Friday, March 6, 2009

Today's Treat

Mom, apparently, was very lucid last night and spoke in Nihongo (Japanese language) for 50 minutes with Eric, med aide at Southtowne, about her youth in Idaho, the farm, what grew in the fields. Today, I tried to see if she would speak again in her first language. But she answered me in English. Maybe I'll get to witness another moment like Eric's. The thought excites both Maki, my daughter and me.

Today when we came back from our ride a Volley Balloon game was going on within a circle of elders. The big yellow balloon with a smiley on it would float in the air and some would kick it, hit it like a volleyball with two hands, swat it, or be hit in the head sending it floating upward. My mom would sit her eyes widened and when the balloon neared, her right hand would dart out quickly like a cat's, and the balloon would fly in an impressively controlled direction with just enough force. I felt the pride of a child athlete's parent for my 88 year old Ma. My daughter Maki felt the same, cheering her grandma on. "You have to write about this on your blog, Mom," she said to me, grinning at her grandma's accomplishment.

Just last week mom wasn't eating again, and sleeping way too much. I suspected a bladder infection since these are her symptoms. But the the test did not show enough bacteria to merit treatment. Nothing I did could convince anyone that something was amiss and mom wasn't just advancing into further dementia. I had some natural bladder medicine from my naturapath. I wasn't using it since my Winnemem family brought me Winnemem medicine. It occurred to me that I could give it to my mother and see if it would help. Something had to be done since mom wasn't eating and was disoriented and fearful. My mom responded within a couple of doses. By the next day, she was back to eating, her personality returned and today, she's batting the balloon around. I wouldn't miss any of this for the world -- her lucid moments, her "having fun" moments, her "love everyone and the world" moments, even the scary sick moments if they lead to getting well. I treasure my responsibility. What a ways I have traveled since mom first moved here, stressing out with trips to emergency over angina, extended sleeplessnes, worried she'd wander out into the night and the pharmaceuticals which robbed her of her personality. Three years later, she is safe at Southtowne, we can sleep at night, and although we cannot leave mother in their hands, with constant vigilance, a gifted naturapath, and teamwork with Southtowne staff who care about our mother, we have this precious time. I appreciate so many of the staff. Some are responsible for cleaning yet they take the time to love my mom. Susana tells her she's beautiful each day. Med Aide Katrina's sharp mind and eye catch on to mom's health needs immediately. Nothing drops through the cracks on her watch. Sarah gives mom such loving attention. Ysenia showers mom and always dresses her with care and fixes her hair so she looks quite stylish. This is not a small thing in a dementia center, and everyone does not do this for the elders. Mom is very safe and cared for even late at night by her special team of men on the night crew -- Jonathon, Jose, Freddie -- and, of course, Eric who makes Southtowne a home for her with kindness and compassion in Nihongo. Each of them are part of what makes our Mother happy. When we come back from a ride, Eric says "O-kairi!" welcoming her. And it makes me feel like I too have come home.

I deleted a recent blog to post this one in its place -- my ritual tonight, a symbolic act to commit to new priorities. I am making a commitment, inspired by my Chief, to spend my precious moments with people and commitments which give back and does not distract from a cycle of life. These treasured moments with my mom in my daughter's company is how I spent today and will spend many, many tomorrows.

This past week I spent with my Winnemem family up from California. My Chief, Caleen Sisk Franco and her husband and tribal Headman, Mark Franco came up to speak at PIELC invited by the Native American Law Student's Association. Things came into perspective quickly. For one, the daily challenges facing the Winnemem from all directions -- the federal government, the dam, Nestle's corporation, etc. diminishes any complaint. Two, the family feeling, the laughter is grounding. Three, the hike into the woods in Hendricks, the time spent looking through the collections in the Knight Library looking for Winnemem Wintu records brought focus all day on work which sustains rather than diminishes. And the spiritual work of the Winnemem leaders whether it was the way in which they began a meeting of very diverse peoples coming together to break bread and join in support work or whether it was to do ceremony to bring a shattered family back together, all of it felt so good to my husband Will and me as any time we are able to spend with our Winnemem family. They take care of us.

So, I will put in time with work on behalf of the Winnemem tribe who takes care of us. I will take a brisk energizing walk in the morning to the fairgrounds and spend some time with Homeless Connect, part of my network and with this joint work, it gives back many times over. I will celebrate a Sister friend who withstood crisis with great dignity tomorrow with others and follow it with a nice dinner with good friends and Maki, my daughter, celebrating Yujin Gakuen. I'll add more each day as other obligations end. Hopefully ahead of me will be time for qigong, walks, working to prepare for Coming of Age ceremony in June, and new adventures which are within a cycle of life and does not detract me with hierarchies and dichotomies. Some can do this well, but I never have been able to. It is no wonder I sought refuge among middle schoolers my whole life avoiding work with adults. It was silly of me to do any differently now that I am retired.

So hanging with mom and Maki, watching a yellow balloon with a smile drawn on it floating back and forth in a circle of elders, each one with a full and delightful personality despite dementia, was the treat I gave myself today.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.