Saturday, January 28, 2012

"A Saturday Off!"

          My sister and brother-n-law appeared on our doorstep yesterday afternoon to give David and I a break from caring for my mother. I cannot describe the relief that flooded through me since it's been six weeks since our last break. The first item on my agenda? To head to the store for grocery shopping. I had one egg in the fridge and two heels in the bread box. Instead of rushing through the store, I took my time, making certain I gathered every ingredient for this next week's meals.
          Everyone pitched in to cook tacos for dinner, and then my sister met the challenge of Mom's nightly obsessive routine: bed, family room, bed, family room, bed, bowl of ice cream, bed, bathroom, bed, family room. Fatigue finally pulled Mom into sleep around 9 o'clock.
          David and I grabbed our tooth brushes and a change of clothes and headed to our son's house a few blocks away. We usually stay home when my siblings come to help, but that means we still hear the demanding little bell pinging in the morning. This visit we decided we really needed a solid night of sleep. We'll all gather for an early lunch. If Mom's up to it, we'll take her to Cheddars. We've found that if we get to a restaurant early enough, before the crowds or noise, Mom can handle eating out.
          I don't know how to spend the remainder of our free day. I toy with the idea of running to Target or Walmart to grab a paperback. A book geared for escapism, but that I can finish in two days. I think David will entertain himself with games and guitars. He's actually painting again and has a piece up on the easel.
          If I have learned anything through my mother's experience, it is to find joy in the simple things. Spending an evening listening to my son's latest vacation adventures, getting to finish a cup of tea before it turns lukewarm, sleeping past sunrise on a Saturday morning become precious commodities.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, January 27, 2012

“The Art of Waiting”

         Punctual people spend a lot of time waiting. I haven’t figured out yet why doctor’s offices and dental office receptionists state firmly, “Arrive ten to fifteen minutes before your appointment” when they know the schedule consistently runs at least half-an-hour late. Because I don’t want to be the cause of any inconvenience, I arrive promptly at the assigned moment where I then sit and wait for almost an hour.
         Punctual people wait on friends and family. We arrive at the time designated on the invitation for a party and end up setting up tables, icing birthday cakes, or running a vacuum as the host and hostess (known for their lackadaisical approach to everything) takes a quick shower. They always look bemused as they ask, “Would you mind?” Although tempted to say, “Yes. I’m a guest, not a maid,” I’ve always bit my tongue and pitched in to get the final preparations complete for the guests who arrive “fashionably late.”
         Punctual people arrive at mandatory meetings and get the choice seats because the room waits in emptiness. I always hated the principal who delayed starting a meeting until the majority of the faculty sauntered into the cafeteria or library. My favorite administrator demanded butts in seats at a certain time, started her meetings at precisely that second, and had another administrator note down who strolled in late. Many of my peers hated her approach because they felt she wasn’t treating them with “respect.” I never could figure out how coming to a meeting five or ten minutes late (or later) should call for anything other than a reprimand.
         Punctual people learn coping strategies quickly. My husband, the only punctual child in his family, spent plenty of time sitting in the car while he waited for the rest of his family to show up. He sang songs to himself, wrote lyrics in his head, and perfected his daydreaming technique. I’m certain this practice makes him a better artist today. Once I knew which friends or family members dallied, I learned to bring along a book. I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled up in front of someone’s house, on time, and had to wait. By escaping into a paperback, I turn a possibly stressful situation into something pleasurable.
         Punctual people find other punctual people. It doesn’t take long for someone like me to cultivate friendships with other people who respect time. I realize that people who run late can be on time when it’s important to them. Once I know that their tardiness is a general disrespect that they hold towards other people, I give myself permission to pull away from these individuals. When I discover that a person even uses time as a means of controlling and manipulating me, I begin avoiding invitations or events with this person.
         Punctual people call on the rare events when we do run late. At work, I’d email my administrator if I had a conflict with her meeting with the specific reason for my tardiness. If I’m running late to rendezvous with a friend for drinks or dinner, I call or text immediately and give an accurate ETA. If I get stuck in traffic, the electricity goes out, or the dog throws up on my outfit, I take a moment out of my time to notify the person who will end up waiting on me. I cannot even begin to count the number of times someone hasn’t shown up at the appointed time and not bothered to call. I’d like the option of saying, “Hey, let’s just forget it! Maybe we’ll get together another day.” Instead, I find myself sitting on the edge of the couch in my Sunday best waiting, waiting, waiting.
         Punctual people get labeled as “Type A” and uptight, but in reality we simply have manners. We’re able to put the needs of others first. We respect their time as well as our own.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman


Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Dysfunctional Family"

Dysfunctional family that no one wants to see   
Exploding into my face, killing complacency     
A brother-in-law irate since children want to play   
Yells at and bullies young girls, hurts me along the way   
Too many years of silence--turning the other cheek   
Too many days of hiding, of being mild and meek   
The banked fire broke out in flames, searing words were spoken   
Eyes burning, stomach churning, the control was broken   
Children in adult bodies wanting to have their say   
One powerfully monstrous, the other flees away   
A vain struggle in the car would certainly be lost   
Overpowered by brute strength, no way to bear that cross   
Faked submission to bring calm-- hands folded, eyes downcast   
False apologies offered, but nothing that will last   
Dysfunctional family that no one wants to see 
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Joe Cool”

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?   
Lies in your eyes that carve wounds into my heart   
Lips twisted by falsehoods you crudely impart   
A callous soul that stays stone cold and empty   

How many days can you pretend that you care?   
As you manipulate my feelings for you   
As you promote yourself, and snap me in two   
Counting on your charms even when you’re unfair   

What makes you so special that you flaunt all rules?   
By hiding your deceits from my trusting soul   
You promise faithfulness-a means to your goal   
And demand devotion even when you’re cruel   

When you look into the mirror, what do you see?   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

“A Caregiver’s Pity Party”

I’ve struggled with a foul mood for a couple of weeks now. My patience evaporates quickly, dissipating in a haze of grumpiness that dissolves into weepiness if I’m not careful. I don’t know why this funk has fallen into my life and darkened my aura, but I hope it leaves soon.
         My son suspects that my new thyroid medication has kicked in and slayed the fatigue that flagged my steps. He theorizes that I felt badly, but simply didn’t realize it. Now that I have energy again, I’m hypersensitive to all the things I cannot do because I care for Mom. His ideas made me stop and think, and he’s correct. Fatigue insinuates itself into your life in gradual increments so sneakily that you’ve shifted into slow motion without realizing it. Spending my days with Mom watching reruns on television didn’t bother me because I didn’t have energy to do much more. Now that I’m feeling recharged, I resent being housebound. I feel anger because I can’t just take off on a walk or rejoin the gym. I’m frustrated because I’d love to dash to the mall or spend an afternoon at a museum. It irritates me that I’ve missed important events like Christmas parties, weddings, and funerals.
         I get annoyed when some well-wishing friend or family member makes the “you need to take care of yourself, too” declaration, but never makes the offer to give me the break I so desperately need. Hiring help becomes a quagmire, too. Mom doesn’t like having one of us help her with her toilet, so a stranger helping becomes even more embarrassing for her. Also, I’d have to spend some time with Mom and the respite caregiver together to make certain Mom felt comfortable with a new person—change isn’t always an easy thing for someone with Huntington’s disease. And no one talks about the cost of this kind of service! If David and I want to leave the house for three hours (dinner, a little shopping or a movie), it will cost $60.00 before we even step out the door for the respite “sitter” because the rate is $20.00 per hour if you’re gone for three or more hours. If you’re gone for less time, the rate bumps up to $25.00 per hour. That means if we wanted to escape once a week during this next year, it would cost us $3120.00.
         And so my mood grows darker. Unless a family giving care has an extended network of other family and friends available to help, you become trapped. It doesn’t matter how much you love the person under your care, eventually the demands pull you down and under.
         In our case, we are fortunate because my mother’s the only family member displaying the symptoms of Huntington’s disease. In many families, Huntington’s disease strikes multiple members across several generations at approximately the same time. That means a person could be tending to a parent, spouse and child at the same time. Often family members who don’t inherit HD feel a type of survivor’s guilt that paralyzes them and prevents them from taking an active role in the unending demands of caregiving. With some families, nursing homes provide the role of primary caregiver. However, finding nursing homes that will take an HD patient is difficult. Finding nursing homes that can handle HD patients with effective care is almost impossible. That means that family members spend many hours after work and on weekends visiting their HD stricken loved ones. When Mom lived in assisted living, I visited her daily for three or four hours, and that was before her condition worsened. Had we moved her into a nursing home instead of our personal home, most of my days would still be given to her care.
         And so today, I’m taking time out for a pity party. I’m letting the kettle boil and bubble over. Maybe all the negative energy I’m generating will evaporate in the steam and leave me refreshed and renewed.    

Mom's last cabin visit on Sept. 2011 lasted only 4 hours.
Our cabin in Leakey is the one retreat David and I have!
Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, January 23, 2012

“Masterpiece Theatre’s ‘Downton Abbey’”

         Last night, I waited in eager anticipation for the latest episode of “Downton Abbey.” Years ago, Sunday nights meant slipping into another world or time period in a wonderful escape into a favorite piece of literature. Somehow, I drifted away from Masterpiece Theatre for a few years. I don’t know what I spent my Sundays watching during those missing years, but I do know I’m back for the duration of this series. I love all of the characters and subplots equally.

I find pleasure in the sensual blending of light, scene, and costume with the portrayal of distinct and credible characters.

Of course, I'm a sucker for the romances which abound in this series. Will Matthew and Mary end up together? What about Sybil and her chauffer? Will they drive off into the sunset? Will William's heart be broken by little Daisy? Will Bates finally ditch his wife and find happiness with Anna? I guess I still believe in "happily ever after" as I watch the relationships of these couples every Sunday night with the hope that all will survive their soap operatic situations.


Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, January 22, 2012


         Dad loved sandwiches. During our evening meals, he’d set aside a little meat from our supper, some lettuce and tomato from the salad, and two slices of bread. No meal officially ended in our family until Dad spread Kraft mayonnaise upon the bread, added his American cheese, and layered the leftovers from his dinner into his sandwich. It never mattered what main course Mom prepared! Ham? Roast? Turkey? Fish? Fried chicken breast? Sausage? Pork chop? Everything made a fantastic double-decker treat.

         So last week, when I craved split pea soup, my store run included all of the ingredients for Reuben sandwiches; and somehow my longings for a sandwich every night kicked into overdrive. Everything’s been stacked upon dark rye or rolled oat slices. I’ve thinly slivered vine ripened tomatoes and kept a tub of baby spinach handy. My assortment of cheeses has expanded to Swiss, American, Pepper Jack, and very sharp cheddar. I’ve diversified our spreads, moving beyond plain Kraft mayonnaise and into some of the different flavored mayos now on the market. Our French’s mustard sits next to Grey Poupon and Jack Daniels Dijon. I’ve used pastrami, ham, and turkey. I’ve had a simple fried egg sandwich as well as a BLT.

         I don’t know how long this craving for sandwiches will last. For now, I’m enjoying the marvelous variety sandwiches provide to my palette without demanding much from my culinary skills.  

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman