Author: Jenna Serignese

This is What the Truth Looks Like: My Broken Heart

I have made peace, mostly, with the person my mother has become. I am no longer overwhelmed with the daunting process of finding her an appropriate nursing home or anxiously terrified about the transition of moving her from California to Connecticut, a decision made without her input. Over the course of the last two years, we have found our new rhythm, for as long as it lasts. As strange as it is to somehow be in the role of adult to this childish, gentle, confused version of her, we make the best of the cards we have been dealt....

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Worst Kept Secret

True story:  I am no athlete.  In elementary school, I wanted the bus to break down so that I did not have to go to gym. (Once it even did – oh, the guilt!)  In middle school, I dreaded volleyball because I was the one who could not serve the ball over the net.  As I see now with my own children, team sports can bring a great sense of confidence and accomplishment.  But for me, all those years ago, I found little joy in athletics. It is kind of hard for me to admit, but in my first semester of high school, and for one semester only… I was a cheerleader. It is true.  To this day, I cannot recall what motivated me to do so.  My school did not value its cheerleaders.  I was not particularly good at it.  I had no knowledge about football.  I do, however, have the photo that has brought endless delight to my family, memorializing my brief, pretty forgettable experience as part of a squad. While the Payless saddle shoes have long been retired, I have come to a startling conclusion:  the cheerleader remains. For almost eight years, I have been my family’s cheerleader. Before the time my children could even understand, through the ages and stages, I was talking up eating, bathing, the potty.  I try to put a positive spin...

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Mastering the Visit

I am no expert on nursing homes. But after much trial and error over the last year and a half, I have discovered that, as with many parts of parenting, the key to a successful visit is often based in the preparation. Here are some things that I have found helpful when bringing small children to a nursing home. Talk it up. I talk about my mother in our ordinarily life. My children particularly enjoy hearing stories about Nana and me from when I was a strong willed kid. In fact, during our last visit, my daughter told Nana her favorite story about my childhood. Sometimes we read books that help us talk about my mother and keep her part of our daily life. I love The Grandma Book by the amazing Todd Parr, which colorfully describes all different types of grandmas who love their grandchildren, to include the ones that live with their friends. Recently, I borrowed Really and Truly by Émilie Rivard from our library, a charming book about a boy visiting his grandfather, who no longer recognizes him. Books encourage discussion, which is always a good thing. Think small. My kids are young and do not have a lot of stamina or ability to keep it together for a long period of time in a small, sterile environment. A good visit with small children will generally...

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Fitting a Marker into a Crayon Box

My mother’s father died suddenly when she was twenty, almost fifty years ago. She was extremely close to him, and adored by him, and one of her biggest regrets was the fact that he never knew her children and that we never knew him. I understand regret. About nine years ago, my family started noticing my mother’s memory issues.  As my son is seven years old, he has no understanding of the fact that my mother planned to move to live near me when I had children so that she could be my childcare.  He has no recollection of sleeping on her shoulder as an infant, of her eagerness to change his diapers and to knit him almost a dozen stuffed animals.  Instead, he now sees her at her basest elements, slow, vacant, lost. My son is an active kid. He likes playing baseball and soccer and offering running commentary while my husband tries to watch football.  To no one’s surprise, given the choice, he often prefers to stay home when I go visit my mother.  It takes some planning, energy and extra enthusiasm to have a fun visit with Nana. Fortunately, a few times a year, the nursing home where my mother lives holds special events, often tied to holidays, for its residents, staff and families. I try to take advantage of these events when I can.  What...

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Filling the Silence

There is not a lot of calm in my life. Someone is always talking, whining, singing, bickering, interrupting, playing, reading, crying, complaining, yelling, laughing.  I live a blessed but noisy life.  In a way, I think it propels us forward, some sort of soundtrack to our daily routine. This past Thanksgiving, I picked up my mother to celebrate the holiday at our home.  It had been a long time since she had left her nursing home.  I can recite a number of reasons for that.  It is not particularly close by.  She seems more comfortable in her own space.  Now there are incontinence issues.  While all that is true, another reason, and one of which I am not proud, is that it is easier on me to visit her and then leave.  We can look at her pictures and talk about who everyone is.  Sometimes, we call a friend or family member, after she recognizes him or her from a photo and smiles fondly.  We share a snack with the kids.  We sit outside on nice days.  Then we say goodbye and hug, after I initiate it, and a staff member taps in a code to allow us to exit, leaving Nana behind until the next time we visit. After consultation with my mother’s caregivers, we determined that it would be appropriate to take my mother to my home...

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