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!!!!!

8 thoughts on “If it’s not one thing……….

  1. What a wonderful family! Read this the other night and have much empathy for you as we have gone through the autumn of our parents’ lives. It calls for some very difficult decisions at times which we must live with forever. I can feel both your happiness and frustrations.

    • Thank you so much, Betty! It is so true and you put it beautifully: the autumn of our parents’ lives. I do enjoy times with my sisters and my mother, regardless of the stress, the sadness and the waiting. All that we do makes us better persons and, maybe, teaches our children some lessons….we will be in need of caring some day.

  2. Well written Mercedes. You expressed all of your emotions and hesitations in a matter of fact way. Situations like yours, as with my father and of course my beloved Renzo, are a test that no one should have to take, but somehow, despite all of our prayers, we are chosen for the task. There is little you and your sisters can do but be there when needed, keep your Mami comfortable and wait. Waiting is the hardest part as there is little you can do about the eventual outcome.

    It has only been two years since I lost Renzo and I am still healing. As they say, life’s a bitch and then you die.

    • Thank you, Irene. Writing, as I always say, is cathartic. I needed to do this. In our situation, emotional displays are no longer a consideration or even a thought. We move ahead with what needs done and steal moments of joy along the way. One day at a time, that’s it, but you are so right….waiting is the hardest part.

  3. Very, very nice sis!!! thank you for the beautiful words….at the end we have become closer than ever and that we owe to mami,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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