Our Slow Decline

June 26, 2010

I was with her when the doctor said…No more driving. Then as if that weren’t enough shock to absorb in any given moment, he followed up his proclamation with…and now is the time for assisted living. There wasn’t much tenderness, certainly no words of empathy about the loss of her independence, or leaving the home that has stored a lifetime of treasures and memories and been her safe haven from a world that was often  too overwhelming.

We’ve known this was coming. But we have all agreed to wait and see…see if the next fall she suffers will render her less capable than the one before. See if after the trauma of the car accident has passed, her memory might return. But the other day, when I stopped for by for an unexpected visit and she looked me right in the eye and spoke about people I didn’t know, relatives that never existed, I knew we were reached a different place

So after multiple tests, including enduring hospital food for four days and the wrong medication, we are together in her home again.  She is filled with appreciation and denial. She is sure that things will improve and she will be driving and planting her summer tomatoes before we know it.

She has an amazing sense of humor. She always has. She has been able to make me laugh in times so dark I just wanted to disappear. She has always laughed at herself, her own idiosyncrasies and how she is absolutely NOTHING like her wing-nut brother and sister. We laughed last night…about memory loss and aging, about diapers and food spilled down the front of every clean shirt. She recalled detailed stories from the past that had us both remembering and revisiting. But then she couldn’t remember if she had taken her p.m. pills, or where she had put her jewelry or what the dr. said about her driving.

I explained again, knowing I would explain again, and again and again.

I find this moment, this transition for her and therefore all of us who love her, feels like a mental version of tai chi. She comes forward with doubt,  frustration and fear of what she must leave behind before knowing what lies ahead, and I don’t resist, or offer any objection or impatience…instead I lean with her, I surrender control  and let her move as she needs to so she can  naturally  find her own balance. By doing so I know we are working together to create an altered life… for both of us. Every day will be different than the one before, but the truth of loss will be consistent.  We are learning to let go and hold on for and to dear life at the same time.

She has been my safe haven and now I am hers. I hope I am up to the challenge.

8 Responses to “Our Slow Decline”

  1. What a beautiful testament to a situation that most people don’t want to talk about, and are often ashamed to portray. I lived this transition with my mother as well. Thank you for allowing the beauty live side-by-side with the sadness.

  2. Gail Says:

    You are . . up to the challenge, that is. More than you can imagine – even when you can’t imagine, or don’t want to. We step up, sometimes balancing the world on but one tiny toe hold. And then we step up again. And again. You’ll see.

    Your mother’s stories are changing, as they always do. And the roles you play in them will change as well. Stay the protagonist as long as you can. But let the story be hers. Let her write it. Let her dream it. Then hold it for her as gently and firmly as you know you can.

  3. margie Says:


    My heart is aching for and with you. You are made for “such a time as this”. You are an amazing safe and gentle place for many, including me and our family in our journeys through life. I love you and am praying for your precious time with your mama!

  4. Carol Bernal Says:

    I applaud you for the wealth that is this sharing during this difficult time, the blessing you are to her.
    The memories remain vivid as our Mothers slip into twilight. Their hands and eyes tell us stories. They speak love and toil, laughter and mending and the endless clutter and clatters in the kitchen. Kiss the hands and eyes- hug often and breathe deeply.

  5. jean Says:

    You say it all so well. My heart hurts for you and I wish you God’s grace in this challenge. Love to you & your Mom.
    p.s. I never did say Happy Anniversary – you two have hung together well!

  6. barbidoesmiami Says:

    How lucky you are and have been to be given each other, I can feel the synergy between you and I’m moved by your piece, thank you….

  7. Lisa Kaser Says:

    Another wonderful and thought provoking perspective and experience shared. The truth so well revealed of loving and caring for your loved one.

  8. @Kristine You are surrounded by support and love.

    You are up to this more than you realize.
    One day at a time along with your Mom’s fabulous sense of humor-LIFE.

    For now this is your wave it will have high and low tides. Just come up for air yourself. Then you and your Mom will find a new peace within yourselves for the tides change each day.
    Sending Hugs

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