When I do call we have fun calls about writing, thinking, dreaming, regrets, and relationships.
The hard part is saying good bye because I can tell that she could stay on the line forever, just chatting and falling to sleep and waking to chat some more.
Just like when you have to leave a crying child, you promise, I’ll be right back.
I spent a week end with her last month. We ate, lay around, went for walk, ate, and watched TV. It was very peaceful and I did not try to ‘do’ anything specific.
We did not talk about death or illness and by the time I left she was talking about changing her routine to include more exercise and socializing. She might not have the energy to do that but I was glad that she was talking in the positive manner that I think of as hers.
She always has plans and things to do. But as she creeps towards the grave, in constant pain, her back curved with scoliosis, her mind wandering, hallucinations crowding her world, she might be beginning to accept death.
I want her to be with me, so talking on the phone is not a good replacement. I want to tend her as she tended me. I want to offer her the peace and care that she offered me.
When I was in her home, it was a bit like caring for a child. I became my calm nurturing self who is on watch for what the child or baby needs. She woke really early the first morning, and I just lay down on her bed to see if she would want to get up and eat, or go back to bed. She crept back into bed, with the slow deliberate moves of a very old cat, put her hand over mine, and fell asleep again.
Eventually we did get up and I made a big breakfast, which she loved. And just like a sweet contented baby, she feels like sleeping as soon as she finishes eating. Eventually we watched a movie, Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway, the best thing that came on her movie channel the entire weekend, so I settled down with her to watch it.
Unfortunately, she can’t really see or hear that well so when she woke from that nap she slowly became bored and irritated, fussing, moving herself back and forth from the discomfort of her constant pain. I thought to myself, there is about five minutes more to this movie and I want to see it to the end. So I paid no attention to the huffs and puffs beside me and then when the movie ended I said, “So how about a walk to that new art gallery on Parliament”? She was very much up to it.
My handling of that reminded me of parenting toddlers. Patience and strategy, offering the adventure or treat just at the right moment. We had a long walk; she used her cane with great determination and I dragged the unused walker behind us. She did at times sit on the seat of the walker for a break, and that worked well. We talked and chatted the whole way. Again, memories of trailing strollers awkwardly down the road when the baby prefers to walk or be held, came back to me.
When we got to the art gallery the sweet young man who has put his idealism into his own gallery, helped us in and offered us cookies. This was good as we did need the sweet kick to recover from our adventure. With my Mom comfortably seated we talked of this and that and by the way I told him about my Mom’s career as a journalist and the different places she had worked.
It was a fun afternoon out and I appreciated the attention that the young man gave my Mom, just as I always loved it when a stranger would smile at my child and say, “Aren’t you wonderful”.
On the way home, trailing the constantly unfolding walker behind me I was amazed to come across people on the street that were impatient for my Mom and me to creep by at our glacial pace.
Just as I have experienced the cold big city vibe in Toronto when out with children and babies, I saw it with my Mom. People sighed and looked irritated that we had slowed down their day and I remembered a woman sucking her teeth and impatiently waiting for me to carry my kid and stroller up a flight of stairs out of the subway.
We had a lovely visit. I will treasure it forever. It took a lot of my own Mom organizing to get that trip sorted, including explaining to a very attached seven year old that I had to see my Mom. She cried and cried, wanting to come with me.
I did not cry for a second on that trip, and when I left Mom in the hands of a lovely care worker who would keep her company until her boyfriend came over, I was not worried about her.
She is serene, thoughtful, and philosophical. Her curious mind is contemplating her situation, and not only does she still have a sense of humor, she still has that tough ‘prairie girl born in war time’ attitude.
She is still my Mom, and I can tell she is sorting out her emotions and organizing her thoughts in that very Mom way, checking to see if I am happy, worrying over the health and moods of her fourth baby.
We really do have a laugh together, and I really do admire her, even when she drives me crazy. And besides, she is my one and only Mom.
When I had a moment alone after the trip, and I pictured her tending me as a baby, washing me, comforting me, saving me special books for when I was sick, the images set me off for a big wailing cry alone in my car.
I am at once a child and a mother. I want to care for her as she cared for me, and I know that this is what my sister and I feel deeply in our hearts. We want to mother our mother.
But I am her child, and it is my Mom who is leaving, and she still is my Mom, and I won’t have any Mom when she is gone. And it is lonely thinking of having no Mom.