Mom woke up disoriented today, certain we were party-crashing her sister’s house, that we shouldn’t be there, that we were imposing, and that she was ready to go home. I wondered if I should give her a dose of the Ativan I'd brought along, but by the time my cousins Judi and Stuart showed up from their hotel, Mom had calmed down and we were all eating breakfast together—Jewish east coast foods not in my diet anymore—bagels and cream cheese and lox (I had fruit and half a bagel and peanut butter), orange juice and coffee. Mom slept through much of the day. She konked out on the couch after breakfast and when we took our one outing of the day to the Clubhouse across the street—a big excursion ... [Continue Reading]
The morning went smoothly. Mom was disoriented when she woke up and had taken all her clothes off in the night, but I dressed her easily and helped her into the bathroom. When it came time to help her into her Depends and lift her off the toilet, I felt nothing but tenderness—and then my whole body sagged in relief. I was no longer that angry teenager or that estranged, distant adult. I loved my mother and I was ready to do this for her. This trip was really going to be okay. On the drive over to the airport, Mom enjoyed the waning moon, still up high in the sky. She commented on the changing colors of dawn all the way over Highway 17 as we headed north toward San Francisco. I realized that ... [Continue Reading]
Over the next few weeks, I brought up our trip occasionally. Some days Mom thought her sister was coming to see her at Sunshine Villa. Other times she repeated the story about sharing the good news with Esther. “She was so delighted and surprised,” my mother informed me, every time. Esther had learned a thing or two about talking to someone with dementia. And for Mom? It was as if the trip was continually being planned for the first time. A week before we were set to depart, I sat down with Rosa Fernandez, Mom’s RA or resident assistant, at Sunshine Villa. Rosa is the person who helps Mom with “personal care.” And on this trip, that job would be mine. So I wanted to know what was required. “Your Mom is very easy,” Rosa began. And then she told me about their routine in the morning. Rosa ... [Continue Reading]
This is the second post in a series about my trip to Florida with my mother.... A few days after I bought our tickets—paying an extra $150 per seat so we could sit in the bulkhead, right next to the bathroom—I brought up our trip to Mom. “Hey, Mom, in a few weeks, we’re going to Florida.” Mom looked up at me and beamed. Then her face filled with consternation and she asked, “How many grandchildren do I have? Really? I wasn’t sure I should ask. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Had we really sunk this low? “How many grandchildren do you think you have?” She thought for a moment, searching the mostly empty coffers of her memory. “Well, there’s Eli. And Lizzy. And ... [Continue Reading]
I debated whether to blog this trip and once I decided to, I wondered whether or not I could possibly call it a Virtual Vacation. This is clearly not going to be an exotic armchair adventure in Bali or a Scottish adventure or a travelogue through Mexico. It’s going to be a journey into old age in America. My partner Karyn and I are taking my elderly mother to Florida for one last visit to see her last surviving sibling, her sister Esther. It’s certainly much more of a mission of mercy than a vacation, but I am tired of compartmentalizing my life—the entertaining, exciting parts, the seductive lure of worldwide traveler, me as the adventurer, and me as the daughter, me as the last remaining lifeline for my aging mother. This trip is going to be an exploration of the lines where duty ... [Continue Reading]
I was sixteen when I turned down a full scholarship to Wellesley College. I don’t remember what that scholarship was worth in 1972 dollars, but I’d have to say, from my perspective now, that it would have been priceless. Wellesley offered me an open door into science and philosophy and language and strong women and self-esteem and intellectual passion that could have opened the world to me. They offered me Aristotle and Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre and Collette, Emily Dickinson and Michelangelo. They offered me classical sculpture, medieval history and macroeconomics, the riches of the Renaissance, fluency in a language, travel abroad, and in 1972, the rare opportunity to live at the beating heart of the emerging ... [Continue Reading]
Eli is away at a three-week program sponsored by Stanford University for high school students interested in math and science. He’s taking an intensive class in topology, something esoteric and mathy that has to do with studying the surface of knots. I have no idea whatsoever what they’re studying. Or why. But Eli chose it and it’s clear he’s having fun. He sounds confident and full of himself.
I miss him terribly.
Lately, I’ve been walking around looking at mothers and fathers with their toddlers and infants, mothers with children in playgrounds, and I realize how very long it’s been since I was a hands-on mother in that 24/7 kind of way.
Eli has been away for two weeks so far. In all that time, it has never once ... [Continue Reading]