3/28/2010

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Friday night, for the first time in six weeks, my hubbie and I didn't have grandkids staying over night with us. We were, frankly, looking forward to a quiet evening to ourselves. Well, sort of quiet. The phone always starts to ring as soon as we sit down to dinner (8:00 pm). We always groan and wait for the caller ID to come up on the TV screen before answering.

We had to answer this call. It was my sister, who doesn’t call often. We’re both too busy with work and our own families to chat often. She said they’d taken our mother to the hospital, and they weren’t sure if she would live through the night.

Though exhausted, I knew I needed to go see her. My husband was exhausted too and, in the middle of spring planting season, it wasn’t a good time to be away.

But he didn’t want me driving across hundreds of empty, agricultural miles alone in the dark, and so we both got in the car and drove across Washington to the Seattle area, where I'm from, and where most of my relatives still live. We arrived at the hospital by 2:30 am. Mom was still alive. When it was clear that Mom was actually improving, we stayed until around noon on Saturday and then drove home.

But Mom has now passed into what they call “comfort care” or “hospice care,” and so I expect that I’ll be going across the state again soon.

I was happy for the chance to say goodbye to her. She’s 86 and has had Alzheimer’s, in my opinion, for 16 years. My family might debate that, but that’s when I first noticed this formerly vibrant, beautiful, outgoing woman’s personality begin to change. The rest of the family might say she didn’t have it until we put her in a Memory Care facility in 2002. But 1996 is when I seriously started to lose my mother. So, I suppose you could say, I've been grieving her loss for a very long time. There have been so many days when I have just missed her so much. Just wished that I could talk to her, and tell her about me, and my family.

She’s had a number of physical problems as well. Last Wednesday, and I’m not sure why, they took her off all meds.

Generally Alzheimer’s patients are so drugged up with anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics that you can’t tell how much of their incoherence is due to the disease, and how much, to the meds that keep them from being wildly afraid of what’s happening to their mind.

Anyway, there was a time on Saturday morning, yesterday, when I was standing by her hospital bed, and she opened her eyes and looked at me. She hasn’t recognized me, or anyone in the family, for years. My sister was standing on the other side of the bed. She asked Mom if she remembered Cathy. Mom’s eyebrows rose, and her eyes opened wide, and while she didn’t exactly smile at me (she’s forgotten how to do that), her face softened. Tears started streaming down my cheeks, and I nodded over and over again, my eyes looking into hers, and hers into mine. "I see you, Mom. And I see you seeing me."  

I don’t know if she genuinely recognized me, of if I just want to believe she did, but it gave me some closure.

About this post, the long and short is that my blogging might become a bit sporadic (again). There will be details to help with, when Mom passes away. Before that, I want to make a commemorative scrapbook of her life to be on display at her funeral service. Regular-sized scrapbooks generally take me about 40 hours to create, and so it looks like that will use up all of my free time over the next two weeks.

It will be a labor of love.

I will read and review and blog when I can, and visit your blogs when I can. I’m currently finishing Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. It’s a wonderful story.

My own story bears a similarity to Jandy Nelson’s. In The Sky is Everywhere, the main character’s sister dies. Her personality had always been completely overshadowed by her sister’s more vibrant one, and it’s the story of getting through her grief, but also becoming a person in her own right.

For many years, it was like that in our family. Mom was movie-star beautiful and popular. In any social situation, she would do all of the talking and laughing and joke-telling, and everyone in our family was happy to be listeners. Because of that, Mom made it so easy for us to be around other people. But it also meant that my sister (who is as drop-dead gorgeous as Mom was), and I grew up with serious social anxiety. It was just too easy to let Mom do all the talking.

In her youth, Mom was often mistaken as Judy Garland. The family—dad, sister, brother and I were always the planets in her sunny (but frequently stormy) orbit. Several years ago, I wrote a piece called, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which will be read at her funeral, and thus the title of this post.

8 comments:

  1. Catherine--
    I'm sooosorry to hear about your Mom. I truly know where you are coming from when you say,you miss beign able totalk to your Mom.I have missed talking to my Mom for going on three years now. It is hard to say goodbye to a parent but in my Mom's case, I know that she is in a happier place and is healthy.
    My prayers are with you and your family. You will find that the Hospice staff are Angels in disguise and will be there for your Mom. There are not any better people in health care than the people who do Hospice Care.
    Bless you!

    Melinda

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  2. I'm not sure if it helps you to know that we went through this with my grandmother a couple of years ago. Funny how some family members really go into denial when someone has Alzheimers. They blame it on age, but to me it was obvious when the deterioration started. It is torturous to lose someone you love to this disease, yet they are still alive. I will pray for your mother's comfort and dignity, and for strength for you and your sister.

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  3. Kathy I am sorry to read of your saddness, but am happy that you and your mom had a moment of recollection, if only momentarily. I went through a similar experience w/my grandma and continue to miss her dearly, it always puts a smile on my heart to go through the memory book in my mind of our years together. Time does not diminish treasured memories. I'm here for you whenever that might be....

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  4. Melinda and Sandy, thank you so much for your kind words. You gals have huge hearts, which I've known for quite some time now.

    Teresa, God brought you to Latah library and into my life. You are such a doll. I'm so happy you (and Betsy) can step right in and do the storytimes for me when I need to be away.

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  5. Your post brought me to tears. As someone who did hospice work with Alzheimer's patients I have seen first hand the toll it takes on the families involved. I'm quite sure if your mom was still with us mentally she would be quite proud of her daughter. I wish you and your family the best and will keep you in my prayers.

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  6. Kathleen, thank you. Thank you as well for being someone who did hospice work. I know several people who do it, and I admire them. I hope to get involved once I retire from my job--in four years, assuming the economy doesn't go south again.

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  7. Catherine - it is hard to know how to say the right thing to someone going through such pain and sadness, but know you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

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  8. Cathy...I'm so sorry, I haven't popped onto your blog in a while and I didn't know about your mom. (it seems news sometimes takes longer to travel over here) My heart goes out to you and your family. What an encouraging moment you had with your mom, if even for an instant. And that picture of her that you've shared on this post...she is BEAUTIFUL! I just know that scrapbook you make to celebrate her life will be incredible and touch your family in a big way. Josh and I send our love and prayers.
    kadie

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