Thursday, March 22, 2012

And that, dear friends, is that

I'm finally strong enough to write up the last post to my Gertie's Galavants blog. It's taken me this long to try and think of what I hope to convey in my final ramblings to my faithful readers who have followed our tale for almost 5 years.

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.

We're missing out on so much. Not only don't we tend to visit our elders as much as we should, we are cheating ourselves out of learning much from our elders. We don't stop to listen to their stories of the past, we don't have the patience to wait as they search for words, and, sadly, we don't apply what they've told us to the future. History does, after all, repeat itself.

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.

I've learned that living with no regrets is definitely the way to go. When Mom first died, I felt a sense of relief and was concerned at first that the grief wasn't there. After all, those last few months were pretty hard on all of us who surrounded her and the only thing I really wanted to do was rest in bed - which I did. I had been up the last 3 nights before she died, standing by and watching. I was pooped and rightfully so. I remember Mom rousing from her twilight state just hours before she died. She looked at me standing by her bed, touched my face and told me to get some rest. She was always more concerned about others than she was about herself.

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.

As I close this last post, I'd like to thank my readers for their input over the years. The comments you leave here on my blog and in my online caregiving articles have meant the world to Mom and me (I always read them to Mom).

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.

With much love, Lori and Gert

5 comments:

  1. A perfect end to the story of a beautiful relationship. I know it wasn't easy but you rose to the challenge. Thank you for sharing the lessons you learned. I know I have taken them to heart.

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  2. Lori: I want to thank you for sharing your mother. As you know I lost dad in January and Mom last Friday. Thinking of your sister and her kids, put perspective and what your family went through so many years ago. Even though my parents died at a relatively young age 78 and 76 respectively, they had a good life up to the end. For what it was worth, it brought the family together, but it also brought out the family secrets. It also made some of the assumptions of life and family more of a reality that sometimes hit hard. It showed the different strengths of family and friends, those who you could count on especially on those occasions you just need a call. I was thankful that we did not have the direct day care that you provided, it was hell enough to see mom lifted up on a swing just be carted off to dialysis. Thanks again for sharing.

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  3. Thanks, Lori, for sending Gert and Gert's Galavants out in style. You're a prize, and your mom was the winner.

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