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.


4 comments so far

  1. Megan on

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks for mentioning the peace and calm you feel when visiting your mom. Sometimes I forget about that; it’s true for me too, especially now that her emotional roller coasters have ceased. I also share the mixed feeling of anticipation and dread with every visit, as probably many people in our shoes do.

    Sounds like you had a great visit. Neat that she was so verbal and expressive, recognizing your similar looks. 🙂

  2. Jeff on

    Hi Emily – I have the exact same memories and identification of Memorial Day. I know we’re meant to honor veterans who have died in conflict, but for as long as I can remember it’s been to visit Grandma and Grandpa’s graves. I don’t remember doing anything similar with Dad for his parents. I saw a news story on TV where they interviewed some WWII vets who said they remember that before the war it was a day of remembrance for families. I wonder if the Scottish descendants played a part in our annual trek, or more traditions from the Loveless side.

  3. momsbrain on

    Meg, Those thoughts about peaceful visits with Mom came as a surprise to me – but then again I think about Mom a lot of the time, and at those Disney moments, the quiet had some distinct appeal. We did have a nice visit, which was a relief after having had some bad luck with her recently.

    Jeff, I’m sorry I left you out of the memory of Memorial Day. I guess the later visits, when I was the only one around Columbus, are the most vivid in my mind. It’s hard to tell what prompted us to do that annually – Springfield is much closer than the Ohio Valley, that’s for sure.

  4. Jenniferjayhawk on

    Conversations with my Mom are conspiracy theories at this point. It’s hard to talk to her because she is so agitated about everyone trying to steal $15.00 from her.

    The next couple months will take me in a direction that my Mom never wanted.

    I guess we all put one foot in front of the other to do what we have to do.

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