Posts Tagged ‘walker’

Reverse Kidnap


Some days, being a HANC is so damned difficult I don’t know what to do. Other days I think my duties are ridiculously commonplace. I have been a housekeeper and activities director since my first son was born. I’m aware of nutritional needs and don’t mind being my mother’s companion. Still, when we abandoned our former lives to care for my mother, I faced other difficult choices.

fire! Fire!

The possibility of a serious burnout scares the hell out of me. I resent being the only one who empties my mother’s potty. Yet I’m infuriated when I recall the foul odor that prompted us to put our careers and lifestyle on hold.


I want to be inspiring and motivational, but when I’m frazzled and weary, it’s difficult to remain upbeat. At night, I often collapse into bed, exhausted physically, still reviewing things undone. After an hour or so, disturbing dreams or body aches begin, or I am awakened to attend to her needs.


Taking adequate restorative breaks requires advance planning and coordination. Gone are my days of spontaneity. I no longer come home from a hard day at work and announce, “Dinner’s on your own,” as I trudge toward a hot bath with a glass of wine and a book. Because of my mother’s condition, structure and routine are essential for a peaceful life.

Pituful man

Recently, I held my first serious pity party. After all, who knows how long this could go on? My siblings are confounded I have taken on this role, and trust me, today I was doubting my own good sense. When I felt my pending calamity, I called on five members of my large support system. My husband, two of four brothers, one of three sisters and a nephew listened and gave me their sense of understanding. One had an undertone of, glad I’m not in your shoes, and one promised to give me some relief – tomorrow.

What's in his hand?

When I mentioned my rising frustration to my nephew, I didn’t think he paid particular attention, but later, his dad approached me as I pruned a blueberry bush. He said he wanted to trade what was in my hand for what was in his, and he held out the keys to his car and a little cash.

He said, “I have half a tank of gas. Take it as far as you can and get a drink on me.”

Hand off

I accepted his gesture and his keys. No planning. No discussion. No procrastination and no collapse!

Walk through sanctuary

I told my husband we’d been reverse-kidnapped and we took my camera for a sunset walk through a nearby wildlife sanctuary, though the wildest thing we saw were some human snowbirds. As the moon rose, we ate burgers at a local favorite and then went for those drinks.


Since then, I have renewed my promise to walk more, garden more and make more time for myself. The roses don’t have a chance. I plan to smell each one of them this year!


One of the best things about caregiving, or being a HANC—in addition to knowing you are providing much-needed Housekeeping skills, directing some new Activities, providing healthy Nutritional options and being a Companion—is having the honor of hearing stories and historical remembrances.

Even more so, are short stand-alone sentences, or what I call Mommasez.

Traveling with mom

Because I now live with my mother and spend time with her, going to doctors’ appointments, to have her hair styled, to visit family and out for meals, we talk on our way to these places. Naturally, we also talk at home.

large man in small chairMommasez things that make me shake my head in disbelief.

“When I am on my deathbed and they hook me up to whatever it is they hook people up to before they die, make sure to pour one last cup of coffee in a bag. I want to die with coffee in my veins.”

laughing woman

Mommasez things that make me laugh.

“People say ‘I’m pretty sure.’ Have you ever heard anybody say they were ugly sure?”

bowls of grapes

Often, current events spark memories from her childhood. One such memory came after I brought her a large bowl of grapes harvested from the scuppernong vine in her back yard.

“When I was a child, every fall, there was a man who would stop our bus driver and tell him, ‘Bring the children back tomorrow for grapes.’ The next day, our mothers would give us paper bags, because we didn’t have plastic in those days. Sometimes, the paper bags would have a wax lining, but not usually. So, after school, the bus would stop at his house and all the children got off and picked all the grapes we could take home. Our mothers made jelly and it didn’t cost anything. Well, they had to buy sugar and jars, but that’s how we did it in those days. We all helped one another.”

Momma says things

Mommasez things that make me wonder.

“No, I do not want to visit my cousin in the hospital. They might lock the door and never let me out.”

Mommasez things that would have shocked me years ago, but I have learned she often wants to see if I will have a witty remark.


“Ooh, this shower is better than sex,” makes me reply, “Obviously you truly have lost all your memories, or you always slept with the wrong men.”

She and I both know she has had sex with a total of two men, each her husband; the second following a forty-year marriage to my father, more than twenty-five years after his death.


My goal is one belly laugh each day. Now that we’ve settled into our own rhythm, we sometimes achieve more than one good guffaw.

save the world

I have started to enjoy her simple needs without imposing my desires upon her. Relaxed in my instinct to take-over-the-reins-and-aright-the-world, I take pleasure in her happiness. I certainly share her frustrations.

parking permit

My mother is fiercely independent, even in a state of disability. Less than a decade ago, she maintained her own home and worked outside the home. Family members assisted with yard work under her supervision.

Sandberg's canes

She cooked, cleaned, handled her finances and was one of the healthiest people in the family. She recovered from her first serious fall well and managed with a cane.

Mommasez things that are profoundly sad, at times.

large family

“I can die now. I know I will never be this happy again,” she told me the night of her eightieth birthday, six years ago.

That was the first time in twelve years all eight of her children were together, most with our children and her great-grandchildren attending.


She fell again and broke much more than one bone, as in her first tumble. Still, her independent streak fights her limits. She uses a walker for every step she takes, yet there are times, she attempts chores by leaning on other things, some that are not sturdy or steady. When I offer to take over a task that seems too much for her, she scolds me.

“Let me do what I can, while I still can. Soon enough, you will have to do it all for me and you’ll wish I could do it, even if me have to fweep it twice.”


“Fweep it twice,” is a reference to my youngest sister who longed to do anything she could to feel more grown up. When she was four years old, she started sweeping the kitchen and someone took the broom from her and told her she was too small to do a good job, as she had left some crumbs. My sister reclaimed the broom with the statement, “Me fweep it twice!”

Time is precious

Youngsters and oldsters need to feel useful and important. It’s the responsibility of those of us in the middle to help them in their quests. We, who are more experienced or healthier, may indeed do the job faster or better – but we can always sweep it twice. We must remember the important things are not the tasks we do for our loved ones, but the time we spend with them.


Momma says she wants to be more helpful in the kitchen and I don’t mind. It’s my job to set her up for success and to enjoy the time we have together. If I’m lucky, I might even hear few more things Mommasez.

Oops! My Domesticity is Showing.

domestiic oops

My what is showing?

When I left my hometown, I had a purpose. I had a plan. When I returned, nearly fifteen years later, my purpose had changed and my plan? Well, life has not gone according to my plan. Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who needs to follow a formula precisely.

chocolate cake

Looks better than it tastes

Ask those poor people who were unfortunate enough to taste my salty chocolate cakes. Yes, I said cakes, with a plural emphasis, because I don’t always immediately learn from my mistakes.

daek chocolate bar

Nothing but the best!

When we were dating, I baked my husband a three-layer chocolate cake for his birthday. I had used the recipe on the back of the cocoa box so many times, I had it memorized and could practically prepare it blindfolded. I’d read that the addition of salt enhances the flavor of chocolate, so in addition to the typically delicious cake, I sprinkled in a few extra spoonfuls of salt to the icing. I added and stirred and tasted and added and stirred and repeated the process until I was certain I had the perfect enhancement. I was at a need-to-impress-him state in my life, so after forming the peaks on the frosting in a way that would make Martha Stuart want to arm wrestle Betty Crocker for my secret, I packed the cake carefully and drove 325 miles to his Florida home.

Central Florida Ocean

Not the sort of place you’d store your cake.

The cake smelled delicious and when I removed the cover, everyone in the house actually made an “ohh” or “mmm” sound. Big slices, unfortunately, were left on their plates after the first bite. My husband said it tasted like I had dumped it in the ocean.

pound cake recipe

Some recipes are more detailed than others.

 I waited many years before attempting to bake another cake, but this time, I followed a recipe precisely.


chocolate cake caramel icing

Never underestimate the power of following instructions.

The chocolate cake with caramelized sugar glaze was a hit, so with my confidence restored, I attempted another chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but did not try to enhance it with the addition of salt, yet this cake tasted worse than the first! Even I didn’t like it. I knew I’d lost my edge in the kitchen, but it didn’t matter.

desk edge

Editing happens here

I was a career woman, an editor, writer and photographer. I spent my weekdays in an office, working with an award-winning publisher and my weekends on outings with accomplished photographers or in my home office editing the works of novelists, memoirists, essayists, short story writers and poets. I didn’t need to bake and I didn’t need to cook. I didn’t even need to clean much.

what's for dinner

Nothing elaborate

My husband was content with quickly cooked meals from kits and the freezer. We lived our lives in such a way that I didn’t have to spend much time doing housework or yard work. We were living our plans and dreaming our dreams.

Mary is happy

Back in the carefree career days

I thought I was happy.

Scooter Pooting

Independently dependent

Then, we visited my mother and realized that although she could continue to live alone, her health would surely suffer and decline. We knew we couldn’t wait for someone else to step forward and help out more than they were. Each member of the family was doing his and her best to work around unique work situations and life schedules and no one was in a position to step into the role of full-time Housekeeper, Activities director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC).

It was time for me to fill that role.


How hard can it be?

I wondered if being a homemaker would be like riding a bike. Would it come back to me?

cookbooks in order

What’s for dinner?

In another life that my current husband has never known, I took extreme pride in my home. I used a cookbook and canning jars and slow cookers.

place setting

Presentation is half the battle

 I set the table and I knew “what’s for dinner” if anyone asked. I focused on my family and not my career in those days, but I wasn’t happy.


Unpacking is as difficult as moving.

For several months, I have focused on the transition from full-time editor to full-time HANC. In between editing assignments, I have unpacked and worked to de-clutter and organize my mother’s small home.


Granny’s getting her style updated.

  It seemed that if I wasn’t driving to appointments with her hairdresser, we were driving to a doctor or to pick up prescriptions. I’ve accepted that I will be responsible for ensuring she takes her many daily medications properly.


Traditional Chinese raw herbs

Her many trips to see many specialists and doctors grates my own personal preference to more natural healing, which does not include pharmaceuticals.

oreos and milk

Yummy, but not nutritious.

 I  grimaced at her predilection for cookies and ice cream.

wine glass of juice

You don’t have to drink wine to toast to your health.

I rejoiced silently when she requested fresh juice and my recent triumph came when she requested a second helping of chili after telling me she didn’t really like chili, “until tonight.” Oh, yes! I followed a recipe and did not add any extra salt.


Pages from my novel.

I’m still writing. I went on a photo outing in mid-October. I still write for some of my established clients.


Vacuum cleaner in the Carl and Lillian Sandburg home in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

Oddly, I’m content to assist my mother, vacuum, make beds and find interesting meals to cook for my family.


Awaking my sleeping artist

Is it possible that my domestic contentment will play a role in my artistic creativity at some point?

scarecrow in garden

Garden at Cannemara, Carl Sandburg’s home in NC.

 Perhaps my muse has been hiding in the garden, all along. I still have plans and dreams and yet, I find an amusing peacefulness when someone compliments a simple bowl of chili.


Two Weeks as a HANC

When we visit our parents as adults, we want to believe everything is under control, as it was when we were children.

     We may see or smell things we’d rather not, but to keep the fantasy alive, we tend to ignore them.Gransmomma and siblings

   Usually, we make a point to clean something or do some yard maintenance on our visits, but mostly we visit, because our parents want to spend TIME with us, not watch us work.Clock in town square 

     Once we are back home again, we can pat ourselves on our backs for whatever we did. We might tut-tut to our spouses or siblings and think about what must be done “one day,” but we don’t want to believe our parents are anything less than super-humans. We want to remember them as strong and independent, virile and always capable.

Matt's guns

 Those of us with large families hope someone else will inevitably step up and take charge.

      For me, living more than 300 miles away, I had no option but to allow my sisters and brothers who lived closer to do just that. Each did what could be done  around schedules and personal requirements. Each filled a special role.

     My role was to visit as often as my job allowed and do what I could during the few days I was “home.”

     Over the years, our mother’s physical capabilities have declined and her memory lapses have worried us more and more. We have talked one-on-one with each other, but never as a collective family about her increasing need for more companionship, better nutrition, help with housework or more diversions to help her focus mentally.

variety of produce

     Once, my sister’s husband was driving Momma’s car, with Momma on the front passenger’s seat when Momma became startled by what she thought was an oncoming car.

      Momma decided for herself that she would no longer drive.

      She didn’t suffer the indignation of having her driver’s license taken from her, but she told me she misses not being able to trust herself behind the wheel of a car. She still loves to “take a drive,” and told me after her recent trip for bloodwork, “This is fun. I don’t care if it is just to the doctor’s office and back. I like to get out of the house.”

Oak tree lined dirt road

      Now, that we are living here, I can take her for a drive any day of the week. We don’t even need a destination.

 I hope to do more of this kind of driving once we are unpacked…at least, maybe after I have finished cleaning the kitchen. Goals are good.

redundant swiffer

     I try to clean, organize and unpack a little each day and I hope we aren’t confounding her, though sometimes, I think we must. There have been some incidents that make me know we need to be here and I am tempted to take over, but she loves her independence and I must remember she handled all her daily-living activities long before we moved in. She is proud to load or empty the dishwasher, but I do all the meal preparation – sometimes with her nearby. She still is able to do laundry, and I am pleased to allow her that chore. Today, she patched a pair of my shorts that had ripped. I would have probably worn them, ripped and all, until I could no longer do so. She enjoys doing needlework and I may end up in patches, but each one is lovingly stitched.


     She is headstrong, but reasonable.

    Some changes make her wonder, “Why, after all these years, do I need to do that?”

As long as we explain what we are doing and why we must do it a certain way, she accepts the changes with grace. She just needs to know why.


     For many years, she has lived in a house with almost no insulation in the walls or attic, which makes her air conditioner work harder than it needs to. It also makes the house extremely hot during the summer. She’s on blood-thinning medication, which means she is relatively comfortable in a house that is warmer than 80 degrees. What she doesn’t seem to understand is that at 84 degrees or even 90, as it was one day, her thinking is impaired. She was very grouchy during the hottest days. She didn’t want us to purchase a window air conditioner, but when I told her we needed to, so I could cook and clean, she accepted it. We paid for it, but she’s not always certain she didn’t buy it.


     We can’t easily open most of the windows to allow a cross breeze and the roof has no venting for the heat. I noticed her mood improved when we were able to cool the house to anything below 78. She has started wearing a knitted shawl in the early mornings so I can do my household chores in more comfort. We compromised without even discussing the problem.

      At times, she smiles when I do something my father used to do or that she once did, but can no longer do. Nostalgia can be good.

     She has been writing her memories in a variety of notebooks and they are random. She knows there is no “book order” to them, but I hope to share them, soon.

Journal pages blank

     She retells stories, not remembering that she may have told the same story, almost verbatim, a day ago – an hour ago – five minutes ago. We do our best to listen and react as if it is new. Sometimes, she stops herself or asks us to stop her if she is repeating.

     Sometimes, she simply forgets things. “I never” and “I know I didn’t” precede many declarations. Whenever I remind her, respectfully and gently, in detail, she usually says, “Oh, yes. Thank you for reminding me.” It must pain her to know that her memory is slipping away from her. She often says, “I pray all my children can live long lives, but I do hope you can be healthy and not like me.”

      The worst for me is when she and my husband each want my attention at the same time and neither knows the other is also speaking to me. Some days, I just want to cry. Some days, I do.

 mom and son


     This is but one day in our new life adventure. There are many challenges and many rewards. When I moved out of this town nearly 15 years ago, my mother managed a hotel and was one of the most amazing people I knew, physically, emotionally, intellectually and there were few women whom I felt compared to her. I still feel that way about her.

I wanted to live an adventurous life in a city and for three years, I did just that. Then, we moved to a smaller city and my life became that of a suburbanite career woman. I immersed myself in my job and was content to visit my family whenever I could, but I also contented myself to vacation in more exotic venues as often as money permitted.

       Now, I have returned home to a more bucolic life and it’s good.



     As I listened to a whippoorwill while standing between two tiki torches that kept the mosquitoes at bay  I thought about today’s achievements in addition to my editing and writing. It is good. It is very good, indeed.







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