Monday, April 21, 2014

Thoughts on internalization, denial, time.

What happened to Mom?  I'm still working hard, trying to sort this out.  All through the months of January, February, March, and April, I've been saying that I'm in denial, waiting for the truth to sink in.  But, I guess this is the way it's going to be.  I refuse to internalize the information that someone as constantly present in my life, someone as reliable, responsible, intelligent, strong, willful and independent is now and forever gone.  That she has left us to fend for ourselves in this world is outside the reach of my emotional self to comprehend.  And if I continue to deny it's existence, perhaps I will be able to function as a strong, intelligent person myself.  Perhaps I'll be able to raise my own game, a tiny bit, so that I'm more organized, more on top of it, more mature, more adult, more Motherly.

Because there we were, in late 2013, doing the aging hospital patient dance. Anybody who has gone through this once, twice, or more times, knows what it's about.  Somebody goes to the hospital, and it's a familiar situation.  My mother, three years ago, had the same attending doc in a similar hospital stay.  When the patient goes in, we've been in and out so many times, dealt with the system so many times, it's nearly impossible not to make light. Here I am, taking photos of cars in the parking lot, relieved at the sun and blue sky of "not  Chicago." We're already fast forwarding to discharge and rehab and where next and how high functioning and what caregivers and what's covered by Medicare and private insurance and what am I gonna tell everybody?
This obsessive sock stopped midstream when Mom left. 
Armed with crossword puzzle book, coffee cup and a yarn project, I'm willing to sit the thing out.  Mix in game shows, local newscasts, and we've got a week's stay in the hospital. For Mom, I diligently brought the paper and heck if she didn't sit in that hospital bed and read the whole thing, and do the Jumble for good measure.  It wasn't a perfect reading, and the Debbie Macomber book that she's been working on since June, well, she held it and played at reading…. Let's just say that for a quiet week, Mom and I hung out in the hospital. Not saying a lot, enduring tests and respiratory therapists and family and meetings with docs...we were passing time, working on our respective projects.

And projects, what is it that builds an obsessive?  What makes it so impossible for me to believe that an eighty five year old woman with a history of respiratory illness would die so suddenly?  This greeting card, for one.  Mom, and her childhood friend, who, together, attended grammar school, college, pledged the same sorority, exchanged the Very. Same. Card. since 1963. Every October, both ways, without fail. Including 2013.  Each year the friends would add a note, a date, and send it back and forth, early and late in month. (Mom's birthday came second).  So we had the card nearby when Mom died and we were going through the contents of her desk (including the many holiday correspondences from 2013, yes, she managed to send Christmas cards).

The card is a testament to my Mom's sense of order, humor, intellect, loyalty, good taste, and eternity.  She was a materialist in the very best sense of the word.  She spoke through actions and things, but never placed the value of things beyond their obvious worth (or worthlessness).  Through Mom, I have come to greatly appreciate the beauty of truly simple things, and things embedded with meaning.  If I bring an object into the home, it might as well have significance.  And so, in the material world, I come to terms with Mom's passing.  

This sock is a cruel reminder of me, sitting in a sun-filtered hospital room deciphering a brain-busting cable pattern, while the respiratory therapy guy, who must have been six foot six, kept on coming in and doping Mom up, in an effort to get her lungs open and stop aspirating her food.  Once, Mom looked at me and joked, "will the sock fit me?"  I argued that the sock was for me, not her.  Later, while she was resting, I looked at the thing, and thought, "Maybe I should make these socks for Mom, they'll be light."  But not only did I not get to tell her that, the sock was nowhere near complete and she was gone. 

As the New Year approached, we began thinking and discussing the reality that Mom wasn't responding to therapy in a fashion that would return her to her lifestyle and her home as she wished.  When we, a few days later, found ourselves tending Mom in her own beautiful bed, I sat and gazed at the embroidery that I had fashioned when I was twelve years old.  All these years later, Mom still slept and woke with this embroidery hanging right above her bedside table.  So, as we moved into the stage of hospice, I set up a tray and chair next to her bed, brought my coffee, yarn, crosswords, and sat, tending to her needs, gazing at the Fall scene.  My mother's material world enveloped me for so many years, and continues to do so.  Her decline, at home, was rapid, and she was saved the grace of being known as a Bridge Player, a Bingo Player, a Loyal Friend, and a master of her own domain.  Check.


  1. "... perhaps I will be able to function as a strong, intelligent person myself."

    But you already do, Karen, you already do.