On a recent Sunday we both sat on the edge of her bed. My mom said she needed to lie down. I helped her lay back, lifting her legs onto the bed. I took her shoes off and gently lifted her head to slide a pillow under it.
As I gazed at her from my chair, her eyes were pooled with confusion. We were in the room she shares with another woman in her assisted living cottage.
Yells of confusion and bewilderment came from other women in the building. I could hear staff attempting to comfort them.
Welcome to everyday life of some of our elderly. For many of us, it’s the current existence of our mom or dad. It’s tough, it’s brutal, and every single day is a struggle.
I wanted to let her rest. I saw that she was staring up at the ceiling. I wondered where her thoughts were at that instant. Was she a young girl, a young wife, a mom or remembering some remarkable moment in her life?
There are times when my mom seems ready to pack it in, head to the promised land, the heavenly kingdom, the pearly gates. She believes she will then be released from pain and confusion.
The day before my visit, I shot 27 holes of golf at the Moose Lake Golf Course with a good friend. Over the years we had lost touch. He moved north and I moved south.
It was a delightful, cool, sunny fall Saturday. The blessing of the day for me was that I also got to play golf with my friend’s son, my godson. Although my golf game was crummy, the day ranked right up there as a time to remember.
After hours on the course, we all sat down to a banquet where we stuffed ourselves. We had a couple of beers and 40-year-old stories started to roll out.
I think my godson even enjoyed a couple of them, in particular the one where my friends were helping me haul our piano to a different place. I’m pretty sure it was 1977. As I drove on Highway 61 from Sturgeon Lake to Willow River, one of the guys standing in the back of my pickup holding the piano started to play it. Soon the other guys in the back started singing. It was quite the scene as we rolled into town. Thank heavens our memories did not include anyone getting crushed or arrested.
After the banquet, I went to my friend’s home in Duluth. The cribbage board came out and we tried to catch up on each other’s lives. We each talked about great joys and difficulties in life’s journey. The next morning brought coffee, tea, scrambled eggs and more reflection.
We missed each other. The handshake as I left was meaningful. Promises of keeping in touch were made.
When I arrived at my mom’s facility that Sunday morning and sat on the edge of the bed next to her, I could tell she was tired. She needed to lie down.
As my mom stared at the ceiling, every few minutes she would ask me a question. She asked how to spell the names of grandchildren.
She would repeat the letters after I said them. She was trying very hard to make the information stick, but it didn’t always come out the right way. She asked what day it was. She asked about certain people and how they were doing.
Each time I would tell her something, she was laboring to process it. She asked about my son and was concerned that she would not be able to recognize him. After each worry, all I could do was reassure her, listen to her and speak to her with kindness and appreciation that she was my mom.
As she lay on her bed, she told me that I was always a good and happy child. She said I was a pleasure to take care of. All I could do was try to hold my composure and say in a quivering voice, “Thanks, Mom.”
Who knows what memories each of us may reflect on years from now? All we can do is keep making them with friends and family. We must take time to do things we love, see the fall colors, and visit those who have been meaningful in our life.
Soon, Mom said it was time for me to go. I helped her up from her bed. I helped her put on her shoes and she escorted me to the door. She told me she loves me. Each time I leave, I never know if it is the last time I will see her.
While driving home, I heard a song on the radio, “Almost Home,” by Craig Morgan. It’s a song that one can interpret as an individual near the end of his life. He is dreaming about the deeply meaningful early days in his life.
My mom has been feeling that way lately — she knows she’s almost home and she’s ready.