Mom is now in a senior’s home. She’s been asking for for several months, and a recent turn of events, and the progression of her dementia and short-term memory loss made for necessary quick decisions.
Although I thought her being with me was the best for her, I’ve had to come to terms that as my life gets busier, and my children move out of the nest, she needs companionship, and soon, 24 hour attention.
I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me. She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn’t like the damp climate.
“I’ve raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times,” she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. “Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache.”
But mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor. “The bird cage,” she quickly dubbed it. She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it. All that said, mom’s health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren. She didn’t like going out much, and I’m no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.
That Christmas she went to ‘visit’ her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return. I can’t say I was surprised.
Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend. She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again. The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.
Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.
It wasn’t long before mom said she didn’t like their food, and didn’t’ seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed. All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care. If anything urgent were to happen with mom’s health, we’d have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her. Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.
We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted. My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane. This was the spring of 2015. Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She’s been a bathtub girl her entire life. Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.
Then our roommate moved out of our home, and in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me. I talked to my siblings about it first. We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .
When I asked her if she’d move in with me again, she burst into tears. “I thought you’d never ask me again, after living with you the last time,” she said. She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.
This Friday mom turns 83 and she’s finally calling our place ‘home.’ She stopped answering the phone saying, “Robbin’s place” and now just says, “Good afternoon.”
Mom’s been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she’s living with family now and we are all busy. Things will not always be on time, and she’ll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.
She’s eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much. She’s begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts. I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.
I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect. Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.
Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility. It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to. I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her … and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.
She’s one stubborn woman, but then so am I…
Here’s one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:
Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, “Oh my that feels good. I don’t get many hugs these day.”
Then she said, “Thanks for taking such good care of me.”I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents
[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit ‘Return’ – please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]
Because we instinctively know that nature is good for us on many levels, it’s not unusual to feel powerfully drawn to it.
I can truthfully say that nature has provided me comfort, more than anything these last few years. My work at the creek or walks in the forest, or hikes up the mountain provide much needed breaks in my maddening days of internet, typing, writing, and the busyness of my life as a mother of four, and now the caretaker of a senior parent…
“In this modern age, we spend so much time indoors, focused on the busyness of our lives and disconnected from the earth. But much of what we truly need can only be found under the naked sky, alongside tall trees, on open plains, or in the sound of running water. Spending time in nature allows us to commune with other living beings and to find comfort in the nurturing embrace of Mother Earth. You can’t help but experience a different sense of self while walking in a wood or traversing a mountainside. Being in nature connects us to the earth, grounding us as we walk, unhindered by concrete, upon her. Surrounded by other living beings, both bigger and smaller than we are, we remember that human beings are simply one form of life in this vast universe.
“Because we instinctively know that nature is good for us on many levels, it’s not unusual to feel powerfully drawn to it. Even if you live in a city or find it difficult to travel to a forest or the countryside, there are a myriad ways to reconnect with nature. When you step out of your door each morning, pause for a minute and close your eyes long enough to let your senses absorb your surroundings. Listen and breathe deeply, until you hear the wind rustling through branches, smell rain on damp grass, and see the reflection of leaves brushing up against windowpanes. If you have time, crouch down and closely examine any nearby grass and soil. The sights, sounds, smells, and sensations we experience that are part of nature can remind us of all the gifts Mother Earth grants us each day.
“Spending time connecting with nature nourishes the soul, reminds you that you are never truly alone, and renews you by attuning you to the earth’s natural rhythms. Taking a walk under the stars or feeling the wind on your face may be all it takes for you to reconnect with nature. Remember, you are as much a part of nature as are the leaves on a tree or water bubbling in a brook.” – Daily Om
Written by Robbin Whachell (Left to right photos above: vintage Victoire McDoom (Vincent’s mother); Vincent McDoom at Labo Ethnik 2014 wearing Lyn Bristol; and vintage Victoire McDoom)
St. Lucian born Parisian fashion celebrity, Vincent Mc Doom, has just been through one of the toughest times of his life! Two family tragedies hit within 24 hours, and he had to choose between leaving a Paris fashion event he was responsible for, or return to St. Lucia to attend his mother’s funeral. Adding to the painful double loss, his brother was also seriously ill.
The famous actor, fashion icon, and Top Model judge last spoke to his mother on May 11th for Mother’s Day. “I called to wish her a happy Mother’s Day as I do every year, and tell her that I love her,” he said. It was during that phone call that his mother, Victoire McDoom told her son that she had not been feeling well. She passed the phone on to his sister, Cyrina, whom she’d been residing with.
McDoom’s sister told him she was going to be taking their mother in to the Victoria Hospital that day as her breathing problems were becoming more frequent after her strokes. The news was unsettling but Cyrina promised to keep him up-to-date on her progress.
On May 12th McDoom received a disturbing phone call from his sister-in-law Pearl Lambert advising that his younger brother Donavan was in Victoria Hospital in St. Lucia. He had suffered a major stroke and had been admitted the day before on his 43rd birthday. McDoom was shocked with the news.
“I had two family in the hospital. Mom was sent home early with medications, but my brother Donavan needed a brain scan so he remained,” said McDoom.
“On the 13th of May, and with the help of some very prominent friends in St Lucia and the French Embassy, my brother Donavan was flown to Martinique for treatment, and the much required testing he needed. I have to wonder if he would have passed away had remained at Victoria Hospital?”
During all of this McDoom was busy preparing for a major Paris fashion event he was both artistic and casting director for called Labo Ethnik. “I felt better knowing my brother was in intensive care at the Martinique facility, but it was very hard having two family members in serious condition,” he said. “I wanted to stop all my activities and head to the Caribbean immediately.”
With Labo Ethnik only a week away, and with international designers and models he himself had cast for the event converging in Paris, and a heavy schedule in place for fittings and rehearsals, a decision had to be made. “I just didn’t have anyone competent enough to replace me,” McDoom said. “So I remained in Paris committing to my contract.”
It was on May 16th that McDoom’s niece Sue-Ellen, who also lives in Paris, called to tell him to contact his sister Cyrina for she had received a text message from his nephew Dwayne that things were not looking good for his mother.
“I called my sister Cyrina and was only on the phone seconds before she told me she was rushing our mother to the Victoria Hospital again. At the hospital, my mother Victoire McDoom, the wonderful, non-judgmental, very understanding, super-encouraging, with the sweetest disposition was confirmed dead. She was 72. I felt lost, and empty, and the tears would not come for I still could not believe it.”
Vincent and his sister Cyrina would not speak until later that night. When they did, she had more news. “When it rains it pours… ” he said. Cyrina told Vincent that their uncle Desmond had passed away just a few hours before their mother.
“That news was too much to handle, so I drowned myself in a very hectic work schedule preparing for the Labo Ethnik show that was less than a week away. The presence of the models I had to train and my workload kept me going. Life took over and I did not have the time to even think since I was constantly going physically and mentally for the show. I was just like the Energizer bunny, always on the move,” said McDoom.
As the family started planning for the funeral, Vincent had to make a call about attending. “I probably made one of the most unselfish decisions of my life, I decided not to attend after speaking to my sister Cyrina and my father Justin Elcock. I wanted my mother to go in peace and honor. I did not want my arrival and presence in St. Lucia to upstage her memorial celebration. Being I am a celebrity on the island, I did not want her funeral to become a circus with press and photographers.”
“My family understood and I offered to help with costs and decided I would later hold an intimate mass for my mom in Paris and again in St Lucia upon my next visit. That is all I could have done given the circumstances.”
The funeral for Victoire McDoom took place without Vincent in St. Lucia on May 30th. Vincent wrote on his Facebook page that morning, “I can’t see through the tears yet I am forced to continue, but that feeling of emptiness surrounds me especially today…. To my siblings Cornelious, Anthony, Cyrina, Cymee, Marz, and Madonna Mcdoom May The Lord give you guys the strength as the family gathers today for mothers send off… ”
When asked about the legacy his mother has left he said, “My mother gave all five of us her good looks, her sincerity, her humor, and her love for life. She taught us to respect others, and to not be judgmental. She taught us to be ourselves no matter who or what we were up against… She gave me my strength of character and taught me to be honest and fare. She was my light, she was my rock.”
Vincent McDoom was only 19 years old when he left St. Lucia and his beloved mother to make his way into the European fashion scene. He had received a scholarship to study in Paris. His training went on to include internships with Paco Rabanne, Guy Laroche, Guillemin, Angelo Talazzi, and André Walker. For a brief period he worked as an assistant to Marc Jacobs.
“She was very supportive of the life that I had chosen for myself. She encouraged me to leave the Caribbean and go in search of my dreams. She was my number one fan. Mom would often say to me, ‘I am proud of you my son. You became your own man, and in your own way, and now you are respected for it… You are made in God’s likeness, so honor him always.'”
Vincent McDoom recalls one of his fondest memories of his mother, “On one of my visits home to St. Lucia I was caring a signature Louis Vuitton bag, the Keepall, and she liked it instantly and ask me for it. I gave it to her without thinking twice, as she’s my mother, and I have more than one Louis Vuitton. For her it was normal, for me it was natural. When I returned the following year it was raining quite heavily. When I got to her home something caught my eye, and I saw her Louis Vuitton on the ground in the rain. I continued in and greeted my mother, then asked her what the bag was doing outside in the rain. She replied quite innocently saying, ‘Oh no, my cha coal bag (coal bag) is getting wet, please get it out of the rain.’ Yes, my mother was using her Louis Vuitton as a ‘coal bag’ to keep her fire going, and I thought wow, that was so very chic! She had no idea of the price nor the value of that bag and I looked at her and smiled and told her its history. I promised my mother that I would ask my friend Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director at the time to design a ‘cha coal bag’ especially for her.”
With the Labo Ethnik 2014 successfully behind him, and the funeral now over, Vincent McDoom is still in mourning, as the loss of a mother is something one never gets over. The tears found their way out and Vincent has openly expressed his gratitude for the outpouring of support he has received family, friends and fans on his social media pages. He found great comfort during Labo Ethnik with the company of St. Lucian designer and friend, Lyn Bristol, writing, “Safe trip back to St. Lucia Lyn. You will be missed and thank you for all you gave to me, especially at this particular moment in my life… Our late night chats and your hugs eased the pain of mother’s passing. For that I am eternally grateful.”
And to the Labo Ethnik models he wrote, “I want to thank all of my fabulous and considerate models who worked with me on the recent edition of the #Laboethnik. For all the kind condolence messages they have been sending to me, especially today (May 30th).”
Vincent is looking forward to his return to St. Lucia later this year to reconnect with his family, and honour his mother. “My latest movie roll in Kickback is in homage of my mother Victoire McDoom, and so will be my next big event for St Lucia later this year, which I will name after her.”
“If I could speak to my mother one last time I would thank her for giving me life and remind her how exceptional she was, like all mothers are to their sons… I would also tell her that she was and will always be my idol, and I think of her with every passing hour.”
“The memory of Victoire McDoom will live on… I will see to that.”
My youngest Jackie sang tonight at her high school talent show. She’d been rehearsing with her friend Juan, who accompanied her on guitar for some weeks now. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve heard her sing publicly, the last was in Grand Bahama at the Labyrinth. She was affectionately introduced tonight at her school here in Canada as “Bahama Mama” as she grew up in The Bahamas.
There’s something about listening to your child sing. It’s like ointment on a wound. T o see your child perform on stage is a whole other experience. For me, I felt like I was right there with her… one with her. I could feel every change in the music, and feel the emotion. The song they chose to cover was not an easy one. “Run” by Daughter is a haunting song with lilts and lifts. A touch of Sarah McLaughlin and Joan Baez.
I snapped away on the camera as I was memorized with my daughter and I became teary. I could hear nothing but her. Then, I heard more than just her… I heard my youngest sister singing through her, then my oldest sister, and then my mother was singing through her. She was a chord of song running through my lineage.
It may sound dramatic, but it was really quite simple. Simple and beautiful…