Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Russian Iren

It's a bright day today... so, on a brighter note, I'd like to share my experience at my bridal dress fitting yesterday. I promised I'd share this with you and, oddly enough, it was a funny situation.
I showed up for my appointment at noon with my mom and my sister. We walked in as one of the ladies guided me to the back dressing room. As I began to undress, a Russian lady, Nataly, walked in with a dress at its beginning stages on a hanger. She waited as I undressed and handed the dress to me as I began asking her questions about the dress and watched her nod her head as I realized she doesn't speak any English. So, I stopped talking and stepped into my dress... and, as the dress reached my thighs, it stopped... it was too tight... so, I looked over at Nataly, smiled with an embarrassed look on my face and said, "Um, should I pull it up?" as I tried showing her what I meant. She came over and ripped the back stitchings to the dress and said, "Ok, NOOW!" As I felt more embarrassed, I pulled the dress up slowly and heard the stitches tear more... At this point, I wanted to dig a hole and get in... but, I kept my cool and said, "Ummm, I was supposed to go lose weight.... you know, skinnier... maybe I got fatter!?" Nataly, looked at the four inches of space between the material on my back and tried pulling it together as she said, "Uh, no there was meestake... not rrite... you get THIS FAT?" I began to laugh as I looked in the mirror thinking this has to be impossible... I haven't gained four inches on my waist! Nataly left the room talking to herself, sounding confused and irritated as I kept looking in the mirror waiting for the dress to magically fit me somehow. A couple more minutes of humiliation passed, then, Nataly walked in with another dress in her hand as she said, "Ok, ok, no... thats another Iren... a Russian Iren... not for you... here yours is..."
So, my dress did fit and it's on its way to turning into the dress for the most important day of my life. I wish she could have seen it, but, life goes on...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Life Goes On

We go through these unforgettable experiences in life... and... as we get through them... we pause to realize that the only thing that happens, after all that, is that... life goes on...
These days, our life goes on... As each and every person tries to go back to their normal life, their priorities, and deadlines, I realize that... life goes on...
The only way to get through it is to think about the fact that... life goes on...
Things are looking better these days because... I realized that... life goes on...

Friday, March 18, 2011

I received an email today...

I received an email today and it was a story about a lady with Alzheimer's... it reminded me of you, grandma...

Childhood Delights

Think Positive

BY: Jean Ferratie

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s long after I accepted the gradual changes I saw in her. I had grown used to partially listening to her repetitious stories and filling in the missing words of her sentences.

I imagine I might have continued to deny my inklings had she not been admitted to the hospital for a short hospital stay. During the night, apparently she had become disoriented and the nurses found her roaming the hallways. A neurology consultation had taken place and the doctor told me that my mother was approaching the middle stages of Alzheimer’s.

The doctor was kind and compassionate as we sat in a hospital conference room. He explained that for people with dementia, once a memory was lost it could not be relearned as in the case of a stroke. I thought I understood that concept, but over the coming months, I often had to fight the urge to say, “I already told you that.”

My mother lived with our family since her retirement. We enjoyed a deep friendship and she led a very independent life filled with activities. Almost overnight our family life dramatically changed with the pronouncement of that one word: Alzheimer’s.

Those happy, active days dropped away from my consciousness as I suddenly felt trapped by the challenges that I imagined lay ahead for all of us. Somewhere in the process of hearing and accepting this diagnosis, my focus shifted from being with Mom to taking care of Mom.

Each day led to a new discovery as I learned what Mom knew and what she could no longer remember. For example, my heart sank the day I realized she could no longer read written directions. She stood in front of the microwave holding her frozen dinner, not knowing what do. That was also the day that I knew she would need someone to stay with her while I was at work. It was the only way I could ensure that she would eat during the day.

I thought about the best way to take care of Mom all the time. I was vigilant in my discreet observations of her. Looking back, I wonder if despite my well-meaning intentions, I arrogantly took it upon myself to decide what I thought was best. Possibly in the process I curbed some of her independence and neglected to consider her capability to express her feelings and opinions in the moment.

Driving the car was a major decision and dilemma as I wondered whether she could drive to the grocery store and find her way home. When was it time to remove her car keys from her purse? Fortunately it turned out to be a mutual agreement when she called me crying from the mall, “I can’t find where I parked the car. Help me!” Thankfully she remembered the phone number, probably because she had dialed it hundreds of times over the years.

That one decision struck a major blow for each of us. It signaled a huge loss of independence for Mom and huge dependence on me. I also began wondering how I could convince her to wear a medical alert bracelet with her name and address without destroying her dignity.

Each day more memories were lost but slowly I discovered that every cloud does have a silver lining. Because my mother did not have memories of the past, I grew to know her in new and different ways that were free from the baggage that most of us carry throughout our lifetimes. Resentments with a sister-in-law no longer mattered and she would talk to her on the phone again. She could go to the hair salon on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday because each of her days really did begin with a clean slate.

Slowly I let go of the firm notion of taking care of Mom and being with Mom. We began to share a companionship. Often we would engage in an activity and it was as if she was experiencing it for the very first time. I would see delight on her face blowing out candles on her birthday cake, coloring with crayons, or picking flowers in the park.

It was surprising to see some amazing changes of imprinted patterns that evolved. She forgot that her back bothered her and I no longer had to drive around a parking lot to find the closest parking space to the store. She even began taking walks up and down our street.

One day we went to a buffet and I will admit I was a bit shocked and embarrassed when she stuck her hands in the salad bin and stacked her plate with a wide variety of foods. She didn’t remember what she liked or disliked and I watched with fascination as she tried and enjoyed some of those foods.

As time passed, I noticed Mom was able to take care of herself in some new ways. She dressed herself but she didn’t care if her clothes matched. This was the same person who bought me matching box-pleated skirts, cardigan sweaters, and knee socks as a child. I noticed with amusement and sadness that she took over the control of the television remote. Her taste in movies changed from her cherished classics to the Western channel.

She was unaware of the growing to-do list added to my schedule. She was free from paying bills, making dinner, driving herself to doctor appointments, laundry and numerous other details that make up a person’s day.

Mostly she was happy just to be with me. She would follow me from room to room and was always ready to jump into the car for errands or an outing. Slowly I began to recognize her individuality as she displayed her likes and dislikes and a full range of unpredictable emotions. She was Mom, not just a human being with a disease.

One of my most treasured memories occurred when I took her to an outdoor band concert. They were playing music from the Big Band Era. By that time she was barely able to carry on a conversation, yet once the music started she sang the words to almost every song! For more than forty-five minutes, I was filled with awe and gratitude that somewhere deep inside her there was still a bridge to the outside world. I can still recall the joy and contentment on her face.

Alzheimer’s helped me to learn to appreciate Mom and not just take care of her. As her memory fell away, I discovered in her an almost childlike innocence. She taught me to view the world from a different perspective and to notice how precious each moment can be. It is with a sense of irony that the less she remembered, the more present we both became in our lives.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

We Will Always Remember You

You attend funerals and show your respect to others as you watch family members struggle to let their loved ones go... but... when you're apart of the family, everything is different... Everything is you and a part of your heart... All your eyes see is the loss and sadness, no matter who shows up to comfort you.
When an older person dies, people (and I used to) feel that it should be easier to get over but, now, I understand that losing someone, at any age, is painful and unbearable. She was there one minute, asking the same questions over and over, and, then, she was gone... The first couple of days, I sat there trying to remember what her voice sounded like so I could keep it in my memory. I don't ever want to forget it...
Yesterday, my younger cousin, Eline, bought some balloons and had everybody write their letters to grandma as we let them go in the air and watched them go as far as our eyes could see... Some were in English, some Armenian, and some were drawings... but, I thought it was a nice way of sending her our love and saying, "Goodbye" for the last time. I can't imagine having gone through these past few days alone. I can't imagine not having someone there that understands the loss you feel. Thank you to all the ones who took the time to show up and send me their condolences somehow.
Grandma, thank you for being the special person that you were. We love you, miss you, and will always remember you...
Mom and grandma cooking on Mother's Day 2010

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Can't Find the Words...

I was talking to my mom a couple of days ago... on her birth day. I asked her how she was feeling and she described her feelings by saying, "You know how, sometimes, you have a feeling and you just can't find the words... that's how I feel..." Well... two days ago, my grandma passed away... and, honestly, these days... I can't find the words...

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Irritation... that's the only word I can use to describe life these days. I might be suffering from a little bit of short temperosis but... irritation is the only word that comes to mind...
The good news is that my grandma's out of the hospital... The irritating news is that she was at our house for a few days... Don't get me wrong, I don't mind her around most of the time... until... she starts asking questions. The other night, she asked the same question so many times that we decided to make a recording answering all of her questions at once. To our surprise, it worked. She'd listen to it every time we'd play it and nod her head like we had answered her question. "Where is your mom and when is she coming home?... Where is Iren going?... Where is my medicine?... and... Where are my house keys?" Those were the questions she'd ask every 3 and a 1/2 minutes and we had recorded: "Grandma, mom is at work and she won't be home until later. Iren is going to a wedding and she'll be home late. Your keys and medicine is with mom. She'll bring it with her when she gets home later." So, as we played this recording for her each time, she'd wait for the answer to her specific question, nod and say "Okay..." As she did that over and over again, she walked around the house looking confused and lost and as she heard the recording for the 25th time, she came into my room as I was getting ready and asked, "Who's wedding did your mom go to?" as I told myself to be patient...
Patience or not, Alzheimer's or not, irritation or not, today is my mom's birthday! My grandma doesn't remember her birthday. She doesn't remember giving birth to her only daughter on this day so, today, I'd like to make a recording saying, "Grandma, I'd like to thank you for giving birth on this day, a few decades ago, to a very special person. I wish you were able to remember these certain moments that brought you happiness... I wish you would remember her birthday one year... and... I wish you knew how much she loves and cares about you... unconditionally..."
Today is also international women's day! Being the type of person that doesn't enjoy bridal showers, baby showers, and thinks it's wrong to put too many women in the same room, I can't imagine my life without the most important women in my life... Happy Women's Day!
Happy Birthday to you momma! I'd like to thank you for being the special person that you are. I hope you try to remember all of these things that make you happy... I'd like you to know that you are loved and cared for... unconditionally...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking Back on Lover's Past: Opening Reception

Manequin covered in fabric prints which was displayed on a tabletop during the reception

Polaroids were used to show the process of the photo shoots

Left to right: Amy Seyfi, Elena Zadouri, and Iren Tsaturyan

Amy applying makeup on one of the models during the reception

Having fun wiping the entrance with (many) paper towels to keep guests from falling

Left to Right: Chocolate covered strawberries, coconut macaroons, eclairs, and cream puffs

Some props to help bring the show to life

Thank you to all the people who showed up during the rainstorm and helped in making it a very special night!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In Her Memory...

Today, I actually felt that completing the 365 days was not a success... I realized that after day 365, I have lost my sense of discipline, motive, and strength to do better at this thing called "life"...
And... as I sat here trying to figure out what is most important to me at this moment and where I am right now, I eyed my grandmother's gold watch in my bag. I've had it for a couple of days now... I've had it ever since I was with her at the Emergency room the other day trying to convince her that I'd keep it safe for her. Well, I did convince her I'd keep it safe but, now, she asks about it every 15 minutes...
As we sat there in the ER, she would get tired of waiting, then, look around for the clock in the room, stare at it and say, "What time is it? How long have we been here? We've been here for five hours! Where is the doctor? Where are my clothes? Let's go home, please..." Then, she would look down at her wrist to try to figure out the time and, then, she'd say, "Where is my watch? Did I give it to your mom? What did I do with my watch?" I'd answer, "No, grandma... it's with me... Don't worry, I have it..."
The watch does have a history... My grandfather bought it for her when they were engaged and she has worn it ever since. It's the one thing she doesn't forget and, recently, it stopped working... She spent her days calling her children and asking about the hands on the watch that were not moving anymore. After days of trying to convince and remind her that it was an old watch and it would take days to fix, my uncle decided to switch the gold wristband with another watch that was working. Now, she wonders about a watch that doesn't exist anymore. Now, the watch she knows is only in her memory... but, she looks down at this one and as long as the hands are moving, in her world... in her memory... it's all okay.
Now, I don't know what's more important... the fact that she has the memory of that watch or that she doesn't even recognize it anymore...

Tip of the Post: Sometimes, ask yourself, "What is more important?"