Thursday, February 18, 2010
That's what I told my sister when I called her Friday afternoon with news that Mama had died.
It was over: the pain, the breathing difficulties, the skin breakdowns of recent days. But beyond that, the evils of Alzheimer's were also over: her yearnings for home, struggles remembering, frustration with failure, loss of appetite, anger and tears.
But the tears are not over for us, neither is the sadness. No, on the contrary, we still have quite a battle to fight. We have to learn how to live without our dear, dear mother.
Susan and I were blessed with one of the sweetest mamas anyone could ask for. She was our biggest supporter, our cheerleader, our hand-holder, our confidante, our friend.
When Reggie and I bought a house soon after our marriage, we chose to live on the same street as my parents, just five doors between us, I've said many times. So, in effect, we lived shared lives.
We went to the same church; ate together on Saturday nights; saw each other daily when I dropped off the kids on the way to work or picked them up in the evening. We went on day trips together, traveled in my van to family birthday parties, and went out to dinner at favorite restaurants. We watched basketball games together and made snow cream together. We spent many long summer evenings on their front porch or under our carport, watching the kids play in the yard, eating ice cream and just chatting. We got excited whenever Susan and the girls came to spend a week in the summer.
Each night before bedtime, I'd call Mama to say goodnight. She said it made her feel good to know I was OK. Truth is, it made me feel good knowing she and Daddy were at home and OK.
As they began to age and forgetfulness that turned out to be Alzheimer's set in, the phone was often off the hook when I'd call at night. We'd worry, and Reggie would put his coat on over his pajamas and walk down the street to make sure everything was OK.
As the years went by, Mama couldn't answer the phone anymore, so Daddy would answer and hand it over to her. We'd have a brief, happy chat, and I'd try to convince myself that everything was OK. It helped me sleep, pretending everything was OK. But as the years went by, I didn't even bother trying to make myself feel better. Of course Mama was sick, and she'd just get sicker.
She couldn't remember which end of the phone to talk into, and eventually she didn't really understand the concept of talking on the phone. And by the time overnight sitters were staying, I gave up on our nightly calls.
Our shared lives were ending.
There are so many things I will miss about my mother. Some were lost even before her death. I haven't tasted her fried chicken, meatloaf or banana nut bread in many years. And I don't remember our last meaningful conversation or the last Valentine's card she gave me or the last time she bought me a birthday present. But I do remember the first time she forgot my wedding anniversary.
I will miss cooking for Mama, buying her pretty clothes, taking her to visit her sister, Margaret, on Sunday afternoons.
I will miss her beautiful smile, her clear blue eyes, her laugh.
I will miss our walks around her yard, looking for crocus, or the first bloom on the miniature rose bush she got when I was born, or the first bud on the tulip tree.
I will miss holding Mama's hand, and I will miss her hugs. Oh God, I will miss her hugs. How will I get through these next hard weeks without my Mama's hugs?
But you know what I'll miss most of all? I'll miss the happiness, the fulfillment we all felt when we were truly living shared lives.