Missing Her Already

Mom enjoying the beauty in Ouray about a month ago

Mom enjoys the beauty in Ouray from her new wheelchair, jus a month ago

Adam arrived on Tuesday night. It’s good news:  he sleeps irregularly, so he’s often up in the middle of the night — just like Mom. He makes her coffee and breakfast and keeps her company before I’m even up.

On Wednesday morning there is an email from Julio, one of our companions on the Camino de Santiago. He must have read the blog post in the email he is responding to, but he cannot bring himself to mention it. He writes:

Inge , you look nice in the pic, i think last time i saw you, you were looking with less weight …
You still my heroine, my amazon, always struggling to survive and always nice smile. Olé …

She takes Ativan, otherwise known as Lorazepam. The label says it’s for anxiety, but the main benefit is to prevent nausea. The downside? It makes her very sleepy. She is usually sleeping, and when she is awake she is nearly still asleep. Her speech is slower, her cognition slower, her laugh also slowed-down. She is no longer alert. She makes a few jokes, but she isn’t talking about food and cooking, not watching TV, not making much conversation – even the kind that used to annoy me. Our shopping together, even with her in an electric cart, has stopped.

I judge myself for thoughts of missing my mother: am I being sentimental? Maudlin? But the thoughts continue: I miss my mom. She’s still here, but I miss her.

Mom groans and stirs on the couch.

“What is it?” I ask.

“I need something for my lung,” she says, reaching a hand around her right flank.

“It hurts?”

She nods.

Later, she begins hiccuping again. She has done this for a few months now.

“Something you ate?” Adam asks, tenderly.

“No,” she says.

No, I think, something that’s eating her.

And then she sleeps, and sleeps, head back, mouth partially open. Her face has lost its fat, and her skin hangs in some places and is taut in others.

My heart is breaking. My mother is still alive, and yet my heart is already breaking.

In the evening I heat up some drunken noodles, but before eating anything I stop in the doorway of her bedroom and watch her sleep. Her head is back, her mouth open. She reminds me of Oma, at the end. I go into her room and see her eyes open slightly. “Do you want the light off?” I ask. She nods or murmurs and I turn off the light. I bend down and kiss her on the head and hug her and put my head and face against hers. She says something I can’t hear. I tell her goodnight and she repeats herself so I can make it out: she wants me to lie in the bed for a while.

I go around the bed and crawl in. I had wanted to do something like this, but she was usually on her couch when she was awake. Now it doesn’t seem to make any difference if she is sleeping. She turns on her side and I lie next to her with my arm draped lightly over her side. My face is pressed up against the cloth of her pajamas at the neck and her hair. Every now and then, our breathing follows the same rhythm. I smell the scent of her hair and pajamas. She is so frail. My eyes leak water. I feel tears from my right eye drip across the bridge of my nose, down the other side, and around the left side of my mouth. I feel them wet her short, grey hair. I lie there, thinking of stopping time. Of making this moment go on forever.

Will my mother be here in a week?

After perhaps 20 minutes, maybe 30, I am hungry and want to return to my now-cold drunken noodles. I begin to extricate myself but she turns and puts her right arm across my chest and around the right side of my head. The fingers of my right hand clasp her upper arm. “You my sonny boy?” she murmurs. “My sonny boy.”

“Always,” I say, in a fierce whisper.

I try to be present, try to soak it up. Will I remember this? Let me build a memory. I feel her breathing. I feel her hand, lightly clasping mine on her stomach. I see the light coming through her open door from the living room. I can’t believe I am even here. I am so sad, so afraid.

I love her so very much.

Starting the Camino de Santiago, September 2011

Mom and I starting the Camino de Santiago, September 2011, with Don Julio Redondo of Bilbao, left

True History of the Camino de Santiago

Mom’s new favorite book, featuring Mom and Julio

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