Friday, January 23, 2015

Mom on the day before she turns 93


Aging is so often brutal, but I swear were it not for my mother's arthritic pain and inability to move under her own steam due to the Parkinson's, it might be a much gentler thing. She speaks to her sisters and brothers on the other side, and her mind floats freely between past and present, and parallel universes too, I suspect. She said that her sister Winnie came to visit her, and they had such a lovely talk. My brother's wife raised an eyebrow and said, "Are you sure about that?" which made my mother pause. She looked at her calculatingly and said, "Winnie is one of the dead ones?"

They are all alive to her, moving at will between this world and the next, and my mother is always glad when they visit. In fact, her sisters who are still with us on this side, the two who are as frail as she is and unable to travel, seem more gone to her than the ones who have already passed, perhaps because she is unable to commune with them as she has been used to communing with her sisters for going on ten decades.

Last night she hardly slept. The woman who sleeps in the room with her told me she was calling for me all night, from midnight until about four, wanting to tell me it was time for us to get dressed so that we could cut her birthday cake. I was in the basement where my husband and I are ensconced; but I did not sleep either. I tossed and turned all night, maybe hearing my mother calling me in some dimension I could not quite reach.

She says, again and again, "We have been so blessed." She has been saying this all along. It is the one constant, the words that come out clearer than any others. She told me once that she used to pray that she wouldn't lose her mind as she aged but that she forgot to pray for her body. I wonder sometimes which is the greater grace, an agile mind or a strong, pain-free body. It seems to me now that a mind capable of skipping between worlds and collapsing linear time might be no price at all to pay to avoid the extreme of physical infirmity. It is not my mother's so-called mental confusion that distresses me; it is her discomfort in her skeletally thin and twisted body, her unremitting pain.

We are having cake and ice cream for her birthday this afternoon, even though her actual birthday is tomorrow. One of my cousins, the niece who has been a stalwart for her, has to travel out of town tomorrow and so we moved the date. My mother lately thinks every day is her birthday so it's a small thing to celebrate today so that my cousin can be part of the festivities. We'll celebrate again tomorrow.


20 comments:

  1. She is spirit and beauty, chiseled down to the very essence.

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  2. How tenderly you honor her and this part of her journey. I think that is rare, far too rare,
    and your sensibilities, though sometimes painful to experience, offer a high teaching
    to others.

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  3. Happy Birthday to your amazing mother. She is right. You have all been blessed and it's quite mesmerizing how she travels between the worlds. I for one believe it, and I am glad for her that her siblings are a source of companionship to her. Have the best visit you can.

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  4. I have worked with those with dementia for many years now and please, please tell your family not to question your mom's delusions. It is very painful for her to have to be reminded again and again that they are dead. Just speak as if they are alive. "Oh, how is Winnie? What is she up to?" If she remembers just go along with that too. There is nothing wrong with being kind to her old soul.

    A story. When my mom was sick her sister in-law died 10 days before her. They had been close and we chose not to tell my mom because it would have caused her so much pain. We joke that when my mom died she got to heaven and saw Peggy and said, "What the hell are you doing here?"

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  5. Still gorgeous...Celebrate every day. Happy Birthday!

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  6. My grandfather couldn't remember that my grandmother had died, so we starting agreeing with him that she was alive. You write so incredibly about this…I felt transported. Sending love.

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  7. Happy Birthday to your beautiful mother! Like Vesuvius At Home said, she is truly a queen.

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  8. You all are blessed. The love you have for your mother comes through in your pictures. Wishing comfort and peace for your mother's 93rd birthday.

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  9. Yes, you are all blessed. Blessed with love and connections across the boundries of life and death and space. May the celebration be joyful and what LindaRe said.

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  10. Belated blessings. I understand the thin veil that divides the living from the dead.

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  11. Sending you and your family love, my friend.

    And I hope you are able to get back home without the weather causing you any delays.

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  12. I just came back and read this again. I'm not sure why. My thoughts are with you, Dear Angella, and your dear mother. Wishing some peace for you both.

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  13. I just read this and your latest post (today - Tuesday), but Blogger won't let me comment there. My heart aches for you.You describe your pain and the conflict of emotions so powerfully. How hard, how hard, how hard. I know it will be my turn one of these days. These amazing women who saw so much and gave so much and know so much and loved so much are slipping through that veil. How I wish I could give you a hug. May the rest of your mother's journey be eased by all the respect and kindness and love that surrounds her.

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  14. It heartbreaking that your mom so sick, and at the same time, you're so blessed to be with her celebrating her 93rd birthday.

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  15. I love that she keeps saying "We have been so blessed." She sounds fully aware of how wonderful her family is, and how much you all mean to her, even amid her fogginess about day-to-day circumstances.

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  16. Dear Sister

    A blessed good morning and happy birthday to your Mom. It is painful and heart wrenching at times to read and see her aging and deterioration. For too many she is yet another aging person and a reminder of a possible fate that lies waiting for us all should God decide to spare our lives long enough. But I share in your grief and sense of loss because I too remember a woman of great grace and dignity who possessed a powerful spirit. O how we long for those days when all our parents were alive and so significant in our lives. But things change and so much of what we love leaves us and no amount of longing will bring it back. But we can love. And with our sadness and our longing we love more sincerely and deeply. I love that you love, how much you love and how deeply you love. Best of all you share your love. What use is love if it is not shared. Please kiss your sweet mother for me and wish her a happy birthday. Let her know that she is loved and prayed for by all of us.

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    Replies
    1. My dear brother, this comment brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, and yet it also makes my heart glad that others hold the memory of the woman my mother has been in life, and the woman who is within her still, even if she cannot express her full power any more. She still possesses her uncommon grace. She is still aware of being blessed, and you, my dear Bruce, are enfolded in that. Thank you for this lovely, heartfelt, comforting comment. xo

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