Monday, August 2, 2010

Pentimento

So I'm leaving Friday for my hometown where I'll sit by my mother's bedside, watching her sleep, watching her small dull eyes with their short lashes and flecks of brown open and close, seeing nothing.  Watch her breath.  Just that.  Watch her breath for the last days of her life.  I'll be there for the duration, whatever the duration is.  A day, a week, ten days.  It can't be long now.  Not when no nourishment is going in and no elimination is going out.  These are the last days.  So, in her honor, and because I've become a scanning fool this summer, I thought I'd post some pictures of Mom through the years.  I don't have any from her childhood at hand, but one delightful (NOT!) one from my own, which makes me either laugh or cry hysterically, depending on my mood.  Let me just say this to my girls, though: it obviously came naturally for me to clothe you in matching dresses, and I'd like to thank you now for being better sports about it than I was! I'm the one with the frown...oh wait, I guess that's all of us. 
Here's the family on my wedding day.  I have mentioned the 'little Bo-Peep' dresses complete with hoop-skirts RE and I made for the bridesmaids. The only redeeming thing about them was their color, chosen because it's Beve's favorite.  We bought so much of it, I had enough to make my daughters matching dresses years later.  Sigh.  Mom and the little brothers were wearing the outfits bought for RE's wedding the fall before (she's the really pretty one sitting on the floor).  BB is crouching because he'd grown so much in the months between our weddings he was sporting high waters, but things were slightly crazy in our lives that spring.  Dad, white as a sheet, is sitting because he'd just flown in from Seattle where he was undergoing cancer treatments.  Mom was a mess, the wedding was planned in all of 6 weeks, and the 'dang dog' (as Mom called her) even had unexpected puppies that week.  It really wasn't high on her priority list to check BB's pants until he put them on that morning and discovered they were about two inches too short.  Tough luck then, BB. 
We're on our way from a camping trip to Ashland to see a play.  I left my nursing son with Beve for far too long...though whether it was too long for him or me is up for grabs.  All I know is there was some speeding involved on the way back to get me to my frantic baby, and to relieve my own pressure (you women will understand!).  That's what I remember--nothing about the play, not even the name.  Maybe Richard II?
A couple of different times when the four of us lined up and went off somewhere together. In this second shot, we're being more than a little goofy, making Mom crack up.  It was quite the trick that week.  We were at the Oregon coast, she was definitely in the moderate Alzheimers' stage, and everything was an issue.  We were taking her out for her birthday dinner.  And what she wanted for her birthday was this:

Yep, it's what she wanted.  Seriously.  And it just cracks me up.  We were absolutely against the idea that day.  You can't imagine how against it.  But she threw a hissy-fit, and we gave in.  She was, after all, our little-girl mother by that time, so what were we to do?  And it came out looking like this. So funny, I can't stand it.  Clockwise around Mom here's E in her braids, who looks like the darling milk-maid.  Behind her is RE, who looks like she could chop wood, build the fire, churn butter, bake bread, hoe the fields all before breakfast.  I look like I ate about a dozen lemons and haven't a good thing to say about anyone or anything as a result. LD (the Dump), beside me, must be about to take off on her sailing voyage, and SER, (RE's daughter) is just plain unhappy about the whole business.  And Mom, oh my goodness, she was determined to have that shawl over her hair because she's the 'old widdow woman, after all."

I have to go find some tissue.  It just makes me laugh.

Here's perhaps the last photo we have of Mom, or at least the last event she came to.  SER-B's wedding last summer.  All of Mom's grandchildren behind her.  It's nice to have this picture.  Mom looks pretty good, was even looking at the camera, and the kids look even better. Before many more months, Mom was refusing to even go outdoors, let alone get into a car. So this moment is even more important than we knew then.

People keep asking how I feel about my mom's dying.  And here's what I tell them.  I'm glad that Mom will be freed from this body and brain that have stopped serving her, and are now simply imprisoning her.  I'm glad she'll walk again, think again, speak with clarity, and know without question that she is valuable in God's eyes. And I'm also glad that she is not dying unloved.  There were years after my dad died when I worried that this might be the case...at least by me (I should not speak for anyone else).  I prayed long and hard that I'd feel love for her before she died.  And I do.  I really, truly do.  It isn't a love that has revised the past, that pretends our relationship was something other than it was. She was difficult, I wasn't understanding, and it was rough going for most of my life.  However, what I prayed--that I could love her--God answered.  And for that I am exceedingly grateful.  So what the grieving will look like I do not know.  I pray the idea of pentimento will be the case here, where the earlier images will come through these last years, but the brush strokes of love that God's given me will cover all the conflict.

And that pentimento--earlier images painted over by this new, late love for my mother--will last.

2 comments:

E said...

Looking at the picture from when you were kids, Kalen looks exactly like Laurie and Karoun looks a lot like you. However, my looks are still a mystery.

jeskmom said...

Wow, you're right. Maybe you were one of those 'exchanged at birth' babies. Oh wait, your hands and feet give you away as belonging to your father's family!