Bittersweet Easter Tales
Today we gathered at Wayne and John’s (John Wayne) for Easter dinner with dear friends. It was an absolutely beautiful day, but bitter sweet as well. I had every intention of writing a funny post, as there were many humorous moments, but my heart is too heavy…
I went to pick Mom up at The Home for Wayward Seniors, and when I opened the door to her apartment, I found her struggling to pick up something she had dropped on the floor. She was shaking, having difficulty getting ready to leave. She kept apologizing, telling me she was just not up to going places anymore, she was too much trouble, was in too much pain. She has complained a lot recently about her diminishing mobility, and I see it worsening each time I visit.
I helped her pick up the item, helped her get her shoes on, and then we began the walk to the car. We passed Mom’s friend Miss Bessie in the lobby. She was decked out in her Sunday finery, complete with a lovely Easter bonnet. She told Mom she missed seeing her, reinforcing what I had heard, that Mom has been holing up in her apartment more and more.
On the drive to The Boys’, I asked Mom if she remembered us coloring Easter eggs and doing Easter egg hunts. She smiled and launched into a sweet memory of those days. I treasure each and every story now, more than usual, look at her in a different light. Will this be the last holiday?
Getting Mom up the six steps into Wayne and John’s was an ordeal. Dan and I got on either side of her to help her as she labored to lift one leg and then the other. As I held her, I felt how frail she is becoming, see how she is shrinking, how hunched her back is getting. Her cries of pain with each step, “I can’t, I can’t!” went through me like a knife. I felt bad for putting her through this.
Once we got her inside and she caught her breath, I saw the Mom I know come out more. My friend since fourth grade, Gerre, was there, and Mom was so happy to see him. Gerre brought her bunny ears to wear, so she had fun posing for the camera and being the center of attention. The Boys teased her mercilessly as they always do, Mom loving every minute of it.
I came in from the kitchen and saw that Mom was sipping on a mimosa. Mom never drinks, so this was a surprise. It only took about three sips and she had us laughing with tales of playing spin the bottle as a teenager and other adventures. Things you just never think of your ninety-two-year-old mother doing. Even though I have seen the photos of my mother as a teenager, it is difficult to reconcile that beautiful, smiling girl with the broken body I see now.
There are flashes of that young girl left, though. The twinkle in her blue eyes, her sense of humor, the beauty that is still there, no matter how the years have left their mark. I am learning to see my mother as the total woman- not just Denise’s mom, but the many stages of her life that made her the woman she is.
After a lovely meal filled with laughter and stories, we began the arduous trip down the stairs and back to the car. She told us that this would be her last visit, that she just couldn’t do this anymore. The guys teased her and said they’d see her next Easter. No one wants to talk about the reality.
When we returned to Princeton Towers, I got the wheelchair to bring Mom in. Even getting her from the car and into the chair was painful for her. When I finally got her into her beloved lift chair, I hugged her and told her how glad I was that she was able to be with us for Easter. As she has begun to do each time I see her now, she thanked me, “Neese, thank you for everything you do for me- I really appreciate you. I love you, Neese.” I know what she is doing, making sure that she has told me these words in case I don’t see her again. I appreciate the love and sweetness behind her actions, but my heart always catches.
She was already dozing off as I was walking out the door, exhausted from her ordeal. Before she dozed off, though, I was so happy to hear her say, “That was so hard on me Neese…but it was worth it. Thank you. I had so much fun.” There may not be too many holidays left with my mom, but we are building wonderful memories to treasure when the day comes and her seat at the dinner table is empty. Her seat may be empty, but Heavy D will always be with me.