Finding Our Way

I feel like in some ways I lost my mom in 2017, although she is still here. On March 24th she turned 80 years old and I was visiting my parents to celebrate her birthday. The following morning she fell and hit her head. I didn’t know she had fallen. Although my dad helped her get up, he didn’t see her fall and didn’t know she had hit her head. She seemed ok at first, but I could tell she was having memory problems.

The following day she blacked out in a restaurant and then spent 3 days in the hospital for tests and observation. Nothing significant was found, although I learned that she was on a blood thinner and if you hit your head while taking a blood thinner, you are supposed to get treatment immediately.

Although no specific diagnosis was forthcoming, my mom changed immediately. She had always planned and kept the calendar. She had always paid bills. She had used email regularly. She had kept people in the family up-to-date on others in the family. Seemingly suddenly, she lost much of her short-term memory and couldn’t remember to keep plans. She forgot whether she’d written a check or not. She forgot how to call me and use email. She stopped using email, and would get confused when trying to call or answer the phone. She seems to have regained the ability to answer though. My dad was thrown off because things she had kept track of for 60 years were not happening any more. He has gradually stepped in and taken over keeping track of some things.

Although changes in my mom seemed abrupt, she still has a sweet essence and doesn’t worry about things that used to concern her. She has always been an avid bird watcher, which sometimes drove us crazy when we were kids. A few months ago I saw a large bird and asked her about it over the phone. We ended up both getting out our bird books, and consulting the same book (she had given me my copy). We determined that it must have been a juvenile golden eagle. When I learned that Chase had cancer again and I was struggling over Thanksgiving weekend to determine the best plan for him, Mom said unhesitatingly that of course I should go ahead with the surgery to help him. In the past she might have cautioned me about spending the money, but she got right to what was most important and said I had to do that, didn’t I?

I think the changes in my mom have been hardest for my dad because I’m sure he did not expect to outlive her and certainly didn’t expect to outlive her sharp mind. But I have found ways to connect with my mom these past few months. Her essence and the essence of what is important are still there, even if the ability to perform mundane tasks or busywork are not. Funny how that bird watching hobby that bugged us when we were kids now seems like one of the best ways to connect! It also bothers Mom when she realizes she has forgotten something. We try to be kind about it and help her. Sometimes you have to roll with what you are left with and we are finding ways to do that.

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