Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Final Ten Years

Fiorella revised a three-page note she wrote many years ago. Warningf--she's still revising.

My mother had turned the corner, and I knew it would be all downhill from then on. We'd been through it with Husband's mom and dad, and buried both of them wihtin the last ten years so now it was my parents' time. After all they were ten years younger than Husband's parents. Seventy-five, I told myself. I've got to remember that age. It seemed to be the watershed, the beginning of the long, last journey.  But my mother, my strong, resourceful mother--somehow I never thought she would succomb.

That is, until my parents drove up to Ohio and Pennsylvania to visit relatives. Or rather, my father, with his failing vision, drove while Mother rode. My brother and I had wanted them to fly, but Mother was afraid of flying and kept making up excuses. A week into their visit, her blood pressure shot up, her heartbeat became irregular, and, while she was in the hospital, she developed a fever.

There she was, 1500 miles away from home, in intensive care. I prayed a lot because I knew death doesn't always take the full ten years, but she was released from the hospital four days later. Now the question was how to get her back home to Texas because there was no way she could be medically supervised during a three-day car trip. Cornered, she acquiesced to flying.

Brother and my eighteen-year-old son flew up to drive my parents' car back to Texas, and Mom and Dad flew back three days later. Brother and I met them at the Austin (?) airport, and I was shocked. Mother, who always dressed well, looked like a bag lady. Her polyester slacks were pulled to the side, the tie on her polyester shirt was knotted unevenly, her hair was a total mess., the cardigan and canvas shoes she had on didn't match anything else, her face, bare of make-up, was gray and tired, a scab of a fever blister covered half her upper lip, and a button on her sweater identified her origin of departure and her destination, like she was a piece of luggage that might get lost in transit.

And my father, my wonderful, always bouyant father, looked, at last, like an old man.

We packed them into their car, but it died in the luggage lane so my father called AAA for help. I started to go over to the wall phone to help him because he was obviously having problems, but my mother grabbed at me. "Don't leave me," she pleaded. "I'm just going over to help Dad," I explained, then recruited my brother to stay with her till I got back.

The AAA man, it turned out, had been trying to locate us, but, between the airport din and the essential tremor quaver in my father's voice, he couldn't understand what Dad was saying. "I'll handle it, Dad," I said in what I hoped was a strong, authoratative tone. "You go sit with Mother." To my surprise, he did.

Mom was getting more and more agitated by the minute so I deided to take her home till the car got fixed (phoning the kids first to clean up the house, of course). She leaned on me all the way to my car, and, when we got to the house, I had to sit with her for two hours while my father and brother drove all over town looking for a new battery for my parents' car. She needed me to be in sight at all times. She didn't even want me to go into the next room. I couldn't help but think about the last years of my mother-in-law's life. She'd grown increasingly infirm physically and strange mentally, and I wasn't ready for my own mother to totter down that same path. She had been the mainstay of my life, assuring me she was right about everything--and she very nearly was. I was not yet ready to stand alone..

And now I myself am seventy-five. The journey begins.

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