Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Eighty

The cards were standing neatly on the large breakfast bar. My mother had read each card to me over the phone as she received it and yet, she wanted me to see each card in person, and read every word again, as proof that she mattered. It was not about the fact that she mattered, really, but the fact that she was remembered. Remembered, by all of her good friends. At eighty, this is what you have.

It was a year ago that she made the big move. She sold her house and moved to the big city. Big Brother, as in my older brother, had purchased a weekend condo downtown a few years back and now owned a few of them; two he rented out and one was strictly for the weekends, when he wanted to get away from the suburbs. Her condo, is a one bedroom and faces south, giving her direct view of the lake, at all times. The floor to ceiling windows in the living room, provide a spectacular view year round, but especially in the summer when all of the sailboats are on the water. The Yacht Club is further down, but still visible, as is the large fountain, that our city is known for. The view, was what sold her on the place. After all, if she couldn’t do anything else, she could sit and look out the window, at this gorgeous view. Big Brother had many conversations with her over the last few years, on how she should downsize and give up her house for something that was smaller. Moving to the city, she would have all of the amenities she needs, under one roof. This would make it easier for her as she got older. We had many conversations around this and she loved the city. She now rents the condo from Big Brother who has a weekend condo several floors above her.

The transition has been hard on her. My mother has been widowed some twenty plus years, since my father died of a massive heart attack, when he was forty-six and I was only thirteen. She’s lonely now, having left all of her neighbors in the suburb and her friends from church. Her friends, many of whom are elderly, can’t get around, and coming to the city, is pretty much out of the question. When she moved, she got rid of her car and her dog so the transition has not been much fun. She misses her flowers, her yard and the birds, whom she used to feed daily. The cardinals were her favorite. None of these things are here though. The closest thing she gets to a cardinal is to view the ceramic birds in her display case or listen to the chirping sounds from her bird clock, that hangs on the wall. Her hands are crippled from arthritis and her fingers point North, East and West when she holds her hand upright. Her feet are a mess and have been for years. She refuses surgery however, which would improve her ability to walk. Other than that, she remains relatively healthy, after having recovered from a Stage 3 colon cancer and several skin cancers within the last five years.

She was excited to see me. I baked a cake and brought several gifts with me, that I thought she would like. I brought Dear Son along too and as a special surprise, my ex-husband, who the family still loves because he continues to take good care of Dear Son and me.

My brother and sisters however, were busy with their own lives, and hadn’t called or made arrangements for the big day. At eighty, you don’t know how many days you have left, so every birthday becomes important. Every time someone dies, I listen for their age and when it’s seventy five or more, I cringe because I know that one of these days, I won’t be so lucky. My mother is not worried about her impending death. She tells me her mother lived well into her nineties, so she is content she will do the same.

My free weekends, or the weekends that Dear Son spends with his Dad, are typically spent with Mom. I take her out to the grocery store and we go to lunch mostly. If the truth be told, I would love to do much more however she can’t walk and getting out at all, is becoming more difficult. She can’t walk and is adamant about not using a wheelchair. She uses a cane which does not provide the support that she needs. Our visits usually begin when I pick her up to take her grocery shopping. I take care to open the car door for her and our ride to the grocery store is not more than fifteen minutes. Once we arrive at the grocery store, she stops at the bank and then begins to shop. Typically, about thirty minutes into the visit, her feet begin to hurt and she had trouble standing. When this happens, it means that she’s going to be cranky to everyone because her feet are hurting. I hate this part. She checks out her groceries and attempts to use her debit card. Without fail, she can not slide it through the machine because her fingers are so crippled that she can’t grip the card evenly. The cashier, trying to be helpful, will give her some verbal tips which do nothing but upset her even more. She wants to be independent and yet, there are some things she can no longer do. The cashier continues to give her tips before taking the card and running it through herself. We repeat this exercise every two weeks or so.

I learned more about my mother in these fifteen minute rides than I have in the last forty seven years. These weekends though, I have come to enjoy. While I often hear the same stories, it’s the background or what’s behind them that makes them interesting now. I also have a good dose of reality of what it is really like to get old. She is quite lonely, as many of the people that are her age. It seems to me that most people can get around pretty well in their seventies, but once you hit eighty, the world takes on a whole different scene. Even the smallest tasks, require monumental effort.

So, today, was her 80th birthday. We spent a few hours with her and then it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and she moved back to the sofa, where she would sit and stare at the lake, until the next time, I would come to visit.

3 comments:

Wrkinprogress said...

Just as I revere you as a mother, I now have the necessary "proof" to revere you as a daughter. You're a good woman, Dream Mom, and I'm honored to know you. I can't help but think that, one day, somehow, there are gigantic blessings awaiting you.

With much love and respect,
WIP

Cathy said...

I, too, have a mom that is in a similar time of her life as yours. A few differences, but basically the same. She still drives but lives in an assisted living facility (she is independent) and once dad passed away, she moved to where I live, 35 miles from where she was. It's not easy making the move, and I see Mom struggle with her cane, and she sometimes uses a walker, but has trouble transporting it in her car.
Saturdays are a day she spends with me, whether it be at our house or if we go somewhere. I know you treasure the days you spend with her, as I do. Thanks so much for sharing this story. I would write stuff like that on my blog too, but she reads my blog :)

Dream Mom said...

Thanks, WIP. I hope you are correct!

Cathy-My mother doesn't own a pc or she would see this post. It's funny, you learn so much more about them in this last phase of their life than you do prior to that. Take care:)

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