Thursday, November 5, 2009

To Touch Mom's Face Again

This was a very difficult trip back to upstate New York to visit my mother over the past weekend. Some may look at the time, distance, and effort involved and ask whether it was worth it.

Was it worth it to get up at 4:00 am, scramble to O'Hare for a 6:45 am flight? Only for the woman who raised you to not even recognize you? To me it was. And I know in my heart and mind that she recognized me, even if only for a millisecond. And that the visit was important to her. This is the woman who woke up countless times in the middle of the night when I was sick to care for me. This is the woman who would rouse me early to go off on educational road trips all over the East Coast.

Was it worth it to fly 800+ miles for two hours then hop in a rental car and drive another three hours? Only to hear the woman who cared for you to speak gibberish, slur her words and yell loudly during a 30 minute visit? To me it was. This is the woman who would drive six hours at the drop of a hat just to see me in Washington, DC when I was going to college. Just as she had done for me oh so many years ago, I sat and held her hand, rubbed her shoulder and wished that her pain and suffering would disappear. "Comfort the ones that comforted you," I kept hearing my ancestors say.

Was it worth the lack of sleep, the restlessness and anxiety involved in a trip lasting only two and a half days? Only to see the woman you call Mother unable to walk, sitting in a wheelchair, unable to dress, feed or care for herself? To me it was. This is the woman who made sure I was comfortable that summer I broke my leg and couldn't walk.  This is the woman who dressed, fed and cared for me, her son.  Despite seeing Mom looking much older and not well-dressed, I noticed that she was safe, clean, warm, comfortable and just had a great hair cut. Mom was always so "put together" from what I remember growing up. I know that Mom's wardrobe is not the fault of the superb staff at the nursing home but the Alzheimer's Disease. They say that she won't wear a bra because she doesn't understand what is binding her and constantly tries to remove it. In a more comedic moment in my mind, I can just see Mom unhooking it, pulling it out of her blouse front, and letting it dangle from the side of the wheelchair. This from a woman whose favorite saying was "Would it kill her to wear a bra?" Sometimes you just have to laugh.

And each time I visit this woman, upon departing and knowing it may be my last visit, I bend down, stroke her cheek, and whisper in her ear, "I remember you and all you did for me. I love you and I will never forget you."

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

18 comments:

Luckie said...

What can I say dear Thomas? Without a doubt, every moment that we can share with our Mothers is worth it. We owe them that & more. Praying for your Mom & you always...

Luckie.

Rachel said...

Thomas, this is an immensely touching post - you're such a good chap. I was lucky in never having to travel so far to see my Dad when he suffered from dementia but I remember well how difficult it was just to be there. Yet, as you've brought out so well in this post, it was also a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Rachel

Gini said...

Thank you Thomas for sharing such a touching and difficult time for you. I would go to the ends of the earth for my mom too, like you would do for yours. Our mom's did so much for us. When all is said and done, all that is left is love - it's what we can give to them as they have given to us. It was worth everything. So glad you were able to see and touch her again.

CMPointer said...

[...where are my tissues? Ah, there they are...] What a beautiful, poignant post. My mother does not suffer from Alzheimer's, but from mental illness. While she's not what I remember her to be, she's still my mother. As a daughter, I understand your remembrance of your mother and all the things she has done for you. And as a mother of two, I can say that your mother is very appreciative that you think she's worth it. [Oh, and thanks for the laugh amongst the tears.]

Caroline

Amy said...

I need some of Caroline's tissues.

It is worth it, Thomas. It is.

Becky Jamison said...

Thomas, you brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. What a beautiful tribute to your beloved mother. Bless you! My father-in-law experienced Alzheimer's and I went through that with my husband. You've done all the right things....just being with her and letting her BE WITH YOU! To be near your MOM is just precious and I'm happy you had that time with her. Thanks for sharing the experience with us!

Sheri said...

OK I am already in the boo-hoo mood with my own issues. I read your post and find I finally need the tissues.

Sheri
(who is a poet and didn't know it and will have a red nose and puffy eyes the rest of the day)

Kathryn Doyle said...

Thomas,
I'm giving you a long-distance hug. Thanks for being a great son and for sharing your journey with us.

Randy Seaver said...

You are a good son, Thomas. It is so hard to see them this way, and then remember them forever as they once were - the loving, kind, industrious, supportive, fun, smart, competent person that they used to be.

My grandmother was going through this in her last years, but had a stroke and died before we were going to put her in a care facility.

And it could happen to any of us at any time. I hope that my daughters will be as supportive to me and Linda as you have been for your mom if this strikes us.

I wish you all the best, good and loving son - Randy

Leah Kleylein said...

That was a beautiful posting Thomas and I'm grateful you shared it with the world. It's a reminder of how easy it is to take your parents for granted - after all, they've always been there. And I agree with the other people who made comments - really it comes down to giving them the unconditional love they gave you.

Herstoryan said...

Okay, I am crying now :(

I have heard it said, "Sometimes there are no words, only love."

Thank you for sharing....Big Hug....

Debbie Blanton McCoy said...

Thomas, what a beautiful tribute to your mother. I, too, think she knows you were there. Bless you both.

Nadasue said...

Thomas, what a beautiful entry and tribute to your mother. Not only does it speak for her, and for your love for her, but it also shouts loudly of what kind of person YOU are. I, too, and witnessing and experiencing the loss of my mother as the world once knew her, and though her diagnosis has been primarily Parkinsonism, of late there's been an increase in the related dementia, which I believe is becoming more pronounced due to the lack of physical activity and social/emotional stimulation that the receives. Luckily, she knows me, and everyone else, but she cannot walk, or do any of her own ADL's. Your comments about the way your mom used to dressed, and how particular she once was about her appearance hit home with me, for sure.
May God bless you in your walk, and tonight, I'll say a special prayer for you, and for your mother.

Renate

Craig Manson said...

Thomas--yes, it was worth it! And we are so lucky that you were able to share it with us. A lot of us are at the age where you are experiencing similar events in life. ou put the face of hope and acceptance on it for us all. Thank you, my friend.

Tracy said...

Without a doubt, it was worth it. It took me a long time after my grandfather's passing to remember anything but his illness. Remember the good times and the laughter. It will be what sustains you. Thank you for sharing this touching and poignant visit with your mom.

pastprologue said...

Thanks, Thomas. Every time you write about your mother, I cry. Not because it makes me feel fortunate, but I'm touched by your experience and the fact that you are willing to share it. Love is always worth it.

Donna

Midge Frazel said...

There are an awful lot of us with dementia issues in our families. Worrying long distance about Mom's care is certainly on your mind. It was good that you went to see her and told us about it.

The person that she was is still in there (bra or no bra)and it is obvious that you see it. It showed in the photo that I am glad you have to look at (and shared with us)

LOve, Midge

justine (madison)nudd said...

Hi Tom, this is Justine.I needed to hear what u said about my Aunt Susie............She was always a very strong woman and a good friend to my mom.Hope mike is doing well,email and let me know.But back to your mom and your visit to N.Y. to see her and about her illness.My husbands mom (mother to me) has the same illness.For the last 3 years she has gotten really bad now.She doesn't know me any longer and thinks my husband has left her for me.I think she thinks he is her husband (his dad) whom pasted 13 years ago.She gets angry at times when she sees me and doesn't talk to me anymore when I go to visit her.She calls with help using the phone because she doesn't know how to use a phone ,T.V. or dress and feed herself she calls only to speak to Raymond and asks me when he is coming back to her.She also asks where he lives and he must have parents.....he tells her over and over you are my mother and tries to show pictures etc....some days just for a few minutes she acts like she knows him as her son but for the most point it is very painful to watch.The most painful thing that has happened is she called and asked for him to come over and just sleep with her one night instead of me.Raymond is having a very hard time dealing with this as is any family member,So with that said I appreciate your honesty,from the heart feelings about your mom and how you are struggling.It would be nice to talk more often perhaps about when we were kids maybe have a chuckle or 2 about when we were kids and carefree!