Adjusting/Readjusting

I just miss you.

I am still adjusting to life without you in it,and it is still quite odd.    There are still times that I hear you call for me, although that is happening less and less.    I am just starting to realize that I don’t need to rush home for your  day care bus and  that I don’t need to buy your ensure shakes at the grocery store. That you are not sleeping late.  That I don’t need to get your prescriptions.  No plate for you at dinner.They called from the doctors office  the other day – to schedule your annual hearing check.   All little adjustments to the day.  

Those realizations are…….. well I am not quite sure what they are, not really a slap in the face, but more like a simple awareness that momentarily saddens me.  I’m not as sobbing kind of sad as I was at first mom, but, times like,  right now as I’m writing this, I get that lump in the throat back, and my eyes well up,  but I’m okay, really.  I just miss you. We all do.  We are supporting each other.

Talking about you in the past tense is difficult.

I wish you would show me “a sign” or “visit” me so I would know you are okay too.

 Is that stupid/silly of me?  I just miss you.

 I still expect to share everything with you, I want to explain how Iraida’s surgery went, or that Barbara is doing great at quitting smoking and that Megan almost hit a deer today, Katie is at her last class tonight, Rookie licked a hole in your chair, and yes the chickens are fine in the cold weather.   I borrowed your scarf, the one you had hanging on your mirror in your room, it coordinates with my new gloves perfectly and I didn’t think you would mind.

Our mother /daughter plant has so many new shoots on it and Megan’s has actually started to regrow!

Last year when you were sick with the flu and pneumonia  and our mother/daughter plant started wilting, I thought it was a sign that you were not going to pull through.  This plant has so much significance for us,  however I guess I read too much into it, a little bit like I am doing now, what do all these new shoots (daughters) mean?  If anything?

It has been emotionally difficult trying to get all of your “affairs” in order.  Although, the odd side to that is that when everything is finally done, what will I have to do for you?  I think I will miss the time with you, if that is what it is.

I’ve had to explain so many times;

  “my mom has recently passed away…”

 … when selling your car.  … when cancelling your car insurance.  … when closing accounts.  … when sending paperwork to the life insurance company.  … when ordering your marker for the cemetery. etc.

Although everyone,  in each situation has been kind and offering their condolences, I have started to feel they are just words that I really can no longer hear or find meaning in them.  It is not their fault, there isn’t much else people can say.

However my responses have started to be a little bit more involved, rather than the simple thank you, I expand a little, just letting them know a little bit more. …

” I am sorry, please accept our condolences for the loss of your mother”

my response:

“thank you , I still , I think I  always  will miss her terribly, but I am so grateful for the years we had together, she was just so much more than my mom”

Sometimes that response creates a little more conversation  but certainly a smile or another comment that places you someplace other than a simple condolence and then I can always find something fun to say.

“I am so lucky, luckier than most, and I  have so many great memories”

or

“Strong, funny woman, she was”

or

“She was definitely my hero in so many ways”

I feel that empty spot where you always were – I just miss you.

 

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Christmas Without You

She’s been gone for 3 months today.

The first Christmas of my life without her…..

I hung her Christmas stocking so that it was touching mine, I wanted her near me and I wasn’t sure how to do that. (I couldn’t seem to get her close to me)

No presents for her this year and no crochet dish-clothes from her. (Not getting gifts for her was a strange feeling, I thought about it everyday and even saw things she would have enjoyed receiving)

She would have loved the tree this year.

She would have loved that her Christmas cactus is blooming at Christmas and not Thanksgiving this year (true Christmas cactus).  IMG_4813

She would have smiled at all of the kids energy yesterday (Christmas Eve).

 

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She would have wanted her Baileys, and I would have made sure to have it for her.

She would have put up the manger. (It isn’t up this year)

She would have enjoyed all of the amazing food.

She would have been waiting for flowers from Bruce. ( she would received them by now)

She would have been waiting for phone calls from Scot and Rob and always a unique little package and visit from Barbara.

She would have asked what the dogs were getting for Christmas. (Making sure they were not left out)

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She would have talked about some of the old ornaments on the tree and about Christmases past. (I would have listened as if it were the first time I’d heard)

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Oh , do I miss her!

It isn’t just today,  on Christmas, that I miss her …….

….but the daily routine that has had to change, a new routine needs to be developed and I’m trying, I’m just  not quite there yet.

Funny, because some days I am very sad that she is not still with me. Mostly though, it’s a lonely feeling in my heart and for some reason I keep expecting it to go away….. but it isn’t.

Not a day, an hour or a minute goes by without mom in my mind, and still every second she is in my heart.

wait…. Is that blue bird looking in the window……. no, I don’t believe that stuff. (Do I?) But he’s back again, in the same spot, looking in the window…

Walking by her room everyday was/ has been the most difficult. Her clothes are still in her drawers in her bureau and hanging in her closet.

Her angel figurines are still in place on her dresser. IMG_4826

however,  I moved her bed and brought all of my grandchildren’s toys into moms room. I put the stuffed animals that mom once upon a time crochet on display and for the kids to play with. I put the djembe drum out for the kids to play ,  (she would love that)  and we always put the photo of mom playing her drum back on it when the kids are done.

 

 

The paintings she made at day care are now hanging on the walls, she may have thought at times they were silly but they bring us all so much joy now, they are cheery and bright.

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I’ve been looking for photos of her with each of her great grandchildren, so that I can hang them up for each of them to see.

“she was real and she loved you”, 

I want her to live on, if only in memory.

I want us all to remember the fun, the  funny moments, the fun times that we shared with her…. and we will.

 

I knew I would miss you mom,

I just didn’t know how different everything would be without you.

 

….and just like that 90 years go by (1)

How do we  mourn/grieve? We have all heard that everyone grieves differently, and I know that is true. I do wish there were a timeline, though. I am putting one foot in front of the other and I feel like I am not moving.

I’m not new to grief, I am only new to the grief of losing my mom.

10 days ago.

As we poured over old photos, I kept wanting to show her.  As we ate, I kept wanting to fix her a plate. As we told stories, I wanted to look over and see her enjoying herself.

The first week went by in a blur, but the past 3 days have been so dreadfully long.  I am keeping busy, but I’m tired.

I am trying to rationalize:

….. she was 90, after all.

….. we had her for a long time.

….. for the most part she was healthy.

right now  none of that matters.

I have never experienced such a deep sadness.

I have had this lump in my throat for 10 days and it wont go away.    My chest is tight.

Intellectually,  I know we all just need the time after we lose someone we love.

I’m the one who wrote the words;

“And miss her? Oh, we most surely will.  Try not to walk away sad today, but walk away today, thinking about how she led her life and walk away with a smile on your face because you were fortunate enough to have known her.” 

I can tell others to do that, but I haven’t quite reached that spot yet.  Why though, cant I. After all, I was and am so fortunate to have had the most time with her, all these years, my lifetime with her.

We had fun. We laughed. We confided. We shared. We grew. We depended. We planned. We accepted. We trusted.We cared. We loved. We lived.

I have to sit in her chair so that I don’t look at it empty.  I smell her. I don’t want to move anything she has touched.  It will seem too final. Her toothbrush is  still next to mine.  Her night light still shines, so I can see in her room.  Our vitamins, side by side in the cabinet. Her coffee cup, forever empty.  Her hair is still on her comb.  Her slippers are still by her bed…….I want them there….always. She got mail today.

I can not get the vision of her last breath out of my mind.  I hope it wasn’t painful, those last few days.  I want to ask her. I hope I did all that I could do.  Those last days, when she couldn’t talk and I kept telling her I loved her, I just wanted her to say it back, one more time.

I am suppose to start to get “back to normal” now……… but how?

I want her to hold me.

Please allow me to grieve through my words….right here…in this blog . where I left off with her story.. I will begin the journey of “Losing Mom

 

 

 

 

she doesn’t say much

“that is my old telephone office, right up there”

Funny how she blurted that out as we drove through her home town of Concord.  She hadn’t said much up to that point.

Our minds and our memories can function in such an odd often times cruel way.

“you’ve got me lost”

“I don’t think I could find my way over here anymore”

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Somedays are difficult

I walked mom down the stairs this morning and handed her walker to the day care bus driver, Jim,.  I kissed her good bye;

“have a good day, momma”

and her weak response

”you too”

Jim took moms hand from mine and helped  her maneuver the 2 steps and then shuffle down the walkway to the waiting van.

 

 

I watched from behind and all I could think was;

 “that poor old woman, my poor old mom”.

I scurried back in the house and  gathered my things for work, rushed myself out the door just as Jim was getting into the van.  I looked in and saw mom all buckled in and she slowly lifted her hand and waved with a blank look on her face.  I waved back and blew her a kiss, and smiled.

 

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I held this lump in my throat as I drove to work.

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It was a “normal” morning for us,  I got up with my alarm and had my coffee.  Rookie and I woke mom about a half hour later

“time to rise and shine mom”

“why, what day is it?”

“it’s Friday”

 

Every morning I wonder if this will be the morning that she doesn’t respond back to me.

She shuffles her way to the bathroom, usually forgetting  her walker.  I go in to her room  to pick out her clothes for the day  and to check the hygiene of her room.  Incontinence is becoming worse all the time.

( Ever since she came home from rehab, I have kept the commode in her bedroom at night so that she doesn’t walk out into the hall on her way to the bathroom and trip over the dog.)

Moses loves to help mom in the mornings.

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Moses, stuck under moms walker

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Why then,  if this is such a normal morning, is it difficult, emotionally I mean.  I mean, more difficult this morning than most.


 

It is important for me to understand my own thoughts and feelings as we proceed through the day, the weeks and the years.  So I seek out supportive articles that can give me that temporary boost to get through. Like this one.   And this one.

Of course, I start to feel guilty or even selfish and want to make certain  that I am meeting all of moms needs as well.  Emotionally I mean.  How would I even know?

Mom is not just getting old but the dementia aspect of all of this is becoming the bigger challenge.  I know that  she  needs to feel loved and needed.  

So as much as I feel the need for emotional support, I do not want to lose sight of the fact that we are in this together, mom and I , and she would likely need support too.

 

 



The afternoons work about the same only in reverse. I’ve talked about that process  before.

Getting mom up the stairs is difficult these days.   It makes me sad to watch her but we continue to make light of the event……..  And then she sleeps much of the afternoon

A lot has happened since I started this particular post……. although it is incomplete…. I no longer feel the need to complete each of the posts I had started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s about Balance (figuratively & literally)

”I haven’t fallen yet”

”Mom, you need to have your walker with you”

as she heads toward the bathroom,

”I’m not going very far”

grabbing the furniture for support along the way

“I know but sometimes you are  just so wobbly, I don’t want you to fall”

“well, I don’t want to become dependent on it”

UGH.

I wish sometimes,  that I could just tell her what to do and she would simply do it without an argument or discussion or defiance, but that does not ever happen,  and it never worked when she tried telling me what to do either.

Sometimes, I think;

“I’m busy, just do what I tell you” 

Again, my once extremely independent mom, being told what to do.  I need to take a step back and remind myself of the changes she has had to make, and how difficult these transitions must be for her.  I need to find balance too.   So I take her arm and assist her with the rest of the short journey to the bathroom.

Her balance has declined so much this year.   I do always  hold her hand or take her arm when she is on her way to the car or if we walk outback, places she can’t use her walker. Although she most often reaches for an outstretched assistive hand, she also comments:

“don’t you think I can do it”

or

“you don’t have to walk with me, I know I’m slow”

or

“I’m fine just go ahead”

 

once upon a time she did have great balance
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———— and I believe she thinks she still does —————-

I read a lot about how to handle different situations with an aging  loved one with dementia and although none are specific to any one person,  they often do offer many possibly helpful tips. As a caretaker, it is important to have an emotional  balance.  Mom is not my child, she is my dependent.

Staying Sane Caring for Mom or Dad  

                    – there are days when it is hard to stay sane trying to balance the right amount of nagging

Stay connected with your again parent

                    – the few minutes it takes to keep connected is worth that time at least ten fold.  Staying connect will give you both the emotional balance to help you through.

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We, (by we, I mean mom) are  however, at the point where the use of her walker can no longer be  negotiable.

As we all have done with our children, we pick our battles, and that is true with our  aging parents as well.   This particular battle is one for obvious safety, so I need to insist.

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FROM A PREVIOUS POSTING;

When the insurance and health care, committee, I’ll call them, came to evaluate moms mobility they told her she should be using a walker. One was provided for her through her insurance.    Mom would push the walker out of her way and wobbly walk around it to get where she wanted to be.

“Mom, you’re suppose to be using that”

”oh, I’m just going to the bathroom”

”I understand, but that is the point, your suppose to use it”

” oh, it’s too bulky”

and it went like that for a very long time, months. So I finally folded it up ant put it in the closet.

Every once in a while I bring it out and try to encourage her to use it, but she still pushes it out of her way and now even wobblier walks around it.

Is she being stubborn? I mean I believe that the stubbornness lies in her genes, and she definitely has that gene, but is that refusal to use her walker just being stubborn or is it more?

I have noticed lately when we are walking to the car or into the house she reaches  for  my hand with her free hand and uses her cane with the other, similar to the security of a walker, dang it.   But it is  another change and one more thing she would  need  to adjust too.   Again, the cane is familiar to her, it is what she understands.  Not stubbornness alone but also security in the familiar.

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So here we are at the point where it is  a must to use that walker.

…again, getting up from her chair

”take your walker, Mom”

”oh leave me alone”

she chuckles at her own attitude and I do too

”I know it is a pain in the neck, mom,  but I don’t want you to fall”

”I haven’t fallen yet”

still with that grin on her face.

She HAS  fallen…… 3 times in as many months, she can no longer recall those falls, and  I can’t get them off my mind.  I can’t help thinking she will fall again, especially  when I see her holding furniture and walls on  her “shuffle-wobble”  as she attempts to maneuver from one place to another.

Just when I think I’m getting somewhere (she is using her walker everywhere) then I see this…

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…this is her walker outside of the bathroom door!  and she is inside!   I have cleared any possible obstructions in there and there is plenty of room, I mean the walker fits perfectly.

..and the other day she used her walker and walked into the kitchen  to get a paper towel to blow her nose (rough huh) …. as she was leaving the kitchen she left her walker behind, right in the middle of the floor.  It was right in front of her. She literally had to walk out from behind the handles to leave it behind.

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“I’m  so nervous watching   you walk without your walker”

“then don’t watch”

that spunk can be exhausing

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Getting up from her chair and pushing her walker out of the way…

”Mom take your walker”

she keeps moving, obviously ignoring me

A little louder

”Mom, your walker”

With a little grin and a lot of attitude

”I don’t want to”

..and she keeps going

 

I have cleared all of our floors of anything that may get in the way of her walker travels.  There are no area rugs, nothing on the floor that can get in her way. (Except maybe Moses) I made sure that  in her travels  around home she would not be running into any obstacles.  I moved the bookcase next to her bed to allow room for her walker to be right at her bedside.  I have tried to make it more convenient to use her walker.  I made her a pretty washable discreet bag that ties to her walker.

I’ll make more , maybe even seasonal ones.

moms walker bag

I bought a tray to go over the top if she needs/wants to carry something (again “letting her” hang on to some independence) and I tie a little trash bag to the side.

So it should be a relatively simple transition, wouldn’t you think?

We have used a wheelchair for a number of years with mom for a variety of situations.  We all did this to make sure she could attend whatever activity we were participating in.

 

 

So I’m questioning all of  this…. why is it okay for us to take her somewhere in a wheelchair but she balks at the use of a walker?  Is it because she doesn’t have to exert much effort to be pushed in a wheelchair and she is able to keep up with the rest of us, or actually we keep her up with us?  I understand if she thinks she is holding others back or slowing them down but at home, she impacts no one with the pace at which she moves.

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If you saw the way she wobbles you would understand my concern. She has such poor balance and often stumbles and sways.  I suppose that I am entitled to stumble and sway a bit too as I seek out my own “balance”.

I will continue to promote and encourage the walker use and I will always hold her arm when she decides to ignore the mention of the walker. Maybe eventually it will become the new normal for her to reach for her walker and she will simply forgot this transition.

Until then, I will stay near .

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First Relationships

“each child has their own special”…….

and she doesn’t finish but retreats back into herself

 

Right now I’m  watching  Mom , sleeping in her chair.   I honestly wonder more about her life now than I ever have.   Her life before me I mean.  The parts she never filled me in on.  I look at the pictures and I want to know the story behind them.

Was that your own chicken you are holding?

Is that your cat?

That baby picture obviously you are at your farm and is that your baby buggy in the background?

 

You look so happy riding your bike mom, where is that?

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mom riding her bike

I wish I knew more and had asked more questions over the years, about the pictures and the stories behind them.   She always had such funny and interesting stories to tell  about her growing up years,  but now watching her sleep I wonder about so many different parts of her life.

thinking…

 Did I hear enough? 

Did I ask enough questions? 

Will I be able to share some of her stories? 

Is anyone going to be interested in her stories?

It would be so nice to hear some of those stories again.

I am thinking about all of the relationships  she has had in her 90 years.  I want to recall for her sake.

Now that she is unable to recall  very accurately to tell me more, is when I feel the need to want to know more.  I often times will still ask about a picture or an old relative and she will respond with confidence and sadly I question if that is accurate recall.  But then

….does that matter?

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Our “first relationships” to develop are with our parents and siblings.  What were those relationships like for mom, I know the basic answers but not the details.  I do look at old photos and try to piece together the things she has told me.

Mom always spoke lovingly about her own dad with the utmost respect and admiration. He was a “kind and gentle giant” .  But, when he spoke, you listened. Even when he didn’t speak you listened!

 

moms parents

 

“He had a way of looking at you that you knew not to say another word.”

“All he had to say when we were sitting at the table is one word…  “Bud”,

or whomever,  in his stern voice.  Bud would stop what he was doing right away, and there was no discussion of what he wanted Bud to stop doing.

Moms Mom,  was very sweet, to everyone, always.  Welcoming  to all (parents in a future post)

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Mom  adored her siblings. (siblings in a future post) 

“They always made me feel special”

 referring to  her parents and siblings. She knew she was loved.  Mom  was the “surprise”, and ten years younger than Uncle Bud.  img_1404

“There was always family around, I was never lonely”

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The firsts of any kind of relationship come with intense excitement.

HER FIRST (AND LAST) LOVE

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“we could look across the table from each other and not say a word and know what the other was thinking”

When mom tells stories or talks about the special relationship that her and  dad had, I think that what they shared was rare.  I think that now, but growing up, I thought that all husbands and wives had what my parents had.

They don’t.

I have never gotten tired of hearing stories about when my parents were young.  They had great friends and so much fun with their friends.  (friends in future post)

First love in future post, too , but all of this leads to , drum roll please…..

HER FIRST BORN……


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AGAIN…The firsts of any kind of relationship come with intense excitement.

HER FIRST BORN

Our “first relationships” to develop are with our parents and siblings.

There is not much more special than your first born child,

that is, of course, until your second born child comes along.

mom and baby bruce

 

What happens through these years  – just look at the way she is looking at him (above) and how happy she looks with him (below).  That love, that connection, so evident through her eyes then … and  now…

 

Mom with baby Bruce

 

 

Does geography play a part in a relationship?

Not in this case… not in the least.  Mom has certain expectations of Bruce.  She would usually  visit him pretty much wherever he has lived.

“I always liked to know where my kids are.”

 The frequent phone calls, the flowers he sent/still sends for every occasion.  Always on mothers day regardless of where he has been.  She will definitely mention if he hasn’t called or if she didn’t receive her flowers on a particular occasion.  Funny though that she acts surprised when she does receive them.

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her most recent bouquet

Bruce  had the longest time with daddy, that must have made it more difficult for him in some ways.

Was there an expectation to care for mom?   

Was there an expectation to care for the rest of us?

But he rarely talked/talks about it; his relationships with mom or dad.   Bruce was only 18, almost 19 when we lost daddy.

Did that experience for Bruce, barely a young man,  help to mold his relationship with mom?

Bruce is an oxymoron, he is a “sensitive male”, a real one, and I have always wondered if he learned that from mom or dad but most likely it was the combination.

 

“So mom what are the things you remember about Bruce as a child?”

“oh I don’t know, I guess he was always on the go, always liked  a little adventure”

“well that has never changed”

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He always looking for adventure.

 

“What else mom? About Bruce?”

“each child has their own special”…….

5 kids

and she doesn’t finish but retreats back into herself

Please,  mom come back….. just for a bit.

 

“what else mom, about Bruce? What are some special things about your relationship with Bruce?”

“oh I don’t know, I don’t know if I know what you are asking.”

she was quiet for a minute

  “Music, I guess, we both grew up enjoying music.”

” oh that’s true, so he must have acquired his love of music, and his musical talent from you then.”

“well I don’t know about that.”

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Bruce and Robs first guitars.. and the family tabogan!

She has talked about each of my siblings at length so often over the years, and now I feel that I need to squeeze out  every last memory .  Why didn’t I journal more over the years.  I want to share with all of my siblings their special place in moms heart.

I try again… please be good timing

“What are some things he did as a kid?”

“He always found good healthy fun, like building the log cabin in Concord.  He was older and daddy never had a problem with him using any of the tools”

log cabin

 

“Those were such fun years living there, it was good for everybody.”

again she retreats

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4 of us in the tree
look closely. Bruce is up the highest, then Scot, Rob and I’m the last one up. Look at the date.

We all looked up to Bruce, literally and figuratively.

“Did you ever get mad at him, I mean did he misbehave, ever?

“You know I don’t believe so, well not that I know of, he was a pretty good boy”

(Well that’s cute,  he was a pretty good boy. )

“were you mad when he cracked up the Rambler?”

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“oh no, I was glad he was alright”

 

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mom floating down the river while visiting  Bruce and I in Colorado

fenway bruce nate and mom

“He brought you to your first red sox game with your first great grandchild, didn’t he”

I show her the picture

“oh that’s right, he did , didn’t he?”

Again, her recall is foggy.  I wish I had written things down over the years, documented some of the things she has said.  Her concerns about her kids.  Her memories, both happy and sad.  Mom was busy when we were growing up and may not have always had the time with us that she wanted and after we were all settled away from home is when she was able to have a bit of time.  I believe she has had some of that time given  back to her from each one of us.

We all know that her  time is limited and I am sure you must be thinking the same way I’m thinking…..

I wish I had asked more questions.

I wish I had written things down.

I wish we all had had more time.

Will I be able to share my stories?

Will anyone be interested in my stories?

  

“mom, Bruce is going to come for a visit.”

“what about Karen?”

“she can’t make it this trip”

I am so happy that Bruce is coming back again , even if for a short visit.  That connection, that bond between a mother and child can always use a recharge at any age.  And  I need to hear his stories.  Is that selfish of me?  I need to hear more about her, I’m hanging on to her  as best I can.   I want to share her and her memories or what were her memories.

That love, that connection, so evident through her eyes then … and  now…

…. through his eyes.

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