An Interupted Moment in Time


One year ago in February our family gathered to bury and then celebrate the life of our Mother, Grammy, and Great-Grandma. One of my nieces, who holds a special place in my heart because she grew up spending many summers staying with my husband Paul and I, was in attendance with her family, including her infant son, Kian.
I wanted to hold Kian but, with all of the commotion I thought I would bide my time and wait until he was more receptive to unfamiliar arms. Besides, my sister Roxann and I were overwhelmed with still trying to pull off the calling hours, small family service and the celebration of life we had planned for the community, made more difficult as we worked from out-of-state. I felt like a loose thread being pulled from its stitches as I tried to hold myself together while racing from one spot to the next, answering questions, and solving small crisis.
I was also in the grips of the sorrow I felt trying to consume me as I said goodbye to my mother; one that was bittersweet. I knew she had been ready to leave the confines of her dementia ridden body, still, it was sad for those left behind grieving the woman we had missed for years.
Three days later as I settled into an uncomfortable plane seat for the return to my home I actually gasped in anguish. With tears clouding my vision I turned to Paul and choked out, “I never held Kian.” The prior crushing days, in fact, years, of my sorrow accumulated in the knowledge I had missed a wonderful opportunity to hold this precious child whose mother meant so much to me. I grieved for many months at my failed, once in a life time, opportunity.
It took over a year for me to finally be in the same room with the now toddling Kian as we celebrated the family milestone of a nephew’s graduation from high school. Of course Kian was adorable, how could he not be? Still in the stage where everything is new and exciting, he was mesmerized by all of the decorations. Joy filled Kian’s face as he played with balloons placed on the floor for him. His whole body shook with delight as he discovered yet more of the breathtaking orbs on a nearby table. Kian’s wonder and shear happiness enveloped everyone who had the occasion to observe him.
I too, watched with delight. At this point I was bidding my time for that split second when I could grab him and scoop him into my arms when he did not suspect it. I hoped he would give me at least a few seconds of his attention before wiggling free of my grasp. With that plan in mind I turned and became involved in viewing short videos created by his older cousin sitting beside me on the couch.
I felt tiny hands on my knees. Unexpectedly, here was Kian climbing into my lap. He wiggled up, as if he knew this spot of comfort. His small arms wrapped around my neck and his soft curls brushed my face as his head came to rest on my shoulder. Kian stopped the constant motion his little body had been consumed by and sighed. Instinctually my arms surrounded him as my heart thrilled with the weight of this child against me. The tears I had once cried at missing the opportunity to hold him now became ones of gratitude and joy. I clung to Kian and his gift of sweet toddler warmth. We were suspended there, in a crowded room, where the only thing I felt and heard was this baby I had loved and never held.
Kian graced me with his hug for a few minutes, time enough for him to catch his breath, then he was back to exploring.
I tried to secretively wipe the tears from my eyes as the room once again began to buzz around me. Even now, as I recall that my moment, elation still causes mist to cloud my vision; as I relive an instant of interrupted time so well worth the wait.

Prologue       In the spring of 2007 my widowed


ImagePrologue

 

 

  
I have been absent from my Blog for a while. In this away period I have been working on editing my book in between the call of my daily life. I am including the prologue to my book, a work in progress.

   In the spring of 2007 my widowed mother left her place of birth and a lifetime of living in Indiana and moved to my home in Upstate New York.  It had been apparent to me and my siblings for some time that Mom was struggling to live on her own.  But, my mother’s independent streak and her fierce Irish-German stubbornness did not allow her to leave her residence of fifty years easily. 

     When Mom moved in with my family and me, I thought she was still grieving the death of my father, her husband of over fifty years.  I had learned Mom no longer participated in the activities she once enjoyed; she rarely ventured out of her home.  All signs of depression I assumed. Naively, I believed that once Mom came to live with me she would find a new direction in life from the love my family would give her.  I hoped that my relationship with Mom would evolve into the nurturing, mother-daughter connection I had sought for years.  Yet, after only a few short weeks it became quite apparent all of my assumptions were completely wrong.

       Learning my mother had dementia, although not truly shocking, was not the ending I had in mind for our story together.  Eventually, during the six years that she lived with or near me we did develop a new relationship.  One I had not considered, but, still based on trust and love.  Getting to that final rapport took years of struggle between us.   In the beginning it was who is the child; who is the parent?  Later, that trust was required to let a loving bond blossom into total faith that decisions made on her behalf were for the best. 

     My emotional journey also sparked a transition of my faith.  My feelings about established religion had been evolving for several years.  Soon after Mom moved in with me, I stopped my rare attendance at mass.  My choice had nothing to do with my mother.  Rather, it was a decision that had been growing within me.  I felt more in touch with my idea of God when I was out in nature, or doing an activity with my friends or family.  Mass became a ritual that I dreaded and consequently attained nothing from.  Yet, the more involved I got with Mom’s care, the more aware I became of an inner voice guiding me.  I am by character a non-confrontational person.  Still, as I heard myself questioning doctors, working with insurance companies, dealing with family members and lawyers, I found the words coming from my lips sometimes were not my own.  I had not thought to say them, yet there they were being said.  I began to call my inner guidance my Angels.  It was through this realization that my spirituality grew and I connected with these higher beings that were sent to guide and comfort me.  I believe it was my Angels who first directed me to begin writing.    

     I did not write my thoughts down immediately upon my mother’s arrival.  It was only after many months that the need to release my growing frustrations began to take shape.  I joined a writing group at a local book store because I felt driven by my inner sense, what I call my Angels, to put my feelings into written word.  During my first session I met a group of ladies and we formed a lasting bond that strengthened as we each transformed into writers.  It was this group and our instructor that gave me the courage to record my feelings.  Even then, I did not believe I would take my thoughts and turn them into the book that follows.  As my writing developed, I realized my essays could be a comfort to those walking zombie like through the days of unknown dementia care and decisions as I was.  Consequently, I continued in my pursuit of finishing this book not only for myself but for others who would walk down the path my mother had taken me.  I hope it will bring them comfort and the knowledge they are not alone in their struggles. 

     To do justice to the 85 year life my mother led I have given you, the reader, a brief history of Mom’s life.  I felt that was important so that you too can understand the sorrow I felt in watching this woman, who accomplished so much, slide into nothing. 

     The essays written about the journey Mom and I took together fall in chronological order.  It is my hope that you will garner some camaraderie from my honesty, frustration, laughter, unexpected hurt and overall grief.  This book is for all of us struggling together in what I call, The Caretaker Nation.  

 

 

Words of Wisdom from Aunt Mary


My mother had a favorite brother, Otis.  I knew him as Uncle Odie.  He was an Indiana hog farmer.  A darn good one I understand as breeders from China came to the United States just to buy the sperm from his hogs.  Uncle Odie died several years ago.  He left behind an incredible family and his wife, Mary.

Aunt Mary, as I remember her, was always quick to find something to laugh about. I didn’t realize until much later in life this was because she was a very positive woman.  Growing up, I just recall enjoying going to her house or having her visit.  She seemed to bring joy into a room with her presence.

Aunt Mary, as my mother once told me, was her example of what a good, loving wife should be, and that she aspired to attain the example Mary and Odie demonstrated of a good marriage.  It was easy, as a young person, to observe the love that exuded from their family.  As an adult, it was still obvious at my uncle’s funeral.  My cousins placed hands of reassurance on their siblings and lavished each other with long comforting hugs.  They doted on their mother.  They all sat side by side and seemed to comfort each other with their nearness.

After Uncle Odie passed, I would on very rare occasions see or talk with Aunt Mary.  It upset me to hear her sadness.  She cried, even years after his death, about how much she missed him.  I selfishly longed for my Aunt Mary’s humor and funny stories.  So, it was with happiness that the last time we spoke, Aunt Mary seemed more her old self.  We were playing catch up on our families and filling each other in on the details.  I was enjoying hearing her familiar infectious laugh.  I realized as Aunt Mary was talking, and she can go on for quite some time without stopping-she was giving out some great advice.  I felt such a pang of recognition when she told me the following story:

There were twelve of us in the beginning.  We knew everything about each other.  We raised each other’s kids.  We spent a lot of happy times together.  Now there are only two of us left.  My friend, she doesn’t travel much so I rarely see her.  But, oh, we had some fun.  Now there is no one left who knows me.  My kids say we know you, but they only understand me as their parent.  I have no one left who remembers, me.

Up until that point I had been listening but also cleaning junk off my desk.  Now, suddenly I stopped.  Aunt Mary had just described my situation with our very close friends.  A relationship we find very unique and special but one, I’m sure many people have.  I realized the valuable insight I had been given and I took this thought from that story.

Cherish my family friends and the times we have now, because we all know life does not remain the same.  In some very short years, we also, will begin to lose loved ones from our wonderful odd assortment of comrades.  All too soon only one of us will be left to tell our story. 

Then, very quickly, as was typical of Aunt Mary’s train of thought, she changed the subject and went on to say her life was good.  She didn’t do as much living anymore but she experienced life through her grandkids and great-grandkids.  She has more than I can count.  As I listened with amazement, Aunt Mary began to rattle off their names and the cities they lived in.  She told me their professions and their spouse’s names and if they had any children.  I was impressed but I remembered I had always enjoyed her stories because of the amazing detail she recalled about the events.

As Aunt Mary was winding down her conversation she threw in some last minute tidbits of great advice.  “Odie has been gone ten years now and it’s awful.  I still miss him constantly.  Enjoy every moment, it goes by so fast and appreciate your husband every day.”

Some exceptional words of wisdom.  Thanks, Aunt Mary.