Thursday, July 2, 2009

Visiting Mom

It's bittersweet when I go to see Mom. There is this sense of relief knowing that she is in a safe environment with all of her needs being met for the most part but I have pangs of guilt because I realize that she will live out the last part of her life here. It pains me to realize that I really can't take care of her myself. My Dad couldn't either. Neither could my siblings. Why can't we go back to the way things were when families built additions on to their houses and the aging parents moved in and lived out the remainder of their years watching the flurry of activity as a young family rushes through life raising their children? The Amish manage just fine. What's wrong with us?

I enter her room and she is in bed. I choose to go at night around 7 because that is when I can have her all to myself. My Dad isn't there, the aids have gotten her ready for the night and she is comfortably sleeping in bed. She's never really asleep and she always manages to open her eyes and see me before I even approach the bed. She used to do that when I was a teenager creeping in at night to tell her I'm home safe and sound. She always sensed me there before I even approached the bed and would startle me at how easily she could form her sentences and ask me how my evening was. I used to find it a little creepy, actually but now I find it comforting. Now she always says she's glad to see me and she asks about the kids and how my sweet husband is doing ( she always refers to him that way, she adores him). Thank God she knows me, we haven't had to deal with that yet. We always talk about my kids first and I fill her in on all of my raising-teenager-problems. I need her to offer me advice, but she is not capable of that anymore so I settle for pouring my heart out to her and letting her listen. She listens and she understands. She's just not able to form the right things to say. That's okay, though. We usually talk about Cuba and Panama. These are the places that are dear to her heart. She was born and raised in these countries and I love hearing all the stories about her life there. What is astounding to me is that she has moments of fluency and is able to say long sentences that include great detail. When this happens, I keep her going and manage to lapse into Spanish. She is fluent in Spanish, I am not, but I can carry on limited conversations and short phrases. She is able to understand and answer me in Spanish!? How funny the brain can be. We laugh and talk and joke. Thank God she still has her wonderful sense of humor.

It's time for me to go. I hate this part. I lean over and kiss her head and tell her that I love her. I catch a whiff of urine and old age and wonder when I will be like this. She tells me that she is glad I came and to come back soon. She never lays a guilt trip on me. She doesn't need to, I do it to myself. I walk down the long hallway listening to the faint cries of the confused grandmas and grandpas as they try to settle in for the night. I have yet to leave with dry eyes.


  1. Martha, I'm so proud of you for starting your writing about your journey with your aging parents. It's even better that you are doing it in blog format so I can share in your journey. As you know my Father in law has just passed his first full year in a nursing home and now no longer has much cognitive function at all. Your thoughts and words are like aloe on a fresh burn-thank you.

  2. I've read so many posts on this blog, it's really a beautiful tribute. This one wet my eyes, for many reasons. All the stories I've heard about your mom, the years of peripheral updates about your family - - now to read such honestly crafted prose about the real struggles of how life evolves. I'm glad you're writing it.