Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Mom’ Category

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, way up there with Halloween and Christmas. When I was really little we celebrated Thanksgiving at my grandmothers’ houses. They traded off Thanksgiving and Easter every year. Eventually, the big feasts got to be too much for them. We had a couple of Thanksgivings in a noisy, overcrowded restaurant until my mom took over. She refused to spend another holiday packed in like one of too many sardines at the Red Coach Grill. She cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the next twenty or so years.

After I moved to Switzerland, I continued to celebrate Thanksgiving. I created my own traditions and gathered friends together for the annual harvest feast. I love to cook and entertain and Thanksgiving dinner became one of my trademarks.

When I moved back to New Hampshire, I was delighted to host the family. For several years, at least eight, and sometimes more, Nye’s joined me around my farmhouse table for a fun and festive feast.

Last summer my dad pulled me aside for a heart to heart. My parents spend most of the winter in Florida and he was reserving their flights. He candidly confided that he couldn’t quite handle a trip north for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between Alzheimer’s and arthritis, travel is difficult for my mother and therefore very stressful for Dad.

I didn’t like the idea of them down there alone, having dinner in an overcrowded restaurant or any restaurant for that matter. I decided to spend Thanksgiving with them on one condition. Like my mom before me, I decreed that dinner would be at home. I would cook a turkey and all the trimmings for them and some of their close friends.

We had a wonderful time. Four of their oldest, dearest friends joined us. I knew them all, most for close to a decade and one for more than forty years. I got a little fancy with a couple of side dishes but did not mess with tradition when it came to the turkey and made my mother’s stuffing.

Sitting around the table with my parents and some of their nearest and dearest, reminded me of how thankful I am for their friends. I am grateful that these wonderful people love my mother and accept her frailties. I am thankful for the love and support they give my dad.

It looks like the start of a new tradition. Yes, I’ll head south again next year. I’ll improvise in my parent’s decidedly ill-equipped kitchen, debate how long to roast the turkey with my dad and suffer bad hair days in the steamy heat. But most of all I will rejoice and celebrate the time with Mom, Dad and their dear friends.

What about you? What are you thankful for this holiday season? I’d love to hear from you.

 

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

60 Years

In September 1950, two kids in their early twenties set out to make a life together. Those two kids are my now octogenarian parents. Last summer, we toasted them at a lakeside celebration. Sixty years is a long time. Quite frankly, I am in awe of my parents’ achievement. Although, I’m not quite sure if I should call it auspicious, pure stubbornness on both their parts may have had something to do with the longevity of their marriage. That and true love.

They pledged to love and cherish each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer. Like all marriages, they’ve had it all, the good, the bad, the ugly and the absolutely wonderful.

There were times when, if they weren’t broke, they certainly felt like it. The year we moved back to Boston from Connecticut for my dad’s new job, comes to mind. The move and the job were cause for joyous celebration until the Connecticut house languished on the market for months and months and months. For almost a year they juggled two mortgages. In rosier times, my mother used to laugh and tell the story of my dad’s first order with his new firm. As delighted as they were with his success, they couldn’t go out and celebrate because their bank balance was teetering around zero.

There was the very scary summer when my mom developed thrombophlebitis and suffered a pulmonary embolism. She was one month pregnant with my brother at the time. In the end all was well and our family of four became five. My sister, brother and I are three delightful, now grown children. Mom’s grandmother bracelet jangles with two more generations, six beautiful grandchildren and two terrific great-grandchildren.

More important, there were many, many idyllic days on New England beaches and ski slopes. Plus lots of fun evenings with family and friends. We have shared jokes and stories, argued, ranted, raved and laughed. A lot. My parents are enthusiastic people and they live life with enthusiasm.

While I can’t guarantee it, I think the secret to my parents’ marital success was their ability to create a true partnership. (That and their feistiness. Both of them.) My mother stayed at home but she was no meek and mild sitcom mom. I don’t ever remember her uttering in a threatening tone, “Wait ‘till your father gets home.” She just took care of her sometimes naughty children then and there. She also handled any and all crises when they happened, called contractors, plumbers and electricians when she needed them, juggled the social calendar and entertaining, watched over everyone’s health and wellness and managed the family finances. About the only thing she refused to do, was get the car serviced. She always said the guys at the garage treated her like an idiot. And she was nobodies’ fool. She was smart, opinionated and funny, held her own in any conversation and never wore an apron. We all knew she loved my dad (still does) but she never gave him that adoring Nancy Reagan look.

Because she was so good at taking care of the home and family, my mom freed up my dad to do his job and do it really well. Dad was in sales, he was good at it. He was away a lot; traveling on business. Neither ever had to worry, they were both confident that everything, and then some, was covered. Of course they were lucky to be raising kids in a time when families could not only live but live well on a single income. And I guess we were pretty lucky to be raised that way. (Although, I must confess, when I was a teenager, I didn’t get why my mom would willingly stay home.)

About seven or eight years into their retirement, a few tables started to ever so slowly turn on my mom and dad. Maybe we didn’t realize, or maybe none of us could admit to realizing, that my mom was beginning to show the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The disease’s progression has been slow, steady and sure.

My dad now takes care of all of those things that my mother used to cover. He handles everyday things like laundry, little things like keeping track of birthdays and big things like managing their finances and healthcare.

Their old division of labor has disappeared. But in their own way, they are still partners and their partnership is as strong as ever. Of course it could be stubbornness but call me a romantic, I’m betting on true love.

What about you? Is there a special couple or person you admire? I’d love to hear from you.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

I love to read. I always have. I read every day. Every day. Sometimes I manage a few minutes while I grab a quick lunch. During more than one blizzard and rainstorm, I’ve happily indulged in an all day binge. I almost never leave the house without a book. I can’t imagine a day without a book. Alright maybe I can, but it makes my blood run cold.

I inherited my love of the written word from both my parents. When I was growing up, they read every evening after dinner. For years we traded paperbacks back and forth. When I was a teenager it was history and historical fiction. My Mom was my key trading partner. When I got older, we shared best sellers, legal thrillers and crime novels. My Dad is now my book trading partner. Reading is one more thing that Alzheimer’s, the thief, has stolen from my Mother.

Along with crossword puzzles. Mom was a crossword puzzle fanatic. She did the Boston Globe puzzle everyday and both the Globe and New York Times puzzle on Sunday. We put puzzle books in her stocking, as well as paperbacks, every Christmas.

Mom hasn’t given up books completely. She can still read but it’s hard to follow plot lines or enjoy a good yarn when your memory is fading fast. I have seen her read and re-read the newspaper two or three times in an afternoon. Each time she fusses or fumes over some crime or other, laughs at a cartoon and smiles at the “good news” news. But she doesn’t do the puzzle anymore. And her grasp of current affairs is gone.

On the plus side, she must be my biggest fan. She can read one of my stories once or one hundred times. Each time she sees it with fresh eyes and she never gets tired of my tales. Of course she is more than a little bit biased. On the other hand, she doesn’t mind or miss them when my Dad packs up the papers and magazines and carts them off to the recycling bin.

Alzheimer’s runs in families. My grandfather had it, now Mom. I can’t help but wonder how well I might cope in my Mother’s faltering shoes. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I am not a particularly fearful person. I’ve leapt into new and different challenges and adventures with hardly a quiver, shiver or shake. I’ve reinvented myself at least three times, lived abroad, traveled around the world, built an organization from scratch, rebuilt two broken teams, bungee jumped, gone a mile deep into the earth and skied glaciers. And had a ball doing it all.

But there is a hell of a lot about Alzheimer’s that scares the bejesus out of me, a long and growing list. Loosing the joy of curling up with a good book is definately on that list.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

With Enthusiasm

I spend a couple, sometimes three, afternoons a week with my Mom. It gives my Dad a chance to get out on the golf course. It gives Mom and me a chance to hang out. On Mondays I pick her up from an elder care program. I have a tendency to run late, to get caught up in life. For the Monday pick-up, I’ve been read the riot act. It’s been made crystal clear that I need to get there not at three o’clock. Not at three o’clock on the dot but at two-fifty-five…on the dot.

My mother and I are very much alike. Contrary to public opinion, we are both a bit shy. However, we figured out that our lives would be better, or at least more fun, if we pretended to be extroverts. If not all the time, then at least when we are out and about. I credit my Mom for being a great example on how to live life enthusiastically. I’m not sure I would have figured it out on my own.

On this particular Monday, I’m on time, two-fifty-five on the dot. I can hear Mom as a wander down the hall. When I was a teenager her booming voice embarrassed me a little, but only a little. Mostly I was in awe of her upbeat approach to life. I was always proud that she was my Mom. She was cooler than the other moms but never in an austere, aloof way. Mom was warm and funny, approachable and wonderfully human. She always had it together.

She doesn’t have it together anymore. She has Alzheimer’s.

As I walk down the hall, I can hear her voice. Most important, I can hear the smile in her voice. She makes me smile. Not wanting to disturb the session I lurk in the doorway. It’s clear that in spite of all she’s lost, she still brings cheer and energy into the room. Eventually I peek around the corner. I don’t need to look to know that Mom is being, well, Mom. She is still the life of the party.

Even now, when she can’t remember names and has trouble remembering faces, Mom spreads good cheer. Like a charming guest or gracious hostess; she continues to connect with people. She might forget the response as soon as it’s uttered, but she is always willing to ask a question or fill an awkward, empty pause. She has not turned inward, withdrawn or rejected the world around her. I can see that it’s not always easy, that it takes an enormous amount of energy for her to live with the confusion and chaos of Alzheimer’s.

I am still in awe of Mom, her strength and courage. Every day she gets up and participates in life, with enthusiasm.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

Like a Thief

Like many retirees, my parents spend the winter in Florida. They flew north about a month ago. I was already suspicious from our chats on the phone but my Dad warned me that I would see changes in my Mother, big changes. At times, her Alzheimer’s has crept slowly; the changes from one year to the next were barely perceptible. Alzheimer’s can be devious that way, sneaking up and taking hold tiny bit by tiny bit.

And then, she takes a big leap downward. That’s what happened this past winter. Mom is now more and more often confused. Time and place are becoming jumbled. Although she has lived in her house for forty-five years, she is finding it difficult to recognize it as home.

Mom has always been comfortable with her own company. Now for the first time, she gets nervous and agitated when left alone. Some days she is concerned that everyone has gone off and left her. She feels an urgent need to get down to the beach and find them. It’s not always clear who “they” are. “They” may be her extended family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Then again, “they” could just as easily be the gang of childhood friends who hung out with her in Wollaston and on the Cape.

Summer has come early this year, with one beautiful day after another. Mom has always loved summer, the slowed down pace and the house filled with friends and family. On several warm, sunny afternoons she has become anxious. At times, she frets about her parents, wondering where they are or when they will arrive. It’s as if she is anticipating a weekend visit although her parents died in 1982.

This confusion is all part and parcel of Alzheimer’s, a horrible disease that is playing havoc with her mind and memory. Like a thief, Alzheimer’s is robbing her of the simple pleasure of doing a crossword or reading a good book. It’s stolen the independence that comes with a driver’s license. And perhaps worst of all, it has robbed her of her  incredible gift for good conversation.

My Mother has always loved to chat. When we were kids, dinner was more about conversation than food. Much more. Mom was never an enthusiastic cook but she was a very enthusiastic conversationalist. She loved spirited discussion, good natured arguments and wholehearted jokes and laughter. Like a thief, Alzheimer’s is taking that away from her and away from us.

In spite of what Alzheimer’s is doing to her, Mom continues to face life with good cheer and goodwill. When it comes to this disease, I’m nowhere near as cordial or magnanimous. I am intermittently angry and fearful. Like a feisty, foolish child I want my Mother back. I’d stamp my foot if I thought it would help.

But it won’t. So instead of tantrums, I’m spending time with Mom. I’m getting to know, understand and appreciate the new person she is becoming.

… then again, maybe this blog is just a new way for me to stamp my foot.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

My mother has given me many presents over the years. Her greatest gift is not the Ginny doll I received when I was six or the bicycle at eleven. It is not the diamond earrings for my graduation from Babson or even the set of fancy pots and pans when I bought my first house. No, my mother’s greatest gift to me and to everyone around her is her optimism.

Mom is not some kind of crazy lady who ignores sadness or anger. She has had her fair share of ups and downs but my mother is a cheerful person. She loves life, her family, friends and chocolate. She smiles often and sincerely, with hers eyes as well as her mouth.

When I was in my teens I was both slightly embarrassed by and extremely proud of my mother. Slightly embarrassed because she was so full of life; her voice was loud and her laughter even louder. My mother was never one to gently fade into the background. She wore bright colors and bold prints. When thin lips and pale pink lip gloss were in fashion, she wore bright red lipstick and her big full lips never needed collagen. But I was very proud because she was so confident, so happy, so full of life. It seemed that everyone liked her and wanted to be with her. I envied her gregarious nature, her spirit, confidence and optimism.

I don’t know if I was typical teenager. I’m not sure how surly is surly. But I was a half-full kind of kid. I was the middle child, born right smack in the middle of the baby boom. The world always seemed a little bit too crowded, a little bit too competitive. I think I worried that I wouldn’t quite measure up.

Granted, it was not an easy time to be a teenager but then again it never is. One of my mother’s favorite sayings is, “The two worst times in a woman’s life are when she is thirteen and when her daughter is thirteen.” She then offers the comforting reassurance that it gets much better once we hit seventeen. During my teen years, in addition to the normal hormonal angst, the US was embroiled in an unpopular war, the civil rights and feminist movements were playing havoc with the status quo and drugs were slipping into suburbia. It was a confusing time.

When I was seventeen, I came to the obvious but still startling realization that happy people lived better lives. I think my mother’s example and gentle cajoling had a lot to do with this discovery. Since that time I have done my best to build and enjoy a happy life. I chose St. Lawrence not just because the school had a good reputation but because our tour guide was cheerful and friendly. I majored in Art not because it was particularly career-worthy but because I loved it.

After school, I did my best to continue to embrace life and enjoy the adventure, to emulate my mother’s optimism, her spirit and confidence. I didn’t shy away from big changes or audacious goals. I found I loved a challenge and moved on when jobs or life got too monotonous. It took awhile but one awkward step at a time, I became more confident, gregarious and optimistic.

It is not all smooth sailing. I’ve done some dumb things and suffered the consequences. A couple of men were foolish enough to break my heart. I’ve had tiffs with friends and unfortunately one or two of those misunderstandings were never resolved. I’ve endured bosses who were bullies and colleagues who claimed credit for my work. I’ve been laid off; I’ve even been fired (and rehired forty-eight hours later).

But whether I look forward, back or at just this very moment, I have a wonderful life. My glass is much more than half full. Yes, I have a few fears, some trepidations but I enjoy each day with confidence and optimism.

Thank you Mom and Happy Mothers’ Day.

Do you have a question? An idea, a few thoughts or an opinion you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings. 

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

My mother has Alzheimer’s disease. We found out last summer, two months before her eightieth birthday. It wasn’t a surprise. We had suspected for months, maybe years. She was the first to realize something was not quite right. In the beginning she laughed and called it her senior moments. She was sixty-five. Over time these senior moments became more frequent and weren’t quite as funny. Both my mom and my dad began to talk about her problem more seriously. They labeled it short term memory loss. Yellow sticky notes decorated their microwave, kitchen counters and bathroom mirror.

It got more severe. The doctors began to call it dementia. We learned that there were lots of kinds of dementia and lots of causes; old age is only one of them. Even with the serious Latin name and formal evaluation, we knew it could be worse; it could be Alzheimer’s.

When people asked, I went from saying that my mom had memory issues to significant memory issues. I was one step behind the doctors for a long time. I eventually began to use the word dementia.

People would ask about Alzheimer’s. As her memory problems got worse, I would insist the diagnosis didn’t really matter. Her memory was fading and the label wasn’t all that important. It was oddly comforting to assure them and myself that she had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Every village has a kind and loving, slightly batty old lady. As long as she wasn’t diagnosed, my mom could be that lady.

And then on June 30th 2009 the doctors broke my little bubble and told us she had Alzheimer’s. We were all there with her, husband, daughters and son. It wasn’t a surprise but it was still frightening and heartbreaking.  I was wrong the diagnosis did matter.

We drove home. The car would have been quiet and solemn except for two extra passengers. My brother had brought two of his girlies with him, not to the meeting; they stayed in the waiting room. School was over and they were going to spend a few days with me. Thank goodness. The girls were full of life and fun and nonstop chatter. They were happy to be on their way to Pleasant Lake to see their summer friends and spend time with their grandparents and auntie.

Lucky for me the next few days were terribly busy. With work and two young ‘tweens, I didn’t have a chance to stop and think about my mom. Or at least I had lots of excuses to avoid thinking about her. Eventually, I had to go to the supermarket. The girls were with their friends. Alone and quiet for the first time, I took the exit onto 89 and began to sob.

Does Alzheimer’s run in your family? I’d like to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going – just click on Comments below.

To subscribe to Susan Nye’s Other Blog just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive new postings.

Feel free to visit my food blog Susan Nye – Around the Table or photo blog Susan Nye 365. Browse around my website for more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope you will take a moment to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.