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I just returned from visiting with my Mother for a week. She was 89 when I stayed with her for 40 days in March and April 2020; she is 91 years old now. She is slowly slipping away. Damn. She stopped driving last year when she felt that she posed too great of a risk to others. Damn. Her car is there if she has an emergency. But now she relies on paying others $20 a hour to drive her around in her big Chevy Impala, and to wait.
When I was with her in 2020, we went for daily walks. Now she doesn’t have the energy to do that. It is harder for her to go up the ramp to her door. My mother used to travel. She has been to Africa and has driven cross-country to Oregon and Arkansas to see her children and grandchildren. My sister would like to take her to the beach one last time. My mother has declined; have you ever tried to push a walker through sand? “Those days are over.” Damn.
My brother asked me to take plastic bags to my mother. “You know Gary, we are all going to end up there sooner or later.” After being with her for 40 days as the pandemic was hitting, I drove to see her on Christmas Day 2020. We stayed in separate cars, facing in opposite directions, talking to each other as police officers often will do. That was one of my best Christmases of all time; I brought her McRibs and Subway sandwiches.
In 2021, after getting vaccinated, I visited with my mother for up to a week every 6 or 7 weeks or so. In April 2021, I was there when my sister had all four of her children and her three grandchildren there. The home was packed with people, and the squeals of children. I was going to leave when my siblings left, but had the realization that that was not right. I stayed an extra night, so that she did not go from a dozen people to none in only a few minutes. I traveled there for Memorial Day week, a week in August, a week at Thanksgiving, and a week at Christmas in 2021. In 2022 I was there in March for “Spring Break” in the schools, when the Court does not schedule family law cases. On April 21, 2022, my Judge said at a conference that she would be taking a two-week break so that her judicial assistant could have her first vacation in over two years. Great, I told my judge, “I will be visiting my mother for Mother’s Day Week!” My judge has a 94-year-old mother. Once she knows my schedule with my mother, my judge will not set any hearings that week for me.
My mother used to take her walker out onto the deck to wave goodbye to me. The last couple of visits, she just had me hug her as she sat in her La-Z-Boy chair. Damn.
I don’t have any children of my own. So, I have the time and focus on my mother. I will bring her favorite foods with me. I will bring her $500 in cash in 20’s which is one heck of a lot less than the college tuition my siblings faced. She said that she gets spoiled when I am there. I toast Eggo’s when I am there. I will bake a couple of potatoes one night. She can no longer lift a pie to put it in the oven or to take it out, so I will hard-boil eggs when I am there. She knows what needs to be done, and I am her arms and legs to get it done. I take out the trash, fill her car up with gas, and do the dishes.
This trip I arrived on Mother’s Day at my sister’s home where she had gotten a ride. She was exhausted after being with the crew for several hours.
On Monday, I took her to visit with a close friend and they watched “Outlander” together. My mother’s home is in a wi-fi desert. I have to leave her home to be able to go online. I went to Denny’s, then the bank, then Olive Garden for Lasagna for her and Spaghetti for me, along with $6 Take-Out Meals. She took a nap when we returned. During her nap, her friend called, her IV line had fallen out so she would need to go to the hospital so they could set a new PIC line.
On Tuesday, I got up early and drove to the Chiricahua National Monument. Then I took the back road to Portal, Arizona, and slipped into New Mexico for a few miles before driving back. When I returned, her friend had gotten her IV set again. We returned to Sierra Vista and I went to Denny’s and caught up with the Ukraine War and my reading while she watched “Outlander,” not feeling rushed since she wasn’t spending $29 an hour for her driver to wait. I was as happy as a clam at Denny’s.
On Wednesday, my sister came to visit. We were going to go to the Cooper Brothel Brewery, but when I mentioned that my mother and I had gone to Olive Garden, Nancy had a sudden pang for “the Olive.” My mother wanted Chicken with White Sauce; we realized that that meant Chicken Alfredo. I brought home three more $6 Take-Out Meals.
On Thursday, she had a massage set. We drove to Patagonia. She showed me where the libraries were in Sonoita and Patagonia so I could go there during the day to get wi-fi. We had time to kill, so we drove 15 miles toward Nogales. My mother said how lucky she felt that she was to drive the 40 miles from her home nine miles east of Sonoita to Nogales. She noted the trees there were deciduous so she got to experience all four seasons. (There are only two seasons when I grew up in Phoenix, warm and hot. Ugh.)
On Friday, we drove to Sierra Vista so she could be fitted with new braces. She wears a foot brace on each leg which has a hard plastic shell that curves around her calf and is cinched in. Her old braces were a half dozen years old, and it was time to get new ones. These braces cost hundreds of dollars, but they allow her to walk with a walker. “But Gary, I look like a drunken sailor.” “But Mom, you can walk.”
I drove home on Saturday. But here is the good news. With the new braces, she declared that she wanted to see me off from the deck. That was delightful. So, while I had seen the two steps back, I was now seeing the one step forward. This is very good news.
I am planning to spend another week over the Fourth of July. I asked her if she wanted to go to the parade in Patagonia and then fireworks at night. “Those days are over.” Okay, I hear that, but maybe, if we watch the parade and/or fireworks from the car, perhaps she will change her mind. I will offer. And I hope that she will accept. And whatever she says will be perfect, and in divine order.Published in