I'm struggling with how to word it all and how to feel it all and still yet continue on with living life as we now know it. Preparing for life as we see it's going to be, without foresight, because, well, I'm not the omniscient narrator. I'm just someone's daughter and someone's sister, someone's wife, and someone's mother, and this is the how it goes.
I'm not special. Many many have been before me on this journey, my own parents included.
The plain truth: we are losing Mother. Piece by piece, bit by bit.
There is nothing more that needs to be said. She knows how much we love and respect her. We know she would do and has done anything for us. No one really wants to talk about it. And yet, we have to sometimes. The days are long, the years are short. In child-rearing, and in watching a parent decline, hoping like Hell you're doing enough to offer comfort, keep regret at bay, be part of the team.
No one wants to feel left out. No one wants to have another pull her burden, or lift her share. We lean into now, while simultaneously preparing for a future we didn't ask for but is coming all the same, in a faster fade than we'd like.
As I said, there is nothing (or almost nothing?) that is left unsaid. We're all sad. We've all been angry. She's tired of fighting, and shakes because, as she told me today, "It's all so stressful."
It seems cruel that one good woman should be made to endure so much. So much pain, so much loss of independence, so much indignity, such need for help to do pretty much anything. For my independent, intelligent and highly spiritual mother, this last leg has been a mean moan, a long quiet mean moan echoing into a vast unknowing.
My sister told me to come. I changed my plans, on the fly I drove here. To Mother and Daddy's. Even now, in the midst of my own grief, I am thinking of my best friends, and how lung cancer has one father in its grip, a brother has pancreatic cancer holding strong, a mother beat breast cancer but lost her husband to the effects of a long decline into physical weakness and dementia. I am not alone. I think of my dearest and oldest friend boarding a plane going to tell her brother goodbye.
It sucks. Inelegant to say, raw and primal to live.
And we're the lucky ones. We have had Mother for so many years -- had her in high quality sparkling wonderfulness as the woman who adored our every word and song, but told us we'd have to work for things. Told us that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, even when we (I) didn't want to hear it.
I'm glad she knows I finally learned some of the bird in the hand wisdom. That I ended and healed from a broken marriage. Made a new life with a partner I'll love beyond the grave ("Not everyone has a tall handsome husband, Daughter," she tells me -- she is right. But I do, as does she.) I am glad she's seen all her children become parents, finish some things we started (me, especially, since frankly, I worried her perhaps longest.)
Here, I bag up things for Goodwill and the Ecumenical Storehouse. Clean out drawers, make plans to tackle closets. I cook, because that is what I do.
I listen to my father. I watch him, as he gently scratches under her chin with his hand at the breakfast table and I know how her vacant face lights up to him alone, her husband of nearly fifty years. She bestows upon him a smile and says, "Me and you." He repeats it. I listen as he tells my brother of this moment. We get choked up a lot around here.
And in the inbetween times, we all go on about the business at hand. Raising our children, teaching our students, preparing and eating meals. Putting gasoline in our cars, walking by the river and reading books, driving between here and there. Paying bills, fitfully sleeping, generating more questions than answers.
She tells us she wants to go home. That it's all too stressful. She says thank you and that she's sorry (the thing that tears at my heart the most.) That she wants to get in a car, go far. Get on a plane. She asks if we have made the travel arrangements, and when we will leave.
We know what is coming, though we can not forsee its impact, the loss of her colorful self in the world as we know it. But I think I can say that each of us is willing to give up the reds and violets for the pink sky at twilight, and her peace, whenever that time might come.
We are both holding her close, and letting go, as she did with each of us.