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Another Good Day

March 30, 2017 • By

For nearly eight years after my mother had a stroke, I lived to help my father make her life the very best it could be.  Few coworkers during those years knew of my life outside the walls of academia. Only a handful of very close friends recognized the persistent stress that had lodged in my neck and jaw.

Close to the end of her life I wrote a book, a memoir. The purpose was to somehow keep my mother with me, with my father, with my siblings forever. She did not walk, skip or dance as she had. She did not comment on anyone in view as she had. She had even lost her voice to aphasia. Without the perpetual stream of words punctuated with sighs and moans many days felt empty. My goal was to preserve her somehow, as she had been. The way I chose to accomplish that was by memory. Grace was my mother’s first name. I accidentally discovered a picture of her standing on a ledge overlooking a large pond; straight, on two feet, confident and full of expectation. Grace on the Ledge seemed the book’s natural title.

Before the book was sent to print, my editor wisely recommended I investigate titles in the memoir genre to promote readership. The word ‘caregiver’ came up in every search. After much deliberation and discussion, A Caregiver’s Memoir was added to the book’s cover. If a reader searches on that key word, reads my book, and feels some connection, some acceptance and support in that unsolicited role, I am glad. But I have never felt comfortable wearing the label.

I consider myself a caretaker, not a caregiver. Some might describe my actions as giving. But I am the one who has taken and continues to take so much. I am grateful for all of it.

Days I am not on campus teaching are reserved for appointments and outings with my dad. He is 94 and trust me, totally in charge of life. On the schedule for today: blood work to precede a routine checkup next week, the barber for his signature buzz cut, and a first-time stop at the new Duncan Donuts on the south side of town.  Eating a donut after he kept close track of his sugar intake before blood work has become a tradition. Until today, I would pop in the shop, stock up on a half dozen chocolate frosted yummies and take them back to Dad’s place. Today’s visit was a first.

Only two cars in the lot, I unfolded his rolator and we made our way down the ramp and inside. The menu hung on the wall with animated video panels in between the list of coffee varieties and breakfast fare.

“Do they have anything like regular coffee?” Dad leaned over to ask.

“Yes, way at the top, roasted coffee”.

“Boy, you need binoculars to read that far.”

Straining my eyes behind progressive lenses to locate the word ‘latte’ on the list, I totally understood.

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Curiosity Unraveled

November 11, 2016 • By

Thursday November 10, 2016

Patricia Thompson Collamer

A stomach knotted by shock, cinched by horror kept me from the keyboard. Until now.

Election Day 2016 came after an eternity of banter and babble media sources touted as conversations and interviews. A minor in statistics left me skeptical of all political “polls” flashed hour by hour on the television screens. Sources with .com in their names spouting political opinions give me the shivers.  Most of us endured a sustained ache in our temples for over a year and half. For me, that throb persists.

The day, the night, had finally come. A friend suggested bottles of wine. After casting my vote I picked up a pair. The TV remote control volleyed one analysis to the next. I forced myself to weed fact from the frenzy of conjecture. Months of practice kept me glued. Dinner consisted of leftover quesadillas.

Early returns disturbed any semblance of rational thought.  I left the room in search of a bucket and a brush. It was time to clean toilets. An hour later the news was no better. I walked upstairs and started to iron; place mats, napkins, a tablecloth last seen Easter Sunday. I finished up pressing one of the cat’s favorite blankets. Somehow being away from the television felt safe; as if nothing bad could happen without me in the room.

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Renamed Clueless

July 12, 2016 • By

July 12, 2016

I shadowed my mother for years. She was a bundle of energy regardless of her mood. Trip-tripping after her all day was as natural as air. She sang songs, made up rhyming games, and criticized dust a lot. On the days she was winning the battle against clutter I could ask her anything.

Just before my 6th birthday I had a brief identity crisis. Daydreaming over milk and Oreo cookies all thoughts fixed on my name, Patricia. It seemed rather a mouthful. That was reason enough to shorten it. Mom explained to me once it meant regal. Then she giggled.patty patrick kevin slide

In truth I had three names:

“Patty” meant a call to action. I responded slowly.

“Paaaaaatriiiiiiiiiiciaaaa” meant guilt. I dove out of sight and invented excuses.

“PATRICIA MARIE” meant reformation. I headed for the nearest exit.

Half way into a final cookie dunk I considered the significance of my name. I chased the last bite with a gulp of milk, licked my mustache clean, and ran off to find Mom. I had an important question. She had the answer.

I found her two bedrooms down the hall. She was wearing seven glasses on her fingers nabbed from underneath the beds.

Out of breath now I asked, “Mom, who was I named after?”

She stopped in a peculiar pause.

“My grandfather Patrick, Patrick Michael Reagan.” I had heard that name before. I had even seen a picture of him- tall, narrow nose, thin build; didn’t look like anyone in the family I’d ever met.

My curiosity about this business of naming children piqued. The origin of mine could uncover clues about how I fit into the family. Had I been a boy our clan would have had two pairs, a matched set. Maybe Mom and Dad wanted a fourth boy. Was I a disappointment from day one? Every time she yelled “Patricia” would she rather have hollered “Patrick?”

Anticipation pushed out the crowning question.

“Mom, if I was a boy would you have named me Patrick?”

She blinked her answer.

“No, Kevin.”

Mom and glasses clinked around the corner.

I stared. Did she want a Patty or not?