Continuing On

The illness and death of my mother sapped me of creativity. Writing no longer appealed to me. When dementia robbed Mother of her ability to interact, I had no idea what to do for her, other than put on a strong face, smile and nod as she babbled incoherently, or give her a hug on days that she would greet me with “Dad died this morning.” Or whatever statement was pulled from 40, 50 years ago. She constantly relived nightmares that had never been true, and for several months did not even know me as her daughter. I seriously think the death of her sister in law in 2017 triggered a mental breakdown. She had been experiencing memory issues, but her emotional state apparently moved her into another world completely. She refused to believe that C was dead. I constantly heard “what is D doing today? ” That was her deceased brother who’d been married to the woman that died. Mother was constantly reliving her losses in her life, from miscarried babies to my dad to the rest of her family. I never knew for sure how to respond, and her refusal to be involved in church cut off any support there. I didn’t feel I could ask anyone for any kind of prayers as I had previously done. Her pride and constant admonition that “this is no one’s business” even isolated her friends from visiting. I didn’t tell anyone in our social groups about what her real problem was until just before she died. It had gone on much longer than that. My daughters, her only grandchildren, found visiting her difficult as she didn’t recognize them either. I persisted in visiting, even if she called me by the wrong name or introduced me as her sister in law. At that point who I was didn’t matter; at least she felt C cared.

Closure?

Her death in September brought little closure. I no longer was torn by trying to work in time to drive the 18 miles to the nursing home or figuring out where else I could run errands on a side of town I still was not used to. She had prepared me for what to do in the event of her death for 40 years. Having heart issues kept her constantly talking about “when I died”, so that her actual death was almost anticlimactic. My grieving had started long before her last physical breath. I missed being able to just call her and talk. That had been taken from us a year ago when she stopped being able to use a phone. I never quite got whether she couldn’t hear, or couldn’t process what she was hearing, but when she went back to the hospital from the first skilled facility, I took her cell phone home and put it in the drawer, hoping she would maybe rally. After it became clear that her communication abilities had been destroyed, I cancelled her cell phone plan. That action alone felt like I was betraying her. My husband reassured me it was not a betrayal, I was only doing what was necessary. But I could never quite shake the feeling that I was making the wrong decision or not doing things the way she would have wanted. But what she wanted and what had to be became two entirely different things.

Now What?

I am thankful that our daughter and new son are living in Mom’s house. It not only helps me get used to the idea of her not being here, but also is helping them get on their feet financially until college loans are paid. (Shoot…I’m thankful that financially we can keep it for now.) Organization has never been my strong suit. That was always Mom’s job. I shake my head and sigh as I realize just how much stuff she actually had hoarded. Slowly things are being disposed of or given away. With the kids living in her house, it makes having an actual estate sale more challenging. We have a long way to go, but hopefully after I recuperate from my recent back surgery I can refocus my efforts and get things done this summer. Mom would be having a fit I am sure. I can’t seem to get her disapproval out of my head.