Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is My Phone Dead?

I still find myself checking my cell phone and voice mail at home to make sure they're still working. You see, Mama and the nursing home called many times throughout the day. I'd never turn off my cell phone or the home phone. How could I? Now I can turn them both off at night and may even forget to turn them back on. The phone doesn't ring much anymore except for those damn telemarketers. Sometimes I think... is my phone dead?

I'd panic when the phone rang very early in the morning or very late in the evening. It could only mean one thing... something was wrong with Mama. I had to prepare myself for the worst whenever the phone rang. I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I was the only one who could "fix" whatever was broken with Mama. I felt like a translator at times between Mama and the nurses and the doctors, oh my! Being a caregiver and always trying to "fix" it wore me out. I didn't realize it at the time, I just did what I needed to do. I'd always be "on call" and always would leave the phone on. I did this for well over ten years and I didn't realize what a toll it took on me... until the phone stopped ringing. Pheww! A relief? Yes, but no. Now I miss those calls that would sometimes get me annoyed and wish that Mama could call me one more time. She could make me laugh and those are the times I choose to remember and share. This is one of those phone calls...


The phone rings earlier than usual. What's going on this time? It's the nursing home calling and I think the worst. Oh Jesus, is everything alright? My heart starts to race as I take a few deep breaths and pick up the phone.

Mama: Hello, Vincent.

Vin: Hello, Mama. Are you alright?

Mama: Oh yeah, I'm fine. Do you have my phone number? I called because I wanna make sure you have my number.

Vin: What? Of course I have your phone number. It's the same number you've had for years, it hasn't changed.

Mama: Okay I just wanted to make sure you had it. And you know where I am don't you?

Vin: Of course I know where you are.

Mama: Well, will I be seeing you later?

Vin: Yes Mama. I'll be over after your dinner just like every night.

Mama: Well then, be careful crossing the streets when you come over.

Vin: Mama, there are no streets to cross in Suburbia. I'll be driving the car and see you soon.

Mama: Oh, goodie. Here comes the food, I gotta go! I gotta eat dinner now. Jesus, I'm starving. I hope it's something good tonight, they serve a lot of crap in this place. Oh, it smells like spaghetti. Bye bye dear. I'll see you later, right?

Vin: Yes Mama see you soon.

I never knew what was coming next whenever the phone rang. It was just another part of our roller coaster ride that would shoot us up then swoop us down without any warning. It was draining but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I had a choice and I chose the role of a caregiver. I was Mama's advocate and friend. I had my daily dose of Dementia with Mama Drama and made the best of it.  

By the way, my phone is not dead! But I still talk to Mama, just not on the phone. And I've started to leave the phone on vibrate every night... just in case!


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Love the Puppies

I would always joke with Mama to keep her on her toes and to make her laugh. Okay, she made me laugh too. Humor always worked for us. Here's just another day with Mama, ya never know...

 
Mama: I LOVE the puppies! They make me forget.

Vin: Maybe you shouldn't love the puppies so much, if they make you forget.

Mama: What are you talking about? 

Vin: I'm talking about the puppies. What are you talking about?

Mama: I dunno, I forgot. I guess the puppies made me forget.

Vin: Forget what?

Mama: Vin, you're driving me crazy. I love the puppies and that's that.

Vin: That's what?

Mama: Oh forget it, I already did.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Missing Mama... Not a Day Goes By

Not a day go by that I don't miss Mama. It's selfish in a way, because her body and spirit were fading and she was ready to leave.


But every time I pass by the phone, I stare at it. It's silent, it hardly rings anymore. The endless calls from Mama or the nursing home have stopped. I often find myself leaving the house for our nightly visits with Mama at the nursing home and realize... she's not there.


I miss telling her my problems and see how she was still able to play Mama and make me smile. She'd listen, make a silly face or sing a song to comfort me. Mama made me realize that my problems weren't that bad, after all I wasn't living in a nursing home with Alzheimer's.


When people say to me I must be relieved that she's gone and "the burden" has lifted, I look at them as though they're crazy. I always thought that's how I'd feel when the time came, but I don't, instead I miss Mama. I'm sure they mean well, but obviously they never had a Mama like mine.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Memories of Mother's Day

Mama Lovin' Every Bite
Mama never wanted any gifts for Mother's Day. She'd never ask for jewelry or extravagant things. All she ever wanted was her spaghetti and meatballs! Of course she loved the flowers or clothes we'd buy her, but all she really wanted was for us to be together and eat her favorite meal.

I remember our last Mother's Day together. It was similar to other times when we'd pick her up and bring her over to our place.
Mama's "Bling"
From the moment we picked her up she'd say "thank God, you're here... I'm starving." The "I'm starving" would continue until we ate. We'd talk and sing nonstop to keep her mind off the food until it was ready. She would come up with a song for almost anything that we'd talk about. It was amazing to see how she'd take words from our conversation and put them into words from a song. But then you couldn't shut her up even when the food was on the table. She'd finally say "Okay, enough singing, I'm wearing myself out, let's eat."  

Memories of Mama and eating... the two go together. Ever since I can remember, Mama would be a bit messy eating. Okay, she was a sloppy eater, she'd drop food everywhere. It would land on her, on the table, on the floor but she'd continue to shovel it in. She loved every bite she took! Mother's Day was no different!


Mama's Favorite Dish

At the end of the night she'd want some coffee and cake. Always had to have her coffee and cake, it was a routine. We'd enjoy dessert and then we knew she was tired because she would say "When are you gonna take me back? Oh my God, I ate like a pig, I'm exhausted."

In memory of Mama this Mother's Day we'll go out and have spaghetti and meatballs. We'll be thinking of Mama singing, dropping her food and not leaving till she had her coffee and cake. And this year we won't leave until we have our coffee and cake either.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mama and Yoga and Chanting - Oh My!

Mama Exercising
Mama and I had our rituals during our daily visits. We sang, we played cards, we did breathing exercises and always ended with some physical exercises. Some of the exercises were ones I did while teaching Yoga. We did breathing exercises that lead to singing and chanting "OM", the universal Yogic sound representing past, present and future. 
Mama Wearing Her Favorite Shirt

During the visit in the video below, Mama was wearing one of her favorite shirts (I made it for her). She held her "OM" until she ran out of breath. We would do this to help strengthen her breath. She said "if anybody hears me, they'll think I'm crazy."  Later on she told me "to go to hell with this Hari Om crap"... so much for positive energy. It's all about mind, body AND spirit. Mama definitely had the spirit!

If you can't view the video, click on this link: Chanting OM with "Anna with a Z"  

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mama Italiano... Oy Vey!

Every once in awhile Mama would sing songs or speak in Italian in the nursing home. I was always surprised at this because I don't remember hearing much Italian spoken in our home. All I remember are the curse words or Italian words for the foods. We were American and my parents didn't speak Italian. I feel cheated, so much for our roots. I can remember her pot roast more than her lasagna.

Vin: I've never heard you speak so much Italian before.
Mama: I speak more Italian in this place than I did at home! They look at me like I'm crazy but I'm not crazy, I'm Italian!
Vin: No one said you're crazy, but it's funny that you've started speaking Italian now, doncha think?

She doesn't answer, but breaks out singing a few songs in Italian.

(For those of you that can't view the video, click on this link: "Mama Sings Italian" )

Vin: Mama, what the hell are you singing? It's in Italian!!! Do you know what the words mean? Non capisco (I don't understand.) What does it mean?

She starts to translate a few words, I don't know if she's right or just bull sh*tting me again. Besides, I understand Spanish better than Italian, remember I'm from the Bronx!

To add to the confusion, many of the staff at the nursing home speak Italian to Mama (which is really odd because none of them are remotely Italian). It can get pretty comical as Mama plays right along with her version of Italian. Si grazie! Bene, bene. 

I think to myself, what's going on? Where am I and who is this woman? Then I take a few steps back realizing Mama isn't the only one who gets confused these days... Ay dios mío! Oy vey!


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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Talk

When is the right time to have "the talk"? No, not the talk your parents had with you about the birds and the bees. (I could only imagine how difficult that talk is for many parents). But the talk I'm referring to is the one you have with your parents... about letting go and dying, the final talk.


Is it too early? Is it too late? Once you say it, you can't undo it, there's no erase button. It's all about timing, will Mama understand? Will she break out into song like she always does to change a subject she doesn't want to deal with?

Mama and I had "the talk" many times over her last few years and I was never quite sure if she fully got it. I'd always get different answers, usually funny - sometimes downright depressing. 

I consider myself extremely lucky to have had "the talk" with both of my parents and I know that it made it easier for both of them to let go. All I really know is that the last time I had the talk with Mama, she must've finally gotten it and was ready. We were there with Mama and kept playing some of her favorite songs over and over. Music has always been important to us and has gotten us through a lot. We're glad that she left us while listening to the lyrics... "forget your troubles come on Get Happy..." Mama always knew how to make an exit!


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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Who doesn't like applause?

We promised Mama we'd continue her story and we've kept our promise. As we continue to develop our play "Some of These Daze" we dedicated the NYC readings to Mama.

One of the props we needed for the reading was a wheelchair. We borrowed one from a friend and it was very surreal wheeling it down the same hallway where we once lived. We'd always wheel Mama down the hallway when we brought her over for dinner from the nursing home. But this time... the chair was empty. 




Life goes on and her story continues. The readings of "Some of These Daze" really resonated with the audience. It brought tears, laughter and everyone related to it on some level... how great! We were overwhelmed by the response and we know Mama would be too! Who doesn't like the applause?


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Friday, February 21, 2014

Back in NY and Ready for Her Close-Up


We're back for a visit in NYC. As we sit in our friends apartment we're continuing the journey of developing our play "Some of These Daze" about our lives with Mama. 

It's winter, it's cold, it's snowy and we got sick... what a great chance to stay in and write. We can't go out, so we gotta write! Some would be complaining about it, it all depends on your point of view. (But, lucky for us, we have a great view)!


We've returned to New York and it's also Mama's birthday, so we're celebrating. "Anna with a Z" lives on. She always loved the attention she got from our blog and was in her glory when she sang along to her Dementia-Mama-Drama channel on YouTube. She was a ham always posing for photos and it gave her a renewed spark, almost a second chance.

As we sit here coughing, sneezing and sniffling we hear people on TV and Facebook go on about the horrible winter weather. But we look out the window and know Mama is smiling down through the clouds and waiting for her play to be performed in NYC.

So yeah, it's cold and we're sick... but we're back home in NYC and Mama's story continues. Our NYC play readings are booked and we couldn't be happier. And as Mama would always say in her best Norma Desmond, "I'm ready for my close-up."

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What The Hell Are You Talking About?

Mama always kept us on our toes during our nightly visits. We never knew what kind of mood she'd be in or what the night might bring... that's Dementia-Mama-Drama.


Vin: Hello Mama.

Mama: I'm so happy to see you!

Vin: How happy?

Mama: Very very very happy.

Vin: Well I'm glad I can make you sooo happy.

Mama: Yeah! But tonight I wanna die.

Vin: Why do you say that? That's an awful thing to say.

Mama: Aww, I'm in such pain. I just wanna cut off my hands and feet tonight. I wanna chop them off and throw them in the garbage pail and then I can finally get out of this place.

Vin: What the hell are you saying? That's crazy. Sometimes I don't know what the hell you're talking about.

Mama: That's okay, neither do I... Did you bring me any cake tonight?

Vin: Of course I brought you some cake. It's a good thing you didn't cut your hands off yet.

Mama: Oh you're such a comedian. Gimme that damn cake, I'm dying for it!

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Remembering Mama's "Dance"

One of our most popular posts was about when I asked Mama "What's Dementia"? I thought it would be a good way to end the year remembering Mama and her special way of dancing around a question and ending with a song.

Mama and I always have had a strong bond and have always been honest with each other, we don't B.S. However, since Mama was diagnosed with Dementia... I was at a loss. Should I tell her? What do I say? How do I explain this? Did the doctor talk to her? What is the best way to talk someone I've always been honest with?

I asked Mama what she knew about Alzheimer's or Dementia. She didn't really want to talk about it. Her response was "I like what I am and that's it". Then she broke out singing to change the subject. I usually don't put her on the spot, but I just wanted her take on it during one of our nightly visits.

For those of you that can't view the video click on the link: "What is Dementia, Mama"?


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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It's Christmas - I Wanna Go Home

Mama would always make up words to songs and still sound as if she knew what she was singing about... it was an art form.

Like many with Alzheimer's, Mama would repeatedly say "I wanna go home, I wanna go home." I'd tell her she sounded like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" and she'd laugh and we'd change the subject.

Seeming very appropriate, here is Mama doing one of her favorite takes on a Christmas classic, "I'll Be Home for Christmas". I know Mama would like you to listen to her, it's short. Take it away mama...


For those of you that are unable to view the video, here is the link:
http://youtu.be/Nabp2Fr34FU

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Mama & Her Christmas Music


Mama loved the holidays! Any excuse for a family get together... Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas. This will be the first Christmas we won't be together and it won't be the same. I know she'll be enjoying herself up in Heaven with her family - cooking, eating, singing and playing cards.


The two of us were similar in many ways but very different in others. We both loved to sing especially show tunes or songs from old MGM Musicals. Mama also loved Christmas music, it cheered her up and she never got tired of it. I've always disliked Christmas music, it always depressed me and got me annoyed. Christmas music changed both of our moods - hers got better, mine got worse. 

This year I'll remember Mama and how she'd light up when she heard and sang those Christmas songs. Perhaps when I hear them from now on, I can smile and maybe even sing a long thinking of Mama and her love of the music.

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