Tuesday, May 8, 2012



Yes, I love the rich colors of the foliage. My birthday is even in Fall.  The first hint of chill in the air combining with the shortening of the days is always sure to trigger the blues for me.  I am one of the many who suffers from "seasonal affective disorder".  In a good year I begin to hibernate.  I take on projects to distract me. I listen to my favorite music, watch my favorite movies and cook my favorite foods. Sometimes these efforts even work.

2011 was the Fall of a lifetime.  There was no little trick to beat the blues.  This was the season in which the gods challenged my very being and nearly won.  

Late in September my mother was hospitalized again.  This was another bout with pneumonia and at 91 a bout with pneumonia can always be the last one. This was another of those episodes where the doctors warned us to expect the worst.  We have had so many of those that I began to accept them as part of the ritual.  Mom didn't seem so ill this time.  At least she was comfortable and responded quickly to medication. I was even able to relax a little because my mother's private aide spent nights in the hospital alongside mom.

Amazing Adelaide made it through and back home.  Mom's aide, Niki even convinced me to take a couple of nights away from home so I could relax.  This was in everyone's best interest.  At home I would just hover and Niki didn't need that.  The weather was beautiful and I spent my couple of "bonus days" on the New Jersey shore. This really was a great idea.  I regained some strength which I was certainly going to  be needing.

Mom was recovering very slowly this go 'round.  She had lost her appetite and was sleeping more than before.  I, of course, was worrying because that was what I did well.  

As if Fall isn't difficult enough for me, Mother Nature decided to let it all out and delivered the now famous Halloween blizzard of 2011!  Snow in October is not only unwanted but it is wrong.  Trees with leaves do not accept the weight of huge amounts of snow willingly and they did not.

As the snow began to pile up the trees began to fall.  This was as frightening an experience as I had experienced to that point.  Trees were falling on my house.  The snow was blowing in gale force winds.  Niki was beginning to panic.  My ancient dog Mickey wanted to go out an play but that wasn't going to happen. 

I was worried [I told you that was my job] that we would lose power if not the roof so earlier in the day I had checked the generator and made sure it was at the ready.  Niki and I had also loaded all the firewood I had on hand into the garage so we could have some extra heat and ambience.  Right on schedule, about four hours into the storm the power did indeed go out.

Luckily I had the generator up and running in minutes!  I was never a Boy Scout but I'm still good at being prepared.  Niki and I made sure to run cables to Mom's room to keep her electric bed functioning and heat going for her.  We had some lights for us and a nice fire roaring.  We were scared but comfy enough.  

That comfort lasted about three hours until the generator failed.  No matter how I tried I could not get it restarted.  Time for the back-up plan.  Lift mom off her electric bed and air mattress and put lots of padding under her.  Get the flashlights and lanterns.  Put quilts on mom and get the portable propane heater [indoor safe] which I had bought years earlier to "be prepared" for some other possible disaster.

Niki stayed with mom.  I slept in the fireplace room.  We made it through the night.  The snow had stopped. The trees stopped falling.  Neighbors came to my rescue and got the generator working.  It's a good thing they were able to help because we were without power for five days!

11  15  11  15  11

Adelaide never fully rebounded from her hospital stay.  This time it was different.  She was not the same.  She was not smiling.  She was not eating much.  Mid-November on a Thursday afternoon my sister was visiting and trying to feed mom lunch as she had so lovingly for so many years.  Mom just was not doing well.  My sister and I were both worrying.  Niki was obviously lying about her concern for mom's condition in order not to alarm us.  I knew better.  

The following day I could tell mom was not heading in the right direction.  I told Patricia that I thought mom was tired of fighting.  Neither of us wanted to believe it because we had played this scenario so many times before.  I could feel that mom was not the same.  Over the next couple of days I felt mom was slipping away. Niki continued her charade but we all knew.

On Monday mom was a little better.  She ate a little lunch for Patricia.  She even smiled a little.  Oddly enough when Patricia was leaving and kissed mom and said she would see her the following day, Adelaide managed to get out a quiet but unmistakable "goodbye" in return.  

That evening mom was doing worse.  I could not sit still.  I hovered and worried.  Mom's eyes appeared to be sunken in and she was awake but not with us.  

Tuesday was Niki's birthday.  She had gotten mom taken care of but had to leave the house for a new job that she had just gotten.  I heard her chatting away with mom as we all did. I could hear "it's my birthday.  Don't you want to smile for me?"  Niki said mom seemed a little better and then left.

Mom did seem a little better.  She was certainly more alert.  She ate for me and that was a wonderful sign!  Way to go Adelaide!  

About an hour later I could hear mom coughing a little so I rushed to check on her.  She was obviously in distress.  I raised her oxygen level and put her on her side.  I stayed with her while I called 911 and then my sister.  I told my sister what was going on and she said she would meet me at the hospital.  I told her not to go to the hospital but to come home instead.  I knew Adelaide was not going to be going to the hospital.  

The paramedics arrived followed by my sister.  I was holding my mother while they were assessing her. Her breathing was very shallow. This was that moment that no one can ever be prepared for.  THE decision.  The DREADED decision.  They asked if I wanted them to intubate her. 

In that briefest of moments I kissed my mother who was still in my arms and said goodbye.  I told her I knew it was time and how brave she had always been and how much I loved her. I called my sister into the room and told her it was time.  Then I gave my answer to the paramedics and invoked the DNR.

 11:15 [am] November 15, 2011

It was over. Our beautiful mother was gone.  She slipped quietly to the other side while I held her and with Patricia at our side.  In an instant our lives would never be the same.  She was at peace.  It was beautiful.  We were devastated.

I am still so proud of myself for having seen to her caregiving all the way to the most fitting end. All those dress rehearsals.  All those emergency room trips.  All that worrying.  All that dread.  In the end she was as home where she belonged and where she would have wanted to be.  

I recall that the first thing I was able to say to my sister was that now we were orphans.  I am sure that sounds peculiar to those of you who are fortunate to still have one or both parents but I am equally as sure that anyone without parents will understand.  I lost my father when I was 10 and my mom when I was 52 but regardless of my age the sorrow is immeasurable.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. 

Au revoir mon doux.
Ti terrò nel mio cuore per sempre.
Vestibulum ut res docuit.

1 comment:

  1. Sent here by Eileen Burns. I was a student of Mrs. Lanni so many years ago. I am so sorry for your loss. "She was at peace. It was beautiful. We were devastated." No matter how the loss, it is this. I too am an orphan, not yet from the loss of my parents, but from the sudden loss of my significant other: Ray. Eileen and Martha have been terrific in helping me to trust that I still can and do connect to Ray. Keep writing..... - Mindy