Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Anniversary Reaction

Hospice sent me a flyer last week, suggesting that I examine my heart for An Anniversary Reaction as the day G'ma died draws near. I had no idea that this was on the agenda. I'm not feeling particularly nostalgic for the last months and weeks of my mother's life. I miss her all day every day, but I'm trying to put the end of her life out of my mind as I concentrate on the long ago memories, the ones which are less painful, which are more Mommy to me.

Hospice has no such agenda. Apparently,their involvement with G'ma's demise did not stop when she did. I have been invited to groups, to seminars, to conversations, to individual sessions, in all too numerous to remember. I've attended none of them.
I don't think I'm denying my sorrow. I don't think I am avoiding the issue. I don't think I need help managing my feelings. All of that might have been useful while G'ma was still alive and demanding my attention. The ambivalence I felt tugging my heart strings might have benefited from a public airing, seasoned with the experiences of others going through the same thing at the same time. Those programs were offered, too. I took no advantage of those opportunities, preferring to bottle up my feelings and putting them in internal storage. I went about visiting and loving and saying goodbye to my mother without much analysis.

That worked for me, and I don't think it did G'ma a disservice. I knew that she was working on the end of her time on earth, and that her needs were no longer the same as when she was a full participant in the world around her. Dementia combined with a wearing away of her physical abilities, and it no longer seemed necessary to drag her out and about in the wide world, shuffling behind her walker, spending more energy on getting places than was left to enjoy them once we arrived.

That was my excuse for the ever shrinking world I allowed to become her own. When she first arrived, we did everything I did. She came with me to The Happy Ladies Club luncheons and the flat walks and a monthly cocktail party or two. We weren't big drinkers, but it was nice to be out and about on a Friday night, wearing clothes that were one step up from our usual elastic waists. Over time, as she fell and recovered, each time just a little bit less than we'd expected, as her memory faded, as her desire to move vanished, I came to accept the fact that she was as happy in her recliner as she was at a concert.

The fact that she didn't remember those concerts the next day had something to do with it, too. I was always anxious on our excursions. Would the parking be safe and close to the entrance? Would she need to go to the restroom during the performance, and would we get there in time? Would I be able to manage whatever care she required? Would she let me help her... and what would be the result if she refused? All that worry seemed of a greater magnitude than the joy she'd experience on the adventure... and she wouldn't remember the adventure once it was over... and after I got shot it became a ridiculous dance to get both of our walkers into the car.
It was easier to go with her flow, to allow her to set the pace, to accept her limitations and live within them. She was there before I was, more willing to go along with the diminution of her world, content in a way I'd never seen her before. I learned from her, perhaps more at this time in her life than in anything previous to those last few years. I learned acceptance and patience and to take joy in the simple things. I learned to let go of who she had been and learned to love who she was, even if my heart broke just a little bit each day, watching My Mommy vanish, replaced by a gentle, funny, still sarcastic but much less hostile, woman.
I had plenty of time to get to know this new woman, and it was she who spent the last few years with me here in Tucson. The woman who yelled and screamed at us as children was long gone. There was no energy left for that much vitriol. Without Daddooooo's presence, she was not aggravated on an hourly basis. She'd forgotten that which had troubled her, and reveled in the unexpected joy of remembering a person or a place or an event.... when prompted.
For the most part, she was happy to watch reruns of Law and Order. The rigid structure of the programs were subtle cues to her viewing. If the clock said 20 minutes to the hour, she knew that the trial was coming and the bad guy was going to get his just deserts. If it was 20 minutes past the hour, his identity was still up for grabs. The plot details were less important than the regularity of the music and the rhythms and the pace. Even if she couldn't remember the story line, she never wanted to leave before the final credits rolled.
Some things never changed.

And so, I'm not sure what kind of anniversary reaction Hospice expects me to have. I know I did the best that I could. I know that she was grateful for my care. She lived a long, full, life, and though her physical being never met FlapJilly, Little Cuter and SIR and I know that her spirit was hovering over them for the nine months her great-granddaughter spent in my little girl's womb. They got her parking karma and her love, and I got to spend those months imagining my mom doing what I could not – guarding the baby.
I'll be on the lookout for the symptoms and signs of an adverse reaction as December 5th draws nigh, but I'm not expecting much. I have no reason to revisit any sadness. G'ma wouldn't want it that way.

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