I told Dad and my sister the great news–I’d found a place where the beloved Coco-dog could stay in assisted care should my parents ever decide to move. We were amazed and thrilled that in our smallish city such a place existed. Every day, still, I am thankful for this gift, and for the staff that makes it possible for Mom to have Coco, especially since Mom can no longer fully care for her dog.
By the January before Mom broke her ribs in May, my father put his name on the list at Bickford Cottage, and made a downpayment that guaranteed he would be called first for any openings that came up. Then came May, Mom’s fall, and a move seemed more likely all the time, especially with Dad’s anxiety so high that Mom would get lost. I told him that if it got to be too much for him, we should look into Mom moving into Bickford; as I said this, the awfulness of what I was saying made my head feel light. Could I really be saying this about my mother? Was this a betrayal? Were we really at the point of making this huge change? What if this were the wrong thing, and I was acting like it was no big deal? Did I have any right to be party to this decision?
It wasn’t many more days until my father, sitting slumped in a dining room chair, said, “I’m ready.” “OK,” I said, as if I knew what to do, as if I knew this was right. As Dad spoke, the sun illuminated my parents’ backyard that lay in my view. My parents enjoyed this beauty for 53 springs, and now there would be no more. I understood why people used the phrase “heavy heart,” for now a weight seemed to be resting in my chest. My parents life and mine would never be the same, and I knew it in that instant.
Dad made an appointment to enroll Mom in Bickford, and to set a date for her to move in. Mom continued, at home, to seem both confused and then again competent, which kept me moving between a sense of certainty and a dread that we were doing the wrong thing. Unfortunately, I was just about to leave town for an important visit to our recently engaged son to meet his in-laws-to-be–in San Francisco. Painfully, the timing played out such that Dad, Kristi and I met with Jennifer, the staff member who enrolled residents, immediately before my husband and I were to fly to San Francisco. A sense of unreality assaulted me as we sat at the table and Dad signed papers. I should be weeping, I thought, but my emotions were frozen; my face produced appropriate expressions, and I heard my self say the right things even so. We all shook hands when the papers were signed, smiling as if we were pleased. I stepped outside on shaky legs and met my husband at the front door. We drove away, I feeling like the cruelest of betrayers of my still-innocent mother. The flight we made that afternoon remains a painful memory, for I was almost sick at at the thought of what my mother would face when I returned in five days. How could I have supported this? Should I call Dad and tell him that Mom could come and live with me? There had to be another answer, but I could not find one, desperate though I was.