Monday, October 20, 2014

breaking down change, three: My Mom

Lately my mom mostly talks about taking a nap. It is a pleasant thing to do, she says, and she enjoys naps. And lately most often what she is doing is taking a nap. But if you pop in to visit she will wake up, ask how you are, ask what you have been doing. Then she will mention something about taking a little nap.

She naps in a big green chair that goes all the way back and then, with the touch of a button, comes all the way forward—I mean all the way forward—to gently eject her from her seat. Say, for a meal. Though most often when mealtime rolls around she would, she says, rather take a nap.

Shortly before I left Michigan, something changed with my mom. She physically weakened, fell once or twice, maybe more, began having trouble walking even with her walker, which she has been using consistently for a year or more now. Now she has a wheelchair. And even though her memory has been a bit funny for the past two years, she retained the knowledge of past events, recognized people, could recall the grand stuff of where she was born, where she grew up, who we, her family all are, our specific traits, our childhood events, and the fact that my father, her husband of nearly 56 years, was gone, had died a few years back. But shortly before I left Michigan she began talking of my father as if he were still alive. My sisters experienced this, my mother asking about my dad—where is he? Is he lost?—and one night she even called one sister because she was worried that my dad was not yet home. (My mother does not use the phone anymore, reportedly an aide helped her to make this call.)

When I arrived and first saw my mom, she was coming down with a cold, had a cough and congestion. Understandably she was tired, wanted to sleep, wanted to nap. She did not talk about my dad, has not said anything to me about my dad since I have been here. She has not asked about my trip or about Michigan or much of anything—usually she is aware that I have made a trip from my home in Michigan to be here, to see her, and she asks about my life, asks about Michigan, all that. But not now. Now I am just here, no questions asked. I show up to visit once in a while with Josie, whom she likes. She says with those whiskers he looks like an old man.

One day I showed up during a tai chai class being held in the living room, the common area. It was sit-down tai chai, and some were following the leader, some were trying to follow the leader, some were not paying any attention. My mom wavered somewhere between the latter two groups. Years ago she suffered a shoulder injury which never fully healed, and I imagine these arm movements, however slow and gentle, were a bit of a trial for her. Anyway, once we arrived, she found Josie much more interesting. I knelt by her wheelchair and tried to participate in the tai chai, rather unsuccessfully. Josie was staring and growling at a man across the room who was staring at and talking to him, wanting to be friends, I think maybe he thought they already were friends. Josie took offense. The tai chai leader was very understanding, made light of this disruption. Eventually the situation resolved. The tai chai session ended. My mom was ready for a nap.

Last night, my mom fell and broke her hip. At the emergency room, after x-rays and such, we settled in a hallway waiting for a room. It took three or four hours. My mom claimed to be comfortable tucked in her bed. Jill, my sister-in-law, brought my sister Jennifer coffee and me tea. Jennifer scrounged up a crossword puzzle. Someone had filled in the word “cow” in answer to 4 Across, “Grazing ground.” Eventually over “cow” I wrote “lea” and when I said the word my mom corrected my pronunciation. A bit later she confirmed that “bedim” is indeed a word. By midnight we had gone about as far as we could with the puzzle, and my mom had a room.

This afternoon I sit with my mom and she says, “Dissipated.”

“What?” I ask.

“Dissipated,” she says.

“What's that?” I ask.

“How I feel,” she says.


  1. L: This is so took me right back a few years ago with my Mother in Manistique....the fall, the hip, the hospital and being fully involved, even on the days you are not right there, with what has happened, what is going to happen. Dissipated - with one word, she so described how it must feel to be old, in pain, somewhat helpless and so far removed from the person and the abilities of earlier years. It is good her daughters are nearby, not only to keep her company but to help make decisions.

  2. Leslie, So sorry to hear of your Mother's decline - especially the broken hip. Never a good thing. I was thinking how Michigan felt empty without you, but you sure made the right decision to go out to California. Hugs to you and your family. Heal quickly Mom.