Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Living with Mom and Dad

Living with Mom and Dad

I am in my mid 50’s and live with mom and dad. Now let’s back up a bit. There’s a little more to this story than meets the eye.

Back in 1980 I moved out of the family house and did the apartment thing with roommates and such for several years. Finally around the age of 30 or so I landed myself into a business in which I made some good money and was able to afford my own house and all the extras that come along with home ownership. My life for the next 33 years moved along great. I developed some great friends and built a nice home for myself. I never married but had a few chances but for one reason or another marriage never panned out for me. I was always busy with a business and with my music. I had dabbled in music for about 15 years of my life. I was very serious with the music thing. I took voice lessons and wrote all original songs. The last few years in the music business were the best for me (1990-1993). I made some real headway. Airplay on college radio stations everywhere. Even charted on College airplay charts… reaching #1 on many local charts. Record companies were abuzz but as it all came to a point where success as an entertainer in the spotlight in the center of the stage was becoming a reality I lost it. My ego was exploding, my friends started to dislike me. I was nervous all the time. I was paranoid (and I wasn’t even taking drugs). I guess when it came right down to it I was afraid of success… anyway that type of success. As a writer I can hide behind the pen and write all I want. Nobody ever has to see my face.

It was in March 2013 (the Friday before Easter Sunday) my dad had his second major stroke in that year. This one was the big one. It left him disabled. He was in the hospital for about 5 weeks and in a nursing home for 8 weeks and finally a boarding home for another 8 weeks. He finally made it back home in August of 2013, but there was something different I was now living in the family house. My dad was unable to walk without a walker and lost the use of his left hand. He also seemed to be missing some of his mental faculties; he was much slower in the mind and not quite as alert.

My dad wasn’t the only reason I moved back into the house. I moved in because my mom asked me to. She said she was afraid to live alone with dad because he wasn’t the same anymore. At that point mom was 76 and dad was 77. A few years earlier mom lost her eyesight to glaucoma and was 100% blind. She had also lost hearing completely in her right ear and about 50% in her left ear. Even though she didn’t say it I could tell she felt so alone and needed someone there to keep her safe. I am my mom’s first born and when she asked me to move back to the homestead I agreed without a second thought. This is what I had to do. My mom is very precious to me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The first thing I did is clean my house up and prepared it for rental. I figured if I am not going to be in the house I might as well earn an income from the house. I ended up renting it to my young cousin and his wife and their baby. Seeing they are family I asked them to pay the mortgage each month. The agreement was that since I am not making any money from them they would take care of the normal maintenance and minor repairs that should come up.

It was May 2013 and I was now ready to embark on my new life. I was not especially happy about this. This was the last thing I ever thought I’d be doing. If you were to ask me ten years ago where I figured I would be in ten years, I would not have answered living with mom and dad.

I ended taking about 2 months away from my business in order to deal with moving, taking care of mom, visiting dad in the hospital, dealing with insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Services, etc. I was so stressed out… but I still made sure to let go of the stress so I could get a good night’s sleep. I figured the stress will still be there in the morning so why not just forget about when the night is here and mom is tucked in bed and sleeping. It was my turn to spend time for myself… watch some TV, laugh a little and just enjoy and then finally fall asleep after a long and stressful day.

When dad came back home I took another two weeks away from my business in order to ensure that all would be fine and to get him situated. My brother took a week off from his job after my two weeks so there were 3 weeks total that someone was in the house with them 24/7. My brother has been a huge help, he’s here at the house on his days off and tends to the daily household duties and makes sure mom and dad are taken care of properly. He does such a good job with both of them and he is especially gentle and careful with my dear mom.

At first my dad was okay with me being in the house. We seemed to have bonded in a way we had never bonded before… we cooked meals together and would go out together for haircuts. I would spend a few hours each day dedicated to speaking with my mom talking about any and every subject under the sun. Since she cannot see and cannot hear too well she’s not able to watch TV, read or do much of anything to stimulate her mind, so I took it upon myself to keep her mind active by giving her several hours of very colorful conversation. Her favorite topics are about her childhood, she really enjoys remembering her years in school and the friends she had. She is especially proud that she was a majorette in Junior High School. She says they won an award the year she joined and she became the captain of the majorettes teams (or squad).

When I first moved into the house I was surprised to find out that my mom was completely blind, she kept this a secret from my brother, sister and me. She claims she didn’t want to worry us. She is always putting others before her, which is good but in the state of her health that is not a good thing. I observed her while in the house and was completely amazed by her and the way she got around and did things like she always had. She makes her meals… granted they are all microwave meals such as oatmeal and waffles. She does her own laundry and even mops the floor. If you were visiting the house for the first time you would never realize that my mom was blind.

A few days after moving into the house I came to realize that my mom would get confused as to when it was day or night and she would often wake up disoriented. Most times she’d wake up still in her dreams and would say some crazy things. One time she kept calling me by another name and was saying something about walking to the golf course down the street. This confused me, as I didn’t know what she was talking about. I kept asking her what she meant. This was very strange as she was awake and sitting in her chair saying all this. Then I came to realize that even though she looked like she was awake she was actually still partially asleep and was still in her dream. It took her a few minutes to wake up completely and come to reality. Once she realized that she was sitting in her chair and talking to me she said, I thought I was talking to so and so from the golf course. This really had me very concerned.

Mom was also talking (more like yelling) in her sleep. Every single night and many times in the morning I would hear her yell things out while she was sleeping. This was so disturbing to me because I started putting one and one together… the disorientation, the talking in her sleep and the confusion of day and night all made me think that my mom was in the beginning stages of dementia.  I just could not let my mom go down that road so I put an extra bit of attention to make sure that her mind was kept busy. When I went back to work my friend Judy would come to the house and stay with my mom and keep her company. My mom just fell in love with Judy, they became best of friends and my mom said she really enjoyed the “girl talk.” After about 2 months my mom was a different woman, the sleep talking the disorientation and the confusion of day and night went away. My mom was quite a bit more centered. This made me very happy.

After about a month of being back in the household my dad seemed to change. He was becoming angry. I think he felt I was infringing on his place as “the man of the house.” Frankly during those months he was gone I had grown accustomed to running the household duties and I think he felt threatened by that. I quickly realized that now being disabled he needed to feel that he was in control of something so I stepped back on a lot of things. This was hard for me to do because as it is he really was not capable of doing many of the things he used to do. He wasn’t able to write the checks to pay the bills (yes, mom and dad still pay bills by snail mail). Dad wasn’t able to drive anymore to do his own shopping. He wasn’t even able to help guide my mom whenever she would lose her bearing in the house (which hardly ever happened because she knows the house inside and out). My dad felt helpless. I let him take the reins of the household and things lightened up for a while. He was a bit easier to live with.

I’ve been here for about 2 ½ years now and have become accustomed to it. It is tough as my dad in the past 6 months has lapsed back into this sort of angry grumpy old man mode and seems to not be able to get past. It is very hard living with him but I am learning to just live with it and pretty much look past his unbearable attitude. Every so often I think back on my life pre-stroke and I do miss it. My life was so wonderful. I would come and go as I pleased. I used to host the most fantastic dinner parties with fine food that I would cook all myself. Now that’s all come to a stop. My social life is almost non-existent. Probably once a month I go to lunch with a friend. All my social life is during the day. I don’t go out in the evening anymore. I do still enjoy shopping the big malls and shopping centers in my area. This is something I’ve always enjoyed and am still able to do.

Yes, I miss my social life but this is a decision I’ve made. My parents (especially my sweet mom) are my priority. My social life is important to me but my family is more important. Yes, there are other things I could be doing with my time, but this is where I want to be. I want my mom to know that she is safe and will always have someone there to guide her through the dark. I am her eyes and ears. I will not let my mom down. This is far more rewarding than any social life can ever be.

Do I miss my social life? Yes. But do I really miss my social life? No!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

How Being Uplugged Can Make You Plugged In

How being Unplugged can make you Plugged In.

I wake up in the morning with my cell phone in my hand and the dim glow of the phone screen in my eyes to greet me as I begin my day. I get up out of bed and the first thing I do is jump from the small screen of my phone to the much larger screen of my computer, which is kept powered 24/7. I check in with my facebook groups and read all the posts that were posted while I was sleeping. After that I go ahead and post new topics on all my groups (I must have about a dozen or so). From there I go back to my cell phone while I eat breakfast and play my wordfued and yahtzee games. I am so addicted to these games. I play them all day long at every meal and whenever I am waiting in a line or just have free time.

On my drive to work I keep my phone on and turn the volume up as far as possible and listen to my Pandora radio station filled with some great guitar driven alt-rock tunes. After work I cruise through the grocery store with my ear buds in my ears while I talk to a multitude of friends and family. When I’m not talking with someone I’m texting or messaging them.

Its non-stop social networking for me… facebook, twitter, snap-chat, linkedIn, google+, tumblr, pinterest, instagram, flickr, vine, tagged,, skype… you name it I’m on it. I never stop. Funny thing is I haven’t picked up the lingo… I never use IMHO, B4N, IRL or any of the lingo… but I know what it all means. As much as I am plugged in to the internet and social media I still prefer to at least spell my words out in full. I guess that is my way of remaining connected to communicating on a fuller level.

I like seeing “likes” on my posts. Sometimes I count how many likes my posts get and I even try to word my posts so that I get more likes than the other posts. I just have to be “liked” more than anybody else out there.

I have more than 11,000 friends on my facebook page. I accept every single friend request I get. It makes me feel good to be so well liked and to have all these friends online. But these friends only exist while I am plugged into the internet. Once I turn my phone or computer off they do not exist. Away from the internet I have maybe only a dozen friends or so and my family… but I don’t count my family as friends and the only time I talk to my family is when I see them on facebook or on messenger.

After thirteen years of living this way I decided to try and experiment and just turn everything off… my computer, cell phone, tablet, laptop… it was all turned off… powered down. All of a sudden I felt this quietness fall upon me. I felt so alone and I actually grew bored. Me bored? I hadn’t been bored once in the past thirteen years. The internet had kept me entertained from sun up to sun down everyday. After about two hour I took hold of my cell phone but didn’t turn it on. I just held it in my hand and it felt so comfortable. I was so tempted to turn it on but I didn’t. Next I sat at my desk and stared at the blank screen of my computer. I sat there for 15 minutes just staring at the nothingness. I became so aware of the “nothingness” in my life at this point. Without my internet I simply had nothing.  I managed to make it through the day without the internet. However I didn’t talk to one person throughout the day as I’m not used to actually talking with people, I’m much better texting or messaging. But face to face, I just don’t do that.

I went to bed with phone, computer and everything still turned off with the intention of reconnecting in the morning. I arose at 7:00 am as usual and got I couldn’t find my phone. This was the first time in years that my phone was misplaced. I almost went into a panic. “What will I do without my phone?” I looked under my bed, my backpack, my pants pockets, and my briefcases. It was absolutely nowhere to be found. I almost wanted to cry. My phone is my lifeline. Okay, I accepted the fact that my phone was gone so I sat at my desk and felt the comfort of my computer. In front of my computer I can reconnect with my world, send a message to my sister and visit with my thousands of friends. But I just sat there in front of my darkened computer. I wanted to turn it on but something was preventing me. I just thought to myself these thousands of friends online aren’t really real friends of mine. Yeh maybe a handful of them are friends but the other 10,995 aren’t friends at all, they’re just part of my self-imposed popularity contest.

I sat there thinking about my real friends… the ones I was friends with before there ever was an internet. The ones that I got in trouble with, the ones I laughed and cried with. Those friends. I had been several months since I last actually saw my friend Lisa or Robert in person. Oh yes, I’ve kept in touch with them. Last year when Lisa was in the hospital with an infection I left her a message on her facebook page to express how sorry I was that she was sick and that my thoughts and prayers are with her. I didn’t even visit with her while she was sick. When Robert got his promotion on his job I sent him an email to congratulate him and wish him the best. I even sent this clever little image with balloons and smiling faces. 

I realized that in the last thirteen years I’ve let my life slip away from me and for what 11,000 people that I don’t even know! I ended up spending the next six days away from the internet or any social media and reconnected with my friends and my family and actually spoke with each of them face to face… even hugs were exchanged. I almost forgot what a hug felt like.

When I finally got back online I decided I was going to cut my online time in half. Afterall before the internet ever happened I would spend time with my friends, we’d go out and enjoy a cup of tea. If I was expecting an important phone call I waited at home for the call. Back in the 70’s and 80’s we did not have the world attached to us in the form of a cell phone everywhere we went and we did just fine. We survived without social media following us everywhere we went.

Nowadays my phone is turned off more than it’s on. I only turn it on when I want to make a phone call or if I do have an important call coming in. But once I receive the call the phone is turned off. I spend maybe two hours a day on the phone playing my yahtzee and wordfued. As for other social media maybe an hour day and that’s it. No more 24/7 and by the way now I have something like 350 friends on facebook. I only accept friend requests from people I actually know.