Monday, June 12, 2017

The Eighth Day


When I first moved out of my parent's house and hit the road in the early 1970s, I called them every Saturday morning from wherever I was. Back then I had to find a phone booth and gather a whole lot of coins to make that happen, or I would call them collect. There was no way a Saturday passed without a conversation. My dad always answered the telephone on those Saturday calls. Then, I would talk to my mother. It became a ritual, and I made those Saturday morning calls for more than 20 years. Then, when my father was diagnosed with primary liver cancer, I started calling them everyday. After he passed away in 1992, I continued to call my mother daily. That lasted until she sold her home in 2012 and moved to her first assisted living facility. Then, I started calling her twice a day, once at 9:00 am and once at 4:00 pm. It was our ritual that we adhered for the past five years, until the vascular dementia and Alzheimer's. As I type this I have not spoken to my mother in eight days. I have left messages for her everyday on her answering machine, which I know she won't listen to. When she tries to get her messages, she almost always inadvertently turns the machine off.

It's the longest I have ever gone in my life without talking to her.

Eight days.

My sister visits with my mom regularly and reports to us how she is doing, but it's just not the same. I would like to hear her voice, even if it makes no sense when we talk. In fact if I remember correctly one of the last times we talked she wanted to talk to the "other Robin." Oh right, the other Robin, the one without gray hair who used to call on Saturdays as she traveled across the country and Canada. Yeah, as my mother also says, "the fake Robin."
My mom went to a memorial for her sister-in-law last weekend. She got to see her brother and niece and nephew. It was lovely for her to reconnect with them. Yeah, she didn't make perfect sense when she talked, but the love was there.
So, while I wait to hear her voice, I've been out walking, photographing clouds, and trying to forget the world, and embrace our beautiful planet instead.

24 comments:

  1. My heart breaks for you, Robin. When a parent is so distant, the phone is all you have. Maybe you could arrange with your sister to call while she's there to help your mom with the phone.
    I understand about wanting to hear her voice, even if you cannot understand what she means. My mother is nonverbal now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CCorax-- My sister often asks my mom if she'd like to call and talk to one of the kids. My mom mostly says "No." We must exist in the part of her brain that isn't working that well anymore. She has been enjoying herself in her new Memory Care facility. They really know what they are doing, and it fills us all with great relief. I am SO sorry to read about your mom. Heartbreaking in every way.

      Delete
  2. I 'think' it was Bette Davis who said old age isn't for sissies. Whoever said it, she/he was right. It's tough of the families too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rain-- Seriously. This getting-old stuff is really a surprising challenge. I'm getting pretty forgetful myself, and it's scaring the sh*t out of me!

      Delete
  3. I'm so sorry, Robin. My mom just returned from a trip to visit her own parents and it was the first one during which her dad didn't really seem to know who she was--or who her brothers and sisters were either, for that matter. She had been prepared for that by one of her sisters who lives locally and sees my grandfather every day, but nothing REALLY prepares you, and Mom is shaken by it.

    Love to you. ♥

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Val-- It really does shake you right to the core. I'm so sorry your grandfather is going through this as well. We are learning this new path together. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Delete
  4. I wish I talked to my parents more. My mom has this idea that talking to me will cost a fortune, so she never calls -- even though we no longer live in the age of the transatlantic land-line call, and Skype is totally free! I talk to her every few weeks. I should probably call her more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve-- In the old days (way back when!) it was expensive to make long-distance calls. We had to wait until after 5:00 pm when the cost went down. It's good to stay connected, even when the person you want to connect to is hardly there. I've been sending my mother a handmade card every week for about six weeks now. She loves reading (and re-reading) them.

      Delete
  5. I was thinking the same as Corax but you explained why that wouldn't work. Perhaps, your sister could call, just lay the phone near her and let you listen in to the conversation she has with those there. Don't imagine Skype would work with her. I know this must be eating at you. My thoughts are with you both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patti-- The only thing that helps is knowing that she's happy and connecting with the people in the new facility. My sister said she went to visit the other day and there was a tour bus out front. It was about to leave for a local tour of the town. My mom was in the front seat with a new friend. She was smiling and wearing lipstick. That's my mom in her new happy place.

      Delete
  6. My mom passed away almost 3 years ago and I still have a reminder on my phone to call her every Sunday at 3PM. I can't get myself to delete it. So, I use it as a reminder to call my sister.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave-- I totally understand keeping that reminder. It's a piece of your heart and love. I'm really glad you keep it.

      Delete
  7. Robin, this is so sad. But think of the many many years you could call her so regularly. This is special.
    And I love the cards!

    My grumpy father rarely calls and hates it when I call "without reason or substantial news - only to check up on me". He has no social graces but he loves it when I send him interesting newspaper clippings. That's almost the only way I can get him to call me back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sabine-- I appreciate every call I've had and still look forward to whenever I get another chance. I'm already thinking about the next card I'm going to make for her. Also sad about your grumpy father. I guess love isn't reason enough. In your heart you know it is, and that's all that matters, my friend.

      Delete
  8. I do hope you get to hear your mom soon. Perhaps your sister could put the Skype app on her phone and let you listen to your mother even if she isn't making any sense. Your sister could mention "Robin" in the conversation and perhaps she might even say your name. Or if that isn't an option she could take a short video with the phone, asking your mother questions. She could then email the video to you.

    So glad she went to the memorial service. And I agree that she most certainly felt the love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. NCmountainwoman-- Today was the first day that I didn't call and leave a message. I sent her a letter last week with all of our phone numbers printed VERY LARGE, and told her how much we'd all like to hear from her. I'm hoping. Yes, she loved seeing her brother and his kids. It was really good for all of them.

      Delete
  9. The circumstances are different here, but I too am missing talking with my mom on the phone -- we always talked daily -- often for ridiculously long lengths of time about politics or world news. I'm here with her all the time now, but she just isn't interested in the things that she used to like to talk about. She's with it, but just not like she was before. That's gradually improving as the medications are reduced, but it's been weird for me -- as though the mom I used to talk with on the phone was some other person. More and more I'm thinking that growing old is a pretty tough thing and that it's good to have people looking out for you. Glad to here that the Memory Care facility seems to be working out well for your mom. That's wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. bev-- It will be such a great moment when your mom becomes herself again, and all thsoe medications are finally no longer in her system. You'll get your mom back! Growing old really does look crazy challenging. I'm going to write a post soon about a woman who stopped us on our street and talked for fifteen minutes about aging. These are interesting times we are living in. I hope all goes well with your mom, bev.

      Delete
  10. Hi Robin, even though you and I live so far apart we are going through the same things. I too talked to my Mum on a nearly daily basis sometimes for an hour at a time. Now she just isn't interested in talking on the phone and sometimes a week will go by before I hear her voice. I leave messages I know get passed along by my brother but very seldom does she return my calls.
    I am glad to hear your Mom enjoyed time with her brother.
    Take care.
    Robin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robin-- It is such an interesting thing to lose them like this while they are still here. We are learning the ways of Alzheimer's. I've begun to just hope for her happiness and let go of my own dreams for how I would like it to be. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Take care, my friend.

      Delete
  11. What a terrible disease. You are in my thoughts, Robin. I hope you are able to talk with her soon. You are SUCH a good daughter, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colette-- It is a terrible disease. Worse than we ever thought, with losses we didn't even contemplate. I have tried to be a good daughter. It wasn't always easy for both of us, but love does overcome the pain. Thank you for your kind words.

      Delete
  12. There's not that much good to say about getting old. You might say wisdom, but then nature turns around and takes that away. It's just a hell of a thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark-- It truly is a hell of a thing. I think maybe we shouldn't get as old as we do these days.

      Delete