And Life Got in the Way

I’ve been away from my blog way to long and I woke up this morning and I decided I was done being sad. We’ll see.

I lost my mom. A tragedy yes, a blessing yes. She had Alzheimers. Caring for her was both a privilege and the hardest thing I have ever had to do. She was 93. My sister and I managed to keep her at home. Let me tell you it was touch and go, we couldn’t have gone on for too many more days. Thank heavens for the VNA, without their help we wouldn’t have managed. Anything we needed 24/7 we had within 20 minutes.

Nancy Regan said Alzheimers is the “long goodbye”. It is. My mom was diagnosed 3 years ago, but really she started showing signs 2 years before that. We were in denial. This was the explanation for some of the outrageous things she would occasionally say. Accusations of stealing that were so out of character. Other things that were strange but funny at the time.

My mom was my mentor in design, and my best friend. We did all the things that mothers and daughters do, but we had an understanding of each other that was beyond the parent-child relationship.

She was fearless when my dad was by her side. When he died, I became her anchor and she went into waiting mode. She quit spending time with friends, she quit experimenting with the big projects for her home, she quit filling her head with beautiful things. She put on a brave face and never seemed weak or needy. It’s only now that I look back, I realized she was just waiting. For 11 1/2 years she waited.

Mom was still living on her own the last year. Being a collector of 18th Century Antiques she filled her time with rearranging her accessories, moving them to a new location and forgetting where she put them or frankly, hiding them. I was still working full time and sometimes 50 hours a week for a design store. My sister took up
the slack.

Then the phone calls came. She would call the house several times a day. Sometimes 10-15 times a day and one day there were 54 calls on the caller ID. She would never leave a message. I would tell her about the calls and she would be shocked and call me a liar. I should have never brought it up.

This was when we understood she could no longer be left alone. She began to have hallucinations about boys staring at her in the night. Poring tooth brushes down the bathroom drain (which she actually did) that was a fun plumbing bill! Stealing her Sterling Silver dresser set which she had hidden in her dresser drawer.

Caring for someone with Alzheimers is so emotionally and physically draining. Their body begins to break down and they lose their strength, but it’s the emotional roller coaster you are on minute to minute. You never know who you are dealing with or what’s next.

I found myself not being the person I wanted to be or expected to be. Sometimes kindness just isn’t there. That was shocking to me. That I could become so frustrated with her. I remember telling her I would never lie to her to make her feel better. I would always tell her the truth. Was that the right answer? Probably not.

I learned that you just have to go with it and play along. In her last week, she awoke in the middle of the night scared because someone was in the closet. I turned on the light and checked the closet, of course no one was there. She was seeing herself.
The next day I learned from the VNA nurse that you cover all the mirrors with an Alzheimers patient. She had a mirror on the closet door. She didn’t recognize herself. We covered the mirror and never had another issue with that.

The VNA nurse also shared that when they say something outrageous ask them how old they are. One day at a restaurant she poured a huge amount of ketchup on her french fries. So out of character for her. I wish I’de have known to ask her how old she was. I’ll bet she was 6! It makes it easier to know how to relate to them.

A few days before her death she called for me. When I came into her room she asked me if I was related to her. I said Only in the Best of Ways. I’m your Daughter and you are my Mother.

For me it was saying goodbye to the one person on the face of the earth who got me. The person who took joy in all my accomplishments. Saying goodbye to the shared giggles and the absurdities of life. Saying goodbye to that font of information that was ever present in that wonderful brain of hers.

So my life has totally changed. I’m going back to my own design business Shelley Humpal Design Solution’s. I’m embracing my own family again. They have all been very supportive but I haven’t been there for them. I’m going to take a deep breath and wait for the house to sell, and I’m going to take some time to figure out who I am with non of my parents expectations.

If you are going thru a similar situation it is my hope that telling my story can be of help to you. Give you some tools that I wish I would have known sooner. And, to tell you to be kind to yourself.

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I appreciate it more then I can say. And in this holiday season I will try to fill your heads with useful information and beautiful inspiration and just maybe a giggle or two.

Christmas house tour up next. Enjoy your Sunday


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