Sometimes you need to press pause to let everything sink in.
Tomorrow, I will have been home for two weeks. I spent the first week regrouping and resting. This week, I got more done, but always in the back of my head, I see Mom lying in her bed or eating her pureed food and I feel a twinge of panic about how long she'll still be here with us. I've been phoning Mom every other day. I planned to phone every day, but I couldn't handle it because when I phone she tells me she misses me in a soft plaintive voice and asks when I'm coming back. My son is scheduled to have his wisdom teeth pulled on August 17th, so I know I can't leave until at least the 20th. My cousin recommended waiting until September so she could join me: "strength in numbers," she said, and I definitely agree. And all the time, I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that sometime - either soon or not so soon - my mother will be gone. I won't be able to phone her, hold her hand, kiss her cheek, hear her voice - all those things that I will so deeply miss.
Today, was a non-calling day and I walked over to the Botanical Garden and bought a few plants for holes in the flower bed at the back of the patio and something to put in a pot I scrounged from the "free place," beside our townhouse's trash bins. I came home with a pot of chives - for my son who wants to put them in his scrambled eggs - two types of asters, a pot of salvia, and a small adorable cyclamen that should be perfect in the salvaged pot, which cleaned up nice and has a lovely patina.
At home, I swept and scrubbed the kitchen floor. It was a peaceful task that gave me a sense of accomplishment. Then I cleaned the upstairs bathroom and heated up some leftover stew for dinner. A relaxed evening. Not relaxed enough, however, to completely quiet the not-so-little-voice in my head - the one that's saying, "Mom misses you, what are you doing here in Vancouver when she's dying?" Then, I sat down at the computer and worked for a while cleaning the desktop. That's when I found some notes I jotted down one evening about a week into my visit with my parents. Below is an edited version.
June 23, 2013
Mom was in a good mood at dinner. She said she liked eating - unusual for her - and ate her mango sorbet with enthusiasm. Right now, about 9:15, she seems to be sleeping. I hate to peek in to see if she is, in case I wake her. Dad's still in the hospital with a nasty cough and will hopefully be going to the Rehab Center soon. The evening was a peaceful one. I watered the flowers and Dad's tomatoes and cucumbers that he's planted in an old children's pool left over from the days when the grandchildren were small. The birdseed that he planted around the oak in the front yard during one of his "confused" periods are flourishing amidst the usual begonias and impatiens that he must have planted on a less confused day I took out the trash and the recycling and even washed a load of clothes. These small gifts - the smell of water on dry ground, birdsong, Mom smiling, and the quiet bustle of Mom's caregiver - are what I'll remember of this day.
Reading these notes over reminded me that my visit hadn't been all stress and sibling tensions. There were moments of pause and pleasure. Now, I need to allow myself to enjoy those same small gifts where I am now. Taking each moment as it comes is all I can do, all any of us can do. Mom might die tomorrow or six months from now. There is no way to tell and so, for now, I have to try and not panic and take whatever comes. Wish me luck. I'll end with one of my favorite poems by Galway Kinnell.
Whatever happens. Whatever/what is is is what/I want. Only that. But that.
A good mantra for a difficult time of waiting and worrying.