Archive for April, 2017|Monthly archive page

Mom on my mind

I was weary from a 10-hour car ride, my clothes a little disheveled and my arms draped over my backpack and a small cooler to keep them from falling off the tram bench. After 20 minutes on the ferry and now riding in an open-air shuttle to our rental condo, my hair was a wavy, windblown mess. I imagine my face registered the fatigue of the day as well as the satisfaction that comes with arriving at a vacation destination.

“You look a little like Bonnie,” Patrick said.

Mom wasn’t necessarily disheveled on a regular basis before she got sick, but she was typically informal in dress and manner. The same could be said about me, too, I think. I’ve tended to believe all my life that my facial features favor Dad, but there is no question that I share many of Mom’s mannerisms. Slouching my way through a tram ride at the end of a long day would fit that description. My affection for lounging on a couch – any couch – is also a Bonnie trait that I cannot deny. I have a brother-in-law who jokes that Caldwell women have never met a couch they didn’t love to lie on. I spent every evening of this vacation lounging on a couch and I end most days at home that way, too.

It was fitting to be thinking about Mom. This vacation to Bald Head Island, just Patrick and me, was sort of a do-over of our just-us trip to celebrate my 50th birthday 18 months ago, almost exactly, that was interrupted by Mom’s rapid decline and swift transition into an active dying process. We stayed at the same condo and had the same low-key agenda. We had no special occasion to celebrate this time and no need to worry about Mom, either – something that I did during every trip to Bald Head Island from 2005 to 2015. But in my mind, at least, it represented a chance to make up for a vacation gone wrong and also a reason to reflect on what followed that – an intense and meaningful 10-day period spent shepherding Mom through her last days with this most dreaded disease, letting her go and celebrating her life, all the time surrounded by people I love and who love me and loved Mom.

I like to take long walks alone on the island, and I get all mushy about how pretty the maritime forest is and how relaxed I finally am or I dread an upcoming departure and I have a little cry. Last Sunday, I took a long walk and thought about Patrick telling me I looked like Mom and lamented the 10 years of vacation opportunities with Mom that Alzheimer’s stole from me and tried to imagine Mom walking with me on that perfect day. And I had a little cry.