My mom just celebrated her ninety-second birthday on December thirteenth. Much of my blog content has included experiences of facing the realities of an aging parent, something I never gave a second thought about when I was in my thirty’s. Taking for granted that my parents had each other and they would always as they grew old. Together, in their own home. But of course, it doesn’t play out like that. After fifty-eight years together they became separated with dad passing away at age seventy-seven.
And although mom remarried at seventy-nine, four years later she was widowed again.
When she was eighty-six we took a road trip to Cardston to visit family; this is when I felt the magnitude of understanding that my mom is now all alone. I witnessed how unsteady she was in the morning, that her memory wasn’t as sharp. That no longer is there anyone to wake up to, or say goodnight to at the end of the day. She was living alone in Parksville, an hours drive from me, and it gave me concern. I’ve already written about how I managed with this in other blog posts, so I’ll just say it has been a journey.
The last nine years in spending so much time with her has enriched me more in ways that I couldn’t have expected, leading to an even deeper bond. Our mother-daughter relationship became a friendship. We talked about everything, laughed a lot, went on drives, and she shared many thoughts and experiences from her life that now as an adult I can appreciate. That I can be privy to. I was discovering her as a woman, as an individual.
And all of it comes with heartbreak. Watching someone you love slowly lose ground not only in advanced aging but coupled with dementia; knowing all the things you know about them that they no longer know about themselves, and nothing can prepare you. It is the stage in which the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child. But instead of watching your child growing vigorous and branching out, you’re watching the opposite.
Dementia is a thief. Shrinking an entire life into only immediate confusing moments, each forgotten as quickly as they come. But thankfully, over the last seven years it has robbed slowly. If one can be thankful for such a thing. I’m thankful too in having had the time to spend so closely with her before the disease progresses further. As it always does, as it’s doing now. Thankful again that she is imbued with grace and humour, and optimism. This at least hasn’t waned.
Three months ago my sister and I have finally managed to move our mom down from the care facility in Parksville to one in our city of Nanaimo. A move we attempted over two years before when she moved out of her townhouse, but complications arose that had sent her back up to Parksville. In the years since she’s been widowed we’ve done our best in keeping our mom integrated in our lives, and I think we’ve succeeded, short of having her live with one of us. Which, if one of us could have done, we would have. And so are left with doing the next best thing.