Monday, August 3, 2015

A Letter To My Aging Mom

Dear Mom,

You and Dad were dozing in your easy chairs when we arrived at your little apartment. You had everything all ready to go, and I hoped you hadn't spent all morning just waiting.

As we gathered up your things, you repeated what we'd already discussed on the phone. Dad needed to go to the clinic after lunch to see why his ear is stopped up. I reminded you to bring his identification cards, and you got so flustered trying to find them. Your words followed me down the little hall, "You're going to be sorry you ever asked us to move here." This time I didn't answer. We've covered that ground far too many times.

I took your purse in one hand, hoisted my own over my shoulder and took your hand - matching my steps to yours. Steve had Dad all settled in the front seat of the car, walker tucked away in the trunk, by the time we got to the front entrance. I'm sorry the step up into the SUV is so high. We managed.

"I looked at the wedding invitation again," you said, "and it's on a day when Dad has dialysis. I don't think we'll be able to come."

I thought about the conversation with our daughter just a few days ago - her saying how much she wanted the two of you to be there. I broke my rule about not mentioning your forgetfulness. "Mom,' I said. "We've been over this so many times. We will call the clinic and get his day changed." I'm sorry I sounded so exasperated. I never mean to.

You began to cry. "We just have to face it, Linda. My memory is going."

My heart sank. I reached over and rubbed your arm. "It's all right, Mom."

"No it isn't." You took your hanky (never a tissue - always a soft handkerchief with a tatted edge) out of your purse, wiped your eyes and faced the window.

We managed lunch - although getting out of the car is so difficult for you. The fear of falling and breaking your leg again paralyzes you. We held your hands tightly and got you safely on the ground.

The nice young lady at the desk in the clinic asked for Dad's medicare car and photo I.D. You searched through your purse and handed them to her. They were the wrong cards. They were yours. She explained that they had just switched the system over, and she had to have the cards.

I think we all cringed when Dad, as he so often does lately, began to fuss and raise his voice. You tried to reason with him, until, in frustration, you began to yell back at him. We wanted to crawl under our chairs. Instead, we made a quick run back to your apartment to get the cards. We couldn't find them anywhere.

When we got back to the clinic, you weren't in the waiting room. t guess it's true about the squeaky wheel, because they made an exception for Dad and let him see a doctor. Ear drops in hand, we all climbed into the car one last time.

When we got you back to your little apartment at the Assisted Living, I reminded you to call and get the card replaced. "My medicare card?"

"No, Mom. Dad's card."

I love you dearly Mom. It's on these days I feel the loss more acutely. You have always been my role model, my wise advisor, my dear friend. I miss the conversations - books, movies, spiritual things. Dad used to laugh at the way we talked and talked from the minute we got together until it was time to go home. These days our conversations feel like a recording set on repeat. And my heart hurts.

You have loved me well, Mom. Now it is my turn - to take your hand, to keep you safe, and to mingle my great love for you with compassion and understanding. Thank you for everything.

With love,