Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time On My Hands

It has been just over one month since my mother died and I find myself with time on my hands, time I haven't had for a very long time. This time, this time that at one point I wished for arrives at the end of my workday, that time when I used to sit with my mother, drink tea and watch Oprah or Ellen. Those days when I often thought how I would prefer to be somewhere else, anywhere else with my her but where we found ourselves. I never wished for her to be gone, if anything just the opposite, I wished for her to be here, fully here with us again.

So what do I do with this time? How do I fill it and at the same time relinquish the guilt I feel at that part of me that relishes the freedom I now have? The freedom to work late or go home early, the freedom to stop at the store, run an errand or simply go home and spend time with my husband. How do I quell the horror that my adaptation to life without my mother, life after her death is showing the slightest signs of normal, normal after only one month. Does that make me a bad daughter? A bad person?

My sister and I say the word "okay" a lot these days. We say it to each other as reassurance that we are okay, that 'it' is okay, that we will be okay. We started saying it at our mother's bedside one month ago. She said it to me when she left my house this weekend, this beautiful weekend that marked the beginning of summer in Maine, that marked the 35th Anniversary of my marriage. We said it to each other as we visited the cemetery. We said it when we planted flowers at the graves of our great-grandparents, our grandparents and our parents. And we mean it, these okays.

We mean it through our tears, we mean it through our hugs and we mean it through our laughter. Yes, our laughter. Our laughter that is returning, returning with almost the same spontaneity and joy it once had. Not quite full force, but we both know that it will. It will return, all we have to do is give it time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Tree

A tree came in the mail today...well, not the actual mail, it came on a truck from the nursery. But it is a tree nonetheless, a flowering pear tree. A gift that will fill a space in our yard but more importantly, a space in our hearts because with every moment that tree rests in my garden, with every flower that blooms on it, every inch of shade it shares, every sound the breeze awakens in its branches my mother will be with us. It will be more than my mother who will live through this tree, this tree will hold my father as well and their dear friends Gloria and Martin and years of an amazing friendship. This is a magic tree, a tree that holds in its branches and flowers and leaves the memories of shared love, shared times and shared memories.

This tree is a gift from friends, friends who grew up amid the love and friendship of our parents, friends who are the second generation of this friendship our parents shared. Friends who loved my parents as I loved theirs. Friends whose voices evoke memories from childhood, memories filled with laughter, love and joy. Joy in sunshine, joy in rain, joy in tailgate picnics (my father never found joy in tailgate picnics!) and joy in all of us piled into the back of a station wagon (before seat belts....now I've revealed the area of our ages.) as Martin drove, with precise timing, under the foghorn as it blasted its warning and our screams of shock and absolute delight mingled with our parents’ laughter and that moment etched itself into our history and now holds mythic proportion. We pass these stories to our children who listen and roll their eyes on occasion but when we are together they join in and are a part of this and seem to understand the depth of this love we share for each other and how in the world to have people who love you is what matters. People who love you and tell you they love you. People who love you and show you they love you. People who send you a tree when your mother dies. People who know the fear of losing. People who share that fear. Share it because they also shared the joy. People who now share the memories. People who share a tree.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thank You Notes

Tonight my sister and I sat at my dining room table and wrote Thank You notes, notes of thanks for the outpouring of sympathy, love and support we have received over the past two weeks. Two weeks. Two weeks in which our mailboxes filled with cards, our homes filled with flowers and food and our hearts, broken as they are, already show the slightest evidence of healing.

We sat together and laughed as we tore up one note after another. One message after another with words misspelled, words omitted and words out of order. We wrote and rewrote our thanks for the love people had for our mother and the love they have for us. We thanked them for chicken soup, for rhododendrons, for cake, for lasagna, for fruit and for simply being part of our lives. We thanked them for coming to us, for sharing with us, for being with us. We thanked them for what they did, what they brought and tears they cried. We thanked them for the music they played, the words they spoke and the hugs they gave.

As we sat at my table, our mugs of tea within reach (my sister uses the Sister mug at my house....I use it at hers) our mother was with us. She was with us in our thanks, she was with us in our tears and she was with us in our laughter. Yes, laughter. We laughed together at silly things, things like misspelled words and the inability to put words together in a sentence. We laughed at things our mother would have laughed at and then cried because she isn't here to laugh with us.

We are thankful for so many things, like how we are loved by so many and how blessed we are to have been born into our family. We are thankful that we have each other, our husbands, our children, their spouses and their children. We are thankful that we have friends and extended family who care so much. We are thankful that we did our best for Mom. We are thankful that we are finding our laughter again, subdued in a way that is foreign to us, but it is there. We are thankful that with this return of laughter, smiles more than laughter (remember how I told you we jump into laughter full force...we're not there yet!), we are assured that we will heal, we will always miss Mom, but we will recover. We will recover because she taught us to do that. She taught us to live and love and laugh and heal.

I remain sad and continue to lean toward seclusion but tonight I felt better, I felt normal, I felt like I used to feel when my sister and I would sit at my dining room table and drink tea and talk and laugh and share our lives. I felt that way for only a moment but it was a moment longer than all the moments of the past couple of years. I hold that moment tonight and know that I will have other moments like this and those moments will grow and eventually they will all link together until they outnumber the other moments, the moments that have engulfed us and held us in their grip. The moments when we knew what we were losing. The moments before we lost.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


As much as this blog has helped me manage the emotions of living with dementia I now find it a painful reminder of all we've lost. I thought I was ready, in fact I had the intellectual discussion with myself many times, you know that conversation....I don't want my mother to suffer, I don't want to see her lose more of herself, I don't want to have her not know us.....that conversation that is so easy when it is abstract. But now, it is not abstract, it is real. It is real and cold and solid and rests in my spirit and weighs on me. It weighs on me and I have to pretend it doesn't because there is life to be lived, work to be done and people who need me and don't want to know this truth.

The truth is I would take my mother back, have her here with us where I could see her and touch her and know she was there. That's how selfish I am. It's not pretty, it is the simple truth. I miss her.