Friday, July 31, 2009

The wisdom of the cousins

I tease my cousins a lot about being older than I—I am the youngest of about a dozen-but it is precisely because they are older that they bring such richness to my life.

My cousin Rosemary, after reading my last post, sent this e-mail to me about caring for her mom, an elegant, raven-haired lady who always seemed to me to have a magical quality that she passed to her children. I wanted to share Rosemary's note to me because it’s full of the kind of wisdom we need more of.

“You have a child who won’t get well, but who will love you -- as no one else ever will -- for loving her,” Rosemary wrote.

“In my final days with my mother, I realized that she had always been the endearing, willful, complex, difficult child she was then, but I hadn’t ever seen it before because I needed her to be powerful. When she needed me to be powerful, I fell in love with her as never before -- and now, as time passes, I’m so grateful that I had the chance to know and love her as a child.

“Though it was all so scary and sad, she was enchanting – as she always had been, but I hadn’t fully realized it. Of course, in a way it made losing her even more painful, but it was an important lesson in through a glass darkly.

“Life is what it is and you’re making the best of it now – even if you can’t know it because it’s so hard.”

Thank you, my cousin, my friend.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Listen to your intuition: It could save a life

Dr. Mary Louise Hatten, who taught economics (or in my case tried to teach me economics) at Simmons College Graduate School of Management, used to say, "Listen to your intuition; it is your experience at work."

As women, we often discount that inner voice.

But I'm writing today to tell you a story that has reminded me to listen.

Many of you recall that my mom was transferred to a convalescent hospital in June 2008, after hospitalization. I was so unhappy with the care that I removed her from the place against medical advice. When the hospital tried to place her in the same facility after her hip break and replacement this spring, I refused, vehemently.

Meanwhile, a work colleague recently moved her 80-something mother to the same senior residential facility as my mom, partly on my recommendation. Her mom was there about three weeks before she fell and broke her ankle. She also was having some other medical problems, and she was hospitalized. When the time came to discharge her, they sent her to the same place my mom was sent in June 2008.

New name, new owner.

Same bad care.

After a few days, my colleague told the personnel she was taking her mother out. They told her that her mom was getting better, so against her better judgment, she left her mom there.

A couple of days later, she found her mother slumped over in a wheelchair. She called 911 and had her transferred to another place, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia.

Her mom died last Sunday.

My colleague is a wonderfully nice person. She doesn't have a hot little temper, she doesn't overreact, she doesn't have screaming matches with nurses. She doesn't just walk into a place and put her mother into a wheelchair and take her home, never telling anyone. I confess to all of that.

I wept when I learned that her mom had died. Her mom isn't suffering anymore, but she is.

It's a huge lesson. I hope to God I've learned it. My intuition tells me to share it with you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An unexpected visitor at my mother's home

Guess who showed up at my mother's apartment on Wednesday?
My mother.
"Oh, look at those roses. They smell wonderful! It's so good of you to share. You do have some beauties."
"How am I? I can't complain. Oh, wait, I'm me, so I probably will."
"Don't push yourself so hard. You have lots to do."
"I love you so much."
And that, my friends, is the cruelty of this disease. Is it better to see her as she used to be, only to be surprised when someone else appears in her place the next time? Or is memory better than reality, if reality is fickle?