The long goodbye…

“They shoot horses don’t they?”

I will never forget what my mom said to me more than 25 years ago when my grandmother was suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and she feared she would one day confront the same uncertain fate.

“Oh mom, stop it. It’s not going to happen to you,” I reassured her, but in the back of my mind, I secretly feared that my mom would face the same treacherous journey as my beloved grandmother.

And now here we are. 22 years after my grandmother passed away, my mother, who turns 80 this November, has slipped into the latter stages of dementia. The part where you can no longer perform basic tasks and your short term memory is gone completely. While she continues to deteriorate at what seems like a rapid pace, what I miss the most about my mom are our conversations.

Whenever I was feeling down in the dumps or had great news to share, Mom was the first person I would call. When my kids were born, she was by my side helping out whenever she could. Mom and Dad even moved to an apartment that was about 20 minutes away just so they could be on hand whenever we needed them and when my kids were babies, I needed them a lot.

But now here we are.

When I first started blogging, I shared the milestones and funny stories my kids were experiencing during their young lives. From first steps, to first words, to performances, to the things they did that made us laugh out loud or burst with pride, sharing the stories of my children was truly cathartic for me. If I was able to make a reader laugh out loud with those toddler tales and make them feel like they weren’t alone, then I knew I had found my passion as a writer.

After a few years, my kids stepped in to inform me they didn’t want me sharing their stories anymore so my blog kind of faded away a bit as I focused on supporting them behind the scenes and celebrating their achievements on Facebook.

Today, I’m at a much different place in my life. I’m now the parent of young adults. My daughter is a college graduate and my son is 19 and I find myself dealing much more with health issues that are confronting my parents and in-laws than for my kids, who know exactly what to do if they need to visit urgent care.

The sad part about aging – especially when you have a parent who is losing their memory – is that all those milestones that you captured with your kids literally start happening in reverse. I first started noticing that my mom was forgetting things when we would connect on the phone and she began losing her words. When my dad was in the hospital for a heart procedure, she couldn’t think of the name for “nurse” or “doctor” and kept calling them “the person.” As her daughter, I picked up on these subtle memory slips quickly and urged her to visit a neurologist. It took several months and when she did, she decided to go without my dad (she didn’t want him to worry about her) and the doctor broke the news with the worst bedside manner you could ever imagine. She actually told her point blank she had Alzheimer’s disease and that she only had a few years left before she wouldn’t be able to care for herself.

My mom left the office completely devastated and I was crushed because the last thing I wanted was for her to receive this news without the support of her family. We quickly found another doctor who was much more reassuring and attempted to ease her fears of the unknown. At the time, she was suffering from mild cognitive impairment and while she would forget a few words and talk about how she “wrote everything down in her book,” she was still driving, handling the finances, cooking, cleaning and reading. I silently prayed that if this was the worst of it, she’d be okay.

But it wasn’t.

Mom’s diagnosis was nearly five years ago and over the last month, she slipped into the latter half of her journey. To say it’s scary to imagine what she’s about to face is an understatement. You see, when my grandmother faced the same dismal prognosis, my mom wouldn’t even let me see her. She told me she didn’t want me to remember her that way so she told me not to worry and handled everything just like she always did. Today, my mom is in Florida with my dad so I can’t visit her all the time and feel as if we are on a race against the clock before she starts forgetting our names and faces. I typically do FaceTime calls with her and our conversations these days consists of her telling me how much she loves me and only wants the best for me. I truly believe that’s her brain fighting back against this insidious disease. You’re not going to keep me from telling the people I treasure most in this life how much I love them. My mom is a fighter and sadly, this battle is going to get the best of her. But in the meantime, I’m going to share her journey and the memories we have made along the way.

So welcome to Role Mommy 3.0…The Panini Generation. I hope my stories are cathartic for you too if you are going through a similar experience and be rest assured that no matter what you are facing, you are not alone.


IMG_1871.jpgI pride myself on the relationship I have with my daughter. Sure we have more than our fair share of knock down drag out fights, but they are usually resolved the same day and there are never personal attacks involved. We argue over things that happened or didn’t happen, not about who each of us are as people, which I believe is critical to a good relationship between any two parties. Rebecca knows (hopefully) that she can literally tell me anything and it will be without embarrassment for her or judgement by me. But there seems to be a lingering issue over the last 10 months between us that just won’t go away. And it was brought to my attention again the other night when I nudged my wife to tell me if there is anything going on with Rebecca that I should know about. As close as Rebecca and I are, I always like reassurances from my wife that I’m not missing anything. Well I’m glad I asked. Beth informed me that our daughter feels I am at odds with her about her self proclaimed “feminist” status and it bothered her a lot more than I realized.
At the beginning of the school year. Rebecca mentioned a few times to Beth and me that she considers herself to be a feminist. Rudely, I chuckled a bit insisting to myself and to her that she was nothing close to being a feminist. My first question to her was why she views herself as such and she attempted to articulate her beliefs. While I agreed with everything she was saying, I told her she is not a feminist and came just a little short of demanding that she stop calling herself that. The label really bothered me and I wanted her to stop connecting herself to a word that I didn’t believe truly reflected her ideologies, demeanor or interaction with others. The argument has persisted throughout the year, varying in intensity at different times, depending on my state of mental fatigue. Interestingly, the feminist issues that Rebecca told me were important to her were not the source of disagreement. She wants equal pay for men and women. So do I. She believes in reproductive rights for women. So do I. She is against domestic and sexual violence toward women. So am I. In fact, on just about every issue that Rebecca ever brought up as to why she considers herself to be a feminist, I was in agreement. And as we discussed each issue that she considered to be at the core of her feminist beliefs, she eventually looked at me and told me that I was a feminist too. Part of me laughed and the other part was taken back by her glib banter.
Despite my socially liberal views, I was always turned off by the word feminist. I associated the word as a cause being synonymous with hostility toward men or misguided anger. Part of it might trace back to my days in college when I was surrounded by many feminist activists who always just seemed antagonistic by nature. Again, the causes they were fighting for were more than justified, but I usually found their personalities to be off-putting, Chivalrous gestures often seemed to be construed as sexist acts for things that were simply common courtesy. Once asked by a woman why I felt the need to hold the door for her, I was stumped to offer an intelligent response. It wasn’t because I thought of her as being too weak to open the door herself or that I could increase my chances of getting her phone number for a date. (By the way, to the woman that I had that exchange with, I still think you are an a…) Like many people, it’s just what I would do for anyone. I guess for me, I’m a person who finds who delivers a message and the way that it is delivered to be just as important as the message itself. And too often I found the feminist message being communicated by people that I simply didn’t care to be around.
But for a guy who was primarily raised by his working mother and was taught that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect, irrespective of race, religion, age or gender, it would be hard to imagine that I would be anything other than supportive of the issues related to feminism. Even at a time when sexual orientation was a taboo topic, I grew up knowing that heterosexuals and homosexuals should never be treated differently. Maybe that doesn’t quite describe feminism, but you get the point. And as we fast forward to the parenting years for my two teenagers, it would be difficult to say I’m not supportive of feminist issues when it is my wife who is the sole income producer for our household since 2014. I was able to leave my job and venture off into a new career because I was confident that my partner would be able to take care of our financial needs for a period of time as I built my new business. I have tried to slice it and dice it every which way I could to see why Rebecca was wrong when she labeled me as a feminist as well. While I retorted, “yeah right”, she indeed was correct. It kills me to say it because the word just doesn’t sit well with me. However, at the end of the day, does it really matter if I like the word or not? It is the issues that matter, not the label they are put under. Maybe that will change one day, and a time will come where I will out myself as the feminist that I really am. But for now, I think I will just say that I am “pro gender equality.” That just sounds so much better to me.

Role Mommy on the Run Radio

Listen in to our latest podcast featuring Kristin Flannery, our west coast Role Mommy correspondent who got the chance to attend an exclusive junket for Despicable Me. While we’re sharing the interviews with Julie Andrews, Steve Carrell, Miranda Cosgrove and Jason Segal next week, Kristin gives us a sneak peak of her experience at the Four Seasons Hotel!
Plus, we talk about all things summer and why I hate summer shorts season; great kids activities, getaways for moms and much more! Grab a cup of iced coffee and get ready to laugh.

Dealing with Tantrums on ABC News Now

No, I did not throw a tantrum on ABC News Now, but I did share a confession recently about how my husband and I handled my daughter’s tantrum when she was two years old. Mind you, she’s now a tween and hasn’t thrown a tantrum in years. Then again, we’ve renamed the word – it’s not a tantrum, it’s more of a hissy fit. Anyway, here’s my big confession about how we used to deal with our daughter when she was melting down in one of our favorite restaurants.
Do you have a meltdown story to share? Comment now and tell us how you dealt with a tantrum. Best story wins a copy of See Mom Run!