Sunday, February 26, 2012

They Live On: Your Mama Is Gone

"Your Mama Is Gone" is the title of Part Two of They Live On. It opens with the acknowledgement that even though her mother is physically still there at this point, the woman who had raised her and cared for her isn't really there anymore. She is a shell of her former self. And there is now a role reversal.

Patricia's mother developed a brain tumor. My mother doesn't have a tumor. She has Alzheimer's. A brain tumor that would simply take her away could almost be more bearable than this slow progression in reverse.

One journal entry in this part is about Patricia standing in the closet looking at her mother's clothes. She has no idea if her mother will ever require them. I remember coming home that spring break. The plan for my sister and I was to go through our mother's clothes. She often wore layer upon layer and wouldn't change for bed. I think she knew how to put on her clothes, but had forgotten how to get them back off again. Even if she did change, she didn't wash her clothes and became irate if you tried. So there was a huge pile of dirty, stinky clothes.

I did tons and tons of laundry over those several weeks. It seemed ridiculous to gather all of those nice clothes for Mom to wear in the nursing home. So, I took the best of the clothes for myself. I gathered another bunch of clothes to fill her small closet. She had enough to change at least once a day for two weeks. The facility would regularly do her laundry for her. The rest of the clothes went to Goodwill.

When it was time to go through Dad's things, I had to do the same. I kept numerous articles of his clothing. I wear his sweaters regularly even now. But so many of his clothes ended up at Goodwill. The whole time I was going through them and washing them and folding them to either go to Goodwill or home with me, I kept echoing the same sentiment: Clothes are stupid.

And finally there is the part about people dying of a broken heart. I truly believe that contributed to my father's passing. My parents had been married for 38 years. They were rarely apart for more than a couple of days. And that was usually when my mother had to go to the baby furniture convention for their store. My father was her primary caretaker. I remember going home for Christmas break that year. Dad slept the entire time I was home. He was completely exhausted. He knew that she was going to have to go into a home because she could barely take care of herself anymore. He joked about becoming a bachelor again. But, I don't think he knew how to handle it.

I remember crying with my father on several occasions as Mom deteriorated. This was a man who never showed emotion. I remember him crying at the end of My Girl and of Man in the Moon, and quickly leaving the room. The first time I truly saw him break down was when my two year-old cousin died in a freak accident. He broke down numerous times after his mother died.

I think losing his mother and his wife within only a few months was simply too much. I know it was is hard for me. He had the two of us, but we were in completely different states, living our own lives. People often pushed us to move back home. He and my mother shared the same sentiment: As much as they would love to have us around, they never wanted us to give up our lives and dreams to be with them. It was kind of like that saying about if you love something to let it go? We couldn't spread our wings and blossom if we stayed home with them. And that was okay.

I remember telling Dad when I finally had Mom settled in the nursing home that he originally wanted. He had gotten the ball rolling with the appropriate people just prior to going into the hospital. I remember seeing his body relax, even though he was unconscious. The same thing happened when he was in Hospice. His sister reassured him that Mom and my sister and I were going to be okay. He was able to relax. He was heartbroken, but okay with it all. He could let go.

This book is also available from Yesterday's Muse.

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