I've been spending a lot of time with my mom lately, and once where there was acceptance and peace that her death would be coming sooner than later, I am now feeling a sadness at the thought. I am feeling even frightened at times, that same fright that we Mom's get when thinking of losing a child. So of course, I've been thinking a lot about it.
Mom and I have not had an easy road with one another. We were like Beta fish, fine, as long as there was a glass wall between us. It's been clear all my life that I was second choice of the two children and mom could never get along with both of us at once. My brother seemed to have a handful of aces. And he played them like a pro.
But now that he is never ever ever around, and Mom needs me during this 90th birthday eve, she has become softer. Kinder. And now that she isn't as mobile and doesn't expect me to take her to every mall in the Bay Area on my day off, now that she doesn't get pissed off when I can't, we spend soft afternoons together in her little apartment at her assisted living facility. Sometimes I push her around the grounds in her wheelchair so she can snoop. Mom still loves to snoop and see everyone's little patio areas. So we snoop. And she spots a decorative bird cage with an ivy plant in it and says she wants one. Sometimes I take her out for ice cream and we sit in the car at the Plaza and people watch. Sometimes her new friends come to visit or we go to the dining room. And I chat. And I feel born again as a hearing aid. As a translator between two people who do not speak the same language. But they are happy that someone is listening to them as I scream back and forth. And so it goes.
I go prepared with every single question I can think of to ask her about my kin and her young years. This summer has been a sweet one of reminiscing. I'm filling up my memory bank with all that she tells me, and I think she is enjoying having an audience to her story. Because as her life gets smaller, pretty much all that she has left is her story. And, of course, we all want to feel heard.
Sitting in the recliner in her living room I spot a hanging bird feeder across the courtyard and happy little birds landing, nibbling and taking off again. I have an aha! moment and ask mom if she'd like a bird feeder hanging outside her patio door. She lights up, surely remembering how my dad raised canaries throughout their marriage, and says she would. She seems enthusiastic, which has been really hard for my mom to do her whole life. She is an aloof one. So this week I will get her a bird feeder and hang it outside her windows.
Her body is failing in many ways. The most troublesome is her sciatica. She cries and cries when it acts up. Twice we've had her scheduled for a pain management epidural treatment which is a huge undertaking. She has to be off blood thinners for 10 days, and her edema has to be under control and her pressure sore on her bottom has to be completely dried. It has been impossible to get all of these in good condition at the same moment when the day of her appointment arrives. So she continues on, popping pills for pain that don't even work anymore. This is the saddest part.
But still, as life slows to a halt it grows so much simpler and I think it gradually gets sweeter. Thus, I am taking notice of each and every nuance of this woman who is my mother. These are the gentle golden days of summer that we are enjoying together. My summer. Her autumn. When I think of this I wonder if it is our last summer together.
I'm trying to live in a way that will bring peace when my autumn rolls around...and I am sharing a soft afternoon with one of my children or grandchildren and I am telling them about my mother...
Crazy, even though nothing has been hashed out, no tearful apologies spoken, I am feeling a deep sense of compassion and I am forgiving her. Really, truly feeling forgiveness and an understanding that she has done her best.
I am feeling grateful that she is my Mom.