I learned this summer, three weeks ago, that my mother is now in late-stage Alzheimer's, and has probably about twelve months to live.
I learned other things this summer too, things I want to share with you, but I couldn't put this one in the same post as all the bright and happy things. I just couldn't. They can exist on the same blog, and in the same heart, but not in the same post, not today. (Link to the bright and happy things forthcoming, if you'd like to read them. Watch this space. If you don't see a link on Facebook or wherever when that goes live.)
(Also there are other wonderful, funny, cheery, and deep posts over at the linkup on Emily Freeman's blog, here! And there's still some time to join in, if you want!)
So... honestly? I'm not super sad? Right at the moment? [ETA: This was true until I wrote this post. Stupid blasted grieving, sneaking up on you at completely logical times with lots of warning that you ignored because Reasons.] Definitely was sad when I heard. Of course. We've thought at other times that her birthday or Mother's Day might be the last one, but it's different hearing it from her neurologist. He can't know for sure either, but he has experience, and it seems so official.
But I did most of my grieving back in 2011, and now I'm a thousand miles away from her, and have been for the last two years -- she isn't really a part of my day-to-day life right now. She wasn't exactly in 2011 either, but it's different, I did most of my grief work then. I don't ask her parenting questions about my two little girls, and I never have. Maybe I never would have, even without Alzheimer's, but she was confused at my baby shower, in 2012.
So I'm sad, but it isn't like that first hard year when diagnosis was confirmed, and it was one wave of grief after another. Now, whenever I hear a new sad milestone like this, I'm down for a while, maybe a few days, but then the rest of life and other hard things take over and I kind of put it out of my mind.
But I wanted to tell you. My mother is dying. I miss her, sometimes. It doesn't feel fair, it's never been fair. I don't care what some people say about the cycle of life, no one should have to forget their own name, forget how to walk, forget everything before they die. No one should feel helpless as her mother manages to string together enough words to ask her for help, and later realize she's behaving towards her own mom as she's seen other people who don't have kids or much experience with them behave around small children.
I did realize, at least, so that was good. I've learned compassion towards myself and more compassion than I'd had before towards those who don't quite know how to act around my kids.
I think maybe I should grieve and process a little more -- when I'm sad for other reasons I find myself thinking things like, "And Mom is dying. But I heard about that earlier, I should be over it now. I don't think it's affecting me anymore." Ha. It's been a few weeks, Marcy, that's really not long.
Though on the other hand, it's been years in coming. It's all mixed up. As usual. As I tweeted in June, "You know, for some reason they don't make Mother's Day cards that say, 'I'm trying to be angry at Past You as part of my recovery, though I know your parents royally screwed you up and I still love you and miss you and I'm sad you can hardly remember your own name, let alone mine. Happy Mother's Day!'"
But regardless of whether or not I should spend some time and consciously work through it more than I have, it is a choice, it's not like the first year when the waves would just hit and pull me under. I can decide to, or not, according to what's convenient for me at the moment. And I think maybe I should decide to, just in case when she does pass away, whether that's in twelve months or sooner or later, I might be able to siphon off now a little of the power of those future waves, should they start crashing again. Who knows.
Oh! I saw this, and yeah. It's excellent. So much compassion. I so relate right now, though my mother hasn't passed away yet, and not all the details are the same.
I recently flew down to California for my niece's wedding. I sat in the second row, behind my oldest sister, the mother of the bride. I only flew down with my baby, who I'm calling Joy on the blog. She's ten months old. My mom was farther down the same row as us.
|Mom and Abby. Photo courtesy of Sondy Eklund.|
Joy was at her most charming. I put her passie in, but she had a clear plastic water bottle she was playing with, biting it and holding it with two hands and a foot, and and even with her passie, she kept making audible cute little happy noises.
So (and this was during the ceremony) my mom leaned forward and started saying, "Look at her! Look at her!" And my sister in front of me giggled at us a couple times, even with her own daughter getting married as we spoke. As we sat. Giggled. Whatever.
She said later, "If you didn't know better, you might have thought Mom was talking about the bride. But I knew."
It was a beautiful wedding and a really fun reception, but I have to say that was my favorite.