Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Memorial Day

For several years, Mom and I would drive to Springfield sometime during Memorial Day weekend to visit the cemetery in which her parents are buried. We’d meet my aunt, uncle and one or more cousins at the cemetery, and it seems that more often than not, we would circle the place a number of times, always forgetting precisely where Grandma and Grandpa are buried. After I got married, Mom usually made the trip by herself. I really don’t remember the last time we took that drive together for that purpose. But I still identify Memorial Day with that daytrip with Mom even after all this time. I talked a little bit about it with Mom when I visited her today.

I hadn’t seen her in almost two weeks. Shortly after the Bald Head Island trip, I took another brief vacation, this time to Florida to go to Disney World with my dad, stepmother, brother, sister-in-law, and niece and nephew (plus another sister mid-visit). I hadn’t done a good job of getting a visit in with Mom before I left, mostly because work was very busy as I tried to catch up and prepare to be away again.

I remember that occasionally during the Disney trip (just three days), when I was feeling rather overstimulated by the crowd, noise and heat, I would think about how peaceful and calm it can be to visit Mom. And yet when I was preparing to visit her today, I felt both drawn to her and also a little full of dread. That’s not entirely unusual. If she’s in a good mood and alert, she can cheer me up, and I’m always hopeful for that outcome. And when I’m away from her for a long time, I miss the connection I’m trying to maintain with her. As for the dread – I think that’s just related to not knowing what to expect from the visit.

Today, Mom was sitting at a table in the program area. She had on a Christmas fleece sweater and fleece pants. I admit I was surprised she had on such warm clothes on one of the hottest days of the year. I had brought some clean summer clothes to put in her closet, and I removed other fleece items that I didn’t think were necessary to keep around over the warm months.

I sat next to Mom and we chatted. For the most part, her language was gibberish, but she’d occasionally say words normally. “Are you tired?” she said to me. “I’m just boring,” I responded. I wasn’t talking too much, balancing feelings of wanting to be a cheerful presence for her with a sense that saying anything to her is a useless endeavor. “The girls win,” she said. “Girls rule the world,” I responded, putting my hands in the air. She liked that. “Are you Bonnie?” she asked. “YOU are Bonnie. I am Emily,” I said. As we started to take a little walk, she stopped and said, “You look like me,” and I said, “I know! I do! People tell me that all the time. It’s because I’m your daughter.” She also said the name Shirley – that was the name of a cousin she was very close to, who died young, in her 50s I think, of complications of Type 1 diabetes. I attended the funeral with Mom even though I wasn’t sure I had ever met Shirley – I did know her sister, Sandy; Mom was close to her as well.

I was with Mom for about an hour, which was longer than usual. A time or two during the visit, I got the sense that Mom felt it was time for me to go. She wasn’t upset or anything; she would just make a motion or say, “Well…”. We got up to take a walk and I stopped to talk briefly with a man who visits his wife every day. While we were talking, Mom wandered away. I found her in the lobby, moving around couch and chair cushions with another resident. I coaxed them both back to the program area for lunch, and said goodbye to Mom once she was settled in with her spaghetti, green beans and garlic bread.

Missing Mother’s Day

I will not see Mom tomorrow, on Mother’s Day. I will be driving back home from a vacation on a North Carolina island. Patrick and I have come here every year since 2008, and our intent is to keep up that annual pace, and perhaps even get down here again in late summer or early fall. It is my favorite place on Earth, and it calms me to the core to be here.

I missed Mother’s Day a few times when Mom was in assisted living, and she didn’t really notice. I have attended the parties at the nursing home the past two years, though, and had snacks with Mom – and also with Mr. R at least one time. Last year, I got a little corsage to wear even though I am not a mother. Mom is less aware than ever, so I know she won’t have any idea that I am not accompanying her on this party day at the nursing home. I will be aware, though. Just as I have been aware every Mother’s Day for the past several years, I will know that I still have a mom, but she is unable to be a mother to me anymore.

I dreamed about Mom this week. It is the new way that my anxiety manifests itself: I dream that Mom is more with it than she actually is, and she is living in the house in which I grew up in Columbus. I have trouble handling her, and my goal is to convince her to move back to the nursing home. I wake up confused and in a bad mood, thinking for just a few seconds that I have this huge task hanging over me to get Mom back to that blasted nursing home. Even though I quickly realize that the reality is that Mom is safe in the nursing home, this dream can affect my mood. I was very tired on this particular morning after having this dream, and I was grumpy. Not a good state of mind for vacation. It eventually went away.

It has also become a habit for me to cry on the last full day that we spend on Bald Head Island each year. I took a brisk walk this morning, and after saying goodbye to the turtles at my favorite spot on the island, the tears welled up. I wept while trying to keep up my walking pace, and cleaned my dripping nose on my shirt. The great thing about this place is that there is nobody around to notice such things. I haven’t determined yet whether this is sadness about leaving or preparation for re-entry to my life – a life that is mighty fine, by the way. Perhaps it’s a little of both. I’m sort of amused by the crying, to be honest.

To be clear, I am not crying about Mother’s Day. In the past, the marketing associated with the holiday pissed me off or made me sad. I am used to it now, as are others with mothers who are ill or dead. It’s just something to endure. Presumably if I were a mother I’d have a whole different outlook on this weekend in May. But I have no regrets about remaining childless (by choice). It has worked out well for me to not have kids since I have had a mom to take care of for so many years.

Wednesday evening, 6 p.m.

I stopped in to see Mom before support group last night. Two visits ago, she was grumpy with the infected salivary gland. The next time I saw her, she was stretched out on a couch in her nightgown after dinner, just lounging until it was time to go to bed. This time, she was in her nightgown again – only she was already lying in bed. Her aide greeted me and said he had just changed her and she was in her room. I found her resting with her fingers interlocked behind her head. I touched her hair gently and said hello. She remained silent and just looked at me with a blank expression. I sat at the foot of the bed and rubbed her legs. She said nothing. Her aide came in and said she sometimes likes to rest after she’s changed, but she typically goes back out to the program area for awhile in the evening before going to bed. He tapped her on the belly and said “Bonnie” a few times. She ignored him and was completely unresponsive. He shrugged and left. Mom remains consistent in her inconsistency, I guess. I watched her face and rubbed her leg. She closed her eyes and was very still. She had said virtually nothing. I wondered aloud during support group if she is beginning to withdraw, if she might be starting to slip away a little bit, but a friend who had seen Mom recently in the morning said she was as alert as she’s ever been and that she looked good. So maybe Mom was just sleepy.