Saturday, January 14, 2012

“Northern Winds”

Wind chimes spin in a wild dervish whirl   
Fallen leaves sweep up in rowdy swirl   
Boy holds hands of a rosy cheeked girl   
Their scarves, like sails, begin to unfurl   
Their laughter swoops up into the air   
And bubbles of joy float everywhere   
The children play, giggling without care   
As northern winds blow ‘em here and there   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, January 13, 2012


         My days often stretch long and lonely. I pace myself through the routines demanded by my mother’s disease, trying to avoid wistfully watching the clock. My conversations with Mom center on a television show or movie. The political antics of our GOP candidates provide fodder for wry commentary from both of us, and for that I am thankful. Mom’s analysis of the governor who recently pardoned prisoners, including murderers, boiled down to three words, “He is crazy.”
         No one ever calls during the day, and I’m afraid I’ll start taking phone surveys just to hear voices other than the ones in my head. I imagined a different retirement filled with daily walks, extreme gardening, and voracious reading. Even though I knew my mother would eventually move in with us after I stopped teaching, I never predicted the restrictions upon my life caring for her would cause. When she first moved in, she tolerated my doing a little yard work. She didn’t mind it if I talked to a friend on the phone. She spent time on her own in the little sitting room we set up for her that includes her furniture from her apartment. I could venture out on a quick run to the grocery store or run the dogs to the park.
Many of my friends no longer come by to spend the evening like they used to do. I think my mother’s illness makes them feel too uncomfortable. The two or three who have visited bring me so much delight as they share bits of their lives with me. I cling to their words and bits of insight during the long days when I see or talk to no one other than my husband and son. I have one friend who lives in another state, and we shoot several emails back and forth in one day, almost like a slow motion conversation. Some days, these written correspondences are my main contact with someone outside of this house.
         I remember a time when my days, overstuffed with the demands of students, parents and administrators, seemed unbearably cramped with people and noise. Longing for solitude, I’d turn down the lights in my classroom during my conference period and surround myself in silence. Now, I yearn for the spirited and unfettered banter of friends.
         Now, I spend my days either sitting on the couch in the family room within Mom’s sight line, or just around the corner on my laptop. My laptop “visitations” never last longer than five minutes because I’ll hear her growing restless. I won’t waste my time complaining because I feel thankful that we can provide the one-on-one care that someone suffering from Huntington’s disease requires. I know, without a doubt, that my mother’s condition would deteriorate immediately if she lived anywhere else. Feeling confined within my house for a few years will never compare to the trap my mother deals with each and every day.

Flowers from Renee and Adrienne!

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, January 12, 2012

“Sick Days?”

         Yesterday an intestinal bug hit me—the same vicious critter that downed my mother the day before no doubt jumped ship and decided to cruise through my innards. This mean little virus snuck up suddenly and without any forewarning. No sense of queasiness, no hint of a fever starting, no little aches and pains. One moment I energetically tackled the chores remaining on my “TO DO” list, and the next I succumbed to this humbling sickness. When David and Paul showed up, it was to find me curled on the couch under a blanket with the warning, “Stay away! I’m sick.”
         Today, I suffer from muscle aches and head spinning nausea. Mom complained of similar symptoms and retreated to the warmth of her bed after David gave her a bath (my lesson definitely learned). I’ve filled my new teapot with water, dumped dinner into a slow cooker, and retreated to my room wrapped in a fleece robe and extra blanket. When the whistle calls, I’ll brew a hot cuppa tea in the hopes that its soothing heat will ease my discomfort.
         Illness doesn’t hit our household very often. I know that sounds strange since Mom fights Huntington’s disease daily. However, the only other sickness that plagues my mother centers on the reactions her sinuses have to changes in barometric pressure. Send a front our way, and she’ll feel it a day or two in advance. Benadryl either knocks out the sinus flair-up, or it wipes her out so she sleeps until the front passes through town. So, dealing with other ailments isn’t a common occurrence around here.
         Fortune follows us in that the few times I’ve fallen infirm, it’s been a weekend! David steps in and waits upon the entire household. I haven’t suffered for more than a day or two at a time and have returned to my normal routine by Monday. On the few times I’ve felt ill during the week, I’ve relied upon our son, Paul, to rescue me. However, I cannot call him today because he, too, fell sick to a cold virus a few days ago. No way do we want to mix these two creatures! No one would survive a full body assault.
         So as I sit hunched over the keyboard, I realize I need to find some kind of “back-up” caregiver for days like today.  I probably should have lined up a care service months ago, but I’m the Forever Optimist and gambled that the plague would miss our house. Silly me!

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

“Stupid Is . . .”

         When I asked my mother to move in with us a year ago, her enthusiasm centered on several pluses over assisted living. First, she could eat and sleep by her own schedule. Second, she could have ice cream every night before going to bed. Third, she could take bubble baths again! We purchased a shower bench for most of Mom’s bathing, but every weekend she tried to indulge in sudsy heat. Recently, we noticed that beginning her day with a shower resulted in tears and stress. Determined to smooth out the edges on Mom’s days wherever and whenever we can, we shifted to having her mornings start with a bubble bath as she reclined on a bath pillow and listened to her favorite music.
         With the shower bench, I can guide Mom as she clutches one of the different handicapped rails and swings into the higher seat provided by the bench. With a little nudging and scooting, the two of us can get her centered in the tub. Baths, however, mean lowering down entirely into the tub and then having both upper and lower body strength to lever up into a standing position. Mom cannot do this kind of movement and relies upon David to half hoist her to where she can step out of the tub and rotate into her wheelchair.
         I’ve watched David effortlessly pivot Mom around, up and out of the tub time and again. He helps her move to a sitting position by guiding her hands to one of the rails. He then enters the tub, instructs her to bend her knees, and together they have her standing within seconds. She repositions her hands to another rail, steps over the tub’s edge, and reaches for her wheelchair which almost butts up to the tub. One more step, and she swivels into her chair where we wrap her in large towels to keep her from getting chilled.
A bout with an intestinal bug meant Mom wanted a bath this morning after David had already left for work. I ignored David’s suggestion that I never attempt to give Mom a bath. “Stupid is as stupid does.” Getting Mom into the bath proved extremely easy. Using Olay, we scrubbed her silky clean. After a few minutes, Mom decided she wanted to get out and get dressed. I flipped the drain, eased behind her, and told her to grab the closest handrail.
 Following the routine I’d seen David perform hundreds of time, I instructed Mom to bend her knees as I positioned myself to lift her up. Nothing happened. I rolled up my sleeves, centered myself behind Mom, and with my arms around her, I made another fruitless attempt. It’s a good thing I struggled out Mom’s line of vision because I’m certain she would have panicked if she’d seen my total helplessness.
My thoughts started zipping all over the place, “Mom’s stuck in the tub! Should I call 911? Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap!” I thought of our next door neighbor, a man in his seventies recovering from a mild stroke. Not a good option.
In desperation, I managed to heave Mom onto the tub’s edge. I think adrenalin flooded through me. I still couldn’t get her to a standing position, and she couldn’t help me move her any closer to her chair. Panic set my mind into overdrive. I told her I’d have to lower her to the floor, where I’d already placed a towel. Once I had her upper body resting on a solid surface, I lifted her legs and repositioned her. Now I could drag her on the towel into her dressing area. Once there, I helped her sit upright next to another handicapped rail. With both of her hands firmly gripping this bar, I could support her weight as I shifted her into a standing position. Freeing one hand, I hauled her wheelchair over. Mom gratefully sank into her chair where she began to laugh! Good thing she has a sense of humor when it comes to me doing stupid stuff.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“A Song in My Head”

         I woke up this morning singing a Beatle’s tune. Sometimes, and I don’t know why, a song plays in my head. We’ve all had it happen. A little ditty will float into our consciousness and linger there. Sometimes, it plays through once and disappears as quickly as it appeared. Other times, it accompanies us throughout our day, a theme to our emotional state.
         Today, “I’ll Follow the Sun” lilts in and out of my thoughts. I’m including the lyrics for those of you who may not know the tune. I remember singing this song every night as I rocked my son to sleep. I always sang him “sun” songs like “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders” along with this Lennon and McCartney piece. My repertoire included other pieces like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” from Showboat.
         Anyway, I hope my theme song from this morning plays all day long, since it’s a song I associate with a small head resting on my shoulder as I rock and sing.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

“I’ll Follow the Sun”


One day, you'll look
To see I've gone
But tomorrow may rain, so
I'll follow the sun
One day, you'll know
I was the one
But tomorrow may rain, so
I'll follow the sun
And now the time has come
And so, my love, I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know
One day, you'll find
That I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so
I'll follow the sun

And now the time has come
And so, my love, I must go
And though I lose a friend
In the end you will know
One day, you'll find
That I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so
I'll follow the sun

Monday, January 9, 2012


calls in greeting with the bright full moon   
dances in my blood with the flux of hormones   

recognizes my fears and delights in them   

throws back her head and laughs with glee   
dashes from neuron to neuron in abandon   
stops my heart with an iron grasp   

catches my breath and won’t let it go   
haunts every night with racing thoughts   
creates possibilities out of mist   

ebbs and flows throughout the months   
curls in the pit of my stomach like a knotted rope   
holds me prisoner within my mind   

Artwork from

Copyright 1999 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, January 8, 2012

“The Tree”

            Tall and Majestic   
            Split and Torn   
                                    layers of ice—   
                                                cold hardness   

                        Sap healing the whitened flesh   
                                    a glossy amber   
                                                green under bark   
                                                                        Caterpillar legs   
                        And a hidden message of   
                        a secret code of    

                        Life unfurling its sails   
                                    into warm scented winds   
                        Sheltering me   
                                    in a canopy of green   
                        Interwove leaves   
                                    Nestling me   
                                    within soundless sunlight   
                        Cradling me   
                                    in dapples of shadow   
                                    and darts of sunshine       
                        Cocooning me   
                                    within Tranquility   

 Copyright 1995 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman