Together we were one perfect person.
That's what my mom and I always said about the two of us. I am disabled, with spinal and leg problems. She has bad hands from years and years of finger joint replacements that kept blowing out. Between us, we made one perfect person. :) We were probably closer than most - we own two houses on the same lot and spent just about every moment together. Not just Mom and daughter, but two Best Friends Forever. Even as a teenager, when other kids were hiding things from their moms, my friends and I were telling her everything.
I lost her on February 2nd of this year. My life has stopped. I'll be honest - it is a struggle to have purpose in rising every day, to feel anything more than grief, to even open the drapes. I have been to the doctor once and the grocery store twice in 4 months. I switched grocery stores because anytime anyone asked how my mom was, I would sob like a baby right there in the middle of God and everyone.
I used to be a tough, take-charge former Woman Marine. Now I'm a shameful, messy puddle.
I answered a post here today from a woman who was a little overwhelmed doing caregiving for her dad and realized that was the first time I have actually tried to do something comforting for someone else since my Mom died. Did my sense of "care" end when caregiving did?
The end was horrible for my Mom. Nothing like what we had planned and talked about. I knew all her wishes, had them all in writing but still had to make decisions that gnaw at me. It was slow and painful and agonizing and horrible and nothing I did helped.
There is but one large thing that keeps my heart from shattering into itty bitty pieces. From the end of November to the day she died, she spent so much time going back and forth from the hospital to the rehab center. She just never could get well and became extremely physically abusive. (We won't even talk about what colorful words came out of my sweet little Mama's mouth!) :) I can't even count the times I, the physical therapists, nurses and aides got slugged when we weren't expecting it. ANYtime you messed with her - whether it was to try and get her to eat, adjust her in her wheelchair, change her adult diaper, turn her in bed -- well, just do it and duck is what I used to say.
Because of her aggressiveness and tendency to "break out", they had to put her in the locked Alz ward. I was shellshocked. I cannot conceive of how it must be for those who must stay in a rehab center, locked Alz ward or hospital alone, frightened and sad. It was horrifying to me that she had to be there and most days I spent between 8 and 12 hours there. She was much easier to handle when I was around. I brought her little dog every other day and ended up falling in love with almost every single patient there. What floored me was that some had been there 12 years or more and had NEVER had a visitor. Sometimes I think I went just to get all the grateful lovin' from those dear, sweet, lovely alz patients. God, how I loved them. I miss them too. And if I wasn't afraid that I would rip one nurse up with my teeth and spit her out, I would probably go back just to see those darlin' souls. ;)
Anyway (how I do blather on and on, huh?) I felt that some of the nursing home staff was being neglectful and even disrespectful to patients at times. The admin there always had an uh-oh kind of attitude with me because I AM outspoken, vocal and pull no punches when it comes to dressing up how I feel. After several horrible days and many more complications from what I felt was neglect, I decided one night to go home, call hospice and get her back home ASAP. She came home the next morning at 8:30 a.m., and though she was slugging away at the ambulance EMTs, the moment they wheeled her into her old room, she grabbed my hand, crying, and thanked me. "Oh baby, I'm home, I'm home!" That's all she cared about, that gave her peace I guess, and it was the beginning of the end. The hospice nurses told me maybe what she wanted was to know she could go now. She was safe at home. She died four days after coming home.
THAT is the moment that saved me. That one moment of perfect clarity in all of the horrible, heartbreaking ones made me know that my Mama was still in there and what I had done mattered.
Still and all, I feel like half of a very imperfect person. I wonder if that will ever go away. I still use present-tense when talking about her almost all the time. There is nothing more painful than going from "we" to "I". I still pull out two coffee cups every morning. I'm pissed that miniature roses and huge, fluffy peonies are blooming and she's not here to see them. I nursed a pear tree back to health years ago when we bought this place and she watched it closely for fruit daily - one day I used double-stick tape and hung a big, juicy pear (from the grocery store) there and died laughing when she saw it, gasping open-mouthed & smiling. All that memory does now is make me cry.