Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Small Steps

All pictures in this post were taken in mid January. This one and the one at the end, on the occasion of Mom's first outdoor stroll after my arrival here just before New Year's Day. It had only been the weather keeping her indoors though. This was the first day there hadn't been snow, ice, rain, or frost on the slope of the driveway. Walks like this are becoming more frequent as the weather permits and do not fatigue her nearly as much nor cause as much pain.

Today Mom's evaluation therapist came. He thinks she is ready to start practicing with a cane--only with an escort at her back or elbow though. Having her free of the walker and steady on her feet is one of the bare minimum requirements that must be met before I can consider going back to Phoenix, leaving my sister in charge alone. Not that she isn't in charge now. Though she is my baby sister by seven years, she is the one running this household right now. I am at her service.

The therapist also remarked upon the improvement in Mom's speech. She was answering his questions with many fewer stumbles over lost words and needed very little help from my sister to complete or clarify her responses.

Her energy and vitality are improving daily too. She has come a long way since the fall that broke her left hip and the mild stroke that followed the surgery and left her with much of her noun vocabulary locked away from access. We're coming up on three months this week.

The cutting board between the stove and oven where I mixed the salmon loaf

Last Friday she helped me prepare dinner while my sister and her son attended a home schooler function. She washed and trimmed and wrapped four potatoes in foil while I mixed the salmon loaf off the recipe she had written down from memory for my sister the first week I was here. She gave me more than a bit of a scare when she opened the oven door beside my right elbow--the pre-heated to 400 degrees oven. I had my hands in the goopy salmon and egg mixture. She had been working at the sink behind me. I did not expect her to try to put the potatoes in the oven!! She not only tried, she succeded. She had turned around inside her walker and taken a step and a half away from it to reach the oven door handle. Then while I watched and feebly protested, she made a half turn back to lift the baking sheet holding the four wrapped potatoes and lay it on the open oven door--about our elbow level--and then took another step and a half before lifting the baking sheet up and sliding it onto the rack. All of this with no oven mitt!

The sink where Mom prepared the potatoes for the oven

I didn't know whether to see this as evidence of the poor judgment that may be related to the stroke and thus proof that she was far from ready to be left unattended; or as evidence that most of her skills were intact and she was raring to get back into action. I've mentioned before that she was a home ec teacher before she met my Dad and right through the spring she learned I was on my way. The kitchen, the garden, the sewing machine and a variety of arts and crafts were her bailiwick. My sister and I together are struggling to keep three square meals on her lap each day.

And for years, Mom has enjoyed a nearly daily walk in spite of her visual impairment. I think the only thing keeping her from it now is the weather. There have been a few more occasions since that one in January. But only a few.

So my sister and I have much to feel encouraged about. The small steps Mom has taken are adding up to huge strides towards a time Mom will be ruling at least one of her bailiwicks again--the kitchen. If she continues improving at this pace, my services could become less crucial by the time the daffodils are standing tall.

Hope that I might be home with Ed and Merlin before Easter is a bittersweet bloom in my heart for I would just be exchanging one homesickness for another.

My sister escorting Mom on that mid January stroll.

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