Months of dread culminated today. The journey that began in November of 2005 took the fork in the road that I had tried for so long to avoid. It had to be. The look of distress and dismay were in her eyes, softened perhaps by her own admission that her mind wasn’t working right and knew that the time would come soon.
The discussion had been on the table for some time after we took her to visit a local assisted living facility last October.We had a pleasant lunch at the facility’s dining room, the food being quite good. She toured the commons area library, game room, and community center with interest and positive indications. Then we toured the living quarters, private rooms that rival many hotels for space and built-ins. The light went on in her head, and her body language said it all. Later that afternoon, she remembered none of it ever happening.
A couple of weeks later during the routine physical exams needed for her medical clearance, her general practitioner noted a pelvic mass. Further tests and subsequent surgery revealed cancer. The surgery appears to have been successful and probably save her life. But as cruel as it sounds, I am not sure we did her any favor. Her physical condition has improved, her life expectancy extended, but not her mental state. I’m grateful that she has dodged, for now, a painful battle with one disease, but saddened by the flip side of that coin, a prolonged battle with a mental disease that is clearly gaining ground every day.
She continues to forget her older memories. Those memories have been her rock and now it too crumbles. She lives completely in the “now.”I guess I’ll have to do myself a favor and perhaps her as well and do a little Zen research.She’s achieving what million’s of Buddhists strive for, to live in the now. It has been said that life is the summary of each day’s “now, “ and the difference between a good life and a bad life is the difference between the happy “now” and sad “now”.
Mom has had lifetime of happy “nows” sprinkled with the inevitable sad ones. But I think on balance she has had a good life. At our urging she quit smoking cigarettes two years ago.She never realized she did though and occasionally asks the question, “did I quit smoking?”
We assure her she did and give her some Wrigley’s chewing gum which satisfies her.
I had dinner with her after we finished unpacking. She had the salmon, broccoli and potatoes. We chatted as she became familiar with the dining room and the staff of waiters. They have table service, and a healthy, tasty menu from which to choose.
After dinner we returned to her room to arrange some furnishings, and then it was time for me to leave. She asked if I could a little longer but knew I wouldn’t. She hasn’t spent a night alone away from some family member since 2005.A strange place doesn’t help.
The treat wagon stopped by her room at seven just before I left. She is not alone and will adjust to new faces.
She met two friends, Pat and Babe here at the facility this afternoon, her first day. It did my heart good to see her pick right up on conversations with her peers. They have a common garden patio that they share and I’m sure many common stories.
Pat smokes. I’m betting that when I return tomorrow, so too, will my mother. I’ve decided to let it go. She has a new friend and old vice that made her happy for over 50 years. I don’t know if Buddha smoked, but right now mom deserves all the happy “nows” she can get.
Patrick, I have read this twice, the first time like a oh well! another one praising mother, the second time I read the love between lines and I felt regret that I never was allowed to have a Mom that I could take care of.
Your Part 6 is the one making a few to see how lucky they are not to have to confront that situation and how to do it if they are forced to.
Patrick, I read this with a sad heart for what your mother and her family are going through. However we all know that with this disease nothing stays the same and only gets words so I salute your and her other children for having the strength to do what you had to do... Smoking? At this time, for your mother? Actually agreeing with you, so what!