Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!
"Mirror Mirror, on the wall"

Friday, October 28, 2011

To my kids; you can put me away, but can we please wait a while?

Mom and Dad and Marta Elena at Alexis' wedding
I lost both my parents in 2010, just months before Olivia was born.  It was a profound experience of the cycle of life.  My Mom had been sick for 7 years but my Dad, who had been caring for her, had a fall, which triggered a sequence of strokes, and he died two months before she did. 

My Mom required more than one person to attend to her around the clock.  She couldn’t walk or talk, she had catheters and feeding tubes and went from one crisis to another.”   If you are imaging her spending her days peacefully propped up in bed, that wasn’t the case.  Every single day, her caretakers dressed her, did her hair and put on her make-up, and took her out.  My Dad bought a van with a ramp for her wheel chair and off they went to the mall, to Costco, to the beauty parlor.   

My Dad would never go to a social engagement without her.  If he were invited to dinner or a party, he would bring my Mom with her entourage of caregivers.  People stopped inviting him.  It was so difficult for them to see her this way; she would sit in her wheel chair quietly, disengaged from the group.  Her beautiful smile was replaced with a distorted confused expression.  With very few exceptions, their friends fell by the wayside.

Mom wouldn’t have cared if he left her at home sometimes.  She had wonderful and loving caregivers and my sisters and I were always around but my father refused to go out without her.  My father wouldn't acknowledge that she no longer found pleasure in social situations or that she was changed in any way. My father, who had been the life of the party, was isolated and lonely.   My sisters and I tried so hard to get my father to agree to leave his house and go to an apartment where his life would be simplified and less isolated but he refused to even consider it.  

He stayed in his house and kept track of every phone-call that came in and every visit we made.  Although my sisters and I were very attentive, my father took all his anger out on us.  He reminded us every day how much we owed to him and my Mom, and that our only valid role was our role as a daughter.   He played us against each other and had us competing against each other to be the good daughter, an unattainable goal.   It was a terrible situation for everyone and I was so happy that my mom was unaware.  She would never have wanted to be the cause of the family discord.

The other day I was out to lunch with some friends when a group of seniors came in to the restaurant. They came on a bus and were in wheel chairs and with walkers and canes; they came with smiles and camaraderie. I can’t look at a woman in a wheel chair with out crying these days.  They remind me of my Mom and I relive the sadness of watching her slip away.  But all the people in this group looked so happy to be there.   As I watched them interacting with their caregivers and each other, I thought to myself how nice this was.  These people were not isolated and lonely. Their children must be so happy to know that their parents are safe and have activities to look forward to.   I thought to myself, Okay.    Go ahead, kids.  You can put me away!  But, please, not just yet!

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