My mother’s world gets smaller and smaller. It seems very mundane, but she gets security from the sameness.
Being legally blind, she relies heavily on her other senses. She smells my neck as I kiss her good night. I bring her favorite flowers in the spring … lilacs, hyacinths, gardenias, and she inhales deeply with a sigh. She relishes the feel of our little dog placed in her lap. She relies on her headphones to hear the monotonous drone of the TV. How many times has she watched those “Everybody Loves Raymond” episodes? But she knows them so well, she doesn’t have to see the visuals, she no longer can. She listens intently as I read to her daily … the books she had planned on rereading in her “old age.” I also read these journals that my dad wrote for 14 years, recording every day of their life together. She laughs and sometimes tears up as she recollects different memories. She delights in the little edible treats I shower her with. On go the “night” headphones, as I put her to bed, so she can listen to her audio books. “So I don’t have to think about death,” she says.
She is 87 years old, and I’ve been taking care of her for almost two years now. My dad passed away in February 2012, and she was not able to live alone. She moved into the back of our house, which used to be my home-school room, a room of enlightenment and learning. That continues.
Do we ever truly grow up until we take care of an aging parent? The lessons abound. About nine months ago, I came back from a weekend trip, which I was able to do only because of my wonderful husband picking up the “mom slack.” It came to my attention that she was no longer able to take care of her toilet hygiene. I was challenged. I struggled. She could “feel” my resentment as I touched her. Finally, very gently she said, “You know, I used to do the same thing when you were a baby.” I ran out of the room and wept. A short time later I returned and said, “Mom, sometimes I really mess up, but I’m doing the best job I can.” And then, right there, she flickered back to the parental role and said, “Honey, it just has to be done,” and I was the child again, learning.
It affects everyone in the family. My husband and my three children all belong to the same “club of service.” I have never been more proud of them.
It’s not always easy. Just the other day, she asked me if I get tired of doing the same things for her day after day. I felt it was important to be honest with her. I said, yes, I do, but I ask God for new strength every day, and He provides.
I have been blessed with some incredible aides, who have almost become part of the family. I could not do this without them. They know the routines and serve us so well.
One day, mom arose from her nap and she was very excited. She said, “I just had a dream!” Her face was so animated. She said, “I dreamt of Aunt Ida! It was SO good to see her again. I think it was just a little preview of what it’s going to be like in heaven!”
I smiled and told her I thought she was absolutely right. Even though she has some natural fear of death, she has accepted the gift that God has given her and knows she will be with Him eternally and see her husband again. This brings her such peace.
I don’t know what the end is going to be like. I pray over her every night that we’ll be able to usher her into His arms. Maybe it will happen in her dreams.
In the meantime, I will continue to cherish each day I have with her and spend time in a little world that sooner than later, will not exist anymore. I am honored to have a place in it.