My mother is in her 80’s now. 80’s! I realized what that means at our holiday family gathering when we were opening presents, and I gave my mother her gift to open, and something was happening to her, freaking us all out. She closed her eyes, and seemed to be struggling internally, swallowing, all the while drifting away. I called out, “MOM”!, as though my voice could stop her slipping into – whatever the hell was happening. Her eyes fluttered, then half-opened in response, and I could see it was taking extraordinary energy for her to come to awareness, and then she tried to get up to use the bathroom, but she nearly passed out upon rising. I grabbed her, but my left arm is still weak and I couldn’t hold her, yelling to my sibs: “Help me! I can’t hold her.” She was in stocking feet and sliding down our wood floor when my oldest sister grabbed her, and then my next oldest sister, the nurse, took her other side and they helped her into the bathroom.
I felt like we were witnessing her dying, and it was terrifying. After what seemed like an eternity, one of my sisters came out of the bathroom saying she took her blood pressure, but couldn’t get it accurately – that it was reading so low she’d be dead – and all I could think was ‘duh, she was dying!’, but stopped myself from saying it. I wanted to call 911, or get her to a hospital, but my sisters asked me to wait and see if she worsened. After 10 minutes or so, she had recovered, becoming her chipper, aware, self within a half-hour or so, which was actually more unsettling, because – what happened?
While the drama unfolded in the bathroom, the rest of us, my son and his girlfriend – who was at our holiday gathering for the first time – my S.O., my sister’s husband, and another long-time family friend were unsure what to do. Once my mother was starting to feel better but wanted to stay in the bathroom for a while longer, my oldest sister stayed with her and we proceeded with the gift exchange, which seemed rude, but my son had to leave shortly, as did my next oldest sister, and our family friend, so we halfheartedly continued.
I feel like a total shit now, like, of course we should have waited for my mother and sister to come out of the bathroom, but we felt the danger had passed as my oldest sister was staying in there against my mother’s protests that she was fine. I was trying to weigh carrying on with making everyone wait for however long it would be. That feels like a co-dependent decision now.
But this is life. I make crappy decisions all the time, no matter how I try for perfection.
My mother is going to die, and maybe soon. Perhaps, though, she’ll accomplish her goal of reaching 103, thereby outliving her father, who died at 102 – but as John Lennon famously sung in, Beautiful Boy, and others have voiced before him: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
I don’t want to lose her from this world, though. There’s the rub. I know it’s inevitable and I have to prepare for that happening sooner rather than later – but it could also be that I pass before her. Not being assured another minute is scary, but the odds of me dying soon are lower than that of my mother’s. So, I am embracing whatever time we have left.
Good memories of connection, love, fun, great conversation and family history are what I’m focusing on now, and I hope that my son will feel the desire to know and understand where he came from, and what my young life was like sooner than I did with my folks.
I remember a gravestone that read something like, ‘Know that whenever I was taken, the end came too soon’. I still have more time with my mother, so I will honor our gift of time the best I can.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.