Life with Lita–making memories one moment at a time

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Watching my mother walking silently around the cottage, making her way from the family room to the kitchen, bedroom to the bathroom trying to re-familiarize herself with her surroundings.  She walks to the wraparound deck to check on the flowers.  It is one of her favourite parts of this cottage.  It has five large flower boxes filled with cheery annuals that will be happy and bright only for one season.  Only for this summer, then they are gone.  I wonder what my mom will remember from the cottage this time next year. Every action focuses on making memories. I shudder thinking maybe not a lot and then I take a sip of wine.  Wine is very medicinal and I enjoy it at the beach. It chases some of those ‘what if’ or ‘what will happen next’ thoughts away.

I pour her some Moscato rose, what a weird combination, I think, but the sweetness makes her happy.  She watches her grandchildren.  They laugh at their own jokes and tell stories of their day at work.  They work at day camps and always have a funny story that entertains us over dinner. 

She is challenged at times keeping up with the conversation, English is her second language.  Lita thinks and speaks in Spanish but when she is mad at my sister and me, she argues in English.  I am forever amused and annoyed by this.  When I want her to clearly understand what the issue is, I speak to her in rapid Spanish.  It is not perfect but I know what I want to say, what I want to convey to this mother of mine. Lately, she speaks to the children in Spanish. They constantly remind her they don’t speak the language.  “Learn,” she says, “it’s never too late”. Reverting to old habits and old memories is a thing now.  It is comforting for her.  Unfortunately, confusing for those around her that don’t speak Spanish.

Vacations are now a precious time to spend with her.  I am reminded every day that she is on a long road to a destination which holds a void.  Eventually, the memories will be robbed from her.  It has been about three years since we started to take notice that maybe she was faltering just a little bit.  It was most noticeable when she repeated herself over and over.  A question already answered, a story already told.  It was so.very.simple.  It still is.

I must remind myself on a continuous basis: meet her where she’s at.  Those five words have turned my world around.  I am a disciple proselytizing to all: you cannot reason or convince, cajole or correct.  She persists on reality when it is not.  I remind myself, meet her in her reality, life is confusing enough.  Maybe that was another sign we did not see at first.  Distorting reality.  She told one child one thing and another child something else.  As we pieced stories together we began to realize that they just weren’t matching up.  “No, I didn’t say that” or “Do you actually believe my husband would banish my adult child to her old room?”  As siblings we found ourselves communicating more than, well, ever.  We began to piece together the little things that went from quirks to ongoing concerns.

So as I sit at the cottage watching my mother navigate in her world, I understand that things may seem new to her, though they are not.  This is the fourth year at this cottage, for her and for us.  With my father gone, we always consider a vacation alone is not as fun as a vacation with all of us.  We take long walks, go to the beach and do a little shopping.  These are small pleasures in life but they are done with Lita. 

My sister comes down with half her brood and they are at the beach with us.  She is surrounded by her granddaughters who haven’t been together in months.  They may not be together again for years, one never knows where the winds will take them.  She is so happy to see them together.  Catching up.  Chatting. Laughing.  There is no greater joy for her than to see them.  She likes us but she loves them more, I have no doubt.  ‘Everyone knows I’m her favourite,’ jokes my niece.  If only that were true, Lita has no favourites.  They are all very special to her.  The thing is, the further you are the more she misses you, it is all proportionate.  Sometimes, I wonder if they know how much she misses them? 

Lita at Stratford with her Granddaughter

It was over a year ago that she came to live with us.  There was no need for her to be on her own.  It was becoming more difficult to ensure that she was taking her medication on a timely basis.  That she did not take a double dose.  That the stove was turned off or that she finds her way safely from her house to ours.  At the end of her driving days, she kept her trips to familiar destinations – my house, my uncle’s apartment, the grocery store.  She did not venture across town or even downtown, I think because she feared getting lost.

She loves the privacy of her own home, this we know for sure, but it was also lonely for her.  My mother weeps and laments how much she misses my father.  Gone some 6 years now, he was in a seniors home for over three years before he passed. She learned to live an independent life without him even when he was still here with us.

Surrounded by someone every day, every hour, she fights for independence but appreciates the company.  It may sound contradictory but it is her reality.  She knows she can no longer live alone but hates when we hover over her.  When we ask her to watch her step or not to take the grocery bags when they are heavy, she shows her displeasure.  She’s perfectly capable of caring a grocery bag, she says.  I agree but reason that she doesn’t need to carry it if weighs ten pounds. 

I give her tasks to occupy her time and keep her entertained.  Tending her garden is a blessing.  It is hers and hers alone.  She gets to dictate what goes in and what comes out.  Her son-in-law and grandson are happy to move plants around.  My son patiently helps her water her plants and my daughter chats to her about how the plants are growing.  She is a budding gardener, much to my mother’s delight.

A day can be long for her and tending the garden in the heat is strenuous but she seems not to mind.  She welcomes the warmth.  There is no shame in taking a nap in the middle of the day, I tell her but she insists there is no need. I ask her to go for a walk with my son on a lovely summer day and they both fall asleep waiting for the other to get the motivation to move.  I take a picture to remind myself later about those moments that are nothing if not amusing. There are many moments these days and I keep taking pictures in my mind to try and remember them all.

Lita and Hayden napping @DownshiftingPRO

Thank goodness for social media as I chronicle #LifeWithLita on Facebook and Instagram.  Capturing the moments with her grandchildren.  My siblings are doing the same as we share pictures of her antics when she is visiting.  She is never far from my mind when she is away from us. They too are making their memories with her.  I realize now, they are more for us as we know sometime in the future, those memories will be shuttered away for her.

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Margarita Ibbott is a travel and lifestyle blogger. She blogs about travel in Canada, the United States and Europe giving practical advice through restaurant, hotel and attraction reviews. She writes for and other online media outlets.

7 thoughts on “Life with Lita–making memories one moment at a time”

  1. Margarita this is very well written. I only wish I had these tools available as we watched my MIL go through the same phases. The hardest was her not remembering her first son had passed away. Every time my FIL and I went to see her, she asked why Randy was not with us. She surmised that he was working and was happy with that thought. It was very difficult because we were dealing with our own grief! I learned to treasure all the time I had with both my mother and FIL. Thank you.

    • Thanks so much for reading Pat. It is a struggle but most days I realize it’s so easy to make her happy by simply having her close to us. She is a treasure.

  2. Thanks Margarita. Thank you in the name of all your uncles and aunts, your cousins and cousins who from different points of this planet know that every word you have written reiterates your class and human quality at every moment of life and often indecipherable thoughts from day to day from my sister. Thanks to Paul, Lauren, Hannah and Hayden for every minute and every moment, they have dedicated with all their love and affection to her. With you, however long and thorny the road is (and I know it has been more than once for you and your family), Pochita will be in excellent hands.

    With love,
    your Godfather

    • Thanks for reading. It helps when I can express how I feel and hope that it brings light and maybe a bit of a smile when they think of my mom. I am lucky to have her here with us!

  3. You are a good daughter. I hope you know that always. The cottage is a gift and so are your kids and that garden. It is a symbol of this phase of life. Meet her where she is at. I am glad you know that. I remember it well from when my Mom was just diagnosed. There’s no point in arguing. Their reality is their perception, so why spend time arguing.

    • I often think of your mom and how young she was when she suffered from this affliction. You know my frustration and triumps and always appreciate your support.

      Thanks for being a great friend and “getting it.”

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