Showing posts from April, 2016

Six days

My mother could really drive me crazy. As she got older, I found myself having to tell her fewer and fewer details of my life. For example, she had no idea that I was a blogger or a podcaster. Both of these facts would have made her cringe. She was a very private person. If she knew I had blogger or podcasted about her specifically, there would have been hell to pay.
I also told her fewer details of the lives of my children because she seemed to have a PhD in worrying. She could take any situation and find the danger. So, I started leaving her out of big things. The kids went on trips she never heard about. One played sports I never told her about. In order to keep the peace and maintain the relationship, I was sharing less and less. Of course, I told myself all of this would stop once she was better.
Even with all of the stuff we never discussed, I still find myself, six days after her passing, finding things I typically would have shared with her and feeling a void because I cannot. I had fooled myself by talking to her the whole time she was unconscious. I never stopped talking. And then she wasn’t there to even talk at anymore. The permanence of her being gone is just now starting to sink in.
It sinked in further today when I returned to the hospital to drop off a thank you card I wrote for the staff of nurses and techs that took care of her in her final days. I am not sure if this is customary or not. I just wanted them to know how much I care that they cared. But it also meant I had to return to the hospice floor and relive the same steps I took back and forth while waiting for the inevitable. Now there is no reason to stay until 3am.
It just happened but it seems like it was weeks ago at the same time.
The cremation has been completed. I received the confirmation via email. Now I am just waiting on the paperwork so I can make one trip out to bring her and the paperwork home at the same time. I believe she would approve of this. She was not one for wasting gas. She used to complain about my habit of going to Walmart on my side of town and Kroger on the other side of town. Just get it all in one place! Whatever money you save you’ve wasted on gas and wear and tear on the car!
Six days. A week ago tonight was the last time I saw her. I feel sadness, then relief, then guilt, then forget for a bit, then remember. It’s this cycle that keeps going round and round. I assume the circle will get bigger over time so each feeling lingers a little longer before it all just blends in to normal life and it takes a seat beside the other regrets.
I wonder, in the guilt phases, if I wanted this to happen. I was thinking a few weeks ago, when things were not going great and I was having to fill out paperwork to permanently place my mother in the nursing home (she did not know this but I had to have things in order just in case and it was looking very likely that just in case was about to become reality) that my mother’s only escape from this situation was going to be death and that would mean that my only escape from it, from the guilt of what I was having to do behind her back, cheerleading to her face (You can do this! We will get you home!) but preparing in the background, would be the same.
How will she accept never going home, I was thinking day and night. And how was I going to tell her.
And then it happened and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it at all. My main thought during her trip to the ER was how would we handle not losing her room at rehab if she was in the hospital for a few days and I was in complete disbelief when the ER doctor came to us and said that we were at the end. I’d heard that so many times that I even went home not believing it and spent Monday weighing options. 5% chance. I wasn’t thinking about the math, I guess.
Now here I am, at the Chromebook, typing away with no mother to call to talk about Doris Roberts or the primary in New York. It’s permanent, I keep telling myself, although she is the top entry in my iPhone memory and her brush and comb are still in the blue tote that has been in the trunk of my car ever since I emptied her rehab room out two weeks ago tomorrow morning.
The circle will get bigger over time, I tell myself. It just hasn’t yet.

An appreciation: Doris Roberts

Don’t let a suitcase filled with cheese be your big fork and spoon.
Doris Roberts leaves behind a legacy of comedy. It feels like she was on television every step of the way as I grew up, first on “Angie” and then on “Remington Steele” and finally on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and she popped up on all sorts of shows and movies in between. She was everywhere and no wonder – she could do anything. I think great television writers get to write great television parts when they are lucky enough to find an actor who can take what is on the page and make it even greater. Doris Roberts was that kind of actor.
One of my absolute favorite episodes of any television show is an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” from Season 7. The title is “Baggage” and the two scenes below made me feel like I was back in my childhood home again. There is a big wooden “M” in my mother’s kitchen that has been up as long as I remember and I am guessing that removing it would lead to the same result that Marie gets when she tries to remove the big fork and spoon.
Both of these clips are just a small example of what I loved about Doris Roberts. We’ve lost a great actor today.

The first good day

On the three week anniversary of the last good day I had with my mother (the last normal conversations, the last time I was certain that she knew who I was), I had the first good day with my family. Aside from a brief few moments this morning, there have been no tears and I’ve tried my best to focus on the positive memories and not the sadness of the past few weeks. I know there is a long road ahead and I expect to have more tough days. For example, I keep seeing Mother’s Day displays and for now I am doing my best to ignore them.
Today was spent shopping and eating with my family. It might seem like an ordinary day to you but it was extraordinary to me because most of my weekends and weeknights for the last six months have been spent in or in transit to and from hospitals or rehab centers.
But my mind still drifts back. It’s hard to accept this new reality as I found out tonight when, out of routine, I went to the phone before supper and was ready to dial it for my mother’s typical evening chat. Then I remembered.
We take for granted the ordinary days. I am thinking tonight, as I sit out on the deck typing this, that my mother was only outside a handful of times in the last six months. Aside from ambulance transfers, she was only in a series of different rooms and none of those rooms were home. I wonder if she was even aware when she was moved for the last time two weeks ago tomorrow, briefly out in the sunshine one last time.
We should appreciate our days in the sunshine. I do because I keep thinking about how the sunny days are numbered for all of us and today I do not take that for granted but I know that one day I may forget this feeling and that is probably supposed to happen as a part of the process of healing. I just don’t know. How will I know how good a normal day is if I forget how I felt when I wasn’t having them?

My mother

My mother decided this morning that she was done with hospitals and rehab centers and the endless pills she had to take. She was more of a Mustang kind of person. She loved the one she had before I was born.

A hospital bed could no longer contain her.

I picture her speeding off now, at peace, no more pain, no more suffering.

I love you, Mom.

No more brake lights. The open road awaits.

A time to speak and a time to listen

I have said goodbye to my mother each night for nearly a week now. It has been my fear each time, although I had not noticed a whole lot of change until recently, that I might have been saying goodbye for the last time.

It does not get easier each time. I do believe I have finally said everything I need to say. If I haven’t, it’s my own fault. I’ve had a week of days and nights to get it all out. The first night I left, I regretted that I left out talking about certain people or certain memories. I made up for all of that since and then some.

I also told my mother numerous "secrets" (boring ones, of course) and observations that I wouldn’t share with just anyone during this time. I even fessed up to a few things that I’m sure she knew all along. Some were trivial, some were serious. Some I wish I had not put off. Most will remain just between us.

We always think we’ll have more time to say these things or that something else is more important so it can wait.


Of course, what I have said only matters to me unless the assumption of the doctors and nurses, that the hearing is the last to go, is correct. I have no way of knowing for sure and, if I ever find out, I will have no way of letting anyone else know.

Thank goodness for Sunday night. She was calm and comfortable. I played a lot of the music she loved and even poorly sang along with some of it. The Everly Brothers, Jackie Wilson, Nat King Cole and more all made appearances. We should have done this in November when she seemed to be doing a bit better but that is now neither here nor there.

Last night, the physical changes were more apparent and my belief is that the window of possible one-way communication that may have remained gently shut from the time I left, about 3AM on Monday morning, to the time I returned later last night. So, I spent most of last night listening instead of talking. I listened to her breathing, slowly in and slowly out, and holding her hand as she did mine many years ago as we went to one place or another.

I should have held her hand before this happened.

I cannot remember our last hug.

My mother wanted no service. She will be cremated and that will be that. She had spoken to me many times since the cancer that started us down this road about her wish that my last memory not be of just her body as her last memory was of her mother. I don’t believe she ever got over it and she didn’t want to risk the same thing happening to me.

Her nurse, Denise, told me on the phone this afternoon that we are gettng close. I drove to the hospital this evening and my mother seemed much more peaceful than she did early this morning. The changes are happening faster, it seems.

I stayed only long enough to thank Denise and to say goodbye to my mother one more time. Each breath might be the last, I was told. I needed to hurry. There were tears. There were promises. There were regrets. There was gratefulness.

Now, I wait for the phone to ring. I feel guilty that one of the nurses will have to make the call. I have rehearsed in my mind how I will handle it but I am fine one minute and not fine the next. If the call does not come, I will drive over again tomorrow for just a few minutes, doing my best to honor my mother’s wish while trying to hold on just a bit longer.

We can't keep holding on

I’ve been thinking a lot lately because I have a lot of 􀢢me to think. This blog started in 2007 during a time when my mother and I were driving back and forth for her pre-cancer surgery appointments.

My second entry in the blog documents the day my mother had her surgery. As I write this, my mother has been in hospice since last Tuesday. The call could come at any moment. I have wondered
if the call would come when I am in the shower. I keep a hand towel next to the phone right outside of the shower just in case. I wondered if it would happen when I was pumping gas or ordering at the drive thru. Or, will it happen when I am there? I am home during the day and there in the evening and late into the night. When I am in the room is the only time I am not afraid for the phone to ring.

The change is so gradual that it is hardly perceptible to me. The professionals, the doctors and nurses, say they see it and although the process is surprisingly slow even in their eyes, it is happening.
I sat there all day and night at first but everything else in life keeps moving forward and responsibilities don’t go away no matter what emergency is happening. I did not sleep for nearly 40 hours at one point and that just wasn’t working, not that the four to six hours I get now each night is a great improvement. The bottom line is that I have to be somewhat awake and ready when it does happen and I’m the only one around to get things done so I had to make up my mind that I can only sit in the hospital room so much.

I talked endlessly the first few nights. This came naturally, being a podcaster and all! Then, when I started to struggle for things to say, I brought her iPad that I bought her for her 75th birthday and I played hours of her favorite music for her.

Last night, I pulled out her purple laptop and played part of "You’ve Got Mail" since that was the movie she watched each time it was on tv. I stopped it before the sad part because I am tired of crying in front of nurses and just crying in general. My face hurts. And I’ve done it in front of a random assortment of folks on the hospital elevator, at Sonic getting lunch and even on the phone with the cable company. I’m not much of a crier so I guess years of holding it in plus these recent events have taken down the walls I put up over the years/decades. It happens.

Now I wait so I decided to do a new template on the blog. It’s something I have been considering for a while. I removed a bunch of gadgets (some are still at the very bottom of the page) and my plan is to just focus on the writing moving forward. No specific topics and no set time or day to write. I’ll write when I feel like it and won’t when I don’t.

I considered using this as an excuse to stop blogging. I was thinking that since I started it with my mother’s illness, I could end the blog with her passing. But, I find I keep thinking of things I want to share and I need to share them, not just for my own mental health but also because a lot of people won’t share stuff like this. Maybe it makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t want to appear fragile or something.

There are a lot of people I know that just don’t know what to say so they say nothing or very little. That is fine. Death is a tough topic and some things are hard to discuss and it’s hard to think about the dying without thinking about how we will be there one day also. I am at peace, right now at this moment. I know it’s the right decision for my mother and even selfishly for myself. The last six months have been devastating for us all and I knew in the back of my mind that things were not getting better although I had tried to convince both her and myself otherwise. I’ve also been thinking about the last nine years and my mother’s gradual decline. I tell people it has been ugly because that’s the best word I can think of to describe it.

And, although I am at peace with it right now, I know that something could trigger my cry reflex at any moment. In normal times, I could hold that back. Now, I don’t try as hard. It is ok to mourn my mother. It is ok to cry about the sadness of the last six months and even the last nine years. It is ok to be sad.

It is also ok that one day, regular me will be back. I won’t have to drive around with a wash rag in my car that is dedicated for teary fits. I won’t have to carry the backpack I call my hospital bag with me wherever I go just in case there is a sudden need for paperwork or the other things that come in handy while sitting in a hospital room for hours - snacks, toothbrush and toothpaste, Tylenol, Tums, etc. I won’t cringe every time the phone rings, looking at the caller ID and bracing myself for the call I know is coming and I know needs to come but I also know means the end.

A counselor from hospice will be calling me once everything is over and I will have someone to talk to about all of this for thirteen months. I realize and readily admit the need for this, the need to be healthy mentally and physically again.

This has taken a toll on me but I will heal through going to counseling and through being with family and through podcasting and writing here.

It will all work out but right at this moment, it’s tough. Very tough.