Sorting out and organizing my mother’s belongings took several weeks, not days. As we got into the higher bedroom cupboards we found boxes and boxes of greeting cards sent from our families, many with little child signatures and I love yous to Mommie and Daddy or Gamma and PaPa. These I had to quit reading in order to stop crying and finish what I started. On the shelves in the den were my father’s slides and photographs. Unlike my system of “throw ‘em in a box, sort ‘em later” my father had rows and rows of slides and photos neatly arranged and labeled by date and subject.
But it was when I started sorting through the piles of papers my mother had collected from events she had attended over the years that I came face to face with what my mother has been experiencing over the last few years. I began to pull out the funeral brochures and obituaries until I had a large stack of close to 75. These each represented the ending of a life, someone who had played a part in my mother’s life. In these I saw three women my mother met with each week to play bridge, pot-lucking lunch, laughing and sharing family stories. Her very best friend is here; they talked every week and reminisced about their junior and and high school years together. Also are my aunts and uncles, friends that died young and neighbors and colleagues.Though many were on the periphery of my life others were part of it; I can remember them clearly and mourn for them anew. It must be hard to lose all your friends. Mom has a few acquaintances that she sees or calls , but no one she can call with a history; someone that she can laugh and be honest with. How lonely it must be to be the last one.
My mother comes through her hip operation just fine. For a ninety-two year old it was fantastic! A few years ago they probably would not have opted to operate on anyone that age.
We are told that after she leaves the hospital she would have to stay at a nursing/rehabilitation center for a few months for extra care and physical therapy. Since I live the closest to her it fell to me to check up on her and visit. Because it did not matter what facility she went to we decided to have her come to a rehab center where I live to save me all that driving. It would also be an hour and a half closer for my sister and brother when they come to see her. So she is transported by ambulance to a rehab hospital only five miles from my home. We are there when the ambulance arrives. She seems a little mixed up, but considering it is an unfamiliar place in a different city it is understandable. It is only the next morning when we realize how mixed up she really is. At 1 AM the next morning the phone wakes us up. It was my mother.
Are you coming to get me?
What do you mean? You’re in the hospital, Mom.
I know. But I’m out in front waiting for you.
You hurt your hip, Mom, and are supposed to stay in bed.
No, I’m at the YMCA and and need to get home.
Of course, I get a picture of my mother dragging herself out of bed, down the hall and flinging herself out the door onto the front sidewalk. But I know this probably could not happen. I call the nurse’s station and ask them to check on her. They call back half an hour later. Your mother is in bed and she is OK. I think she is hallucinating. We have put a band on her arm so if she does try to get out of bed it will sound an alarm.
This is just the first of many strange conversations we have with my mother over the next few weeks. She tells us there is a basement and they have taken her there for tests. (There is no basement) People are out to get her. She claims the nurses aides that help her take her shower are Marines. (Wow!) She calls friends and they call us. They are worried about her. What we did not know before but learn is that people of her age sometimes have problems with the anesthesia and they may exhibit bizarre behavior and hallucinations for a time afterward. My mother is a classic case.
She does finally begin to get back her sanity and has to start physical therapy. I go to visit her. Most of the time I find her in bed. I look at her daily schedule. “ Why didn’t you go to your therapy session this morning?,” I ask. I was too tired. becomes her mantra. I start visiting her every morning right before her therapy session to make sure she follows through. I know this is hard on her. My mother is not an exerciser. She has never even taken a walk around the block!