(photo by E. Herd)
A walk in the snow,
a lavendar bath,
a glass of wine,
a workout at the gym,
just have to be
before the fear
The Super Bowl is sexy. Well, at least the Victoria’s Secret commercials and some of the halftime entertainment are, from what I’ve heard. I don’t watch it (sorry), so I don’t know. Death is not sexy.
I haven’t seen my mom in a couple weeks due to the death of my father-in-law and being sick myself, but I spoke to her last night at around 8 p.m. She was in a state.
I don’t like it when she’s in “a state.” Most of the time she seems fairly serene, even content and happy. On other occasions, she is lucid and questions her life and how she’s living.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Not well,” she said, a faint moan in her voice.
“Everything. I can’t get anything done. What will become of me?”
“What happened, Mom?”
“I can’t get ready for bed. What kind of life is this? I’d rather be dead.”
“I’m sorry you’re upset, Mom.”
“What’s going to happen to me? I can’t do anything, can’t go anywhere.”
“I know, I’m sorry.”
I had no words of wisdom to impart. I agreed with everything she said. What kind of life was this?
“What about the grahams?” she said.
“I’m bringing you the cookies this weekend.”
“Are you sure? Are you really coming?”
“Yes, I’ll be there.”
“It’s been such a long time.”
“Lorin’s father died, then I was very sick last weekend. I didn’t want to get you sick.”
“Oh, right. But you will come this weekend?” Pain in her voice.
“Yes, I promise. I’m sorry you feel so bad. Is there anything good on 13?”
“No, nothing but junk—ads.”
“Oh. There’s still snow on the ground. Isn’t it pretty?”
“Yes, I always like that.”
“It’s going to snow tonight into tomorrow morning, they said.”
“Oh, that’ll be good.”
She loved shoveling snow when we lived in Jackson Heights. I have a photo of her shoveling on the stoop, cheeks flushed and smiling.
“Okay, Mom. Try to get some sleep. I’ll see you in a couple days.”
“Okay, good night, dear.”
She still sounded awful. I didn’t provide any comfort and felt utterly helpless and sad.
She lives at The Actors Home in the Enhanced (Alzheimer’s) Unit, with fellow performing artists. It’s the best place she could possibly be. But I don’t like bearing witness to her pain and suffering.
Jeffory Morshead wrote a bestselling book called Alzheimer’s: The Long Goodbye (The Emotional Aspects of Caregiving). That is what it is: a long death, not a speedy, graceful one. There are different qualities of “good nights” and goodbyes. Last night was not a good one.
Yesterday was not a day to be out of doors. Ruby, our red Pathfinder, was covered in a sheet of ice, icicles hanging like fringe from the side mirrors and the bottom of the doors—not the surrey with the fringe on top. We had to venture forth. Ruby saved me during a car accident almost 4 years to the day; she would come through for us today.
We were out of salt, so Lorin scattered kitty litter on the front steps and walkway before we left. It does the trick, but it’s a bitch to clean up later.
It took about two hours to drive from New Jersey to the Bronx—there was an accident on the Bruckner Interchange. We headed to the Whitestone, onto the Cross Island Parkway, then onto the LIE. It took another hour to reach Long Island with the brakes acting up, Lorin pumping them to try to unfreeze the brake pads. It took a while to come to a full stop on icy roads. It was a white knuckler of a ride.
When I allowed myself not to be afraid, I took in the sky: thick and white, only the outlines of trees visible. Hauntingly beautiful and composed.
Cold, snow, ice and loss have mixed together into a kind of cosmic blender. A gentle snow fell the night of my accident in 2011, the first time I diapered my mother, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Another January has come, and Lorin’s father has passed away after a heart attack from which he never awoke. Lorin, his dad’s girlfriend B and I were at the hospital on and off for nine days. The palliative team at Bellevue Hospital kept him very comfortable, and he died peacefully. A good death, you could say.
We gathered on Long Island with family for bagels and coffee, to look at photographs, to reminisce and make plans for a memorial, most likely in the spring.
“Dad liked nature,” Lorin said. He would have liked to see the flowers in bloom.
Out of the ice and into the bloom.
He sang in the choir at his Lutheran church. They laid his robe over his chair during the church service yesterday.
We drove his girlfriend B back to Brooklyn, Lorin still pumping brakes, no ice falling, but heavy rain.
When Lorin lit up a cigarette, B said, “That reminds me of your father.”
“How many did he smoke a day?” I asked.
“Only 2 or 3. I’ll miss him when I’m at home,” she said.
It was a little easier driving home, but still scary at times. At times we stopped breathing, I think.
This morning, I scraped off the cemented-on kitty litter on the stairs and walkway with a shovel, disposing of as much as I could; some was frozen under a layer of ice. Later on, Lorin hosed off more of the litter and put down liquid blue Ice Melt. We dropped Ruby off at the mechanic.
A London Broil’s in the slow cooker, listening to the new age music channel, Soundscapes.
No ice storm in the forecast. We welcome the mundane.