It’s been 14 years since I first realized my mom was having troubles with her memory and analytical abilities. Fourteen years since I noticed her repeating questions. Fourteen years since she struggled to drive a stick shift. Fourteen years since she couldn’t read the map of Yellowstone National Park and thought a field of hay bales were sheep marching in formation. It’s been more than five years since she last recognized me. This last visit she no longer seems of this world. She seems like she’s departing. Mom still eats without too much trouble. She had a bad week last week and we were all having the hard talks but she’s rebounded a bit since then. During our visit she ate well. Drinking was a struggle. When I bid her good bye and leaned in for a kiss she took a nibble out of my cheek. Funny and no so funny. Dad was holding up well in person. We get emotional over the phone. I feel okay but threw my back out and caught a cold so that tells you I am not really down with this. I never hurt my back and nobody else had a cold.
I guess we’re all bracing ourselves and wondering how this will go down and how long it will take. I feel like my mom has had a terminal disease for over a decade but only now is she actually dying. My cousin Cara was visiting and we both laughed and groaned with fear at how we both hope she doesn’t choke on the morsel of food when we happen to be the ones feeding her. It’s a grim kind of humor. At times mom’s breath is raspy. One time I gave her a bit of juice and she started to cough a bit and I just had this moment of too much science and imagines little aerosol bits of juice heading to her lungs. Pneumonia? I hope not today. It’s hard to hope for a peaceful end and hope it doesn’t happen on your watch. I’m not sure the anticipated relief will come when mom finally dies.
I remember back to when I had a dream of taking an ax to my mother’s head an all her thoughts spilled out. These days I don’t get the sense that there are any more thoughts trapped inside. Dad will disagree. He feels her love and I believe that is still there for him. I hope she’s not suffering but I can’t be sure she isn’t. As always I am grateful my dad is able to do this as he sees best. The choices are his.