Friday, February 14, 2014

Life Transitions

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

Pete Townsend (of The Who) wrote: "I hope I die before I get old."

Never has a phrase been as poignant than that for Mr. L and his sister and me.

You see, Mr. L's mother is 99.5 years old.  In the past year or so, she's had several bouts of congestive heart failure, and this week we were told that her arteries and a heart valve are so clogged that she needs more care than the wonderful assisted living facility where she has been for the past 2.5+ years can give.

So, Mother must go to a nursing home.

: (

The thing is, Mother (as Mr. L and his sister call her (to me, my Mom is Mum)), is pretty darn sharp. It's not her mind but her body that has finally betrayed her. And as of this writing, she has no clue what awaits her in the next day or so. She cried and wailed when we moved her from her home of more than 50 years into an apartment (because the neighborhood had deteriorated so much) when she was 89.  And she cried and begged and pleaded "DON'T MAKE ME MOVE" when we brought her here to Rochester almost 3 years ago when it was apparent she could no longer live on her own, to an assisted living facility no more than 7 minutes from our house (less if you make a couple of green lights).  But then she quickly came to appreciate that her baby boy came to visit almost every day, and she enjoyed the things the home offered: BINGO, church services, ice cream socials, and more.

But now we are at a different place. She needs more care than the assisted living facility can give.

As of this writing, we don't know where she will end up.  It's all about space available.

Sadly, I've been there, done that--bought the T-shirt--when it came to the end-of-life decisions I and my mother had to make for my Dad. Everything we're going through has churned up all those feelings which I thought were long past. They're not. They're just as fresh today as they were in the fall of 2009.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't simply get over the loss of a loved one in a matter of days, weeks, or months. Grief, as our own Kate Collins has spoken of many times, takes a long and terrible toll on your soul.

The truth is, my mother-in-law and I were never close; but Mr. L and his sister love her with all their hearts.  How could they not? She is their MOTHER!  We have strived to make sure that my mother-in-law has been in a safe place where people can take good care of her.  Nobody deserves less.

I am so sad for this woman who loves to read. She lost her sight last summer, but thanks to cataract surgery got it back this fall.  And what is she currently reading?  The large print edition of my latest Booktown Mystery, thanks to the author copy I recently received.

The thing is, nobody escapes this life alive. There are only two eventualities:  death and taxes, and sadly, death is all my mother-in-law has to look forward to.

Like George Bailey, she's had a wonderful life, but it's breaking our hearts to know that her life will soon end and the sadness we feel is overwhelming, for never can one recover from the loss of a parent, sibling, or child.

I'm not asking for prayers or good wishes or anything else. I just needed to vent. I know almost all of you have gone through this same kind of soul-searching grief. We are one in our sadness.

Valentine's Day is supposed to be a happy event, and I'm sorry but I just can't muster it today. But I do thank you for listening, and I invite you to share your own stories of grief in honor of a loved one. If nothing else, we can commiserate. 


Mary Jane Maffini said...

This is a very moving and meaningful post, Lorraine. There's so much to think about in it. My own beautiful mum died too young (74) and my M-I-L is in a nursing home where we have real issues with her care. She likes to say "Golden Age, my foot. Should be rusty age," with an Italian accent of course.

I wish my mother had had more years as she was still having fun, making friends and looking great, but I am glad she's been spared some of the tragic indignities of old age.

Having said that, hitting the big 100 is cause for a party!



Leann Sweeney said...

It is such a difficult thing and my heart goes out to you, dear friend. I understand and wish I could give you a big hug. Hang in there, Lorraine.

Karen in Ohio said...

Omigosh, Lorraine, what a pickle for your family. It's one so many of us have also found ourselves in these days.

My mother and I have had a lot of conversations about what to do and when. We have watched other relatives and friends' mothers (always the women) dig in and refuse to leave their homes until finally leaving was just so wrenching. Mother has decided, on her own, that her adored three-bedroom town home has gotten to be too much, and she is putting it on the market this month. In June she will move into an apartment in my brother's new home; they're breaking ground next week.

We aren't sure where she will go from there yet, but hopefully, this move will lengthen her life that much more. Just knowing she will be in a situation where she has daily contact with family members eases my mind, so much.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Leann. ((((((((((U))))))))))

Anonymous said...

We were hoping she'd make it to her 100th birthday, but it doesn't look like that will happen. Then again, she's a fighter. She might outlive the prognosis just out of pure spite!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear you have issues with your MIL's care. We trust these places to take care of our loved ones (and pay through the nose) and ... you can never really be sure.

Anonymous said...

My MIL cried and begged us not to move her here, but it only took her a couple of weeks to adapt and she became an instant hit at "the home" with the resident and staff. She ate it up.

Dru said...

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers

Diane said...

Lorraine, I know what the three of you are going through. My Mom and Dad moved into a smaller place a long time ago and then 3 months later, my Dad died. Mom was alone and didn't even know how to write a check. She lived in that apt from 1976 to 1999 and was happy. In 1991 my husband died and I only had my son and friends to listen to me. Thank God for them. Then Mom had a stroke and had to go into a Nursing home. She had to be fed through a tube in her stomach. She was there for a year before she passed. After she got there she cried for a while and then loved it. A few years later I found my self responsible for my Uncle, Dad's brother, and his wife. He had a stroke and had to go into a nursing home. Aunt wouldn't stay alone and I didn't know what to do with her until I found a nursing home with a rest home attached. Her family was of no help. I had to sell their house and then tell Uncle. I was so upset, I had the social worker come with me to tell him. He was upset until I told him how much I got for it and then he said 'That guy must be crazy, he needs to be in here more than me". He lived for a year and she lived for 6 more years, with me visiting her every other week. 40 miles from my home. She lived in the rest home part for 3 years and then went into the nursing home part. It broke my heart. She still loved it and they loved her. I found that you have to do unexpected visits to a nursing home to see if all is well. It usually was. I feel the heartbreak all of you are feeling and I am so sorry. I know we can't live forever but still we want to. Perhaps she will surprise you and take this move in an understanding way. My prayers are with you all. God Bless all of you.

Denise Z. said...

Thank you for your honesty. My sister was the caregiver for my mother and toted a very heavy load. She had to make the decision to put my mother in a home because my mother required more care than she could give. Luckily, my ma wound up in a good place. She even ended up with a friend, something she never had before. I'm not sure how that worked, because a couple of strokes made my ma aphasic, but what a gift it was. I honor your commitment to your family and am grateful that you shared this.

Unknown said...

You never think about your roles reversing.....the child becomes the parent, and the parent, the child. I lost both parents last summer; Dad on June 6 (Mom's birthday) and Mom on Aug 27 (day before our son's 16th birthday).

Dad was Mom's caregiver since she was diagnosed with cancer back in Jan, 2012. Chemo was doing wonders for her. Sure it was knocking her around a bit, but she had no pain and bounced back quickly enough.. Thank God. Oh, did I mention that I had both knees replaced in 2012; the right in Jan and the left in Sep. No, no, not much on my plate!

Then came April 17, 2013 -- Mom called and said your dad's been taken to Emergency. He was very jaundiced and in excruciating pain. Dad?...always the strong one...... "You only need to go to the doctor when you're sick.".....Annual check-ups! What are those?? God forbid he get himself checked out. It's not like he didn't have health care. Hello? It's Canada!! Well, that turned out to be a 3-week stay.....every major organ was riddled with cancer. I couldn't believe how much he had aged in that time. Chemo or surgery was out of the question. They gave him 6 months...... he didn't last 7 weeks. I'm just thankful that I could to be there to say good-bye, along with my sister and my mom. What a way to spend your birthday? And 2 days shy of their 51st wedding anniversary, too.

Well, that took most of the wind out of Mom's sails. She perked up for a while, but it seemed more for us than for her, you know? She stopped her chemo in July and within a week or two was bedridden and going downhill. Up until July, she had been driving, going shopping, visiting friends and family, keeping all her doctors' appts and spending quality time with her five grandchildren. Such a fighter, always the stronger one in their marriage, as I came to learn later on. Then in late August my sister and I noticed a distinct change in Mom....not a good one. I left to go home for supper, telling my sister I'd be back the next morning, but got a call a few hours instead. She died that very night about 6.35 pm. Julie had checked her at 6.30 and came in again at 6.40...and found her gone.

Dad hadn't wanted a funeral and Mom abided by his wishes. We had Mom's memorial service on Sep 7. Then came family birthdays......Thanksgiving.....more birthdays.....and finally, Christmas. Lots to do, always something to buy or make or plan for. It really didn't hit me until after New Year's. I just ceased to function. I slept 18 hours a day. I'm diabetic and had to get up to test my blood and take my insulin before bed. Most times I didn't even test, but just tried to keep my sugars up and not go into reaction. I'm finally feeling better now. Very hard to explain to my husband and kids what I'm going through. How do you explain when you're not even sure yourself?

All I can say today is.... that it is one day at a time. I'm not through my grief yet, but I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not there yet, but I will get there one day at a time. Grief is different for everyone. Tears don't always come on cue. Whether your parent is going into a care facility, hospital or chemo; you will grieve. You will grieve for their loss of health, independence and your loss of a parent and gain of a sickly child.

Thanks for letting me vent. My prayers and blessings to all.