Echoes Trailer

Monday, April 27, 2015

Define Old Age

Photo of Julia Doles
April 2015

Sometimes you wake up thinking, “Well, I made it through another night.”  You are not seeing the sunshine filtering through your window or allowing the peaceful moment to fill your soul.  You spend too much time thinking about your aches and pains, your late relatives, and finances when you should be enjoying just being alive.

Then something, or someone, forces you to stop and take a good long look at yourself. That is what happened to me today. I was out to pick up a few things I needed and started to pass an elderly lady in one of the aisles of the market.  She opened a conversation by asking, “Can you reach that corn way up on the top there? I swear they picked me before I was done growing.”

The lady was about five feet tall with short white hair that was neatly brushed. She was dressed neatly and her eyes were ablaze with determination. As I handed her the can of corn I had just retrieved for her, she said, “My grandson is in here somewhere. He probably found magazines or something. Lord, he’s fifty years-old and you would think he was ready to retire. He spends an hour trying to avoid fifteen minutes of work.”

The grandson appeared at the end of the aisle and walked toward us. He stopped a few feet behind his grandmother as if waiting to see if she would invite him into the conversation or send him scampering outdoors to play. The petite, feisty lady continued, “My daughter, his mother, is a whiner too. Why she’s only seventy years-old and wouldn’t get out of bed if she didn’t get hungry. I tell you, it’s beyond my understanding to tell you what’s happened with the young folks today. I’m ninety-five and I go help her clean up her house at least once a week.”

I have lived most of my life as if I’m expecting some important guest and need to have my life in order before they arrive. I sweep the floors, bathe the pets, clean the windows, and would probably sweep the lawn if I could rid of some of the extra dirt. I never really think about why I do what I do, I just do it. I’m pretty sure this lady never stops to think about living either. She just does it!

I smiled at the lady, told her I was happy to have met her, and walked away feeling as if I had just been given a gift. The road of life can be very bumpy but people like the lady I met today not only help me navigate the road, they pull me back into the right lane of traffic. I sure hope her family makes sure she is well praised this coming Mother’s Day.

© Dianna Doles Petry


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Different Paths, Same Destination

I was talking with an old friend in the supermarket the other day and I have to admit, it was almost as if we were exchanging war stories. I think that happens often when two or more caregivers get together. Taking care of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s changes the life of the patient, and it changes the lives of the people who love them and take care of their daily needs. Incontinence, food texture, hygiene, and patience are all battles waged on a daily basis and fill conversations.

It is never easy to watch a person engulfed in a merciless disease. They don’t see themselves as we see them. They don’t understand their thoughts are no longer lucid. They don’t understand their sentences are seldom finished and if they are they don’t make sense to anyone else. They are frustrated, impatient, and eventually angry in a way we can’t understand. They express their emotions to the only people they can, the people who are there for them every day.

Most of us watch the six o’clock news, maybe discuss it a few minutes, and then go on with our lives. We take normal precautions to insure the safety of our family. A dementia patient might remember something from the six o’clock news days or weeks after hearing it and become stressed about it. My friend mentioned coming home to find her husband sitting with a pistol aimed at the front door when she walked through it. Thankfully, there was no tragedy that day but it could easily have been a very sad day for their family and friends. The firearm is no longer present in the home but the truth is, it is impossible to keep the home danger free when someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s. 

Sometimes I want my mother to be the woman with the hearty laughter again. I have moments when I feel like I am losing myself to the stream of cleaning, medicating, researching, and worrying. Those are the moments when I want to hug my mother tightly, look her directly in the eye, and beg her to please not forget about me, or her grandchildren, or the little dog who so faithfully watches over her day and night.

I write about this journey I am taking with my mother to ease the stress and ache in my heart. I know her voice will go silent someday and she is barely walking now. She asks how many people are working here and often looks at me as I enter the room and announces to the air, “There’s my mother. I knew she would be back.”

I sit and write down my self-perceived mistakes just to pass the time. I go over them like I check and recheck my store list to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I try to remember when this carousel ride began and for the life of me, I cannot pinpoint the descent into this dark tunnel.

Until recently, my mother recited the names of her brother and her sisters nearly every day. I think she was determined not to forget them, not to let them die along with her other memories.  She has become quieter and quieter over the last few weeks and even when I should be sleeping I can’t get my mind to shut off and allow me to rest. I cherish the moments when she has some clarity and calls me by name.

I often feel guilty about the time I cannot give to my adult children, my neighbors, and my own dreams and desires. I fret about not being able to keep up my appearance the way I once did and I still struggle to keep my home immaculate. Taking care of someone else is physically and mentally draining at times but I remind myself over and over again that my mother can’t help losing her memory, her thoughts, or her youth.

Then I cross paths with someone dealing with far more than I am and it humbles me. The friend I talked to in the supermarket is dealing with her husband and his late stage Alzheimer’s. She is also bearing the pain of knowing her young granddaughter is fighting a battle with cancer. Her son is going through problems in his personal life. I know she wishes she had more time to devote to them but she must take care of her husband first.

As we walked away in separate directions the other day I promised to keep her and her family in my prayers and asked her to keep my family in her prayers. God brings us comfort in times and ways we aren't expecting.

© Dianna Doles Petry

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another Sunday Evening

Another Sunday is winding down,
Sunlight has faded and the sky is dark,
The mountains are silently listening,
Church bells ring and stray dogs bark.

I’m looking forward to warmer days,
Sitting beneath the moon on a summer night,
Days pass and seem to blend together,
I dread the darkness and reach for the light.

Tomorrow I’ll walk into the morning,
A list of things to do on my mind,
Giving thanks for the rain and snow,
And whatever blessings I might find.

I’ve walked through this house of mine,
A thousand times before,
All hours of the day and night,
I used to want so much more.

Now I sit at the window and look for stars,
Never imagined I would be this old,
The adventures I’ve had and memories made,
Are much too precious to ever be told.

Another Sunday is winding down,
I know how lucky I am these days,
To know the love of friends and my family,
I’ve been blessed in so many ways.

© Dianna Doles Petry


Sunday, January 25, 2015

If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them!

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

Have you heard the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them?” I have come to the conclusion this is the path I need to take with my ninety-two year old mother. Instead of trying to be logical with her I have to love her and care for her just the way she is and trust me, logic has not been a part of her life for a long time now.

This might sound easy but it isn't. You always think of your parents as being strong and healthy. They are the ones who protect you when you are too young to protect yourself. They teach you more than any school teacher ever could and they have high expectations for you no matter what the rest of the world thinks of you. When the day comes for you to realize you are a helpful stranger to them it nearly breaks your heart.

Earlier today I was trying to reason with my mother who was determined she was going to put on her shoes and go visit her mother. She was fretting because she hasn't seen her mother for a long time and “She’ll be worried about me now. I’m going home.”

I tried to tell her the weather is terrible, the vehicle is not running, and she could get sick going outside in the cold wet weather. She didn't care about any of that. Finally, I asked my mother where grandmother lives now. She said, “You know, up there.”

“Up where?” I asked.

“Up the road in that other house. “ She spoke to me with a blank expression on her face as if I should know this already.

I responded, “Grandmother is not home. She had a doctor’s appointment and was going to the supermarket after she got of the doctor’s office.” Telling her grandmother has been deceased for the last thirty-one years would only upset her. She would cry and feel the pain of losing grandmother all over again and it would serve no purpose so I went along with her belief in going to visit her mother.

Yesterday she didn't want to go the restroom even when it was obvious she needed to go. She insisted she had just been in there and was ready to physically battle anyone who attempted to help her up or clean her up. Those are the moments that make it hard to go along with her and it bothers me to force her to do what has to be done but I can’t leave her lying there soiled.

My friend often helps me with my mother and she was here. She hadn't seen that side of my mother before. I leaned over my mother, placed my arm under her armpit and raised her to her feet. At that point she looked at me and said, “I’m going to the bathroom. You don’t need to go.” Then she looked at my friend and said, “You can go with me.” The ladies walked off into the bathroom reminding me of a cowboy riding off into the sunset.

Sometimes it is not easy to love someone with dementia but you can’t forget who they were long before they were forgetful and angry. You have to remember the laughs, the times they encouraged and supported you, and the times they dried your tears. I have learned I have to love the woman my mother is now and leave the woman she once buried in my memories.

Those times when I reach for my mother’s hand and she pushes me away, I have to remember I am no longer the daughter she remembers for her daughter is still a young woman. In her eyes I am the older helpful stranger and when she doesn't like something I say or do she reminds me, “I know my daughter is paying you well to be here with me. I’m going to tell her how you've acted today! She’ll fire your ass!”

She needs my love, my care, and my patience, and I must admit; I need the laughs she brings me that many others might not understand.

© Dianna Doles Petry

Thursday, January 22, 2015

If You Were

If You Were

If you were a scent,
You would be the sweet, sweet aroma,
I think of when I think of Heaven.

If you were the light,
You would shine through darkened skies,
Chase away the rain and the thunder.

If you were the moon,
Casting light upon the water,
I would count stars every night.

If you were music,
You would play to the beat of my soul,
Never to be heard by a human ear.

I’m standing on the edge of a dream,
Where I can hear you whisper to me,
You seem so happy and so strong,
You walked hand in hand with me all along.

If you were a scent,
You would float upon a breeze,
But you’re laughing with the angels in Heaven.

© Dianna Doles Petry


Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I have allowed my blog to rest unattended over the last few months but that is going to change. I am going to keep it active and will start with this post. I hope you enjoy it.


She’s getting up when the sun goes down,
Her days and nights all turned around,
She talks about people only she can see,
Her mind stays lost in a fog of history.

Years ago she dyed her hair black,
Trying to get a youthful appearance back,
I wonder if she ever tried taillight red,
Or if she thought about the days ahead.

She’s fading fast like the spots on her eyes,
Her speech doesn't make sense but she still tries,
The cold fingers of January reach into her heart,
Little by little her memories are torn apart.

Like Hitchcock’s birds, her thoughts fly away,
She’s a bride dressed in yellow on a hot July day,
Paintings of moments lived out through the ages,
End up as blank stares from nearly vacant pages.

Now the sun is coming up and she’s ready to sleep,
She may be laughing or she might weep,
Give me the strength Lord, to see this through,
Let me show her love and kindness in everything I do.

© Dianna Doles Petry