I confess. I’m really surprised. Mom’s 8th Jupiter return reached exactness during the last week of August, which also happened to coincide with the first anniversary of the death of her husband of 70 years.
I thought for sure she would exit with this momentous once-every-twelve-year return of the planet of expansion and opportunity.
I thought for sure that she wouldn’t like “the south,” specifically Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where our sister Paula lives, the only one of all us eight siblings who had agreed — and joyfully, as if it was always meant to be — to welcome her in, after Mom announced to sister Kristin in no uncertain terms, “This is crazy. My life is crazy. I want to live with a family that loves me!”
She said it during a meal they were sharing at the facility she had been housed in, Mount Saint Vincent, in West Seattle, since about six months prior to Dad’s death. Like a sonorous horn blowing away the fog, her soul rose up through her dementia to clearly and distinctly communicate to her youngest, and endlessly faithful, daughter what she wanted and needed to thrive.
Mom’s natal Jupiter is in Cancer, sign of home and family, where Jupiter is now, for one year, until July, 2014.
When they finished eating, Mom repeated: “Kristin. Don’t forget what I said.” WOW!
Kristin heard her, and sprung immediately into action. Calling Paula, and emailing the rest of us, setting the plan in motion. I posted a number of articles (search “Lady Renee” on this site) detailing the closing ceremonies for her life in Seattle, how we met over a weekend (all except Paula, who was preparing for her arrival in Baton Rouge), to give Mom our Blessing Ceremony, and to party with all the grandkids and great grandkids who live in the northwest. I posted about the plane trip down, in the care of her two youngest children, Kristin and John, one on each arm, including what happened when she needed to go to the bathroom right after the pilot announced they were landing . . .
I haven’t posted much since. But I have been in touch, mostly by mail, except for the anniversary of Dad’s death, August 27th, when I called and spoke to Mom about how much she has been learning since his death; and she was right there with me, for 20 minutes, closely following my narrative, until flagging at the very end.
Our sibling ritual is for all of us to write cards, once a week preferred, to which Mom then responds, with Paula’s help. I try to remember, and usually do. And I have fun finding cards that might give her a chuckle. Once I wrote to her about kudzu, that ubiquitous plant in the south, and how it’s edible! Usually, I just write about me and my dog Shadow, our forays out around town. It doesn’t really matter what I write. I know that. What does matter is that cards with messages from her children arrive regularly in Baton Rouge through the mail.
At some point, Paula tells us, Mom had trouble writing her thank you notes, and almost decided to stop, when Paula had the brilliant idea to have her print her replies instead! It worked. (BTW: I’ve been printing rather than using cursive for decades. It IS easier on the hand.)
Mark flew down from Spokane over the summer for a few days. He asked her to draw his portrait. So she did! With a very sure hand. I’m trying to find that drawing.
The rest of us are wondering how Paula and her husband David manage to care so beautifully for our 95-year-old Lady Renee. Not only does Paula don many hats — morphing momentarily and unexpectedly into mother, sister, daughter, caregiver, aide, teacher, companion — but all this in the midst of their major move from one house to another after 30 years and five children. Geez!
Truly, Mom’s move to the south seems to be “made in heaven.” I have a feeling Dad has something to do with it. She passes by various photos of him Paula keeps there and says, “How’re you doin’ in heaven, Ben?” as she goes about her sometimes busy, sometimes quiet days.
Kathy will fly there from Seattle in two weeks for a few days. Kristin and Marnie will visit in October. I’ll probably go in the spring, now that she’s still alive! I admit, I was waiting to see if she would let go during the last week of August. And I’m, frankly, flummoxed.
Clearly, she has more to do here, more to learn. Or maybe just more fun? This period may truly be the first time our Mom has felt her independent self, having been married to a German patriarch for most of her adult life. And perhaps this is a time for her to just relax and, as she says, “live with a family that loves me.”
(Can you imagine your own elderly Mom announcing that to you? How many of us live in families where the old one can afford to risk rejection, to be so vulnerable?)
The latest visitor, last week, was my very talented niece Megan Assaf, Paula’s oldest daughter, with her partner, Brian, who drove down from Bloomington. Paula sent out an email to the sibs afterward saying that when she tucked Mom into bed after their first day there, Mom said to her, “I just LOVE them!”
Megan has given me permission to quote an email that she wrote yesterday to her seven aunts and uncles. I’m so glad, because it’s beautifully written, and speaks in a moving way about Mom’s life, both inner and outer. Not surprising, since Megan herself is an artist and healer.
Hi everyone, I hope this finds you doing well. I just wanted to send out a quick hello and let you all know that Nana loves receiving hand written letters.She gets them, sits down at the kitchen table, reads through them and contemplates them, then spends about an hour writing back, tediously, carefully, tenderly, by hand.She then props the letter up next to the flower vase on the kitchen table, and she picks it up and handles them or looks at them almost every meal, as if rediscovering them, at times, and other times, as if she enjoys remembering having read it and trying to think about what she wrote back. I was told that each current letter that arrives takes a turn in the spot leaning against the vase in the table.In other words, it’s a wonderful touch stone for her, to keep connected with each of you, but also to give her something to do. My mom is doing an amazing job of caretaking and providing focus and entertainment, she’s really working hard to keep Nana involved. But as she’s had to spend a lot of time packing, she can’t always be there to talk with Renee and interface. The letters give Nana something to do on her own that is engrossing for several hours each, providing much needed time for mom and also much needed mental focus for Nana. And much needed time for each of them to have their own personal time.I’m writing to see if ya’ll could kick up the letter writing for the next month or so? And maybe concentrate on sending a card a week or something until Mom and Dad move to Covington? I suspect this would help with the transition all three are going through… Mom as she is doing the inner/outer work of sorting and packing through a life of 30 years in one house and the memories that went with it (that takes a lot of energy and focus and time!), and Nana in being anchored in the transitions that are taking place in her environment, but also in having this to do which she really enjoys. She is in amazing hands.Brian and I got to spend time with her, we loved it and we discovered we love her. I have not known her much at all my adult life until last week, and wow what a wonderful spitfire and darling light she is. Her happiness is, frankly, radiant, punctuated at times by her solid unabashed honesty about how difficult it is to be her right now, as well. I feel so grateful to be part of a family that has known love and also cares for one another so well and authentically.Hope I’m not stepping on toes by asking, but did want to report in.The most amazing thing I noticed, other than the love, is the way her mind is without linear time. It’s really merging all of her life into the Now. I observed her coming into her lucidness, and going into her past, so effortlessly, so quickly. Sometimes what she reaches for in her memory is there, sometimes it’s not, but her ability to acknowledge she doesn’t have it is gracious towards herself as is clever in response towards others. She seems to have a sense of humor about it, which is amazing. She is sometimes my mom’s mom, and she is sometimes a childlike. She is sometimes lonely, and sometimes engrossed. It is life, amplified. Her spirit is so mobile, coming and going, but seems to enjoy being *here*, and is very attached to mom and her presence.Not sure if that is helpful to hear, but thought I’d share. Thanks again for any letters you can send. 🙂 Hope I can get to know each of you better one day as well.
BTW: since Megan and her four brothers and sister grew up in the south, they spent much more time with their Dad’s relatives than with their northern Kreilkamp clan. This was always a great sorrow for Paula, who longed to be more connected to her own family.
Well, Paula has now got us all traveling there! She gets to have her Mom with her, and meanwhile, beautiful nieces and nephews and grandchildren on the Assaf side get to both know Lady Renee and be known by all the rest of us siblings, as we traipse down, one by one, to encounter the real meaning of southern hospitality.