Wednesday, August 29, 2012


"You could seriously write a book," she said after listening to me recount my month-long trip to Thailand. My friend wasn't kidding. I could.

Although there is so much to digest, think about, write about and feel, right at this very moment, I keep thinking about my family. I've written about my mother before on this blog and I am not going to sugarcoat what it was like to see her after two years. The woman I knew as my mother is gone. In the place of the beautiful, hardworking, sweet, kind, understanding, devoted and often stubborn woman I knew all those years growing up  is a grey-haired one with tired eyes, withered legs, a nearly  unrecognizable face ravaged by illness and a mind that won't let her remember.

She can only lay down or sit up in her wheel chair propped up with a band wrapped around her chest. She needs help to use the restroom. Her caretaker sings her songs to calm her.

No one ever, ever in their wildest dreams can imagine their invincible, infallible parents like this. To say I cried when I saw her? I walked in. She was laying down on the bed. I looked into her  eyes, held her hand. She squeezed back a little. I managed to say, "I'm here mom. It's me." I am not sure I even got the words out because I wasn't breathing. And that was it. That is all I remember. The rest is a blur. No audible crying, but just tears that wouldn't stop. Just a rain of tears streaming down my face. I couldn't wipe them away fast enough and eventually I gave up.

The next morning, I got up and hurried downstairs with my daughter who is seven. She immediately wanted to see her grandmother, which surprised me a little. I'm not sure I knew  what to expect about my kids' reaction to seeing my mother. I had explained to them that she wasn't doing well. They know she is in a wheelchair -- they have only known her to be in a wheelchair. They know she is not like their other grandmother who does arts and crafts, pushes them on swings and reads them stories. But I knew I wanted them to see her. Be with her. Answer their questions about what was wrong with her. Explain to them that she wasn't always like this.

So down we went.

My mother is sitting in her chair. Her caretaker feeding her a pancake breakfast -- made by my father. {I later find out he makes her an American-style breakfast every morning.} She turns and smiles at me. She knows me. I go in to hug her. She hugs me back. If I would have known that moment -- that one moment -- would be the only time of my visit that I felt my mother remembered me...

The next morning was different. I asked her if she knew me. She said "Of course! You are my niece!" I laughed. How silly! I am her daughter.  She was joking. She would remember.

The next morning again I went down. I hugged her and said good morning. Again, "Do you remember me? Do you know who I am? I am your daughter." Her eyes welled up with tears as she declared in a shaky voice, "My daughter!" Her eyes stared back at me and then past me. Confused.

In that moment, I knew. I knew I would have to remember for the both of us. I would have to let go of who she was and love her for who she is. She isn't that mother anymore. She never will be again.  I thought of my daughter. Not pained by memories of her grandmother as a vibrant, healthy woman -- she has none -- but living, feeling and enjoying her grandmother today.

The next morning I got up early. I went downstairs, again with my daughter, and fed my mother breakfast. I coaxed her to open her mouth, chew, swallow. I asked her if it tasted good. I told her I loved her.

We went on her morning walk with her and my father. My daughter pushed the wheelchair for a while. And then I did. We sat at the end of the street. We were quiet. We talked. We held hands.

And that's when I began to see the beauty.

Seeing the tragedy is easy. Seeing the beauty? That takes some work. But I was starting to see it. And it looked like this:

There is a blogger that I love. She coined the term "brutiful" to describe life -- its brutality and beauty. That word kept ringing in my ears the entire trip. Life is pain and joy and disappointment and bliss and turmoil and peace. Why do bad things happen? For the same reason good things do. But if we drink it all in -- sometimes sipping and sometimes guzzling -- we may come out the other side with something more. I can't describe that "more" in words, but I can tell you that it exists somewhere between your top of your stomach and the bottom of your throat.

Oh and please don't misunderstand. I will cry again. I will be angry. Furious. I will want my mother back the way she was. But for now, at least right now, I can feel it...that indescribable "more."

And I smile.


Margy said...

Oh, Rosana, I have tears running down my face, thinking about all that you have lost, and overwhelmed by your ability to see beauty nevertheless. And for that sweet girl of yours loving your mom and accepting life as it comes. Thank you for sharing this.

SARAH said...

This is so amazing Rosana. I'm so proud of you. For your honesty in your words and in your pictures. It sounds incredibly hard but also beautiful. I'm glad you got to all be there as a family. What a gift for you, your children and your parents. xoxo

Rosana V. said...

@margy thank you!! to have us all come together as a family -- no matter what -- it truly was remarkable. at least to me. and my daughter...she drives me nuts sometimes...but she is an amazing teacher. :)
@sarah it was hard to write, but cathartic. i could have written pages upon pages!! in fact, I am still journaling about the trip. the month -- all of it -- was amazing in all its gifts. i left with so much...