Wednesday, October 20, 2010

With This Ring.....

My mothers wedding band slipped off her finger today. She has never taken it off in 60 years. Though she no longer remembers my father or her wedding day, I hold tight to my belief that in her dreams at night...everything is possible.
She is a ghost of her former self. Tiny and shrunken, she appears smaller and smaller every time I see her. Her connection to this world is slipping away. I wear her ring today and will keep it for her until it is put back on for the last time.

In the year of their courtship and engagement, my parents wrote daily to one another. I have a shoebox full of letters tied in satin ribbon that follows the course of their connection to each other. 730 letters in all, some of which the contents make me blush and in reading them, I feel as though I am violating some sacred space shared only between the two of them.
After the accident, which claimed her right arm, I would see my mother grimace as the phantom pain of that lost arm would keep her up at night walking the floor. I would hear my fathers soft murmur as he tried to give comfort. In my life, my mother has never spoken of that loss. She'd shrug her shoulders and say when I would question her..."you just move forward".

Upon my fathers death, my mother faced the ensuing days with strength, humor and yankee matter of factness. It was only at night that I would hear her quietly weeping behind her closed bedroom door.

I search for connection with each visit. As she moves farther and farther away, I hold tighter to my bond with friends and family. That she is dying has become clearer this Fall. No amount of knowing this one true fact, makes the loss any more bearable. I wear her ring today, a slender gold connection to a life lived, to a father I miss so much and to the family I was born into. I move forward and know that in time, I will be able to remember her for who she used to be.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

An Agent of Good Fortune

My mother was speaking word salad last night. She's been doing that more and more frequently and I fear that eventually, she will not speak at all. There is no remission with Alzheimers. In a burst of tears, I drove away last evening and called Celeste. She turns my tears of loss into belly laughs and she joins me from afar on my way home.

I met Celeste the first time, over 17 years ago. She was dressed in a power suit, juggling a briefcase and a tray of jello shots! Fast forward 3 years later and my soon to be husband invites her for dinner. By the time I served desert, a friendship was cemented and we were planning a girls vacation to the Vineyard. She shares a birthday with Jimmy Buffet, though sadly for him, he has missed her celebrations. She's an island girl in time with the tides and sea. She's of the opinion (somedays) that people are overrated and always has a good example to back up her claim. One can hardly argue her logic.

When hurricanes head for her tiny island village, she's the first out the door, lawn chair in hand. "Lets see what you've got" she says to mother nature. She treats all of natures exhibitions with respect and awe. She threatens to become "unhinged" occasionally but I've never seen it. Woe to the one who does I suspect. As for me, are you kidding? I'll grab a lawn chair and watch the whole thing unfold.
If you need a road trip buddy then Celeste is your girl. She puts in a little Jackson Browne or Bruce Cockburn and you are on your way. Did I mention she had a touch of narcolepsy a few years back? Not a big deal really. Of course, the winding back roads of NH proved to be a trip and a half and coming over the Goodland Bridge with her set my adrenalin to flowing.

Following the devastating oil spill in the gulf, she became a loud voice for the natural resources of ocean, wildlife and beach she loves so much. On a flight to Montana in August, she found herself sitting next to a 20 something young woman who was on her way to Idaho. "And what do you do"? Celeste asks her....I can only imagine the girls growing sense of unease as she shares that she works for Exxon. I don't even like to fly and I would have paid double to be listening in to that conversation.

No doubt about it in my mind...she's steadfast and true..she turns my sobs to belly laughs and if I ever find myself trapped in a Chilean mine, I'd want her running the rescue operation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pantsuit.....

"Won't you let me buy you a pantsuit?", she would ask at least once and nearly a dozen times more as my birthday or Christmas approached. This was usually followed by the thinly veiled insult that "I could be such a pretty girl if I'd only do something with my hair". "I don't wear pantsuits", I would explain in frustration. It would fall on deaf ears. I figured out a long time ago that somehow I was doomed to disappoint my mother. Our fights in my adolescence were notable for their fury and in the amount of abuse we seemed so easily able to fling at each other. My father arriving home from work, already half expecting to be called in as referee, would encourage me to be a little more patient. I wasn't sure why she was so angry, I only knew it was an ever present companion just under the surface ready to flare at any provocation.
My mothers closet is full of gaily colored pantsuits in every color of the rainbow. I buy them for her at Macy's and offer them up one by one as small apologies for this life she now leads. Others dress her now and they rarely match the pieces correctly. This frustrates me as I know how much my mother loved clothes and how she always coordinated so well. I try to let it go. Her pantsuits are stained with food she does not eat. The food she spits out when I try to coax her into a spoonful. I do a complicated dance with Hospice. When she dips below a certain weight they will be called in. I arrive at dinner time and hold the fork or spoon to her lips. Months ago, I would silently and sometimes not so silently, plead with her to eat something....even one thing. Letting go is to let her decide. I plead no more. Eat nothing or eat something....I finally get it. This is not the life you would choose.