Another ending for Mom

I took my mother to see her sister in Florida. My uncle was flying in for a reunion of the siblings. Mom has mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. It was a driving trip and hard for us both. She was a trooper but confused, overwhelmed by choices and new places and the familiar being always unfamiliar. She had very much wanted to go to Florida, but by the time I dropped her off she was fretful, quietly upset, and ready to go home. Within a day, she was soothed, but all of us realized that her days of traveling zestfully to other places were over.

She and her sister are close. Theirs has been a vibrant, loving relationship. They were black belt shoppers and mothers of large families. They exchanged clothes and wore the same hair-dos. The day before I brought her back, I was so aware that my mom will never go to her sister’s home again, sit in those comfortable rooms with all the photos of family, sit on the porch, drink coffee, talk about children or weather or husbands or the weight they’ve gained or lost. It’s another ending for Mom. She doesn’t know it; that’s the kindness, I guess. But I felt it, felt sadness and loss and life’s moving on, its steel-edged inevitability.

I felt the same during my sister’s last weeks. I walked the yard, daffodils ready to bloom everywhere, with my college-age daughter and thought, my sister will never do this, this very simple, we take it so for granted thing, with her grown daughter. It hurt in the most exquisite way­­––life’s hardness and our fragility, death and rebirth, luck and that which will be.


3 responses to “Another ending for Mom

  1. Beautiful, true and sad. Life.

  2. Your observations of the last trip your mom would take hit close to home; so much so that I had a good cry before I could start writing my comments.

    Two years ago we moved my mother and step-father into a home close to me to afford them the opportunity to stay in their home with the help of care-givers and keep them from living their last years in a nursing home, something they both felt was the worst way to end their full lives. My mother has a form of dementia and my step-father is in an advanced stage of Alzheimers.

    When I took my mother to visit her old friends in Pasadena for her 80th birthday I realized, like you, that she was fretful and overwhelmed by the trip, the gathering, and being away from her husband. Although she expressed her appreciation for all it took to arrange the celebration, I knew that, if she were to enjoy future visits, they would need to allow for one-on-one conversation. Her inability to focus on more than that diminishes the enjoyment she has in seeing family and friends.

    We tried for a number of years to talk my parents into this move and when I see her now I am constantly filled with sadness that we could not have had a few years of living close before her sickness robbed us of a normal relationship.

    As her husband slips further into those last stages of Alzheimers, my mother clings tighter. I can rarely convince her to leave her house, to salvage what is left of her own sanity. She is so entangled with caring for him that she refuses to see how neglectful she is in caring for herself.

    I will be sixty this year. I had plans to move to a part of the state where I thought would happier. I never wanted to stay where I am when I retire. I worry now. Will I be so caught up in taking care of my parents that I cannot live out my later years of life with a sense of peace and freedom that I thought would come at some point in life?

    I worry because I know my own daughter has begun to look at me the same way I now look at my mother. I know she is already concerned about my mental and physical well-being. I know dementia is something prominent in my mother’s family and I, too, have a likelihood of being in the same position as my mother. I believe my daughter worries about that also.

    I believe I have a responsibility to teach my daughter, by example, to love and care for your family but not abandon your own happiness and well-being. But I feel that I am failing miserably at this responsibility.

  3. Pingback: shepherd « Karleen Koen — writing life

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