So, Momma moved in with our family and it was delightful to see her transform into a different person. Not that it happened overnight, but it actually happened much more quickly than I could have ever imagined it would?!
For some reason, even though we were next door to the situation she ran out of, somehow, she felt “safe” with us. Could have been because Brad made a vow to her to keep her safe from now on. And Alex was his back up. Oh and then there was the Bulldog and the Boxer, Rowdy and Milo, who also seemed to sense that she needed protecting. And at the time, my younger brother and his kids were staying with us, and my daughter and her crew were frequently in the house, as was my niece, Gracie, as well as a few of her friends who remained close to her…so needless to say, we had a pretty full house…most of the time!!
Brad and I were both working at the time this all went down, as was my younger brother, and the kids were still in school. We certainly didn’t feel comfortable leaving Momma at our place alone, so we had to get a little creative. It wasn’t difficult, because Momma loved getting to go and especially to places that she actually wanted to go to (We learned that she rarely had any say about the plans that were made. She often had to ride along on fairly long trips, to just sit in the car while my father would go in to talk to someone about tractors or tractor parts, sometimes for long periods of time). She was also happy to get to visit people that she enjoyed spending time with…Something else we learned that didn’t happen all that often, even when she was invited, because our father might “need” her to get or bring him something or clean up after him at home.
My Mother–In-Law, Patti, and Brad’s Aunt, Jenny, her friends, Sue, Pat and JoAn, all invited her to spend some of her days with them while we worked. She loved all of them and felt comfortable in their homes. She also made fast friends with her hair stylist and manicurist and enjoyed spending time at the salon. Momma very much wanted to get her hair done every week, but had said my father said that was too much trouble because he would have to drive her and wait for her to get done and that it was a waste of money. And she had NEVER had a professional manicure…And boy, did she LOVE it?! So this became a weekly ritual, too. Brad, my brother or me would take her and drop her off at the salon and them pick her up when she was finished. She seemed to really enjoy that “me time”!
We had also visited the Senior Center in Washington and she enjoyed meeting the director and was interested in some of the activities there, so that was another option if her friends were busy when we had to work. She and I also toured an Assisted Living Facility in Washington because I wanted her to understand that she had options as to how she chose to spend the rest of her life with her newfound independence. I remember leaving there and her saying “That place is REALLY nice, but I think I will just stay with you and Brad and Alex if that’s all right?” Which I, of course, told her it was!
We also are definitely not home bodies and so we invited Momma to tag along wherever we were going. She enjoyed going to Alex’s baseball games and Skylar’s softball games, and to Church. She really wanted to go to Church and said she hadn’t been allowed to even though she had friends who invited her and offered to take her. And since she no longer drove, she couldn’t just go by herself. So we began going to Church on Sunday mornings…and she loved that too. She and I even signed up to be volunteers for their upcoming Bible School…We would help with refreshments!! We both loved baking cookies!
She also got to experience some new and different food….In particular, Mexican Food!! She quickly became a fan….This was not a food she had ever gotten to try because my father didn’t like it. We also took her to a Japanese Hibachi, which she also liked very much!! She had also had never been to Orange Leaf for frozen yogurt. She became an immediate fan of that too!
When she first came to stay with us, she was in dire need of some medical care, as well as some major TLC to help build her self-confidence, which as you might imagine, was very low. She often talked about being “old” and about being “ugly”. We made her an appointment with her regular physician in Evansville, an appointment with her eye specialist in Evansville, and her podiatrist who was also in Evansville.
We saw her regular physician first and she was pretty open with him about what had happened. He thought this was quite interesting and told her that my father had reportedly been down to see him the week or so before and he had told her doctor that Momma had been “kidnapped” and was being “held against her will” by Brad and me. Her physician said he had done some checking and learned that this was not true, but wondered what had precipitated that? The one thing that sticks out in my mind the most about this appointment is that her physician asked her how long this abuse had been going on and she said “Always”. Wow! “Always”…that’s a long time. And it was heartbreaking for me to hear that. She also asked her doctor if it was alright if she started cutting down her anti-anxiety medicine, since she was feeling more relaxed and comfortable…of course, he agreed this was fine to start reducing it. So we did! This was the medication she used to ask me if she could have one of almost everytime I stopped by her house when she was living with my father. On the way home, I asked her about her comment about the abuse happening “Always”. I asked her if this was the real reason that she had filed for a divorce the first time she was married to my father…And she said “yes, that was why.” (Hence the two marriage licenses I had questioned many, many years ago!). Wow…How did I miss this?
Momma insisted on sleeping on our family room sofa when she first came to stay with us. We had a big, comfy sofa in there, so it wasn’t really a problem, but we also had a spare bedroom with a nice bed in it. I didn’t push it…I just wanted her to feel comfortable and more importantly to be able to make her own decisions. She explained that she had slept in the recliner in her and my father’s family room for years because if he needed her, he expected her to be right there. She said she had gone into the living room (which was beside the family room) a couple of times and when my father woke up and she wasn’t in the recliner, she said he “threw a fit”. So to avoid that she said she just slept in the recliner. This made me feel like her lying down on the sofa, that was made up into a bed, was a step in the right direction.
After a few weeks, I offered her moving into the bedroom again, and this time she said “yes!” I told her we could go shopping and she could pick out some things she liked to decorate the room with and so we did. She picked out some ceramic owls. She told me they were her favorite and asked me if I remembered the owl picture and figures she used to have when I was younger. I told her I did. She said “I loved those, but your father told me they were studpid and made me take them down and get rid of them. How sad was that??? She also picked out some nice pictures for the walls. And a soft pillow. We had already cleaned out half of the closet so that she could hang up her clothes she had gotten out of the house. She started sleeping in there and even slept in until after 730 am a few of the mornings!! This was unheard of for her as she was always up at the crack of dawn. It also started a ritual that I loved. I would go in to tell her good night and make sure she didn’t need anything before I went to bed and I would tuck her in and kiss her goodnight. She would always say “You know I love you, don’t you?” To which I would always say “Of course I do”. And then we would say good night. The other night time ritual she and I had was to have some coffee and watch the 10 pm news. I think that routine was comforting to her and I loved my one-on-one time with her.
In the mornings, when I would be getting ready for work, Momma would wander in and ask me if I would fix her hair a little, which I would. One day, I was putting on my make-up when she wandered in and I noticed she was just watching intently. Momma hadn’t really worn make up for years. I asked her if she would like some make-up on? I will never forget what she said. She said “Oh no. I’m too ugly…it won’t do any good.” I told her she was beautiful and that I was sure she would look even more lovely with a little blush, mascara and lipstick, so she agreed to try it. And that was the beginning of another morning ritual. She honestly started feeling “pretty” and even bought some make up of her own!
It was getting warmer and all she had brought from her house were wintery clothes, so I told her I thought it was time to go shopping. She was tiny, but usually wore things a little big and dressed a bit drab and plain. We went to Goody’s and she picked out some beautiful, bright and cheerful clothes…That fit. And while all along she kept saying “That is too expensive, I shouldn’t spend that much on me”….I convinced her otherwise and she was quietly very proud of her new clothes. We also went to Macy’s and she wanted to pick out a summer purse. She found one from Tommy Hilfiger that was woven and leather. It was on clearance, but was still about $90. She said “Oh, I can’t get that….I have never had a purse that costs that much?!” I told her she was definitely worth it and deserved it. And she bought it. And LOVED it. She was so proud of it! I got such joy in seeing her finally be able to have some things that she had wanted and deserved for the past 76 years. I just hated that it was just now happening.
There were many little things that I am sure most everyone else just takes for granted…like being able to watch something they would like on TV. When she first came down and we gave her the remote to the Living Room TV and told her she could watch what she wanted, she kept saying “Are you sure?” “Is there something you all want to watch?” After a few weeks, she realized, she could truly chose. For any of you who knew her, getting her to sit down and actually watch a program was a feat…She was always on the go…Always in motion. The first few days she was at our house too. She would was dishes everytime she came into the kitchen, even if was only a glass or coffee cup or a cereal bowl. We finally convinced her that this wasn’t necessary, and that we could just load the dishwasher throughout the day and run it in the evening. It also took a bit of coaxing to get her to relax while we made dinner. She wanted to contribute, so she almost always set the table. She was in awe that Brad helped in the kitchen and did the majority of the grilling. She talked about how my father NEVER helped with anything around the house, especially not cooking?!
The other thing she was really enjoying was time with her grandkids and great grandkids….Oh did she love those kids and how they loved her? Seeing her get hugs and kisses from them made my heart so happy.
A few weeks after she moved in with us, she was complaining about her vision, so we made an appointment with her eye specialist. He got her in very quickly and found that she had really huge cataracts and that he wasn’t sure how she could see anything. So he scheduled an appointment right away to take care of that. I asked him how long this had been going on and he said she had needed to have the procedure for quite some time, but that she hadn’t been in touch to schdule it. She got new glasses too! She was happy and amazed at how much better she could see!
Next was an appointment with her podiatrist. Evidently, she had missed a few appointments with her, as well. So when I took her in, she spent a great amount of time working on Momma’s feet. She asked that she please throw away the shoes she had been wearing and for me to help her pick out some good-fitting, supportive ones. So we went shoe shopping too…Again, she was reluctant to spend more than $20 on herself to buy some shoes…But she did. We talked about how important it was to take good care of her feet. We made her a follow-up appointment and promised we would keep it. I asked Momma why she hadn’t kept those appointments before and she said my father said they weren’t that important and she would be fine without them. And since she couldn’t drive, she was reliant upon him to take her. All I could think of were all of the times she had complained about her feet hurting…I had no idea that she wasn’t getting to those appointments.
There were other little things that happened that I will always treasure…Like having our morning coffee on the front porch. How she loved to sit out there with me and Rowdy and Milo and Cash and listen to the birds singing?! However, it was spoiled kind of early on…If you remember our front porch faced the north end of Momma and my father’s house. So, one morning while we were sitting out there, my father proceeded to ride the JD Gator out to the edge of his yard, parked it, and just sat there and appeared to just stare at us. Momma said that we had better go in. She didn’t want him to do something to us….so that was the end of that lovely morning ritual on the front porch. Fortunately, we had a deck on the back of our house that my father was unable to see from his yard, so we started sitting out there. One evening while we were cooking out back there, she was at the end of it…looking up at her old house. I noticed it and went over and said “Momma, do you want to go back home?” She paused a moment, and gave me “the look” and said “Hell NO!”
After a week and half or so, I asked Momma if she was doing okay. And she said yes. She said she thought she was ready to file for a divorce, so we found her an attorney and she did it. She said she felt “relieved”, but wished it was all over. However, she really wanted to get her “stuff”.
One other thing Momma very much wanted to do was to visit with her family members. So we made that happen. Her Brother and Sister-In-Law, Bill and Gayera, came up to Indiana from Florida that spring…So we planned a day to meet them in Evansville at the Cracker Barrel and they brought along her little Sister, Becky. We ate and talked and laughed, and laughed, talked and ate. Boy, did she love Hashbrown Casserole?! Another day, when she had one of her appointments, we called her Sister, Becky, who lived in Henderson, Kentucky, and she met Momma and me at The Donut Bank…Coffee and Donuts…And Sisters. They had such a nice visit. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more??!!
Then, out of the blue, around Memorial Day, Momma got sick and appeared to be dehydrated, so I took her to the hospital to get checked out. They gave her some IV fluids, but also did some tests and saw something suspicious. And before we knew it, she was scheduled to see an Oncologist…
I prayed to God this wasn’t what we feared.