Introspection

My mother, Vera would have celebrated her 90th birthday on November 15, 2016.

It’s proved to be a time of reflection about her life, and her death for me.

 

Random thoughts through a lifetime of her illness:

 

Since her move to the memory care facility, I’ve been taking mom to her long-time hair salon. Her beautician asks about the sometimes “-odd” behavior my mom exhibits. Now instead of dropping her off for the appointments, I stay with her.

It’s taking a lot of time away from my work.

 

When my niece’s wedding invitation arrives, I’m the one to tell mom she can’t make the cross-country trip. Even though Tom and I plan to attend, Mom’s advanced too far into the disease. It breaks my heart, but that’s when I stop telling her certain things.

It feels like lying. Something I rarely ever did with her.

 

We share our birthday month, exactly 30 years and one week separating us. Each birthday is always a special time, celebrated together. Until this year, she no longer remembers.

Dementia takes that from us, too.

 

It’s the night of the holiday party at the Memory Center. The room is decorated, the buffet table holds her favorite treats and the band plays holiday tunes. The songs are those my mother always sang along to. I hold her hand, wanting to sing with her but this year she’s silent. She stares at a place on the floor just beyond her wheelchair.

Is it recognition in her eyes, or only resignation?

 

The staff makes sure my mother’s ready for pick up, however she’s so easily distracted. The search begins for her purse, her comb, and her lipstick. I try to stay calm, but I think about all the things in my life that I’m falling behind on. I get short. I don’t mean to, but once it starts, I can’t stop. I’m sure I sound like an ungrateful daughter.

And a massive wave of guilt washes over me.

 

The doctor tells me it’s no longer in my mother’s best interests to come to the office for her visits. Although I expect this, it hits me hard.

I guess we’re now at the stage where we just wait.

 

My brother sends desert pottery and my sister sends flowers. Our mother looks forward to each gift but the long, brown box stamped “ProFlowers” in florescent green letters is special. She relishes the process of unpacking and arranging. My mother then begins to tear petals from the stems, placing each petal carefully into the vase filled with water while throwing the stems into the trashcan. She’s annoyed by any suggestion to do it differently. Later I find a fermenting vase at the back of her closet. I don’t want to guess what’s in the vase beyond rose petals and water.

I ask my sister not to send flowers anymore.

 

For years I wonder what the circumstances of getting that phone call will be. Will it be day or night; will her passing be fast or slow; can the family gather in time; and on, and on. I never imagined I’d be half way around the world. I never thought my husband Tom would be the lifeline for mom’s entry into hospice to Marian, Frank and me.

And a massive wave of guilt washes over me.

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Random thoughts after her death:

 

I never wanted to be responsible for my mother,

Not in ways I sometimes needed to be through her illness.

 

When she forgot everyone else in her life, she knew me.

Even when she called me her mother, deep in those green eyes, she knew me.

 

When the plaques and tangles sometime cleared,

Though her language skills were mostly gone,

She’d smile that beautiful smile

And in a rare moment of lucidity say,

“I love you, Lisa.”

 

No matter what I did; it never felt quite enough.

 

Our lives: limited by this horrible disease,

Made me grateful to share space with her

On this long and painful journey

 

In moments, I know she’s at peace now.

And I guess I must be, too.

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