The day before yesterday, I drove up to NJ from VA to take our mom to the nursing home where she will be staying from now on. She has been living with our oldest sister for part of the time since our dad died a year and a half ago. He was her primary caregiver.
We sisters were all discussing, this weekend, how it feels as though the older generation (of which both our parents were the only remaining sibling, with two sisters-in-law left on my dad’s side) is already gone and how that platform has already fully collapsed onto ours…making our generation the oldest guys standing. It’s a surreal feeling in that we are now the top of the heap. And yet, our mother is still here…sort of. The curtain has been drawn on her life, somewhat. She is still here to talk to, hug and see, sort of. But, yet, she’s gone in so many ways, too.
When I went to pick her up on Saturday she didn’t know who I was. She kept asking me things like, “Are you going to meet your mother?” and “Where do I know you from?” which can be approached either with a sense of humor or some patience with some tears sprinkled in…or both.
I have to say, when she first looked at me with the ‘Are you kidding around with me?’ look on her face when I told her I was her daughter, it felt as though a thoroughbred had kicked me in the chest. Upon relating this to my middle sister she responded wisely, “Yeah, it’s different when she forgets someone else. When it’s you…ugh.” True that.
When we got to the nursing home, I unpacked the chicken sandwiches and drinks I had picked up at Wendy’s drive thru on the way over (a nod to Dad) and positioned her in a wheelchair outside so we could enjoy the breezes and fresh air. There was a man sitting outside with his stepdaughter and they were giving me pointers on the wheelchair’s operation and where and how to lock the wheels, etc. We chatted a bit about the weather and politics and I realized that 7 months earlier Mother would have loved to chat about the ‘folks in Washington’ with this like-minded individual. Yet, today, she didn’t even know I was one of her chicks. Dear Irony, You stink. Love, Me.
As I was leaving the building with tears streaming down my cheeks, I felt compelled to report to the nurses and aides that I couldn’t say goodbye. I told her I was going to the restroom and just…left. It felt like I was abandoning her and yet I knew that this was the best thing for her. She had already been in a daughter’s home with an aide or two (at times) and was too much too handle. But, it still feels cruel.
It makes me wonder why God allows this, but I really think that she is an instrument in his plan to teach the rest of us lessons on patience, acceptance, love, grieving, loss and appreciation for what is. Because you know what? It is what it is. And as my daughter’s 7-year-old friend says, “You get what you get.”
I called Mother today and she knew who I was, asked to speak to my daughter by name and even waxed eloquent (one of her favorite phrases) about how wonderful the ladies in the place were being to her. It’s the little gifts we need to savor and tuck away. Thank you, Mother, for all the countless lessons you’ve taught us and continue to. I love you. We all do.