The old adage “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” is ringing true for me. I miss my mom. She is not perfect, she could have done some things differently but she is the only mom I have. When she moved to Florida in 1994, she was so excited to begin their new “retirement” lifestyle. Oh, the fun they had! Actually, I could rarely catch her at home and so for years I always called on Sunday mornings because that is the only time I could be guaranteed that she would be home and wouldn’t have plans. We talked about everything in those conversations. Our topics ran the entire gamut of family news, current events, politics, religion, history; sometimes all of the above in one conversation. These talks were quite lively and even heated at times but I always felt free to tell her exactly what I thought and so did she, (the apple falls not far from the tree). Also, all these years I made at least yearly visits to her by myself with no kids or husband. She always told me her friends were envious that she got to see me all by myself. She always asked me in advance what I would like for dinner and she made my favorites, snow crab legs, filet mignon really anything I asked her for. We shopped at Burlington’s, The Edison Mall and Old Time Pottery for bargains. There was kind of a ritual of things that we normally did and we both looked forward to it. Then depression hit her. It happened in approximately 2007. She began sleeping more and going out less and not eating very much. At first, I thought it was a passing thing. She told her doctor and tried many different antidepressants at my urging since she didn’t believe at the time that depression was a real thing and that people should be able to just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with it”. Over time, it got worse. By the time my sister was terminally ill, she was sleeping up to 20 hours a day even while Debbie lived there. It was almost like they were both dying. After my sister died, she seemed to just give up. She stopped going out with her friends and eventually most of them stopped calling. After a while she wouldn’t even get up to talk to me on the phone when I called, I would hear her tell Lou “tell her I just can’t do it”. Do what? I would think. Sit up long enough to talk to me on the phone even for a few minutes?
Ever since she had the brain injury from the blood clot on her brain in November, everything has changed. I know now that the blood clot was caused by the fact that she had even stopped going to have her Coumadin level checked, she said she was just too tired to even do that. I tried to tell her how dangerous that was but to no avail. So that day when she fell, she probably didn’t even know she had hit her head, even a slight bump could cause a clot if her blood thinning medicine was not at the right level. I had hope for a long time that maybe she would recover, maybe we could have some more time and things could be like they were. I realize now, that this is not going to happen. She is still in skilled nursing care 8 months later, her right side mostly paralyzed although now she can move her right arm a bit more after finally participating in physical therapy. Our biggest problem is that because my voice sounds exactly like my sister’s she thinks I am her. She actually calls me Debbie, I correct her and she goes with that but even recently when we were hanging up she ‘talk to you soon Deb”. I know I can’t take this personally but it does hurt. Her short term memory is pretty bad although she can tell you where and when she got each piece of her clothing or jewelry. The other problem is that her hearing has been going for some years now but is much worse now. Having to yell “I love you” into the phone and have her still not understand me is making communication very difficult to say the least.
I have been through every emotion over this, sadness, denial, anger, even guilt. I feel that I took her for granted, she had no health problems that were life threatening so even though she was depressed I always had hope she would find a treatment that worked and come back to being my mom again. I even wonder what might have been if I had pushed her harder to get up and go to the doctor but living 700 miles away makes that very hard to do. Now I need to come to terms with trying to appreciate the mom I have now and stop expecting her to be like she used to be. It’s almost like a grieving process in itself. She is alive but nothing is the same and it never will be. I have decided that letter writing is going to be the best way to stay in touch and now that she has finally moved into the place where she and Lou are living in the same facility, the address will stop changing so my letters won’t get lost. They can see each other every day now because he is right down the hall in assisted living, this seems to have helped her dramatically. In time, I am sure I can accept the way it is, it is just going to take some getting used to. The way I need to look at this is that I was lucky to have had the time we did have and that she is still here so we will just need to develop a new kind of relationship. It will just take time……
As always thanks for reading. If nothing else comes from you having read this, take this with you….if you still have your parents, call them, visit them, have patience with them, this goes for all loved ones. Whatever or whomever you take for granted today, might not be there tomorrow.