Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday mornings.....

My mother always used to say how much she would like to get a manicure.  Being a right arm amputee, it was not something she could do for herself.  Being also a frugal Yankee, she balked at the idea of paying full price but was too shy to ask for half off.  I don't know why a manicure is never something I offered to do for her.  I suppose we spent so much energy trying to get along that mom and daughter trips to the spa just weren't part of our reality.

Saturday mornings now,  are "spa" mornings for mom.  I pack up my polish and lotions and spend a couple hours massaging her hand, manicuring her nails and finishing her off with a polish.  This weeks shade is "Cherries in the Snow".  It's a little sassy and quite a bit fun.  She smiled with pleasure as I did my work.  I chattered on about my crazy work week asking her opinion here and there.  She's very good with confidentiality.  She keeps my secrets and admissions close.  She's pretty quiet today, doesn't have much to say,  which I suspect is her way of telling me, I should have kept my mouth shut this week.  Mom knows best........just one more lesson she continues to teach me.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


When I arrive this morning, I find my mother still in bed asleep. A petite miniature of her former self, she looks adrift in a sea of pillows and blankets. I announce my presence quietly, my hand on hers, but she does not waken or open her eyes. That she dreams is obvious. Her face grimaces and she murmurs aloud.....even in slumber anguish registers on her face.

It is my hope that her dreams are clear, with none of the confusion that consciousness brings, each frame moving into the next like a home movie. We know she dreams of family. Upon waking she usually calls for her mother.

At one point she grabs my hand, still with eyes closed, and brings it to her cheek where she rests it in her hand. This small moment of normalcy is enough. Eventually, I take my leave and once more place my hand on hers. With eyes closed, she grimaces and tosses my hand away, grabbing the blanket over her shoulders as she rolls away from me. "Pammy", she says, her voice tired and filled with frustration, "you know I'd do anything in the world for you, but why can't you go to bed so I can get some rest?" Sweet dreams Mom as I tiptoe quietly away.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Places In The Heart

Every day, Jim, Milly, Charlotte and Jan come to the unit to visit their spouses. In total there are 48 people on my mothers unit, a fairly even division of men and women. These four are the only living spouses out of the 48. Sons and daughters show up on holidays and the occasional weekend. I am the exception to the rule, though unlike these four, I do not go every day. We know each other well and always stop to inquire, first about each other and then, about our loved one.

Jim's wife sits quietly staring at a place upward and towards the ceiling. She has not made eye contact in over 3 years and murmurs constantly to herself . Jim sits with her by the hour, holding her close....telling her about his day and asking after hers. It is the only time she does not murmur. Milly reads the Globe aloud to her husband. Though he has not spoken in several months, his eyes never leave her face. Charlotte, accompanied by her dog "Little Bee" brings frappes and other delights to her husband, who rarely opens his eyes but smiles gently when "Little Bee" sits on his lap and licks at his chin. He was a pilot once upon a time and perhaps behind his closed lids....he soars free. Jan's husband confined to a Hospice chair lies on his side, infant like. She fusses over him and keeps up an endless chatter. His time is near, though none of us speak this out loud. She drives 80 miles round trip each day to spend 6 hours with him.

I watch them when they enter the unit. I observe how their faces light up at the first glimpse of their spouse. Their smiles reach up into their eyes and they all lean in for a kiss. Love like this is the real McCoy. There is no imposter here. There are places in our hearts that are indeed big enough and wide enough for two. They can no longer access their love for us, but we carry it for them, carry it for ourselves. Places within our heart .