My mother’s heart issues go back years. First the pace maker, then the unstable blood pressure. The last two years, the reality came. Congestive heart failure. The rushing ambulances to the ERs, the prolonged ICU stays, the rehabilitation. It has just made her weaker and weaker.
I’ve spent many hours while watching her sleep in the hospital overwhelmed by anxiety. Coming to terms with the one fact that I have avoided as long as possible. Diane, you cannot save her from this journey. It’s one we will all have to walk for ourselves.
As I grew from a girl to a woman, somewhere without notice, the roles reversed and I became the care taker of my mother, instead of the other way around. She has lived close to me and recently, far away in FL, but I’ve tried my best to provide for her. She made sure we kids grew up with everything we wanted….now it was our turn to ensure she wanted for nothing. That’s how I saw it anyway, even though that plan went awry. A story for another day.
My mother lives with my younger sister. They are loving companions, they’ve sewn their lives together, like sisters almost. In the end, I’m glad they have each other, although it has been complicated, challenging, painful sometimes.
I’ve had periods of my life when I’ve not spoken to my mom. The longest period was an entire year….probably 6 years ago. I broke the ice and called her when I was going in for surgery. As stubborn as I can be (trust and believe!), my mother is the most stubborn person I’ve ever known. She will suffer pain in her heart so deep…just to avoid saying, I’m sorry, I was wrong. She’s a beautiful woman, in every aspect, but she can’t bring herself to that humble place. My mom has endured a lot of hardship in her life. She has that Irish dna that affords her super human strength to pull herself up from her boot straps and move forward. Warmth and love….well, its sprinkled in there….but you have to look hard for it. Love is expected. She expects you to know she feels it. My troubles have come when I’ve asked her to show it to me. Here is where our antlers have locked and well….thats the water. Now here comes the bridge….
January 2022 began with mom in the ICU. Her first rehab was at home in FL because we couldn’t find a rehabilitation hospital to take her. She went back into the hospital in May, this time was much worse. She was severely anemic and had lost her conscious awareness. She did not know where she was or what was happening to her. They had to tie her hands to the bed, to keep her from ripping out her IVs, her oxygen and attempting to leave. By the time I got from Maryland to Florida, she was a tiny little woman in this big hospital bed.
She was so glad to see me. She had the wide eyes of a child. I sat at her bedside and talked with her, softly. Taking time to explain to her why she was there, and what was happening to her. And to say….I know this is scary. I’d be scared too. But it’s OK, it’s behind you now. Now let’s look forward. We talked about what we’d need to do and that she had some work to do to get strong enough to go home. Truthfully, I don’t know if I was lying then. I don’t know if mom is going home. We can hope though.
Days later she moved to rehab, and these conversations continued each night as I visited her. One night we were selecting her meals for the week and spent longer than was necessary visiting all our food favorites. Waffles with strawberries and cream for Sunday breakfast, and catfish (yes, you love catfish, mom, even though you always say you’ve never had it. LOL) for dinner. We talked about the days when I was a girl and we went camping with Dad. We laughed about crazy dinners she had made, and Christmas trees that my older sister fell into and knocked flat to the floor.
One day as she napped, I looked at my mom and realized….I had a choice to make. I was going to either “fight” with my mom till then end….OR….choose to find a way to love her by believing she loved me, even when she couldn’t say it or show it.
Leaving Florida to go home to Maryland while Mom is in rehab was difficult. Bargaining with myself, I manage by calling her every day. I pick up the phone with a story in my mind….I live the future with my mom by remembering the past. It’s easier to connect with her from those days long ago. It’s imperfect, but I’ve decided….I’ve decided to love my mother this way.
Last night, she ended our call with this….Diane, I love you, I’ve always loved you.
I know mom….and I’ll never doubt it again. I’m on the bridge with you mom. There is no way you will walk this next journey alone. I’m with you mom.
Ciao for now…..Diane