Mother’s Day Guilt

Grief Adjusting to a New Normal

Journal – Saturday, May 7, 2016

So here I am once again typing. Still fatigued. In bed. Nick is gathering laundry. I’m lucky to have a husband who will do laundry. Looking forward to a simple breakfast of Cheerios and banana and a strong cup of coffee. Nick’s going to make me breakfast and coffee and bring it up to me to enjoy it in bed. He does it every weekend, and I love him even more for it.

Visited my mom and dad yesterday for Silverado’s Mother’s Day lunch. When I arrived, I had been told that my parents had been walking around. I arrived a little late, for I stopped for flowers. I found my parents in their room, and my mother was crying. I reassured her that, of course, I was coming to visit her on Mother’s Day. I just ran late, for I picked up her some flowers. I joined them for lunch in their room, then we took a walk, and sat outside enjoying the day while we ate dessert. The dessert selection was wonderful. Miniature tiramisu, cheesecake topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream, cannoli, and cupcakes.

Wiped me out visiting. Hurts. Deep down. That keening. That slow long-term grieving. Grieving the parents I had, the mother I knew. Wishing I could talk with her. Wishing I could call. Wishing she could communicate with me. I do my best to decipher her emotions, her body language. I do my best to understand what she tries to say, to show, to write. Terribly painful. Fuck strokes. I’m pissed off that my mother can no longer speak or write. We must communicate non-verbally using movement and facial expressions.

Complaining too much. At one point last weekend, I fantasized about my own interests, not so much about mom & dad. That’s where I need to focus.

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 8, 2016

Not sure I have anything to say or to write today. Will be a day of rest, and maybe a walk with Nick and the dogs. Would prefer a wilderness walk than a dog walk. Maybe I’ll ask Nick and Matthew to go on a hike with me. Maybe I’ll just spend the day in bed relaxing. Who knows? When I’ve walked with Nick and the dogs recently, it’s been only for very short walks. Don’t really like walking the dogs. Still associate walking them with them attacking other dogs. Still traumatized by the time they viciously attacked a grey hound.

Anyway, not so sure that thinking about that helps. Need to desensitize myself. Nick’s been working with the dogs by walking them regularly. Still don’t trust them. Always want to come back as soon as Thumper poops. Even though Nick carries the poop bag, not I.

Happy Mother’s Day, Kitt! Don’t feel so great. What do I need to do to feel better?

Comment thread on my Mother’s Day blog post earlier today:

LAURELWOLFELIVES: I hope you’re going to be able to spend time with your mama. I hope it’s a good day. Hugs.

KITT O’MALLEY: I spent time with her Friday when they had a Mother’s Day lunch at their memory care community. Today is my day, to enjoy at home with my husband and son. I must take care of myself, too, and at times be selfish. Today is one of those days.

LAURELWOLFELIVES: You are NOT being selfish, Kitt. You are a wonderful daughter and mother….don’t ever doubt or forget that. I hope your day is glorious. Hugs.

Friday I visited, had lunch with my parents in their room. My mother was crying when I found them in their room. I went up to my mother and reassured her that, of course, I was visiting her for Mother’s Day lunch, that I was delayed in arriving because I stopped to buy flowers. Honestly, I had trouble dragging myself out of bed. I hugged her, showed her the flowers I bought. We put them in a vase. Next time, I’ll buy an arrangement already in a vase and remove empty vases from her room.

While we were in their room, my mother opened her calendar, pointed to the day, and asked that I write. I wrote, “Kitt visited for Mother’s Day” (or something to that effect, probably with fewer words since her calendar is small). She pointed again. I wrote, “ate lunch.” She shook her head and tried writing numbers. I asked, “Do you want my phone number?” Yes, she nodded. So, I wrote my phone number, which she copied. I told her, “Good job copying the numbers.”

She let me know that she wasn’t pleased. I took her to the nurses’ station, conveniently next-door to their room. I asked her if she was happy with the 24/7 nursing. She nodded and smiled at the nurse. The nurse walked us to the front desk and brought out an administrator and assistant health director. My parents had already met them, but I wanted to let my mother know that these were the women they could speak to about concerns. My mother took their business cards, which she seemed to appreciate.

Forward to today, Mother’s Day. My mother went up to the front desk and adamantly pointed to my phone number. They called and put her on the phone. She seemed okay at first. I reminded her that I had visited Friday and that today I was celebrating Mother’s Day with my son. She started crying. I told her I loved her. I reminded her of the flowers I brought and the flowers my sister had sent. She hung up at some point.

I called back to speak to the social worker to ask for advice. The social worker had redirected my mother, reminding her that I had visited Friday. The social worker thinks that my mother becomes overwhelmed on these “special” days and feels isolated. My father doesn’t remember whether or not I’ve visited. The social worker said she’d write in my mother’s calendar that I spoke to my mother on the phone today, which is what I USED to do on Mother’s Day.

I’m a mother now, too. Yet, I feel guilty that I am not visiting my mother. Honestly, I feel guilty that she had a stroke. I mourn, as no doubt does she, the phone calls we used to share. I used to communicate with my mother almost daily, either on the phone or through Words with Friends. Now, we cannot really do that. We’ve lost our former way of relating. We grieve that loss. We have not yet found our new stasis.

Our new normal must begin with my mother and father becoming comfortable with their living arrangement. Every time that I visit, my father asks when they are leaving. At least he seems to have stopped asking my mother’s prognosis. At least he asks less often. When he does ask, I tell him that my mother had her stroke in November, that it is now May, six months later. He’s intelligent. His short-term memory is blown, but he understands that six months and little improvement does not promise a great prognosis. Yet, I tell him that there is no way I can predict the future. As time goes by… This will become our new normal.

Journal Entries – Late April

Laptop in Bed

April 21, 2016

So here I am writing, journaling, trying to get burden off my back, out of my chest. Too heavy. Too painful. Not exceedingly so, but like a long keen. Yes, I am keening, mourning the loss of my parents. They are alive, but I mourn their loss of cognition. Nick [my husband] has brought up a couple of times that we are 25 years away from where our parents are now. Not so far. We must take care of ourselves. I’ve been neglectful. Have been eating too much sugar and not exercising enough. Nick has been good about walking the dogs. Matthew [our son] needs to increase his physical activity, as do I.

I just cocoon. Sit on the couch, licking my wounds, my psychic, emotional wounds.

I have to pee…


April 27, 2016

A week has gone by since I last wrote, since I last journaled. Tracey [my sister] visited Sunday. We had lunch with our parents.

Last night we [my sister & I] decided to sell the house [our parents’ house]. Huge relief. Have interested parties already.


April 28, 2016

My body is simply exhausted from the stress and responsibilities I’ve taken on since my mother had her stroke. I still haven’t allowed myself to feel the grief in my heart at her losses. Her sudden plummet into vascular dementia and loss of speech and language comprehension due to her stroke are absolutely devastating, more so than my father’s alcohol-related dementia which has progressed over time.


April 30, 2016 – from Terranea Resort

Terranea Notes

[paragraph structure added later]

So, this is not exactly a journal. Meant to bring one of mine. Look in spa gift shop and considered buying a gratitude journal. Decided not to. Not sure exactly why aside from the fact that it simply was not what I wanted. So, here I am writing with my illegible handwriting on the few pages of notepaper in my room.

Moved outside onto the lanai. Patio. Rearranged furniture. Turned down champagne in lobby. Instead accepted a bottle of water, which sits beside me ready to be opened and consumed. Cracked it open. Had a few swigs. Not able to totally succumb to relaxation. Not yet anyway. After mani-pedi, in opposite order, I ate lunch, checked into my room, which turned out to be a bungalow – near the spa. Nice.

Then made dinner reservations. Hope dinner is fun, that Sarah [Fader] & Allie [Burke] actually do make it here. After making the reservations, I took a walk along the coast. Got my feet a bit dirty, as I was wearing free spa flip flops…

And, there it is – a sigh, a deep inhalation, breathing in sea air and scent of scrub from mani-pedi. I can hear birds all around me, along with the hum of what I guess in an A/C or perhaps pool heater. Not sure what in front of me, behind the wall, behind the pool/spa building. The building where perhaps or probably I’ll be getting my massage.

Sheriff helicopter just flew by really close. Getting the running narration out of my head and onto the paper. Not especially interesting. Rather mundane. But must start somewhere. And, feel I must write. Cannot believe I didn’t bring journal. Meant to. Or at least to bring laptop. Typing on iPad, even with Anker keyboard, is frustrating. I type too fast. Crap – my handwriting is illegible!

Journal Writing


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Here I am at my parents’ house writing. Not necessarily for my blog, though I did save this to my blog writing folder on my hard drive. No, I’m free-writing for myself. Journaling. In the traditional sense. To ease my anxiety. To use some of the energy that my cup of coffee has juiced me with. I care not how I write. I try not to edit as I write. Instead, I write to let the tension flow out of my body, through my fingers and onto the page.

Yes, I’m writing in Word, not WordPress where I do most of my writing. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still write for an audience, not just for myself. Then again, I even daydream for an audience, as if I am performing, public speaking, addressing someone else. That’s how I think. I am a performer at heart, ready to please, though I often do not – no, not often, sometimes. I sometimes do not please, even when I try, for I have little in the way of filter. The words come tumbling out and sometimes I walk on toes not meaning to.

Anyway back to myself. Or perhaps not back to myself. What sort of writing would best help me now? A friend of mine, a former boyfriend, a poet, once suggested that instead of doing so much journaling in first person (which, yes, I’ve done over the decades intermittently), that I write in third person. Write as if I’m writing about a character. Distance myself from the content. Make it into a story.

Interesting idea. Not sure if I will do so now. But perhaps I will in the future.

What stresses me out at this very moment is not just what I have on my plate with regard to my parents, their property and their finances, but the reactions of those close to me to the risks involved. My husband Nick worries about lawsuits and cost overages. My sister asks shrewd questions. They have our interests at heart, but to the extent they are stressed and worried, I must not just address the valid arguments they make, but handle and assuage their anxiety.

Recent Ramblings

Both yesterday and today I screwed up my meds. When I got ready for bed last night, I saw that I hadn’t yet taken my morning dose of escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro). Then this morning after I took my morning meds, I noticed that both my morning and evening doses were gone. I had taken both. Crap. I do have a system — two pill holders, one light transparent green for the morning, one light transparent blue for the evening, but the colors are similar and pill box shapes identical. Maybe I need to be able to more clearly differentiate between the two. I’m fighting sleep right now, not because of weather, for it is sunny, but because I took my night-time dose of divalproex (Depakote) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Crap. Forgot to collect mail from mailbox for three days this week. Bills now in a pile, including a paperwork nightmare in which our medical insurance is denying claims retroactively. Mind on edge. Caffeine or something else. Hypomania, perhaps. Definitely irritable and something close to anxious. As if something is about to change. Could be I’m simply anxious about visiting my parents. Worried about them. That’s probably part of it. Also trying to get some loose ends taken care of. House projects completed. Happy to see bathroom walls finally repaired. Soon the rooms will look great. The bathrooms, that is. The rest of the house remains partially painted with unpacked boxes waiting for finished rooms.