Posted in Photography

Nina

I had dinner at my girlfriends, and with this little cutie, (her granddaughter) last night. It was one of the few little breaks I have taken since I got here, and naturally the camera, although just my iPhone wasn’t too far away. I managed to capture this little shot of little Nina and hope to surprise her and Mom with a printed copy of it. I hope she will like the candid style I usually shoot in as much as I do, as I much rather record a moment vs. taking a staged photograph that often lacks emotions. What do you think?

Posted in Life, Mom

The big move

Wednesday, one week after arriving in Germany, was when the big move was scheduled to the short term care facility. Although being told that Mom would be transported per ambulance in the morning, it took until mid afternoon until the move was finally on the way. I think I was more nervous about it than Mom and sat on pins and needles all day, waiting. Minutes became hours and the whole day went by, unproductive, with waiting and worries. I might have turned a few more hairs gray by the time it was all said and done.

Finally the hospital called to let me know that Mom was on the way. I wanted to be present during her arrival to make the transition and initial move a little more comfortable and not as foreign as it must have felt, not being able to come home. I slightly missed her arrival, but was there shortly after. She smiles for a brief second and I knew she was happy to see me and that I was there.

Mom appeared strained and weak. I thought it was from the excitement about the move and not really caring about going to the senior facility instead of coming home. It was stressful for both of us and by then I had developed a full blown flu from all the prior excitement in the house, the travel and just being exhausted from the decisions that I felt I had no choice over and everything else. I couldn’t remember being that sick in a long, long time, but now was not the time and I had to power through it.

Posted in Life, Mom

Meanwhile at the Ranch

We don’t actually have a ranch in Germany, but the title sounded good, so I ran with it.

It was my first weekend in Germany and sleeping in sub zero temperatures after moving into Mom’s house. All pipes had been frozen with no running water or a way to flush the toilet. Once you find yourself in a situation like this, you come to value the little things even more, such as going to the bathroom and having to make plans around it. There was one incident where I had to get creative, but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say I won’t forget, I will always laugh about it, but also have a whole new appreciation for a running, flushing toilet.

It was Sunday and the temperatures had slightly improved. I would try each day to turn on the faucet to see if something had changed, and if the one little oven burning in the entire house had any impact at all. Finally the temperatures in the house were improving and I could no longer see my breath right in front of me. Late in the afternoon, my cousin (Moni), and I made our way back to the house. Our mission was to check on the water situation, fingers crossed there was a change, and to find the water shut off valve to turn the water off all together. After careful consideration and much advice from family and friends, we had no clue if a pipe was busted already or not. I nearly got in a fight with my girlfriend of thirty some years although we have never fought to this day. I was a bit dumb founded, but know that she on,y tried to help. She was rational, urging me to consider how much money I was going to dump into the house if there is a broken pipe that would have to be dug out. I thought that this was the absolute worst case and that I couldn’t drive myself nuts over something I didn’t even know for sure. I was optimistic, but I also was overwhelmed and had no room for more bad news. The past few days and the decisions that had to be made about Mom’s future had taken it’s toll on me. If a broken pipe was the case, I would deal with it when I had to, but for now I was hopeful things wouldn’t be that extreme. I believe that hope carries us through the tough times, and this was no different. Auto pilot had engaged and all I had was the current moment. It was a hopeful one that wasn’t oblivious to the possibilities, but also one that protected myself from things that might never come to fruition.

At the “Ranch” we tried the water in the kitchen sink and actually got a few trickles. Hey, a good sign, we thought, I bet you that the toilet in the next room is running too. Little did we know about the nightmare that was about to unfold. There is no water tank to Mom’s toilet and the bowl is supplied by a pipe carrying water and a metal push handle for flushing. We pushed the handle to flush, and it got it stuck in position as the pipe was still semi frozen. Within seconds the water ran over the toilet bowl, flooding the bathroom and making a little river into the hallway down to the kitchen. “Oh my god” I managed to mutter, but I will never forget the look between my cousin and I. It was a sheer moment of panic and “Now what” that luckily didn’t last. By now I had found a bowl to start emptying water from the toilet into the sink to prevent it spilling on the floor. The sink filled up in no time with no water draining and the pipes frozen there too. Next I started dumping the water into the tub and luckily the water drained from there. I was losing the fight and the water was coming faster as I could pour it out. Moni had taken off by now, and without words I knew she went in search of the shut off valve. It had to be somewhere in the cellar. Finally, after what seemed forever, the water stopped, and I knew that she had found it. She returned with old towels and sheets from the garage to soak up the water that had spilled over. I couldn’t have been happier to see her and after the first initial look of fright at each other, I couldn’t help but bust up laughing. “Ok, I’m no longer cold now” I said to her while we recalled the adventure we just had. “It’s a good thing you can laugh about it”she said. What else was there? I was glad too. Moni added that she spotted the shut off valve and ran down the long cellar hallway, which ends in a little three inch drop that enters into the main cellar. Glass clean, silent without movement, it was lying right in front of her, gone unnoticed until it was too late. Moni jumped right into three inches of standing ice cold water that had flooded the cellar as well. At that point I wasn’t sure anymore if perhaps a pipe had busted already or if I was dealing with ground water that was pushed up. It has happened before, but I don’t recall it ever being so deep. But what did I know, living so far away.

The next day, a local handyman came to take a look at what the actual damage was and he fixed the oven in the lower apartment so I could heat there as well. With great luck and many prayers it was only the faucet in the tub upstairs that had broken and the whole fiasco was resolved with 100 euros not including a tip out of sheer appreciation and gratitude for making my troubles a priority. It was the first day I didn’t see Mom, as I wanted to make sure the oven ran fine before I would leave the house unattended. She had told me that the oven doesn’t work anymore, and it was the same handyman who informed me that they clamped the oil intake off, some time back. Mom had turned on the oil, but later forgot to light the oven and found a huge spill of oil that eventually had overflown. She doesn’t remember and I decided to let the subject die. No need to be right, but it was a reminder that she can’t be on her own and alone anymore. The same things she had worried about her father who had lived downstairs and did similar things, were happening to her now. She would deny it to the end and it’s hard to admit something you don’t remember. Time frames are being lost due to the diabetes and although she doesn’t realize it, the signs are evident.

By the next day I had a new faucet and all water was restored. I was indeed lucky after learning that in most cases, it is the toilet that usually explodes first. Let’s just say, I rather shoveled ice cold water, than scrap poop from the walls. My girlfriend was happy in the end that things were minor, and Mom was relieved that everything was ok again. For a short time, with the help of Moni, I had saved the day, the Ranch and I was the hero. I told her that she was lucky I was there, and if this would have happened to her, she would have flooded the entire house. For sure, she knew where the shut off valve was, but it would have taken her forever to reach it, if at all. She can’t walk right now, and I don’t even want to think about what could have happened. I knew Mom was grateful and so was I. Brick by brick, I watched the wall of resistance she had built towards me in all those years tumble down, and brick by brick we established a relationship between mother and daughter that was would require more work, but was a beautiful beginning. Brick by brick it was the old house I always deemed unsuitable for today’s standards and which had been Mom’s world, that brought us closer together. Brick by brick, the unsuitable old house had a plan all on its own for me, that would unfold in due time.

My painting and interpretation of Mom’s house with all the ghosts of the past flying around. It was a different time now and times where changing right in front of me.

Posted in knitting, Mom

So far, so good

I recently wrote that Mom and I used to knit quite a lot together. I eventually left to move to the US, but Mom continued our tradition and remained close to her daughter, and the memories in that sense. For several years after she had taught me how to knit socks, I tried to squeeze at least one pair in per season, so I wouldn’t forget the process. Knitting socks is time consuming, and in recent years I didn’t manage to find the time. Well, I have started to knit a pair of socks and this was the yarn I selected from Mom’s stash. Per request from a dear Foot fanatic, I will post the progress here. I hope you stop and check her blog. She is simply amazing, and I hope so will be those socks when they are done. So far, so good, and I’m managing with my written instructions. Mom hasn’t had to bail me out yet haha. The sight of the socks in progress, brought her much joy the other day, and made my heart dance. What more could I ask? ❤️

Posted in Life

Oooops

And then this happened the other day and I got a ticket for parking in the handicapped parking spot while visiting Mom. I had no clue and in all actuality, I could have gotten a ticket the day before already as I parked in the same spot. The nice wider parking spot at the end looked very appealing and was the only one left. It was too good to be true and this nicely folded ticket was greeting me from underneath the windshield wiper.

I have been gone from Germany for a long time, and I be Americanized like my boss calls it. I never looked for a sign that was indicating that this was a handicapped spot, that the sign was located two cars down from where I parked, with an arrow pointing towards me. I guess I’m so used to the handicapped sign being painted on the concrete within the spot itself, that the thought never even crossed my mind and I felt golden. This is my story and im sticking to it. An expensive visit it was that day.

Posted in Life, Mom

Little wins…

Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday came after I had given Mom the initial news about the short term care facility. I had only seen her twice prior, of which the initial meeting with Mom was not good at all. The second one as I actually delivered the news, was much better, but I didn’t know what to expect each day there after. I didn’t know who I would find, and I braced for each visit. Surprisingly, (surprisingly???-I’m making Mom sound like a monster) each day was fine, and I called each day we didn’t have to battle in the form of fighting, another little win. We didn’t talk about the home at all, and I couldn’t tell if Mom had finally grasped the seriousness of her condition, if she just had come to accept things, or if she couldn’t comprehend what was going on at all. Looking at her, I would often detect fear in her gaze. Her daughter was finally here, right next to her, where she had always envisioned me. I sensed that she wasn’t ready to leave this life just yet, and I somehow knew, despite the words remained unspoken. Mom was very frail and weak, her body wasn’t much more than bones covered with skin. The future was uncertain and she knew she needed me. Although the thought briefly crossed my mind about Mom being on her best behavior because of it, I doubt that it was actually the reason for it. I remember her way too stubborn for this, but all signs of stubbornness had vanished. Maybe she too, all of a sudden realized that it no longer mattered to make a point or to be right, but to do the best with the time at hand instead of wasting it like in prior years.

We had a brief setback on Tuesday afternoon as the physical therapist showed up. It happened to be a woman that grew up in the same town where I was from, and which I knew from decades ago. A friend of my cousins actually who knew Mom well. Of course Mom knew her too, and felt comfortable with her presence right away. The conversation about the short term care facility came up and Mom made it known right away that she believed I was suppose to come home for good, and that it was my duty to care for her. “Very high expectations Frau K., said the woman from many years ago, “very high expectations that you are placing on your daughter. Don’t think that this is easy for her to go through. Doesn’t she have a family on her own, or people that need her as well? I just went through that with my father and I remember it very well as it is still very fresh” she said. “There is nothing easy about this and both of you have to go through this and do what’s best. My dad was angry initially after I placed him in a home, but came around rather quickly, realizing it was the best. Your daughter has to make those tough decisions right now, don’t make this any harder on her then it is already” she softly spoke to Mom. Mom had fallen silent and watched and listened in silence as well. The lines on her face were soft and compassionate, she didn’t speak. I didn’t argue with her, despite that it was obvious that her care required much more than that. It was a silent moment, a moment no words where needed and a moment everybody realized that there was no other way. It was also the day I first learned that Mom couldn’t stand on her own. The first try was very tough and she required a lot of help. She barely stood, holding on to the railing at the wall, head down from straining herself. It was awful and I had to turn away as I didn’t want her to see my tears. How was I to motivate her and be strong, if I lost it right in front of her! The second one was easier after cheering her on, and telling her that she needed to participate and try harder if she wanted to go home. She was exhausted afterwards, but it was also the first time she sat upright in a chair vs. lying down. She felt dizzy and weak, while I experienced many mixed emotions. It was hard to see her like this, but for the first time I felt reassured that I had made the right decision. Or had I made a decision at all as everything had felt so rushed and I was pressured into signing those papers with no other choice. Maybe now, it felt more justified and if I wanted to provide the best chance possible for her, and a chance of life, there was no way around the proper care and doing what I had to do.

Mom would be discharged the following day and transported to the senior home. It would be a huge, day and I was plenty nervous for the both of us. I had fallen sick just shortly after my arrival, but I couldn’t entirely blame the sleepless night on not feeling well. Meanwhile at the house, chaos still ruled and it took four days for the little oven to breathe a little warmth into the cold stone walls. Mom had asked each day about the house, her everything, her memory of my Dad and lifetime Castle as she often called it. I think she was glad I was there to look after the house, especially after what had just happened. (Coming soon) 🤫

Posted in Inspiration

Family time ❤️

A frozen, yet beautiful and serene day, spent with family. For me it is always a treat, and something I miss when I’m in the States. Being an only child, I never had the closeness of brothers and sisters, or just spending time in the comfort of family members. Friends and family come first in Germany, and it is a priority and preserves time to stay close and connected.

Posted in Fun

Polaroid Fun

No matter how challenging life can get, don’t forget to look for, and allow the funny moments. Fun can lighten the load with moments of light and laughter. Fun will nourish your soul and remind you that your struggles are temporary. Fun is essential and this picture with these lovely ladies, my nieces, came last night as all of our tongues turned blue from eating sour candy. An added bonus, as the “sour candy face” was pretty awesome already.

The perfect Polaroid moment…

Posted in Life, Mom

Claw – Manicure

Mom used to keep a tight watch on my claws. It’s what she called my finger- and toenails if they got too long. She would make a reference by saying that they needed cutting and that they were so long I could dig a hole in dirt. Silly, little sayings like these stick out in my mind and what I remember these days.

Pretty much everything seems to be reversed when it comes to Mom now. She often is the child and I feel like the parent in most cases. To make light of the situation and distract from the seriousness of these often tough decisions, I made fun and brought light to Mom’s claws. It made her smile and I’m sure she remembered taking care of me way back when. The next day I brought the fingernail clipper to the hospital and cut Mom’s claws. It was a tender moment exchanged between mother and daughter and I’m glad she allowed me to do it. Once again it’s the little things that remain and matter the most.