If it’s not one thing……….

P1000201Just came back from three weeks visiting my mother, so you can imagine the rest of the sentence!!! Since she had a stroke about seven years ago, my sisters and I have made several trips a year to visit. Not easy, but necessary; stressful, but somehow enjoyable. This time, she spent the days dozing off and the nights talking non-stop. Nobody in the house got much sleep, it was frustrating and funny……as everything else in our lives these days: full of contradictions.

My mother was very active, caring, generous to a fault and involved in the things she loved. Careful with her appearance, always impeccable, not a hair out-of-place and surrounded by exquisite perfume. Her grandchildren were her joy even if she didn’t see them all the time. She came for their First Communions, high school and college graduations, all the important events in their lives. Taught my children to read in Spanish! Spent about two months every Summer at a beach house she and her family own. Those were happy times when she could spend time with her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews. After all, her three daughters left to study in the States, got married and never lived in Panama again. We visited her, she visited us and we traveled together, but we lived apart most of our adult lives.

When she had the stroke, December 31st, 2006, everything changed. The stroke was massive and it was nothing short of a miracle that she survived. About a year of physical and speech therapy later, she was able to walk with help, feed herself and speak her mind. No small accomplishment for an 83-year-old! The first few years, she lived with a nurse and a housekeeper. We visited regularly and some of our cousins were there for support. We knew this couldn’t last, but were unable to come up with a better solution.

Three years ago, this arrangement just became an impossible task. Everything she worked so hard to re-learned was forgotten and she is now dependent on her nurse for everything. It is hard to see and harder to deal with, but it is what it is. My sister Laura moved from Venezuela and took control of the everyday caring. I admire her enormously because I would not have done it, not for anything! She is the constant presence that keeps the machinery running smoothly; and she does it with common sense and a healthy dose of good humor. I can enjoy my visits to Panama because she has made our mother’s care as natural as it can possibly be.

IMG_1183Mami, as we call her, is in a wheelchair and has difficulty talking. On the other hand, her mind is alert and she is aware of everything. Don’t know if this is good or bad, so I try not to dwell on it. On February 26th, Mami turned 90. We were all there, made her day easy, made her laugh and had cake and ice-cream. It was impossibly hot, but she stayed up pass her bedtime to receive her nieces and nephews who came to wish her well. Her family sent her flowers, which she liked. Her grandchildren called and she smiled and tried to talk to them when she heard their voices!!! It was a good day and these days, that is more than enough.

What is going to happen? We are not getting any younger, traveling back and forth is taking its toll. Frankie and I haven’t been able to take a long vacation in a while. Ana and her husband haven’t either.  Laura hardly has time to visit her children. Our lives are in suspended animation. Tossing the arrangement we have now is not an option, Listening to the obvious solution is difficult. There is no easy answer because….if it’s not one thing, it’s our mother!!!!!

Sister, Sister…..

P1000075I have been away for days, but the need to communicate my thoughts have not been iddle. While visiting my mother on the occassion of her 90th birthday, my sisters and I have been spending a lot of time together. We have laughed and reminisced, we have eaten great food and we have had a few drinks…..It has been a lot of fun.

Since my mother had a stroke about seven years ago, these trips to visit, supervise her care, spend time with her, have also been a reason to spend time with each other away from our husbands, children, friends. In other words, a time away from the lives we have made away from the country of our birth. A reason to have time to see the friends we went to school with, the cousins we like, see the changes that have taken place……

This trip has been a bit different. Mother’s birthday was on February 26th. Carnaval started on Friday the 28th. She lives in a small city in the Azuero Peninsula in Panama. This colonial town has been here since 1679 more or less. It is not close to the sea, It has no rivers closed by. People are descendants from Spaniards that came from the arid fields of Castille and Leon and the warm towns of Andalucia. They are fiercerly independent, very proud and not too friendly towards strangers. This time of the year, amazingly enough, they open their town to the hoards of people that descend to celebrate Carnaval.

I will be posting photos of this celeration later on. Suffice to say, that Rio de Janeiro, with all it’s wealth has nothing on this town. The amount of money spent, the beauty and splendour of the costumes, the fabulous floats and the display of fireworks is something I cannot explain…you need to see them!!! So I will come back with details. This post is more about us.

I have two sisters, I am the eldest. Ages are not important, so we will not talk about that. Especially since both Ana and Laura do not talk about it either. That is as it should be, we should live everyday and not put too much emphasis in time. We are very different, and when we are apart, we seem to have little in common. When we are here, we seem to have a lot more. Why? Maybe it’s the atmosphere, the fact that we are aware of the passing of time. The fact that we do not know when it will be the last trip to see our mother. Or maybe it is that we are hanging on to our memories, enjoying this time as we did those other times long ago.

P1000070Days pass very slowly in this climate. Fortunately, we have errands to run and things to do for our mother that keep us occupied. The heat is overwhelming. There is a hint of breeze, but not much shade. Trees are not very important in this region. The people prefer their yards devoid of any shade, incomprehensible to me. Laura thinks they prefer to show-off their homes. Nights are a bit better, at least there is no relentless sun. The breezes are more likely to come at night as well. So they are spent talking and remembering the times when we used to spend school holidays here, visiting our grandmother.

Internet connection is fantastic. Did you know the government of Panama has a special server…..free of charge…that anyone can use, in any town or city? Where else, tell me? Still, I have read a lot. So much better since back home I have no time to do it as much as I want. There is excellent food to enjoy, siestas to take and trips to the seaside to have seafood!! Must important….NO HOUSEWORK!!!!

So far, so good. We are still having fun, not even talking about the day we have to leave…..a day that will come too soon!!!