Death Is Not Sexy

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.

“What’s wrong?”

“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.

Momma glamour shot
Mom as a young actress (photo by Joe Ratke)