My Journey Back to Mom – Recognizing the Team in Family

My Journey Back to Mom – Recognizing the Team in Family post page

Corrie Phillips

By Corrie PhillipsAugust 17th, 2020

My Journey Back to Mom – Recognizing the Team in Family

by Corrie Phillips, PAC Team Member, with Larry Griner, Care Partner to his mother, Norma

I recently was introduced to Mr. Larry Griner via Molly’s Movement. Larry is a care partner to his mother. You can find him online sharing stories of his daily musical moments with his mom at their home in Baltimore, or in a nearby park where they often spend their afternoons. Larry’s story struck a chord in me. We know that four out of five families will fall apart when a dementia diagnosis is given. As Larry shares his account below, notice the gratefulness he displays towards his brother, recognizing all the hard work and selflessness of his brother who was the primary care partner for many years. It’s just a reminder for all of us to stop and recognize those who have paved the path before us or help us out along the way. What or who do you have to be grateful for today?

Don’t get me wrong, this is hard work. Recently, my therapist suggested that I write a letter to someone. I didn’t have to give them the letter, but it was an exercise in getting the thoughts and ideas out of my head and on to paper. She suggested I start the letter with gratitude and then move into the things I wish they would have done differently. Now understand, that I have harbored a lifetime of resentment towards this person so the thought of finding something to be grateful for seemed nearly impossible. But as I sat down and put pen to paper, forcing myself to come up with something, I unlocked this flow of gratitude from within that helped me recognize that a large piece of what I love about me came from them. It was a gift that I couldn’t see, that was hiding behind my anger.

So, I encourage you to read Larry’s story and take some time to think about your support team. Whether it’s family, friends, or the staff at your loved one’s facility, take some time to focus on gratitude and see what a difference it can make in the support you provide to those around you.

I have been asked a number of times to say more about me and my time with mom, so I thought I’d give a little perspective of my journey back to mom at this time of her life.

But I’d like to introduce you to the real hero in mom’s world, my brother Howard. I have spent the past 30+ years in New Jersey & California not seeing or knowing the changes that were taking place in mom. Howard was the one who took on the overseeing of mom (and pop) because of his proximity to both parents in Baltimore. He oversaw every need for mom as she lived alone. That considerate commitment eventually turned into more permanent care as mom started to digress with physical issues and the onset of dementia.

Howard did all of this while having a family of his own and while working full time. I personally did not know of the severity of mom’s condition and Howard’s daily commitment challenges until it pretty much broke him. He never complained about mom’s care during that four-year interim and I never noticed from afar, what was really going on here at mom’s home.

I became more aware of everything when I took a three month leave of absence in 2013 to come home and relieve my brother. This is when I truly became aware of his challenges and the overall challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia. I can only imagine the additional pressures Howard had with work, family, and other personal issues while committed to mom’s care. I reemphasize, he never complained.

My first-time home to take care of mom was not just an eye-opener, it was an emotional roller coaster which I was not prepared for. It was survivable for me because I saw a light at the end of the tunnel, with me returning back home to California to a normal life. Though the break was phenomenal for my brother to have, it became short-lived because he was thrust back into the challenges of caring for mom, his family, and work again.

After a quick visit home in 2017 and the realization and shock that mom did not know me, I knew I had to return again soon to do the following: relieve my brother again, spend as much time with my mother who was losing out on her memory of me, and to give mom an opportunity to enjoy as much life as possible outside the house, vs sitting in a chair a majority of her days and not be placed in assisted living.

But this story is not about me. My brother Howard, took on the responsibilities that sustained my mother and gave her the quality of life that she was deserving at this point in her life. My brother Howard, went far and beyond what many a person does for their parents even when he had a separate life of his own. My brother handled all affairs for my mother so that she would be taken care of for the balance of her life. In essence, my brother did everything for my mother putting aside his personal life and goals outside of his necessary commitments to his own family and work. Both of which suffered I’m sure.

In a nutshell, I owe the world to my brother for taking care of our mother when she needed it most. He set the table to make it easier for me. I returned to Baltimore not only to care for my mother who needs us, I do this for my brother to whom I owe more than I can say.

So thank you all for your love, prayers, messages, praises, etc. that you send me. All of which keep me going for sure. But it’s important for me to recognize and give credit to my Brother Howard, for getting mom to this point so I can help take the baton.

You can find Larry online via his YouTube Channel – don’t forget to subscribe so that you can see new videos when they are posted!  Larry is also active in Molly’s Movement on Facebook. Watching he and his mother every day gives me a little joy. When I last spoke with Larry he expressed that he started sharing videos because he was seeing how his use of music sparked so much joy in his mother. Suddenly, other care partners started contacting him and thanking him for sharing. He is currently working to set up a YouTube channel to share out more videos.

Here are few videos of Ms. Norma to get your day going in the right direction:

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Grooving at the park

Making Friends in the Park

It Don’t Hurt to Flirt!

Larry recently participated in a webinar Music and Mind Live with Renee Fleming, Dr. Francis Collins, and Deborah Rutter.  Click here to watch the recording.

2 Comments on “My Journey Back to Mom – Recognizing the Team in Family”

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    Such an uplifting and inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. I’m just beginning this journey, as my husband; age 60, was just diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia (Dementia)…and I am the caregiver, still working FT, our children both live out of state. I’m overwhelmed and scared, but seeing and hearing positive stories like this lift my spirit and give me a spark of hope. Thank you!

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