I moved from California to southeastern Pennsylvania (US) in 2009, to be closer to my very old parents. Through a set of circumstances – I did not get the job I wanted, which was several hours away, then I worked from home, then I took a job in the area – I lived with them until their deaths in 2013. I lived in their home and became what I call an accidental caregiver. I did not plan to be their in-home caregiver; it happened.
My mother died of dementia on February 1, 2013. She was 92, in their home until the last week of her life. She had an excellent quality of life, until almost the end. We brought in hospice care and other caregivers, though not full time until the end. Caregiving became very difficult. This explains my lack of blog posts in 2012 and 2013. Basic living was hard enough. There was no time for anything else.
My father died of congestive heart failure on April 24, 2013. He was 91, in their home until the last three and a half weeks of his life. What was good for his heart was bad for his kidneys. His death was hard in a different way. My father did not have dementia; he was himself, though older and slower. We had a very good two months together.
Dementia is different. I do not believe that a person with dementia is gone, as in “she is not my mother anymore” – the person is there, of course. But you can see their capabilities slipping away. They become different from what they were before. You can see, clearly, that there is no turning back. Death is inevitable. It was not like that with my father.
I go on. I am living in the house, which is now mine and my sister’s. I do not plan to erase memories of them, but I am slowly making the house more my own.
Sometimes I wonder if I am channeling my parents. I will start with my father.
My father was a retired industrial engineer. Retirement in his 60s freed him to do what he wanted. He and my mother traveled more, often but not always with their daughters. I planned most of the trips. My father also enjoyed his home, very much. He liked to make things. He made most of the furniture in their home..
My father made cards for his wife and his daughters, using the colored pencils my sister gave him. The cards were sweet, adorable, funny. Sometimes you can see his light pencil markings of the design; he marked out the design before he colored it in. My father was a planner.
This is my favorite card. I do not know the year, before I move here in 2009, some years. before. . It shows the best of my parents.
After there were no more large pieces of furniture left in the house to make, my father wanted to make things that were practical, but more “artistic”, and on a smaller scale. He taught himself to make coffee tables and end tables, inlaid with mosaics he made from kitchen and bathroom tiles, ceramic, solid colors, no designs on the tiles. He was careful with their money, so he and my mother went to stores that sold tiles and asked the store clerks if he could buy the remains of odd lots and discontinued tiles. I think he told them what he planned to do – he might have shown them. Often they gave him the tiles for free. It’s hard to resist two cute little old people, telling you what they planned to create with kitchen and bathroom tiles!
Here are two end tables from the outdoor screened in porch. Yes, I know, I need to put something on the wood. There is some leakage from the roof of the outdoor patio.
Aren’t they lovely?
How do I channel my father? I like to make things, and I like to work in a series, like my dad. My father loved to work in series. And I make cards too. But I don’t plan as much when I make things. I use materials that respond better to an iterative process.
I am not an engineer, but I am a computer person (business IT), and I love tech. So I took some of his methodological approach and organization to other facets of my life. And I’ve color coded and labeled the cables and power chords of all the devices connected to my desktop, at both the device and the computer end. That’s organization!
I think my mother had a naturally better design sense than my father. It came to her easily. She had a knack for putting things together. She had a good sense of style, a classic, youthful look. She loved pants and stopped wearing dresses entirely, when women could. She had a fine design sense, but she didn’t like to make things that involved much in the way of organization or planning.
My mother loved growing things, most of all. “I stick it in the ground and it grows”, she said. She could get roots out of any cutting. Along with outdoor plants, her plants and flowers on the closed in porch (the solarium, we sometimes called it, the sun room) were amazing. And the plants and the flower boxes on the screened in patio were also very pretty. This was a way for her to exercise her design sense.
I don’t like outdoor, in the ground, gardening all that much, though I’ve done it. I like container gardening. I’ve maintained the indoor plants and added to them.
I channel my mother when my sister comes over to visit. I show my sister all the new blooming things, exactly like my mother.did.. I say “look at this, it is blooming, this started to bloom, I rooted these collies (coleus plants) and look how well they are doing.” Just like my mother.
From the sun room.
And so I go on.