Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Darlin'


About three years ago, while visiting me in Texas, we sat across from each other in a coffee shop. I cautiously talked to her about my concerns, tried to get her to agree to see a doctor. After hearing me out, she angrily told me, "There's absolutely nothing wrong with my brain." 

Deep inside I knew there was much wrong. Much unfixable. 

Our grandson, who was also visiting, was eight at the time, and I'll never forget how she cocked her head one way, then the other, and crinkled up her eyes, questioning, as he tried to explain how to play Candyland. He told her, you drew a card, and moved however many colored squares there were. Sometimes you got the lollipop and had to go back all the way to home. This woman who used to beat the shorts off of me at Scrabble could not grasp it. Too many rules, too many cards, too many colors.

After our visit she begrudgingly agreed to see a doctor, who immediately recommended a neurologist. Mom refused to go. All these years, when life had stripped away most everything else, she still had her intellect and nobody but nobody was going to tell her that was leaving her too.

A social worker was sent to her home, and Mom thought it was nice that 'some lady came by for a visit and seemed to want to be my friend." Mom told me they 'played games' and she thought she'd done pretty well. I still remember how surreal it felt like to stand there in our hall, phone to my head, and hear the social worker tell me the results of her testing. Hear her say, "your mother is definitely demented.' In spite of all my suspicions and concerns, hearing it spoken outloud by someone else felt like being crushed, a brick wall falling in on me.

It's been an exhausting journey, for her and for her four kids as we've walked alongside; as she found herself more and more lost at every turn. Like being in a corn maze with no solutions. Cruel, tricky dead ends that had no way out. Mazes disguised as how to dress herself and button up shirts, remember names of people - new and old, understand that there were seasons and days with names, that you had to eat at least once a day, that the fan wasn't scary, and if you laid down for a nap and woke up it was still the same day; and the cold white stuff coming down from the sky was called snow, and those creatures coming up to her window had a name and it was deer. Too many lessons coming from too many directions, too fast for her to stay up with it all.  Our conversations usually looked and sounded like a frustrating, heart wrenching game of charades that neither of us ever won.

It's been heartbreaking and exhausting and overwhelming for her and for us. A whole new world, that no matter how much we tried to adjust it to fit her, was still more than she could grasp. 

Last Friday, before she had this final fall that was the beginning of the end, we facetimed. My phone rang, and there she was, looking around all panicky, til she found my face on the screen. She said, "Beverly." That's all - just my name. I don't remember what we talked about for that 10 or 15 minutes, but I think maybe we discussed coffee and stacks of pancakes and snow and such. And then I told her, "I just want you to know I'm praying for you every single day, and I love you so very much." And she immediately came back with an unusual full sentence, "Oh I know you do, and I love you too, darlin'." 

Now we're here, at this place, where she's in the final stages of fighting a battle she could never win. The photo my brother sent me yesterday, taken just that morning, took my breath away and broke my heart into tiny shattered pieces. I had to look hard and gaze at her eyes and brow, but I could still see the mother I've loved for all of my almost 62 years. Look past the shock of white hair and dropped mouth to find her still in there. 

We're in that awful, rip your guts out, middle of saying goodbye to life together here on this earth, and it's so much harder than I ever thought it could be. 

I called today to check on her. When the nurse asked me if I wanted to talk to her, again I wasn't ready. How do you talk to someone when you know it's quite possibly the last time. Who's ever ready for that? Everything in me was scared to death, but I said ,'yes', and waited. No noise. So I started talking anyway, and said to the silence, "Mom, this is Bev. Beverly. I just wanted to tell you I'm still praying for you every single day, and I love you so very much." Immediately guttural noises came across the phone line. She knew me, heard me, and wanted to be heard.

I'm going to choose to believe if they could be translated from that language that is halfway here and halfway already in heaven, they would surely say, 

"Oh, I know you do, and I love you too, darlin'." 

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