I had a great day today. Wonderful client in the morning followed by successful shopping trip in the afternoon followed by an impromptu lunch with two friends downtown.
And, right in the midst of it, I found myself crying -- make that sobbing -- in my car. Sun shining. Cars whizzing by on a busy city street. People chattering all around. And me. Sitting in my parked car, bawling.
My mother. Lately, I can't shake the feeling that the clock is ticking. That my time with my her is finite. And not in some abstract way where death is this blurry thing waiting for all of us in the future. But as in "I see the end. I see it coming."
She lives in Thailand, and if you follow this blog, you probably have seen a few posts about her and her illness. At any rate, I don't like to talk about her. In fact, for the most part, I don't like to think about her. To say that what is happening to her is sad and tragic doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. It is horrifying.
To lose your ability to walk, speak, go the bathroom or pretty much do anything on your own is a prison of misery I can't even begin to imagine. To know your mother -- the one who held your hand when you had nightmares until you fell asleep -- is now a shell of the woman you knew? It seems unreal. Too unreal to even consider.
And so, it's easier to pretend. Pretend it's not really happening. Easy enough. She lives across the world. Put some pictures up around the house. Talk to your daughter about her "Khun Yai" as if she's a totally normal grandmother. And, presto, magic! Problem solved!
Except not. I call her each week these days. We talk for about 15 minutes. I usually update her about the kids, husband, work and anything else going on in my life. She tries to talk sometimes, but most of it I can no longer understand. I always end our conversations with, "I love you mom" and she will respond, "I love you, Rosana." Out of the entire conversation, they are really the only words I can make out.
Today in the car, I had gotten off the phone with my brother who has been updating me regularly on my mother's declining health and state of mind. He was not in a good way. I wouldn't be either if I was caring for -- on my own -- a severely handicapped mother who now was exhibiting signs of dementia. He had just spent the past afternoon with my mother. He works nights and had gotten a frantic call from her around noon (as he gets everyday because my mother has anxiety.) She is on anxiety medication, but her delusional behavior still manages to push through. It's hard to know if it is her illness, depression or something else. At any rate, he went to her condo, tried to calm her and ended up sitting with her, holding her hand for most of the afternoon.
"I want, I want....I want..."
"What do you want mom. Tell me. What do you want?"
With her disease progressing to the point where her speech is nearly incomprehensible, my brother finds himself regularly coaxing information out of her, hoping she'll be able to eek out a word or two that he can understand. She usually becomes emotional and frantic, because shit, if you couldn't verbalize to your loved ones how you were feeling wouldn't you go mad?
That afternoon with my mother was no different. Except she got it out. She got out those words:
"I want to walk."
And isn't that the bitch of life? She won't walk. She won't ever walk again. And all my brother and I can do is ask ourselves "Why the fuck does she have to go this way? Why?"
So from my vantage point -- far away, over the phone, in pictures -- my days are spent laughing with my family and friends because life truly is joyous. But more lately, that joy is interrupted by a tightness in my throat. That clenching, squeezing knot in my stomach. Tears that are right at the surface, but get swallowed, pushed, pressed down as far down as I can get them.
Knowing I just won't ever have that mother I knew takes my breath away. As in, I literally have a physical reaction to my grief where I feel a shortness of breath. And knowing she will continue to drift further and further away...I can't even begin, right now, to really wrap my brain around how to face it.
So, I'll do what I can do for now. Call her. Talk to her. Tell her I love her...and hope that she'll be able to say it back.