Acting Up

My musings, thoughts, rants, and discoveries. - Scott Maddock

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Location: Redmond, Washington, U.S. Inc. (Formerly U.S.A.)

Allie's Journey

For the next several months this will be dedicated to information pertinent to Allene M. Maddock. Her care has been assumed by Hospice as of 06Apr12.

Please feel free to call or write her. If you call be patient and take time to explain who you are. Currently she remembers, but you have to help her focus so she truly knows who she is talking to at the moment. We have to do this too, and I frequently say something like, "Yes this is Scott, your oldest."

Her phone is area code two-zero-six, and the number is 216 3816.

Her Address:
Allie Maddock
c/o Queen Ann Manor
100 Crockett Street
Seattle, Washington
    98109

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Poison Is a Many-Splendored Thing

I had planned to drop by Saturday after our 3:30 show at Bonney Lake, but when I got downtown traffic was so bad I didn't think there was anyway I'd get there before she had her evening meds. Without the snarl I would have arrived a few minutes after six. Turns out it was the Seafair Torchlight Parade. So, I decided it would be better to see her before the show this evening.

I got there around 2:30PM and she was sleeping pretty soundly. I gave her a peck on the cheek and sat with her and talked a bit in a pleasant manner. After about ten minutes I gave her another peck on the forehead to say goodbye and she woke up. It took her about five minutes to wake up enough to be present and I recited the poem I'd planned to do for her the last visit. She seemed to really enjoy the recital. Then she talked very earnestly, and it took a lot of concentration to hear her. She has talked very quietly for a long time, seemingly deliberately, something which seems to manipulative to me. Kind of a passive "You have to really work to listen to me minion." I am probably a little less tolerant at the moment, as she had an endless list of juxtapositions, "You were the most sincere little child ever, but now..."

Eventually I said something like, "With that I suppose I should go. Funny she wanted to hold my hand and touch my face while she quietly railed as viciously as she could. It made me more tired than sad, more sad than angry. She reminded me why I didn't see her for over six years. I had hoped to go yesterday as I didn't want to be emotionally drained right before doing a show. When I saw her the previous Thursday and she was so out of it she couldn't talk or sit unassisted I was in a bad place for several days.

Her sour and mean mood today actually picked up my mood -- there is some complexity there. I know on a logical level she was acting out and I was the nearest handy victim. Still, she reminded me of what I won't miss rather than what I will miss. I suspect she has also railed on some of the people I told of her situation who called with well wishes. Old family friends and relatives, and afterwards in her talks with me I found she clings to resentments from twenty to thirty years ago which she brought on herself instead of shared and good memories. It's past the time for me to try and nudge her out of behavior which drives people away from her. I had limited success over the years in any case. All I can do at this point is mourn her lost opportunities, and hope maybe I've learnt something.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finding Courage

I'd planned to see Mom on Sunday before going to go do Macbeth, in which I have a couple small roles (Wounded Soldier and Donalbain).  My visit last Thursday left me pretty shaken, and I had a Hell of a time focusing on our Julius Caesar performances the next two days, where I have four small roles including ensemble.

There was no change in her condition and I just couldn't motivate myself to go on Sunday, and ditto for yesterday.  Today I'm again planning to go see her for a little bit.  I have physical therapy, and I'll go straight from there to go see Mom.  There is a line in my head where I make solid plans, not something I can describe accurately, rather something I feel -- so I don't expect to wimp out this time.

I have two things planned.  First, is to find out what she considers her anniversary with Jack if she can communicate.  I'm expecting I'll have to iterate through the months then days, until I get responses.  They had a common law marriage, because they couldn't afford the loss of benefits if they were legally married.  It will be on their anniversary date I hope to spread their ashes in Neah Bay, with any family that wants to go.  The second will be to recite a very short poem, her favorite from me, Kipling's Mother O' Mine.  We'll see how that goes, if she tracks maybe poetry or reading will be something I can do for her.

I'm debating giving her a nudge to fight.  Not fighting to overcome the cancer, which is not a reasonable ask, but to work at being present and communicative.  It would make it easier for people to visit, and possible give younger people a positive experience.  Though I won't mention that as she has not had a lot of contact with the grandchildren and I suspect she may be lucid enough that she wouldn't buy that.  I imagine I'll be debating this with myself until after I've seen her tonight, whichever choice I make.  I can understand her depression, but if it were me I'd want someone to remind me that it may not be the way I want to shuffle off this mortal coil.  Then again I don't want to project what I'd want on to her.

I expect it will be tough to visit.  Often the hardest and most important things to do in this life seem the most mundane.  That is our trap.  AA is too dull, not my kind of people, etc.  That is one she overcame for many years, that is courage at is most profound.  Opening up your defenses in front of others, and admitting you're not somehow superior to the rest of mankind.  Being humble is much more courageous and healthy than being an ass.  It's how I finally started to deal with my own rage, and that realization was strengthened by her courage in that area.

UPDATE:
I made it over, despite waiting an hour or so for the presidential traffic to clear up, then getting stuck on the I-90 floating bridge for a while as traffic oozed by an accident.  There were at least five cars involved.  Anyway I finally got there around a quarter to eight.  Mom was sitting in a chair which was a giant improvement, and got up to go to the restroom shortly after I arrived.  I think she had just had her evening medication so she wasn't tracking real well, but she was able to verbalize.  I was very pleasantly surprised when I knocked on her door to let her know someone was coming to hear her say, "Come in!"

Even though the medicine had her befuddled she was able to recognize me.  She took a wrong turn in her studio apartment, heading for the closet and I pointed her in the right direction.  She was humorously miffed at forgetting the room's layout.  I told her I would get someone to give her a hand, as she had a little accident, and that I would be back in two or three days to visit again.  She was very enthusiastic about that, I suspect there was a little emotional discomfort with the situation.  I had tried to find out their anniversary before she got out of the chair, but she had trouble comprehending and responding clearly.  Still, it was very good to see her standing and vocalizing.

I hope to go back for a few minutes again on Thursday or Friday and will work to get there before her evening medications.

PS - Thanks, B.D.!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

Stopped by to wish Mom a Happy Birthday. Her nurse called earlier in the day to warn me that she wasn't doing very well. She hadn't eaten, got out of bed, or used the toilet. I had a sampler cheesecake delivered earlier in the day, and picked up some Dove chocolates and a gift card from Safeway on the way there. I wonder if she'll be able to make use of them.

That was a leading statement. Mom was delighted with the sight of the cheesecake and chocolates.  She was barely able to sit up and that may have been the only time she did all day. When she whispered I don't think the vocal chords were involved making it a challenge. Though, she didn't talk much at all. After I got her a couple bites of cheesecake she just wanted to sit and gaze at the wall for a while, sometimes the pictures of her Great Granddaughter Madeline, other times into space, and sometimes each other's eyes. It was as if she is shutting down, or is depressed and hoping to do so. I honestly can't tell. It could be a sudden decline, as she has been holding up better than they expected when her care was assumed by Hospice.

It was a little rough to say the least, and the sitting without much to say for forty five minutes seemed much longer. I hope it seemed longer to Mom as well, in a good way. I wanted to stay long enough to be a good experience for her, but not too long for her.

She has been very interested in spirituality for a very long time and the afterlife -- since the sixties. I told her it was okay to stay as long as she wanted, or to leave as soon as she wanted. I felt a little manipulative, in my effort to comfort her. As I used key words from her discussions of telling her husband Jack, her mother and others that it was okay for them to let go.

In the back of my mind I couldn't help but be aware of my ambivalent beliefs. I'm spiritual but I don't worry about whether there is an afterlife. I'll know it if it comes, otherwise I won't be bothered one way or the other. I have that fatalistic view of all religions or lack thereof. I don't disbelieve or believe, I don't even disrespect the various faiths (just some of the self-proclaimed faithful). Something I believe Mom and I have in common. Actions matter, dogma is just words better lost in the breeze.

Well that is maybe a little too much about me. I do pray and hope Mom understood and appreciated my words. I had no negativity about what I said, and I meant it. "Mom, you can stay or not. It is your choice, you only need to please yourself at this point. We all love you. And, I love you, Mom." Not an exact quote, but exact snippets. In the midst of the mostly one-sided conversation she was saying something. "Smile!" So we exchanged a lot of sweet smiles.

As we sat I dabbed the occasional tear. I also told her I understood her fear and anger. While she was quite passive there seemed to be a lot going on in her mind and heart and I rode up and down the moods with her and hope I gave some comfort. Just before I left I got her a Dove chocolate, and opened four more leaving them on the tray in case she wanted some more so she wouldn't have to fight the tin foil.

While we sat and I sometimes talked, I acknowledged what I saw in her expression.  Happiness.  Fear.  Anger.  Sadness.  Love.  They wove a constantly shifting pattern, in my mind like medieval children with a Maypole dance.

When you're a child you don't know what to expect when in that distant future you have a dying parent. You do expect it to be earth shattering and profound. It is, but only for you. In reality it is mundane. It is comforting and infuriating at the same time.



Here's something a little more cheery. Pictures of her sister Louise from her visit in late April. For those who don't know our family history, we didn't know about her half siblings until around thirty years ago, when Mom was around fifty. It is still startling, how similar they are in appearance.

MkII_06043 Mom and Aunt Louise   MkII_06044 Mom and Aunt Louise

MkII_06047 Mom and Aunt Louise   MkII_06048 Mom and Aunt Louise

MkII_06052 Mom and Aunt Louise   MkII_06053 Mom and Aunt Louise

MkII_06055 Mom and Aunt Louise   MkII_06057 Mom and Aunt Louise

MkII_06058 Mom and Aunt Louise

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tough Audience

Eric and James picked up Mom for a trip to Volunteer Park where I was involved in the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival, playing several characters in MacBeth and Julius Caesar with Last Leaf Productions.

Mom didn't want to bring the wheelchair, which turned out to be a mistake as they went to the wrong stage for the 5pm show, which wore out Mom and Eric who carried her to the Ampitheater lawn. I caught up with them after the show relaxing in the sun. It got to be a bit much and Eric and I carried her back up to the shade and visited for a while longer. Then they bundled her up into James' truck and took her back to Queen Ann Manor.

She seemed to have lost a lot of strength and tone. From the disease, the muggy heat, or both. It was a bit of work for all involved, we had to be tough as us northwesters aren't acclimated to the hot.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Missed Week

I missed seeing Mom this weekend. I've had an information goal of seeing her at least every other week. I was feeling a little lazy and didn't get things organized.

I spoke with Danielle last week. She is the person from Hospice working with Mom, and the family. It seems the cancer has slowed. It is an inexact science, and as she is not doing doctor's appointments any more that bit of extra information is not available. I'm not complaining, as I think it is best for all concerned. I have noticed she has lost a little more strength, something I'll have to deal with. I've not noticed problems with lucidity, but that doesn't mean much. I think seeing the kids gives her something to focus on and I spent a lot of time with her over the years before her prescriptions where under control or managed, so any degree of clarity is something I can cherish.

When Hospice assumed her care they did not offer prognosis, like six months. That is the possibility or they wouldn't have taken on her care. She'd had a pretty quick degradation, which seems to have slowed down. So there are many thoughts and questions for us. Is it going to stay slow, or is the cancer doing it's dark work unnoticed for now, or is it moving in starts and fits. I suspect the latter, the uneven progress with no particular reason other than it makes sense to me on a personal level.

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