Happy 91st Birthday, Clella Mae!


When we arrived at Mom’s care facility to take her out for her birthday celebration, Mom was just returning from eating dinner. (I had called earlier in the day to ask them to NOT let her go down to dinner. Oh well.) We decided to take her out anyway, because there’s always room for cake!

Mom really enjoyed the beautiful flowers that Livy sent her.


As planned, we celebrated with a trip to the Old Spaghetti Factory, which is always a safe bet for Mom because she loves spaghetti and meatballs. She wasn’t too hungry for dinner, but she did manage to eat an entire (huge!) meatball.

More importantly, we ordered her a piece of Chocolate Mousse Cake, which turned out to be a real hit!


When the time came to light her candle, nearly everyone around us joined in, and as I looked around, I saw so many happy faces. I mean, how often do you get to sing Happy Birthday to a 91-year old lady?

While everyone was singing, her face lit up like I haven’t seen in a long time. She seemed to be genuinely and completely happy for those few moments.


It took Mom a very long time to make her wish, and I know that she was thinking about Daddy and wishing that she was with him. Finally, she blew out her candle.


I don’t know what the next year will bring Mom, but I’m so glad we were there to celebrate this one with her.



Mom has needed to go to DMV for some time to get a new ID card. It seems silly to me that she needs an ID card at her age, but that’s the world we live in now, so there you go. Anyway, today was the day. We also took the paperwork that we got from Dr. F last week and got her set up with a Handicapped parking permit, which we will carry in our car so that we can use it when we take her places.

DMV 1s

I specifically chose this day to take Mom to DMV because mid-month Thursdays are typically pretty light on traffic. We were in and out in less than 45 minutes, which I consider a win.

Right after the picture above was taken, a guy with a well-behaved young pit-bull mix walked by us in the DMV lobby. Of course, Teddy went ballistic like he always does when he see other dogs. (Read: Little man complex.) The incident was over before it really started: they passed by and he barked. They went out the door and he stopped. But that didn’t stop a very cranky DMV employee (let’s call her “Claudine”) from letting us know what’s what.

So, Mom and I are both sitting there, minding our own business. Teddy is on my lap, not making a peep. All of a sudden, here comes Claudine, literally running over, planting hands on hips, sticking her bony chin out like she’s trying to poke a ‘possum out of his den.

“Service dogs,” she scolds, “are not supposed to bark.”

I look at Mom and then up at her. “OK,” I say. Like, what am I supposed to do? Teddy barks. (And for the record, he isn’t a ‘service dog’: he’s a companion dog.) Then I just sit there, hoping she will go away.

“They are not supposed to bark,” she says again. Teddy hasn’t made a peep since the pit-bull left.

“Ok,” I say again. “He’s a companion dog – for my mom.” I say, as if that should explain it.

“Service dogs cannot bark at other dogs.”

Hmmm. Pretty sure they can. It’s probably not a good time to correct her grammar though.

Long silence. Apparently, she wants me to apologize for bringing a poorly trained “service animal” into the holy shrine that is the DMV. She wants my assurance that Teddy will never bark on government property again.


There are so many things I want to say to Claudine, the first being, it’s sad that your life sucks so much that you get some joyous power rush while verbally attacking little ninety-year old ladies and their tiny dogs. I don’t say anything.

In my mind, I’m already writing about Claudine. She already has a name.

Mom looks at me. She doesn’t know why Claudine is there, or why she isn’t leaving. It’s gone on long enough. I don’t need to defend us. I just say, “Thank you.” Dismissively, with a smile on my face: the same way a teenager will say thank you when they really mean “F* You.”

Claudine has no idea what to do. Her body language suggests she is bracing for an argument, but the small crowd on our side of the DMV is watching her as she hovers over my tiny mother and her equally tiny dog, and from all outward appearances, mom and I are both being courteous and compliant. There really isn’t anything else she can do without coming off like a full-tilt witch. She narrows her eyes at me, turns on her heels, and goes back behind the counter.

Mom asks me what that was all about. I tell her that the lady was just reminding us that Teddy isn’t supposed to bark inside the building. Mom says, “He’s such a good boy.” Then, turning to look at Teddy, “You wouldn’t bark in here, would you, Teddy?” She’s already forgotten about the pit-bull. Every once and a while, Alzheimer’s works in our favor.

DMV 4s

The only thing of real note today is that I had to tell mom how to spell her name when she was signing for her ID card. That was a bit of a surprise, but I guess it shouldn’t be. Reading even the most simple things has been a chore for her for at least six months, and I know that she can no longer write.

DMV 2s

We topped the day off with a Frosty from Wendy’s, which makes everything better for Mom. All in all, I think it was a pretty good day, Claudine notwithstanding.

Happy Mother’s Day

DMV 3s
When I got back from Utah, I found these beautiful flowers in Mom’s room. 

Before I knew how far Mom’s memory had fallen, I made plans to spend Mother’s Day with a couple of my Utah daughters and my grand-kids. I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with my oldest in many years, and for many reasons, I needed to be with her this year. But after I bought my ticket, I had this profound moment of remorse, because there is a good chance that this is the last Mother’s Day that my mother will recognize me.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that next year, I am once again writing ‘this might be the last year…’ I am trying to stay hopeful, but in my heart, I just don’t know.

Everything worked out just fine, and I’m so glad that I went to Utah, and Mom didn’t feel a bit neglected. My husband was on the road in eastern Oregon, so two of my Oregon daughters, along with Grandma Edith, went over and ate dinner with Mom at her AL facility. From the sound of it, they had a really nice visit.

I talked with Mom three times throughout the day. Each time, she thanked me for calling. I know that she didn’t remember any previous calls, but I’m learning to have peace with that. It’s just comforting to know that she is happy, and knows that she is loved.

Pie Makes Everything Better

Mom had her yearly check-in appointment with her neurologist today. Dr F. has amazing, wild hair – long, dark, and tightly curled like an ’80’s rock star – and a wonderfully casual, calming bedside manner. I’m pretty sure we could go into his office and tell him that mom had taking to running around her apartment clucking like a chicken and making toothpaste cookies and he’s just smile and say, “Well, let’s talk about how we might want to address that.” Dr. F’s been treating Mom for dementia for about seven years now, and we love him, because he makes us both feel like things are pretty OK overall, and in the process makes Mom feel respected and understood.

After Mom’s appointment, we decided to go out to Shari’s for lunch. We picked up Grandma Edith at her place on the way. Edith has recently had cataract surgery, so she’s seeing the world in crisp Technicolor for the first time in a long while. On our way to the restaurant, she kept commenting about the colors of things, and it reminded me to remember to appreciate the little things that I take for granted. Like being able to see in color.

When we sat down to order our lunch, Mom repeatedly said that she wasn’t very hungry, but I convinced her to order a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and when it arrived, she ate almost all of it. She wasn’t as shy about dessert – she managed to polish off a whole piece of chocolate cream pie, leaving only a bit of crust and whipped cream.

Pie 33

As we were leaving, we stopped for a minute to (try to) take a selfie of the three of us. I have my camera set to snap when you say “shoot” or “cheese,” but it turned out to be a just a bit of a mistake telling the grandmas about that, because right away they were both saying “shoot, cheese, shoot, shot, choot, sheese, chot, toot…” You get the idea. It definitely created a whole new level of fun.

This shot is as good as it got.

Pie 22

Postscript: Mom called me about three hours after I dropped her off at her AL facility to check to make sure that I was still alive. She had forgotten our lunch together already, although she seemed to remember it when I mentioned the pie.

This happens a lot. She loses herself in thought or dozes off, and then when she wakes up, she thinks everyone in the family is dead and gone, and that she is all alone with no money and no means to live. She gets so frightened, and then when she realizes that her mind is failing her again, it scares her in an entirely different, but equally terrifying way. I don’t know how to help her beyond reassuring her that she is safe, and that we love her and are taking care of her. I wish I could do more, but I don’t know what. I won’t give up trying though. 

Haircut Day

Mom got a much needed haircut today. I think it made her feel better about herself too. Teddy had a haircut last week, so they are both looking pretty sharp.

Mom’s always been proud of the fact that she looks young for her age. Today when I showed her the pictures I took of her haircut, I noticed her shoulders slump a little, and she said, “I look so old.” I told her that she didn’t look a day over eighty. (She’s really ninety.) When I said that, she perked up and laughed, and it seemed to make her happy.

That’s something I’m noticing about her these days: more than ever before, the smallest things can make her happy. A frosty from Wendy’s or a ride in the car in the sunshine can make her day.

Haircut 3