horn of Mom's old car, signaling yet another intrusion
into an overwhelming day. She was stopping by to
visit, a short drive from her apartment. It was
just last autumn when the visits here diminished rapidly
and my visits to her increased dramatically. Her
car soon sat silently in a "tenants' parking space,"
while my car never seemed to be silent in its many trips
carrying me, a harried daughter, to be with Mom to
figure out medicines or bills or lost keys or lost cat.
The biggest intrusion now was the illness that was
taking away my mother's independence.
Just last autumn,
after so many years of Mom's strong presence and both of
us trying so hard to have a good connection, so much was
now getting in the way of that. All the years of
fighting to show that I was an independently responsible
woman, but never quite convincing her that I made the
right choice in who I married, where I lived, where her
grandson went to school and all the other things that
make for a turbulent mother/daughter relationship.
But she was with me
now, apartment living and driving so quickly a memory -
so ill, so quickly. The tenacious, outspoken,
expressive, generous, domineering, gregarious little
mother was now here in my house, because she needed to
be and because I wanted her to be.
So, the short-long,
difficult, intense journey as caregiver had begun -
wakeful nights with many assisted bathroom visits and
wakeful days of appointments, phone calls, paperwork,
feeding assistance, medicine taking, adjusting pillows
and legs and head and room temperature and TV and, of
course, many assisted bathroom visits.
My husband was
supportive and helpful - he looked past their history
and saw the needs of the present. My adult son, who has
disabilities but the wonderful ability to be kind and to
say the right, comforting things, and who always was the
first love of Mom's life, was there to help in his own
But, most of the
time, when there were no nurses or visiting aides, it
was just Mom and me at 3 a.m. when she needed a drink of
water and I didn't have to go far from our makeshift
set-up in our living room. Just Mom and I, sleeping
across the room from each other, only a few feet away,
and yet all those years we often seemed oceans apart.
Mom passed away on
July 17, just two weeks after her 84th birthday. I feel
it was a blessing that she didn't linger - congestive
heart failure, bouts with pneumonia, mini-strokes and
dementia can be unpredictable with lengthy suffering. We
spent a lot of time together at the end of her life;
there was finally no arguing and battle of wills. It was
just a time together when there was no time for the
I'll always remember
my mother as a unique, unusual person. It will be
hard to stop thinking that we should have had a better
relationship; but I take comfort in how far we came,
when that ocean became a gentle stream that we could
finally cross to each other's side.
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