I Dreamed a Dream in Time Gone By…
I just got home from seeing Les Miserables in Dan’s theater. A fabulous production that brought me to tears many times- truly cathartic after all we have been through with Mom this week. I was able to sit in the beautiful dark theater and cry out some of the sadness that has lodged itself in my heart.
Last night was a return to a world that seems so far away. I didn’t want to go- it had been a rough and long day, and I wanted to hide away at home. Dan told me that it would be so good for me to have an evening out away from worry, to have a little fun. I put on a pretty dress, put on make-up and a dash of nice perfume…has it only been a week since I stopped even thinking about what I looked like, just happy if I remembered to wear deodorant? It’s so funny how priorities can shift to what really matters in the blink of an eye.
The production was top-notch, and the excellent cast and amazing set took me to another place and time, so many of the themes resonating with the emotions swirling in my mind and heart- mother/daughter, love, loss…time after time, my heart welled up in my chest and I sobbed. Each time, Dan would rub my back and hold my hand, ever my rock in this turbulent sea. Music, always transformative to me, reached deeply inside, adding layer upon layer of emotion. One of my students was playing in the orchestra pit, and it felt like he was playing to me, his solos full of meaning and so soothing to my wounded heart.
Afterwards, a nightcap on the sun porch, another pocket of time with Dan. He is so good at helping me to recharge, helping me to see the strength that is in me when I forget. When I have these pockets of time, I feel like myself again, and ready to dust off my knees and get back to the job of caring for Mom. With Dan at my side, I can weather any storm.
The day had been long and challenging. We went to Mom’s apartment at Princeton Towers to gather the list of clothes and other items she needed to have at rehab. Yet again, the tears rose when I walked into the apartment, though it helped so much to have Dan with me. He looked for important papers I had missed- Mom’s Living Will, more banks statements, paIperwork on her cremation…things I didn’t want to see, but we needed to have. I went to Mom’s bedroom and began putting her favorite clothes in the basket, things that would help her to feel pretty again, more normal.
I found her favorite hair barrettes and combs, a few of her inexpensive but special pieces of jewelry. There is so little table space in her rehab room, so I chose one framed photo to take, one of she and Dad early in their marriage, so young and beautiful, looking at each other with such love. I wanted the nurses and staff at St. Martin’s to see that this is not just an old woman who is bedridden- she was once young and beautiful, full of hopes and dreams.
We stopped to pick up a TracFone for Mom to use in rehab, since there are no telephones in the rehab rooms, and Dan worked to set it up as I put Mom’s things away. She was so excited to see us, pointing out the beautiful flowers and chocolates that had arrived from her fan club. Time after time, my heart swells with gratitude at the kindness people have shown toward Mom and me. It truly feels like we are wrapped in a blanket of love from so many.
Dan joked with Mom, and I was touched to see Mom pull Dan close and whisper “Take care of my girl…she is my angel.” I fixed a huge bowl of candy for the room, as one of my friends suggested doing that, as people will come in to get the candy, giving Mom more interaction during the time when I’m not there. I brought Mom her favorite Reece’s Cups. I had stopped giving her candy, but she is hardly eating, so any calories she gets right now are good. I showed her the items I’d brought from her apartment, loving the smile of recognition that she gave with each piece.
Again, I dealt with frustrations- both Mom and her bedding were soaking wet. I found one of the staff, a very sweet young woman who had just begun working at St. Martin’s, and asked her to help me. She was gentle and kind, and- as I have done with each person I’ve met there- I told her how special Mom was, how much I appreciated her taking good care of my mother, that she would see me a lot. Read between the lines- take care of her! I sent Dan out to preserve Mom’s modesty as best we could under the circumstances, and I cleaned Mom like she was a small baby. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes, but I guess I will get used to it in time….maybe. I wanted to be the one to do it, as she trusts me so much.
The other frustration- she is still having bathroom issues, and hadn’t had the medicine she needed to make things happen. I left Dan with Mom and marched to the nurses station. I became someone new- instead of the shy and sometimes timid Denise, I was strong, assertive, but sweet. One of my friends calls herself ‘the Velvet Hammer’, and I thought of myself like that. I made the head nurse aware of the problem and told her this was ongoing and had to be dealt with before it became serious. I let them know I looked forward to getting to know them, that they would see a lot of me (take care of my mother! I will be watching!). I will be a Mary Poppins thorn in their side until Mom’s needs are met.
I am starting to see some things balance….Mom is charming the staff, working her Heavy D magic on them. She now has clothes to wear, a bit of make up and jewelry to help her feel pretty…though she will be sad when I tell her she can’t have her favorite aerosol hairspray anymore…not allowed. She has her puzzle book, some small photo books from home to see loved ones, both human and animal. She has treats to reward and entice the staff into her room, she will have a working cell- that all important connection to friends and family.
She is already worrying about me being out of town next week for ClarinetFest in Baton Rouge…and so am I. I am going to call on local friends to help Dan in checking in on her. St. Martins is a lovely place, but I want them to always know mom is not alone, she will always have someone to look after her, advocate for her, even when I can’t be there. As time goes on, I will learn all of the new and different names of the staff, and they will know me- well. I’m going on a baking campaign, starting with banana bread and cookies…though some of the cookies will find their way to The Home for Wayward Seniors.
Mom’s and my world is forever changed, marked by challenge, but also by such love. My love for her seems to grow each day, our shared memories swirling around us. We have been through so much together, and this is just another opportunity, another rite of passage. Each day I will do my best for her, and I will lock away these days, these memories, in my heart to look back on when Mom is gone…dreaming a dream of time gone by.