My New Mom, At 76

The Macchu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Sit...
Machu Picchu, Peru, where Mom and I climbed and once saw the sunrise together...Image via Wikipedia

Today is going to be a difficult day, as I’ll say goodbye to my mother — who I’ve typically been seeing only once a year for years, living a six-hour flight away from her.

Two weeks ago, I and a friend of hers moved her into a nursing home, her car and apartment sold, her Japanese prints and engravings and rugs sent to auction, some of her linens and antique textiles given to me and shipped back to New York, where I live.

I’m her only child.

She’s a new person, now, in a totally new environment, a loner surrounded by people she has just met and whose care and attention (or lack of same) will profoundly affect her every day and night. I’d be terrified. But she’s doing well. I burst into tears of relief yesterday at a pub lunch with her when she told me that her three windows, which overlook a private garden, were like three television sets, all view, all the time. She’s happy and healthy, and she had been neither for a long time.

I have been told — and see glimpses of it — she has some dementia. Yet we talked last night, in detail, about family and friends for four hours. I feel as though her intelligence is sands in an hourglass, and I have to grab it and savor it as often as I can.

Which is very difficult over the phone and from an enormous physical distance. Yet I am rooted to my adopted town and country — a half hour drive from her birthplace — as she is in hers, a 20-minute flight from mine.

We did not get along for many years. We’re stubborn, headstrong, feisty, private. I haven’t lived with her since I was 14 and we have always lived a continent or an ocean apart: she in Lima, I in Toronto; she in New Mexico, I in Montreal.

The closest we ever lived, when I was 26, was when she lived in Bath, England and I in Paris. I remember saying to her that year “I’ll meet you at the plane station”, a direct/weird translation of “aerogare”, aka an airport. That’s what happens when you think and dream in French!

Now, after 3.5 months in the hospital and a hip surgery and a bowel surgery, adjusting to the discomfort and indignity of a colostomy bag, she looks healthy and happy again. She uses a walker, but does so with an energy I hadn’t seen in a while.

Being my Mom, she told me to lose weight and asked me to buy her some tweezers — as a former model and actress, such details still matter!

So it’s with a heavy heart I peck out these letters in my hotel room, counting the minutes until I have to say goodbye.

It was never this hard before.

11 thoughts on “My New Mom, At 76

  1. Dennis

    This post kind of hits home since I went through the thing with my grandmother years ago and now am faced with an aging parent thats not too much younger than your mother. Fortunately, she’s still in good health and fairly independent but it’s hard not to worry. Those random late night wrong numbers are the worst! Don’t count your mother out yet. Sounds like she’s still engaged and making the best of her situation. Managed care isn’t the end of the world, especially if she can strike up some good friendships.

  2. Pingback: Time to Celebrate! « Woman Wielding Words

  3. Your mom sounds like quite a woman, and you are too. I can imagine your pain at bidding her farewell – what a gift that you’ve had this hugely important and transitional time with her.
    Strength and hugs to you
    Sunshine xx

  4. Thanks. Saying goodbye was horrible. Hoping to get back out here in July…wishing it was not so far and expensive….

    My mom has never opened up the way she did on this visit. It made a huge difference.

  5. I find it very comforting to know that your relationship with your mother changed and mellowed over the years, and also that even at an advanced age, health can improve. I tend to see things sliding downhill without check and so it’s encouraging to remember that nothing ever stays the same, and things can go up as well as down.

    1. There is much I am not saying in the blog, to protect my mother. I will say that alcohol and smoking made her health and mood much worse before she entered the nursing home, and if she continues to abstain from both, I will be able to enjoy a much better relationship with her. But both of these are crucial factors in how well we were able to get along.

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