Monday, May 05, 2008

Ready or Not...

I went down to Chillicothe again Saturday to visit with Mom. I've been going every three weeks, as I may have mentioned before, but this week, things took a significant downward turn.

I talked to her a few times this week (when they managed to get her up in her chair) and she absolutely made no sense at all. She thought she was on a boat. She was heading to the bowling alley. She'd won some raffle drawing and wondered if she got a prize. My aunt had called me earlier in the week and told me what Mom was doing, and we laughed a little at her imagination. But I was really glad that I was going down, because I sensed that time is getting very, very short now. Aunt Fay told me on Friday that Karen, mom's nurse, wanted me to be prepared when I saw Mom and noticed the change.

When I went in Saturday morning, Karen walked with me down towards Mom's room and filled me in again. Mom doesn't know what she's saying or what's really going on. Karen said that she'd been very surprised if Mom makes it until the end of the month. After seeing her this weekend, I'd say it could be even sooner.

Mom was in bed when I got there, but she recognized me and we hugged and kissed each other several times. I held her hand a bit and there's absolutely no grip at all. Her speech is very slurred, both from the medicine and the cancer in her brain. She did get up in her wheelchair for lunch (tenderloin and cheese fries) and ate a few bites, but not all of it (I didn't really blame her--I wouldn't have either!). Her TV set was on and tuned to ABC Family, so we watched the recent "Nancy Drew" movie (surprisingly good, at least after the annoying first few spoiled-rich-girl minutes), another of those damned ice skating movies they're always showing, and several episodes of "Grounded For Life" (pretty good show, actually--I'd never watched it. Oh well, too late now). Mom couldn't really follow any of it, although she'd make comments from time to time that sort of segued off what was happening on screen and bounced into whatever was going on in her mind.

Mostly, she remembered roller skating and climbing trees with her cousin Pat, and her father bringing her a pig home (she's mixed up on that: her aunt and uncle lived on a farm near Joliet, she spent summers there, and they had the pig). Mentally, I'd say she was around eight years old. She remembers nothing about being an adult at all. Karen said, "I'm not sure where she is, but it's a really happy place."

As I listened to Mom talk, I realized that this is what heaven is: it's the happy place we all long for that waits for us when we cross over. It's a place we make for ourselves. And that's what made me realize how close she is. I thought "I'm finally ready when the time comes." I never, ever thought I would be.

I realized that I had to come back to Chicago and work this week, get some things done before I'm out for a week when the inevitable happens...right now, I'm planning to go back next Monday and spend a few days. Aunt Fay said she'll call if anything happens, and of course, I'll go right back if that's the case (that's the beauty of only being two and half hours away).

Once, it would have been unthinkable to me not to be at her bedside when she passed away...but since I can't live in the home with her, I realized there's a real possibility I may not be there. And I'm finally OK with that. I got to tell Mom the things I wanted to tell her this weekend, and that I needed her to know. I've told her how much she means to me and that we'll always be a part of each other and will always visit each other. I walked out of there yesterday afternoon knowing there was a real possibility that I had just seen her for the last time. I can finally accept that, although I don't like it...

On a final note, there were a few gems of conversation this weekend when something distracted her and found its way into her speech. This was my favorite, and I'll leave you with it:

"They don't have very many midgets around here. So they can't really say 'Go Midgets'."


Blogger American Girl said...

Am I sad or pleased that you've gotten to the place of letting go? I suppose I am glad you have found peace of a mind but I'm sad about everything you have had to go through with your mom.

Your mom's observation about the lack of midgets is so true, so very true. :)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks for the kind words, Sarah...I've been torn between panicking that there's so little time and being glad and relieved that it's nearly over. The relief is sort of winning out now...

And actually, there is one little woman named Dorothy there who sits in a tiny wheelchair. She's not quite a midget, but she's certainly a petite!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got nothing profound. Just thinking about you in this confusing time.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks Gregory. I appreciate your thoughts--they help more than you could know!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps your mother is already seeing into heaven. I doubt that their are many midgets there.
Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, you can take comfort from the fact your mother's spirit will always be alive. I hope I can face it half as well as you when the time comes for my parents to go. Ed

4:54 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I dunno, some of those Munchkin actors are probably there by now...:-)

You'd be surprised at how strong you can be when you have to. Knowing that you've done the best you can by them also makes it more bearable.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've managed to find the happy moments during your mom's illness -- sometimes the immensity of things can be so overwhelming we forget to recognize the little memories that will bring us smile to in the years to come.

Big hugs to you and your mom and know that you are both in our thoughts.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Johnny C said...

Thank you for sharing these inimate moments with us. I feel like I know your mom by your stories. I'm glad she is having happy delusions. I want to think that after we die we win the lottery and go bowling.

Big hugs... john

9:01 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Dirk: Thanks for the thoughts. I know that the good memories are what I'll be left with down the road, so I guess I'm getting the best possible deal.

Johnny: I want to go bowling and win the lottery now! OK, I can skip the bowling...:-) Thanks for your kind words...hope all is well with you!

10:27 AM  
Blogger Brigitte said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I hope you remember these moments forever to know the true essence of your bond with your mom. Having gone through a form of this with both my mom and grandmother this year, it makes me happy to know that along with grief, there is amusement, humor, and pure love. Both you and your mom are constantly in my prayers.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Thanks Brigitte! I appreciate it...

12:03 PM  
Blogger End of the Road said...

Both my parents died on Thanksgiving (20 years apart). My Dad had cancer so we knew for sometime that it could be any time and I was there. My Mom was slowing down but there was never an indication of anything wrong. She cooked the day before Thanksgiving, went to bed and just didnt wake up. I had some minor surgery before Thanksgiving so I could go home for Christmas. We talked on the phone while she cooked but I wasnt there. Sucks either way but the memories help.

12:55 AM  

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