For more than a week, she owned nothing more than what she carried on the airplane; some clothes, cosmetics and her heart medicine. Still, she loved the house I rented (for which I brought furniture I otherwise would not own: dining table, futon, easy chair, bedside table, etc. Though the items came from thrift stores and charity shops, the furniture made the place homey and comfortable).
For a few days all was well. She was excited about the new surroundings, was eating better than she had been and, most of all, she was no longer alone.
Being alone was her reason for wanting to leave New Jersey. Often she'd go to Walmart, because of its in-store Subway Sandwiches, where she'd sit by herself with a cup of coffee "just to be around people," she said.
Sometimes she'd play Bingo.
Sometimes she'd take the bus to Atlantic City.
She didn't have much else and was losing interest even in gambling (a lifetime fascination). She rarely cooked. At one point she was eating cream cheese spread on stale chocolate donuts.
Listening to her was like entering a strange world as our sporadic phone calls became morning, afternoon and evening updates. Her memory was deteriorating and I'd hear the same stories with every call. Pretending I was hearing things for the first time wasn't easy. Sometimes I'd just blurt out, "Yes, I know. You told me that already. (sad to say, she often repeated the same story she told me only 15 minutes ago)."
Most of our "conversations" were her ranting against my brother and sister. Though my brother lived a few hours away in New York City and my sister was just an hour away, she felt abandoned.
Before anyone starts to feel pity for my mother, I have to tell you she was a difficult person all her life. Getting older with the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease only exaggerated her worse traits of fear, control, conflict, anger, obsession with unimportant things (both real and imagined) and self-centered unawareness of others.
Those traits are also found within my siblings.
It's why I left the family more than 40 years ago and, except for a few visits now and then, had little contact with them. I hadn't spoken at all to my sister and brother for years.
But then my father died.
It happened a year and a half ago. Death changes everything. More so for the living than the one who leaves this world.
(to be continued)
Monday, August 18, 2014
TUCSON, AZ Monday morning pt 1The dust has settled and I find myself at a crossroads, one of new opportunities and creativity. It was a difficult journey getting to this point but now can see what lies ahead.
It began two months ago when my 84-year-old mother asked to come live with me in Arizona. I never believed she would ever leave New Jersey and at first didn't give her request much thought, sure she would change her mind.
But she insisted. So, I found a house big enough for us (at the time I was living as a hermit in a small casita). I knew of a vacant house only a few streets away on Limberlost Ave. I had met the previous tenants, had dinner and meditation sessions there, liked the house and knew it would be perfect for my mother.
And so it began. I flew out to Newark, took a shuttle to Toms River, met my friend Irene for lunch the next day and since my mother's car was already packed, we left the following morning.
We weren't on the road long when I knew something was wrong. Though she tried to hide it, my mother was nervous and fearful. I could feel the stress and wondered how we were going to get through four days driving across America.
In Missouri I had an accident and totaled the car when I hit a guardrail by swerving away from a potential crash with another car- no one was hurt, the airbags didn't deploy, but the car would be too expensive to repair. The accident was a blessings for reasons I will later explain.
We flew the rest of the way, leaving her belongings to be shipped out by the towing company.