picture above is of Lois Sele Forbes during the war years. photo taken at the Gordon avocado ranch in Azusa,CA
My 94 year old mother moved out of her body three years ago this week.For the last last six years of her life, My mother lived with me here in Escondido.
Looking back, there are things I learned about taking care of an elderly parent that weren’t very obvious when I became a caretaker.
In no particular order they are:
Keep your parent involved in her family , even if you need to fly grandchildren in for extended visits. My mom would get all sparkly when one of the kids was here.
In the process of ferrying grand kids to and from visits. I became a repository of family information an various anecdotes. Although she’s been gone three years, I still get questions.”DidNana really ride a stage to school in Azusa from the cabin in the canyon?”
“Well yes, boys and girls she really did, but the stage was never once held up by highwaymen or attacked by native tribes.”
Lois and Catzilla aka "Dan"
It's questions like these that make me smile when I think about my mother.She was loud, colorful and incredibly giving. And some of her grand kids were incredibly gullible and had active imaginations.
I also tried to keep my mother engaged in life, which became hard to do after her second broken hip.One way I did this was in the kitchen preparing food she liked.I was rfecently asked by Uncle Richard Sele, if “I knew why his mother’s and sister’s biscuits were sweet?”.
I too remember my mother’s cathead biscuits as being sweet, so I cracked open her Betty Crocker and looked at the hand printed recipes she’d attached to her cook book. the answer is “She used several teaspoons of sorghum as a sweetening agent."
My mom grew up in the small town of Azusa, CA at the height of the Southern California Citrus boom.and Escondido still has citrus and avocado orchards. So about once a week I’d take my mother out for drive, buy some oranges at a local produce stand and have a picnic in a park or at a nearby lake.
I tried to stay unobtrusively involved in my mom’s health.I’d take her to doctor’s appointments and ask her doc any questions I may have had about her health related issues. I learned a lot by going with my mom to see her doctor. And if you’re taking care of an elderly parent this may be one of the most important things you can do.
I learned another important lesson about being a caretaker.It’s an incredibly tiring job. In all the time she lived with me I was only able to get away two times. If I had it to do all over again, I’d bring one my relatives down and have them be her caretaker while I went on a one or two-week vacation.
My mom remained mentally very sharp until the last week of her life. but in late spring of 2012 she fell and broke a hip. My mom would not actively participate in physical therapy and I knew that the consequences of her decision would be fatal. About two weeks before she passed, she asked “Jimmy, am I dying?”
I took a big gulp of air and said “that’s up to G*d and you, but don’t give up yet. She never brought it up again.
however, one week before she passed, she asked meto pack a suitcase with hose, her SAAS shoes, undergarments, her silk blouse and a pair of pressed pants She said, I’m going on a trip.”
In an instant I knew she was aware she was close to death.
the call from the nursing home came at 6 AM on a Sunday, the charge nurse told me” there’s been a change in your mother’s condition,”And so after 94 years, almost all of which had been spent in the backwater town of Azusa, CA,Billie Lars Sele moved out of her body
When I got to the nursing home, My mother was dressed in the clothes she had asked me to pack I kissed her farewell and sent her on.
Several weeks later my family went up Azusa Canyon in a small caravan with family members laughing and sharing sharing their favorite “nana” stories.
We stopped by the side of the East Fork and I scattered her ashes about 10 yards up stream from the site of the cabin where she had been raised.
My mom was pretty clear about her last wishes, and I felt pound to take her home.
I’m not maudlin about her life, although I’ve been unable to write for the last three weeks.
So mom , thanks for the chance to break the block with 776 words, everyone of which was inspired by you. --Lois Sele Forbes’ Son--Jim Forbes on October 11, 2015