So, so tired
I wish I could sleep for a month. Deeply, dreamlessly, and awaken rejuvenated and ready for BBW, without a care in the world. Then again, I wish I’d won the Mega Millions lottery too. John and I actually bought lotto tickets on Friday, and neither one of us ever does.
Anyway. Yesterday is behind me. All things considered, it went as well as it could. As luck would have it, yesterday John’s family was busy moving his mother into her new assisted-living place, and John has been exempted from the physical labor because of his ongoing knee problems (I guess something good comes from everything). On Friday night, he told me that we were invited to have Saturday lunch with his mom, sister and niece… BUT. The but? It was completely up to me. If it was too much for me — both families in one day — then we could pass, no problem. Probably needless to say, I very gratefully passed.
My stepdad had come around during the week; he agreed to meet us at the facility. We arrived around 3:45 and found him in the lobby. We then walked into the halls, looking into the activity rooms. In one of them, several people were sitting around a long table, talking and playing games. I looked them over, but didn’t see my mother; I did notice a shrunken, motionless figure slumped in a wheelchair, back to us. M then said, “Here she is,” and the figure’s head turned slightly.
No. That wasn’t my mother. It couldn’t be.
She was dressed and had a jaunty black hat on her head. My mother never wore hats. M explained that he had bought several of them for her, so she could hide her hair, which was now fully gray and shapeless. She’d always been so meticulous about her hair, having it styled and colored well into her 80s. He knew she’d want to hide it when it looked like this, even thought she couldn’t say so.
She said “Hi.” We asked her how she was, and she said, “Fine.” M asked if she knew me; she said “of course.” But otherwise, she just sat and stared, unmoving. We wheeled her back to her room and sat around her; I sat on the floor beside her wheelchair. She had pillows piled on her lap and her arms laid on top of them. They never moved. Her legs never moved. The only thing that moved was her eyes, blinking and blinking, occasionally looking around but mostly staring. Once in a while, they would flicker over to me. I’d beam at her and say, “Hi, mama!” Her lips would twitch slightly upward. Then she’d go back to staring. Sometimes her eyes closed. Occasionally she drooled.
I stroked her arms and her hands. Her hands were cold. M was very sweet to her, cooing over her and getting up every few minutes to lean down to her and give her a kiss. She always kissed back.
Her heart is still fine, as well as her lungs and other organs. But she can’t walk and she eats maybe every other day. Baby food. They get her in and out of bed, they change her, dress and undress her, feed her. Keep her comfortable, treat her gently and kindly, attach a smiley-faced sunflower on a bendy stem to her wheelchair. Fill her with pills. My stepdad visits her every day.
When it was time for dinner, before we wheeled her to the dining room, I asked if I could have a few minutes alone with her. When M and John left the room, I lost it. I told her I was sorry, that I knew I’d been a disappointment to her and I wished I could have been what she wanted. I told her I loved her. I kissed her hand and her cheek; I lay my face on her arm and bawled.
She started to say something. “Don’t… don’t think you have to…” And then she stopped. Stared off into space again. “What is it, Mom? What were you trying to tell me?” I asked again and again. She said no more. But somewhere in that shell, there was still a bit of her left. When I said, “Mom, please look at me,” she did.
M and John came back, and we took her to the dining room. At her table place was a plate with three cups of mush on it: one white, one green, one orange. But she wouldn’t take any of it when M tried to spoon it into her mouth. She did, however, drink a full glass of orange juice through a straw he held for her.
Back in her room, the three of us talked and caught up. John did most of the talking with M; I spent most of the time just watching her. I couldn’t believe how still she was. My mother had never been able to sit still; she was always moving, always futzing with something, cleaning, adjusting, straightening, putting away. I could go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, put water on to boil, then take a cup from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer. If I walked out of the kitchen and then came back in when I thought the water was ready, she’d have put the cup and spoon away.
M asked what our plans were. I just wanted to go back home, but he suggested we might want to eat out here before we drive back, since it was about dinnertime and we had a long drive. I took the plunge and asked if he’d like to eat with us. He hesitated for a second, then said, “Sure, OK.”
We said goodbye to her. I leaned over to give her a kiss, as I’d seen M do. She kissed back.
I insisted on paying for dinner. I didn’t want M spending any money on me. When we were done eating and it was time to leave, M said it was up to me if I wanted to come visit her again, but if I did, I should give him a call and he’d be happy to meet me there. Then he said, “I know you think I hate you, but I don’t.” Feeling John squeeze my hand under the table, I looked away and said, “Well, you don’t like me very much, either.”
“I do like you. And in many ways, I admire you.” (whaaaaa????) “But I don’t like some of the things you’ve done.”
Fair enough, I guess. I tried to tell him how I was feeling, tried to explain the depression, the fear, the panic attacks. But he just kept saying, “That’s a rationale. We all have things we don’t want to do. In those situations, you think of others, not yourself.”
Thank goodness John doesn’t say things like that to me. But it’s OK. Like I said, overall, it went as well as it could. We hugged goodbye, and M said, “Next time dinner is on me.” So at least he wants a next time. I figured he’d pretty much washed his hands of me. He’s really something else, my stepfather. Ninety-four years old, still sharp as a tack, still driving, still completely lucid and functional. But he doesn’t feel well. And I suspect it’s sheer force of will that keeps him alive, so he won’t leave my mother.
John asked me if I wanted to see her again. I thought about it, then told him that in a way, seeing her like this was almost easier than it had been before, when she was still mobile and speaking. When I’d be forced to carry on a conversation with her, but really couldn’t, since she kept repeating the same thing she’d just said five minutes ago, 10 minutes ago, etc. When I didn’t know from one minute to the next if she was going to fall over, void her bladder (or worse), or ask me how my brother was. When I didn’t know if she’d be sweet and docile, or full of rage and bitter hostility. Now… it’s pretty straightforward. Heartbreaking, but straightforward.
I did the right thing. M told John that he doesn’t think he can forgive me for being out of touch for a year. But at least I was in touch now. I’m trying my best. Some will judge me, others will not. I don’t feel guilty. I’m just sad.
Now I will sleep. And tomorrow, I will see ST. Life does go on. Life, love and yes, spanking.