This was not the post I was planning for upload today. Literally, I sat down at my desk to construct a post I’ve mulled over for three weeks now, when suddenly I remembered to try again to reach my mom on the phone. It would be the fourth attempt today. This time it worked. She answered. We spoke. Afterward I felt the sliding of my emotions which tends to be the norm of late.
In the past, on Mother’s Day weekend, I have told her story. Each year I gained morsels of bravery to shed more light on our tapestry. It’s a unique, heroic recounting of a strong, courageous single mom.
At 15, she found herself fighting off, or attempted to fight off, her rapist. I was the product of that violent attack. Being out of her crushed mind, heart, and spirit, she attempted suicide twice while pregnant with me, but survived. She was unaware God had His plans of destiny beyond the messy road she was on. I told this story with a great amount of reveals a year ago. I invite you to look at May’s archives from last year to get a sharper camera angle of her torn life. (“If I Were…” From May 10, 2019)
In the last 20 years she took-on the role of caregiver for her parents, who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Nancy Reagan called this disease, “The Long Good-bye”. She was right. My mom retired as early as she could to move-in with her ailing parents, giving up her life to hold them up, as best as she could, as they faced the monster of this disease. My granddad passed away first with complications of dementia in 2008. My grandmother had full-blown Alzheimer’s, struggling with it for about 14 years before she passed.
My mom aged quickly while being a soldier for her folks. It was difficult to see her own physical health decline during those years of tremendous servanthood. I was never more proud of her battling away in those times.
Around 2014, her oldest brother, 4 years older than her, began to show signs of the same disease. Today, he is deep in the jaws of the struggle, rendering him to a shell of a man, vacant in many ways. A couple of years ago, my mom’s other brother, 2 years her senior, began to mentally deteriorate with the same invader of the body. Trust me, it is no respecter of persons, or brilliance.
My mom is only 16 years older than I. (I’m turning 60 in a few short days.) Over the last 2 years, I became aware my mom was changing, and not for the better. She lives alone about 70 minutes from me in the house she grew-up in. At first, I felt the changes I observed were simple gaffs of the aging process. Our communication often left me scratching my head. There were occasions where she got lost while traveling to our part of the Dallas Metroplex, a way she knows like the back of her hand. About 2 years ago we were to meet at a halfway point, as we have done many times before. Her sense of direction was totally absent. She had to call me for help to walk her through which way to turn at each intersection. When I instructed her to turn left, she would turn right, not understanding the mistake. It was on that day I realized she…we had a problem. It would be a problem that would grow.
Recently, almost overnight, she found herself unable to spell the simplest words. Her cell phone texts became more difficult to read as the days rolled on. She began having issues with sentence construction and word retrieval during our conversations. Items would come up missing in her house. She blames it on her dog. Asking if I can help is a loss. She no longer allows me in the house. Her excuse is it’s too messy for company. In the last few months, she has had losing battles in operating her cell phone, including prompts, icons, and modes. Today, in our telephone exchange, she expressed an urge to give it up and order a simple landline phone. I hope it helps because she has trouble answering the phone these days.
There are also other health issues of concern I recognize as side symptoms of dementia. She is a proud, independent woman, and holds these cards close to her chest as I attempt to decipher how her daily life is changing.
Frankly, I know where this is going. As she shrugs it off as amusing, even humorous, I am accepting the fact that my mom is fading before my eyes.
Somewhere in the thicket of my mind, I knew this day was coming. Although there was a 20 year span as my grandparents experienced massive declining health, there were also wonderful times of mysterious joy in the midst of it all. I must remember this as I tend to my mom’s needs today and tomorrow. Currently, I just don’t know how, or where to begin.
So, what’s the purpose of this particular post? Unaware of the true answer, all I can do is display brutal honesty of how I feel on this Mother’s Day weekend. Because I didn’t have a dad around, most of the time in my life, I saw her as my touchstone. I liken it to a small child in a swimming pool, with an inflatable tube around his/her torso. He/she feels much safer holding on to the side of the pool with his/her waterlogged wrinkled hand grasping tightly to the concrete edge.
I’m turning 60 years old now. It’s time to let go of the concrete edge. Scripture tells us not to hold too tightly to this world, especially what we deem as “concrete”. Even concrete crumbles.
As the concrete crumbles in my grasp, I am reminded once again, God is the life-saving tube around my torso.
My days are filled with the reminder that I need to top off my tank every day with fuel for the race.
“So I said: ‘Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days; your years go on through all generations. In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.'” – Psalm 102: 24-27 (NIV)