Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Here's a Mint" - Memories of Mama

During Mama's last year she often complained about her stomach. If she wasn't starving, she had heartburn or a tummy ache or a funny taste in her mouth. But the one thing Mama never lost was her sense of humor and salty tongue. This was a typical night with Mama, I still remember it like it was yesterday... 

Mama: My stomach is upset.
Vin: Here's a mint, it'll make you feel better. Let it melt in your mouth.
Mama: Well where do think it's gonna melt... in my ass?
Vin: Only if you put it there, Mama. Only if you put it there!
Mama: Oh, you're very funny. You're a regular comedian.
Vin: I learned it from you.
Mama: Yes you did, my son.


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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mama's Recipe - Memories of Mama

Meatball Mama
Mama always loved food, the recipe to keep Mama happy was FOOD! It was something we'd always talk about... even up until her last few days. When all else failed, I knew the topic of food would never fail. We'd talk about what she ate, what she was going to eat or what she really wanted to eat. As her memory decreased I'd ask her about what she ate to see if she remembered on that particular day. I always knew what she had because I'd check the weekly menu on her bulletin board. If she didn't remember she'd make something up that was safe... usually spaghetti and meatballs (her favorite) or meat and potatoes (always a good answer).


When Mama was having a bad day I'd ask her about some of her favorite recipes. It became a running joke because every dish she ever made always had the same ingredients. She'd say "a little salt, a little pepper, olive oil and a lot of Italian cheese". It didn't matter what the dish, this was the stock answer. Looking back, it did hold true to most of her recipes. At the time it was funny and I'd egg her on to see how far I could take her and what other ingredients should would add. Most of the time she caught on and would laugh and tell me to "shut the hell up and enough with the damn recipes".

Mangia Mama!
And that's when she'd break into song and I knew all was good for the night. Thank God for music and of course "a little salt, a little pepper, olive oil and a lot of Italian cheese".

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Roller Coaster Ride - Memories of Mama

As a child I was always terrified of rollercoaster rides. I didn't like them... I even got nose bleeds the few times I tried to buck up and enjoy them. But I didn't like them and I'm certain part of my neurosis was instilled in me from Mama. All I heard from her was "be careful", "watch out", "you're gonna get hurt", "it's dangerous"... the list goes on. She was extremely over protective and neurotic of many things, but then again "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." 


Many years later when I became a caregiver for Mama and rode the "roller coaster ride of Alzheimers" with her, this redundant term brought a new meaning to me. I realized that eventually we all have to face our fears and ride the roller coaster.


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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Role Reversal... Memories of Mama

Even before Mama was diagnosed with Dementia, the parent/child role reversal was there between us. When I was ten years old Mama came home late from a doctor's appointment and I was worried... 

Vin: How was the doctor's appointment? You're late, what did he say?
Mama: He said I'm too nervous and I need to relax.
Vin: That's what he always says. But are you okay, Mama?
Mama: Yes, I'm fine but I'm going through "the change".
Vin: What change?
Mama: "The change".
Vin: What's the change?
Mama: Ask your father. Do you want some ice cream?


A few years ago in the nursing home, Mama's visits from the doctor were becoming more frequent. I began to worry even more. I asked her what the doctor said... 

Vin: How was your doctor's visit today? What did he say?
Mama: Oh, I'm sick and tired.
Vin: He said you're sick and tired?
Mama: No, he said I'm fine.
Vin: You're fine?
Mama: Yes he said I'll be fine when my son gets me the hell out of this place.
Vin: I'll ask the doctor about that one. Do you want some ice cream?

And so it goes... some things never change. My memories of Mama.


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Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Joy & The Purple Tree... Memories Of Mama

Christmas trees always put a smile on Mama's face. It didn't matter what mood she may have been in, she would see a Christmas tree and automatically light up. It was almost childlike and very contagious.


I drove by Mama's old nursing home the other day. I wanted to see if the Christmas decorations were the way I remembered them and the way Mama loved them. They didn't seem as bright and cheery this year but maybe it was because Mama was gone.


Later that week I put up the little purple Christmas tree (yes purple) the one that Mama loved to see every year at our place when we brought her over to celebrate. It still brings me joy remembering her smile and her saying "only you would have a purple tree"! We'd eat (pasta of course) play cards and sing during our Holiday celebration around that purple tree. I didn't realize it back then that we were making memories... I thought we were all just having a good time. 


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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Caregiving Thanks - Memories of Mama

November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and Family Caregivers month. It's also the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving. It's ironic that it's a time to remember when many of our loved ones can't but it's also a time to be thankful... and I am. 


Mama was my caregiver for many years... after all that's what mothers do! The tables turned when she was diagnosed with Dementia and I took over the role of caregiver. I learned from the best because she taught me how to be strong and get through tough times with humor and music. It certainly helped us get through or at least soften our bumpy ride with Alzheimer's.  


Mama wanted her story told, so we've continued to do it through our work as advocates and in our play "Some of These Daze". Even though I became the caregiver, I learned everything I knew about caregiving from Mama, so thank you Mama. 

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Mr Know It All... Memories of Mama

On a typical night, I would play parent and tell Mama what to do or what I thought may be best. I'd tell her to eat a ginger candy for digestion or we'd do deep breathing to help her relax (and me). Most nights we'd do some easy restorative Yoga exercises for mind, body and spirit. Here's a taste of a typical conversation... 


Mama: Okay, okay we'll exercise - whatever you say. You know best, you know everything.

Vin: I don't know everything, but I know some things that may be good for you.

Mama: So my Mr know it all... tell me. What's the weather gonna be like tomorrow?

Vin: How the hell should I know?

Mama: Well, I know! My hands are killin' me and that means it's gonna rain.

Mama was right. The next day, it rained. Once again mothers know best.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Letting Go - Memories of Mama

We're in the process of trying to move back home to NYC and are constantly going thru and getting rid of things. I find things of Mama's and I know I have to get rid of some of them, but it's difficult. I still have paperwork from her first hospital stay. I have the last pack of graham crackers and Hershey bar still in her purse. I have things of Mama's that I'm attached to and things that I know that just gotta go. I've been learning how to let go gradually, but the memories always bring me back to Mama... 

I was Mama's everything. I was very lucky that way, she lived for me! I brought her happiness, but she may have depended on that a little too much. She even told me towards her "final curtain" that if it wasn't for me, she wouldn't care if she lived or died! OMG... How's that for a guilt trip?


The separation from mother and child is challenging. It can be scary, but it's the first step in growing. After your mother gives you life you immediately get separated. (Big screams from both) Pain, freedom, relief... that's the first time you both learn about letting go.

At the first day of school parents drop off their child with the teachers. It's another step of both learning how to let go. Deep breaths, have faith and move forward.

The letting go process continues thru the years... going away to college, getting your first apartment, falling in love, getting married and for some, having children. You get the picture, right? Then at some point, things start to change and the tables are turned. The child becomes the parent and the cycle continues.


You begin to learn how to leave your parent alone in their apartment. You let go slowly always with worry and doubt in your mind, something could always happen. You realize that you now have a child.
  
You may even have to go one step further as you both continue to learn to let go... this time it's in a nursing home. WTF? I would never put my parent in a home! Guilt again but then there's reality... I couldn't do it alone. More deep breaths.

My final lesson of "letting go" was when my mother left this world to go onto her next act. I talked her through it and tried to make it an easy journey and told her (through my tears) that it would be okay. I remembered how she let me know (through her tears) that kindergarten was gonna be okay and I'd be just fine. Full circle, right?

As I continue to go through my things and let some of them go, I'll hold onto others. I cherish the memories I had with Mama and will never let those go. After all, I was her everything.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Filling In The Blanks - Memories of Mama

If life is made up of memories, what happens when you lose your memory? Is your life over? Or just the life you once had? Is your life just the pieces that you're able to remember? It's all a puzzle, it's a game where no one comes out a winner.

Do you fill in the blanks? Or just let your loved one fill them in and make it up... if they still can. These are questions that caregivers have every day. I know we felt this way and sometimes it was like we were all playing "The Wheel of Fortune". How ironic that this was one of Mama's favorite game shows.

There were many nights that none of us could buy a vowel and those were challenging nights, but thank you anyway Vanna White. We're still "filling in the blanks" as we continue to develop our play "Some Of These Daze" just like we promised Mama that we would.


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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Am I Forgetting? - Memories of Mama

I think of Mama and miss her everyday... but my memory of her face is starting to fade and I feel sad. I still look at my watch to see if it's time for our nightly visit, and I still check my voice messages to see if Mama or the nurses called... what am I thinking? Sometimes I even forget what our daily rituals with Mama were at the nursing home. They say that "time heals everything" and "grieving is a long process", but that doesn't make me feel any better. 



Naturally I have my daily reminders of Mama, there's the "genetic thing" that I've inherited from her. Her love of music, singing and food, her nervous energy, her anxieties, the list goes on. I find myself seeing more and more similarities and think "Oh my God, I'm turning into my mother". I've heard many others say that, but I never really got it. It can be funny, it can be comforting but when your mother has Dementia, it can be scary. 



What's really scary is that sometimes I forget. I have to look at photos to remind me of my mothers face. As I go through my photo files, I look, I smile and sometimes I cry. And then I vividly remember her face like it was yesterday and I can hear her voice... it makes me stronger. It makes me more determined to keep the promise we made to Mama... to tell her story, our story... as "Some Of These Daze" continues to develop.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Father's Day - Memories of Mama

During our nightly visits with Mama, we would reminisce and talk about "the good old days". This was usually safe territory because Mama was able to make up or elaborate on things that had happened. She had a better recollection of the past than I did, it was her short term memory that was the problem.


A few years ago on Father's Day I asked Mama to tell me and Douglass something she remembered most about my father. She looked at me like I was crazy.

Mama: Your father? You want me to talk about your father?

Vin: Yeah, Mama tell me the first thing that comes to mind about Dad. Tell Douglass something about him, he never got to meet him.

Mama: Well Douglass, my husband was a gambler.

Douglass: He liked to gamble?

Mama: Where the hell have you been? Of course he liked to gamble! He loved to gamble - the horses, the numbers, cards, you name it he did it all. We never had any money because of his father.


Vin: Ma, is that all you're going to say about Dad? It's Father's Day after all, say something nice.

Mama: Well, I miss that son of a bitch. Why the hell did he have to leave me?

Douglass: He left you? Where did he go?

Mama: He left me, he's six feet under. God rest his soul, he was a good man, but what a gambler!

Vin: Ma, it's Father's Day.

Mama: What do you want me to say? Happy Father's Day, wherever the hell you are! Now let's play some cards.


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Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day - Memories of Mama

Remembering Mama
It's Mother's Day and I'm thinking of Mama... Another Mother's Day is here, but Mama is gone. I want to share a Mother's Day post for all the Mothers and family out there. I hope you enjoy your day together, we always did.   

Mama never wanted any gifts for Mother's Day. She'd never ask for jewelry or extravagant things. All she 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.


Mama's "Bling"
I remember our last Mother's Day together. It was like many other times when she'd come over to our place.

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'd start a song about almost anything that we'd be talking about. It was amazing to see how she'd take the words from our conversation and put them into a song without missing a beat. But once she started, you couldn't shut her up... even when the food was finally on the table. She'd give in saying "Okay, enough singing, I'm wearing myself out, let's eat!" 

Always Making Me Laugh
Memories of Mama and eating... the two just go together. Ever since I remember, Mama was a bit of a messy eater. Okay, she'd drop her food... everywhere. It would land on her blouse, on the table, on the floor, but she'd continue to shovel it in. She enjoyed her food and Mother's Day was no different!

Mama's Favorite Dish
At the end of the night she'd want coffee and cake, even if she was full! She had to have her coffee and cake, it was her routine. We knew she was getting tired at the end of the night because she'd say "Oh my God, I ate like a pig, I'm exhausted now. When are you two gonna take me back?" 
Mama and her Meatball

In memory of Mama this Mother's Day we'll have spaghetti and meatballs. We'll be thinking of Mama singing, dropping her food and not taking her back until she had her coffee and cake. It'll be the same as always... almost.


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Back at The Palace Theatre on Broadway - Memories of Mama

On Broadway
We recently went to see "An American in Paris" at The Palace Theatre on Broadway. It was one of Mama's favorite MGM musicals. She loved Gene Kelly (who didn't) and Leslie Caron in one of Vincente Minnelli's most lavish creations. She loved Minnelli so much she'd tell me I was named after him. I always thought I was named after my grandfather, but then again that was Mama's story.

"Minnelli on Minnelli" at the Palace

The last time the three of us went to The Palace Theatre was to see "Minnelli on Minnelli". It was Liza Minnelli's loving tribute to her father's films. It was also Mama's last Broadway show... and you know she loved her Liza! I was feeling very nostalgic during "An American in Paris" on stage remembering us watching the movie over and over on the late late show marathon. Mama and I loved our musicals!

MGM Classic
I knew that if she was with us at the show she'd be in heaven. At the end of her favorite songs, she would've been yelling "One more time" just like she did at Liza's show. That's the way Mama rolled. She loved her music, and that's when she came alive. 

During the curtain call at "An American in Paris" I stood with the rest of the audience as I yelled out "One more time" just like Mama. Oh my God, I guess we're a lot alike.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

Parsley and Nerves - Memories of Mama

Ever since I can remember Mama always told me that parsley was good for the nerves. I haven't done any Google searches to prove her theory, but what I do know is that Mama was always "a nervous wreck" so I don't think it ever worked.


I'd always question her and asked "if parsley was supposed to be so good for your nerves, why doesn't it work for you"? She never had an answer but would still insist that I should eat my parsley. I ate it thinking what have I got to loose? Mothers know best and maybe it would work for me.


We'd be at a restaurant and there would always be parsley garnish on our plates. We'd look at each other and I'd wait for it... "Eat your parsley, it's good for your nerves". I'd laugh as we both would eat it knowing it did no good for either of our nerves.

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