Reading around a few other blogs (Chocolate Is a Verb, for instance), I find that I am not alone in feeling frantic and wishing 1) that I had more time and 2) that Christmas were over.
This is a season of waiting. My daughters can’t wait for it to be Christmas. Can’t wait to find out what’s wrapped in those presents under the tree. I can’t wait to be done with all the cards and decorations and busyness of the holiday. On Thursday, maybe in an effort to check-out from the busyness,I left my cell phone charging in the car while I had coffee with a friend; when I returned to the car, I saw–my heart pounding–that I had 3 missed texts and 2 missed calls. I grabbed up the phone and the last message (all from my sister) was “Call me! Mom’s had a stroke!”
By the time I called, the paramedics were there with mom, and so was my sister. Mom had maybe had a stroke, but definitely a violent seizure. I was able to help make the decision not to transport her to the hospital. There were tears and not a little anguish. In between calls, I sent texts to my friends. But then, Mom began to feel better. Her speech wasn’t slurred any longer. She was put to bed and my sister sat with her and held her hand.
I had begun my day with a million things to do. I mentally crossed most of it off the list. I went to the gym (I was already dressed!), I went to the school to wait for Emma (who turned out to have other plans), I went home and showered and packed. I took a plate of spaghetti to my friend who had surgery yesterday. I got in the ferry line. I waited in the ferry line for an hour and a half!!! (I had a book; no worries.) A little before 8 p.m. I rolled into Allyn. My sister was able to go home. I slept in the recliner in Mom’s room; or, I didn’t sleep (good British movie on the telly; and the amazing caregivers who woke us every two hours to check on Mom and reposition her in the bed).
The next morning Mom was her chatty self. She told me that my uncle lives there, too, but that she hasn’t seen him for awhile. She wanted to know who is taking care of Dad while she’s there. “Can’t you just take me home?” she kept asking. She ate almost all of her breakfast (which was a surprise) and she was no longer complaining of a headache. Her blood pressure was good.
Before I left, Debra, who owns the Haven (and is a gift, herself) arrived and took me in hand. We sat downstairs in her office and had a long talk. It’s so easy to get into a mindset of “waiting for Mom to die.” A mindset that makes every moment agony. Or, at the least, unpleasant. If you are waiting for the next moment, rather than being in this one, then you can’t really enjoy this moment. You can’t bask in it. “Your mother is dying,” Debra told me. “But not right now.” I told Debra the story of my grandmother’s last three years in a nursing home, and how Mom used to say, “Don’t you let that happen to me.” Debra said, “But is this like where your grandmother was? Is your mother, your grandmother?” Her best advice was, “Make new memories.”
Mom is in a good place where she has her own bedroom with her own pictures on the wall and her television playing the Christmas music station. Deer and rabbits visit. The caregivers are good to her. One of them calls her “Grams.” My youngest sister is able to see her almost every afternoon after work. I can be there in two hours, and have been able to visit almost every week.
What I am going to remember is sitting and holding her hand. I’m going to remember reading Agatha Christie novels aloud to her. I’m going to remember the ride on the ferry and seeing gray whales and eagles and flocks of surf scoters.
I’m going to try to enjoy this week before Christmas when my to-do list is almost completely crossed off and the tree is lit up and presents are (mostly) wrapped in anticipation. I’m going to try to bask in the anticipation.
I’m going to try to enjoy this time before my novel rewrite is finished (it is so close) and everything is still possible.
I’m going to try to enjoy being able to visit my mother while she is still in this plane of existence with us, in whatever condition.
And I’m going to reread Cherie Langlois’s blogpost, “A Christmas Question,” which says everything I have been thinking, but says it better.