We are in Ohio, Mom and me, with her family.
It was a long travel day to get here — a two hour drive to the airport, a 90-minute layover in Chicago between flights — and almost midnight local time when my aunt and cousin fetched us at the airport. It was the first time I’d flown with Mom since her recent diagnoses, the first time traveling with her walker, and I was pretty tense. I didn’t unclench until we were sitting at our gate at Midway waiting to board the last flight.
Mom, on the other hand, just relaxed and enjoyed the journey, trusting me to keep track of IDs and boarding passes and luggage and to get us where we needed to be on time. She was a real trooper. At home she usually wants to lie down for a nap after the briefest of outings (like a trip to the grocery store), but she made it through an 11-hour travel day without running out of steam.
Mom was tired on Saturday, but she didn’t let it stop her from accompanying my aunt and me to the cemetery to put flowers on all the family graves – a Memorial Day tradition.
Saturday night I kept waking up hearing my mom coughing. Worried that she might be getting sick, I tiptoed up the stairs to check on her. She was asleep, so I went back to bed and tried to sleep too… only to find myself lying awake listening for the sound of coughing. I need a baby monitor, I thought, and chuckled to myself in the dark. Thankfully we haven’t gone *that* far in the role reversals.
Sunday was the annual family reunion. When I woke Mom up in the morning, she was disoriented. She had no idea where she was or how she got there. She asked me what day it was and my answer (“it’s Sunday and tomorrow is Memorial Day”) didn’t seem to clarify anything for her. She was so out of it that I suggested she just go back to sleep and we skip church. I was worried, but when I checked on her fifteen minutes later she was getting dressed and seemed her usual self.
At the reunion she claimed her place as family matriarch, with various nieces making her coffee or bringing her a blanket for her legs. It was great to relax my vigilance and visit with my cousins, knowing that she was surrounded by loving family who would catch her if she stumbled, make sure she didn’t catch a chill, etc. Everyone seemed delighted to have her there and she was absolutely in her element.
She isn’t the least bit shy about asking for anything she wants, even if it means the mother of two toddlers is jumping up to make her coffee, and because her short term memory is so poor she will keep asking again and again until it arrives. I made a joke about how she’s gotten accustomed to being waited on at her assisted living, where they have waiters who take meal orders and serve the food. She played along but didn’t take the gentle hint. I was glad we were among family, surrounded by people who love her and don’t mind waiting on her. (Even so, I’ve felt uncomfortable at times.) And I am thankful daily that she is not one of those querulous old people who complains about everything — every request is made with a smile, every bit of assistance received with a “thank you”. Mom has had to get comfortable asking for help in the last year or so. Maybe I just need to get comfortable with letting people besides me (and paid caregivers) do some of the helping. I feel like it’s all falling on my shoulders, but it isn’t really. There is help if I just learn to ask for it with a smile and accept it graciously, the way she does.