Blessed Fog

It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.”  Joseph Conrad

I couldn’t seem to put my finger on how I’ve been feeling lately, but the quote above seem to fit it perfectly. That is what has been my constant companion the last few months:  A blessed, warm fog.

Personal disenchantment coupled with the untimely passing of my mother (although sadly and reluctantly welcomed by all of us when the news of it arrived) was a reminder of the power of love, and how her five children responded to it. 

My mother never really liked being one; we all knew that deep down and accepted her for who she was.  She was an artist at heart, and was happiest when she was painting or creating something from greenware. 

She did the best she could with what she had.   People often asked if we felt cheated, if we resented her not being a “proper” grandmother to our children.   Each of our responses may be different, but for me, I learned how selfless she had really been all her life. She taught us how to love even those who didn’t deserve it, and that’s all we needed to know. 

Each of us has different memories of her in our history, and if we were to recite our experiences one by one, those listening would swear we were talking about a completely different person.  She had the forethought to be what we needed her to be at the time for each of us.

We all had our battles with her as well.  What one event might be shrugged off as being silly, another thought it as insurmountable.  But there was always respect, and we knew who the Mother really was.

Ironically, the news came on Mother’s Day that she had taken a downward turn.  We all took our turn caring for her at the end, my brother and sister-in-law bearing the brunt of the time since they lived an hour away.  The rest of us, my three sisters and I, lived in different states all over the country.  Travel arrangements coincided without two much time between arrivals and departures.

The youngest went to her first, and told us of battles with needles and ripping out of tubes, while the next one dealt with paranoia and pain, while the next dealt with resignation.   I finally learned how to text message.

By the time I arrived, her mind was almost gone.  Moments of lucidity were gifts I cherished, grabbing them by the armful and holding them close to my heart.   The last few days with me she spent in a blessed, peaceful fog, remembering only to go to the bathroom, comb her hair and brush her teeth, but not much else.

My mother was sleeping the last time I saw her, and I didn’t wake her to say goodbye.  I kissed her lightly on the head, her white and wiry thin hair brushing up against my cheek.   I sat in the chair beside the bed for just a moment more and let the fog envelope me, for I knew it was the last I would see of her, and I was right.  I cried a little, and knew she wouldn’t remember that I was even there to begin with.

The fog has slowly begun to lift around me, as life returns to the routine.  Although not fully dissipated, I can see around the edges.  

I am different now, and wonder if I will ever be the same.   Or if I even want to be.

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Friends and Emails

Its so reassuring to get messages from friends who are thinking of me.   Some are friends from 30+ plus years ago; others are newly formed and just as sincere. 

Emails arriving in the form of quick messages have become the new condolence card, but the intent is the same.

No long flowerly prose needed.  Just a quick “Hey – you ok?”  or “I was thinking of you today” or even “whatssup?”

They all have the same meaning. 

Equally moving is learning who really are not my friends and were only at my side when they needed something.  There were quite a few of those and I have learned to shed them like old sunburned skin.

I keep the emails to read when I am feeling sad and know that  even though I project a calm exterior, my sadness regarding a lot of things is profound.

My real friends know what that means.

Thanks to all of you.

The Oldest

It still feels so weird to be sending my three sons their own Father’s Day cards.

My first impulse is to get one for my father, who has been gone since 2003. 

As my mother just recently passed and joined him last week, a stark realization hit me this morning.

I am  now the oldest Loveman.

He used to refer to us by number – all five of us had a digit and since I was the oldest, I was Number 1. 

I used to kid them all, taunting in a sing song voice “I’m number wonn on, I’m number wonon….”

I think I’ll stop doing that now.

Peaceful Sleep

The last time I saw my mother, she was asleep. 

It was a well deserved nap, having fought with oxygen tubes and breathing treatments most of the day.  She was exhausted and I knew she was ready.  She looked peaceful, almost childlike, laying on her side with her hands tucked under her chin. 

It was time for me to catch my flight to visit my son, but  I didn’t want to wake her.  I thought about whether she would be upset to find I had gone when she awakened, but then realized she probably wouldn’t remember that I had been there to begin with. 

I walked over to her and kissed her lightly on the top of her head. 

I sat down on the chair next to the bed, the chair I had sat so many days before, and where my sibings no doubt had sat before me.  I was the last out of town daughter  to visit, and it was almost as if she was waiting for me to say goodbye. 

I cried a little, knowing this was the last time I would see her.

“Good bye, Mommy” I whispered.  “I’ll miss you.”

Rest in peace. 

Finally.

Member of the Club

While spending time with my mother in the hospital, I was able to continue the routine that had begun with my siblings who had visited before me.  Since physical and occupational therapies were usually done in the morning, I would plan on seeing her about 11:30 a.m.,which was right before they hospital lunches were brought up.  But first I stopped at the local McDonald’s to get her a chicken McNugget Happy Meal, complete with french fries, drink and a toy.  

She never ate any of the hospital food, except for the desserts, and take a few sips of hot tea.  She would pick at the chicken and eat a few french fries, then announce “I can’t eat another bite.”  She was wasting away before our eyes.   Pizza, hamburgers (no cheese) and chicken McNuggets were her entire diet.

Her neighbor the next room over was occupied by a quiet Asian man, who was slowly dying of lung cancer.  He was visited daily by his children and wife as well, as their pattern of coming and going seemed to mirror ours.  His daughter was younger than me, but it was hard to tell by how much.   We were all members of the same club, one we didn’t choose, but were part of nevertheless.  Swollen, bloodshot, tired eyes were the calling cards of those who came everyday, day after day, until the final destination of their loved one was determined.

We would speak briefy, she and I, telling me the condition of her father and I sharing the latest set back of my mother.  She, like everyone else, knew my mother favored the chicken McNuggets, and now and then would stop to pick up a bag of them for her herself.  During one of my mother’s few moments of lucidity, she remarked on how the “pretty china girl brought her food.”  We smiled knowingly at each other, for I never learned her name, and she never learned mine.

But like soldiers in a war, we shared a bond.  We silently said a prayer for each other whenever one of them were combative, minds lost from drugs or loss of oxygen.  We knew where to look for extra linen, always bringing sheets or towels for each other and making sure there was enough water in our parents glasses.    We knew when it was nap time and when each of us would close our eyes as we sat in the chairs next to their beds, as close as we could get without climbing in with them.

One day I came in to say hello, but they had discharged him the evening before, allowing him to go home and sleep in his own bed, probably for the final time.   I thought about the Pretty China Girl and how she must be feeling, and wished I had been able to say goodbye.

She was a friend I would remember long after both of our parents were gone.  One of the members of the club who, sadly, was finally free.

The Dead Don’t Eat French Fries

Having spent the last few days with my mother in a long term facility for stroke patients, we’ve begun to understand the way her damaged mind works. Shes lost her appettite and will only eat chicken nuggets and french fries.

“I’m dead” she said to me in all seriousness.

“No” I answered simply. “You’re not. You’re eating french fries.”

“Oh, that’s right” she said. “The dead don’t eat french fries.”