She was old, Aunt Lilly was. She had been sick for a while, and palliative care was the most recent prescription. It was only a matter of time. As TBG describes these events, it was sad but not a tragedy. It was also a fact.
Aunt Lilly and G'ma weren't close. G'ma wasn't close to anybody, except, perhaps, my sister. There was no antagonism, there was distance and disinterest. Still, the woman was married to her brother; she was a part of my mother's life.
The question is, should her death become a part of that narrative?
I wrestled with it alone. I talked about it with TBG. I slept on it. Now, I am writing about it. I'm not sure what to do.
I asked my siblings for their advice. My sister urged me to have the conversation, because "death is part of life and life has unhappy moment in it." Since my oft-stated goal for my mom is "No Unhappy Days," this presents a dilemma.
I sat next to her at Thanksgiving, watching her remind herself that she was at my house, with my husband and that young man who must be my son and her grandson sharing the festive table. There was turkey; it must be Thanksgiving. The short-sleeved linen top was anachronistic; what was she doing wearing a spring top in the fall? Oh, right, she's in Tucson, the desert, and it's hot.
All that in five minutes.... and then we started in again.
Why didn't my limp go away? Would it ever go away? "You were shot... in the ass... and a little girl died"..... over and over again.
Could she help? Was there anything she could do? "I am just sitting here, watching," she'd laugh, and then, after a pause, she'd ask, again, if she could do something for me. I reminded her that she'd unwrapped the butter and opened the bag of croutons and then she laughed at herself sitting and doing nothing.
The next time she started in on my limp, I pre-empted her: I'm limping because I was shot. I'm in therapy and they say I will get better but they don't know when. Exercise is boring but I do it because I have to. Over and over again.
She has no memory of the wedding or the rehearsal dinner or the wonderful time she had at both events. She doesn't remember being surrounded by her grand-daughters' love. She doesn't remember that her skirt fell to her hips as she stepped into my living room (sometimes having no short term memory is a blessing) nor does she remember that I wore pink sneakers to the party.
She knows she doesn't remember and she's sad about it when I remind her that it happened. What's the upside to that? I can't find one. She's oriented to herself and her tv and her remote controls. She knows she's supposed to love me, even if she sometimes forgets who I am. If I don't visit for several days, she holds no grudge. She doesn't know if I come every day or once a month.
I recognize the importance of staying connected to the world around her; we went over every nominee and every proposition on her ballot, and she was engaged and thoughtful throughout the process. Of course, I could have gone over the same races all over again and she'd have had no trouble voting all over again without any memory of the first time around, but, in the moment, she was there.
Does she need to have that moment with Aunt Lilly?
My brother says no. I'm seeing both sides. I'd love to know what you think.