Friday, September 12, 2014

Losing My Mother

Late in the day on September 11, 2001 I sat on my kitchen floor and talked to my mother on the phone.  She listened to what I had to say.  About how scared I was watching the buildings burn from my office's window.  About my friend giving me money in case the banks were down.  About walking uptown to meet Alan who walked downtown from Washington Heights so we could pick up Alec from school.  About the irony of seeing a billboard advertising The Hallmark Channel that said "story upon story upon story.  No, not the World Trade Center."  About all the poor souls who died and what would happen next.  We talked about so much that day.  But then, we always spent a long time on the phone talking - mostly about politics (we agreed on just about everything, thankfully), but also about all sorts of things.  That was thirteen years ago.

Tonight my mother is spending her fourth day in the nursing facility that is her new home.  She has dementia.  She will probably never see her home or belongings again.  They say the nursing home is a good place.  I haven't seen it yet but my sister chose it and the lawyer confirms that it is a safe place.  We've known this day was coming for a long time.  My father's death in July took away her final anchor to reality and she has been spiraling down ever since.  And the medical "professionals" have been absolutely no help.

My mother was always a tough cookie.  Hard to please and easy to anger.  But as the youngest, and her favorite, I got a little more slack than my sisters and we had many good times together.  She taught me to sew.  She could sew like no one else I've ever known.  She made draperies, slipcovers, clothing for my sisters and me.  All were impeccable sewn and beautifully tailored.  And she, unlike me, always finished her projects.  No closet full of  half-made stuff for her.  But that was a long time ago.  She can't and doesn't do much of anything now.

A conversation with her in the last few years would last no more than a minute or two.    Often she'd circle back to something she'd already asked.  Now she is really angry and thinks her daughters have abandoned her.  I've called every day but she never answers the phone.  I call the nurses station and they tell me she is asleep.  They say she is doing fine.  I doubt it.  But at least I am relatively sure she is safe. 

Sunday would have been my Dad's 93rd birthday and my mother will spend it without him for the first time in 69 years.  Without her husband, without her home, without her mind.  I feel sadder than I ever have felt before.  Even worse than I felt on September 11, 2001.


  1. I'm sorry you are so sad. My sisters and brothers have been watching our mom decline for years now. She has always been a healthy woman, still is, which prolongs her life as someone we still have to smile with, touch and love. We are all so glad she is still here with us (she has been in a nursing home for a long time now). She is well cared for and the staff where she lives take excellent care of her. They love her and enjoy her. She is still very social (she has days when she isn't easy to deal with). I can easily relate to how you are feeling. I often want to talk to her, ask her advice, ask her about things when she was a younger person, talk to her about family history. In my mind I often think "I'll ask mom, she'll know or remember". Then the realization that I can't "ask mom" it right there. It is sad. I don't get to visit her as much since I moved to NJ but my sisters still have Friday night dinner with her and post pictures on Facebook. All of us girls (her daughters) and my daughter, Catie, have gotten together on Friday nights for dinner. Its a tradition that started probably in the 80's. I'm glad they still continue the tradition.
    Its very difficult to watch this happen to our loved one. Try to find some pleasure in still being able to see her, touch her, hug and kiss her, hold her hand, smell her. Its nice to just sit together and not say anything.
    My heart is with you Helen.
    Rose Behr

  2. Thank you Rose. It really is so hard to come to terms with this. All we can do is take it day by day and be happy that our mothers are being taken care of and are safe. I will savor the time I spend with my mother, even if it is nothing like it used to be. My heart is with you too.