|Art Linkletter's show, from 1945 - 1969|
In the meantime, I'm doing things like trying to understand insurance policies, and figuring out what to put on her head stone, and sending thank you cards to helpers and Hospice, etc.
My thoughts tend to swirl all around me, with no sense of order. One minute I'm remembering what her laugh sounded like, or the time when she asked me to fix her hair for her, so she could go on a date many years ago, or when I went to visit her (more recently) and her teeth were a mess, and she seemed completely unaware of it. There was the time I went to visit her and she was wandering around the parking lot where she lived, waiting for me to pull in. The last time we face timed, just days before she fell and broke her hip, and she saw my face, and said, 'that's my daughter, Beverly.' It took us a full five minutes just to get through saying hello to each other. She not only had difficulty registering that it was me, but seeing my face on a computer screen completely confused her - understandably so. Who knows what technology will baffle me twenty or so years from now.
I'm finding the strangest thing about working through losing someone is that you kind of feel like you're walking around as a shadow. Not fully present in the room, not fully engaged in conversations, because you have all these other thoughts going on inside your head. A constant re-remembering, considering, trying to grasp it all, while all around you life goes on.
I suppose with time I'll become more and more truly present, and less drifting mentally. With time this won't feel so odd and unreal.
Friends and family have asked me if her death was unexpected. She was 83, almost 84, had Alzheimers and had really begun to decline over the past few months. Every day was a struggle of one sort or another, and I was getting calls from the nursing home almost daily. But I still didn't see it coming. We were in Idaho, babysitting our four grandchildren when I learned my mother had fallen and was gravely ill. That was morning. By evening I realized she was not going to recover, and was declining at a faster rate than I could get my head around. Two days before she passed away we flew to Texas to deal with details of the home we are building there. So I was 2200 miles away from Idaho, and 1200 miles away from her when the nursing home called to tell me she'd passed away.
Being with our family in Texas was a comfort. Our son's and daughter-in-law's house is typical of anyone at the stage of life they're at. Kids and school and pets and lunch money and laundry and bedtimes and such - the stuff of life - kept us in the present and often brought relief from emotions that threatened to topple me.
In the middle of it all - I'd just taken a call from the funeral home, trying to work through arrangements - then got in the car to drive our grandson to pre-school. We had this conversation:
Papa: "Daniel (who is five years old), do you have a girlfriend at school?"
Daniel: "Well, I did. Her name was _________, but I broke up with her because she digs in her bottom. I have to find a new one."
Papa: "Oh, well, there you go. Do you have any boyfriends?"
Daniel: "Papa! Grand Jan and Mama told us boys don't have boyfriends."
Papa: "Right! How about any buddies?" .......
On our best, and worst days, all we can do is live fully in the present. Take it one day at a time. Remember how precious life is, and love those who are still with us.
I have full confidence my mother is in heaven, talking her head off with all sorts of people she hasn't seen in a long time, and probably asking all sorts of tough questions. Or maybe there's the blessed relief that those tough questions finally don't matter anymore? I'm pretty sure where she is now trumps anything going on here on earth, but I also know if she'd been along for our ride to school conversation with a precocious five year old boy, she would have laughed as loud as I did. In the midst of everything else swirling around in my head, I'm enjoying remembering how my mother loved a good laugh.