Sadly, it does not seem to get easier, this stuff with my mother.
Let me take that back a step. Things definitely got easier, after we moved my mother into a nursing home and after many months, when she finally got settled and stopped packing her things and asking to go “home.” By that point, the stress we felt relating to how we were going to get her to the nursing home and dealing with how angry or upset she was going to be went away. However, the guilt we felt for bringing about the next sad stage in her living quarters did not dissolve so quickly. In fact, it still remains, even though we now know this is the safest space available for her.
After almost four years of nursing home life, her disease ravages on.
People will ask me if she knows who I am. The truth is, I don’t know. I do not ask, because, what is the point? I do not believe that she knows that I am her daughter. But regardless of who she thinks I am, she is always happy to see me. It fills me up, to know that just my presence can make her smile.
It is hard for me to get to see her as much as I would like. I work full-time, spring sports are raging, there is traffic on 84 to contend with. Even a brief visit is close to two hours. I am trying to be mindful of the fact that she seems to do better in the afternoons. But life is busy. And I get so tired.
Last weekend, I hate to admit that I was a bit apprehensive about going to see her. It had been a little too long between visits. As I drove, I thought about how it can be hard to make conversation. What interest could she have in hearing about grandchildren she does not remember she has? That just breaks my heart, as I know she would be loving them up, if she only could.
I do most of my visits solo now, where I can just focus on her and not worry about how my children are acting. Sometimes, we look at her photos. I talk about the people in the pictures and watch to see if there is any sort of recognition. Sometimes, there is. It makes me so happy when there is.
This past visit, I found my mother sitting in her wheelchair near an empty table, looking forlorn. I sat down next to her and, after pausing just a moment, took her hand. She looked at me and started smiling.
We talked a bit. Not about much. To my surprise, she was able once to string together a whole sentence. It did not really make sense, and I could not repeat it now if I tried. But it made her happy to participate and I was happy to hear it.
It is pretty fascinating how her sense of humor forges on. I unwrapped a hard candy to give to her and dropped it on the floor. I joked about it and she laughed. There were a few other times when her amusement came through. She does find joy. It touched me to see it still there. I hope she laughs a lot.
I talked with her a bit about her own life. I talked about us going to see the ballet together, how there is no place like Lincoln Center. I did not get the sense that she knew much of what I was talking about but she was happy to listen and I was happy to talk and reminisce. Maybe this is a way for me to bring a little bit of herself to my present.
I really miss my mom.