The Raven Lunatic

Still trying to figure it all out

Bernadine Spitzsnogel

Bernadine Spitzsnogel
December 01
All material on "The Raven Lunatic" blog is copyrighted by the author. Author of "The Luxury of Daydreams"--available on amazon and all major book sites.


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JANUARY 31, 2012 11:07AM

Dad's New Normal

Rate: 35 Flag

Forty-eight hours ago I thought my mother was going to die.  Soon, just two months shy of her 80th birthday.  In the last week, she has lost the ability to walk and feed herself. Her lucidity has seriously declined, she has full-body tremors on and off, and she mumbles to herself most of the time.

I sped the 200 miles north to see her yesterday and she was in terrible shape when I came into her room. , I almost did not recognize her, as she sat in her wheelchair in her room.  She was missing her signature pearls, and wearing a grey sweat-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to accommodate her petite frame. She couldn't lift her head.

I said, "Hello, Mom," and she looked up at me and said, "Hello, sweetheart. I love you."

Mom has decided she isn't going to die yet.

After watching her decline for ten years, I've made my peace with her dementia.

But it isn't about me.

Nor it is really about her right now because she is getting wonderful care, and unlike many older adults in the world, has everything she needs and plenty of love.

Now I worry about the new normal for my father, whose entire life has revolved around her care. 

 He was up an hour before me this morning, and went to the gym to exercise.  He huffs and puffs as he walks now, but he is doing as well as can be expected. At breakfast his first cousin whom my father resembles joined us for breakfast and they told stories and speculated on tonight's primary.  (I've always suspected my father was a closet Democrat; seven years in a retirement home adjacent to a major university has solidified his liberal leanings.  Sssshhhhhhh.  Don't tell anybody.)

The change in Mom's condition has wrought one good consequence; as a family, we reviewed Mom and Dad's advanced directives and final arrangements. My dad, brother, and I sat around their kitchen table with a big white binder in which dad had everything organized.  Their funeral plans were made more than 15 years ago when everything was different.

The thing I admire the most about my father is his remarkable ability to adapt to change. From the death of his father when he was four to the loss of all of his siblings, Dad has manged to handle life with grace and a sense of humor.

Most of his named pallbearers were already dead or too old to lift a big oak box, and he laughed about that.

 As soon as my brother left, Dad went to bed and I could hear him snoring almost immediately in the next room. 

About an hour later, he woke himself up screaming and nearly scared the daylights out of me.  He had a bad dream.  I went into his room and talked with him for a bit, and he was better this morning.  We labeled Mom's clothes and took her clothes and shoes over to see her.

While Mom is still unable to walk or get out of a chair, this morning she lifted her head when the physical therapist came to discuss the therapy assessment with dad.

Dad introduced me, and Mom lifted her head and reached out her shaking hand at the therapist, who happens to be quite easy on the eyes. 

"I'm Marilyn," she said and flashed him a huge smile, her green-blue eyes blazing blue.

The human spirit is a great mystery, and the older I get the less I understand. For whatever reason, she is not ready to go, and was still quite capable of flirting with a handsome man.


After watching her decline for ten years with dementia, I've made my peace with it. 

Rereading this, I have decided to award the first "Bernadine Spitzsnogel Dangle of the Year Award." No, I did not say "dingle" I said "dangle" as in dangling participle.  It has been corrected. 

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Amy, you have the most amazing ability to make me smile through my tears. Love and blessings to you all. ~r
It's easy to see where you get the grace, humor and flexibility that you write about so beautifully.
I love that your mom still gets an obvious thrill from a handsome man ;-)
It is easy to see why you are so wonderful. Love to you, Amy. -R-
echoing Barb here- can see where you get your grace
Beautiful post. Hold the special moments close.
Beautiful post, Amy. And yes, the human spirit is something we still don't understand. Good luck to you and your dad. As you wrote about, your mom will be fine.
The ability to adapt to difficult circumstances is an amazing trait...not everyone has it...sounds like your Mom and Dad do. It will serve them....and you well. Flirting with the therapist....lawsy mercy, what will they do next.
Heartfelt post!! You are all doing the right things...especially the humor part. I welcomed a new patient to our Alzheimer Center last week and he looked at my big boobs and then up at my face and said "I was hoping there would be a pretty lady here to help me thru all this." Ahhhhhh.......
What a tender story of love and adaptability and the pervasive nature of the human spirit.
You write so clearly about this part of your parents' life. I'm sort of glad there is still some mystery in life, it would be very dull to have everything know.

Hugs to you all.
Oh Amy this rings so true in my own heart. R.
God bless your mom and dad. They have been on a lifetime journey together. Your stories of their ups and downs are a gift to all of us. R
It's not easy to see them decline, Bernadine. You are handling the situation with grace and heart. I cherish each day I am able to spend with my ailing mother as well. Rated.
These unexpected tiny mercies can be a godsend. BTW, I didn't mind your participle dangle one little bit. Hang in there. ;-D
Rated. Just rated. I've nothing else to add other than to thank you for inviting us along with you and your family.
Love your attitude about these difficult times.
Perfect choice for an EP. It is so like you to be able to watch these life events unfold with an objective writer's eye. You obviously come from good, sturdy, Mid-western stock. And, go Mom! A handsome man cannot go unseduced. :D

You're quite the yeoman writer, pulling this out of your hat in the middle of Bingo and internet cafe and emotion and exhaustion. I hope your mother's health is stable, and that your dad can handle things. I am really glad you were able to be there, your brother too. Many big hugs to you all.
Love and blessings to you, and your family. Thank you for sharing and bringing us all in close.
I do feel sorry for your father. I can't imagine how he feels, about to lose a woman he has loved for so long. You are all in my prayers.
Oh, this is so lovely and sad. That white notebook made me think of my parents. Theirs was blue and in it was everything we needed to know. One of these days I'll do that for my kids. Suppose I should be thinking about that...dang.
This story is everywhere. All my friends share similar experiences, anguish and turmoil. Getting out seems much harder than getting in.....
"Sssshhhhhhh. Don't tell anybody.)"

We won't, if you don't anybody I'm turning into anarchist!!! :D

I hate those dreams that make you wake up screaming!! I've had a few myself!!!


Bless 'em both, and you and your brother too. It's a tough, tough road. But they're moving along it with grace and class.
This is an excellant post, Amy!

My father is still trying to ajust to his new normal since my mother died in June.
wishing you and your dad and mom as smooth a path through this as there is, a/b, and thinking of you.
This was such a wonderful portrait of your father - and of your mother's unbreakable spirit. I'm so glad your mom is doing better. Sending good and healing thoughts and prayers to you guys.
Watched my mom turn into someone else. Her dementia allowed her libido to pop out of her "proper". She loved to flirt, as do I and I worry about the person I will the home.....

I feel myself with you, there...visiting your mother. Thank you for a beautiful post.
I see your mother and match my father...up with it.
This is so tough, and the thing is, there is nothing, nothing...,anyone can do. You watch it get worse everyday, and the first time they do not recognize you, it breaks your heart. Thanks for the PM and thanks for caring. Back at ya'~
The fact that your Mother managed to say "Hello, sweetheart. I love you" is the most amazing blessing of all. Winding around the maze like jungle her thoughts must navigate, she manages to clearly focus and deliver this love to you. G d Bless. I know this is not an easy time.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Amy. You capture your parents, and yourself, in the most endearing way.
Your mom and dad both sound like people I wish I knew. You may find that your dad experiences a kind of rebirth as he accepts where your mom is now. Knowing that she is safe and well cared for, he is free to make changes in his routine, and a liberal animal may emerge. I hope so!!
3rd try`gin - Kerry?
This is my 2nd effort.
The 1st comment stuck.
No ask Kerry why . . .
Feed records @ 8:43.
Where dod 'it' o to?
When my father died I hadn't the time to build a pine-board box. Dad always said:
"Just dump me inside a closed pine coffin."
You reminded me . . .
Dad's friends are old
to grave
all the

"pallbearers are all dead."
In the basement of the parlor
My sisters and I giggled when
We saw a knotty-pine coffin
the old man ... unsure
if creaking is coming
from hardwoods or knees
I agree with Joan H. . . .
Thank you very much for sharing this post Amy
You are not alone in this sad journey which many of our generation face, Amy, but that doesn't lessen the pain. It's good that you've made your peace. Love and blessings to you all.
I inspire those who speak passionately about what they do. I am lucky to have found what they like. We can apply it. Only internal motivation such an enormous passion makes you evolve. Thank you!