back for turtle cheesecake!
There were other features drawing the attention of shoppers, including a salad bar loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, an entire bar of prepared salads, and a hot bar featuring a variety of chicken wings. Can't wait to try those!
The sandwiches looked delicious in the deli section; I'll go back for the roast beef panini, especially since they'll toast it for me.
I was especially intrigued by one display: a refrigerated display case filled with fresh pet food.
There were several product names I wasn't familiar with, but my favorite brands were there. I was very glad to see a large display of a family favorite: Edy's frozen fruit bars, including tangerine, which is hard to find. I was also shocked to stumble upon a rack of See's candy's. A dear cousin used to send my Mama See's chocolates every Christmas. They were delicious.
Between Farm Fresh and the new Harris Teeter, Wilson shoppers have a lot more choices and two pretty new places to shop.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Meeting Sarah Dessen

I've been to a lot of booksignings and author readings over the years, first as an English major at Atlantic Christian College and in later years as a reporter at The Wilson Daily Times. Some of the authors who come to mind are Alan Gurganus, Bland Simpson, Clyde Edgerton, Tim McLaurin, Margaret Maron and Sharyn McCrumb. I loved their books and I loved their talks.
I became almost addicted to McCrumb's books soon after her reading at Barton College. And I have a happy grin on my face each time I hear Margaret Maron read from her popular Judge Deborah Knott series.
Saturday, I got to hear an author whose books I've never read. My daughter, Anna, has read them, though.
The young adult fiction author is Sarah Dessen. Her books include "Just Listen," "The Truth About Forever," "That Summer," "This Lullaby" and the new one, "Lock and Key." Dessen has quite a following among her teenage fans, many of whom turned out for the reading at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh Saturday. They had books in their arms and questions on their mind.
I enjoyed listening to the girls ask Dessen about her characters, her inspiration, how she first got published. The girls were smiling, Dessen was smiling, the parents were smiling. It was all such a fun, rewarding experience for all of us. Here were close to 100 people, I guess, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon talking about BOOKS! Who would have thought...
I was close to the desk where Dessen signed books at the end of her talk, and I heard the girls tell Dessen how much her books meant to them. I listened in amazement as girls told how many states they had traveled to be at the talk Saturday.
Even before Saturday, I had wanted to thank Sarah Dessen for doing something no other author has ever done for my daughter; she has helped Anna realize it's possible to love books, to love to read. Before she read Dessen's books, she looked at reading as a chore, something she had to do for an English class. She honestly couldn't imagine what her dad and I found so rewarding about reading a good book. She read slowly and hated every minute. Yet, she zips through Dessen's books, absorbing the story and loving the experience. She "gets" it now.
So, thank you Sarah Dessen. Thank you for taking time out of your own Saturday afternoon to make dozens of teenage girls happy. Thank you for writing books that young girls enjoy. Thank you for opening up the world of books to by child.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New place to shop

I spent part of my lunch hour today at the new Harris-Teeter. I needed some thin-sliced New York strip steaks to make sandwiches for supper tonight and liked having an excuse to check out the new store.
It's beautiful. Clean. Modern. Has lots of new stuff. And it was packed with shoppers pushing brand new carts, tasting samples and marveling at the fresh produce, sushi bar, breads and cheeses.
I didn't especially want to see the grocery store move locations. The old site is very close to my house. It took about 4 minutes more to reach the new grocery store, but I did get stopped at both stoplights I must now go through. I was spoiled, I know, to have a grocery store so close by on those occasions when I was in the middle of cooking dinner only to realize I was out of any of the following: eggs, chicken broth, self-rising flour, garlic, you name it.
I have fond memories of shopping at the old Harris-Teeter. The first time I left my newborn son with my mother was to make a shopping trip to Harris-Teeter. I often bought my children's birthday cakes in the store's bakery. I also loved chatting with friends as we strolled the aisles and touching base with employees I've gotten to know.
I'm not dwelling on memories but looking forward to going to this new store and trying new things.
I know my friends will be shopping there; I saw a number of them today. And I'll enjoy checking out the new services, including a fresh fruit and melon section. And the salad bar was quite enticing. Too bad I had already eaten leftovers before I made my trip today, but I'll be back.
It will be interesting to see if Wilson shoppers can support this new Harris-Teeter as well as Farm Fresh, which opens next week. I've never been in a Farm Fresh, but I'll certainly check it out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Pre-Easter memory

I'm most certainly a person who loves tradition. I hang our Christmas stockings in the same place each year, put Valentine's cards at my husband's and children's place at the breakfast table and eat at the same restaurants every time my family goes to the beach.
And during Holy Week, I make every effort to attend the Thursday night (or Maundy Thursday) pre-Easter service at my church.
This tradition, for me, goes back to April 19, 1984. My husband and I had been dating for less than a week when I invited him to go to Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist Church with me and my parents. It was the first time we went to church together, and we both enjoyed the auxiliary's traditional covered dish dinner before an informal service and communion in the fellowship hall.
Over the years, Reggie and I made a point to go back to that service every year, to recall our early courting days and to participate in the Holy Week service.
Several of these Thursday services stick out in my mind.
When our daughter, Anna, was just 6 weeks old, she and brother accompanied us to the service. Anna was a colicky baby, and we had hesitated to take her because she cried so much — hours and hours at the time every evening and sometimes all day and all night long. But we went anyway. Sure enough, Anna started crying during the dinner part of the evening. A veteran mom in attendance took Anna from my arms and told me eat my dinner, she would get her quiet. I laughed silently at her folly; there was no way she would get that baby to stop crying. Anna was passed from mom to mom and dad to dad. They each used their tried-and-true methods of hushing a colicky baby, bouncing her, placing her tummy-down on a knee, singing to her, holding a passy in her mouth, cuddling her. You name it, they tried it. Nothing worked, of course, and they handed her back to me once I had finished my meal. She didn't stop crying for about another month. Incidentally, the photo her dad took of me holding her a few days later, wearing her pretty Easter dress, shows her bright red face, fresh from crying.
Some years later, at this same pre-Easter service, son Robert got his first taste of the bread and grape juice of communion. As I said, the service is informal. And before the communion trays were passed around, our pastor, Ray Wells, explained to the children in attendance what communion was all about. They listened to him with wide eyes that grew wider still when he invited them to participate with the adults this time. Robert remembered that every year afterwards.
And just a few years ago, as the group gathered in a circle after the meal, Ray asked the congregation if any of us would like to share what the Easter season and the pre-Easter service meant to them. I told how Reggie and I had started our relationship on the days that led up to Easter back in 1984 and how much it mean to both of us to attend the service every year.
Last night, after the service ended, several people came up to me and told me they remembered that Thursday night was an anniversary of sorts for Reggie and me. Earlier in the week, Ray had mentioned it to me as well. It really touched me that my dear church family had remember this special moment in our lives.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I was back at Hunt High School Monday night to hear more about academies. This time it was with my younger child, who will be a freshman next year; her brother will be a senior. My family has followed academy news closely the last few years, but I still have many questions. Unfortunately, they weren't all answered at last night's standing-room only meeting in the school's theater. I had hoped parents and students would be given a chance to ask questions, but there was no question and answer session during the presentations. With such a long program, it wouldn't have been feasible.
I'm hoping when the high schools visit the middle schools, the kids will get the opportunity to ask questions of the teachers and counselors. For instance, if you choose the IB strand, will you have flexibility to take the electives of your choice? Or, vice versa, can you take IB classes if you choose the Visual and Performing Arts Academy, for example? How sure are staff members that future proposed classes will really be offered? Should you choose an academy now, hoping that eventually the classes you're really interested in will materialize? And, God forbid, what will happen if redistricting moves you to another school and another academy?
Monday night's program at Hunt, which was for underclassmen, was a 90-minute breakdown of the academies, strands and classes within the strands. I don't mind admitting that my mind wandered considerably much of the evening. A lot was covered, and much of it did not apply to my children. But I did get a good idea of what will be offered next year. So that's a good thing.
I still have some doubts about the academies. My daugther is certainly worried about what will happen if she doesn't get her first choice of academies. I told her to relax and stop worrying so much. I've tried to assure her that she can choose another academy and still take electives she's interested in. I guess that's right; I never could ask that last night.
I also can't help but wonder if this is all a lot of "sound and fury, signifying nothing." So many kids were already choosing electives their freshmen year and sticking with them throughout their high school career. For instance, some took band or business classes, chorus or ag classes. They were already in a smaller learning community of sorts. They didn't get freaked out because they were afraid they wouldn't be accepted into an academy. They didn't feel the pressure of what is touted as such a big decision in picking an academy. They didn't have to worry so much, and neither did the parents.
I hope it all works out. The kids won't get a second chance at high school.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The freezer

On Sunday, one of Mama and Daddy's sitters asked me if I knew insulation was hanging out of their chest freezer. The answer would be no!
I've worried about this freezer for a long time. It's the one my parents filled with the fruits of a vegetable garden at Rock Ridge. No one has used the food in it for years. A decade, is more accurate. I've worried that the freezer would stop working and the food would thaw out and rot without me knowing it until the telltale odor revealed the problem.
Well, that wasn't the problem. I really don't know what happened, but Sunday, when we tried to open the freezer lid, it wouldn't budge at first. Eventually, my husband pried it open, leaving a layer of yellow insulation frozen to the edges of the appliance. Reggie used an ice pick to break the insulation away. So now the freezer lid is in two pieces: the actually white lid and the layer of insulation. On Sunday, he chipped away the ice that had run over the top of the freezer and took out enough food so we could somewhat close the disconnected lid. We placed a carton of soft drinks and boxes of Boost on the lid to hold it down.
We left it like that until last night. The garbage is collected today, and according to the person I talked to at the city, it was OK to place the bags of frozen food beside our roll-out container. The freezer will be taken out of the house on Friday.
We waited until Mama and Daddy had gone to bed last night before we started our work. I didn't know how I would explain why we were hauling bags from the house, and I knew the truth would upset Daddy too much. So I didn't tell him. (He also would have insisted I cook the 15-year-old corn for supper or fry up a package of chicken.) Reggie and I both put on our winter gloves to protect them from the chill of the frozen food and got to work. While I filled 12 large black leaf bags, he hauled them to the front yard.
Because the lid no longer stays open by itself, I had to prop it against my shoulder or my head and reach deep inside to retrieve pint-size bags of corn, crowder peas and butterbeans lovingly grown at Daddy's Rock Ridge farm and brought home to freeze. A few times, I almost lost my balance reaching so far down and had a secret fear of falling in and having to wait for Reggie to rescue me between his trips to the curb. But I didn't fall, thank God. Can you imagine trying to explain that injury at the ER?
Stacked between the vegetables were freezer-burned steaks and pork cutlets, packages of bacon and even a freezer bag filled with snow cream with a note in Mama's writing saying it was made on the second day of the snow and was icy. I can promise you my mama would have eaten the snow cream if she had know it was in there!
There was even an unopened half-gallon of Winn-Dixie's Superbrand vanilla ice cream. I also found a few grocery store receipts, including one from West Nash Market. And Reggie discovered an ink pen that probably fell out of Daddy shirt pocket the last time he reached in to re-arrange the frozen foods.
After I had pulled out all I could get, Reggie had to once again pull out the ice pick to free dozens of pints of peas that were embedded in a thick layer of ice. But, in less than an hour, we had the job done.
Mama and Daddy always dated the vegetables they froze, so we know exactly how old the corn and peas are. Many were dated 1997 and 1998; the oldest bag I saw was from 1992.
My son, Robert, turned 2 years old in 1992. When he was a little boy, he loved to help Grandma and Grandpa freeze corn. It was his job to put the ears of corn into a large bucket of ice water to chill.
A lot of work went into raising vegetables on a farm you don't live on, and the work continued when the picked food was brought home to be shelled and frozen.
Daddy purposedly filled up his freezer with his homegrown vegetables because he wanted to enjoy them when he was too old to farm. He told me this many times. But Mama stopped cooking years ago, and the corn and peas stayed in the freezer. I cooked the ones Daddy had given me, but the rest remained in their cold storage for more than a decade. It's sad, really, to know Mama and Daddy's hard work ended up as trash.
But at least he had peace of mind all of those years, knowing it was there if he needed it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Erasers work

Sometimes the mail at the work brings presents. Last week, I got a goodie box with Febreze products inside. Some of the products have a lavendar/ vanilla scent. I passed those along to my co-worker; she doesn't have allergies!
I did take home the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with Febreze. It's a "powerful foaming cleaner for kitchen and bath." Well, the tub in my bathroom needing some powerful cleaning, so I gave it a try.
The tub in question is in the bathroom we had added to the house several years ago. I was so proud of that shiny white tub when it was first installed, but it had gotten dingy, and despite many efforts and lots of stinky cleaners, the ring and soap scum remained. I had used Mr. Clean Erasers before to remove marks on the walls. They worked like magic. And, guess what? The kitchen and bath cleaner worked like magic as well! With a little bit of elbow grease, I was able to remove those dingy stains from my tub in about five minutes, and, I promise, the tub felt smooth and looked new again. And, another plus, my hands didn't smell like bleach.
After we finished with that tub, my husband used the eraser on the other tub as well as the kitchen sink. We also used it to remove from the side of the tub a tiny, 3-year-old rust spot from a wayward bobby pin.
I've seen Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with Febreze in local stores, selling around $2.50; there are two erasers in each package. I think it's a real bargain!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Anna

I know my daughter's birthday is her special day, but as her mother,
it's pretty special to me as well. I've spent much of today remembering back to Anna's birth 14 years ago. What a staggering thought to realize it's been that long since I first held my little girl, admired her dainty features and marveled at the tiny bow the nurse had placed in her hair.
Today, I've thought back to the little details of the day: how incredibly thirsty I was during labor; how ridiculous I thought it was for my doctor to suggest I'd deliver quicker if I just didn't have an epidural; how the nurses looked after my queasy husband; how different it was to deliver naturally rather than by C-section; how eager Anna was to nurse just minutes after her birth; how excited her big brother Robert was to find his mama and little sister later that day.
I also remember Mama. In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I had told Mama that the most important thing she could do for me during labor was to make sure 3-year-old Robert was OK. I told her I'd rather she stay with him than to sit in the hospital waiting room. We dropped Robert off at her house the morning I went into labor. She walked out to the car to talk to me, looked into my eyes, and I'm sure she saw the pain and fear I was experiencing. I can only imagine what happened next, but before long, Robert was in the safe care of my aunt and cousins, and Mama was in the hospital to make sure her own little girl was OK and to await the arrival of her granddaughter.
Anna has turned out to be such a joy to my mother. Just like her brother, Anna stayed with my parents while I worked. She and Mama developed a close bond as they spent their days together enjoying the world around them: walking through yard looking at the flowers, collecting pretty pebbles from the gravel driveway, looking at birds hunting for sunflower seeds at the feeders or worms in the front yard.
Now, as Mama struggles with the trials of Alzheimer's, Anna continues to be a joy to her. It's now Anna who takes her grandmother for walks around the yard, looking for the first signs of spring flowers or perhaps picking a camellia blooming in the back yard.
When I stopped by Mama and Daddy's at lunch, I told them Anna's birthday was today. Mama was thrilled. She asked me if I'd write it all down on a piece of paper. I wrote: "Anna is 14 today." She held the piece of paper in her hands, looking at it every few minutes as if she were memorizing the words. I promised that Anna and I would drop by her house after school so she could tell her happy birthday.
Three hours later, we did just that. Mama smiled when she saw Anna, stood up and gave her a birthday hug. Clutched in her left hand was the paper from the notepad. It was folded up three or four times. "I've held it so I wouldn't forget," she said.
It's another birthday memory I hope I never forget.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Black History

Our Black History Month photo feature has been a good experience for me.
I've thoroughly enjoyed talking to the many people who have called or dropped by the office with their precious photos. And precious they are. These images from 50, 60, 70 years ago (some even older than that!) are real history — our history. The history of Wilson and its surrounding areas is something we should all take note of, whether it be "white" history or "black" history.
I've enjoying picking out people I know in the photos, and I've loved looking at the clothing the people wore and the landscape around them. Did you see the photo of the Book and Garden Club? Those ladies looked so pretty in their spring and summer dresses! Members of that club have submitted news items for the Lifestyle section since before I came to the newspaper in 1984.
I have several more wonderful photos waiting to appear. One of my favorites is a photo that includes my former principal John W. Jones when he was still a teacher. Another features former Daily Times employees. Keep an eye out for these photos to appear in the Lifestyle section in coming days.
If you've missed the photos in the print edition, make sure you look them up on our Web site. The link is http://wilsontimes.com/galleries/blackhistory/index.html
I'll accept photos through Feb. 25 if you have one you'd like to share.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Valentine's stuff galore

Have you noticed the profusion of Valentine's gifts around town? Everywhere I go, I see red and pink balloons, boxes of chocolates, bags of gummy candy hearts, cards and stuffed animals, all ready to say "I love you" to someone's sweetheart.
Each year, I make a point to buy heart-shaped biscuits from Bojangle's. They usually start selling them a few days before Valentine's.
Papa John's is selling a heart-shaped pizza in honor of the big day. I saw an advertisement for the pizzas when I picked up our dinner last Sunday night. The pizza was very pretty decorated with red pepperoni.
And last night, at Walmart, I was amazed at all of the Valentine cookies and treats at the bakery. The most unusual ones, I thought, were heart-shaped, cherry-flavored doughnuts with a pink tint.
I also saw heart-shaped springform pans at Target this week. The pans were for single-serving size cakes. They also had silicone, heart-shaped cupcake liners.
So much stuff! Wonder how much of it will be left on the shelves come Feb. 15?

Friday, February 1, 2008

No more driving

Up until 19 months ago, Daddy was still driving his red Ford Taurus. He and Mama would make a least one trip a day. They'd go to Eckerd to pick up a prescription, to Saratoga to visit my aunt and uncle or to WalMart to walk around the store for exercise and a box of Corn Flakes or half-gallon of milk. And they'd make the familiar trek to Rock Ridge, where they'd ride by landmarks important to Daddy's childhood: the farm, the church, the school.
We live just a few doors down from my parents, so I'd often see them drive by or hear the familiar sound of Daddy's car horn, letting me know they were either going or coming.
In the year before he stopped driving, I started having mixed emotions about whether he should be behind the wheel. On the one hand, I knew how important his independence was to his mental well-being. On the other hand, I feared he might not be sharp enough to drive and might end up having a wreck and hurting someone. I worried about this — panicked in fact — every time he drove by my house headed towards Ward Boulevard. I held my breath until I heard him honk the horn, sometimes hours later, letting me know they were almost home. At least they'd always be back by dark, which gave me some comfort.
But one evening they didn't return by sunset. In fact, they were still missing well into the evening. I've never know such fear in my life. I called everyone we knew and drove to all of their usual spots including McDonald's and Chick-Fil-A, where they often ate their evening meal. The employees told me they hadn't seen them. Then I started driving around the county. I followed every path I knew they took on a regular basis including the roads around Daddy's Rock Ridge farm. I even alerted my cousins on the other side of the county, who were just heading out for their own search when I got word that Mama and Daddy had returned. They had gotten lost and driven around for hours looking for something familiar. Daddy tried to play it all down, but Mama was crying and shaking and as scared as I had been. They had apparently stopped for directions, God only knows where, but eventually found their own way home.
I should have taken action that night. Should have seen the signs of Alzheimer's in Daddy. Getting lost had been one of Mama's first symptoms. I ignored it then with Mama, hoping it would go away, and ignored it the next time with Daddy. Denial is a powerful thing, you know.
Anyway, late in May 2006, Daddy was hospitalized. I barely remember why, but I do remember his doctor saying he couldn't drive. At first we thought she meant for a few days, and then we realized she meant forever.
If you've never taken away someone's car keys then you can't understand the trauma and drama of the next few days and even weeks. My daddy became a monster to me and my sister and even my husband. He said awful things to us, threatened us and made us feel like the most ungrateful people in the world. He begged me for the car keys. But I held strong. He warned me then that if I took away his car I'd be taking away his life. That if couldn't or wouldn't be able to live without his independence. It broke my heart, but by this time, I was getting used to having a broken heart.
His words rang true to a degree. He absolutely lost a vibrant part of himself that summer as he resigned himself to the fact that Reggie and I would be taking him wherever he had to go.
It's a big responsibility to become someone's wheels, but it was a responsibility I took with gladness. I could rest much easier knowing Daddy was no longer behind the wheel. No longer a potential threat.
Over that summer I started taking Mama and Daddy on long drives through the countryside. I'll tell you about those another day.
I was reminded of all of this when my next door neighbor sent a note to my parents this week, telling them how much she missed seeing them ride by in their little red car, beeping the horn to let me know they were OK.
I miss it too.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How would you spend the money?

We've been talking a lot at my house about the economic stimulus package. Reggie and I have already spent the sum we would receive many times over! We've talked about paying off some credit card bills and making a contribution to our car insurance fund. I'm also thinking summer vacation!
I was explaining it to my daughter, Anna, last night — telling her how we'd get $300 for each child. MISTAKE. Now she wants her share of the money and has been lobbying for a cut. This all got me thinking about this whole economic stimulus package. Critics say not everyone will spend the money; instead, many will save it. I know how we can get at least part of it spent. Instead of sending the $300 per child allowance to the parents, send it to the child. Judging by my own children (and others I know) their fair share will be spent within minutes of it hitting their hot little hands. Video game vendors, electronics stores, high-end clothing stores and toy companies would all get a pretty good economic boost, I feel sure.
I'm curious how Wilson folks would spend their check, both adults and children! Send me a comment.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Last night was not typical of Tuesdays at the Batts house. We went to see "Cats"! The blockbuster Broadway hit is playing at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, and we were there for the opening of the Broadway Series South Show. My daughter, Anna, and I had been looking forward to this for months, and we were certainly not disappointed.
I love musicals, thanks in large part to my former dance teacher Barbara Smith. Barbara also loved Broadway tunes and used them for her annual dance recitals. In my many years with Barbara (both as a student and teacher assistant), I learned the lyrics to so many shows from "The King and I" to "Oliver."
Atlantic Christian College English professor and newspaper adviser Mike Fukuchi also loves Broadway shows, and he kept me interested in my years at ACC. It was "Doc" as I call him, who helped me see my first Broadway show — "Cats." I group of us were in New York City for a newspaper convention, and Doc was with us. As soon as we got of the airplane that cold March morning, Doc lead several of us into the city to secure tickets for different shows. The most coveted ticket was for the relatively new musical, "Cats." We were elated to hold the tickets in our hands, although this eastern N.C. girl was shocked at the cost. $50 to $75, I think. I didn't care. The show was fantastic. I was completely mesmerized with the lights, the dancing, the excitement of being on Broadway! I had learned the lyrics to most of the songs because I had listened to the album (yes, album!) over and over in the weeks leading up to our trip, so I sang along silently as the actors, including Betty Buckley, entertained me with their songs.
I've never forgotten that experience. It opened my eyes to all the wonders of stage.
A few years ago, Anna had found my CD of "Cats" (Yes, I had upgraded) and she, too, enjoyed listening to the songs. It was natural we would want to see the show.
The Broadway South production is just as exciting as I remember from 20-odd years ago in New York. The dancing, music, costumes and sets still mesmerized me. I especially loved the rousing tap number with Jennyanydots and the beatle tatoo as well as the fun Skimbleshanks routine with the train. I realized early into last night's show that I was grinning. It was such a treat to see it all again — The Rum Tum Tugger hamming it up; Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer being plain silly; and the haunting sound of Grizabella singing "Memory." Wow.
Anna and her dad, Reggie, had the same reactions I had. I listened to them talk about the amazing voices that sometimes brought chill bumps, to their fascination with the athleticism of the dancers. They talked about the special effects including dramatic lighting and a cannon of sorts that shoots ribbons into the audience. I was afraid they would think the show was silly, but they didn't. They appreciated it for the same reasons I did: the music, the dancing, the costumes, the excitement.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hospital food

There’s one good thing about hanging out at Wilson Medical Center: the cafeteria. My parents haven’t been in the hospital often, but when they are there, I look forward to dropping in downstairs for delicious and cheap meals!
Breakfast is probably my favorite. I especially love the grits. This week, while staying with my hospitalized father, I’ve dined on grits, scrambled eggs, made-to-order Texas toast with jelly and turkey sausage patties. I was thrilled to see turkey sausage as an offering. I’m big fan of turkey sausage, and this was tender and delicious.
The lunchtime salad bar is another favorite. I love the fresh fruit, especially. On Tuesday, I had a tossed salad with a small ribeye steak and a baked potato. It really gave me the energy I needed for yet another emotionally draining day on the second floor.
One night I had a ham and cheese sandwich from the grill. Comfort food at its best.
Before we left for home Thursday, I picked up a quick lunch which included rutabagas. I love rutabagas but only eat them every other year, if that! Mama used to make them and served them with fresh ham, picked beets and cornbread. I loved that meal! My family would think I had lost my mind if I suggested they eat rutabagas. Mama always mashed hers; the hospitals were diced and were very good. I cleaned my plate!
Kudos to the hospital cafeteria for providing such an outstanding service to not only its employees but also to the families and friends who are visiting at the hospital. Being about to get a hearty, inexpensive meal was one less thing to worry about this week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mama & Daddy

My daddy’s in the hospital. Having him there and Mama at home only adds to the many complications of caring for elderly parents, both of whom have Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m a member of the sandwich generation, stuck like strawberry jam and peanut butter between caring for Mama and Daddy as well as my own family of two teenagers and a husband.
This week has been especially tough. I haven’t wanted to leave Daddy’s side, but I’ve needed to be at work. Needed to pick up my daughter from school, take Mama to a dermatology appointment, attend a meeting with a local hospice, get ready for a quick family trip that I’ve now had to cancel.
I chose Daddy, of course, and have stayed by his side during the day, relinquishing the night duties to a sitter who has been staying with my parents two nights a week for months now.
There are many of us in this “sandwich,” and in my blog I want to talk about the mind-numbing decisions, the heart aches and even the triumphs that come out of caring for the elderly. There will be other topics here as well because, well, there’s more to me than the daughter who does the grocery shopping and the banking, pays the bills and keeps the prescriptions filled, makes and keeps doctor appointments, holds hands, calms fears, dries tears and cleans up messes.
I’ve had a lot of time to think this week while sitting alone for hours at a time. While Daddy snored, I tried my best to stay alert.
I thought back to other hospital stays. It was a happy time when my children were born. I didn’t mind at all being cooped up in a hospital room because I had the company of my newborn babies.
When my dad was hospitalized at Wake Med following a stent procedure, we were happy to be there because the doctors fixed Daddy’s problem. We left with a resolution.
When we leave the hospital this week, I’ll be taking home an 87-year-old man with Alzheimer’s. Yes, he will be stronger than he was when he was admitted, but he’ll still be sick.
The TV remote will still befuddle him. He’ll still wonder who the “strangers” are in his house. He’ll still need help getting dressed. He’ll spout language I never heard him speak when I was growing up. And he’ll still fret and worry about every little thing, so unlike my daddy.
How nice if I could take him home with a sound mind and sound body.
That won’t happen, but at least I can take him home.