Community Care Full Circle

Case for My Grandpa’s Missing Tools

Yesterday, I received a telephone call from my mother’s landlady. She told me that MAG gave her another letter (my mother is infamous for writing very, very, very lengthy letters), requesting a work order to fix her front door lock (it was recently replaced) and that someone has broken into her apartment – again! This time, her father’s tools were stolen. After getting off the phone with her landlady, I called MAG and she told me the entire story, including that she had been crying all day because these tools are very sentimental to her. As usual, I tried to reason with her, but I need to realize that this doesn’t help her – this is her truth. Also, it doesn’t help my stress and frustration levels. My husband suggested we go look for the missing tools (We have done this before – Case of the Missing Jewels). We arrived and started rummaging through her things. It didn’t take long for one of us to find the tools, nicely wrapped and hidden in one of many boxes residing in her small apartment. I showed her the evidence and she said, “Where did you find them? I have been looking for them for five days!” Faced with the evidence in hand, I forced her to acknowledge that there are no thieves, but that she is experiencing short-term memory loss, hiding her things because she thinks people are breaking in, and then forgetting where she puts them. Her spirit broke and mine withered. While her social worker has told me not to confront her on her delusions, I am tired of entertaining them, as they are too taxing on all involved.

Often times, my husband ends up playing bad cop. While I don’t always agree with him, his role sometimes serves a purpose. Unfortunately, he remains convinced that he can speak sense into her. He indicated to MAG that if she doesn’t stop blaming other tenants for breaking into her home and stealing things (essentially, calling them liars), it is going to end in one way – with her going into a home. My mother, a rebel consistently with a cause, placed a finger gun to her head while grabbing air in a specific area said, “Don’t ever put me in a home, I will shoot myself and I have the *cajones to do it!” MAG is quite the character and has always caused a reaction, but her antics have worn thin with us, especially when our eight-year-old daughter is sitting on the couch and I have to reassure her later on that her grandma is not going to kill herself. Far worse, is that my mother can no longer make the connection that it is truly insensitive to put suicide on the table, when we both lived through the pain and suffering caused by my brother taking his own life.

While my mother thinks her landlady is against her, I believe she has been more than fair to her. Once we solved the case of the missing tools, I called her landlady and asked, once again, for compassion for my mother, who is experiencing dementia. I told her that my husband will fix the lock (He tightened the base and we both assured MAG that it is normal for the lever to work freely) and next week, I will help her get rid of some of her stuff (again) and organize and label the remaining items for easier accessibility. This is not the first time I have walked MAG’s landlady off the ledge and with MAG’s lack of memory, I will probably have to do it again – but it is what I do.

For now, I honor my mother’s plea for autonomy, but I balance her wants with the safety of her needs. There will come a time when I must allow MAG’s social worker to place her on the waiting list for assisted living. Being a parent has prepared me for this; I can’t always be a friend.

Where I find myself now is what troubles my soul – encountering the confusion and sadness found in my mother’s eyes – her soul is lost within a vessel that is nearing its end, driven by a mind that is waning.




Community Care Full Circle

Ground Zero: Positive Perception

I went home recently, but this visit placed me on a different plane. While I outgrew my troubled youth long ago, something profound happened this time – bringing me full circle.

I survived a very difficult upbringing, one that often leads to misery, prison, and/or death. What adds additional depth to this story is that the date my cousin settled on for hosting my aunt’s birthday party (March 10), is one of two birthdays I celebrate – 29 years of clean and sober living. While my body recovered from the abuse long ago, memories do not fade as fast as scars.

A few weeks before I arrived in Reedley, I became very anxious about going home. This is something that has happened for decades, for my hometown is littered with dark and light memories. However, as the date of departure got closer, my anxiety decreased. I had gained momentum with a particular project in my life, so this could have enhanced my mood, but I recognized something deeper. As the roads flattened and the endless rows of fruit trees and grapevines consumed my sight, I reflected as I always do, but this time with a positive perspective.

When I drove into town, I had different expectations – visiting with family, touring Fresno State University with my son, attending my aunt’s 84th birthday party, going to church as a family, visiting the graves, and then returning home. I was able to visit with some of the family, but instead of attending my aunt’s birthday party, I had to visit her in ICU. As usual, l was forced to face life as it is, not as I will it to be. Yet, my positive perception remained.

Our campus tour happened and while I have dark feelings about my son returning to an area that has caused me so much grief, I am armed with the knowledge that I raised a very different child. My other aunt and cousins were happy to entertain us, so we had dinner at our favorite Chinese spot and watched a few movies at my aunt’s house (a favorite childhood pastime). Most of all, I was blessed to have a deep discussion with one of my favorite cousins, who was forced to return from his former life, back to ground zero.

When Sunday arrived, I had very little time left for the graves. Time has always been an enemy, so I woke up earlier than I wanted to, so I could visit with the dead before church. I honored my deceased relatives and decorated their graves and when I had less than ten minutes, I ran to my childhood sweetheart’s grave. As I was running, Pandora switched on and the journey to his plot gained a soundtrack, Alan Jackson’s “Remember When.” As I ran, the first verse magnified memories: Remember when, I was young and so where you . . . It always takes awhile to find his grave; although, I will never lose track of the general vicinity, as it is marked by a huge pine tree. I placed the artificial flowers that I had purchased on his grave and I reflected on where we are now. My eyes settled on the mountains capped in snow, blurred by the tears that began to fall. An addict’s life is truly tragic, oftentimes, ending in a final high. As I stood over his body that has been resting for over two decades, I finally made peace with our paths. Ground zero is tough, but six feet under is finite. I grieve for my first love, as I grieve for the troubled girl of my youth. This grave, his grave, is not just his, it belongs to a part of me that sleeps.