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Mother, lately…

20 Jun

There she sits at the head of the octagonal breakfast table, looking like a Fairy Queen. Someone said she is more beautiful now than she was 20 years ago and it is true. I don’t know if it is because EVERYONE tells her how lovely she is. Or is it a trick of nature? Whatever the reason she is a real beauty. But she is fading mentally so fast that every day there is more evidence of it. She is having real trouble speaking. Her voice is so low I can barely hear her. And to make things worse, she has started putting her hand in front of her mouth when she speaks which completely muffles the sounds she is making. Often they make no sense anyway.

Big smile

She basically has Aphasia, and she is 101. In any case, she sits there with her table full of Judith Lieber bags sitting in a circle around a potted Orchid in the center of the table.
The shapes of the purses vary. There is one shaped like a teapot, one is a cupcake, one a soft serve ice cream, one is a sparkling red Cardinal (bird), and one is a bluebird. The bluebird has a baby bird inside her, and the price-tag is still on it. It says $600. For a tiny crystal covered bird the size of a small pillbox, it is shocking.

Outside the window ( an old fashioned Picture window) is a pastoral scene. Green grass, flower beds on the order of an English border against the brick wall that separates the 2 parts of the yard. There is a wrought iron gate painted a muted turquoise like all the woodwork and trim here. It is always open leading into the rose garden and beyond. I ask Mother is she sees how pretty the garden looks, and she gives me a blank stare. She does not know. Because for some reason, it seems very hard for her to focus on the picture. She looks out the window but does not see what we see. It is sad that she really cannot enjoy the grounds to the fullest. But we have a new wheelchair, and she can be wheeled out there more easily than before. She does get taken out to the rose garden and even down to the pool. And she sees them. But not with the full realization of where she is in the midst of her garden.

She likes color, and she must notice the electric blue of the sky, in which puffy clouds collide and the intense green of the grass. The colorful roses and the turquoise and white pool furniture contrast with each other. But she is really focused inward now. And not in an introspective way. But instead in a way that is sort of dreamy. I ask her if she’s just had a dream and often she will say, “Yes, I have.”

 She saw her Mother in a dream the other day. And her Mother was really talking to her even though Mother said: “It was not exactly my mother, more like a ‘suggestion’ of my Mother.” I asked her if her Mother was young. And she told me that she was. That was sort of creepy, But I guess if you die at 24, you never age. That must have been so weird for Mother. And she wanted to go back there, into the dream. She told me she did. So I tried not to disturb or distract her.

mother in bright sunglasses
Mother in glasses

Letting her stay in these dreams is one of the few things we can do for her, by not waking her or insisting that she see something else by asking her to open her eyes.

 Sometimes I believe these visits are harbingers of death, but at others, just I think they are something that happens when people begin to really enter the final stage of aging. And that is what Mother has done. She is definitely old now, there is no “getting around it.” And that does not interest her. She has recently lost one of her few remaining friends to cancer, almost all the men she knew are gone. Only one or two are left of the adults near her age. And practically no men survive. There are 2 who are about 14 years younger than Mother. And they are definitely slowing down. I am sorry for Mother.

The other day I asked her what she would like to be happy. She pondered this and then looked blank.” I know what you would like”, I said” To go dancing and to have a boyfriend. “Yes! That’s right!” She said. I know this is true. She just is never happy without a man. She never ever learned how to be satisfied by being by herself. Because of her large extended family and because in the winter she lived in an apartment building, she always had company at her fingertips. At a moment’s notice, she could find someone who would match her mood. This is an excellent piece of luck for someone like my Mother, who has not an ounce of ambition in her. She was content to live in the way her father did, and later she was compliant with everything my brother or her husband suggested. She did not like to make decisions or plans. That was left to my father. After him, it was left to her boyfriend or later her second husband Ed Wheeler, whom she adored. But her husbands have died, and her boyfriends are almost all gone now. The fun has gone out of the boy-girl thing for Mother.Because of that, I worry a bit about her will to live. But I really believe we must try to do what people want for themselves. Not what we want for them.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

Care-givers, I hear you!

23 May

Families are full of quicksand, especially as the children grow up, marry and have families of their own. They all develop in different ways. What is important to one branch means nothing to another branch. They may be in direct conflict. There may be a sense of closeness with one or the other group and an impossible distance with another.

Conflict can erupt when the aging parents or remaining parent become truly old and no longer able to care for themselves. In most cases, it is the mother who outlives the father and ambles into old age, illness or dementia on her own. Then it becomes apparent which of the siblings is a caregiver and which ones are not. It seems that typically one child is local and others far away. But of course, this varies.

In nearly all families with more than one child, there is one local and one far distant. The one who “flies in” is generally full of ideas about what the local sibling should be doing. Or worse they fuss about what has already been done. They complain and suggest and disrupt the routine and then, they fly away. It may be many months before they repeat the pattern.

In the meantime, the local sibling may have moved nearby or into the house with the mother. This is because it is the only way the mother can remain there in comfort and safety. Some caregiver children do it all by themselves. Some have part-time helpers. Others need to be supervisors for the 24/7 caregivers and other help. Some parents live in assisted living, some in their own apartments or houses. Others need help taking care of a large property in the way it needs to be taken care of.

That sibling who is nearest or living with the parent may feel slightly or not so slightly irritated by circumstances. The fact is that the far sibling sometimes expects compliance and gives no real appreciation to the one whose life is completely given up to caregiving. The away sibling may exhibit behavior indicating contempt for the one who is there all the time. Believing them beneath consideration, or deserving scorn. This speaks a great deal about their character.


People do not respond well to being treated that way. Thankfully most people are very supportive and value the contribution of the stay at home sibling. It is certainly nice to be appreciated and those who give up their lives to care for a parent are actually being very heroic even if they can’t see it themselves. Not everyone could or would do it. It is a strange existence. And in the best of worlds, all the siblings understand this and help each other out.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson


14 May

I was at an elegant dinner party recently where I met an interesting young man named Devron Johnson.  He spoke with such good sense about the world today, we have continued our discourse.

He emailed me about his writing, asking for suggestions for staying focused (Haha!!! I am not focused most of the time, but I have learned some tricks.)

“I have been studying the Philosophy of Stoicism and the teachings of Marcus Aurelius since I was in middle school…Maybe this is why I tend to see things without too much emotion and clouded judgement.” He said.

Marcus Aurelius, I should have known! Devron is an intellectual. He has an open mind, it is splendid to see such in a young black man of the 2000s.

(Especially in the era of Black Lives Matter, because those people do not appear to read anything except violent, angry material. What interests them are attacks against white people who really are not nearly as prejudiced as themselves.)

The Meditations are marvelous. Perhaps it would be helpful to young people if some schools or parents or police or some form of authority, tried to forbid kids to read about the Stoics. Certainly, Meditations is seditious information because by using it for instruction a man can control himself and therefore he can control others (especially if they have not read it). Perhaps if it were forbidden they would flock to read it and learn some of the greatest lessons ever taught.


Not going to happen, but I am impressed that he read Marcus Aurelius in middle school.  He must have had a mentor or a really good teacher or divine help with his reading. (I am only partly kidding about the Divine help.)
Here is a link to his blog:
“As for the not playing victim. Being a victim or playing victim will never help or improve anybody or any situation. I think that is the problem for a lot of millennials (my generation), and ethnicities (specifically Black people) who were once oppressed. Yes there is still racism, sexism, classicism, etc. However, there has been a lot of improvement and it should not be used as a crutch today. “ he added.

I agree with everything he said about victimhood.  Not useful.  And anyone who sees themselves as a victim gives power to the thing or entity by whom they feel victimized.

It is NOT the same thing but there is still some discrimination against women. I have been privileged my entire life and yet even I have experienced it.

And then, of course, there was the sexual harassment which we all grew up with in my time. It was not even remarked upon.  It was just ‘the way it was’.  But most women had their ways of combating it.  Most women were not as downtrodden as young women today appear to believe we were. 

Women stuck together.  Women basically controlled the family, even though the man might bring home the money.  Women raised their sons and daughters and a lot of men practically worshipped their mothers.  Women did OK for the most part.  

It is only NOW when they are educated and independent that they seem to feel like such victims. They have become whining snowflakes. It is unbecoming, to our sex. I have absolutely NO patience with it.  Women are NOT second class citizens. They never were even before we had the vote.  We had our ways.  We have always been able to run circles around men. We think differently. It is a gift or perhaps it is evolution. We have evolved for survival’s sake to know how to protect ourselves and generally get our way.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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