Since my 90 year old mother has vascular dementia (little strokes that are destroying memory cells), she’s not able to live alone or even be left unsupervised anymore. Although my long-suffering 93 year old father is dedicated to caring for her, she finally reached a point several weeks ago where he could no longer help her up when she fell (from weakness & a UTI infection). He knew the time would come but sadly realized he was at his limit physically so had my mom admitted to the nursing home located across the parking lot from their assisted living apartment where they’ve lived for four years. After nearly 73 years of marriage, he’s just devastated without her around all the time. Ironically though (and I understand these feelings), it’s a huge relief to actually be able to sleep without keeping an ear open to listen for her falling in the night, or just be able to relax without continually answering the same nonsense questions from her. It just breaks my heart that there isn’t a damned thing I or anyone else can do to ease his heartache – except be around for support.
So, I packed up & hooked up the trailer in Branson to park at the nearest RV campground to my hometown. With the heat indexes predicted to be dangerously high, it’s just miserable outside. Even Kira no longer argues with me about coming inside to the AC. I visited my parents every day but still managed to do a lot of visiting with classmates who live in the area. One friend even drove up from the Springfield area the week before our Reunion to spend an afternoon with me visiting another classmate (who has diabetes & a heart condition on top of having both hips replaced already). We also stopped in to see my dad since his dad worked with my dad. Unfortunately, one of our classmates also has vascular dementia & brain damage from a fall & was in the nursing home then. Her husband is also a classmate so we three enjoyed catching up. Another classmate lives in the neighboring apartment complex from my parents, & her husband has the beginnings of Alzheimer's. I also visited one of my best friends in high school who worked her way up from nurse to nurse practitioner. In the past three years, she had a heart attach, breast cancer, & now is recovering from back surgery. Nevertheless, my class reunion was great. Good thing we all had on name tags tho. I could barely recognize some classmates, but the familiarity was always in their eyes regardless of the gray hair & wrinkles. Now if the heat index just hadn’t been 105 outside!
Holy cow, only me & a couple of other classmates are the only ones I know of right now without major diseases or disabilities or a plethora of meds. However, with my parents longevity & the health problems they now live with, I’m beginning to question this whole idea of living to be a serious senior citizen. Quality of life is different for everyone, but for me not being able to get out of a chair or go for a gentle walk without a walker, having to take a ton of medication, & worst of all, forgetting your friends & family just doesn’t seem like much of a life to me. My best hope for me & everyone else is that we gently just don’t wake up one morning instead of suffering thru those last years. It’s not being dead & gone that upsets people – it’s the pain & indignities that happen before death that everyone fears.
However, we got news two weeks after mom was in the nursing home that her kidneys had totally shut down. They gave her a few weeks to live, & Hospice was called in. Ironically tho, those old kidneys are still working at times, so she could last another month or so. She has problems swallowing now (from the dementia & doesn’t eat as much as a cat). My dad is holding up remarkably well, but this death watch is just excruciating. At least he has time to get used to being at home alone, being able to watch TV or listen to music without my mother complaining, but can still walk over to see her any time he needs or wants. How odd that his daughter is able to give him advise on surviving the death of a spouse. When she passes, at least the clock starts on the healing – just not until then.
I had a VA appointment scheduled for a month, so drove the trailer back to Branson for that checkup after my Reunion weekend. Even managed to finally get a shingles vaccination. It kind of itches & swelled up but no other problems with it. Geez, I don’t ever want to have shingles! My cholesterol is still higher than wanted but is dropping due to diet & quitting smoking. Progress. And it was cloudy & gloomy with scattered rain. Finally got a quick-disconnect put on the trailer for my fresh water hose tho. And it doesn’t leak like with just a hose attached.
I’ve been listening to music again while driving & it dawned on me those memories that hit me so suddenly are very much like the brief aroma on a breeze from honeysuckle, lilacs, or pine trees. So intense, just for a few seconds, that make me feel like I could almost swim in the scent – or the memory. If I closed my eyes, I could just reach out & touch them. Fortunately, my distraction & de-sensitization this past winter has actually helped. When I heard the news about my mom, I remember thinking it was just too soon after Jeff’s death. And now watching her fade away, so weak & fragile, is too reminiscent of watching Jeff last summer. There’s no easy way to let go of a loved one, whether it’s a split second event or one that takes years of decline. One of my few comforts after Jeff’s death was that he was no longer suffering. I hope I feel that too about my mom too.
Thankfully I don’t have a big agenda this summer cause those plans sure would have gone out the window (jello plans). I’ve come back to park near my hometown for however long it takes – for now, just waiting. . .& to support my dad. I’m surprised that I feel homesick for winter in AZ & NM tho. Funny how listening to the same music now here in MO reminds me of winter of Quartzsite & the Wolf Sanctuary almost more than of Jeff. Good grief, nothing seems to stay the same anymore. I just get adjusted & something else jolts loose. But I’ve realized that my & Jeff’s relationship went thru a number of different phases in 20 years since everything always changes, & I’m slowly adjusting to being a single now instead of half of a couple. I’m discovering my individuality again, happy to follow my own preferences instead of compromising & understanding.
I’m returning to Branson Tuesday so that Kira can have two little bumps lasered off her right front leg Wednesday. She isn’t messing with them too much (yet) but they seem to be getting bigger. Then I’ll return to my hometown for at least a month. I have more visits with school friends to distract me from this death watch, but I’m so thankful to be able to easily be where I need to be & have these last weeks with my mom. I rather be enjoying the cool weather in CO than here – this is a once a lifetime situation so I can’t miss it going off to chase the weather that fits my clothes.