Surely I've lived through several lifetimes since I was last here. That was when summer was in all her glory, tomatoes were ripening, pools were filled with noisy, splashing kids and we had plans for a lot of nothing to fill our days.
In the past two months we've driven 7300 miles back and forth across the country; had three groups of visitors in Idaho; two family reunions; moved my mother into a memory care facility and cleaned out her apartment; and two days ago I had my long-awaited cornea transplant.
I'm one of those sappy people who can watch a re-run of Price is Right, and when they announce the winner and she cries, I cry. I cry happy tears, sad tears, and everything in between. What I don't do is not cry.
But since my brother died unexpectedly back in late January, I've been operating in an emotionally clogged 'make-it-happen' mode. No time to fall apart, to consider and grieve, just deal with whatever is in front of you and keep on going.
There were a few moments, over those past six months, that I knew if I started, I'd just flat fall apart and that wasn't going to help anyone right then. This summer, with all of her living kids fully realizing the shape our mother was in, and me being her medical and financial power of attorney, we stepped everything up. We kept meals and housekeepers and family checking on her as much as possible, knowing every day she was less safe where she was. Finally, on the birthday of my brother who just died, she walked out of her little apartment, and into the nursing home without a word of complaint. Rather, she said she was happy to know there were people there to take care of her.
Everyone's life has a handful of pivot points, or at least moments that, when they happen, you know. You will never forget them.
When I finally got to visit Mom at the facility where she is living, she'd been there over a week. I walked down the hall toward where her room was supposed to be. Saw a group of old ladies sitting around in a circle, singing and clapping their hands, while somewhere off to the side a man was singing and playing a banjo. One gray haired head caught my attention and I knew it was her. That moment, seeing my mother sitting there. Knowing this little area is now her world, and it is exactly what she needs to feel safe. Seeing that she doesn't wear a watch because she doesn't need to, she doesn't have a purse anymore. She wears slippers. A hard moment that I will not forget.
She, on the other hand, was just happy to see my face, and jumped up to hug me. She introduced me to all her new friends. Then we sat outside, in the little garden area and talked about how she was doing. Was she happy? Did she like it there? Was the food okay? It is the first time in a year she hasn't been agitated or stressed when we talked. Her hair is combed, and someone helped her dress. She is eating three times a day. She has someone to eat meals with. Church comes to her, and they take her on drives in the mountains. There is a puppy dog named Ginger that comes for daily visits.
After being concerned for a couple of years, and worried sick for the past six months, I know she's finally okay. She's content. She's well-cared for. I also know whenever those years were, that she was the mother and I, the daughter, and she was concerned about me - they are gone. Forever.
Hugging her to me, feeling how tiny she has become, and knowing I don't know when I'll see her again; not being sure she will remember me when I do - it took my breath away to try to say goodbye. Still I held in tears because nobody would have been blessed by a flood of them down the hall right that minute.
I came home to Texas, and cried at the drop of a hat, over just about anything anyone said to me. I greeted everyone I know with, "I'm a bit of a wreck." "I need time to put myself back together." As I cried.
Then two days ago I had a cornea transplant - apparently a very common eye surgery, but pretty major for me. It looks and feels major. Cub Sweetheart has done a wonderful job of caring for me, tender and attentive. Trying to anticipate every need I might have, he asked me what I might like from the grocery store, I only added one thing to the list - 'please bring me some orange sherbet.' That's what my mother always gave me when I was sick. It's unimaginable to me that one would be sick, and expected to recover, without a tub of it in the freezer.
This afternoon my oldest daughter, in the middle of moving day for her family of six, called me. She said, "I only have five minutes, but I need to know that you are okay." I was amazed that she even remembered to check on me, as much as she has going on. Four kids to get to bed within a few hours and the beds are on the truck. Where is the toilet paper? Clothes for tomorrow? The dog? The hamster? Yet she called to check on her mom.
Oh, this mothering thing - this unexplainable, twisting and curving - full of looping back, overlapping, covering where the other one used to, and the longing we all have, sometimes, for a cold bowl of orange sherbet.