I hit the steering wheel of my car with my hand; hard! Life is so unfair! My mother, my mentor, my friend was disappearing into the nebulous world of dementia; her mind slipping and sliding down an irreversible slope into an abyss of lost memories, lost functionality and worse, lost spirit. As mother -daughter, we had gone through the stages of childhood adoration, teenage resentfulness, then early adult renewed respect, and now onto deep admiration and love. She is such a smart woman, full of knowledge and grace which we children either took for granted or totally ignored. When I finally came to my senses, there was this stalwart figure offering wisdom and support to help me become the woman I am today.
The hardest thing was for me to move away. Husband’s career and great opportunity for me had beckoned, and I had tearfully waved goodbye to my mother not knowing the terrible disease which was lurking below the surface. I had ignored the warning signals over the phone ; the vagueness, the confusion and retained the ideal image I had of my mother; like a computer hard drive with a virus which starts distorting the normal flow of information. You carry on in the hopes that it will go away when really the virus continues to grow until the whole system crashes.
That is what my brothers said on the phone last month when they called to tell me they were putting Mum into a nursing home. They could no longer cope with her wanderings; mind and body. It was no longer safe to leave her alone and their wives didn’t want the responsibility of taking care of her. They were too busy with their jobs. It was a rush decision after she was found crying in the grocery store, unable to find her way to the cash. They took her to the only home which had an immediate opening and left her there alone. She does have lucid moments and calls me in tears wondering what she is doing in this strange apartment. But more often than not, I cannot even break through the barrier of bewilderment and end up talking to a nurse who sadly tells me of her decline into these uncharted waters of perplexity.
This is why I am racing along the highway, with endless billboards flashing past the window. No family obligation is greater than rescuing my mother from the pit in which she has found herself. Children’s activities, husband’s demands; all have been put on hold so that I can fetch my mother and bring her to be with me. After her long-suffering raising a family, it is the least that I owe her. But this is no obligation. This is a rescue mission based on devotion to a person who deserves to be nurtured by her daughter for whatever time she has remaining. I have taken a leave of absence from my job and explained to my kids what family ties really mean. My husband was in his office sorting out his papers when I approached him. He kept working while I begged his consideration to bring my mother home for as long as it takes. He then paused and raised compassionate eyes to mine . He simply said, “Go.”
The battle in my mind as to what to do with my mother’s decline was a tough one. The decision came to me suddenly while I was working in the garden yesterday. I have a wonderful display of iris this year; they are a particularly unusual shade of pale violet-blue. I am inordinately proud of them because I found the tubers in the back corner of an abandoned lot. There were a few straggly leaves but no flowers. Always the optimistic one, I dug them up, split them and replanted them in my garden. With a bit of fertilizer, a good dose of sun and plenty of patience they finally started to bloom for me this year. Rare beauty from an abandoned bit of plant life. Nurtured, fed, protected and new life brought back into those withered tubers. My mother deserves as much. I will bring her to live with me and I will devote my time to her care. Surrounded by love, patience and understanding she will eke out the final bloom of a full and rewarding life.