1943 Christmas 2007
Yesterday, I am sure my mother had a TIA that may have started the day before. M. wasn’t too caring in the beginning when I felt like I was in an emotional whirlwind, turning and turning and experiencing one miserable thought after the next; each wave striking out with such intensity it was impossible to stay calm. Momma finally lay quietly in her bed with a recirculating oxygen mask on. Her oxygen saturation had been very poor the last two days and now she is having other symptoms, symptoms that are very much similar to that of a stroke. Even though I am perturbed with him, I thank God, M is a retired anesthesiologist, and knows how to take care of Momma in an emergency.As I vacuum, M. never stopped lashing out his displeasure with me. He’s disappointed that I can’t accept the fact my mother will die. He thinks the last five years of my taking care of her should change the way I feel. Unfortunately, I accept death as a part of life, except that during the first seventeen years of my life my mother was continually ill. No one told me what was wrong with her; in the dark of night I sat on the stairs behind the living room door straining to hear if she was all right on the sofa. We told her goodnight as she lay there and remained in the same place until my father came home. Each night I feared for the worst. Prayers a young boy learns tumbled from my lips yet, my father was in town playing cards at the tavern. I knew I shouldn’t disturb her; I knew if he caught me, he would be mad and so I waited, waited behind that door on those steps; waiting for agonizing hours. At other times, my mother went to their room across from my room on the bridge at top of the stairs. Again, I sat quietly in my bed unable to sleep until came home. I waited to make sure he was home to take care of her.
Even when I was with my mother when she was ill the hours passed with fear. I agonized during a week in the summer when I was about eleven. My father told me my mother was ill and I should sit near her and if she tried to get up to persuade her that she needed to be with me. Outside the sky was a dismal gray and the bushes in front of the big window looked strangely deep green. Bridal Wreaths never look like that, but on this particular day, they did. Across the room from where Momma lay was a photo of my grandfather. My mother stared and stared in that direction almost hypnotized and then began to scream because she saw people in the wallpaper. The dismal light became less as the Bridal Wreath brushed against the window as a wind blew it back and forth. Minute by minute, scream by scream I sat frozen, except to hold my mother’s hand and watch the room darken more and more. As my mother’s drug-induced, tortured cries became quiescent, she reached out and hugged me. For hours that day I waited for my mother and suddenly she returned as the became the darkest from the summer storm
I received the hug throughout my life; its effect on me was powerful, even though it was physically weak when she was ill. That hug wasn’t just when she was ill, but came to me many, many times. When I was seven years old Momma and my father had a battle in their room in the trailer where we lived. Their room was between mine and the kitchen and that day, after changing my clothes I had to pass through their room to get to the kitchen. As I got near them my Father tried to hit my mother and as he did, I jumped on top of her and knocked her down on the bed. I was on top of her. My father became quiet, turned and walked away. My mother wrapped her arms around me and hugged me very tightly.
Especially memorable was when we lived in Arizona and each time I went to my mother’s apartment and after she opened the door the next thing for her to do was to raise her arms out wide to give me a hug. Now that she is incapacitated from a debilitating stroke in 2005 it is difficult for her to hug me, although every morning when I tell her good morning the first thing she tries to do is to hug me.
That Hug is missed…….now in the months following her recent hospitalization it is even more difficult for her to move her arms. My hug from her will always be with me in my memory.
Even though her hug will always be with me it is much to difficult to watch her passing from her twilight and on towards her darkest time. The other day she spoke to me about having a dream in which she died. After she told me her dream I felt it wasn’t about the way she will die, but more about how helpless she has felt in the last five years battling every major bacteria that became resident in her lungs during a hospital stay in Arizona. The dream reminded me of how an innocent prisoner responds as he goes from his cell and walks to his execution. He is unable to prove his innocence and he is helpless at stopping his execution.
My mother broke her hip and after surgery many aides cared for her without gloves. One in particular coughed continually in front of her. Nurses and technicians took care of her without gloves. In the beginning days, M saw what they were doing and immediately demanded they wash their hands and put on gloves be for they enter the room. It took some time to initiate the request and after ward, the staff was less than friendly. .One employee me she thought we were making a mountain out of a molehill. In less than a month, Momma was ill for the first time of many times. I watched her go from enjoying life to a long period closer to the beginning of darkness. It seemed to happen over night, but now I realize this happened over the past five years.
My Mother has always been strong and has always lived for tomorrow. Her memories hold her past and she uses them when someone requests something from her, although her plans are always paramount. Now, occasionally, my mother will express a hope for today; rarely can she speak of the past because of jumbled memories, and all to often, she sadly says on the days that are the worst that she wishes she died! She only says this when it becomes apparent to her that she can do so little, but usually after a few moments, she returns with a hope of survival.
Her journey through the dimly lit days in her twilight are different than my father’s. Momma talks to me and tells me of her journey; she is aware of the change within her, and she tells me of her fears. My father spoke very little about his reactions to becoming elderly and passing between a time of life and a time to prepare for death. His fears, his thoughts, always remained within him and I believe he was unable to prepare himself. I believe strongly that he thought of tomorrow and then decided not to explore it further. At that moment he knew he needed to meet is end immediately. My mother, on the hand, will treat each day as a new day to learn and plan for the next day. She will face her fear, tell me her thoughts and make plans. She will not go quietly into her darkness—
I will be there for her on that final hour, but I know I will not be able to be calm. I don’t have her strength and I will miss her terribly even though she will live in my heart until my final day.