Posted by: morrowsl | November 10, 2012

All at once familiar…

A couple of weeks ago my mother began to have a bit of a cough followed by increasing fatigue and loss of appetite.  This isn’t anything new at all for her or for us; every year, as fall marches on toward winter, she gets some little something that drags her down.  So we weren’t alarmed or even that concerned when she started showing signs of illness this time.  But then she seemed to be very much more fatigued than normal.  And still, we weren’t overly concerned.  She’s eighty-seven.  Illness drains the healthiest youngsters, so it follows that illness would drain an older person exponentially.

My sister who, bless her heart, was unfortunate enough to be born smack in the middle of all that can be measured (sixth month of the year, sixteenth day of the month, and third of five children) is so fairly balanced and calm that she has long been the one person we all turn to when disaster strikes because we know she won’t get too shook up or worried or start walking in ever decreasing circles like I do, is my mother’s “on call” girl (not to be confused with a regular “call girl” or anything of the sort) and just happens to live less than five minutes away from Mother, so she is the one who checks on her daily.  She takes Mom to the grocery and the doctor’s office.  They usually have coffee together each morning and often watch movies or baseball games or whatever in the evening.  Sister keeps Mom in hot meals and browbeats her into taking showers.  In a nutshell, she is my mother’s guardian angel.  Not to mention the lifesaver for all of Mom’s other shiftless children who can’t be bothered to offer to take a shift and give the woman a day off!!
So, Sister called me early on, concerned that Mom was going downhill much too rapidly and, while not needing me or anyone else really to tell her what was needed, looking for a nod in the direction of a doctor’s visit for an unspecified ailment.  We will all be forever grateful that she followed her gut feeling.  Mother managed to survive “throwing” multiple blood clots to the lungs.  Her internist was shocked.  The ER doctor was shocked.  All of us were (putting it quite mildly) shocked.  She had no pain.  She never passed out.  She was her same sweet self, albeit a bit sleepier than normal!  We should have known something was horribly wrong when she left her breakfast and lunch untouched.  But you know what they say about hindsight.

The end result is that my independent mother who has manged to live alone quite happily and very successfully since becoming a widow fifteen years ago will now need a roommate around the clock.  Fortunately, my oldest sister is in a position to relocate and is moving in with Mom to be her full-time caregiver.  Which means my middle sister will start waking up in the mornings wondering if she’s fallen down a rabbit hole and my brothers had better start planning how to redeem themselves before they get written out of the will.  And, I gotta say, there’ll be a hellofa lot more Tupperware for us girls if they don’t!!

In 1996 my dad’s health finally started to give out on him.  He’d been VA dependent for close to twenty years and assumed that his government would take care of him since he’d given his healthy sixteen-year-old body and mind in defense of his country.  But at that time the VA system was in shambles and the hospitals were busily killing off patients at an alarming rate, so the decision was made late one evening to remove him from the hospital and just roll the dice.  Outside of the VA system he had no doctor, no medicine, no guarantees that he’d live twenty-four hours.  What he did have was two hard-headed and quite determined daughters who set aside their families and lives and bare-knuckled it to give him as much time as we could and a shot at leaving this world when it was his time in the way he was meant to go.  I remember telling him “Daddy, you’re going to die.  I’d feel a hell of a lot better if you did it sitting at that big picture window watching the boats moving out on the lake.”
Sister and I spent a year taking care of him.  He rallied.  He gained weight.  He got his sense of humor back.  He made it to the annual Family Reunion to see his brothers and sister.  And he died at home, in the room he shared with his wife of fifty-plus years and with the lullaby of the lake water lapping the sandy shores just outside his living room window.
I wouldn’t take one single thing in exchange for that year with my dad.  I learned more about him than I’d ever known.  We laughed and cried and said our slow goodbyes.

My mother will never spend a night in a nursing home if it takes every ounce of my energy and willpower to prevent it.  She gets the same chance Daddy got.  We will feed her and bathe her and do everything we can to make the end of her life as peaceful and sweet as possible.

I know that sounds foolish.  Maybe it is.  But we’re rolling the dice again and I think Mother approves.


  1. As always, thought-provoking. And so touching. I love you and I love your family!! {{hugs}}

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