Home Again

Today would have been my mother’s 94th birthday.  As some of you long time readers will remember, she passed away suddenly last December a few days before Christmas.

Her final wish was for her ashes to be returned to California and scattered at sea like my father’s were fifteen years ago.

She and my dad lived in a little 1920s house two blocks up a hill from Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach for about 25 years, the happiest years of their lives.

Mom spent the last fourteen years here in Texas near her family.

Here is a photo my son took from his paddleboard about a half mile out, looking back at the beach at the end of my folks’ street.  He told me it was a calm, beautiful morning when he said a few words in remembrance of Granny (Mom) and then scattered her ashes in the sea, reuniting her with my dad once again.

Happy birthday, Mom.  Welcome home.



Makin’ Whoopee

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Birthday Edition

My apologies to my faithful readers out there who’ve followed the ins and outs of my relationship with my mother over the past year.  I haven’t forgotten you, so I thought I would share the latest in our ongoing saga.

My mother has settled in pretty well at her new digs, the nursing home next door to The Hotel.  She’s been there almost two months now. 

It’s hard to believe we’re coming up on the anniversary of the fateful fall in her home which brought about her hospital stay and subsequent tenure in two nursing homes and the retirement center.

Time flies when you’re trying to keep your head above water.

There have been good days and there have been not-so-good days.  The last three days definitely fell into the latter category.  For some reason, she began listing heavily over to the right when she was in her wheelchair.

She looked like an extra on the film “Titanic.”

The nurses were just as puzzled as I was.  They didn’t think she’d had a stroke, but it was difficult for them to keep her upright.  They also had trouble getting her to walk, even with help, so she spent most of her time in bed.  She looked godawful.

Her 93rd birthday was just days away and it happened to fall on the day the nursing home would be celebrating all the September birthdays.  I really had hoped she could attend the party, but things did not look promising.

I feared she was in a downward spiral.

So when I entered her room today, I was pleasantly surprised to find her in her wheelchair, dressed and upright.  Her hair had obviously been done since it was swept back and poufy and sprayed with enough hairspray to plug the hole in the ozone layer.

Whoever had done her hair had also taken the time to apply some eyebrows with a reddish-brown brow pencil.  It gave her a somewhat surprised expression.  She looked for all the world like Joan Crawford in her early days.  (I was glad the extra clothes hangers I’d brought with me weren’t wire ones.)

Her aide, Laura, was fussing over her like a mother hen and even got her up to walk to the bathroom with the help of a walker.  Amazing. 

Laura told me she’d asked my mother earlier how old she was and she’d told her “Thirty-five.”  I guess if you get to pick an age, thirty-five ain’t bad.

At the appointed time I wheeled her into the dining hall and we took our place at a table near the piano.  A local couple was going to entertain, with the husband singing and playing guitar and the wife accompanying him on the piano.

While the other folks were slowly arriving, my mother pipes up with–

“There’s my boyfriend.”

I thought she meant the elderly gentleman from her wing of the nursing home who was just being brought in by Fernando, one of the aides.  No, she meant Fernando.

(By explanation, last week she’d told me that Fernando was making “advances” to her.  It turns out after he lifted her out of her bed, he’d given her a hug.  This isn’t the first time she’d misinterpreted attention from a much younger male.  A few years ago when she went to see our now retired dentist, he’d put his arm around her when he was leading her into a different operatory.  She later told me she was sure he “wanted my body.”)

To kick things off, Larry, the activities director, read the names of the birthday honorees, asking them to state their age if they so wished.  When he came to my mother, he said he didn’t need to ask her her age because she’d already told them that she was thirty-five. 

(Note to self:  be careful what you say because word gets around the nursing home like wildfire.)

Everyone laughed, but my mother had really set a precedent.  Almost all of the ladies who came after her said they were somewhere in their thirties, except one lady who stated she was “twenty-nine and holding.”

My daughter, Sarah, and her husband, Kris, had joined us for the festivities.  Kris’ 38th birthday is coming up in a couple of days.  My husband, Rick, who turned 76 last March, stayed home to tackle some mowing before the rain (yay!) they’re predicting starts tomorrow.  

Rick had mentioned yesterday he was 38 when Kris was born.

This is important to remember.  There will be a test later.

There was cake and punch and sing-alongs and even a humorous song about Rocky Mountain oysters that got the ladies guffawing.  A good time was had by all.

When it was over I asked my mother if she wanted to go back to her room and open up the gifts of new clothing I’d brought her.  She looked around and said, under her breath, “we can’t just leave a houseful of people.” 

In a way, it’s kind of nice that she thinks the nursing home is truly her “home.”  I convinced her that it wouldn’t be rude, and I wheeled her back to her room.

After opening her presents and commenting on the lovely flowers from my brother and Sarah and Kris, Mom said:

“Rick looked pretty good today.”

I told her it was Kris, not Rick, who was here today for the party.


 After I returned home, I told my husband what she’d said.  He got a good laugh from her comment.  He said yeah, he’d take being 38 again instead of 76.

And my son-in-law, Kris, thought it was pretty funny too, except I told him he got the raw end of the deal.  Although, I did have to point out she’d said he “looked pretty good.”

I think Fernando better watch out.  No telling what a 93-year-old lady with lacquered hair and new eyebrows might do next.


Happy…Uh, What Was That Again?

Note from the Eldercare Underground: 

Age is all relative.  Or all your relatives are aged.  Whatever.

Well, the good news is my mother was pretty close today on guessing her correct age.  You’ll remember she had speculated before that her age was anywhere from 300 years to 3,000—with her latest estimate at Sunday’s visit that she’s 32. 

I guess that makes me my own grandma.

So today when I went to visit her, she again asked me how old she was.

My standard answer has been, “How old do you think you are?”

She said with confidence, “I’m 93.”

I told her that was almost correct since she isn’t officially going to be 93 until September.  But still….not bad.

Then, by way of trying to keep up my end of the conversation, I said brightly,

My birthday is this Sunday.  I’m going to be 65!”

To which she replied, “So what?”

If you think about it, 65 doesn’t sound like much when you’re pushing 300.


Hold On, Medicare…I’m a Comin’!

In honor of my birthday yesterday, here’s Paul McCartney’s “When I’m 64.”  Which I am.

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?

If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me,
Will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

oo oo oo oo oo oo oo
You’ll be older too, (ah ah ah ah ah)
And if you say the word,
I could stay with you.

I could be handy mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds,
Who could ask for more?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight,
If it’s not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away.

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I’m sixty-four?



Age: It’s All (Your) Relative

When I spoke with my son a few days before his 45th birthday last week, he seemed somewhat bummed out by the prospect of his advancing age. 

I tried to reassure him that, from my perspective of 63 (soon to be 64), he was a young whippersnapper.  To me, 45 is still youthful. 

I don’t think I convinced him.

Two days ago my husband had his 75th birthday.  He’s not big on celebrating his natal day either.  He discourages any big show of gifts and he suggested that everyone just ignore that date on the calendar. 

He felt it should be skipped over for lack of interest—his. 

But I couldn’t do that, of course, so I got him a funny card from me and the cats, and our daughter here in town got him three packages of his favorite treat this time of year—Easter Peeps.  (Those things make my teeth hurt just looking at them.  Everyone knows chocolate is the only real candy, folks.)

In an odd juxtaposition with my telling my son he’s still (relatively) young, my husband’s 92 year-old mother phoned to wish her first born son a happy 75th. 

Now, that has to be a weird feeling for her.  How many mothers live long enough (and have their children young enough) to be able to wish them that? 

Not many, I’d wager.

Last night on an episode of Roseanne,” her mother, Beverly, is considering moving to a retirement condo.  She’s 63. 

Jackie is all for it because it will get their mother out of their hair, but Roseanne is oddly reluctant.  The condo is set up for older residents, with a medical alert button on a wall in every room and the option of moving to an adjacent nursing home should the need arise.

Roseanne tells Jackie that it makes her really uncomfortable to consider their mother’s death.

Jackie:  “Come on, Roseanne!  We’ve been planning her death for years!” 

Roseanne:  “That’s plotting, Jackie, not planning.”

Beverly has her way and moves into the condo without Roseanne’s blessing.  But Roseanne drops by with a housewarming gift and the two have a chat. 

Roseanne asks her mother how old she feels inside, since she and Jackie had that conversation earlier. 

(Roseanne had said she feels like she’s still sixteen.  Jackie started to say “Twenty-…” and then amends that to “Twelve—or maybe eight.”) 

Beverly is perplexed:  “I feel like I’m 63.  I feel like a 63 year-old woman.”

After a bit more discussion about the retirement condo and the looming nursing home, Beverly hugs Roseanne and tells her not to worry. 

Beverly:  “I may be 63, but I don’t feel like I’m old.”

Roseanne:  “Yes, you are.   And you’re draggin’ me with you.”