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The answer to ‘how is mom doing’

By Staff | May 13, 2018

“How’s your mom doing?” people will ask me from time to time.

“Well, she’s doing pretty well, all things considered,” I tell them. “Thanks for asking.”

My mother, Natalie, is living at St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center here in Blue Earth. Specifically, she is now in Moonlight Lane at St. Luke’s.

Yes, she is the reason I knew about the memory care unit at St. Luke’s and decided to do a story about it in the Community Focus magazine which the Register published recently. That is her playing with the giant beach ball in one photo and also she is the one pictured with staff member Willie Jans, one of the many great staff there.

Moonlight Lane is a very special place, with some terrific staff people taking care of these special residents. And those of us who visit their regularly to see our moms, fathers or spouses, have a special relationship, too. It is sort of like a fraternity, formed because we all have something in common having a loved one living with some type of dementia.

My mom has made the rounds at St. Luke’s. She moved into Southview Estates senior living about four years ago, then transitioned to Friendship Court assisted living, then into St. Luke’s nursing home and from there into Moonlight Lane, the Alzheimer’s wing. The community is extremely lucky to have a facility like St. Luke’s located here. I know. I have seen every phase of it close up now, because of my mom.

Natalie was living in Wisconsin by Green Bay, but knew she was having some problems with her mind, memory and ability to do day to day chores. Like writing out checks, or remembering where she was going when she was out driving her car. That is why we moved her to Blue Earth. And why she was willing to come here. She knew it needed to be done.

My mom is 100 percent German. She was born Natalie Mueller in Witoka, Minnesota, near Winona in 1929, the 10th of 11 children. She always said she was lucky to have been born at all because her parents needed another mouth to feed like they needed a hole in the head. It was the time of the Great Depression.

She married a U.S. Navy sailor in San Diego, had four wonderful sons who never gave her any trouble (OK, maybe that is just a little fib), and co-owned a vinyl replacement window sales and manufacturing with her husband, Chuck, after his 20 years in the Navy. She also managed a heating and air conditioning business, the Owens Company, in Minneapolis. She started there as a secretary and ended up running the place.

In other words, she was one smart business woman.

All of which makes watching her deal with dementia so hard to do. But, a series of TIAs (mini-strokes) makes it difficult for her to get the words out verbally that she is thinking of in her mind, and it is pretty frustrating, both for her and those visiting with her. And the dementia now just makes it hard for her to think or remember things, anyway much less verbalize them.

A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

Throw in some physical issues which are the result of severe arthritis and it all adds up to the fact that sometimes growing old sucks.

But, considering all those issues, my mom, Natalie, is doing pretty well. She still is a happy person, smiles a lot and most people seem to like her. What more can any of us ask for?

This weekend is Mother’s Day. I know many of you will be with your mother, or send her a card and maybe flowers. If your mother has passed away, you will spend at least part of Sunday thinking about her.

Remembering the good old days, perhaps. Reminiscing about your childhood and how your mother took care of you. And raised you to be a fairly decent person, I would hope.

I will be reminding my mom about how terrific and wonderfully well behaved her four sons were, especially her oldest. We were just like angels, I’ll say.

But even with her dementia, she won’t be fooled. She still can recall an awful lot of how it really was. Maybe raising four boys by yourself while your husband was out on six-months long sea duty on a submarine was not the easiest thing in the world.

But, she did just that, and a whole lot more.

So how is my mom doing?

Just fine, thank you.

Happy Mothers Day, mom, and also to all you other mothers out there.

Thanks for everything you did, and continue to do, for all of us.