Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mom the Cat

I've just returned from a long brisk walk through the hilly town of Hollidaysburg, PA. Mom and I are here alone for the weekend,  while Bri and family get a well-derserved break. I've been here for over 2 weeks, but this is my 2nd day alone with just Mom. It's eerily quiet.

Even when Mom could no longer walk (it's been over 6 years!), she could talk. However, like the disease has done to her body, it has slowly been taking her voice. I was feeding her grapes a minute ago. She's not spoken a word for 2 days, but I thought I'd try and see if she'd perk up. I said, "Mom, who am I? Do you know my name? Can you say it?" I got a blank stare in return. "I'm Catie, Mom. I'm your number 5." I listed us all in order from eldest to youngest. I shrugged with a tilted head and crooked smile and put a grape in her mouth. Mid-chew, she closed her eyes and put her head on her pillow, like a robot just switched to off. I half smiled, cleared the grapes and walked away.

Bri and I lamented recently at what a long and slow process it has been, watching Mom go deeper and deeper into wherever it is that she goes. When she emerges, I've heard her words described like gold. I think of them like little dew drops. There for a morning and then gone soon after the sun has taken hold of the sky. Not everyday, but just when the elements are right they appear, reminding us that they still exists before vanishing again.

Nay described Mom like a cat. She looks at you, looks at the shadows, looks off into a distant place then closes her eyes. She startles, scratches her head, adjusts an arm, stares here, then there and again closes her eyes. Every now and then, her arm will reach for you and just like with a cat, you think, "Oh boy! She is asking for my attention." We hold hands until she forgets. Once she actually interlaced my right hand with her left and twiddled my thumb with hers. It was bizarre and amazing all the same. My favorite was on my 3rd day here when I went to give her a peck and she started to eskimo kiss me. It felt like she was saying, "See! I remember you."

It's funny to say that you wish people would go quickly, because when they do you wish you had more time. I don't wish her to go, but I do see why death can be called a peaceful passing. I feel really lucky to have her still around, but I am not sure how much longer her care can be managed on it's current trajectory. If I don't feed her, she forgets to eat what is in front of her. So, every meal we share. I give her a bite and then take a bite of my own. I imagine it must have been like that when she once fed me. I was learning to eat like she is forgetting, little by little.

I am not sure how my brother and his family do it. I think there is far more stress than joy, but Bri makes Mom laugh every night before bed. He does a silly fake accent, pretending to be "Esmerelda Montenagro," a nurse hired to care for her. She doesn't really exist, but when Mom laughs, Esmerelda helps us remember that Mom still does, like a quiet cat slinking into the room to curl up with you and purr. Her laugh is warming, especially when it sounds.