I’m pooped. I’ve been mostly in Midland for about nine weeks, visiting Mom and Dad a lot of those days, and I’m out of gas. Tomorrow we leave for a Halloween trip to Philadelphia, and greatly look forward to seeing Andrew, Christine and Emma. Nothing like a two-year-old to distract you from other concerns! This is probably the last post for somewhere around a week. I thank everyone who reads these missives; it reduces a sense of isolation to know you are reading.
Yesterday was a tough parental day for me. I walked into Bickford, and saw Dad coming down the hall toward me, headed to the ice cream social. I decided to join him and visit with him in the dining room–after all, the ice cream was strawberry, y’all! We sat enjoying the treat together, until I looked up and saw Mom appear, headed for the office. She looked so awful, so old and out-of-it that my heart hurt. Her hair was standing on end, no glasses–which do no good anymore, but she looks more like Mom to me when they are on–she was shuffling behind her walker, bent way over…well, it was painful to see. BUT. Mom’s missing-for-the-last-month glasses had turned up! I had them in hand and went to give them to her. Mom was hugging the wonderful director when I presented the glasses to her. She was so happy to have them, and thanked us both, over and over. I suggested we sit with Dad, and she could have some ice cream. It was more difficult than usual to get her to the table where we were sitting; she couldn’t seem to locate the target table and then to figure out how to get there. Finally we approached Dad, and I was horrified to see her reaching for Dad to tease him–the misguided-ness of that sort of “fun” with Dad cannot be emphasized too much. But she was already tickling the back of his neck.
“What? Where are…” Dad said, swiveling his head from side to side. “Mom.” I said firmly. “Dad doesn’t like that. If you want to say hello, pat him on the shoulder.” She did so, and Dad said, “What does she want? She’s pounding me on the shoulder!” Sigh. I got Mom seated, with ice cream, and tried to talk to Dad, whose hearing aids didn’t seem to be working. I went to get some new batteries, put one in, and–I swear this is the truth–the hearing aid would squeal (the sign that the battery and hearing aid are working) in my hand, but not in his ear. And the full moon was last week, I’m told!
Dear reader, let us draw a curtain across this scene, and let Kathy weep alone.
We’re not done yet, though. At a little after 7:00 last night, the phone rang, and across the front it read: BICKFORD COTTAGE. Oh no. I picked up the phone and heard that Mom was unresponsive again, that they needed to give her medicine, that she would react to stimulus, but not wake up. I headed out to see what was going ON. Mom was just as they described her, and was also occasionally opening one eye a little, appearing to be looking at us. I pinched her thigh above her knee, and she grimaced, but did not open her eyes. I tickled her in the side, where she generally reacts powerfully, and she moved, but remained apparently asleep. “Mom, do you want me to take Coco home with me?” I asked, thinking that the shock of losing the dog would shake her awake, and if she WAS playing us for fools, she might unthinkingly open her eyes and respond. Instead, she nodded–yes, take Coco with you. I had a brief vision of Coco chasing our cat Java around our house, and went back to talking, poking, and pinching (gently, I assure you) to try to shake her out of whatever was going on.
Suddenly, Mom turned her head into the pillow, a big grin on her face, and then turned to me. “Hello,” she said, acting for all the world as if she’d just wakened. I helped her sit up, and she admired my shirt, making no reference to what had just happened–if she was playing with us, she did not indicate any triumph or fun. Mom was fully dressed, including shoes and socks and she thought it absurd that I wanted her to undress for bed. By this time, I was ready for bed, and deferred to the aides in the room for her night toilette.
As I watched them working with her, I felt a strong sense that this was it. There was no point in continuing this farce, this pretend life, any longer. It was so obvious, so right, that I felt as if I could, by pushing a button or pulling a cord, end this awfulness for Mom and for me. I’m sure that I’m right about that, but I know we don’t get to choose the time that makes sense to us. I’ll still be praying for her release nonetheless.
One last word–I went to Bickford today, and Mom was significantly better than yesterday. When I found her in the room on the bed, she urged me not to stay, gazed lovingly at me, and said she knew I had things to do and that it was OK to leave her. I took her up on the offer–it felt, for just a moment, as if my mom was taking care of me.