The sun was streaming in the window, and warming up the red and green plaid blanket that was wrapped about her frail legs.
It is Wednesday, March 3rd. Spring and buds, and flowers, and Easter are not far off.
I held her hands with my gloved one.. The pink nail polish that I had applied last week was chipped in places. It was entirely worn off on her left thumb nail. It might have come off in the shower, or it may be all the pick pick picking that she does of her hands and face.
I put objects in her hands to keep them busy. I hand her a teddy bear for her to hold, and place her hands around it’s fully jointed limbs, and describe his soft mohair fur, and his golden brown color. I guide her fingers to his cool glass brown eyes, and describe what I see. She smiles, as if there is a reminiscent memory of what she is feeling. It is difficult to know if she is reacting from memory, or seeking to appease me and pretending to understand.
I mentioned this to a trusted friend, and she said that her Mum who had Alzheimer’s also picked away at her own flesh. I wonder what that is all about. It’s kind of like her hands are all fidgety, ad she doesn’t know what to do with them.
I have learned after sitting with my Mum these last few weeks, that she becomes easily distracted. If I am assisting her with her meals, then I need to keep the music low, and have it not be the “ sing-a-long” kind of song. Just some peaceful and classical music seems to work best. She needs to know whether it’s time to listen or to eat. Things need to stay as simple and finite as possible. I am learning as I go that operating the “ three ring circus” that I usually would bring her for her entertainment, has to be simplified down to a pretty carousel where we ride the pony together, and with less excitement, more of a calm walk through a cool green forest at a much slower pace.
Even the act of opening her mouth causes a disarray of thought. She can squeeze my arm when I ask her to “ open up” for her “ cream of wheat” with brown sugar and milk swirled within. She thinks she is wanting to eat, but even the act of how to open up her mouth gets lost in translation. I sense her frustration often, and it plagues and hurts to see.
I instruct her to “ say ahh,” and this can help sometimes. It’s like there are a bag of tricks up your sleeve, and you are not sure what rabbit will be pulled out of the hat to bring the finale of the spoonful into the mouth, then to get her to swallow her food is an extra step. I often want to have a drum roll as the spoonful of food is accepted into the mouth, then it is swallowed, and a smile on her face of satisfaction emerges. She even makes yummy sounds. This makes me smile with her.
Every act is singular. There is no longer a flow to the simplest of experiences that used to need no second thought, it was just routine before, now each act is a challenge.
The routine now has permanently changed, and the vinyl record is slowing on the turntable, the day to day events ebb to a trickle of a tiny stream of water through the desert. We are enjoying the trickle together .
She remarked that my hands were “ so warm,” as they were clasped together in the sunlight. Hers are often cool, but when I inquire as to whether she is cold she says, “no,” then I ask her if she would like another cozy blanket, and she says,
“ yes please and thank you,” and gives me a shy smile of appreciation.
The piano music from the cd was playing softly in the background. It makes her happy, this melody, and so it is played over and over again .
“ I love you Mum,” I say.
Her eyes lift, and she gazes directly at me, blue eyes clear. Her gaze is piercing, and so direct. This intense gaze has happened rarely of late.
“ I know, I love you too very much.”
She smiles, and seems to see all.
“ it’s hard…this is hard?” She says in a quiet voice.
“ what is?” I ask
“ I don’t like goodbyes.”
“Then how about we say, I’ll see you later then?”
She nods. “ I just want the family to be happy. I want everyone to get along.”
“ I know Mum, we will”
“I want Cory and Todd, and Jill and Mark, and Dean and Greg to be happy.”
“We are Mum, we will be.” “We will miss you, but it’s ok to go when the time is right .” “We all love you”
“ I know..it’s still hard to say goodbye.”
“Yes…it sure is”
“I feel like there should be more time…there doesn’t seem to be enough time.” She says so pointedly.
“No, there sure doesn’t, “ I respond
“Do you want to pray together Mum?”
She nods, a slow methodical acknowledgment, “ yes”
I begin, and I thank God for her, for allowing her to be my Mother, and me her daughter. I speak of how many adventures we have shared, and how much fun we have had. I thank God for all of the family, naming each by name. Mark and Carylin, Michail and Linnea, Dean and Rhonda, Madison, Sydney, and Cole, Greg and Jen, and Hunter and Haley, Zach, Logan, Bianca, and Lorin, and of course her dear John. I thank God for our lives together . I say amen, as does she… but she is not finished yet… so she continues in a calm and articulate voice..
“ I pray that everyone will know God, and learn more in Sunday School about him, that everybody will love each other, in thy name…amen.”
She seemed to be calm and serene after that like she needed to get those words out. It was a few minutes of complete clarity and laser focus.
I was crying silently into my face mask by this point, so touched, and transformed by this event of holding hands, and shared prayer together.
It is hard to say goodbye.
Earlier in the day after breakfast, she waved and smiled at someone that I could not see, but she obviously did.
“ Who do you see Mum?”
“A girl,” she says
“ Is she young or old?”
She says, “ Um young,” as she cocks her head to the side.
“What color is her hair?”
“ Brown,” she states matter of factly.
“Curly or straight?”
“ kinda wavy and curly”
“Do your know her Mum?”
“ Yes,” she nodds
“Do you know her name?”
“What is it?” I question
She does not answer. The moment has passed, and she is lost again in her space and time. Her eyes close. I get the distinct feeling that this interchange has taken a great deal out of her . I let her rest, still holding her hands.
I asked her if she would send me a sign sometime when it’s “ her time?” She says she would but has not decided what it will be yet. I told her when I see a monarch butterfly I feel Bianca near. I inquire if she will send a butterfly. She says.. “ I’m not sure just yet.”
There was just something about today. It was warming up outside, the sky was blue, and there were puffy white cotton looking clouds outside her window . The time is drawing close.. I can feel it.
I asked her if we should decorate and have a party for her birthday on the 24th of March. She answers me in the calmest voice,
“ I don’t think I’ll still be here for that.”
I have prayed for a sign, a message, a way I would know that she is with Jesus. I asked the Lord to “Show me his glory, I want to see his face” These words are a line from a song that “Mac,” of Third Day sings. They have always deeply impacted me. The song is titled, “ Show me your glory.” I was trying to figure out how to include the song here.. but.. I got nothing. I am challenged daily by technology and my innate inability to “ copy and paste” things that I want to , or include other media that I wish to convey.
These days are numbered, as are hers. She senses it. I do too, and am trying to squeeze everything out of every second. It is my way with her.
I can’t imagine how horrible it must feel to know that you need to use the bathroom, but have such anxiety around it. To be aware enough that your brain instinctively knows that you should not be sitting in a wheelchair doing this. I try to alleviate her concerns, and let her know the healthcare workers, and caregivers will come and clean her up. She responds with,
“ I’ll be a mess,”
and my Mother does not like a “mess.”
I tease her with, “ someone will come and check under your hood.”
She smiles, and says” well maybe there is a horse under there.”
And with that, I burst out laughing. Then she starts to laugh, the wonderfully silent kind that makes your sides ache in the most delicious way. Her face is transformed, and her eyes crinkle up at the sides. It is excellent .
Her sense of humor comes out in the irreverent and unexpected times. It’s awesome. I am thankful for side splitting laughter . I might have mentioned this before, but anxiety seems to fly out the window when you laugh.
I recall the scene from “ Mary Poppins “ when a man laughed so much and so long that he floated, and stayed afloat laughing. The song is called “ I love to laugh.” It became concerning for “ Dick Van Dyke , the inventor because he could not get him to come down, and the man was growing tired of being airborne. Mary Poppins( Julie Andrews) imitates the different kinds of laughter . It is a “ feel good” scene. The children in her care join in, and they begin to float too.
Eventually Dick just joins him up in the air laughing right along with him. He could not stop laughing.. Turns out laughter does make you float, and your spirits soar skyward.
It still was such a predicament, but a good problem to have. The phrase “ I died laughing,” doesn’t seem like such a bad way to go after all.