New Plans for Momma Continued …
The only thing holding my sisters and I back from securing a move-in date for day care at a nursing home was the “voice of authority”. We had an upcoming appointment with the geriatric specialist in Indianapolis and we all hoped the doctor would either say that Momma was fine, thus snapping us out of this nightmare, or give us “doctor’s orders” to move Momma into a home, thus taking the burden away from us.
Things just don’t work like that though, do they. We had a long and painful conversation with the doctor and Momma seemed to understand most of what was said. She fidgeted and squirmed and sighed a lot. She said she knew she should go to a home because it would be best for everyone. And then, in the next breath, “but I just don’t want to!” She cried. She whimpered. We waited quietly and silently. Momma lamented, “My mother was a much better woman than I am. I am just too selfish.” Still, none of us spoke.
Our hearts ached. All of us – Momma, sisters, the doctor, everyone felt the deep and unavoidable pain of this aging thing. The doctor looked at each of us pensively, then left us alone for a while. Momma barely noticed when the doctor left. But she also didn’t seem to notice that we, her children, were still in her presence. She continued to fret in a steady, nervous, awkward sort of way.
“I’ve just lived too long,” Momma said. “I’ll just die.” She was speaking her inner-most thoughts, and speaking only to herself. But we heard them; we heard her thinking. She was in a solitary space, alone, unaware that we were even there. She sat up on one hip, swinging her leg from the chair, the other poised on the foot rest. She held her head with one hand, elbow propped on the arm of the chair, and rubbed her eyes with the palm of her other hand. We seemed invisible, and sensing this, we sat very quietly and still, and watched as though spying on someone in a very private moment. Momma heaved and sighed, then slumped over in the chair, squeezing her eyes shut. My sisters and I sat up, looked quizzically at each other, and waited.
If Momma willed to die, would her willing make it so?
A very long 30 seconds leaked by. No one moved. It is possible that none of us even breathed.
Then Momma opened one eye and looked back over her shoulder to see us three girls still sitting there. Nothing had changed. Momma had a look in her eyes that said, damnit! She was still alive and we were still in a “predicament” as she used to always say when we were kids.
“Well, that didn’t work!” she said.
Laughter broke the silence. It broke the uncomfortable silence that had held us only moments before. It grew until it filled the room. Our laughter swelled like a growing wave breaking at the shoreline of our hearts. Our laughter spilled all our pent-up tensions and all our carefully contained emotions. Our faces flushed and our eyes turned red with tears.
Momma made everything better again.
When the doctor returned, she had a plan. She spoke directly to Momma, telling her that she knew how much her daughters loved her and that we want the best for her. Momma nodded solemnly. Then the doctor showed Momma a contract she had written up. “I want you to promise to go to day care three times a week for six weeks,” she said. Momma nodded some more. “And I want you to promise to do this with a smile.” Momma turned up her nose at the doctor. “Can you do that for me?” she asked. Momma said yes, though her voice was barely audible. Then the doctor asked her to sign the contract. It took several times of asking, but finally Momma signed.
Sisters Connie, Becki and I sat back in our chairs and took a deep, collective breath. We rolled our eyes at one another as Momma signed the papers. We’d bought ourselves some time. We knew that, but that is all we knew.