Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturdays are the hardest

Mom and Dad in their slightly younger days about 10 years ago.
It's been three weeks today since my mother died, five weeks since the last Saturday when I called her. In the middle of our last conversation, she said, "My arm's shaking like I'm cold." A moment later, she stopped talking and I could hear her breathing heavily.

I thought it was odd, but she had been recovering from pneumonia. Two of my sisters were there, so I didn't worry and went about my day. It was my Saturday ritual: coffee, more coffee, then call Mom. Only then did I really start my day.

A few hours later, my sister called to tell me Mom had been taken to the emergency room and I should probably come home now. She had gone into acute respiratory distress. There was such a strong focus on keeping her breathing that they only realized later she'd had a stroke.

The next Saturday I was with her in hospice, taking my turn with her in the evening. Her ability to talk had been taken. She could nod yes or no and motion with her left arm. Swallowing was difficult. All her foods were pureed and her liquids thickened. When she needed something she would motion and we would play 20 Questions. Are you hungry, Mom? Do you need something to drink? Do you need to be repositioned?

That night she seemed so tired, like the fight was leaving her.

As I sat, I crocheted a scarf with big, looping stitches that grew quickly. Before I left, I showed it to her. Would you like it, Mom? She nodded yes and I tied off the last stitch before laying it over her shoulders, not knowing what else to do. It was like a child giving her a school drawing. Look what I made for you, Mom.

The hospice room had a star machine that projected lights on the wall like multicolored stars. I turned it on in the dim room and watched the pinpoints of light, some moving gently, on the wall. Do you like it, Mom? She nodded.

I left her under the stars and flew back to Wyoming Sunday morning. The next Saturday my oldest sister called me and simply said, "It's over."

Every Saturday since she had the stroke has felt wrong. Each week, I think I should call her. I drink my coffee, and there is nothing to do after, no transition into the day.

We rarely talked long or of anything of much importance. There was always the exchange of weather reports, then the update on what my siblings and their offspring were up to. She was the central news agency, the hub we all revolved around.

Although she rarely talked long -- perhaps a habit ingrained from the days when long distance was expensive -- she always kept up her side of the conversation. That was why the heavy breathing on that call seemed so strange. Maybe if I had asked. Maybe if they had known it was a stroke up front. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There are always those questions in the aftermath.

One Saturday I will wake and not reach for the phone. Just not yet. Not yet.


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  2. It's been six years since my Dad died and 1 1/2 years since Mom died. I used to call and talk with them for a long time every Sunday afternoon. It was always a great way to end the weekend and start the week. I still miss it.

    Guess we're blessed to have the memories.

  3. Thanks, Venice. It's a loss I guess we never get over completely.

  4. So sorry. As you said, she was recovering from pneumonia, no way you could have told there was something else wrong. I don't know if all guilt always goes away. I know I did what I could for my mom while she was alive, but still, sometimes I think I should have done more. It's been 13 years and my heart breaks constantly over her absence.

    My daughter's husband of 24 years got killed February 15th this year. I hurt so badly over the loss of him. I've known him since he was seven and he seemed like a son to us. His oldest son was getting married in February and his youngest went off to basic training in February. My daughter's whole family left her in one month. Now our oldest is expecting a baby. So much their dad is missing. I can't make any sense from this. It was an explosion at work.

  5. I am so sorry Cher'ley for your losses. When we lose the people we love, it leaves a hole. They are simply irreplaceable. May you and your daughter heal from this.


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