Emma, my mother, died when I was born. Having been a vegetarian all her life she said she was therefore a bleeder. So, for three days in September 1941 as I was being born blue with the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, she was bleeding to death. Family rushed in, transfusions were given. My aunt, Emma’s sister-in-law, fainted. The doctor brought Emma back to life. She forever revered him.
I died in 2001, in October. That’s when my life as I knew it ended; that’s when I as I knew myself ceased existence. That’s when Emma began to lose herself, too. But I didn’t know it yet.
I had lived in Redondo Beach, California, for 30 years, my entire adult life so far, raised my daughter there. Then for the winter of 1995 I decided to go to Naples, Florida, for a working vacation. I could stay with Emma, who owned a villa there. I moved out of my apartment, packing up all my things and putting them into storage. I left my daughter, 27, standing on the curb in Redondo, waving goodbye in my rearview mirror. I would return soon. I drove my little Hyundai solo across country to Florida. I stayed seven years; I liked my job.
In 2000 Emma sold her villa and moved up north to be near her family and friends in Wilmington, Delaware.
I stayed in Florida another year, and then drove north, too, in October 2001, to visit family before heading west and home to California. I boxed up and shipped most of my belongings West. My daughter and I had planned for a big 60th birthday party reunion with all my friends when I returned to California. I arrived in Wilmington at 1 a.m. Emma was waiting up and ready with food for me after my long trip up from the South. Only a mother….
Yet, quickly I saw that she needed help — in Florida, in her early 80s, while I was with her, she had survived a lumpectomy and a mini stroke — and after all, now, she was 87. She couldn’t live alone, and there was no one else but me.
I felt the floor of my chest open and my heart plunge into my stomach.
I had no clothes, not even a winter coat. I pieced together part-time jobs, including one at a department store where with my discount and position to see when clothes went on sale, I could buy clothes for a good price, and another as a freelance features writer for The News-Journal, the Wilmington daily newspaper.
Thus began our decade-long trek through murky tunnels and craggy paths. I stumbled often. Emma simply fell: I ran and got neighbors to help pick her up. I often found no response of help from state and healthcare agencies. There were days when I told healthcare aides to leave and never come back, days when the aides left Emma alone for hours, while I was out, without telling me.
In October 2001 I had chosen to stay in Delaware and care for my mother: my lifestyle and the self I knew ceased to exist thenceforth.
Visiting from A/Z; I read your other entries here for the challenge. I do admire you for the caregiver you chose to be for your mom in her final years. I’m sure she did appreciate the care you gave her.
Thanks, Betty, I appreciate your coming by and reading these stories of my mother’s and my journey through her dementia. I must admit, I was shooting in the dark all the way, and possibly should have started seeking help sooner. I think she did appreciate my being there for her, even though she said otherwise in her darker moments. I will say more about the Help under “H.”
Profound post Samantha thank you. I swear life is so strange and hard at times. Forget about having any choice in the matter – this also is I think what makes life changing in front of your eyes and having no choice. But, we can react to what happens and you did so in the best possible way. In a way it was a case of the helpless helping the helpless in my view. The blind leading the blind .. and the bottom dropping out. Your lifestyle and your old self had to be left behind and a brave and courageous one forged even more.
And, through that change, that long, dark passage, at the end there was light, even brighter than before, and I met you. You just never know, as you said. I am grateful.
I too, Samantha, for meeting you. Thank you.
Your post moved me – life definitely has a way of dropping surprises on us when we least expect them. Thank you for sharing some of your story.
Thank you, Laurel for coming by. I believe that when it’s time for life to show us a new perspective, to enlighten us, sometimes we must simply be stopped in our tracks and spun around, as if we’re trying to pin the tail on the donkey, but we’re mistakenly across the room after the guppy, instead.
I agree with Pat’s comments. You definitely were ‘sucker-punched’ by the disease but you stood up to the situation. Life definitely throws curve-balls at us periodically, but you stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun.
I don’t know about the homerun part, Gwynn, but I did my best. My mother’s saying, “I’ll have you fired!” might indicate that I only made it to third base. I think I use her line in an upcoming A-Z post.
Anyway, thank you. So glad you came by to read and comment.
You are so wise and right on about this, Patricia. Thanks so much for your kind thoughts.
I think we are hardest hit when the plans we’ve made change before our eyes. With you, it was the realisation, that your life as you knew it would be on hold for a while. It is good that you did not know how long it would be on hold. That fact would have probably scared you and forced you into making a decision that you couldn’t live with afterward.
I admire the fact that even though your face was against the wall, you decided to peek over and take up the challenge.