Thursday, March 22, 2012
I'll be closing down this blog after this post. The blog will remain on line though if you care come visit periodically. I'm starting up a few new blogs, the first of which is Key West Travels documenting my 6 weeks in Paradise. Please come see me there.
John gave me the best present as a surprise - he had Gertie's Galavants, Travels with a 95 year old turned into a hardback book by Random House. A 400 page book! I've brought it with me to Key West and have been reading it. How far we came in 5 years and how wonderful our adventures have been. I have had many people tell me how lucky Mom was to have me, but I've always felt the opposite. There's not many people who are born to the type of parents I was lucky enough to have or care for. I was truly the lucky one to be able to live with her for the past years. To get to know her in my adult life. To come so far in knowing how to care for someone.
These last 5 years have been the most important and challenging times of my life. I've learned life skills that will stay with me forever. I may be a Data Manager for clinical trials of 25 years by training, but I'm a caregiver in my soul.
I've learned through caring for Mom to see every single day as a new gift. Mom always woke up cheerful (after her coffee). She never ever complained about the unfairness of life - by the way, life really isn't fair but no one said it had to be. When I consider losing Mom this year and the heartbreak that her death has brought, I think of those who have lost others in a much different fashion. I think of my sister dying at 36 and leaving 3 children behind. I talked to a woman yesterday whose mother died last year at 57 of a third bout of cancer. A quick glance around any cemetery will teach one many lessons.
I've learned that caring for someone, really caring for someone, day in and day out is a true labor of love. We Americans tend to put our elders on the shelf when they become more feeble. We turn our noses up at helping with the daily tasks, such as helping them in the bath, but we expect them to shower as frequently as we younger folks do. Let me tell you - showering Mom was a project that took most of the morning and tuckered her out for most of the day. Toward the end, the bed baths were the kindest way to go and, after some training, they became easy to do.
I've learned that the public though, as a whole, is a nice place to be. Young boys were always the first to hold the door for us or smile at Mom. I think it was the fact that she was so open to any kind of contact, looked strangers right in the eye, and expected good behavior. I was always fascinated to watch the 15 year old boys - the ones with the pants that start below their butts - rush to help us do whatever we were doing. They dropped their ghetto talk, smoothed their shirts, and smiled openly at her.
I've learned that it's ok to just be the best you can be, even if that isn't very good. Mom and Dad always stood behind their children and complimented us on the things we tried. I remember bringing my first wheel-thrown pottery "bowl" to Mom 5 years ago. It was lopsided, collapsing on itself. I had clay in my hair, on my face, in my mouth and was proud as could be that I made this "bowl" on my own. Mom was prouder. She told me how beautiful and "unique" that bowl was. I still have it somewhere, in the back of some cabinet.
And, I have no regrets - not one. Nada.
Prior to Mom's death, I knew she wouldn't make it much further. With her blessing and her input, I booked a respite to Key West, where I sit today. Key West has long been "home" to me and I feel my strength regaining daily. I tell strangers why I'm here and they all offer their condolences. But, I always say that condolences are nice but not necessary. We had a beautiful ride, my Mom and me. There is nothing to be sorry about or for.
On the ride down to Key West with Sharyn, Killian and Gizmo, we stopped overnight twice. On the first morning of the second day, I felt strong enough to put on a body lotion that I used on Mom for the last two years; a beautiful, light scent that matched her disposition well. As I opened the bottle, the smell triggered a very vivid vision of her and I was very comforted. All day, I sniffed my arm and was instantly transported to her spirit. What a wonderful gift she gave me that day and all days.
I'd also like to thank my closest friends and family for their support during the last years. I've been blessed with the best friends ever and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
And, finally, I'd like to leave you with one thought:
Be kind to your parents, grandparents, or elders in general. Spend time with them. Yes, your life might be busy in its own right but stop for a bit and visit someone who might be wondering how you are. You might just be amazed at how good you feel after carving out an hour to stop by with some fresh cookies or a meal.
And, as my Mom would say, that is that.