Reading another blogger’s post about Thanksgiving and her mother’s disappearance (even though she is still there) made me think of the last Thanksgiving, twelve years ago, with my mother. I would never have left a comment on her blog about my experience, but here, on my own page, I feel that I can write about it. If you have a parent or loved one who is disappearing on you, then perhaps you should just skip this post and wait for my next one, which I hope will be happier. Believe it or not, there are lots of fun things going on around here. I just seem stuck on the sad for awhile.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2000, I drove to the board and care where my mother was living and had been since February after suffering a collapse. The doctor said she could not live alone. My sister and I both worked full time, so the board and care was the best solution. It was a lovely home, in a nice neighborhood, operated by a really nice family. There were usually three ladies in the home, sometimes four. At Thanksgiving, my mother’s roommate had passed away so she was in a room by herself. I picked her up, around 10, on Thanksgiving morning, and took her to my house.
Jennifer was home from Berkeley where she was attending seminary. Her first year. And she was interning at a church in San Mateo. My mother wanted to hear all about it. They sat and chatted about the apartment where Jen was living. Her classes. The church. The commute over the San Mateo Bridge.
I fixed the dinner. We ate, cleaned up. Around 3 p.m. we had pie. At 4:30, just as darkness was coming on, my mother wanted to go home. She was tired. It was getting dark. She wanted to be back in the comfort of her own room. As she was leaving, she opened her purse and gave Jennifer two one dollar bills. For the toll over the San Mateo Bridge. It was all the money she had on her, and she wanted Jen to have it for her next commute. My mother had always tried to do so much for Jennifer, and my sister often said that Jen was our mother’s only grandchild, although there were three much older grandchildren. My age, actually. My mother had been so busy raising me, she had missed out on being a grandma until Jennifer came along.
After goodbyes were said, I took my mother back to the board and care. Got her into the house and returned home. Jennifer had to leave on Friday as she had to prepare for her work on Sunday. Late, Sunday night, we received the call from the board and care that my mother had fallen from her bed and been taken to the hospital. They learned, upon arrival, that she had suffered a major stroke, with severe brain damage. She would not be able to walk, talk, or swallow. The doctor met with us the next day, telling us that he expected Mom to die within a few days, a week at most, and that they were sending her to a convalescent home. People could not die in their hospital.
I would go every other day, after school, and on Saturdays, to see my mother, lying in the bed at the convalescent home. Because she was expected to die soon, they had her at the end of the hall, and were not putting anyone else in the room. One week passed. Two weeks passed. The doctor was wrong and I wanted my mother to get up, go home, and be fine again. His prognosis had been wrong so everything should shift and be right again. Magical thinking on my part. And wrong.
Jennifer came home to see her grandmother. Then she was back on Christmas. We got up early to open presents and then go to the convalescent home. Just as we finished with our presents, the phone rang. My mother had died. My sister was on her way to the convalescent home, walking in as the administrator was giving me the news. I let my sister handle the situation there. Terry and Jennifer headed to his mother’s for her celebration, and I spent the morning taking down all the decorations and putting the house back in order. It was something to do to keep from thinking about what had happened the past month.