Almost Mom

I peeked into Mom’s room today, and she was sitting in her chair–a surprise. She saw me, and stuck her hand out, fingers spread, in a characteristic way. Just a single movement–out and back–and it looked so Mom-like that my heart leapt up. It’s Mom! my brain enthused, which is understandable when compared to some days when she doesn’t act like “her” at all. It’s a lovely COOLER day here, after weeks of stifling heat and humidity. “Let’s get outside,” I said, and we moved her into her wheelchair, and I rolled her out the door. I could have given her her walker, and maybe I should have, but Dear Companion (who is gone until Aug 23–wahhhh!) reported that Mom had such trouble walking in yesterday that she feared Mom was having a stroke. I think the heat is debilitating to Mom, so she might have been OK today, but I didn’t want to take a chance.

Mom was in her new, navy blue hoodie sweatshirt with the 235 COTTAGE logo on it, a treat my father authored for the whole family, and designed by my nephew, who is a whiz at such things. Mom moved to a more comfortable chair, and she told me we had to remember to take it in–it wasn’t hers. Yup, it is, said I, and she raised her eyebrows in disbelief. We sat absorbing the sunshine and cool breeze, about which she frequently commented. Then I noticed two small birds sitting on top of the bird feeder. I pointed them out to Mom, and she said, “It’s amazing that they can look at us, and not run away!” I was stunned. A complete sentence from her. That’s right: I did not have to interpret, or add a word or two, or create a sentence for you to read. She. Said. It. Again, my heart rose to meet her, she whom I’ve missed and longed for so often, especially in the past two years, . Mom’s here! I thought, and continued to chat, hoping that there would be another such sentence, and that–maybe? finally?–we’d be able to really talk a bit. Nothing fancy. I’m not too demanding, just hungry to talk to my mom.

That was it, though. I still enjoyed being with her, I helped her comment on the weather, and the dog etc. She tried, as she has in the past, to explain her thoughts to me, and when she can’t, she gestures with thumb and forefinger in a line across the air, as though the shape she’s creating will allow her to communicate with me. Recently, I’ve started just making agreeable noises, and nod knowingly, as though I have understood. This satisfies her sometimes, other times she stops after a garbled comment, and says, “That didn’t make sense.” And sometimes, as she did today, she collapses after straining to speak and says, “Never mind.” I hate the defeat of her effort, and always root for her to be able to say what she’s thinking. I am convinced, as I’ve often told her, that she is a smart person with a Memory Problem that she can’t help–it’s not her fault.

I was interested to see a framed collage of the four of us kids–as young adults (gosh, we were all so pretty!)–on the counter in her room. When I asked her why, thinking that it fell off the wall, she said, “Well, it’s real nice, I think, and I wanted to take it with me when we go home.” [some words added by ed.] I said I understood, and I’d make sure it is packed when it’s time. She continues to ask where she is, and when we will go home. I go over the reasons she and Dad live there, and that she’s been there four years, and that Bickford is where she lives. Mom always looks surprised, but not upset by my explanation. Should I start going along with her confusion and say we are leaving tomorrow? My fear is that she will somehow remember this and then be disappointed. She was sorry to hear that I don’t live there, but I reassured her that, even if she can’t remember, my sister and I visit her often.

Oh yeah. That’s the good news I finally understood after studying the guest book in confusion. Yes, my sister is home from HER two-week vacation, and I am not alone! I somehow got the idea that she would be gone another week, and with Mom’s Dear Companion gone, I was gearing up to manage and be with both Mom and Dad more. But she’s here! and will, as always help carry the load. Not that today was hard–it was a real love fest with Mom today. I looked at her and wondered how I could ever let her go.

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3 Responses to Almost Mom

  1. Helga says:

    The Long Goodbye, a memoir by Meghan O’Rourke. I’ve just started it, wasn’t sure if I could get through it, but so far so good. I highly recommend it so far. Her mom died of cancer at 55, and she remembers her mom’s life and the long slow decline. She was present for much of it and did quite a big of caregiving. A very different situation from yours, but much of what she goes through will be recognizable to you. Much of what she writes resonates strongly with me and will with you, I think.

    So happy you had a few moments with Mom!!!

  2. lindamortensen says:

    Beautiful. I know these days are too far apart for you and Kristi. It is a good thing you are recording them so that you can remember them later.

  3. Meg says:

    Tender, Kathy. Thank you for your loving courage.

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