Growing Old is Not for Sissies
I was reminded of this phrase when I visited my mother, Evelyn this Christmas. It is heartbreaking to see how much she has deteriorated since last year, a precipitous decline compared to the past. As a 41 year old widow with five kids, she graduated from Suffolk Law School, and passed the bar, drawing on her skills she had honed while earning her Master's in Journalism.
Now 88, this attorney who once earned her living with words, can barely speak. Dementia has taken hold. She spends her days in an assisted living facility. This year was the first in ages, where we didn't go to Christmas Mass together. Instead of driving with me to my sister's home to feast Christmas Eve and Day, my brother Mark, sister Marilyn and I went to her. We were joined by their spouses, Susan and Mark Mense, as well as their children, Tom, Joe, Sophia and Jessica.
During my first visit, her face lit up with joy when she saw me. The second day she had no idea whether I was friend or foe. She seemed to realize I was on her side, during my third visit. I spent much of my time with her leafing through photo albums and giving her a stack of old birthday and mother's day cards to read.
She seems to be handling her diminished capacity as well as can be expected. It's gut wrenching to realize that as my mother declines she no longer knows who I am, and that I miss her, even though she still draws a breath.
She said three words to me during four visits, fewer than last year, but two I will treasure as long as I can still draw upon my memories. In one of her more lucid moments after I hugged her and told her how much I loved her, she said, "Love you."
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photo by Mark Mense
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