“I don’t want to see you ever again.”

“I don’t want to see you ever again.”

This week my mother, who is suffering from dementia and now living in a nursing home, accused me of lying and told me she did not ever want to see me again.  Every day I do research and scan the internet for help and advice and comfort from others facing this same sadness in their lives.  I have learned a lot, but I haven’t escaped the pain of watching a woman who once was so creative, sewing and knitting and cooking and baking, deteriorate into someone who cannot use a phone or turn on the television or find the call button to call for help when she needs it.

She is someone who now suffers from delusions, thinking her very lovely roommate is conspiring against her.  She thinks the staff is against her, laughing at her, and scheming to get her into trouble.  She is sick to her stomach and can’t eat or sleep.  She is afraid one of the male residents will come into her room and rape her and she tries to find a way to lock her door.  When darkness falls, the fears take over and she cries for hours.  I am consumed by my own fear and sadness and panic at what to do to hold on to the mother I love with all my heart, the mother who took care of my sister and me as we struggled with breast cancer, never for a moment indicating to us the extent of her own fatigue and sadness.

I hate this disease. It’s taken a place alongside the cancer that took my father’s life and the breast cancer that took my sister’s life.  It will soon take away my mother’s also.  I try to hold on to hope and search for comfort during the holiday season.  This is the first Thanksgiving I won’t share dinner with either of my daughters or host a family dinner at my house.  I will go to the nursing home and sit beside my mother (who has since apologized and told me she didn’t mean what she said) while she eats a Thanksgiving dinner she doesn’t really want.  I will tell her I love her, kiss the top of her head like I always do, and return home wondering how to reconfigure the holiday season to this new normal.  I have a lot to be grateful for because I do still have family, my husband, mother, daughters and granddaughters, and I have a house with everything I need.  I won’t go hungry or be cold during the holiday season.  I will just be sad.

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Anguish

Anguish

The dictionary defines anguish as “extreme pain or distress of either body or mind.”  But these are only words.  Anguish is visual.  It’s the look on the face of a mother who has just lost her child.  It’s the look on the faces of the family who has lost everything in a fire or hurricane.   It’s the look on the face of a child who just wants to go home to her room and her toys.   It’s the look on the face of an elderly woman with dementia searching for words she once used to know.  It’s the look on the face of an animal in a cage, abandoned, abused, alone, unknowingly waiting to be euthanized because no one wants him.  Humanity knows a lot about anguish without needing to look for a definition to explain what it is we feel in moments of crisis.

I think a lot about anguish these days as I continue to view the images of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy.  These images are often followed by the Christmas shopping frenzy enticements.  I watched the line of people at Best Buy already camped out with their tents and grills waiting to get that special deal on a flat screen TV, willing to forfeit their Thanksgiving dinner with family just to save a little money.  I guess it would be easier for me to understand if they left the store on Thanksgiving Day and handed the television or other electronic purchase to a family that has just lost everything.  I look for the spiritual connection to Christmas and don’t see it in big box store ads that encourage us to spend and spend and spend when we are facing an economic crisis in our country.  A good deal is important, I know, to those families who don’t have a lot of money and I guess consumer spending will help the economy a little in the end, but still I wish we could decrease our spending and increase our compassion and generosity at this time of year.

The anguished faces haunt me, yet I can’t turn away from them the way I can turn away from those people in line at Best Buy to score a bargain.  I don’t see anguish on their faces.  I detect a smidgen of greed during this very sad holiday time for so many.  If we keep our focus on family and helping others, maybe we can still keep a little of the true spirit of Christmas.

Black Friday at the Beach

I had a lot to be grateful for over Thanksgiving weekend.  I didn’t get pepper-sprayed, shot in a parking lot, or mugged at knife point after making my purchases at the mall.  Actually, I never went to the malls.  My husband, mother, dog, cat, and I all went to New Jersey to visit my oldest daughter.  She cooked a turkey dinner, we sat around and laughed and talked, and we watched Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and several football games.  Isn’t that what Thanksgiving should be?  I can’t understand why anyone would forfeit family time at Thanksgiving to save some money on a flat-screen television or a sweater.   Maybe our values are not really so different from our elected officials who don’t seem to be able to put human needs above personal interests.

On  Friday we all went to Smithville, a restored historical village five minutes from my daughter’s house.  There we went to our favorite stores.  One is an angel store with all things angelic.  Another was the Irish store.  We always go to the candy and fudge shop.  At night there were hundreds of  trees floating in the lake all lit in various Christmas colors choreographed to Christmas music.  It was wonderful!

The best part of Friday was the time we spent at the beach in Brigantine.  The temperature was in the 60s, we could park right next to the entrance to the beach, and we could easily walk the beach without tripping over people.  There were some other people at the beach, however.  Some were sitting in beach chairs, some were fishing, some were jogging or walking or sitting on the sea wall enjoying the warmth of the sun and the pounding of the surf.  I was certainly grateful to be able to go to the beach at the end of November!

One other moment made me grateful for what I have.  There is a wonderful older couple who lives in the condo upstairs from my daughter’s condo.  The woman had cancer a few years ago and is now dealing with a recurrence.  I saw her several times over the weekend out in front of the condos feeding the squirrels and birds.  She also puts food out for some stray cats in the area.   I am impressed by her determination to continue to live her life the best way she can.  I am also grateful that I have not had a recurrence of my cancer, and I can go visit my children and grandchildren and appreciate my family time together.

I don’t worry that I might have missed a great deal on Black Friday.  I had an unbeatable deal in the time I spent with family.  And the best bargain of the day was found at the beach.  What price can you put on the sound of the sea, the warmth of the sun, and the peacefulness of the shore?