Thursday, May 5, 2011

Through the Fog

Her face was bruised and battered. Her upper lip was swollen, and the purple colored mustache served as further reminder of the trauma she had sustained. Her jaw was slightly misshapen, and a line of color descended from her mouth to her chin and towards her left ear. Behind this ear there was a bump and a bruise. The back of her head hurt to the touch. Her neck, at the shoulders, felt stiff and she was in pain if she turned her head in either direction. Her arm, just below the shoulder was giving her trouble. The middle of her back was tender. And her leg, just above her buttocks, was another area that had sustained damage.

As we sat in her kitchen, I gently tried to repeat to her the events of the last few days. The fall during the night, the call to 911, the determination that she was ok to remain at home; then the near fainting during lunch and another emergency call for help; the hospitalization and the battery of tests and her release 2 days later. And within a few minutes I repeated the tale again.

Yet somehow, with this latest episode have come some moments of remarkable clarity for my Mom, as she senses the inevitable approaching. Sitting at the table, she told me that she had lived a wonderful life, with loving and hard working parents, terrific siblings, a perfect husband, and the greatest children anyone could imagine. Here, as in the hospital, she gave instructions on how to live one's life. And then she said she was not going anywhere, anytime soon.

She now takes great pride in hearing, on a regular basis, that she is 93 years old. Where age was throughout most of her life, something she strenuously avoided discussing, now she wears it like a badge of honor. Confronted with failing eyesight, significant loss of hearing, an inability to locate herself in time and place, memory that is almost non-existent, difficult nights, and often more difficult days, wobbling gait and the visual reminders of her last fall, she tells me that she is in pretty good shape for her age. She advises that she has no right to expect more than this. She is just happy to get up in the morning and live another day.

We speak of how remarkable a journey it has been. She was born while the First World War was still raging. She has lived through the roaring 20's, prohibition, Babe Ruth, Franklin Roosevelt, the depression, the Second World War. I ask her if she feels like she has lived through different universes of time. She nods her assent.

I realize that I am romanticizing this tale somewhat. My mom's conversation is given through the fog that long ago descended upon her. Much of what I relate as a straight line conversation was truly a bit less than that, and the philosophy was tinged with confusion. But overall, this is a true story. This is how I believe my mom views the journey she has taken through nine decades. She has considered herself among the fortunate ones. She revered her parents, adored her siblings, cherished her husband, and took great pride in her children and grandchildren who have been as devoted to her as she has been to them.

At times I can now find true pleasure and joy in being with my Mom, diminished as she may be. It has been a struggle for me to accept and embrace this very altered version. But I find myself laughing again in her presence, amused by her flashes of wit and amazed by her philosophical musings. Like my Mom, I am willing to battle through the fog to find the light that still shines deep within her.

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