1919 ~ Mary "Ibbith" holding her baby doll.

1920 ~ Mary “Ibbith” holding her baby doll, getting ready to take it for a ride in the baby buggy.

2012 ~ Mary Elizabeth and her daughter (me) holding the Flat Stanley project of her great-granddaughter, Grace.

2012 ~ Mary Elizabeth and her daughter (me) holding the Flat Stanley project of her great-granddaughter, Grace.

2013 ~ Mom rides in her own "buggy" with Marylin pushing so they can go feed the ducks.

2013 ~ Mom rides in her own “buggy” with me pushing so we can go feed the ducks.

2014 ~ Mom and me celebrating her 96th birthday cake.

2014 ~ Mom with me, celebrating her 96th birthday with candles and Boston Cream Pie.

Several years into her dementia, my mother went through a stage when her most frequent question was, “What day is this?” I would answer, saying the day of the week, the date and even the time. She would nod. Then, over and over, she would repeat the question. I would tell her again, and then again, and sometimes I’d finally conclude by reminding her of one of my favorite questions and responses from A.A. Milne’s book, WINNIE-THE-POOH:

“What day is it?” asked Pooh. ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “Oh, my favorite day!” said Pooh. I would try to imitate Pooh and Piglet, and we would laugh.  Usually it would break the cycle, and we’d go on to other things.

At 96, Mom’s sense of “today” now often goes back to growing up on the farm, or days working with Dad to build the business, or maybe memories of mothering two growing children. For Mom, Tempus Fugit means Time Flies…but in reverse, going back in time.

Last week I drove to Ft. Scott to celebrate an early 96th birthday with Mom. During my days and nights in the apartment with her, I was reminded again that she is blessed with excellent caregivers who are trained, caring, patient and kind.  When Mom blew out the candles on her Boston Cream birthday “cake” (soft and easy to chew), I was very glad Tammy was on duty to join me in oohing and aahing as we opened presents and read cards that Mom never quite realized were hers.

Dr. Seuss wrote, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”   To celebrate the valuable moments during the previous years that have flown by, this post includes pictures of my mom as a toddler clutching her baby doll, followed by 3 pictures from my many months of visits as we celebrate each day as our favorite day.

Tempus fugit, so Carpe diem.   Time flies, so seize the day.  That’s the lesson.


Thank you, Tammy, for all the special care you give to my mom.  You're a good friend to both of us.

Thank you, Tammy, for all the special care you give to my mom. You’re a good friend to both of us.




Filed under birthday celebrations, celebrations, Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, lessons for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

86 responses to “TEMPUS FUGIT

  1. Happy 96th Birthday to your Mother. Maybe the candles and the Boston Cream Pie brought back memories of childhood birthdays and happy times. The photo of your mother, with her doll in 1920, is almost the same as photos I have of my mother, her sister and their doll, plus pram. My photos are probably from about 1925. The doll, minus the pram, now lives at my home. Isn’t it wonderful when care homes function as loving communities for our dear ones? Sadly, that is not always what happens. And Piglet and Pooh are very wise. I agree entirely.

    • Thank you so much, Gallivanta. The 1920 dog and buggy picture is one of my favorites. My grandmother said my mother could hardly walk on her own in those strapped up little shoes, but she loved pushing her baby in the buggy. My mom always wanted to be a mommy and have her own children, and now–so quickly, in the scheme of things–she’s a great-grandmother. I only wish she realized that the little children who give her hugs and loves are her great-grandchildren.

      • She would be amazed if she realised and very happy too. As it is, it is no doubt enough just to feel the love and hugs.

      • You’re so right.
        During an earlier visit, Mom hugged her great-grandchildren and whispered, “I love you with all my heart.” It was the truth; she felt their sweet hugs and affection and regardless of who they were, she did love them with all her heart.

  2. This is a beautiful post and it reminds me of my 91 year old mom living in Germany. Her body is failing but her mind is working just fine. I’ll be seeing her in a couple of weeks.

    • Good for you. If her mind is good, she’ll love a visit. Even if her mind is confused, I think it’s still something many older people cherish, having visitors come to see them.

  3. juliabarrett

    Happy birthday to your beautiful mother. Sometimes life must be lived in reverse order. Tempus Fugit indeed.

  4. I know how wearing dementia can be and the often endless repetition of questions.It’s great you were able to break the cycle in such a wonderful and caring way. Your Mom’s past memories will be warming her as her ‘Now’ memories but I hope you and the family are benefiting from those memories too before they get lost.
    It’s fantastic she has such giving carers but yours will be the visits she enjoys most even if it’s not always while you’re there. The love is still amazingly strong.
    xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx

    • Thank you, David.
      Actually, if all of us could receive care and help now and then from caregivers like my mother’s, we’d be in excellent hands. And while the care is consistently good, the caregivers’ personalities are very different, and so Mom has a variety of attention.
      Another thing about going to visit Mom every month, not at the exact same time of each month, is I get a good sense of what kind of care Mom is receiving and how she’s responding. Tammy–the one in the final picture–is a jewel. Very calm and practical and caring, and she’ll sing with Mom and hold her hand, etc. It’s genuine, and Mom senses it, I think.
      Massive Hugs to you, too!

  5. Oh Marylin, what a lovely post. Your dear Mom looking still so dignified at 96 despite the dementia. And isn’t Dr Seuss just so right? I love that quote.

    • Thank you, Jenny. She wasn’t especially responsive to the presents and cards, but when it came to blowing out the candles, she had it under control.
      I love that quote, too. The older I get, the more I appreciate the truth of Dr. Seuss!

  6. Jane Thorne

    Happy Birthday to your dear Mum, Marylin, and she continues with grace. I love your pictures and memories. We have only this moment, just this moment. Thank you for reminding me of that. ❤ xX

    • You’re very welcome, Jane. We do have only this moment ~ I truly believe this is one of the lessons I was meant to learn during these years with my mother’s dementia.
      I needed the reminder, too.

  7. Dear Marylin, Happy Birthday to your mother and blessings to you both, to you all. Beautiful post . . .

  8. A venerable age and great cause to celebrate. My grandmother lived to 97. She had her faculties most of the time but occasionally thought I was my father. I love the Piglet reply. Today it is and a very good day to be grateful for the carers. I’m glad you did not try 96 candles!

    • Andrew, I was thrilled when she blew out these four candles by herself, and with one breath and such gusto.
      We debated how many candles to put on the Boston Cream “cake” and finally decided four would be plenty, especially since I didn’t know if she might accidentally hit the plate and topple them. But I was tempted to light them again after she blew them all out. I’ve learned to never predict or second guess what she will or will not do.

  9. Don

    Lovely post Marylin. I’m sure it must be good to know that your Mom is in the hands of good caregivers. What a joy it must have been for you to celebrate her 96th birthday with her 🙂

    • Absolutely, Don, a heartfelt yes to both. The assurance I needed as a mother when I left my daughter with a sitter or took her to her first day of school, is repeated now in the assurance I need as a daughter to be sure my mother is well cared for. So it was a special mini-“party” I shared with one of her wonderful caregivers, a true celebration because Mom had two of us doting on her, helping her with cake and candles.

  10. Yet another lovely post. Once one retires it doesn’t matter so much what day it is and, thinking of a neighbour’s experience attending an assessment with his mother, I wonder whether assessors realise / make allowances for that! In your case however, I love your A A Milne response to your mother – what a wise man he was. 🙂

    • Thanks, Helen. I know assessments are supposed to determine the level of assistance people with dementia like my mother will need, but sometimes we also need to just remember that “today”–whatever day it actually is–is a favorite, best day for them. That’s sometimes the best answer for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.

  11. 96! Wow!
    Happy Birthday to your Mum

  12. ^ My thoughts exactly…:). Great post and loved the quote at the end.

  13. Happy 96th birthday to Mary! Lovely post and a beautiful reminder to seize the day and enjoy every moment. XX

    • Even with her very advanced dementia, she is still teaching me those lessons, Robyn. I had that thought several times during this visit, that she was still teaching me what what I needed to know.

  14. I appreciate the way you tell the story which reminds me of similar experience with my mother.

  15. The passage of time, as told by your Mom’s photos, goes so quickly. Happy 96th birthday, Mary. Marilyn, I love your positive outlook. “What day is it?” asked Pooh. ~ “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ~ “Oh, my favorite day!” said Pooh. We all need to remember this. I love your Mom’s delighted reaction. Carpe diem.

  16. Happy 96th birthday to Mary! A lovely post and reminder to seize and cherish every moment. XX

  17. Great pictures of your Mom and a Happy Birthday too! I like that saying Tempus Fugit so Carpe Diem, I think I might use that as my mantra. Since it is two words it can’t be my one word like you had mentioned in a previous blog, but it is still good!
    Thanks for sharing your stories about your Mom with us.

    • My mantra now is Tempus Fugit so Carpe Diem, so I’m trading my one word–YAGOTTAWANNA–which also actually fits well with Time Flies so Seize the Day.
      I’m glad you enjoy the stories, and I’m hoping you’re back into sharing some of your adventures and insights!

  18. Gorgeous photos, all! And what a good idea to have Boston cream “cake.” Happy Birthday to Mary “ibbith!”

    • It was so soft and easy to chew with her cracked and broken teeth, Nancy, and she loved the chocolate with the pudding center. Mary Ibbith was pleased with the “cake,” even though she never fully realized that it was in celebration of her birthday.

  19. i have little time online, and when i do it’s very very slow. i truly miss seeing/reading your posts!

    lucky me that i’m traveling and have a quick dose of fast internet!!!

    beautiful, as always.


  20. What a brilliant insight you had, to break your mother’s frustration about not being able to name the day, with Pooh and Piglet and laughter.

    I need to remember that tactic. Aging is so interesting; some things get easier while others get harder. (I know I’m being cryptic, I don’t feel I should talk about my current challenge, but I’m trying to thank you for inspiring me with a possible way to lessen the challenge).

    And thank you, also, for the apt reminder that our time, right now, is the most valuable time. Bless you, dear.

    • Thank you so much, Tracy, and when you don’t need to be cryptic, let me know how you’re doing. Blessings for whatever you’re facing.

      • I’m doing all right, Marylin. It’s not anything life-threatening or terribly devastating, just some of the “normal” things that come with growing older, slower and achier; but I haven’t been handling some of it as well as I could be, and you’re post helped me see that I can do better!

      • Oh, Tracy, I totally relate. Especially lately. This trip made me achier and cringing with muscles that refuse to get back to normal after the long drive from Colorado, and it seems that just last month I bounced back so much faster. I would handle it better if it didn’t cut in to my sleep at night!
        I wonder what Dr. Seuss, Piglet and Pooh would say about growing older and feeling more aches and pains.

  21. I know you, as I do, love to assemble all of the photos and text for each post. It is indeed a labor of love. Newly returned from PA and seeing my mother and aunt, I feel full of gratitude. All of the ministrations to our loved ones come back to bless us too. I sense that in the loving tone of your words on this post. Thank you!

    • It’s so true, Marian. Even when it seems futile sometimes, I’ve learned to wait for the lesson, the “moment,” and the blessing. It always comes, and to my delight it usually is not at all what I expected!
      I’m glad you had a wonderful time with your mother and aunt and understand this.

  22. Nice to see your pictures…capturing time as it flies! Love the Seuss quote…well all of the actually! I think when we begin to get older, we do realize the importance of time flying…we can’t stop it but we are amazed how fast it does go. I am not ancient but I took feel myself beginning to live in past memories. I guess because we remember only the good parts and ignore the less than perfect parts.

    • More and more I lean back into the past memories, and often it’s in response to my mother’s memories, Claudia. But the Seuss quote helps me blend it with the here and now, in this moment, and that helps, too.
      And you’re right, it also helps us pass over the imperfect parts!

  23. This goes right to the heart, Marilyn.Those two words, tempus fugit, have been added to my vocabulary. Pooh and Seuss are filled with wisdom for all ages. Beautiful reminder and birthday blessings to your mom.

  24. Happy Birthday to your mom. The picture of the cake and candles reminds me of a visit we had with Susan’s dad who also had dementia. We had a birthday party for him. When he saw the cake his eyes lit up and he asked whose birthday it was. We told him yours! His eyes and smile got even bigger. We warned our daughters to be ready to help him blow out the candles. When we had almost finished singing happy birthday he gave an almighty blow and extinguished every candle on the cake. The look on the girls’ faces was priceless. It must have been today because it is one of my favourite days to remember.
    The Pooh and Seuss quotes are brilliant.

    • Rod, we were prepared to blow out the candles for Mom, too.
      But when we offered her the opportunity–“Who wants to blow out the candles?”–she surprised us by blowing them out. Of course there were only four…
      No sense starting a house fire with 96 candles, right?
      Anyway, it reminded me to never assume that she would or wouldn’t respond in a certain way.

  25. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment before it becomes a memory.” That line struck me as so stunningly significant that I had to go back and read it, again and again. As much as we are told to live in the moment, I still think there is great truth in the Dr. Seuss quote. It is only in looking back (from the perspective of the now) that everything falls into order. Thank you and Happy Birthday to your mom.

  26. Tonight I reread blogs i had posted when my mother was alive and I was trying to get her the care she needed. That being in the present for dementia is so important, and yet so difficult.
    I learned not to answer the qusetions she seemed to be asking, but to give her the reassurance and connection she needed. ‘It’s today and I love you,’is so much better than ‘Wednesday’ most of the time. Fluid memories demand fluid responses.

    • It really is a better response, and especially for dementia confusion it seems to answer the question in a reassuring way. You’re so right ~ fluid memories demand fluid responses.

  27. I’m honored to have been invited to your mother’s birthday party, Marylin. You are an angel and your mother is so blessed to have you as her daughter. I so enjoyed the photo of your mother with her baby doll…so sweet. xo

    • Thank you for “sharing” in our birthday party, Jill. Isn’t that picture adorable? She was so tiny, and my grandmother said she wasn’t completely steady on her feet, but she loved pushing her baby doll in that buggy.

  28. Happy Birthday. Mom. You have great taste in cakes!

  29. Thank you, Eric. If you ever have broken or sore teeth, remember to get Boston Cream “cake” to eat. Delicious…and SOFT!

  30. It sounds like your mum has nice “todays” to relive. Happy birthda, Mum.

  31. Gwen Stephens

    What a wonderful post, Marilyn! Happy Birthday to you mom. Making it to 96 is a blessing, indeed.

  32. Happy birthday to you mother Marylin and what a wonderful philosophy of living for the day, whatever day that may be.

    • Piglet, Pooh, and Dr. Seuss are my go-to philosophers, Andrea. So much wiser than the classic philosophers, don’t you think? Thanks for the birthday greetings for my mom.

  33. That’s an expression I’ll hold on to, Marylin. We just got back from a trip to see my dear-mother-in-law. She’s been in an assisted living apartment in another state since my father-in-law died last year and we get out there as often as we can – which isn’t enough. While the conversations are very repetitive and she doesn’t have anything new to talk about, we treasure our minimal time with her. We showed her an amazing picture of my father-in-law that a friend had done in charcoal as a gift for my husband. At first she didn’t think it was her husband. Then she said: “I guess it is, but he looks soooo old.” And we realized that in her mind and in the dreams she has of him, he is much younger- frozen in time at the point of the photo that she has on her dresser. She clearly relives moments and events from those bygone days and often believes they are current. Hard for my husband to see and harder for him to leave her “there” – especially on the last visit before we head back home. We, too, are blessed with knowing that there are good people around her, she gets good care and she likes it there. But it’s still hard, isn’t it?

    • It is hard, Marian, but feeling confident about the quality of care is a BIG comfort. It’s so interesting that your mother-in-law remembered her husband as much younger than the picture, which does mean her “living now time” is in bygone days. And that’s not a bad thing, as past memories are often relived for their pleasant details instead of troubling details. Does she interact on a current level with you and her son? I’m sure she treasures the time you all are together.

      • She does interact. She’s very aware of who everyone is, where they live,etc. It’s the short-term memory that’s shot (asking the same thing numerous times in short periods, not remembering we were there the day before) and her time perspective is off. One of the hard parts is seeing her upset ‘because nobody ever visits’ or ‘tells her anything’ and knowing family was there earlier the same day, etc.

      • Oh, Shel, that is the hardest part.
        If she has an involved caregiver, or even a constant friend who will help, you might try this: Ask the caregiver to have all guests write a brief personal note when they visit, and sign their names. Then when your mother-in-law says no one visits her, the caregiver can flip through the notes and reply. “Oh, but you did have a visitor. Jane Doe was here to see you yesterday afternoon, and she said it was so nice to share cookies with you and see your smile,”…etc. That really does help, and the specifics from the notes sometimes do trigger a memory response.

      • GREAT idea – we’ll do that. Thanks, Marylin.

  34. Marylin, Happy Birthday to your dear mom! What a beautiful post and how fitting to tie in “seize the day!” Life goes by so fast and before we know it, daily events do become fond memories. I am aware of this more and more as each day passes. How important it is for us to live in the moment, savoring each day and the blessings within it.
    Hugs and kisses to you and your mom!
    xo Joanne

    • Thank you so much, Joanne. I will definitely share your hugs and kisses with Mom. She may not have any idea who they’re from–or be entirely sure who she is–but bless her heart, she still enjoys hugs and kisses!

  35. Oh I adore these photos of you and your mom and of her as a little girl, how cute is that? What a beautiful post, so tender and thoughtful and yet so poignant. Winnie the Pooh is one of our favourites (along with Spot and Curious George!!!) and I remember that about today being Pooh’s favourite day 🙂 Piglet was always my daughter’s favourite because ‘he was little and stripey’!! Also the Dr Seuss quote is so very true. We really do need to seize the day don’t we? Every moment needs to be lived, squeezed out for all it’s worth because far too quickly it will become a memory…
    Wishing your mom a very happy 96th birthday and sending big hugs to you dear Marylin, bless you. ❤ 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Sherri. I always love the funny, gentle way you say things, like living every day and squeezing it for all it’s worth! We do have to pay attention, especially with our children and our parents, I think, and make the most of every day before there are no more grand “today is my favorite day” opportunities.
      Big hugs back to you, too, dear Sherri!

  36. Jim

    Gotta love Pooh-Bear’s inadvertent wisdom. I also love how you frequently weave a universal “lesson-for-living” from experiences with your mom.

    • Thanks, honey, for always supporting my trips to visit my mom, and for picking up the slack while I’m gone. Mom would thank you, too; she always thought you were just the sweetest guy.

  37. Happy Birthday to your sweet mom, Marilyn. She’s lucky to be in such good hands of both ‘care’givers as well as the most loving daughter she could ever wish for. Blessings to both of you. xx

    • Thank you so much, Karin. I wish you could have known her before the dementia; she would have been enjoying every moment of her birthday party, offering you all pieces of her Boston cream pie and asking if you wanted to relight the candles so you could blow them out, too. 🙂

  38. Happy belated 96th birthday to your mother! And that Dr. Seuss quote is absolutely wonderful. I honestly believe he was one of the wisest philosophers of our time. My mother-in-law will be 90 in August, and while her dementia isn’t as severe as your mother’s, I suspect the full import of the day will escape her. Still, I hope she’ll be able to enjoy it on some level.

    • At 90, my mother’s dementia was minor and actually floated in an out. Sometimes she wasn’t confused at all. But during the last 6 years…

      If your mother-in-law receives cards from family and friends, I suggest taping them in clear sight around her bedroom mirror, or standing them up on something that she can see directly. Even now, when I, or Mom’s caregivers, hold up cards and read them aloud to her and say who sent them, there’s a flicker or recognition.

  39. Happy Birthday to Mary! Boston Cream birthday “cake” sounds yummy.
    A beautiful, meaningful post Marylin. My grandson, Peanut, had a screwdriver and was going to work on one of our kitchen cabinet doors this morning. I showed Peanut the scratches that his mom had made on the edge of our kitchen countertop when she was about his age (5 or 6 years old). Peanut handed me the screwdriver… . I’m not sure if it was seeing the scratches that made him think twice, or the realization that his mom used to be 5 years old (20 years ago) and lived in this same house.
    Couldn’t agree more that “Time flies, so seize the day!”

    • Thank you, Theresa. I love the story about Peanut trying to do the same thing his mother did twenty years earlier. I hope you keep these scratched cabinets for the fun memories!
      Time does fly…and nothing proves it like grandchildren!

  40. “Tempus fugit, so Carpe diem. Time flies, so seize the day. That’s the lesson.” Wonderful lesson and great pictures ” To celebrate the valuable moments during the previous years that have flown by . . . ”
    Your Mom’s picture from 1920 as a toddler reminds me of one of my toddler pictures. I was born in 1934, so I guess my toddler picture would probable have been taken in 1936. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, Marylin.
    Love, Aunty Uta

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