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Family Update

Mom passed almost a month ago

Mom at her happiest – At my daughter’s wedding – October 19, 2019

I’ve been grappling with what to say about that ever since

I haven’t said a lot about Mom and our relationship before my abrupt return to her house or about the things I came to surprisingly appreciate about that, in hindsight, especially since Mom’s passing on January 25 of this year.  For the story of how life for both of us had been for the last year, you can refer to the following posts.

I have written this addition about her and me to help me close that relationship and to strengthen me to see it through to the real end.  Right now that would include disposing of the last real assets she owned, especially this house where we had lived together and which I thought I had already left behind. I am paraphrasing a lot of my recent thoughts and emotions, some that were included in the funeral service given by the Rabbi who had only known Mom for 4 years, supplemented by others who had known her better than I had for most of the last 17 years (since my dad’s death and my move to TN), and some that I wrote myself, looking back over what I knew of her life.

Family was very important, even if she was no relation other than having met even just one member of nearly any family.  She had rediscovered some local blood relatives recently and I had hoped to get more info out of her about some of those she grew up around before marriage and children.  On the other hand, I got tired of hearing the same stories over and over about some of them!  I did find out that at one time she had wanted to be a shorthand teacher and was immodestly and I thought sometimes too extremely proud of the story she told about one of her first jobs with what she still referred to as the North American Credit Union. 

Dad was the love of her life and vice versa.  She was his biggest supporter, as she tried to be for me as I was growing up, especially in nudging both of us to join in a whole range of social activities.  He took on her family, caring for them as they aged.  She did that for him too, and for a whole bunch of other people I never knew but heard about, whether I wanted to or not.  I don’t know how Mom and Dad managed to work together in the insurance business for 20+ years without killing each other, and we all knew if something bothered Mom, no matter how long ago it had happened, she would bring it up at least once later, often not even related to whatever the subject under discussion was at the time.

After their early retirement, Mom and Dad took a whole lot of trips, and it was during this period that I first lost track of them, and Mom continued to expand her social circle even after she became a widow. Sometimes, when going through Mom’s mail, I might encounter a strange sender’s name and address. She could still usually recall where she had met them and sometimes even more personal information about these people who to her were always and forever her friends.  Obviously that sentiment was very much reciprocated. One of the first signs of Mom’s Alzheimer’s, that bothered her the most for a very long time, was that she couldn’t balance her check book.  When I took over that duty, I didn’t tell her that I couldn’t always balance it either and as long as I came close that was good enough for me. 

Mom did her best to take care of everyone she loved, to whatever degree she loved them at the time, offering her advice whether requested or not.  She always thought she knew best and we all learned to try not to argue with her if we didn’t agree because she would never let it go otherwise. She also had no problem telling someone a little white lie if she was afraid of losing face or looking bad in their eyes or sometimes of hurting their feelings. Sometimes I would remind her of what she sometimes told me “Lies walk the streets” and if anyone she knew had one, “J. Edgar Brook” would often discover it. 

Dad had started calling her that, a play on the longtime and first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.  Hoover was infamous for digging into the personal lives of people under investigation. Mom did that, too, so we were lucky she didn’t know how to use the internet better. I was touched when the the rabbi told us she called Mom “The Informer”.  Her explanation for that nickname was because Mom took it upon herself to let the rabbi know if any temple members, or even just any of her mostly Jewish friends and acquaintances, needed spiritual support.  Rabbi Lewis got a special kick from Mom’s closure to these messages and conversations, where she asked the rabbi to make sure the person of interest didn’t know how the rabbi knew they were having a spiritual or personal issue for which they might appreciate her help.

Due to Covid, Mom had little to no opportunity to get much of the regular attention she had received from her friends and their families for all those years she had lived alone. In its place she had settled for what she got from a visiting nurse and especially from the physical therapist, though she didn’t like it when I started referring to him as her boyfriend. I was proud that I’d done what I could to protect both her health and mine, in the face of her hunger to maintain constant in-depth contact with her friends, some of whom were merely acquaintances in my book, and who also might show up unexpectedly on her doorstep, vaccinated or masked or not.

I had missed Mom since she stopped being herself, especially since she and I had finally, I felt, figured out a way to live with each other under her roof. I had Mom so hooked the “political news” programs I regularly watched on CNN and MSNBC that she started watching those networks even when I wasn’t in the room!  She even admitted to learning a few things from historical series we watched together on PBS occasionally.  She watched Jeopardy for me and I watched Wheel of Fortune for her.  We both watched 20/20 (though she forgot that’s what it was called) and 60 Minutes (though she forgot what day and time it came on.)  She couldn’t stand the “reality” shows I watched on Bravo and E!  I think they offended her old-fashioned sense of morality. We both missed watching live sports, too. Like many who have had or at least tried to maintain a relationship with an Alzheimer’s patient, it was hard for me to get to a level of comfort with Mom as she was after her fall. Over those last months, while Mom was physically still with us, her mind and sense of reality had been gradually fading away.  She is now with her mom (even at the end Mom still called her “Bubbie”), my dad, and various other assorted friends and relatives I had never met but she remembered, while still “mentally” preparing and planning to take care of her home and the people she loved.

7 replies on “Mom passed almost a month ago”

You’ve written very well about your mom and about the struggles of Alzheimer’s. My grandmother was barely verbal for the last year of her struggle and it was disturbing to see her sitting by complete strangers in the nursing home -my grandfather was still alive, for Pete’s sake!

Liked by 2 people

The bitter-sweetness of the time you spent with your mother near the end shines through your writing about her. I hope that over time you remember more of the sweetness of this time and less of the bitterness. May you know no more pain.

Liked by 1 person

Thanks for recognizing that and sympathizing with me. There will always be pain in life but I can honestly say the pain associated with that relationship is past to the point where I can now appreciate it and move on to a better place.

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