Tuesday, February 11, 2014

52 People Project - My Mom

This past Wednesday something was said on the radio that raised a grammatical question and I reached for the phone to call my mom. She has always been the queen of grammar. Sometimes she filled the role so well that she interrupted even the simplest of stories to correct the storyteller. Often I found myself working out the "I's" and "Me's" beforehand in order to be able to get through my tale without interruption. When I was 8, 12, and 17, this was a great frustration but now as an adult, I feel thankful for the correct grammar my mom instilled in me. I still get it wrong sometimes and I am by no means a grammar nazi but it has given me some confidence in my writing and verbal communication.

Perhaps many don't know the journey my mom has been on over the past few years. Growing up, my mom's mind was a steel trap. I can remember many times my dad quietly asking as acquaintances walked away "who was that?" and my mom was able to recall their names, how we knew them and maybe even finer details like where they lived or the names of their children. Her memory was mind-boggling. She was an avid reader; she likes John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks. History, Science, Math…she seemed to know it all. She attributed that to the wonderful teachers she had at Skiatook High School so many years ago. I often wondered why she didn't make the trip to Culver City to be a participant on Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune. I wouldn't have been the slightest bit shocked if she would have won.

My mom was also very social. When I was young, I remember my mom spending hours on the phone with friends and family. She spoke with her mother almost every day even if only for a few moments to catch up on the gossip from her home town. I moved from under my parents roof over 20 years ago and I could rely on hearing from her at least a few times a week and sometimes a few times a day. She taught children's Sunday School for many years and she would happily host work and church events in our home. She was a member of the choir and attended a weekly women's Bible Study and volunteered serving food at church socials. I don't think she has missed a single one of her High School reunions; often she has been on the planning committee for the weekend events. Even up until 6 months ago, she would gather with some of her high school friends to have dinner and play Mexican Train. Connection was always important to her.

My mom on vacation 4 months ago
I can't put a finger on when things started changing. Maybe it is like the infamous frog in the pot of hot water metaphor. Change came so slowly that we didn't realize what was happening, but nonetheless, it has happened. The mom I once knew is gone.

Slowly my mom has withdrawn into herself. Her appetite has decreased and her hours of sleep have multiplied. There are times when the boys and I go by for a visit and she doesn't say a word. With a great amount of help from my father, she hosted Thanksgiving this past year. She ate quickly and quietly and retired to her recliner as we finished eating and cleaning up. Connection and fellowship seem to be the furthest thing from her mind.

During a recent hospitalization, I went to see her. I spent a little over an hour with her making sure that she was comfortable and settled for the night. We had conversation but only about things that were tangible in the room. We talked about the dry erase board and what it said and about how interesting the ceiling tiles looked. We talked about the bed and whether it was better with the legs up or down. It seemed to be more comfortable keeping conversation in a space where she didn't have to tap into the foggy details of history.

Within the past 2 weeks, she has started taking new medications and there has been some improvement. She is now having some "good" days where she is a recognizable version of her old self but those days are occasional and unpredictable. This past weekend, I was going through my phone voicemail messages and realized that I haven't received a call from mom since December 12th when she called to ask me again what the boys wanted for Christmas…a question I had answered at least a half a dozen times already. I hope I didn't roll my eyes or have a twinge of frustration at her question. I hope I was kind and loving. I hope that I told her that I loved her and that I was here for her if she needed anything. I hope that she will get to a place where she wants to call me on the phone again.

My grandmother (my mom's mom) passed away in 2002 and it drives me crazy that I can't remember exactly what her voice sounded like. I so wish I could remember what she sounded like when she said my name. There must be a part of me that refuses to let this happen again. I have 18 voicemails on my cellphone that I can't bring myself to erase. With a tap of button, I can hear my mom say "Hi baby, this is your mother" and several calls end with "I love you."

I am thankful that I still have time with my mom. I look forward to the moments that feel normal. I have deep respect for my father who, although he is not in the best health, takes care of her day in and day out. We don't know what this journey will look like. I am certain there will bumps along the way. There will be uncertainty and sadness but hopefully there will be some good times as well.

My best advice to anyone who is reading this blog is to take a few minutes and call someone that you love. Memorize their voice and tell them that you love them. Slow down and appreciate the simple things…those mundane things that we take for granted are the very things we may miss the most.

…because there will be a time when you too will absentmindedly reach for the phone to ask a question that can't be answered.

Until next time,

(Ha! And yes, I wish my mom could check my grammar before posting this blog!)