Tuesday evening we were invited to my Aunt Rosemary’s for dinner by her daughter my cousin Janet, who is the only one of my cousins I sort of stay in touch with. Every year Janet sends me a Christmas letter which I receive sometime in mid- to late January. It is filled with news and funny stories about her and her family.
Janet is a special ed teacher and is one of those upbeat individuals who turns every foible in her life into a hilarious story and she keeps us all laughing. Her sister Connie is the prankster who teases everyone. Cheryl, the eldest, looks on with calm, amused reserve. Their brother, my cousin Tom, has chosen to avoid our hen party leaving Bill as the token male until Tom’s son Matt arrives as we are having dessert. Rosemary tells me that Matt is her favorite grandchild and the kindest person she’s ever known.
Rosemary is not well and hasn’t been for some time. Her husband Bill is currently in a rehab facility after knee replacement surgery. She tells me her daughters bring her dinner every day. Doctors appointments are scheduled for her son’s days off. I think she may be slightly disapproving of the fact that my mother is in assisted living and that I visit her once a year and only then out of a sense of obligation. I’m pretty sure Rosemary doesn’t appreciate my labeling my visit as a guilt trip.
This makes me start to think about how different my life might have been if only. If only we hadn’t moved every few years while I was growing up. If only I had roots…somewhere. I guess my roots were put down in Florida because that’s where my parents left me and that’s the longest I lived anywhere.
My mother never wanted to leave Missouri and she made that clear the entire time we lived elsewhere. My dad spent his life apologizing for “dragging her all over the place.” He apologized to us kids, too. Speaking of guilt trips… I think if my mother had had a better attitude about moving a lot we would have, too. After my dad retired my parents chose to move back to Missouri far away from half of their children and all of their grandchildren. Sometimes I wonder what did they expect? There was no one here to take care of them. Their siblings were aging just as they were and eventually passing away.
I’d have had more involvement in their care if they hadn’t relocated, but I can’t change that now.
The truth is my mother is in a high-quality facility and she’s happy there. The care is excellent. My aunts visit her fairly regularly. As near as I can tell she isn’t suffering at all and seems content or as content as anyone can be given her physical limitations. A childhood friend of hers has recently moved in to the same facility. This makes me think about “the circle of life” and how we distance ourselves from one another through choice or circumstance but how we can come back together in the same ways.
Yesterday I managed to sort through clothes and books and donate three bags of clothes to a local thrift shop and two boxes of books to the library. I’ll be sorting through more today. In the garage are boxes upon boxes. Photos and more clothes and video cassettes and books. The miscellany of several lives. My father, my brother, my mother.
I am just as frustrated as I was last year that I can’t find a couple of items belonging to my dad. Where are they? Where did they go? I sort through my mother’s collection of Depression glass, wondering if I can take a few pieces home with me without them getting broken. I think I will try.
We’ve been to Casey’s for donuts, returning to the house just as it began to rain. There’s no TV here, well, there’s a TV but no cable or reception. My husband is going through withdrawal, reduced to scanning the headlines on my cell phone without finding news he’s interested in.
I’ll continue my travels through drawers and shelves and closets today, wondering why my mother kept the things she did. Why her travel cosmetic bag is filled with nothing except crumpled tissues. Why she kept the little plastic bags and the labels from pantyhose packages. Why there are numerous packages of cotton swabs, tubes of hand lotion, plastic bags. Shampoo bottles with a thin layer of shampoo left at the bottom, prescriptions long out of date, bracelets from hospital stays more than five years ago.
I believe my mother’s memory problems started long ago, but of course, I wasn’t here to see it or do anything about it. It’s only in retrospect that I can see some of her behavior for what it must have been at the time.
If the rain lets up a bit I will go visit her again today, timing my visit for 10 a.m. She’ll be done with breakfast and still alert enough to recognize me I hope. I bought her a new lipstick and some little packs of cookies. I can’t bring her a whole box because if she has access she’ll eat them all in one sitting.
Check out the series of last year’s blogs about a similar trip starting here: http://barbmeyers.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/family-therapy-in-the-house-of-dust-part-one/
or check out my guest blog post here:
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