The Update part, 5/12/12: Here’s part of an email from Dad (96 years old, remember) that just came through:
“Today Kath and Mary and Marnie are helping Paula clean out drawers. Movers are here taking lawnfurniture, our king sized sofa, Mom’s desk and chair, a occasional table, Moms desk to Kaths and the rest to Cowans — some of which they are saving for Andrew when he sets up his apt in late June. The main move comes on Monday when John comes in for the day.”
Damn! I heard elsewhere that Mom’s desk and chair are going to Kath. I wanted that! Well, not really. I always told Mom I did, just to get a laugh. Can you imagine hauling that kind of stuff across country?
I’m struck by how much this final move feels festive. Hallelujah!
I’ve already ordered my usual tribute to Mom, now 94 and enjoying the “dementia” which has stripped her of those parts of memory that depend upon her taking care of herself. Which means that her husband, my 96-year-old retired physician Dad who has now been given two months to one year to live, takes care of her. Or he has been, for the past few years, carefully and assiduously, and with increasing patience over time. They both use walkers and move slowly. He still makes breakfast and lunch, does the clean-up for each meal, and supervises her one task, setting the table. Then they sit down to eat. She might eat two bites. He urges her on.
On the day after Mother’s Day, they are set for their final move — from their apartment in a retirement community to an assisted living community run by his beloved Catholic Church, where they have lucked into a “sunny” apartment he tells me (this is Seattle) and he will be able to go to Mass every day.
My usual tribute is flowers, from a florist, ordered through the internet. I know she, and they, appreciate them. Especially when I send flowers that last a while.
I was worried that they would move before the flowers arrived, that my flowers would somehow get lost in the shuffle. But it all worked out. I imagine the flowers arrive this afternoon. Mom has always been attracted to beauty and color and especially, hummingbirds. Now that her memory is gone, she either sits in her big, plush, recliner chair pretending to read big print Readers’ Digests or, at least when I am with her, perked up, listening to my stories, and laughing. At this point, after the prolonged drama of mothering eight strong-willed children, many of whom hover in the metro area nearby; after 70 plus years of softening that stern strong German fellow who was her husband in earlier years, Mom is at one with her life, and “over it.” She’s done. There is nothing left for her to do. All she needs do is be.
I love being with her.
Meanwhile, a few days ago sister Paula flew in from New Orleans for three weeks to do the packing. Brother John will fly down from Anchorage to supervise the move. Sisters Kathy and Kristin will be at the new digs, getting it ready. Sisters Marnie and Mary will be with the folks for that interregnum day at Marnie’s home. Brother Mark will drive over from Spokane a few weeks later to check on them. I go in July for a week.
When I was in my 20s and 30s, we siblings would get together each Christmas and compose and perform a special musical event for the folks. (I’ve learned since that sing-alongs are an old German tradition. I had no idea!) All of us are musical. Some of us play guitar and piano. We called it our Christmas Cantata. We’d schedule a quick flurry of secret rehearsals to create a chorus, and each brother and sister would create his or her own song, to dramatize the events of that year. Our aim was two fold: to make them laugh and make them cry. It always worked. Such a large, generous, connected family. Our community brings tears to my eyes.
I sense that once Dad goes, she will, too. I sense that she wants him to hold out his hand to her to step with him through that diaphanous veil that links this dimension with the next.
And, starting this year, I will give to the Heifer Foundation on Mother’s Day, in honor of Mom, and all the other mothers of the world who birth, nurture, and protect the young of their own and other species so that all beings may be happy.