From Combat Ready to the Unexpected Grace of Waffles

The bookends of this week – distress and inspiration, were equally profound. As a result of the VA’s decision to terminate mom’s Aid and Attendance, I spent two days operating from a body that felt like a hollow leaden shell, crazily tracking, listing, recording receipts, providing transportation to supporting documentation, and meeting with our Veteran Services Rep. All of this was achieved while basking in the insanity that comes from knowing these distractions had a serious impact on my service to mom, whose care needs did not diminish.

After a marathon Tuesday night, Wednesday arrived bringing a sense of ‘Combat Ready’ along with everything collected, and waiting to be faxed. This created a tremendous surge of energy that translated into embarrassing myself in the shower, while yelling – “Yippee kay yay mofo’s! Bring it!” at the top of my lungs (luckily mom sleeps without her hearing aids).

In the end I am not certain any of it will make a bit of difference, but having to jump through hoops on seriously injured feet did cause me to proceed with greater awareness. Moving purposefully yielded the reward of knowing I had done my best, and the decision is out of my hands. It also created the recognition once again, that the real issue isn’t the loss, or reinstatement of benefits, (although it creates additional hardship – but hey what else is new) but rather the sadness that comes from knowing my mother is winding down like a clock, without a wind key. Once all was said and done, I was able to explain to mom what happened, and why I had been so mysteriously absent for part of the week.

My life-long friend Margo, and her sister-in-law Lynne who has become a friend in her own right, pitched in with caring lovingly for mom and preparing the house for my nieces, who were here for a sleep over from Friday evening through Sunday. The time spent with them is always amazing and filled with delight.

On Saturday afternoon, I noticed the girls were avoiding the den where mom had been drifting, for most of the day. Without words they seemed to be communicating a need to understand why their grandmother didn’t seem to be able to stay awake or pay attention to them.

I decided the time had come and explained simply that although Nana wasn’t going anywhere too soon, that when people are getting ready to die they look like they are sleeping a lot but really are far far away, doing the work they need to, in preparation for the journey. I told them that she could both hear us, and feel our love. They seemed to understand without difficulty that  being with her made her feel safe and loved and within minutes had resumed their usual positions in the room with my mom.

Ten minutes later while pulling a snack together, I heard Maia say “what’s wrong with Nana”, probably in response to her slumping head. Zoe began to spin slowly in a circle, with arms stretched out wide and in a dreamy magical voice replied, “Nothing’s wrong with Nana she is just very FAR away.” That night, after S’Mores in her backyard, Hailey joined our sleep over.

The next morning, Olivia, Zoe, Hailey, and Tyler all sat watching cartoons on the couch while Maia perched on the floor against their legs, mom read her book, and I made waffles in the kitchen. The smell of blueberries, vanilla, and chocolate wafted through the air conjuring images of a not too distant past, when birth and death were a normal part of everyday family experiences. Later that day after my brother and his family left, it seemed pretty clear that life may be loud, chaotic, sad, and a big sticky mess, but it sure feels good to all be together, (Spongebob  included), with family life helping to support and care for the elephant in the room.

That pretty much catches us up to Memorial Day. I know by now, many of you have seen “Love Letter to Marcia – Memorial Day 2012”  my YouTube video, so I won’t go on and on but it was such a momentous occasion a few words are necessary.

The morning of the parade mom woke in terrible pain, with noticeable shortness of breath. I was reasonably sure this was a time she needed to push through to her show must go on routine, but I was beginning to feel worried. I encouraged my shoulder blades into their proper position and stated as gently as I could, “Mom, if you really can’t do this I will understand but maybe if you push just a little this is one thing that will surprise you. I do so many things for you, please could you do this for me?” And she pulled it together as much as she was able to. This is the reader’s digest version, not because I do not want to share but the experience is still so powerfully raw that for now some things must remain unsaid.

The look on my mother’s face as she sat incredibly tall as she was pushed through downtown was priceless. My response was to burst into to tears, and sob uncontrollably at the thought of having waited my whole life to see her honored for her service the way she should have been all along. I regained my composure just as she rounded the common and was placed in front of the podium. She was the only female WWII veteran in attendance, and she formed an immediate bond to the only female Korean war veteran, Roberta. Seeing her outwardly without pain or breathing troubles, experiencing an outpouring of love from total strangers, all of whom thanked her for her service, combined with her gracious and heartfelt response to them is something I will remember for all of my days. It was an incredible healing for us, and our wonderful neighbors who shared the event.

After the parade she thanked me for encouraging her to go, and said that if she is still around next year she will go again, she may even consider that convertible ride in the July 4rth parade. It is an honor to be her daughter. Lying in bed last night I experienced the tremendous relief that comes from the knowledge of a hunch that paid off.

Today I begin to turn my attention in a new direction, as life becomes about preparing mom, Molly, and myself for the few days that I will attend BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2012 – NEW YORK. Mom says she is scared about my being away but knows I have to go. Professional companions and neighbors are in place and ready to lend many capable hands. Even so, I know it will be difficult to leave her. I am curious about how I will experience being untethered from the ‘mother-ship’ for a single day by myself before my sweetie joins me for the rest of the week. I am looking forward to all that I will learn, great adventures, good food, physical comfort, and posting next week from a new perspective. Until then, may you all remain blessed and perfectly lovable, exactly as you are.

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12 Responses to From Combat Ready to the Unexpected Grace of Waffles

  1. Laura says:

    Tissues please. Another beautiful story…I’m pretty speechless after that.

  2. Robert Vanderwaall says:

    Dear Beth, I really like what you said…”that when people are getting ready to die they look like they are sleeping a lot but really are far far away, doing the work they need to, in preparation for the journey. I told them that she could both hear us, and feel our love”.

    Brings me back when my mom would sit at the dining room table, under the light, eyes closed, hands folded under her chin as in prayer while my brother and I would sit just feet away in the livingroom watching a basketball game and glancing over now and then and ask a question but at the same time not wanting to break her concentration or as you put it, visiting that far far away place in her mind. She knew we were there a few feet away and even to our surprise made a funny comment about a recent 3 pointer. Thank you. Robert v.

    • Robert, I am so glad that you got to have that experience with your mom. What a gift of compassion and grace. We are so blessed. I am glad you shared this wonderful memory with us.

  3. Deborah says:

    Beautiful writing from your beautiful, honest soul. You teach me so much about grace and courage. Know that we are thinking of you. Thank you for writing. Deborah

    • It is quite a ride and truthfully those little moments of grace are worth everything. Good to be remembering the things that matter most. Thank you as always for your blessings and support. I love you and ‘our guys’ very much. Missing you all. z,

  4. Amy Lapetina says:

    Thank God for that little hunch you had that turned out to be a life-changing day. I’m sure your mom is reflecting on how much joy you have brought to her life especially during these last few months. I feel that you have come full-circle and now you have prepared yourself and your mom for what comes next. I admire you so much, Beth. xxxxxx

  5. ijwoods says:

    Beth, it’s great you are documenting all this, and so beautifully. I tried to keep some kind of journal but only made it through 1 day 😦 You will really appreciate having all this to reflect on. It’s a privilege to be allowed into your home to get a glimpse of what’s going on.

    • Thanks so much for this, Ira. You are a wonderful support and I take to heart very seriously the things that you say. It is my intent to bring this subject out of the shadows and I am hoping that I will be brave enough to not shy away from sharing the more difficult as well as the more beautiful bits. You are in my prayers and I look forward to our continuing conversations.

  6. Pingback: You May Have Noticed | middlescapes

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