Mama is Better. I’m a Blank.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Something has happened to my brain.

Twice now, yesterday and today, I’ve sat down to write … and could not formulate a thought. It’s stress, I think. And lack of sleep, I think. And being overwhelmed, I think.

It’s understandable, I tell myself. It will pass. I believe that and don’t worry about it. I know it’s just part of this process.

But … sheesh … I have the blankest of blank minds. It’s almost as if I’m not fully in touch with myself, or as if part of me is asleep, even when I’m awake.

Mama is — almost miraculously — doing better. She was able to go to adult day care all day yesterday. And she drove them crazy with her repeat questions while she was there. Then, last night, she sat at the table and ate supper, and by that I mean, she actually ate. It’s wasn’t a feast, but she managed a chicken leg and a helping of mashed potatoes. Then, of course, she raided the fridge for ice cream.

Mama was back.

Nobody, including me, expected her to ever be this good again. Mama is oblivious to all the stress, but I’m worn slick from it. I feel like I’ve been to the brink and back and I no longer know where I am. The hospice nurse told me to enjoy the good days. I didn’t do that yesterday. In fact, I spent the day expecting her to crack like an egg at any moment. I also did a good bit of feeling sorry for myself.

I need to take the nurse’ advice and enjoy these good days. Who knows how many of them we have left? I prayed last night — a lot — and, as usual after I pray, I feel better.

But the blank mindedness continues. That’s why I’m writing a diary today instead of a post about world events. I find that world events don’t interest me much right now. I hear the latest shenanigans in Congress, and, given my long time in politics, I see through them immediately. But I don’t much care.

I’m more focused on simpler things, like the fact that the oil in my car needs changing and I have to unload the dishwasher and put the sheets in the dryer. Stupid as it sounds, that’s where my mind is.

I do battle every day with the sick smells in Mama’s room. I wash sheets, empty and wash the portable potty, throw away the used tissues, and get it all clean smelling. It’s a stalemate, this war between the sad scents of urine and decay and me, but I’m fighting the fight on a daily basis.

I went to the doctor myself yesterday. Nothing serious, but I had to be very firm get away long enough to do it. What surprised me is that going to the doc felt like an outing. My life has become narrow indeed when taking myself to the doctor feels like recreation.

One odd thing that has happened is that Mama has started calling me “Mama.” It happened the first time when she was so near the edge a few days back. I did something for her, I forget what, and she said, “Thank you Mommy.”

During the day, she knows who I am, but now, late at night, when get up to take care of her, she often calls me “Mama” or “Mommy.” It doesn’t bother me when she does that. In fact, I find it touching.

It is, after all the truth of our situation.

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!


My Golden Mama and Her Slow Good-bye

Let me tell you about my mother. 

She is 87 and she gets confused.

She gets confused a lot.

For a couple of years there, every day was a challenge just to keep her alive. We rushed her to the hospital several times so they could drag her back from the edge. Now, her physical health has stabilized, but her mental health is going downhill, a little bit at a time.

She reminds me quite often that I took her car away from her. She’s lost that sense of time that lets the rest of us grieve a loss and then move on, leaving it in our past. When she remembers that she doesn’t have a car, the indignation is as fresh for her as the day it happened. The day I took that car was a sad day for me, too. When she tells me, as she does at least once every day, that I “took” it from her, it re-opens the pain in me, as well.

Other than the car memories, my mother is as sweet as a small child. She accepts whatever I suggest as the best thing and she trusts me the same way my children did when they were little. Like them, she talks almost non-stop, prating along about things that happened, or didn’t happen but that she thinks happened, 60, 70 or even 80 years ago.

For my part, I’ve fallen into the same u-huh, u-huh, answers that I gave my babies when they chattered to me as they “helped” me wash dishes or plant flowers or whatever. I do a lot of the same things with her that I did with them. We sat in the backyard yesterday and counted the blue-jays and the robins to determine which are the most numerous.

The differences are that when I told them something, they remembered it later that day. Mama doesn’t. That, and the fact that my babies were moving forward toward independent life, while Mama is moving inexorably away from independent life and then on to the next life on the other side of this one.

Forgetfulness is a blessing of sorts. At the beginning of this journey, she knew when she forgot and it upset her. Now, she no longer remembers that she doesn’t remember. She’s much happier this way.

I never remind her that she’s asked me that same question several times. I just answer her again. I don’t chide her about calling me 10 times in 15 minutes when I’m at work. I just talk to her each time as if it was the first call; because for her, it is.

I love my mother. I always have. But in some ways, she’s more precious to me now than she ever was before. She is so sweet, and so good. The pretensions we hide our real selves behind are gone from her. Her personality is stripped down to the unself-conscious realness of its bare self. What that is in my mother is a person who is all love, all generosity, trusting and deeply, profoundly innocent.

Caring for her during these years of her slow good-bye has given me the chance to see my mother as she really is without any cover. What I’ve seen is that she is a wonderful person, all the way through.

This is precious time, these years with her. I would not trade them for anything. There are moments, every once in a while, when I miss who she used to be. I would love to just sit down and have a talk with Mama as she was. But that can’t be and I know it, so I run my mental fingers over the weave of the thought and then fold it up, put it away and go back to the reality of the sweet baby Mama I still have.

Old age is not a tragedy. It most certainly is not a waste or a burden to those who aren’t there yet. It is a gift and a treasure; a phase of life like any other. My mother is going through a slow and beautiful passage from this life to the next one. It make take her years yet. Her family is a very long-lived tribe. Or, it may end suddenly, at any time.

Whichever way that happens, I know that she and her ultimate future are in God’s loving hands. I only thank Him for giving me this present time to love and cherish her now. It is, like she is, golden.

Like Patheos Catholic on Facebook!