Six long weeks ago I took a break from my normal blog postings to talk about my mother Pat's sudden caving in to her advanced age of 90. This resulted in my need to stay in upper-state New York and become her caregiver. By Labor Day I breathed a sigh of relief as I managed to get her (and her cats!) back to Florida and back to her many, many, patient doctors.
Well.....two weeks later I joined her again after a hospitalization for breathing issues turned into a diagnosis of multiple terminal cancers. What a shock! Over the last forty years my mother had spent a small fortune on vitamins and supplements, all with the goal of making it to 120. I think she felt seriously cheated by all her those vitamin companies she'd kept on speed dial!
My sister Gayle grabbed a flight from Oregon and we set up shop here in Florida. The Rich girls were all together again- each talking over the other and vying for control over the decisions....with Pat winning of course (some things NEVER change). My sister and I found a home senior's care system and a local hospice group after she signed a DNR and determined would not seek any medical support beyond pain control.
In typical Pat fashion she set about calling relatives, friends, acquaintances, service companies, pharmacies, former doctors, former dance partners...you name it. She was strangely and incredibly delighted to announce her eminent death (I mean really...what do you say to that??) and got to relish shocking as many people as possible..and of course forcing them into telling her how wonderful she was. It was hysterical. I can honestly say that I have never, ever heard anyone (even former Presidents) take as many victory laps as Pat. At one point my 93 year old aunt unfortunately interrupted her very early in the call and got a chewing out - "I have something to say- be quiet!!" I am still cringing.
While Mom was busy telling her final story to one and all, my sister and I were working 24/7 to direct the parade of people, arrange for pest control (oh yes- a lovely infestation of German Roaches that would stop to salute as they marched through the kitchen) and clean, clean clean.
Mom held court for two weeks, enjoying all of the care and attention, especially from the senior care home workers and the hospice staff who would allow her to start her story with "I was born in 1931...". All declared that she showed no signs of moving to the light and could likely survive another six months. Bolstered by this report, my sister and I helped our mother dress and the Rich girls made our way to a favorite restaurant where we drank too many margaritas, told all of our best stories to the waiter and reminisced about our father for around two hours.
Just one week later, and probably again taking full control over all decisions, my wonderful, irascible, vociferous mother suddenly took a very serious turn for the worse. And, after finally caving in to placement in a hospital bed in the living room, her drive to remain solidly on earth for several more months sputtered out. Three days later, with my sister and I continually checking on her (she was giggling off and on!) Pat fell asleep and slipped peacefully away.
We all lose our parents at some point in our lives, it is a fact. But what is harder to explain is the sort of odd hole that is left when your parents are gone. I don't think I had quite realized how much space, both mental and physical, I had devoted to my mother. How that space will gradually fill is unknown, but what I do know is that there was no one, ever quite like my mother Pat. Good, often bad, but singularly Pat.
I promise once again to pick up the gauntlet on my normal blog story after my sister and I get through the mountain of paperwork that accompanies someone's passing. Honestly- this must be a trick created specifically to shorten the grieving period......... Until then, if you still have a parent in your life treasure the time you have left.